5 Top Tips from Ninian Doff on Directing a Music Video

The deadline for entries to the Saatchi & Saatchi OK Go Music Video Challenge has been extended to 21st May. Young director Ninian Doff gives 5 tips...

London - The deadline for entries to the Saatchi & Saatchi OK Go Music Video Challenge has been extended to 21st May, and young director Ninian Doff gives 5 tips on directing a music video. Ninian's music video for the band Fulton Lights was selected for last year's New Directors' Showcase, so he knows a thing or two about getting your work noticed.

Innovate don't emulate
You should be able to point at something of your work, even a small element, and say confidently, "I have never seen this before." If the conversation starts with "You know the [insert famous video here] it's gonna be like that but..." then you probably should go back to the drawing board. Nobody is excited by a derivative idea, no matter how well it's done.

Idea over style

Your beautiful, shallow depth of field, 50 frames per second, DSLR shots aren't going to be able to hide the lack of a good idea. For all the skill and talent, at end of the day a great idea shot on an iphone will be more popular than a boring beautiful video. That's not to say production values don't matter (they do), but they can't be the only thing in your video. Now if you can mix a great idea with stunning photography, well then you'll take over the world.


This is a huge problem in music videos! Just because you're not doing drama, doesn't mean you shouldn't be thinking of structure and narrative (no matter how abstract it is). At the end of the day you're asking people to watch something for 3 to 4 minutes, so a girl walking slowly through a field for the entire time isn't going to hold an audience. Think about a journey, a development, a conclusion that surprises or subverts. Even if it isn't a narrative piece by the nature of it being cinema there are still always characters who have motivations, or a narrative/journey that can keep evolving and unfolding.

Use what you have
The world around you, no matter where you live, is fascinating to other people who don't see it every day. That old burnt out car you always walk past? The barber's shop that still has 70s wallpaper? Your dog that can walk on its hind legs? The weird guy down the road with a sword collection? The street everyone throws their rubbish down? The house with all the smashed windows? If you don't have a budget, this is your amazing set and props that a Hollywood art director couldn't recreate as well for all the money in the world.

Don't listen to these tips
You're you and have your own unique talent, so don't be too intimidated by other people's opinions or "rules". This isn't to say you can't, and will, learn from other people. Absorb all the knowledge you can, and listen to advice and be prepared to take it if it feels like it'll make your work better. But, ultimately, if you really feel something is great, and everyone else thinks it's rubbish or impossible, then it is great just by virtue of you believing in it. When you're starting out it's hard to not be intimidated by more experienced people, but talent is talent, and good ideas are good ideas, regardless of what stage in your career you are at.


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