Danielle Hinde, the founder of Doomsday Entertainment, tells Addison Capper about the importance of a proper human relationship with her directors as the company celebrates its tenth anniversary
There are a select few people in this world - you included, now - who know Danielle Hinde as Doom. It was a nickname that she picked up from her Ironman coach around about the time that she broke a shoulder three weeks before an Ironman race. Instead of sitting out she completed the entire thing with one arm (there’s proof of the action below). We can understand the sentiment of her Ironman coach.
It also paved the way for the name of Danielle’s production company, Doomsday Entertainment, as she searched for something that was memorable and meant something to her but other people might not get the meaning. “Unfortunately, these days it feels a bit too on the nose,” Danielle tells me, but that’s a story for another day.
The story of today is that Danielle celebrated 10 years of Doomsday in March - 10 years of creating music videos for the likes of Justin Bieber, Marvin Gaye, David Guetta, Katy Perry, One Republic and J Lo. You also probably heard about a particular one that they and director Hiro Murai did for Childish Gambino’s This Is America.
With that 10-year anniversary in mind, Addison Capper was keen to pick the brains of Danielle on the foundations of Doomsday, the importance of a proper relationship with her directors, and why it’s important that we aren’t all just defined by our jobs.
LBB> You started your career as a music video dancer - which I'm presuming is where your love of music videos came from?! Is that true? What can you tell us about that?
Danielle> Not only is it true, but I actually had every intention of seeing my dancing career path through. Thankfully, my biochemist mother encouraged me to go to college. I picked my major by flipping through a pamphlet for a NYC city college, film seemed close enough to dance and music, so I went with that and never really looked back.
A one-handed Ironman
LBB> How did you fall into production from there?
Danielle> I got an internship working for a music video production company, Gas Food and Lodging. They had directors like Marcus Raboy and Nzingha Stewart – they also had an in-house rep, so I came up learning the ropes from the EP and how to be an indie rep simultaneously. Shortly after graduating I moved to London and walked around door-to-door with my CV, which led to me freelancing for Science Films and other music video production companies. I really stretched the truth in terms of my experience, so you can imagine my surprise when I was hired as a line producer for a director’s small personal project and had no idea what I was doing. Equipment was called different things in London as well, so it added another layer of confusion when dealing with vendors. They understandably didn’t have me back following that job. I moved back to the States and started writing treatments and doing sales for one of the first independent music video reps making a bunch of massive hip hop and R&B videos – it was an incredible time to be part of that world. A year later, I ended up at Partizan to be their head of sales for music videos.
LBB> You launched Doomsday 10 years ago - what can you tell us about that time? What inspired you to launch the company and under what ethos did you launch it?
Danielle> I watched the industry evolving so fast and I wanted to be part of it, I felt like the only way I could do that was to venture out on my own so I could control my own narrative and create a little ecosystem. I wanted my company to be more familial and director focused. There is a reason everyone calls me Mama D - I always end up fulfilling a caretaker role on top of building careers. Not only do I enjoy the grind and challenge of building a director, but I genuinely care about their lives and careers. By starting my own company I’ve been able to surround myself with people I respect as filmmakers and more importantly as human beings.
LBB> You've nurtured the careers of so many big directors over the years. Is nurturing young / lesser known talent something that you’ve always been particularly passionate about? Is there a particular way you like to approach this or is it about following your heart?
Danielle> Finding and cultivating young talent has always been one of the best and simultaneously most frustrating aspects of my job. I love the chess and strategy behind building each one. You have to consider which jobs are important and will help to position the director to achieve the most success. I really get to know my directors intimately, so I know their tastes and aesthetic like the back of my hand. I treat them like my brother, sister or even child sometimes. I also know exactly where they want to be and what their goals are - this helps me structure what jobs we do and how we get them. I have to believe in them as filmmakers and as humans 100% in order to commit myself in this way. This belief and trust have to go both ways – if our values don’t align then it won’t work. It’s a deal breaker for me if a director doesn’t treat crew or clients with respect or show gratitude for the team of people working incredibly hard for them. I like to surround myself with people who share the same end goals, and who value and respect the hard work we do for them. The young directors that are able to listen and trust the process find greater success than the ones who are easily affected by the industry, and thus harder to mould and improve upon.
