The first row of views on David Gutentag’s most popular YouTube videos is as follows: 19 million, 9 million, 7 million, 5 million and a little over 3.5 million.
Most of those clicks have come within the last year. The Baton Rouge native has been working as a one-man-machine, shooting and editing music videos for some of the city’s upcoming and established artists.
At 25 years old Gutentag is being thrust into a world where he controls his future—something he has always wanted from his life.
But that journey to rising shooter all started when he was around six years old. Gutentag says his parents had a camera that he basically stole and made videos with.
“A lot of my first videos were little stop-motion things,” he says. “I played around with Legos and other toys a lot.”
At that age, Gutentag knew video was a hobby he wanted to keep pursuing, but his parents weren’t fully behind the idea until later on.
Gutentag went to Dutchtown High School, sharing classes with NFL football players Eric Reid and Eddie Lacy. It was there he took a digital media class and began shooting skateboard videos with his friends. Those videos would include simple edits and background music—a step toward his first music video.
A local rapper got in contact with Gutentag about trying to shoot a music video to which he quickly said “yes.” That was in 2010. Since then he’s been at work building his connections and his equipment list.
“[I’ve shot] at least 400 videos since then,” Gutentag says. “Majority hip-hop videos, but I’ve done a few commercials and weddings. But hip-hop music videos are where my heart is.”
And that heart is important as he spends days shooting and editing those videos. He sits in his at-home studio, listening to the same clips over and over, making sure the artist’s story is being correctly reflected in the visuals.
“It’s always a 50-50 collaboration between myself and the artist,” Gutentag says. “We discuss locations and ideas and what the overall message is. It’s their ideas that I’m helping to tell so that collaborative effort is important.”
He’s now traveling all over the state and country to shoot music videos for other artists, still sticking in his lane of “hood, trap hip-hop” that areas like Baton Rouge are famous for. Gutentag laughs as he remembers the countless times weapons have been pointed at him or near him during shoots. But he says it’s not as terrifying as one may think.
As a part of the hip-hop community, Gutentag says the artists and their entourages are genuinely good people with stories that only certain people understand. Sometimes, those stories can make shoots a little dangerous, but he feels safe in his element.
Those same rappers say Gutentag is a large help, not only to them, but to the burgeoning hip-hop community in Baton Rouge. His willingness to shoot whenever his clients want and try new things brings the artists a level of comfort that can’t always be found in a director.
When Gutentag shot the video for his most popular video, NBA YoungBoy’s “38 Baby,” he says he knew they had something special. The video was picked up by entertainment website WorldstarHipHop’s YouTube channel, currently sitting at just above 17 million views. While YoungBoy is dealing with legal troubles right now, Gutentag says they’ll be right back to work when all that clears.
But eventually, he wants to be more than just the music video guy.
“I want to direct movies, like a real feature film,” Gutentag says. “The music video thing can only go for so long, but a film has so much more that I can put into it and so much it can reward me with.”
For now, the one-man machine continues his journey to help add visuals to artist’s songs. He uses the money he makes for bills and buying more equipment such as lenses and lights to further his craft.
In a matter of years, his hobby has turned into a full-time profession where he controls his hours and pay rate. Now that things are truly beginning to take off, Gutentag says he has zero plans to stop and will only shoot more in the upcoming months.
The shooter will always shoot.
Photos by Mandy Samson.