How to Make a Music Video + The Business of Music Videos
So you want to make music videos. Want to follow in the foot steps of David Fincher, Mark Romanek and Spike Jonez? It’s not a bad plan at all. Many filmmakers start off in music videos. It’s a great place to get experience, learn the tools and experiment.
I’ve directed a few music videos in my day and have worked in some capacity on hundreds over the years. I wanted to do an episode where I breakdown my process for making a music video. The music video in question is for the band Ozomatli and the stand up comic Gabriel Iglesias aka Fluffy.
Gab and I have done a few projects together over the years, two of which were music videos, Hey It’s Fluffy and Stand Up Revolution.
I had an absolute ball shooting both. Today we will be dissecting Stand Up Revolution, which was for his Comedy Central show “Gabriel Iglesias Presents: Stand-Up Revolution.” It was a large production for me and I learned a ton.
Check out the final product and the behind the scenes video for Stand Up Revolution.
I breakdown the process of making the music video and discuss the dark side of music videos…the business!
I had an amazing experience working with Gabriel Iglesias and Ozomatli and my discussion on the dark side has nothing to do with them. I wanted to open the eyes of young filmmakers who are just starting out and want to go into making music videos for living.
Listen to my experience on the “business side” of music videos and then make up your mind. I’m not trying to scare you but filmmakers should know what they are getting into and set expectations accordingly.
If I may quote Terence Howard from one of my favorite flicks Hustle and Flow:
“It’s tough out here for a pimp.”
I hope this teaches a bit on how to make a music video. Take a listen to the podcast and let me know what you think in the comments below.
For fun I also included my Hey It’s Fluffy music video. Let me know what you think.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Gabriel Iglesias
- Gabriel Iglesias Presents: Stand-Up Revolution
- USC Film School’s ONLY On-line Course: Directing the Actor
- FreeFilmBook.com (Your FREE Audio Book)
- Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Netflix for Filmmakers and Screenwriters)
- Martin Scorsese Film Directing Masterclass
- Ron Howard Film Directing Masterclass
- Spike Lee Film Directing Masterclass
- Werner Herzog Filmmaking MasterClass
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting MasterClass
- Mira Nair Independent Filmmaking Masterclass
- David Mamet Dramatic Writing MasterClass
- Shonda Rhimes Masterclass: Learn Television Writing from the Creator of Scandal
- Steve Martin Teaches Comedy Writing & Acting MasterClass
- Annie Leibovitz Masterclass: Learn Photography from the Legend
- Jimmy Chin Masterclass: Learn Adventure Photography
- Judd Apatow Comedy Writing/Directing Masterclass
- Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
If you like How to Make a Music Video, then take a listen to:
Top 10 Indie Filmmaking Podcasts
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Transcription – Indie Film Hustle Podcast Episode #98.
Welcome to the Indie Film Hustle Podcast Episode Number 30.
“My idea of professionalism is probably a lot of people’s idea of obsessive.”, David Fincher
Broadcasting from the back alley in Hollywood. It’s the Indie Film Hustle Podcast where we show you how to survive and thrive as an Indie filmmaker in the jungles of the film business and here’s your host Alex Ferrari.
Welcome to another episode of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast. I am your humble host Alex Ferrari. Please don’t forget to check out freefilmbook.com that’s freefilmbook.com to get your free audio download from Audible and our sponsor today is USC Film Schools only online course directing the actor by the legendary new approach. You can download that at indiefilmhustle.com/usc . Now today guys. We’re going to talk a little bit about music videos. Now I know this is Indie Film Hustle but a lot of filmmakers start off in music videos. David Fincher, Michael Bay, Ridley Scott a few a bunch of other people start of with commercials and music videos and I think it’s a great, a great, tool great place to learn, experiment and grow as a filmmaker. So I’ve shot a few music videos in my day. Not a lot but I have worked on probably hundreds of music videos with some of the biggest artists in the world but I did direct the music video with for a band called Ozomatli a Grammy award winning band Ozomatli and the stand up comedian Gabriel Iglesias as also known as Fluffy. I did two videos for them for Comedy Central and the second video is called Stand Up Revolution and that’s what we’re going to be concentrating on today. It was a very very big budget. Well not big budget but it was the biggest budget I’ve ever worked on. It was a pretty large production. So I want to kind of break down the process a little bit, at least my process. It’s not the ultimate process. Just my process of how I shot the music video, my experiences with it and so on. So before you finish listening to this it really would be helpful for you to watch the music video that I have in the show notes. If you’re in a car and you can see it, it’s all good. You can watch it afterwards.
