Interview With Director Alex Henery (Basement, Title Fight, Man Overboard)

I first met Alex Henery when I was working with Man Overboard. Not only did he come off as one of the most humble, fun and nice people you will meet, he is also super talented. Just do a search for his now defunct band Basement (who I was lucky enough to mix and master a record for) and you’ll find blogs, tweets and tumbls of kids being near suicidal that they have broken up after just two LPs and you will see his talent extends far past what he is doing right now, which is make a lot of videos for some great bands. In the above playlist you can watch a handful of videos he has made for groups like Man Overboard, Daylight and Turnover. In the below interview you can get to know him better and gain TONS of great tips on making a video.

So how did you get into making music videos?

I had always loved filming and capturing things on my parents video camera, I first started filming my friends in comedy skits and then when Jackass came out we all just tried to imitate that. The first music video I did was for Basement right when the demo came out, we knew of a carpet warehouse in my hometown that had gone out of business so we decided to shoot a video there. All our friends showed up and trashed the place whilst we pretended to play, there are no amps, there is a broom for the cymbals, it was a total joke but we had a lot of fun.

I had never planned on doing music videos, I knew I would try and do a real one eventually but I had always preferred the documentary side of videography. It wasn’t until Man Overboard asked me to do a video for ‘Somethings Weird’ that I flew to America and jumped in the van to capture their full U.S tour with New Found Glory and filmed my first ever music video. I owe them so much for having faith in me to do it, because that was the start of my career in the music industry.

What are some of your favorite videos made by others?

I have a blog that I post videos that inspire me and that features some of my favorite video pieces. Videos for bands like Radiohead, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Blur, Beastie Boys are all videos that stuck with me since I was a kid. Back in the 90′s and early 2000′s, music videos were big budget projects with the significance of MTV. So they would be shooting with cinema quality 16mm/35mm cameras, and that cinematic quality is near impossible to re-create with digital. I think that is something very special and gave the videos real character and personality.

When a band comes to you to do a video and you want to work with them what happens next? Do you generally come up with an idea or do they? 

It depends, sometimes the band will already have an idea or a full treatment for what they want, but that is very rare. Most of the time the bands want me to come up with something and then we develop the ideas together. I like the band being involved in the making of video, because that’s when we get the best results when everyone is on board and is comfortable with what we are shooting. I want the band to be as excited as I am about shooting.

You’re also a musician who was in a great band (Basement) but I see no music videos directed by you for your own band aside from some live videos and documentaries, is that a conscious choice?

Yeah I had always been very nervous about making a video for our band, myself and Fisher (ed. - bandmate in Basement) had agreed we didn’t want a video unless we had a great idea. And eventually we just ran out of time and never made one. I definitely regret not making a video, but I am glad we never put out a mediocre one just for the sake of releasing something. As I said before I always felt documentary style videos were my strong point and so that was something I began to explore through Basement and I was so happy to see the videos get such a great response from people.

You’ve done a couple of tour documentaries, what is some good advice for bands who would want to do this themselves?

Have fun, bring a camera on tour and capture your time on the road. I think it would be cool if more bands did something more than just a montage of video clips with a song over the top. I like it when bands actually talk about how the tour is going, what is going well, what isn’t going so well, I think that gives it a personal element to the visuals and kids are given a real glimpse into what it’s like to be on tour.

What’s a reasonable budget for a band to have that is looking to get exposure by making a music video? 

This all depends on the person you are looking to film the video, however the  shorter amount of time it will take to film the cheaper it will be. If you are a band with a low-budget always look to see if you know anyone in school for film, or a friend that has equipment. If you don’t have the money for a big video, then I would suggest just doing it yourself, it’s fun, you will learn a lot and you will have full control over what you want put of the video.

However if you do have money to spend on a video from what I know of videographers prices, $500-$750 is considered cheap. So definitely look at all your options before you decide to spend the money.

If you were on a budget what is some bare minimum equipment you can get away with making a good video with? 

Honestly if you have an amazing idea for a video it doesn’t matter too much about the equipment, as long as you can capture people’s attention and get them talking I personally don’t think it matters if you filmed it on a RED camera or an iPhone. Now I know that’s a bold statement so here is more practical advice -

Very Low Budget ($40-$100)

A flip cam might be a simple but effective camera to film your video, you can find them on ebay very cheap.

Medium Budget ($300-$500)

Gopro or a Sony Handycam might be good for your video.

Good Budget ($700-$1000)

Start with a DSLR, Canon 60D is an amazing starting camera. Here is a link to a blog that will recommend the best camera for your budget.

Lenses - For a basic set up I would recommend a basic lens like a 24-70mm or 16-35mm and then one prime lens such as a 35mm or 50mm. I have been shooting videos with only 3 lenses and they have been great so far. Look at the company Rokinon for great video lenses, they are a lot cheaper than Canon and Nikon because they don’t have the auto focus technology which you don’t need because that is used for the photography side of DSLR’s. You should never be shooting video with your lens set to auto.

What are the pieces of equipment you use that give a lot of value for very little money?

Everyone needs a monopod, essential cheap piece of kit that will keep your shots steady! You can get one from best buy for $20-$30

Lighting can make a boring shot look incredible, particularly when filming live band shots. Even just going to Home Depot or your local hardware store and spending $50 on some lights will do wonders for your videos.

Check out this blog post that is very informative on small but great pieces of equipment.

Anything you’d like to say before we finish?

I’m not a professional, I am learning every time I edit and every time I shoot. I never went to school for Film or had an internship, I just kept filming and learning and somehow people decided to start giving me money for it. But seriously the most important advice I can give you is that no is just going to give you a job, you have to get out there and start working for free, making videos, get your name out there. Once people see you have a talent they will start looking at your work and might be willing to pay you. Do not be afraid to email people, the worst thing that they can say is no. Get ready for rejection but don’t let it get you down. You have to accept the hard fact that everyone has a camera and you are not special. You have to get out there and prove that you are! Work hard and don’t accept no for an answer, people will put you down, tell you you’re not good enough, but if you stick at it and have a passion for creating great visuals you will succeed.

You can find Alex on Vimeo, Tumblr or his website. Thanks Alex!

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.