Samantha Elefant ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Two slices of grease-soaked pizza, a half-eaten piece of red velvet cake, and an empty cup of Dunkin’ sit on the table in front of Danny Chamberlain.
He met up with Emertainment Monthly at Emerson College to talk about his career as an up and coming music video producer. Danny, a Minnesota native, is a junior film major at Emerson who is already getting his foot in the door of the music industry. With over two million video views on his YouTube channel, Dizzy City Nation, his young talent is not something to be overlooked.
Emertainment Monthly: When and why did you start producing music videos? Did it start with your parodies?
Danny Chamberlain: Yeah, it definitely started with my parodies. I was just having fun with it, a way of having fun with my friends back home. We’d just get together and be like ‘oh what do you want to make?’ The first parody we did was Heartbreak Warfare by John Mayer. But, we don’t really count that because it didn’t go up on YouTube. The first one that went up on YouTube was a parody of Jay-Z’s Forever Young and my friend Spencer sang the chorus. It got a ton of views – I think 400,000 or something. His voice sounded so operatic. People started watching it and that was pretty cool. So I posted more parodies and web series type videos and it just started to take off from there.
You had two channels, The Dizzy City and then Dizzy City Nation.
My first channel was taken down because of copyright. The first channel was called The Dizzy City and I used that sophomore year of high school. Dizzy City Nation was senior year.
When did you realize that music videos would get you noticed?
I made a parody of Born This Way by Lady Gaga and posted it on YouTube. It ended up on the news because it was a Minnesota Vikings parody that was relevant to Minnesota so the state got a lot of recognition.
Were you involved with film before you started doing parodies?
Not really. It was never professional, not even when I was doing the parody that got on the news. It was more of just a hobby. It wasn’t until this year and last year that I realized it could be more of a career because there are people in Boston that are willing to pay me for my work.
For you, does it start and end with music videos? Is that where you see yourself?
I don’t see music videos as being the end of it. I think that this could be where I get my footing in the working industry of film. I think it’s relevant to what I’m doing. Once I have connections made through these music videos, that’s when I could start to try other things like movies or TV shows and whatever else I can get my hands on. I don’t really know what the end goal is.
Lately, you’ve been doing a lot of rap videos, working with a lot of rappers.
Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot for local rap artists, like this guy Cam Meekins who’s been doing it for a while in Boston. He’s really established already so he makes what I’m doing a lot more relevant.
How do you balance school and professional shoots?
It’s been really hard with school and everything because I’ve had so much schoolwork. I’m trying to balance that with meeting up with a bunch of rappers on the side. It’s just a funny lifestyle to live because I’m constantly being picked up by people outside of the Paramount and driven around the city to just shoot. It’s fun but it’s busy.
How did you get your name and brand known in Boston?
I shot ‘Lazy and I Know It’ last year and the girls in the video lived with my friend Jasmine who has her own rap radio show. Jasmine asked me to come in and shoot an interview at Laced Boston. We got stood up by the rap artist, so I thought it was a total fail the whole day. We wasted so much time waiting for him. But I met this guy Joel, he had been rapping for a bit and he was looking for someone to shoot videos for him. He asked me to shoot for him so I shot the first one for free just as a friend. It turned out pretty well. People liked it. Some of Joel’s friends who also rap messaged me after seeing it because they wanted videos as well.
What’s your style going into a video shoot?
I try to see everything objectified, you know, for the aesthetic value of it. I try to picture the way that a scene looks. I try to see how it could look on a camera as an image and how that image could mean something from how I shot it. The movement of the camera, the timing of it, and the cuts you have to make, all mean something. You have to pay attention to how you shoot it on set to make that meaning come across on video.
Concept-wise, is it mostly your vision? Or do you work in tandem with the artist?
With Cam Meekins, he likes to co-direct a lot of his videos so we work together and bounce ideas back and forth. With most artists I’ll bounce ideas back and forth, but a lot the videos have been mainly directed by me. I shoot all of it and edit all of it. The artists usually leave a lot of the concept related stuff to me as well. General shooting stuff, on set is my vision. I don’t bring a lot of friends on set because I shoot randomly. I can never give people a solid schedule of when I’m free. They will just call me and ask if I can shoot tomorrow and I’ll tell them to pick me up after class. It’s really in the spur of the moment. My schedule is just so inconsistent, so that’s how I have to work.
