Category Archives: Interviews

Interview With Anders Weberg Founder Of Recycled Image Studio

Anders Weberg, the founder of Recycled Image Studio, a production company based in the small picturesque coastal town of Ängelholm, Sweden sat down with mvwire to talk about his work. Formed in 1999, the company produces music videos, video art, experimental films, concert visuals, DVD’s, motion graphics and whatever inspires them.

MVW: Could you tell us about the Recycled Image Studio.

Anders Weberg: From the first day I have always worked with DV and we shoot everything with the Panasonic DVX-100A. The SLV video was the 39th music video we’ve made, but there is always something going on in the studio. At the moment we are in production on a DVD project for a German band that’s going to release their next album on DVD only. It’s a concept album with the music is produced in 5.1. We’re making a full feature with the music’s story using Swedish actors. There’s no dialogue, just music and my pictures. That’s pretty fun and the planned release is January 2005. Other than that, we have a new music video in pre production, some concert visuals and another DVD project.

MVW: What is the music scene like in Sweden?

AW: I think the music business over here is the same as in other countries. The current trend is guitar driven bands and there are a lot of them. Last Year, it was electronic bands. I think so at least but I might be the wrong one to give you a correct answer. I couldn’t care less. A good song is a good song. The change I see is now that a lot of big labels are closing down it’s getting more fun again. Bands are starting their own labels, people are working more together and the business seems to become healthier. There are lots of alternative networks, collaborations and DIY spirit in the air, which is something I can relate to. I always jump on those kinds of collaborations and projects even though I know it isn’t going to make me any money. Instead it brings enormous inspiration. You can’t buy for any amount of money.

MVW: How did you find out about Sounds Like Violence?

AW: They emailed me and asked. They’re from a small village outside of my town. All but the drummer is a member of another band called Niccokick that are quite hyped in media over here. We had never worked together before. But after the SLV video I ended up doing their other band’s latest video as well. That video has just started to rotate on the Swedish music video channel.

Anyway, we met and discussed some ideas. The EP is released on US label Deep Elm so I emailed them and sent them a reel. First I think they where concerned that I didn’t have a performance video on my reel, but after 20 or so emails we connected. The basic idea was just to show the band’s energy in the video. We used a white box in the studio attic that we built for another production. It’s comfy to do it all in your own studio where you have all the equipment and don’t have to worry about time limit. We filmed the band in the box and at the same time some conceptual footage to mix with it.

We had a typical “coffee money” budget but I’m not doing this just for the money. Instead of sitting around waiting for the big budgets, I’d rather do videos instead. We got paid for our time and I can easily name a few hundred things I wouldn’t do with my time. Everything is relaxed and we enjoy what we do. The feeling you have after a days filming the way we do it is really good. No producers, no co-producers and no assistants to the co-producer and so on. Just one camera and the band. That’s all it takes. I like it. The band likes it and so does the label. That’s what’s important.

MVW: Your previous music videos are conceptual; have you shot a performance video before?

AW: My first question to the label when I’m approached is always. – Does the band have to be in the video? Sometimes the label understands that question, but most of the time they don’t. In most cases, I know that a music video is just a commercial for the band to sell more records. There are always bands and labels that are willing to do it another way and they are the ones I’m aiming for.

So, yes, this was my first performance video, but I really don’t see the point in having a band just stand there faking a performance. I’d rather have them doing something completely different. For the SLV video I felt I had to test myself and see if I could do it. It was fun to try. Will I do it again? Why not? Actually I’ve already been approached by another label that saw the SLV video and I’m writing on that song at the moment. I’ll give them two long conceptual ideas and then a quickie performance idea. Whatever happens happens.

MVW: The color of the video really stands out, how did you achieve the look of the video?

