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The State of Music Videos


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#1 Evan Winter

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 12:19 AM

Does anyone else work in Music Videos?

I'm asking because over the past 3 - 5 months it seems that budgets have been falling faster than ever. It's an increasingly rare conference call that starts off with the label announcing we have $50k to spend and not a penny more (and I thought those days were tight). Now almost every call is about squeezing everything into a budget that is at most $40k and more likely between the $10k - 30k range.... :blink:

I always tell myself that it's about the idea; the video concept. I always tell myself that as long as I have enough money to cover the bare costs of shooting on film then it's okay but damn if it's not getting rough out there.

I guess this is the downside of being the film aspect of the music industry (an industry that's going down in flames). It's clear to everyone that can be bothered to look that the old label system of rights ownership and distribution is beyond broken. The mega-labels can't make money when their copyrights mean nothing in an age of torrents. And controlling the means of physical distribution in music today is almost as worthless.

Without a doubt the music industry is in turmoil and as an offshoot of the industry we music video makers are right in the middle of all the chaos. It's a strange time for us and almost every day I wonder what the future of music videos will be.

Afer all, music isn't going anywhere. In fact, more people 'consume' music today than ever before (they just don't buy CDs is all). So, if more people listen to the stuff will more people 'watch' the stuff too? A music video is a commercial for a single. A single is a commercial for an album. There are pundits declaring the death of the album - it doesn't have a place in our on-demand torrent culture they say.

If that's the case then videos are left as only an artistic commercial for a single and nothing more. I wonder if that's enough to keep them alive (especially since the most likely future for singles are as loss leaders - creating fans that attend concerts and buy band merch). But even as I wonder I don't think we'll see videos disappear entirely. However, they may no longer be a creative sandbox for future filmmakers. The money just isn't there to keep talent working anymore...

On the other hand, this may be the best thing to happen to the video industry. It may revitalize it and help develop a renaissance in the artform that takes it back to its early days when the promo was all about brilliant ideas, wondrous stories, and fantastic visuals. It can't be denied that videos have gotten very very stale these past 10 years and it'll be truly interesting to see what the next 10 bring.

As a final thought and warning - anyone planning to make a go of music videos should know that we're quickly going the way of the indie short film. That is to say, they'll become pure labors of love with little to no chance at remuneration.

So, if the final goal is to make films (and for most of us it is), then cut straight to the chase and start shooting shorts - at least you'll be shooting narrative, working with actors, and dealing with dialog.

Evan W.
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#2 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 01:38 AM

I would agree with you that the video budgets are plummeting (have been for a while), yet the end results are expected to be the same, regardless of budget.

I remember days when $50k was fairly low-budget (still is by some video standards), at least in the medium sized bands world I exist in. Now it is a pretty high budget, with most of my work in the $30k to $40k range for a two day shoot. I can't even the remember the last video I did on film, let alone 35, its been a lot of HD.

I just did a video where I used 40 or so concert strobes behind the band, it was fairly expensive, though really not that bad. But budgets are so tight, Frank (my gaffer) and I had to kill ourselves cutting everywhere else to be able to afford to do something cool (of course during a long, un-paid prep ;) ).

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#3 Fredrik Backar FSF

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 04:09 AM

If you want a Swedish twist on the musicvideo biz, the budgets here (when I stopped making vids) was around 1000dollars!!!! With the same expected output in the end quality..... Media students have become the new in thing for record labels to fool in to making vids for free. then there is I think two more actual companies making videos here. It´s pretty much dead....
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#4 Walter Graff

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 11:25 AM

It's part of a broken system and until someone invents a new way of making money in the record industry, what we have now will slowly fade away. Since enevitably the artist pays for all music video (through careful accounting by the record company) and since records don't generate as much as they used to, the record company is keeping more and the artists are being given less or given options for what they want to do with music videos.
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#5 Evan Winter

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 11:45 AM

I'm not going to lie, misery does love company, and as bad as it may sound it's nice to know that I'm not the only one experiencing the fallout. At the same time, of course, I hope it works out beautifully for us all! :)

It's really eye-opening to consider that the Swedish industry is operating on $1k budgets and it's good to know there are still some warriors out there fighting against the low budgets and doing everything they can to keep the 'coolness' in videos (Cheers to you Kevin Z.)

