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Exploring Artistic Expression Through Music Videos: A Dialogue with Creative Visionaries
The SXSW 2024 panel - How to Make a F*cking Awesome Music Video brought together some of the most creative and innovative minds in the music video industry.

Moderated by Owen Brown, a music video director who was nominated for the best music video at SXSW in 2021 and served on the jury last year, the panel featured Kimberly Stuckwish, Jason Lester, Warren Fu, and the award-winning director Mayumi Yoshida. This discussion highlighted the unique approaches and creative processes of each director, emphasizing the importance of SXSW as a platform for music video directors.
Owen's Introduction
Owen began the panel by introducing himself and expressing his admiration for SXSW, emphasizing its unique focus on music videos. He noted that SXSW is the only major film festival with a dedicated music video category, setting it apart from other prominent festivals like Tribeca and Sundance.

Owen highlighted the significance of this distinction, underscoring the festival's importance for music video directors. He introduced the esteemed panelists, including Kimberly Stuckwish, Warren Fu, Jason Lester, and Mayumi , each of whom has made notable contributions to the field.
Kimberly Stuckwish's Presentation

Kimberly Stuckwish shared insights into her music video for Broken Bells, discussing the innovative techniques used to create its visual effects. She explained how she and her team chose to use practical effects instead of relying solely on VFX, adding a tangible aspect to the video. They achieved this by rotoing around the actors' bodies and using laser-cut mats to shine light and smoke through the images, a process reminiscent of old-school VFX techniques.

Kimberly described the meticulous efforts involved, including physically cutting 4,000 frames and animating the light effects. Despite the challenges, including a lengthy post-production process, the result was a visually stunning video that seamlessly integrated story and effect.
Owen's Project for Arizona
Owen discussed his ambitious project for the band Arizona, where he created the largest piece of temporary land art in the state's history. The project involved six months of pre-production to design and build a 300-by-300-foot piece of land art, equivalent in size to a football field. The pyramids on the outer edge of the art installation were four feet tall, emphasizing the scale of the project.

Owen collaborated with a top land artist, whom he contacted after extensive research. The design, inspired by the triangular shape associated with Arizona and the band, was brought to life using only natural materials like sand and water. This sustainable approach ensured the art would eventually return to nature, leaving no lasting impact on the environment. The project underscored the importance of integrating modern art with classic landscapes, creating a visually compelling and historically significant music video.

Mayumi Award-Winning Video

Mayumi shared the story behind her award-winning music video, which earned the grand prize at SXSW. The video was created for her friend Amanda Sum and tackled the theme of stopping Asian hate, a message that resonated deeply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayumi detailed the lengthy process of securing funding, which took over two years and involved multiple grants and donations from nonprofit organizations. She emphasized the community-driven nature of the project, highlighting the collaborative efforts that made it possible.

The video, shot over two days in a convention center, aimed to create an intimate, homey feel despite the tight budget and limited resources. The casting process involved friends and family, adding to the personal and emotional impact of the narrative.

Director: Mayumi Yoshida (@immyyoume)
Writer: Mayumi Yoshida
Official video for Different Than Before, off of Amanda Sum's upcoming debut album.
Jason Lester's Miniature Set

Jason Lester captivated the audience with the behind-the-scenes details of his music video, which featured real miniatures. Built by Funko Studios, known for their work on "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach," the miniature set was constructed in just 48 hours due to a tight deadline.

This rush was prompted by a public feud between Maren Morris and Jason Aldean, leading to an urgent need for a visually impactful video. Jason described how the team used a combination of practical effects and minimal VFX to achieve the final look. The set was built in sections to allow for dynamic camera movements, and compositing techniques were used to integrate Maren Morris into the miniature world.

Despite the rushed timeline, the video successfully conveyed its message and aesthetic, showcasing the versatility and creativity of practical effects in modern music video production.
Paramore's music video for 'Rose-Colored Boy' from the album, After Laughter
Warren Fu's Surrealistic Approach

Warren Fu concluded the panel with a discussion of his music video featuring Haley Williams. Known for his surrealistic style, Warren integrated elements of childhood nostalgia and imaginative visuals into the video. He described pitching the idea to Haley without knowing her acting capabilities, relying on her stage presence and charisma. The concept revolved around a "Good Morning America"-style news show from the 1980s, aligning with the themes of the band's album "After Laughter."

Warren used rapid transitions and a mix of storytelling and performance to create a visually engaging video. He shared challenges such as the tight one-day shoot and the need to adjust the storyboard on the fly to meet time constraints. Despite these hurdles, the video successfully blended surrealism with a coherent narrative, highlighting Warren's innovative approach to music video direction.

Each director brought a unique perspective, from Kimberly Stuckwish's practical effects and Owen's ambitious land art project to Mayumi community-funded video and Jason Lester's intricate miniature set. Warren Fu's surrealistic approach rounded out the discussion, emphasizing the diverse techniques and artistic visions that define modern music video production.
The panel discussion at SXSW provided a fascinating glimpse into the creative processes and challenges faced by some of the most innovative music video directors today.

The session underscored the importance of creativity, collaboration, and innovation in bringing compelling visual stories to life, solidifying SXSW's role as a vital platform for showcasing groundbreaking work in the music video industry.
This session was hosted MARCH, 12 / 2024.

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