Camera in his hand, UNT’s Derrick Drayden, better known to the film community as “TROYAL”, is spicing up the film industry. He has filmed projects in Calif., Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. From working with rapper and videographer Evan Jones, platinum solo artist Dreezy and many in between, Drayden is an up-and-coming celebrity filmmaker.
Drayden is a sophomore at UNT majoring in film and minoring in photography. The 20-year-old Forth Worth native said he grew up watching movies on weekends and MTV Jams in the morning before school. This interested him in learning how to shoot videos and prompted him to start his business in the film industry.
“I started actually teaching myself how to do that on YouTube by myself [with] a camera and a laptop,” Drayden said. “Starting in middle school and eighth grade, I started shooting videos for people and also started making money off on the side getting into my freshman year in high school.”
As a film major, Drayden takes classes to help him improve his craft, but before he got to UNT, he watched videos and tutorials to learn different ways of shooting.
“It was a lot of trial and error learning the techniques and everything,” Drayden said.
Drayden said shooting video and going to school can be very time consuming as a college student. He said school comes first and he has all of his classes in the morning to give himself time throughout the day to work on homework and then works on his videos throughout the night. Drayden sometimes has to miss school when he travels out of state for different projects.
“It’s not easy, but if you have a passion for it, you just end up doing it,” Drayden said. “It’s a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of late nights waking up early in the morning. It’s a lot to do, but it’s something I want to do. So I have to kind of put the work in for both school and my actual business.”
This past March, Drayden also had the opportunity to work with Dreezy at SXSW, which is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries. Drayden said the way he got the gig was “very weird”— he had just pulled an all-nighter with a friend to work on a graphic for his logo when he received a call from Evan Jones. Jones was unable to make a gig at SXSW and asked if he could pass Drayden’s number over to a photographer.
“She called me to let me know that she needs me in SXSW by 12 [p.m.] and not to mention this is like 7 a.m. when she’s calling me,” Drayden said. “So I had to make plans to go out to Austin and go to SXSW [and] I didn’t know who the artist was at that moment.”
Drayden didn’t find out that the artist was Dreezy until he got there. It was his first time doing photos and videos for a concert, which he said was hectic, but that it was a great opportunity for him. He said he also bumped into artists like Big Boy, DaBaby and more.
Jaybius Williams, a communication studies sophomore and friend of Drayden’s, said Drayden works as his own creative director. He said Drayden’s work deserves respect because he works hard to satisfy the subjects he works with.
“I believe Troyal’s work is slept on,” Williams said. “He does stuff most videographers [would] charge way more for just to get your vision out. He has unlimited locations as long as it is in DFW. No videographer I know does that. He creates story boards for you so you can see where he is coming from.”
Matthew Njuguna, an advertising sophomore better known to his Peers as “14th Shooter”, also gave Drayden’s work high praise.
“Troyal is one of the most talented creatives I know,” Njuguna said. “You can tell by his videos and pictures that he puts time and effort into his work. His editing style is very creative.”
Drayden said filmmaking and videography are not easy fields. He is a perfectionist, he said, and he sometimes hits low points when he feels stuck. In those situations, he reminds himself not to rush anything and that he still has time to chase his goals and keep moving forward. Ultimately, he said, he is working toward being the best artist he can be.
“I take a lot of pride in my work,” Drayden said. “And I don’t do it for the money, but I do it for the art.”
Featured Image: Sophomore film major Jerrick Drayden poses with his clapperboard at his home studio in Denton, Texas on Sept. 12, 2019. Image by Bertha Smith