Luke Bather - 26th Nov 2015

On a rainy day in early November, there was a warm glow emanating from inside the BFI Southbank. The UKMVAs was one day away, but before those celebrations, lots of people involved in making music videos (and a few others) gathered to attend the second all-day MusicVidFest.

This was a whole day of conferences and panel discussions providing insight into the present and the future of music video production in the UK and beyond. Sponsored by Procam and Promostream, it featured a Cinematography Masterclass with DoPs Steve Annis and Adam Scarth, a post production discussion with Ninian Doff and Vania Heymann, and much more.

The day started with top director Dougal Wilson talking about the way he works, and a look at treatment-writing with a panel of experts, including Jake and Johnny from directing team Youth Hymns (above). Here's what we learned. Photography by Ben Meadows.  

Session 1: Late Breakfast with Dougal Wilson

The morning kicked off with music video and commercial directing legend Dougal Wilson looking back on his 15 year career. Starting as a copywriter at an ad agency in Edinburgh, he made his first ‘proper’ foray into music videos with a video for a local band called Midas, in which he tried to cram in as many visual gags in three minutes as possible. After that made it on TV, and armed with just a VHS copy of his showreel, Dougal moved to London and partnered up with Blink Productions. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dougal treated the audience to a brief but charming and informative discussion with Promo News editor David Knight about where ideas come from, and how he helps his own creative process. We learned that Dougal’s ideas come from a variety of places (usually after a mixture of several days solitude and free association sketches and scrawls that cover pages after pages of notebooks, punctuated by a trip to the shops or a short jog).

We were all reminded that “ideas are unreliable”, and that trip to the shops is just as important as the manic, feverish time spent writing and drawing, because that outside stimulus could well provide the missing piece to the puzzle in a director’s mind.

The audience got to see some fascinating, rough around the edges, never before seen test footage from various points throughout Dougal’s career, and we learned that this test footage helps him to map out the moods and emotions of a video. As a director, Dougal likes to leave as little to chance as possible, and that finesse and polish really shines through in his work.

Session 2: "Smack My Pitch Up"

Panellists:
Davis Silis - Director
Sam Davey - OB Management
Sam Seager - Warner Bros
Sasha Nixon - Forever Pictures
Youth Hymns - Directors
Moderator:
Julia Frost - Independent Producer

In a panel discussion aimed at shedding light on the successes and failures of the pitching process, the most important question was the first from moderator Julia Frost: what is a successful treatment? The answer, according to the assembled panel at least, is a treatment that wins the job by creating an incredibly visual document with an attention-grabbing first page that clearly shows a realised idea and demonstrates an understanding of the artist and the world in which that artist occupies. Easy enough when you know how, right?

The advice for new directors was echoed across the panel: simplicity. Lots of new directors fall victim to over-promising and under-delivering. New voices are more likely to land those pitches if the commissioners truly believe they can deliver it.

Common threads from the treatments shown during the panel (which included treatments for Tinie Tempah, Naughty Boy and Gilligan Moss) included a confident, clear writing style and a delivery of what was promised.

Some of the big pitfalls mentioned were that a lot of treatments are overly long and promise too much. We learned that all-too-often commissioners are seeing reference images in treatments from Stanley Kubrick, Gregory Crewdson, et al, and no budget in music videos today can really come close to accomplishing those aesthetics.

Communication is always key - we were told that it’s “easy to get lost in your ideas and not be able to translate that to the page” and to remedy that, directors should “write it so your gran can understand it”.

Two big points that were made in terms of improving the whole treatment process were that a proof of concept is always encouraged where possible to really make that idea stand out, and that there’s always milage in drawing - even a crudely done stick figure can help your idea stand out in an ocean of slick, well-designed treatments.

Next: Mike O'Keefe's Keynote speech and Cinematography Masterclass with DoPs Steve Annis and Adam Scarth

Luke Bather - 26th Nov 2015

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