- Alan Smithee – Have you ever used the pseudonym Alan Smithee?
- Andy Dick – Any relation?
- Buy – Can I buy your videos on tape/DVD?
- Career – How did you get into directing?
- Career – If you could go back and re-do a music video which one would it be?
- Career – What started you on your directing career?
- Career – What thoughts were going through your head when you made your directorial debut?
- Dick taste – Explain why you have worked with such divergent artists as Matchbox 20 and Backstreet Boys?
- Dick taste – What are your favourite films?
- Dick taste – What are your musical faves?
- Dick taste – What’s your take on artistic responsibility. E.G. Marilyn Manson, Eminem?
- Dick taste – Which video that you directed is your all time favourite?
- Dick taste – Who would you most like to work with dead or alive?
- Help – Can you make a video for me or my band?
- Help – Could you give me some work experience? I could just stand back and watch – picking up a few tips along the way.
- Help – If I give you my phone number will you contact me?
- Help – I’ve got an idea for a video. Can I send it to you?
- Help – Will you read my screenplay?
- Performance – Do you consider yourself a meticulous film-maker like Stanley Kubrick?
- Performance – Do you ever watch a music video and think, “I could do better than that”?
Alan Smithee – Have you ever used the pseudonym Alan Smithee?
(Brief explanation: Alan Smithee is the name directors put on their films when someone more powerful comes along and tells them how to shoot it or cut it. Ashamed of the results and feeling they are no longer in control directors opt for the pseudonym even though people usually know who directed it.)
Yes I have asked to have my name removed from a couple of videos when I’ve had the footage taken away from me which is a humiliating and demoralising process.
My pseudonyms? Mojo Würken or Bif Rydberg.
Andy Dick – Any relation?
No!….though as he’s immensely sexy, terribly funny, is an amazing sportsman and devilishly handsome I can see why you’d think there was a link! Also I’m not related to Tim Allen, whose real name was Tim Dick nor am linked in any way to Coby Dick, Dirty Dick, Magic Dick, Philip K. Dick, Private Dick or Donald Dick. Oh yeah…I am also not the Nigel Dick who was the one time Chief Executive of Radio Broadcasting in New Zealand, nor am I the Nigel Dick who is the secretary of the British Music Society in York or the Nigel Dick who is the Applications Manager of Motorola in East Kilbride! In case you hadn’t already noticed there’s a lot of dicks about.
Buy – Can I buy your videos on tape/DVD?
Yes & No. I don’t own the videos I direct so I can’t sell them. But sometimes the videos I direct appear on compilations along with other videos the artist may have made.
Career – How did you get into directing?
Step 1: I got a degree in Architecture which taught me to get used to working through the night.
Step 2: I got a job as a photocopy clerk for the Sewage Division of the Anglian Water Authority which taught me a little about photocopy machines and a lot about dealing with shit.
Step 3: I got a job as a cab driver which taught me to get used to getting up at 4 in the morning.
Step 4: I drew safety diagrams for Amoco gas platforms in the North Sea which taught me bugger all.
Step 5: I busked on the Paris Metro which taught me that you can live on 14 Francs a day if you really try.
Step 6: I got a job as a motorcycle messenger for Stiff Records which taught me about staying dry and upright whatever the circumstances.
Step 7: Stiff (eventually) promoted me to in-house producer which taught me to be a p.a., location scout, wardrobe stylist, assistant director, art director, editor, bullshitter.
Step 8: I got fired from Stiff which taught me about rejection.
Step 9: I got hired by Polygram to commision videos which taught me how to deal with insecure artists and ego-maniacal managers.
Step 10: I started directing because we didn’t have the money to make videos for the smaller artists after we’d blown it all on Dire Straits, Def Leppard and Elton John…the rest is history.
(This is a true story by the way.)
Career – If you could go back and re-do a music video which one would it be?
Well there’s plenty of videos I’ve directed where I made decisions that I subsequently regretted. Decisions such as I picked the wrong cast member, I spent too much time on one shot and not long enough on another, I allowed myself to be press-ganged into taking a job I didn’t want to do etc. But in the end film-making has to be like the rest of life. You have to be man enough to own up to your mistakes and open enough to learn from them. However if I could re-do Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (even though I did it for free) I would – it was a wonderful experience the like of which I doubt I will ever be lucky enough to experience again.
Career – What started you on your directing career?
I was producing videos for Madness at Stiff Records in the late 70’s and one of my bosses, Alan Cowderoy, asked me to direct a video for one of our artists, Jona Lewie. The budget was about $1,000 and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
Career – What thoughts were going through your head when you made your directorial debut?
The printable ones were something along the lines of Arrgh! Help! What do I do now? How did I get into this? I remember being particularly frightened of how to place the camera. The kind man behind the camera, Chris Morphet, helped me out.
