If you follow the Chicago music scene and it’s rising stars, then you’ve likely seen life through the lens of Austin Vesely. The 22-year-old director is behind the lion’s share of visuals that we’ve seen from Chicago super-crew Savemoney which includes the likes of Chance The Rapper, Kids These Days, Caleb James, Kami De Chukwu, Joey Purp, Preston San and many, many others. However, Vesely didn’t gain our respect simply for the fact that he was the name tied to the music videos of so many hot songs, but rather the fact he is so dedicated to progressing his art. This effort is especially evident in his latest work for Vic Mensa’s song “Naked Pictures” which you can watch below. With so much work done behind the scenes and his biggest production to date in full swing, we felt it was the perfect time to turn the tables and put the spotlight on Austin in our 2nd installment in our 5 Questions For… series.
What inspired you to want to make films initially? And have there been directors that have influenced the way you shoot/edit?
When I was 6, my parents bought the Star Wars trilogy on VHS, and before the first movie there was a featurette about how it was made (watch it here). It was the first time I realized that movies weren’t real, and that people could make them. And then I borrowed my grandma’s Hi8 camera and tried to make Star Wars with toys, and I guess that’s pretty much what I’m still doing. As far as directors go, I don’t really look to the music video world very much. I like Spike Jonze’s music videos and there’s a guy based in Norway named Kristoffer Borgli who I really like, but mostly I look to narrative films for inspiration. PT Anderson is the champion of modern American cinema to me, and I really like Jean-Luc Godard’s earlier stuff. I just love movies, and I like when actual cinema and storytelling makes its way into music videos.
For as long as we’ve known you, you’ve been doing a lot of traveling with Kids These Days, documenting their journey so far. What’s your most memorable moment from what you’ve experienced alongside them?
The day we did Conan was probably the most bizarre. Seeing how late night TV comes together over the course of a day was really cool. Shooting assault rifles with the Kids on the border of Mexico was cool, too. That doesn’t really need to be explained.
You just wrapped up the filming of the Kids These Days track “Don’t Harsh My Mellow”. On Twitter, you told us “Some Amazing Things Happened”… What more can you tell us about that?
It was an incredible shoot. It was the first time I’d worked with a crew. I co-directed the video with Elijah Alvarado and we had a young crew of consummate professionals working on lights, camera, art. We crammed a two day shoot into one 14 hour day and walked out with some exceptional footage. We had a bunch of extras tearing our location to shreds. I’m excited to share it with people. It’s the first time I can comfortably use the term “next-level” to describe my work. We took it there.
There are tons of kids out there with a camera and editing software, making it harder for kids with legitimate talent to get noticed. Do you have any advice for those aspiring to make a name for themselves in film to better set themselves apart?
The Music Video has become severely depreciated because of the advent of prosumer grade cameras and pirated software. People want you to pick up a camera and shoot them “in a cool location,” and that’s that. I think it’s important to use the tools you have in interesting ways. Don’t make the videos how people think they’re supposed to look. Depend on your ideas for the product, not on resources or expectations. If the ideas are good, the product follows.
You’ve become a local legend in Chicago when it comes to making music videos, but is this something you plan on pursuing years down the road or is it a stepping stone to something bigger, such as feature-length narratives?
…I’ve always wanted to be a local legend… I’m trying to move into short films and even features as soon as the time is right. That’s always been the goal. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a scene here in Chicago where I could use music videos practice my craft with artists who have let me experiment with the medium. But I’m definitely ready to try other things.