Matt Alonzo is one of hip hop's most renowned music video directors, having directed work for the likes of Lil Wayne, The Game, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and many more. In this interview we talk about how he cracked into the music video industry in Los Angeles, his search for a mentor in the early days, and how he's translated his success into artist development, music management and more.
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Nate Watkin: Welcome to the Creatives Offscript podcast, hosted by Assemble. I'm your host, Nate Watkin. When you think about top music video directors in hip hop over the last two decades, a few names come to mind, Director X, Hype Williams, Colin Tilley, and one that undoubtedly belongs in that tier, Matt Alonzo. Working with everyone from Lil Wayne to Justin Bieber to Chris Brown, The Game and more, Matt helped define a generation of hip hop through his visuals. With over 10 billion views, Matt's now taking on everything from filmmaking to artist management, to educating the next generation of filmmakers. Welcome to our podcast, Matt.
Matt Alonzo: Hey, thank you for having me. I really appreciate that intro. That was great.
Nate Watkin: So let's start from the beginning. You're a kid growing up in Carpinteria, California, small town in SoCal, starting at age seven, you pick up a camera and start editing videos with VHS tapes. How soon did you know that you wanted to be a director?
Matt Alonzo: Well, early on, six, seven, I had no clue what anything in the film industry was or looked like or titles or anything like that, all I knew was my dad had this box that he shoved in my face. And then when company would come over, he'd plug it into the TV and I'd see myself, my sister, my family dancing. And I realized that this box made people laugh, smile, cry, it just created an emotion. And I really, really was intrigued by that. And so I started taking that box that I hated and sticking in everybody else's face.
And it wasn't really until I got to film school, maybe like my first or second year that I realized director was the title for me. I was an editor up to that point. I mean, I shot everything, but I edited mainly, that's where my love really started for filmmaking. Once again, I can manipulate everything. So once I started editing these director's stuff who wasn't very good, I was like, okay, yeah, I got to start directing. And that's when I took that title on. So it wasn't until I was about 19.
Nate Watkin: You go to film school, looking back now, what would you say was the number one takeaway you learned from that experience that still helps you in your career today?
Matt Alonzo: Man, film school for me was amazing. A lot of people are kind of anti, I mean the price, I get, but for me it was... Hands down I wouldn't be where I am today. I would be doing weddings or local access or something like that. But really, for me, it just gave me the opportunity to trial and error without having clients or without having my reputation on the line. If you were to graduate and just come right into the professional world as a filmmaker, you might get hired for a project, although it might be small, you might mess up, whatever. And now you're starting to build a reputation that's not very good. So for me, I had three years of just trial and error, which for me was the biggest, biggest component to my success later on.
Nate Watkin: That's good advice. I've never heard somebody explain film school that way, but that makes a lot of sense. As you started to become a director, who were some of your earliest inspirations?
Matt Alonzo: To be honest, I really didn't know anything about names. I mean, obviously, I knew Spielberg, and I realized after film school, since like 98% of the kids went home and went back to work at blockbuster or whatever, I realized that there's a lot of people who like watching films and then there's people who like making films or video content. And I was one of the ones who liked to make it. So I wasn't really like into names, actors, anything like that. I just replicated what I saw. And I realized as I got older, I really liked that the Scott brothers, I liked a lot of their shooting techniques, their editing techniques, they were just a little out of the box and a little fast cutting, and just some really edgy stuff.
So that's, I would say, some inspiration I pulled from them. And other than that, I would just say, I mean, Hype Williams, obviously, as a kid, just watching his music videos, not really even connecting like, hey, that's what I want to do, or I'm going to do that one day. But just seeing those, like Nas and Lauren Hill, If I Ruled the World, and all these type of videos, those ones, obviously, had a real big effect on me, I think, subconsciously.
Nate Watkin: Nice. And so early in your career, you start working for a record label. You're kind of doing music videos, but a lot of editing, and you really felt like they were holding you back. Tell me what was going through your head at that time.
Matt Alonzo: So my second year in film school, I started doing internships. My parents didn't have a lot of money. They refinanced the house. They did everything they possibly could to get me there, to film school. So I had to take it super, super seriously. So I would be going to school, and then I would drive to LA. I happened to get an internship with this record company, for this mogul, if you will. He was an infomercial guy. He did a bunch of vitamin stuff and he had so much money that he decided to start a record label, and his record label gimmick was, he was going to record two albums for each artist back to back and shoot every single music video. So I interned for a little while. And as soon as I graduated, he gave me a full-time job, but he released all the other staff, and he was like, "You're all I need."