Lastly, you may be right Walter; music videos may fade away but I really hope not. They are a fun and creative place to be and it would be very sad to see such an artistic filmmaking field vanish...

Evan W.
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#6 Walter Graff

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 11:59 AM

I should have stated clear. I don't mean music videos in terms of what they are in essence will disappear, but the entire scope of what we know record companies to be now will so all the methods record companies used to suck money out of artists will. Forgive my bias. Having worked for Atlantic, Chrysylis, Virgin, and Arista for years, I know all to well what is the downfall of the industry. I see music videos become more like this new lower level of filmmaking, where everyone is making music videos (because theycan buy a camera, call themselves a filmmaker, and undercut others) making videos that have no budgets and lack the style and quality that they did in the days when more experienced people made them. Where music videos used to have more commercial outlets like TV, they don't now and are more and more being made for web only which means in a lot of peoples minds that the days of big equipment and crews will get sucked into the vacuum. It's already happening as this thread shows.
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 05:19 PM

I still work on music videos from time to time. I try not to since (as you all know), the rates are bad and the hours are worse. But when I do I'm seeing the 20K-40K budgets as well. After you've paid for locations and gear almost all of the money is gone, so it's hard to get a decent rate. As I understand it, even $100K budgets are very rare.
The first video I ever worked on (in 1999 or 2000) had a $2.7 million budget, shot for 3 days, and had 4 of the largest stages at Universal Studios Orlando for the whole time with a full time 2nd Unit! It's funny to even think about it now. I remember the Best Boy Grip telling me he made over $20,000 on that job...the overtime and forced calls were unbelievable. Money was being wasted left and right. The crew was huge! But those days are over and I don't think we'll ever see them again. But I don't think the medium will die.
Over the last couple years I've noticed that labels are doing things like video ring tones as a way to promote certain artists (I worked on one of these (and shot film ironically)), and I'm sure they're looking into other alternatives as well. All of these other things, I think, basically take away money that used to be used for music videos. Also, MTV doesn't really play videos anymore. I think this is a big reason we've seen the budgets shrink so much. I remember the days of Carson Daly on TRL and a lot of people, kids in particular, were watching it to see the newest and best videos. And 120 Minutes was THE show to be on for up and coming bands and more alternative artists. This was a really good means of marketing music (I believe the ratings were pretty good for both shows), which is what partially made those huge budgets reasonable in those days. Of course, I haven't watched MTV in years (why would I?) but I don't think this is the case anymore. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a full hour of videos on MTV in one day now. I just checked MTV and see that they are currently airing (as I type) a dating show where parents select dates for their kids (ugh)....what does that have to do with music?
I like to work on music videos because they are often very free form and working on them can be a very creative experience, but I hate working on them for the reasons mentioned above, and the fact that many of the people making them now don't have a clue what they're doing but expect the world out of nothing, which makes for a tough shoot. I doubt we'll see the budgets go up any time soon, but we may see them creep down further.
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#8 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 06:18 PM

Link to Article:

Music videos embrace the YouTube aesthetic and go cheap as budgets dry up

By JAKE COYLE September 6, 2007 at 1:29 pm
NEW YORK (AP) - The music video is shrinking.

With the music industry in crisis from falling sales and file sharing, labels have less cash to subsidize elaborate videos that will mostly be seen in miniature on computers. The result has been a major shift in the art form, as artists increasingly embrace the YouTube esthetic with cheap, stripped-down, low-production videos.

The shrinkage of the video will be obvious Sunday at the MTV Video Music Awards, where grandiose, ambitious videos will seem like an exotic species facing extinction.

