Dan Huiting: Videographer to the indie stars

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER , vita.mn | Updated 2/7/2013

Local videographer Dan Huiting is bringing back the music video.

Dan Huiting has almost singlehandedly made music vidoes relevant again for Minnesota bands.
Photo by Elizabeth Flores

He flew to Paris in November to shoot a video with Swedish pop star Robyn. He’s in Haiti this week, documenting the charity efforts of Artists for Peace & Justice for folks like Ben Stiller and director Paul Haggis.

When we caught up with Dan Huiting a few weeks ago, though, the Minneapolis videographer was about to head to a far less exotic locale, Detroit Lakes, Minn., to work with a far less famous artist, Caroline Smith — and he sounded excited about that, too.

“Caroline is from Detroit Lakes, so it’s a big deal to her,” Huiting said.

To local musicians such as Smith, just working with Huiting has become a big deal. The 32-year-old Twin Cities native has almost single-handedly made music videos a viable art form again for bands from the Upper Midwest. His work has ranged from elegant, high-art mini-movies with Bon Iver to electrifying live footage with P.O.S. to a couple of seedy, bath-inducing clips with Prof and Spyder Baybie.

Huiting’s full-time employer, TPT (Twin Cities Public Television), recently launched a new “Austin City Limits”-style series called “The Lowertown Line” under his visual direction. He also has worked for Pitchfork.TV, an offshoot of big-kahuna music website Pitchfork.com. Not bad for a guy whose first real videographer job was shooting First Ave’s Best New Bands showcase in 2009 for MPLS.TV.

From the videographer’s aw-shucks perspective, the reason local bands are thinking visual again has less to do with his own emerging talent, and more to do with growing technology.

“You can film much higher-quality video on cheaper cameras nowadays,” he said, citing $3,000 as a good starting point for a video budget. And thanks to the music world becoming more and more centered around the Web, he said, it’s pretty much a requirement to make a video.

Huiting was musical before he was visual, having played in several little-known bands. He finally enrolled in videographer classes at Minneapolis Community & Technical College, where he found another way of making his mark in the local music scene.

Dianne Steinbach, TPT’s executive producer of “MN Original” and “Lowertown Line,” thinks Huiting has “this great knack for understanding the musicians he works with and seeing things the way they see it.”

Steinbach and TPT were looking for a videographer to shoot local bands for “MN Original” segments that “don’t all look like they’re shot in the same studio.” What really made Huiting first stand out were his series of imaginatively shot “City of Music” videos for MPLS.TV.

Shooting all-star band Gayngs is “when things went to another level,” Huiting said. Gayngs’ starriest member, Justin “Bon Iver” Vernon, later recruited Huiting and another budding videographer, Andre Durand, to helm the candescent and haunting video for “Calgary,” the first from Bon Iver’s Grammy-winning eponymous album. Huiting and friend Ryan Thompson then directed three more mostly unpopulated videos (as in: no humans) off “Bon Iver,” and now there’s talk of Huiting helming a documentary movie on Vernon. “Very loose talk,” he clarified.

Working on “MN Original” has given Huiting the chance to film local artists beyond musicians. For example, he recently shot “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” rehearsals at the Guthrie Theater and a poetry reading at the Loft Literary Center.

“I’ve been out of my comfort zone a lot, which has been great,” he said. “Whatever they’re doing, I get to spend my days working with the most creative people living in Minnesota. You can’t ask for much more inspiration than that.”