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Director X – “The Art Of Storytelling & The Evolution Of A Director”

For over two decades, Julien Christian Lutz, better known as Director X, has been responsible for some of music’s most iconic videos.

He has directed the videos for many of the world’s top artists and hip hop legends including Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Usher, and many more.

His work has been recognized by MTV, Much Music, BET, and the Grammys with numerous nominations and awards. Julien has also entered the world of feature films directing movies such as “Across the Line,” “Center Stage: On Pointe,” and “Superfly.”

Currently, he seeks to make the world a more peaceful place through his community organization Operation Prefrontal Cortex. The organization aims to reduce gun violence and heal the effects of gun violence through meditation.

The 45-year-old director explained that in a person’s brain, you have the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. They are both connected. The prefrontal cortex shouldn’t be too small compared to the amygdala because then violent tendencies arise.

Stress could shrink the prefrontal cortex but meditation can change that. That’s why he created the Toronto-based organization to encourage children to meditate.

We certainly learned a lot when Julien dropped by the RUN GPG Podcast to share this new project.

Julien / Director X is a prolific director with close to 200 music videos under his belt, plus a few films, a TV series, and some commercials.

As mentioned, he has worked with the biggest artists in the world. He described Kanye West as passionate while Drake is “a student of the game.” He also said that he was impressed with Rihanna’s growth from a young artist to a regal woman.

The “Center Stage: On Pointe” director also called Justin Bieber a “genius,” and was disappointed with how the singer was treated by people when he was only a teenager starting out in the music business.

While he mostly worked with hip-hop artists, Julien is really a versatile director. He also directed Demi Lovato’s “Commander in Chief,” Little Mix’s “Touch” and “Black Magic,” The Wanted’s “Chasing the Sun,” Korn’s “Coming Undone,” and a video for Chris Rock, among many others.

His “Life Is Good” video received a 2021 Grammy nomination.

Directing is about understanding human emotion, said Julien.

“You have to tell a deeper story about what attracts people to one another. You need to really get these things and study these things so that when you shape a story, you can shape it with subtle nuances. They will resonate on a deeper level,” Julien also said.

Here are some of the topics we covered:

  • Who is Julien Lutz aka Director X?
  • Hip-hop scene in Toronto growing up.
  • Biggest influences musically and visually.
  • Interning at Much Music.
  • Working with Hype Williams.
  • Biggest takeaway from working with Hype Williams.
  • Importance of mentorship.
  • Pivotal moment that made Julien Lutz want to become a director.
  • Where did the name Director X come from?
  • The role of director.
  • Process of creating the music video.
  • Julien Lutz’s directing style
  • Directing is about understanding human behavior.
  • What it’s like working with artists at the top of their game: Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, and Jay-Z. (58:35)
  • What video/s changed Julien Lutz’s life.
  • Working with Justin Bieber.
  • Advice for young creatives.
  • About Operation Prefrontal Cortex.
  • How can one get the creative juices flowing?
  • Who would be at Julien Lutz’s dream dinner table?.
  • What would Julien Lutz be celebrating next year?
  • What legacy does Julien Lutz want to leave behind?

Contact Julien Lutz / Director X


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Julian Lutz, better known as Director X is a legend of filmmaking and is responsible for some of music’s most iconic videos. He’s directed the videos for many of the world’s top artists, musicians and hip hop legends, including Kanye west Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Jay Z, Justin Bieber, usher, and. Many more, his work has been recognized by MTV, much music bet.

And the Grammy’s with numerous nominations and awards. Julian has also entered the world of feature films, directly movies, such as across the line center stage on point and Superfly, great soundtrack, a true creative and someone I’m really looking forward to having a discussion with about his life, his work, his creative process, and a lot more Julian, welcome to the run GPG pod.

Yeah, thanks for having, thanks for joining us today. Really looking forward to hearing where it all started for you, your influences, and as mentioned your creative process, and hopefully we’ll be able to break down some advice for, you know, young, ambitious creatives out there tuning in today for the first time.

I know you have a lot of fans. So first of all, can you take us back and give us a little of the journey to becoming Director X and the legendary filmmaker, that we see today? So. First question, who is Julian lots. Where are you from? And where did you grow up? I am Julian Christian Luke’s PKA Director X, and I am from Toronto, grew up in Brampton.

