I'm beginning my project with a series of posts analysing the work and creative processes of various music video directors whose work I admire and take inspiration from. I will be investigating the ways in which they tackle the creative challenges associated with visualizing a piece of music, taking notice of their influences, their attitude towards to the process and the quirks, traits and trademarks that make their work so unique and suited to the source material. I will not only be analysing their videos, but also listening to the comments made by the director's and the musicians found in various audio commentaries, reading and viewing interviews and investigating the ways in which their work has influenced both the world of music and filmmaking through articles and documentaries.
The series begins with Mark Romanek, an American filmmaker who began making music videos in 1986, rising to prominence with the release of his video for Lenny Kravitz', Are You Gonna Go My Way?, now considered a landmark in music video production, with its iconic art direction inspiring many other directors during the 1990s.
I spent the evening watching and taking notes from around fifteen different Romanek directed videos, as well as listening to the corresponding commentaries from both Romanek and the artists. This is just a small selection of some of the more striking videos I viewed (click the titles to view the videos).
This was Romanek's first real rap video. It is shot in a way that glorifies the source material, "shooting the ghetto like art" and "capturing the beauty of the soulful side of Brooklyn". It takes its defining influence from war reportage photography, such as the work of Lee Miller. It is incredibly self aware and this leads to it being somewhat tongue-in-cheek in its nature. The film speed is constantly changing, as if it were being shot using a hand-crank camera, although the cuts suggest that it was more likely to be two separate cameras shooting at alternate frame rates and then edited to compliment each other visually. Romanek stated that he went through several editors to get the right cut, showing that the intended effect is often a case of trial and error.
This video is incredibly carefree, or at least made to look that way. The immaturity is somewhat forced and constructed, being strongly inspired by the One Minute Sculptures by Erwin Wurm. Whilst it is made to look spontaneous, it isn't. Romanek had the idea in place before he had a band, so this video isn't typical in the sense that it isn't a reaction to the music or the artist, more a collected series of complimentary components. The combination of unusual scenarios and a kooky band in a sterile, stark environment amplifies their personality. Romanek's intentions were "to make it as uninteresting as we possibly can, and focus on the active nature of the actions, calling it "the most wonderfully meaningless video I've ever done"
The song was written by Trent Reznor for David Lynch's Lost Highway, which led to Romanek expecting to have to include film footage in the video. Lynch encouraged them not to use footage, and so Romanek began working on what can be seen in the final video. The main visual influence was the work of Edward Gorey (writer of such stories as The Gashlycrumb Tinies). It feels as if it were one of those incredibly elaborate, staged photo shoots you find in fashion magazines, much like the work of photography David LaChapelle. It is incredibly vaudevillian and theatrical, with a combination of evocative set dressing and vivid editing. The story of the piece came from the fact that when a song repeats a certain word, theme or phrase (in this case The Perfect Drug), you cannot ignore it and you have to incorporate it into the story of the scene, otherwise it makes the song feel out of place and the video irrelevant.
A Summary of Romanek's Influence on Myself
Romanek's videos are spectacular, well constructed and tailored incredibly well to the music and the artists. Although, his videos may not be the best direct influence for my work, as the process in which they are created is very free and flexible (due to them being filmed photographically and having the ability to improvise on the spot). However, his creative influences and their diversity is a wonderful thing to take into account, as he literally uses everything he comes across in one way or another. A tiny, minuscule thought in response to something generic may play an important part in creating something iconic and spectacular. A lot of the time, he has a concept initially and finds and band or song that will fit comfortably with that idea, instead of tailoring a concept to fit the requirements of an existing track. This may be helpful when it comes to developing my video.