10 famous directors who got their start in music videos


Music videos have long been fertile ground for young filmmakers to hone their craft. In fact, some of the most well-known film directors began their careers by forging their visual style and storytelling techniques through multiple music videos, which essentially function as short film business cards for Hollywood to take notice. The more videos they make, the more often they are prepared to tell a much longer story on the big screen.

From independent writers to mainstream filmmakers, fans might be surprised at the number of acclaimed directors who cut their teeth directing music videos early in their careers.


David Fincher

David Fincher frames a photo with his hands

Considered one of the best directors of the past 30 years, David Fincher spent eight years working on music videos before making his debut with Alien 3 in 1992. The three-time Oscar-nominated director of Se7en, Fight Club, and others have worked with the biggest names in the music industry, including Madonna, Aerosmith, Paula Abdul and Billy Idol.

RELATED: 10 Music Videos Made By Famous Filmmakers

Among his most memorable music videos, Fincher directed Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun” in 1989, a very cinematic affair that every kid who grew up watching MTV will remember. He also directed Madonna’s “Vogue” and Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” two distinguished black-and-white videos that pushed boundaries and paid dividends when Fincher helmed male in 2020.

Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze uses the camera on a film shoot

Before making theatrical films as wonderfully imaginative as She, being John Malkovich, and Adaptation, Spike Jonze has made some of the best music videos of all time ever recorded. They include “Buddy Holly” and “Undone: The Sweater Song” by Weezer, “Sabotage” by Beastie Boy, “Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim and countless others.

With several music videos also made for Pharcyde, Sonic Youth, REM, Bjork, The Chemical Brothers, and more, Jonze spent an entire decade from 1991 to 1999 developing his eclectic storytelling style across a wide range of musical genres that continue to inform his cinema. aesthetic. With four narrative feature films to his name so far, Jonze has spent much more time in his career directing music videos.

Antoine Fouqua

Antoine Fuqua frames a shot with his hands

In the 20 years since the delivery of the powerful crime film training day, director Antoine Fuqua has become one of Hollywood’s most active and talented filmmakers. But before barring The equalizer franchise, The majestic sevenand The guiltyFuqua spent the first decade of his career working with the biggest R&B artists in the world.

Indeed, Fuqua has directed iconic music videos for Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”, Toni Braxton’s “Another Sad Love Song” and many more. Fuqua’s biggest music video success, however, came from Coolio’s hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a video so cinematic it surely led to Fuqua’s feature directorial debut via the little-known film. The replacement killers three years later.

Michael Bay

Michael Bay uses the camera and uses a megaphone

Before directing some of the biggest blockbusters Hollywood has ever seen Armageddon and the Transformers franchise, Michael Bay developed his explosive style working on various music videos from 1989 to 1995. He fronted Vanilla Ice’s rap ballad “I Love You,” Tina Turner’s “Love Thing,” and Lionel’s “Do It To Me.” Ritchie, among others.

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But that all changed for Bay after delivering the nearly 8-minute music video for Meatloaf’s ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’, an operatic short that proved the director could handle the action. , hunting scenes and rich characterizations. Two years later, Bay made her big screen debut via Bad Boys.

Michael Gondry

Michel Gindry stands behind the camera to film a plan

Perhaps more famous in Europe than in America, Michel Gondry is the visionary director behind films as moving as Eternal Sun of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind. The artist also got his start directing wildly inventive music videos, including Lenny Kravitz’s “Believe”, Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”, Radiohead’s “Knives Out” and Queen of the Stone Age’s “No One Knows”.

However, it’s Gondry’s relationship with Bjork that really stands out, having directed seven of his music videos between 1993 and 1997, including the historic “Human Behavior” video. It was the European sensibilities nurtured between the two artists that spilled over into Gondry’s imaginative filmography.

Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant holds a camera lens

Before earning his two Oscar nominations as a director for Goodwill hunting and Milk, freelance writer Gus Van Sant has worked with everyone from David Bowie to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Do you want to guess which videos of them he made?

Responsible for some of the most iconic music videos of all time, as well as some of the best films of the last 30 years, Van Sant directed Bowie’s “Fame 90”, Stone Temple Pilot’s “Creep”, and by far the most popular , “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Pepper, three completely different visual expressions that perfectly reflect the energy of the subject. Unlike most, Van Sant continued making music videos long after his film career began.

F. Gary Gray

F. Gary Gray stands in front of a camera on a film set

F. Gary Gray has made some of the best films and music videos of the past 30 years. From 1993 to 1995, he directed some of the coolest and most memorable music videos of the era, including Ice Cube’s indelible “It Was a Good Day”, Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin” https: //screenrant.com/famous -directors-started-with-music-videos/”, TLC’s “Waterfalls” and many more. Even after the start of his film career, Gray directed music videos as impressive as ” Mrs. Jackson.”

RELATED: The 10 Best F. Gary Gray Movies, According To IMDb

Gray’s partnership with Ice Cube directly led to their teamwork on the beloved stoner comedy Friday, their first two feature films. Gray has since continued to direct Straight Outta Compton, Fate of the Furious, Men in Black: Internationaland many more as a leading filmmaker.

Francois Laurent

Francis Lawrence looks through a lens on a film set

Before directing massive blockbusters like I’m a legend and The hunger Games franchise, Viennese artist Francis Lawrence was one of the most sought-after music video directors. The diversity of musical artists he has worked with is astounding.

From 1996 to 2005, Lawrence worked with the music industry‘s hottest pop artists, directing the videos for The Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started”, Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body”, “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne, “Jennifer Lopez” “Jenny From the Block”, and countless others. The networking relationships Lawrence built with actors/musicians over 20 years certainly paid off when it came to making movies.

Mark Webb

Marc Webb stands in front of the camera to oversee a shoot

Famous for 500 days of summer and The Amazing Spider-Man, Marc Webb spent a dozen years cutting his teeth on music videos before making films. Largely working in the rock genre, Webb has collaborated with everyone from Green Day, Weezer, 3 Doors Down, Maroon 5, and more.

As his music video career progressed, Webb began working with mainstream pop stars like Fergie and Miley Cyrus, directing their videos for “London Bridge” and “Start All Over,” respectively. However, it’s Webb’s connection to My Chemical Romance that continues to thrive, directing several music videos for the band from 2004 to 2014, many of which came long after Webb had directed his best film and TV projects.

Gore Verbinski

Gore Verbinski frames a scene with a cigar in his hand

Before doing blockbusters like the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and The Lone Ranger, Gore Verbinski had a brief stint directing punk rock music videos. Oddly enough, after directing videos for NOFX, Vicious Rumors, Bad Religion and Monster Magnet, Verbinski made his film debut with the family film Safe Mouse hunter in 1997.

Ironically, Verbinski’s music videos are more obscure than most, but his films are among the most popular to be released in the past 20 years. Hoping that he returns to the musical field after directing his next film Without space.

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