interview TODD ANGKASUWAN (March 2009) | Interview By: Jose Ho-Guanipa

   Dubcnn recently sat down with Todd Angkasuwan, a man who made a massive career move in 2005 by leaving his journalistic background as a TV news reporter to chase his long held desire of becoming a filmmaker. The result so far has been directing videos for Hip Hop artists including RZA, KRS-One, Strong Arm Steady, Wale, Styles P and more.

We wanted to find out what drove the change in his career and how he has found the radical adjustment to his work and lifestyle. Read on to see how he did it and what he has coming for you to enjoy!

As ever, you can read this exclusive interview below and we urge you to leave feedback on our forums or email them to jose@dubcnn.com.

Interview was conducted in March 2009

Youíve taken somewhat of an unconventional route towards becoming a video director, having a journalistic background. What prompted you to leave your career in television journalism and make the switch to directing?

The passion for filmmaking is something thatís been in me ever since I could remember. I was that kid on the block who would round up all the other kids from the neighborhood and make crazy ass horror films. We thought our films were epic. But when I watch that footage now, itís mad corny and funny as hell.

Another passion is music. Particularly Hip Hop. I remember listening to artists like N.W.A., KRS-One, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Pharcyde, and cats like that. Iíd listening to them on full blast in my Walkman and I would immediately get these vivid images in my head. I donít only listen to music, I ďseeĒ it. It was only right that one day I channel that into a professional career. I had a great time in broadcast journalism, but after a while it didnít seem to quench my creative thirst. So I made the move.

Dubcnn: What skills did you pick up being a journalist that you were able to apply to directing hiphop videos?

Iíd say just dealing with people from all walks of life. In journalism, Iíve interviewed a wide range of folks from politicians to homeless people to tornado victims to celebrities, and random people on the street. Conducting an interview is almost an art form. You have to get to know your subject, and make them feel comfortable. You need to establish that kind of rapport almost immediately. The TV news game is run and gun, so youíve got to be on at all times. Having those same people skills can apply to a video set. On set, youíre working with different people on the crew, youíre working with an
artist who youíve probably never met in person before and have to adjust to this artistís personality and quirks. And in Hip Hop, chances are youíll also have their homies on the set. Sometimes you might have to deal with high maintenance video models, press folks, random onlookers, and what not. As a director, you have to ultimately manage all these different personalities, while keeping focused on one goal: shooting a successful video. And if you and the artist click, itís a wrap.
In TV news, youíre also dealing with cameras, lighting, and editing. So I was always familiar with the technical side of things too, which helped when I broke off into full-time directing.

Dubcnn: You got your start directing Jinís tour documentary film No Sleep ĎTil Shanghai. How did you hook up with Jin and end up making No Sleep ĎTil Shanghai as a first time director?

A friend of mine name Carl Choi introduced me to Jin. At the time, Carl was managing a group in LA called Far*East Movement. I had just started working with Far*East Movement, so Carl and I soon became good friends. At the time, he was also working with Jin on different projects and setting upshows for him on the West Coast. Then one day, Carl decided to set up this ambitious Asia tour for
Jin and asked if Iíd like to come along to document it. I wasnít about to say no. Itís funny you mention Jin. Iím actually going to shoot a video with him in a couple weeks before he moves to Hong Kong permanently. Heís re-invented himself and has a crazy following in Asia right now. He signed a major deal with Universal Music Hong Kong. So heís staying mad busy at the moment.

Dubcnn: A lot of the acts you worked with early on, and even now, are from the West Coast. How did you form relationships with these artists and why did you choose West coast acts?

Come on, LA all day! I got love for my West Coast brethren. And I donít care if youíre black, white, Mexican, or Asian. I got you! Iíve worked with dudes like Roscoe Umali, Strong Arm Steady, FM, DJ Revolution, Lil Rob, and Snoop. I love the diversity out here, and nobody gets it in like the West.

Dubcnn: In terms of filmmaking, hip-hop, and the marriage of the two, who has been some of your biggest influences thus far?

Some of the directors I really admire are Stanley Kubrick, Wong Kar-wai, Michel Gondry, Hype Williams, and David Fincher. In Hip Hop, I really respect the hustle and contributions from people like KRS-One, Sha Money XL, Jeff Chang, Dru Ha, Jay-Z, Cheo Hodori Coker and Joaquin Phoenix. Ok, maybe not Joaquin Phoenix.

Dubcnn: With the rapidly evolving nature of the music video industry, how have you adapted to the shrinking budgets in hip-hop videos and where do you see the medium heading in the future?