AW: As you can see from the behind the scenes pics, we used a very simple lighting scheme since that’s all we have. But you can achieve much even with a few lamps. When you are working with DV, using light is very important. For this video, I knew I was going to play around with the colors a lot so we gave the white box all the light we could. The band only had 3 shirts that were not even exactly the same red color.I always edit my own videos so that part always goes very fast. Then I take the finished edit into Adobe After Effects and the real works starts. First, I adjust the levels so the white gets really white and then I do the same with the black. Then I duplicate the layers using different transfer modes. Then I change the colors. In this video I used red, blue and black, but I had to tweak it a lot to achieve the same red in the shirts. The last thing I do is add a favorite effect preset I have made that I call the “bajs filter” (can’t translate that one). That setting is something I have worked out after numerous projects and that gives the material that extra touch. I use it on almost all my projects. It’s not like a film-look filter because I don’t see the point in trying to achieve that because it’s not very interesting . I’m more into trying to see how far and what kind of look I can get using DV. It’s still a new medium and I believe there is a lot you can do if keep experimenting.

Interview With Colorist Dave Hussey

After spending two years in film school, Dave Hussey, self-taught colorist, started his career as an assistant telecine operator at Magnetic, a post production facility in Toronto, eventually making his way to Company 3, a cutting edge facility in Los Angeles. Hussey sat down with mvwire’s Will Brown and shared some of his experiences on the path to becoming a sought-after colorist.

MVWire: How did you get started in your pursuit of becoming a colorist?

Dave Hussey: Initially, I got into telecine and film by working with a guy who bought a factory, there were films that he wanted transferred. He had been a butcher and was uncomfortable with paying an hourly rate to have the films transferred; he was more comfortable with paying for the transfers by the pound. So we weighed the film and that’s how we got paid, it’s true. I was actually transferring film by the pound!

I did film transfers at Magnetic North Corp from 1983 to 1989 and eventually became senior colorist in 1987. Disney MGM Studios offered me a job in Orlando, which gave me access to the American market so I moved to Florida in 1989. For a year, my job was part of the studio tour so there were about 3,000 people an hour watching us as we did the telecine. It was weird to have that many people watching us work.

Orlando is mostly a regional market. My goal was to continue working on national commercials and music videos, so I decided a move to Los Angeles would be better for me. The Post Group was running the post facility at Disney/MGM and they offered me an opportunity to work at their company in Hollywood. I worked at the Post Group from 1990 to 1997. In 1995 I became senior colorist.

One of the colorists that I had worked with during my time at The Post Group, Stefan Sonnenfeld was planning on starting his own company. I considered Stefan one of the best colorist’s in the world, so it was impossible to say no. In September of 1997 I joined Stefan and his partner Mike Pethel. That was the beginning of Company 3.

MVW: What suggestions do you have for someone that aspires to become a colorist?

DH: Back in 1983, the colorist didn’t have machine control so they had an assistant in the tape room to record everything. I did that for a year and a half and taught myself how to be a colorist, starting on little jobs. The equipment was really simple back then. For example, the Amigo color corrector had just three joysticks and I did film transfers on a Rank Cintel. Things have really changed.

You either have to love it and really want to do it or not get into it at all because it’s a life style as are a lot of jobs in this business. We work an incredible number of hours. A lot of people say they want to do it until they see the time commitment and then they back off because we really work a lot. The most important thing is you have to work at a good facility where you are going to be taught how to do things the right way.

It’s hard to become a colorist because lots of people want to do it, but there are only so many slots available. I started really small and over a period of years built up my client following. There is no quick way, you’re not going to become an overnight success. For everyone in the business, every job they do is incredibly important. You have to make sure you do your best every single time. The tendency is that after you work with someone over and over again you get comfortable and become friends then you have a tendency to ease back a little bit because you know the people. One thing I’m good at is that I never take my clients for granted. I put as much effort as I can into every job and try to make it as good as possible, career wise you are only as good as your last job. I want to keep my clients working because they are going to keep me working. For a younger person that’s really important to know, you have to do your best every single job.

MVW: What are your thoughts about Film school?