"The business is changing radically. It does feel smaller, cheaper," says veteran music video director Samuel Bayer, whose many clips include Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Blind Melon's "No Rain" and Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which won six awards at the 2005 VMAs.

Even Kanye West - one of the most video-conscious artists in music - experimented with a small, quirky clip for his new hit "Can't Tell Me Nothing." Instead of the flamboyant rapper, the video stars the bearded, dishevelled, unmistakably white comedian Zach Galifianakis.

Pimping an orange tractor on a country farm, he lip-syncs: "Homey, this is my day."

When MTV's award show kicked off 24 years ago, the network was ushering in a new era where the video was king: a branding tool and an art form rolled into one.Today, the channel broadcasts mostly reality shows while YouTube, iTunes, MTV.com and various other online destinations have become the dominant viewing platform for videos.

Directors are gradually adapting to the smaller-sized medium.

Chris Applebaum's video for Rhianna's "Umbrella" is nominated for five VMAs, including video of the year and best director. It's a sleek, beautiful creation, and Applebaum was conscious of where it would be most watched.

"I had a lunch with Rhianna and Jay (label head Jay-Z) and we talked about the fact that most people are going to watch things on their laptop," says Applebaum. "It's important to be bold and simple and to find the elegance in simplicity."

Bayer's video for Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around . . . Comes Around" is nominated for numerous VMAs, including best video and best director. Starring Timberlake and Scarlett Johansson, the video has a distinctively cinematic feel, complete with a car chase and end credits.

In this way, "What Goes Around" feels old-school - like a rebellion against the new esthetic. Instead, Bayer aimed for an experience more like Michael Jackson's landmark 1983 "Thriller" video, directed by John Landis.

"I said, 'We gotta go big,' " says Bayer. "If I'm going up against an OK Go video with four guys on a treadmill that plays millions of times on YouTube, how can I do something that is the opposite of that?"

In the late '80s and through the '90s, budgets and ambition ran high. Mark Romanek's 1995 video for Michael and Janet Jackson's "Scream" is considered the most expensive ever, at an estimated US$7 million. There have been many videos in the $2 million range, including Brett Ratner's "Heartbreaker" for Mariah Carey, Hype Williams' clip for Busta Rhymes' "What's It Gonna Be?!" and David Fincher's "Express Yourself" for Madonna.

"What Goes Around" cost approximately $1 million but Bayer thinks it could be one of the last big-budget videos.

"A comet hit the earth and the dinosaurs are dying," says Bayer. "There's a new age coming. I think those days are over with."

Stavros Merjos, founder of HSI Productions and a longtime producer of videos for acts ranging from Britney Spears
to Will Smith, doesn't expect to ever see another $2 million video: "The record industry as a whole has shrunk. There's not as much money to throw around."

Merjos sees the effect particularly in hip-hop, where sales declines have been the steepest and extravagant videos by the likes of Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, Diddy and Jay-Z used to be commonplace.

"You were expected to have a big video if you were a top-flight or a serious up-and-coming hip-hop artist," says Merjos. "They're not doing the size that they were doing in the heyday."

Many artists and directors are now creating videos knowing they'll have to compete for eyeballs on YouTube. OK Go's famous treadmill-choreographed video for "Here It Goes Again" was perfectly suited for viral distribution but the power pop band is far from alone in its reconsidered methods.

The Decemberists and Modest Mouse both asked fans to fill in the background to a video shot in front of a green screen. Jessica Simpson did a version of "A Public Affair" composed entirely of fans dancing and lip-syncing to the pop song.

Last year, Death Cab for Cutie sponsored professional videos for each of the 11 songs on their album "Plans." For his album "The Information," Beck personally created a video for every track. The silly, lo-fi videos - which ranged from puppet versions of the band to someone dancing in a bear mask and poncho - were posted on YouTube and many copies of the album included a bonus DVD.

And perhaps no one has taken more advantage of the freedom of the Internet than R. Kelly, whose absurd and expansive "Trapped in the Closet" series is ideal for the web (though it has also run on cable TV).