LBB> Some of your music videos have proved so successful in terms of views and breaking into the cultural zeitgeist. As a producer, how do you nurture that type of work? What are the tricks to making powerful work happen?
Danielle> I often see my job as being a matchmaker. I like to pair the right director with a particular artist since that will assure the best results. I like to work with artists and filmmakers who have something to say and have a unique perspective on the world, and therefore have depth and meaning behind their work. There is a lot of personality between artists and directors, so you have to consider how compatible they will be when aligning on the creative. My goal is always to show something that will make people stop and think – whatever it takes to bridge some of the gaps we face today.
LBB> One of your most famous projects is obviously This Is America. When producing that video, did you envisage it blowing up like it did? Why?
Danielle> We honestly had no idea, we really only had about one-and-a-half weeks in prep and the same in post, so all we were focused on was getting it across the finish line.
LBB> What are the challenges facing music video creators today?
Danielle> We live in a world that is dominated by shame culture and mean YouTube comments, and we can’t take as many risks as we used to. This shift limits creativity and silences people’s voices when we’re forced to water everything down. I would also say budgets have decreased, but I’ve made some of my favourite videos for $20,000 so it’s still possible, you just have to find a crew willing to get down. I think overall, we will see content change considerably during these darker times – artists and filmmakers may feel less inclined to make flippant or silly content, and instead focus more on introspective and thoughtful work following all of these historical moments.
LBB> It's interesting because music videos used to be like an "ad" for an artist. Now they're actual revenue streams thanks to streaming rights. What are your thoughts on that?
Danielle> It’s great for the label and the artist, but it’s an unfortunate reality for production companies and directors. The biggest issue for us is that with smaller and smaller budgets, we often have to pull every favour and even dump our own money into the project to get it done right and stay competitive. Then if the video becomes a huge success, which is always the goal, the label and artist make a profit but there is no way for the production company or director to recoup any of our investment. We don’t let this deter us completely though, a lot of us started our careers in music videos and they hold a special place in all of our hearts… but we’re interested to see where things will go from here.
LBB> What do the next 10 years hold in store for Doomsday?
Danielle> We have started to produce a lot more long format content which has been exciting but also daunting… it’s a much different beast. We’ve been producing a number of docs lately, which has been very rewarding, especially when we’re dealing with inspiring subject matter. One of our docs is about three women taking an unprecedented 40-day journey across the American West with 15 adopted mustangs in tow. I love sharing stories about people who push their bodies mentally and physically. We will likely never stop making music videos because it’s a challenge we all enjoy - there is still so much value in a music video, especially for a filmmaker building their reel.
LBB> Outside of work, what are you into? What keeps you going?
Danielle> First of all, thank you for asking that! I find that people are often defined by their jobs, especially in this industry, and there is so much more behind a person when they go home at night. I’m really into being as active as possible, whether it's exercising or hiking or running around with my toddler – I can’t ever stop moving, and my daughter makes sure that doesn’t happen. Raising a daughter is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously – I try my best to be someone she admires. Raising a kid has affected the type of work I take on and the people I work with, because I have to be a lot more selective with my time. Any additional free time I have is spent in Ojai - it’s my own private sanctuary. My dream is to make Doomsday: Ojai a reality, stay tuned for that.
These days I’ve been enjoying a lot of indoor time and reconnecting with my family. Arts and crafts have been a major beacon of light in this otherwise dark and confusing time, but it’s a good reminder to slow things down a bit and give yourself a moment to rest and prioritise self-care. I hope everyone else can do the same while we all ride this wave together. I hope to see you all on the other side - healthy, inspired, humbled and ready to keep creativity alive.