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1 August 1981 can be called the birth of the current genre of the music video. That is the day that MTV broadcast the Music Video of the Number One hit Video Killed the Radio Star! Previously the music video and MTV’s predecessor VH-1 was just a very odd visual way to promote an audio product. Today the cost of producing a music video can be over one hundred times the cost of producing the song itself in its audio version.

Having just come off of the production of a well known American mainstream band’s music video shoot I thought that I would share some tips that I’ve learned through the years on this unique genre.

1) You are telling a story/parable

That might seem obvious, especially for a Christian music video but sometimes the needs of the band, the time frame and budget constraints take centre stage – instead of what you are trying to convey. Jesus picked up a seed and began to tell one of the most profound truths in all of creation – the parable of the seed and God’s Kingdom. One thing to also remember in this area is that simplicity is best.

2) Your acting/miming pace should be fast and a bit OTT (0ver the top)

In the final edit you will be chopping up what you filmed and interspersing it with (most likely) shots of the band/artist singing. This is the tried and true formula that shows the story/creative side and the musician(s) in action. 5-10 seconds seems to be the average length of each bit of dialogue/acting.

3) Be sure that your cast and crew are all singing from the same hymn book

Working with creative can be challenging and you need to be sure that everyone is committed to the project and the purpose of it.

4) Be both unique but realistic

Nothing is worse than being on set when a group is trying to reproduce a Michael Jackson $10 million music video on a $100 budget of a sacred hymn! Also what you have scheduled for 8 hours will most likely take double that. It is the nature of the beast.

5) Your camera needs to be even more intimate in a music video

This is a story between your artist/group and the viewer. That connection has only 3-5 minutes to be made as opposed to a thirty or sixty minute TV show or ninety minute film. You must be fast, sharp, to the point but close
– feeling wise.

6) This is hard work!

Finally, although everyone will expecting this to be a fun shoot “It’s a music video you know” that boat will sail after the first 5 hours! That is why it is important for everyone to be in unity, agreement and have the same goal for the production and the finished product.

Editing

From the editing side BE SURE that the production team has drummed into them to film from every possible angle for every possible eventuality. I can tell you from experience that it is preferable to have TOO MUCH footage than not
enough! You can always throw things away but you cannot re-create something again – unless your budget is phenomenal.

Another area that you must decide beforehand in editing a Christian music video is what your own personal beliefs and limits as far as manipulating your viewers. This is a whole minefield that would merit an entire media conference.

Mainstream music videos play on the senses and the emotions to evoke a required response. They are often full of bikinis, success lifestyles, expensive and fast cars, beautiful women and leisurely lifestyles. When this starts to creep into our Christian messages then we have crossed a Rubicon.

Conclusion

One final word I want to share is that many of us work in mainstream/secular music shoots. For a number of years I have had the privilege to share my faith with directors and stars, background artists and technicians. I try to show that I am interested in them as a person. If time permits I search on the internet everything I can about as many of the people I will be working with as I can. I am looking for connections yet it is God who arranges the Divine appointments – a scene together, a mishap or other that throws me together with that person. On a Jewish film set I have shared about THEIR Messiah. On another I shared about a school that a star and I have a connection with. On another it was a film producer that one of the stars had on a film and that is a good friend of mine. It could be cooking, swimming, religion or even favourite books – do your homework.

I have ministered and worked in every type of country there is yet it is a film/TV/music video set that seems to open the most doors. It is probably due to that constant down time of waiting for grips and spark, light and sound, sunshine and power. People want to talk about anything – so why not what makes our own lives tick?

David Sullivan has been involved in both media and ministry for over 4 decades in the US and UK as well as humanitarian work in places such as North Korea. His autobiography “Progress of a Modern Pilgrim” is being released in June in the US and UK. He can be found online at: www.principles.tv

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