Olly Hill is an upcoming video producer who has just made the video for Micall Parknsun’s Everyday track. It looks very professional, with great animation, and it looks like it was well complicated to produce and have all that stuff going on. We managed to catch up with Olly and got him to break down his thoughts and experiences with video production. Read on to find out more.
Where are you from? Can you tell us a bit about what it is like there? Is there much of a Hip Hop scene?
Olly Hill: I’m from sunny Southampton. It has two Universities so there are plenty of clubs. A couple of clubs often go to the effort of getting some good acts in but there really isn’t a huge hip hop scene. There are worse places.
Are you actually a Hip Hop music fan and if so, when did you first get in to it? Who was it that got you into Hip Hop? If not what sort of music do you mostly feel?
Olly Hill: I don’t listen to the amount of hip hop I used to. I got into Foreign Beggars around the time ‘Asylum Speakers’ came out and that was sort of how I got into UK hip hop. I went through quite a big Dr Syntax and Phi Life Cypher phase but now I listen to a lot of Aesop Rock and Sage francis. My iTunes library is a confusing and often scary mix of genres.
So the main reason why we are talking to you is to find out about music videos and their production. Can you let the readers know what it is about the visual arts that excites you?
Olly Hill: I’ve always loved the way music can affect the visuals and visa versa. There are moments in film where having the right soundtrack can have a huge impact. A clever edit to a great moment in a track excites me.
Right then, how did you pursue this interest? Would you have gone to college to further your knowledge of the subject, or did you just jump in feet first and do lowly jobs with a film crew?
Olly Hill: I was called upon to help a mate out making a music video for his band. They had a barn to film in and we secured some lights and cameras. Me and my best mate spent a few weekends in the freezing cold filming a moody gothic type thing. A few years went by where video was still just a hobby but I got really into it again during my Uni course in record production. We had to make a music video and I remembered how much I enjoyed it.
In your opinion, which direction is the best way in? Do qualifications really help?
Olly Hill: Well it’s a tough one. I spent two years teaching myself how to use the software it’s a steep learning curve without guidance. There are more and more specific courses popping up for all aspects of film making. However people will judge you in what they see in your showreel and not what it says on paper about you.
Right, can you break down your CV, or tell us about the projects you have been involved in so far? What was your role in each of the productions?
Olly Hill: Well there was the video I mentioned earlier which was for a band called ‘Seasons End’. The video for my Uni course was for an electronic outfit called ‘JayEtAl’. I did the camera work, animating and editing with a friend. I used these videos as a base for my portfolio and they led to promo work with Dented Records. I did the promo video for Kyza’s ‘Go’ single and the worked on a full length video for Subgiant. I work on all the promo stuff alone. I get hold of all the images I think I’ll need and try to stitch them together into something interesting.
How did you come to be commissioned for the videos you have made? Did the artist know of your work and approach you, or had you been friends in the past or something?
Olly Hill: I literally emailed every record label I could think of. By the time I’d finished Uni I knew that I wanted to work in video so I offered my services for free in order to build my portfolio. I was lucky that one of few people who got back to me was Pavan from Dented records. They gave me a shot doing Kyza’s promo and a few weeks after it went out Jehst got in touch asked me to get involved with the video for Micall Parknsun’s ‘Everyday’ single. I said I’d get involved and they handed the whole project over to me. Everyone I’ve dealt with at YNR is really sound so the ideas flowed pretty freely.
How do you formulate the ideas for the story boards? Do you have concepts behind the videos?
Olly Hill: I mostly just build the video from the image the artist or label already has. The label will often have an idea in mind. For example for the ‘Everyday’ video Jehst wanted something in the style of the ‘Through The Wire’ video by Kanye West only with more emphasis on Parky being a real family man. Often ideas evolve as I’m working. I’m not one to stick rigidly to a plan.
I understand that although the main shoot could be over relatively quickly there could also be months of other production work as well. What actually goes into making this video then? Maybe you could use it as an example to demonstrate the general procedures people would go through whilst making a film, from coming up with an idea, putting a team in place, doing a story board, sorting venues, the actual filming, and then the post production side of editing and finishing up.
