NEXT UP: Demoie Montego
Origin: New Jersey
Madison and I were lucky enough to have a live conversation with the upcoming film director, Demoie Montego. We spoke about his love for music, his favorite filmmakers, and plenty more. Check out a snippet on our IGTV / Youtube or read the full interview below:
Dreina: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm Demoie. I'm from New Jersey. You know, regular guy. I like to watch movies and things. I like to go outside and breathe.
Madison: You said you were based in New Jersey?
Yea, I'm from Union, New Jersey / East Orange New Jersey but I kinda have moved around the state so Jersey.
Madison: So what got you into filmmaking?
I kind of just fell into it. It was kind of a joke. Me and my friends started a dance group like Jersey club shit. We started going around filming parties at different teen clubs and then i was looking up to guys. From there, it just kind of escalated. I was like wow you know, I was at the computer doing this while my friends were like "yo come outside, we're about to hangout with some girls." That's cool and all but I'm trying to master this editing thing so from there it just kind of grew.
Madison: Did you ever have films that influenced you or it really just came from your head?
Yea, I remember watching a short film by one of my idols, Kahlil Joseph, "Until the Quiet Comes". The short film inspired by the Flying Lotus, "Until the Quiet Comes" album and I'm a huge hip hop head, you know i got J Dilla's record in the background. And from there, I was just like "Wow, art. you can make this."
Dreina: What's something people don't know about you?
A lot of people don't know. They always wonder what the process is, right? I always say that the process is the process like you got your ideas, your sounds, your thoughts, things you're inspired by on the regular, old movies that you've seen and you can get overwhelmed with all that content. What i kind of do is i go in and put things in bins like in my mind and i work through it like that. One thing people don't know about me is I have an obsession with heights but I'm also afraid of heights.
Dreina: What role does music play in your filmmaking?
I look at it in a more rhythmic sense. Music is the purest form of abstraction, a bunch of vibrations passing through air. People like J Dilla, Missy Elliot, and even Timberland make certain choices when putting together. I try and do that visually, I cut in uncomfortable places so that when the images pass in from of your eyes it is offsetting to your process. It is more of a disruptive process.
Madison: Do you have a specific genre that you go to inspire yourself or does it really depend on the right place at the right time?
I think with music you can't stay in one corner. It's kinda all over the place. You have to explore it, hear it, interpret it internally and then come up with a manifestation to push out. A lot of people don't listen to certain kinds of music just because they think it's uncool but like Brazilian funk, I would listen to that on a Tuesday evening and then I would listen to some jersey rap music an hour later so. I guess when you're going for like a certain aesthetic, yea, but thinking about it to be inspired by music is a great thing but also it could be something that holds you back.
Dreina: We actually have a question (from a viewer). It says "What are your top 3 filmmakers and out of all three, which one has the biggest influence on your work?"
Kahlil Joseph, Gasper Noe, Christopher Nolan, Hype Williams, and Ava DuVernay, and I'm going to throw Miles Davis in there as an honorable mention. But the top three would be Kahlil Joseph, Christopher Nolan, the way Christopher Nolan does sound is incredible, and Ava DuVernay, definitely, because I like how she blends the world of art, cinema, and social/political movements, ideas, thoughts, feelings. Kahlil Joseph, his cinematography is amazing and very dreamlike.
Dreina: What was the last movie you watched?
You guys are going to laugh but it's this movie called "Always Be My Maybe" on Netflix.
Madison: From the work you've done in the past, what would you say your biggest project to date has been? (commercially / personally)
Yea, I remember watching a short film by one of my idols, Kahlil Joseph, "Until the Quiet Comes". The short film inspired by the Flying Lotus, "Until the Quiet Comes" album and I'm a huge hip hop head, you know I got J Dilla's record in the background. And from there, I was just like "Wow, art. you can make this." from of your eyes it is offsetting to your process. It is more of a disruptive process. The thing people don't know about me is I have an obsession with heights but I'm also afraid of heights. loved it so that was like on a small scale really great. And then, my favorite or my largest, future project that I’m building all this hype for and s*** is called 32° Part 2 and it's basically an archive of, also narrative, of the process of becoming an artist and realizing who you are as an individual and I’ve been filming that for years. Also, I got a few other things that I'm proud of but it’s just like getting it to the people is my main concern because once I make something I kinda just throw it in the closet and never want to see it again. And that isn't bad, I’m not disappointed in that. It's obviously the progress, the age, growth, you know.
