For most college students, “lights, camera, action!” are words heard only in movies or dreans. This is not the case for Roman Dent ’12.
After a summer of struggling to break into the entertainment industry, Dent, an aspiring filmmaker, suddenly saw the pieces fall into place. Before he knew it, the amateur cinematographer went from being an unknown college student with a passion for moviemaking to single-handedly directing, producing and editing the music video for pop singer Jessie James’s new single, “Dear John.”
Dent credits the discovery and development of his passion to his childhood in Nashville, Tenn.
“Getting this job was largely a product of growing up in Music City, USA,” Dent said. “I couldn’t help but be bombarded with the music and entertainment lifestyle from a young age.”
Dent, whose end goal is to work as a director of feature-length films, said he saw music videos as a good segue into the industry.
“Since I live in Nashville, I thought it would be wise to start some sort of official business in music video production,” said Dent. “That way I could get my name out there on something concrete, start to build a network, and have a little fun.”
His first opportunity came from a good friend who was so impressed with his work that she referred him to James.
“[My friend] called me one night and said, ‘Hey, my friend Jessie is looking for someone to direct her next music video, and I think I may have just gotten you the job,’” Dent said.
As Dent found out, “Jessie” was country-pop singer Jessie James, whose self-titled debut album reached No. 23 on the Billboard 200.
“Jessie wanted to promote herself with kindof a funky, different type of video that would catch people’s attention,” Dent said.
After taking the artists’s directions into considreation, he recruited two friends to help him with the lighting and equipment and got to work. The one-day shoot was set in a luxury home in Williamson County, Tenn.
Although well-made, the three-and-a-half minute piece can seem a little odd to the casual viewer. It depicts a scantily-clad brunette bombshell simultaneously crooning an enigmatic song laden with allusions to John Mayer lyrics and rolling around in an unmade king-sized bed. Despite the fact that it is shot entirely in black and white and from an angle that is conducive to frequent hairflips and lip biting from the songstress, Dent denied suggestions that “Dear John” is a self-indulgent ode to James’s own attractiveness and instead revealed that there is a story behind both the song and the video.
“People need to know that there’s history behind it,” he said. “Jessie knows John [Mayer] personally and meant it as a tease to him and sees it as a way to play on his bad pick-up lines in a fun, friendly way.”
“Dear John” received over 250,000 views over the first weekend after its debut on Vimeo, and it has been climbing the charts on iTunes as well. The piece has also opened up opportunities for Dent, who flew to Los Angeles last week to work as first assistant camera man for a post-apocalyptic Western film called “The Price” directed by Zeke Pinheiro and James St. Vincent.
The aspiring filmmaker admits that his recent work may have gotten his foot in the door of the filmmaking industry.
“I know that its a long shot to do film, and that there’s only a one percent chance I’ll make it,” Dent said. “But I’m not going to let myself fail. I want it that bad.”
As a self-trained cinematographer who is pursuing a major in psychology, Dent said he is counting on his natural abilities to help him in his career.
“I know that I’m talented enough to make a living doing this,” he said, “because I can bring something special and unique to the table. I just need to keep networking and not give up.”