DH: Yeah, education is a great thing but the reality is that being a telecine colorist is a specialized job. If I knew for sure that being a telecine colorist was my goal, I would get a job at a post production facility as quickly as possible. I’d do anything there: be it working in the vault, being a runner, doing whatever because what it’s all about is getting your foot in the door. Then you make friends with an assistant and they can teach you some things and you can build on that. I don’t know of any schools that are going to teach you how to use all of this equipment. It involves a big commitment, if you work at the vault, you’re going to be working long hours 5 days a week so it’s up to you to come in on the weekends on your own time to learn. You’re getting paid for an education. Get a job at a post house, make some friends and start learning.

MVW: You had a couple of music videos nominated for best colorist at this years MVPA awards, the first being Outkast “Hey Ya!” directed Bryan Barber.

DH: We knew the song was great and the idea was really cool. It was a retro looking set but we wanted to give it a modern day appeal. We made the studio look really saturated in color which worked great with the sixties feel of the set. Most of the shots were motion control. When everything was composited together it looked great. Bryan loves the whole telecine process and he like to watch all of the film as we telecine so that he is familiar with the footage before he moves into the edit. When he walks into telecine he always has a big smile on his face. You can tell he loves the whole telecine process. We have a great time coming up with new color ideas.

Bryan realizes that film making is a collaborative process and he loves to hear ideas. I always look forward to working with him. I feel so lucky to have the kind of job where I meet talented people who are creative and fun, it’s just such a blast.

MVW: The second video that was nominted and won for Best Colorist / Telecine was the Beyonce feat/ Jay-Z “Crazy in Love” directed by Jake Nava.

DH: That was my first job with Jake and we have worked a lot together since then. Jake wanted the film to have a street vibe. He wanted it to looked beautiful but not over the top glossy. Jake’s film has it’s own special look. It has a lot of edge and very much a street feel. He likes to let the shadows go very dark. I think his stuff has a lot of style. He used Mark Plummer as his DP who has shot some amazing videos over the years.

MVW: How do you work with a new DP?

DH: When I am working with newer DP’s we generally don’t meet until the first day of telecine and then we develop a relationship. When I first start working with someone, I need to get a feel for what they like or what they might want to do. If I don’t know them or their style, I’ve got to feel my way through that so the session is going to be a little bit slower. After we get to know each other, they’ll start calling me up and asking me stuff like, “I’m shooting this job, what would you think would be the best stock?” As we get to know each other, we start hitting each other with ideas and the relationship develops that way. If I already know the person, I can set the film up the way they are going to want it to look.

Interview with Music Video Director Chris Milk

Over the past year director Chris Milk has made his mark in the music video world. His most recent music videos, Courtney Love “Mono” and Kayne West “All Falls Down” reveal his ability as a filmmaker to create a story that brings out the artists talent. We spoke to Chris about working on these two musically diverse music videos.

Courtney Love “Mono”

*read the Courtney Love “Mono” treatment

MVWire: What was the process of being awarded this video?

Chris Milk: Virgin Records had seen the Chemical Brothers video I did and asked me to write on the track. Randy Skinner the commissioner at Virgin was very cool and supportive even though I only had one music video on my reel with no performance. I am very grateful to them for taking a leap of faith with me.

I wrote probably 5 different concepts for the song over a few months per the request of the label. They were mostly these fractured twisted fairytales. Towards the 3rd or 4th I started getting feedback from Courtney’s camp of specific things she wanted. She asked for a rap video set and wanted to wake up in a forest. In one of the earlier treatments I had her being buried alive in a glass coffin so that got morphed into the beginning waking up section. She loves CG and wanted to incorporate it into the video somehow, so I wrote in the CG fairies, which actually helped the narrative. It sort of ended up at Sleeping Beauty vs. Alice in Wonderland in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She also wanted the video to end with her nursing Eminem in her lap, that scene sadly never made it in however.

MVWire: How was it actually working on a big budget music video vs. trying to figure out ways to make the shoot work with very limited funds and calling in favors?

CM:Even though the budget was big on this it was still under funded. The producer still had to make a lot of deals and ask for favors with people. It was no cakewalk. The biggest problem was the scale of how much needed to be shot and how to consolidate that down into 3 days of filming. A number of scenes and prop fx gags had to be cut because of budgetary constraints. In the end, I had to make just as many compromises as I did on Chemical Brothers.

