Jacques Crafford’s Emotive Creations and Cinematic Wisdom

Jacques Crafford is passionate about creating emotive pieces and sharing his filmmaking knowledge on YouTube through various tutorials

Filmmaker Jacques Crafford

South African film director Jacques Crafford blends his love for travel with his passion for cinematography. Keep reading to learn more about the role music plays in his films and how he uses Musicbed to elevate his storytelling.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Jacques Crafford: In my final year of varsity, my friend shoved his dad’s camcorder in my hand and asked me to document our cycling trip. At first, I didn’t want to, but once I started rolling I simply couldn’t put it down, I was hooked. I was finishing up a B Comm Degree in Risk Management so imagine telling my parents that I’m going to pursue something completely different. I quickly fell into the wedding industry and learned a lot about editing and telling stories in the most meaningful way possible. After a few years, I realized that there’s a creative ceiling when documenting a live event and I would always be at the mercy of what happens on the day. My desire to create and be in control of the story took over and eventually, I started going into the commercial space.

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

I’d say hanging out with like-minded creatives is probably the biggest motivation, but creatively I get massive inspiration from watching series and listening to music. If I find a good series I’ll binge-watch it and analyze every aspect from storytelling, angles, sound, and lighting. Music on the other hand has a way of putting visuals and ideas into my head so I enjoy putting on my noise-canceling headphones and drifting off.

What makes a story visually appealing? What role does music play in storytelling?

I love the concept of showing without telling. Using angles and light to emphasize a feeling is key so I’m always intentional about the lenses I use, the angle of the camera with the subject and the lighting that creates the mood. If you get these two right, you’re already showing the mood without telling. Music can enhance this mood even further. A simple ambient track can immediately unlock an emotion of suspense, joy, sadness, or inspiration. There are very few productions that do not need music and just as the right music can enhance the mood, the wrong music can totally distract the viewer.

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story?

For starters, there has to be some form of mystery that keeps the viewer guessing and interested in what’s going to happen next. I love the roller coaster concept of taking the viewer on a series of highs and lows. The lows don’t have to be boring, it’s just low enough so that when the high comes there’s a greater appreciation for it. Music plays a massive role in this journey and it affects the way I look for tracks. 

How important is music in your work?

I have this saying, music is not important, it’s everything. Although it sounds a bit dramatic, Music has the potential to completely elevate or destroy my productions. If you don’t light perfectly but you have a good story, you can still get away with the good story. If you have a good story but you have bad music… all of a sudden the story is not so good anymore because the music is such a big distraction. I use music in 95% of my films and a compliment I get always is, ‘Wow, the music is spot-on!’

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators who are just starting their careers?

The best thing I ever did was pursue relationships with fellow filmmakers from all skill levels. I made a point of not just doing my own thing and putting in the effort to chase after mentors but also in turn mentoring others. Some of the best skills I learned were from fellow creators. This means finding someone better than you and reaching out to the rookies. You never want to be the best in the room and you always want to make time to give back to someone with less experience. The reason I love making friends with beginners is because they’re so hungry to learn they’re consuming YouTube more than anyone else so sometimes they discover a new technique that I haven’t even heard of and then I’m like, ‘Wow that’s cool, I just learned something.’

How do you find the balance between pushing boundaries creatively and delivering what your client wants or audience wants to see?

With my online presence I try to only put out work that reflects my creative vision because if a client is attracted by something I already enjoy doing, there’s a good chance I won’t have to compromise too much. This is one of the biggest reasons I started doing YouTube because I get a lot of opportunities working with filmmaking brands who don’t care about the creative aspect of the films but are more interested in how I can showcase myself using their gear in the creation of the projects. They know that if I do what makes me happy, I’m going to be stoked with the project and I’m going to share how I used the gear with more enthusiasm. 

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

Hands down to balance work, life, and health. For many years I was completely consumed by my passion for filmmaking but it also meant my personal life suffered. When I met my wife in 2019 I quickly discovered that it’s not sustainable and I started creating boundaries like not working after hours or on weekends. When our baby son was born, this intensified and I realized the only way to really win at life is to make calculated compromises on my career and this means sometimes saying no to epic travel projects or just avoiding the need to work all hours into midnight. I’m now prioritizing stuff like exercise and spending time with my family. Sometimes I get FOMO because I miss out on epic projects but the joy of being a present father and husband always outweighs it so I guess I’m starting to win with this now haha. 

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

By favorite I don’t always mean my best project but the projects I enjoyed the most. One has to be Perseverance. We did some super close proximity flying in helicopters with an open door and the adrenalin was just such a treat, I remember feeling extremely grateful at that moment. Another project I really enjoyed was Saving the Sea Turtles. The whole team was simply amazing but my favorite moment was when we filmed a fake turtle release on the open ocean and a superpod of hundreds of dolphins swam around our boat, such a vivid memory to this day! 

How do you search for music on Musicbed? What are some tips that you’d give other filmmakers to search on Musicbed?

Well for starters, I love to listen to Musicbed when I’m doing tasks like admin, color grading etc. Sometimes I hear a song that sparks my interest and I favorite it. Another way that works well is to search for something in a genre that I think I’m going to use for my project and then I listen to that list while I’m doing pre-production or even after the shoot while sorting out the footage. If you’re already in the space of the project it’s easier to resonate with a potential song and I usually find my track in this process if not already before the project. 

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

I think Musicbed has the most amount of authentic songs available. By authentic I mean most of my clients have never heard of it because the real gems are not as mainstream. It’s always given me an edge and is also the reason I’ve been using it for so long. I started using it in 2011 in my wedding films and my clients never asked me to change the music and always asked where they could find it. Throughout my entire journey until now I’ve always had great feedback about my music choice! 

Explore a curated playlist of his favorite songs to use in his films—available to license only on Musicbed.