Olly Hill: Well to be honest it’s pretty rare that I’ll be involved in the video shoots themselves. I don’t often work with live footage for promo videos and the labels will often already have footage that they want used. I just edit it all and make it look flashy. Greg Hall from YNR sorted out all the footage for the Parky vid and sent it down. It looked like they had fun holding up plywood backgrounds in the wind.
What were the main things that you learned from completing your productions so far and what would you do differently next time?
Olly Hill: It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. I’ve been known to spend ages trying to make an impossible idea work. Knowing when to go back to the drawing board is a good thing. Ambition is a very good thing however.
What do you think of your finished videos then? Are you generally happy with the way everything turns out? What are the things that really annoy you when you watch your work back? Maybe nobody else would even notice?
Olly Hill: Most of time I’m happy with the end result but I always feel like I could’ve done better. Without a deadline I’d be tweaking video forever.
Do you know how the artists you have worked with felt about the way their videos turned out?
Olly Hill: I’ve heard back from most people I’ve worked with. I’ve yet to have someone be unhappy with the end result. I tend to keep in touch with people throughout the project to make sure it’s going the way they want.
Not to do you out of a job, but, do you think it is worth making a UK Hip Hop video? Certainly in the past there was little point. Would there be much exposure, and where could you expect it to be shown? Is it all about youtube or has digital TV opened things up a bit…
Olly Hill: I think that in the past it was difficult getting exposure for a video not to mention expensive. Now you can get a professional looking video with very little expense. Quicker internet speeds mean that video plays a huge part in the way people consume music online. You can stick a video just about anywhere online now, facebook, youtube, myspace, etc and it’ll get seen. Independent digital TV is still finding its feet but I think that in a few years it’ll be a great platform for music videos.
Do you think there would be a market for these videos on video or CDV or DVD format? Downloads are really taking off big time as well…
Olly Hill: I think that if you’re good enough at what you do and people like your stuff you’ll sell DVDs. Chris Cunningham and spike Jonze are good examples. Downloads are the way forward though.
OK, so back to reality, what were the TV stations you got some air play on so far? Was it just limited to MTV Base and internet websites, or is there more outlets these days?
Olly Hill: I survive mostly on internet exposure. Asides from music videos I do visuals for clubs so seeing something of mine on a TV station would be nice. I think YNR are going to really push this Parky single and the video so fingers crossed. Oh I did something for Virgin Media which gets shown on aeroplanes. I guess that counts.
What can people who have videos to get shown do to get out to a wider audience?
Olly Hill: Enter contests, post the video on forums, etc. It’s hard to get noticed but just look at the number of hits some successful youtube videos have.
Do you have any other projects or production company you want to plug?
Olly Hill: I’ve just got a website up at www.deeben.co.uk. Have a ganders.
What advice would you give to budding young video makers?
Olly Hill: Don’t be afraid to approach people. Email everyone you can think of and suggest projects. Be prepared to work for free a lot in the beginning.
How do you feel about the current state of UK hip hop?
Olly Hill: I think it’s a shame that there seems to be so little money getting to the people with true talent. I must admit that I avoid the radio as much as I can but when I do switch it on I hear shit like N-Dubz or whatever they’re called and it kills me that not only is this crap getting all the airplay but people are lapping it up. Exactly what genre is that cheese on toast, R&B, watered down talentless whining bollocks?
What are some of the recent videos that you have admired or thought that you would have liked to have directed?
Olly Hill: The video for OK Go’s ‘This Too Shall Pass’ looked like it would have been great fun to work on. It’s not really recent but I would have loved to have had the idea for Chris Cunningham’s ‘Rubber Johnny’. What a video.
How do you view the Internet? Do you think it is a useful promotional tool and a good way of getting out there and loosening the grip that the major media companies an their TV schedulers have on what is broadcast, or are there too many idiots too willing to spout a load of rubbish with no control over them?
Olly Hill: There are always people spouting rubbish and the joy of the internet is you don’t have to listen. I’m completely for giving anyone and everyone a platform to express themselves. The public are more on the ball than we’re given credit for. Look at Rage Against The Machine getting the Christmas number one.
Do you have any plans to get your own online presence?
