Updated: Richmond Musician and Filmmaker Nate Griffith Blends Both to Carve a Niche 

click to enlarge art28_nate_griffin.jpg

Scott Elmquist

Nate Griffith (or Nat Griffin in Facebook land) can pinpoint the moment he fell in love with movies.

The 7-year-old was at his grandparents’ house, watching in wonder while his grandfather prepared the evening’s entertainment: the Keystone Cops.

“That moment, the magic of it was incredible,” says Griffith, a photographer since childhood. “Setting up the projector and screen, getting everyone together, that sticks out as the essence of my excitement. Movies were exciting.”

Moviemaking, on the other hand, is incredibly time-consuming. And when he stopped drinking in 2010, Griffith says he began looking for a way to fill time. While he’d dabbled in film, music was his first priority.

He formed Fear of Music, a popular local Talking Heads tribute band, in 2013, recruiting his then-wife and a collection of friends, some dating back to middle school. He also performs with a wedding band.

“Music was my first love and photography was second, so filmmaking seems like a natural place to be,” he says. “Bands need content and it lets me practice my craft while they’re getting something for it. The main thing is to improve quality, making each better than the last in some way.”

Griffith’s home-based production company in Manchester, Porter Street Pictures, is responsible for documentaries, experimental films, Facebook promos for shows and music videos — including several for Bio Ritmo and Miramar.

Rei Alvarez plays in both of those bands and cites Griffith’s strengths as a filmmaker as prioritization of originality, open-mindedness and decisiveness. 

“From working with him a few times while filming for both my bands’ videos, I know he can get a bit fussy,” Alvarez says. “But it’s the necessary kind of fussy that comes with the territory of an artist with a sense of direction and perfectionism.”

Acknowledging that he can get hooked on the tedium, attention to detail can keep Griffith working nine hours a day when he’s editing a project, a focus he compares to that of a watchmaker. “I only break to gig,” he says. “When I hit, I hit it hard.”

With so much concentration, generally it’s about six months before he can view a piece with clear eyes.

Being true to the song determines the direction of the video, but he concedes that the most challenging part is deciding where to start. He’ll see a general idea or direction, but that can change when footage dictates how it should be edited.

Check out this brand new video by Nate Griffith and his own original band, Plural Nouns. You can also see his YouTube page at Scotty McGriffith.

The Plural Nouns | Secret Social from Nate Griffith on Vimeo.

“Without sounding corny, the overall arc is to bring something positive out,” Griffith says. “There’s plenty of negativity in the world. That’s covered by people far more qualified than me.”

A fan of the aesthetic of the ’20s and ’30s — notably films where a character says, “Say, what’s the big idea?” — he’s convinced he was born too late but strives to re-create that cinematic look. Even when he feels he’s not entirely successful, he sees it as such because it represents a snapshot in time.

“I never want to master something because it implies completion, and it’s not fun if I’m not learning,” Griffith says. “It’s the same with music. I’m still learning every time I pick up a guitar. I’m a student of craft.”

Alvarez seems to agree. “Being a musician must definitely be a factor in his work,” he says, “because I know he is conscious of the importance of sound and music in creating a film.”

A filmmaking rule breaker, Griffith says he’d like to make his movies even weirder, but he’s unconvinced Richmond is ready. “I break the fourth wall often, getting out of scene and looking around. Very meta,” he says. “A lot of people don’t care for that. I dig it, but that’s my style and it’s not for everybody.”

He’s also moved beyond worrying about whether people like his work, turning down a corporate job so he could continue to take on compelling new projects to hone his skills.

“Every mistake is part of the craft,” he says. “After a month working on a film, I can live with one or two mistakes. The way I see it, you should keep everything you learn in your back pocket and use it at some point.”

And by now his pockets are fairly full. “The more I do film the better my music gets,” he says, “and the more I do music the better my filmmaking gets.” S

Editor's note: The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of the subject's last name -- it should be Griffith not Griffin (which he uses on social media). He's tricky this one.



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