Quality over quantity has been a proven method forever, and Roy Hemi has lived by it to the fullest extent—whether that means editing non-stop until the video is complete, or building his brand strategically through his selective base of clientele. Shooting snowboarding videos in Vancouver Island evolved into shooting music videos with some of rap’s most talented upcoming acts in Los Angeles.
Videos such as "Night Mode" by Uno the Activist showcase the intense attention to detail that pushes Hemi ahead of the pack. This quality of work doesn’t come easily, though, as Roy stated that he didn’t even want to promote or watch the video because of how hard he was on himself—even with all the positive feedback from his friends. This trait is typically found in only the best of the best.
We sat down with Roy to discuss in detail how he evolved into the videographer he is today, his insightful justification for buying expensive clothes, his editing process, and his favorite emoji in an exclusive interview with Burbs Entertainment.
Hunter: Tell us more about yourself
Roy: I grew up on Vancouver Island, which is on the west coast of Canada. As soon as I graduated high school, I moved to the mainland in the city of Vancouver. I've been making videos since I was little, but as I got older that passion eventually turned into making music videos because I've always had a love for rap music. When I was young, I was making snowboard videos with my friends and stuff like that. I made my first music video with this artist that went to my high school when I was in grade 12, and that’s when I realized that I really enjoyed doing that.
So, I moved to Vancouver and found some artists that I started working with. I eventually got discovered by someone's management out in LA. Their crew came up to Vancouver to meet me; shoutout to the 2067 boys, aka TooFarGone. They make the freshest clothing. They've been dressing people like Warhol and Uno, and also Lucki, Lil Gotit, and Trippie Redd, just to name a few. Anyways, they're the ones who introduced me to Uno. After working with their artist and some other people, that's when I went down to LA the first time. That was basically the start of everything.
Who hit you up to go down there?
That was the TooFarGone guys. They were sort of managing an artist named Anklegod, who’s from the Vancouver region. They reached out to me to shoot with him and be his creative director/videographer. After I shot a music video with him, I went out to LA with his team who stays out there, and they introduced me to Uno. Uno liked the video I had done so we decided to shoot the “It’s Up” video. After the video was released, I started getting exposure and attention for the first time. The video is about to hit 2 million views, so it might be Uno’s most viewed video, which is cool. Afterwards, I got hit up by a bunch of artists, then Val Perre found me and was like, “I wanna work with you; I wanna manage you, let's do it.”
Does it feel like all of this has happened for you pretty quickly? I know you've been working at it for a while, but has it just really started popping off?
Nah, for real. It happened so organically and with ease, almost, but it's not like I haven't worked for it. I went down there not really knowing anyone, just putting myself out there, and it's been working out. It's all happened pretty quickly. Even though I get a lot of requests to shoot videos, everything I put out is really curated. I'm not the type to just be pushing out tons of content and then just slowly grow from that. I'm into bigger projects, so I keep the sauce going but in finite amounts.
You focus on quality over quantity, which I think is a very good thing because there's a lot of people that will just try to work with anybody to make those connects. It's not a bad way to go about it, but I feel like sometimes you can undervalue yourself and your work by just trying to continually pushing out content.
That’s the thing—I'm so picky about who I work with. So for the longest time... I had only shot for a couple of artists in Vancouver. People would hit me up for videos, but I just wouldn't be down. I have to like the artist and I have to relatively fuck with the song to be able to shoot it. It’s not the most scalable business model at the moment so I will have to adapt. There's not much of a rap scene where I'm from, so it was very hard for me to do those first videos. It was good experience, but yeah, I'm so picky about that; I'm thankful that someone found me before I had to put out a bunch of content to get exposure eventually. It all just happened pretty quickly, like you said, which is good because I don't know if I could have done it otherwise. Whenever I make videos, I put so much of myself into it. So if I were to be doing that all the time, I would get burnt out.
I can tell just by watching your videos that every little detail is precise and sharp; it's not just thrown together. You can tell that the bigger project you really put your time into comes out crafted how you wanted it.
What does a typical week look like for you?
A typical week... That is an interesting question during these times, because of COVID and everything. This whole summer was kind of a shitshow because I was supposed to be going out to LA but then we had the whole lockdown here. In Canada, we were totally locked down. They were saying you can't travel to any other countries or be let into the country, so I was just stuck here for months. I ended up finessing the system and eventually got into the states, though. I'm just getting back into the rhythm of things now, but to answer your question, I don't really have a typical week. This past month I was in LA, and then I flew to New York to work with some people. I was shooting there, hanging out, then went back to LA and was shooting, editing, and now I just flew back to Vancouver, Canada. I got back yesterday, so now I'm just going to be editing for a few weeks straight then I’ll go back to LA. So, I don't really have a routine.
