In 20 years of his career Director X worked with many stars including Rihanna. He has established himself as one of the most recognizable and legendary directors. In 2005 X shot Rihanna’s first music video for Pon de Replay and in 2016 they returned to Toronto to film Work. He talks about both videos in new Billboard article regarding his most iconic videos to date.
Pon de Replay (2005)
We gave the dancers something to do [to make the nightclub setting look interesting]. You can make things interesting either by changing location or changing the action. Someone sitting and then standing up is a change. It just needs to feel like something is progressing, and that’s the key element. I felt Rihanna’s star quality on set, and I’ll tell you when I really knew it. When we shot her performance — she was wearing a turquoise dress — and she was just singing the song, I was watching her and was like, “Oh I see what this is.” When I saw that happen, I knew this was something special. She had real star power then and who knew she’d become this big?
I actually brought her to Toronto to do that video. Her video was shot at my hometown! I think her and Drake met around that time. When he presented her that [Video Vanguard] award at the [2016 MTV Video Music Awards] and did that speech, he said something about first meeting her at this restaurant where he was the DJ or singing there. She was out there doing her thing and they bumped into each other. They were still teenagers then.
There was a reason why we brought it to Toronto, to have that Caribbean authenticity. We wouldn’t have to explain to anybody what’s going on. When Rihanna goes up to that guy and dances with him in the video — that wasn’t planned. She just did it. And he was one of the kids in the “Pon De Replay” video! It was very much a full-circle experience, where these kids who were in her very first video are now back on set with her. Toronto is a “big” small city. If you’re on the scene, everyone knows each other. So it was great to see those little moments happen. And it wasn’t easy shooting in the dark. We were right on the fine line, that’s for sure.
Rihanna has matured a lot since I first worked with her. I remember when she was a little prankster at 17 and was a charming kid. Now she’s very regal, very grown. She’s now a strong woman.