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"Being a director or any sort of creative can be challenging, especially when you want and need to support yourself financially."

Spend a Day in the Chucks of Music Video Director Lacey Duke

Lacey Duke has what can only be described as a dream job: directing music videos for the likes of Esperanza Spalding and Janelle Monae. She’s a self-starter who didn’t wait for the opportunity to realize her creative dreams; she went out and made it happen.

SDTC: What does your typical Thursday look like, from waking up to going to bed?

Lacey Duke: Depends on the Thursday.  Sometimes I’m in the middle of finishing a project, or I might be pitching, sometimes it’s really just an off day. Last Thursday I was actually wrapping up a project I did with Esperanza Spalding. I woke up around 8:30am, answered emails and made a few calls. The video was cut and we were getting prepped to colour correct.  It was an interesting project because the video was shot in New York, edited in Toronto and colored in New York. This was all happening while I was trying to direct my team from Atlanta so there was a lot of coordination required, a lot of correspondence. I was on the computer and phone all day with the artist, producer, editor, DP and graphic designer, and all of them were in different cities. Actually Esperanza was in Europe at the time. I worked that day until about 10pm. We had a tight schedule and an approaching deadline. We had a lot to synchronize in a short space of time.

SDTC: What was your first job out of school? How did you go about actually working in the industry?

LD: My first job out of school was actually an internship. Ideally I wanted to work at a production company, but I was having a hard time landing a job of any sort in Toronto. I started looking at production companies I loved outside of Canada, hoping to land a gig in a city where I might be more of an anomaly. I applied for an internship position at HSI London and got it. A couple of weeks after applying I flew to London and spent the next few months there. It was an amazing experience and I got the chance to work under some of the best in the business, like Simon Henwood and Joseph Kahn. I did the latter part of my internship in New York with the same company. When I finally got back to Toronto I was eager to direct and create my own art.

SDTC: What are the three skills you require most to do your job well?

LD: Patience is number one I think. Being patient with yourself, and when I say that I mean to not be discouraged. Being a director or any sort of creative can be challenging, especially when you want and need to support yourself financially. You might also just really want to get your ideas out there but you may not have the opportunity to do so. But having a good work ethic and continuing to create while being patient is critical. I’m still working on that. Also being patient with others is important, especially with those that are depending on you to see your vision through. I’m not sure if this is a skill, but being creative helps. Having some level of taste seems imperative. Also organization, I’m useless when I’m not organized.

SDTC: Did you have any mentors along the way?

LD: Not really. There were directors and producers that I worked for, and of course directors and creators that I looked up to, but I’ve never been a mentee. Although I do think it’s beneficial to have an actual mentor. Finding somebody in the industry you want to work in that’s willing to guide you along the way is invaluable. I have so much to learn, so I’m still open to having that sort of experience.

SDTC:What do you love most about your career?

LD: Being creative, I love working on projects and seeing them through to the end. I love storytelling in a narrative sense but also visually. I love travelling and experiencing life. I love creating beauty and working with talented people, both behind and in front of the camera. I especially love working with people who are way cooler and smarter than me.

SDTC: What do you find the most challenging?

LD: Consistently working on projects that inspire me. Yes, I want to work all the time. Being a freelancer can be challenging because sometimes you don’t know when your next opportunity will come along, and sometimes the opportunities that come along aren’t the most desirable. When I’m working on a cool project everything is great. When I’m not working, I’m okay because I love my days off, but then a week passes and I’m like “Okay what’s next?”

SDTC: What’s your most memorable gig/work-related experience to date?

LD: Well I’d have to say shooting the Janelle Monáe video with B.o.B and Lupe Fiasco a few years back, mainly because it was my first real gig. At the time I had a couple of short films on my reel. It was a great opportunity; it opened up doors for me I got to shoot my first music video south of the border and I worked with some dope people. My entire crew was from Toronto, we drove to Boston with our RED camera and made it happen. It kind of felt like I was in film school all over again.

Janelle Monae (Feat B.o.B & Lupe Fiasco) – Tightrope (Wondamix) from Joseph Howard, Jr. on Vimeo.

SDTC:Do you have any warnings for people who want to get into the industry?

LD: I think there is a misconception that working in film and music is glamorous. There are some perks, but behind the scenes there are people working really hard to deliver the final product. Also, there is no specific path to becoming what one would call a “successful” director; everyone’s journey is different. Try not to get discouraged by that fact, but look at it as an opportunity to create your own unique path and brand.  That’s what I’m hoping to do myself.

SDTC:Ultimate work attire?

LD: A hoodie, jeans and Chucks. I don’t know if that’s “ultimate” but that’s what I wear right now. Maybe I’ll wear a nice pair of pants to work one day. We’ll see.

SDTC: If you could try a different career on for a year, what would it be?

LD: I’d be a chef, or have a show on the food network where I travel the world and eat food for a living. Actually I’m going to do that soon.

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