The video for Jamila Woods's new song "LSD" — an ode to Chicago thoroughfare Lake Shore Drive, not a hallucinogenic drug — is the product of intersectional collaboration, with students from the Chicago Public Schools writing and directing. Vincent Martell, the founder of VAM Studio, which produced the video, shares the drive behind the uplifting creation, which also features Chance the Rapper.
The Advocate: Vincent, Tell us about the principles behind VAM Studio.
Vincent Martell: VAM Studio is one of the only production companies in the country that operates from an intersectional-set mind-set. We’re constantly giving a platform to and working with crew members and filmmakers,who are women, queer people, and people of color. Our principles are based on inclusiveness and our mission is to produce the coolest video content with artists/companies that defy societal norms and push boundaries. My main goal within VAM is to dismantle the cis/white/heterosexual-dominated production industry and show a successful alternative.
What inspired you and your team to reach out to Chicago Public Schools students and include them in the making of the music video?
We’re based in Chicago and we are pretty well known for our work in producing video content within the black/brown, queer, and underground subcultures. In doing so we realized that the community that we have built could be extended to younger generations. We were first introduced to the idea of having CPS students shadow our sets when a few our crew members were hired to work on Sam Bailey’s [VAM’s digital art director] Emmy- nominated series Brown Girls. Jamila Woods and her label, Jaguar, reached out to VAM Studio about replicating something similar on a much grander scale. We’re the only production company in the city including and paying CPS students to work with us, and our goal is to put the pressure on those older production companies to fall in line with our ethics.
What did you learn in the process of incorporating the students on set? Can you describe a moment on set that stood out to you?
Our goal at VAM has always been to create inclusive sets for young talent, and working on a project with big names such as Jamila and Chance was a way to amplify the success of that approach. The biggest takeaway is that it’s incredibly easy to implement this type of production. We’re using this moment to show the industry that we can do something great for the next generation of artists and students. This can be implemented in cities across the country
As a queer person of color, can you speak to how important it is to provide a platform for marginalized voices?
In this political climate, we have to be unapologetic about telling our own stories. As a queer person of color, it’s very rare to see my story portrayed with integrity. Running my own production company and directing has afforded me the privilege of telling stories on my own terms. In doing so, I hope that I can inspire other queer filmmakers of color to feel validated in making art that speaks to their communities.
What can other creators, filmmakers, and producers do to better incorporate diverse voices and personnel in their projects?
With basic human rights being rolled back every day for marginalized communities in the U.S., it’s tough as hell to be able to feel as though you can successfully hold a place in the world as an adult, so I can only imagine how terrifying that may be for a high school student. Many students and young artists in Chicago just need basic access to opportunities in order to succeed, and sadly the city (and their government) are failing at providing that. All it takes is a foot in the door, but we need someone to open it first. Other creators/filmmakers/producers just have to reach out to other communities to spark diversity within their projects. It’s all about access and opening your productions to new ideas and different perspectives.
Watch the music video below.