Screen Dreams: Chris Robinson Q&A

If you’ve been keeping tabs on who has sat in the director’s chair for some of the hottest music videos, then you already know about Chris Robinson. The visionary filmmaker has directed classic clips for Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’,” Nas’ “One Mic,” and Busta Rhymes’ “Pass the Courvoisier, Pt. II,” in addition to more recent fare like Wale and Lady Gaga’s “Chillin’,” Keri Hilson’s “Slow Dance,” and Jordin Sparks’ “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play).” And beyond the music video realm, Robinson directed and released his first feature film ATL to critical acclaim in 2006, proving that he’s more than a one-trick pony when it comes to telling a cinematic story.

Speaking with, Robinson reflected on his favorite music videos to shoot, why he loves working with Alicia Keys more than any other artist, what would inspire him to make a sequel to ATL, and his favorite new rapper.

What were your favorite music videos to direct?
Some of the videos that came out exactly how I envisioned them would be Alicia Keys’ very first video, “Fallin’.” The video for “Tainted” that I did for Slum Village, one of my favorites. Nas’ “One Mic,” Busta Rhymes’ “Pass the Courvoisier, Pt. II,” P. Diddy’s “Bad Boy for Life” with cameos from Shaq, Travis Barker, and Ben Stiller. Snoop Dogg and Pharrell, “Beautiful.” We got to travel to Brazil and go native, that was an amazing experience. And Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys,” which is probably one of the most celebratory videos I’ve ever shot.

Who’s your favorite artist to work with?
Most definitely Alicia Keys. I think at this point we’ve done seven videos together. The very first time I met her, we met somewhere in Manhattan at a Popeyes restaurant to talk about her very first video and her project. And what really stands out to me is not just how real she is, but how amazing she is as a songwriter, as a person who has this integrity.

A lot of people know you for directing T.I.’s feature film debut ATL. Will there ever be a sequel?
I heard that rumor, but as far as I know, that’s just a rumor.

Was there ever any talk of a sequel on set?
We all joked about doing an ATL 2, and how down T.I.’s character would be running the comic section of the newspaper and what the twins would be doing. But you never know. If the fans wanted it enough, there would definitely be a sequel.

Are you working on any movies at the moment?
I am dedicated to the art of storytelling, and my next film is called LAX. First was ATL, now it’s LAX. It’s about six stories that connect six different people from all different walks of life. My goal is LAX next, and then B-more, where I’m from. So I can close that trilogy of stories where the cities are a character in it. We’re going to shoot that at the end of the year.

Did you cast anyone yet?
Well the great thing about it is that because they’re small stories, the time that the actors have to be dedicated to it isn’t the normal three months. So I’m reaching out to my friends. Common, Queen Latifah, and I have spoken about it. There’s a role for Mark Wahlberg, who I know but have never worked with in that capacity.

What videos are you shooting in the near future or recently shot?
The guy that I love right now is Wale. I’m from Baltimore and he’s from D.C., so I’m like big homie for him right now. We did the Gaga video [“Chillin’”] together, but once again, with him, he’s got two new singles he wants to drop. So we’re talking about the creative and what sort of image we want to put out there.

–Steven Horowitz

Chris Robinson’s Favorite Music Videos: Part I and Part II