With flying all around and editing, there's a lot of different aspects to it. What is your favorite part about editing?
I like certain aspects of each part. I don't really outsource my editing; I typically only edit stuff that I shoot myself, and that’s because I know when I hear a song, I can visualize all the camera movements in my head. If someone else is doing that, it's just gonna throw me off. So, I enjoy getting those certain camera movements and bringing that into my edit. That’s something I like, that part is satisfying. Speaking on post-production, there's also other things I enjoy, like compositing VFX into my shots, sound design, etc. Just creating satisfying content.
What is your favorite kind of effect to use?
I wouldn't have a favorite, because everything is so subjective with effects. With the past videos I've made, a lot of them have been so effect-heavy that it has kind of turned me off a little, so I'm trying to stray away from that. I want to implement effects that are strictly used for the storyline or to express something from the song or video, because everyone nowadays is putting so many effects in their videos and it's just becoming corny. So, I wouldn’t say I have a favorite type of effect, but I've been getting a lot more into 3D modeling, so I like creating 3D environments for my artists to be in. That's kind of cool—creating an immersive atmosphere.
What is one of your favorite films? Are there any directors that are your favorite, or that you take inspiration from?
I just watched it on the plane coming back from New York—Uncut Gems is my favorite recent movie right now, for sure. I like the intro and outro sequences, and I also just really like A24 Studios.
I really liked Uncut Gems, but it was so stressful for me because it was so hectic with everything going on.
(Laughs) Yeah, the first time I tried to watch it with a friend it was just not the vibe because it was so stressful, but then I watched it for a second time and I was like, “Holy fuck, this is the best movie I’ve ever seen.” But yeah, I can see that—you just got to enjoy how chaotic the character is, and his disregard for everyone else's problems. It’s truly amazing.
In the “It’s Up” video, you had Uno holding the lightbulb and then the Guitar Hero chords came out of it. Did you fuck with Guitar Hero growing up?
Bro, I loved Guitar Hero. I was cracked on that plastic guitar; I was actually a nerd. Yeah, I don't know... that just came to me and it just seemed so fitting since he was acting out playing the guitar. But yeah, I definitely fucked with Guitar Hero growing up.
Did you have a go-to song on there? Were you on expert all the time?
Yeah, I was on some nerd shit like that. There's obviously “Through the Fire and Flames,” which was probably my favorite.
You mentioned that you made snowboarding videos growing up, and I peeped your Instagram—you got a picture from a while ago of you snowboarding. Is that something that you did a lot growing up?
Yeah, definitely. I still fuck with snowboarding heavily, and one of my close homies just won an X Games gold medal. He's a pro snowboarder that I grew up with; shout out Darcy. I'm kind of tapped in with that community. Actually, he and I have some projects that we’re planning that I think will be pretty dope for that industry. So, you can expect some snowboarding content coming at some point.
Is there a specific brand or publication that you would do like any type of project for? Who would that be? Is there someone completely out of your realm that you really want to work with?
People don't really know this, but I also do commercial work; I have some content coming out with some brands down in LA, including beauty brands. I used to work with a marketing agency for a couple of years, so I really fuck with video ad campaigns and whatever else, so I'm really trying to get into the commercial world, as well. As far as bigger clients, we were supposed to produce the NFL kickoff video, but Lyrical Lemonade ended up snagging the gig. It wasn’t meant to be, I guess; I just have to grind harder for the next thing that comes up. I definitely want to be working with brands; I have the eye for that and I definitely love that side of things.
You a big sports guy? Or no?
Well, I used to play a lot of hockey growing up—I’m Canadian, in case ya forgot! Other than that, I was into basketball—especially when the Raptors were in the Finals—but I haven't really been keeping up to-date on sports. I've just been in my own world, doing whatever I've been doing.
If there was another creative outlet that you could pursue, what would that be? I know a lot of people in the creative scene want to venture into other outlets.
I do produce; I've been making beats since I was in high school. It would probably have something to do with producing or sound design; I fuck with that heavy. I feel like that's one thing people don't really realize when they watch the stuff that I do—all the effects are usually tied in with sound design. That's definitely key to making things more immersive—subtle sound effects and things like that. So, I would probably branch off into that more. I feel like as my career develops, I’ll branch off into many different lanes. I’ve also been into fashion for quite some time.
Would fashion be something you would want to branch into?
Yeah, actually. My homie and I have a whole brand concept and we have a few samples that we've made. It’s definitely something that I’m interested in, as well. I've also had some opportunities related to this—I've helped and worked on clothing for The2067, aka TooFarGone. I've designed some things for them, and some big artists are wearing those pieces now, which is cool.
If you could build a fit—one brand per piece—what do you wear?
