Welcome to our new Music Video Production FAQ page

We need your help! Over the next several weeks we will be inviting someone from each area of music video production to be our Bulletin Board Guest that will answer our questions. The best questions/answers will be posted here on the Music Video Production FAQ page!

Questions for Universal Music Video Commissioner Jeff Panzer

Lane: 1. if someone has a better reel and an okay treatment vs. an okay reel and a better treatment who gets the job? 2. do commissioners/labels accept unsolicited reels and treatments? 3. How exactly do you request treatments from directors? I mean, is there some kind of professional mailing list or something? 4. If an artist begged for a certain director, and/or their treatment was amazing, but their reel was shot on hi-8 what kind of chances would he have?

Jeff Panzer: In response to # 2 absolutely, you never know when you are going to find the next “Dave Meyers” for example and we look at reels constantly in the office to find new talent. In response to # 4, The director would have a very good chance because a lot of my job has to do with making the artist feel comfortable. I will look beyond a reel that is shot on tape for instance to see what other aspects a director/person brings to the table. If your artist is not comfortable with the director it will make the video that much more difficult and tense to produce and get a great product.

Chris Penney: Here’s what I want to know. Are there particular production companies that Universal deals with? Also, what do you think is going to happen to the video business in the coming years? I’m sure some of us are curious if this is a good time to be breaking in.

Jeff Panzer: There are not any particular productions companies that we work with because it is more about the director than the production company and this is who your talent is buying in to. I try to go with more well know companies as I need to make sure my crews get paid after the job is done. The music video business is in a period of change. Labels are given less money to work with for a budget and now unions are involved, it is a whole new era. I believe it will continue to evolve until the dust settles in another 2 years.

Lex Halaby: I am a young director (like many people posting on this site) who has built a music video reel over the past few years. I was wondering if you could enlighten us with some wisdom of what you, as a commissioner, look for in a music video reel. What do you consider the MOST important attributes of a reel (concept, or production value, or well known band, etc)?

Jeff Panzer: The first and foremost thing that I look for is the camera work, composition and framing. With a concept video I look for how well the story is played out and how the person executes the job. It doesn’t matter how little money or how much money was spent to make the video. I want to see production value, that the director is not only innovative but also creative. With the lower budgets it pushes you to become more resourceful. A lot of directors don’t have a choice in what songs they are writing on. Usually a label offers an up and coming director a $15,000 video and says give me a video in two weeks. It may not be a song to my liking so I usually watch it without the audio on. A lot of times I find people let the song dictate how they like or dislike the video. I think that is really unfair for the director.

Kevin D.: I think submitting a written treatment is not always the best way to pitch my ideas. If I was solicited to pitch a video and sent in animation tests (a “proof of concept”)…like an animatic…What would your reaction be? Would you think “This guy just doesn’t know how the biz works?” I have friends who read script submissions in TV and they tell me when an improperly formatted script comes through the door, it’s doomed!

Jeff Panzer: I think that would be really great. A lot of times black and white doesn’t always cut it. It’s hard to write an idea out that’s a vision in somebody’s head and have bunch of people hopefully understand it. That’s a difficult task when you are real creative. Adding a ‘show and tell’ like reel or a animatic will give people a clear idea on what a director is trying to execute and achieve. The reason I do music videos instead of commercials or films is because there are no rules. You can do anything you want in a music video in four minutes, you can do ANYTHING YOU WANT.

Robert: What about the independent guys? Are they expected to put together their own crews? Will you as commissioner match them up with production companies? Are they expected to have allegiances with producers already? Do you help them with matching up with a producer?

Jeff Panzer: All you have to do is have a really great reel. I am looking for the innovative and creative video that this person has sent to me on tape. I just watch it and if it is something different, unusual, interesting and will catch my attention and on the right day I might just pick up the phone and call that person. Does a director have to be affiliated with someone or anybody? No, a good commissioner should be able to bring it all together and make the music video work. It is one thing to write a great treatment and a whole different story to have it put on film. I would say talk is cheap so are treatments unless you can execute them. I think the connections are as important as your reel. A director should always be working on their reel making it better, but at the same time networking with people out in the business is just as important. You never know whom you might run into at one of these conventions like the CVC conference or the MVPA awards. If you are in Iowa my suggestion is start dubbing your work on VHS reels and start sending it out to all the major labels, indie labels and any place you can find because you never know who will take the time to sit and watch your reel. I have trained people in my office that screen a lot of the material for me and they know my criteria. It would be truly impossible for me to go through forty reels a week.

