As the late afternoon turns into night, the throng of Delray Beach citizens dressed to impress, all walk in cliques. Cars and bikes rev their engines, screaming, "look at me" as they move only inches closer to finding a parking spot. It's Friday night on Swinton Avenue.
Music video director, a Maybach favorite, Ryan Snyder sits outside in front of the restaurant Tryst about a quarter way through his Amstel beer. Snyder sports a solid-colored shirt, jeans and a casual watch. Nothing echoing the glitz of Jessica Gomes's voice saying,"Maybach Music." Only the color garnet on his shirt reflects something recognizable: he's a Florida State University alum.
After playing baseball at Tallahassee Community College, Snyder's next step was to join FSU's team as a catcher. Only there was a bit of an issue with that.
"They had Buster Posey," said Snyder. Yes, as in 2012 Major League Baseball's National League Most Valuable Player Buster Posey. "He was the catcher, and I caught," said Snyder. "Basically they told me straight-up, 'You're never going to play, but you could be on the team.'"
Snyder was not about that life. Instead, he opted out of baseball, no pun intended, and enrolled into FSU's College of Communication and Information majoring in media production. After a brief internship in California upon graduation, Snyder came back to Florida, unsure of his next move.
Knowing Snyder's ability with a camera, rapper and friend D-Smoove approached him with the idea of directing his music video featuring fellow Palm Beach singer Muzik Jones Drew. Armed with a Cannon 60D and a new lens, Snyder agreed and shot "Believe That" free of charge.
Positive reception grew locally after the release of the video, and with it came opportunities to direct more videos for local talent such as Eric Biddines, Rook, and 1Hot. But the pay, or lack of, was nothing to brag about.
"The worst thing ever is doing things for free, because when you do things for free people don't have patience with you," said Snyder. "And when you're doing things for free people are going to want to leave when they want to leave, because they're not paying you, and they're going to walk all over you."
At the same time, pro-bono work is a necessity says Snyder. "You have to do things for free. Just make sure it's the right situation, because you can get fucked, and it could make you look bad," said Snyder. "Your work will suffer, because people won't give you the time to make it look good."
To stay afloat financially Snyder caddied on and off at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach taking in between $200 to $400 a day. What was earned was quickly reinvested in new and better equipment for future opportunities.
One came when Snyder's friend Jerry Carnation, CEO of Kloud Clothing Co., introduced him to Orlando rapper Armstrong's music. Initially hesitant on working with the rapper, Snyder took some time out to consider the proposal.
"I just sat back for about a month, and I looked, and his views were out of control, and I was like, 'let me just hit him up,'" said Snyder. "And I knew if I did one for free, he would get hooked." Snyder was right. After a tweet to Armstrong, the two joined forces to shoot the video for "Dear Mama." What followed were videos for "Koolin" and "Goodfellas."
Friends began to take notice of his work as well as Armstrong's brute, uncondensed content, because nothing appeals more to middle America than selling "rocks" in the hood and bare-faced robberies. "All of my white friends were like, 'This guy is fucking crazy. I want to know more. I want to know more,' because the stories were unbelievable that he had," said Snyder.
With the interest of his friends evident, the idea of a documentary on the rapper came about. Armstrong agreed, and for four to five days a week for six months Snyder followed the rapper across the nation. Armstrong: the Documentary premiered August 27, 2012, at the Plaza Cinema Café in Orlando. After the movie was sent out to various record labels, Snyder says the buzz created a bidding war for Armstrong. The labels were looking to do a package deal that included the movie.
Unfortunately, the feds had other plans. In late October 2012, as a part Operation Strong Arm, Armstrong was one of 33 arrested and charged with racketeering in Orlando. The arrest and imprisonment of the rapper left Snyder unable to recuperate nearly $5,000 spent on travel expenses.
"I took chances man. That documentary, the original deal was, 'We'll shoot it, you'll pay our way,'" said Snyder. "And things got out of control like when we went to L.A. and I ended up paying for the whole movie out of my pocket like five grand. I was supposed to get the money, but then his door got kicked down, and so he went back to prison."
But it did pay off. Unbeknownst to Snyder, Maybach Music's head of A&R, SpiffTV, was friends with Armstrong's manager and a fan of Snyder's work. Weary again at first of this opportunity, Snyder took a few days before reaching out to Spiff on Twitter. Within a couple minutes, Spiff replied through a direct message since he was out of the country. Once stateside, Spiff let Snyder know he was interested in bringing in the director, and from there, came the work. "Little by little, I'd get little shit. Like Spiff would call me and be like, 'Yo, go here. Meek Mill is there. Go shoot this.' And I'd just go," said Snyder. "The tasks just started to get bigger and bigger and bigger."
For instance, the night before Christmas Eve, Snyder received a call from Spiff for a shoot for Chicago rapper Rockie Fresh, who was about to release his Electric Highway mixtape, in Orlando. "He was like, 'Can you shoot tonight?' And it was like 8 o'clock at night. I was like, 'Yeah, fuck it,'" said Snyder. "And I drove to Orlando. Just threw a bunch of lights in the car, threw my Red in the car and just got there and met up with them at 11 o'clock. Went back to Spiff's house, no game plan, and I just lit it funky, made it look cool and that's where 'The Warnings' video came from."
Snyder has since continued to work on MMGs videos such Rockie's "God Is Great," he directed Gunplay's "Bible on the Dash" which went on to become an MTV's Jam of the Week, and recently worked on Birdman and Rick Ross' upcoming video for "50 Plates."
The sun now out of sight in Delray, an old friend Snyder hasn't seen in awhile spots him. The two start talking. The guy asks Snyder what he's in the middle of. "He's interviewing me," says Snyder. "I direct music videos. I've had a couple on MTV."
Not bad for a guy who's only been shooting for a couple years instead of being Buster Posey's back up.
Follow Lee Castro on Twitter: @LeeMCastro
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