Film and music video producer Jamee Ranta, a 2004 Stebbins High School graduate, has worked with some of the hottest names in Hollywood.
With over 15 years of experience in filmmaking, she’s nominated for her first Grammy as producer of Justin Bieber’s music video “Peaches,” one of the best feel-good grooves of 2021. The 64th annual Grammy Awards air tonight from Las Vegas on CBS.
“It’s such an amazing honor,” said Ranta, 35. “The Recording Academy is full of incredible people who really and truly honor art. But at the same time, there are so many colleagues who were nominated and who weren’t nominated making really special art as well. Art is subjective but I am truly honored.”
When Ranta received the call from Bieber’s management team, she immediately went to work crafting a concept and budget. But she also valued ways to maximize creatively in terms of image, branding and cultural impact. Collaboration with Bieber and featured artists Daniel Caesar and Giveon was paramount.
“It’s always my goal to find the message of the song and visually interpret the artist’s brand and message to the best of my ability,” she said. “For ‘Peaches,’ Justin had an overall feeling to make a traditional, old-school R&B vibe but add a flair to it. We wanted to create something authentic but also honor the early ‘90s era. My favorite look in the video is Justin wearing an orange bell-bottomed suit – that was a vibe.
“Daniel Caesar and Giveon also had their own aesthetic. My favorite part about the video is how you can see all three of their different vibes even though it’s one cohesive image,” Ranta said. “They all bring something special to the video. Justin has grown into a humble, grounded man and I am so genuinely proud of his story arc and who he has become.”
Ranta’s starry clients include Halsey, Kendrick Lamar, Bon Jovi, Cardi B, Selena Gomez, J. Balvin, Demi Lovato and Jennifer Lopez. The accolades stemming from her work include 2015′s MTV VMA Best Hip-Hop Video for Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” 2020′s MTV VMA Best Latin Video for J. Balvin and Maluma’s “Que Pena,” and 2021′s BET Video of the Year award for “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion.
“I love Cardi B,” Ranta said. “She’s smart, kind and has intent with everything she does. I really respect her so much – she’s a powerhouse.”
She’s also excited about managing her first client, up-and-coming LatinX star Nathalie Paris.
“Nathalie’s music is inspired by the disco and early ‘80s era,” she said. “But she’s modernizing it by culturally infusing English and Spanish. She’s mixing old sounds with new sounds, Latin culture with American culture, and it’s really special and unique. I can’t wait to share our project which debuts this summer.”
Formulating her filmmaking craft
With a love of science, space and art, Ranta, who dreamed of becoming an astronaut in her youth and possibly having a career in the Air Force, decided to pursue film at Wright State University. She eventually moved to Orlando, Florida, transferring to Full Sail University in nearby Winter Park where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Film. While there, she interned on the “IMAX: Hubble 3D” film, released in 2010 and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio.
“The IMAX film was a really wonderful start and I plan on collaborating with others to continue to make films about space moving forward,” she said. “Let’s be honest. You don’t have to major in film in order to be a filmmaker. There’s a lot of people with different backgrounds that I work with who have completely different experiences. The really beautiful thing about storytelling and film is that you’re able to involve all sorts of perspectives, personalities, ages, religions and ethnicities.”
Recently, Ranta executive produced Halsey’s full-length feature film “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power,” which was shot on location last year in freezing conditions inside an 11th century castle in Prague during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The genre-bending film, scored by Halsey’s latest album of the same name and directed by Colin Tilley, premiered in IMAX theaters, selling out its limited global premiere run before becoming available on HBO Max and other major streaming platforms.
“The film was challenging and brought on a new level of strength I didn’t know I had,” she said. “No project is exactly the same. You can categorize certain things into styles or mediums, but at the end of the day everything is uniquely different. And with each project, I learn something new.”
‘I am responsible for the content I create’
In addition to her music video projects, Ranta’s work in advertising includes commercials for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Marvel, Allure, L’Oreal, and McDonald’s. Viewing filmmaking as “one of the higher forms of art,” she acknowledges the difficulties that arise while balancing multiple components as a producer.
“Filmmaking combines acting, music, photography, choreography, sound design and so many other layers that you have to really be grounded and patient amid the chaos,” she said. “There’s a lot of psychology and risk involved. A lot of people don’t realize how complicated producing is. If you can produce a music video with three days of prep, you can probably do anything in life.”
Recently, Ranta started her own multi-media production company Artifact Content, specializing in editorial photo shoots, music videos and high-end social media content. The company was born from her desire to be more mindful of her creativity and to become more selective in the diverse stories she chooses to tell.
“I am responsible for the content I create,” she said. “Some of the pieces I’ve done may not be familiar to everyone, but some have defined the 2010s. To realize billions of people have seen my work, whether they know it was me or not, is a very powerful position to be in. At Artifact Content, we have a responsibility to create digital artifacts for this generation. Hundreds of years from now, people are not going to remember my name, but they are going to remember the work. I want to make sure my legacy isn’t about me – it’s about the work. It’s about the lessons learned of love, connection and humility, which can all be found in the storytelling process of pain and growth. Those are the kinds of artifacts I want to leave behind. Everything I do I try to do wholeheartedly and with purpose.”
‘If you’re not growing, you’re not living’
Growing up in income-based housing in Dayton, Ranta recalls an upbringing that wasn’t easy, but she is grateful for teachers who encouraged her to succeed. She looks forward to returning home April 20 to receive a Stebbins Outstanding Alumnus Award.
“It’s very humbling and very important to go back to Stebbins,” she said. “I was a lower-income student and I received free lunch tickets. In those lunches, there would be a graham cracker with peanut butter and jelly inside. Every time I go back to Stebbins, I have one of those graham crackers to remind myself where I come from and how much I’ve grown. I’ve overcome so many trials and tribulations. I’m truly humbled to be an inspiration and shine a light on what I do, but I don’t want to Hollywood-ize it or glamourize it for the students. I want them to know it wasn’t an easy path. I want to show up in an authentic way and let them know the struggles I’ve been through but also know about the successes.”
Looking ahead, complacency is not an option for Ranta. She hopes to continue to evolve as a storyteller, perhaps create new technology, and leave an indelible imprint in the music industry that takes her artistry to new heights.
“I failed my way to the top,” she said. “You learn through failures. When you make mistakes, you try to correct and learn and grow from it. You can’t just expect to be perfect or not try because you’re afraid. I feel like if you’re not growing, you’re not living. It’s been a really interesting journey, a really interesting ride. And, for me, it’s just the beginning.”
HOW TO WATCH
What: The 64th annual Grammy Awards
When: 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 3
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, televised on CBS
Host: Trevor Noah
Scheduled performers: Jon Baptiste; H.E.R.; Nas; Chris Stapleton; Stephen Sondheim in memoriam segment featuring Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt and Rachel Zegler; Brothers Osborne; BTS; Brandi Carlisle; Billie Eilish; Lil Nas X; Olivia Rodrigo; Jack Harlow
Other local nominees
Dave Chappelle, a three-time Grammy winner, is a nominee this year in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for “8:46.”
Law Dunford, a Wright State University graduate, is collectively nominated in the category of Best Musical Theater Album for “Girl from the North Country.”