So first thing I do when I get a song is, when I get a music video gig is listen to the song. Listen to it probably about twenty thirty times and just have it on repeat constantly, constantly just listen to it and then as things start, as ideas start coming up, images start coming up. I started jotting them down. I start figuring out concepts and start putting it all together and since of my mind as an editor. It is easy for me to kind of put things together in that fashion. So I start thinking about ideas and I knew the budget was going to be a little bit larger than our last budget. So I came up with this grand idea. You know visual effects, it was going to be bomber planes, it was going to be huge warehouse. It was going to be thousands of extras digital and it was just going to be this massive thing as it was a revolution, it was called Stand Up Revolution. So Gabe you know saw my initial concept and he’s like, you know Alex I really love it alot but I don’t think we can afford this.
So we kind of toned it down. So Gabe gave me the idea he’s like look I want to shoot at the Roxy, another Roxy. For those who don’t know is a legendary club here on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. So I was like he’s like just make it around the rock scene. Let’s come up with the concept there on, the Roxy. I’m like OK. So now I had my location. So that made it a little easier. So then I just started building up this whole story around Gabe playing a valet. And then the car dash in comes up and come up and they kidnap, they kind of kidnap the car dash in and take their place to go into this red carpet, to go into the show to see Ozomatli and it’s this whole kind of surreal thing so then Gabe and his main man Martine are dressed up as car dash in which, you haven’t seen the video yet you’re missing out. They are quite sexy men.
Now I know a lot of people, a lot of directors like to storyboard since I’m not an artist and I am kind of a person perfectionist. I don’t like storyboarding unless I have someone who who’ll do the storyboarding for us or me and at this point I didn’t my film Broken I storyboarded everything as the book that I released called The Art of Broken. Definitely shows. So I do like storyboarding but for music videos generally there’s not enough budget to storyboarding. So what I like to do is shot list. So I actually shot list everything out very detailed and very organized and generally I have a shot list of let’s say twenty shots for a scene which will then be pared down to probably about ten shots and we might shoot eight. That just the way the cookie crumbles. So I always kind of shoot for the stars and then just start pairing things back a little by little as the day goes on.
So like I said before location was the Roxy which had its own unique challenges working in a kind of legendary club like that but they were wonderful to work with and always you know wherever you’re locations are. You know I’m talking about you know a larger bigger production kind of music videos and a lot of you out there are going to start doing low budget music videos. So you’re going to kind of run and gun it and you’re going to do kind of guerrilla filmmaking and that’s good, that’s perfectly fine, that’s what I did and that’s what I still do on many occasions but this was kind of like the for me at least it was kind of like a really kind of a Rolls Royce experience having everything you know there and legit.
So the equipment we used. We used. We shot on the RED epic. I decided to shoot 4K because and I know if you guys have heard my, don’t why indie filmmakers should not shoot 4K episode which has been the most controversial episode and the most listened to episode in the history of the show. I do love shooting 4K. I didn’t shoot 5K because back it was overkill and also it just the workflow at the time. I didn’t have the gear to really make the work flow run very smoothly at the time. I shot this probably a few years ago, couple of years ago, about three years ago or so. When I start shoot 4K and we were going to end up mastering the 1080P anyway for broadcast.
