Aaron Gum produces music videos in Omaha, Nebraska, and will occasionally turn his lenses towards still subjects. Sometimes his puppets and he will star in their own videos. Aaron has been described as an audio visual mad scientist, a mild mannered animator / graphics guy by day, and balancer of modular synthesizers, puppets, visuals and audio recording engineering by night. One thing is certain, Aaron Gum can be found behind some of the very coolest scenes.
Aaron directed a feature length film released in October of this year, BENT OVER NEAL, a dramedy filmed entirely in Omaha and Council Bluffs. The storyline: Shlub Neal, whose father passing sends him into a midlife crisis that puts his best friend and brother-in-law, Rob in an awkward position. The results are unexpected and life changing for Neal and his family.
Screenings of the film were well-hyped and sold-out. Online reviews for the movie were positive: “…a good story; well told and well acted, and well worth your time. “ “…I noticed I was beginning to understand why a character acted a certain way or said what they did–like they were real people! Over the next few days I was still thinking and talking about the movie. How often does that happen?” “ Who needs more than $5000 to produce a winning movie? Not Aaron Gum. (Bent Over Neal’s director) “
Check out Aaron’s bio on IMDb: Aaron Gum grew up in Iowa with mysteriously curly hair. A man of action, he likes cameras and synthesizers. He has directed over 1 million music videos, give or take 999, 813. Aaron has many aspirations, such as his love for hot wings and one day wishes to eat his weight in them. That would be an exercise of self control, as he usually eats much more than that.
Aaron has worked with artists as diverse as Orenda Fink, Kontages, The Beat Seekers, O + S, Big Mike, Big Burn, and Azure Ray, Young Votta to name a few. He has recently submitted to his first out of state fests, the Phoenix Film Festival and the Green Bay Film Festival.
I met Aaron years ago when he ran AV for shows that I booked and produced. He always brought a sense of adventure to the night, and raised the cool factor of the room substantially through his participation. You never knew exactly what he would do, but you knew it would be awesome.
Aaron was sweet to answer FIVE QUESTIONS.
1) How old were you when you knew that you loved audio/visual/film? Have you always been a technologically focused person? What were some of the first ways that you expressed yourself via technology?
AG – I’ve always loved working with sound and visuals for as far back as I can remember. Used to create basic animations with flipbooks and overhead projector transparencies in elementary school and composed crude electronic music tracks on Commodore Amiga computers in my jr high years… actually I still do this but without the Amiga.
My earliest attempts at music videos were recording my 9th grade punk band on VHS and splicing footage from movies like E.T. and ReAnimator with the AV dub function on my parents’ camcorder. 20 years later I tried recreating this style in a music video for O+S’s Permanent Scar.
2) You are so artistic in your approaches, and have really developed your own style. Can you speak about your methods? How do you endeavor to tackle any given project?
AG – I throw myself completely into every project that I take on, and if anything I hope that my style is seen as one of production value that far exceeds what’s expected for a diverse range of productions.
I’ve directed a lot of music videos in nearly two decades and try to grow a little with each one. I enjoy creating visuals for a wide range of artists and adapt my style to the genre or medium that I am working with. If I create a video for a metal band I don’t want it to feel like one of my car commercials.
Projects might be based off an idea that I’ve always wanted to try, a technique or tool that was previously out of reach or some random bit of inspiration. For example I was watching The Shining late one Summer night and was struck by the scene where Shelley Duvall is cowering behind the bathroom door that Jack Nicholson is chopping down, and here’s this terrifying situation but Kubrick treats it beautifully, I thought ‘gosh, I gotta do a music video like this’ and sent Orenda Fink a rambling message that night… ‘This Is a Part of Something Greater’ is the result. The video was shot over the course of 5 or 6 evenings over a month apart in between Orenda’s Blue Dream tour and my own ridiculous schedule finishing up post on the film, several other music videos and television commercial deadlines. Neither of us really had time to do the video, but we both loved the idea so much that we made it happen. That’s how I work, don’t really have time to contemplate the impossibility of the schedule and don’t believe in limiting myself or compromising a good idea… so you make it happen… rest and sanity are overrated. Part of the video process was figuring out how Rick Baker created effects for David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and my living room is still cluttered with the props and TV effects rigs from this video.
