Music Video Directors and Producers
Exploring this Job
To see if you have what it takes to be a music video director or producer, the most obvious opportunity for exploration lies in your own imagination. Studying music videos, films, and other types of media and the process of how they are made is the beginning of the journey to work in these fields.
In high school and beyond, pay attention to music videos. Watch them at every opportunity. Study commercials, television shows, and films that incorporate musical elements to see what makes them interesting. Try to imitate their style using your own or borrowed equipment—no matter how basic it is. Learn how to use a camera and how to edit what you shoot using a computer.
One of the best ways to get experience is to volunteer for a student or low-budget film project; positions on such projects are often advertised in local trade publications. Community cable stations also hire volunteers and may even offer internships.
To learn more about the music industry in general, read Variety (https://variety.com). The Directors Guild of America's official publication DGA Monthly contains much information on the industry. If you are unable to find this magazine at a public library or bookstore, visit the DGA Web site (https://www.dga.org/News/DGAMonthly.aspx) for further information on how to access this members-only publication.
Many camps and workshops offer summer programs for high school students interested in film work. For example, the New York Film Academy offers a summer program for students aged 14–17. Classes include music video, filmmaking, acting, screenwriting, and 3D animation. For information, visit its Web site, https://www.nyfa.edu/summer-camps.
Music video directors and producers often work together as a team to create music videos for record companies and other employers. (Occasionally, a director may be responsible for all of the producer's tasks.) Though the director and producer work as a team, they generally approach their collaborative effort from two distinct vantage points. In short, the director is concerned with aesthetic issues such as the look, feel, and sound of the video. Directors bear the ultimate responsibility for the tone and quality of the videos they work on. They are involved in preproduction (before the shoot), production (during the shoot), and postproduction (after the shoot). The producer is concerned with more practical concerns such as electricity and catering, logistics, staffing, and business-related issues.
To be considered for jobs, music video directors and producers must present a bid (a written estimate of how much money they will need to shoot and complete the video) and a treatment to music recording executives, most often a video commissioner or marketing director. A treatment is a written overview of what a director plans to do in the music video. This is the director's only opportunity to convince music industry executives that he or she is the right person for the job. Some music video directors write only one treatment for a video, while others write three or more treatments and choose what they think is the best one for submission. Music video treatments are typically two pages long and answer questions such as: How will the video look and feel? What story will the video tell to viewers? Will the video feature music performance only, a story only, or a combination of the two? What type of medium will be used to shoot the music video: 16mm film, 35mm film, video, or a combination of several formats? During this time the director and producer meet with the music video editor, who shares their vision about the music video. They discuss the objectives of the video and the best way to present the artist's image including settings, scenes, special effects, costumes, and camera angles.
After the director and producer submit the treatment, record industry executives review it and suggest revisions based on the project's budget and stylistic concerns. The director and producer then submit a revised treatment that is reviewed, and eventually approved, by the video commissioner, marketing director, music artist's manager, and the artist. Once a treatment is accepted, the director and producer begin work on the music video within days or weeks.
Music video directors are responsible for many tasks before and during the shoot. They interpret the stories and narratives presented in scripts and coordinate the filming of their interpretations. To do this, the director creates a shooting script and storyboards as a guide to assist in making the video. Music video directors must audition, select, and rehearse the acting crew, which may include dancers, actors, stunt performers, and backup musicians, as well as work closely with the musical artist in the video. They oversee set designs and costumes and decide where scenes should be shot, what backgrounds might be needed, and how special effects could be used. Directors might also book crew members, hire vendors, and ensure that gear and locations are secured. Music video producers may handle some of these tasks so that the director can focus on the more artistic aspects of the production.
Music video directors are occasionally assisted by directors of photography (DPs), or cinematographers, who are responsible for organizing and implementing the actual camera work. The director and the DP interpret scenes and decide on appropriate camera motion to achieve desired results. The DP determines the amounts of natural and artificial lighting required for each shoot and such technical factors as the type of film to be used, camera angles and distance, depth of field, and focus.
Music videos, like motion pictures, are usually filmed out of sequence, meaning that the ending might be shot first and scenes from the middle of the video might not be filmed until the end of production. Directors are responsible for scheduling each day's sequence of scenes. They coordinate filming so that scenes using the same set and performers will be filmed together. In addition to conferring with the producer and the DP (if one is used during the shoot), music video directors meet with technicians and crew members to advise on and approve final scenery, lighting, props, and other necessary equipment. They are also involved with final approval of costumes and choreography.
After all the scenes have been shot, postproduction begins. The director and producer work with picture and sound editors to create the final product. The music video editor assembles shots according to the wishes of the director and producer and his or her own artistic sensibility, synchronizing film with voice and sound tracks produced by the sound editor and music editor.
When the music video is complete, the director and producer submit it to their employer (such as a record company, a production company, etc.) for final review. The employer may return the video for tweaking or major revisions. The video is revised and resubmitted until it meets the approval of the employer.
While music video directors and producers supervise all major aspects of music video production, various assistants—especially in big-budget productions—help throughout the process. In a less creative position than the director, the first assistant director organizes various practical matters involved during the shooting of each scene. The second assistant director is a coordinator who works as a liaison among the production office, the first assistant director, and the performers.