Directing a music video is a great way for a filmmaker to practice their craft. Music videos are generally short, they don’t require sound work (Foley, sound FX, dialogue etc) and they are less restricted by the shooting and editing conventions of narrative filmmaking.
Many film Directors started their careers shooting music videos. For instance, Michel Gondry, Director of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, started off directing music videos for his own band “Oui Oui” and then went on to direct music videos for Bjork, Chemical Brothers and Radiohead.
Spike Jonze, Director of “Where the Wild Things Are” started out shooting skateboard videos and then moved on to shooting music videos for groups such as Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim, Notorious BIG, The Pharcyde and most recently for the Canadian indie rock sensation; Arcade Fire.
Then of course there is Gus Van Sant who shot a Red Hot Chili Peppers video, Martin Scorsese who shot a Michael Jackson video, Sofia Coppola shot a White Stripes video, Chris Robinson shot Nas, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Even Michael Bay shot a music video for Meatloaf.
Directors are drawn to this format because visually and narratively music videos provide a lot of creative freedom. Most feature films on the other hand are grounded in a reference to time, human behavior, style and space that audiences are familiar with. Music videos have always felt less constrained by those technical details.
However, recently we’ve noticed an emergence of a new breed of filmmaker: The fashion filmmaker. Filmmakers are flocking towards fashion films as a means to focus on particular elements of their craft.
Before we go any further, it should be pointed out, as as fashion filmmaker OZER put it, that “fashion film is not moving fashion photography. Although it’s not necessary to have a literal story in a fashion film, there must be something to track. A feeling, a cinematographic attitude, a movement or simply a story. Again even if we talk about a story it doesn’t need to be a literal story. It just can be a flow of events. Whatever it is, it needs to be something more than posing models”. You can see his fashion film “The Birth” below.
Fashion and design have always been a big part of the filmmaking process which is why the music video has always been such an attractive medium for filmmakers to experiment with. However, it turns out that the fashion film offers just as much room for directorial flourishes as a music video does. In fact, fashion films may even offer filmmakers a little more.
You see, many filmmakers love to watch, study and admire films by design inspired filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard or Wong Kar Wai. The wardrobes, the styling, the hair, the way the actors walk, how they live and the design of the world around them. These films will leave you breathless.
Fashion films are great for filmmakers because they allow filmmakers to isolate and focus exclusively on those design elements. What’s not to be inspired by? Take a moment now to watch the trailers for Wong Kar Wai’s “2046″ and Godard’s “Breathless”.
This mutually beneficial relationship has existed between other industries for a long time. Take for example, the fashion world and the world of celebrity. These two worlds have always searched for a co-interest. The same can even be said between the fashion world and the music world. For example, DJ KRUSH and fashion designer Kosuke Tsumara collaborated because the two artists felt similar in the tonal qualities of their “worlds”. They are both tough but not aggressive, fragile but not weak and reflective but not sad.
Today a new relationship is being born: One between filmmaker and fashion-maker.
Both independent filmmakers as well as some of the biggest names in cinema are jumping on board for this creative ride.
Martin Scorsese, for example, directed a fashion film for Chanel entitled “Blue De Chanel” which can be seen here:
David Lynch directed a 16-minute fashion film for Dior entitled “Lady Blue Shanghai”.
Darren Aronosfsky directed the latest commercial for La Nuit De L’Homme.
Guy Ritchie directed a fashion film for Dior Homme.
And the relationship works the other way as well. Fashion designer Tom Ford’s film “The Single Man” was not only his debut feature film, but also a great feature length fashion film.
The Single Man by Tom Ford.
In fact, if the collaboration is right both filmmaker and designer can work towards some common emotional territory. Of course, this can also be coined “lifestyle branding”, but I suspect that many designers and their filmmaker counterparts are not simply looking for a means of communication to talk to the largest buying audience possible, but genuinely want to communicate an emotion, a political belief, or simply just show off a creative new visual invention.
