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Director’s Chair: Austin Vesely

Director’s Chair: Austin Vesely

Mass Appeal’s Director’s Chair turns the lens on the creative minds behind some of the hottest music videos.

Acid Rap smacked the hip hop world across the face when it dropped last April. With intense subject matter and unusual cadences, Chance The Rapper changed the landscape of rap. Since then, Chance has toured with Mac Miller, is scheduled to perform at every major festival, and has co-signs from nearly everyone in the industry. However, Chance’s first award for his achievements comes recently in the form of a MTV Woodie for Best Video for “Everybody’s Something.”

The director behind that video is 23-year-old Austin Vesely. Also from Illinois, the two have collaborated on many videos including “Juice,” “Fuck You Tahm Bout,” and “22 Offs.” In this Director’s Chair we break down their award winning video for “Everybody’s Something.”

Mass Appeal: Where are you from?

Austin Vesely: I’m originally from Hanover, Illinois, but my dad worked for the Army my whole life so I moved a lot. I spent time in Indiana, Oklahoma, Germany, and Iowa.

MA: What was Germany like?

AV: Living in Germany was a huge thing for me growing up. There were certain things I was a little too young to fully appreciate – it was when I was 11 to when I was 13 – but being immersed in a fully new culture made me more pliable and open to people’s differences. That has definitely stuck with me my whole life and made it easier to adapt and keep an open mind in new scenarios. Beyond that it was just a really beautiful country and there was incredible food. I had my first beer there.

MA: What was the first video you remember loving?

AV: My parents bought a copy of Michael Jackson History on VHS when I was really young so I actually had a huge appreciation for music videos early on. MJ had such incredible, cinematic music videos and that really defined the genre for me. “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Bad,” “Remember the Time,” “The Way You Make Me Feel”; they were all huge videos.

MA: What was your first experience with music videos?

AV: I guess my first actual attempt at a music video was in 2010 when I was 20. My friend Elijah Alvarado was directing a video for a local rapper at his New Year’s Eve party and I helped him shoot it. I then worked with Elijah, Nathan Salter, and Davy Greenberg at Elephilms throughout 2011, and finally made my first music video of my own in September of that year.

MA: What made you get into making music videos?

AV: I got into making videos as a way to exercise the craft of filmmaking in a real world setting while I was still in school. I attended film school for a few semesters and sometimes placing your passion in an academic setting can kind of crush you, so making music videos was a cool way to balance that out. I kept doing it beyond school because I found these incredible artists that I loved working with, and to continue practicing filmmaking as a career.

MA: When did you meet Chance and how?

AV: I met Chance on the set of my first music video, actually, which is sort of serendipitous. I was shooting “Clear Eyes,” for Nico Segal and Vic Mensa, and Chance dropped by and started bumming all my cigarettes from me.

MA: How did “Everybody’s Something” come about? Was it your treatment or did you work with Chance on it?

AV: “Everybody’s Something” was mainly my treatment, but I had a lot of talks with Chance about what kind of visual content we were going to put into this thing, which was essentially a collage. He and I spent one afternoon grabbing the silhouettes of him on a green screen, and then basically I was camped out in my studio apartment the next couple months scrubbing through archive.org and elsewhere to find the rest of the pieces.

MA: What was the goal for that video?

AV: I guess it sounds kind of lofty, but I really wanted to explore the inner space of human consciousness, and the vastness of that. The line “everybody’s somebody’s everything” was my jumping off point, and just considering how one person can be “everything” put a lot of images in my head. The rest sort of followed from there. I wanted there to be the full universe within Chance, as an example of one person containing infinity.

MA: Were there any difficulties in shooting that video?

AV: The whole time I was editing it I thought that I had made something totally useless, and everyone was going to hate it, and it made no sense, but much to my surprise, people were really taken by it. It was an amazing feeling. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, I guess. At this point it’s the most well-received thing I’ve made, so I guess you’ve gotta trust your instincts over your intellect sometimes.

Austin Vesely doing video shoot

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MA: How did it feel to win the MTV Woodie award for Best Video?

AV: It was an incredible, unexpected thing. To be nominated alongside incredible artists was enough, but to wind up with the prize was insane. It was such an honor to be a part of Chance winning his first award, too. We’ve come so far together, and we’ve always had a great time putting out interesting visual content, so winning that with him was one of my proudest moments.

MA: What’s next for you and Chance?

AV: We never really know what’s next until it’s time for that thing to happen, honestly. I got to eat some pizza and kick it with Chance last week and he showed me some new music, so I’m sure we’ll be back in the lab making something wild soon enough. It’s been almost a year since we shot “Everybody’s Something.” A lot has happened in that time and you can expect our next project together to reflect that.