10 Music Videos Made By Unlikely Directors


Pitchfork reported recently that Drew Barrymore is apparently going to direct the next Best Coast video. When you think about it, the collaboration actually makes perfect sense. Barrymore has spent time on the other side of the camera in the past — she directed 2009 roller derby feature Whip It, along with a TV documentary back in 2004. And she’s also by all accounts well into her indie music (you can read Jens Lekman’s hilarious account of meeting with her about the Whip It soundtrack about a third of the way down this page). Anyway, the news got us thinking about other videos that have been made by people known for other things apart from making music videos. Here’s a selection of the most notable.

Kim Gordon

She directed: The Breeders — “Cannonball” (1993)

Before you jump all over us in the comments, yes, we know that this was co-directed by Spike Jonze. However, it was very much Gordon’s baby — she hired Jonze to share directorial duties after being impressed with the work he did on Sonic Youth’s “100%,” the only other video he’d made before “Cannonball.” It’s a shame that this remains the only video Gordon’s made — she did a fine job, and “Cannonball” remains as memorable for its dropping coins and shot of Kim Deal blowing bubbles as it does for its bassline and slinky guitar riff.

Tunde Adebimpe

He directed: Yeah Yeah Yeahs — “Pin” (2003)

Having multiple talents seems to be a prerequisite for being a member of TV on the Radio, and singer Tunde Adebimpe fulfills the criteria with a sideline in acting and a flair for animation — he actually worked at MTV as an animator before his band’s career took off and rendered day jobs unnecessary. He put his skills to good use in this kind of twisted stop-motion video for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Pin.” If you’ve ever wanted to see a fabric Karen O doll getting treated like a pincushion by some hellish voodoo machine and then get it on with a grasshopper, with disastrous results, well, here’s your chance.

Richard Ayaode

He directed: Arctic Monkeys — “Fluorescent Adolescent” (2007)

If you’re a fan of British comedy, you may well know Ayoade as Saboo from The Mighty Boosh, or perhaps as Maurice Moss from The IT Crowd. In between those two roles, however, he found time to direct this fairly deranged video for the second single from Favourite Worst Nightmare. A demented heist featuring an all-in brawl and a bunch of psychopathic clowns beating people senseless? Sure, why not?

Johnny Depp

He directed: Babybird – “Unloveable” (2010)

Remember Stephen “Babybird” Jones? He of the cynical faux-ballad “You’re Gorgeous,” which was an unlikely hit everywhere in the mid-’90s? Johnny Depp clearly does, because he tracked Jones down a couple of years back with an offer to fund a new Babybird album. Depp ended up not only paying for the recording, but also making a cameo guitar-playing appearance on the record and directing this video for first single “Unloveable.” Apparently he even wanted to come and play guitar on tour, an offer the band had to respectfully decline due to security concerns: “It would have been madness,” said Jones. “Johnny Depp genuinely wanted to come and play on the tour, but logistically it was never going to happen.”

Heath Ledger

He directed: Modest Mouse — “King Rat” (2007)

Ledger made this animated video for Modest Mouse shortly before his death — in fact, it was his final directorial work, and a pretty fantastic piece of animation. He also created a video for Nick Drake’s “Black-Eyed Dog” in 2007, the precursor to a planned documentary project about the lovelorn English singer. It was, sadly, a project he’d never the chance to complete.

Shannyn Sossamon

She directed: Warpaint — “Undertow” (2010)

This is kind of cheating as Sossamon — best known for her role in A Knight’s Tale — used to be in Warpaint. But still, she’s better known for her acting career these days, so it counts.

Weird Al Yankovic

He directed: The Black Crowes – “Only A Fool” (1999), among others

By all accounts, Yankovic is an accomplished director — he directs his own videos, and just about every press release you read about him notes that he’s worked with the Presidents of the United States of America, Ben Folds, The Black Crowes, and various others. His official website provides a list of directorial credits that makes for interesting reading — who’d have thought he’d have worked with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion? We’ve chosen his Black Crowes video to showcase his directorial prowess, and it’s quite a nice piece of work.

Michael Stipe

He directed: REM — “Discoverer” (2011)

Stipe made this with his sister Lynda, as part of a project for REM’s latest album Collapse Into Now whereby a variety of filmmakers and artists were invited to create a clip for one of the album’s songs. Other invitees included English photographer and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood, French photographer and visual artist Sophie Calle, and, inevitably, James Franco. Curiously, Franco’s videos (he made two, for the songs “Blue” and “That Someone Is You”) are the only ones that haven’t seen the light of day as yet.

Joaquin Phoenix

He directed: Albert Hammond Jr. — “In Transit” (2006)

This is clearly such an exclusive production that WMG, in their infinite wisdom, have done their best to make sure it’s pretty much impossible to find on the web. Because, y’know, you wouldn’t want people seeing your artists’ videos, right? It’s a shame, because it’s a pretty great piece of film, apparently all shot on Super 8 and intercut with stills. If you really care, there’s a copy you can watch here, but we’re not allowed to embed it. Because… well, who knows why major labels do the things they do? We doubt that they know either.

Lady Gaga

She directed: Lady Gaga – “Edge of Glory”

As we discussed last week, Gaga ended up taking the directorial reins for this video. The results have not been, shall we say, universally acclaimed.