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How a Self-Taught Director Shoots Music Videos Through an Insider's Lens

Jackson breaks down his worldview from behind the camera of some of our favorite videos.

by TCP Staff
22 February 2016, 2:05pm

From a Jamie XX video shoot. Image courtesy the director.

This is the second in a series of profiles on artists from our new series 'Trailblazers,' presented by Adidas, which pairs two young creatives at the beginning of their careers, exploring their process. Check out the trailer for our London episode below.

From a Jamie XX video shoot. Image courtesy the director

Documentary and music video director Rollo Jackson got started in the business by buying a camera and teaching himself how to shoot and edit. That simple act turned into a career. After a gig at MTV, Jackson ventured into making short films for record labels and friends in bands who needed videos.

The London-based director’s path isn’t surprising. He cites his city and its music scene as a huge influence on his work “mainly because of the type of music—jungle, garage, grime," that he grew up with. "It was illicit, territorial, and unifying for anyone that experienced it. It was totally unapologetic. I try to get that energy into my work, whether it’s through the music itself, or the editing, or other techniques," he says.

As a director he looks to complement the energy of each artist he’s directing. He says, “I like making videos that look how the music sounds, or reflect the music itself, in a way the artist relates to, rather than imposing ‘a vision’ or narrative that has nothing to do with it.”

His respect for creative expression may be part of the reason for his success. Artists like Hot Chip, Trimbal, Angel Haze, Vondelpark and many others turn to Jackson to translate their songs into the visual realm. “I only work with artists I respect and am already into their music and vice versa,” says Jackson. “Often there’s already a link, friends of friends or whatever, which means that even if you’re not directly collaborating, you ‘get’ each other from the outset, which is crucial.”

Jamie XX 'Good Times' feat. Young Thug + Popcaan from Rollo Jackson on Vimeo.

Jackson’s short documentaries also focus on the music industry. He’s explored the work of Charles Hayward, the underground London music scene, and DJ/producer Ben UFO. Jackson says the challenge in producing videos and documentaries is the logistics, i.e. “money,” he says. But “compromising your imagination is always an anticlimax,” forcing creatives to learn how to handle daily details without muddying their visions. It’s Jackson’s versatility behind the camera that gives his videos an unexpected edge.

“New ideas and music come from everywhere, often from people who might not have a platform, so to say ‘I’m above you' or to close yourself off from anyone is very narrow-minded,” he says. “Everyone needs a break. I try to stay close to the ground in order to discover things first hand. That’s where the excitement lies for me.” Or as Jackson puts it, “Keep experimenting until you break it.”

Hot Chip 'Started Right' from Rollo Jackson on Vimeo.

To learn more about the director click here

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