Ja’Tovia Gary // Director Spotlight

Ja’Tovia Gary has got a bright future ahead of her.  And to be completely honest, it looks like the present is gifting her with a ton of good things.  She hasn’t even made it out of school yet, and she’s already made waves directing Cakes da Killa’s “Goodies” video.  The woman has a unique aesthetic, and a gift.

We got a chance to sit down with Ja’Tovia to talk about the work and what’s coming up – she’s busy.  And she knows what she wants.  And she knows what she wants to create.  It’s refreshing!  We love the work, we love Ja’Tovia and we at the Arcade know this is just the beginning.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I am originally from Dallas, Texas but moved to NY at 18 to study theater. I have a background in performance. Ive done a bit of commercial and voice over work, but I will always love acting for the stage. I currently working towards my MFA in Social Documentary Film making at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. I’m interested in personal documentaries, films centered on artists, and politics. I’m also excited about directing more music videos and narrative features in the future. I’m in love with story telling, no matter the medium. My background in acting heavily influenced my love of film. I like having control, so I figured I’d try my hand on the other side of the camera.

How did you connect with Cakes?

I learned about Cakes on the internet. I go down these rabbit holes that usually originate on tumblr where I search for hours on end. I stumbled upon his video for the song “Cuntspiracy” and was blown away. I love the idea that he is an out and proud gay man who happens to be a lyrical slaughterhouse. I thought it was a hilariously delicious subversion of the hyper masculinity present in hip hop. I thought it would be dope to do a documentary on him. We went back and forth over email for a while, then finally made it happen during my second semester here at SVA. While filming an interview for the doc, Cakes asked me if I wanted to do the video for “Goodie Goodies”. I immediately agreed.

How did you work out concept and vision? was it a collaboration?

It was a total collaboration. Cakes really has vision and came with a wealth of visual references. I initially approached him with a few basic looks, then he upped the ante when he put me on to a Japanese film from 1969, “Funeral Parade of Roses”. The film utilizes a number of cinematic techniques from the French New Wave-  a movement which I love. So, it was a collaborative effort from start to finish. Oh, this is a shameless plug, but Cakes is sporting some serious earrings in the video. I make them and sell them online:http://negradolce.com/ LMAO!

Tell us about the shoot

The shoot was hilarious. This was my first music video, so I was playing it all by ear. We shot it at my school, they were nice enough to provide space. My former roommate and friend Risha Rox is a dope make up artist out of Brooklyn, so I had her come through and ‘beat faces’ as we say. It was a small crew and we did it all very DIY, but totally made it happen. I’ll never forget the look on my classmates faces when they saw men in denim coochie cutters and blue body paint running into our school theatre. It was quite an experience.

What has you excited about music right now?

Well, Cakes da Killa of course :) but I’m also into a Hiatus Kaiyote, and Kendrick Lamar. But truth be told, musically I’m an old head. I’m obsessed with Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. Erykah Badu is also a staple. She stays on semi permanent rotation. She’s a Dallas girl like myself!

What’s next up for you?

Well, im in post production on the Cakes Da Killa documentary. And this summer I begin work on my graduate thesis for school. Its a personal doc on my mother. The working title is “Deconstructing Your Mother”. That should be a fun ride. Keep me in your prayers for that one! It’s pretty hardcore. Also, I had such a great time directing the video for Cakes, I’m definitely looking forward to doing more!