Bustling around the city of Nashville, Tennessee, Blythe Thomas is a 25-year-old photographer, videographer, director, and major girl boss. She’s been freelance for about five years and is constantly amazing viewers and clients with her unique ability to channel personality and a classic old soul feel. In between hours of editing, Thomas chats with us about her creative process and personal touches in our Fall 2018 issue.
When creating the sort of visual aspects of a shoot, what sort of planning goes into it?
In music, it depends on the song and artist. They usually have such a brand of their own established so I like to take on projects where we can collaborate and meet in the middle versus our brands not meshing. It’s their video, so I like to make sure we are creating something that’s on target for what they want to put out there, but I hope I can elevate it with my own quirkiness.
What are some of your trademark visual aspects?
I’m someone who doesn’t like everything to look clean, digital, and perfect. I think there’s a lot of cool toys, cameras, and tricks you can do in this industry. I like to learn them, break them down, and then go against them and contrast them. I like to make things that aren’t as flashy but things that have nostalgia and old soul to it. When I collaborate, like with what I just did with a group called The Brummies, I think it’s awesome to see how we can come together. They have very old 60s style, and we wanted to see how we could get old school to meet new school.
In an industry heavily saturated with males, no matter how kind and talented, what are some struggles you face being a female director and creative?
I think I started feeling the impact when segwaying into directing. A lot of the directors I looked up to are females, and I watched YouTube videos to listen for advice on how to carry yourself. I think a lot of it is internal, for me personally. When I walk on a set, I feel this bigger need to prove myself to be what a man would be, even if no one is necessarily putting that on me. It’s all in my head, and I like to come over-prepared in every regard in case I make a mistake so no one can point it back at me for being a female or whatever. I feel like I study as much as I can to be as confident as I can so I can never default back to something irrelevant like being an “inexperienced woman.” or something like that because it’s silly.
What sort of fresh perspective do you think you offer the industry?
You know, I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s a fine line of seeing who you are and discovering what trends are out there. I think for a long time I tried to craft myself off of artists I really loved or things I was inspired by. There’s so much media and consumption that you forget what innately comes from yourself. I think so much of what I have done has been internally thinking and learning about that line of inspiration versus creation on my own. I’m still trying to figure out what I want that mark to be and what I contribute to the industry, but I do know I want to tell female-centric and coming-of-age type stories. I’m still developing what that is and what that looks like.
As a director, you establish the mood. I always want to walk onto a set feeling positive.
In a world where sometimes all it takes is a random viral video, usually not of high quality, to be famous, how do you stay constantly stay motivated and growing in your practice that takes time and effort?
It’s funny because I actually had a viral video. It made people start looking at me as video over photo. In having a shot of lighting four years ago, you realize how fleeting the feeling of millions of views is. It’s a funny feeling because you realize anyone could go viral for anything. A lot of noise comes with it, experiences you don’t think through and say “yes” to. With the internet and social media, it’s easy to.. Ya know, it’s like moderation. You hear a voice and lose focus. I looked over my shoulder at three fast-paced years and thought, “Wow, I haven’t done much artistically that I’m proud of.” You have a lot of experiences and people you love, but you haven’t put a lot of weight into what you can offer. You get one viral video, and you want to do more. But then you hit a plateau and realize it’s bullshit. You eventually realize things need to come from the soul.
For your “Moonlight” music video, you have over 30 million views. Do you look at the numbers? Do they ever encourage or hinder you?
I used to when I was in college. I can vividly remember my friend and I, who I worked with a lot in college, put out our first video and would pass each other on campus and say, “Did you see we hit 500 views this morning?” We were so happy because we were in it together. If I put out a video with someone I have a real investment in, it’s cool, but I usually don’t look after the first day. I’ll look again in a few months. It’s nice when it isn’t your focus. Some of my favorite videos are the least watched. With “Moonlight”, Grace and I were very excited. It was her first video and under a special circumstance so we were in the back of a car and refreshing the video.
What has been one of your favorite music videos to direct?
I loved my recent one with The Brummies that I mentioned earlier. I also loved “Moonlight” because it was so special. It was my first time directing on that large of scale. It was just a special few days with my crew. They wore a million hats, went above and beyond, and enjoyed themselves. It was a dream energy and atmosphere. Doing “Moonlight” is kind of the first time I am super proud of the aesthetic and what we made as a team. Living in Nashville is such a tight knit community where you’re lucky to be surrounded by artists and teams where you can reach out and tell them you love a song and ask them to let you know if there is anything ever to write for it. That’s what happened with The Brummies. It just happened to be good timing when I emailed someone on their team. It’s reaching out and being a fan. They can feel that.
How do you channel energy into subjects who may be a bit camera shy or grumpy?
I think there’s an advantage of being someone who does documentary work and who can read energy. I try to mirror it but in a comfortable way. I genuinely try to transfer energy between me and the client. I always try to go out of my way to make the whole atmosphere of the set feel comfortable and safe. I introduce everyone and crack jokes. As a director, you establish the mood. I always want to walk onto a set feeling positive. I have a zen corner with eye patches and oils. When the artist comes to set, a mood is already set. You do what you can so they can feel comfortable and do the most vulnerable part of performing.
Are there any individuals you are still dying to work with?
I was thinking you would ask me this. I was listening to a Coldplay vinyl and thought that would be cool. Or Kings of Leon or HAIM. High school Blythe would have loved to work with Taylor Swift. I still would be a fan girl who would love it. But my favorite projects now are with people you see a lot of potential in, they see potential in you, and you grow together. There’s a promise of a long journey ahead. They have fan bases but are still cutting their teeth. I love being part of something where you and the people you are with can jump around in excitement, whether it’s a good take on set or hearing their song on the radio.
What’s one project we can expect in the near future?
More music videos. Getting into movies would be the dream.
STORY ELIZABETH STAFFORD
PHOTOS BLYTHE THOMAS
Read more in print and digital: Volume III, Issue No. 004 – Fall 2018.