Director Mark Romanek helped reinvent the music video in the 1990s, his pieces for the likes of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” and Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut” becoming edgy exercises in style and story.
Romanek’s work was so inspiring to me it lead me into a media production career. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Mark and has given me advice and motivation to make my own feature film that I am finally embarking upon this year. In 2011 I edited a six minute music video montage of Romanek’s work. That video was screened at the F5 creativity festival in NYC where Romanek was a guest speaker as well as winning a Bronze Telly Award for outstanding editing.
U2 has unveiled the music video for its new single “Invisible,” a stylized concert performance directed by Mark Romanek that zeroes in on the sense of community that’s long been a cornerstone of the band’s appeal. Romanek’s video creates a vintage/classic look for the band with a black-and-white rendering of its performance, opening with a close-up of Bono’s microphone mounted inside a neon-lit circular frame shot on RED EPIC Monochrome.
In the fall, Romanek helmed “Picasso Baby,” the Jay-Z pop-up exercise that brought together the disparate likes of Judd Apatow and Marina Abramovic as Hova hummingly held court.
At 54, Romanek has been demonstrating a little semi-predictability of his own. Three decades into his professional life, the filmmaker is an instructive study in how, in this age of multiple mediums, directorial careers don’t have to follow a familiar path—or an expected one.
After making one modestly budgeted feature in 1985, “Static,” Romanek became a commercial and video guru, working on (and winning awards for) numerous such short-form pieces throughout the 1990s. It was a cultural influence arguably as great as that of any feature director, and one that, because of its pace and efficiency, allowed for a diverse set of collaborations.
Romanek seemed to leave that behind in 2002, when he directed the Robin Williams dramatic thriller “One Hour Photo” and began immersing himself in film. (Before this recent crop, his last video was for Coldplay’s “Speed of Sound” in 2005.)
Though the music video is seen as a more marginal form now that MTV has all but given up on it, Romanek maintains a surprising amount of optimism for the form. He says if he tried another one there are a few people he’d really like to work with, including Tom Waits and Bob Dylan.
And he notes that the “centralized” effect that the cable network’s video-centric days had weren’t great for the form, and that the current democracy of the Web made for a far more creative period. “You have YouTube videos from all over that get 100 million views. That’s a really good thing,” he said.