For one half of my life, moved downtown for another half or another chunk of my life, moved to Brooklyn for another chunk of my life. You know what I mean? So those are, those are the three places that probably has the most influence. And I make music videos, commercials, tell him to show shows some movies.

I’m a director. That’s awesome. What was the music scene like in Toronto as you were coming up, especially the hip hop scene to mind breaking that down for us a little bit. I mean, one of those growing up hip hop, only a few records that make it to the radio, barely any empty, left music. Wasn’t playing it yet.

There was no rap city at that time. No, you’d have to know someone who got some music from the state. So it was just hard to get ahold of the music. It was hard. You’re going to hold the culture. Great. Beyond what we had is just a very different time. Who were your biggest, influences both visually and musically back then.

Yeah. Yeah. How did that happen? I was reading poetry. I was doing poetry stuff around town and, one day they did a poetry episode on. And while I was there, I spoke to the producer, Michelle Geister well, Hey, you know, cause there’s a dude on the scene, big C would’ve been an intern, there was a unit assistant and we didn’t know what that meant at that time we thought, we thought we thought big series rich because he worked at much music and do we know?

But he moved on to work at BMG. And so there’s an open, there’s an opening. I knew there was an opening. So I said, yo, what’s up with that big C spot. I got that internship. Nice. Okay. So you, ended up being mentored by a legend that’s hype Williams, right? How did you track down hype Williams? Like how did that connection happen?

Vibe magazine did a one page thing. Like we’ve been noticing the videos. The name was getting known now rap city was around, you were noted symptoms. Certain videos, you could tell that someone, they looked better, they were more artistic and weekly, no hype Williams, just the name it was beginning to, we began to get known.

So I reached out to vibe trying to get a office contact. So I had to figure out how to get ahold of vibe. I sent the package to the, to the person who wrote that story with all of this stuff. I had done videos, t-shirts all my art and said, I want to, you know, try to get ahold of this guy and. They finally gave me an office number.

I say, who do I need to talk to? So I knew you couldn’t ask for hypes numbers. You know what I’m saying? And, got the office number. And then from there had to go through a whole other set of hustle in that it was not easy. Persistence is normally what I told you. Right. Listen, you, no doubt had a lot of takeaways, lessons learned and taught.

What was it like working with hype in? Can you think of the biggest takeaway you had from working with. I mean, working with hype was amazing. I got to be around, you know, the biggest videos of the day as they’re being made right beside the guy who’s making them. So a lot of, a lot of learning from that process.

And I mean, as far as being a director, I think the biggest takeaway I got from hype was that a video needs to be about. About something because me, it has to be a story. It has to be, it can be about a look, it could be about dance. It could be about something, you know what I’m saying? But it needs to be, you need to know what it’s going to be about when you do it.

And the follow-up to that. Can you touch on the importance of mentorship for young creatives? Because, I mean, you can’t think of a better, you know, mentor to have been hype Williams, especially in the, you know, the work you’re doing, but just the importance of mentorship. Well, I was fortunate. I mean, I haven’t got in there and we formed that relationship, but, not everyone has that.

Well, you got to get in there and just work, you know, and be around, people you got to, which is the importance for, for young people getting into entry level positions, interning PA just being in the system. And be able to see people and learn from them. Cause not every mentorship has to be like some big name person has taken you under their wing and now you’re not, everything has to be there.

No, I agree with that. At what point did you decide you wanted to direct? Was there a pivotal moment there where you said, okay, I want to be a director, how much music? The internship in Mike’s music is when I looked around and said, oh, cause before that I thought I was gonna be a graphic designer, then job, this is interesting.

Camera’s just likes, this is interesting. And where did the, okay. Maybe you can tell us where the name Director X actually came from. Well, it came from little eggs back, everyone. Back in those days, everything was, you know, Malcolm X days there was public enemy X clan, just hip hop was much more militant place.

So I was a little X and then, you know, as I got into my thirties, I’m like, I can’t be.

Got it. So let’s talk about the role of the director here and your creative process. Maybe some advice as well, but what does a director do? Like what do you want from a director? Okay. The director’s division, right? Especially when it comes to music videos, you want a director that really understands the full scope.

What it’s going to look like, understands the camera. It’s creative. It’s coming up with concepts. I understand its culture. I understand. I’m just sending just what’s hot. Like, yo, we got to do this little thing and we’re gonna, you know, it’s, it’s that bigger vision it’s deleted? What does your creative process look like?

