EXCLUSIVE: He directed one of the most viral music videos this year. Ryan Staake, the innovative director of the music video sensation Young Thug: Wyclef Jean, which in the first 24 hours following its January release garnered over 1M YouTube views (and currently has over 32M+ views) has signed with The Gotham Group, following a spirited competition among agencies. Gotham also signed the young director’s Brooklyn-based production company which is already well established.
Staake is currently working on a couple ideas for TV series that Gotham will help him to realize and the management firm will also be looking to establish him as a film director. Gillian MacKenzie of the Gillian MacKenzie Agency LLC in New York will continue to rep Staake for books.
“Ryan Staake is a prodigiously talented, Renaissance man. He does everything from books, to virtual reality, to music videos and apps. I think he’s going to have a really long career. We’re so lucky to have signed him.” Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, founder and CEO of The Gotham Group, told Deadline when asked about Staake. “The range of concepts and approaches in his music videos alone is incredible. They can stand on their own as singular short films that dwarf the songs they were made to visualize.”
The Young Thug: Wyclef Jean music video was a perfect example of that. It became an instant smash after Young Thug pushed it out to his 1.5M Twitter fans. The viral nature of the video was remarkable in that Young Star never showed up on the set, prompting Staake to detail the entire creative process through a series of title cards describing how everything they had planned to film managed to crash and burn. Young Thug does show up (in his car and out of sight of the camera) but then he takes off, apparently because one of his social media accounts was hacked. Staake chronicled all of it and in the process produced an original, high-concept stunt video.
Staake, through his company Pomp&Clout, directed the music videos Alt-J: Left Hand Free (2014) and ScHoolboy Q Ft. E-40: Dope Dealer (2016), to name a few. He is known for exploring bold concepts, technologically-innovative production methods and non-traditional viewing experiences (including virtual reality).
After founding the design and video practice Pomp&Clout, Staake worked with forward-thinking artists like Major Lazer, Alt-J, Route 94, Diplo, A-Trak, Caribou, Yelle, Nicolas Jaar for brands including Mcintosh, Visa, Balenciaga, Scion and Duolingo. He also did a promo for David Bowie’s Blackstar album.
The Young Thug video he put together went viral quickly.
“I honestly had no idea whether the label would even release the Young Thug video,” Staake said in a statement to Deadline. “It wasn’t a planned stunt. It was an emotional rollercoaster, and I thought Young Thug might ultimately hate it, but then he tweeted it out to his 1.5 million followers and it was thrust into the world. I guess that’s how a professional journey can go. Sometimes it’s the serendipitous event that can yield incredible results you could never plan for. And I feel The Gotham Group understands that creative impulse and can help me tell even bigger stories across more platforms. I’m thrilled that they are on my team.”
He added: “I do think my Young Thug video is probably the most personal thing I have made. I was somehow able to hijack it and refocus on it myself and my experience. Part of this was out of necessity… as storyteller, you need characters, and I didn’t really have any for the video, so I had to kind of turn myself into the character.”
Staake was raised in St. Louis and originally trained in graphic and user interface design, before he began his career as a Human Interface Designer at Apple, contributing to the design of the iPhone, iPad and MacOS X.
As of late, his explorations into Augmented and Virtual Reality have seen a merging of his foundation of user interface and product design with his career as a filmmaker. Here’s the video that went viral and pushed Staake to onto the national stage: