Where are you both from?

I am from San Francisco, and Ben is from Chicago. We went to college together in Chicago, so we’ve known each other and have been friends for a long time.

How did the partnership start?

The idea for the duo came about due to the current state of the music video industry not being what it used to be. Certain things occurred, and I came up with an approach where it’s just the two of us wearing different hats.

What was your first shoot?

We had friends in bands, and we would come up with video ideas, and Ben had resources from a past production company he worked for. My friends from San Francisco had this band called Girls, and they were getting very popular at the time. So, we told them that we had access to a RED Camera, which had just come out, and could shoot a video for their song “Hellhole Ratrace.” The idea was to capture a sincere portrait of who they were at that point in time. They went on to be a pretty big and successful band.

What was the best part and the worst part?

The best part was that it was a lot of fun. We were with a real cast of characters that were really fun to hang around with. The worst part was being responsible for all this gear I had borrowed.

Can you talk about your approach to the video?

We like to shoot with an immersive documentary style. Our goal is to capture people as they really are and not have them ham it up for the camera. Ben and I had a clear concept with technical criteria, but we took a leap of faith with this video.

How do you prep for something like that?

We do a lot of prep work by physically getting everyone together. You need a good balance of girls and guys, and then you can anticipate scenarios, create certain lighting set ups and moods. It seems really weird, because at this point we didn’t know how to use professional equipment.

Is there a lesson you learned from that shoot that you still carry with you today?

I think the lesson was that in order to get people to act naturally we had to create a rapport with them. You don’t think of what you’re capturing as performances until you’re in the edit room, and we still try to do that. We’ve shot a lot of videos in the past couple of years for the band Arctic Monkeys who are a highly popular international band that doesn’t really let people into their world. We just became really good friends with the band, and we started making these videos with them that included them in the shooting process.

What influenced your style?

I’ve just always loved different music scenes, and I just try to document the stuff that I love. The most popular videos on YouTube are user-generated. So, we just try to reach out and connect with the audience. There was really no attempt to have any kind of style.

If you could do that first shoot over again, what would you do differently?

Oh man. Probably everything.

Where did the name Focus Creeps come from?

I think Aaron read it on Wikipedia one day. It’s derived from something called Scope Creep, which is the person involved in a certain business project who causes it to go off course.

What do you think is the most important role of a director?

Ben: I think it’s someone who finds a connection with all the technical shit and with all the emotional stuff and combines it all together. Aaron: Creating an atmosphere. Creating an alternate reality.

Do you have any advice for people who just graduated from film school?

Yes. Just go out and shoot something, and make it cool. People always email me asking if they can intern, but you gotta just go out and do something. Go shoot something about a friend that you find interesting.

What would be your dream project?

A feature film is the ultimate goal.

Do you have any comments on the state of the music video industry?

Other than it sucks? (Laughs) It’s addicting. It’s very addicting. It’s hard to say no. You spend all the money no matter how much it is, and no one really makes a profit. But it’s fun! You get to really experiment with storytelling.

Do you guys think you can maintain a career in the music video industry?

No. I don’t think so, because no matter if it’s $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000, you spend it all, no matter what the budget is.

How do you maintain your intimate documentary style when working on larger commercial projects?

If you can hire your main crew and know everybody and are comfortable with everybody, the whole documentary feel can function pretty easily.

What is your greatest achievement?

Making a living doing this. I talk to my other director friends, and they’re like “I can’t fucking believe we are pulling this off.” And they’re right. It’s hard.

What was your greatest failure?

I smashed an $1,800 dollar lens one time. That sucked. We wrote for projects that didn’t get accepted, which sucks. I would say a big failure is when you’re doing music videos with bands, and it’s so fun, but sometimes you butt heads with people.

How would you define success?

Keep having fun and keep making money.  Doing it for the amount of money you should be getting. The goal is to do big budget stuff, and then we can do stuff for free.

What’s your favorite movie?

Belly by Hype Williams. It’s crazy. It’s an unintentional art masterpiece. The cinematography is crazy. It has a very documentary feel.


Focus Creeps

Place of Birth

San Francisco, CA / Chicago, IL


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