Stephano Barberis recently celebrated 25 years, 45 awards, and over 100 nominations (Interview)

Stephano Barberis

Stephano Barberis unveils Director’s Reel, “Dream Dominion”

In celebration of his 45 awards in 25 years of work in the field, Surrey-based video director Stephano Barberis unveiled a new director’s reel showcasing his winning music videos.

The six-minute “Dream Dominion” compilation highlights dozens of the music videos he’s directed, by Dallas Smith, Erasure, Tom Cochrane, and others, and is set to the music of a new electronic-pop song (“Supernova Heart”) recorded by Breathe Of My Leaves, Barberis’ duo project with Jordan Gant, and guest singer Tareya Green.

“This reel is celebrating 25 years of directing and 45 awards for director or video,” Barberis explained, “but because I started off shooting almost 100 of the over 200 music videos on 35mm film, the format is smaller than 4K, so there are only videos from the digital era on there (over 100 of them) starting about 2011 when I begrudgingly switched over.”

Other videos featured in his new reel are by Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench, Washboard Union, Tenille, Amanda Rheume, Kinnie Starr, Meghan Patrick, JoJo Mason, Aaron Pritchett, Stef Lang, Shirley Gnome, and Jade Mya, among many others. Read more about the reel here.

Watch the “Dream Dominion” director’s reel below and learn more about Stephano and his accomplishments via our mini-interview.

How did you get started in the music industry?

After university I was working as a summer student at a film production company doing marketing. A video came up for a song that the company’s directors weren’t quite connecting with in the eyes of the artist, so I just blurted out a weird idea for it and the artist pointed to me, saying, “That’s it!” – and that’s how it began. I knew nothing about film, but I’m an endless font of ideas, so I had to teach myself everything on the spot. For the first 20 or so videos, crews would often think I’m the actor in the music video when I would get there in the morning, then I’d have to go around apologising for being green to the entire crew before the shoot would begin. My first video became a top-three hit in Canada and thus started my career.

You’ve been directing music videos for 25 years. How does it feel to accomplish this milestone?

It’s weird because I’m still paralyzed with anxiety on every shoot, as though it’s my very first one, even after 25 years and 210 music videos. So, it feels like I’m frozen inside that era where everything was exciting and terrifying. I care that much about my projects. Year 25 feels like year one.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?

Honestly, I can’t imagine giving anyone the advice to get into music videos for so many reasons. But if they are a glutton for punishment, I’d tell them to film stuff for artists on any sort of camera or their iPhone, edit it together, and begin by proving yourself from the ground up. The film industry is often about who you know, but you can’t get very far without palpable, innate talent. You’re either born a storyteller or you’re not. Visualization and imagination are gifts. If you aren’t passionate about that aspect – if telling stories in a compelling way that’s unique to you isn’t what burns inside you like an unquenchable inferno – then I would flee from this industry. Making your way in this industry is traversing through mountains composed of the broken dreams, abandonment, and failures of so many people… and still not flinching.

Throughout your 25 years, you’ve received 45 awards. That’s an amazing accomplishment. When you look back, is there one specific award you’d like to highlight?

I can’t say any of the awards I’ve received are more special than the other. The first one was very special as it was the first, but it came with a lot of worry about it being the last. Then every single one you receive after feels better than the one before because you are completely baffled at even having won one of them.

You’ve unveiled a reel celebrating these milestones. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Yes, Dream Dominion is my sixth director’s reel. I wasn’t sure if I was going to even create one this year, but I felt a sense of accomplishment simply for sticking around so long in an industry that tends to chew people up and spit them out in four to five years max. There are so many ups and downs in this industry that even though I don’t like to look backwards, it’s nice to force yourself to take stock every once in a while of what you’ve done, and recalibrate and brace yourself for what you want to do next. After I was done editing the reel, I sat back and watched it with watery eyes. Even the music is my band, and I have a monologue in the beginning with my voice, so you’re really peering deep into my soul and what I’m all about. I’m so proud to have been able to deliver authentic and unique cinematic quality with such challenging budgets and circumstances. For me, it’s all about moving people in a rush of euphoric goosebumps or tears. My job is simply that and nothing else.

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