Iíve only been in the game for about 3-4 years, so I was never privy to the outlandish budgets that people became accustomed to. The million dollar budgets are now $200K budgets. The $200K budgets are now $50K budgets. What was $50K is now $10K. I came into the game like that. So Iím not really missing anything. If anything, right now is the time for someone like me, as well as other
directors out there who embrace the moment. I love the challenge of taking minimal resources and making some shit that will wow you. Sometimes, I pull it off, other times, probably not. But the challenge is what drives me. It forces you to be creative in a way you probably wouldnít be otherwise. The future is the internet. And I donít mean just surfing YouTube on your computer either. The internet is tied into your TVs, your cell phones, your PDAs, your portable viewing devices. The internet is what facilitates content delivery. The way you actually receive that content could be in a wide variety of ways. Thatís whatís exciting. And technology evolves at such a rapid pace, which
means soon, youíll have even more options.

Dubcnn: What are some artists you have gotten to work with that you never imagined youíd be able to work with? Whoís on your wish list of artists to work with in the future?

The most surreal experiences have to be working with KRS-One, Snoop, and RZA. Iíd love to work with Eminem or Kanye. Iíd do it for free. The level of creativity involved would be incredibly satisfying. Thereís a lot of up and coming artists Iíd love to work with too. Being around the energy of a confident, level-headed, up and coming artist is infectious.

Dubcnn: Whatís your favorite throwback joint in terms of videos?

Man, thereís so many. But some of my favorites are:

-ĒThe BlastĒ by Hi-Tek & Talib Kweli
-ĒWhat You See Is What You GetĒ by Xzibit
-ĒDropĒ by Pharcyde
-ĒBack AgainĒ by Dilated Peoples

Dubcnn: If you had to pick something that made your videos stand out from other directorsí videos, what would it be? What constitutes the Todd A. stamp of authenticity?

Most people would probably say my use of graphics and color would be a giveaway. But, I really donít like to be pigeon-holed. Iíve taken a variety of approaches to my work, and I like to experiment when I can. I know a trademark style can help solidify your brand, and thatís something I should probably try to embrace more. But I get bored too easily and I like to try new things. Hopefully, I can find a good balance.

Dubcnn: Hip-hop has always been known to have four central elements: DJing, MCing, BBoying, and graffiti. Do you think video directing should be the fifth?

Just because I respect the culture so much, Iíd have to say no. At least, for now. Video directing certainly helps further the cause and conveys aspects of the culture in a visual way that people can grasp. Itís as Hip Hop as you want to make it, but I donít think it matches the essence of what DJing, MCing, BBoying, and graffiti are, in terms of Hip Hop. But I definitely embrace forward thinking, and it doesnít mean that other elements of the culture canít rise to the top as an essential element.

Dubcnn: Youíve incorporated a lot of post-production and special effects into some of your videos. What background did you have in that before you started directing?

I pretty much taught myself the post-production techniques. For me, editing is what I look forward to. When I was a kid, Iíd take two VHS machines and connect them together. It was like my makeshift editing system. I figured out a way to edit videos like that. I just love the process of connecting the dots in post. So, learning to edit came easily.

Dubcnn: Would you ever consider directing non hip-hop music videos? Commercials? Features?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Dubcnn: What do you think constitutes a hip-hop film? Whatís your favorite one?

To me, a Hip Hop film is any film that infuses the spirit of the culture into it, such as the music, the fashion, the slang, and the swagger. Some of my favorites are Boyz N The Hood, Juice, House Party, Menace II Society, New Jack City, Krush Groove, and Belly. Iím actually working on some concepts and ideas now for a film in a similar vein. Iíd like to do an urban street drama, but without the cornball. Thereís actually a short film thatís making the rounds right now that I really like. Itís called ďLife Is SeriusĒ featuring Serius Jones. Iíd like to see more films like that. In fact, I plan
on contributing some of these projects.

Dubcnn: What hip-hop videos are you working on right now and in the near future?

Iím working with Jive Records right now on a video for UGK. I just finished the rough cut yesterday as a matter of fact. In a few weeks, Iíll be in New York to shoot a video for KRS-One and Buckshot. The project theyíre working on is bananas. The song is incredible. Iím also working on a project for B-Realís ďSmoke N MirrorsĒ album. Iíve been talking to my man Mike Heron about doing a video for Slaughterhouse. Iíd really love to see that pop off. Just being around incredible talent such as
those dudes would inspire me to do some next level shit for sure.

Todd Angkasuwan can be contacted via his Official Website



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