3) How did you get your beginning with bands? Who were some of your first collaborations? What were the first bits of ‘magic’ you remember making for a group’s performance? Did you get a full cut of the $ take?Are you able to make a living at your art now?
AG – I was in several bands throughout the 90’s and met other bands and directed my first ‘real’ music videos for rap group Noisewave and hard rockers Fornever about 16 or 17 years ago.
The Noizewave videos were a lot of fun, for one video we made Ghostbuster proton packs from Styrofoam blocks and broken VCR parts, another had members of the group fighting animated Skeletons in a Blade Runner / Mortal Combat mashup. The Fornever video had bits of expired 8mm and 16mm filmstock and that was cool to work with.
In the dark ages before YouTube you could flip through channels and come across our videos on TV, that was so exciting for us at the time.. seeing your videos broadcast locally on Video Diversity and Secondary Emission. Kids would see these local videos, come out to shows and you could always find the CDs at Homers.
After a couple rap videos I wound up a co-owner of hip-hop oriented recording studio ‘Street Style’ for a few years and created several more videos and stuff for local artists and took on a director of photography role on Duncan Joyner’s feature film ‘Walker’. A while later I met director Nik Fackler and worked with him on videos for Azure Ray, Tilly And The Wall, The Good Life, tour visuals for Bright Eyes and so on. To this day Nik and I are bandmates in InDreama and we continue to collaborate on projects like Orenda Fink’s Ace of Cups.
Things really go full circle, in the early 2000’s I found myself in a band with a few former Noizewave members and recently produced and engineered an album with Matt Kucera (formerly of Fornever) for his new project Strange Attract0rs.
To get back on track with your questions, I approach most of my productions as a one-man-band but with music videos particularly will often spend more on props or specialty equipment to pull off my ideas then I actually get paid… or I’ll put so many hours into the production that it probably wouldn’t be worth it if I held myself to any sort of accounting.
I’m able to earn a living completely with audio and video, and that is a truly awesome thing… to do what you love, in my case well beyond full time. I can slave away all year on personal or non-paying projects like directing Bent Over Neal and pay the bills with broadcast work.
Most people reading this have probably seen dozens if not hundreds of television commercials that I have produced locally or regionally for auto dealerships, luxury fur coats, healthcare, jewelry, etc. I guarantee that anybody living in the Omaha area has heard my voice rushing through disclaimers at the end of radio commercials. That’s a weird thing.. walking into a store and hearing a commercial you recorded or created music for playing in the background or looking up and seeing your work on several television screens in a sports bar.
4) Your recent movie has been getting much acclaim. How does it feel to be receiving the accolades that you are? What are some of the compliments that have stuck with you? Have there been some less than favorable reviews that made an impression as well?
AG – The response to Bent Over Neal has been overwhelming! The past year has been such a blur that I really haven’t stopped long enough to let it all soak in yet.
A few people have been brought to tears by the end of the film, and that is amazing… to be able to emotionally move people through visual storytelling.
I was expecting more negativity due to our film’s subject matter, but so far we have only had one really bad review. The reviewer did not like anything about the characters, actors or situation, yet compliments us on our film’s many locations and ‘not looking cheap’, so I did a little digging and find that this person had directed their own feature length scifi film that appears to take place entirely in one small room with extreme overacting and not much production value so it seems like this is just a frustrated filmmaker picking us apart.
Most of our criticism has been at the first part of the movie and we have decided to go back and re-shoot a few things this spring for a better balanced film.
5) What are some of your career goals, long term and short term?
AG – Ultimately goals in life are to continue doing what I’m doing! Hopefully the projects get bigger each time. The Bent Over Neal crew is teaming up again next year for another feature film and I’m developing a few other ideas for other film projects. Lately I have been revisiting a few animation techniques and hope to do more animated projects soon… both stop-motion and cel style cartoons.