And I was like, "Okay." I mean, I was getting paid a lot of money, a lot of money, right out of school. But after like a month or two, I realized, this is not for me. Not only that was I doing all the work, I didn't mind that, but I had nobody to learn from. I had nobody to show me the ropes. I had no mentors, no guidance whatsoever, and that was something that I really wanted. And so I broke down one day, called my dad. And he is like, he asked me two questions, "Are you growing as a man?" And I said, "Nope." He said, "Are you growing creatively?" I said, "Nope." He said, "Okay, you know what to do?" I don't think he meant like, you know what to do, like do it right now. But I just grabbed my backpack and I just walked out. I didn't say anything to anybody.
And then my car got repossessed, apartment was gone, Top Ramen. But, yeah, I couldn't do it anymore. I was wearing a suit and tie to it. Just creatively, there was no growth. I was already at the peak. I was already at the highest level I could possibly be at this company. And there was no point for me to stay. So I had to move on.
Nate Watkin: Wow. I've never heard of a director/editor has to wear a suit and tie every day to work.
Matt Alonzo: Yeah. It was weird. I mean, because his record label wasn't really like a major record label. He made so much money, he made millions and millions and millions, and so he decided to do this as like a side hobby. But, yeah, I mean regardless, of the suit and tie, which sucked, but just there was no one to show me anything, so I just had to go.
Nate Watkin: And you felt like you found those mentors very soon after that?
Matt Alonzo: No. Unfortunately, up to this date, because the reason being was I was competition. So as soon as I left there, Craigslist, did a bunch of wild jobs happened to shoot a concert and found out Little Wayne was the guy that was actually the headlining, recorded that, came home, posted it on YouTube, got a million overnight, which back then was, 2007, huge deal. Then I was with DJ Skee. Skee was connected with Game, Chris Clancy, who was the marketing director over at Interscope. And so they just threw us a couple videos, which were huge videos, Game, Travis Barker, and Kardinal Offishall featuring The Clipse, and boom, I was off to the races. And everyone in LA was shooting with me, B-Real, I mean everybody.
So instantly I became competition and not only was I competition, because I was a young gun. I was doing things for one eighth of the price, but I didn't know that at the time, but that's just the opportunity that I was given, and so we took it. So no one was trying to mentor me whatsoever, which was unfortunate, very unfortunate.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. I mean, it sounds like the LA dream, honestly, for a lot of people. I mean, it's so difficult to crack into the industry, you come down here, quit your job, just start shooting random shows, you meet the right person. And the next week you're on set with some of the biggest artists in the game, shooting music videos, right?
Matt Alonzo: With the RED camera, RED One, we were the first ones to shoot with the RED One. It was just crazy. Yeah, just like that though, too.
Nate Watkin: Wow. That's crazy. How was that moment? Was there a bit of surrealism just like when you were there directing?
Matt Alonzo: Nah, not at all. I brought my parents, and I mean, I was ready to go. It's something that I had been working on every single day as far as preparation, and just going over the... We did short films, we did a lot of hands on projects in film school, so I was just ready to go. And I found a great crew. At first I was just a director, I had nothing, I had like a little one chip camera, and this rapper, shout out to Demrick he had just met this group of guys, there was like six or seven guys living in a studio apartment that had just graduated film school. They were everything but director, and they were looking for a director, so he connected us. And I called them, and I said, "Hey, you want to come over to the studio?" Because Skee called me and said, "Hey, come to Snoop Studio."
So I came to Snoop Studio and that was like the first, first, first video I shot, it was Kurupt, Snoop, DJ Quick and Terrence Martin. And they showed up, everyone had like different cameras, and then that was it. It was off to the races.
Nate Watkin: Wow. That's crazy. And so you get connected with DJ Skee, you're shooting a bunch of videos for all the big artists now, careers growing. What would you say was the moment when you felt like you arrived, where you had the biggest music video, where the game just changed for you and really vaulted you?
