Grammy-Nominated Director, Bryan Schlam, Dives Into the Significance of Visibility in Tyler Childers' Music Video "In Your Love"

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Grammy-nominated Director Bryan Schlam has been making waves in the music industry, particularly with his work on Tyler Childers' recent music video, "In Your Love." In this groundbreaking interview, we delve into the significance of visibility and how "In Your Love" serves as a powerful testament to the existence of LGBTQ individuals in rural settings, a narrative seldom explored in country music videos.

Schlam shares the collaborative process behind crafting the video's narrative, teaming up with Tyler and Silas House, a New York Times bestselling author. We explore Schlam's unique ability to adapt a script to the screen specifically for music videos and the paramount importance he places on spotlighting underrepresented communities in the realm of entertainment. 

PH: "In Your Love" showcases LGBTQ individuals in a rural setting. Why was it important for you to portray this specific demographic, and what challenges did you face in accurately representing their experiences?

Bryan Schlam: Silas House brought us a story that showed love in a rural setting, which is something that isn’t typically seen in LGBTQ narratives. I think nowadays people expect these types of narratives to follow characters as they escape to find refuge in a city that has more liberal values, not really focusing on the fact that gay people live everywhere, including the Appilachian countryside. I thought it was a compelling narrative, but I didn’t see the true impact of the story until I started looking at the really passionate and emotional reactions from the audience posted on Tiktok and Instagram. There were a ton of videos from LGBTQ people living in rural areas who really saw themselves in the video. They felt like this was a really unique narrative that spoke to them in a way that made them emotional. And honestly, that was incredible feedback, which made me realize how special this narrative is.

In terms of challenges, I think Silas brought authenticity to the narrative because it’s his background and a story that he understood and was passionate about. What I brought to the table was making sure the video was period accurate and felt authentic. There were details big and small that we added to the visuals as well that made it special, such as vintage cars and trucks, period accurate mining gear and lunch pails, and a vintage wedding quilt and wardrobe featured in both the prologue, epilogue, and main story of the video. These details really helped audiences feel like they were in an authentic world where these two characters lived.

PH: Can you walk us through the collaborative process with Tyler Childers and Silas House in developing the narrative for "In Your Love"? How did each person's perspective contribute to the final concept?

Bryan Schlam: When I was first brought onto the video, it was a concept created by Tyler Childers and Silas House, a New York Times bestselling author, with a treatment written by Silas and Jason Kyle Howard. The treatment was basically a description of each character and the first draft of an outline for the video. Silas brought a true level of authenticity to the narrative and voice of the video, and I oversaw the adaptation to the screen and making sure we’re telling the story in a compelling way. 

PH: Were there any challenges in blending the musical and literary aspects to create a cohesive visual story?

Bryan Schlam: This was my first video where I collaborated with an author, which is definitely something that’s unique to a music video. It was a great opportunity to work with Silas and I took on the challenge of adapting his story head on.

I worked on the pacing and tamped it down to a narrative that was short and cohesive enough to fit to the beats of the song. We had a limited amount of time and no dialogue to relay exposition, so the beats had to be purely visual. We both knew that there was going to be a tragic end for Matthew, James Scully’s character, and eventually we settled on an idea I had - that Matthew would get ill with black lung. Obviously this was the most visual way to show illness, but I think it also speaks to the era. There were labor movements at the time protesting miner’s working conditions, as at the time, it was essentially a death sentence. It’s my understanding that there’s a real pride in work when it comes to rural Appalachia and I wanted to show that this could sometimes lead to a bittersweet end. When I brought up the idea, I found out that Silas’s grandfather actually had black lung so that really cemented its role in the narrative and gave it a new level of authenticity that I didn’t expect at first.

PH: Music videos often condense storytelling into a short timeframe. How do you approach adapting a script to create a compelling narrative within the constraints of a music video's duration?

Bryan Schlam: I think a big part of telling this story was sticking to the mantra of showing and not telling. We had such a short amount of time to essentially show a feature film. I kept thinking to myself, how can I show this story beat purely visually? How can I show it quickly and still have the same impact?

The first thing I did was create an audio story, which was essentially an audio book that we could listen to in order to ensure that the narrative made sense when condensed into three minutes. Once we had that template, I translated it into a silent animatic with just visuals. We took a look at that, changed some scenes around, and tried to make the basic beats of the story as simple as possible.

From there, it was all about directing Colton Haynes and James Scully and having them add complexity to the narrative through their emotions. I’m glad we had two actors who could effectively portray the narrative without dialogue, solely utilizing looks both big and small and lots of action. Between hard labor in the mines, fight choreography, and a dramatic death scene, they really put their all into it. I think their work really helped people understand the complexities of the narrative that Silas wrote. I look forward to directing features and longer form narrative content that allows for more time to deep dive into the characters and lead audiences to discover more layers to the narrative that can’t be portrayed exclusively through visuals.

