When MTV emerged in the early eighties, I hated the music but loved the cutting edge visuals. I would frequently shut off the sound on my television and turn on my stereo. Back then, MTV was a revolution and the music videos themselves were a brand new artform that had spawned a visual style that had never been seen. It also spawned a new generation of film directors, including the likes of Spike Jonze, David Fincher, Michel Gondry, and Chris Cunningham.
In the eighties and nineties, music videos were the ultimate auteur’s medium. Most of these video directors came from widely diverse backgrounds. Gondry was a musician, Cunningham was a movie special effects technician, and Jonze was a skateboarder named Adam Spiegel. And they borrowed (some say “stoled” or “sampled”) from a variety of artistic disciplines including sculpture, performance art, video art, still photography, and fine art. It was only in the early nineties when director’s names began appearing under song titles at the bottom of each MTV video. As a result, mainstream media started taking notice of these artists.
In fact, established Hollywood filmmakers began making music videos, most notably John Landis directing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Martin Scorsese directing Jackson’s “Bad.”
In 2003, Palm Pictures launched their Directors Label series. The first installment of their series included individual DVDs with the collected music videos of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and Chris Cunningham. In 2005, Palm released their second installment, which featured Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer, Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn, and French filmmaker Stephane Sednaoui.
Unfortunately, in 2007, music videos play only a small part of the mix on MTV. Conventional reality series currently dominate their playlist. This has been blamed on the decline of music sales, causing the music industry to cut back on the production of music videos. Also, rising production costs have caused them to be portrayed as expensive extravagances.
In the meantime, many of the more notable music video directors have gone on to direct acclaimed motion pictures. Spike Jonze went on to direct groundbreaking films that included “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” He’s currently working on the film version of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” Michel Gondry directed the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” And Jonathan Glazer directed the Ben Kingsley film “Sexy Beast.” David Fincher went on to direct “Se7en”, “Fight Club”, and “Zodiac.”
“Death of the Video Star”, Jason Anderson, CBC, URL: (http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/video.html)
“The Groove Tube work crews”, Adrien Begrand, Popmatters, URL: (http://www.popmatters.com/music/features/051104-directorslabel.shtml)
“Three kings of music video”, Dennis Lim, Village Voice, URL: (http://www.villagevoice.com/film/0349,scanners,49166,20.html)
“Direct to video”, Stephen Deusner, Pitchfork Media, URL: (http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/10245-direct-to-video)