Probably Rick Owens. Maybe all Rick Owens, to keep it a bean with you. It depends what I'm pulling up to. I feel like a mix of Rick Owens, Kapital, Number Nine, and maybe Helmut Lang would be the brands I’m rocking. I just ordered an Alyx backpack, so I'll throw that on, too.
I’ve actually been thinking about it, because I was just trying to justify how much money I just spent on this backpack. What it is for me, specifically in the position I'm in right now—when I walk into the studio, or if I'm around people of major influence, they see this kid and they might be like, “Damn, who’s this drippy white boy with fucking one arm?” I'm easy to spot; I might as well own it. It's just like if you go to a job interview and you look well-presented, that's an instant good impression. That’s a good investment.
So, this is how I justify my spending on clothes. Just the other day we were in the studio with Swae Lee, and I was wearing all Rick like we speculated; that is a good impression for these artists. I linked with Famous Dex and he was trying to buy my shoes off of me. That's good PR; also it’s a good way to introduce the conversation into, “What do you do? What's your deal? Let's tap in.” But regardless of my career, I’ve always been into fashion, so I’d be buying clothes regardless. This is just my justification at the moment.
I have never heard it quite like that, and I honestly think that's the best way I've ever heard it. A justification. It's like a job interview; that's so true, I never thought about it like that. You're literally trying to be well presented based on your clientele and make a good first impression.
Do you have a favorite visual or experience?
Well, I really love shooting live shows, but that's probably just because I love chaos. Ever since I was young, I loved going to shows and just raging in the mosh pit. I'm getting a bit older now, though, so I’m not going crazy like I used to. But when a COVID vaccine gets released and show season comes back, I'm probably going on tour with Warhol, so things will get hectic again which I’m really, really looking forward to. I love capturing that type of content—where everything is just chaos around me. I feel so comfortable and happy in that environment.
But back to the question, as far as an actual shoot or experience, Warhol and I just had one where we had a whole crew of drift cars, drifting around him as a performance piece ensued. When I was younger, I loved drifting; I built a whole drift car and was just into that shit. That shoot combined my love for drifting, video producing, and chaos. That shit was crazy, bro. It was very dangerous and some shit happened, but it was a very memorable experience.
Can you tell us a little more about the video of the car drifting on your profile? I think it's one of your first posts.
That's the car that I built up when I was in high school. Shit, I got into lots of trouble doing that growing up, but I just couldn't help myself. It's like the most addicting shit ever. Clutch kicking around a corner and just losing traction and controlling the counter steering is the most satisfying and exhilarating feeling of all-time.
I've drifted not on purpose, like in the snow fucking making a left turn and scared a car’s gonna hit me... But I've never purposely done it, bro. I can imagine why it'd be exhilarating.
A couple of trips ago when I went to LA, I rented out this fucking RX8—which isn't even that crazy of a car—but I just was drifting in these industrial areas around LA; that shit was so fun.
I've only been to LA once. Do you fuck with it? Would you ever consider moving there?
Yeah, I'm probably moving down there ASAP—as soon as I figure out accommodations, and once I’m posted up down there with my editing rig. But yes, LA is cool. I definitely love New York, but LA is where all the work is. If I had a choice, I would move to New York if there was more work there, but LA is where all the artists are, so that's where I'm going to have to be.
Okay, I went the first time in July, and then I'm going out there later this year. I've never been to New York, but it's just not my vibe. I kind of like the cold in Chicago.
Yeah, I like the weather in Chicago, as well. I prefer cold weather over hotter weather. LA is just mostly for my work, but it's also a vibe. Malibu—all that shit’s hella nice; it's like you're on a vacation.
Within the next five years, is there anybody that you really want to work with that you haven't had the chance to yet?
Well, that's interesting, because in five years, I have no idea what the landscape of the rap scene or my career will be. I grew up as a kid listening to rap, and I've already worked with a few of the artists I grew up listening to, which is a great feeling. But to answer your question... I feel like it’s cliche to say, but Carti would be ultimate; I've been a Carti fan since the beginning, but that’s played out now. I’m tryna beef with him for not dropping the album.
That's a tough question, though. I know I'm going to get videos with some of these artists that I love and that I'm in contact with; I know that's all gonna happen. I feel like a better answer would be that in five years, I wanna be running a production company that is well-known enough in the industry to the point where I can just contact artists that I want to work with and negotiate things and be in that sort of position. The possibilities could be endless.
With the production company, are you more interested in building a brand or building a team?
That's been such a thinking point for me recently; I have something in the works as far as a production company, so we're getting that all organized as far as LLC’s and branding.
I think my end goal is to have people see my brand or company and associate it with the good feeling they had while watching a piece of content that we produced. So, I think it would be a bit of both, because that requires having the right team, but then also the right brand identity and all that to maintain that image in that presence of greatness.
