Directing Film Versus Directing Music Videos

Article written by Herb Kimble.

Summary: As a director, you’ll need to be prepared to approach any potential project.

Michael Bay’s first project was with George Lucas, but he truly got his start working on music videos and commercials. That’s where he developed an eye for arresting moments, which helped propel him into a career as a successful filmmaker.

Commercials and music videos tap into a different aspect of direction, and you have to approach each project with a different mindset. Even if you are tapping into some of the same skills.


Watch most music videos and you’ll notice there isn’t a lot of storytelling happening, or there is but it’s not very obvious. Music videos rely on images, scenes and moments, which are mostly silent to the viewer, in order to signal certain feelings. This can have the effect of a story, and is sometimes intended to be so.

Movies and television let the director stretch out the story and flesh out the characters. It gives the director more time to explore the nuances of things like the setting, or the emotional arc of your characters.


Music videos are very fast productions. You get the music, you work out the treatment and you’re finished shooting within three weeks. Movies take longer to shoot, sometimes feeling like a significant portion of your life was invested.

That’s because music videos are conceptually much different than movies. Not just because of the song’s time constraint, but the music video needs the montage in order to be successful. Movies can suffer if techniques like montages are overused, which makes time feel rushed and disconnected.

This article was written by Herb Kimble. Herb Kimble is the founder of CineFocus Productions, a film production company in Los Angeles and Urban Flix, a streaming network that specializes in multi-cultural content. For more info, about Herb Kimble, visit his Twitter.