One of the more enticing aspects of the New York Film Academy’s short-term programs is the fact that students can learn an artistic craft that may be outside of their main creative focus. As for NYFA Documentary grad Justin Young — who joined the program with such a strong background in music — the 6-Week Documentary Film Workshop was exactly what he was looking for. Faced with a hectic schedule of touring as a musician, Young was able to gain the knowledge he’d hope for within the time frame of the short-term program.
Young, who is very well known in the Hawaiian music scene, has released several albums to date. He’s also toured with his girlfriend Colbie Callait, as well as Gavin DeGraw.
We had a chance to catch up with Mr. Young before heading off on another US tour with Colbie called The Malibu Sessions Acoustic Guitar.
What made you decide to join the New York Film Academy Doc program?
I’d been trying to find another creative outlet, besides music, for a while. Always loved non-fiction form of storytelling — books, radio programs and of course documentary films. The fact that NYFA offers a 6-week course was really appealing. I could totally immerse myself and see if it was something I wanted to pursue without the long commitment.
Were there any films or influencers that made you decide to learn documentary filmmaking?
There have been so many. As a kid, I remember watching Hoop Dreams many times and wanting to find more movies like that — not knowing exactly what documentaries were. Later, Capturing The Friedmans was one that totally floored me. More recently, a movie like Keep On Keeping On, that really shows some beautiful human connections made me want to contribute something like that to the world.
How would describe your overall experience? What did you achieve or produce during your time at NYFA?
It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was really bittersweet when the program ended. We got a lot of info and tools jammed into the first week and then were sent out to make things. Personally, I learn best this way and with no filmmaking experience, this really shortened the initial learning curve for me. It also bonded all of my classmates. We all became very close and still keep in touch and joke of a reunion someday. I also felt like the teachers took the time to get to know us and help us individually, meeting us wherever we were in our filmmaking.
You have a very strong background in music — do you have any ambitions to bring your musical background to a film or documentary project?
Definitely, plan on doing some scoring for some of my own projects. I think that’s something I can uniquely bring to the table – and it helps with the budget!
How did your relationship with Colbie Caillait come about?
We met through mutual friends in the LA music scene 10 years ago. Shortly after that, Colbie asked me to join her band and I became her guitarist and eventually Music Director. After a few years of working together we started dating and are now engaged. It’s great to be able to travel and work with your best friend.
Can you tell us about this current tour / publicity (Billboard Live, Rolling Stone, etc.) w/Colbie for GOLDMINE?
We’ve been out and about promoting Colbie’s new single, Goldmine, which took us to The Today Show and performances at Billboard, Rolling Stone and Paste, to new a few. We are doing a US tour in October called The Malibu Sessions Acoustic Tour. I’ll be opening the shows with my own set, as well as playing with Colbie.
Any personal meaning behind the song? Or do the two of you have a personal favorite song?
I wrote and produced one song on her new album entitled Runnin’. It’s about her struggle to adjust to life on the road, and on stage, and finally finding a comfortable place to be with it.
With social media being the force it is, where do you see the future of music going for you and other artists?
Hard to say. Things are changing so fast for all of us creative people. It is important to stay up on the latest ways to share your work and engage your fans. But really I think what doesn’t change is people will always crave real stuff. Express something that’s honest and truthful and there will be an audience for it.
When and where can we see you and Colbie sing?