MIAMI HERALD | Gil Green – Gables High grad directs some of hip-hop’s hottest videos


Photo By (photo is not part of Herald story)

Gil Green is responsible for some theร‚ย best music videos shot over the last couple years. He’s worked with pretty much every body you can think of. From Lil Wayne to G-Unit to Fat joe and beyond. Well, the Miami Herald did this very extensive and fitting article on this Miami native. He’s someone that has put shine and brought momentum to the filming industry in South Florida. Read the full article below…

Urban storyteller: Gables High grad directs some of hip-hop’s hottest videos


Music video director Gil Green is in a dank, bombed-out Overtown warehouse, surrounded by what might seem like the predictable panorama of stock hip-hop imagery: especially fine women, a six-figure ride and a couple of iced-out rappers.

Yet Green — a Coral Gables Senior High graduate who has become one of the decade’s definitive directors of hip-hop and dancehall — delivers cinematic videos that manage to be real and socially responsible. More raw storytelling than hyperbole, Green’s visual interpretation of rapper Black Dada’s remix single Imma Zoe is a finely woven urban narrative of a Haitian boy’s journey to the United States. Through this video, as with his other three-minute productions, Green hopes his refreshing vision will give more texture to the way popular music is experienced.

“There’s a way to think and step out of the box and interpret the music in a positive way,” Green, 34, offers the next morning at a Fat Joe video shoot at Crandon Park hours before he heads to Shanghai to work with rockers Linkin Park.

“I work hard to transcend the stereotypes.”

And not just in music videos. As dozens of crew members work to tame the typical madness of a video shoot, the easy-going Green sits on a nearby picnic bench discussing his first film effort — a coming-of-age story about four teenagers who grow up in Miami.

“I am a narrative-driven director,” Green says. “I feel like if I can capture people’s attention for three minutes, that’s great. If I can do it for 90 minutes, that’s even better,” he says, struggling to be heard over the buzz of cicadas delivering their own kind of soundtrack. “I really want to do a film that after people see it, and the credits are rolling, they are reflecting on their own life or the larger society.”

Over the last dozen years as hip-hop expanded its reign over popular culture, Green had built a respectable career working in the music industry bookends of New York and Los Angeles before his recent return to South Florida because of a family illness. He has worked in almost every genre from hip-hop and reggae to pop and rock; his videos rotate heavily on those arbiters of popular music, MTV and BET. Among the artists on his roster: Akon, DJ Khaled, John Legend, Sean Kingston, Natasha Bedingfield, Lil Wayne.

Green considers his videos — many produced on location in South Florida — to be artistic compositions of resonant images, metaphors and stylized moments. “Three-minute movies shot over two days,” he says.

He has directed more than 100 videos and has declined proposals for dozens more because of the slangin’-and-bangin’ lyrics that celebrate the music’s ugliest angles. He has won a handful of MTV and BET honors and is behind some of the popular And 1 commercials.

“Gil can create the craziest images that seem to come out of nowhere. He explains it, but you cannot see it until you see it through his eyes,” says Black Dada, a Haitian-born rapper now living in Fort Lauderdale.


In 2003, Green won Best Music Video from the Source Awards for Lil Jon’s I Don’t Give A, a chaotic club banger that showcases the power of Southern-flavored crunk. The next year, he was nominated for the MTV Music Video Award for Elephant Man’s Pon Di River and was named Top Music Video Director in the Source’s Power 30 Edition. He won the 2008 MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip Hop video for Lil Wayne’s Lollipop.

Just as Green began working toward writing and directing feature-length films, he returned to South Florida with his wife, a special-education teacher, so he could spend more time with his parents. The couple has a 5-month-old daughter.

“It’s good to put my footprint in all three cities,” Green says. “Now it feels good to be back home in Miami, which has become a great melting pot for music. I feel like I am coming full circle.”

The son of a freelance tour guide and a regional food-product manager, Green grew up as Miami was forging its hip-hop identity, its tapestry of bass, New York rap, dancehall and reggae. He was born before Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew put Miami on the map and was just starting out when the second generation of Miami rappers — Trick Daddy, Trina, Pit Bull, Rick Ross, Flo Rida — went national.

Green was baptized in the music first as a breakdancer at Henry S. West Laboratory School in Coral Gables and a freestyle rapper at South Miami Middle School. By the time he was a student at Coral Gables, he was a house-party DJ, peddling mix tapes and spending free time hanging at reggae sound clashes in the warehouses of Perrine. Even then, he saw the world in visual terms and turned in video presentations as his book reports.

“I think he related to me because I was one of those wild-and-crazy teachers who taught outside of the box,” says Diane Machado, who taught Green philosophy in Gables High’s International Baccalaureate Program. “I would burst into the classroom and say `Showtime!’ and he would be the one to say, `Let’s roll!’ ”

Machado has exposed hundreds of students to the art of thinking big and absorbing more, but Green, she says, stood apart for qualities beyond his 6-foot-4 frame, his charm, his curious blend of good guy and b-boy ways.

“Gil was never hesitant about anything.” Machado says. “From the beginning, he was ready to take off. He just needed a launching pad. He had a decided rhythm about his writing, and he was creative. You knew he was meant to do something.”

That he was a white guy fully immersed in what small thinkers would call a black world was beside the point.

“Gil is absolutely comfortable in his own skin and knows his own mind. He is one of those people who can cross so-called boundaries and do it authentically,” Machado says. “He doesn’t wear straitjackets.”

For his thesis project at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Green borrowed $5,000 and sold his car to produce a music video for his Miami rap duo Backlive, which included Andre Grant, his friend since second grade.

That 1998 video for the single 1000 MCs, a surprising hit, went into regular rotation on Yo! MTV Raps and BET’s Rap City and launched Green’s career.

While in college, Green worked as a production assistant, putting in countless hours to absorb the fundamentals of video — angles, pace, mood, lighting, story telling. He graduated in 1998.


When he got his first directing gig a year later, Trick Daddy’s America, he easily could have succumbed to hip-hop’s often one-dimensional, hypersexual, get-money repertoire. But here’s the thing: Green is the antithesis of the stereotype. He doesn’t drink, get high and rarely, if ever, curses.

So he shot for more, keeping it real but not too real.

Green flirts with the danger but doesn’t always indulge it. His videos are frenzied, sleek, gritty, sensual and authentically urban. There’s no shortage of eye candy, but there also are meaningful social themes: The Trick Daddy video, using the American flag as a backdrop, challenges the notion of equality for all groups. The video for Frankie J’s Daddy’s Little Girl showcases the intensity of the father-daughter bond.


“Of course we have pretty women and fly cars in the videos, but the idea here is not to exploit them,” Green says. “The video should be a reflection of the music in some way, but it’s a matter of striking a balance. The steady stream of exploitation has tainted hip-hop and the American culture.”

Meaning those on the frontlines have to commit to something better.

“Music is often a reflection of the culture or a particular segment of society,” says Shelton Berg, dean of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. “Hip-hop has been around 30 years and permeated a much bigger segment of society. Now, videos have the opportunity to be recast, to tell a bigger story.”

Which is precisely the thinking that drives Green’s move to movies.

He started working on the project several years ago, casually jotting down the most poignant memories of his childhood. The themes were familiar: family, dreams, struggles, love, love lost.

“It’s about stuff I have seen growing up in Miami,” he says coyly. “It takes place through the perspectives of various kids from the many ethnic groups that make up Miami.”

The movie is just as much about Green’s next chapter as it is about his home town.

“I had spent all this time thinking about what my legacy would be,” he says. “I kept going back to how could I make the world more positive.”


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