Video Chats: Jon Jon Augustavo on Same Love and Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Posted by Doug Klinger on December 17, 2012 in Interviews
Photo by Zoe Rain
Unless youre from Seattle, you likely were introduced to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis this year through their awesome music videos for "Thrift Shop" and "Same Love." Despite the subject matter of these videos being completely different from one another, director Jon Jon Augstavo (in collaboration with Macklemore and Lewis) was able to capture the unique tone of each. The collaboration paid off: both videos made an impact in the second half of 2012 for different reasons. We talked to Jon Jon about directing the videos, how he judges their success, and the best places in Seattle to go thrifting.
Doug: How did your relationship with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis begin?
Jon Jon: We're all pretty much from Seattle. I've done music videos for just about everyone in Seattle who does hip-hop, and they were the last one. They've also gone to every director that they wanted to work with, and I was the last one. Then they took a chance on me and it ended up being something good.
Doug: About that being something good, as far as success goes and video popularity, do these two videos represent the most successful projects?
Jon Jon: Most definitely, for myself and for them. They were both of our most viewed and most popular videos. I've had people share the videos with me not knowing that I was the director.
Doug: That seems cool and humbling at the same time.
Jon Jon: I'm very quiet, for the most part, about the things that I do. I had a new roommate that I moved in with, and he didn't know a lot about me because he's a friend of a friend, he was the third roommate. He was like, "oh, I saw this video today, it was really good. I want to show it to you." And it was my video.
On set of "Same Love," photo by Craig Nisperos
Doug: Which one of the two videos do you find people sharing the most?
Jon Jon: In the beginning it was more "Thrift Shop," and it continues to be that way. Everyone, moms, dads, kids, everyone watched that one. It's just making the rounds. "Same Love" is a little more unique, a little more niche, not everyones seen it.
Doug: Do you judge success differently between these two videos, given the different subject matter?
Jon Jon: I don't know how to quantify other than views, but the amount of attention I've gotten for the videos is far different. The type of people who watch each and reach out to me, it's a very different audience even professionally. It's different types of people. One is a pop-heavy, mainstream thing, so obviously the audience and the professional people that reach out to you are into that. "Same Love" is a little more filmic, and you get reaction from more film heavy people.
On set of "Same Love," photo by Craig Nisperos
Doug: "Same Love" was made in support of Washington States Referendum 74, was approved by the voters this past election in November. Was the success of that video tied to the result of the vote?
Jon Jon: Myself, Ryan, and Ben don't want to take credit for anything like that, but I think all of us that were involved do feel we're a small part of it. You have to say at least the audience that the video hit, their audience for music, ages 16-26 or so, you have to believe it at least educate them about, or at least encouraged them to look up, what Referendum 74 was. With it being passed, hopefully we played a small part in that. You can't quantify it or factually say it, but Ben tweets something about it getting passed, or we put out "Same Love" and there are thousands and thousands of likes and shares about it, I believe it could be a part in it.
Doug: Was there ever any discussion of your particular views on Referendum 74, or on the subject matter in general?
Jon Jon: We made "Thrift Shop," and they approached me but didn't really straight up ask me. They felt around to see if I would be interested. Wed only known each other for a few months, so they weren't sure what my views were. They had some people scoff at doing that video. I'm very liberal, and said of course I'd do. Without thinking of what the outcome would be for me, both good and bad, I just said of course and wanted to make a good video. At the end of the day, I was definitely in support of it, but wasn't so much thinking about it. I just wanted to make a great video. Later on, I realized it was very important.
Doug: Has anyone approached you about being more of a mouthpiece about the subject?
Jon Jon: Not as far as me being a symbol for gay rights, that would more be the role of Macklemore because hes the face of the whole thing. Artists who are in that vein, and in that genera of musicians, are more in tune with me and are more willing to work with me. I've had that, people wanting to work with me. As far as the public, I'm not a public figure on it at all. I'm the man in the background. Definitely more Macklemore is the face of that.
Doug: How involved were Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in the video making process? I notice that Ryan Lewis is also credited as a director on each of these videos.
Jon Jon: Both videos were very highly collaborative. They have their ideas, I have my ideas, and I think we both just bounce ideas off each other. For directing, Ryan and I just put our heads together thinking of the best thing we can make, playing to our strengths. Ryan is very creative, I'm very good at executing things, so I think we make a good team in using their music. They're very protective of their music, they want to make something that fits perfectly, and we just wanted to make something creative and interesting. It was a very collaborative process, it's not the same as a label type video where it's you and the label and the artist really has no say. This is me and the artist 50/50 trying our best to make what we believe is the best.
On set of "Thrift Shop," photo by Zoe Rain
Doug: Where there similarities between how you cast each of them?
Jon Jon: There were similarities in certain parts. In "Same Love," there is a huge wedding scene, so we put out a general cast that said, "We need extras. If you want to be in the video, dress up this way." In Seattle, when you say Macklemore, everyone wants to be there. For "Thrift Shop," we just needed extras. For "Same Love," there is also this narrative so we had to cast specifically for a few parts, like the lead roles. Other than that, it was a pretty similar general casting calls telling people to dress a certain way.
Doug: what about what people are wearing in the "Thrift Shop" video? Did you guys go around from thrift shop to thrift shop in Seattle to try for wardrobe and props for the video?
Jon Jon: Yeah, more or less. Macklemore is like the biggest thrifter in the history of the world. Not everything, but for the most part it was almost 100% true to the song that it was thrifted. A lot of the stuff you couldnt find anywhere but at a thrift shop, so it was very true to the song.
On set of "Thrift Shop," photo by Zoe Rain
Doug: And the locations, are those some of his regular hangouts that he just asked if you guys could shoot in?
Jon Jon: Most definitely, a lot of those are the main thrift shops in the Seattle area. They're the places he likes to frequent, and they were willing to oblige allowing us to shoot there. If it was one of Ben's places to get his clothing, we were there.
Doug: Ive seen both of these videos show up on a lot of end of the year top 10 lists, where does that particular accolade rank for you in terms of success for a video?
Jon Jon: It's really awesome for people to recognize the videos. I've definitely worked hard in my life and made a lot of stuff that really didn't get seen because the artist weren't that big. It's very exciting as far as that goes. At the end of the day, I just want to make stuff. I think getting award validates your work, but I really just want to keep creating the best stuff that I can make. Getting awards and accolades are just extra icing on the cake. As long as I get work from people and people want to come to me just for my ideas, that's all that really matters to me.
jon jon augustavo, macklemore, ryan lewis, same love, thrift shop, video chats
Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.
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