DIY: How to Make a Kick-Ass Music Video

With our guidelines you'll be directing kick-ass music videos in no time!
With our guidelines you’ll be directing kick-ass music videos in no time!

By Peter Gerstenzang

In the past few years, looking to expand my artistic horizons, I have started directing music videos. I’ve loved it, even if my last budget wasn’t big enough to pay the craft service bill for Val Kilmer. But recently, I was approached by a would-be rock star, a guy whose utter lack of musical talent was made up for by his bank balance. So I had money, a crew and a camera fine enough to get a good wide shot of a huge group. Unless that group is Carnie Wilson. So, if you’re in directorial mood and think you’d like to shoot a video, here are some things I picked up and would like to pass on. Barring the STD I got from that pretty female extra.

The Musicians: Know this going in: musicians are neurotic, self-absorbed, hypochondriacal control freaks. Who can make you long for a family reunion with two of the relatives who molested you. Then there’s the dark side. The day of the shoot, my rock star came four hours late, because he thought he was having a heart attack. Ultimately, his claims weren’t as convincing as those of his cardiologist, who told him he was fine. Even though this doctor also gave him a dual diagnosis: that this guy was as crazy as catshit. So directors, be aware that your star will be impossible to deal with. It’s a start.

Get A Grip: Since you’ll most likely be dealing with two tons of equipment, make sure you have two strong grips to carry everything in and out. If you think you can get by without them, you’ll still need two strong grips later. One to carry you and your exposed intestines to the doctor after your exploding hernia. And later, one to squeeze you into your brand new truss.

Shooting: When directing a video, get yourself a great cinematographer. By “getting,” of course, I mean, hiring one. Not just spotting a guy with a movie camera, throwing him into your van and dragging him to your shoot. I would tell you more about why that’s wrong, but it violates the terms of my plea agreement. A great ‘DP,’ can come up with so many interesting angles, so you, the director, don’t have to do anything. Every once in a while, just pretend to frame a shot with your hands. And use as many French terms as possible. Throw in mise en scene occasionally and people will draw back in respect. Call yourself an auteur and they will bow. Wear a beret, a monocle and jodhpurs and you’ll be directing your next video in Bellevue. As a part of your plea agreement.

Post-Production: This arguably is the hardest part of your job. Partly because it involves editing, syncing and color correction. But mostly because it’s so expensive, you’ll need a second job to pay for it. Ever seen a director double as a paper boy? It’s pathetic. And even with my disguises, I still don’t know how my neighbors recognized me. To cut costs, try to learn as many post-production tasks as possible. Start with editing. Just remember, that means cutting from one image to another. Not just taking every fourth frame and throwing it out. All that does is make your video a little shorter. Which is a little simplistic. Still, if they’d done that with Heaven’s Gate, think of how much better it would be. My final bit of advice regarding making your video? Trust your instincts. And you will find that much everything somehow seems to work itself out.