Questions for Black Dog Executive Producer Catherine Finkenstaedt

Chris Penny: What process do you find young directors taking to get involved in commercials? Is it easy for working music video directors to make a jump to commercials?

Catherine Finkenstaedt: Music videos have been my “world” for quite some time now….but i have always looked for companies that have a supportive commercial and even feature film infrastructure that would help “build” music video directors into the commercial or feature world. it’s not easy to make the jump into commercials as that part of the industry has a lot of experienced directors itself to chose from. i believe that you need to support and vision of a production company that will lend it’s relationships with agencies and clients to help build music video directors into commercials.

randomd: From a producer’s point of view, I was wondering if you had any insight you could share with me regarding the challenges of producing while directing.

Catherine Finkenstaedt: I do believe it can be really hard and sometimes stifle your full creative potential because you are concentrating too much on the “limitations”…many directors who start their own production companies end up giving up their producer roles and signing with a bigger production entity since being a creative business person is sometimes just too taxing, and i imagine it’s nice to alleviate some of that responsibility.

Brian Gonsar: What do is the best route for promoting yourself as a director?

Catherine Finkenstaedt:Since the music business is changing so dramatically it is a really good time for “new” directors….record labels are really beginning to take a look at new talent, people who are not bogged down in the traditional way of doing things, which can translate as being, the expensive way of doing things!!!! a really good thing to see from new up and coming directors is initiative!!!

Questions for Radical Media Directors Representative Jennifer Amerine

Brian Gonsar: How you get assigned to rep each director. Do they get signed to the production company first and then you pick them up, or do you ever begin to rep a director and start to look for a production company for him or her?

Jennifer Amerine: Generally, and not every company is the same, the Director’s Rep. and the Executive Producer (and company) would both need to be behind the director before they sign him or her.
In our case, we all watch reels that we feel are of interest and we discuss a) if we can sell them; b)do we already have a director who is similar in style and budget range c)does the director fit into our style of working (i.e., we are a do it yourself type of company, we all work together, answer the phones, edit treatments, etc.) d) does the director listen to suggestions and constructive criticism? These are the main concerns.

Chris Penney: What do you find sets certain directors reels apart from the others? And what is the average age of directors who get picked up?

Jennifer Amerine: The biggest factor in a watching a reel is personal taste and the motivation to feel that I (as a Director’s Rep) can get the director work. Everyone has different likes and dislikes in talent and style…. what is most important is that that Rep believes that they can get behind you as a director and sell you based on your reel and talent.

Lex Halaby: I was wondering if it helps to have a well known band on your reel or if the decision to sign a director is more based on marketability?

Jennifer Amerine: Having a recognizable band on your reel is very helpful for the production company and for the label. I have run into this situation quite a few times where the artist doesn’t respond to reels without seeing the director has worked with similar bands in style and success. Certain directors have marquis value and the artists are just as savvy these days since most of them have grown up on MTV.

Jim: As a talented and experienced DP what is the best way for me to seek out up and coming music video directors?

Jennifer Amerine: First question – do you have an agent? Your agent should make sure all the production companies know that you are willing to work on any budget video to get more work. If you don’t have an agent, it is really through word of mouth that you would get your name out there. DPs call me often (even ones with agents) and tell me that they really want to work with a certain new director and please keep them in mind for future projects.

Don Burton: Assuming a new director gets signed/repped by a production company, what advice can you offer to help keep their rep and exec prod interested in them?

Jennifer Amerine: That is such a timely question right now because the industry is changing so rapidly. As I mentioned before about building directors, it should be discussed between the EP, Rep, and the director that everyone needs to work together to make it happen for a new director. It should be an open line of communication so everyone is able to discuss their frustrations, contacts, ideas, etc. I always ask new directors what bands they are interested in, what specific videos they like, styles they like so we can constantly be thinking of angles to get them in the door.

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