THE EVOLUTION OF THE SHORT FILM MUSIC VIDEO - TEXT LUKE TIERNEY
Is it just us or is this a thing. Not like "fetch" (hold tight the Mean Girls crew) but like a real thing. The short film has long had a place within the Music Video world and it seems that place has evolved like *insert pokemon joke* (lol, pokemon's dead), from the day's of Michael Jackson making Music Videos legit to Alicia Keys' recent 'We Are Here' the short film will always have it's special place. That special place seems to be adjusting in line with the ever tightening of budgets cow desire from directors to make something different. We're seeing and expecting more and more short films to include two or three tracks becoming a soundtrack to a short as much as a music video. This isn't easily done, how do you weave three tracks into a narrative that still makes sense alongside the music? Well directors are finding the answer: Y2K has directed a sexy crime thriller 'Man About Town' for Mayer Hawthorne, Tim Mattia the emotional 'Blue Neighborhood Trilogy' for Troye Sivan and Jack Begert & Dave Free of the Little Homies' realness for Schoolboy Q's trilogy 'By Any Means', 'Tookie Knows II' and 'Black Thoughts'. As budgets decrease and expectations rise, this seems like the natural conclusion. Mini blockbusters that serve as marketing tools for three tracks. With the added bonus you can upload the trilogy as a complete short film for a fourth chance to get that monies from streaming services. Of course the short film is nothing new but the emergence of a triple music video is a new trait that proves humans always look for the best in a bad situation. COMPULSORY's new signing Emmanuel Adjei has recently done just that, working with the unbelievable Sevdaliza. Sevdaliza is an artist who, beyond her beautiful music, takes risks visually. She's happy to be the face of those risks, putting her face and body on the line to create something new. Together they created the moving 'The Formula'. We caught up with Emmanuel to find out a bit more about both the film and his thoughts on this ever changing landscape we call music videos.
Word Is Cheap: How did you go about weaving a narrative around multiple tracks? Emmanuel Adjei: Initially I wanted to tell a small dramatic story which could serve as a single music video for the first track 'The Formula'. But when Sevdaliza and I started developing the script we discovered it had a lot of interesting symbolical layers. The scenes, therefor, needed time to work and the characters needed time to come to life. Quite naturally the length of the script grew into the format of a short film. It was at this stage that we started looking for other tracks that would fit the entire narrative.
The Formula was definitely a challenging search for the right balance in which music, sound and image reinforced each other
WIC: Do you think the short film works as well as a typical music video in portraying a track? EA: When the track becomes nothing more than a soundtrack to a short film, I believe the track is not portrayed very well. A typical music video, on the other hand, might serve the track too much, illustrating literally the track in visuals. The Formula was definitely a challenging search for the right balance in which music, sound and image reinforced each other. I think that it's essential in that search to start by trying to capture the essence of a track (in this case multiple tracks) in all it's layers. I completely unravel a track and write down what narrative I hear in the melody, the drums, the voice, the lyrics etc. Every element of a track can tell a part of the story and in this way I try to analyze music, then translate it into words, for which I can than find the matching visual references. The works of Yoann Lemoine, Karim Huu Do, Fleur & Manu, Vincent Haycock and Kahlil Joseph to me are great examples in which a beautiful balance is found between music and visuals.
WIC: Do you prefer creating shorts or music videos? EA:I really love doing both! Of course most of the time it's difficult to get a short film realised budget wise. So it's great that the music video as an art form allows the lines between video and film to be blurred. I feel that music videos are ideal ways to practice for longer forms of film. It's, for instance, quite intense to work with artists when making visual work. Because their name is put next to the title, obviously they want to be part of the entire artistic process. This way of working together, which forces me to stay open minded to suggestions of others, and at the same time remain true to my own artistic vision, has helped me a lot in establishing a very strong relationship with heads of department, in which the exchange of thoughts has an inspiring and bonding effect. For this reason, after The Formula, the short film Porcelain was made with the same writer (Marleen Ozgur), DP (Paul Ozgur) and also with Sevdaliza, who in this case, wrote a score for the film. It was very interesting to see if, with the same team, but a different in fact almost reversed creative process, the final project would still work. For The Formula the writing of the narrative was based on the music, but for Porcelain the writing of the music was based on the narrative. WIC: How did you prepare Sevdaliza for her role? EA: Because of time pressure, I knew we wouldn't be able to rehearse on the set. An elaborate character breakdown therefor was written around Sevdaliza's role from which we could build up Zillah before the shoot. I created an archetype that resonated with Sevdaliza's personality, in which for instance the element water was used as a symbolical reference to understand Zillah's way of acting. It was definitely something that we both used as a tool of inspiration during the shoot. Of course, it also helped that Sevda and I had, by that time, developed a friendship in which we inspired each other on an artistic, emotional and intellectual level. Our mutual preference for a subtle and poetic language with which we try to tell stories about the dark side of man, feels like the backbone of our combined creative forces. It keeps our relationship ongoing and productive, as a matter of fact, as I speak an exciting new project is in it's final stage already.
we figured that if we would … handle the project as a film, rather than 3 music videos, we could upgrade the quality of the project and give it that certain cinematic look that we all felt appropriate to the narrative
WIC: Budget wise did it help or hinder to do 3 tracks at once? EA: Both budget and time were tight, not really allowing us to make a longer form. However, everyone that was part of this project felt that the script needed the length and became enthusiastic about using 3 tracks of Sevdaliza's music. So regardless of the budget, we figured that if we would, both from an artistic and a production point of view, handle the project as a film, rather than 3 music videos, we could upgrade the quality of the project and give it that certain cinematic look that we all felt appropriate to the narrative. Because Paul Ozgur and I had already worked together on several music video projects (Soft Powers, Jarreau Vandal), I could fully trust him when giving him the freedom to use the limited time and space for the sole purpose of getting the look that we had all decided on. It was an intense but grateful experience seeing everyone work towards that final purpose. WIC: Do you think many others will follow suit and create shorts as music videos? EA: There have always been artists that felt the need to make something more of the typical music video, which sometimes resulted in iconic cinematic works of art. I think it has to do with finding the right collaboration, in which all makers (artist, director, producer, dop, costume designer etc.) are aligned with the same artistic vision. Nowadays of course it's easier to find and connect with the right people, so you do see that these kind of collaborations can develop faster. This year has seen a lot of big artists like Beyonce, Florence + Machine, Troye Sivan and Schoolboy Q make a short film, which hopefully keeps inspiring other artists to do so as well. I believe that any kind of artist can make a short, even with a small budget, however, the quality of the film will then strongly depend on the strength of the music and the vision of a director.