Court Dunn

If you are a fan of Hip Hop on any level, then you know Court Dunn’s work.  The director has scored music video clips with some of Hip Hop’s top artists such as Styles P, and Joell Ortiz as well as created original video series with top outlets such as nahright, and HipHopDX.  It’s a unique approach to music video making, as well as marketing and has allowed Dunn to stay on the top of his game, as well as incredibly busy.  

“Since I’m sometimes working on as many as 30 or more videos at once, all in different stages of production, organization is everything to me,” says Dunn, who regularly releases 3 videos a week via various spots and in various forms.    “As far as creativity and what’s running through my head,” he continues, “every day I’m always looking to be as productive as possible and always outdo my previous work.”

Outdoing his previous work is getting harder and harder to do, and before the going gets tough we decided to link up with Court to get an inside scoop of his “simple but dope” style of music videos, talk about his most memorable shoots, as well as his Same Plate family.  Check out the full video below.

RubyHornet:  When you wake up and start your day, what kind of creativity is running through your head going towards your next project?

Court Dunn:  I start every day with coffee and heavy prioritization. Since I’m sometimes working on as many as 30 or more videos at once, all in different stages of production, organization is everything to me.  As far as creativity and what’s running through my head, every day I’m always looking to be as productive as possible and always outdo my previous work.  Directing, like any art form, is a learning experience – so I’m always consciously and unconciously looking for inspiration everywhere I go – on the net, on TV, on the train, in the city, etc.

RubyHornet:  Were you always into film and art when you were growing up?

Court Dunn:  I’ve always had the desire to create. As a child I spent a lot of time drawing, which gradually evolved into movie ideas and film scripts in high school and college. I consider movies to have been a huge part of my life growing up. My parents took me to see tons of movies at the theatre, and I grew up during that classic Lucas/Spielberg era in the 80s, and later Tarantino/Indie Film era in the 90s.  Hollywood back then is very nostalgiac to me – it’s really a shame what’s become of it now with all these remakes, reboots, and lack of original ideas.

RubyHornet:  Where did you find your inspiration from to take filming seriously and pursue it?  Did you go to school for film?

Court Dunn:  I started to take a career in film seriously later on in high school.  I had taken some A/V classes junior and senior year, which allowed me to shoot for the first time on VHS tape and edit on one of those old analog machines, and then an actual film class where I learned more in depth about how movies were made. I quickly became very interested in the movie business and started reading every book I could get my hands on about writing scripts, directing, getting an agent, you name it.  When it came time for college I decided to follow my dreams and pursue a film degree at Fitchburg State in Massachusetts, the only state school around where you could major in film.

RubyHornet: Your first videos were with a group by the name of RADIx. How were those first experiences of putting together videos?

Court Dunn

Court Dunn:  I met the  group RADIx (Quite Nyce & SEEK) in college. It’s very circumstantial actually – I was in the same group with SEEK in class and that’s how we met and became friends.  Years later, when I was working in NYC and making short films on the side, we were still in touch and at some point we just put two and two together. I directed their first, self-titled video “R.A.D.I.x” very much on a whim. Although I had studied film, I didn’t know anything about making music videos back then– so those early videos were very much a learning experience.  Through RADIx I met my manager Jonathan Master – and the rest is history…

RubyHornet: Was your unique minimal style of production always something that you used?

Court Dunn:  Man, I could talk about minimalism and art-house cinema all day.  It’s definitely something I’m very passionate about, and I guess it’s become a part of my identity as a music video director. I wasn’t always a “minimalist”, like I said I grew up on 80’s/90’s Hollywood. It wasn’t until college that I discovered foreign/art-house cinema and took a strong interest in more subtle, minimal, stylistic films by directors like Wong Kar-wai, Hou Hsia-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang, Jean-luc Godard, Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant, Richard Linklater, etc.  Their films were so much different and so more real than the movies coming out of Hollywood at the time, and I immediately fell in love with the style.  After testing this style out myself with short films, it was inevitable that when I crossed over to making music videos  – the idea of making minimal Hip Hop videos was very exciting to me. That’s not to say I don’t like or can’t make more quote-unquote “traditional” style, bigger budget videos – minimalism is just a stylistic preference.

