With the music biz now functioning as well as The Tin Man after a thunderstorm, musicians have been wondering how to get their message out to the buying public. The answer is surprisingly simple: make a video. Because so many people are getting their music from social media, artists as important as Noel Gallagher, Jenny Lewis and Rickie Lee Jones are investing in these little films again. Are you someone who wants to make a video? And could stand a few tips on simplifying the process and saving yourself some bucks? As a video director, I think I just might be able to help.
First, Pick A Great Tune
It doesn’t have to have hit written all over it. No one really knows how to predict that. It just needs to be a song you believe in. Catchy, with strong imagery, hooks aplenty and designed to last as long as a Volvo. As a director, I was lucky. I found new songwriter Craig Greenberg. Whose only problem is he has so much superb material, settling on one song was tough. Not a bad problem to have. We finally chose “Aberdeen,” a gorgeous piano ballad, with an indelible hook and a chorus stronger than a double espresso. Is it a hit? Who knows? Is it a great song? Unquestionably.
Get A Great Cinematographer
You always want to surround yourself with talented people. They’ll make you look better than you ever could on your own. On this shoot, featuring Craig Greenberg, I chose the superb cinematographer, Olga Loginova. She has all the qualities you need in a cinematographer A great eye for detail, she gets shots that are incredibly compelling and a temperament that is calm and unruffled. Because things do get crazy, even on the smallest film set. Also, a great cinematographer knows they are there to help you realize your vision, not impose their own. Olga did that for me. She was simply great. May you all be lucky enough to find your various Olgas.
Making a movie, even a little one, is like fighting a war. Against time, budgetary restraints, weather, accidents, life. Therefore, do what all great generals have done throughout history. Plan everything you possibly can. That means, after you’ve come up with your idea, figure out your camera angles for every part of the song. Put in the times you plan to cut or move the camera. Have your musicians practice lip synching or miming in advance until they’re good enough to go on American Bandstand. Keep open to good creative accidents. But keep a schedule, from shot to shot, or scene to scene and do your damnedest to stick to it. Anything you can think of? Plan it!
Location, Location, Location
Chances are you will not have a Noel Gallagher-sized budget when you make your video. This lack of funds can be a real blessing. Forcing you to be creative. One of my main suggestions has to do with location. Time is money. Many locations are time. Which leads you back to money. The more travel, the more camera setups you need, the less you will get done on your shooting day. If you can keep your locations to one or two, you might be happily surprised. That’s what we did with Craig Greenberg. He’s a brilliant pianist and performer. His song “Aberdeen” is majestic and unforgettable. Why not just film him at his piano? I wondered. With Olga and me coming up with creative camera angles? That’s what we did. And I think it showcased this fine artist really well.
Editing or Hit The Mac, Jack
If you’ve ever checked with a post-production facility, you know that editing, synching, color correction etc, can cost you in two hours what you just made that week. The fact that your editor can work on a laptop now, means you don’t need a bank loan to finish up your video anymore. Find someone good who will show you their work and will give you a rate for editing. They may charge by the hour or give you a good all-in price. Don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t have much money. Editors are good people. And would (usually) rather work on something good for a smallish bit of dough, than edit crap for the big bucks. There’s always time for that later in their career. I was lucky again here, by the way. Olga also edits. Like a dream. And she did. Bonus!
This is where the modern world, also known as the Internet, comes in awfully handy. In fact, it almost compensates for the collapse of the whole damn record industry. Once your video is done, post the living crap out of it. Get your musical artist to do the same. Maybe you won’t sell 50,000 records (at least at first), but there’s no reason why you can’t get 50,000 views of your song. This can result in gigs, A&R folks coming to gigs, plain old fans who spread the news. Get the video up everywhere and you may see a huge jump in your demographics. Or, you might be lucky enough to get the thing posted at American Songwriter. It ain’t easy, I know. But then again, I can tell you this: it’s not impossible.