At only 27, Strikes is one of Toronto’s most in-demand music video directors. Most known for his work for big-time Canadian acts like Karl Wolf, Shawn Desman, and Kardinal Offishall, Strikes has been working his way through the industry since he was just a teenager.
His interest in the film industry was sparked at age sixteen, when his teachers thought he showed promise in video production classes at Kipling Collegiate. But as a youth growing up in Toronto’s West End, he was more focused on a career in sports than the arts. It was a shock when at eighteen, he decided to quit soccer and pursue film. He might not be kicking around a soccer ball anymore, but Chris Strikes is making his mark in a whole new way.
“It wasn’t something that was warmly welcomed, especially by my family. My parents are old fashioned; they weren’t very open to getting a career in the arts,” says Strikes. Over time, his family became more supportive as he proved that he was serious about his career goals. In 2005, he was accepted to Centennial College’s Broadcast and Film program. Strikes also worked on music video and television commercial sets as a production assistant while in school, working with noted directors RT, Little X, and Cazhmere.
However, his life took another turn when he decided to quit school a year and a half later. “It came to the point where I’d go to school and I wouldn’t be learning anything, because I’d learned so much on set. I felt like I was wasting my
time,” says Strikes. The very next day, he was online researching different film concepts, teaching himself in the span of an afternoon what would have taken a week in college. He continued working on sets and bought a professional video camera so he could shoot his own projects and do freelance work.
The very first video he directed was for a Montreal rapper called Swift KID, a simple black and white affair with only the artist. Six years later, his recent video for Karl Wolf and Kardinal Offishall’s song Turn It Up features almost 100 background performers and has over 150,000 views on YouTube. It also garnered him his very first MuchMusic Video Award nomination for Pop Video of the Year, which he calls “a very amazing and very humbling” experience.
Constantly evolving, Strikes has branched out from music videos to longer works. He directed a documentary in 2009 chronicling a group of Torontonians who travel to Barack Obama’s Inauguration, and this year he completed his first short film One Night A Stranger, which was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival.
The film industry is notoriously tough, and with the advent of YouTube and viral videos, Strikes says it is an industry that is getting a lot more saturated. Still, the amount of success he has achieved at such a young age shows that it is possible to make it if you persevere. He leaves PRODUCT with some advice for future filmmakers: “You have to make sure you’re on top of your game. You can never get too comfortable.”
WORDS: JASMINE WILLIAMS
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