Q&A With Music Video Director Nathan Karma Cox

Will: Nathan has directed videos by Chevelle, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Mest, Static-X, System Of A Down
Thank you for taking the time and welcome back!

Steve Smith: Hey nathan!
Its an honour to finally be able to talk to you, your videos rock. I got a bio up of yourself on my MVD website. I love the story about how you and Jon met, do you plan shooting any KoRn videos in the future? Are you still into the L.A. graffiti scene? In the MTV music video awards why didn’t you go up with Linkin Park, same with the other directors? Im an up and comming 16 year old Australian director aspiring to become a MV director. Do you have any tips for up and comming MVD’s trying to break it into the industry? What inspires you to make music videos, and which other directors do you respect the most? Also how do you go about writing your treatments? Do you have a set format or place where you go to write them? Any feedback would be awesome!

Nathan Karma Cox: Hi Steve,
Thanks for the compliments. I stay involved with the graffiti scene through friends and at times some work. I’ll do a piece just for fun when I get the opportunity. I have recently painted some in the back drop of the Boxcar Racer video. Most of my videos have a hidden “karma” tag in there somewhere.

At the MTV awards, they honor the band, not the director. Most of the time the artists wont even mention the director’s name. I am thankful that Linkin Park and Joe Hahn gave me some credit. That was nice of them. I didnt attend because I was on vacation at Burning Man.

Breaking into the business is very hard. Every director I know has had a different, unique approach to breaking in. I can really only speak from my experience. For me, starting as an assistant editor was the key. I learned from some pretty amazing editors and eventually started editing low budget projects. At the same time, I had a bunch of friends in the music scene and shot small promo videos for them on the side. I continued building relationships with record labels as an editor. When I was ready, I convinced a band to let me do a video and they were loyal enough to give me a shot. Then it became a game of perserverance. I continued to edit to pay the bills and eventually other bands began giving me directing gigs. It was really the loyalty of the bands I had relationships with that got the ball rolling. Label people have too much to lose, so its harder to get them to take a chance on anyone new.

Im ultimately inspired by the prospect of creating new imagery. Film and music have always been my two loves and music video allows me to combine the best of both worlds. I feel blessed to have this career and Im thankful everyday.

I think my favorite director is Chris Cunningham. I wish he would do more work. I also love Michel Gondry, Mark Romanek and David Fincher. I think that anyone who actually makes it to the level of a working director should get major props. Im a fan of anyone who is able to grow the thick skin it takes to withstand the daily rejections that this career provides.

When I write, usually I put the MP3 on my IPOD, throw on the headphones and go for a walk. For some reason, if Im active while Im thinking, I get better results. Sometimes I just close my eyes and see what images appear. Other times I’ll write ten, one sentence ideas on a piece of paper and then begin to visualize each one until I feel like Im going in the right direction. Believe itor not, the best idea is not always the one I focus on, because although it may look amazing in my head, it may be to complex for a non creative label executive to understand. It’s a fine line, but its got to be an idea that can be understood instantly.

Thanks for the questions
-Karma

Saloki: hi nathan
im a uni student studying new media and at the moment im doing a design investigation into animated music videos.
i was wondering if you could give me a little insight into that kind of industry and answer some of these questions please.

who decides the concept and use of medium for the video.

who has the most influential creative process on the outcome ie band members, designers, directors.

why does there seem to be a mass of music videos using animation at the present.

Is it a trend or is it medium that has always run along side film.

what inspires you

what processes do use to create your work

thanks for your time and you dont have to answer all but it would be most appreciated for any information.
john

Nathan Karma Cox: Hi John
Ultimately the director has the most say in a concept that they are directing, although band imput is very important to me. I feel that a band has one chance to get their career going and its important to me that they are happy with their image. I like to address as much imput from them as I can.

As far as animated videos go, I think that it is a trend that is happening now, but it will burn out soon. I think now that 3d animation is so accessible, it has become an exciting alternative. In an animated video, animation supervisors and animation directors are super important to the look and style of the video. Generally the director doesnt have the ability to animate himself, so communication with the animators is highly important to a unified vision.

What inspires me? Thats a tough one. I get inspiration from everything. features, people watching, and sometimes just a single photograph will spark an idea. Anything that inspires imagery can be used. I am naturally drawn to the darker things. I always have been. I guess anything that can be used as a jumping off point can be used for videos. But its gotta come back to the music or the lyrics that get the juices flowing.

Thanks
-Karma

cheryl: Hi Nathan,

I became a fan of yours when i saw a few of your music videos. I even saw your website that Shannon does. I think it looks so cool. I have written a few stories on Shannon’s Korn fiction site. One is posted. Anyway,here is my question for you: Do you ever see yourself becoming a feature film director?

Cheryl

Nathan Karma Cox: Hi Cheryl,
My goals are to definitely move on to features. Right now I am currently writing a script and have started to developa few feature projects.

Shannon rocks
-Karma

Steve Smith: Hey Nathan!
Thanks for the great words of wisdom! I came up with a few more questions [Cool] When you were growing up what people inspired you to keep trying no matter what? Did you always want to shoot music videos as a kid or did you realise your passion for mv’s later in your directing days? Besides MVD’s what people inspire you in life? For example mine would have to be Bono(u2) and Sir Bob Geldoff. Would you please be able to speak of your time at Burning Man? Ive been researching it, some of the artwork is amazing, for everyone on the board you can see photos of Nathans WINNING(woohoo!) group at http://www.renedstory.homestead.com/burning.html and last years entries at http://burningman.com/whatisburningman/2001/01_art_theme.html Do you ever think about going back and directing another video for some of your earlier bands, i.e. Coal Chamber, S.O.A.D? Haha on the slight chance you have time, I posted some of my treatments on the site although havent had much feedback and wondering if you could read one of them?  If you dont have enough time thats totally cool, I understand that you must get very busy. Anyway any replies would be awesome again! Every word is inspirational from a director of your talents.
Cheers Steve [Cool] Rock on!

Nathan Karma Cox:
Hi Steve,
Although I spent all my free time in movie theaters, most of the people that I could relate to growing up were musicians. I think my biggest influence was Robert Smith from The Cure. His music helped me through some pretty rough times. I remember early on deciding that whatever I did, I wanted to give something back to the kids that gave them an outlet.

As a kid I always thought I would go straight into features, but as I got older, music became a strong catharsis. Music videos just felt natural. The best of both worlds so to speak.

Burning Man is a festival that happens in the Nevada desert. It was created for artist based on a theme of free expression and participation. I went a few years back and fell in love with it. No rules for a week! It was amazing. Burning Man is based on theme camps, where groups of people get together and work on a project to contribute to the whole experience. I camp with The Death Guild. Our camp is based on Mad Max and we all wear leather, ride modified motorcycles and every night webattle in a full scale, working, Thunderdome. I always have the time of my life and I have met a whole family of freaks like me that I adore.

I would love to direct some of my older buddies. Unfortunately Shavo from S.O.A.D. has been directing his own videos and Coal Chamber broke up.

Thanks for the interest
-Karma


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