In our recent interview, we caught up with Andre Muir to talk about his early days in College becoming interested in film, starting Naked Productions with a few colleagues, his nostalgic story-telling for the videos he’s directed, the importance of being on a set – even if you’re not directing it, and much more. Stay tuned for more films and make sure to follow Andre on Instagram
I’m Andre Muir. I was born and raised in Chicago and I am a filmmaker.
Let’s take it back to the beginning, when did you discover your talent for film and video?
I went to college at Mizzou to study Journalism because they had a really good program. My plan was to get my Journalism degree and then go to Law school. I ended up not going to Law school, but while at Mizzou, I began getting involved in the video world. At the time I thought of it more as a hustle than a career, my friends Kami, Vic Mensa, Joey and the rest of the Savemoney crew among others were just coming up and doing really cool shit when I was in college. At the time, there wasn’t really anyone around doing video work and that could really cover everything that was going on in Chicago so I figured I could do it. The more and more I got involved in the world, the more I began really enjoying it. After I graduated I wanted to make my new love of video and film work with my degree, so I worked at Vice doing the documentary thing. It was cool, I was able to do a few music videos for them and pitch ideas. Unfortunately, I found Vice to be very exploitative. Following Vice, my Mom got sick so I moved back to Chicago to work at the Chicago Tribune. That was pretty depressing. Newspapers were slowly decreasing and everybody in the office was walking around with their heads down. Everybody was able to read the writing on the wall but didn’t want to admit it. I decided to leave the Tribune and fully embark on my independent freelance career.
What do you think was the first video you put out that help you develop your name within the scene/industry?
When I was in school, I started a production company with a guy named Greg Buissereth called ‘To Each Its Own’. Greg and I gained notoriety early working with Kids These Days, The Cool Kids and Freddie Gibbs even working with Raekwon. Our content was on MTV and Revolt when it first came out. I mean, we were 18-19 so we felt like hot shit, the problem was the type of videos that we created were low budget and really low creativity. While it was cool at first, I wanted to be able to grow as an artist. A lot of the work we were doing was your stereotypical Chicago DSLR video and we kind of got a reputation for it. We looked back at TEHO as a kind of failure and felt like we really needed to refresh our selves and rebrand which is why we started a new production company Naked, the name coming from this idea that we wanted to start anew and really just go against the facades that we saw prevalent in the industry at the time. My childhood friend Cory Proctor got involved and from there we just were trying to build our brand. I really wanted to take our creativity and productions to the next level, Greg never was really too interested in film as a career, he’s an amazing creative and animator but we had a lot of artistic differences on where the company should go so we had to part ways. A big issue in this industry is that you essentially are your reputation so people really kick the idea of us as the not-creative guys so it was hard finding work at first. It wasn’t until Kami took a chance and we made Home Movies that we gained a sense of notoriety. It was very narrative, people were like oh shit, let’s take them seriously now. We added my producer friend Zach Moore and since then we’ve just been churning away trying to grow as a company and make original content.
You brought up how Kami and Vic were your friends, did that make things easier for you to navigate the industry?
This is a funny story. In High School, we hated each other. I was a Senior, while they were Freshmen. Now Kami and I are really close, but to this day, Kami and I still have that animosity from High School. It won’t ever leave. What’s good about having Kami, Vic, Joey, Towkio and the rest of the Savemoney guys as friends is that I can work with them and get a lot of exposure and not everyone has that opportunity. Another benefit is there’s a huge community around them that’s very artistic and super inspiring and like a good group to lean on.
In 2015 you and a few other directors came together to create Naked, a production company. While you were already developing your name in the city independently, what made you want to come together and start a production company with other colleagues?
Film is fucking hard. Finding jobs, trying to get representation, commision work from labels/agencies, it’s all hard. To try and navigate it by myself is difficult. The ones who do it, I’m really impressed. I thought by creating a production company, it would be good to have an infrastructure.
A lot of the music videos you’ve created with Naked have this nostalgic feel woven through the storyline, whether it be Ravyn Lenae’s or Kami’s videos. Was that the feeling you were going for?
