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I liked all the films especially the one for Superman [“This is Joe”] and the last one which was longer [“ Frontman ”]. I look forward to at...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Interview: Steven C. Knapp - Director of music video for "Rhythm in the Spirit" by Kansas

ROFFEKE: What lessons did you learn working with a more mature band such as Kansas?

STEVEN: I'd like to answer your question initially through the lens of a subject that I know many creatives struggle with: Self-doubt. My first thought upon getting the gig was, "Who the fuck am I to get to be a part of Kansas' creative legacy?" At the time, I was going through a very nasty breakup and was already feeling very low due to petty gossip being spread around Nashville's film community. I felt like I didn't deserve this amazing opportunity, and doubted my talents, my work, and my existence, really. My awesome producer, the Emmy Award® winning Zac Adams of Skydive Films, and I had made a solid shooting schedule with the very short time we had available, and we stuck to it.

Lesson #1: None of your troubles matter when you have to execute with precision.

The members of Kansas are highly professional, and expect the same. I experienced this in both the pre-production communication, and on-set. Our mutual respect for each other's professional reputations was evident during production; they trusted me, and I trusted them.

Lesson #2: Where there is trust, there is also respect.

As the shoot began, we learned that drummer Phil Ehart, an original member, had limited availability to save his drumming power for the evening's show. We adjusted; no problem. I thought it was cool that even though this video was going to be seen by hundreds and thousands of loyal Kansas fans, Phil's focus was also on that evening's audience. In the end, his on camera performance was just as powerful as his performance that night.

Lesson #3: Always think about your audience.

We knew very early on that we wanted to capture Kansas's music in a very raw form -- no frills, no pedestals, no highly conceptual story. Just rock and roll. Just Kansas doing what they do. That essence has little to do with the number of years someone has lived. These guys rock, their music rocks, and they always will.

Lesson #4: Your age is your attitude.

ROFFEKE: You have done a number of projects for non-profits. Non-profit topics are usually serious and rather "non-sexy". How do you go about reconciling the seriousness of the topics (such as anti-bullying) while still making the film or documentary entertaining, interesting and "sexy"?

STEVEN: I don't believe entertainment always has to be overtly "sexy" or mindless -- it can actually be a force for good if wielded in the right way. It all comes down to story and execution. With HEAR ME NOW, a feature length anti school bullying documentary co-produced with, and directed by, my longtime friend and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Bill Cornelius, it was all about the visuals. We tried to make it as cinematic as possible to catch young peoples' eyes. We tried to have engaging stories that they could relate to, or have experienced themselves. We commissioned a song from a rock band as a title track. These are all things I think all of us [the co-producers] would've liked to see if we were kids watching it. I recently received a business card with definition of entertainment printed on it: "The action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment." I'm a words guy, and words matter. I would argue that giving someone, especially a child, the knowledge that they are not the only person experiencing bullying, and some insight into it, is a positive, enjoyable, and empowering feeling. HEAR ME NOW is available on Amazon Prime.

ROFFEKE: You enjoy "being as awesome as possible". What does it take to stay awesome in a world and in an industry that can be harsh, cut-throat, cynical and soul-sucking?

STEVEN: It takes honesty, integrity, and a sense of humor. The aforementioned breakup really fucked with me in that department and I saw how terrible some industry people could be. Some of those same people, after a certain amount of time, tried to fake nice or act like nothing happened to continue getting work. That is very funny, now. This industry has blurred lines between personal and professional relationships, and do believe one influences another. Believe it or not, how you treat people matters. Maybe that's a Nashville attitude because it's a small town, and word travels fast. To stay sane and on track, you have to keep a good, tight, inner circle of people who share the same values (and it ain't how many followers or likes you have). Having an internal understanding of what you will and will not accept from people is certainly important. Often, people will show you who they really are are and it is best to believe them the first time. I definitely believe that harmful people have to go, the helpful people can stay, and the neutral people are suspect. I had a moment of clarity during all of this when an influential and respected industry friend of mine said "You have to prepare yourself to enter the global film community." It made it much easier to leave the soul-suckers to feed off each other, and not me. I am thankful for them, as I now know what that looks like. People who I thought were torturers, were actually messengers.

ROFFEKE: Your favourite female director?

STEVEN: I really like what Megan Park did with mansionz for their 'Rich White Girls' music video. Hilarious, inane, but also very moving. I also really enjoy Hanna Lux Davis, who does music videos for some of the top pop acts in the world.

ROFFEKE: Advice for aspiring music video directors?

STEVEN: Whether it is music videos, films, or any other creative or personal endeavor.. the biggest advice I can give is: You must be present to win, so show up!

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