Matt Alonzo: I mean, I guess I would never feel like I arrived, because my goals are bigger than music videos. It just happen to like stumble upon in my direction. But I would say like Fly like a G6 or New Boyz, Tie me Down, those videos were really big. And then when I did the Bieber video with Maejor Ali, that was... I was trending in like 17 countries on Twitter. It was crazy. Obviously, not because of me, because of Bieber, but that really helped me get a lot more eyes. Remember being in the XXL magazine with Nipsey and like all those guys, I had a write up in there, so that was a proud moment for me and for my parents. But I would say that's... Or Turn my Swag on, that might have been another one too.
Nate Watkin: I remember the Fly like a G6 video man, that was a good one.
Matt Alonzo: On a 5D, on a Canon 5D.
Nate Watkin: Really? I didn't know that.
Matt Alonzo: Yeah. The first one to shoot on a 5D, with that, as well.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, man, I ran a production company. I produced, I directed in the past, and that video, stylistically, had a lot of influence on me. I'm a big fan of that video, man.
Matt Alonzo: I appreciate it. Thank you very much. It was a cheap video.
Nate Watkin: It didn't look like it. It didn't look like it. So Skee TV continues to evolve, next step in your career, you're producing Skee live as a part of Mark Cuban's TV network. What was that evolution like? How did it change you as a creative in your role?
Matt Alonzo: Well, I mean, so what we were trying to do at Skee TV, originally, I mean, we were a marketing company, so we used music videos just to gain analytics, and then we would take those analytics and go pitch for other things. Eventually, we were going to do a whole channel. So we were going to do a channel, we weren't sure where it was going to be, but it was going to be like an MTV with a bunch of different programming. That fell through, so eventually what we did is all this programming that I had written up, we just condensed it into a one hour show. And so I remember doing 75 different pieces for, I think, it was 10 or 12 episodes. So it was pretty hectic. It was pretty hectic, but it was cool. It was great to try something new, and we had already done all these things previously, as far as in bits and pieces, just not to this level, but it was great. It was a great experience, and I'm glad I have that under my belt.
And the live stuff was easy, easier, I'll say easier. But it wasn't as exciting, like camera one, camera two, and then your job's over, I'm like, "Ah." But I also did 60 pieces and wrote and did all that stuff as well. So, yeah, it was a great experience, and shout out to Skee for always pushing the boundaries and taking me with him.
Nate Watkin: I think at one point you described, there was like a lot of creative tension there at Skee TV, all for the greater good, but what was it like-
Matt Alonzo: Of course.
Nate Watkin: ... working there?
Matt Alonzo: Well, I mean, I was 22 years old. 22 years old, I was a partner in the company. We had no money in the beginning. We were a startup on YouTube, which you got to remember, back then, YouTube was like nothing. YouTube was nothing at all. So we were startup, with no money on YouTube, and that was fine.
Nate Watkin: Before YouTubers, before influencers.
Matt Alonzo: Oh, I mean, this is way before any of that stuff. You know what I mean? I think like the biggest video was like these people running on a treadmill back in those days, like a million views was unheard of. And so that was a little challenging to get going, but he had so many connects. I had the work ethic and the work to really propel us, so that really helped out. It just got to a point where, he wanted to go more into the DJ marketing and just do more of those type of things. And I had a couple reps and a couple agencies trying to recruit me and I wanted to see what else was out there.
I also was the top guy over at Skee, because it was me Skee and two other people when we first started. And so I was the head of production, the whole time I was there. So I was always the top guy. I wanted to be somewhere where I could learn. And it just got to a point where, I trained some understudies and I went my own way. But it was all love, you know what I mean? It was all in good faith, and we still do stuff together time. So shout out to Skee and everybody over at the Skee TV, but it was a, I mean, great opportunity. I mean, I learned so much and met so many people.
Nate Watkin: That seems to be a theme with your career. You go in and you're the top guy, because you can do it all.
Matt Alonzo: It's unfortunate.
Nate Watkin: Maybe that's a downside of having that much talent, you know?
Matt Alonzo: It definitely is. It definitely is. And then it's hard when you try... I've tried even after that to go work at other places, and come in, I say, "I'll come in low and work my way up." But they're just like, "You're overqualified for this job." And I'm like, it should be a good thing. But, I mean, so you just try to take it wherever you can get it. As far as, excuse me, I just try to take inspiration and words of wisdom from anybody I can, whether it's in the film industry or just people wiser and older than me and more successful. So unfortunately, I wanted to be under someone's wing, like, an Esteban, a Hype or someone like that, but those opportunities just never came across my path.
