In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?Hi my name is Liam Hedley and I’m the director and producer of the music video for Rachel’s Love kills.Being a big fan of Rachel, I was delighted when I was told that she’d chosen me to direct her music video inSeptember last year. We’d met a few weeks earlier at the VMAs and she gave me a preview of the song. Iinstantly fell in love with and I listened to it quite a lot so I had a really clear and distinctive vision of what Iwanted to do with and i feel that this steered the product to its success. I do feel I’ve done justice to it. Shereally loves it and I’m immensely proud.We both came to the conclusion that the song belongs to the electropop genre, which is quite popular at themoment in the charts. But Rachel isn’t as well known as she ought to be outside Sweden and so what wewanted to do was follow some of trends and conventions of the genre, albeit with a unique spin, to sort ofbring her forward into the limelight if you like, but also challenge them in what is quite a saturated market.There’s a gap in the industry at the moment for a female pop artist who’s a little different but still retains thatall important sense of fun and not taking themselves too seriously. That very idea is really the fulcrum ofRachel’s “star image” in the video.Barry Keith Grant states that genres allow audiences to identify texts by their specific and recognisablecharacteristics which is really quite relevant here. Although I’ve challenged conventions and taken a fewfrom other genres, If I’ve removed all the things you’d expect to see in a pop video it may limit the audienceand convince people into thinking that they won’t enjoy the video because it has nothing that they recognise.Conventions are there because people like being able to put things into boxes, even if it’s a subconsciousprocess.Rachel’s generally not followed that many conventions in the past and I decided, with her permission ofcourse, to use a few mainstream pop conventions in order to bring her more into the limelight if you like, inorder to gain her popularity. These conventions can gradually be removed as her fan base grows and althoughyou may argue that we’re bribing people, the media industry is plagued by this technique and we’ve onlydone it in a subtle way. This supports another theorist in that of Jason Mittell, who in 2001 claimed thatindustries play with genre to sell products to audiences.I studied in quite some detail media theorists and their ideas of what music videos are all about, what theyshould contain and how I should go about constructing meaning within one, as also general genre research...just days of sitting going through every video that popped up at the side on YouTube. This enabled me tograsp how the standards of a real music video could be achieved. Both the ideas of theorists and my theconventions of the pop genre that I’d identified were integrated into the market research questionnaire, whichwas digitally distributed online and promoted across social networks to reach a wide audience and not onlyestablish the audience itself, but also what they would want to see in a video.Indeed the results of the survey matched my own idea to challenge conventions, suggesting that audiencesare quite tired of what’s usually seen in a pop video, such as the idea that everything sexualised. Butnonetheless, some elements did remain which I’ll try to explain as best I can.Before the project I’d never really appreciated the number of cuts that went into a typical pop music video,discovering that Katy Perry’s Wide Awake has 133, fitting with what is quite an upbeat and fast-paced songfor a power ballad. Audiences considered editing in time to the music as very important and throughout thevideo I tried to adhere to this. I feel it’s one of the strengths and most prominent features of the video givenits fast pace and the number of times that the beat kicks back in. In retrospect this was probably inspired byNicki Minaj’s video for Stupid Hoe. I’d like to add that I really don’t like Nicki Minaj but the video hassome really good editing techniques. Goodwin termed such cuts as “thought beats”; my video definitely hasplenty of those. I really wanted to immerse the viewers in the sound and enjoy themselves as respondentsthought that a sense of fun and excitement was key to pop music videos.Many of the survey respondents has interests in other music genres - their tastes were far wider than I’dexpected. They appeared to be aware of 80s and 90s music and relatively intelligent culturally. I therefore