Madison: Do you ever rewatch any of the stuff you’ve done like do you pull up anything from that to better yourself in future projects you do?
Yea, because it usually comes back in weird ways like I’ll be out buying food or something and someone walks up to me and they're like “you know what I thought about this, this, and this..” and hmm, interesting, and I go back and watch it and I’m like wow I never knew that they saw it that way. For an exhibition that I did for my senior thesis, I put a notebook next to the screen. A lot of people wrote like lines and lines of like really deep shit that I didn’t consider while making the work because everybody has a unique perspective so. It's always a critique of content and quality and they both like always are two extremes. It's really great though. But like I don't cringe anymore so I guess that's progress. Whenever you look at some old work, you’re always like “get that shit away from me.
Madison: If you had a career goal to reach, where exactly would it be?
Not really, I just want to live long and live a cool life. I would like to be the greatest ever but I look up to some really cool people. If I had to do a movie though, it would be Batman Beyond. I just want to see the legacy grow maybe I like to adopt a monkey and teach them how to use the camera. We’re all here for a small amount of time to see the world but it’s so big you probably won't see it all so you just got to enjoy that shit.
Dreina: What are you currently listening to?
Album, the new Freddie Gibbs album with Madlib. It's great, I think it’s going to win a Grammy. I’m listening to a lot of music with guitars, instrumentation, piano, Kiefer's album “happysad”, that’s a real banger right now for me and some podcasts, Oprah’s, some audiobooks.
Madison: Do you have a certain instrument that inspires you?
Probably, the Chinese violin or saxophone, I can't pronounce it but that shit just sounds crazy.
Madison: Do you have any favorite sax players?
My guy John, shout out to my guy John in New Brunswick, I don’t his artist name but if you're in New Brunswick anytime like on George Street, he’s really dope. He plays in the winter, summer, spring, and people just walk around. Shout out to John from New Brunswick.
Madison: Do you have a certain decade of music you listen to heavily over another?
Yea, I’m lucky enough to like a very cultured family. My entire family is from the Caribbean, Jamaica to be specific. So there is a lot of old and rock-steady music with guitar and heavy on drums but if I had to say right now, I would say probably oldies 60s 50s. I mean like guys like The Platters and The Temptations are really great guys. I just love layering and collaboration with voices to make something.
Madison: Do you have a specific style or you think you’re still finding that or you think style doesn’t exist?
There are definitely indicators of creators whether it be behind the camera or mentality. So to answer that question, yes. And I do set up these fundamental things that literally anything can be shot in and I kinda just fill in the blanks. But when I'm thinking of like dreams or memory, I’ll definitely hone in and make sure things are super specific about that thing I am thinking about or that I'm trying to build a conversation about because what I don't like to do in my like style is point the direct finger. I'm not totally all in on that topic but I'm not against it. I'm in the Nuance of everything. When you see a piece of my work, this should be half of the room and the other is saying something totally different but there’s an agreement in the middle. It’s kind of vague but vague enough to stay within that conversation bracket.
Dreina: When exactly did you start filmmaking? In high school or were inspired in college?
I actually went full force in high school with it but I realized in college that my entire life. I was being coached to do this thing by my grandmother. She didn't know what she was doing. She kind of trained me. She’s not a traditional photographer. She’s not self-taught but she had me taking all of the family vacations everywhere like (ages) 5 - 9. And I just kept doing it. From there, working with film, cleaning photos, moving to digital stuff, I did a documentary. People in high school would came to me like “yo bro, hook me up with this girl.” I’m like alright I got you. And then my friend came to me “I want to go to the football field.” I called up my coach and I got a guitar player out there and then like it was this romantic thing. Everyone came to me and I took all of their shit and I turned it into a documentary and I put it out. Then like Huffington post picked it up. Bunch of weird people hit me like “Oh my god, I’m Japan, I love your shit.” And then from there, it kind of just snowballed so I would say high school I kind of jumped into it.
Dreina: And that was your first published video?
Yea, I could say that was the first public cohesive documentary. It’s called “Prom”, how original right?
Dreina: What’s next for you?
I’ll probably be work on this film I got coming up, 32° Part 2. There is no part one and it’s going to come out in the winter of 2020. It’s going to be cool. I’m actually going to get a bunch of LED screens out in the woods and I’m going to invite all my friends to watch it and that’s really it.
Check out his 2019 Film Reel below: