Parlé Magazine welcomes, recent MTV VMA winner Jon Jon Augustavo. Born and raised in Seattle, Jon has always had a knack for creating dope visuals. He got his start back in his hometown directing videos for friends, family, and for Seattle artists such as; Eighty4 Fly and The Physics back in college at, Arts Center School of Design in Pasadena, California. Jon’s dedication eventually led to him meeting the now famed, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. But Jon isn’t some “one-trick-pony,” he’s also a director of commercials, short films, and documentaries – This guy is even working on a tv pilot as well! A few weeks ago alongside Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Jon Jon snagged 3 VMA awards for, Best Hip-Hop Video (“Can’t Hold Us”), Best Video With a Social Message (“Same Love”), and Best Cinematography (“Can’t Hold Us”) .
I’m sure Jon is couped up crafting more visual magic, but he took time out to chat with Parlé about his current ventures and his plans in the future. Read below for more…
Parlé Magazine: Thanks for taking time out for a chance to catch up with you, how’s life been treating you since the VMA’s?
Jon Jon: It’s been good. Basically the day after I flew to Europe to start shooting a music video so really it’s been work. But the accolades were very nice and definitely a huge surprise to me.
Parlé: I read on Twitter, you said that you were in Paris recently’ for Tinie Tempah’s “Children of the Sun” video shoot, how did you link up with him and how was the shoot?
Jon Jon: Yeah I was. That’s what I was shooting after the VMAs. We actually ended up shooting in Tokyo, Barcelona, London and Paris. It was an amazing and difficult experience. I think I am forever jet lagged.
For the track, ” Children of the Sun,” his label (parlophone) were really interested in me directing the video for my narrative and epic style. So it was really a process of me listening and writing an idea that we all felt comfortable with and then just going for it!
What made it great was that Tinie is hands down the most amazing performer I have worked with. So much energy and all around a genuine and amazing person. I think it shows in his work.
Parlé: Can you remember your first video recording EVER, if so, what was it of and how old were you?
Jon Jon: You know I think I can. I was 13/14 years old. It was simply a video of my friends and jumping in bushes, off roofs and fences and such. I was really into the show jackass. So needless to say I tried to emulate it. A few years later I had created like 10 videos of my friends and I defying gravity and pain jumping in shrubs.
Parlé: Seems like Mack & Ryan and yourself are on a personal mission to put the world onto Seattle and it’s definitely working, all 3 of you are dope at what you do and I see you lasting the marathon, what was your initial interaction like? I understand you were in college at the time.
Jon Jon: Yeah I was in film school at Art Center College of Design at this time last year when we first shot “Thrift Shop,” since then it’s been quite interesting. But really my initial reaction was simple, I was wondering what’s next? I was looking forward wondering what my next step was going to be to get me closer to directing a feature film. I didn’t think it would all be so huge.
Parlé: Did you think that you guys would garner the attention you have, 3 videos later?
Jon Jon: Honestly, no. There was no way to predict how huge the videos would be. It really was a fortunate thing for me and I am blessed that I was given the opportunity to help create those videos.
Parlé: Do you have a favorite video that you directed?
Jon Jon: Either “Same Love” for its political and social impact or Avatar Darko’s “Feeding My Flame,” the latter I shot for zero dollars about a year and a half ago but I will always be very proud of it for the narrative and the overall execution of a few.
Parlé: Do you favor one realm of directing over another? (music, commercials, shorts)…
Jon Jon: You know I definitely lean towards filmmaking. I mean I love music videos but I always want to tell stories — so filmmaking is my first love. However another realm I recently started to delve into is the commercial world. Working with Smirnoff Ice on “Straight Primpin’” I really tried my hands in the agency world for the first time and found it to be an interesting and enjoyable realm of possibilities.
Parlé: I noticed that all of your videos, including those with Macklemore and Ryan, have vintage elements, such as (the apparent) “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us,” is this part of your storyboarding process or is it left to the artist?
Jon Jon: With “Thrift Shop” there is no way not to have the vintage, but “Can’t Hold Us” has some nice homage to the vintage as well. It’s just part of the process with Macklemore. He’s definitely an old soul and I think it will come out in one way or another in the visuals.
Parlé: A lot of his work included isolated characters, would you say you’re an isolated person, and if so when do you become the most isolated?
Jon Jon: I would say I am quite isolated and guarded to a point. As a director I am quite personable and bubbly when in public. But outside of work situations I am a bit of a quiet loner type and in much of my more serious works it shows. I’ve always been that way, it helps me analyze and create to be by myself. Sometimes it is good to not talk and just be with your thoughts in my opinion.
Parlé: Are there any perks that come with being an indie director?
Jon Jon: Yeah. There’s a beauty in the freedom to basically do whatever I want. It is harder at times but I do have peace of mind in the majority of my work that I got to put a piece of me in it. There are also great opportunities to work with new people, like Tinie Tempah or Mike Posner or even companies like Smirnoff Ice or GameStop. It’s just nice to be able to work with people or brands I never imagined would be interested in me, just a year ago.
Parlé: How has Seattle responded your success?
Jon Jon: I don’t know really. I feel a bit disconnected from Seattle since I live in LA. I’ve never been the loud guy yelling out my name so when I get home I just see family and friends. I’m not even sure if a lot of people in Seattle know I’m from there, (laughs).
Parlé: I read that, awhile back you didn’t know how this was going to work and how far it would go for you, how did you get over that hump, who/what kept you in line?
Jon Jon: I don’t know if I’ll get over the hump. Not to say things aren’t a little better. But I believe the second I lose the underdog working man attitude is the second I become irrelevant. So for me it’s always been work and always look up. From my family to my girl, they all keep me in check when I get weak and feel like quitting. Because there is so much more work to do to make a feature or shoot a huge ad or make a video with Kid Cudi. But it all feels closer now.
Parlé: One of my favorite videos this year hands-down, “Can’t Hold Us,” who came up with the concept, and how was it traveling and shooting for three months, how did you stay focused?
Jon Jon: Conceptually Ben and Tricia Davis definitely scribed much of the ideas while Ryan, Jason and I executed the vision. It was a brutal shoot and the span of it made it hard to stay focused but the end product is what kept us all going. I think with any video the main thing that keeps me going is the idea of showing people what I’ve slaved on. I love to share my work and that makes me want to work hard to finish. “Can’t Hold Us” was just another example of that.
Parlé: What kind of things did you get to do while you guys traveled; did you discover any new favorite dishes or inspirations?
Jon Jon: Not much. We traveled. Shot, slept and traveled more (laughs). It wasn’t traveling straight. There were breaks while Macklemore toured. So when we did shoot it was very regimented because they had very little time.
Parlé: What made you decide to get “Orson Welles” (lol)?
Jon Jon: Haha. My boo is kind of a joke, some true and some fake. The wallabee being fake (laughs). I actually have two dogs. One named Blackberry and the other named A$AP Rocky Balboa.
Parlé: What is the next goal you hope to accomplish?
Jon Jon: Shoot a feature!
Parlé: Real quick, Kat Dennings or Christina Hendricks? You can take a lifeline if “someone” may be reading (laughs)
Jon Jon: Kat Dennings. (Period)
Parlé: Thanks again Jon Jon for giving Parlé the chance to catch up with you before you take off completely, let us know where we can reach you @:
Jon Jon: www.jonaug.com or on twitter @JONJONAYE
Written by Aron Adams for Parlé Mag
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