In Pound For The Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.
Yellowbox Films founder and video mastermind Cory Davis just loves to make music videos.
Davis has been making videos for bands since he was 15. And if you're involved in the Arizona music scene at all, and actually watch the local artists' videos, then you've definitely seen some of Davis' work. He's one of those directors with a passion for nailing the right shots and moments that connect the viewer to the song.
And he's not all about fancy equipment either. He's about making it work.
Born in California, Davis moved to the Valley with his family when he was 9. He started with darkroom photography, and bought his first video camera by saving money from picking oranges and grapefruits. Once he got that camera, he started shooting videos with his high school buddies in Anarbor.
It all kind of snowballed from there, one band and video leading to the next.
Since the early days, Davis has created countless music videos for Arizona bands. He always, and we do mean always, has something cooking and is working on new stuff.
Under Yellowbox Films, he has worked with Wyves, Mouse Powell, Authority Zero, Sundressed, Barefoot, Katastro, Samuel L. and The Cool J's, Anarbor, Steff and The Articles, Black Bottom Lighters, Sunset Voodoo, Celebration Guns, and so many more that we could take up this entire introduction. His work and his resume speak for themselves.
Most recently, Davis produced and co-directed a new music video with longtime Arizona music staple Captain Squeegee. He teamed up with the band to make their most colorful and sensory stimulating video to date.
With his busy shooting, editing, and directing schedule, New Times was lucky to get a few words in with Davis via phone and email about his process, lack of interest in high-end gear, and his most recent release.
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Cory Davis: My secret weapon is my workflow. Mastering your workflow is the most important aspect of being a music video director. You need to learn to edit in your head, and don't shoot anything that you know you aren't going to cut to. You need to be able to sit down and tough out a five-hour editing session and you need to create an effective assembly line that'll allow you to edit a project in a single day. Without a successful workflow, your creative process will not succeed.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
My favorite piece of gear is my mindset. I’ve never turned a band down. I've made every music video that has come my way for the past 13 years. My goal is to make as many music videos as possible and to give every artist the chance to create their vision. I am not selfish when it comes to creating and I often give people co-directing credit. Removing your ego from your creative process will allow you to be free to create as much art as possible and collaborate as music as possible with other creative people.
My creative process is the number-one reason that bands keep coming back to me. I’m the type of director that'll end up doing all of your band's videos after I shoot one for you.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Some of my most creative pieces have been shot on cheap cameras that I either found in the trash or in classified ads. I believe that the camera should be the last thing you consider when creating a film. Too many people get wrapped up in camera quality and owning the best camera on the market. I've seen amazing pieces shot on cellphones and I've seen absolute garbage shot on Red cameras. It all depends on who is using it. Some of my favorite stuff has been filmed on a cheap VHS camcorder. The only reason I have a somewhat nice camera is to acquire clients that don’t know me.
Just watched your new music video “Our Children” that you co-directed with Captain Squeegee. Awesome video. Love all the colors. What was your process in putting this whole thing together?
Danny Torgersen and I had kinda known each other for years, but never on a creative level until recently. I think we both knew that we would make something cool together for Squeegee one day. Danny wanted to make a hip-hop video essentially. [He] painted me a clear picture when we first started talking about “Our Children”. He pretty much wanted to make a Busta Rhymes music video.
He mentioned total chaos and sensory overload and I felt that I was the perfect person to direct this video because I just get it. I have always been a fan of Captain Squeegee and I've always enjoyed their music videos. I saw an opportunity to give them something that they didn't have yet. The past Captain Squeegee videos are very story-driven, and it was time to create something more sensory-driven.
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What made you choose to use all the kids in the video?
When I was a kid, my neighbor across the street was a professional audio engineer. One day, I brought a bunch of remote control cars over to his house to help him record Foley sound for an early Playstation game. I was so excited to be a part of something that had the potential to be heard around the world. I feel so lucky to have a cool job where I can give kids this similar experience.
With the Squeegee video, it was really cool directing and collaborating with kids. We weren't just telling the kids what to do, we were helping them create characters from within and embellish their weirdness.
What plans do you have for Yellowbox Films moving forward?
I just filmed a music video for Authority Zero for a song off their new record, Broadcasting to the Nations. I saw Authority Zero perform at my first music festival when I was a freshman in high school. Creating a video for a band that I was a fan of growing up has been a surreal experience. I am very grateful to be doing what I am doing, and sometimes I feel like I was born under a lucky star.
Aside from music videos, I am currently finishing up a couple short films that I teamed up on with my longtime collaborator and director buddy, Grant McCord. We are very excited for everyone to see our film titled “Deep Cuts” that we made alongside Common Wall Media. Bob Hoag did the music for it. Be on the lookout for that!