With Ravyn and Kami’s videos, they both have a nostalgic, vintage kind of feel. For Ravyn specifically, that’s what the music made me feel and that’s why I went that way. Kami’s videos, during those times, that’s what I wanted to go for, I wanted to have this somewhat humorous/campy feel to my videos. While I did create that type of theme for those videos, I don’t want to say that’s the aesthetic I’m going for. I’m trying to go darker. I know that sounds a little lame, but I don’t mean John Carpenter, what I mean is telling real stories and trying really to capture the human experience.
Your mission statement for Naked is about how your team wants to always do your best to avoid trends. How do you guys look to do that?
Self-consciously humans fall into trends. What that statement means is to be aware and to make an actual effort to not be trendy. Of course, I’ll be influenced by things that are happening in the film world, but I don’t ever want to be trendy. Right now one of the biggest directors in music is Cole Bennett. I would say the work he is doing is trendy. To the most part, he has created his own aesthetic, visually. It’s really impressive and shoutouts to him, but, when you fall into trends, you put yourself at risk of that trend fading. I don’t want to fade.
People may think that directors have full creative control when it comes to working with artists and labels. When it comes to your music videos do you have total creative control?
No, absolutely not. It’s hell. Creative control is really tough when you’re working with labels. Music videos are give and take. Now-a-days, musicians are more aware of their brand. They’re a lot more involved with their music videos. You see A$AP Rocky directing his videos, and Tyler as well. 10-15 years ago, artists would trust a director. They’d give them the budget to go and create something. Now, musicians want to be as hands-on as possible through the process. There have been times when I’ve come up with a concept and the artist doesn’t like it. We’ll then go back and forth, which will end in some sort of compromise. Sometimes that compromise makes the video better and other times it makes it worse. It’s frustrating because why are you hiring me, they should just be a director. When an artist trusts me and grants me full creative control, I think those are the best videos. One of my favorite videos I ever created was Towkio’s Hot Shit. In that video, Towkio told me to do what I wanted to do. The fact that he trusted me to do that made it one of the best videos.
How about your branded work?
Man, with corporate work there’s a lot of red tape. However, sometimes you get a client that is chill as shit. When our team worked with Notre, they trusted us and allowed us to do our thing.
Music videos and visual content is at the forefront of everything now-a-days, what does that mean for directors?
With technology getting better and better, it’s opening the door for anyone to be a director. That’s empowering, but it also sucks because you have a lot more competition and the concept of being a director isn’t taken as seriously. It’s a weird time. 10 years ago if your work was on MTV or any network, you knew you were doing something right. Now, people might make a video and put it on Youtube and it gets 2 million views. While that’s cool, I think it says more about the artist, but does that automatically mean I’m a good director? I don’t really know. And of course that’s the pro and con with any technology, it empowers you and democratizes art but at the same time, it can delegitimize it as well.
While you work at an Ad agency and also are a director, as you look back over the years, what do you think has been your favorite set you’ve been on?
I enjoy being on set all the time. There are a lot of directors that can be high and mighty and sometimes you have to be. Especially in this industry if you want to make it as a director. But I didn’t go to film school so any chance I’ve had to get out there, I have taken it. Whether I’m directing or even being a PA. What’s cool about going on set and being a PA is you can go on other sets and see how directors work. You can go and see what works and steal that or see what doesn’t and learn from them. This question is funny because my favorite set I’ve been on actually wasn’t one where I directed. My favorite set I’ve been on was when I was an AD on a Wild Belle video. My friend Danielle from Verluxe was a producer on it. The director was one of my favorite directors – Alan Del Rio Ortiz. Being on set and watching how Alan directed the room and worked with talent was amazing. Especially since he came to Chicago with barely any time to pre-pro on the ground. He came in and worked in a foreign city with a foreign crew and was able to command the set which was really impressive to see.
My favorite set I directed, but not necessarily my favorite video was Scene Girl. There were 70 people on the crew. Seeing 70 people do all of this technical work to help me develop something that I was envisioning was amazing and is just a testament to how important every single person on your crew is just as important as the next.
While you’ve been able to develop a bit of success during your creative journey so far, what do you think has been your personal key(s) to earning that success?
I think my key to success has just been never feeling successful. I always want to improve. And just also being open. There are a lot of opportunities that people are presented with that they can either say yes or no to. I’ve just always found myself saying yes whether its easy or a challenge. What I’ve found is that everything that’s been challenging has been so much more rewarding.
Written by: Nico Rud