None of the aforementioned videos will wow you with special effects or giant yacht parties, but they are all refreshingly unconventional.

"The new esthetic is that it's very low-budget, lo-fi, very do-it-yourself, not at all dedicated to the old style of music video which was always bigger and louder and more explosions and more money," says Saul Austerlitz, author of "Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes."

"This is more a punk-rock esthetic," he adds. "It's very exciting."

Applebaum wouldn't disclose the budget for "Umbrella" but said he voluntarily did the video for free. Like many music video directors, he's increasingly making most of his income through commercial work.

With budgets slashed, being a music director doesn't pay like it once did - which could threaten music videos' status as a breeding ground for directing talent. Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Romanek and Fincher are just a handful of video directors who have gone on to become acclaimed filmmakers.

And for a languishing industry, turning the page on one of its most successful promotional tools would be a mistake, says producer Merjos.

"In the end, even if you spend a lot on it, a video is a cheap way to get a band out there," says Merjos. "There have been groups that have built their whole record sales on videos, not touring.

"You've got to put a face on an act."
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#9 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 02:29 PM

Yep, the career transition from DIY typical YouTube production value projects to commercials will become even more difficult than it is already. BUT as mainstream rips off "art" maybe commercials will look more YouTube-esque as well. Like neo-funky, man. Lo-fi.
There are more broadcast venues than ever before so budgets get diluted.
My feeling is that both directors and of course the rest of the team including DP's are going to have to really get a lot more creative in terms of IDEAS in order to break through the mire.
CONTENT not just eye candy.
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#10 Lars Zemskih

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 04:42 PM

This is one of the most depressing things that I've read in a long time and it is not easy to admit that. what going to happen to us? especially us, that are at the beginning and trying to break into an already crumbling industry. are we going to have to get office jobs? =/
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#11 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 04:54 PM

Not necessarily. Just have to look at and/or create new business models and strategies because the business is changing and so must we.
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#12 Walter Graff

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 04:57 PM

especially us, that are at the beginning and trying to break into an already crumbling industry. are we going to have to get office jobs? =/


Not because of this musci video thread, but in general I'd say yes. There simply is not enough long term work for the amount of people that are trying to get into the film and television industry. Actually it was always a small portal to get into, and now it is even smaller. While I see all these folks buying cameras hoping to get some work, I have to ask, can they find 40 years of sustainable work that will offer them money to retire on? I believe the answer for most of the hundreds of people I talk to (there are about 60,000 kids a year graduating in the US with some sort of film/TV degree alone) the answer is no. I'd not tell anyone to give up their dream, just make sure you really think you can do it, and if you are not sure, find something that can sustain you and do it as a hobby.

Edited by WALTER GRAFF, 31 October 2007 - 04:59 PM.

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#13 Lars Zemskih

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 07:48 PM

Not because of this musci video thread, but in general I'd say yes. There simply is not enough long term work for the amount of people that are trying to get into the film and television industry. Actually it was always a small portal to get into, and now it is even smaller. While I see all these folks buying cameras hoping to get some work, I have to ask, can they find 40 years of sustainable work that will offer them money to retire on? I believe the answer for most of the hundreds of people I talk to (there are about 60,000 kids a year graduating in the US with some sort of film/TV degree alone) the answer is no. I'd not tell anyone to give up their dream, just make sure you really think you can do it, and if you are not sure, find something that can sustain you and do it as a hobby.


I don't really know if we can call getting into filmmaking a "dream", because unemployment is growing in pretty much in all sectors. How many kids graduate from law schools and how many lawers are there already, true, you can find a job doing legal work and not being a proper court laywer, but so can you find a similar case of jobs in film. In the similar reasoning no one can tell you that you will have a great business when you study business. It is hard to find jobs pretty much in most fields these days to be fair.

