State Of Play: Ramy Dance, Common People Films
Rob Ulitski - 6th Mar 2023
In the latest in our series asking British music video-makers about their experiences last year and thoughts on the coming year, we grab some time with Ramy Dance, Managing Partner at Common People Films.
Ramy recalls how 2022 went by in a blur of hectic activity in Common People's busiest year since it formed in 2018; and why he is optimistic about what 2023 will bring, both for the company and the industry as a whole.
How would you describe last year in a few words?
Exhausting. Well, exhausting but great in so many ways too! We got to work with some brilliant new acts with amazing music so I feel fortunate to have had a satisfying year in that sense.
I sometimes feel like an addict looking for and unearthing new talent, so it was good to get my fix.
What was your favourite project or projects you worked on last year?
They were all brilliant in their own way to be fair. But if I had to name a few...
- Cruel Santino's Beautiful Nothing – amazing track and Santi was awesome to work with as an artist and director.
Above: Cruel Santino's Beautiful Nothing ft Gus Dapperton, directed by Santi
- Kawala's Jesse Cmon – it's always an absolute pleasure being guided by the amazing mind of NYSU
- Tommy Davis had another busy and great year directing really strong videos for; Willow Kayne, Biig Piig, Murder Capital, BeaBadooBee and Joe Unknown. The boy is a machine, so looking forward to another strong year!
- Piri & Tommy's On & On – was a fun one directed by the amazing Deadhorses
- And lastly it was great to work with YungBlud, directed by the lovely Tom Pallant
Above: Kawala's Jesse C'mon, directed by NYSU
Any other project you enjoyed that deserved more attention, or went under the radar?
Navos's What It Feels Like by Ben Newbury was a joy to produce from start to finish with Alessia. Really clear creative with a great team behind it. We loved working on the XR stage and hope to do more this year. Big love to John Hassay!
There seems to be a better joint understanding on the current state of the industry.
What were the best aspects of the job last year?
Meeting and developing new talent was really great. I sometimes feel like an addict looking for and unearthing new talent, so it was good to get my fix.
I know this is debatable but we felt like the dust had settled a bit with regards to crew rates, negotiating and budgeting. Don’t get me wrong, budgets are still really challenging - the world is pretty screwed - but I feel like after we had lengthy discussions with the APA and the record labels, there definitely seems to be a better joint understanding on the current state of the industry and everyone’s approach and expectations. There’s still a few annoying things that need ironing out but we’ll get there.
What were the most challenging aspects of the job last year?
Negotiating crew rates…kidding! That’s always fun… urm… running a business is challenging. I’ve also got four kids, that’s challenging. Not much else really, can’t really complain.
Above: Piri & Tommy's On & On, directed by Deadhorses
Best or favourite video or videos last year that you weren’t involved with?
I really enjoyed the GRIN MACHINE video for A$AP Rocky. Greg Hackett’s video for Loyle Carner was great. Also loved Fontaines DC's Jackie Down The Line by Hugh Mulhern (90's throw back), and I love Labrinth's Mount Everest by Tanu.
Anything by Rosalía. We’re still waiting for an email from her… 2023 maybe, R?
I do like a performance video but we’re desperate to make a comedy-driven concept idea this year. Come on labels, let’s get mental!
What were the trends (creative or otherwise) that you thought were most striking last year?
Rightly or wrongly I’ve really enjoyed seeing what everyone’s making with 360 cameras. When used well they’re so engaging. It’s been really great seeing more directors roll up their sleeves in post-production, pulling edits apart using different skills and tools to make engaging videos. Big up Jay Green! I don’t know Jay but always look forward to seeing what he makes next.
Any other personal experience that defines 2022 for you?
It was lovely being able to network face-to-face again. So we really loved seeing everyone at various events, award shows and in various countries.
I hope we see bolder, more wacky briefs come through (with realistic budgets!)
What are you looking forward to in 2023 – both for work and for other parts of your life?
So much to look forward to! We moved into our new Soho office at the end of last year which was surreal for me having ran in Soho back in the day. It has an amazing roof terrace!
We’re launching a brand new website very soon which looks great so can’t wait for people to see that. We’re also looking forward to another great year of growth at Common People. We didn’t plan for a pandemic and a war in the middle of our 5 year plan - who did? So it’s been great to get back on track with a strong start to the year so we can continue our growth plan.
Above: Navos ft Galantis's What It Feels Like, by Ben Newbury
I love travelling and looking forward to getting away with the family as often as possible. I’ve got a couple of spec ideas I’ve put on the backburner due to Covid, so I’m looking forward to hopefully carving out some time for those this year.
Have you set work objectives for this year and if so, what are they?
Create even more award-winning work and ensuring our shoots are as green, diverse and inspiring as possible! We take a lot of pride in making our shoots really enjoyable and making sure everyone attending is looked after well, so we want to carry on being known for that. We’ve got to look after each other more.
Who are the up-and-coming talents that you think will break through this year – or at least deserve to be successful?
Tommy Davis is a hard working legend! He deserves so much success so we really want him to have another strong year. I really hope Deadhorses get some great tracks in production this year. Those boys are very talented! We’re talking to some really exciting talent at the moment, so watch this space…
Above: Willow Kayne's White City, by Thomas Davis
What is your prediction for the direction of the industry in 2023? And what will be the big trends for the year ahead?
I hope we see bolder, more wacky briefs come through - with realistic budgets! That style really suits our roster. Let’s get back to making really fun / memorable videos!
History tells us that great videos can really elevate an artist’s success.
Any other comments about the current environment for music video production and music video creativity? What are the issues that we should be most concerned with?
There’s always ups and downs but currently labels have had to pivot their business models and marketing plans which means everything feels quite reactive and driven by algorithms. Social media is really powerful so I do completely get the sense and value in making a suite of assets for multiple platforms rather than a single YouTube video that under performs or doesn’t reach as many eyeballs (that’s not the case for every video obviously).
BUT… history tells us that great videos can really elevate an artist’s success and great creative is what we all strive for. So we need to ensure we protect that quality! I’m confident there’s a way to get both, but it will require really good communication and planning together.
Above: Yungblud's Don't Feel Like Feeling Sad Today, by Tom Pallant
If you could ‘make a wish’, and reform or change the environment in which you work in one way, what would you wish for?
Nothing. Everyone just needs to crack on. I think we all need to remember that we’re very fortunate to do what we do and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. Of course it’s tough at times but we’re not saving lives here so we really need to face the challenges head on and keep collaborating. We’re constantly grateful to work with such amazing and talented people so I wish for that to continue.
Where are the opportunities in the current environment?
There are so many! It’s a very well-serviced, fast-moving industry so there’s lots of opportunity to get in. Try and make a bigger noise than everybody else and you’ll be fine.
Have you made any personal New Year resolutions? And if so, how’s it going?
Snore alert… but stay fit and healthy. Which is going well atm, thanks. And I’m trying to listen to more podcasts and listen to more audiobooks.
• Ramy Dance is Managing Partner at Common People Films
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Rob Ulitski - 6th Mar 2023
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