MVWire:This is your first music video with extensive visual effects (firefly’s, pixie dust). Who did you work with on the effects and what were your concerns?

CM: I didn’t really have many concerns. I’ve done a lot of fx work in commercials and I’m pretty comfortable with them. I learned Flame while in film school, so I’m comfortable with the process and with what needs to be shot to make every think work cohesively. I love doing things with tons of effects in them because it gives me the opportunity to go in and tweak all the little other nuances that are keeping me up at night.

A company called Mac Guff Ligne in Paris did the CG work. I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to work with them. They are one of the most amazing groups of artists I’ve come into contact with. My eyes and ears on the ground there was the Flame artist, Simon Scott. Simon is LA based and did all the fx work in my Chemical Brothers video through his company, Process. On “mono,” he went to Paris right after I finished shooting to act not only as Flame artist but as the fx supervisor as well. I trust his taste implicitly and he sort of acted as my in-house, English-speaking liaison while I was in LA doing the Avid offline. I went to Paris for four days at the end of post production to supervise the completion of everything. Everything up to that point was done completely over the web through quicktimes and high res stills between Simon and I.

MVWire: How was the opening scene with the glass casket set up and how did you accomplish the look for her close up?

CM: I filmed the shot flying through the forest coming up to the casket off a steadiecam with a ring light and camera running at 12 fps. The casket was on legs that Simon removed in Flame. Mac Guff tracked multiple tracking points in the scene to create a virtual 3D version of the camera move in the computer. They then animated the CG fairies into that virtual environment. Last, Simon composited the CG fairy elements into the live action background plate.

Courtney’s close up was basically just me on a ladder over her finding the angle. There is really barley any clean up work on that shot at all. Simon added some subtle moving purple and green light across her face to simulate the fairies flying over her.

MVWire: Where did you get the idea for the little girls coming out from Courtney’s dress with power lawn tools?

CM: In the original concept the little girls all pulled out buzzing, smoking chainsaws from underneath their dresses. There was concern that MTV might refuse to air it that way (because kids might try to imitate it) so I changed them to the more ambiguous and less offensive WMD’s you see today.

I guess the little girls concept came out of the old Hole “Miss World” video in which Courtney plays a beauty queen. There seemed to to be something interesting in giving tiny pageant princesses the tools to rise up against their oppressors. I’m not really sure. Most of my ideas come out of me sitting around with writers block for endless nights and then taking the least shitty ideas at the final possible hour and trying to turn them into something halfway presentable.

MVWire: Courtney and the girls elude the security guards by jumping into the couch and onto a music video set was a lot of fun to watch. As with Golden Path, the main character is able to escape reality, danger etc. by going to “another place”. Could you expand on this concept?

CM: I like the idea that you can get from one place to another by just bounding through some unexpected portal. I guess that comes out of playing with my friends when I was a little kid. Those things still stick with me. I try now to think as best I can in those same terms where anything is possible. It hard though, I really wish I’d written more music video treatments when I was eight. They would come in really handy now.

Kayne West “All Falls Down”

MVWire: Did you have to go through the regular process of submitting a treatment for this video?

CM: No, Kanye came to me directly after seeing the Chemical Brothers. He specifically wanted to do a POV video where he sees his girlfriend off at the airport. I was extremely hesitant. Every time I see a POV video I think Prodigy’s “Smack my bitch up” rip-off. I figured the only way to do it was to try and do something different with the technique. I had written a treatment for Audioslave where the ending was the different POVs of the individual members performing into a reflection. The Audioslave treatment went nowhere so I adapted that idea into the Kanye video.

MVWire: What were some of the challenges shooting in the bathroom?

