Whether it’s a moody, low-budget film or a futuristic $7,000,000 production, music videos help us appreciate music on a different level. It’s a chance to get inside the heads of our favorite artists and filmmakers and complete our artistic experience. Here are 11 things to do before you make a music video.
1. Cultivate a strong artistic vision.
Do you want to your fans to go on a trip to an unfamiliar place?
Or watch you perform live?
Whatever concept you choose, make sure there are no gaps in your vision.
For some artists, it is easier to draw up a storyboard where each scene is planned perfectly. For others, the process may be less structured and require small bits of footage compiled into a longer seemingly contiguous creative piece.
If you want to evoke certain emotion or make a political statement, conceptualize how you will do that with location, certain actors or dancers or specific color schemes.
2. Discover your “wow” factor.
Ok Go’s fame started with a very simple concept, treadmills. It soon became the band’s “thing” to shoot crazy, labor-intensive videos that have less to do with a storyline and more to do with insanity of their visions. Like shooting in zero gravity, for example.
Whether it’s a weird juxtaposition of form (like a rapper in the woods) or large dance numbers, find your brand of “wow.”
3. Scout your location.
Don’t expect anyone to let you shoot when and where you please. Garner the appropriate permissions wherever you plan to shoot beforehand. Also, please make sure it’s safe.
4. Get realistic about your budget and scale.
Aminé proved that you don’t have to have a lot of money to make an awesome viral music video like the one for “Caroline.” Maybe his budget was small or he wanted it to feel relatable and accessible, but the video still garnered a bunch of attention. Like, 126.5 million views attention.
Chances are it took a lot more capital for M.I.A. to create this video for her hit “Bad Girls.” Dancers, stuntmen, gold cars and wild horses—not simple or cheap.
Be honest with yourself and create the budget before you start to make any final artistic decisions, so you don’t go broke in the process.
5. Decide who you want/need in your video.
Once you’ve chosen your narrative, it may become clear that the band isn’t needed in the music video. And sometimes, there may be no people. Whoever (or whatever) you need to complete your vision, needs to be available on the day of the shoot.
Make sure all schedules are aligned at least a week prior to the scheduled shoot time. Include your filmmakers, actor, designers, etc in these decisions.
6. Communicate with your filmmaker.
Make sure your filmmaker understands your vision. Describe how the narrative you’ve chosen illustrates (or has nothing to do with) the song. The more information the filmmaker has about mood, lighting and special effects before the shoot begins, the less retakes and edits will have to be done.
Communicate during filming, too. Don’t be afraid to suggest a re-shoot of a particular sequence. If you don’t, it will bother you every time you watch it. Trust us.
It happens to everyone, we forget or stumble over lyrics to our favorite songs. If the video is to a new single you wrote a few weeks ago, practice. Not only will you avoid unnecessary re-shoots, you’ll feel more comfortable in front of the camera.
8. Choose wardrobe.
What we wear is an important element of artistic expression. Since the beginning of her career, Grimes has used wardrobe to support her creative vision. Whether it’s metal suits and boa constrictors or Victorian gowns, Grimes’ wardrobe takes a lot of forethought, time and preparation.
If your wardrobe is just jeans and a tee shirt, more power to you. If your vision requires a certain wardrobe, don’t neglect it in your planning. Consider hiring a stylist or scouring vintage or costume stores for the perfect pieces before the day of the shoot.
9. Get a loudspeaker.
Sometimes artists think they can get away with playing their song from an iPhone or their Beats Pill. Think again. The better the music can be heard, the better your lip syncing, fake guitar playing and dancing will look. Get your hands on a loudspeaker and bring it the day of the shoot.
10. Trust your filmmaker.
If you’ve done your research, watched a filmmaker’s past work and clearly communicated your vision, chances are your video will turn out exactly as you see it. Trust your filmmaker’s artistic vision as well, they may have ideas you haven’t thought of.
Enter filming as a collaborative process between your music and their film style.
11. Get stoked.
Whether it’s your first or 20th music video, translating your art into another medium is exciting. Healthy creative relationships are built by positive energy and mutual respect between musical artist and filmmaker. Spend some time with your crew and get them excited about the big picture.