began to look at various videos from this era, stumbling across a personal favourite - Bittersweet Symphonyby The Verve, which was in turn inspired by Massive Attack’s video for Unfinished Symphony. In bothvideos the singer can be seen walking down the busy streets of LA and London respectively; this is where Iconceived the idea of showing the artist’s feet walking to the beat of the music, obviously at a much fasterpace. I’d never really seen this in a video before and I thought it was an innovative way to exercise andextend thought beats, giving a continued sense of determination as Rachel walks which is again aided by thesheer number of cuts.Further to this the use of lights really emphasises the beat in the video and plays on the very idea of theelectropop genre, the type of music you’d hear at a disco or party. I wasn’t really inspired by a video as such,but my decision to include the lights was informed by the idea of Rachel being in the spotlight and on showfor the audience of the video and the lover the lyrics are presumably directed to. Also the fact that in thestudio the lights are reflected on her face, it adds consistency throughout.I really love the videos for Snow Patrol’s Open Your Eyes and Madonna’s Ray of Light; both were hugelyinfluential in the video because they’re quite unconventional in their subject matter - sped up up footage from a car window and views of cars travelling at high speed. I felt this tied in my narrative perfectly, whichagain I’ll come on to. Although aren’t thought beats as such, they perfectly complement the speed of thesong and add a sense of persistence through to the end of the video, as does the generally sped up footage.There’s a researcher called Sven Carlsson who categories videos into performance and conceptual. Most popvideos today would be categorised under “performance” with constant focus on the artist, however withRachel being less focused on image than other artists in the genre, I broke with convention and wasconceptual with the car clips, adding an artistic element to the video. This is more commonly seen to theindie genre, or artists associated with alternative culture, however I have done this on the basis that myaudience are quite musically aware.Through research I also came to realise that most shots have some form of movement in them, whether it bepans, tilts or even just wobbling in the style of handheld footage. My audience thought that cameramovement was important, as were interesting angles. In terms of movement I felt that a lot of the excitementelement came from the number of cuts, the editing techniques, such as sort of 90s rave section, and theactor’s performance. Many of the shots were simply too short to include prominent movement, instead Imostly used handheld camera to match the spontaneous nature of the actor’s dancing. I feel that in manyvideos there isn’t really much cohesion between the camera and the artist, particularly in budget productions.Some shots also utilised pans such as the establishing shot at the beginning of the video, which was inspiredby Kylie Minogue’s Come Into My World, slowly revealing the digesis of the scene, which Vernallissuggested is common in videos I also used pans around the artist’s head to do justice to the emotion in thelyrics. This was inspired by the 1986 Madonna video for Live To Tell. Also adopted from a Kylie Mingouevideo, Timebomb, was the artist walking up to and looking into the camera as though the lyrics about “lovekilling” are addressed to the viewer, engaging them.In the studio mostly static shots were used as again I wanted to again bring prominence to the lyrics throughextreme close-ups showing constraint, enhancing the narrative, which I’ll come back to, but some shots domove with her dancing. Andrew Goodwin claimed that videos have lots of close-ups of the artist in order topromote their “star image”. While I feel this theory is supported my video, I think that it is not as relevant asin other pop videos. The artist is not overly sexual and provocative like most female artists today,challenging the Mulvey’s male gaze theory. Rachel’s star image is much more focused on her clothing anddancing: the close-ups do reveal her image to the audience but so the long shots, and medium shots in equalmeasure.Through research I discovered that most upbeat pop videos have a wide variety of different shot typesthroughout, in addition to the close ups I mentioned earlier. They keep the audience interested, and allow theaudience to better understand the digesis in which the narrative or performance is taking place, as well as justappreciate the dancing and lyrics. An example of this is Jessie J’s Domino which uses extreme close-ups,close-ups, medium shots, long shots. I tried to mirror this in my own video. This gave audiences a greaterappreciation of the mise-en-scene, the costumes, the dancing and did indeed keep them interested.
