5 Tips to Direct Your First Music Video

by Peter D. Marshall

by Lauren Langdon.

Music videos can be a great way to make a name for yourself as an independent filmmaker. The artist will use your video to promote his work as he tours — plus, the small amount of time you spend creating the video nets you regular promotion from major fans. While a music video has its own rewards, it is a different animal than shooting the short films you are more familiar with creating.

When preparing for your first video, think back to any Broadway musicals you may have seen live, or visit a service such as Telecharge to watch sneak peeks of hit musicals such as “Kinky Boots” or “The Book of Mormon.” You’ll face the same challenges when shooting, so seeing how the pros have done it can be really inspiring. These five tips will see you through your first video.

Giulietta Pixelated music video 3

Photo of Giuletta Pixelated music video by Flickr user Ape Vision (Dale Martin)

1. Begin with a strong idea

All good music videos are memorable, not just because the song is good. To put together a music video that gets attention, work with the artist to develop a full narrative for the video. As director Ninian Doff notes for advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, viewers aren’t going to watch a four-minute long music video where a woman walks through a field for the whole time. However, if she encounters a band of zombies in the field and must flee for her life, you’ve got an idea.

As Doff notes, the most beautiful video without a plot pales in comparison to a jerky iPhone video that has plot. With this in mind, use style to support your function. Effects such as a shallow depth of field or jerky DSLR shots should serve the narrative you’ve created, adding up to an overall effect of emotion or feeling. If problems arise while you’re shooting the video, come up with a creative solution to your problem.

2. Make sure the singer sings

This sounds like common sense, but as LAvideoFilmmaker notes, many music videos feature song tracks that don’t match up with the singer’s lip motion. This can happen when the video is recorded without the actual music track, or when the singer mumbles, lip-syncs or half-heartedly sings during the video shoot. When the singer gives it his all, you’ll be able to match up the video shots to the music track in editing.

3. Be creative throughout this process

Your good idea may not come through in the film, or your perfect location may be closed for shooting or interrupted by a parade. When things don’t go as planned, be creative, and embrace the process. Use the parade marchers as extras, or go guerrilla-style with a new location.

4. Don’t forget about the ending

While they’ve plotted the rest of the video, some directors forget about the ending. Develop a natural ending to the narrative you’ve created by focusing on the character you’ve formed or the journey she’s been on.

5. Be patient

You won’t necessarily experience music video success overnight. Be patient when it comes to promoting your video, making a follow up video, and working with artists. As you develop a portfolio of music videos, you will grow your reach, widen your audience of fans, find out what works and what doesn’t work for you, and improve your skills across the board.

Lauren Langdon is a freelance blogger who prefers writing about entertainment, celebrities and Hollywood.

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