Loved the oddly sweet, pastel-tinged high school production feel of Chance the Rapper and the Social Experiment’s latest music video, “Sunday Candy”? How about this 2011 throwback of rapper Vic Mensa and horns player Donnie Trumpet hanging out in miniature-sized Chicago? Or this woozy, colorful short from local R&B singer Eryn Allen Kane?
All three works have a director in common: 24-year-old filmmaker Austin Vesely.
Since moving to Chicago for film school in 2010, the Iowa via Germany via Oklahoma native (he’s the son of military personnel) has quietly made a name for himself directing videos for a growing number of local musicians, many from the scarily talented hip-hop crew Save Money. If there’s any calling card to his work, it’s a deliberate avoidance of the rapper-lip-syncing-while-his-posse-stands-menacingly-behind-him motif that plagued way too many Chicago rap music videos in the early 2010s.
Chicago chatted with Vesely about the making of “Sunday Candy,” the one time he bet Vic Mensa he’d tattoo “Save Money” on his chest, and his upcoming first feature film.
So how’d you first connect with Save Money?
I moved to Chicago to go to Columbia College in 2010 and I got connected with a small production company called Elephilms. They were doing a lot of work with up-and-coming Chicago artists, mostly hip-hop. Through that I got the opportunity to go on tour with Kids These Days and that’s how I met Vic Mensa. We really hit it off and I made my first music video with him. On that set, Chance came by and that’s how I met him.
Why do you think you work so well with Vic and Chance?
Vic and Chance were both making music that I really enjoyed and believed in right away. And just as much as I believe in their music, they believe in my vision as a filmmaker. They give me free range to do weird stuff.
Talk about the process of making “Sunday Candy.”
So Chance came to me several months ago with an idea. He had gone to see the Broadway production of The Lion King like 20 times or something like that and said he wanted to do something theatrical for a music video. I wrote a treatment for it and came up with this candy shop idea. Then we watched a lot of OK Go videos and actually talked to Tim Norwind from OK Go about filming the video all in one shot. The biggest thing beyond that was bringing in Amanda Brinton, who is my production designer, to build the sets and Ian Eastwood, who was the choreographer.
Where was it shot?
It was shot at Resolution Digital Studios on a 5,600-square-foot sound stage.
How long did it take to shoot?
It was only one day of shooting, but it was two weeks of Amanda and her team building the set pieces in her shop. We actually only did eight full takes and shot for five hours, which was early for us.
Do you have a guiding principle or set of maxims going into filming your music videos?
I’m not sure if I have a maxim or ethos going into stuff, but I always try to do something different than what I’ve done before. It’s always good to have collaborators; people like Chance who push me. I probably wouldn’t have thought to have done a musical or theatrical theme on my own.
Are music videos coming back into vogue?
Music videos are more important than ever now, especially for younger artists or up-and-coming artists who want to build their image or brand. The Internet is so video-based now and putting out content that’s interesting and specific is very important. But it also means there’s a lot more bad stuff out there, so that’s the challenge.
Talk about your upcoming feature.
It’s a horror comedy about pizza delivery and ghosts. It’s kind of an absurd little thing. I’m bringing a lot of the same people from “Sunday Candy.” Chance is a part of it. Amanda Brinton, my production designer, is working on it. “Sunday Candy” was kind of like the dry run for the feature.
So are you officially a part of the Save Money crew?
There was never an initiation ceremony or anything like that. But I would self-identify as a member. I remember telling [Vic Mensa and Donnie Trumpet] that if my first video gets on TV, I would get a Save Money tattoo. It didn’t happen but I’m not ruling out a Save Money tattoo!