Music video directors are usually employed on a freelance or contractual basis. Directors and producers find work, for example, with record companies, with advertising agencies, and through the creation of their own independent video projects. Keep in mind that the music video industry is not the only avenue for employment. Directors and producers work on documentaries, on television productions, in the film industry, and with various types of video presentations, from music to business. The greatest concentrations of music video directors and producers are in Los Angeles and New York City. More than 152,400 directors and producers are employed in the television, video, cable, radio, performing arts, and motion picture industries.
Rarely do people start their careers as music video directors or producers. With no set training methods, these jobs are hard to get just starting out. However, there are many things you can do to break into the industry.
First of all, you need to be willing to work for little or no money to get your foot in the door. To get started, ask local bands if you can direct their next video or see if you can do the same for your church choir or another local musical group. In short, grab any directing or producing opportunity that comes along, whether it relates to music or not.
Once you have gained some experience shooting or producing music videos, you should create a demo reel of your best work and send it to record companies and other potential employers. This will show employers that you are interested in and skilled enough to enter the industry.
Many in the industry suggest that aspiring directors and producers should try to land an internship or entry-level employment as a production assistant at a production company. In addition to your regular duties, you will learn how to bid on projects, get experience writing treatments, and learn production and business tips from directors and producers.
As mentioned earlier, film school is a breeding ground for making contacts in the industry. Often, contacts are the essential factor in getting a job; many music video industry insiders agree that it's not only what you know but who you know that will get you a job. Networking often leads to good opportunities at various types of jobs in the industry. Many professionals recommend that those who want to become directors and producers should go to Los Angeles or New York, find any industry-related job, continue to take classes, and keep their eyes and ears open for news of job openings, especially with those professionals who are admired for their talent.
Another way to start out is through the Assistant Directors Training Program of the Directors Guild of America. This program provides an excellent opportunity to those without industry connections to work on film and television productions. The two-year program is based in New York City. Trainees receive hands-on experience, through placement with major studios or on television movies and series, and education, through mandatory seminars. Trainees must complete a minimum of 350 days of on-set production work. While they are working, trainees are paid according to the specific wages established in the DGA collective bargaining agreements. Once trainees have completed their program, they become freelance second assistant directors and can join the guild. Competition is extremely stiff for these positions.
In the music video industry, advancement often comes with recognition. Directors who work on well-received music videos receive awards as well as more lucrative and prestigious job offers. Some directors choose to advance by leaving the music video industry for work in the motion picture or other related industries. Spike Jonze is an excellent example of a music video director who made the jump to feature film directing. In the early 1990s, Jonze made a name as the director of well-received music videos for REM and the Beastie Boys, and then used the skills he developed directing music videos to create award-winning feature films such as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Her. Other music video directors who have made the transition to feature-film directing include Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon, X-Men: The Last Stand), David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michael Bay (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Transformers).
Advancement for producers is generally measured by the types of projects they do, increased earnings, and respect in the field. Some producers become directors or make enough money to finance their own projects.
Start making music videos using video or digital cameras. Ask your friends to help.
Take film classes and attend seminars and workshops that help you hone your skills.
Apply for the Directors Guild of America’s Assistant Directors Training Program.
Apply for entry-level jobs in the music video industry.