In the indie film industry, finding some experience first in shorter formats is always a good way to get a foot in the door. With short films finding stronger outlets online, what about the music video? While the music video of yore on MTV and VH1 seems to be relegated to the 1980s and 1990s, the Internet has helped keep music videos going. They don’t even need TV any more to potentially go viral as we saw with the controversial video for “Blurred Lines” this last year.
If you’re tempted to create a music video for an indie artist to gain some industry clout, success is going to be helped along by working closely with the artist. For a first-time filmmaker, you can’t go into a music video with a dictatorial attitude and give a single-minded vision.
Understanding the Song from the Artist
If an indie artist or band comes to you to create a music video for their latest single, you’re going to have to listen to that song for a while to assimilate its meaning. Before you can even draw up a storyboard, you may be able to envision a storyline or setting by listening to the song over and over. Print out the lyrics and read them like poetry so you can find the story within the song.
Once you get going, you’ll have to decide what parts of the song you want to depict literally, or if you want it to be more metaphorical.
Choosing the Setting
Because you won’t be working with an A-list artist to start, an indie singer or band isn’t going to have a lot of money to spend. With the budget you have, choosing simple settings always works best. Even nationally known music videos choose relatively simple settings if the actors in them create enough interest.
While top music videos frequently use CGI, you won’t be able to use much if any here. You’re much better off finding the emotion in the song and conveying this in simple scenes. Whether it’s serious, rebellious, or just funny, creating emotion can override any special effect. Keep in mind you’ll have to use the artist in the video to convey some of this emotion. If they can’t do it well, hiring some unknown actors can convey the story you found in the lyrics.
Using the Proper Lighting
When you feature the artist lip-synching to the song in the video, lighting is going to be very important so you look professional. Sometimes simple two-light systems are all you need to create atmosphere in interior settings. Practice using shadows over the face of the artist or around the set to create atmosphere if the song is overly moody.
The Lip-Synch Problem
While the artist will be lip-synching as mentioned above, what happens if they can’t do that well? One way to avoid doing expensive re-shoots is to just let the artist sing the song out loud while the recording plays in the background. This way, it’ll show that they’re really singing in the video and not just mouthing. It also helps place them in a better frame of mind for emoting as they would when performing live on the stage.
All of the above can be tweaked in editing, and it’s where you’ll shape things so you can find your visual style. It doesn’t have to be a provocative music video to prove online that you’ve arrived as a filmmaker and perhaps ready to take on an indie short or feature film next.