Jay Guevara talks with Zev Deans

Zev Deans is a New York based video director, animator, editor, and producer that has worked with a variety of different artists. After the time of this interview, his most recent video for Action Bronson’s song Mongolia dropped on November 19th . I met Zev indirectly on a Facetime call from his mentee King Z while acting on set for a video we did for the New Zealand metal band Blindfolded and Led to The Woods, check it out HERE.

Jay: Your catalogue covers a variety of artists and bands. In the hip hop realm, you shot Denzel Curry’s where Clout Cobain, Vengeance, and 13lack 13allonz. Your catalogue also covers metal, rock, pop and more music genres from St. Vincent, to the bands Tempers, Ghost, and Health. Does the creative process change based on whatever music genre you’re working with or does it remain the same? From what I’ve seen in some of your works, I caught a pattern of darker themes within your videos. I correlate your works to how Picasso used to paint specific pieces in blue hues to signify that he was going through depression called The Blue Period and how he painted in pink and orange hues to signify his happiness that he had got engaged The Pink Period.

Zev: I used to drive some of his works as an art handler and those examples does relate to your question. As a student I was like into certain artists and on the job as an art handler, I’m moving around all these art works in Vermont and New York just for art, but more so for decorative pieces for wives living rooms and shit. I started seeing art as moving units around as the jobs. The people I worked with were in their mid-forties and fucking miserable. I started doing the video shooting gig on the side while doing that job and after a few years, good shit happened to where I felt comfortable to start shooting full time. I now am so backlogged with work, which is great to have work right now but I’m so enwrapped and backed up just to survive in New York.

I usually say yes regardless if it’s a natural fit for me or not. I typically figure it out. I take a moment and like “Alright, so what is this band? What’s the world they’re communicating in. What might surprise those fans or what are they aware of?” I pay attention to the person I’m talking to or working with. I pay attention and figure it out. I get absorbed in their world temporarily and figure it all out. Sometimes I’ll be like I’ll have enough time and maybe a little bit of money to work with a band that I want to work with. A video director job is sexy, and I have stories I managed to live through, so I don’t regret it. Before the pandemic, seventy five percent of the job of the job has always been me at home but now it’s ninety percent. It’s been hard to feel like I’m okay.  I need to remember that I’m lucky to have a job and that this will all change very soon. I’m stressing out because I’m trying to get to Virginia see some family in Virginia Beach. I grew up there and Norfolk where I did every type of drug at eighteen and I love Richmond. It’s a great place to shoot videos and to visit.

Jay: As a video director, how has the creative process changed since the pandemic? I know when I was on set for a video of yours, you were on FaceTime with your mentee King Z giving directions on how to execute things.

Zev: I call him lil fucker but he’s a good guy to work with. That experience was a unique situation. It was for a New Zealand band and I forgot they already paid, and they needed the video months later. I called him and was like “make this video for me”. It was rather easier than the past and I had to do a lot of editing. I had to fix some of the mistakes. I had to do more animations during the pandemic. I returned to shooting videos in September and prior to this interview, I finished shooting a short film. I figured things changed when planning a project because of the pandemic. The location became important because a lot of locations can’t fuck with you and a lot of locations doesn’t really fuck with having a lot of people during this time. Sixty to seventy percent of my videos are now animations. Labels had been hitting me up about videos where it doesn’t include the band and because of the circumstances we’re in, the work they’re asking me for is mostly animation.

Jay: To you, what’s a normal schedule for a video director? Or is a normal schedule nonexistent? In my interview with fellow video director Alex Acosta, he discussed how there’s minimal sitting and plenty of moving in shooting a video for ten to fifteen hours.

Zev: It’s nonexistent. I been lucky enough to work on my own project for the last six years I guess and there’s no consistency from project to project. Everything is all manner of scale and all types of work. Shot love action or animate something from scratch or collage footage. I’m also very disorganized to begin with so it added stressed to have an equally disorganized career because things are up and down and it’s just, you know, I don’t know what tomorrow may bring. I’ll have an idea of what I’m doing on a day basis but the time I work on things in a certain time period will vary. It’s so often that life gets int eh way and a bigger client will pop up out of nowhere after a nice organized week of work and I’ll have to move things around. It’s a mess man.  In an actual sense, it’s twelve-hour days as the standard but I’ll have a shoot day or two or three and the rest is animating or editing. It makes planning very difficult and I learned to be more vigilant about taking time to do things for myself and my partner and family and shit.

Jay: Do you have a preference on animating videos or directing with people? Do you have any favorite video shoot memories as a director/animator?

Zev: I say that I think in terms of workload I prefer actual shoots because it’s a fun day to me. When I go back to edit, I don’t have to do too much work editing I can see in my head on how it all will be laid out. Animating I’m sometimes high as hell in the middle of it but it’s something God like to make something out of nothing and It’s always more work than what I think it’s going to be. I’ll get paid less that what it usually be. Like for example, I’ll get eight grand for it but with the hours I must work on it, it’s not as worth it. I think where I want to be is making feature films. Generally, there’s an ease, but I’ll give you a better answer.

I was a visual artist when I first started, and I was a control freak. I had the fully fleshed ideas when it came to the recording aspect. In some cases, it was good or bad. It took a while to turn my ego off and had to learn to grow into what filmmaking is all about: collaboration. It’s about what the dancer can bring into his dance group and accept that they’re a part of a whole. They’re there to facilitate ideas and the nuances of the ideas from department to department. Some of the greatest moments is when a group of people are excited about the same idea and bring everything to make the fucking magic happen. I was young and healthy when I first got into the game. If you would’ve told me in ten years, I’d be sixty to seventy pounds overweight and used speed to get through some of my shoots, I would’ve chosen a different profession.  

Follow Zev on Instagram: @zev_deans and visit his website zevdeans.com to check out his full works.

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