At 22 and wholly self-taught, Connor Pritchard ’s work as a music video director has already taken him to China and across Europe, won awards, and seen him work with some of the nation’s best known and most respected artists, across a range of genres. Kiwi hip hop is his sweet spot and dominates his resume with credits on videos for the likes of Melodownz, SWIDT, JessB and Raiza Biza. Eleven of his more recent works were nominated for consideration in the Music Video category of this year’s Aotearoa Music Awards. Richard Thorne talked with him.
Connor Pritchard says he didn’t enjoy high school much and left early. He reluctantly admits to being a “bit of a naughty kid” who would incorporate video elements into school design projects even though not allowed to. Connor knew from a young age that he wanted to make films, and says he didn’t think of anything much else subsequently.
“So I decided that if school wasn’t going to help me out I might as well just pursue it myself. Through that year I left I would travel up to Auckland every weekend to do little music videos and stuff, and the year after, when I was 18, I decided I should make the move and head up. So it was a passion and now it’s a career!”
Among “quite a lot” of early influences he cites one particular Kiwi director.
“Jason Bock, he’s mainly a commercial director. He’s wicked. He directed a music video for an Australian musician called Ta-ku five or six years ago – Were We In Love – when I was just coming into the music video realm, and that was a massive inspiration for me. And I have lots of friends in Auckland, as well as social media video editors, and lots of US directors doing lots of cool stuff all the time.”
Connor checks his computer before reporting that his first proper music video was for a Waikato-based rapper in 2017.
“It was for Blaze The Emperor, and on that day I met Raiza Biza too, but didn’t know who he was. I contacted him after that and he invited me to film their slot at Sunsplash festival. He loved that, then asked me if I wanted to come to China, and then after that asked if I wanted to go to Europe… We’ve done both of those trips twice now, which has been amazing!”
Establishing Connorfilms Ltd in January 2018, directing and editing music videos has since then been his full-time business. In the last 18 months, he estimates he’s done maybe 30 – so about one a fortnight.
Asked if he is maybe a frustrated musician Connor laughs.
“Yeah probably… I used to be in a band. My parents are both very musical so I learnt piano and drums when I was younger, which is cool. I’d love to be a drummer in a band,” he laughs again. “It could still happen!”
He’s got some bona fide rock’n’roll pedigree too, his dad Lee Pritchard re-opened and ran Napier’s famous pub venue The Cabana, subsequently publishing a coffee table book about it called ‘Hotel Cabana – thru the decades’. Connor reminisces happily about helping out at The Cabana when he was a youngster, picking up loose change up off the floor as payment for helping to clean up bathrooms after big nights at the popular rock venue.
“So I was always around musicians and it’s kind of nice to fit my film passion in with music as well. It’s cool.”
Hip hop, which kicked off his video-making career, remains Connor’s preferred genre.
“Yeah, I love hip hop and it’s still my go-to to listen to. But at the start of last year I started expanding more into other genres, mainly pop and alternative pop, so I kind of do it all now. But I do have to like the song, or come up with a good idea within a few days. If I can’t connect to the song I’d rather another director got to do it than have a disappointing video. So I do turn down jobs, (but in the nicest way possible!)”
Not fussed about being given carte blanche on treatment, he’s just as happy to be guided.
“If nothing comes to me – but I still like the artist and the song – I’d always ask them for their preferences, get them to send the lyrics or something else to give me a kick start. I usually build a PowerPoint, with images, write a concept with references to a visual style. Sometimes that takes an hour, sometimes it takes days, just depends on the mood and how my brain is thinking at the time!”
He has occasionally been asked to pitch his song treatment ideas against other directors too, mentioning Crowded House and Jawsh 685 among potentially big budget jobs he’s been disappointed not to get a crack at. Of the work he does get, it’s about a 60:40 mix of low fee NZ On Air-funded projects to more realistic label budget gigs. To date around $50k is the most he’s been given to work with, and of course, expectations typically exceed budgets – but he’s definitely not the type to complain, and after all, it’s only been a few years since he was doing videos video for $100.
