How did you start out?

I come from a photography background, and photography is my financial backbone. Being a photographer gives me the ability to keep my film projects as a creative outlet rather than relying on it to pay all the bills. I was living in Chicago at the time and heard about an artist Kanye West, but I couldn’t find him anywhere on the Internet. His domain name was available, so I bought it for twenty bucks (Laughs), and one day a record label called me and said “We signed this artist Kanye West, and we would like to buy the website from you. What do you want for it?” I said “I don’t want money. I just want to shoot for him.” A few days later Kanye called and said “ I heard you want to shoot some photos.” I wound up shooting his first press pictures, and that was the start of our working relationship.

What was your first shoot?

The first photo shoot that opened doors for me was with Kanye West. It was before The College Dropout was released, and the photos I took became all his first press images. The main image used was Kanye with a red sweater and a Louis Vuitton backpack.

When did you start shooting music videos? gave me my first shot at shooting a video. I was working on a photo project with Kanye, and he linked me to shoot Will. We started talking, and I told him about how I had been on many music video sets with Kanye, and that I had some weird ideas. He said “Cool. Wanna try a video for the Peas?”  I was like yes yes yes…” I did the video for “Like That” which featured Q-tip, Talib Kweli, Cee-lo, John Legend and the Black Eyed Peas. It’s definitely a completely different style to what some might imagine me making, but it was a great learning experience.

Do you credit your success to talent, connections, or luck?

Talent! (Laughs) And of course connections and some luck. I think it’s a hard thing to gauge how much of each, but all were in the mix.

Do you think it was easier to break into the business when you first started or is it easier now?

It is easier now to have your work seen with all these different Internet platforms. With that also comes hungry directors who are willing to do the work for a lot less.

Can you comment on the current state of the music video industry?

I’m happy. I have never experienced big budgets, so I can’t complain about the budget issue personally. I will say that there are a lot of labels and commissioners taking advantage and showing little respect to a lot of directors in many, many ways. I can’t believe the directors don’t pimp slap more.

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

To express your feelings to everyone on set, in the edit, and at the color timing in a way that they can apply that input into each aspect of their job. You must also be able to curate the best group of people who can help you achieve your vision. That’s super important; filmmaking is teamwork.

Which directors have influenced your style?

Chris Cunningham took music videos to a different place for me. David Fincher opened my mind at a young age with his film The Game. Jacques Audiard. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Steve McQueen is the newest consistent mind-blower.

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming directors?

Up-and-coming is still my mentality. I have a lot more confidence now than earlier in my career. My advice to fellow up-and-comers is to make things and upload them to Vimeo. It’s such a creative platform and community – one that gives anyone a sort of equality.

What is your latest project?

I am dabbling in some business projects with my roommate and a VC fund in case my next project fails. Movie time is the plan!

What is your favorite music video?

It’s a tie!! “Rabbit In Your Headlights” directed by Jonathan Glazer or Chris Cunningham’s “Window Licker” and “Afrika Shox”.

Have you seen any videos lately that made an impression?

The last music video I saw that blew me away is Is Tropical’s “Dancing Anymore” directed by Megaforce. Wowser!


Nabil Elderkin

Place of Birth

Chicago, IL


Director / Reset Content