Like for example, if an artist comes to you and says, I’d like you to direct a, you know, a video for the new single off my new album, like where do you start with that? What’s the process look like playing the song over and over and over again, some of us know exactly what they want to do. So you’re just kind of creating their vision.

Other artists are more along the lines that you go. I don’t know. That’s why I called you. And those cases, you’re just listening to the record, listening to the record, trying to find the things and flush it out and make it into a full piece. So you just listen to the song over and over again. So a lot of it, and then you start looking at visuals sometimes you’re just, just go through the process, trying to find the thing that’s going to be.

Cool. You know, directors, creatives, you know, they all have their distinct styles. Can you describe your style? Do you have one? I don’t know. I mean, I know that I got. Yeah, I know there is definitely a style. People do know when they see something that’s me, they know it’s me, but I don’t know how I I’ve heard you say, if you want to be a director, this is the business of understanding human behavior.

You said that that’s your quote. Yeah, you have to be conscious of the subconscious. Why is directing. Understanding human behavior.

Why does directing about, understanding human behavior at some point you’re going to, especially when you start getting in the narrative storytelling, you have to understand how people behave. You’re telling a, about what attracts people to want to know that how they just do, you need to really get these things and study these things so that when you shape a story, you can shape it with those subtle nuances.

So it resonates on a deeper level that goes across the board, dancing, friendship, romance, anger, these raw emotions that people have that you need. You need to really study that. Right and, and watch the world. So then you can shape different characters, different scenarios, tell different stories, truthfully, in a way that people say, oh, this, this speaks to me.

Yeah. Interesting. Okay. Now let’s talk about your work for a second. Here. You’ve worked with some of the most iconic musicians, hip hop, legends, pop stars, contemporary artists in the last decade that we mentioned in the intro there. So I want to get your perspective on what it was like working with a few of them, if that’s okay with you.

First of all, I got to ask you about my guy. I referenced this guy in almost every podcast, which is Kanye, Kanye west. What was like working with him, Connie as a character man. Back then, that was a different kind of Kanye. It’s still the same kind of path. Same kind of drives, you know, the video I shot was him.

He’s funded himself. It wasn’t in the lane. He was signed to Rockefeller at the time he wanted to do it. So he did it. You know, he’s always been that kind of guy. Drake, Drake is another one, really smart, really a student of the game. Charming, good dude, but very creative and again, student of the game, like he.

It’s not a fluke. He’s not kind of sorta like he is dedicated to the music and the video and everything that goes with that. He’s dedicated to it. You worked with him, very early on. Did you see him becoming like that? Like the superstar mega star he is. Did you see that? I don’t know if we deserve this, you know, you know, having beatings Beatles more than the Beatles.

No. To predict that. Yeah, a Canadian icon, one of the most prolific artists the last 10 years, for sure. Kendrick Lamar, another one just, does work it an interesting, it was more interesting working with Kendrick would being in Compton at that time and seeing the neighborhood and seeing his world, you know what I’m saying?

Seeing the world, he he’s from, that was an interesting thing to see which. She includes them. Rihanna. It’s very first video and I did work. So seeing her grow up into this prankster little girl to know very Regal kind of woman, impressive to see that growth. Jay Z a really smart, really cool legitimately cool guy.

Another one that I’ve seen grow into who he is. Was there a music video that changed your life? Either one you were involved in or when you work, is there one that like, just, it was, was there a key moment? A video, any video? I mean, in my career, the key music video was red, man. I’ll be that, that’s the one that really changed everything, but there’s different ones along the way.

Right, man, I’ll be, that was what started my career, Donald Jones, where I want to be kind of put me in a different realm. Sean Paul, he knew the light changed everything, not just that one changed the world more so than it changed my career. It was just, you know, I’ll show him. Paul became Sean Paul from Reiki music back to the forefront.

I’ll show you got a bad was a big moment. Of course, hotline bling was crazy. That, that was really something to see a music video. Get that kind of worldwide, claim and attention. It’s like, oh wow. Knowing only thing to do in like that has really been, this is America, you know, like the, now that’s in the world, that’s in the culture that a music video can be so impactful that people, you know, I forgot to ask you about one other Canadian here, Justin Bieber.