So it was perfectly fine. I got to recompose a lot of shots because we shot 4K. And then we also used another beautiful piece of technology called the Techno Crane. Now if you guys as filmmakers ever get a chance to use a Techno Crane. Please do so. It is the most wonderful and beautiful piece of film gear I’ve ever played with in my life. It is an expensive piece of gear. You know it’s what gets those really dynamic shots. Basically it’s a crane that goes anywhere and does anything. Almost automatically. So you can kind of just hover thirty feet right above the ground and then just scoop up and come down and the video that I did before with Gabe called Hey it’s Fluffy.
We shot an entire his entire backyard which was a big huge pool scene with a ton of people. I literally didn’t move the camera off the crane. It just stayed on the crane the entire shoot. We just kind of loaded the camera around all the sorts. I mean I got so much coverage. It was amazing. So I fell in love with it right away. So we had to. I had to have it for this one as well. So the Techno Crane was a wonderful experience I guess. I’ll put some links on and the show notes so you can kind of see
what Techno Crane is and the experience it is. So when filming, a couple tips when filming a music video make sure you record your production audio. You won’t use your production audio but it’s wonderful and helpful for sinking where you’re going to go sync up the song to the footage so it’s really helpful. Sometimes like in our case we actually had some skits and some dialogue that was before and after and during the music video. So we actually needed to record a natural sound. Then we. I did, we had a few different setups on the music video. We had the performance set up which was the main set up of the band on the stage at the Roxy.
We had the skit out front of the Roxy which is Gabe and Martine doing some dialogue kidnapping the car dash ins and coming out. Dressed as a car dash ins and drag. And then the red carpet scene as well that we had a huge red carpet scene with a bunch of celebrities walking by, with a ton of extras and then the crowd scene inside which was all. There was a I can actually fight, fun fighting scene of Gabe and Martine and in the front of the crowd and things like that.
So a couple tips as far as a crowd when you hear crowd you’re like oh my God he must have a hundred people there. We did and we had, we actually paid twenty actors twenty extras to be there. Any time you’re going to get extras. You know it’s great to hire your friends or bring your friends along and things like that but being an extra is actually really tough work. In the sense that you have to be there all day and if you’re not getting paid or you get paid a little bit and you’re not a professional actor or professional extra.
It’s difficult because you basically just have to be there all day waiting around doing things and a lot of times your friends will bail on you after a few hours because it’s not as glamorous as it looks on television. So it is a tough job. So we actually made a conscious effort. Now we did have some friends and we did two extra friends in there but generally I think about fifteen or twenty extras that were there all day. My amazing line producer Shawn definitely helped out a lot and by the way if you’re doing a music video. God please find a producer. Find a line producer or a producer
you know production manager someone who can help you. If you’re the director and you’re going to try to produce this as well as direct and edit and cast and everything else you’re going to lose your mind. Depending obviously on the size of the of the project but if you cannot even on the smallest budgets even on budgets that I had worked. You know five hundred bucks or thousand bucks to do a music video.
Always hire or try to find someone to take that off your plate it’s a director because as a director you have so much on your plate already trying to deal with locations getting lunch. All that kind of stuff is really really difficult to do. So I had a great line producer called Shawn Newhouse. His name is Shawn Newhouse. Shout out to Shawn. He’s amazing. And I worked with him on multiple projects, a handful of projects with him and he is he was great. So invaluable without him I couldn’t have done it and then I also hired a wonderful DP Ernesto.
I’m not going to mess for his last name but Ernesto who might be on the show in the coming weeks. I’m trying to get him on. He is a big time DP now. But Ernesto is wonderful and he was, he brought all his toys to play with. His cameras and stuff like that. So it was a lot of fun to shoot with him. So find a good DP, find a good line producer those are two very key positions that you really need to find when shooting a music video.
So anyway to how I use these extras. We just kind of group them together and shot specifically. You just fill the frame. All you have to do is fill the frame. If you can fill the frame you’re able to have the illusion
that there’s more people in the shot. So the same extras that we’re using in this inside the club were the same extras that we were using outside the club when we were trying to do all the. You know all the photographers and all the crowds and the fans trying to get to the inside the bar. The exact same people we just rechanged their clothes, change their hair styles and we’re good to go.
