In light of Drake’s latest release comes a story of how a Toronto-based director experienced a career metamorphosis working with one of the biggest names in hip-hop.
'Care Package' is Drake’s latest release on the OVO (October’s Very Own) Sound label, comprising of 16 tracks that were previously unavailable on streaming platforms, including '5AM in Toronto,' one of the few tracks on the album accompanied by a video that was shot and released in 2013. At the time, it teased Drake’s acclaimed album 'Nothing Was The Same.' The release of Drake’s 'Care Package' coincided with the start of the artist’s annual OVO Fest, which took place at Budweiser Stage in Toronto this past weekend. It has garnered considerable attention, not just for its lyrical jabs but for its music video, which was co-directed by TrePalm’s Andrew Hamilton.
TrePalm spoke to Andrew Hamilton who, along with lifelong friend and co-director Ram Accoumeh, felt the '5AM' video gave them a huge stepping stone into their respective careers as Canadian directors, in less obvious ways than most would imagine.
Andrew has a breadth of experience working with large scale brands, but not quite like Drake, who has earned a name for himself in his hometown of Toronto and in the arena of hip-hop.
Long before Andrew became a creative force and joined TrePalm, he and Ram would team up at times to shoot creative content, including wedding and engagement videos. On a shoot for an 'engagement music video', Ram got a call from Mark Robinson, who goes by OVOMark, of the OVO creative team, and was asked about their video experience.
Both Mark and Ram were high school affiliates, by then Ram had already broken into Drake’s Circle by shooting photography at their parties. After the call had ended, Andrew asked about it with a stoic Ram saying: “He’s going to call us back a bit later with an answer.” Then Ram turned to Andrew and asked, “Have you ever heard the song ‘5AM in Toronto’?” The rest is history. Mark called back Ram and told us that Drake wanted us to shoot the video.
Two days later they shot the video.
The video has the Canadian rapper wandering through Toronto in the wee hours of the morning,
holding a drink in one hand and a blunt in the other, ending up with his friends in an indoor volleyball game. To change the video’s scenery, Drake suggested having Andrew and Ram shoot the video during a bash at Beach Blast in East Toronto - which allowed them the opportunity to toss in a visual nod to the Paul Walker film Running Scared (2006), featuring a scene distinctly lit by the tonal intensity of black lights.
When asked about working on set with Drake, Andrew shared that the experience during the shoot made him a fan. The rapper made it a seamless collaboration between the three of them: “He never manhandled anything, which I loved, but he was always ready to discuss the idea, explore it, and then execute if we all landed on the same page. His years in front of the camera clearly paid off in spades. He was on top of the production, and I knew that this wasn’t always the case with artists. It immediately put him in a new light for me.”
Admittedly, Andrew shares that there wasn’t a concrete plan for the video’s creative. Prior to the
life-changing call, Andrew and Ram had only shot wedding material together and ran impromptu creative video photoshoots, and had a small window to bring their absolute best to the table.
"When asked about the challenges production posed, here’s what Andrew had to say: “We tried our best to source black lights, with little knowledge of them. Eventually we found a place and got them to promise a van on the day of the shoot. When they arrived we walked the venue with the technician who immediately informed us that he doesn’t have enough light to fill the area. Foolishly, instead of concentrating light we spread it out and opted to use black light flash lights attached to cameras to create a more direct effect that would illuminate our scene. The technician also felt like he couldn’t do anything about illuminating the volleyball courts, which burned us. We decided to let the house lights do the work (facepalm).
"Additionally, nothing in the video had been planned. NOTHING.
"When did we figure shit out? When Drake showed up. I kid you not, he stepped out of his car, introduced himself and asked us what we were doing today. From there we locked in the idea of him entering a party that feels lost in time. 5AM isn’t the morning. It isn’t night either. It’s limbo… an idea we wanted to get across, and somehow managed.”
The video was cut the following day and released to the world a week after. It was the beginning of a new page for the two.
While the experience shooting the video, and having it under their belts was a huge stepping stone for the two, Andrew feels that his real push forward as a director came from a conversation with commercial director Anthony Corindia. Anthony had reached out to Andrew and Ram for a sit-down after the release of the video. The duo were on a high and the excitement surrounding the conversation with a director who had strong involvement in the Canadian advertising circuit was palpable.
That all plummeted when Anthony’s first comments after congratulating them was “You HAVE to learn how to light”, with Andrew expressing that their talk “knocked him down to size and opened his eyes to what directing really was”. A crushing moment, however, turned into a constructive conversation for Andrew to strengthen his filmmaking techniques. What initially rendered a sinking feeling became a tailwind for Andrew, leading to a period of introspection and growth as he obsessed over becoming a filmmaker in tune with every aspect, all stemming from the morsels of Anthony’s wisdom.
While “5AM” sits at 20 million views and is a bona fide “Drake video”, Andrew Hamilton in 2019 took a hard look at his 2013 self, stating: “It’s something for people to be impressed by, as opposed to taking a real look at who I am as a filmmaker. I also found that people who never gave a damn about my work suddenly praised me
and my hard work. I reflected on how I villainised the video because I needed people to know that I was better than it…”
Andrew labours the point of prominent Toronto creative Sean Brown who preaches “DON’T DELETE YOUR OLD WORK!”, adding that “you don’t have to share it when you’re trying to land something, but you should never hide it, especially from yourself. Confront your old work, and confront your old self. It will break down the walls for you to build something greater than you could have ever imagined for yourself. It will allow you to truly grow.”
Since “5AM”, Andrew has gone on to direct spots for Sabra, President’s Choice, Air Jordan, and other brands. Having evolved into an established Toronto director, he ended on this note: “The video is sitting at over 20 Million hits. That’s wild and all I can do is hope that Ram and I get opportunity to show the world what we can do again.”