Puerto Rican-born Sevier Crespo, p.g.a., is an award-winning film, television, and commercial producer who recently directed Negarain’s music video, “Khodam.”
Crespo learned the ropes under such heavyweights as Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Mann, and Ridley Scott.
Crespo’s feature Karen, starring Taryn Manning, was named a top independent film of 2021, catching the attention of the national press from Entertainment Tonight to People.
Upcoming releases for Crespo include the film Year 2 starring Frank Grillo, and Billy Knight starring the legendary Al Pacino, Charlie Heaton, and Diana Silvers.
Over the years Crespo has also worked with such prominent figures as David Beckham, Kendrick Lamar, Kurt Russell, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Virgil Abloh, Pierce Brosnan, Adam Devine, Ellen Barkin, and Nina Dobrev.
Tattoo.com spoke with Sevier Crespo about directing Negarain’s music video, his visionary process, and the significance of his ink.
How did you get started in film, television, and commercial production?
I got started as a production assistant in the commercial world through Shaune San Cartier and Leslie Vaughn, and also at RSA USA with Ridley Scott and Sam Bayer. Then I ended up getting into the production side through Robert Townsend. I worked my way up from there while studying production at UCLA. I also had friends that really supported me and encouraged me to take my career into my own hands.
You recently produced and directed Negarain’s music video, “Khodam.” How did you come to work with Negarain?
A friend introduced us and told me she was a great artist with a sizeable presence on the internet who had a great song and was looking for someone that could do it. We met and hit it off. Even though the song was in a totally different language, and I needed her to translate the lyrics, I was able to formulate and understand her vision, the power of the song, and what it meant. It happened naturally. It was like art and music transcending language. I went off the vibe, the flow, and everything that it meant without really understanding the lyrics because I didn’t speak the language. It was one of the most organic and serendipitous things that I’ve experienced.
What inspired your vision for the video?
We all have our own darkness, our own demons, our own things that we’re trying to overcome that we can relate to on a human level. So, it was just a matter of adding elements from her as an artist and her story. It was very relatable, being able to understand what it’s like to push through something and come to terms with yourself as a person, and your own personal freedom. I just took what I knew as a producer and what we had to work with, and it all started to fall into place. The location was a building that was empty and run down. What came to mind was David Bowie and ‘The Labyrinth.’ I thought: What if this is a cage in the labyrinth of your mind and you’re trying to get to the light and find peace within yourself? That was the vision that started to come to me.
What’s the difference between producing/directing a music video and a major film?
With music videos, you have to be more creative. You usually have one person who’s the focal point with the story revolving around them. And it’s really about the song and the message of that song. Other than that, they’re kind of the same except one is long and the other one is very short and is narrated primarily by the music and its lyrics.
On a film, it’s made more microscopically because, instead of having one rhythm or a short beginning, middle, and end, you have a bunch of beginnings, middles and ends that lead to a massive beginning, middle, and end with all the characters contributing to the message. It’s less forgiving with a feature film too because with the music video, it’s all about the music, the song, and the feeling of what you get from the song. With a film you have all of that in a stretched-out period with a lot of people contributing, so it’s more difficult to track or to make sure all of the elements are there.
Will you be directing any more music videos?
I would love to. I think this music video came almost by the gods, if you will. I had been toying with the idea of directing and seeing what it would be like. And I realized that I’m really good at it, especially with all of my background in producing, line producing, development, and being around a lot of great directors and artists in the past.
Who are your favorite producers/directors?
I’ve always said, Brian Grazer. Someone I’ve gotten to know recently is Daniel Lupi. I really respect and love how he talks to me and others. It’s always great when someone is so experienced that you can gauge how you’re doing against them. As far as directors, I love Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, The Duplass brothers, and The Russo Brothers. Louis Leterrier is a friend and I’ve had some great conversations with him on how he tackles certain things. With someone like Adam Sandler there is a clear love for the work and a ‘don’t take it too seriously’ attitude, which allows the team to be creative. And Anne Clemmons is a friend and someone I consult with a lot as well. The one thing I’ve noticed is that they all seem to have a consistency to them. They all seem to have the same DNA to some degree.
You are currently working on your new film, Billy Knight, starring Al Pacino. What is your vision for this project?
My vision is that it’s a solid project across the board. It looks beautiful. It has a great story. I hope that people really enjoy it. I think it’s a film that you can watch over and over again and get a different perspective from it each time, whether it’s the Hollywood perspective or a personal perspective. One of my favorite monologues from the movie happens to be Al’s favorite scene too. It’s a monologue by a supporting character in a scene with our lead Charlie and it’s about life and what matters most.
How do you work with an actor of Pacino’s ability to create the best performance?
The best thing is to just let the actors go. One of the most amazing things was watching the monitor and seeing what he would create and what he and others would help create collectively in the scene. Just let the actor go. That’s the magic of having them on set. And if they want to change or rewrite something, you let them do their magic.
How has technology changed filmmaking in recent years, and in what ways have you adopted new methods in your own productions?
A lot more is possible now. And we’re now venturing into the whole AI world, which can be a little scary. I was recently wondering what it would mean with no writers or actors. I was even questioning my livelihood. But I also realized that I can adapt it and use it to my advantage. I saw how it could contribute to filmmaking and the entertainment industry. There are tools that can help to understand a project. Where the script works. Where it doesn’t. Where it needs help. A way to bridge the two gaps. And now there is technology that can help the industry. It’s changing very rapidly and is both exciting and nerve-racking.
Do you have any ink? If so, how many and which is your favorite?
I have 11 or 12 pieces. I love them all. I’ve been very specific about every single one of them. I heard Ed Sheeran’s dad on his documentary say this and thought it was worded perfectly. He said that Ed’s tattoos are his visual journals. And I realized that it was a visual journal of my existence. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be my queen chess piece with the breast-cancer ribbon on it. That tattoo represents something that means a lot to me. Woman of the world, woman in my life and in my upbringing, and my support for all of them, because I’ve personally seen the effects of it.
Is your ink simply body art, or is there an underlying significance to your ink?
One hundred percent significance. I’m very meticulous. My first one was ‘tikkun olam.’ It’s a phrase that means repair the world.’ It took me decades to get it because I wanted it to be mine and to have a meaning.
What is your definition of success?
My definition of success is that people not only have the best experience possible but can also be the best of themselves when they’re in my space. I want them to have a great experience when they think about me.
What tips would you give aspiring filmmakers who are just starting out in their careers?
Know who you are as a person. That’s the strongest tool you will have. If you don’t know who you are you will be dragged through the mud until you one day pop your head up and find you have no idea where or who you are. Someone may possibly crush your dreams. But knowing who you are and surrounding yourself by people that know who they are and who you are is the most important thing. And you really need to stand your ground while at the same time being insouciant. Go all out. Know who you are. It’s not brain surgery. No one’s life depends on it, so just have fun.