So you have to think about those kind of things because if not it would have cost us a fortune even on a decent sized budget music video. It would cost us a fortune to have fifty hundred people there because its not only about fifty or one hundred people. It’s about feeding those people, housing those people. You know bathroom breaks for those people, bathrooms for those people. There’s a lot of other things you think about like oh I could get a hundred people like well there’s a lot of other costs involved down the line. So always keep thinking a few steps ahead. Just thinking about what you can get right now which is what I talked about in another episode about post production work flow or don’t hire DP just because I have a camera, a RED camera because that might you might have that camera now but working down, going down the workflow, hype line might be a headache for you later. Or you might have not thought of things that cost you more later.
So free doesn’t always mean free. I digress. Sorry guys. So we shot this. It was wonderful. We shot it all out in about twelve hours. I think ten twelve hours was a night shoot. So it was pretty exhausting and then I basically brought it back in and transcode everything at the time. We did not have, atleast I didn’t have options to edit this in RAW. So I transcoded everything using my RED rocket and then edited in Final Cut 7. Final Cut Pro 7. Edited it all and then brought that EDL export that EDL after I was done editing it. Export that EDL into DaVinci Resolve. Where DaVinci Resolve which is my color suite. After that a colored it all in a RAW. I reconnected the RAW, colored it in RAW, use the RED RAW file to get some amazing looks and able to do things that I would have been able to do unless I would have shot a 4K RAW.
Perfect example if you notice towards the very end of the music video, there is I think the last shot right be the second to last shot is Gabe opening up the door. Well that is a full, I shot that full 4K. I had to zoom in. Because I didn’t have the time to get the coverage that I needed. So when I shot it. I noticed that I didn’t have any coverage with the door with Gabe opening the door without showing them, showing that the audience. The two kidnapped car dash ins inside. So I had no way to do it. So I wanted to do a little pop in. So I popped in, reframed it, shot then I did a shot to them and then I cut back to Gabe and then it worked perfectly.
I would have not been able to do that if I wouldn’t have shot in 4K but I would have shot that 2K or 1080P. I would have been in very big trouble. I would have been able to finish off the shot the way I wanted to. So those were all of the luxuries of shooting at a very high resolution as long as you can handle the workflow. So we out put it to 1080P, set that over to Comedy Central and it aired on Gabe show Stand Up Revolution which I think it was in the first season that aired. I think that was a first season that aired that music video. And it’s gone on to be downloaded gotta think about two million times on Gabe’s YouTube channel because Gabe’s YouTube channel is insane. You guys haven’t had a chance to listen to Gabe, his stand up is whole areas. So I’m going to put some links in the show notes to Gabe not that he needs my little traffic.
So that was kind of the real kind of quick tips on how I shot this music video. We also have a making of video inside the on the show notes as well, that Sean Newhouse shot with his brother and kind of gives you a little bit more detail and you can kind of see the layout of how we did everything in there you’ll see my interview I’m exhausted. You can see it in my face. It was a rough week for me that week so you’ll see me a little bit tired. Not my normal energetic self so I hope this helps you guys out a little bit on how to make a music video. I’ve shot a few music videos in my day and like I said I’ve worked on a
ton of big music videos over my career and I’ve seen a lot of music videos. So music videos are a wonderful way to get started in the film business and if you want to try to make a career of it. God Bless go for it. It’s a little rougher and I want to go on a little bit side note here on the business of music videos.
Right now doing music videos and trying to make a living doing music videos is really tough because the budgets for music videos have drop so dramatically that something that normally you know I remember the days that you know I was working on music videos back in the day in the ninety’s where second and third level artists from labels not even the big artists but like second tier, third tier artists were getting hundred thousand, one hundred fifty thousand dollar budgets for their music videos shooting on film big visual effects the whole ball of wax and now you hear these big, you’d be surprised at some of the biggest celebrities, biggest music stars out there. They’re doing music videos for ten grand.
