Jazz Virk is an award winning, internationally acclaimed music video Director. With over ten years of professional experience in film and television ranging from commercials, music videos, documentaries and films projects, Jazz has worked both in Hollywood and Bollywood.
Jazz studied cinema studies at University of Toronto, Art and Photography at Sheridan College, Oakville, Canada. He has produced, directed and edited on a variety of projects ranging from commercials music videos to documentaries for CBC. For the last five years Jazz would be working on music videos and loving the exposure to other talents behind and in front of the camera. Jazz has worked many Hip Hop, R&B including Choclair, Ghetto Concept, Carlos Morgan, Julie Black and Nelly Furtado.
His first film, BROKEN did well in the film festival circuit and garnished the attention from the Mumbai pop/world music industry and launched a music video career.
Jazz to date has directed over 50 music videos around the world from Bombay, India, USA, Canada and the UK. Jazz worked with such artists as Jazzy B, Sonu Nigam, Gunjan, Babbu Mann, AmanHayer, Jaz Dhami, Jassi Sidhu and Charlene and Slata Jon from Basement Jaxx
Jazz Virk’s first video for artist Jazzy B’s Romeo music video won best video of 2005. And to date his Jazzy B Rambo video has won 4 awards and one for best video of 2009 and is hailed as the most expensive and best video made in the Asian and Bhangra music world.
Here’s Generation Next’s interview with this bright young man:
Please tell us a bit about you academic background?
I went to Sheridan College ‘Oakville Campus’ to study Photography, Graphic design and Fine Arts. At University of Toronto did my BA in Art History and Cinema Studies. My understanding of both practical and theory began at this stage.
Why be a director?
When I was a kid I constantly questioned how these films were being made and I was wondering who’s the guy behind all of this. I saw a documentary on PBS of the making of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and I saw this guy, his name was Steven Spielberg. When I saw him behind the scenes and talking to the cast and crew, I thought ..so a director is the guy who’s the creative genius. From that point on I was totally hooked.
What is in it for you, Hollywood or Bollywood?
(Laughs) Honestly neither. It’s really just about my passion for making projects. Obviously starting with commercials and music videos but always shooting them cinematically. I was born in England raised in Canada and I was never really into my Bollywood you could say, I mean I knew about it because of my heritage and my culture but it was Sci-Fi and Horror that got my attention. When I did my first action packed short film that’s what got me my first big gig in Bollywood.
Why do you think many modern songs & music videos are not like evergreen songs & music videos of the past?
Technology and evolution. I believe that’s why music videos and the songs themselves are so different today. Just the accessibility of technology. You can have a camcorder or DSLR and be sitting in the comfort of your own home working off a laptop which definitely leaves more room for freedom and experimentation.
However, having said that, I’m still a big fan of the traditional and industry set up of having a big crew.
Do you believe art is for entertainment or for social awareness? One can argue that with so much disturbance in life, people would like to enjoy art for relaxation purpose only.
I believe if you are an artist and you have a voice that reaches so many people you have a responsibility to talk about social awareness. Otherwise you’re leaving it to politicians and the governments, you don’t want that your voice to go to waste.
What’s your family’s reaction to your profession choice?
Ok! So me being of the Punjabi heritage living in Canada, the stereotypical profession for us kids is to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer. I mean the majority of my cousins are one of those 3. I have twelve lawyers in my family. So you can imagine when I chose this, it did not go down well at all. So especially when I was in High school and University I was constantly told I need a fall back career, which is something I never really had. Luckily in the last ten years I’ve started teaching and continue to teach, so actually now I’m creating my films, my music videos and teaching filmmaking. I’m happy and so is my family, it’s taken twenty years but their ok now.
Is it a profession where you can make money?
You know what, if you put your heart to it and you believe in it whatever you decide to do, you will be successful. If you give something 110% it’s automatic but that takes time and dedication right!
Do good looks matter? Do they get you into the door?
Well look at me, I’m pretty handsome but I wouldn’t attribute my looks for any of the work I’ve produced. Confidence is a big one because your general appearance is all about your confidence and of course personality, that’s what gets you places.
How do you keep yourself fit?
Physically, I mean I do alot of walking to clear my mind and have a break from the studio life. Mentally, Nina, my sister in-law reads a lot, she’s a great teacher, and she’d always come over and read so I thought I should try this as a full time past time and it’s really stuck. So I’m reading everyday. I make sure I always put in a few hours, that’s one way of keeping me mentally fit.
How much time do you spend on social media?
So I definitely put more time into Social media these days, it has the power to become an addiction right but I catch up at the end of a working day and make sure I reply back to each and everyone’s comments and messages.
What kind of pressures do you feel as a professional?
Failing! So I’m self employed right, I’m not working for somebody. I have to dream and create to make a living. When I was an editor, which is what I started off as, I was working for big companies so that felt secure. I soon realised for me to start directing I really had to just take a risk and go out there and do it myself, you have to let your work speak for itself.
What and who do you turn to when depressed?
My family. Obviously I travel a lot and currently I’m living abroad so I’m constantly missing my nephew and niece. I would always go back to the people that I love and trust like my brother, Suny Virk, my sister Nina, mom and dad and my best friends.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I will be making feature films every year! Writing novels, that excites me too.
What would you like to change in the world. Do you associate yourself with any charity?
I’m a big supporter of woman’s rights, cancer foundations and WWF for animals. We’ve still got many parts of this world where woman are treated badly. Animals need a lot of respect. We have species out there that are disappearing, the cruelty to animals really bothers me.
Your favourite male artist?
That’s a difficult question. I have so many favourite male musicians and artists. I love so much music.
Your favourite female artist?
I love strong female actresses, but with regards to music Lisa Gerrard is incredible.
Tell us what it was like working with Jazzy B?
So my very first music video in the South Asian community was with Jazzy B, a huge star known as the crown prince of Bhangra. I knew this kind of opportunity was only going to come once in a lifetime, so I was going to put everything I had into it. I wanted to make sure it stood out and raised the bar. It was scary as hell and I really put myself under great pressure to achieve all of those things. Jazzy B reminded me that he hired me to direct him, so he pulled me aside and told me to just direct him and he would just let me do my thing. By the time it came to the second video with him I was totally comfortable and really came into my own, he reminded me that I was an equal and once you pass that mental block you can work and direct your heart out.
Tell us what it’s been like working with Roach Killa, since you have done so many videos with him?
You know what he literally just left the office. We’re both from Toronto, I’m from the burbs from Mississauga and he’s from the East end of Toronto. When I first moved to England in 2009 my second video was with him, so he’s been here pretty much the same time I have been. We’re friends and work well together. The fact we clicked so well on our first project and had such huge success has just fueled us to push the limit of our creative visions. He’s a great guy and I enjoy hanging, laughing and working with him.
Tell us about your new and upcoming music videos?
I’m currently wrapping up and in post production on a few projects right now, Simon Nandhra and JatinderCheed. Miss Pooja flew in for my latest video. She’s featured on Roach Killa’s new track and we did a 1950’s classic Hollywood style video. With Simon Nandra, a great music director/producer we’ve really pushed the boundaries and created a Jack the Ripper circa 1890 style video which has just been so fun to create the Victorian era. Next up is my Viking, Dark Ages film/music video. Then in the summer I’ll be working on my next film. Stay tuned.