Artists have always liked to link one art form to the other. The arts have famously intertwined, whether through opera, or the stage or, of course, film. Having different crafts interplay may bring about beautiful work, and music videos are no exception. Since the 80’s, they have become an art form in their own right and a pop culture staple to what has become the MTV generation. Many of the best new ideas on filmmaking come from the world of music videos.
Here’s a look at 10 major music video directors.
In a previous life, before he made some of the most acclaimed films of his time such as Fight Club, Seven, or Gone Girl, David Fincher directed loads of music videos and helped define the genre with his collaborations with major artists, most notably Madonna. He helped propel the illustration of the music into full-blown narratives within coherent universes, like any movie he has been associated since. Here’s Vogue, which has been hailed as one of the greatest music videos ever made. Taking inspiration from the visuals of films from the 20’s and 30’s, it quickly became an anthem.
He’s not a director strictly speaking -obviously- except since Michael Jackson has been so instrumental in taking music videos to a whole other level in the 1980’s, we thought he deserved an entry all to himself. That started with Thriller in 1983 which has since been hailed as the greatest music video ever made. It definitely change the way people perceived music videos, and the scope of their ambitions. It expanded the song into a 13-minute short film. The same thing happened when Jackson hired film legend Martin Scorsese to direct Bad in 1987. Jackson helped create a whole new side of pop culture and thus cemented his place in it.
This director has worked with some of the most iconic artists in the 20th century, and that’s not counting his stint as director of the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’s created videos for David Bowie, Madonna, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, Toto and Dolly Parton. He also directed Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean in 1983. One of his most innovative works was on the A-Ha 1986 hit Take on Me, which you can watch right here.
Since his first feature, Being John Malkovich, Spike Jonze has emerged as one of the quirkiest voices in independent American cinema -first though his pairing with high-concept screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, later adapting Where the Wild Things Are, then with Her, which earned him a writing Oscar. Throughout his career, he has gone back and forth between long and short feature, and one of his main occupations since the beginning of the 1990’s has been to direct music videos. They also show his apt hand and his singular voice, notably in this Grammy-winning clip featuring Christopher Walken dancing.
Directors hail from all backgrounds, and this director’s path is yet another proof. After studying astrophysics, he decided to pursue a career as a director. He started directing a lot of music videos, and made a way into commercials, having directed some of the most acclaimed ads in recent years. Here’s the music video for Bat For Lashes’ What’s a Girl To Do, which shows tremendous talent and haunting visuals. This was produced on a micro-budget of £800 ($1500) and produced by a member of Raindance.
Since music videos have become full-blown narratives, you might as well go high-concept, right ? That is what long-time Raindance-regular W.I.Z. has done over the course of numerous collaborations with major artists, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States -Oasis, Kings of Leon, Robbie Williams… He imbues his narratives with social and political comments, and gives the visuals enough power to be not only relevant but deeply striking. It is obvious in this music video for Marilyn Manson’s The Fight Song which was premiered at Raindance with W.I.Z. The song itself takes a stab at American culture, and the images that are set to it strike the perfect chord.
French director Michel Gondry is known for having directed what is arguably one of the best features of the 2000’s, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, wherein his experimental sensitivity is apparent. Since the 1990’s he’s kept going back and forth between various forms of visual storytelling, whether short films, full features or music videos. He has directed quite a lot of them, and his pop-ish, cardboard universe is always a delight to behold.
French artist Wooded lives in a world of his own. He is a singer-songwriter in his own right, with a distinctive voice, and has made a place for himself in directing music videos for his songs as well as those of other artists. He notably collaborated with Taylor Swift, Katy Perry (Teenage Dream) and Lana Del Rey. He brings his singular voice to whatever he does and the fact that he is an artist of many talents makes for powerful music videos.
This director brings storytelling to a whole other level. He has collaborated with numerous artists, and always brings beautiful visuals to the songs, linking profound themes with superb camera work and beautiful effects, in order to bring out what draws everyone to music.
A good start to directing music videos can be… music. Hart was the bassist for The Jesus and Mary Chain in the 80’s, and was famous for playing with fewer than four strings on his bass guitar. He started directing music videos for other acts while still in the band, and continued after he left. He’s made music videos on Super 8mm for some of the world’s biggest (and smallest) bands. His work involves extreme experimental visuals, as seen in this video for Apache Girl, by Dirty Stop Out.
If you are interested in making music videos, check out our friends at Radar Music Videos: the number one music/film commissioning website.
Did I forget anyone? Please put your suggestions in the comments box below.