CM: It was pretty tricky figuring out the optics of the whole thing. The simple explanation is there is a layer filmed for his POV, a layer for the image being reflected, and a layer of his hands in front of green screen to match his hands in the
reflection. Obviously if you are shooting into a mirror you are looking at yourself standing there with a camera. So I knew going into it I would shoot the image in the mirror as a separate layer. That was the easy part. By far the hardest was figuring out how to get the subtle motion and rotation in each layer to work together so it seemed like one cohesive POV. If the motion and rotation don’t match layer to layer they look like they’re floating independently around in space and the effect is completely lost. We did quite a number of tests on video first before we ever shot a frame of film. And, truthfully, I still don’t think it’s absolutely perfect yet. Because of time constraints, I only got to shoot two takes of each layer. If you look at the foreground hands there are a couple of moments where they don’t match the reflection perfectly.

MVWire: The one scene in the video that brings it home is at the gate with the actress, we see her true emotions leaving Kayne. How was the experience working with her?

CM: Her name is Stacy Dash. You may remember her from the movie Clueless. She is a seasoned pro and we got along really great. She’s an amazing actor. I give her the credit for that performance. I talked to her about what I was looking for but she’s the one who made it happen and brought such specificity to it. It’s difficult to see but if you look carefully there’s a tear rolling down her left cheek. That was real and spontaneous. I was impressed.

MVWire: How was the scene accomplished with the x-ray machine?

CM: Those are actually my legs and feet you see going into the x-ray machine. I was operating the camera wearing a double of Kanye’s clothes. When you see his hands, that’s Kanye reaching out from either side of me.
The actual shot of the skeleton is 100% CG. I shot Kanye performing up against a wall with 3 video cameras placed around him. The CG artists then took the model they built and tracked it to that video footage frame by frame. It’s basically the poor man’s motion capture technique.

MVWire: What were some of the challenges shooting in the Airport?

CM: The Ontario, California airport was really cool with us. It’s very hard to shoot in airports these days, as you would imagine. The people there went above and beyond to help out a little hip-hop video. They were even cool with us after the unfortunate “cardboard box incident.” As a general rule, airport security doesn’t appreciate the unmarked unattended cardboard box left in the airport. Even when said box turns out to be full of props misplaced by an absent minded art dept and not a terrorist threat.

MVWire: Who was the editor? Did you work with him on the edit?

CM: Livio Sanchez at The Whitehouse in Santa Monica was the editor. He has cut all three of my music videos as well as a number of my commercials. He’s one of the best there is. Yes, to answer your question, I worked with him on the edit. I’m very hands-on when it comes to post since I used to do it all myself. Some might even go as far as to say I’m a huge pain in the ass in post (although I prefer “perfectionist”).

Livio’s assistant Logan Hefflefinger helped quite a bit with my inevitable, endless late-night frame-fucking exercises. He’s going to be a great editor one day as well. It’s fun to let him go off and do his own cut while Livio and I do the big offline edit. Inevitably he comes up with some interesting little moment or idea that Livio and I hadn’t thought of. This happened on both Kanye and Courtney and we ended up incorporating it into the final cut.

see these videos on the Chris Milk website

Interview With Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne

Music Video Wire sat down with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips to find out what makes him and the Lips tick. Coyne regales us with stories of the making of their videos and what it’s like to be on the alternative fringe.

The Lips new CD + DVD Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots features B-sides, acoustic versions of songs, making of videos, the trailer to their upcoming feature film Christmas on Mars, in addition to their fun chaotic videos.

Interview with Wayne Coyne
MVW: What is your approach to making videos?

Wayne Coyne: Most of the videos we do are really lumped into what is called “promoting your record”. We make videos so people can show them and talk about our record. This is the unfortunate side of why videos get made, as it is attached to something else.

The stuff we did on our DVD (Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots 5.1) probably ups the ante a little on just making videos, because they look great and tell a story and have some sort of affect other than being simply promotional. Because of the way our latest DVD came out, we will probably change our approach next time around, because the more the DVD embraces the visual aspects instead of just the audio aspects the better.

MVW: Why do you think this particular DVD has been such a hit?

WC: It came out at the beginning of November 2003. Seeing it’s success, I think it sold more than any DVD audio already out there, is because it has so much fun stuff that you can look at on TV at the same time is kind of what is driving people to check it out. We included a pretty radical remix, lots of “making of” videos and other visual things we’ve made over the years which really helped with this DVD.

MVW: There are two discs, that’s a lot of material.

