Digital Arts: Donny Hall on LA, rap videos and life in Bryan

Brazos Valley Fair & Expo Begins Thursday
August 30, 2012
Digital Arts: 10th Annual Red Wasp Film Festival
August 31, 2012

See Donny Hall’s work at https://vimeo.com/search?q=donny+hall. Digital Arts

Story by Alejandra Quinones 

Donny Hall: “I’m almost the result of coffee shops and weird stuff you find on the internet.”   

They said that in my sleep I was screaming, ‘I want to do film!’” recalls Donny Hall, a freelance editor and director of photography who lives in Bryan and works nationally on commercials, films and music videos. He had been in Houston working on a video with friends when he shouted from slumber, and 10 years later, it’s safe to say that dream became a reality. Hall’s most recent award came in 2011 contributing effects work for Tyler the Creator’s “Yonkers” video that was nominated for an MTV VMA award. MTV Jams offers a weekly award called “Jam of the Week;” Hall’s work has contributed to 14. His music video collaborations include Drake, Rick Ross and Akon. Hall talks about the industry and why he is based in Bryan instead of Hollywood.

Is there more you want to do aside from create music videos with some of the biggest recording artists out there?

“I had aspirations to be a big director person...and I was trying to, but I had never experienced enough life. I couldn’t convey emotions properly for things I hadn’t experienced. I didn’t understand heartbreak or love or a real understanding of what it really is to make something happen on your own. It’s important to know reality in order to convey it. I feel like I’ve gotten that experience now, and I want to use that to make my way into film. I do still love working on my music videos though.”

What are music videos to you?

Music videos allow me to collaborate with recording artists and directors to create a world we make together. It’s the synchronization of emotion to music, and when you can you can show things happening to music, I think you can dig into an experience.

See Donny Hall’s work at https://vimeo.com/search?q=donny+hall. Digital Arts

Story by Alejandra Quinones 

Donny Hall: “I’m almost the result of coffee shops and weird stuff you find on the internet.”   

They said that in my sleep I was screaming, ‘I want to do film!’” recalls Donny Hall, a freelance editor and director of photography who lives in Bryan and works nationally on commercials, films and music videos. He had been in Houston working on a video with friends when he shouted from slumber, and 10 years later, it’s safe to say that dream became a reality. Hall’s most recent award came in 2011 contributing effects work for Tyler the Creator’s “Yonkers” video that was nominated for an MTV VMA award. MTV Jams offers a weekly award called “Jam of the Week;” Hall’s work has contributed to 14. His music video collaborations include Drake, Rick Ross and Akon. Hall talks about the industry and why he is based in Bryan instead of Hollywood.

Is there more you want to do aside from create music videos with some of the biggest recording artists out there?

“I had aspirations to be a big director person…and I was trying to, but I had never experienced enough life. I couldn’t convey emotions properly for things I hadn’t experienced. I didn’t understand heartbreak or love or a real understanding of what it really is to make something happen on your own. It’s important to know reality in order to convey it. I feel like I’ve gotten that experience now, and I want to use that to make my way into film. I do still love working on my music videos though.”

What are music videos to you?

Music videos allow me to collaborate with recording artists and directors to create a world we make together. It’s the synchronization of emotion to music, and when you can you can show things happening to music, I think you can dig into an experience. That’s a very common way to communicate; you can communicate a very unique way. Some of the best parts in film are the sequences that involve music. In the Eighties, famous for montages, where would an Eighties movie be without a montage, or where would a good action be without the pounding of drums and orchestra? Or any sequence involving death without the slow violins or cellos? I think if I do break into film having a good understanding between the connection of emotion and music could lend to my benefit.”

Hall explains that music video work is more of a formula than an art.

“A treatment for a video usually offers references from other videos that represent visuals you would like to play off of or match. It’s a lot of work with 12, sometimes 18-hour days.”  

As of late, he’s been dividing his work among film, music videos and commercials. Hall says that working in the film industry isn’t ever mundane: there’s always something new to try.

You’ve worked on many Rap videos. Is there something specific you like about them?

I think rap music videos are interesting because they offer a documentary of trends. Gold grills, wired tire rims, clothing, a south-side fade, baggy pants, tight pants. The visuals sometimes match what they are rapping about. These are obscure references to things I believe the core audience identifies with: street names or right down to slang terms for drugs and sex.”

What are some of your favorite music videos you’ve worked on?

One of my favorite videos that I did was Bun B ft. Gucci Mane & Yo Gotti ‘Countin Money.’  It’s a really intense song, and they let me do whatever I wanted with the visuals. I had full creativity. Also, when I turned in the first edit, it was approved, so I didn’t have to re-do my vision.”

Hall explains that’s when director Mr. Boomtown gave him his nickname – Home Run Donny – because his first edit would come back without any changes.

How do you feel about the changes going on in the film industry?

“There’s nothing I really like of the ‘new.’ Everything is getting more and more competitive.  Technology is moving faster than the updates. I don’t like 3D movies. I would shoot every film 35mm if I could. It’s warm, easy to look at…but the reality is that digital work flows better and it’s what the future is going to be. It’s almost like, an end to, the end of a certain sense of artistry and a romance between crafting and film. It used to be that you had to be a good photographer to know how to use your camera; now you can correct it with digital. You used to have to know all that. It’s just sad. But regardless of how easy it is to get the equipment or to learn everything, I still think you need the talent and creativity to create.

What are some changes going on specifically in the music video industry?

“Technology is becoming more accessible for everyone to use and convey what they want, which is a change in the film industry as well. Music video crews are getting smaller and smaller. I think eventually they will put a stop to illegal music downloading and there will be somewhat of a cash flow, but by that time everyone will stop listening to rap anyways.

“Twitter really puts video sets in the public eye. A rapper or model can accidently tweet a location, and a mob of fans can quickly turn your set into a cluster mess.”

Why did you choose to stay in Bryan instead of Los Angeles?

“After living in L.A. I really don’t feel like I miss anything out there. I travel out there for work, but I can leave it behind. It felt like the land of 1,000 wasted lunch meetings. A lot of people, for whatever reason, didn’t follow through with their projects and I became jaded by it. But the one thing I did really like is that it feels like people are really trying to make their dreams come true. Whether it’s movies, music or fashion, they’re all trying to get to their dreams.

“I promise to raise a family and die in Texas. I love the food, I love the culture, and I love the people of my industry that are based here. I love Texas and I have a relationship with the directors here so I can just do what I love more freely and with people I actually enjoy spending time with. At the end of the day it’s one big family.”

What are some of the struggles you’ve had as a videographer? How do you deal with those struggles?

As an artist, you’re always going to question yourself, and compare yourself to others, and that’s difficult. I got a lot of strength from my mom and from a family that taught me how to work hard, and not to waste your time with people who use you. That was the hardest, being young. It’s hard to know who’s going to take advantage of you and your time because you’ll do anything just to get in to the industry. I mean, just because you go to art school doesn’t mean you’re going to be an amazing artist. Film, like art, is a knack that you have or you don’t. You can develop it in a lot of way, but if you don’t have rhythm maybe you shouldn’t play guitar.

“I’ve had to be willing to lose everything a couple times, believing I can bounce back. What makes me push through? Everyone in film has at one point gone through the same thing. But you can always find work or help each other out…especially in Texas.”

One of the struggles with art in film is that you don’t always have the ability to be free with your creativity, yes?

“My philosophy has always been, ‘Do one on the real and one for the meal.’ Hook someone up, and also be prepared to work hard in a commercial project so you can get by.”

See Donny Hall’s work at https://vimeo.com/search?q=donny+hall