Get the skinny on making music videos during filmmaker's visit

Screenshot of Miley Cyrus video directed by Diane Martel
April 21, 2022 - 3:30pm

The Department of Cinema Studies will welcome music video director Diane Martel as the 2022 Harlan J. Strauss Visiting Filmmaker. Martel will lead a series of free community events about her 30-year career.

Martel, a native of New York City, began her creative performance career as a street artist, and she said her experience in dance and choreography influenced her filmmaking career most. Her first big projects were dance-focused documentaries funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that aired in the early 1990s on the Public Broadcasting Service.

Since then, Martel has directed music videos for Method Man, Gang Starr, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Coldplay, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus, to name just a few.

“I’ve been curious about teaching for some time,” Martel said. “I feel confident that I have some good ideas to explore with students, a good story about my own path and growth.”

The community events will kick off with “The Art of Music Video” on May 2. Martel will discuss how she established herself in the industry, including how to interact with music labels and work with top performers to turn their music into visual art. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Room 177, Lawrence Hall.

On May 4, Martel will explain the history and evolution of music videos through the years at “From MTV to YouTube.” She will screen and analyze music videos from various genres that have influenced the industry’s trajectory from 1980s MTV videos to today’s YouTube videos. The screening and discussion will also take place at 7 p.m., also in Room 177, Lawrence Hall.

In the final event of the series, “Treatment Writing,” Martel will lead an interactive workshop and take participants through the process of creating a “treatment” that outlines the concept, direction and aesthetic of a creative media project before it begins. The event is set for May 6 at 2 p.m. in Room 41 of the Knight Library.

Martel said the events are not only for those who aspire to direct music videos.

“What I want them to think about applies to the arts overall,” she said. “I hope they will have a better understanding of how artists develop a unique, authentic voice.”

Martel will be the seventh Harlan J. Strauss Visiting Filmmaker since the series began. Established by a generous endowment from Harlan and Rima Strauss, the program brings veteran and rising filmmakers to the UO and connects them with the community’s aspiring creatives. Harlan Strauss earned a doctorate at the UO in 1974.

In addition to holding community events, Martel will mentor cinema studies students as a guest lecturer in the course CINE 408: The Art of Music Video this term.

“It’s all exciting to me,” Martel said. “I’m working on a specific idea for us to focus on through the week as well as some technical, historical teachings.”

Each year, the course that accompanies the visiting filmmaker is slightly different.

“The emphasis of the course is built around whoever we’ll be hosting that year,” cinema studies department head Priscilla Ovalle said. “This class is a music video production class, basically, with attention to Diane Martel’s areas of expertise in movement and performers.”

Upper-division students majoring in cinema studies can apply to take the high-demand course, which offers a unique “professionalization experience” for 20 students, Ovalle said. Selected students are expected to attend the public events that complement the course.

“They get a lot of time with the filmmakers,” she said. “They get classroom time, and they get these events where they’re learning with their community. But then they also get smaller group mentorship opportunities.”

By Lauren Church, College of Arts and Sciences