WC: Well, it has a lot of B-sides. There were 3 or 4 extra tracks, which were included on the DVD audio and the other B-sides that we did while creating this record. There are all the videos, including the movie trailer from “Christmas On Mars,” and the “making of” the DVD itself. All these things can be entertaining. People aren’t demanding it that much, they just like to sit for a couple minutes and have some insight as to why we are interesting. The DVD gave us an opportunity to do silly little things that aren’t attached to promotion. It can be interesting for it’s own sake.

MVW: This proves you can have fun and make money with a low budget.

WC: I am lucky to have done videos and all this stuff for so long because a lot of the guys I work with are filmmakers themselves and they want to be doing something interesting. Because I am a director myself we can just get together and do stuff. We just grab some cameras and our friends and do the video. It is amazing how much you can get done without money if you have ideas and determination.

MVW: The last video with this type of concept is “Do you Realize” and from there on it seems you did your own thing.

WC: A few months before releasing the “Pink Robot” video we were getting ready to put out the single for “Do you Realize” and Warner Bros. called to let us know they wanted to do a DVD single. We didn’t have a video for it, but the label said that was okay, they could do it for another song or use a video we already had. I explained that we didn’t have a video for anything. However, I quickly called Bradley Beasley, the guy who helps make the videos, and we quickly threw something together that evening. The concept was based around the idea of going to an abandoned farm in Pauls Valley, which is about 60 miles from where we lived. I would act like an alien that had landed from deep space, like a glowing guitar man walking through a field where some farm girls were sitting around getting stoned. Then two guys dressed in giant Rabbit suits holding mirror balls all lit up with weird effects and I walk through the farm singing the song. The women are so thrilled that they take off all their clothes and follow us around naked.

We did not know how many of these women we could get on short notice, but there were about three or four. It was about as low budget as a video can be made. With that said, if you have nice stuff to look at, all you have to do is film it and it doesn’t have to cost you millions of dollars.

Bradley took the film to Dallas that night and had it developed and transferred and within a couple of days we had a video ready to go for the English release.

Warner Bros. liked the idea and wanted the video to be remade by a real video guy, which ruined it a bit because we went to Las Vegas and had these nicely dressed model types and no rabbits, which takes away a bit of the “David Lynchness” feel of it. In our version, you get the feeling that something really disturbing and exciting happened. Nothing really did, it’s just the way the videos turn out when we make them. There is a clumsiness about the commercial version that makes you only feel the promotional reasons for making it.

MVW: Could you describe the differences between your version and the label’s version.

WC: My version was simple. We walk through the farm and the gals get attached to us, but it was almost a single shot. If you take the concept of a guy who just keeps walking from a farm in Oklahoma until he ends up on the streets of Las Vegas and take out the weird effects, it is kind of like Elvis Presley in Las Vegas with elephants and dancing girls, isn’t it?

This is the trouble with music videos, if you don’t know the reason why it is supposed to be intriguing, it gets a little bit lost. But it wasn’t my idea. I enjoy being in music videos as much as I like making them, so when someone else asks if I want to do something, I agree to do what is asked of me.

MVW: Didn’t you crank out three more videos right after this?

WC: Exactly! The cumulative budget of these 3 videos was probably 30K.

On a Thursday, we made the video for the song called “Are You a Hypnotist?” We stood in a room all painted white at my house. Our computer guy, George, did about 50 takes on his video camera of us doing the song and then edited them with a strobe effect where there is an edit every tenth of a second. It is a great effect, but you can only bear it for about a minute. After that it beats you down, like eating cotton candy, a little bit is great but too much and you feel nauseated. We have a warning before you watch the video that it might upset your stomach.

That Friday, we shot the “Fight Test” video where my nephew’s hand uses horseshit to fight his nemesis. We had thought out what we were going to do before we got there. We got a couple of nice sunset shots. A good number of people showed up who kicked up dust and fought behind us while we sang. It all worked out pretty well, but as usual the video shoot didn’t finish until 3 or 4 in the morning. So by the time we got home it was about 6am.

