The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Office DJ: Music for films in your head

Chris Ocana is the Video Editor for the 2021-2022 school year. Chris is a senior majoring in media and journalism from Atlanta, Georgia.

During my senior year of high school, classes were definitely not my center of attention. While I was never a necessarily horrible student, I distinctly remember walking across the graduation stage with my college algebra teacher in tow and having the following conversation: 

"Chris, you passed the class!"

"Yeah, but I got a 62 on the final."

"…but, you still passed the class."

And then we high-fived. 

Instead of deciding to buy the books for my English literature class or “study,” a majority of my time was spent on shooting footage for a short film as part of my high school’s “Senior Project Program." 

And just like most things made without money or refinement, it wasn’t exactly good. But I don’t look back on that experience with any regret. 

When I think about how a few of my closest friends came together to sit in the rain, equipped with $90 recorders and Home Depot hardware lights, I rarely think of the camera we broke or the footage we lost to old laptops dying. (Well, maybe I think about that a little bit.) 

Now, when I think about producing that short, I remember how much time we took to look at the music. 

And I mean, of course, we had to. If you ever take any introduction to visual storytelling class at UNC, the first thing they’ll tell you is how much more important your audio is than any of your visuals. 

Technically, audio was king, but when we were shooting, it always felt like the music we decided to listen to informed so much of how we’d visualize video concepts. 

I remember thinking about how cool it would be to shoot scenes walking down the barely-lit paths of roads in downtown Atlanta to Jonwayne’s “Afraid of Us” or how Joji’s “Demons” could definitely be paired with shots of characters floating at the bottom of the ocean. 

My friends and I put together so many playlists of music that were perfect for scenes we would eventually never shoot. It was even more interesting to have conversations on why certain songs should be featured in scenes that were shot in a certain way. 

In a way, it always felt like listening to certain songs was just a way to watch really small movies in your head. 

This isn’t exactly a novelty in music either. Music does this all the time. 

I remember listening to Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D city” and seeing how every song was intentionally written to feel like a short film. I remember losing my mind when I finally learned that the roman numerals in Childish Gambino’s “Because the Internet” were marks for where the songs would go in a screenplay that he never produced. There’s an infinite number of high concept albums that are made to coincide with films that are just meant to exist in your mind. 

So, that’s what this playlist is meant to be. Some songs in my life I always thought would fit with a cool light, a pretty lens or an emotional scene. 

To me, it’s almost a microcosm of little stories that evoke more stories.

I’m not even sure I can articulate — I literally shoot video, I can barely read or write — what some of these songs mean to me. All I know is that the way some songs make me feel and the way I want to put those to film is one of the most pleasing things in the world to me. 

It’s why I decided that maybe pursuing a career in visual communication might be worth the risk. And it makes feel like I could be behind a camera, chasing that feeling for the rest of my life. 

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.