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THE PRODUCER'S CHAIR: TREY FANJOY

THE PRODUCER'S CHAIR: TREY FANJOY

By James Rea www.theproducerschair.com

When Trey Fanjoy rolled into Nashville twenty years ago, in her vintage '68 Cutlass convertible from Los Angeles - the world of 'music video' production was pretty much like the music industry itself...male-dominated. And it still is, with one major exception, Trey Fanjoy, who is the only female director to ever capture the coveted Country Music Association's Video of The Year award, having done so twice with consecutive back-to-back wins in 2009 and 2010 for Taylor Swift's Love Story and Miranda Lambert's The House That Built Me.

In 2014, Fanjoy claimed both Female Video of the Year with Lambert, as well as Male Video of the Year with Blake Shelton at the CMT Music Awards and...collectively, has received well over a hundred CMA, ACM, Billboard, MTV and CMT awards and nominations including seven hit video clips for superstar Taylor Swift, eight videos for Keith Urban, over a dozen projects with Miranda Lambert and multiple videos with Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett...plus...Sheryl Crow, Lady Antebellum, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Jewel, Kid Rock, Jerry Lee Lewis, Steve Earle, The Band Perry, Brooks and Dunn, Jack White, Dierks Bentley, Chris Young, Jennifer Nettles, Cam, Steven Tyler, Faith Hill and Loretta Lynn, which barely scratches the surface of her illustrious body of work.

Trey Fanjoy
Trey Fanjoy

But don't think for one minute that Trey didn't earn her stripes. After studying journalism and theatre at the University of South Carolina she accepted an internship in New York working with Associated Press, while also studying acting at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse under Sanford Meisner.

Then, it was off to LA where every young actor works at whatever they can, to afford pursuing their dream. The difference being, Trey's day gig was in TV commercial production and as time passed, her interest and expertise, in what goes on behind the scenes grew. When she arrived in Music City, she quickly found work as a freelance producer with Jon Small, who became her mentor. Fortunately for Fanjoy, during this period, CMT was putting the names of both the directors and the producers on music videos so she immediately had her name on network as a producer. Trey was honing her craft producing for some of the industry's leading directors. Because of her writing skills, she found herself coming up with concepts, writing them and doing shotlists. Fanjoy made the transition into the director's chair with Small's company Picture Vision. After a decade of directing with their company, Trey left with Small's blessing to form her own Big Feather Films in 2006.

"Writing is first and foremost in my career because my skills as a writer enable me to write the concepts that get me the jobs as a director."

The Producer's Chair: Was there one defining video that stands out?

Trey Fanjoy: I think a defining time for me was my friendship with Keith Urban. Keith was managed by my good friend Anastasia Brown. I did a lot of Keith's first videos "Your Everything", "But For the Grace of God"…and "Somebody Like You" which was the debut single off Golden Road. And I think that was the moment that really launched Keith in a bigger way. It was such a magical video. It's still one of my favorite songs and favorite videos I've ever done. In my career, it's kind of like, for me, I don't see it as one big break, I see many defining moments.

The Producer's Chair: Tell me about your very first directing gig. What was that like?

Trey Fanjoy: The very, very first shoot, my first video as a director, my grandmother who I was extremely close to died the night before my shoot. So it was incredibly emotional, but I had to dig down deep and pull myself together. I did my first job as a director, completed it, it went incredibly well. Through-out my career I've had moments that have had to really test my metal in that way. And you know, it was tough but my grandmother was proud of me and she would have wanted me to fulfill my commitment, and so I did. I worked for 14 hours, I got on a plane, and I went to join my family.

The Producer's Chair: What's the difference between the director and the producer's job, on a music Video?

Trey Fanjoy: That's a good question because a lot of people don't know that. The director is the creative vision. The producer is there to execute that vision. And so the producer will handle the budget, hire the crew, and they will put all the pieces together for the director. It's an important job. And the best producers are also highly creative. They're not just bean counters. The very best producers know how to wrangle the budget, and they have all those organizational skills, but they're also creative collaborators as well. And so I was a creative producer.

The Producer's Chair: In 2000 your Billy Gilman video "One Voice" won 'Best Country Video, Best Contemporary Christian Video, and best Jazz AC Video. What was so special about that video?

Trey Fanjoy: Yeah, it swept the Billboards. Gosh, he was 11 or 12, what a talent, and what a handsome young man he is now. I think that the song and the video resonated with so many people in so many different walks of life. It has the same sentiment as like a John Lennon "imagine". I think it's a prayer for the planet. It's an incredible song.

The Producer's Chair: What was it like directing Taylor Swift?

