It was not along ago that there were only a couple paths to the director’s chair on a studio lot. Many went to film school and did time toiling for Roger Corman, while others jumped over from another profession within the industry. (Joel Schumacher, for example, began as a costume designer.) In the ’80s, there suddenly was a new way to get into the game – use a music video as your calling card.
Now, of course, we’re at the point where people receive job offers after posting a clip to YouTube (Lasse Gjertsen, who made the live stop-motion clips “Hyperactive” and “Amateur,” has received several offers of employment, but has turned them all down), and the music video path is now a well-worn road. Indeed, there are two movies coming out in the next few weeks (“Never Let Me Go” and “The Social Network”) that were helmed by men who got their start telling rock stars to act like rock stars, which inspired us to take a look at the more prominent directors of the music video world and track their success. The lesson we learned: even when someone has so many small successes, it only takes one big disappointment to kill them. (Big, big shoutout to the good people at the Music Video Database for helping to clear the cob webs, as well as opening our eyes on just how prolific some of these directors were.)
You know it’s a Julien Temple video when: The entire piece looks like it was filmed in one giant tracking shot. (Look closer – the edits are there.)
Breakout video: ABC’s “Poison Arrow,” and the short film “Mantrap” the band made in conjunction with their (spectacular) album The Lexicon of Love.
Big screen debut: Temple is the only one on this list whose feature film debut came before his music video debut, though some would argue – and we wouldn’t disagree – that the movie in question, the Sex Pistols “documentary” “The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle,” is actually just a long-form music video.
Best Temple video you never saw: Paul McCartney, “Beautiful Night,” from Macca’s Flaming Pie album. Gorgeous, and the tune is a good one, too.
You know it’s a Russell Mulcahy video when: Dozens of extras are wearing body paint, or when a prop nearly kills Simon Le Bon. In slow motion.
Breakout video: Mulcahy was arguably the first “name” director of the music video world, helping clips for Ultravox, Kim Carnes and the Tubes – and, let us not forget, the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first video MTV ever played – but it was the clip for Duran Duran’s“Hungry Like the Wolf,” along with the other videos he shot for the songs from Rio, that made him a household name…with music geeks like us, anyway.
Big screen debut: “Razorback,” a monster movie about, yep, a bloodthirsty Australian pig. Mulcahy’s luck on the big screen changed two years later when he made the cult classic “Highlander”…then lost some luster when he made “Highlander II: The Quickening.”
Best Mulcahy video you never saw: “The Flame,” the overlooked third single from Duran Duran spinoff group Arcadia. Le Bon is in full Barry Bostwick mode as he attends a fancy dinner party and the hosts try to kill him Agatha Christie-style.