October 28, 2005
Today is the day to wink.
Today I chat with an acclaimed music video and commercial director, whose
work you have undoubted seen in the numerous cool Kanye West videos out there.
In addition to "Jesus Walks" and "All Falls Down," he's directed videos for
Courtney Love, Audioslave and Modest Mouse, in addition to approximately nine
million other projects he's working on.
The Chris Milk Interview: Just Under Twenty Questions
What's been the most difficult video you've directed?
Courtney Love “Mono
What's influencing you of late?
I'm trying to shoot more in a documentary style even if the narrative is completely
Do you have any video guilty pleasures? What are some
of your favorite and least-favorite trends in videos right now?
started it all for me and I still love it to this day. When I met John
Landis I told him I owed my entire career to him.
Not crazy about all the cutout
after effects videos
. I realize it's a byproduct of trying to make today’s
lower budgets work, but emotionally, for me anyway, I have trouble getting
emotionally invested in them. I don’t know if it’s a trend, but my favorite
thing is when directors try to tell compelling stories. Any particular
reason for the locale of the Modest
Mouse video that you shot in Romania?
The band was on tour in Europe and Romania is very cheap and has a beautiful
countryside. We never could have shot that video in America for the budget
we had. What was the point in your career where you felt that you
went from being an aspiring director to a director?
Probably never, I'm still amazed when someone actually knows who I am. I feel
like I’m winging it on every video. Every job I'm throwing up till the last
day of shooting wraps. Being a director, do you think that you notice
more details in other videos, or is that only with the stuff that you shoot?
Probably, I watch videos with a pretty critical eye. It's difficult not to
when all you do is critique your own work day in and day out. You
must get dozens upon dozens of people like my
boyfriend sending you e-mails asking, "Hey, how can I make it in this
business?" Does it get frustrating? Do you answer everybody? Do you have stock
I answer every single email eventually. I say eventually because sometimes
it takes me an insultingly long period of time to do so. I don't have any
kind of form letter I send out although it’s not a bad idea. I do give a lot
of the same answers though because I am getting a lot of the same questions.
For the most part I write them fresh because it’s too cumbersome to go back
and find and old email to copy paste. I want to do a FAQ on my website but
I've been too busy to get to that as well. Are there any old songs
(that have videos or not) that you would have loved to have done the videos
song. All I want to do in life
is a Cure video. There's a lot of that movement from music
video director to feature film director. Do you have those ambitions?
I do Is there anything in the works or do music video directors usually
just get handed bad action films based on video games (or ‘70’s TV shows)?
I've been sent a lot of scripts and have only ever liked one. I'm extremely
picky. There are two routes to go for your first film if you want to do a
second and third. Either do a film that is a box office success, or a film
that is critically acclaimed. The latter is infinitely more difficult to find
and produce, and is the path I've chosen to follow. There is no reason for
me to waste time doing a stupid movie. I sincerely love music videos, I'm
not doing them to transition into features. I will make a film when I find
the right script, until then, I’ll keep doing what I already love to do.
Last year I saw a trailer on your site called “Weatherman.” Is that connected
to the Nicolas Cage movie that’s coming
That was the single script of 500 I've read that I liked. The script was making
its way around Hollywood a couple years ago. I adapted a short out of the
feature script to illustrate the tone in which I would direct it. This kind
of movie lives or dies by its tone. It's also not the kind of movie they give
to a music video director. So I shot a 2 min adaptation to show to the producers
when I met with them. Unfortunately Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the
Caribbean) later became interested in directing the movie. My film credentials
have a tough time going up against Gore's. Hence, Gore Verbinski's The Weather
Man. Do you feel that one particular style of music is easier or
more difficult to write video treatments for or does that just vary on the
people you’re working with?
The difficulty or ease of the writing never correlates to the type of music
for me. Either it sparks an idea in you or it doesn’t. It’s completely random.
It seemed for a long while that the typical style for a hip-hop video
involved really bright lights and a fisheye lens (well, anyway, it did to
me, as a casual observer.) Is there a new trend now?
I honestly don't know. I don't really watch a lot of hip-hop videos. They
still seem pretty similar to one another from what I’ve seen. Any
videos making the rounds right now that you absolutely can’t stand?
I hate my Jet
. It’s too one dimensional. As far as other people’s work goes, anyone
that puts themselves out there and tries to make a piece of art deserves a
lot of credit. It is not an easy thing to do, making a music video. I'd never
dis anyone for directing something if they put their heart into it.
Typically do artists say “I’m looking for a fairy-tale, surrealist” kind of
thing and wait for your treatment, or is more restricted or loose than that?
Most of the time now they just let me write something. I used to get really
detailed briefs at the beginning of my career but that seems to have stopped.
I think once people understand what kind of work you do, they trust you more
to just come up with what you see for the track. The best scenario really
though is if you to get to speak to the artist before you write. I'm not looking
for an idea, I'm just trying to understand them and their sensibility.
Usually the best work comes out of that scenario. But sometimes you know the
band’s sensibility already just by their reputation. You know their politics
and the way they think and you write accordingly. I still to this day have
never met or spoken to Audioslave. Do directors get irritated when
musicians take the reins more on their videos, or is that welcome?
I always welcome creative input. On many tv channels their name will be on
the video and mine will not, so they need to be comfortable with the statement.
I am the director however, if you second guess everything you will be guaranteed
mediocrity. Luckily that has never happened to me on a music video. Tons on
commercials though. Can you briefly describe your most favorite treatment
that you’ve written lately?
I wrote this one for the Cure. It was my dream treatment for my dream band.
Never happened. How does it feel to be the 133rd person interviewed
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