- Music Videos: Everything You Need to Know from the Best in the Business
The front cover image of Lara Schwartz’s Making Music Videos is arresting: a rocky, burnt red ground, perhaps the surface of Mars, climbs towards a pale, lime-green horizon. Two monitors, one of which forms the focal point of the frame, double and triple the image. We can see the shadowy figures of two musicians and a mysterious onlooker, intently watching an off-centre monitor. It almost looks as if some clever digital artist has matted technological apparatuses and human forms onto a Rothko print: the image is quiet, still, almost lonely, but it also vibrates with tension, withholding more than it reveals. This image of a green-screen shot setup on a music-video set becomes more intriguing after reading Schwartz’s exhaustive account of music video production, from the selection of the single track to the delivery of the final cut. The book’s cover image suggests bold aesthetics, energy, and mystery, and although Schwartz quotes music video professionals throughout the book who attest to the ‘rock and roll’ attitude of the form, her book falls short of capturing this freedom and subversion. Making Music Videos provides a wealth of useful, detailed information about music video as a form of production and an industry, but the focus on a scrupulous, technically complete account elides the subversive freedom and ephemeral beauty that makes it a fascinating subject.
Schwartz splits the music video process into two primary sections. The process of development encompasses the initiation of the video-making process with the artist and record label, the director and his or her agent, and the music video production company, as well as treatment-writing, budgeting, and contractual matters. The second section, production, includes hiring the crew, preproduction, shooting, and postproduction. A very fine grain of detail is provided: subjects such as insurance, payroll procedures, equipment pickups, and even battery charging before the video shoot are treated meticulously. To organise the massive amount of information she provides, Schwartz carefully blueprints each chapter and section, creating a consistent relationship of expectation and fulfillment with the reader within an organised framework. This gives Making Music [End Page 141] Videos a sensible, straightforward tone, and allows each chapter or section to work as a modular unit. Notwithstanding the book’s sometimes dry quality, Schwartz, who has a background in production management, producing, and directing both mainstream and independent music videos, always demonstrates her knowledge and experience in all aspects of production.
Schwartz relies heavily on long quotes from a variety of well-known industry practitioners, including record label and production company executives, video producers, directors, assistant directors, editors, colourists, and many others (musicians are the only central group that is not thoroughly represented; their experience of the video-making process is peripheral to the book’s focus). Though these quotes are suffused throughout the book’s main text, they also appear in a number of set-off text boxes throughout the book, where various video production personages answer questions including ‘Do you need a great song to make a great video?’, ‘What makes a great music video?’, and ‘What do you love about music videos?’ This same box format is used to provide anecdotes and information under the headings ‘Advice for Aspiring Directors’ and ‘Snapshots from the Set’. These boxes create a number of parallel discourses that follow and connect to the main content in many ways, especially by illustrating points through brief personal narratives and providing a sense of how professionals experience and deal with the highly complex, interactive, technical world of music video that Schwartz describes.
Making Music Videos develops its thematic texture along several lines, including the construction of the music video industry as a platform to launch a filmmaking career, the video as part of a larger image-making machine for the artist, and the rushed, time-sensitive nature of video production. However, the most pervasive and lively theme is Schwartz’s dialogue about the nature of music video as...