On Saturday, we had another shoot at 12 noon for the “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” video at a Samurai Saki House rock ‘n’ roll bar. We invited as many people as possible to show up and throw food around. That went fairly easy as well, but it is a lot of scheduling to do when you have three days and then have to fly back to Los Angeles.

MVW: How is the Christmas in Mars movie coming along?

WC: I am perpetually in progress of making this movie. As we speak, I am editing it. I have a shoot in mid-March that is in collaboration with everybody meeting at the South by Southwest conference in Austin. As the year goes on, I hope to finish it and we will have a feature length movie with a sound track. One of the great twists of being in a band for as long as we have has allowed us to do lots of interesting things. Bands get caught up in the cycle of you make a record, you go on tour, you make a record, you go on tour. For some people it can get very frustrating. I think we are lucky we never had to do that.

MVW: How was the New Year’s Eve experience performing live?

WC: It was as bombastic and over the top as it should have been. Us playing with The White Stripes on New Year’s Eve was the place to be. We know how to do a celebration. We practice it so that every time we play it’s like New Year’s Eve, so by the time it gets to actually be New Year’s Eve, we know what we are doing. “The Flaming Lips” and New Year’s Eve, that’s a good combination.


Q&A With Music Video Director Nathan Karma Cox

Will: Nathan has directed videos by Chevelle, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Mest, Static-X, System Of A Down
Thank you for taking the time and welcome back!

Steve Smith: Hey nathan!
Its an honour to finally be able to talk to you, your videos rock. I got a bio up of yourself on my MVD website. I love the story about how you and Jon met, do you plan shooting any KoRn videos in the future? Are you still into the L.A. graffiti scene? In the MTV music video awards why didn’t you go up with Linkin Park, same with the other directors? Im an up and comming 16 year old Australian director aspiring to become a MV director. Do you have any tips for up and comming MVD’s trying to break it into the industry? What inspires you to make music videos, and which other directors do you respect the most? Also how do you go about writing your treatments? Do you have a set format or place where you go to write them? Any feedback would be awesome!

Nathan Karma Cox: Hi Steve,
Thanks for the compliments. I stay involved with the graffiti scene through friends and at times some work. I’ll do a piece just for fun when I get the opportunity. I have recently painted some in the back drop of the Boxcar Racer video. Most of my videos have a hidden “karma” tag in there somewhere.

At the MTV awards, they honor the band, not the director. Most of the time the artists wont even mention the director’s name. I am thankful that Linkin Park and Joe Hahn gave me some credit. That was nice of them. I didnt attend because I was on vacation at Burning Man.

Breaking into the business is very hard. Every director I know has had a different, unique approach to breaking in. I can really only speak from my experience. For me, starting as an assistant editor was the key. I learned from some pretty amazing editors and eventually started editing low budget projects. At the same time, I had a bunch of friends in the music scene and shot small promo videos for them on the side. I continued building relationships with record labels as an editor. When I was ready, I convinced a band to let me do a video and they were loyal enough to give me a shot. Then it became a game of perserverance. I continued to edit to pay the bills and eventually other bands began giving me directing gigs. It was really the loyalty of the bands I had relationships with that got the ball rolling. Label people have too much to lose, so its harder to get them to take a chance on anyone new.

Im ultimately inspired by the prospect of creating new imagery. Film and music have always been my two loves and music video allows me to combine the best of both worlds. I feel blessed to have this career and Im thankful everyday.

I think my favorite director is Chris Cunningham. I wish he would do more work. I also love Michel Gondry, Mark Romanek and David Fincher. I think that anyone who actually makes it to the level of a working director should get major props. Im a fan of anyone who is able to grow the thick skin it takes to withstand the daily rejections that this career provides.

When I write, usually I put the MP3 on my IPOD, throw on the headphones and go for a walk. For some reason, if Im active while Im thinking, I get better results. Sometimes I just close my eyes and see what images appear. Other times I’ll write ten, one sentence ideas on a piece of paper and then begin to visualize each one until I feel like Im going in the right direction. Believe itor not, the best idea is not always the one I focus on, because although it may look amazing in my head, it may be to complex for a non creative label executive to understand. It’s a fine line, but its got to be an idea that can be understood instantly.