That's definitely something that is very important. I'm sure you know, but maintaining that brand image and making sure the people that you're working with have that same goal and image is so important. It's like the brand identity is not diluted by a separate vision, you know?
Exactly. I couldn't imagine how hard it is for Cole Bennett to have his empire to be somewhat curated, like imagine.
Now, I don't know if this was just for the picture or whatever, but do you have a pilot's license? I saw you flying a plane in the one.
I am close to having a pilot license, but actually—let's rephrase that. I have a good amount of flying experience, but I do not have my pilot's license—so whatever you saw, you didn't see.
I don't know if I could ever fly a plane; I would be so fucking nervous.
It's such a crazy feeling, bro—especially when you're just vibing, punching through clouds. I fell in love with it.
What inspired the aesthetic of the “Night Mode” video? Because I thought it was unique how it was comic-based, almost.
Back when I shot Uno and I's first video, we were in the studio. He showed me a song that he just made, it was called “Perc Mode,” and I was like, “This song is fucking amazing, bro.” I immediately had visions for the song; and I knew it was gonna be big because it sounds so unique. After eight months of it being in the vault, we finally started shooting it. I knew that I wanted something different for that one, but I wasn't quite sure what it was. When I was in LA, I was looking for what I was able to do. I had a lot of different ideas, like him being in space, but the budget wasn't as big as I was hoping for, so I worked with what I had.
Then, I thought of this whole sequence of him being Dr. Perc and creating his masterpiece in this lab, and from there I thought of the other characters—Nurse 30 and the lab rat. Actually bro, I didn't even realize that there was a feature on that song until the day we started shooting. I thought that it was a weird second part of the song; I was like, “Uno sounds fucking weird in this,” but it turned out to be 2 Gram Cam featured on the song. I was like, “This is gonna fuck with the storyline I had planned out but whatever...”
I don't know. It worked out, I guess.
I thought the video was super cool in the way it was done.
Thanks, man. To be honest, I didn't even want to promote it at the time because I get so introspective about my work to the point where I think it all looks like shit. I’m hard on myself, I guess. I couldn't even watch it after it dropped. My friends were like, “Bro, get over yourself. Post that shit.” So I did, but yeah, I don't know; it's just an issue I got to work on.
What is your favorite emoji?
Oh, the prosthetic flex. Have you seen that emoji?
I know exactly which one you're talking about. The Roy Hemi emoji!
Yeah, that shit’s fire. I was like, “No way, I got my own emoji!”
Now, this could be ignorant, but is Roy Hemi your actual name? Or is that shortened for video production?
Nope, that's my name. Someone came up and asked me, “Is this your stage name?” Like, what? That’s my name, gang...
You’re a really unique person. What part of you stands out the most?
Well, I think something unique would be like, “Who is this fucking kid with one arm making videos?” That's what people think at first glance, but I’m just doing me. I don’t really have any other option. My “unique” trait of missing an arm is fine, but it gets rough on shoot days when I haven't hired a grip and I'm doing everything. That’s when it's the most difficult for me with operating everything and then setting up and taking down. Sometimes I'll have help, but a lot of time, I don’t; that's when I really notice my disability. Other than that, there’s not much that can stop me. If I'm struggling, I never show it, because I hate receiving sympathy.
Obviously with videos, they take a long time to edit. Are you one of those people who just won't sleep until you accomplish something that you're really trying to finish, or will you be like, “Okay, I'll put this away and finish it tomorrow?”
The way I work is not healthy. I basically will edit 24 hours straight until something is done, and then just die. That's something that I need to work on, because when I'm in the creative mode and I'm in the zone, I just keep going until my body no longer lets me. I’m working on restructuring how I get things done, because my methods aren’t too sustainable at the moment.
I used to be that way. And now I'm a little bit more, “Okay, I got a lot done. I'll finish this up tomorrow,” and just kind of schedule stuff out. I used to just stay up all night working on stuff, but then I'd wake up the next morning and it'd be super late. I feel like when you're flying out to LA or New York, you don't really have that sleep schedule.
When I’m out in LA or NY with the crew I’m with, the “rapper lifestyle” is something that you need to adjust to; it’s hectic and it's so loosely planned. Everything is so late; you go to a shoot or go to the studio at 3:00 A.M. That's not that much of an issue for me because I'm a nighthawk, but it's something that a lot of people would struggle with probably. My sleep schedule is so far gone; I need to develop a healthier lifestyle when it comes to that.
Do you have a favorite spot to eat out in LA, or out in Vancouver where you’re from?
I don't know; I'm currently a Uber Eats junkie. I just get everything delivered to me—it’s the hedonistic lifestyle, baby; I’m all in. But on a serious note, I really need to start cooking….