OZER told Lights Film School that “both music video and fashion video create a cinematic reason to watch something. In a music video it’s a song. In a fashion video it’s a design. So we can say these forms of film need a prior creation. Music or design. The main difference between these is that one of them is auditory one of them is visual. Design should appear as a part of the image so the filmmaker should put the design into the frame. Although it may seem that music wouldn’t limit the filmmaker visually, a song comes attached with a rhythm and mood that a filmmaker needs to be sensitive to. Similarly, a song comes with it’s own editorial structure. Design is a single photographic element while music has a rhythmical structure.”
It seems natural that the fashion video would gain ground on the music video as the best vehicle for filmmakers to hone their filmmaking skills. This is not to say of course that the fashion video cannot be a stand-alone venture for a Director, just as the music video doesn’t need to be used a stepping-stone towards a feature film. Neither the fashion film nor the music video need to be used as a sort of springboard towards longer format work. Both fashion films and music videos can stand on their own two feet and be an end in themselves.
Lights Film School asked Felipe Meneghel (The fashion filmmaker that shot the fashion video “Waiting For You – Brazil“) about how the fashion video fits into his overall vision of being a filmmaker. He replied that “most of the time i work with tv commercials, so the fashion video is a nice change of pace. As a DP, the idea is to plot objectives aiming for something fresh and new. For me, the conquest of new challenges means constant self development – so i cannot say that i will be exclusively working with any specific format.”
What the Fashion Video Can do that the Music Video Can’t
Fashion videos have exploded onto the scene because they provide the filmmaker many of the same creative opportunities that music videos do with a couple major advantages.
1. Soundscape Design
Music videos often don’t have any room for dialogue beyond what’s already in the song. Sure, there are cases where music video directors include a short 30 second short film in the middle of the song, but such examples often annoy the listeners rather than inspire them. Fashion videos on the other hand can combine all of the audio elements from a film (Foley, ambient, music, dialogue, environmental, sound FX) that allow the filmmakers to practice that element of their craft as well. Now filmmakers not only need to concern themselves with great visuals, but also captivating soundscapes.
2. Narrative Freedom
Likewise, fashion videos don’t come attached to strict story concepts. A music video will have lyrics that a filmmaker will be beholden to. Of course there is room for indirect translation and metaphor, but a fashion video is even more of an open slate. As Felipe Mengeghel stated in his interview with Lights Film School “the creative freedom is what drew me towards fashion videos in the first place.”
A fashion video gives you the same clearance for experimentation as a music video does, while at the same time leaving you some room to design your own soundscape.
When asked about freedom of intepretation OZER told Lights Film School that “the fashion film gives editorial freedom for sure. The beginning is simple; a dress. What do you feel before it? It’s totally the filmmakers perception. A fashion filmmaker interprets a design to cinema. Although the dress should appear in the film, the filmmaker is totally free when deciding on duration, pace, structure, acting and music or sound. There is only one purpose, to create the same feeling that the design creates. The purpose is certain but the way you go about it is totally up to the Director. Personally I always tried to create visually perfect yet cinematicly strong films. I believe that fashion films give filmmakers the perfect opportunity to create beautiful visuals. If you have a film instinct, then you can be a perfect fashion film Director.”
3. Short and Compact with the Option of Being Longer
Fashion videos, not unlike music videos, are short. This allows filmmakers to put all of their energy into a 30 second, 60 second or three minute commercial. Of course, some videos may be longer. Essentially, a fashion video is more flexible with the amount of time it requires to be effective. For filmmakers, with a shortage of spare time on their hands, a 30 second fashion video may be more appealing than a 4 minute music video. At the same time a filmmaker with more time to spare may be attracted to a longer fashion film. Either way, the fashion film is more likely than a music video to provide this type of flexibility.
It will be interesting to see how this industry evolves in the next couple of years. If you have an interesting fashion video you’ve shot yourself or a fashion video you’d like to share with our readers feel free to post it below.
And on that note, we’ll leave you with one of our favourite fashion videos. Prada’s “First Spring” Directed by Chinese Art Star Yang Fudong.
Sign up below to get instant access to over 1 hour's worth of high quality free filmmaking tutorials that will have an instant impact on the quality of your film and documentary projects.