Thanks for the questions

Saloki: hi nathan
im a uni student studying new media and at the moment im doing a design investigation into animated music videos.
i was wondering if you could give me a little insight into that kind of industry and answer some of these questions please.

who decides the concept and use of medium for the video.

who has the most influential creative process on the outcome ie band members, designers, directors.

why does there seem to be a mass of music videos using animation at the present.

Is it a trend or is it medium that has always run along side film.

what inspires you

what processes do use to create your work

thanks for your time and you dont have to answer all but it would be most appreciated for any information.

Nathan Karma Cox: Hi John
Ultimately the director has the most say in a concept that they are directing, although band imput is very important to me. I feel that a band has one chance to get their career going and its important to me that they are happy with their image. I like to address as much imput from them as I can.

As far as animated videos go, I think that it is a trend that is happening now, but it will burn out soon. I think now that 3d animation is so accessible, it has become an exciting alternative. In an animated video, animation supervisors and animation directors are super important to the look and style of the video. Generally the director doesnt have the ability to animate himself, so communication with the animators is highly important to a unified vision.

What inspires me? Thats a tough one. I get inspiration from everything. features, people watching, and sometimes just a single photograph will spark an idea. Anything that inspires imagery can be used. I am naturally drawn to the darker things. I always have been. I guess anything that can be used as a jumping off point can be used for videos. But its gotta come back to the music or the lyrics that get the juices flowing.


cheryl: Hi Nathan,

I became a fan of yours when i saw a few of your music videos. I even saw your website that Shannon does. I think it looks so cool. I have written a few stories on Shannon’s Korn fiction site. One is posted. Anyway,here is my question for you: Do you ever see yourself becoming a feature film director?


Nathan Karma Cox: Hi Cheryl,
My goals are to definitely move on to features. Right now I am currently writing a script and have started to developa few feature projects.

Shannon rocks

Steve Smith: Hey Nathan!
Thanks for the great words of wisdom! I came up with a few more questions [Cool] When you were growing up what people inspired you to keep trying no matter what? Did you always want to shoot music videos as a kid or did you realise your passion for mv’s later in your directing days? Besides MVD’s what people inspire you in life? For example mine would have to be Bono(u2) and Sir Bob Geldoff. Would you please be able to speak of your time at Burning Man? Ive been researching it, some of the artwork is amazing, for everyone on the board you can see photos of Nathans WINNING(woohoo!) group at and last years entries at Do you ever think about going back and directing another video for some of your earlier bands, i.e. Coal Chamber, S.O.A.D? Haha on the slight chance you have time, I posted some of my treatments on the site although havent had much feedback and wondering if you could read one of them?  If you dont have enough time thats totally cool, I understand that you must get very busy. Anyway any replies would be awesome again! Every word is inspirational from a director of your talents.
Cheers Steve [Cool] Rock on!

Nathan Karma Cox:
Hi Steve,
Although I spent all my free time in movie theaters, most of the people that I could relate to growing up were musicians. I think my biggest influence was Robert Smith from The Cure. His music helped me through some pretty rough times. I remember early on deciding that whatever I did, I wanted to give something back to the kids that gave them an outlet.

As a kid I always thought I would go straight into features, but as I got older, music became a strong catharsis. Music videos just felt natural. The best of both worlds so to speak.

Burning Man is a festival that happens in the Nevada desert. It was created for artist based on a theme of free expression and participation. I went a few years back and fell in love with it. No rules for a week! It was amazing. Burning Man is based on theme camps, where groups of people get together and work on a project to contribute to the whole experience. I camp with The Death Guild. Our camp is based on Mad Max and we all wear leather, ride modified motorcycles and every night webattle in a full scale, working, Thunderdome. I always have the time of my life and I have met a whole family of freaks like me that I adore.

I would love to direct some of my older buddies. Unfortunately Shavo from S.O.A.D. has been directing his own videos and Coal Chamber broke up.

Thanks for the interest