Olly Hill: http://www.deeben.co.uk
How do you feel, as a film maker about distribution systems like P2P that are out of your control and for which you don't get any money? Movies are already being illegally distributed this way, so I would have thought that this along with the advent of Broadband music videos would be ripe for copying as well. Do you think that this could create problems in the future for you either with regard to getting paid or maintaining control over your work?
Olly Hill: I don’t think it’s such a problem with the music videos. I’ll get paid by the client who wants exposure and the more people downloading it the more exposure they get. It’s a tricky thing to sell people music videos.
I suppose this is less of a problem with music videos. Would you ever be expecting to see some back end profit split, or royalties or would your contribution and rights to the film be bought out by whoever commissioned you?
Olly Hill: I think I’d mostly go with just selling what I’ve made moving on to the next project. My career is still in it’s infancy really. I’ve got a huge amount still to learn.
As video equipment, although it is getting cheaper is still relatively expensive how do you obtain the funding in order to start and complete a project?
Olly Hill: Well there doesn’t seem to be a huge budget for UK labels to spend on video. In fact often there is no budget and they count on people working for free to get exposure. I get by with a decent camera and a powerful laptop. They were expensive but after you’ve got them there is not much else you need that you can’t rent cheaply. It’s nice to work with UK hip hop labels as there is that community spirit and everyone chips in to get stuff done with no money.
So, regarding the equipment, do you borrow it, and if so, how do you get the big production houses to help you for free?
Olly Hill: I’ve found that the local Universities are often keen to help. Especially if they have a strong media department. I was really lucky to do music at Solent university. They have some great equipment and are really keen to get students out and experiencing the industry. I was filming at Glade festival and they had a huge amount of equipment. They really helped out.
How do you find the equipment you have? Is it versatile enough for you, or do you find it has limitations?
Olly Hill: I work with a program called After Effects and the possibilities are endless with it. Some of work I’ve seen people do with it just blows my mind. I wish I was a better camera man.
What is the next bit of equipment you have your eyes on? How would this bit of kit help your production?
Olly Hill: I’m after some better lighting and a decent green-screen for getting those sick special effects.
How do you plan to take things forward from here? Are you looking to run your own business or get involved with a bigger film production company? What are the options?
Olly Hill: Well I started off my own business at the start of this year and I’m getting the club owners and DJs interested in what I do. A few places are on board already which is good. It’s nice to be your own boss. There is lots of pressure but it beats being shouted down to by some jumped up Pizza Hut management or something (guess where I worked during Uni).
Where can people view your work at the present time?
Olly Hill: http://www.deeben.co.uk or check out my vimeo page: http://vimeo.com/user1460992.
Are you affiliated with any other crews or visual artists? Is there anyone else you would like to work with?
Olly Hill: I’m doing some stuff with COM64. It’s a collective of some outrageously talented DJs, producers, artists and generally creative people. I’ve been working on some promo clips for Envious Mind and Alex the Kidd. DJ B Side is coming up with some great stuff too. I’m glad to be onboard now because these guys are gonna be big. Check out www.com64.tk.
I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on, but most current Hip Hop heads decline to answer. I guess they don’t want to upset anyone. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes to?
Olly Hill: I think that a lot of people are just after an easy life and don’t stand up against things they know deep down are wrong. Britain is a nanny state and we are watched over in everything we do apparently for our own good. Every street corner seems to have a cctv camera or a community service officer on it. Do these things really help us? Did we sign up to this? We have a government that nobody has any faith in, making policies we don’t agree with to run a country that’s no better off for it. Where’s the people power? Just look at the Red Shirts in Thailand at the moment. There is no reason we shouldn’t take action like that. Viva la revolution.
What is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months?
Olly Hill: Building up my client base a bit more, doing stuff with COM64 and maybe getting back in touch with Dented Records. I’ve been talking about doing an animation for a new Dr Syntax track but we’ll see how it pans out.
What are your longer term plans and objectives for you as a film maker?
Olly Hill: I haven’t really thought too much about the future. It’s been such a mission to get where I am now that I’m too busy enjoying myself to worry about it.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Olly Hill: I think we covered it all.
Thank you for your time.