How to Direct Music Videos Like David Fincher
David Fincher is one of the highly respected music video directors in Hollywood. His style and techniques are so distinctive, it is almost easy to differentiate his works from that of other directors. Just like many directors in Hollywood, Fincher had his start directing music videos in the 80s and 90s. And although he is one the most successful music video directors, his work has received fewer accolades as compared to that of other music video directors like Spike Jones, Michal Gondry, and Chris Cunningham, and this is because he directed videos in the pop genre.
To find what set David Fincher’s films apart, one may assume it is his use of dark color palette and subject matter in his movie, but this explanation would not suffice, as dark movies have been made by other directors who never became as successful as Fincher. Precision, instead, is what set Fincher’s films apart. In Fincher’s films, there is always a clear specific intent behind every move, and this has its origin in his music videos.
Check out this amazing video essay by Patrick (H) Willems.
Although a typical pop video is imprecise, consisting of a ton of shots from a lot of different angles with rapid editing. The typical pop video shot is not long enough to pass a specific meaning, the shot does not last long enough to allow a line of the song to be sung or a full dance move to be completed. Several of the cuts in these videos come in the middle of words and not according to the beat and therefore lacks continuity. This product of this is a fast energetic music video but without any of the shots playing any function.
What Fincher was able to understand was that music videos were just not for entertainment alone but were promotional tools designed to showcase two major things; the artist and the song. Fincher believed that the visuals in a video should enhance the listening experience and should be an appropriate visual accompaniment to the music.
In the music video for Vogue, every visual in the video is sync with the music, the hand gestures and movement of the dancers and characters were right on the beat. Also, during the first verse, the shot lasted seven seconds and the focus was on Madonna, offering a full hero shot. Fincher’s cut also came after the completion of lines in the song, around the vocals, rather than in between lines or words as is the norm with some contemporary music directors. He allows a full set of movement to play out, and only cut to further emphasize them.
Also in the video Express Yourself, Fincher cuts around the vocals with each shot designed to evoke the music. Even the dancers’ choreography is sync to the last note before the cut. This same technique is also evident in Justin Timberlake’s video Suit and Tie and in George Michael’s Freedom. The visuals are always translating the music.
All of these techniques translate to help Fincher become the amazing film director that he became.
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