It is hard to overstate the cultural revolution that MTV brought about. Suddenly kids were storming home from school to be bathed in a wash of pure unabated pop culture and the industry mutated along with the minds of those watching on.
While the whitewashed cash-cow element of the medium is definitely in the welter, there was also an odd cottage-industry feel to certain elements of MTV back in the day and a progressive edge to parts of it that made it a fertile seeding ground for many filmmakers. One of which, was the simple way that art and culture in pretty much all of its guises flooded into living rooms every evening for a brief period before the TV remote household hierarchy took over. This inspired an entire generation, one of which was modern music video director Andrew Donoho.
When we spoke to him about the rise of MTV and how it influenced his future in filmmaking he said: “Like a lot of us, the filmmaking spark began with a VHS camera at home. As a teenager, I scoured the internet for every form of visual effects software to try and spice up DIY home movies and school projects.” Adding: “Music always inspires and enhances my own ideas to a massive degree. As early as my first short film, I would listen to playlists while writing, edit scenes to music, and directly marry characters or performances to songs. I felt comfortable starting in music videos because those habits directly correlated to a workflow that artists loved.”
Whether Donoho like the many greats gathered below will venture from the world of music videos to moviemaking remains to be seen, but path is certainly a well-trodden one. Below we have curated five of the best music videos in history and lifted the lid on the star directors behind them.
5 brilliant music videos directed by filmmakers:
‘Karma Police’ by Radiohead – Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Before he was rising to mass critical acclaim with the likes of Sexy Beast back in 2000, the all-around creative force of Jonathan Glazer was in the midst of a fruitful collaboration with Radiohead.
With this iconic 1997 video, Glazer offered a glimpse at the cinematic work to come. He was named MTV Director of the Year and remarked: “I knew when I finished that, because [Radiohead] found their own voices as an artist, at that point, I felt like I got close to whatever mine was, and I felt confident that I could do things that emoted, that had some kind of poetic as well as prosaic value. That for me was a key moment.”
‘Weapon of Choice’ by Fatboy Slim – Directed by Spike Jonze
It’s a video that would appear on most people’s lists. The iconic screen presence of Christopher Walken lent his dancing feet to this absolute classic and created a small piece of music video history.
If this clip doesn’t send you back to a specific time and place then you must simply be from the wrong generation. It’s part music video part crystalising of the zeitgeist by masterful filmmaker Spike Jonze who later went on to craft the likes of Her and Being John Malkovich.
‘Gold’ by Chet Faker – Directed by Hiro Murai
Hiro Murai’s work on ‘Gold’ features some cracking legs, top cinematography, and a fair few ‘how did they do that?’ moments to boot. It displays a level of ingenuity and an eye for a shot that should serve him well in the realm of movie making.
Murai is clearly an emerging talent in the field and one of the music video traits he has down to a fine art is offering up something mesmeric that stops the phone from sliding into your pocket and keeps you glued to the screen. With the film Guava Island he touched on something visually similar.
‘Little of Your Love’ by Haim – Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
When Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, Licorice Pizza, was announced a few eyebrows were raised when he chose to cast the 29-year-old musician Alana Haim in the lead role as a teenager. However, clearly, he knows something we don’t having worked with her on Haim music videos in the past.
The Haim sisters and Paul Thomas Anderson both hail from San Fernando Valley and that small-town vibe is present in both ‘Little of Your Love’ and Licorice Pizza proving that music videos can also be a fruitful testing ground for esteemed filmmakers.
‘Vogue’ by Madonna – Directed by David Fincher
Long before Fight Club and Seven, David Fincher was already plying his trade directing videos for the likes of Billy Idol, Aerosmith and Paul Abdul in what now seems like the most quintessentially 1980s collection of artists ever assembled.
With ‘Vogue’ he crafted something every bit as notoriously iconic as his film work. If you picture Madonna in your mind’s eye then it is likely her ‘Vogue’ guise that you will see her in. Thus, if music videos are about distilling an oeuvre down to a pastiche that only lasts a couple of minutes, Fincher succeeded with aplomb.