Rik Cordero of Three/21 Films Interviewed

Rik is extremely talented director who has directed almost all of Joell’s music videos, including “Brooklyn Bullshit”, “Ups And Downs” and “Memories”. He was interviewed at Musical Essence and we’re reprinting it here. (EDIT: My mistake, I assumed Rik directed “Good Times” but it was actually Carl Allegard’s work. My bad, man, thanks for correcting me.)

Read the whole interview after the jump.

1. For all the unknowledgeables out there, could you just quickly introduce yourself?
First of all, thank you for the interview Andrew. The blogosphere has been incredibly supportive from the beginning so it’s truly an honor to be featured on your site. Anyways, my name is Rik Cordero and I’m an independent filmmaker from New York City who specializes in music videos. I’m blessed to be a part of a talented and unorthodox collective of technicians, artists and producers that get things done by any means necessary. We’re known as Three/21 Films.

2. What made you want to direct videos?
As a kid I would make horror movies with my friends on my dad’s 15 lb Minolta VHS camcorder. That began my initial interest in directing. Eventually I went to college to study computer graphics and I worked at a Blockbuster Video part time. I remember stealing tons of good movies and being exhilirated by them. I was obsessed. I didn’t know it at the time but I was simply storing inspiration.

3. How did you get your start?
After directing a few shorts and music videos in college, I was able to pool my resources together which gave me the confidence to begin the treatment for my first feature film titled “Mend” (mendmovie.com). I wrote it after a close friend committed suicide. There were definitely a lot of weird feelings running around in my head at the time. Another friend who I worked with creatively died in a violent murder – suicide during production which was really prolific as well. I don’t mean it to sound like some kind of catharsis, but rather, it was the spark that would eventually lead me to explore repressed emotions and sort of coincidentally, direct to consumer drug advertising. “Mend” received independent distribution in 2005 and after the challenge of making a feature film with no money, everything else seemed to be a piece of cake.

4. Where do you come up with ideas or inspiration for the films?
I’m a student of every genre particularly in music and film so I’m constantly influenced by people who take their craft seriously. A lot of filmmakers put their own personal experiences on the screen. On paper that sounds fine but if not done carefully, it could feel forced and contrived. I look at directing with the same eyes for every genre, whether it’s Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Narrative, Commercial, Experimental, etc. It’s about having an open mind and taking the time to understand the world that you’re capturing. I’ve seen directors shoot in genre’s they don’t even care about and have no interest in learning about. And that blows my mind. I’m responsible for every frame and if I’m truthful to myself, 99% of the time it will be accessible to the audience. That doesn’t mean they will like it every time, it just means that I did my research.

My motivation is capturing the human condition and with so many stories and struggles in this world, it’s hard not to find inspiration every single day. The moment I stopped thinking about success in terms of budgets and money and more about how successful I could make myself to others is when things started taking off. There’s certainly a long way to go but I feel blessed and humbled to have a strong support system and an audience who can connect and feel something through my work.

5. You’re known as being relatively “unconventional” as it applies to your filming. Any chance we’ll see a “conventional” video any time soon from you?…You know, ass shakin’, Henny spilling, etc?
Honestly, if their was a strong enough reason for it and I’m inspired, then yes. But even with a conventional idea I can guarantee that my presentation of it would be extremely unconventional. But that’s just my style and I do occasionally enjoy the ass shaking, Henny spilling video. I may go off in a tangent here but I like to equate that question to something I learned in school about Precision Vs. Accuracy. It’s like in science class your end result is correct if you and your peers share the same results according to the preciseness of your measurements. Artists and filmmakers often yield different results with each carrying various degrees of preciseness that led to their final output. There is no standard of “inexactness” in art unless someone sets them. In terms of music videos, that would probably be MTV and BET. That’s why you have kids nowadays judging art based on budgets or sound scans. The relevance of this question is to understand more about why we are doing the things we’re doing as artists. As artists we shouldn’t allow the “exactness” of machines and computers to do our creative thinking for us. There is no standard to strictly adhere to. Our accuracy is what we make it. If it is always changing to a higher level then our precision and skills will adjust as well. Basically, with or without the guidelines of how to make a Hip Hop music video, I’m gonna get it in every single time.

