Enter the video stars

Music promos have moved on from the flashy days of McG and are rearing experimental film-makers, Tim Walker reports
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The Independent Culture

"There have always been commercial music video directors who have gone on to make successful features," says Jeremy Boxer, organiser of Resfest's European leg. "The difference with this new wave of features is that now people are more interested in inventive, boundary-stretching film-makers than in the whiz-bang types like McG."

And, as if to echo the sentiment, Palm Pictures released its second set of Directors Series DVDs on Monday, following its first collection - which comprised the selected work of Gondry, Jonze and Chris Cunningham - with four more film-makers, including Jonathan Glazer, the British director of Sexy Beast and Birth. "The Directors Series came about because music videos had more significance than anything else on the cultural scene at the time," explains Richard Brown, who produces and curates the DVD collection. "My friends and I were more excited by the new video from Spike or Michel than we were by the latest films or music."

While the majority of short films are destined to languish in obscurity, music video is a format that lends itself to avant-garde experimentation. Of the seven film-makers so far celebrated in the Directors Series, only one, Mark Romanek (director of One Hour Photo), is a film-school graduate. "Music video became a really interesting format because young film-makers were given pretty big budgets to do five-minute films," says Richard Brown. "Everyone was happy - the film-makers had a kind of film school where they could try ideas out, and the musicians got great promos for their music."

"When you're making a music video, you have to be tricksy and flashy to keep people watching," says Adam Smith, one of thefilm-makers at Resfest. "But in feature films, the story and the acting are the most important things." Smith's short, What Goes Up Must Come Down, is in Resfest, but he is perhaps best known for his work on videos for Mike Skinner, aka The Streets. "I'm all for building creative working relationships," says Smith. "Mike and I have done a lot together, and it just seems to work."

That the Directors Series DVDs are each populated by the music of a similar group of artists is no coincidence. "People like the Chemical Brothers, Beck, the White Stripes and Björk are pushing boundaries in their own work," argues Jeremy Boxer. "They're just as maverick as the artists who they've hired to direct their videos."

Resfest is at the National Film Theatre until Sunday, then travels to Glasgow, Dublin, Bristol, Belfast, Sheffield and Nottingham in October and November (www.resfest.com). The new Directors' Series DVDs are out now.