Creative Interview With Director / Producer Marc Santo

This week as part of our Creative Interview series, Laundry caught up with Brooklyn Director / Producer Marc Santo of Brooklyn based Emperor Go!. We caught up with Marc on the road over beers at Dino's Bar in lovely Nashville, TN to discuss his creative journey and his latest projects. 

Marc is founder of Emperor Go!, a Brooklyn-based creative production company specializing in documentaries, films, branded content, and music videos. Using their core group of directors, producers, editors, animators and designers, they partner with clients to turn unique ideas into meaningful content that people actually want to watch.

Marc began working in the entertainment industry as a college student doing street marketing and college promotions for record labels that included Matador Records, Giant Step Recordings and Satellite Records. After graduation he was offered a gig helping David Johansen of the seminal punk band the New York Dolls make music videos and never looked back.

Since then, Marc has directed and produced promos, music videos, feature documentaries and over 200 video profiles on notable chefs, artists and musicians for clients that include MTV, Tribeca Films and Wieden & Kennedy. His work has been featured on The New York Times, The New York Post, CBS, NBC, ESPN, MTV, The Huffington Post and more. He has been invited to speak about the art of creating video profiles at a number of universities including NYU and Fordham.

In addition to his film and video work, Marc is the Co-founder of the multi-media company Revel In, and author of the Revel In New York guide book series, which features contributions from influential personalities like Josh Ozersky, Eddie Huang, Jim Walrod and Michael Halsband. In 2014 Revel In New York expanded to Portland, Oregon with the support from numerous media outlets including IFC's Portlandia.

We particularly love the new work Marc has created with Super AOK using the A-1 Array which is  a multi-camera system that captures single moments in time and creates three-dimensional animations for instant sharing.  


Emperor Go! & Super A-OK teamed up with Okay Player site to shoot some of the world's greatest bands at Radio City Music Hall's David Bowie tribute.

This image was created with Super AOK using the A-1 Array.

More on the David Bowie Tribute

Laundry spoke to Marc on the road with our Creative Interview questions:

Three words to describe you?

Interested in stuff.

Three words to describe your work?

Cool, I hope.

When did you decide you wanted to be a director / producer?

When I was 10 years old my friend's older brother decided he didn't like punk anymore and was only going to listen to metal.  He gave me a bunch of LPs from The Circle Jerks, Drunk Injuns, Agent Orange, DOA and all those skate punk bands. He also gave me a VHS tape of a punk documentary that blew my mind. He had taped it from some midnight movie program that ran on the USA network (commercials and all) and the first 15 minutes were cut off so I never knew the title of the movie or who the two main bands were. 

I watched that VHS tape so many times that I literally wore the tape out and melted the ribbon. 

A few years ago, I found it on Youtube and it turns out the bands were Youth Brigade and Social Distortion. The film, Another State of Mind, is a feature documentary that follows them around in a school bus as they play punk houses in the US & Canada.  It's shot in 1982 and there's some great skate punk, and awesome footage on the history of slam dancing. The film ends in DC when they visit the Dischord house. Ian MacKaye is a teenager and is working at Hagen Daz.  

As a kid I liked the film so much because it wasn't the type of movie I was used to seeing and it showed something that was so different from my life. Once that VHS was destroyed it haunted me for years. 

A few years later I rented some old John Waters' videos from the cult section of the video store in my neighborhood and I got that same feeling. 

These films were cheaply made, crude, but had a point of view. Even though I knew nothing about film or auteurs I could tell these had a style about them. They seemed to be made in a DIY way by a bunch of weirdo friends. I remember watching them and thinking, hmmm I should do this. At that point I got my weird friends together and made stuff with them, and about them.

Who is your favorite film director?

My favorite directors are everybody else's favorite directors I suppose. 

I like Godard, Fassbinder and Antonioni for their style. Kubrick and Lynch for their vibes. I'm always looking forward to seeing what Jonathan Glazer, Claire Denis and Nicolas Winding Refn are going to do. I like Richard Donner for his versatility. It's funny cause my favorite movie ever is Die Hard, but my films are not like this or really like any of the stuff I just named. I make verite style profiles. I don't care about what type of equipment I use or how pretty they look as long as the story is well told and the subject is interesting. In an ideal world I'd have the proper budget to make them look as good as possible but my main goal is to approach them in the same way a punk band approaches their audience, and that is to strip away as much excess as possible between performer and viewer to keep everybody involved as much as they can be. I think the documentary filmmakers of the 60's and 70's did a good job of this, so if you're looking to find my influences and the people I steal from, it would be the sort of nameless documentarians from those eras. 

What else inspires you?

Music, interesting people and unique places inspire more than anything else. I can listen to a good song or see a unique person and come up with a few dozen ideas in a few minutes. Most of those ideas don't go anywhere, but some of them become obsessions and I will do whatever it takes to realize them.

What music do you listen to when working?

I don't listen to music when I work because it tends to influence what I'm trying to do too much. However to get in a zone and brainstorm I prefer to listen to really repetitive composers and musicians. Erik Satie, Richie Hawtin and artists like that who compose long songs with subtle changes. 

What inspires your work?

Music and people. Usually connected. I travel a lot and love stumbling across some random subculture happening or making up stories about the people I'm watching when I'm totally alone. Occasionally, I'll get into some crazy story some guy tells me at a bar that I'll think of jacking, but the next day I realize it's probably already a Tom Waits song.

What city inspires you the most?

Growing up around New York it's impossible for me to not be influenced by the 90's DIY scene. Bands like Sonic Youth and the whole rave thing. I was also super into the baggy thing happening in Manchester. I was obsessed with the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and that whole thing and used to read all about them in magazines like Select and NME. When they'd come to New York I'd stalk them at Wetlands and a bar called Rebar. Those were the days when those bands weren't that big in the States and you could get into bars and clubs in New York when you were 14. 

Now, I travel a ton for work, sometimes up to 10 cities a month. The more I go to cities the less interesting they become. For the most part, and mainly because of the internet, people everywhere dress the same, the menus and restaurants are all the same. They really don't do it for me anymore. I hope I'm wrong, and I probably am, but I'm not sure something like Manchester, Seattle or Brooklyn can happen in a city anymore. They're just too expensive and too much like other cities. Cities will always be a place where art is presented and a cool scene can definitely spring from that, but as of now it seems like the stuff I'm digging is all being made upstate or out in the desert near Joshua Tree. Weird, random, no-place kind of towns. I mostly profile people, so my work happens wherever they are, but if I ever had to hole myself up for a few weeks and bang something out I could see me doing that in Mississippi, British Columbia, or The Maritimes, depending on the time of year it is.

What do you dislike about your industry?

Last year I went to some bougie party in the Hollywood Hills and I met a pretty well-known starlet who has been starring in films since the 60s. I asked her what the secret is for staying in a creative field for so long. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, "It's simple, just keep your fucking mouth shut". I wish someone told me that a long time ago. So, that's my answer. No answer.

Where can we see your work?

My work is spread all over the internet. The easiest place to see old stuff would be to visit, a site I put together with a lot of help from David Breathnach, who is a designer based out of Dublin that I really like.  The best place to find out what is coming is to follow me on instagram @emperor_go

What future projects are you working on?

I have a bunch of short-form profiles on bands coming out. I also have a project I made with Jim Walrod that has Moby in it, and another I did with my friend Eli and Marky Ramone that I'm hoping will come out sooner or later. The two things I'm currently working on are both investigative documentaries about somewhat unknown music legends. I'm struggling with trying to get the feel of a chase, without feeling like a Nick Bromfield film (though I do like his work).