Directors: From MTV to the Silver Screen

  • 22 May, 2014

Whether it's a multimillion-pound blockbuster or promoting the latest thing in pop music, the director ultimately has the final say in crucial elements that arrest or sway an audience.

A director is chief cook and bottle washer

Directors are responsible for the quality of the final product and its success.

In most cases, directors work on films far longer than any actor, technician or editor, from the first day of brainstorming to the final release.' (Princeton Review 2014).

Supervision of visual effects, lighting, shot composition, props and even color grading contribute to relaying themes and messages to the audience, ultimately determining whether a production is cohesive and successful.

Among others, these design elements compose the mise-en-scene (visual storytelling) and we have grown so accustomed to its conventions, that the decision making can appear to go right over our heads.


You might have noticed how Zack Snyder's speed-ramping, Tim Burton's gothic art direction or JJ Abrams' lens flares have become hallmarks of their work.

Distinctive visual and narrative style is often the mark of an auteur.

Film was not seriously validated as art until the 1950s where the director could be described as the primary author of a collaborative work, because of the way their creative vision shaped it. In much the same way as film, attitudes are slowly changing toward music videos as it becomes clear pop promo directors are too, auteurs.

Vevo now credits the directors of music videos. In fact, many directors migrated from promo to film, demonstrating just how comparable their roles and responsibilities are in making a quality production.


Michael Bay

He may be the cinematic auteur who most accurately represents our day and age in the film industry... There's no one else who does bombast and spectacle better than Michael Bay... with such a unique style there is never any doubt that you’re watching a Michael Bay film.' Though he is well known for the ‘Transformers’ series and ‘Pearl Harbor’, it may come as a surprise that Bay is also responsible for such memorable music videos as Meatloaf's ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’ until of course you go back and watch them again; then his explosions, crashes, use of smoke, jagged camera jumps to black and white and gratuitous display of hot women (Megan Fox?) become apparent.


Michel Gondry

Michel Gondry started out making videos for a French rock band before catching the eye of high profile acts Suck as Bjork, Daft Punk and Radiohead.

The bulk of his filmography consists of music videos and short films, but he also directed 2008's ‘Be Kind Rewind’.

His most notable contribution to film was the development of Time Slice technique (Smirnoff).

This effect, re-dubbed “bullet time” for the Matrix's famous rooftop scene, became one of the movie's defining moments and arguably elevated it to iconographic status. Gondry has also made a number of adverts, one of which, Levis' ‘The Drugstore’, holds the record for most-awarded commercial.


Anthony Mandler

Anthony Mandler is an award winning music video director truly worthy of the title auteur. Throughout his collaborations with the likes of Taylor Swift, Rihanna (‘Diamonds’), Usher, Shakira and Lana Del Rey (‘Ride’),

his strong style is apparent: distinctly cinematic imagery of bars and widescreen vistas of the American West, driving narrative, extreme close ups, fire and smoke, dramatic play with lighting, focus and playback speed. He is due to make his feature film debut in 2015 with ‘Tokyo Vice’ after amassing a reel of nearly 100 extremely successful music videos.



Talented practitioners such as these highlight the increasing amount of artistry expected of formats like the music video as the average consumer becomes more discerning and harder to please.

A pop promo director has the additional task of selling the performer and their music along with their artistic vision. Music videos tend to have shorter turnaround, smaller budgets and the sheer volume of them makes it harder to creatively stand out.

As album sales continue to crash, it is often the music videos - compiling a visual album of sorts - that helps make artists today. It takes a lot of work to capture a particular feel and the audience in the space of a few minutes; so next time you enjoy your favourite music video, consider the meticulous orchestration involved, though we hasten to add the end product is usually worth it!


Written By: Eboni Patterson


Last modified on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:42
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