It's been called the "Citizen Kane" of "Telephone" tribute videos (OK, so we were the ones who called it that, but that doesn't make it any less true), a rollicking four-plus minutes of over-the-top costumes and choreography, supremely dedicated performances and bargain-bin special effects.
But the man responsible for the greatest Lady Gaga vid not actually made by Lady Gaga is still waiting for his big break. Like, he's waiting even as you read this.
"I actually just came from a job interview," 23-year-old director Ryan James Yezak said, laughing. "It's a pretty entry-level position, so I didn't bring up the Gaga video I did. They didn't know who I was either."
Yet, that could all change. At the time of this writing, Yezak's "Telephone" video has been viewed more than 3 million times, and thanks to Gaga's recently released clip, he's getting more views by the minute. Yezak hopes to turn the attention into some paying gigs (he's got tons of ideas for music videos), and while nothing has happened just yet, he feels like fame is tantalizingly close. At last.
"Filmmaking is a passion. It's what I want to do with my career. I feel like nobody will let me do it yet," he said. "[This video] has definitely opened a few doors though. I feel like doors are cracking open. None have actually opened, but they're starting to crack. I know lots of people have seen it. Perez [Hilton] tweeted it directly to Lady Gaga, so I'm assuming she's seen it too. I'd love to hear from her. It would be incredible."
Shot over one very long day in January — "the same week Gaga shot her video," Yezak enthused — in and around Kansas (mostly Lawrence and Kansas City), Yezak employed a team of his friends to make the video. Actor Scott Nelson turns in the performance of a lifetime as Gaga, and Julian Riviera plays Beyoncé and is also responsible for the choreography, wardrobe and makeup.
"I couldn't have done this without their help ... the toughest challenge for me as a director is getting the images in my head to appear in the video. And Julian helped so much. He knows choreography, the eight-count and the steps," Yezak said. "Scott is just amazing in the video too. And my family in Texas overnighted telephones to my house in California so I could use them in the video. We had to do a lot with a little, because we don't have any money."
Yezak said that regardless of what opportunities present themselves in the wake of his "Telephone" tribute video, he plans to continue making YouTube productions with his friends. He's already kicking around an idea for Ke$ha's "Take It Off," should she choose to release the track as a single. Yezak is also compiling fan-made videos as a birthday present for Gaga. And to that end, he'll always remain loyal to Gaga's work, and not just because he's a huge fan.
"I look at her almost as a colleague, because we both have messages that we want to get across," Yezak said. "With this video, I wanted to let people know that they can do whatever they want. In this day and age, there's a lot of discouragement out there, but everyone has the resources to do whatever you want to do, right at your fingertips. You can achieve your dreams, even if you're not getting paid."