Contrast Films: A Small Company Producing Big Hits
09 December 2018 on Customer Spotlight
Recently, Film Casualty talked with Jordy Wax, producer and boss at Contrast Films, a Louisiana- based video production company. Contrast Films, a Film Casualty client, produces music videos for a wide range of emerging and high-profile artists worldwide, like this recent video for Vevo X featuring Khalid performing his song “Vertigo.”
Khalid’s voice, accompanied by a string quartet, billows into the empty night sky; Billie Eilish, lit in white light, fills what little space is left in a packed room with her soft tones; a single camera circles Lorde as she sings a cappella, then to the beat of a boombox, on a rooftop.
Contrast Films produces immersive experiences for the viewer, creating music videos that are not just seen and heard but that are felt. Producing music videos is a unique art form that blends cinematography, storytelling, music, performance, and design into one creative product, all while making sure that the heart of the song remains intact.
In addition to balancing all of these elements, each new project comes with different levels of creative freedom. Jordy explains how some artists and their teams know exactly what they want to accomplish and just need production services for their video; while other times, Contrast Films will only be given a song and asked to come up with the entirety of the music video. “We are pretty comfortable anywhere within that scale,” Jordy says.
So, with this wide range of creative freedom and unique merging of art forms, how would someone approach making a music video?
“What’s great about music videos is we treat them like short films, in that we are able to experiment,” Jordy said, sharing Contrast Films’s approach to music video production. “There usually aren’t crazy budgets or restrictions on what we can do, and so, the directors and artists themselves are willing to push the envelope a little bit and try things they wouldn’t want to try if it was a commercial or a feature film.”
When reflecting on what makes a successful music video, Jordy explained that he doesn’t measure the success of a music video by the number of plays it has or the awards it received; instead, “I would define success as when we’re able to accomplish something creatively that we all, maybe, didn’t expect to get out of the video and when we’re true to the vision of the song.”
Staying true to the vision of the song is not always an easy feat, while working in this fast-paced environment—in which getting calls for video shoots only a couple days in advance and having to put together a crew last minute in various cities are not unusual—but Contrast Films repeatedly shows they are up to the task.
With only two full-time producers and one part-time office manager, Contrast Films is a small company, and as the boss, Jordy plays a wide range of roles. “When it comes to projects specifically, I sit anywhere from executive producer to line producer,” Jordy said. “I’m also willing to go help lift cases and load the truck at the end of the night. That’s what is fun about keeping things small and working with people that you work with on a regular basis. We all do a bunch of different roles.”
Due to his experience growing Contrast Films and working in the camera department, Jordy brings a unique skill set to his current role as producer and boss. “I love working on equipment orders and geeking out with the camera, grip, and lighting departments,” Jordy said. “A lot of producers might be less comfortable navigating some of those orders and talking shop with those guys, but that’s actually one of my favorite things to do.”
Jordy traces his love of music and videos all the way back to middle school. Growing up, he was involved shooting videos for churches and recording music videos with friends. Starting out in wedding videography, Jordy and his creative partner Chase Smith, who often works for Contrast Films as a director of photography on a contract basis, moved into shooting commercials and then to music video production.
While this trajectory appears to have a recent shift to music videos, Jordy explained that, all along, behind the scenes they were working on music video projects. This work came to the forefront, through projects like filming SerialBox, a live performance series, which allowed them to grow their network and transition from commercial work to primarily creating music videos and filming concerts. In 2016, Contrast Films gained the opportunity to create music videos for Vevo’s DSCVR series, and since then, their partners have grown to include Spotify, Atlantic Records, and Universal Music, along with several others.
Jordy encourages people interested in videography to find a mentor—explaining his own eight years of learning through trial and error—and to simply start making videos. “It’s easier now than it’s ever been to make videos,” Jordy said. “All you need is an iPhone or a cheap camera. Just go do it. Grab your buddies, get out there, and go make something. Don’t overthink it. Don’t try to make the best thing in the world, just keep practicing.”
As Jordy’s years of filming music videos and Contrast Films’s prolific reel of projects prove, just going out and practicing videography can turn into something amazing.
Moving forward, Contrast Films hopes to continue working with a variety of musicians, especially new and upcoming musicians. Jordy also hints at a “secret bucket list of artists” he’d love to reach out to and work with.
“It’s a fun career, but it is a job, and I want to make sure that all of the people we work with are taken care of and that we’re doing a good job and keeping people happy.”
Check out Contrast Films at https://contrast.tv/.