Although, shout out to Taj, he was a director, he was over with Colin Tilley at Riveting way back in the day, actually Taj started Riveting, and then Colin was his editor, before Chris Brown stuff. But Taj to took me under his wing a little bit. He's the one who brought me over to Happy Place and Lark, once I left Skee TV. Those were my reps and my production company as a director. And then, obviously, my rep, Jamie and Tara Razavi, they helped me so much, so much, so shout out to them. But I just never really had like a director mentor, but we figured it out.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, definitely. So what happened after Skee TV? Where did you go? I think you opened your own production company at that point. What was next for you then?
Matt Alonzo: So after Skee TV, I created a production company called Modern Artists. Although I had it the entire time, I would do like side jobs or jobs that we didn't really want to put Skee TV's name on, I would put them out underneath this production company. But I kind of went full force on that, although I did have my rep and my other production company who would do like my big 100, $200,000 videos. And what I was trying to do at that time was trying to build a production company with some directors, and basically, grandfather them in, give them opportunities that I was getting, that I could produce and oversee, and then allow them to get the opportunity that they never would get. But it just didn't work.
I mean, I would send them changes and they'd be like, "Well, I'm not changing this, it's is done." And I'm like, "No, no, it's not the way it works." And so after a few times of those, I was just like, all right, it's just too much for me, because I would have to do the work at the end of the day, because my name's on the line. So then I really just started focusing on just my work and just trying to see what else was out there.
I was also signed to ICM as a feature film director, and I was up for Safe House, I was up for a bunch of films, so that was a priority as well. But my agent really wanted like a 20, 30 million movie, and I'm like, "Dude, I'm 27 years old, some music video director, who the heck's going to give me that." So after a few years, I just decided, all right, enough with you guys, I appreciate it, but it was time to just go my own direction. So, yeah, I mean, it's kind of where I've been, just doing branded content, anything other than music videos, unless they come knocking, which they do. So when they do, I take them.
Nate Watkin: And going back to music videos, I know we've been-
Matt Alonzo: No, all good. All good.
Nate Watkin: ... hitting on that topic a lot, but I'm just curious, what is your favorite music video you've ever directed?
Matt Alonzo: I get asked this a lot, and I'd have to say The Game featuring Tyler, the Creator Martians vs Goblins. The first time I shot Game, that was like my first big video. And not that he didn't like me, but he was just like, "Who is this little kid?" And I had a big ass clipboard and notes. And he was just like, "Bro." And then I tried to put girls doing... there was like a drug video, and I tried to put girls like in like bikinis. I don't know why they were wearing bikinis, but he's like, "We're not doing that." He's like, "Take their clothes off." And they were like, "We're not taking our clothes off." Like, "Who's this director." And I'm like, "Ah, fuck." But during that time he was kind of a dick to me, and I was like, oh, it's fine.
But I had this vision of him being like a monster or something other than like a gangster with Chuck Taylors, and he happened to make a song with Tyler, and I was doing a lot of directing for Tyler and Odd Future, and Chris Clancy, all those guys over there, when they were coming out. And so they decided to shoot the video, and I had this idea already, and I just put it right to the piece of paper. He didn't read the treatment, he showed up. He's like, "Whatever you want me to do." Because he had already seen the results of the last video, put contacts in his eyes, we put spaghetti in his Jordans, and the video turned out great, and it was actually a really cheap video. But, yeah, that one I would say is probably my favorite.
Nate Watkin: Nice. And what's it like working with Tyler, the creator? I mean, he's such a creative dude himself.
Matt Alonzo: He's awesome. He's hilarious. I wish my brain thought like his, because he's the type of guy who's like... My brain kind of thinks on a producing level. So I'm like, "Okay, a music video with a rocket ship and stuff." I go, "Oh, it's too much money." He just says, "No, I want a rocket ship. We're going to land on Mars. We're going to do all this stuff." And he doesn't care about the money or anything that, so that's really cool. I really helped him early on. I did all his like golf promotion. I did all the Odd Future stuff, because Chris Clancy was the marketing director at Interscope. He's the one who gave us the opportunity for Turn my Swag on. And then he left and became Tyler, Odd Future, Frank Ocean's manager, which he still is.