Dick taste – Explain why you have worked with such divergent artists as Matchbox 20 and Backstreet Boys?
When I met Carson Daly whilst shooting 2gether he asked me the same question except he used Guns N’ Roses and Britney as his examples. Well, for a start my musical tastes are quite varied – I’ll listen to Fatboy Slim right after a nice bit of Delius and at work I like to mix things up a bit too. Also I’ve tried not to get too pigeonholed (which is very easy in this business) and though you get a bit of stick for shooting Patty Loveless after Green Day or shooting Celine Dion the same week as Ozzy it keeps you from getting stale. Quite obviously what works for Celine doesn’t work for Ozzy – it’s similar to working out in the gym: you use different machines to exercise different muscles.
I also discovered early on in my career that making videos for artists I admire is rarely fulfilling – inevitably they are not the person you’d imagined them to be. Some of my best work has been done for artists I never listen to at home. I think that perhaps my emotional separation from the music provides me with the clarity to make sure I do what I think is best for the artist which is not necessarily the same as I what I would like to do for the artist. I don’t feel this is a compromise or a comment on the artists I choose to work for, directing videos is what I do for a living, someone is giving me hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend and they deserve the best possible job for their money.
Dick taste – What are your favourite films?
It changes constantly but you could start with:
Adaptation – I’m a Robert McKee disciple. Figure it out.
Alien – Timeless.
Aliens – I hated it the first time but it just gets better and better.
Amelie – Clever, surprising, funny and French
Barry Lyndon – Seriously flawed but full of magical moments.
Blade Runner – Music video director’s 101.
Bowling For Columbine – I?m for anything that?s against guns.
Casablanca – The most romantic movie of all time?
Chinatown – Intrigue.
The Commitments – Better than Spinal Tap? Maybe.
The Contender – Dodgy ending but wonderful premise – and Jeff Bridges XLNT as always.
Days Of Heaven – A contender for most beautifully photographed movie of all time.
Die Hard – Quintissential action movie. The build-up is incredible.
Far From The Madding Crowd – I was a big Hardy fan.
The Front – Hecky Brown’s (Zero Mostel) last sequence is a jawdropper. So too are the final credits.
The Goodbye Girl – Love the dialogue.
Hard Days Night – John, Paul, George & Ringo
Heat – Great atmosphere, amazing coverage and Ashley Judd is just gorgeous.
High Plains Drifter – One word: Clint.
His Girl Friday – The fastest dialogue ever, so witty and fun.
The Hit – Enormously atmospheric, a gem.
The Italian Job – Michael Caine and a bunch of minis!
Mad Max 1 – How to make a chase movie on a budget.
Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) – Mel was never better.
Manhattan – Woody at his best and Gordon Willis’s photography is superb – even the framing is worth a thesis on it’s own!
The Name Of The Rose – Sean Connery does a Poirot in a monk’s outfit.
Network – Paddy Chayevsky’s writing is amazing – an incredible piece of work.
The Outlaw Josey Wales – Clint’s finest hour.
Planes, Trains & Autombiles – John Candy driving the Mustang between the trucks – hysterical.
Raiders Of The Lost Arc – I saw it three times in the first 4 days of its release. Hate the ending though.
Remains Of The Day – English people being very repressed. That’s me!
Tin Men – So subtle, so funny, so beautifully shot.
Y Tu Mama Tambien – Sexy, sinful and surprising.
Dick taste – What are your musical faves?
Stevie Wonder’s fabulous ‘middle’ period (Talking Book through Songs In The Key Of Life), the first 2 Zeppelin albums, almost anything by The Beatles and almost nothing by Bob Dylan.
Dick taste – What’s your take on artistic responsibility. E.G. Marilyn Manson, Eminem?
Phew, tough one. Firstly I think it’s important to respect your audience and always you hope that if you write a song/ make a video/ write a book in which someone is murdered (for instance) people will have enough sense not to go out there and mimic what you’re describing. But it’s not that simple is it? It is impossible to be responsible for the actions of those you’ve never met.
I think if your name is Nigel Dick and you make videos that are just commercials for bands that will be seen by millions of impressionable teens then you will try and avoid subject matter that might be misconstrued and result in injury. (If you reply that I must be a hypocrite because I directed videos for Great White and the Vinnie Vincent Invasion then I concur that you have a point!) However I now avoid anything with guns and look carefully at topics involving drugs.
However if your name is Marilyn Manson or Eminem then you are quite patently an artist first and foremost and I think you have the right to say whatever you need to say, but there are grey areas: E.G. I think Eminem’s song where he gets pissed off about being hassled when he’s with his daughter is a bit disengenuous when he quite obviously courts publicity. On the otherhand I was very impressed by Marilyn Manson’s thoughtful words in the Columbine aftermath, I don’t think he avoided the questions hurled at him but he did stand his ground which I found very impressive.
