Why music videos might be the perfect avenue for your students

15 Nov 2019

8 mins
Panel on the art and process of the music video
Panel on the art and process of the music video

Last Thursday (14 November), an eclectic group of industry figures came together with Secondary audiences at the London Barbican to dissect the art and process of the music video. Easily one of the most unique events of the Into Film Festival so far, the event provided valuable insight into a medium that both holds limitless creative potential and can seem more accessible than feature length or even short films for young people hoping to break into the media industry.

Music videos are a really important part of pop culture and filmmaking - it's a craft of its own. It was great to be part of this fun spotlight event with a really cool, inquisitive audience, and it really shows how these events can be inspiring both to the audience and the panel. Thanks to the Into Film Festival for having us!

Director, Tash Tung

The panel included music video directors Tash Tung (who was instrumental in bringing the day together) and Fred Rowson, commissioner at Sony Music Elena Argiros and choreographer Simon Donnellon. They discussed a wide range of topics, from establishing yourself in the industry and the importance of working with friends to trusting in your own ideas and the key to successful collaboration. Check out some of the highlights and important lessons for your students below.

Students asking questions at the panel discussion on music videos

Coming to the Into Film Festival is a great opportunity for students to get away from their normal experiences. Our students make music videos and really engage with the medium, but they generally don't think about them in a cinematic context so framing them as an art form rather than simply another video on YouTube is really valuable.

Rob Dennis, Teacher, Leyton Sixth Form College

The morning began with screenings of ten music videos that the panel had worked on, featuring a variety of high-profile artists such as Sigrid, Meduza and Years & Years. The panel itself kicked off with the simple question of how each panellist came to their current roles and what they entail. Tash had always been an avid consumer of music videos but translated this into a career by simultaneously working at a production company and creating a music video with a friend in her spare time for just £300. She placed the completed video on Promonews, which allowed her to gain industry representation and devote more time to her craft (whilst initially working a part time job as well). 

The common consensus was that sites like Promonews and Video Static are essential in gaining exposure with the right people (Elena who commissions music videos for Sony visits it every day), acquiring a more detailed understanding of making music videos and getting a sense of industry trends and how you can fit within them. Other useful tips came from Elena who recommended always working with your friends as commissioners will frequently bring you both onto a project if they enjoyed the collaboration and from Simon who argued that achieving a real sense of your own voice involves analysing what you admire in others - simply go through all their work and interviews, and figure out their process. 

It was a fantastic opportunity to meet and talk to young people looking to get into the industry. I really enjoyed discussing the work with the other panelists and answering questions from the group.

Commissioner at Sony Music, Elena Argiros

Meanwhile, reflections on their own process offered some crucial learning points for young people, no matter where in the industry they hope to be. For Fred, the creative process initially involves getting all your thoughts on paper no matter how insane they may seem. In fact, ‘trust in your own ideas' as the ones you initially find embarrassing often end up yielding the best reaction from the musician you're working with and the audience. For Simon, ‘half my job is being nice to people' as it allows him to build up genuine connections that will create further professional opportunities. In terms of the collaboration process itself, ‘you can easily fall into a trap of making one person happy' but true success is dependent on listening to everybody and achieving a sense of balance.

A key point to bear in mind when building a career is how you define success for yourself. Tash ultimately aims to find a balance between projects she's commissioned for and passion projects like Semitones, which involved working with a friend around ideas of heritage. Fred on the other hand always aims to illicit a reaction from his audience whether it be laughter or discomfort.

Into Film gives opportunities for students who are starting out in their careers to gain an insight into practitioners from across the film industry. We actually do a music video project in creative media production so we're hoping our learners will be inspired by the range of music videos on show today. They show that music videos don't necessarily have to be dance-focused or have high production values but be more art house and as students, it's really important to experiment and emphasise creativity.

John Gordon, Teacher, Creative Academy London

Why music videos then? Well they give creative people a lot of scope to play with their own ideas and are more relevant than ever for musicians as a way of creating a genuinely exciting and nuanced image for themselves, so why not give it a go? The perfect place to start is by searching through the countless exciting unsigned artists on Soundcloud and starting to build your own creative collaborations.

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