And so he brought me in right away and it was fun. I mean, he's just a wild kid, really creative. Back then, he wasn't too technical. He just had a lot of ideas. And so I just helped him take his ideas and find a way to get it done. So shout out to Tyler, I love him. I see him on Fairfax every now and then. And, yeah, it was good times.
Nate Watkin: Nice. Nice. Goblin, that was one of my favorite music videos back then.
Matt Alonzo: That video was crazy. Ponch did that, same production company and everything like that. So-
Nate Watkin: Nice.
Matt Alonzo: ... super creative kid, super creative kid. Like I said, he has no, no like blocks or he knows no barriers whatsoever, which is a great thing, you know?
Nate Watkin: Yeah. Got it. And follow up on that, what's your favorite music video not directed by Matt Alonzo?
Matt Alonzo: Shit, probably, Nas, If I ruled the World, back in the day, because that one just sticks in my head. Or Sky's the Limit with the little kids that were rapping with Notorious BIG, where they did all the little kids, like Hype's old stuff. I would say that like those are the two that come to mind.
Nate Watkin: I always love like the first person shooting style, comes to mind like Miami 2 Ibiza-
Matt Alonzo: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Nate Watkin: ... with Tinie Tempah, even like Prodigy, back in the day.
Matt Alonzo: That's where I got the reference for Fly like a G6.
Nate Watkin: I was going to say, it has that style to it. I love that. Cool. So you mentioned at one point you were rep by ICM, what was your experience with that? And what do you think about repping, and just reps in general being a part of the future of the industry?
Matt Alonzo: As like a feature film director, you mean? Or as a... So I had my music video representation, then I had my future film representation, both were great. My music video rep was a beast. I mean, at the time, I was young, I didn't understand like managers and reps at the time. So if it was quiet for like a week, I'd be out trying to get jobs, for $7,000, and she's at the same record label pitching me for $200,000 jobs. You know what I mean? And I just didn't understand, be patient. When it came to the feature film side, ICM was great. To be honest, I was young and I really didn't even know the scope of like what I was getting into. Although I did take everything seriously, I just didn't know, and I had nobody really to talk to and bounce ideas off of.
So I was going into meetings with Paramount, these huge movies and I was putting together decks and trailers, changing the script, just full on, but I have to say my heart wasn't really in it. Because I didn't have the ability, at that particular time, to see something that was going to take three years to like to get complete. I just didn't see it in my brain. I mean, I saw it, but it was like, "Holy shit, this is going to take forever." And so it was a little discouraging, you know what I mean? Boring, if you will, I guess. Although I did all the work, I made these cool trailers, I did above and beyond, but at the same time it was just meeting after meeting. Okay. Meet this other producer, okay, this other producer, oh, we might change the script, meeting here, and you're just like, holy crap.
But it was a great... I mean, the opportunities that presented to me, I never would've ever had the chance of even crossing paths with these type of people. You know what I mean? So that's what the trade off is, and I think it's a great thing. I think more directors should have managers or reps. Yeah, you're going to give them their percentage, but you're also going to get a lot more opportunities than you ever will by yourself. So, yeah, that's my thought on that.
Nate Watkin: It sounds like your personality is kind of like addicted to creating. If you're not creating something, you can't sit still.
Matt Alonzo: I'm like, what am I doing? I left Skee TV, I signed with Lark, and she was like, "Look, your videos are great. Your budgets are 10, 20,000, maybe. We're going to take you to the next level. We want you to get 60, 70, 80,000. So we're going to say, 'No,' to anything that comes in, unless it's 50 or 60,000." I'm like, "No." And so for like four months, I didn't work. I was like crying, freaking out, like, "This...", and then, obviously, 60s, 70s, 80s, and started coming in. And so she's like, "You got to be patient, you got to set..." and so then I realized, okay, chill, chill. But still, it took me a long time to let the people who I have on my team work for me and not try to like work for myself, you know what I mean? Because that's when it gets chaotic. But I think a lot of the young kids, don't understand that.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, yeah. I agree. It's something I think a lot of young kids or new directors struggle with is setting their prices. And I always admire the company or the directors that can set the half million, million dollar price range and go out and win it. When you know damn well you could do it for 50.
