Trailblazing Directors Celebrate Their 'Work'
Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham are arguably three of the most innovative music-video directors to come along in the past 10 years. So when the directors joined forces with Palm PicturSpike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham are arguably three of the most innovative music-video directors to come along in the past 10 years. So when the directors joined forces with Palm Pictures to create "The Directors Label" DVD series, it was to trailblaze the way for a new subgenre of music DVDs -- compilation DVDs from notable directors who have helped redefine music videos and filmmaking.
The series will launch in September with the release of "Vol.1: The Work of Spike Jonze." "Vol. 2: The Work of Chris Cunningham" and "Vol. 3: The Work of Michel Gondry" are tentatively set for release in October or November. Palm will release a fourth "Directors Label" compilation volume featuring the work of Mark Romanek at a date to be determined.
Each DVD volume will contain hand-picked work from the directors, including their music videos, previously unreleased material and commentary from the directors and artists. The DVD series will be released in Japan on Asmik Ace/Palm Pictures.
Last year, Palm took an initial step in the music-video director compilation field by releasing "Hype Williams -- The Videos, Vol. 1." But "The Directors Label" DVD series is decidedly more ambitious. At a suggested retail price of $19.95, each volume in the series will have a double-sided DVD and elaborate packaging which includes a 50-page booklet.
Each booklet will contain photographs, as well as the director's story boards, treatments and drawings. The cover art will connect to form continuity for the series.
The business collaboration between Jonze, Cunningham and Gondry is truly an international partnership: Jonze is American, Cunningham is British and Gondry is French. Collectively, the directors are responsible for numerous award-winning videos. They have also branched out into feature films.
Jonze's most recognizable music videos include Weezer's "Buddy Holly," Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" and Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice." Jonze's work is often defined by his quirky sense of humor. His DVD volume includes short films such as "What's Up Fatlip" (a documentary on former Pharcyde member Fatlip) and "Torrance Rises," a mockumentary about the fictional Torrance Community Dance Group which starred in Jonze's "Praise You" video for Fatboy Slim.
Cunningham has built a reputation for being extremely selective in directing music videos: his videography is smaller than those of most of his peers. Best known for directing Madonna's "Frozen" video, Cunningham often brings a dark and edgy vision to his work, which includes videos from Aphex Twin and Portishead. Cunningham's compilation DVD will feature a selection of commercials he has directed and previously unreleased versions of his art films "Flex" and "Monkey Drummer."
Gondry revels in making avant-garde videos that push boundaries in special effects and cinematography. Bjork has worked with Gondry more than any other director. He has also directed multiple videos for the White Stripes, the Rolling Stones and the Chemical Brothers. The features on Gondry's "Directors Label" DVD will include his rarely seen short films "La Lettre" and "Drumb and Drumber."
What follows are rare interviews with Jonze, Cunningham and Gondry that are exclusive to Billboard.com.
What's the wildest idea you've ever had for a video that never made it into a video?
GONDRY: I had this idea for Weezer. I wanted to make a parallel between being in a band and being on a soccer team, and I wanted to put that in the video. I noticed similarities between being a drummer and a goal keeper: you're always looking at the behinds of your partners. The guitar player would be like the center, the bass player would be like a defense player. I was really excited about the idea. I wrote the treatment, but then the band said it was too good. But I'll have that treatment on my DVD.
CUNNINGHAM: I don't know if I could do that on my DVD. My drawings are too pornographic.
JONZE: On my DVD, there's a video of Oasis that I half-made years ago. On the DVD we call it "The Oasis Video That Never Happened." The idea was to play an Oasis song on headphones for people and have them talk about the song.
Did Cake know about that idea before making [the similarly themed] "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"?
JONZE: I don't know.
Chris, you've turned down many offers to do videos and you go for long periods of time without making them. Why are you so selective?
CUNNINGHAM: I always have ideas for videos. But I came up with those ideas while listening to classical music or some old track. Those ideas are so specific to that music that I find it harder to come up with ideas for new songs. I'm trying to start my first [feature] film. I'm currently working with a screenwriter on the first draft. I don't know yet what it'll be about.
All of you have worked with Bjork. What is she like when it comes to making videos?
JONZE: She's very selective about who she wants to let into her world, so I feel honored that I've worked with her. When I've worked with her, I've talked to her a lot about ideas before I did the videos. She has a lot of ideas too. You feed off of those ideas and her energy. The main thing about her is when she wants to collaborate with someone, she completely puts her confidence in that person.
GONDRY: She has more confidence in me or Spike or Chris than we do in ourselves. She can bring the best out of us.
CUNNINGHAM: When I worked with her [on the "All Is Full of Love" video], she had to kind of humiliate herself by wearing this skin-tight outfit and kissing a dummy for hours. Every time she kissed the dummy, every man in the place was looking over at her and staring.
How do you feel about using film versus digital video?
CUNNINGHAM: When I first started directing, all I could think about was that I couldn't wait to see what my work was like on film. I've gotten that out of my system and it's nothing new to me now. Whether it's a DV camera or a film camera, I think whatever is best for the idea is what I'll use.
JONZE: I feel the same way. It depends on what's best for the idea.
What's the hardest video you've ever done?
CUNNINGHAM: Madonna's "Frozen" video was a total nightmare. We shot it in the desert and she wanted to almost co-direct. But the hardest video I ever did was "Only You" with Portishead. I shot that video underwater and I think I had the flu at the time. The tank was full of bubbles, and trying to communicate with someone underwater is a nightmare. I look at the video now and I can't imagine how I managed to get any footage out of it, let alone a video. I think I ended up cutting that video together from a lot of outtakes.
JONZE: The hardest videos are always the biggest ones.
GONDRY: A lot of times, it's the people you work with that want to make the video bigger. You find a way to make it, but then everyone tries to help you and then the budget grows.
Who's on your wish list of artists you want to work with but haven't had a chance to yet?
JONZE: Michel said he wrote a letter to Michael Jackson, and [Jackson] is someone who I've always wanted to work with, too.
CUNNINGHAM: A lot of people I want to work with aren't really functioning as a band. If I could do a video for anyone, it would be Led Zeppelin. I'd have loved to do something with the Pixies.
Has it gotten easier or harder for you to work with record companies?
GONDRY: It's become easier because we [Jonze, Gondry and Cunningham] have become more appreciated. Any director who gets more appreciation from the artists will find it easier to work with the record companies.
JONZE: When you work with an artist who's supportive, that's going to give you the most hope in something turning out well or not. The artists I've worked with have been open to new ideas.