What was it like working with him? What he bring to the set? I want just a man really talents. Especially now he’s very polite and calm and dare to work. Good to everybody. When he was younger, he was, you know, he’s, he’s always, in my opinion, to, to, for whatever reason people didn’t treat Justin. Right.

Especially when he was really young know it was that I didn’t treat him as a genius. If you call him a genius. Now there’s still people who are trying to argue with them about with you about. Something like that and playing that many instruments from that y’all need a genius. There’s no, you don’t have to argue that.

You know, the kid was 15 a teenager and there’d be like big celebrities calling him a piece of shit on TV. It was really the way to treat a kid and then no one ever pushed back like, oh, you know, you’re talking about a kid, right. Yeah. I met Justin a few years ago in Miami, actually. Nice guy, super nice guy, Canadian.

K the time in Atlanta really, gave him a whole other flavor, but he’s a good kid, man. Okay, here, we’ll wrap up this with the question. What advice would you have for a young creative looking to make their mark? Like I would say, especially now with the tools that are in your possession, go out and make.

And, really make things within your culture. You know, every kid exists in a subculture of some kind. There’s some, you know what I mean? We all exist in different little worlds, embrace that world because that’s where they’re going to give you a shot. That’s where you’re going to be most accepted. It was the hip hop record labels.

They gave me my shot, that boy Rockefeller, right? They, opened it. They gave me that shot. And by, by, by embracing the subculture. That’s going to give you a much better, lane, that place to work, where you’re understood where you get it innately. When you’re in the culture, you have an understanding of the culture.

You know what I’m saying? That’s the place to be, but I’m top of top is you got to just start making stuff. Yeah. Good advice. What’s next for you? Like what projects do you have on the go what’s coming up next? Maybe you can talk on an operation, prefrontal cortex, which I was reading about. I mean, wise, there’s always something on the go and we can’t really talk about them until they’re done.

Well, Abra is your prefrontal cortex is a community organization that I founded with some friends to reduce gun violence and, healed the effects of gun violence through meditation. We’re an educational organization, educating people about what happened. So, you know, childhood abuse and neglect damage.

The brain, the developing brain is damaged and stress damages the brain, right? Regardless of how you grew up. So abuse and neglect the child is who grows up in an abusive or neglectful environment. Their prefrontal cortex is too small compared to the average person. And that’s a decision-making and their amygdala, which is emotional control is too large.

And the way these two parts of the brain. Is that the amygdala can shut off your prefrontal cortex if you’ve ever blacked out, have you ever heard anyone say, oh, I blacked out, you know, that moment you’re in, something’s happening blackout. There’s a hole in your memory. And next thing you know, you’re, someone’s going, you know, you’re doing something right.

What has happens is the amygdala gets information, just a fraction faster than the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. So your emotions decide if we’re going to go fight. And stress does this as well. Stress shrinks or prefrontal cortex and the larger victim, even just a little bit of stress. So when your brain is in that state, when your brain, when your prefrontal cortex is small, too small, and your mental is too big, you’re more pro than violent and aggressive behavior.

So all these things are shaping, damaging the brain, but meditation reverses that meditation gives volume to the prefrontal cortex and shrinks. The exact opposite of the violent and aggressive brake, the exact opposite of what stress and trauma do to the brain. And when you bring meditation to violent environments or violent people, they change and it’s literally changing the brain.

So our organization is about bringing this information to the public because it’s so easy to do. Like someone could hear this podcast now, like I’m going to try and meditate. I have angers. Google download Headspace or down, you know, Google how to meditate and try something. And that’s all it takes. You know what I’m saying?

Like, boom, you’re in, you’re on your way. You don’t need a fancy, this. You don’t need a fancy that you don’t, you don’t need anything. Suck the decision to do it. And then after a while, you really begin to see those changes. So making this information for people and what this does, especially if you’re a parent, you need to get your kid.

There are marks get better. Their relationships get better friendships, physically, everything in their life gets better. The earlier you can get your child meditating the better. So we all need to do it, especially in these times that we’re in. We all should be meditating, but especially our kids. It will you’ll, you will change their life.

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Yeah. Awesome. Well, that sounds like a great cause. Here’s a question. What do you do to keep your creative juices flowing day to day? I mean, I just always am devouring, other art, other things to look at, you know what I’m saying? I meditate every day, get outside and walk every day. I take a bunch of herbs that are good for the brain.

