Photos By Eddie O' Keefe
Appreciating the Artist
When we look at music videos, most of the time we’re tied up with what’s in front of the screen: the visuals, the carefully timed screen switches, the story of the lyrics, and the way the artist takes on the journey in the video. Yet, we usually don’t take time to recognize those who piece the vision together. Especially when they’re women capable of telling a story through something other than the often male-dominated lens of life.
"I don’t work to make pieces of art or tell stories so that you like it, or so that it gets this amount of views. It’s really for the art, and hopefully it touches you in a way that touched me while making it." -Karena Evans for Q on CBC
Throughout Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook; I’ve seen nothing but constant praise for Drake’s "Nice for What" and "I’m Upset" music videos. Many called him a marketing "genius" for the ideas and direction. They praised his creative mind for giving them underrepresented women’s inclusivity tease on top of Lauryn Hill’s vocals and Degrassi nostalgia with a diss track. But, I have yet to see accolades thrown to the actual storyteller of these visuals: a woman gifted in giving you the story of a song through creativity and purpose.
The Master-mind behind it all
Karena Evans, a twenty two year old Toronto-native, music video director, actress, and writer is who I give my attention to. She’s a physical example of never being too early in striving for success in whatever field you want to pursue. Evans commented in an interview with the radio show What She Said Talk in November 2014 on what it’s like being so young in the industry. She stated that,
"People will look down on you, but the only way I can speak out to them is not by my words or not with my words, it’s with my art."
To say the least, over the past few years, she has definitely put her vision where her mouth is. Karena was recently the creative mind behind Sza’s "Garden" visual; the video that had us all shipping the R&B singer and Donald Glover as the industry’s next big item. She’s also directed some of Drake’s most talked about visuals such as “God’s Plan,”“I’m Upset,” and “Nice for What.” She’s even gone on to be the first woman to win the Lipsett Prize for music video direction. Evans has shown us a side of the industry that others are afraid to tap into. She's okay with being different with her approach while trying to keep the authentic image of other artists intact. Her work is not over sexualized, dipped in misogyny, or dripping in repetitive images. Her visions are eclectic, they hold meaning, and are essential in today's age of music video direction.
Click here to see the making of the "Garden" Video
More than just a director
Yet, the work doesn’t stop there. Evans’ acting career has been pretty eventful as well; being one of many to prove that women can be creatively versatile (as if we didn’t already know) . She started with her debut role in a short film called WhiteWoods. Recently in 2018, she starred in two feature films which include, Michael Sucsy's romantic fantasy Every Day and Jasmin Mozaffari's Firecrackers. In addition to movies and short films, Karena was taking on a recurring role in the Canadian black comedy television series Mary Kills People.
Photo from Mary Kills People
With success filling Karena to be brim, some are wondering where her journey began and how to follow the path. Evans started out as an intern for Director X (A.K.A Little X), a director known for his broad body of work that includes: Rihanna, Miguel, ZAYN, Fifth Harmony, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and many more mainstream artists. She reached out on a limb, as many of us do to get where we want to be, and changed the direction of her career. She was eventually signed as a director to his music video production company, Popprok. Since being signed, Evans has directed music videos for numerous artists, including Belly, SiR, and Sean Paul. She has also directed commercials for Nike, Inc., along with a Black Lives Matter short for the brand.
With her creative mind and powerful gift of storytelling at such a young age, Evans is certain to change the game for women in music videography. Click below to check out some of her work. And next time, give her some credit when you see her name flash across the screen of your favorite artist’s music video.