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Shooting Your Own Music Video

Music videos can be expensive. It hurts when you spend thirty, fifty or even a hundred thousand of your hard-earned money on something that you basically give away for free!

So it can be very tempting to save money by shooting your own music video. I mean, camcorders are coming on cell phones these days, and HDTV is getting cheaper. There are cameras everywhere. They are everywhere. And deep down, everyone really imagines themselves as a director – sorry, an author, right?…

So should you consider going it alone and shooting your own music video?

The short answer is NO.

The directors, producers, cinematographers and production designers are all craftsmen. It takes years of study and work experience to become a decent filmmaker. You wouldn’t leave the CD distribution to someone you passed on the street, would you? So why do you think you’re doing something like your first music video on your own? It may seem like a simple job, but believe me, producing and directing is not easy!

Can you tell the difference between a lower budget independent film and a Hollywood summer blockbuster? Of course you can! This is exactly the difference between making the video yourself and hiring a professional. You don’t know how to make your film look so shiny and perfect – but the pros do! The best you can hope for is a decent indie film. Sure, every now and then a homemade music video comes along and it turns out well. But can you think of another one (and no, Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” was NOT an indie video, the budget was actually huge). So stick with the professionals. Let them do everything for you.

However, the biggest reason I would dissuade you from shooting your own music video is probably not what you’d think:

Insurance!

Film crews often consist of twenty, thirty or even hundreds of people. Typically, huge amounts of power flow through thick cables (often submerged in puddles) to precariously suspended lamps that house large free-standing virtual windmills of sharp metal edges (and all at about 600 degrees Celsius). A movie set is literally an accident that happens.

Plus, adding to the dangers of being on a movie set, shooting music videos tends to be even more dangerous (music video productions don’t usually have a lot of money for things like safety experts and safety harnesses). Maverick directors love to offend their subjects. And on low-budget shoots, you can often hear something like this: “We don’t need an expensive car console – just throw the cameraman on the hood! Don’t worry, we’ll hook you up…”

So if you decide to shoot the video yourself, just make sure no one trips over a light stand! It could cost you your life savings.

Legitimate production companies will have production insurance to cover the workplace (this insurance would cost about a thousand or two thousand dollars – just for a music video).

Professional producers and production managers have access to much better team members than you. If you only have a thousand dollars to hire a cinematographer (cinematographer), I guarantee I can hire a WAY better DoP than you! So, unless you have connections in the industry, you may want to consider hiring a production company to do all the production for you. This way you get a much higher quality crew.

And one last note…

If you’re shooting on 35mm film (which I highly recommend – unless you have a VERY good reason not to), you’ll need to rent a camera that costs about half a million dollars! And no lenses (or tripods, dolls, film magazines, etc…) are included with this camera. This must be rented separately. So, unless you have a VERY high limit on your credit card, the camera house may not even be willing to rent it to you. You may even have to mortgage the house to cover the deposit!

Established production companies rent camera packages all the time (a decent music video package will be at least a thousand to two thousand dollars per day) and often get significant discounts from the rental house that you wouldn’t be able to get. So, if you go to an established production company, you’re actually getting a significantly better equipment package than if you did it yourself (producers also know how to get film for about a quarter of what you could).

So overall, it pays off much better to hire a professional producer or production company to shoot your music video for you. It also saves an incredible amount of time and effort. And finally, isn’t that what you want for your first video: The best possible music video?

Robert D. Brooks

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