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by Michael Miller

Dissecting 2017’s Best Music Videos

by Michael Miller

Dissecting 2017’s Best Music Videos

Each year ahead of the NZ Music Awards the industry pays tribute to those whose talents get local music to our earbuds (engineers and producers) and screens (music video directors), with the Artisan Awards. Ahead of that ceremony on October 25, we asked the head of SAE’s film school, Michael Miller, to take a look at this year’s Best Music Videos and comment on what makes them stand out.

The 2017 crop of NZ On Air Best Music Video finalists have been announced and the creations couldn’t be more different. This year’s nominated directors are Sam Kristofski for Fazerdaze’s Lucky Girl, Dan Watkins (Reel Factory) for Shapeshifter’s Her, and Joel Kefali for Got It Bad by Leisure.

Sam KristofskiFazerdaze Lucky Girl

With its cropped frame, aged photography colour grading and montaged imagery, this video matches the tone and retro appeal of Fazerdaze’s bubbly song. The style is synonymous with the art films of the pop art movements of the 1960s. The focus on quickly edited shots, often repeated, some with matching camera movement, or juxtaposed and remixed in a variety of ways makes for compelling viewing.

In many ways, this video is a homage to the power of montage. The retro style, quick edits and camera movement have been hallmarks of director Sam Kristofski’s other music videos, including Opossom’s Blue Meanies and Tom Lark’s Something To Tell You.

Dan Watkins (Reel Factory) – Shapeshifter – Her

A trippy journey that lands us on a Kiwi beach, under a cosmic pink sky filled with stars. This music video follows a familiar track – create two parallel sequences of imagery and have them converge at the apex of the song. In this case, we have a woman kayaking through space, cut between shots of Shapeshifter rocking out on a reef. Disappointingly, the kayaking woman in the wet white dress does feel oddly anachronistic alongside the futurism being portrayed.

Of all the finalist videos, this utilises the most dramatic visual effects. Blue skies can make for an effective ‘green screen’ and it appears that the team at Reel Factory have used it to great effect to key in a new background behind the band playing on the reef. This keying is layered with several more complicated techniques, including digitally tracking some impressive camera movements so that their starry pink lemonade skies parallax beautifully as the camera swings back and forth.

Joel Kefali – Leisure – Got It Bad

This video is comprised of a series of meticulously designed and beautifully lit frozen vignettes, with enraptured models staring off-screen as Got It Bad’s loopy beats play beneath. Each scene is explored by a stabilised camera, with purposeful moves that find their way to a well-composed framing. It looks like a continuous shot as the transitions between the vignettes are hidden with masking and cleverly timed crossfades.

Joel Kefali’s other music video work has featured the use of vignettes with impressive mise-en-scene that matches the tone of the artists he’s working with – most notably the music video for Lorde’s Royals. In the Got It Bad video Kefali pushes the stylisation further and several of the shots are arresting with their composed, single-frame storytelling. The video never shows us what everyone is staring at just off-frame.

Wrapping up

I wouldn’t like to pick a likely winner, but it’s worth noting that this year’s final three nominees created music videos that thoroughly match the songs beneath them. The millennial retroism of Kristofski’s Lucky Girl for Fazerdaze, the bombastic soulful futurism of Watkins’ Her for Shapeshifter, and the floaty vignettes of Kefali’s Got It Bad for Leisure, where everyone is looking at something off screen that may not even be there.

It’s a testament to NZ On Air that local music videos continue to look fantastic, push boundaries and buttons all while acting as a calling card for our local musicians.

Michael Miller is an award-winning filmmaker and Film Head of Department at SAE Auckland.