Over the last few years the music video format has more or less disappeared from television and like the music industry in general, has been affected by the internet. With a new era of music videos, Alter The Press recently spoke to leading video director Robby Starbuck, whose portfolio includes Breathe Carolina, Silverstein, Dance Gavin Dance, Metric and more.
Influenced by the work of Mark Romanek (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Michael Jackson and Nine Inch Nails), Smashing Pumpkins videos and especially Marcy Playground's video for 'Sex and Candy', Starbuck calls himself "a dreamer, a storyteller" who stretched the truth to get the opportunity to direct and told ATP! about how he develops music videos, his future plans including working with Silverstein for their live 10th Anniversary DVD and more.
ATP: For those who don't know, tell us how a music video is developed between you and the band you're working with?
RS: Well to begin with labels, bands or management send me the prospective track(s) and budget. From there the vision comes to it's own fruition through my process. Then I write a treatment and send it to the band/label/management.
ATP: What difficulties/flaws do often come across when making videos?
RS: 1 day is not always enough to shoot. Budgets are a bit too low still, I see them progressively rising though.
ATP: You say budgets are usually pretty low. Is this an affect of the worldwide economic situation or just down to level of bands you're working with
RS: It's really just a worldwide economic climate. Wait... Actually, yeah it's also the bands I choose to work with. Of course Beyoncé has more money but do I connect with her music? No.
ATP: With your vivid imagination, has budgets made it impossible to bring certain ideas to life? Any examples?
RS: Yes but I can't give any examples because I might still use the ideas.
ATP: Would you say your videos have a certain look that is easy to identify to viewers? A look that makes people say "that's a Robby Starbuck video"?
RS: Absolutely, wouldn't you?
ATP!: What has been your favourite video to work on?
RS: The video for 'Order' for Mother/Father.
ATP: Do you think having a good knowledge of the band and their music is vital when making a video?
RS: Yes I always research bands thoroughly when I'm working with them so that I can really make the best video for them.
ATP: Other than the work of Mark Romanek. What other video makers have influenced you?
RS: Well a ton really but some really important directors for me are people like David Lynch (The Elephant Man, Twin Peaks), Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento), Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) Jonas Akerlund (Lady Gaga, Metallica, U2)./
ATP: You're also a part of a group of video makers called RSM. Tell us how that started and what it is about?
RS: RSM used to be a company for just my freelance work. As popularity around my videos grew I got offered to sign to some other companies. After a lot of thought I realized I wanted my own company to help artists. So I renewed my LLC for Robby Starbuck Media and started my roster of young vibrant directors.
ATP: With music channels like MTV no longer playing music videos. Has the internet revived the music video format?
RS: It's a tough call, MTV back in the day was great but now anyone everywhere can watch nearly any music video whenever & whenever they want. I really embrace that & the way new technology pushes us forward.
ATP: In recent years music video directors like Spike Jonze and Mark Webb have moved into motion pictures. Is this something you'd like to do?
RS: I'm going to do it. It may even be sooner than you think.
ATP: Where can you see the music video format in the coming years?
RS: Same place really except you'll see more HD formats and see very little shot on film anymore. It may become an extreme rarity actually.
ATP: How important HD is music videos and how can change it?
RS: It's essential to music videos right now, it truly helps young labels compete with major labels. It's a great platform.
ATP: You've recently wrapped up filming Silvestein's 10th Anniversay shows. How did they go?
RS: Well I just got home yesterday and promptly ended up in the hospital with pnuemonia. I'll be here for a while. So to make a long story short, they were the best days, just really cold and busy. To expand I really connect with the guys in Silverstein and each member for a different reason. I'm jealous of Billy's style and grace. I feel like Shane and I have kindred spirits in things we've gone through. Paul and I are both intensely focused on business. Neal and I connect on this weird sexual level (just joking). Lastly Josh is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, I have nothing but respect for him and I truly think he's a great role model for Silverstein fans. Quiet and intelligent. The whole band is a pleasure to work with.
ATP: What can fans expect to see from the DVD and when?
RS: I think June or July is the expected release date. They should expect to feel a riotous beautiful show that pays homage to the 10 years Silverstein has been together. Oh and a little stop motion.
ATP!: What advice would you give to any budding video makers out there?
RS: Work hard. When you think you've put in enough work - you haven't. Work.
ATP!: Is there anything you'd like to say to close the interivew:
RS: Thank you for reading this. If you're one of those fans of my work or music videos in general that took the time to read, it makes me feel so crazy and cool to think that I have people all over the world that give a shit about what I have to say. I have hoped my entire career to make a difference with the voice I've been given. Lastly, thank you for giving me that voice.
Visit Robby Starbuck's Vimeo page or Robby Starbuck Media to view his work.
Robby Starbuck on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
Photographer: Nathaniel Taylor