Music videos can be expensive items. It hurts spending thirty, fifty or even a hundred grand of your hard-earned money on something you – basically – give away for free!
So, it can be very tempting to save some money by shooting your own music video. I mean, video cameras come on cell phones nowadays, and HDTV is becoming less expensive. Cameras are everywhere. They’re ubiquitous. And, deep down, everyone really fancies themselves a director – sorry, an auteur, don’t they?…
So, should you consider going it alone and shooting your own music video?
The short answer: NO.
Directors, producers, cinematographers and production designers are all artisans. It takes years of study and work experience to become a decent film-maker. You wouldn’t leave your cd layout to some guy you passed on the street, would you? So why even consider doing something as important as your first music video all by yourself? It may look like simple work, but believe me, producing and directing ain’t easy!
Can you tell the difference between a lower budget independent movie and a Hollywood summer blockbuster? Of course you can! That’s exactly the difference between shooting the video yourself and hiring a professional. You don’t know how to make the movie look that glossy and perfect – but the professionals do! The best you could hope for is a decent indie flick. Sure, every once in a while a home-made music video comes along and does well. But, can you even think of one (and, no, Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” was NOT an indie video, the budget was actually massive). So, stick with the professionals. Let them do it all for you.
However, the single biggest reason I would dissuade you from shooting your own music video is probably not one you would have guessed:
Film crews often contain twenty, thirty, or even hundreds of people. There’s typically massive amounts of power being run through thick cables (often submerged in puddles) up to precariously hung lights with a virtual windmill of large, exposed, sharp metal edges (and all this at about 600 degrees celcius). A film set is literally an accident waiting to happen.
Plus, adding to the inherent dangers of a film set, music video shoots tend to be even more dangerous (music video productions don’t tend to have very much money for things like safety experts and safety harnesses). Maverick directors love to put their subjects into harm’s way. And, on low-budget shoots, you can often hear things like: “We don’t need an expensive car-mount – let’s just throw the cameraman on the hood! Don’t worry, we’ll tie him down…”
So, if you do decide to shoot your video yourself, just make sure no one trips over a light stand! It could cost you your life savings.
Legitimate production companies will have production insurance that covers the workplace (this insurance would cost you around one or two thousand dollars – just for the one music video).
Professional producers and production managers will have access to much better crew members than you will. If you only have a thousand dollars to hire a director of photography (cinematographer), I guarantee you I’ll be able to hire a MUCH better DoP than you will! So, unless you have contacts in the industry, you should probably consider hiring a production company to do all the producing for you. You’ll get a much higher quality crew that way.
And, one final note…
If you’re shooting on 35mm film (which I strongly recommend – unless there’s a VERY good reason not to), you’ll need to rent a camera that’s worth around half a million bucks! And, that camera doesn’t come with any lenses (or tripods, or dollies, or film magazines, etc…). You’ll have to rent all that separately. So, unless you have a VERY high limit on your credit card, the camera house might not even be willing to rent to you. You might even have to mortgage your house to cover the deposit!
Established production companies rent camera packages all the time (a decent music video package will be at least one or two thousand dollars a day), and often receive significant discounts from the rental house that you wouldn’t be able to get. So, by going with an established production company, you’ll actually be getting a considerably better equipment package than if you had done it yourself (producers also know how to get film at about a quarter the price you’d be able to).
So, overall, you’ll get a much better bang-for-your-buck by hiring a professional producer or production company to shoot your music video for you. It will also save you an unbelievable amount of time and effort. And, in the end, isn’t that what you want for your first video: The abolute best music video possible?
Robert D. Brooks