State of Play: Danny Herman, FRIEND
Rob Ulitski - 28th Feb 2023
In the latest of our new series asking British music video-makers about their experiences last year and thoughts on the coming year, we talk to Danny Herman - Head of Music Videos at FRIEND.
Danny reflects on his first year in the job, having previously worked as a talent agent, and making an impact with some ambitious projects - and how he is setting himself some big goals in 2023.
I thought that Music Video EPs were pulling my leg with the deals they were offering for crew... I totally understand now.
How would you describe last year in a few words?
Pretty eye-opening! I hadn’t worked in production since my running days, over ten years ago... fml I'm getting old!
What was your favourite project or projects you worked on last year?
Our experience making the video for Black Midi's Sugar/Tzu was truly amazing. Our crew was absolutely magical, going above and beyond what was required.
Noel Paul, Manoela Chiabai and I spent endless evenings casting, while our two incredible producers in Beirut and London moved heaven and earth to make sure we had the best tools possible: Manoela travelled across England to find rogue lenses and wrangle monkeys; Ayo Gohsn in Beirut organised 43 biker couples to show up at midnight under a highway.
Above: Black Midi's Sugar/Tzu, directed by Noel Paul
Our amazing DoP's proved their credentials as two of the most badass music video DoPs, with Jake Scott jumping on the back of a motorbike with his Alexa Mini circling our boxing ring and Ramzi Hibri throwing cables from up the highway down to the crew in Beirut shooting in the middle of a bike ring of death.
The whole experience was one of the most collaborative I've ever seen on any set. Our whole team, including our beautiful ‘Hulks’ and our sweet kid protagonist would help move our ring across East London studios and clean fake blood from the studio. We all left the shoot knowing we had created a fantastic video.
I [also] had the pleasure of being a small part of Noah Lee’s video for 070 Shake’s Skin and Bones and I think it's truly special. It was my first time shooting in LA and with Noah. We ended up shooting all over the place, including ranches and LA staples like Canters and the Swans. We had a huge array of snogging cast members and Marilyn Monroe impersonators, and we finished the shoot at the iconic Palace Theatre with a truck outside drenching Shake with a rain machine.
This video was an absolute hustle from start to finish, and we almost missed the deadline as Noah had spent sleepless nights finishing the edit and passed out an hour before delivery. He absolutely smashed it. But my girlfriend won't miss my and Noah's 4am calls.
Above: 070 Shake's Skin and Bones, directed by Noah Lee
Any other project you enjoyed that deserved more attention, or went under the radar?
Despite having around 1.6 million views, it feels like our video for Def Leppard went slightly under the radar. Helmed by the iconic Anuk Rhode, who directed the video seven months pregnant during a freezing February in Cambridge, and lensed by her boyfriend Pat Aldinger (talk about a power couple), her intrinsic attention to styling, makeup and production design was really inspiring.
We had models and actors travelling from all over the world and received the funniest first round of feedback that I sadly won't be able to repeat. It was definitely one of the most hardcore shoots we did last year, but it was really energising.
What were the best aspects of the job last year?
I really wasn’t sure what I was walking into when I decided to make the move over to FRIEND. But I don’t think I’ve ever met so many legends in such a short space of time.
Above: Def Leppard's Kick, directed by Anuk Rhode
What were the most challenging aspects of the job last year?
Having spent six years on the other side as a talent agent at Lux Artists I always thought that Music Video EPs were pulling my leg with the deals they were offering for crew... Hot damn - I totally understand now.
Best or favourite video or videos last year that you weren’t involved with?
I really loved Ebeneza Blanche's video with Lil Simz and Obongjayar, and as always Frank LeBon never disappoints. His link up with Pretty Sick was dope.
What was other cultural highlight (or highlights) of the year?
One of the best parts of this job is meeting people from all over, and I’ve worked and travelled with icons in Beirut, Kiev, Nairobi and Burundi to name a few.
Any other personal experience that defines 2022 for you?
Realising although I love it, I’m f**king shit at bowling.
We need to do all we can to keep such a creative industry flowing, inspiring new generations of filmmakers.
What are you looking forward to in 2023 – both for work and for other parts of your life?
I kicked off this year doing a really special charity project in Burundi with one of my directors Dawit. Really hope to do more of these.
Have you set work objectives for this year and if so, what are they?
WIN EVERY PITCH.
Who are the up-and-coming talents that you think will break through this year – or at least deserve to be successful?
We’ve just signed the magnetic India Harris who I really believe is going to make waves in music videos. Chirolles Khalil is developing into an absolute machine of a director. Paul Herrman made his first music video last year for Lava La Rue, immediately notching a UKMVA nom and is producing more and more magic.
Last but not least, Bleu Désert, nominated as Best New Directors at last years UKMVAs, will make the jump to Best Director(s).
Above: Lava La Rue's Hi-Fidelity ft Biig Piig, directed by Paul Herrman
What is your prediction for the direction of the industry in 2023? And what will be the big trends for the year ahead?
The death of TikTok (sadly never going to happen). I think there will definitely be more long form-esque videos and my hope, especially for small budget stuff, is that artists engage directors to do their whole campaign instead of just one video.
It'd be great for directors to get paid for their pitches.
Any other comments about the current environment for music video production and music video creativity? What are the issues that we should be most concerned with?
This is a question that I think will generate the most similar answers, but as budgets shrink so do young creatives incomes and we really need to do all we can to make sure were able to keep such a creative industry flowing and inspiring new generations of filmmakers.
If you could ‘make a wish’, and reform or change the environment in which you work in one way, what would you wish for?
Going back to my answer above about budgets – more transparency on actual budgets and how many people are pitching on certain jobs. It'd be great for directors to get paid for their pitches.
• Danny Herman is Head of Music Video at FRIEND
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Rob Ulitski - 28th Feb 2023
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