Ryan Staake on his Young Thug meta-masterpiece: "I'd nothing to lose"
Luke Bather - 24th Jan 2017
By now, it’s very likely that you’ve seen Ryan Staake's brilliant video for Young Thug’s Wyclef Jean. If not, take a second to watch it. It is without doubt a tour de force, with Staake's ingenious meta approach salvaging what was a disastrous shoot. He has effectively made a silk purse from a sow's backside.
It’s a video that answers a lot of questions as it goes on – a hilarious, horrifying and refreshingly candid blow-by-blow account of just how rapidly a music video shoot can fall apart, and how much of a nightmare it can be to salvage something from the wreckage. But despite its transparency, and subsequent Vice BTS video, it still raises some questions.
So we asked Ryan Staake a few follow-ups about his experience making this incredible spectacle. And although he's been swamped with all sorts of media interest as the video has gone viral, Ryan has been good enough to answer our questions.
Promonews: What was the moment on set when you finally accepted that the shoot was an almost complete write-off?
Ryan Staake: When I heard they were having difficulty getting [Young Thug] out of the car due to the Instagram hack.
What was the process behind turning what you’d shot into the video that you delivered? How long did it take for you to embrace the disaster?
After discussion of a reshoot failed, I thought this could be a viable backup solution. I mocked up some still frames and really liked the tone of it. A lot of people thought I was insane for even thinking it was a possibility, but I know the power of “the label doesn’t really have any other options” and decided to give it a shot. At best, they’d go for it... at worst they might fire me from a video that was already a complete disaster and I’d lose the post budget. I had nothing to lose.
"It is 100% real. I lived it. I have the grey hairs and the 4.5 month-long email thread and multiple treatments to prove it."
Did you think the label/management people would go for your idea? Did you feel like you almost had some leverage over them after they’d effectively blown $100k to do whatever you wanted?
I thought there was a 50/50 chance. And yes, I was totally empowered by the fact that they were looking at a few options:
A. Flushing a good chunk of money down the toilet and starting over from scratch.
B. Cobbling something together with my footage and maybe adding their own reshoot footage (this terrified me the most).
C. Crossing their fingers and trusting that my idea might actually work.
You don’t get many opportunities for that level of psychological intrigue in music video land... I ate it up. And obviously they chose option C.
What was the initial reaction from the label/management? Did you have to tone down any sarcasm?
This is very close to the initial cut. They made me remove direct references to Jennifer Connelly and Requiem for a Dream, so I came back with that snarky line asking the commenters to say what I legally couldn’t. I also spliced in a single frame from a porn flick, but they caught that… just kidding, but I should’ve tried.
This might be a tough one, but what do you think was the single biggest waste of money on this shoot?
The incredible mansion in the Hills. We filmed so little of it because of the way I had to re-block around his absence. It turned into a $10k+ bathroom and crafty table.
Have many other directors spoken to you about it? What has their reaction been?
A lot of directors have reached out. Most have been supportive. Some have expressed doubt that this was truly a concept that I had to devise after a shitty shoot, and believe it to be a complex marketing stunt. All I can say that it is 100% real. I lived it. I have the grey hairs and the 4.5 month-long email thread and multiple treatments to prove it.
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Luke Bather - 24th Jan 2017