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Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Images courtesy of: Tribeca Film Festival

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival features a handful of music video directors premiering films they directed.

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival has seen various music video directors premiering films they directed, their projects ranging from fictional stories centered around Los Angeles teens surviving traumatic experiences to documentaries celebrating hip-hop’s impact on fashion.

Okayplayer spoke with some of these directors via email about the differences between directing a music video and film, how directing music videos shaped directing their film, and what music video they wished they directed and why.

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo courtesy of: Tribeca Film Festival

Nabil Elderkin

Has directed music videos for: Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, John Legend

Director of: Gully

Film Synopsis: After surviving traumatic childhoods and socioeconomic hardships, three disillusioned teens (Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jacob Latimore, and Charlie Plummer) reach their breaking points and go on a rampage through a dystopian modern-day Los Angeles.

Screening time: Thursday, May 2, 9:30 pm at Village East Cinema-07

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo Credit: Chris Willard

What are the notable differences between directing a music video and film?

The whole process is 100 times longer with about as many moving parts. A music video is usually one moment that should create a feeling/emotion, whereas a film is many moments that can connect so many different ways to shape how it can feel. Most importantly, a film does not score the music, whereas a music video scores the song.

How did being a music video director inform how you went about making your film?

Just new filming experiences and perspectives from lots of short-form creation. Also, with independent filmmaking at a budget I have learned how to move very fast, as is necessary with almost every music video which is shot in one day or sometimes two if we are lucky.

If you could’ve made any music video ever aside from your own, which one would it be and why?​​​

I love [Jonathan Glazer’s] “Rabbit in Your Headlights” video for UNKLE and almost anything Chris Cunningham ever made as a music video. It would have been great to make a 2pac video. Goals.

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo courtesy of: Tribeca Film Festival

Farah X

Has directed music videos for: Mariah Carey

Co-director of: The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion

Film Synopsis: The story of how hip-hop changed fashion, leading to the stratospheric and global rise of streetwear. It is a journey of African American creativity and the limitless possibilities of a cultural movement on a global scale.

Screening time: Thursday, May 2, 7 pm at The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Theater from Chase; Friday, May 3, 9 pm at Village East Cinema-01; Saturday, May 4, 12 pm at Regal Cinemas Park 11-5

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo Credit: Dove Clark

What are the notable differences between directing a music video and film?

The most notable difference for me between music videos and documentary filmmaking is the landscape within which they are created. By that I mean, for a music video, the song is the map to the final creation. You have beats, lyrics, and themes already in place which help guide what the visuals will be. What I create as a director has to honor the music and sometimes even heighten it. Iconic music videos are the ones where the track and visuals bolster one another in an unexpected way.  

For documentaries, there is absolutely no guideline or no map. A documentary usually begins with a spark of an idea, a news headline, or even something as simple as a photo. This leads to a story idea. Then it is up to the filmmaker to create the narrative as the filming progresses. Many times, the initial story idea is transformed into something different as you get to know your subject better. Then in the edit, usually the story is shifted again as all the puzzle pieces start falling into place. So in this regard, the process for directing music video as opposed to documentaries is rather disparate.

How did being a music video director inform how you went about making your film?

The craft of filmmaking is very much the same regardless of what you are filming. Proper camera angles, lighting, and coverage are all aspects of the filmmaking craft that are necessary whether you are creating a music video, a commercial, or a feature. My experience with music videos — which are more often than not created on shoestring budgets — helped me focus on what we truly needed in a shot or a scene. What was the most efficient way to get it, and what was the most beautiful way to get it? Once we captured the shot we moved on. We didn’t need to do several takes. When we had it we had it.

If you could’ve made any music video ever aside from your own, which one would it be and why?​​​

I’ve always been in awe of the Nine Inch Nails music video “Closer” directed by Mark Romanek. That video captures the essence of that song and that band perfectly. It’s gritty but beautiful. It shows the grotesque nature of human beings while also highlighting their beauty. It makes political statements and dares the viewer to watch many times, with the characters staring back at the viewer in disgust. The video also pays homage to many great artists from Francis Bacon to Joel-Peter Witkin. Even the use of vintage film stock and hand-cranked cameras was purposeful to the final effect. The fearlessness of that video, especially at the time in the mid-90s, was unprecedented. It’s prolific. For me, that video makes you think as well as feel — and that is the epitome of what I try to do with my work.

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo courtesy of: Tribeca Film Festival

Andrew Thomas Huang

Has directed music videos for: FKA Twigs, Kelela, Bjork, Serpentwithfeet

Director of: Kiss of the Rabbit God

Film Synopsis: A young Chinese restaurant worker (Teddy Lee) falls in love with a god (Jeff Chen) who leads him on a journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery.

Screening time: Tuesday, April 30, 5 pm at Regal Cinemas Battery Park 11-6

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo Credit: Rina Yang

What are the notable differences between directing a music video and film?

Directing music videos for me can sometimes feel like half of filmmaking as they often relieve directors being in charge of sound design. I really enjoy sound, and it’s something that I’m excited to steer in my first feature. The similarities, however, is that both formats dare us to experiment, tell stories, and lure people in.

How did being a music video director inform how you went about making your film?

Music videos have really given me such vast opportunity to experiment with different styles, tools, and just got me in a rhythm of directing frequently enough to the point where I could feel confident in the craft of making and completing films. It also has taught me how to collaborate with other artists, interpreting and elevating other artists’ work, and delivering home a message and an emotion in a short amount of time. I feel really grateful toward music videos for really birthing my career as a filmmaker.

If you could’ve made any music video ever aside from your own, which one would it be and why?​​​

In the past year, I’ve been gagging over Matilda Finna’s “Easy To Do” video for Bipolar Sunshine. The narrative is so captivating and the language and logic so magical, earnest, and powerful.  My other fave video of all time is Chris Cunningham’s “Sheena is a Parasite” for The Horrors. First, because the video is so efficiently made in such a masterful way, second because it’s Samantha Morton headbanging for the entire track.

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo courtesy of: Tribeca Film Festival

Coodie and Chike

Has directed music videos for: Kanye West, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco

Directors of: A Kid From Coney Island

Film synopsis: From the streets of Coney Island to the NBA, the story of basketball star Stephon Marbury reveals that often life is about the journey, not the destination  — and the unexpected places your dreams may take you.

Screening time: Friday, May 3, 6:45 pm at Regal Cinemas Battery Park 11-10; Saturday, May 4, 5:45 pm at Village East Cinema-03

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: Five Music Video Directors On The Difference Between Directing Videos & Films

Photo Credit: Andy Chan

What are the notable differences between directing a music video and film?

The notable differences are the use of beats to create story arcs through several acts to create an emotional journey and especially with documentary, to allow the real-life story to make decisions for you.

How did being a music video director inform how you went about making your film?

Having a background in music videos arms us with certain editorial sensibilities when it comes to how we incorporate music within our projects. Music is a strong device element we lean on to create specific emotions we want the audience to feel at specific moments.

If you could’ve made any music video ever aside from your own, which one would it be and why?​​​

Chike: It would have been the video for Childish Gambino’s [“Feels Like Summertime”] because I’ve always wanted to do a fully animated music video.

Coodie: I would want to make Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” because it was innovative and a game changer. It’s a music video and short film in one.



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