PH: Beyond LGBTQ representation, your work emphasizes underrepresented communities. In your opinion, how can the entertainment industry continue to amplify the voices of those who have historically been marginalized?

Bryan Schlam: At the end of the day, a good story is a good story. An interesting narrative is the first thing you should look for. However, I believe underrepresented stories are more interesting because they’re not as common, which naturally draws me to these narratives and characters. My advice would be to look for people’s stories who have a unique perspective and something interesting to say rather than taking a bet on something that’s been done to death. It may be safe, but it’s not going to make the same impact.

PH: The ending of "In Your Love" draws inspiration from the opening scene of Pixar's "Up." What about that particular sequence resonated with you, and how did you adapt it to fit the emotional tone of the music video?

Bryan Schlam: From a directing standpoint, I was thinking about the audience’s reaction from square one. I wanted to create a really emotional narrative that spoke to audiences in a way that a traditional music video didn’t. Funny enough, I was looking at Pixar’s “UP” as an example of how a short sequence with really limited dialogue could make people cry in just around ten minutes. My goal was to hit that emotional peak with no dialogue in less than half the time.

I was so close to the footage that I didn’t really see that reaction until I sent it internally to crew members and heard they were in tears at the end of the video. Initially, it didn’t set in until I saw people posting TikToks of themselves crying after they watched it. A lot of people from a bunch of different backgrounds were deeply moved by the video, as I saw people from the LGBTQ community posting about how they felt seen after watching the video and Tyler’s fans crying in their car on their lunch break. Additionally, my cinematographer showed me his family all crying together after watching the video on Thanksgiving, which was especially powerful to witness. The video’s impact continued to stretch even beyond that, as I saw videos of a gay marriage with a couple dancing to “In Your Love” as their first dance, a gay couple getting engaged to the song at one of Tyler’s concerts at the Opry, and lots of photo montages are online of rural gay couples in love. It really made me feel like I made something that took on a life of its own beyond what I could have expected.

PH: You've been a key creative force in The Black Keys' video content. How has your collaboration evolved, and what unique elements do you bring to their visual representation?

Bryan Schlam: When Dan Auerbach, Pat Carney, and I started working together, we immediately realized that we had the same sense of humor and aesthetic. That developed into a unique level of trust where I had a lot of creative control – a very similar relationship that Tyler Childers and I have, actually. I typically listen to them describe what they want to do, make it happen with their voices in mind, and add my own flavor to it. Tyler or Dan and Pat come to me with an idea and I develop it, aiming to simultaneously make it my own while still fitting in with their aesthetic and voice. I like to tailor my ideas to the artist. When it comes to The Black Keys, I think we’ve taken the comedy to the next level – beyond what a typical musician would do. The music videos and comedy spots feel more narrative and put together than traditional social videos. Whether it’s shooting with David Cross, getting a video about a school board meeting to go viral on TikTok, or shooting a MasterClass parody for Funny or Die, we really try and take the humor to a point where artists typically don’t get to go.

PH: With a background in short-form storytelling, what aspects of your experience do you believe would translate well to feature films and TV? Are there specific genres or themes you are particularly interested in exploring with longer runtimes and larger budgets?

Bryan Schlam: I personally can’t wait to have the opportunity to direct a longer form narrative. Having more time to develop characters will really speak to viewers, especially when I can make a video that can evoke such a profound emotional response in a short amount of time. I’d also love to have more time to plan shots and create more complicated setups, as these short form videos don’t have a ton of resources for something truly complex like a crane shot. For me, I aspire to be a director like David Gordon Green or Spike Jonze who can effectively create both dramatic and comedic films. I’m sort of genre agnostic; what I’m really most interested in are characters and stories that stay on your mind long after you leave the cinema or turn off your TV.

PH: As you aspire to direct feature films and TV, what kind of stories do you hope to tell, and how do you see your unique storytelling style evolving with more screen time and resources?

Bryan Schlam: I’m looking for stories that have a sense of heart. I think I’ll never lose my sense of humor, even in serious narratives, which brings a heightened sense of both complexity and realism to the story. In terms of my storytelling, I mainly hope to have more time to develop characters so that they can feel even more relatable. However, I would also love to have the opportunity to have time to create a cohesive visual language, whether that’s doing lens and color testing to find a unique aesthetic or having the time to plan out complex shots and camera moves. Overall, I’m looking forward to creating stories with a heightened sense of visual and narrative complexity.

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