Teeeezy C on Bru-C's Playground: "We both wanted to create something powerful."
David Knight - 27th June 2022
We talk to director Teeeezy C about his recent video for Nottingham rapper Bru-C, shooting in the tough neighbourhood of Long Eaton and exploring ideas of British identity - for Playground. BTS photos by Harvey Cameron.
He is one of the UK's most prolific music video directors, renowned for exciting videos for the likes of Unknown T, M Huncho, Millionz and ArrDee. His latest video sees him working for the first time with Bru-C, and the resulting video is a vibrant and riveting snapshot of the artist within the tough, close-knit community of Long Eaton in Nottingham, where he grew up and still lives.
It's also possibly Teeeezy's most politically-charged video, engaging with issues at the heart of the track Playground. So we asked the director about the making of this groundbreaking project.
Bru-C wanted to capture his hometown authentically
Promonews: How did the project begin for you? Had you already made a connection with Bru-C before you heard Playground?
Teeeezy C: The project began as this idea of blending the grit and rawness of a Northern city with the child-like notion of playground fence - except this fencing entraps you rather than protects you. Which was the foundation that we build outward from.
Nicola Sheppard - senior video & content commissioner for 0207 Def Jam - originally hit me up saying she had a really cool brief for myself. Apparently Bru-C had asked for me personally, which I found quite warming. After hearing the song I was fully on board. I saw it as a chance to step into a new realm and create something with some narrative elements.
I spoke to Bru-C on the phone a few times and I really liked his energy. We both wanted to create something powerful and I think that initial energy sparked everything that followed.
As the lyrics are so specifically about his neighbourhood, was he and the label looking for a doc-style video in the district, or was that your idea?
Bru-C wanted to capture his hometown authentically. I think that was the main point he made clear and more or less left it to myself on how we go about achieving that.
I think the pace of the track inclined me toward a documentary-style approach as it allowed for us to add energy through zooms and aggressive editing. I wanted to add layers into the visual as opposed to just sticking with performance. I personally find myself drawn more to videos that are able to go deeper than just surface level.
Was there anything from your previous work that they wanted to reference? Did you reference anyone else’s work in your treatment?
In terms of previous work for myself, I think what Bru-C and Nicola wanted most was for myself to draw natural and honest performance from talent and cast. I’m really grateful Nicola and the Def Jam team were able to trust me to execute my vision. Their support really made me feel comfortable throughout.
The video for Slow Thai’s Gorgeous by The Rest was a strong reference for myself. I was really pushing to shoot on 16mm film as well, which the label very kindly allowed me to do. Romain Gavras’s video for Stress by Justice inspired some of the cinematography too. The crash zooms were a personal favourite of mine.
There’s something very rewarding about giving a voice to those who don't usually get the chance to represent themselves.
The song is not only about his tough neighbourhood but about an idea of Britishness, and that also comes through in the video. Was that an appealing part of this project? Were you exploring new territory with this?
Being able to touch on something as meaningful as the notion of Britishness was one of the most exciting parts of working on Playground. I remember whilst we were sitting in the beer garden, Bru-C was telling me about how he faced racism and challenges as one of the only people of colour in his neighbourhood.
Equally, he also spoke openly about how Nottingham made him who he is today, and that the area of Long Eaton also held fond memories for him as a young man. Exploring ideas of police tensions, nationalistic feeling, youth and inner-city living were really important to me in conveying the various aspects of what makes Nottingham what it is.
Looking to the future, working on similar projects based around community is something I want to explore. There’s something very rewarding about being able to give a voice to those who may not often get the chance to represent themselves.
How long did you have to prep the shoot? And did you spend much time in the neighbourhood before the shoot?
Prep was probably around a week or two, with a lovely day out in Long Eaton with the head of departments around a week before the shoot. We probably covered almost every inch of the city on our recce, in search of locations that best fit the narrative I wanted to deliver.
I actually remember feeling really deflated after the recce, as I wasn’t convinced we had what I wanted to create the idea in my head. The day after we returned, I had to slap myself and told myself to pull it together, and set about problem-solving in order to tackle the various creative and production issues we were faced with.
Bru-C is a hero in Long Eaton... the locals love him.
What was the key to engaging with Bru-C’s neighbourhood, and getting so many of the locals involved?
Being completely honest, Bru-C himself was responsible for getting so many people out to come and support. He is a hero in Long Eaton. Having grown up there, he is very much a part of the community and the locals love him. I saw him conversing with older pub goers and young local lads alike. He’s honestly such a gentleman and an absolute dream to work with.
How long did you have to shoot all those set-ups - 'real life' and the constructed stuff - and how did you organise your shoot day? What were the most challenging moments - if any?
Given the nature of the project, I really saw this as a chance to prove myself in a new genre and I wanted to ensure we gave ourselves every chance to smash it. As such, I proposed a two-day shoot, so we could really touch on the different aspects of Nottingham.
Day 1 was spent at Nottingham Forest's football stadium - the City Ground. We divided our time between the stadium carpark, for the playground cage scenes, and then the pitch and hallways. I wanted to schedule it this way for two main reasons. The first was that the carpark was closed off to public access so we had complete control of the set. The second was because I knew the momentum a successful first day would give us for day two.
Day 2 was focused on Long Eaton and the pub setups. Overall, the planning and organisation was great, so from a production standpoint everything ran smoothly. The clients took us for a bevvy after the first day, everyone was cracking jokes. It was like working with friends.
How excited was Bru-C about shooting at the City Ground?
Once we got pitch side at around 4pm I could see the energy on set was electric. People weren’t screaming and shouting as such, but I think we all knew how powerful the pitch side setup was and it really gave everyone the confidence to step it up a level.
Nottingham treated us as one of their own.
I would also like to give a special mention to Will O’Dooghe of NFFC for being so accommodating and helpful. He literally gave us complete access and without him I don’t think the video would be what it is.
You obviously had a solid idea of the final edited video before you shot it, but did you leave anything out, or add anything new on the shoot day?
The vast majority of the video had been shotlisted and discussed with Henry Gill, the Director of Photography, prior to the shoot. I always like to get my essential components on the video on paper and then allow myself some room for creative improvisation on set in case something unplanned but very much worth capturing occurs.
I believe film sets are a place where you need a solid degree of structure and organisation, but where music is often an emotional outlet, it can be very useful to work with the energy on set, as opposed to trying to fight it. I’ve lost track of the number of magical moments captured just by anticipating the energy of talent and cast once they get into the swing of things.
Had you planned to go ‘behind the scenes’ in B&W at the end of the video - and have you done that before?
Having shot Lagga for M1llionz in Nairobi, I wanted to share my gratitude with the people of Kenya for being so helpful and welcoming us with open arms, hence the BTS section at the end. In a similar fashion, Nottingham treated us as one of their own, and I speak on behalf of the entire crew when I say we all thoroughly enjoying working with such warm and wonderful people.
Everything about the Playground video was real, and sometimes it’s easy to think that some moments were staged or false because it’s an edited music video. The ending was to serve as a reminder that this video is an honest representation of Bru-C and his hometown and that the people you see in the video are real Long Eatonians.
• Check out Teeeezy C's work here. Contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
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David Knight - 27th June 2022