And I know a lot of you in the audience are saying ten grand. That’s a lot. Well you know when you start adding it up if you want to try to make a living on this if you make one of those a month or two of those a month if you’re lucky you’re not going to make a whole heck of a lot of money. So it’s a very, it’s a very tough hustle at least from my point of view where I’m standing right now, it’s a tough hustle. So and ten thousand is a huge budget for music videos nowadays. That’s a big star. That’s a star that if I mentioned the name of the star you would go oh I know them so don’t get me wrong.
You know Taylor Swift and Beyonce are not doing ten thousand dollar music videos but they’re the top of the top tier of the top tier. Some other big stars that are doing side projects or just, you just be surprised. Now every song gets a music video and they can’t afford the artist and the labels can’t afford to just be putting out two hundred thousand dollar music videos for every song. You know there’s eight songs in an album or so on. So they can afford it so they have to drop the cost of it and also because there’s so many people do music videos and so many people doing them so cheaply.
They brought the budget down so that happen with commercials and happened with everything else but they brought the budget down so much that now it’s almost a joke to shoot a music video. So you know what I do a music video has to be at a certain level. Certain budget level at least for me where I am at my career at this point. If you’re just starting out do what you got to do if you don’t get paid. Don’t get paid. Just start getting out there start you know experimenting stuff, making a real for yourself and then slowly you can build up at when you first starting out you’re going to, not going to get paid.
You are not going to make a whole lot of money right up front but at least you can start building the experience, building that cache and a lot of the big big music video directors that I work with did exactly that. I worked with one director who was lit that literally camped out at the label until finally they gave him a shot to do music video and then from there he started growing and growing until he finally got Rianna and when he got Rianna that the door opened. Once Riana, he did with Riana music video then everybody came calling. Jennifer Lopez came calling in. And I have all these big huge rappers and artist started coming out of go after him but you know that’s a one in a million kind of story. Most music video directors are just hustling man and I know them.
I’ve worked with a lot of them. They’re hustling and you know a lot of them are trying to get into commercials because they’re like man I can’t keep doing this. You know it’s fun. Maybe for the first six months or a year but afterwards you are like you know I’m going to keep doing this, the budgets are not going up. You know have a hell of a real ready and I’m still you know.
It’s a tough gig. It’s a tough hustle. But music videos are a lot of fun and if you can get in there and get to those bigger budgets and get to those artists and sign up with the proper production company that can get you those kind of gigs then that’s the way to go for it but that’s a little bit of the side note of the business of music videos. One of the reasons I don’t do a lot of music videos anymore is because the budgets went down so much that it’s just I just can’t do it anymore. You know I
have a family to feed. You know I’m not twenty one anymore but you know if I was, if I was younger and just starting out man I would be hustling hard hard hard hard.
I know one director, one music video director that worked underneath that other music video director saw him in the one who did Riana. And you know he was a young kid man and he’s just started hustling hard, just started getting all these music videos one after another just you know working for free just shooting shooting shooting. He got picked up and now he started doing other music videos. Now he is doing photography and now he is going into that world and you never know where it could lead but the music video business itself to sustain yourself.
It’s not like the days of David Fincher, Michael Bay, Spike Jonze. Those days are gone and they are. Only around for very very few of the high level music video directors out there but most of those guys are not just music video directors anymore they also do commercial work which is where the real money is as well as some to feature work, narrative, web media and so on.
I hope this episode was a little bit helpful to you guys. Kind of helped you a little bit on how to make a music video. It’s not a full blown tutorial but it kind of gives you an eye into my process of making a music video and kind of a little bit of a window into the business side of music videos. So now if you guys want to watch the Stand Up Revolution music video and the behind the scenes making of it.
Head over to indiefilmhustle.com/030 for all the show notes. I want to put all the links of everything I talked about in the show notes as well. Please don’t forget to head over to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave us an honest review. It helps the show up tremendously guys. Thanks again and keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I’ll talk to use soon. Thanks for listening to the Indie Film Hustle Podcast at indiefilmhustle.com that’s I N D I E F I L M H U S T L E .com