You know what I’m saying? Knack is my new favorite one. NAC check. Google that one. Yeah. Cool. That one shows some nine . That makes a good cup cookie in your body and brain and body. Yeah. I thought you ever, and I was watching Joe Rogan. He was talking to a guy about NAD, which is another, like vitamin B thing.

That really, I was like, oh, it keeps you young. Well, duh. And, but it’s hard to find, you always got to order it. And I was in a health food store and I saw NAC on the shelf, but had been so long, I thought the NAC was NAD. So. And then when it went back to the Joe Rogan show, the go look up what the guy said.

I realized I had the wrong thing, but then when I Googled what I had, it was good. I got back issues. This is good for my back. It’s good for your brain. It’s good for your skin. It’s like, it’s just, it’s unreal. It’s unreal. What does, so, you know, currently there’s always some supplement I’m suggesting to my friends, that’s the current one I’m suggesting, is there an app or a piece of technology that you cannot live without?

I mean, we’re all addicted to our I-phones now, at least I think we’ve got the real things that we got to recognize this addiction, these things. They’re just God, he was just compelled to open it up and start flipping through Instagram or Twitter or just, it’s just crazy. Yeah. But it’s a stupid, I’ve been spending so much downtime on a clubhouse too, which is ridiculous.

It’s like the, you know, that app is just insane, you know, I don’t know what it is, but that that’s one of the most addictive apps I think, because you’re actually conversing with people, you know, you get that, you know, you’ve got a little bit of, and you can start your rule yet. What else is interesting? Interesting, right.

We just want, we’re just a species that just, can’t not be around. Everything’s you know what I’m saying? Look, we’re always looking at pictures of each other words that we’ve written to one another talking to one another. Look, you just got to be, we’re just this herd species. You just gotta, gotta wrap around one another.

Yeah. That’s why this locked down was not good for people. Here’s a, here’s a question make you think. If you could have dinner with any three people in history, pastor present, who would they be? Genghis Khan. Why not? We can just call it. You know what I’m saying? I heard a story that he, they would see Jugtown these guys were crazy.

And he said to the people of the town said, I’m here. That means God is mad at you.

I don’t know what you did wrong when I’m here.

And they spent like a month killing people a month straight, just killing.

And apparently, I don’t know how they know this, but they can track. I can’t remember what percentage of the world’s population back to, to con so yeah, again guys, come on. Let’s have dinner. Jane has called, Bob Marley in Malcolm X. What a table that would be exactly. That’d be fun. That’s the first thing is con we’ve had.

Maybe it’s not the first gang is condom trying to think first Malcolm X we’ve had for sure. Bob Marley, we may have had Bob Marley, but that’s a quite a table. How many people

after dinner? It’d be interesting to let him

There you go. Okay. Here’s a question. You’re opening a bottle of champagne a year from now celebrating something you’ve accomplished. What would that be? My blockbuster. You can’t tell us can, you know, dammit, dammit, Julian. okay. Okay. Final question. What’s your legacy like when all is said and done, what does the Julian Lutz legacy look like?

Like what do you want to be known for? I mean, I hope people look back at the work I did. And remember that it’s, you know, it’s not just a flash in the pan. But more importantly that the work we’re doing in the community, the operation prefrontal cortex mission to bring meditation into schools, communities, the correctional system, the streets, the police force really all first responders, if that just became, or when that becomes the standard of just how we do things, when our kids go to school.

And of course the meditated. And of course the cops meditate. Of course the of course our firemen and our nurses and doctors and teachers. And when, when this is just that brain health in the same way, we all now recognize that you have to take care of your body. We have to exercise that we recognize that meditation is just brain exercise that has to be done, that, that of your brain, you have to exercise your body.

And what we get when we have that happening, when the majority of the world. But when the whole world, even when they get up in the morning, take some time to close your eyes and exercise their brain to meditate and whatever meditative practice you have to exercise your brain in the same way you exercise your body to, you know, another highlight exercise and meditation together can move those travel.

They’re both good for the preform. So when the world is doing that, that will be a much better word. And if people can remember me as being part of that, well, that’d be another awesome. Love it. Where do you want the people to find you? Go follow you find out about prefrontal cortex. We’ll put it all in the show notes.

Our website is

Okay. And my Instagram is Director X. Like you’re doing, take the rest of the day off. Peace. Thank you.


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