- Matthew Taylor Morgan
A passed-out man comes to in a dark alley wearing a goat mask, rapping to the camera with confusion in his eyes. Moments later, he’s walking hand in hand with a masked female who leads him to a car; her mask features a sheep head. They drive to a tall building where another figure, this one disguised a bald eagle, opens the gate and directs them to a loft where there’s an entire room full of more mysterious beings disguised as animals. At this point, the party has only just begun.
This is the opening sketch for a music video recently produced by local director Jeremy “Jace” Wallace, which only touches the surface of the artistic approach he takes to his work. As a director, he plays a role that’s often overlooked; yet his work performs an incredibly important part in any music scene, whether underground or mainstream, local or international.
Jace dreams up concepts for music videos, brings them to life with actors, and pulls it all together through imaginative editing. In a world where anybody can upload digital footage and throw it into a video editing program, Jace’s videography sets itself apart with unique camera angles and thoughtfully developed story lines. Whether he’s directing a hip-hop video or working with an indie rock musician, Jace strives to remain true to his creative vision and holds his work to the highest of standards.
But it hasn’t always been that way. Before he was a director, Jace was a typical 17-year-old underground rapper, trying to get noticed by anyone who would give him the attention. It seemed that just writing songs and performing them around town wasn’t enough; Jace needed imagery attached to his music in a way that could be easily understood and shared. Realizing the importance of music videos, he started kicking around ideas for some of his songs but felt a bit defeated when it came to actually making it happen.
“I didn’t know any local directors. I thought, to be a director, you had to be in Hollywood or something,” Jace said, when asked about his early struggles as a performing artist.
He never did find a director and never had the videos made. He eventually got bored with rapping, and soon realized that the time and money required to pursue that dream was more than he was willing to invest at the age of 18. But he kept listening to music and the songs kept speaking to him — creating pictures in his mind, narrating events, formulating stories.
“I was like, ‘Man, I got some ideas for these!’ And I just thought, ‘If I could, I would…’ and I would write all this stuff down, treatments and things. Just write down ideas,” he said.
Those ideas remained nothing more than sketches in his notebooks until Jace eventually started attending more local shows and networking with Naptown’s music scene. He soon realized that others were recognizing the same need for videos to breathe life into their music and sharing his once-felt feelings of frustration. Suddenly, his catalog of ideas and concepts had an opportunity to be put to use. For his directing debut, Jace partnered with Naptown rapper R.J. to produce the video for his song, “I’m So Fly.”
After watching that first video, it becomes obvious that Jace has come a long way in a very short amount of time. When comparing recent video releases for GEOHN and G-Scott or his highly viewed past projects with Oreo Jones and alpha.live, it’s easy to notice that transitions are smoother, the lighting is more meticulous and the story lines are much more developed in his present day productions. It’s a truth of which he’s well aware; he recognizes it’s part of the natural evolution of an artist.
“I paid like, $400 for a Sony consumer-grade HD camera,” said Jace, of his first music video. “As art, I look at it this way: it’s not based off of what you have; it’s what you can do with it. I try to always look at it as a story. You can go back two years ago and look at the videos and be like, ‘Wow, this guy made this two years ago. Now look at what he’s doing.’”
Jace admits he’s quite comfortable with his early work because, “That’s where I was then, this is where I am now. I like for myself (and others) to see the growth.”
Jace’s debut video with R.J. seems to follow the traditional hip-hop video model that so many amateur directors and rappers gravitate toward: find a cool location and shoot a series of shots with the artist rapping into the camera. But when he paired with alpha.live to film for his Naptown homage “Light Up,” Jace turned to the nighttime streets of Downtown Indy to experiment with out-of-focus shots, a back-lit view of the performer in an alley and a myriad of vividly bright iconic landmarks surrounded by darkness in the heart of The Circle City.
“That video is just so universal,” said Jace. “It’s not too much on one side to where you can’t show it to a country singer because she’d get offended by it or you can’t show it to a rock guy and he doesn’t appreciate it.”
Other notable works include the continuous shot video for Oreo Jones’ “Cordon Bleu” that projects the emcee’s rhymes from the mouths of 14 different characters across three separate locations (with twice as many extras onsite throughout). The Night Riders “One Day At A Time” video, shot in nostalgic Fountain Square and depicting a boy who imagines idolized rappers performing in front of him when he puts on a special pair of sunglasses, also comes to mind.
More recently, GEOHN’s “Love Let Go Lose Control” attempts to freeze the passage of time and examine a specific emotionally charged moment, while G-Scott’s “HA$H” video channels Warhol-esque inspiration through a drug-induced haze of erotic confusion.