We here at What Weekly are proud to present the good work of Baltimore-based director Pierre Bennu of ExitTheApple Productions, who recently directed the newest video for Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Gregory Porter.
“Be Good (Lion’s Song)” is the first single from Porter’s second album Be Good, out this February on Motema Records.
Bennu visually complements Porter’s intense lyrics and smooth, soulful vocals with vibrant colors and whimsical storytelling, all set against Charm City’s unique backdrop. Locations include Penn Station, the American Visionary Art Museum, the famous ‘Children and Elders’ mural (at the intersection of North Avenue and Harford Road), Federal Hill Park, and the beautiful “Painted Lady” houses along North Calvert Street in Charles Village.
“I really wanted to show another side of Baltimore,” said Bennu. “Something that wasn’t just John Waters or The Wire, so I went out of my way to find the more colorful, warm settings–something that kind of invokes mythology.”
Bennu works in a variety of media through ExitTheApple including film, animation, essays, children’s books, mix tapes, and skin care products. “I think of myself more as a storyteller,” explained Bennu. “And wherever it comes out, it comes out.” With his work, Bennu said he seeks to portray people of color in nontraditional ways.
Bennu moved to Baltimore five years ago with his wife/business partner Jamyla and their two sons (their family, by the way, was recently voted “the coolest black family in America” by Ebony.com). Having spent their lives in New York City, the family was scouting out new towns when a film screening of Pierre’s brought them to Bmore.
“It was so warm, and so wonderful,” said Bennu. “There was this undiscovered (to me at least) jewel there.”
Long before the “Be Good” video, Bennu knew Gregory Porter through Porter’s brother. “I knew he sang and all,” said Bennu, “but then his first album came out, he was touring the world… “When the second album came out, [Porter] and his brother were like, ‘We have the first single, and we want you to do the first video.’ They said, ‘We just want you to do you.’”
Given free reign, Bennu said he tried to approach the video through the language of love. “I approached it from a non-cynical kind of perspective, which I don’t see done anymore. Everyone is kind of jaded now,” Bennu said, laughing.
“I thought, I’m going to go completely corny [here.] If I fall on my face, I fall on my face, but I’ll see what happens. Thankfully, the warmth shined through.”
Asked what his future holds, Bennu said we might be able to look for another music video, this time with Carolyn Malachi, late this year. But for the most part, he’s keeping the focus home. “I’m trying to, at least for now, build on the mythology of Baltimore,” said Bennu. “I’m trying to keep it real and local. There’s so much here.”
Images courtesy of ExitTheApple