Matt Alonzo: Yeah. It just depends on what they want. You know what I mean? I mean, obviously, with more... The thing I've realized though is, with more money, it's just more cooks in the kitchen. It's a little more bureaucracy, it's a lot slower, but it has its ups and downs, you know?
Nate Watkin: Yeah, yeah. I agreed. So it's interesting, you've been telling me, oftentimes, you were looking for a mentor or somebody to help you in your career. And now it's come full circle and you're really becoming an educator, putting out a ton of content, working with the next generation of filmmakers. Tell me a little bit more about that and why you're passionate about that.
Matt Alonzo: I've always had the desire to be a mentor and teach and give back. I've always been a leader. I've always been the head of the pack, even in high school. And so, not having a mentor, not having somebody to answer questions for me as much as I wish I had, I know that there's other kids coming up that are like me or are like me back when I was coming up. So I just try to do as much as I can to answer questions. And once I started getting these emails about life changing and "I was in jail and I saw your article in the XXL, and I started to get into film."
Once you start hearing these type of things where you're kind of like, I don't know the exact word for it, because it's pretty extreme and I feel honored, but I also feel like a duty at that point, at least in my view, not everybody's view. It's not everybody's duty to go and teach. So I just started doing it. And I got a lot of opportunities from other teachers to come in and teach their class or just to come in for an hour, and then I started growing from there. And so every now and then I'll drop a YouTube video, although like I just can't do the YouTube thing, it's so hard for me.
But I did the class, the Film League that was a great experience. I did apertures, I did a whole lighting class with them, and I just try to answer as many questions as I can and give back as much as I can. Because I know, when I was in that seat, if somebody would've just responded to me, I would've been greatly appreciative to them, and it would've really helped me a lot.
Nate Watkin: Absolutely. And so the industry is so different now. I mean, how has starting a career in filmmaking now changed since when you first got started?
Matt Alonzo: I mean, obviously now it's just congested. You know what I mean? Competition is crazy, which is good and bad. You have a lot of opportunity, because back in those days there wasn't independent artists, there wasn't all these things. So I got my start like, boom, right into the record labels. But now I mean you can go shoot for independent artists, and you never deal with a record label. Not saying that's a good thing, because a lot of that it's going to be relatively cheap. But if you can be creative and find an artist who's willing to work with you financially, work with you creatively, and not be like, "Hey, I need the video tomorrow," and this type of shit that you get on Instagram and stuff like that, then you have the opportunity to take yourself to the next level.
And there's been guys like Cole Bennett, what's the guy who does the concerts, oh I forgot his name. But there's been a couple guys who've really been able to do that. They got an opportunity to shoot a little concert, did some crazy editing, crazy transitions. Now he's doing Nike commercials and The Weeknd's commercials and stuff like that. So the opportunity's there and the eyeballs are there, it's just about finding something that's going to break through all the clutter, which it's really hard, really hard.
Nate Watkin: What advice would you give to somebody nowadays? I mean, is it the traditional advice of find an artist, start building your portfolio? Or is it more like get on TikTok, become an influencer? What is the path to becoming-
Matt Alonzo: I mean, that is... So the thing is, I know a lot of, I guess film making influencers, I guess you would call them, but they don't actually make films or actually do any video production work, I mean rarely. You know what I mean? They're teaching, but they don't have any sort of credentials, which is, it really fascinates me. So it's a little weird there, a couple of these YouTube kids and stuff like... I feel like it's, it's two different spectrums, because a lot of people like Hype, X, Colin, you don't see them really on YouTube, giving tutorials and talk... because they are working, right?
So that, I would say, if you want to be a YouTuber, then do that, and you will get opportunities for jobs, but you're going to be trying to follow-up with all your YouTube stuff, staying on your weekly tasks or whatever it is to make sure your audience is engaged, all that stuff. And then you get a two, three or four music videos or whatever the case may be. It's going to be a lot of work.
So, if you want to be in the film industry, I would just say, go right into it. And my biggest, biggest, biggest words of wisdom, advice would be to find somebody, whether it's an internship or mentor, somebody that you can come underneath and really show prove yourself, so that they can open the doors to whatever access they have. I had a lot of kids come in here, but to be honest, two, three weeks, maybe a month or two, they take a picture with an artist and now they're starting their own production company, and they take all my secrets, and I'm like, "Oh great. That's cool."
