L.A.-based director Frank Borin is drawn to the “adrenaline rush” of music videos. His video credits span genres and decades, from the emo days of Good Charlotte’s 2002 video for “The Anthem” to viral rapper Lil Nas X’s 2021 holiday-themed “Santa vs Santa Nas X,” and even commercials for Apple and Coca-Cola.
“Videos are just kind of a chaotic medium – labels usually only give you three or four days to prep,” he explains. “You’re just going 100 miles an hour, hoping it all comes together.”
Borin’s latest directorial endeavor was working on chart-topping rapper Jack Harlow’s music video for his latest single, “Nail Tech.” Harlow, and his close friend, Ace Pro, were both co-directors. The first concept discussions for the scenes took place in early January and lasted about three weeks.
“A lot of labels will go out to three, four, five, ten, fifteen directors. Everyone writes treatments. They kind of knew they wanted to use me off the bat,” Borin explains. “Instead of wasting all that time getting multiple treatments, then being rushed to shoot, we actually got to develop it and work on the actual idea for definitely two, maybe three weeks, which is rare. Only on maybe some of the bigger videos, where there’s a lot of effects, you would have that luxury.”
The music video for “Nail Tech” has already proven immensely popular, accumulating over 13 million views in just ten days, and helping the single land a top 20 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 (chart dated March 5). As Borin tells Billboard, their collaboration was different compared to his previous videos in every aspect, from the casting to the shooting to the editing.
Below, he describes to Billboard in his own words about how each of the moving parts of “Nail Tech” were pieced together.
“He had very specific notes”
“Nail Tech” is definitely different. The reason why is Jack. I mean, out of all the videos I’ve done, he’s one of the artists who was more involved than almost anyone I’ve ever worked with. Without having to do a treatment, we got on the phone, and we just started talking ideas. We went back and forth a lot.
He’s a fan of the big-budget videos from the early 2000s. From the late ‘90s until 2006, the videos were really big. I don’t want to use the word glossy, but they were ultra-contrast. The blacks were just crushed into that detail limit. There was a very distinct look that was around for at least five or six years and hasn’t been seen since. He really wanted to capture that look and feel.
The cool thing about Jack too is he watched almost every single take back, and he had very specific notes. He has a very innate sensibility that some of the best filmmakers don’t have.
“Everything is like a one-take wonder”
We started out knowing we wanted to do boxing. He also had a great team behind him, like Ace, who is also a director and one of his best friends. He was very involved too. The boxing scene started still going for that same look, but then I started bringing in references to Raging Bull. That kind of made the boxing scenes morph into as black and white as we could go, but still having some color.
Certain scenes took a little bit longer. When we were doing the football tackling with all girls, we were conscious about safety. The hardest logistical thing of the video was we had a lot to shoot in two days. It was kind of just finding the right locations.
It’s really fast with Jack. Everything is like a one-take wonder. The only time we did multiple takes is if he felt like he wanted to give a different type of performance.
“Everyone made a cameo”
Casting specifically was a big group effort. We obviously did the normal kind of casting call. That was probably just one of the easiest things out of all this.
It was just all good vibes. Everyone was excited. Everyone was pitching in. The cool thing is Jack, all his friends were there. Everyone made a cameo. His whole group from when he started out in Private Garden.
“He wanted to hold on shots longer”
I don’t like shooting and then figuring out in the edit. To me, it’s just kind of lazy filmmaking, so this was very planned out.
What you saw is pretty much the end video. He did have very specific changes of taking certain shots out. He wanted to hold on shots longer. Most artists and labels don’t like to do that, because they’re like, ‘Oh my god, it’s losing energy.’
The whole video is heavily colored to get that early 2000s look. The most important thing to Jack from our initial conversation is finding that ultra contrast. We have really big lights on set, then you just amplify that contrast. In technical terms, just crushing the blacks and popping the highlights. It seems easy to do, but it’s a lot of manpower to get big lights to really achieve that look.
My inspiration of directors was Mark Romanek and that era. Even early Dave Meyers. The shots were lit to be big. The camera was more locked off. The shots held longer. Styles change.
I brought that into this, especially with the low angle shots. Just getting technical, but back in the day, you would always use 14mm and 18mm lenses. We pretty much just used wide-angle lenses on this whole shoot.
When I framed up that low-angle dog shot, [Harlow] lost his s–t. It’s something so simple, but really just hasn’t been utilized very often. That style is starting to come back, thank god. I really do miss it and love it.