Highlighting Key People in Hip-Hop
The latest equipment is the least of Andres “Dre Films” Alvarez’s worries. This director from Miami, Florida, is all about building his skills behind the lens and setting himself apart from the crowded scene of video directors. Self-made since his first video with aspiring rapper Jon J., Dre has gone on to land a position at Maybach Music Group. His journey started back in elementary school where he entertained fellow classmates with his drawings. Since that and a short time in drama class, he knew his passion was in the form of visual arts. Gigs with local nightclubs connected him to a host of rappers and his career took off from there. Read on to learn more about Dre’s come up, his role at Maybach Music Group and how he pulls off some of the hottest videos in hip-hop history. Take notes.
When did you realize that shooting videos was your passion?
It was probably in 2009. My first video was shot for my cousin Jon J. who was an aspiring artist. I told him I knew about this program called iMovie and that I had a camera so we should go outside and shoot a video for one of his songs. We went out and shot the video. The whole process intrigued me. From looking for locations to shooting guerilla style to coming home and putting it all together, I loved it. Anything that I was doing before then didn’t even matter anymore. I just wanted to sit at a computer all day and edit videos. I wanted to show people what I did and see their reactions. After seeing that they loved it, that’s when it clicked.
After that first video, describe your come up to me.
After shooting my first video, I already knew what I wanted to do. I started investing in my craft. I bought a real camera, got some real programs and started promoting myself. People started hiring me to do their videos. I started getting gigs at nightclubs in Miami. I would go do all of their videos and recaps. I would film artists and celebrities walking into the club. That’s how I made a lot of connections with a lot of artists. I let them know that I do music videos. Some would mess with me, some wouldn’t.
How did you get in the position you’re in at MMG?
It came from all of the connections I made at the club. I met Gunplay first and MMG just seen my grind. After I shot a video for Triple Cs, they started hitting me up. Torch, Masspike Miles; I started doing a lot of videos for MMG. Rick Ross took notice to it. He looks at all of his artists’ updates, what they are working on, and once he started seeing my name was on every video, I think he wanted to see what I could do. Ross called me immediately after seeing Gunplay and Waka Flocka Flame’s “Rolling,” which was very guerrilla style. We went out to some clubs, shot a few performances and put it all together. Ross loved it. I got a call from Gucci Pucci asking me if I had a passport so I could start traveling with them and go to Canada to start shooting vlogs. I was like “Hell yeah man, let’s do it.”
When did you start working with Rick Ross?
After I shot a video for Masspike Miles called “Street Judge.” That’s the first time Ross came to my set. He just pulled up while I was shooting with Jon J. We saw a Benz and a Phantom pull up. When I seen him, I was actually surprised cause at the time, he was one of the biggest artists in the game. He was super cool. When he came out, he did his cameo and started giving me a lot of advice like how to drop the video, how to promote it, how to go about doing the behind the scenes. He just had a plan for everything. When the video came out, I bumped into him at one his videos and he told me, “I’m gon make you rich man. I love that video.”
How does it feel to work at MMG?
I’m just looking back at how I started and can’t believe I made it to this point. I do a lot more than videos for MMG. I also promote for Ross. Together, we come up with strategies to promote the albums and projects. We all feed off of each other and pass around ideas. Whenever Ross gives me an idea, I execute it as good as I can.
What was one video that you thought would be hard to execute and why?
Meek Mill and Drake’s “Amen.” I wouldn’t necessarily say it was hard but I thought it was very ambitious. Warner Bros at the time told me that it was an ambitious idea for a two-day shoot in two different cities (Philly and Miami). We were able to lock in the “Rocky Steps” and club “LIV” which was big for the video. We also booked a private jet to fly us from Philly to Miami on a Sunday night to make it to club LIV on time where I had another film crew waiting for us. It was so much happening that it seemed crazy. I think it came out incredible though. I think it’s one of my best videos. I always try to separate myself from the new and upcoming directors. I’ve been in the game so long that I always try to push the envelope. My goal is to have longevity in this game.
Describe the thought process behind “Box Chevy.”
Ross pretty much had the idea already. He told me he wanted a scene in a barbershop, he wanted girls dancing on top of cars and a bunch of other details. I just started putting everything together because it’s not easy to get a girl to twerk on top of a car. There were a lot of things we had to consider and work out. He gave me the whole plan and what the story would be then Jon J wrote the script for it. We looked for locations, talked to people to make sure everything was good. We locked down the Jacksonville Main Street Bridge, which was a pretty big deal. I found the Florida Theater that we had Ross standing on marquee. All of these different locations just started coming together and my passion turned it into something big. Even the movie aspect to it and having to get actors like Tyrin Turner from “Menace II Society” and Dennis L.A. White from “Notorious.” I didn’t know how to approach that but we made it happen.
How long did this take?
The whole video? It took two days to shoot.
How long did it take for you to pull all of this together? Getting locations, pulling in actors…
Probably about two weeks.
Two weeks! I’m thinking you’re about to tell me two months. [Laughs]
I can make stuff happen. That’s one of my biggest assets. If someone tells me they want to shoot tomorrow, I’m going to have something ready.
Does success change your creative vision? If not, how do you balance the two?
It helps. It keeps you fresh. It keeps you wanting to do something bigger and bigger every time. I want to keep topping the last video I put out. It just makes me hungrier to come up with new things. Sometimes with the labels, it’s hard. Once you’re dealing with a label, you have to deal with the legal process of it, like if a person gets in your shot that wasn’t suppose to then you have to get them a release form or blur out the face. Sometimes you have to blur out logos. I like to go guerrilla style, show everything. Other than that, I think success helps.
What advice do you have for upcoming video directors?
Think outside of the box. Get out of those studios and shoot some dope stuff. I’m sure people are tired of seeing the same ol’ videos and I’m tired of it too that’s why I’m striving for different stuff. Come up with some good ideas to present to the artist. It’s all about what you can bring to the table. It’s not just about having a good camera and good angles. It’s the whole package. What are you going to do with it once you have it ready?
What’s on your agenda for the rest of the year?
Ross is dropping Mastermind so definitely look forward to a lot of videos from that. Wale is dropping his new album so a lot of vlogs and videos off of that. There’s always going to be work with Maybach Music Group. That’s the best part of being at this label. There’s a variety of artists and I get to work with all of them. Obviously “Box Chevy” just put me in a position to where fans want to see Dre Films come out with a movie so now we’re working on scrips. It’s time for that.
Follow Dre Films on Twitter: @DREFilms
-Danitha Jones (@LifeLikeJones)