Los Angeles based director and editor Patrick Lawrence has directed over 24 music videos including one for The X Factor artist CeCe Frey which grabbed the #1 spot on Brazilian TV, beating Beyonce and Lorde's videos. Lawrence has also edited two award winning short films and four full-length films that starred actors like Shannon Elizabeth and Lauren Holly. Inspired by James Bay's new album Chaos and the Calm, Lawrence's short film trailer and concept was ultimately selected for the James Bay's Film Project. We caught up with Lawrence and asked him about his creative process, camera gear and his submission.
TH: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do?
PL: My name is Patrick Lawrence, I am a Director and Editor originally from St. Louis, MO and now currently residing in Los Angeles. I have directed over two dozen music videos for independent musicians including CeCe Frey (The X Factor) and Tear Out the Heart (Victory Records), as well as two award winning short films: “The Solipsist” (2014) and “The Stakes” (2012).
As an Editor, I have worked on four independent feature films and a handful of shorts including two films: “Affections” Dir. Bridey Elliott and “Dogwalker” Dir. Kim Sherman, both of which were selected to the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
TH: Do you have any favorite filmmakers that have inspired you?
PL: My top 5 favorite filmmakers of all time are a pretty eclectic mix, but I somehow find a way to reference their work in every thing I do. David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch and Wes Anderson. In the last few years though, I have become increasingly fond of Nicholas Winding Refn and actually had to opportunity to meet him within my first month of living in L.A., something that really sold me on just how magical this city can be.
TH: How did you come up with your concept for the James Bay short film?
PL: When I listened to James’ album Chaos and the Calm for the first time, I was captivated by how truthful his lyrics are. Tracks like “Scars” immediately took me back to a time when I was going through the most devastating breakups of my life, and that mindset is what drove me to tell the story of “Lionheart.” The concept itself was originally from a music video treatment that I had written and had never come to fruition. It was just sort of sitting on my “mental shelf”… if you will. I adapted this idea of a man writing love letters to his lost love while on the most treacherous journey of his life, but only within the universe of Chaos and the Calm. They say that after a break up, you only reflect on the good things that happen, and rarely do you focus on what actually went wrong to get you there in the first place. So to me, that was the story that needed to be told - A man trapped in his thoughts, all alone, trying to get back to one he loves.
TH: What is your creative process like?
PL: I’m mainly an “idea man,” I tend to come up with the story and then pass it off to my most trusted screenwriter buddies to help bring the raw ideas to life. With music videos, I can’t just directed any video, I have to actually feel an emotional attachment to the song before I can write a concept for it. I believe that it makes the experience more authentic and truthful when you approach it from the heart. If a song does not immediately begin firing off the synapses in my brain, I cannot force it. James’ album really struck me in the creative process of this film, and even though it wasn’t a music video, I still approached the writing of the story with his tracks playing as the score.
TH: What was it like to work with CeCe Frey and direct her music video “Dead 2 Me”?
PL: I have been working with CeCe since 2011, when she first broke out as a solo artist, prior to her joining The X Factor. In the fall of 2014, she was ready to release her first single “Dead 2 Me” and came to me and my team for a video concept. The entire experience was a lot of fun- we basically got to spend the entire day making a pop video inside of an industrial junk yard, with a lot of beautiful girls and a lot of dangerous, sharp objects to get hurt on. The reception for the video was incredible, and at one point it was the #1 music video on Brazilian TV, outranking Beyonce and Lorde.
TH: What advice do you wish you had when you first started out?
PL: The number one thing I wish that someone had told me (and that I tell everyone I meet) is: “If you are making a short film, DO NOT go over 15 minutes!”
My first major short was 16 minutes and a pretty good length, but I decided to follow that up with a film that took 2 years of my life to create and ended up being 24 minutes in length. While I won some awards and got minimal exposure, most festivals wouldn’t touch it, even despite its accolades. I’ve seen many more amazing short films not get the attention they deserve, strictly because of their running time. So always remember, the shorter/the better.
Also, never think that you are better than anyone else or above anyone else. You never know who you are going to meet on set, and how you can end up learning from each other in the future. Every person you meet in this industry is a connection that can help make you a better artist/filmmaker. And even more importantly, you never know when that person may/may not return the favor… The girl working at Craft Services this week, could be your Production Manager next week, always keep that in mind.
TH: What camera(s) and len(s) do you usually use to film?
PL: For the last 3 years I have worked almost exclusively with Cinematographer, Kyle Krupinski. He has been the man behind the camera for all of my music videos and my last short film, “The Solipsist.” Recently we have been shooting on a RED Dragon with vintage Zeiss cinema lenses from the early 1970’s. On “Lionheart” though, we used a custom designed anamorphic lens that was matted to a 50mm Zeiss from our usual set of lenses, this really gave the trailer a “larger than life” look and feel. For the full length short though, we will be upgrading to an actual complete set of anamorphic lenses.
TH: How did you feel when you found out James Bay selected your work for the narrative short film?
PL: I was totally caught off guard! After seeing some of the other amazing films submitted from all over the world, I was pretty sure that “Lionheart” did not stand a chance. I had actually begun thinking about how to recut the film for when we did lose, so that I could release it independently. But when the e-mail came in that I was the “Selected Artist” chosen by James, I was awestruck and dumbfounded
TH: Favorite music video of all time?
PL: My favorite music video of all time would have to be “Judith” by A Perfect Circle, directed by David Fincher.
Fincher broke in to the industry by making videos for Madonna, Billy Idol, Paula Abdul and more, before becoming a feature film director, and “Judith” is one of the few videos that he has directed in the last 20 years since. His path to success has always been one that I greatly would love to emulate, and his visual aesthetic is usually referenced (in some way) in every project I make.
The video is raw and alluring, it seduces you in a way that makes it impossible to turn off. Its from a time right before the digital age where film was still a standard and its visual overlays and film burns were still practical (all things that you can do with just a filter or an iPhone app in 2015). It also sort of signals the end of an era for gritty, dark and grotesque pop music videos that were all the rage during the 90’s thanks to directors like Mark Romanek, Samuel Bayer and Floria Sigismondia.
I used to obsess over these videos in the hours home alone, after school, watching MTV in the 90’s.