In terms of camera angles, because a large proportion of the video was purely the artist walking, I did try andutilise some different angles in order to keep the viewers interested but there a few in the video. The mostnotable example is this high angle. I could definitely improve in this area. Traditionally one would expectmusic videos to use lots of different angles, but increasingly a lot of don’t use have, only different shotstypes, however these are solely filmed in a studio environment and rely on other effects to bring interest.Increasingly, pop videos and videos in general have a strong narrative element to them, which is integratedwith a performance from the artist. This enables videos to become more like films and an event in a sense,grabbing audiences’ attention in a world which is exposed to much more videos than it once was. Lady Gagais an example on a pop artist who has a strong narrative element through videos such a Paparazzi andTelephone. My audience didn’t really want this to be challenged, saying that they wanted a fragmented blendof performance and narrative, however I decided to challenge this to some extent.The very repetitive nature of the song led me to believe that a narrative wouldn’t really be that appropriateand interesting; furthermore Rachel isn’t really that established for audiences to identify with her, withreference to the Uses and Gratifications Theory, rather I wanted to appeal to the idea of entertainment andescapism. Therefore, I centred the video on various performance scenarios which incorporate a subtle andlose narrative, something quite metaphorical. All of the various scenarios, if you like, in the video, had somesort of underlying meaning. I felt this would appeal to a relatively intelligent audience. I was inspired by yetanother Madonna video in that of Like a Prayer... everything in that video has some significance. The themesare still debated over today and the narrative and performance are quite substantially combined.I interpreted the song to represent the state of limbo in a relationship; whether you should leave or go. Thiswas because of the mention of Stockholm Syndrome where prisoners developing empathy for your captors.So in effect, Rachel assumed a character who felt trapped but was determined to leave. The trapped elementwas represented by Rachel hastily walking through the streets of Newcastle. I also wanted to use thistechnique as at the beginning of the video I could reveal the artist once the lyrics began, building upexcitement and revealing the artist to the audience as someone who is new and exciting.The sense of trapped was illustrated by the tightly-framed close-ups and extreme close-ups in the studio. Butalso the lights wrapped around her. The footage from the studio was also supposed to give a sense ofintimacy with the viewer.The dancing shots illustrated the idea of again being constrained by love, represented through iconography;the heart, but in the shots without the heart a sense of female empowerment to accompany the determination.I tried to show this through the spontaneous nature of her dancing. Where most pop videos featurechoreographed dancing, I tried to avoid this to bring something new to the table and contribute to the uniquestar image. My audience didn’t really consider choreographed dancing important anyway, suggesting thatthey would be okay with this factor. This was inspired by Robyn’s video for Call Your Girlfriend.Some of the dancing and walking segments subvert the media stereotype that females are weak, bothemotionally and physically, showing a determination to be strong and leave a relationship in which she feelstrapped, fitting with the fact that I wanted to portray the artist as somebody who is strong and dominant;somebody audiences can look up to. However, nowadays this has become a given in the pop industry; themost successful artists such as Lady Gaga and Beyonce, for example, all portray themselves as strong andare self-empowered. However the shots fighting with the heart portray weakness and and vulnerability,conforming to more traditional conventions and stereotypes.Oh and in relation to the high-speed car shots earlier, the narrative of these parts represents a sense of beingalone in a today’s hedonistic and busy society. Rachel is supposed to have nowhere to turn to which leads tothe sense of confusion and indeed the state of limbo. But more literally, they are purely used to add visualinterest and a sense of fun and excitement which my audiences deemed important to the success of a popvideo This is aided also by the dancing and the lights.
