ENTERTAINMENT

Are Music Videos An Endangered Craft? This Director Doesn't Think So

The industry has changed, so is there a place for them?

21/05/2017 10:01 PM AEST | Updated 27/05/2017 5:54 PM AEST

When Warren Fu, an acclaimed American music video director, crafts a new video, he often starts with the bridge.

"The bridge is interesting. It tends to have a different emotional feeling to it than the rest of the song," Fu told HuffPost Australia. "A lot of different ideas come from that, and then I go backwards and fill in the rest."

And that is what Fu is always after: a feeling.

A song can be beautiful in a way and live on its own, but sometimes a visual with a song is different and it creates a new feeling or experience. Warren Fu

"I am very into the sonics of all of this. I always tend to break down songs by their structure: I see an introduction as the storytelling part, I see the chorus as some form of pay off and I see the bridge as a conflict. Then the final chorus is some kind of end to the story, with a resolution," Fu explained.

"That attention to the structure of the song comes down to the emotions that I get from each part of it."

But it doesn't always play out like that. A lot of the time, Fu's craft comes down to the artist. And he has worked with many -- from the Strokes and Weezer to Haim and, most recently, The Weekend and Daft Punk.

"I've had the whole range. I've had artists who have come to me with an idea that they know I can execute. And I have had others who will come along cold turkey with a song, and they'll trust you to come up with the idea," Fu said.

"Sometimes it is collaborative, other times it is back and forth. And I find it a real honour because they're trusting you with a song that can be really personal to them."

Take 'Soothe My Soul,' a 2013 track by Depeche, directed by Fu -- a rich and voyeuristic promo.

"I had done a lot of narrative videos before that, but this was purely visual: it was more of a feeling of intimacy of darkness. I just came up with the visuals to capture a psychological feeling rather than teling a story," Fu said.

I tend to not like things looking like they are in high definition. I like colours that are not reflective of what you see in real life. Warren Fu

And then there was HAIM's 'If I Could Change Your Mind' in 2014 -- a homage to 1990's RnB.

"This was refreshing for me and fun for the band. They are a rock band, but they also grew up loving RnB," Fu said.

Whatever his video seed or style, Fu has certainly perfected what he calls his "final polish".

"I do have a certain aesthetic. I tend to not like things looking like they are in high definition. I like colours that are not reflective of what you see in real life," Fu said.

"I think this is something that is deep in your psyche as an artist. It becomes part of your DNA."

On breaking in

With years spent in the industry, Fu has waded its twists and turns, and watched it morph into something else.

"The biggest change that I have noticed is that program directors were really dictating what videos were being seen in the MTV days," Fu said.

"Budgets are affected since the hey days of CD sales, and because of the state of the entire music industry in general. So people are making adjustments in that sense and being more efficient with the technology and camera costs."

People have always wanted music videos to be on the cutting edge of something -- whether that be a new technology or Michael Jackson introducing the morph look.

For Fu, this isn't entirely a downside for emerging creatives.

"Now, anyone can come up with great video if they have a solid idea and a relationship with an artist, and put it out there. So the big name directors are not the only ones having their videos seen."

But this comes with a catch: the desire for videos to turn viral.

"There was a certain risk taken in the past where videos would become a certain kind of expression without trying to be popular. You can do that now, but a lot of the videos that are getting noticed have an instant grab," Fu said.

"People have always wanted music videos to be on the cutting edge of something -- whether that be a new technology or Michael Jackson introducing the morph look. There has always be a wow factor that has been associated with this art form."

Fu is making his way down under to headline the Clipped Music Video Festival, as part of Vivid Sydney, next month.

"I'm looking forward to celebrating this art form that I love, and having the opportunity to talk with peole who are interested in getting into the industry," Fu said.

"If you put your heart and soul into it and make something good, anyone can break in using the tools that are available.

"You don't need a grand budget. You just need a good idea."

Clipped Music Video Festival will be held at Sun Studios in Sydney on June 3, and will feature screenings, premieres, workshops with international guests and a video competition. Aspiring filmmakers and musicians can submit their work here.

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