I mean, and it happens. But if they were able to stick through it, they could have been doing all the music videos I turned down and all the music videos that I didn't want anymore. And why not do that? As opposed to just sitting at your house and shoot a $200 music video for somebody, and get 30 views. I don't understand it. So something to think about and that's what I would recommend.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, yeah. It makes a lot of sense. I know you also talk a lot about preparation and pre-production, tell me more about your approach to a film project and what the preparation takes?
Matt Alonzo: So pre-production is everything really. And I think this is probably from film school, we took a year of just learning how to do pre-production from every aspect of the team. But a lot of people just want to grab a camera and shoot, but then they don't understand why their video doesn't look like a Colin Tilley or a Director X video. And you got to remember that, even while I'm writing my treatment, so say I get a song or a product or something, we'll just go with the music video for now. I get a song, "Hey, it's Matt Alonzo, new single $20,000. We want to shoot in LA next week." So then I know right away, I don't have a ton of money. If it gets approved tomorrow, I have six days for pre-production to get everything I need in this video.
So I'm going to write a video that's going to be able to be achieved within that timeframe, and for that amount of money. Some people just write whatever they, and they don't think about that. Like Tyler, which I envy, but I also, from a business standpoint, excuse me... So my pre-production starts right away, and so I started thinking about that, excuse me. And then what I do is I break everything down into scenes. Now, most of my music videos, I would say 95% of my music videos were shot in one day and shot in one location. So what I try to do is write a music video or write a story that I can shoot... basically, turn the camera in four different directions and get four different looks or four different scenes and be able to connect it somehow. So then I have my crew, I have my whole team in one location, we're shooting, these different scenes, but in the same spot. And really try to execute that way.
I don't really write shot lists anymore. Ever since Game was like... well, he didn't throw my shot list, but he just closed it, and he was like, "Bro." I had a huge shot list. After that, my shot list is in my head, but then I scout with my crew, and I really kind of map it out, what I want to do. And I either shoot two cameras or have some sort of quick release, so I can put it on a tripod, gimbal, just any devices that I need. I try to eliminate as much time as possible, so it moves as smooth as possible. And to be honest, I'm a director who wants to get my guys home.
We're not doing heart surgery here. Let's get in, let's get out, let's have some fun. But some directors, "Let me watch it again. Well, what do you think? Let's shoot it one more time." And I'm like, nah, that's not me at all. So I try to keep my guys in mind as well, and not have them work too hard. Because I've seen directors who shoot in this location and they move all the way to the other end of the location. And you're like, "What are you doing?" So I take all that into account, and then I just rock and roll. Grab the camera, put it on my shoulder and throw a flashlight in the lens and get it popping.
Nate Watkin: That's pretty fascinating. You don't use a shot list anymore. I think that's pretty unique.
Matt Alonzo: Well, because for music video, it's like, what do you... I mean, I have a basic shot list, like, okay, performance. So if I have a scene I know off top, I'm going to shoot about six or seven performances within this scene, just different lenses. So medium, close up, a wide, but then for each of those lenses, I'm also going to shoot different shutter speeds. So I'm going to shoot something really, really sharp and crazy Saving Pirate Ryan. And then I'm also going to shoot one that's a little bit smoother, and then I might put it on a gimbal or a dolly or whatever the case may be. So I kind of have that already, I guess, mapped out, that's kind of a shot list. But when it comes to like all the story bits and things like that, I just freestyle it.
One, because something you don't get to scout the location. And so it's really hard for me to write a shot list without knowing the location, the architecture, the curves, everything like that. So unless I'm able to scout, then I can do that. But also rappers, singers, guest cameos, everybody's freaking late. Everyone's late or early or they want to leave or something happens, so you have to be able to improvise. And I find that if you have a shot list, you might try to stick to it, although you still have to be able to adapt.
But I have a shot list in my head. I edit as well. So I can see all the cuts in my head. I kind of know when I have it. I can combine shots. Okay. Boom, boom, boom. All right, let's shoot one shot. Bam. All right, let's get them out of here. Thank you. And so I've been able to learn how to do that and that's a skill that you definitely need. Because rappers, to their own videos, will come eight hours late. And you're like, "What the heck is going on?"