And why is it even smaller now though? Well, the budgets are getting smaller, but there are much more productions both in film and music videos since the costs have dropped. That means there is bigger job demand, even though it is less money and bigger supply than needed. So the job market is growing, slowly, but growing.
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#14 Walter Graff

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 08:42 PM

< How many kids graduate from law schools and how many lawyers are there already, true, you can find a job doing legal work and not being a proper court lawyer, but so can you find a similar case of jobs in film. >

This industry has an exorbitant number of people now trying to get into it. Law schools put out the same number of lawyers every year. And in fact the law industry is loosing lawyers fast right now so there is an even greater need. Not the film and television industry. The real film and television industry is small. While it enjoyed growth with the advent of cable, etc, it has leveled off along time ago. New ways of internet video have helped increase needs as has the genre of reality television which is now waning, but there are so many people now trying to get into some form of legitimate film and television, that I'd say off hand there are 1 in 1000 people who will get a real job that will sustain their existence for a career. The reality isn't that you got a job this week, but can you get a job next week and sustain that for 40 years. As a person who speaks at schools all over the US and is heavily involved in real world production, I am just giving you the reality as I see it. Everyone thinks going out and buying an HD camera is going to get them a career. It is not. Everyone thinks they are going to be a filmmaker just because they want to be. When I started 25 years ago few could. It hasn't gotten any better. Today nearly 500 films are distributed for theatrical release a year, another 500 go direct to DVD. There are more low budget working environments but sustaining a real career in them is damn near impossible. I get hundreds of resumes a month. Most of them are wannabe filmmakers who have little real world experience and little attitude to really know how to do so. If you are not living in a city like LA or NY or Toronto where jobs are abundant in all areas of film and television, then you have a limited chance of doing much that will give you a career. Yes there are productions everywhere in the US from corporate to commercial but most of those markets have seen experienced individuals do the role of what was bigger and more organized units in the past. You need to practice your swing to be a golfer and you can't play golf well or more importantly meet people who play golf unless you have access to a golf course. A recent job posting I made saw nearly 11,000 resumes. 99% of them had no experience and no specific experience in the job I was looking to fill. Don't give up your hopes of finding a job or sustaining a career but realistically, it's not easy, never has been. This is an artistic industry and as such is very difficult to break into.

A good book to read is Career Opportunities in the Film Industry. It has some good advice and shows you what the real industry is and how it is organized.
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#15 Lars Zemskih

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 09:03 PM

A good book to read is Career Opportunities in the Film Industry. It has some good advice and shows you what the real industry is and how it is organized.


Thank you, I will check out the book as well. I do believe you in what you are saying, but we really shouldn't be talking about filmmaking wannabes here. I think what I was referring to is people who are so committed to doing it, that they can't see themselves doing anything else and everyday they get to know something new. I mean, everyone thing he can be a filmmaker because the cameras are so easy to buy, but everyone can buy a guitar, but a few go from being able to strum it to really be good at it, which requires a lot of commitment. So in filmmaking experience is everything and what you can do and already have done. So for each thing you know there is less competition, you know properly about lights, color temperature and lenses, 3000 people less to compete with, you have experience and shot on film, another 5000 people that only shot on HD and so on. I don't know as much about the filmmaking industry as you of course, I am just thinking out loud. Am I still on the wrong tracks?
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#16 Walter Graff

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 09:11 PM

You were never on the wrong track. Do your best. Meet as many people as possible who really work in the industry. Work for free if you have to on real productions. Life is 90% luck and 10% talent. It's about being in the right place at the right time. Your guitar example. Many folks have guitars and want to make a career using them. While many get very good at playing guitars, few get careers playing them. Keep trying and keep learning, but most importantly get yourself involved in others productions. Look for productions that are manned by folks with real world experience. You need to get your name out there. You need to work with whoever you can to do that. Just make sure they are not these guys who think that their first feature is going to be in all the film festivals and going to make them a career. There are currently over 6000 festivals in the US. Say there are 200 entries per festival. That's 1,200,000 folks right there all trying for what is probably 200,000 real world jobs. Good luck with your dreams and your future. It sounds like you have a positive attitude. That is step one. And don't loose that attitude when it gets tough and you hit a wall. We all do and it can make you think twice.
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#17 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 09:35 PM

Well, the budgets are getting smaller, but there are much more productions both in film and music videos since the costs have dropped. That means there is bigger job demand, even though it is less money and bigger supply than needed. So the job market is growing, slowly, but growing.


