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Stories from SXSW: The Music Video Makes a Comeback

Over twenty of the submissions screened this year’s SXSW Film Festival were music videos and they used a variety of visual strategies to illustrate songs from all sorts of musical genres. Some were dramatic narratives, like the video for Ben Harper and the Relentless 7’s ‘Thin Skin’. Some were funny, like The New Pornographer’s fake movie trailer directed by comic writer Tom Scharpling. Videos like Zola Jesus’s ‘Sea Talk’ took an artful approach, while others, like Hollerado’s ‘Americanarama’, featured the band doing what they do best: playing their song.

Though changes in viewership and demand for reality shows may have vanquished music television as we once knew it, music videos have flourished since finding a home online. Videos by mega pop stars like Lady Gaga (and, of course Justin Bieber, who was discovered on the web) attract half a billion views. What has made the music video truly ubiquitous is the accessibility of camera equipment and editing software, and the democratizing platform of online video. In just over a week, a professional-looking music video that was commissioned by the mother of 13-year-old amateur singer Rebecca Black has racked up nearly 35 million hits (if also some significant mockery).

“[It] has become so easy and commonplace that anybody can make a video,” says Puloma Basu, producer of The New Pornographer’s newest video, “Moves.” For Basu, that means that creators have to try harder to be original. “It takes more to be a memorable video to people,” she said, “because [they’re] so entrenched in media at all moments of their day.”

For its creators, a music video can be much more than an advertisement for the band. These short films can be launching pads for careers in directing and producing feature length films (Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, for example). Others use them as unique forms of artistic expression unto themselves.

The creators of three of the videos screening at SXSW talked to Art Beat about directing and producing their short films and their role in the music industry:

Eric Power, director of the video Jeremy Messersmith’s “Tatooine”:

Robert Hatch-Miller and Puloma Basu, producers of the video for The New Pornographers’ “Moves”:

Carlos Lopez Estrada and Christian Heuer, director and producer of the video for Maximum Balloon’s “Groove Me”:

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