What's your name? How did you get started? Talk us through it. Where were you born? Did you grow up doing it? Why did you start doing it? Why do you love doing it? What year did you get started? What year did you start taking your craft seriously? What were some of the biggest moments in your career? Tell us everything! (also put your name here as well)
My name is Keith Terrell. I'm a Director, Writer, and Producer from South Central Los Angeles. Before I stepped behind the camera, I was in front of it as a rapper. I always knew I wanted to get into film, I just thought it would be on the other side of the camera. I released a few projects, on the intro of one of them, The Witness, I even wrote it out like a scene in a film. I love movies and they have had such a major impact on who I am, tv too, that it seems almost inevitable that I would end up working in the industry. So, I wrote lyrics/songs since I was a kid. After releasing a few projects, I went back to school where I initially took an intro to film course at El Camino College. I made the decision right then that I wanted to direct. I transferred to CSUF (California State University Fullerton) where I got my B.A. in Film. I purchased my first camera during my first semester, a Canon 7D. That summer is where I shot/directed my first short film, "The Letters We Write".
At the time, I had no idea what I was doing and how sets ran, but I just got with a classmate and we made it happen. We shot 12 pages in one day, which is a lot, with no crew. Just me, my boy Rafael and the actors. This is back in 2013, so I would say that my career started then. I started directing because I love telling stories, I just went from telling them in music to telling them on screen. I've always taken my craft seriously, if there is something, I want to do I go all in and figure it out. So, when I decided I wanted to be a director and started on the journey without any knowledge on how to do it. I worked the first few years of my career mostly as an Assistant Director. I decided to move to Atlanta at the end of 2018 to focus and directing and producing. So, I decided to take directing more seriously in 2018. I felt those years AD'ing taught me a lot and I got to work with some amazing directors. Some of the biggest moments of my career, working with Ava DuVernay and the Jay Z Family Feud video, that was big. I'm a huge Martin fan, so I got to work on a pilot and Tisha Campbell was on set, so quoting scenes from Martin to her all day and having her laughing is still one of my career highlights. And dropping my latest project, "Raincoat", which is streaming on Amazon right now.
What is your experience in the music industry? Do you have any formal training or schooling? If not, are you self-taught and how did you learn your craft? What is your learning style? What are your favorite educational resources (ex. college, YouTube, etc.)?
My experience in the music industry started as an artist, I went by the same name, Keith Terrell. Then I moved behind the camera, I've worked with the best in the game working as an AD (Assistant Director) for years. Now I'm focusing on directing. My latest project is based on a song from Producer/Artist Dem Jointz. He also makes a cameo in the film and scored the project. My training is in film. As far as learning style I love to read so always have a book in hand reading about how someone else did it. The flip side is I learn a lot by just jumping out there and trying something. I like both. My favorite educational resources are books, YouTube, and trial and error.
What are some credits and achievements that you have? Who have you worked with? Who have you collaborated with?
I worked with Ava Duvernay, Dem Jointz, Kenyon Dixon, Tyga, Usher, Kane Brown, T.I., Drake, the list goes on. I started as a P.A., so I've worked with a lot of artists in different capacities as I progressed through my career. I haven't directed all of these artists yet, but I'm just getting started really.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered or faced in this industry?
Good question. I would say the biggest obstacle was figuring out how it all works. I think I have a pretty good grip on that now. I'm still learning a lot. I think finding the right opportunity is an obstacle, sometimes you have to pass on some. Other times, you have to make somewhere there are none.
What are some of your goals this year?
My goals this year have changed obviously because of COVID and everything shifting in the world. I plan on directing some more projects this year, just have to continue to maneuver in this weird place the industry is in. So now I'm planning on writing to have a bunch of things to shoot once we kind of open back up.
Who are the top 3 artists, producers, engineers, videographers, or others you would want to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
The top 3 people that I would want to work with that I haven't are Kendrick, he always has dope visuals, Nas, one of my favorites, and Snoh Aalegra, she's dope.
Who are your favorite directors? Who do you want to do a music video with?
My favorite directors are early Spike Lee, Hype Williams, F. Gary Gray, Scorsese of course. I want to do a music video with Kendrick, Nas, one of those would be my choice.
What kind of equipment do you have and why?
I have a GH5 and a bunch of Canon L-Series lenses. I love shooting on the Arri Alexa Mini though; that's my favorite camera. Everything that comes out of there looks beautiful. I have the GH5 because I like the images and it allows me to always be shooting something. I usually rent something bigger when it's production time, like the Arri.
What is your creative process like?
Depends on what kind of project it is. If it's a film, I'm developing the story first then going back and making sure the characters are developed. I like collaboration so by the time we get to casting, I'm having the actors improve a lot, I'm asking a lot of questions, making changes for better ideas. The process during filming is ongoing, such as making changes on set because something might work better or you're unable to get a shot. The key is being able to adapt always and not holding onto one idea too strongly. If the project is a music video, I'm listening to the song nonstop all day, every day for days straight. Tossing out all of the first ideas and then challenging myself to come up with something different than my first thoughts. If the artist or label has ideas, I make sure to incorporate those.
What’s your favorite go-to order? (food-wise)
Vegan Chicken and Waffles. I have a few favorite spots to get them. In LA, it's Crossroads. In NY, it's Urban Vegan Kitchen. Still looking for a good place here in Atlanta so if you know of a spot hit me up!