Twenty years ago, it used to be that only Axl Rose and Michael Jackson could afford to make music videos that looked like glorified short films. Now, with the advent of the Internet and affordability of digital recording equipment, even the most cheaply made videos can have a cinematic sweep. Thus, it being Oscar week, we offer a survey of some of Portland's top video directors—those for whom the form isn't a commercial for a band, but a movie in miniature.
ALICIA J. ROSE
Defining video: Corin Tucker Band's "Neskowin," a warmly nostalgic tale of teenage abandon, casting the former Sleater-Kinney howler in a dual role as a mother and a rocker—a duality she embodies in real life as well.
All-time favorite video: Beastie Boysâ âSabotageâ and BjÃ¶rkâs âItâs Oh So Quiet.â
Dream collaboration: Sharon Van Etten. "I actually wrote a treatment for her chilling song 'Serpents' that she dug, but it didn't get past label politics," Rose says. "That it lives only in my head is a sad thing."
Defining work: Alialujah Choir's "A House a Home," in which the dream of the 1890s comes alive, then dies a beautiful death.
All-time favorite video: Seventeen Evergreen's "Polarity Song." "It's a great blend of irreverence, art and humor," Fickle says.
Dream collaboration: "Up until now, I've only directed downtempo songs, and I'm really craving to direct something upbeat, electronic or something that just plain rocks—no offense to Alialujah Choir and Portland Cello Project."
Defining work: "It's actually not a music video, but a three-minute promotional short I did for this local cat Cassow's new album, Cold Winter," Porter says. "I've only been doing this for like a year and a half, so I generally hate a lot of my other videos. I feel like I'm just now starting to hit my stride."
All-time favorite video: Jay-Z's "H to the Izzo." "In the opening scene, a little Asian kid working in his parents' convenience store raps the opening lines into his label maker. As a seventh-grader at Mount Tabor Middle School, this told me that if hip-hop was for this kid, then hip-hop could be for me too."
Dream collaboration: Shabazz Palaces. "[Rapper Ishmael Butler] is constantly saying things like, 'Thou shalt bask in the light of my phone screen glow,' that evoke a bazillion mental images."
Defining work: Ramona Falls' "I Say Fever," an increasingly delirious fantasy that gets really interesting once the owl with the gun that fires smaller owls shows up. "It starts out as just another 2.5-D animation, and then people's faces get ripped off," Nadelman says.
All-time favorite video: A-ha's "Take on Me." "When I watch it now it's kind of goofy, but I still love that 1980s rotoscoping and glorified sketchbook aesthetic."
Dream collaboration: Animal Collective.
Defining work: Red Fang's "Prehistoric Dog," which begins with the band shotgunning beers and ends with an epic battle against a gang of LARPers. "After directing commercials where the production is so big and jobs are so defined, it's really enjoyable doing something where you get to get your hands dirty and, in this case, covered in beer,â McConnaughy says.
All-time favorite video: "Chris Cunningham's video of Aphex Twin's 'Come to Daddy' is definitely one of the best videos of all time. A true stylish, artistic nightmare."
Dream collaboration: âI worked with ZZ Top lately, and that was pretty much a dream, so Iâm good.â
The Builders and the Butchers' "Lullaby." "Their music paired well with my style and I had enough resources to get the look and feel I wanted," Koleszar says, "undead rural heshers burning down a small building."
Smashing Pumpkins' "1979." "It's timeless and does such a good job at capturing that feeling of being a bored teenager in suburbia."
The Black Lips. "Their music is great, and guys that are willing to drink their own urine on stage would probably be down for a fun video."
Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside's "I Swear," depicting an alternate reality in which Ford's gritty warble is the voice of several generations. "However," Ross adds, "the Sons of Huns video [for "Leave Your Body"] does have fire in it."
Francis and the Lights' "The Top." "Simple, single take of a live performance, shot on 16mm and he just makes absolute love to the camera."
"In all honesty, I've been working with my dream band: Typhoon. They're more musically cinematic than anything else."
Onuinu's "Happy Home," a story of hardboiled eggs, foil art and disappearing into space.
Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun." "It made me realize how totally ridiculous the art form could be," Sloan says.
Of Montreal. "Kevin Barnes' recordings are so psychedelic and sexy and full of fantastic imagery, I think it'd be pretty bizarre to try and create imagery with them."