Trey Fanjoy: You know she's always been extraordinarily bright. You know when you hear people talk about a preternaturally poised young person - she was all of that. She just had a self-awareness that was beyond her years - and also a professionalism and work ethic that was astounding. I think... you have so many kids in the industry who are pushed with parents, but I didn't get any of that sense at all. It was her ambition and her dream. So she was and is now just so professional and smart. I think Taylor may be one of the most intuitive and smartest artists I've ever worked with.

The Producer's Chair: What is the most important part of your process from beginning to end?

Trey Fanjoy: Prior to the actual shoot date you'll have what's called a "tech scout". A tech scout is when I bring all of the department heads, what they call "keys" and your keys will be: the gaffer, the key grip, the art director, the DP, the AD (the assistant director), and of course your production staff. So we will have a tech scout and what we do on the tech scout is we do an actual run through prior to the actual shoot date. And it is so completely detailed. I show up with a shot list. And my list has complete details of every single shot that we are going to do that day. We will do a walk through, we know where we're going to place the generator, where we're going to park the motor home, the grip truck, where we're going to wrangle the cable. We talk about how we're going to light that scene so that we know exactly what equipment needs to be ordered. I'll bring a view-finder out, but there are no cameras, unless I'm just taking stills for references. We're just talking about every single shot, from a lighting and equipment standpoint. I don't know how other directors do it without a tech scout. I would not want to be their client, hahahaha.

The Producer's Chair: Which do you enjoy more, intimate shoots or the big outdoors action?

Trey Fanjoy: Honestly, I like them both for different reasons. I've done smaller jobs where there's such an intimacy and such a connection. God it just... That's a very interesting questions but I honestly like them both for different reasons. On the bigger shoots I love the toys. I love helicopters and techno-cranes. I love all of that and I love the opportunity on a smaller and more intimate setting to really connect with the artist to create something more emotion driven too. Yeah so they're both enjoyable for different reasons.

The Producer's Chair: Has making music videos been a stepping-stone, to other things?

Trey Fanjoy: I'd like to do long-form narrative. I want to do feature films. I see myself as a story teller first and foremost. What's been incredible for me is having the opportunity, you know I've done pop, rock, country, a lot of different musical formats. But because I've had the opportunity and the blessings to do so many country videos, the songs themselves are story driven and narrative. So it's really helped me hone my skills as a storyteller.

The Producer's Chair: When did you start Big Feather?

Trey Fanjoy: I had been with Jon Small and Picture Vision for around a decade and in 2006 I felt ready to take that next step and I wanted to be able to have a little bit more control. I wanted to be more involved in the executive production decisions and the overall production of the jobs. Because I had that background, so I wanted to take a more active role in producing my jobs.

The Producer's Chair: They say; "The magic happens in editing." Who is your editor?

Trey Fanjoy: My editor is a guy named Adam Little at Filmworkers. He cut my very first video and he's over there working on Brett Eldrige for me right now.

The Producer's Chair: How long have you and famed Mavericks guitarist, Eddie Perez been together?

Trey Fanjoy: Eddie and I were friends for years before we ever shared a kiss. We just kind of knew each other and floated in the same social circles for, seven or eight years, And finally, in 2004 we kept running into each other everywhere and it started to become like a romantic comedy. We even ran into each other at a party in LA and it was like "You again?" hahaha. We've been together for 12 years and we have a 9-year-old-son, Jett.

The Producer's Chair: Of all the videos that you've done, do you have a favorite?

Trey Fanjoy: That really is like picking a favorite child, it's like picking a favorite kid. But I do have my favorites. It's probably plural. One of my absolute favorites that comes to mind is Miranda's video "Over You". It's a song that she and Blake wrote about the death of his brother. During the making of the video, Miranda lost a close friend and I lost my father. it's probably the most deeply personal video that I've ever done. There's a lot of hidden metaphors and things that are for my father. My Dad collected pocket watches, he had a thick head of white hair and so the stallion is for my father. And that's his name on the gravestone that Miranda ends up at. And so that's probably, you can hear my voice kind of cracking as I'm telling you this one. That's as deep as it goes for me in a music video.

The Producer's Chair: Can a music video make a hit record out of an average song?

Trey Fanjoy: Absolutely, I do believe that. I come as a fan first. And so music videos were around for a long time before I ever became a director and I was a fan first. And there have been many videos that made me buy a record.

The Producer's Chair: Have you ever been given a job to do a music video and you didn't care for the song?

Trey Fanjoy: I always find something in the song that I like. Sometimes weather it's a lyric that I can latch onto, or a melody, or a vocal performance, or some part of it. I've never done a video where I didn't like a song. If I really hated a song I would turn it down, and I have. I think I would be doing a disservice to the artist and the client if I took a song that I hated.

The Producer's Chair: How many times have you created the video for, the 'Song of the Year'?

Trey Fanjoy: I don't really know...A shit-load...Hahahahahahaha

Read other Producer's Chair interviews:

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