3 Ways Music Videos are Overrated

I directed a music video.

It was released this month. For having nearly zero budget, I'm rather giddy at the outcome. Watch The Breaking's "Future Fire" here:

The brilliant thing about making a music video on the cheap is the lack for need of sound-synching or continuity. This frees you up to shoot wherever, for however long, and stay creative on the fly.

In my research, I ran across a multitude of uninspired music videos. Often, I had to close them within a few seconds before I got a headache. (See Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” )

It made me wonder … why? Why is my eye drawn to some videos and not others? Why am I incredibly bored by some huge-budget videos, and intrigued by some of the cheaper ones? I didn’t want this video to fall into the former category, so I had some thinking to do.

I distilled what I was looking for down to three questions. Take note that none were “Do you have the best camera and lighting?”

So here they are:

Does it tell a story?

In “Future Fire” there is a character who is transformed. He starts one way, something happens, and then he makes a change. That’s all a story is.

Too many videos I saw in my research would start strong - a compelling character or visual - but then nothing happens to them. Nothing changes. Snooze fest.

Amazing cinematography won’t save you, either. For a great terrible example, look no further than Paris Hilton’s “Come Alive”.

Does it make a statement?

I don’t want to be preached to, but I also don’t want to come away from any piece of media without learning something. For future fire, we took a small statement we wanted to make, which aligned with the message of The Breaking’s song, and ran with it: There is no greater power than accepting you who are.

Don’t get me started on what most music video’s messages are. There are many that hit thier message spot on, and others that dance around it like they have nothing to say at all.

Example of what not to do: Bella Thorne’s“Call It Whatever”

Is it new?

This is a tough one. So many videos, like mine, have a limited budget, and an even more limited schedule. With one camera and a bunch of people willing to help, you must rely on innovative ideas. The makeup and art in the piece is what we went with - the character is born with an unusual tribal-looking marking on his hand, and it organically grows throughout the story (no - it’s not a tattoo - it just looks like one).

You don’t have to look far to see the ‘band-plays-on-stage with-brightly-colored-lights’ scene or the ‘Intercut-dance-routine’ routine. I don’t mind seeing these done, especially when done beautifully and well. I just also know I will crave something—anything—new.

Justin Bieber - bless his little unchallenged heart - wouldn’t dare give us anything new. Just watch his ultra-vanilla “Confident”.

If you want to see a video that breaks all these rules, look no further than perhaps the worst of 2014, Riff Raff’s "Dolce and Gabbana". While watching, you get a strange feeling that you’ve literally seen this all before, like he’s emulating a surprisingly-even-cheaper Robin Thicke wet dream.

So that’s it! Tell a story, make a statement, and do something new.