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INTERVIEW | Award-winning director and producer Isaac Deitz about Lecrae’s “Welcome to America” music video

photo from isaacdeitz.com

by Cassie

Isaac Deitz (Tub-O-Popcorn Productions) is an award-winning video director and producer who has worked with many different musical artists, such as Family Force 5, TobyMac, Lecrae, Abandon Kansas, and House Of Heroes. Isaac just finished working with Grammy award-winning rapper Lecrae on his new music video, “Welcome To America,” released on April 9, 2015, which has also recently been featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I recently had the opportunity to ask Isaac a few questions about the video, its impact, advice for those interested in video production, and much more.

GMN: From start to finish, about how long has the whole music video making process taken for “Welcome To America”?

Isaac: I got the “green light” on December 1st, 2014 and I sent the final draft on April 7th, 2015. So about four months. One thing that ended up being a blessing in disguise is Lecrae was on tour for a while and I couldn’t film his first performance part until mid-January. Which allowed me to have more time to film other things and we filmed the second performance in mid-March. So all of his traveling got me more time to let me work on filming more and tweaking the editing.

GMN: There are so many different shots and scenes that make up this impactful video, each one with its own significance and purpose. About how many different clips make up the whole video?

Isaac: I haven’t really counted, I’d venture to guess over 100 cuts. Before it was finalized, I have well over 3 Terabits (3,000+ Gigabits) of footage to go through to make this four and a half minute video.

GMN: While making this video, who are some people that have had the greatest impact on you?

Isaac: I think it wasn’t just one, though there were some notable ones for sure, but the biggest impact on me was seeing humanity as a whole, the variety of people, seeming to all be working towards something and trying to figure out their situations. It impacted me so much because I’ve noticed that though I’m filming a cop one day, a prostitute the other day and a boxer the next. I was able to start seeing that no matter how different someone is from you, there is a lot of common bonds a lot of things that do bring us together. There’s a quote that I love that says “People fear what they don’t understand.” I think once I started to understand a more ground level view of all these people’s different lifestyles, I saw the similarities that they all seemed to have, from struggles, inner doubts, goals, dreams, etc. So even though a lot of people impacted me from the getting to know them and hearing their stories, the greater impact was more on seeing the whole forest after getting to know a lot of the trees individually.

GMN: There are many different types of people that can be seen throughout this video, who are some of the most prominent groups of people featured, and how did this great diversity of personalities and lifestyles further illustrate the song and video’s message?

Isaac: Lecrae wrote the song from the perspective of someone living in poverty on the first verse, the second verse is from the perspective of someone from the military and the third is an immigrant. I’ve noticed the common theme was about three drastically different people all doing what they can to be Americans. So though Lecrae’s song was specifically about three different people, I branched out from the themes of those three. The first verse became the marginalized people of America, where the second verse wasn’t just military, but service men and women that risk their life, the last were the outcasts of America.

GMN: Throughout the experience of creating this video, what has been the main theme or lesson that has stood out to you and how has that changed your perspective on life?

Isaac: A lot of the filming was from driving around in a car and shooting out the window, then sometimes I’d stop and ask the person if I could follow them more. After a while, I got programmed to look out the window at the people that I’m driving past and be even more curious of their story. To know they aren’t just a person, but they have a name, they have a certain way that they laugh and they have a story that got them to the place they are now. So I’ve got a glimpse more into the lifestyles and the jobs that I didn’t fully know, but now I can picture myself in their shoes a bit more, which makes it easier to love and empathize people that are different than me.

GMN: What was the most difficult obstacle you faced while filming and putting together this music video? What were some of your greatest frustrations? How did you overcome these?

Isaac: I think having all of that footage to condense into four and a half minutes. Having to decide one clip over the other was very hard. Also, learning a lot more about montage theory and deciding not only what clips should be in the video but when and where they should appear in the video and how if I changed one thing it affected the whole mood of the video. So there was a lot of fine tuning to get it where it is right now.

GMN: For those who are just starting to get into video production and editing, especially in music, what would you say is the most important thing they should know?

Isaac: Be humble, don’t think you’re above any project. Be helpful, if you wanna eventually direct and lead, you should get good at serving. I’d say the most important thing is to just make stuff. Always be making things, eventually you’ll start being really happy with what you’re making but you might not love it at first. You’re not going to be good overnight, just put a lot of time into it and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone is on a different stage of their journey as an artist, so it’s not helpful to compare. We’re all trying to tell stories, how we tell them will be different and what stories we tell will be different, so just get good for the sake of being good, not better than anyone else.

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