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Northport, Michigan native goes from intern to Grammy-nominated video producer

Jonathan Craven

It has been quite a journey for Northport native Nathan Scherrer.

Four years ago, he moved from Michigan to Los Angeles with a few hundred dollars and was working as an intern, hoping to find a way to get into the business of making music videos. He was living off of macaroni and cheese, barely making ends meet, and now, this Monday (Feb. 15), he will be at the Staples Center hoping to hear his name called at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.

In four short years, Scherrer has worked his way up to a music video producer and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry, like Big Sean, Justin Bieber, and Rihanna.

Now he is nominated for two Grammys for Best Music Video for Pharrell’s “Freedom” and The Dead Weather’s “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles).”

Scherrer joined Stateside to talk about going from a music video-obsessed kid in Northport, to getting nominated for a Grammy.

In college, Scherrer was a pre-business and pre-law student at the University of Michigan before he took a film class during his junior year and “switched gears completely.” After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles.  

“I went out [to Los Angeles] with a couple hundred bucks, and just tried to figure it out,” said Scherrer, whose first job was to drive the talent from the parking lot to the set.

He credits his work ethic and persistence as an intern as the key to climbing the ladder in the music video business.

“I just never let that producer or production manager do a job without me,” said Scherrer. “I was just kind of harassing them all the time, like ‘hey, where are you guys working today, can I jump on? Hey, I don’t care if you can’t pay me, just buy my lunch.’”

A year after moving to L.A., he got his first opportunity to produce a video.

After working his way up from intern to production manager (if the producer is the president, the PM is the vice president, as he explains it), a friend was directing a video with an “impossibly low” $8,000 budget. To put it in perspective, according to Scherrer, a “low budget” video is between $30,000 to $80,000 for a one-day shoot.

Nowadays, Scherrer works with budgets as big as $2 million.

“An $8,000 for two days, overnight shoot was a tall order,” said Scherrer. “I took it on, I lost money on it, the directors lost money on it, but we put it out and it was the Joel Compass ‘Back to Me’ video.”

Watch it below:

That video won a laundry list of awards including the Jury Award at the 2014 South By Southwest Film Festival for Best Music Video of the Year, as well as honors at the Cannes Film Festival and multiple Music Video Production Association (MVPA) awards.

"After that, people trusted me to make videos, and a couple months later, I started working with Justin Timberlake."

“After that, people trusted me to make videos, and a couple months later, I started working with Justin Timberlake,” said Scherrer. His first big video that he produced was Timberlake’s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07FYdnEawAQ">Tunnel Vision which had a budget of $190,000.   

Now Scherrer is the president of his own production company, Freenjoy, and according to his website, his music videos and other projects accumulated 1.58 billion online views in 2015.

Listen to the full interview to hear the full story behind the making of the videos for Pharrell and The Dead Weather, his advice of how to make it in show business and an explanation of what exactly a producer does.


Watch Nathan Scherrer's Grammy-nominated videos from The Dead Weather and Pharrell:

Josh Hakala, a lifelong Michigander (East Lansing & Edwardsburg), comes to Michigan Radio after nearly two decades of working in a variety of fields within broadcasting and digital media.
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