Vernallis claimed that narratives in music videos can be fragmented. I tried to conform to this in the video inorder to challenge my audience to wonder what the storyline if you like is all about. At points throughout thevideo Rachel can be seen travelling backwards, which is supposed to again signify being in a state of limboand as such, the narrative does not necessarily make sense - sometimes she is travelling in one direction andthen another. I feel this is particularly effective in this shot where two directions can be seen next to eachother, the split screen being inspired by The Plain White T’s video for Hey There Delilah. But overall, the“backwards” narrative was informed by the narrative in Coldplay’s video for their 2002 single for TheScientist.Vernallis also claimed that jump cuts are used. The main jump cuts used in the video were used to show thisstate of limbo, and also to exemplify thought beats. Several conventions and techniques and conventionswere combined throughout the video to add visual interest in an innovative way, for example I’d never seenfast motion and split screen really used that much in music videos, again making the video quite unique. Onetechnique that I’ve never seen before is where the road can be seen inside the actress, showing her beingconsumed by society.Goodwin claims that narrative and performance can be repetitive. This is proved true in my video as Rachelis seen walking for the main part of the video, and dancing or in the studio for the rest. I frequently use thesame type of shot to reflect the repetitive nature of the song and create a cohesive diegesis for the video. Iwanted it to be memorable. Furthermore, Vernallis pointed out that there may be unanswered questions. Theend of my video takes place where it began, allowing the viewer, provided they understand the narrative, towonder whether Rachel decided to walk away from the relationship or stay in it. My audience didn’tconsider this element neither important nor important so I decided to include it anyway.In relation to the lyrics and the narrative, Goodwin categorises music videos as either being illustrative,amplificative, or disjunctive. I believe that the narrative of my video is both amplificative and disjunctive inthe sense that I have been highly metaphorical in my interpretation of the song. The lyrics are amplified bythrough the use of the heart to signify “love killing”. The studio shots and the walking play upon constraintbecause of the mention of “Stockholm Syndrome”. However it could be said that in a way the walking shotsare illustrative of the lyrics “if you’re looking for love”, opening it up for interpretation. Also the shot whereRachel is supposed to be protecting herself could be considered as more literal and thus illustrative. The carshots are disjunctive in that the meaning behind, the feeling of feeling of being isolated and alone, is notrelevant to the lyrics on their own.In terms of the costume in the video I have again subverted what would be expected of a female pop star,who would expected to to wear revealing and provocative clothing in order to subscribe to Mulvey’s MaleGaze I mentioned earlier. My audiences wanted to see the sexualised nature of videos challenged and as suchRachel can be seen wearing “quirky” costumes that do show femininity but contribute to the unusual starimage. These include patterned leggings, flat shoes, a plain white jumper, a cardigan and - things which areby and large quite modest and plain. There are no apparent colours, which I think this is quite refreshing.The main location in the video, other than the studio, Newcastle, is again quite modest for a pop video, mostbeing filmed in elaborate, exotic and unusual fantasy settings. I wanted to challenge this by using an urbancity to give quite a gritty feel, complementing the emotionally harsh lyrics of the song. I was inspired by theKylie Minogue Timebomb video yet again to do this, which used side streets in London.Through watching plenty of music videos from the last couple of years I noticed a techniques which havebecome commonplace recently. I didn’t want to become too cliche, but I decided to take this in board inorder to add a sense of modernism to the production, ensuring that it did appeal to a young audience.Many pop videos nowadays often utilize titles as I found by looking at Lady Gaga’s Telephone amongstothers. Again this makes them more like films and event from which fans can draw greater pleasure andentertainment. However, I utilized this technique to strengthen the brand identity and star image to introduceRachel to a wider audience.I also noticed that they now tend to feature lots of shots which either out of focus or go in and out of focus, apull focus, particularly when the artist is dancing. The Jessie J video is again a very good example of this. I
adopted this technique in order to give the video less of a sort of static quality and make it visually lesswooden rigid. I feel that the viewer better connects with the artist and thus the themes of the video in thisway.Oh and to mention the Kylie Minogue Timebomb video again I really loved the technique where Kylie picksup a mobile phone and sings into, cutting to a shot from the phone’s camera. I adopted this in part of myvideo as I feel this technique to show Rachel talking directly to the viewer again, coming across as quite anaggressive character in this sense. It could be argued that the use of phones as iconography in music videos isslightly cliche, but I hope it will bring a sense of modernism that the audience can relate to. It’s also quite afun element which links to the pop genre.