In Conversation with
Chantal Adams (NTS)
Often throughout careers, as in life, there can be defining moments that nudge you onto unexpected paths. From originally studying for a job in fashion, a chance encounter with an inspiring guest lecturer at University led Chantal Adams into the world of music video. Since then she’s gone on to become Head Of Video at online radio station come global media platform NTS. With stations based in London, Manchester, Los Angeles and Shanghai, Music Business Worldwide reported earlier this year that NTS now has 1.5 million unique monthly listeners and is currently growing between 3-10% a month. Here Chantal tells us how she got the job and offers some short sharp advice for budding filmmakers looking to pitch ideas.
Hosted by Chantal Adams, Perm Politics oscillates between noisier textures, smooth futuristic beats and a myriad of rap/hip-hop offshoots.
Can you tell us a bit about how you started working for NTS?
I was incredibly lucky with how I became Head of Video at NTS. I actually started out wanting to work in Fashion, so I moved to London from Portsmouth to study Fashion Promotion at Middlesex University. A very special lady and incredibly talented video director Margarita Louca ran a film project one term. I was hooked. Once I graduated, I continued working at John Lewis part-time (and as many extra shifts) whilst struggling trying to step foot into the fashion film industry. I contacted Margarita, who has a show on NTS called ‘Don’t Trip’ and she set me up with an interview with (then) Creative Director Shane Connolly. I started out filming gigs after work – like Zang Ding at the ICA – then gradually got brought on full-time after a 6 months of interning and just developed within the company. Fast forward 5 years and I’ve been Head of Video for 2 years now.
How does video content fit into the strategy of what is primarily a radio station?
NTS of course is primarily a radio station, but we’re so much more. I see NTS as more of an innovative global platform or service, which allows for video, merchandise, events, etc. Video comes into play to visualise these amazing moments over the years and all the artists involved, but also enables incredible projects –such as Aphex Twin live video streamed from Field Day 2017, it was wild and I had never produced anything on this scale!
For people who might not know, what are the main differences between Directing and Producing and how does it work practically when you’re doing both for a video shoot?
Directing is building a concept and overseeing your vision or Artist’s / Writer’s vision come to life. A Video Producer juggles – usually minuscule – budgets and actually making the Director's vision come to life. I honestly do both to save on budgets and streamline communication. This is what most Directors do just starting out, but I guess this is a process I’ve become addicted to as I like to be involved in every part of the project –including the editing, which I do myself. I should probably unlearn this someday, as the hours aren’t healthy and it’s a mental battle switching between artistic freedom and organisation. As they say, no such thing as organised fun.
Did you receive any formal training and do you think it’s necessary for young people to have a degree when starting out in film?
I can only talk from experience, but I’ve never been asked about my degree when working with or for someone –unfortunately as I managed to pull off a 1st class BA. So no, it’s not necessary if you’re wanting to be a Director or Video Producer. University financially made moving to London a lot easier for me, plus without having met my lecturer Margarita I probably wouldn’t be working at NTS right now. I must admit I learnt most of my post-production skills on YouTube and I had neve produced (didn’t really know what the role Video Producer meant) until I started working for NTS. But I’m sure if you asked a Director of Photography or Script Writer for cinema you’d get a completely different answer.
What was your first piece of paid work in the industry and how did you get it?
I don’t remember ever earning cash when filming backstage for fashion shows when just starting out – bouncing around London with my VHS camcorder. It was probably when NTS hired me that I had my first legit paid gig (big up Femi always!).
What are some of the key elements that make up a good showreel?
Short, variety, wow factor. You have to take yourself outside of your work when editing, which is very difficult and something that takes years to learn. Yes you might love that ultra stabilized 15s tracking shot, but not in the context of a showreel...cut that down to 3s.
For people who are just starting out, what sort of pitches tend to grab your
Something innovative, has soul and a considered narrative. Don’t start your pitch thinking about the visual, dig deep into the core of the message and story – it really helps push the visual. This is something I’m still learning.
What are the essential bits of technical knowledge people need in order to get into directing and producing?
There’s so many bits to directing and producing. Just dive in, be open and learn as much as you can. Most of all, be nice!
What are some of the highlight shoots you’ve worked on in your career?
I’m super lucky as I get to work on so many different projects. But here’s a brief list: Klein – Cry Theme, Mansur Brown – Mashita, See It Right – An Artist, Not A Female Artist and Crystallmess – Interlude for the dropouts.
What are some helpful resources you use when trying to think of ideas for a shoot?
I work in two different ways...
A) Allowing ideas come and go, writing them down and use when the time is right– this was my process for Mansur Brown – Mashita
B) Reacting on the spot. This eventually becomes second nature to you and this is how I have to work the majority of the time at NTS. i.e. “we need to pitch to YouTube Music in two days” then came Unearthed with YouTube Music (initial concept borrowed from David Byrne’s self-interview)
There are many different avenues to go down within the fields of directing and producing, what attracted you to music videos as opposed to another route?
I’m not necessarily just interested in music videos, this is the path that’s been set out for me right now and I’m enjoying it. I would love to produce, write or direct a short story someday or travel the world making conscious documentaries, but that’s for much later down the line.
How has the lockdown situation affected your work and are there any changes you’d like to see in the industry when we get out of this?
The lockdown has definitely affected NTS and in turn myself, but we’re reacting positively and managing to produce incredible projects in unimaginable amounts of time. We just finished up a 24hr radio festival called 'Remote Utopias’ featurin Erykah Badu, Kahlil Joseph and tons more...check it out ;) But yes, I would like to see a lot of changes in the industry, along with most of my network –even pre lockdown to be completely honest. We need to support one another, not let the algorithm takeover, push for fair pay...there’s so much, you just have to find what feels right for you.
Sending love to everyone during this time, stay safe x