Lil X: Making A Scene

Canada has blessed the United States with dozens of amazing entertainers over the years, although one of our finest talent imports has been behind largely the scenes. Video director Lil X has blessed the likes of Usher, R.Kelly, Christina Aguilera, Korn, Ludacris, Sean Paul, Kanye West and Diddy with some of the most memorable visuals in pop music – and that’s just the short list.

In an effort to diversify his opportunities, Lil X has also been doing commercial work, directing snazzy ads for major corporations like Bacardi, JC Penney, Burger King, Reebok, Footlocker and Smirnoff. He also recently launched his own clothing line in association with Toronto-based ICE Gear. Suitably called The X Collection, the athletic line is created with a special fabric that separates body moisture from material while you stay cool.

Good guys can win, and this good-natured visionary is living proof. We took some time to get to know Lil X as his career continues to blossom. How has it been for you going back dealing with the entertainment field in Canada? Are they receptive to all of the work you’ve done in the U.S., and are they giving you more work up there?

Lil X: The streets are receptive, but as far as the business is concerned they know, but it’s not like someone said, “Hey do a TV show” or something like that. It’s not quite like that. They recognize that the work has been done, and everyone’s real proud and happy. But that’s kind of how Canada gets down. A friend of mine named Russell Peters, he’s a Canadian comedian- you can Youtube him - he just sold out the AirCanada Center. It’s where Beyoncé did a show [and he sold it out] two nights in a row. But no one has a TV show for him up there. The people will love you and all, that doesn’t mean the rest of the businesses will catch on to it. That’s amazing because you have worked with some of the biggest names in show business and been repeatedly hired by them.

Lil X: Yeah, Canada’s just a different place, they’re not really risk takers or things like that. It’s just weird. Sometimes they’re really on it, and there’s certain people they really [pay attention] to and sometimes there’s people that they don’t. How many times on average do you get approached with movie scripts?

Lil X: When I was really going and doing a lot more videos there were definitely a lot more scripts going. But Hollywood is just like every other kind of industry, it’s slowed down. Not as much, but the scripts do come around, but no I haven’t seen a Belly kind of thing. There’s definitely things I’m working on [in the fields of television and film] but there’s nothing I can really get into [at the moment]. I’m into creativity - no matter what the field is there’s a creative artistic muscle in my mind working. It’s a good thing that I enjoy doing, so I’m definitely not all like, “Music videos and that’s it.” What would matter to you more creatively in doing a film – a script or the cinematography?

Lil X: Movies are stories, that’s really what drives these things. It can look great and people will be like, “Wow it looks great” but at the end of the day you go to a movie to be entertained and have a story told to you. That’s what matters first and foremost, look at things you can work on and find something - it has to fit what it is. Who has been your absolute favorite person to work with, and which video has been your favorite overall?

Lil X: R.Kelly and Usher “Same Girl”, that’s my favorite. Really those are two good guys to work with, they really enjoy the format and medium of a music video. They care about it and push to make these things the best that they can make them. It was a good video that we did, it’s been a long time since people have spent that kind of money, done that kind of thing and even heard that kind of response. People really got excited when that thing came out. Is there any particular video that your fans come up to you and say, “Oh my God, that was my favorite video of all time”?

Lil X: R.Kelly and Usher “Same Girl” [laughs]. Lately that’s the one - it’s been a minute and a lot of people told me it felt like the old days back when videos would come on and you would stop to watch it. I would go back to Usher “You Don’t Have To Call,” - you did a great job of moving with the whole video, it felt like you were really going through that club, so it was fun.

Lil X: Thank you, I really appreciate that. There was definitely a time when they spent more money and were able to do more things - and there wasn’t Youtube and so many channels and so much stuff to confuse. It felt like at that point music videos had a lot more of an impact on people, it wasn’t that long ago but it was kind of a different time. I haven’t felt a buzz on a video [like this in a long time]. I remember there was a time when there was a buzz about things, the ones that had those buzzes like Usher’s “You Got It Bad” and “You Don’t Have To Call” and [Sean Paul’s] “Gimme The Light.” How did you get into designing clothes?

Lil X: The X Collection is a special edition clothing line. I deal with a clothing line in Canada that does athletic equipment. They came to me and said, “Let’s do some stuff together but you’re gonna work with what I got.” Athletic equipment didn’t really fit me, it took me a minute, But then as I wear the stuff it’s so skintight; the tight shirts sometimes you see football players wearing them. I put designs on them, they had their own style to their stuff. I just made it a little more basic, and started designing stuff based on the tattoos that people wear. If you put a lion or a tiger on your chest you’ll definitely wear it on your shirt. Then the fact that it’s so tight it really looks like you’re tatted up. It’s tight not just like people wear their thermals like that. [You can find out more about the line at] You’ve directed a lot of commercials and different promotional spots. What’s the difference between working in that commercial vein, and how much input do you have in that process?

Lil X: The commercials are different because they come to you and they already have the idea. Commercials are all about bringing your vision to their piece and then the creative part comes into what does it really look like and how they’re gonna shoot it, all these kinds of things. Do you feel like that’s easier work?

Lil X: I wouldn’t say easier work, because you’re doing 30 seconds and they’re very focused on it. It may seem like it’s easy, but they’re on it - it’s no joke to them. There’s a lot of people who are very concerned with how this thing is gonna look and turn out. You’ve created your own production house, so do you own a lot more rights to the things that you do?

Lil X: No, we don’t own these rights. That’s something that people don’t know, we actually don’t have the rights to these things. It’s work for hire, so you do the work and that’s it, it’s gone. Do you feel that should ever change?

Lil X: Of course, without a doubt it should definitely change. We should get paid for usage, we should get royalties like the other guys who write the songs and produce the music get it. We produce the music videos, we create the visuals. We’re a part of that and those things travel a long distance, so there’s definitely some compensation that should be paid there. But it is what it is. Are you mentoring any up and coming directors, and are there any directors that you feel are going to follow in your footsteps?

Lil X: There’s a lot of kids around me that I’m definitely gonna teach and help, but there’s nobody I can just point the finger at and say, “That’s the guy” just yet. They’re watching and learning, I’m teaching all of them. What does Jay-Z say? “My DNA is in your music” or something like that. My DNA is in your videos. I see videos and the influence that I’ve had and that’s the way it goes. It’s a good feeling, very cool. You’re modeling for Akademiks holiday campaign this year. How do you feel about being in front of the camera?

Lil X: I love it, I love being a model. I’m thinking about changing careers, getting in the gym and getting my sexy on and I’m in the mirror all the time now. [laughs] It’s fun, it just kind of came about in the spur of the moment. It’s fun, you do these things and enjoy yourself. What are we gonna see from you for the rest of this year? What can we expect to come out?

Lil X: I shot a scene for a movie, an independent movie called How She Moves. It’s a really heartfelt dance movie about a girl just going dancing to get back to school. It’s a good flick and it takes place out in Toronto. I didn’t direct it - they needed to re-shoot the final dance number. It wasn’t quite as big as it needed to be, so I shot that for them. Keep a lookout for that, that should be coming around in 2008, and that big final dance number is courtesy of me.