Nate Watkin: The way you explain it actually makes it sound a lot less stressful without a shot list, because you just pick up the camera and go, essentially.
Matt Alonzo: I mean, you kind of know your scenes, you know what you're doing. And then, like I said, I mean, this is my 12th, 13th year, I've probably shot 200 music videos. So I have an idea of what... I know what I need. I know bare bones of what I can walk away with, and that's what I start with. And then I build from there.
Nate Watkin: Awesome. So moving forward, I see you've moved into managing artists now. Tell me how the that's become an evolution of your career.
Matt Alonzo: Well, I had all these favors from industry people, whether it was A&s, head of labels, video commissioners, producers, singers, all these people are like, "Hell, do this favor, shoot this video, do this," whatever. And I always told them and I told myself, "All right, you guys are going to come and perform at my wedding," and whatever. That was like my, "Okay, you guys can paying me back then." Now I realize, okay, I'm never getting married, so let me let cash my chips in somewhere else. And really I wanted to grow with an artist. I've shot a lot of videos for first time artist and really creative directed and really built their look and their feel, as they went on into their career.
And so I was like, all right, I really don't want to just do one video or one thing. I want to build on that. I really want to see the growth and see what I can do. And then, obviously, bringing all my connections. I can call the head of Interscope. I can call the head of Warner. I can get them meetings anywhere. And so that's what I decided to do. And Christian Gates, It's Lux City, he had 200,000 monthly listeners on Spotify this month, two point six million in eight months, since I've been managing them. So the growth has been exponential and it's a lot of fun, and it's something I don't have my heart into.
I realized with filmmaking, it's kind of like getting high on my own supply. I'm too emotionally connected to my music videos or to my work, where I'm maybe not able to make the best business decisions. As opposed to managing or doing the music side, I have no emotional connection whatsoever. I look at the numbers, I look at the choices, I lay them out, and I can see things a little bit more clearly, so that has been refreshing for me.
Nate Watkin: That sounds really exciting, honestly, to be able to really creative direct and artist career, and like you said, watch them grow.
Matt Alonzo: Like I said, just having the disconnect between emotionally investing into a perfect video or something like that, where I'm sitting here for 70, 80 hours editing and stuff like that, I don't have that sort of pull to it. And that's, like I said, really refreshing, and it helps me make a lot more clearer and the best or better decisions.
Nate Watkin: Cool. I see, you've also been working with Jake Paul documenting the boxing career. How's that experience been?
Matt Alonzo: Wild and fun. I've always been a huge, huge boxing fan ever since I was a kid. And when the pandemic started, I teamed up with Andre Berto, who was a two time world champion boxer. And maybe he has a fight or two left and he really wants to transition into the media realm. And so I created, basically, a whole network for him. And we started on YouTube. We did a bunch of these episodes and shows that I wrote, kind of like I did for Skee. And we happened to go out there to the Jake Paul fight. And he's really good friends with his trainer, they were amateurs together. So we just started hanging out.
And then once I saw the kid train, and how big he is. I was like, man, this kid's going to be a problem. So that was really cool, great. He's actually a super cool dude, super chill. He talks a lot of shit and stuff, but I mean, he's a marketing genius. I get it from that standpoint, but as soon as the camera's off, he's just chill. He's regular.
I was supposed to go to Cleveland for the last fight, man, ringside tickets I had COVID. I was so pissed. I was so pissed. So we'll be out there again. We're going to be doing a lot of stuff with him, and we'll see how it goes. But it's a lot of fun. It's hilarious. Those guys are just wild.
Nate Watkin: I can imagine. Cool, man. Well, it sounds like you're just continuing to evolve your career as the industry continues to evolve. Just to wrap up, I'm curious, what's next for you?
Matt Alonzo: I don't know. I'm asking myself that as we speak, to be honest. I mean, really, I'm just trying to take a look at where to go next. It looks like probably going to be a feature film, realistically, either feature film or commercial. Although commercial world, it's a little too slow and a little not as creative as I'd like. Great pay though, so you might see me in the commercials, but I think it's a feature film time.
Nate Watkin: Exciting. Exciting stuff, man. Well, thank you for joining us. Always good to catch up.
Matt Alonzo: I really appreciate you having me on. I had a great time.
Nate Watkin: Awesome. Take care.