Mass Appeal’s Director’s Chair turns the lens on the creative minds behind some of the hottest music videos.
These days, MTV only shows programs about pregnant teenagers but thankfully the music video is still alive and well. Almost everybody has a camera or a phone that’s capable of shooting video, so YouTube, Vevo, and WorldStar have plenty of visual content to keep musical imagery enthusiasts happy.
In our Director’s Chair series, we weed through the bullshit to bring you some of the hottest videos out there, and the directors who made them. YASHANA, is a boyfriend/girlfriend directing tag team, consisting of artist Roxana and her other half Yasha. The 22-year-old pair have been making videos for less than two years but have achieved a lot already. Not only have they worked with the Brooklyn duo, The Underachievers, directing “The Proclamation,” they’ve created a signature style to their visuals, setting them apart from the rest. The eccentric couple has only started their directing journey but it’s clear they have potential to shoot big time videos. We chopped it up with YASHANA to see how they’ve made it this far in such little time.
Mass Appeal: Where are you guys from?
Yasha: The County of Kings.
Yasha: I was born in Brooklyn but I actually lived in Paris until the age of 14. I moved to Brooklyn right before high school. So I’m Parisian as well, but I don’t really rep that.
MA: How did you two end up meeting?
Y: On our friend Emma’s stoop. On some real Brooklyn shit.
MA: When did you start dating?
Y: Well, there never was a point when we said, “Okay, we’re dating now,” but I guess the time I went to Roxana’s crib with a vile of acid and we both dropped God knows how many hits. That’s the point of reference. It’s been a trip ever since.
R: But if we’re being technical, that trip started two summers ago.
MA: What was the first music video you remember loving?
R: I remember the late 90’s and early 2000’s videos always had some sort of futuristic space vibe going on. Also, some type of dancing. I grew up a dancer so synchronized dancing was something I always tried to recreate in front of my TV.
Y: I can’t really remember but Missy Elliot’s videos were all really awesome. I can’t tell you why though. This was before I paid attention to cinematography or editing but I just really liked her videos. She’s a G.
MA: How long have you been making music videos?
Y: A year and a half. The first time either of us picked up a professional camera was two years ago.
R: Yeah, it’s crazy. We like both had all this potential deep inside us but we didn’t really start doing anything with it until we started dating. It’s weird.
Y: Yeah, it’s hard to describe. We really just unleashed each other, or gave each other a confidence boost I guess.
MA: What made you want to make music videos?
Y: It’s kind of ironic actually but I remember seeing “Thug Waffle” by Flatbush Zombies and thinking, “This is awesome, I wanna get into music videos.” I was always really into music and I had decided to pursue a career in film, so it seemed logical to combine the two.
A couple months later, my friend posts a video on Facebook with these kids that were spitting about all the topics I was interested in. They had one video out with 10,000 views at the time. I added one of the kids on Facebook, it was Issa Gold from The Underachievers, and he posted a status asking if there were any videographers out there. I was a little nervous ’cause I had never even been on a music video set before, let alone directed one. I talked to Roxana about it and she really pushed me. She was like, “I’ll shoot it with you. Hit them up!” So I inboxed him. I didn’t have any work to show for myself, but we hit it off really well ’cause we were into similar stuff. That’s the story of how, “Gold Soul Theory” came about, and how we got into videos.
R: Yash definitely made me get into music videos. I always knew where I wanted to be but I didn’t really know how to get there. It was like the big picture seemed so clear but the baby steps didn’t. So I did my school shit, and my whole senior year I spent working my ass off on this documentary and writing an entire season of an upcoming web series. I did a few commercials but those didn’t feel right either.
Directors don’t really gain recognition off of commercials and I didn’t feel it was a good place to start. That bugs me so much. When people talk about what a good job a company did on a commercial. It’s like no, actually a director was hired and they did a great job but you rarely ever hear that. That discouraged me from that sort of work.
MA: What are the key ingredients to a great music video?
R: Well, for starters definitely a great musician and a great director. It’s a shame to see great music have shitty videos, and vice versa. But it’s a confidence boost to watch something and know I could have done it so much better.
Y: I think having a theme really helps, or a certain feel to it. Every video needs a certain something that makes them stand out, be different from the rest.
Having a budget helps. You can make an amazing video without one of course. Everything we’ve done so far was low budget or no budget, but it helps. We want a big budget!
MA: What’s the goal when you make a music video?
R: You’ve got to make it catchy throughout. A lot of the times I’ll watch a video and one minute in I’ll shut it off because I got the point. My goal is to never have people do that with our videos. Every second needs to have something that makes the viewer want to keep tuning in.
Y: A good, in-depth treatment. I can’t stress how much that helps. I didn’t start doing that until very recently because Roxana is all about that. You guys will see what difference it makes in our future projects. All the stuff that’s out now had very vague treatments. We’ve gotten a lot better at writing out every second. Plan as much as you can, visual references and all that.
Also, make it different – make it it’s own thing. Make it rhythmic. I always try to think of it as music for the eyes. Musical imagery.
MA: Who do you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
Y: Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People, Ab-Soul, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, Earl Sweatshirt, Chance the Rapper, and NoNameGypsy just to list a few.
R: Also, my boys from Arizona have this band called Katastro. They’re on the come up on the west coast but they have no music videos! I’m definitely trying to change that.
MA: What do you want to accomplish in your directing career?
Y: We want to show people that it’s okay to collaborate. Obviously don’t go out and collaborate with anyone. Make sure your vision is compatible with whoever you’re working with. But don’t take the credit thing too seriously; it’s okay to share credit. Film is meant to be a collaborative process.
R: We have a million ideas a day and it’s almost overwhelming, all the plans we have for the future. But for right now, we’re excited to tell our story in narrative form.
Y: Yes, watch out for our first narrative piece in 2014. We want to use directing as a platform to do other things. We’re not making videos or movies just for the sake of making them. We have something to say. We’re on a mission. This is just a starting point.