RubyHornet: Were there any turning points when you started gaining more and more recognition that you had urges to do a larger production involving more expenses etc?

Court Dunn:  I’d say there have been about three turning points so far in the evolution of my productions.  The first was working with Camp Lo and Styles P for the first time on the “On Smash/89 of Crime” video, which was huge for me at the time and opened up a lot of doors exposure-wise. The second was the Joell Ortiz twitter video “Food For Thought”, which brought the “One Shot” series to life and established my style.  And  most recently, working with artists like Reflection Eternal, Rhymefest and getting the new Styles P ft Tyler Woods “Street Life” video on 106 & Park have been huge for me as far as artist level and production quality.

RubyHornet: How does it feel to be known for separating yourself from the pack and really providing creativity without giving into big budgets and intense music video story lines?

Court Dunn:  It’s amazing to see the positive response.  I feel very fortunate to be able to have that creative freedom, as well as make music videos at such an exciting time – in regards to how technology has changed the music industry while also allowing for anyone to pick up a camera, edit a video and upload it for the world to see.   I remember at first the idea of making minimalist Hip Hop videos seemed a hard sell. It took actually making them (courtesy of Eskay and’s “One Shot” endorsement) for the style to really catch on.

RubyHornet: Do you feel that this style that you have pushed so heavily will really catch on with other directors?

Court Dunn:  I didn’t invent minimal music videos, so it’s not really my place to say whether people should or shouldn’t adopt a similar style. I think the word simple has a negative connotation, and I agree that if you’re going to go simple – it has to be justified. So that’s why a lot of my videos are very concept-based, ie Joell Ortiz twitter video and the Camp Lo trunk video, etc. For me, minimalism works because it’s what I like and fits my workflow. What I would say to aspiring directors is – do what you like, do something different – it’s the unique ideas that people remember. Don’t do what other people are doing. That’s them, not you, you know?

RubyHornet: What were some of the more interesting experiences with artists during shoots?

Court Dunn:  Well first, shout out to J The S, Donny Goines and Emilio Rojas – that’s the fam, and we’re all part of the same management team – shout out to “Same Plate.”

Court Dunn

I think the Camp Lo “Son of A…” “One Shot” was probably the most chill video shoot of my career. Those are the homies, so they just picked me up in their whip, we drove around the corner, parked the whip and shot the video in probably half an hour. Then they dropped me off and I sent them a cut of the vid a couple hours later.

Working with Joell Ortiz for the first time was also memorable. Having never met him before, I met up with him at Sean C & LV’s studio – and he was instantly one of the most genuinely good dudes I’ve met in the industry – as though we were homies for years. We knocked out his performance shot in a few takes – and that was that. It continues to be one of if not the best received of my videos to date…

Court Dunn

RubyHornet: From your first video to your most recent with Skyzoo what has been the best experience in the industry?

Court Dunn:  Hmm, best experience…Probably road-tripping to SXSW and back this year with the fam: Emilio Rojas, our manager Jonathan Master, and producer Reality. That was a lot of fun, and an exciting time especially at this point in all of our careers.

RubyHornet: What advice do you have for aspiring directors?

Court Dunn:  Just go out and shoot! In my opinion, at least at first, it’s better to shoot something right now, than to spend 5 years on something you may never finish. Even if it’s not perfect, you’re learning – and with time you’ll get better and better. These days, when technology allows for anyone to shoot and upload a video same day, there’s no excuse! Just go shoot and see what happens.

RubyHornet: Finally, what three words can always describe an official Court Dunn video?

Court Dunn:  I’ve seen this comment a lot on Youtube so I’ll go with it: “Simple but Dope”.

Court Dunn

See all of Court Dunn’s videos at his youtube page.