Plenty of well-known directors have started out doing music videos — the relatively brief nature of the form, along with its virtually limitless scope for experimentation and self-expression, makes it a fine place to cut your filmmaking teeth. This remains the case even if the band haven’t actually asked you to make a video, and the advent of the internet (and, specifically, YouTube) means that aspiring directors now have a huge potential audience for their clips. The result has been a surfeit of fantastic fan-made music videos over the last few years. Here’s a selection of our favorites — we’re sure there are plenty more, so let us know what else we might have included.
Spiritualized — “Shine a Light” by JamesSighs
We stumbled across this gem while searching for an embeddable version of this song from Spiritualized’s epic Royal Albert Hall live album. Made way back in 1994, it predates YouTube by over a decade, and it’s pretty much as minimal as you can get — as the description says, it was shot in one take, with a budget of $8.50 (which went to beer). And yet, there’s something perfect about it — the drifting light is as hypnotic as the music that it accompanies, looking like an analog version of one of those iTunes visualizer things. It’d be especially good accompanied by some exotic psychedelics, we imagine.
Grizzly Bear — “Two Weeks” by Gabe Askew
At the other end of the spectrum, this remarkable animation by director Gabe Askew is so polished and so perfect for the song that at first glance you’d swear it was the official video (actually, it’s way better than the official video). Askew’s video caused quite a stir when it was released a couple of years back, with Ed Droste tweeting about how much he liked it, and about half a million page views on YouTube and Vimeo following soon after. (If you’re wondering how the video was made, there’s an interesting interview with Askew here, in which he discusses the techniques and software he used.)
Gomez — “Notice” by yota
Animation seems to be a favorite for fan-made videos, perhaps because the people making them are long on time and short on money. You’d certainly need to have oodles of time to make something like this, which appears to have been painstakingly created from individual hand-drawn cels, like a paper version of Argentinian graffiti artist Blu’s famous animations (although given what you can do with video production software these days, it’s hard to be sure). Anyway, however it was made, it’s gorgeous.
Sparklehorse — “Sad and Beautiful World” by tunesoforange
We discovered this video shortly after the death of Mark Linkous, and we’re not even remotely ashamed to admit that watching it had us in floods of tears. There’s something about the vastness of the stark winter landscapes of Denmark, where the video was shot, and the smallness of the people within those landscapes, that captures the song’s mood perfectly.
Liars — “Proud Evolution” by Azrael1
You can’t really go wrong with spectacular nature footage, and this video does a particularly good job of marrying some beautiful cinematography from the BBC’s Invisible Worlds team to Liars’ brooding meditation on evolution. The choice of clips that are both aesthetically stunning and occasionally disconcerting — that bee getting caught in the spiderweb! — ties in beautifully to the idea of nature red in tooth and claw that seems to be alluded to in the lyrics.
Phoenix — “Lisztomania” by 00mit00
Someone’s sat down and watched a lot of ’80s movies to make this — basically, a fantasy John Hughes video for a song that totally warrants a fantasy John Hughes video. The attention to detail is pretty impressive, particularly the sense of timing — you’d swear that the people on screen were actually dancing to the song you’re hearing. God only knows how long something like this would take to do, but it’s genius.
Boards of Canada — “Roygbiv” by berryrydell
Also on the borrowing old footage idea, this video takes clips from a selection of ’80s-era advertisements — specifically, adverts that were concerned with visions of the future, pushing products like early cellphones and pocket calculators, and/or using then-cutting edge computer graphics. The retro-futuristic vibe of the footage is a perfect fit for the song, which has more than a touch of Kraftwerk about it, and creates a strange sense of nostalgia for a future than never existed.
Radiohead — “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” by Tobias Stretch
This one probably stretches the premise somewhat: it was made as part of a competition to create a video for this song, and ended up as one of the winners — but then, since the Grizzly Bear video was made by a professional animator, we don’t see why this shouldn’t get a shout-out too. It’s a pretty fantastic piece of work, a weirdly sinister piece of stop-motion that features a selection of bizarre pagan forest creatures playing out a loose narrative that you can’t quite follow.
Beastie Boys — “Sabotage” by Time Relapse
Yes, a shot-by-shot recreation of Spike Jonze’s classic ’70s cop show spoof video for the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”… in Lego. This project has been underway for years, and for now all there is to show for it is two trailers, but we do hope its creators get around to finishing it one day, because it’s many, many kinds of awesome. (We particularly like the flames when the car blows up at 0:50.)
Unk — “Walk It Out (Remix)” by unknown, because someone called SOFA Entertainment hauled it off YouTube
I’mma let you finish, but this is the best fan-made video ever, etc etc.