Have you done any shoots besides rap?
Not really. There was this one rap group that was more jazzy. It was almost like pop. I’ve done parodies that weren’t rap, but all of the professional stuff I’ve done has been rap just because that’s been the connections that [rap artists] have in Boston. But I’d love to branch out and shoot for more rock groups or anybody really. I don’t just love rap music. I’d love to meet Berklee [College of Music] people or anyone in the area. There are so many bands out there to shoot for, I’m definitely interested in finding them. I just don’t have those connections yet, I’m still building all of that out in the Boston area.
What do music videos mean to you?
I have a really short attention span and a lot of movies just don’t captivate me. I don’t get into them. A lot of people say “this is such a dope movie” and I just answer ‘I didn’t see it.’ Though there are some that I really love. But there are very few music videos that are creatively made that I say that about because I get attached to them quickly. You can get a message across in a very short amount of time and I love music. When there’s no dialogue and there’s a really cool aesthetic visual to a song that you like then it’s hard not to get into it. Music videos are also easy to promote and with the rise of the Internet they will become that much more relevant in terms of artists getting big. I think all artists will look to music videos to get big now. Visuals are huge, people’s attention spans in general are decreasing as a result of the Internet and the amount of image exposure we are subject to. I think that as a whole, artist popularity will be based on visuals. I think it’s a good career path to take.
So you believe that music videos are a necessity to an artist’s career?
Yeah, I’m seeing a trend – ever since Michael Jackson started doing music videos. The more artists can make really awesome music videos, the more successful they will be, and the more of a legacy they will leave. I think it’s a huge thing for artists today, they’re all getting really cool visuals put to their music and I think it’s going to continue to be big.
What makes or breaks a music video?
One that just doesn’t really have a purpose – like if you listen to a song and you think of an image to represent that song and then you see the music video and there’s no clear connection between the meaning of the song and the meaning of the video then that’s unsuccessful. I think that even if it’s a really simple video like a guy lip-syncing in one shot or one location – if that has a specific connection to the song then it can still be successful. Some music videos just don’t capture the feeling of the music. When you listen to it, just sit down and envision something. Everyone has their own vision when they listen to a song, they put their own image to the conceived meaning. If the video doesn’t capture that vision then I think it’s unsuccessful.
How do you make sure that you capture the meaning of a song?
When I’m editing something, I watch it over and over again and I analyze it separating the visuals from the music. I take them both for what they are and look to see if I’m really capturing what I would expect it to look like. I just keep playing that image back in my head and then play the image back on the screen and see if they match up.
What’s the meaning behind the name Dizzy City Nation?
Well my initials are DC and I wanted to do something like that because I thought that somewhere down the road I would have to change my abbreviation DCN – to Danny Chamberlain whatever. To keep that consistent I just made it Dizzy City Nation. Dizzy really has no meaning to me. I just made that up as a word that is kind of catchy. City is to represent whatever city I’m in. Minneapolis and Boston are both special places to me so it’s representing wherever I’m coming from at the time. Nation is saying that it’s more of a collection of artists and I want it to not just be myself but multiple people coming in and making my brand a thing.
Would you take that name into the professional world?
If it sticks. I think it will because I recently branded it as all my videos having the tag “A Dizzy City Nation Creation.” It’s hard to say. That’s why it’s maybe not the best name to have, but as long as people know what it is, I guess that’s all that matters.
Are you the only face of Dizzy City Nation?
As of right now I’m the only consistent face. It’s good and bad. I’d love to have other people’s consistent collaboration because handling everything creatively is not easy. I haven’t found someone that’s gung-ho to be with me one hundred percent of the time. That’s the kind of commitment I need, because that’s how I live.
Danny and Dizzy City Nation. It’s not about roads and rules. It’s about acting, art and entertainment – he is making moving pictures that hopefully will move people. Check out his videos on here and follow his Twitter to keep up to date with Danny’s latest productions.