8 Famous Film Directors Who Made Music Videos

Written by Telus on Wednesday March 18, 2015

Last time on the STORYHIVE blog we highlighted 11 directors who got their start in music videos. This time we’re taking a look at the directors that were long established before they decided to take a holiday from the cinema and get freaky making a music video.

Sofia Coppola, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” by the White Stripes

Okay, one could argue that most of her films are like 2 hour-long music videos, considering her major collaboration with Air on Virgin Suicides, Bill Murray’s excellent rendition of “More Than This” by Roxy Music in Lost in Translation, and whatever Marie Antoinette was … But Sofia Coppola has made a handful of music videos. She most notably got NSFW with Kate Moss for The White Stripes video for “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself.”

John Landis, “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

It’s hard to imagine how the man known for classic comedies like Animal House, Blues Brothers, and Trading Places ended up directing the King of Pop in the most epic horror themed music video of all time, but we have a feeling John Landis must have had some extra make-up and costumes lying around after just wrapping on the horror cult classic An American Werewolf in London.

Spike Lee, “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

It feels if you’re already a big director, a common way to get into the music video scene is by making a video for a song from the film you’re currently trying to promote. This is exactly what happened in 1989 - when Spike Lee made Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” he was promoting Do The Right Thing.

Ron Howard, “Gravity” by Michael Sembello

See above for analysis but replace Do The Right Thing with Cocoon and Public Enemy with Michael Sembello. This video is so insane. We really hope some of you directors decide to appear in your own music video and use that amazing “window” effect.

Gus Van Sant, “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Gus Van Sant had just directed two of his best films, Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho, before deciding to direct Anthony Kedis running shirtless in slo-mo. Some might call this a career misstep and others might call this a dream come true. Which kind of person are you?

James Cameron, “Reach” by Martini Ranch

James Cameron isn’t widely known for his low budget movies and thankfully he didn’t spare any expense in this music video for Martini Ranch (we hadn’t heard of them either). The video stars Bill Paxton and Paul Reiser and all takes place on this elaborate wild west set.

Brian De Palma, “Dancing In The Dark” by Bruce Springsteen

The man behind Scarface, Carlito’s Way and The Untouchables proves you don’t need much to make an iconic music video. You just need a live concert (give or take 20,000 people), a great lead singer who can dance, and a cameo by a fan that will go on to star in a massive television show (see Courtney Cox). Music videos can be easy!

Martin Scorcese, “Bad” by Michael Jackson

Ok, I know we’ve already had MJ on the list but it’s hard not to be amazed that Scorsese, hot on the heels of successes like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, took the time to direct “Bad.” And though the video is known for its amazing dance moves, we love it for the sound effects - over the top sound effects just aren’t used like this anymore.

You don’t have to have already won the praise of the Academy to direct a music video. Find a musician and sign up for STORYHIVE for your chance of being awarded on of twenty $10,000 music video grants.

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