Interview 4080: Cody LaPlant is the Next Great Videographer.
In the latest installment of the 4080 series we interviewed Cody LaPlant, one of the brightest young stars in the music video world today. He came up in the Milwaukee music scene alongside Closed Sessions artist WebsterX and has created over 50 visual pieces in a span of only a few years. He has worked with numerous artists in the Chicago scene as well, namely Kweku Collins. After helming videos for Kweku cuts such as "Stupid Rose" and "Jump.i", Cody set to work on "Aya", Kweku's latest video release featuring Allan Kingdom. We at CS gave him the 4080 treatment and peeked into his process, and how he helped Kweku light the forest on fire.
Words by Suki Marie & Alexy Erouart
CS: How did you and Kweku link up? What was the creative process like with the video’s for: ”Stupid Rose”, "Jump.i” and “Aya”?
Cody: Kweku & I linked up back in 2015. I met him through my friend WebsterX on a 3 day show run in Chicago, MPLS & Milwaukee. His live show stuck out to me immediately, his vocals sounded really good. When we work together Kweku always comes to me with a theme or one singular idea that he wants to include in the video. Then I’ll take that idea & expand on it into a complete vision. He gives me a lot of creative control & really trusts what I bring to the table. We usually have a phone conversation & bounce ideas off of eachother. Once we get on the same page & I know what he's looking for, he pretty much just lets me run wild with the concept. Every video we’ve done so far has been approached differently & it's been a lot of fun watching Kweku grow as an artist. I’ve directed over 50 videos now, and I can confidently say the work I’ve created with Kweku easily lands in my top 10.
CS: How was creating “Aya” different from creating “Stupid Rose”? What were some challenges in creating the videos to where they can stand on their own?
Cody: "Aya" was different from "Stupid Rose" in a variety of ways. The "Stupid Rose" video relied heavily on a narrative that I was crafting for the song. We shot most of that video very close to my house in Milwaukee and had a pretty set plan for the day. "Aya" was a very spontaneous shoot and involved more experimentation than "Stupid Rose". To me, "Aya" was more about capturing the vibe of the song rather than creating an intricate story. There's a time & place for both, but I felt "Aya" was going to be more on the performance side.
Right off the top I knew I wanted clotheslines and fire to be the main themes. I think it's safe to say we stuck with those ideas, and it's evident in the final product. "Aya" was a 2.5 day shoot, while "Stupid Rose" was done in one day. I hope people can appreciate both styles. It's fun to change things up.
CS: What was the most enjoyable part of working with Kweku and Allan?
Cody: The most enjoyable part was just hanging in the forest creating something that I envisioned in my head. It was a beautiful day and the vibes were great. It honestly felt like we were hanging out and shooting a video on the side. Without a doubt the best part of the shoot was listening to grey after we wrapped on the last day. It was the first time I heard it and it was a great way to end the night.
CS: What concepts did you enjoy working with on “Aya” and why? Are there any concepts you wished you would have been able to use with “Aya”?
Cody: The fabric blowing on the clotheslines was probably my favorite visual concept we did for "Aya". I thought of that early on and I’m happy with the outcome. We also wanted to take that concept a step further & add fire into the mix. That’s where my talented friend John Roberts came in. He’s an amazing VFX artist. The fire wouldn’t have been possible without him. His addition to the video added a whole new layer.
Kweku sent me a few reference videos in the early stages of pre-production. Based on those I decided I was going to shoot the entire video in 4:3 aspect ratio and incorporate some stop motion as well, both of which I’ve never done with a music video before. If it was possible I would have shot the entire thing on 16mm film, that’s always been a dream of mine for a music video. I felt the production of the song lended itself to an older or more ‘vintage’ look. In the end I’m still very happy with the look we ended up going with. I think people can appreciate the colors and cinematography in "Aya”. I got a lot of messages from people telling me they liked the direction I took things, so that was really cool to hear.
CS: What goes into your thinking process of bringing the concepts Kweku wants to life? Is it organic? Is it curated?
Cody: After I figure out which direction Kweku wants to take the video I will usually loop the song a whole bunch and write down what I see in my head. It can definitely take some time. I like to look at photos when I listen to a song, they help me craft images/shots in my head. The concepts are definitely curated and planned out. However, on set we may shoot things that we did not plan on doing. When I’m in the moment I tend to see things differently and try things off the shot list. In that sense it's organic. Sometimes things just naturally come together. It’s a great balance.
It's important to have a plan and stick to it, but I'm not afraid to experiment on the spot. Sometimes that’s when the good stuff happens. The entire ending of “Stupid Rose”, when he’s flying was unplanned. It's probably my favorite part of the video.
CS: What has been your favorite Kweku video that you have worked on?
Cody: They have all been great in their own ways. Every time I shoot a Kweku video I can't help but start editing immediately because I’m always hyped on what we’ve captured. “Aya” was probably my favorite. The shoot was a good time and I loved the location we shot at. I had so much footage to work with, it made editing a lot of fun.
CS: What track would you like to create a video for next off of Kweku’s Grey EP? Why?
Cody: "Oasis2: Maps" or "Dec 25th". Everything from the production and the lyrics in both of those come together to create a great song. I think visuals would really elevate those songs. On an unrelated note, I also have some cool concepts for a short film that I envision Kweku being the lead actor. He’ll hear about it soon enough.
CS: How is working with WebsterX on your creations? I saw he was in your short film "until they berry me", it seems you two share similar ideas/visions is that fair to say?
Cody: Working with Web is great. We definitely share similar ideas/aesthetics. I’m truly proud of every single video we have created together. Each one is so different from the last, we try to switch it up every time. He is really open to try anything and that’s evident in the stuff we’ve done together.
CS: I feel like you and Webster came up together. Speak a little on how you both came up in the Milwaukee scene and how it led you to other horizons?
Cody: We sure did! "Doomsday" was the first music video we made together. I directed that with my friend Damien Blue, it was the most organic video we’ve ever made. We would go out and shoot every Monday for like a month just gathering footage that fit the tone we were going for. I think "Doomsday" was the 6th music video I had ever made. The music videos Damien, Web and I created together jump-started our careers. I think it did a lot for the Milwaukee art scene as well.
2015 was the beginning of Milwaukee’s music video renaissance. The work we did together helped all of us tremendously, it put everyone in a better place. Up until that point I was never really satisfied with anything I made. It was definitely the jumpoff for everybody. Fast forward to 2017 and music videos are what pay the bills. I’ve traveled the U.S. and had the opportunity to work with really talented artists. It’s only continuing to grow and I’m super grateful for the position I’m in. I love what I do and never pictured myself to be here, so it's amazing to be able to create for a living. More short films are on the horizon and eventually I want to make a feature film.
CS: What influences did you take from the Milwaukee scene and bring to Chicago?
Cody: Hmmm. That’s a tough one. Consciously I’m not sure I brought any influence from the Milwaukee Scene to Chicago. When it comes to creating I’ve always just done what felt natural to me. If anything I’m influenced by the people around me, everyone is constantly creating and the bar is set pretty high. I’m just glad the people I work with give me the freedom they do. I’ve built a certain level of trust with the clients I work with and that’s really important to have when you’re collaborating with someone. Chicago artists are just as receptive to my crazy ideas as anyone else. Working in the Chicago scene is fun because the music is way different than the sounds coming out of Milwaukee. It keeps things fun and refreshing.