Marc André Debruyne

With almost eighty music videos under his belt, it’s clear that Marc Andre is dedicated to the music and film business. Although still young, his reputation already precedes him as one of the hottest up and coming urban video directors to work with in the North American industry. His list of fans is wide ranging, spanning from the likes of Luther Brown and the award winning Ledisi to P.M. Dawn and the Urbnet record label. Marc André’s work has a strong attention to visual details, and an innate ability to capture the subtle variety of human emotions.

“As an artist, you have to be prepared to eat Kraft Dinner for a real long time before you make it. My dad used to ask me, “What’s your plan B?” and I would tell him straight up, “there is none.“

Format: You have quite a reputation in the industry already. How often are you approached to shoot? Do you ever turn down work?
Marc André: I love what I do and I never want to turn something down. I shoot three-to-four videos per month, so I’m always trying to talk to artists and labels, or they will approach me.  However I’m at a point in my career where I’ve shot a lot of different kind of projects, I just finished number seventy-nine last weekend even. My reel is fairly developed, but I’m still trying to get new work. When you get a song you don’t like, well obviously you still have to job. But, if I were given song that I absolutely hated, I probably would have to turn it down.

Format: How much creative control do you have over your shoots?
Marc André: After almost eighty videos under my belt, people come to me because of my reputation. Often artists will just say, “do your thing,” but I still have to talk with them and figure out how I can give them footage that they can use, but that also takes things to the next level. Sometimes they’ll say, “we haven’t been shot as a group before, can we get some shots like that?” Othe times, they want stupid things and you have to fight it or let it fly. On the other hand, I’ve even lost shots because the group wasn’t into it. But that’s ok, it happens. You don’t always get what you want when you’re on limited budgets as well.

Format: Would you say that you have a certain style?
Marc André: I don’t shoot any specific genre, as long as it’s a good track.  Sometimes I  get calls from friends asking if I’d shot certain videos after they’d seen them on TV, just because they can recognize it. It’s more about the feel, or how I put them together. I wouldn’t say it’s a style per se.

Format: So you studied film in college, and now you’re doing what you love. That’s a pretty big thing to able to follow your passions. I guess you always knew what you wanted?
Marc André: Yah, it’s a tough world out there. I think from my graduating class, only four of us are actually working in the film industry. Any art is a tough business. Like for film school, you’re the director, it’s all about you, but then when you get out in the real world, you start at the bottom. I always knew that I wanted to do music videos and commercials. When I graduated, I was really lucky to have a full reel of just that, rather than short films or what have you. Not that there’s anything wrong with short films, but I felt that I was fairly different.

It still took me six months of handing out my reel, but then I got the call. They asked me to come to work on set…as a garbage man! I did that for six to eight months. It was a big reality check. School is great for theory and practicality, but they don’t care who you are when you start out at your first job.

As an artist, you have to be prepared to eat Kraft Dinner for a real long time before you make it. My dad used to ask me, “What’s your plan B?” and I would tell him straight up, “there is none. “

Format: Do you have any personal favorites from your own collection?
Marc André: I would have to say my favorite is “Born and Raised in the Ghetto,” by Point Blank. We shot that in the Regent Park ghetto in Downtown Toronto. There were five rappers, it was hectic. These guys were coming and going all day, all over the place, and it’s not exactly the friendliest place to be either. The best part was the historical footage from the 50’s that we spliced in to the video. The neighborhood had been torn down and rebuilt as some bright new government housing project, but it’s so ironic because it was just torn it down last year because shit had gotten so grimy.

Format: So I see you have a connection with Jon Burgerman. We’re a big fan of his at Format.
Marc André: Ya, I’m a big fan of his work. We’ve been in touch on and off. I love it when the artists you appreciate and respect write you back, because that doesn’t always happen. I have a couple of big directors that I’m in touch with, and juniors that I write to as well. It’s nice to have that feeling that you can relate with someone, you’ve got to take the time to do that. At my stage in the game, I still feel like I’m just a kid compared to guys like Mark Romanek [director of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone” and many more].

Format: Can you tell us what’s coming up?
Marc André: I have some commercial shoots that I’m working on. Commercials are very difficult to get in to here in Canada. Having a background in music videos you think would help, but half the time it’s a burden. I can’t show half of my music videos to people at ad agencies because they would just freak out. All they can think is that their commercial for Glade Plug-ins, for example, is going to end up looking like a hip hop video! It’s much different in Europe and Asia.

Commercials are not my favorite thing to shoot, but the money is good, but not just paycheck wise. Like, nobody is going to tap you on the shoulder mid-shoot and tell you that you’re running out of film. It’s also a great opportunity to bring your own crew with you on the set.

Format: Have you got any interesting stories from set?
Marc André: There was a shoot I did with a Montreal artist by the name of Bless, he had Rah Digga on one of his tracks. A lot of the times, even if you’re just starting out, you can pay someone like Beanie Man or The Game to make an appearance on your track. But when it comes to shoot, you’re really not expecting them to make an appearance…but she was there!

Rah Digga was a complete professional. Every shot we did with her was perfect from the first take. That almost never happens, except with other artists at her level. No bullshit, no drama.

I shot a gig for P.M. Dawn for an internal marketing piece. The last director they had worked with was Hype Williams. I was blown away because I had just started working, and they went from him to me.

I also shot for one of their protégé groups, these guys were serious Brooklyn ghetto. They were rocking black nylons on their shoes and all that. I asked the lead if he wanted to rehearse since we only had two shots and all he said was, “Naw man, I’ve been waiting all my life for this.” I was floored, because in Canada we have so much funding for music videos.

Format: What are you working on at the moment?
Marc André: I just shot a video for a group called Tru-Paz. I like to call it a ‘hood video with heart.” I find that there are a lot of negative ‘hood videos out there where people come up and they mug to the camera, looking all tough. That kind of thing has its place, but at some point in your career you feel that you just have to move on. The song focuses a lot on children and it’s called Young Nation. It was really nice to have a positive vibe in the ghetto environment; it wasn’t about trying to be famous.

There’s also a video that I’m working on by an artist that Luther Brown is developing. Her name is Trish, and you might compare her to Missy Elliott. We shot the entire video with night-vision cameras to give it a different kind of vibe. There was a whole lighting crew with us, but they almost had no work to do.

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Jesse Ship
I'm currently Managing Editor of this little web mag here.
Jesse Ship

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  1. Very talented and creative individual. Born and Raised in the Ghetto is one of my favorite videos. The special appearance of the kid showing us his “mean grill” was a favorite shot as well!

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