One year at Christmas, a camcorder was under the tree.
Justin Frick was about 8 years old, and the gift was from his grandparents.
It was for the whole family, but Frick quickly figured out how to work it and began making videos.
He wasn’t exactly gentle.
“I eventually broke it,” he said. “We got another one, and the same thing happened. I think by the third one, (my parents) were like, ‘You need to buy it yourself.’ I had to save up about $250. When you’re 14, that’s a lot of money. But they’ve never bought another camera since.”
They haven’t needed to.
Frick, now 23, is a rising music video director, with a sizable client list and an enviable portfolio.
The Richland native has worked with artists from Tommy Cassidy to The Spirit Animals. In the past couple of weeks alone, he’s dropped videos for songs including Cold by Night Argent and School Daze by Tino Cruze, with more on the way.
Cruze, an Iowa-born rapper who now lives in the Tri-Cities, said Frick took his ideas for School Daze and “just ran with them.”
“I was thinking inside the box, and he kind of brought it outside the box,” Cruze said. “I told him he’s probably the only one I’m going to work with here.”
Frick is the oldest son of Glenn and Pam Frick. His mother is a two-time cancer survivor who was featured in the Herald in October.
Justin Frick said his parents and younger brother, Chance, 20, are supportive of his work. They’ve watched his craft evolve from the start.
After the family got that first camcorder, Frick and best friend Kyson Cartwright began making videos — funny sketches at first, and eventually, skateboarding videos and even an hourlong film.
That project, called Leonardo Mautila, generated a bit of a cult following. Years later, Frick spotted a woman he didn’t know wearing a sweatshirt with his face on it — from that middle school film.
Frick is still winning fans.
Chase Manhattan, lead singer of Night Argent, said Frick brings vision to each project.
“He’s a very creative person. He’s not cookie-cutter in his methods. The shots that he goes for — he looks for unique perspective. He comes up with very well thought out ideas,” Manhattan said.
At the same time, he’s collaborative, Manhattan said.
He “allows us to bring our image and our voice to the video work, rather than putting his own complete style on it,” the singer said. “He uses his abilities to highlight what we’re doing.”
Frick first worked with Night Argent in about 2012, filming while the band recorded at the Palms studio in Las Vegas.
Last year, he joined the group for several stops on the Vans Warped Tour.
Manhattan foresees even more adventures with Frick in the future.
“He’s definitely one of those guys — whenever we have the chance to work together, we’re going to jump on it,” Manhattan said. “He’s one of those people we’re going to continue to work with as we grow.”
Frick is largely self-taught, and his creativity seems innate.
He sees the world differently — always looking for shots, thinking about where his camera would go, how to get the best angle.
His work shows versatility.
His video for the psychedelic garage rock jam Military Kids by The Spirit Animals, for example, is moody and striking, with characters wearing surreal animals masks.
Meanwhile, School Daze is brighter, set at a school, evoking the teenage experiences the rap song celebrates.
Frick’s production company is called A Justin Frick Take.
He still frequently collaborates with Cartwright, who provided comic book artwork for School Daze.
Although Frick has made a name for himself in the Tri-Cities, he’s planning to leave town.
He’ll spend a couple of months in Priest Lake, Idaho, and Bend, Ore., and then intends to settle in Spokane.
He looks forward to expanding his client base while still working with Tri-City artists, he said.
And he looks forward to continuing to grow and create.
He loves what he does, he said.
For him, it’s not about receiving praise but about making connections, about making something special that didn’t exist before it sprang from his mind.
When it comes to ideas, the well is deep.
“I have really dark ideas swimming around, and really happy and weird and abstract ideas,” Frick said. “I haven’t used like 90 percent of the stuff I have in me.”