Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor and singer Leslie Odom Jr. has tapped Burning Cane director Phillip Youmans for his latest video, “Stronger Magic,” from his third studio album Mr.
The video, the follow-up to Odom’s “Under Pressure,” takes fans back to 1995, celebrating the beauty and earnestness of Black youth.
Odom tapped Youmans for the video after seeing his award-winning film Burning Cane, which won the Founders Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. Phillip has since gone on to receive nominations for his directing at the Gotham Awards and the Film Independent Spirit Awards.
“I sent Phillip the whole album,” Odom told ESSENCE. “‘Stronger Magic’ and the poem recited by my grandmother on the album had struck a chord in him. He wanted to combine the two in a short film that would celebrate beautiful Black individualism and also pay tribute in some way to the streets and people that raised me in Philadelphia in the early and mid-nineties.”
For Youmans, it was a no-brainer to work with Odom, he’s been a fan of the singer and actor’s work for quite some time.
“I was first introduced to his work a few years back by my sister and mother. So, given the chance to collaborate with him was a dream-like, humbling experience,” the director said. “I fell in love with the whole album after the first listen. ‘Stronger Magic’ incited such an undeniable visual reaction within me instantly. It was a glorious parade unfolding in my ear.”
Youmans added that “after meeting Leslie, it upped my attachment to the work even more. Not only is Leslie a wickedly talented artist, but he’s also such a kind and inquisitive human. When I first met him, I had a profound respect for his pure, vulnerable approach to his art. He’s fearless.”
It was a piece defined by good vibrations and personal and visual explorations.Phillip Youmans
“Stronger Magic” showcases “the passage of time” and the beauty of Black love. It also served as an opportunity for 19-year-old Youmans to expand his craft and work with a larger team.
“Making this video was a formative experience for me,” he told ESSENCE. “It was the first time that I’ve ever worked with a dedicated director of photography, Cory Fraiman-Lott. It was also an opportunity to collaborate with outstanding artists like my costume designer, my friend Marquise Miller, who navigated the color palette of our wardrobe and locations perfectly. Making this project reminded me of why I’m fortunate to be able to do what I do; it was a piece defined by good vibrations and personal and visual explorations.”
For Odom, the collaboration meant working with a director who truly understood the song and his vision for the project.
“On some level, I think as an artist you’re just making the work you want to hear or that you would like to see,” Odom said. “You hope it finds its way to an audience that wants to see and hear it too.”
The multi-hyphenate added that once he met with Phillip, “I was sitting across from someone who got it. He heard my heart on the album and he wanted to help me tell that story visually. The vision for the short was his and I had a ball inhabiting the world.”