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5 Filmmakers Who Got Their Start Directing ’90s Music Videos

After his early start shooting music videos for the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Usher, and Childish Gambino, director Hiro Murai has risen to become one of the most exciting artists working in television today. Along with frequent collaborator Donald Glover, Murai has created some of the most scintillating episodes for the Golden Globe Award-winning series Atlanta, including the haunting “Teddy Perkins” episode.

Based on his work on Atlanta, Murai has since been able to sign a first-look deal with FX, direct a few episodes for Legion and Bill Hader’s Barry, plus the original Amazon movie Sea Oak, and, most recently, to reunite with Glover for his “This Is America” music video, which has become one of the most watched and talked about music videos of the last decade.

Now, according to Deadline, Murai is in talks to make his feature film debut with the sci-fi thriller Man Alive. While this may be an exciting new turn for Murai, he is not the first feature director to begin in the music industry. In fact, several big-time filmmakers got their start in Hollywood directing music videos in the ’90s. Namely…

1. Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze first made himself known in the ’90s directing playful, enigmatic music videos for artists such as Björk, The Beastie Boys, and Weezer. His eccentric personality and sense of humor would inevitably translate to his features, many of which being dramas infused with an absurdist premise or characters. While most of his videos are exceptionally well-crafted and fun to watch, my personal favorite comes in the form of Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” in which Christopher Walken showcases his raw, natural dancing talent.

2. David Fincher

Before making some of the best psychological thrillers of the 21st century so far, David Fincher made his start directing music videos for the original “Bad Girl,” Madonna. In fact, Fincher directed the music video for “Bad Girl,” along with the videos for “Oh Father” and “Express Yourself.” Their most iconic collaboration, however, is Madonna’s “Vogue” music video, an ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood that challenged society’s preconceptions of sexuality and glamor. It was also an anthem for the club culture craze of the ’90s, bringing the “Vogue” style of dancing from the underground gay nightlife scene to the mainstream. For what it’s worth, it also repopularized the cone bra.

3. Michael Gondry

Renowned for his ability to create bizarre, surreal films, most notably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michael Gondry was initially discovered by none other than Björk herself. Their music video “Human Behavior” would dominate MTV airtime back in the day when MTV was cool/a “thing.” Their subsequent long-lasting collaboration would enable Gondry to direct videos for Daft Punk, The White Stripes, and Radiohead, before he eventually made it into Hollywood where he would then direct his magnum opus The Green Hornet.

4. Antoine Fuqua

Speaking of Green Hornet, the film would not have had the same emotional, melodramatic punch were it not for the inclusion of Coolio’s timeless classic “Gangsta’s Paradise,” whose music video incidentally was directed by Antoine Fuqua. Prior to directing gritty action thrillers, Fuqua directed passionate, sensual music videos for Toni Braxton, Prince, and Stevie Wonder. It’s Fuqua’s proclivity for over-the-top spectacle that has carried him since he’s made the turn to features, and should continue to do so for years to come.

5. Michael Bay

When it comes to over-the-top spectacles, no one does it like Michael Bay… for better or worse. Bay’s success as a music video director for the likes of Donny Osmond, Tina Turner, and Lionel Richie would catch the attention of Jerry Bruckheimer, who would help Bay launch his directorial debut Bad Boys. And the rest, they say, is film history.

Did I miss any other big-time directors who got their start in music videos? Let me know in the comments down below and tell me what your favorite music video from a film director is.

Image: Sire/Warner Bros

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