6. Do you sleep? Just about every video I’ve seen within the past couple weeks has your name on it.
Nah I don’t really sleep. It’s pretty addicting for me and with the Internet turnaround time is essential. If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be blogging every single day. My goal is to shoot as fast as you guys type lol.
7. I saw you got a shout in KING Magazine. What does that mean for your company and you and the future?
Yeah that was a great look. Shout out to Matt Barone at XXL and my good friend Consequence for sharing the page. I thought it was amazing to be among the 2008 Coming Kings crowd. I knew I stood out because I looked like a little kid playing dress up among these authors, actors, doctors, etc. If me in a suit in King Magazine will bring more work in then so be it. I’m ready to represent Three/21 Films for the long haul. Our production group isn’t based on a gimmick or a trend but from the ideas of talented individuals and hard work. We’re ready to challenge the entire industry on how artists can create visual art. Our dissatisfaction with the mainstream music video scene comes from the stranglehold that technology has in the 35mm, studio based music video business. The status of the cranes and cameras, the armada of trailers and trucks and all the managers and producers whose sense of self importance taint everyone involved with pretentiousness.

Filmmaking is an artform that’s less than 100 years old. Music and painting are older have been around since cavemen could sing or write on walls. This is an artform and we’re ready to blur that budget line. Do you think a producer needs a $50,000 drum machine to make a beat or a writer needs a $100,000 piece of paper to tell a story? We will challenge the system every step of the way. You can’t stop raw talent and due diligence.

8. Who would you like to work with in the future?
Working with Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins would probably be a life changing experience. I’m always a fan first and I’ve been a fan of that band since high school. Artists like that bring so much to the table creatively, it would be almost impossible to mess up. Something like that would be amazing.

9. What do you have upcoming?
We have something very interesting coming up which I can’t talk about just yet. It’s definitely one of the most challenging videos I’ve developed so far so stay tuned. Other than that, I’ll probably be shooting some Nike Hyperdunk spots next month along with more music videos.

10. You’ve done short films and music videos…how about a full length feature film?
Glad you asked! I actually just wrapped on my second full length feature film produced by Fader Films and Three/21 Films titled “Inside A Change”. The story is about Chris Price (Ephraim Benton) who is about to serve 180 days in prison for a first time offense. When his mother (Karen Chilton) invites him home for dinner, he finds his younger brother following in his footsteps and his older brother disowning him. With his family falling apart, Chris forced to re-examine his life and how he can bring everyone together for his mother’s birthday. It’s based on the life of a friend of mine Chris Alexander who passed away in 2004. I used to produce beats back then and he was a rapper. We formed a deep artistic bond and I felt like I got a chance to glimpse into his soul. That’s something that will be with me forever and his memory is the inspiration for the movie. It’s definitely a labor of love and everyone involved came into the project because of that. Check out the website at insideachange.com.

11. Thanks for doing this, any last words?
Shout outs to my partner Nancy Mitchell, Steve Carless, Brady Nields, Mike Fox and the entire Three/21 Films group. Very special thanks to Music Essence for the support as well as all the bloggers and artists who contribute something to our Hip Hop culture. We’re in this together. Oh and for the up and coming filmmakers please remember these three things:
Success is less about money and more about how valuable you can make yourself to others.
Always stay inspired in everything you do because nothing can stop perpetual energy.
You can always tell the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.


Read more about the 3/21 Media production group here.

3 Responses to “Rik Cordero of Three/21 Films Interviewed”

  1. 1 bbballboy90225
    August 4, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Appreciate the link back, I didn’t even know Joell had a blog here…
    While we’re at it, if Joell is available for an interview himself, could you please email me at
    bbballboy90225 at gmail dot com – thanks!
    rik cordero is the man!

    – Andrew

  2. September 7, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Rik Cordero is amazing. So is Joell. However, the pro-logue to this interview, before the written down interview, says that Rik Cordero directed ‘Good Times’. Aaron who wrote this in the beginning, did a typo and made a mistake here. As I remember, I directed “Good Times” and Aaron has made a typo. In saying that, I’d love to get an opportunity to do more videos in the near future……..

  3. September 8, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Thanks man, Aaron your real cool for sorting that so fast. I wish I had worked with Rik on it.

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