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You Can’t Just Be One: Director Alex G on KQED Arts, Millennials & New Opportunities

Photo: Courtesy of Alex G

One won’t do, and two is not enough.

A still from an Alex G film
Photo: Benjamin Michel; Courtesy of Alex G

Yesterday afternoon, KQED Arts, a partnered company of PBS’, published a new feature video about a creative entrepreneur based in the San Francisco Bay area named Lenworth “Joonbug” McIntosh. He has two brands called, “BUGS87” and “Fresh Kaufee”, and his work is created by hand. His shirts, created under Fresh Kaufee, smell like coffee. In the short documentary, the Jamaican-born artist reflects on what inspires him, his childhood in his hometown and his businesses. Doing things a little differently, the director Alex Frantz Ghassan (Alex G) and I chatted about creating Joonbug’s episode, and what he’s been up to.

Watch Alex G’s film below:


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“I planned on pitching Joonbug to KQED, which is a local PBS affiliate in San Francisco. Then, while we were all out drinking a beer, the head of the department walks in with his wife and kids. He asked if we wanted to have dinner with them, and we did. During dinner, the head of the department and Joonbug and suggested that I do something on Joonbug. It was so funny because the guys and I met up to discuss pitching the idea to KQED. Our idea became his idea, so it worked out.”

Who is Joonbug? Why is he important?

Alex G: Joonbug is important because he represents the climate of what it is to be an artist right now. For instance with me, back in the day, you could be a director and that’s all you did. You’d be an editor and that’s all you did but now, everyone’s gotta wear like sixteen hats. He’s a fine artist, in the sense that he does a lot of painting and then, he’s an illustrator. He does logo design and branding and creates content for people. On top of that, he’s a clothing designer. He’s taken his art and illustration towards the fashion realm. Then, he’s got his own comic book. It’s like, the dude is wearing so many hats because that’s how you survive nowadays. You can’t just be one. He’s important because he represents what you have to be, now, to be a successful artist in America… or in the world.

Going back to your sixteen hat comment, do you think that has to do with being a millennial?

Alex G: I don’t wanna say I’ve got all of the answers but I would say yeah, definitely. It’s easier and harder for millennials because prior to our generation, the Internet wasn’t so huge so if you painted or if you drew, or whatever it was you did, and you specialized in something people would come to you because you might be all they know — regionally — versus now on the Internet, you have kids that are throwing up art, music and fashion all over the world is at your doorstep constantly, if you’re willing to look at it. In order to stand out, you have to be exceptional at everything. There’s no more jack of all trades and master of none. That’s dead. You gotta master all of them or you’re sick. So yeah, I blame the fucking Internet.

That’s classic Alex right there. (I stop myself from laughing hysterically) So what else are you working on?

Alex G: I have another episode from this series on KQED. I just started working with Khalil Prescott-Bey, Mos Def’s brother. He’s got a label and he’s pushing some artists, so we’re trying to cultivate that and Errick Purvis, whom I’m about to start working with as a partner in his management team; handling all of the video and filming requirements for him. In the future, I’m sure there will be more documentary work and some films in the pipeline. Nothing that is fully fleshed out and ready to go just yet.

Joonbug’s inspirational journey features music by Pete Rock. To check out more of Alex Frantz Ghassan’s directorial work, visit his online portfolio site at this link. Alex G, a director who once shot our GrungeCake TV video, has been in the film industry for over six years, with a portfolio that features his work with legends like Spike Lee and Talib Kweli, newcomers like Skyzoo and Bodega Bamz.

“There’s a lot of range in my portfolio so it kind of looks like I’m all over the place but if you really look, it’s branding content, documentary stuff and music videos.”


GrungeCake

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is part of the Complex Day Ones, an exclusive community to help make the Complex experiences even better.