Bottom line: the minute you release a record, do an interview, let your picture be taken etc. people will look up to you. Be aware of that and do what you can to help them understand clearly what context your ‘art’ is to be seen in.
Dick taste – Which video that you directed is your all time favourite?
The question everyone loves to ask me. And the answer has to be “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. It was my own personal Woodstock moment. I stood just feet away from Phil Collins playing the drums and heard Sting, Boy George, Paul Young and George Michael all sing right next to me without any studio trickery – quite a remarkable experience. Oh yeah, we also helped to save millions of lives – how often do you get to do that by making a video? (There’s now a whole section of the site about the Making Of the Band Aid Video. Go to the Main menu and click on DIARY BAND AID).
Dick taste – Who would you most like to work with dead or alive?
Firstly I’ve discovered that meeting your musical heroes is not always a good thing. I found Van Morrison to be a grumpy man and didn’t play his music for months after meeting him. On the other hand Joni Mitchell was a delight and I wished I could have spent more than one evening in her company. At the end of the day life is full of surprises and I’m happy to live in hope and see what lands in my mail box.
Help – Can you make a video for me or my band?
Absolutely. Hit the REPRESENTATION link on your left and call my rep.
Help – Could you give me some work experience? I could just stand back and watch – picking up a few tips along the way.
NO! I’m the Grinch of videos. I get very grumpy and covered in green fur whenever anyone wants to watch me work. What could you possibly learn by watching me chew my pencils and play pocket billiards while I’m impatiently waiting for the next set-up to be ready other than I’m a very moody, grumpy, green-furred, not very huggable kind of chap?
They say having a mentor is a great way to learn. Well I never got that particular memo and so I just learnt the hard way – by making mistakes and laboriously watching other people’s finished work and trying to scam ideas from them – usually a very inspiring and also sobering experience. It worked for me – you could try that approach too.
Truth of it is I have such a low threshold of focus and way too much guilt. I had to stop working with an assistant because every day at 930 I’d start freaking out about finding her work to do instead of concentrating on my work. This was not healthy so I returned to my comfort zone of delusional workaholicness and I’ve lived happily ever after. OK, so I need to take this rather large bug out of my arse and give something back…but until the proctologist arrives the answer is still: NO!
Help – If I give you my phone number will you contact me?
No, sorry. There are people who can’t be trusted with e-mails or phone numbers and they spoil it for every-one else. Worst example? The Backstreet Boys fan who kept ringing me in the middle of the night from Dortmund, Germany demanding AJ’s phone number. (I don’t have it by the way.) Then there was the guy who told me he knew where I lived and was going to kill me…
You can send me an e-mail. But the three-strikes-& -you’re-out rule counts. I won’t reply to 4, 5, 20, 50 or 100 e-mails, sorry.
Help – I’ve got an idea for a video. Can I send it to you?
No! You could try sending it to the video department at the label for your favourite artist or you could start offering to write concepts for production companies. There’s always a shortage of good concept writers. By the way I write nearly all my own concepts. I find it very hard to take other people’s ideas on board. It’s a failing of mine and I wish I could overcome it.
Help – Will you read my screenplay?
Well I’m afraid the answer has to be no. It is most likely that the majority of you won’t put me in the situation recently experienced by Tony Kaye but it seems it is unwise to agree to read unsolicited material. Don’t you just hate living in such a litigious society? Also (adapting self-serving, Grinch-like scowl) I don’t have the time or the patience.
Performance – Do you consider yourself a meticulous film-maker like Stanley Kubrick?
When a record company is giving me thousands of bucks to spend on shooting a video I think it’s my job to be meticulous don’t you?
Performance – Do you ever watch a music video and think, “I could do better than that”?
Yes. And very often it was something that I wrote on and failed to get the job. But just as often I see a video I didn’t get and think WOW, why didn’t I think of that?
Sex – Have videos allowed people without talent to be sold on pure sex appeal and style?
Yes. But no more so than the modern recording studio has allowed people with no recognisable musical talent to be perceived as ‘Musicians.’
In recent years videos have become so powerful that labels have actively pursued artists who look great on camera and can sing instead of ones who are just great musical acts. In an ideal world you get both, e.g. Missy Elliot. I think we can all agree that Britney is a great artist whose success has been built upon her videos. Is she as important a singer as Aretha Franklin who was never really a babe but could sing like nothing we’d ever heard before? No. That doesn’t question Britney’s validity it just puts her under a different heading. Taking more examples from the past I think if Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker were to both appear as brand new artists today Rod would have a career and Joe wouldn’t.