Thursday, 12 April 2012

Music videos have made household names of many a director – from Spike Jonze to Hype Williams – while established film auteurs, such as David Lynch, have also dabbled. We asked some music video makers for tips…

Be original
Let’s face it: watching a clichéd music video is pretty soul destroying. Worse still, a rubbish video detracts from the song, and this is the number one thing you want to avoid. “It’s all about innovation,” says Ben Strebel, who has made music videos for Clock Opera, Crystal Fighters and Phoenix. However, Ben argues, this doesn’t have to mean coming up with an over-complicated and expensive concept. Find your inspiration in the everyday. “Do what you know best,” advises Ben. “If you can project something that you know about, you’re going to be telling a story effectively. The best stories that you tell are either stories you’ve experienced yourself or that surround you,” he says.

Working with musicians
“Accept jobs from bands that you like or can relate to in some way,” says Sing J Lee, one of the winners of IdeasTap's 2012 Future Film music video brief. “Otherwise there will come a point where you'll just hate the song or can't quite connect your ideas to them and both you and the band will suffer.” Craig Heathcote, who has just directed his first music video, Dusk till Dawn, for pop artist Jason James, agrees: “Have a strong song – the song’s got to be worth the video and the effort.”

The degree of input the band will give you varies dramatically – some get very involved, while others will give you a brief that is wide open. “It’s really exciting when the band knows what they want. Then it’s about offering up different layers or different ways of interpreting what they’ve said,” says Ben. “[Sometimes] it can be literally, ‘We don’t want performance, we don’t want a narrative – we’d like a concept.’ That’s it.”

The band as a brand
Making a music video is a highly creative process, but it’s also a commercial one, so remember that you are marketing a band or artist as much as you are making a short film. “You’re trying to find a language that will give them an identity,” says Ben. To this end, Sing recommends good old fashioned research: “Know their appeal, attend their shows, know what their vision is and [get to know] them as individuals – that way you will produce something strong and in keeping with what they're all about.”

Keeping track
One criticism that has been levelled at David Lynch’s recent music video for his track Crazy Clown Time is that it interprets the song’s lyrics too literally. Ultimately though, how the content of your video should relate to the song’s lyrics comes down to preference. As Ben says, “It depends on the artist – some people don’t like you to respond to their lyrics.” In these cases, adopt a more intuitive approach. “Take the sentiment or your emotional response to it, or whatever inspires you about the energy of the melody or the rhythm or the way it’s put together,” says Ben. After all, however abstract or literal your vision, the feel of the video has to reflect that of the track. Craig again: “Really respond to the music – the sounds and the pace; your video’s not going to look right if the music’s fast and the visuals are slow.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.

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