Talk about a brand that does it right. Stussy produced a 3 part documentary series on a hip hop legend, J Dilla, who passed away in 2006. He worked with everyone from Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Common, Madlib, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Pete Rock, Hi-Tek and Kanye West, among others.
Stussy also made a a limited J Dilla tee-shirt featuring a classic photo of Dilla.
The documentary includes interviews with, among others, B+, Egon, Peanut Butter Wolf, J.Rocc.
I talked to Adam Weissman from Stussy, who filmed the documentary. [Interview below]
Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3
Some background: Do you work for Stussy full time? Are you an independent filmmaker? Tell us about yourself, don’t be shy!
Yes, I work for Stussy in the design department, I manage Special Projects (such as the Dilla project) and well as direct artists for our Artist Series and mainline tee shirts. At the same time, I went to Art Center College of Design for film, and I work as a freelancer for film and music (I have a band called POLLYN, check us out). For Stussy, I’ve made all the documentary content for the site, starting with World Tour in 2006, but that isn’t my primary job there.
How did the J Dilla idea come about? Did you pitch the idea internally? Who’s idea was it?
I’m a big fan of Dilla, and got to meet him a few times before he passed. He liked Stussy, Stones Throw came to us with the opportunity, and we all thought it was a good idea. We had done a Dilla shirt in the past, when The Shinning was released.
It seems like you’re the in-house jack of all trades. In terms of documentaries, do you generally approach the rest of the team (e.g. the people who control the budget such as the CFO) and lobby for projects like this? It seems like for J Dilla Stones Throw came to you, correct?
I pitch ideas, but usually all the videos tie back to product. So it’s a simple pitch. The subject is usually artists we’re collaborating with, and the video showcases that artist, giving background why we’re working with them.
Was it easy to get the green light for this project? What were the internal factors that led the people who control the budget to say yes?
Dilla is a legend, who wouldn’t want to watch a video about him? From the beginning I wasn’t trying to make a documentary about his full life story. We didn’t have the time or resources. This was about telling the story about his time in Los Angeles, the last chapter in his life. I wanted it to be for people who were already familiar with his music, those are the same people who’d be excited for the t shirt.
When did Stussy start to produce documentaries?
In 2006, when we did the World Tour project. I shot 16 documentaries about some of the artists involved. It’s was screened in LA, NY, London, Tokyo, & Paris, then released as part of a book collecting the art from the project. After that point it made sense to start telling the stories of some of the people we’re working with. We have such a wide range of artists we collaborate with, from photographers to graffiti artists to comic book illustrators, it’s cool we have an outlet we can showcase them.
What has been the distribution strategy? e.g. online, show it to TV networks to see if they want to pick it up?
We put it up, blogs pick it up, it spreads from there.
For online, what’s the viral strategy? Do you use tools like Tubemogul to seed the video everywhere? Do you have “viewing” events / premiers / screenings?
The main site is Stussy.com, then we’ll put it on Youtube & Vimeo. We screened the World Tour Documentary back in 2006, but other than that there has been no events. They are more for on line viewing.
It seems like you’re all for bloggers and other people who like the video to repost / republish / spread the word?
Yes, it seems more natural that way. If people like it, they will write a post or tweet about it. That’s the most honest way to do things.