In an industry that spends most of its money and time on tentpoles, directors and those behind the scenes find lucrative and creative work in commercials and music videos. In the past few weeks, top-notch names have been attached to projects selling music and vehicles, garnering millions of views on YouTube.
“The Escape,” BMW
In 2001, BMW introduced “The Hire” series, a set of eight short films streamed online, well before YouTube ruled the bandwidth. Starring Clive Owen as a driver for hire, eight internationally renowned directors, including Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Tony Scott, released shorts featuring Owen known simply as the Driver motoring a different BMW with unrelated plots. (My favorite being “The Follow” with Forest Whitaker and Mickey Rourke.) If you remember how slow the internet was back then and you were following the series online, downloading the films took forever, but they were well worth watching. BMW would later make DVDs of the series available at dealerships and by request, but production ended in 2004.
Fast forward to last month, and Owen is back in the driver’s seat in “The Escape.” Directed by Neill Blomkamp (“District 9” and the unfortunate “Chappie”) and co-starring Dakota Fanning and Vera Farmiga, Owen’s character transports a young woman held captive by a shady science firm while driving a G30 5 series.
“Le Fantome,” Ford
“The Hire” series spurred some imitators in the auto industry, not garnering the following as the BMW creation. What comes close is a new short directed by Jake Scott (son of Ridley, nephew of Tony and director of several music videos and the film “Welcome to the Rileys”) and starring Mads Mikkelsen (currently in “Doctor Strange”) and Barbara Steele, an assassin is tasked with taking out a woman in the witness protection program but changes his mind thanks to the new Ford Escape.
“Black America Again,” Common
Rapper-actor Common received his 11 studio album, “Black America Again,” and for the title track with Stevie Wonder, he released a short film by Bradford Young. Young is a cinematographer best known for his work on “Selma,” “A Most Violent Year” and the upcoming Han Solo feature, is an awards contender for “Arrival.” Shot in color and black and white with various aspect ratios, the film is a moving tribute to African-American life, from the eyes of children to the elders. (Note: language)
“I Can Only Stare,” Sleigh Bells
The noise pop duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss usually create their own videos for their singles, but for “I Can Only Stare” from their fourth album, “Jessica Rabbit,” Miller enlists a co-director. Alex Ross Perry, director of “Queen of Earth” and “Listen Up Philip,” and his go-to cinematographer Sean Price Williams create a polished look for the song.
“The Numbers,” Radiohead
The music video is the third collaboration between the British band and acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson for the band’s album “A Moon Shaped Pool.” The others are “Daydreaming,” the most popular of the three, and “Present Tense,” a video similar to “The Numbers.” In between films, Anderson has directed videos for Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom and Michael Penn.