Connor mentions Wellington indie-popster Riiki and her In The Moment single as an example of the occasional project where the artist has chosen to spend more than NZ On Air’s video funding amount.
“In a way sometimes it’s good to have smaller budgets, ’cos it makes you a lot more creative. There are ways that you can get around stuff – hanging lights off a tree for instance! If someone professional came to a Connor Pritchard shoot they’d probably be mortified at how budget and run and gun we are, but it gets the job done and people like it, so I guess that’s all that matters!
“You see (say) Post Malone videos that probably had US$400,000 budgets that just aren’t that expensive to do – girls and cars pretty much, you know? We’re getting like $4000 – $6000 and still pulling off just as good videos!”
While that ‘we’ is likely aimed across the local music video industry, Connor naturally has a small team of people he regularly works with.
“Mostly every job I have at least some of the same crew. A director of photography, I always have a photographer on set for press and behind the scenes photos, gaffer/lighting and camera assist/focus puller are the main crew. With a bit more budget I’d get an art director on and a grip – cos grips are awesome! But there are so many ways around getting the job done.
“Obviously it’d be great to pay everyone what they’re worth, and it is a lot of favours. It’s got to the point now where it’s too many favours actually, and I kind of have to start cutting some things out. Still, it’s great that the government are putting out so much money through NZ On Air every year.”
Impressively it seems that he’s not averse to a bit of charitable ‘giving back’ himself. Dispensing with Connorfilms, earlier his year he started another production coy with the more business-like name Cnrpr Productions. As a promotional release for the new entity he reached out online offering to do free videos for eight up and coming artists.
“About 60 artists supplied their songs for assessment. I felt like I was on the NZ On Air judging panel, it was crazy! There are so many great songs and having to choose just some was mental. I mixed it up, chose a lot of alternative pop, a couple of hip hop, a couple of new-age auto-tune stuff, and a few more soulful RnB songs. It’s cool.”
His plan was to nail two of those a week throughout September, but Auckland’s extended Covid Delta lockdown has shot a big hole through that schedule.
Preferring to get a few video shoots done and then lock-in for a week of editing, he spends anywhere between half-a-day and two days to edit one video – the time required dragged out by clients wanting micro changes.
“There is definitely a fine line between being close to the artist (so wanting to be helpful) and running the process as a business,” he laughs. “It might be time to add some more Ts and Cs!”
Asked which video he’s most proud of it’s little surprise Connor points straight to Six60’s massive hit single Sundown, his treatment for which won him the Best Music Video award, along with Best Editing and Visionary Director awards at NZ’s Vision Feast Film Festival 2021.
“That was a big shoot, three days sunrise to sunset, about 14 locations – all mashed into a three-minute video, so it was lots of work!”
The Melodownz Infinite video featuring UK rapper Coops, which has enjoyed close to 600,000 Youtube plays, ranks high on his list of more budget videos that nailed it.
“I came up with the idea of showing west London and west Auckland side by side, so we got him and his crew to replicate the same shots as us. It ended for us in this carpark in central Auckland city, and my favourite shot I think to this day, is this nice silhouette of Melodownz and his crew behind him just jumping up and down. It was the biggest fluke ever, we had no lighting, just a car light shining down on them and it looks like a professional big-budget shot!
“Another would be the Raiza Biza Visions video. When I got asked to go on tour with him around Europe I was 17 – I don’t know how my parents let me go y’know?! We went all over the show and I just shot him everywhere. So that was before I got a name for myself, so it’s nice to have them still in my top picks.”
You can find contact information and further links to videos by Connor Pritchard and dozens of other local music video directors listed in NZM’s NZ Music Video Directors Directory. It’s a brilliant aid for any artist looking for reliable help with the visual treatment of their songs – and for any Kiwi music video directors keen for more work. Being listed is free of charge – contact editorial@nzmusician.