Music video maker Julien Christian Lutz is better known as Director X.
“I got Julien from my mom and dad,” he writes on his website. X, he says, came from the streets.
One writer, however, suggests that the unusual name could stand for “Director X-tremely Good At Directing.”
The in-demand Canadian-born helmer has worked with everyone from Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj to Rihanna and Drake. The key to his success, he says, is leading “an artist’s life. You have to be as open as you can be to everything.
“You need to keep yourself inspired so you have to do whatever it is going to take to jog your creative brain, whether that be going to an art gallery or whatever.”
His strong visual sense — he uses graphics and letterboxing in tricky and interesting ways — is his trademark, but X says his most influential video came about “from a bad edit the client didn’t like. So I had to go in there and come up with something new.”
To keep the people paying the bills happy he devised a picture-in-picture look for the Fabolous featuring Nate Dogg video Can’t Deny It.
“It was really kind of cool and got taken on by hip hop in general,” he says. “It shook up the norm of what was happening in the genre. It became its own thing. After that, everyone did it. That was a really good moment where the ripples were felt from a piece of my work. I loved it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. People inside the game know where it comes from, so any time someone copies you, it flows back to you.”
Today, whether it is a music video or a commercial shoot—he’s shot ads for Nintendo, Guinness and Burger King among many others — he’s learned to listen to the customer.
“Some people have the idea that the client is always wrong, and if they weren’t here everything would be better, but I have come to find that the client has an instinct.”
But he didn’t always feel that way.
“You know everything when you’re in your 20s, so you’re passionate about how much you know and passionate about how wrong they are. It’s definitely something that has to be learned. It would have been interesting if someone had come to me and explained that ahead of time, but I had to learn it like I had to learn it.”
The busy filmmaker has gleaned many lessons along the way, but his life and work boil down to one simple statement: “I’m here to make art and express it.”
On Tuesday, Director X will deliver the keynote speech at the Emerge Conference 2014, an initiative of the University of Guelph-Humber to encourage young professionals to embrace new technologies and networks.
X says he hopes to “give some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years, in front of the camera, behind the camera and how that filters into life itself.” Other speakers include news anchor Christine Bentley, co-founder of BizMedia Dan Demsky, and Eric Alper, director of media relations and label acquisitions at eOne Music Canada.
$15 tickets for the day-long event are available at emergeconference.ca.