Just to give a more cheerful perspective on all this :) :

Unfortunately, the financial quantity within the seemingly expanding content market isn't increasing proportionally, but decreasing proportionally, as the money mount is not growing, but remains limited (and I leave growing bureacratic structure & insurance bond overheads out of that equation already). Which means that the higher number of people operating in the segmentally splintering industry will receive lower financial gratification ? how many people are already working for a decade in hot spot locations on the West Coast, and craddle for an unpaid job as a second unit focus puller on some indie movie just to keep their showreel and CV up and alive? When their film gets accepted at Sundance, they already dream of plugging their new script to some exec in its Aspen lodge. More likely, their banker will confiscate their belongings via debt collectors.

Look at those filmmakers who were "great" during my lifetime (not that I would be dying anytime soon, *knock wood*): Stanley Kubrick, George A Romero, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, D A Pennebaker, Philippe Garrel, Clint Eastwood etc. etc., hell, even Michael Cimino, who were able to make "cinematic symphonies", really daring projects with socio-political underpinnings and layers that would make every studio lawyer OD on his HLS alumnus mag today because they piss themselves of a class action lawsuit from some dubious interest group because of some ridiculous referentialism: when Martin Scorsese admits on the BBC's Jonathan Ross Show that he has problems getting his films produced and out ? and he is already producing tame stuff since, well, "Casino" ? one should wonder and get worried. Rob Lowe recently said that he considers the writing quality as known from most excellent tv shows (!, not motion pictures!) like "The L Word", "West Wing" or "Studio 60" as outstanding rarities and "improbable" that they had actually became reality in the first place. That is dire prospects.

After all, when frame composition and cadration isn't any longer done for a theatre screen but for a tv set due to DVD distributionability, and shallow depth-of-fields are no longer there for artistic reason but to hide the low production value of the set background or cheap backsettings (anyone ever saw narrow depth-of-field shots in a John Ford film, with the front lens seemingly inches away from the skin pores of the lead?), and you have to argue with suits over the amount of lighing equipment to set the light as you want it and not as it's economically reasonable, you know that craftmanship gets eroded. Actually, it does not only no longer matter production-wise, it's also no longer missed by audiences (which is most marketably attractive before they leave college) who give the appearance of no longer missing Scorsese's or Kubrick's attention for accuracy. When those guys' working methods get referred to as "obsession with detail", one should realise that quality goes AWOL.

Finally, the lower YouTube production value (the latter word is already a travesty) that gets popular now actually reduced the need for educated, highly skilled and crafting individual filmmakers or filmworkers. Because these videos or films are not artfully created and trash-styled in that way with great efforts, no, they are just trash, filmed by folks who have no clue about the optomechanical logic and behaviour of their lens, but for who diaphragm is a contraceptive and f-stop is just a number on an LCD that makes the picture kinda look right, and if it looks "off", then it becomes looking "funky" and gets shot that way anyhow (and I am talking about college graduates here...).

Democratically important and thankfully, everyone can pick up a camera today and shoot a video, but film-rhetorically, everything works today, too ? just as everyone who can't sing can get a contract by accident or luck. Unfortunately ? unlike Bob Dylon who can't sing but has something to say ? the muppets (sorry, that's an insult to Jim Henson's creations), the morons who can't sing and are plugged on MTV don't have anything to say at all, even if they were able to form a stringent strain of thought in the first place and then properly articulate it.

If you love the art of filmmaking, Emile, it might be better not to enter the industry, but learn it autodidactically and make films as a personal project. That already sorts out if you are truly passionte about film or whether you are actually querying if its actually worth learning about 35mm at all, or just go for the RED manual straight-away, skipping all that last-century analogue tech-crap (sorry for bringing your first posts here up so deformed, it's not meant personally at all, but they are very symptomatic for today's social condition!)

Yepp, I know, I seem even more cynical and sarcastic as a Phil Rhodes post on a rainy London day with a wildcard Tube strike, but actually, I am pretty upbeat about my projects, equipment, how S8, S16 and S35 develop and what you can do today when shooting on cine-film, which was much more difficult to access 10-15 years ago. The trade-off for these new liberties seems to be the increasing lack of sustainability for the individual professional, both artistically and financially.

Morale of of that? As long as you don't wanna break in big and make it, then you gonna be all fine? Who knows... Maybe the way Pennebaker & Hegedus or Straub & Huillet did it works best in the future as well... Or do it like Arnie and get into politics...

Quite timely, I just saw John Carpenters "Halloween" (in case any younger readers wonder, I am talking about the original). Here you have a horror film that is a social critique based on Hannah Arendt's concept of the 'banality of evil', and is an excellent slasher movie, too! I wonder how someone could actually have greenflagged "Halloween: Resurrection", which seemed to be made by folks who think that Marshall McLuhan is a marshmellow brand (raising post-/structuralism isn't even worth doing in this case). Well, it was produced by the Weinstein bros, who are already the most daring and considerate script-readers in the US, IMHO... so much for future prospects.

Have a read through those threads here, here, and here we had with David and Stephen to continue this line of thinking (or maybe not...hmm)

Anyway, enjoy film. It's the seventh art, as is said in French, and it merits this reference, at least when looking back over its 112 year history B) .

Edited by Michael Lehnert, 31 October 2007 - 09:39 PM.

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#18 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 06:03 PM

As a DP that earns about 60-70% of my income doing music videos, here's my perspective on it.

People are absolutely right in referring to music videos as a commercial for an album and it should be treated exactly like that. Unfortunately there has always been a certain snobbism and misplaced auterism involved in making music videos - that it's somehow art and more noble than doing commercials. I disagree - it's no more art than a commercial can be if it reaches people. There are lots of music video directors who think that doing commercials is selling out but doing music videos aren't.

However, since the record industry isn't selling any CD's anymore (it's a lie to say they're going under, though - they've had record revenues up until just now), the product is no longer what it was. Today the product IS the music video - that's the first thing one has to realize. It's the single of yesteryear. It's the vehicle.

As for budgets, well, they have obviously gone down. Or rather, a large segment of the range has disappeared, much like in the features and commercials world. Today you have real low budget stuff and then no middle ground, until you reach the high end. The high end of today is normally what would have been called the mid-end a couple of years ago and the low end a decade ago. But it's not all bleakness and death - last year the budgets actually went up slightly here in the UK. Ministry of Sound, a record company that has a huge turnover of often formulaic videos, raised their standard budget from £25.000 to £30.000.

In the end, what makes it worthwile for me personally is that I know that music videos still have a huge impact. And with YouTube and other outlets there's a second lease of life for videos. Very often when I get treatments for commercials and shorts they reference some kind of music video for look or tone - so they're still relevant. This pleases me and keeps it worthwile for me personally - I must admit that there was aperiod before YouTube had come along and MTV was broadcasting less and less of music videos that I was really worried and depressed about where it was going. Thankfully, that period seems to have passed and I'm vaguely optimistic again - the internet has saved the music video.

And it's still the best filmschool for any budding filmmaker, bar none. This is the only place where less experienced people can get a shot and get a start. It has always been, and will continue to be, a stepping stone and most peoples first encounter with the film business. For this reason alone, it's in all our interest to keep supporting music videos.
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#19 Tim Hawkins

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 06:46 AM

I know we're creeping off the subject of music videos here but with regards to Michael's points on the decline of the film industry I think it's worth looking back to the 60s just before the directors you mentioned (Scorsese, Coppola etc) really started coming into their element - Hollywood was in a massive decline thanks to huge amounts of money wasted on re-making older films and taking few chances on original material, coupled with the domination of a new medium (TV) the result being people lost interest in Cinema - Hmm, sound familar? It was this decline that (with other factors) resulted in the experimentation and originality of New Hollywood directors like Scorsese etc. - It could be argued that a similar thing happened in the 90s with the boom in Indie cinema following the boom (and then decline) of the big budget High Concept films of the eighties. Therefore, couldn't it be possible that we are just in another cyclical slump caused by a new medium and Hollywood's slow response to what people really want from films; something fresh and exciting which makes them think? Maybe I'm being over optimistic but I reckon we're about ready for another Hollywood rennaisance - we're just at the low point of the dip
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#20 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 08:07 AM

Hi Tim,

I very much agree with your historical perspective. Actually, throughout my post, I have never written about the current (if you well want: "cyclical") decline of the industry of being a "terminal decline"!
As I wrote, I am quite optimistic about technical developments and opportunities for good filmmaking; like you are. I have now opportunities with re. to shooting on cine-film that were unattainable just a few years earlier, quality-wise. Even distribution and presentation is now in theory (!) more open that it was 20 years ago (yes, even making an exploitation movie in the 1970s wasn't that easy as people like Quentin Tarantino would like us to believe now through their recent statements ? I would be the first to counter-argue that the past wasn't rosier than the present).

However, every cycle changes the political economy of the industry and the bargaining powers of the people involved. And the current changes are clearly channeling towards an ever less reflective and low-level content, audience and finally quality-of-craftsmanship in what we do. I don't want to sound in any way anti-capitalist or counter-monetary, because that would be way to simpleton-ish, but the decreasing belief by decisionmakers that quality and stimulus can sell (well) and that the audience isn't dumb and accepts everything a focus group has decided upon as "sellable", is a major problem. And I think that this prerogative might form one of the constituents of the new, reconstructed industry shape that will materialse with the next cycllical upturn. And that is something if not to worry then at least to critically raise and discuss. History is littered with cases where it has been just easier to serve the smallest common denominator rather then push people to think about something, anything.
Of course a film like "Duel" might have appeared to someone like Jon Ford as cinematic trash filmed by incompetents. On the other hand, Spielberg had learned to master the classical craft (à la Hawks and Ford) at film school, and his later films prove that very well. It's just that those filmshooters of today that I referred to as "trash-makers" who couldn't differentiate focal length from focal range, might not be like Spielberg then. And this married to less accessible funding will impact on who project finances are allocated, and who can shot what for which audience.
(and I say all this as someone who is an autodidact who has never been at a film school but taught himself that little bit he knows by himself)

And continuing this line of thought from the previous paragraph in respect to the current changes or cyclical downturn, if you prefer: until the cyclical upturn will occur and reconstruct a new "status quo" for industry professionals to work orderly in it (whatever way that will look like), those who are working or starting to work while the downturn occurs have to deal with workplace problems, job-wise and intellectually. And this was something that Emile was pondering and wondering about! And my post was primarily a response to his career angst.
During the studio system from the 1920s to the 1960s, few new cinematographers where able to enter that profession (David Mullen recently posted about that aspect quite extensively), and work was allocated to a few old-time DoPs who had actively seen the silent movie era when they retired in the 1960s. And it was the upturn after that end of the studio system that allowed Spielberg, Scorsese and Lucas (to name the commercially most successful) to start working in the industry and co-create a new system of their own which reached its peak in the 1990s. Their current problems (as I posted) as well as the Pro Video Clip DoPs and cinematographers who painted a consistent picture of that market segment with their posts in this thread, are proof of that it no longer works as it used to be.

It's about realising what might come into existent when the new industry order will potentially emerge, quality-wise in every respect, and actively discuss and change so that liberties of filmmaking are actually truly liberties, and not camouflaged restrictions that masquerade as the "new freedom of democratised production means - long live to DV camcorders" and that sort of muppetry.
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