South Jersey is quickly transforming into one of rap music's hotbeds. Artists like Mir Fontane, Ish Williams and Ant Beale spearhead a wave of musicians bringing notoriety to their corner of the map. No one knows this as well as Brenden McCafferty—whose multi-faceted skillset has placed him front-and-center on music video sets and in recording studios with said artists.
McCafferty was born to handle a camera. His work on treatment writing, cinematography and post-production make him a premier creator in the community. For the past three years, he's cemented a formidable role in the music industry. With experience in his back pocket and a library of video credits, the young visionary is looking to start his own video company—TOP SHLF—as a means of providing greater exposure to South Jersey and beyond
This past weekend, I sat down with Brenden to discuss in detail his craft, goals and outreach in an exclusive interview with Burbs Entertainment.
Where along the line did you find a passion for videographer/production work?
It really stemmed from some events at a young age—just having a passion and love for hip-hop music specifically, ever since a super young kid—when I was twelve or thirteen, I was playing Xbox 360 live with a bunch of my friends on Gamebattles. I would always edit my montage clips on iMovie—syncing up the beat to my sniper kills and eventually organizing a team. I can definitely say that it impacted my life in a very drastic positive way—I was organizing teams, working on my people skills, designing graphics for all my teams and making YouTube backgrounds for PayPal money. The Xbox live gaming stuff is what birthed my video editing stuff, you know what I mean? I brought those skills over when I started working in the industry.
What would you say is the strongest facet of your media skillset: shooting or editing?
I would definitely say that it's on the shooting end. Reason being is I have a high respect for good cinematography. I think breaking the rules in my field is a great thing in many ways. The way that my brain works—I'm just a natural perfectionist, and I think that you can see that in my work, because I hold my cinematography specifically to high standards. I do most of my work in Final Cut in DaVinci Resolve—not iMovie. Basically, I would say that the editing is something that I want to get into now that I have my feet on the ground— I just started my company up so I can lock in on editing— I just got a new beast of a computer. I would like to tell you that I pride myself more on the editing, but I'm not there yet. Still, I would say that I’m now finally at the point to where I can focus on the editing, seeing as everything else is handled.
You just mentioned that you’ve recently started your own company. Could you talk about the objectives of TOP SHLF?
I want to build a platform that highlights artists that I feel deserve said platform. Even artists that I haven't built a relationship with yet, but also artists that I’ve connected with throughout the last three years—most of whom are from South Jersey. Guys like Mir Fontane, Ish Williams, Ant Beale, Kev Rodgers, my little brother Mark, Franky Hill, Myles Cream, Dante Miles from Philly. I'm not trying to give a platform to just South Jersey artists—I don't want to make it sound that way—but most of my genuine connections are from South Jersey, and I think that South Jersey has a very, very strong musical scene that people do not know enough about yet. With TOP SHLF, I’d like to get involved everywhere.
Also, I just started seriously managing my brother over the course of the past few months.We're really kicking up—and I'm talking with my boy, Dante Miles, who's from Philly, about managing him as well. Same thing with Ish Williams. Artist management is another thing I’m highly interested in. Lastly—and this is more of a goal rather than something that I'm going to be creating—is to bring more awareness to chronic late-stage Lyme Disease. I’ve already got so many ideas for this—the logo is a possum with a hockey stick. Possums eat ticks, they’re actually the number one killer against ticks. I thought it would be a cool way to turn a negative into a positive, and I’d love to organize some fundraisers for Lyme Disease. Once the COVID stuff gets handled, I would love to host some hockey tournaments and raise money for certain few foundations that I have a lot of trust in.
As a creator representing a particular area, do you feel an obligation to the artists and community you shoot in—
to help put them on the map?
I don't know if I would say obligation—but you certainly could. I just feel like I owe it to them. Most of the artists that I work with have a bigger platform than me—I'm just in the beginning stages with a thousand-or-so followers—but I feel like I do have the ability to create top-shelf, quality videos for the South Jersey scene. There's nothing more than I would want than to be able to make that video that breaks Mir Fontane onto the main scene or Mark McCafferty or Franky Hill—any of those guys for that matter—and Philly artists like Dante Miles and Tony DeShayes. All these people are amazing musicians that all have something to say.
Can you recall the best experience you’ve had on set while shooting a video? Is there a particular event that sticks out to you?
I wrote the treatment for "Space Jam" by Mir Fontane. Nimi Hendrix directed that video—one of the top gun directors in Jersey—so it was really cool to write that treatment and then see him execute it. I would also say “Fetti” by Mir Fontane. It was really dope because we were all on set in this big warehouse out in Philly, and it was really more of a running gun kind of shoot. Myles Cream— was there, Veli was there—we were all just playing around, just creating. There's another video when I was out in Atlanta on tour with Mir Fontane—called “Next” that I helped with alongside Kelsey Davis, who is another great creative from Syracuse. Kelsey Davis definitely taught me a few things about seeing visuals in color and just being able to approach music from a visual standpoint. I've always had a great love for music—but she helped me realize how you have to see color, but also hear color.
Speaking of sets, do you have a dream shoot in mind?
Absolutely— there’s this Australian rapper named Allday, he has a bunch of music with Skizzy Mars whose pretty popular in the States. I'm not Australian—I just appreciate his work—the way he approaches it, subject matter, all that. I think me and him are going to end up making some crazy stuff. If we're talking more of a big goal, I would love to direct for Role Model, Steven Moses, Oliver Francis and Yung Pinch. Those are my top four favorite artists that I could really see myself making something ground-breaking with.
Name for me your weakest link—something that you need to improve upon within your craft.
I need to work on letting things live. Not letting my OCD, perfectionist nature hinder my growth. It’s certainly helped me a lot with having high standards and just making sure to always put out my best work. Still, it definitely does hinder me. Even in this past week—I started this company and ordered a whole bunch of new camera gear. I’m just doing it and trying not to look back.
Do you have a favorite movie from a cinematography standpoint?
As far as cinematography goes, I love 1917. That film is particularly special to me. Roger Deakins is a legend—I think that goes without saying. Both of my Grandfathers fought in World Wars, so there’s a personal connection as well. The fact that it’s shot to look like it’s all one take—even though it’s a handful of carefully spliced scenes—is amazing to me.
What does the future hold for Brenden McCafferty?
Lots of exciting things. I'll have my brother by my side, and I'm just looking forward to the next six months. I'll be finishing up my Lyme medicine, I'll be getting my feet on the ground with my company, and I'll be creating high quality visuals with people that I love and respect that are insanely talented.
Check out Brenden McCafferty's previous work and socials here: