Top 5: Filmmakers Who Earned A Name In Music Videos
List by Aaron Haughton
Film is a tough industry to break into, but you've got to start somewhere. Some of the biggest names in the industry today got their foot in the door by doing something else first. A large number found their way into director's chair by crafting music videos. Back in the day when music videos reigned supreme, it was an easy way to garner the attention of the Hollywood higher-ups; however, now that MTV is dominated by "reality" TV shows, music videos aren't as big as they used to be, but can still be a stepping stone to the larger film industry.
Our list of filmmakers is based on the caliber of both their music videos and films. Check out or top 5 below!
- 5: Anton Corbijn
Corbijn got his start as a music photographer before gravitating to music video direction, which is where he truly began to earn a name for himself. In fact, several of his videos are some of the best I've ever seen, like Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box." However, on the flip side, he's also directed one of the worst videos I've ever seen, Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence"; the shoddy concept and boring direction actually interferes with my ability to enjoy the song, and I really love this Depeche Mode track. He did end up redeeming himself by shooting several other Depeche Mode videos, which are vastly more engaging and inventive. His debut film, Control, a biopic centering on Ian Curtis and the band Joy Division, was met with incredible praise and is a personal favorite of mine. Unfortunately, his feature films degrade in quality or intrigue as he continues to spew them out.
- 4: Jonathan Glazer
Glazer did a fair bit of work before landing in the film director's chair, such as theater directing and film and television trailer editing. His work in music videos is regarded highly for its originality, and there's no denying that they have their own visual style, which is uniquely his own. Similar to Corbijn, Glazer's debut feature, Sexy Beast, was well received and is also a personal favorite of mine; however, his films are fairly consistent and are all great in their own right. He's only made 3 films so far, but each is a unique vision and varies in subject matter and thematics. His last endeavor, Under the Skin, is a stunning slice of contemporary sci-fi and further proves he's a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on.
- 3: Spike Jonze
Nowadays, Spike Jonze is household name, but early in his career hew was mostly known by skateboarders and musicians. His music video work is highly entertaining (except for the Marxman "All About Eve" video"), and his feature films are no exception, partially due to his involvement with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Like the other filmmakers on this list, Jonze made a splash with his debut film, Being John Malkovich, which is a massively hilarious head trip. He worked with Kaufman once more on Adaptation before breaking off to write and direct his own films. His work in music videos is expansive and the quality of work is so great, it makes it difficult to choose a favorite; although, his video for Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" always springs to mind.
- 2: Michel Gondry
Gondry began his career by directing music videos for French acts like Oui Oui, which were mainly stop animation. These videos caught the attention of Bjork, who became a long time collaborator with Gondry. His music videos are some of the most singular and easily identifiable out of all the directors in this list, and his filmography often includes his inventive child-like mind. Like Jonze, Gondry got his filmmaking start by working alongside Charlie Kaufman before breaking off to make his own films and direct big studio pictures, like The Green Hornet. His child-like genius is unrivaled, and his prowess is often headache inducing when you try to deconstruct his practical methodology, like the music video for Cibo Matto's "Sugar Water." Just like Jonze, Gondry has too many great videos to really champion one as the undisputed best, but the Foo Fighters' "Everlong" has got to be up there.
- 1: David Fincher
asily the most prestigious of filmmakers in the bunch, Fincher got his start working as a production head where he climbed the ranks to visual effects producer before being hired as an assistance cameraman and matte photographer. Before jumping into the director's chair, he worked on big name films like Return of the Jedi and Temple of Doom. Then, he co-founded Propaganda Films, which focused on TV commercials and music videos. It was Propaganda Films that gave Gondry and Jonze their break into the music video biz, so he naturally had to eclipse them on this list. His music videos received a number of accolades; however, his films are where his true talents lie. His debut feature was Alien 3, which is probably his worst film out of his catalogue, but he's gone on to make some of the most celebrated and beloved films, such as Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac, which Guillermo del Torro recently praised as one of his favorite Fincher films.
- Honorable Mention: Mark Romanek
Romanek directed two of my favorite music videos of all-time, Jay Z's "99 Problems" and Nine Inch Nail's "Closer," and just narrowly made the list. He's not the prolific or flooring filmmaker as the other five listed, so he ended up on the cutting room floor here; however, I did wanna throw him a shoutout. After making his debut feature, Static, in 1986, Romanek didn't return to film for 16 years. His 2002 feature, One Hour Photo, which is probably his most known film. He clearly has a very filmic eye, but his talents are best suited in the music video medium.
What do you think? Are there any filmmakers you would add to the list? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!