Everyone and their grandma knows that Vimeo is the place to find the world’s best filmmakers. But some grandmas may not realize that there are plenty of influencers, creators, curators, and schools that also call Vimeo home. That’s why we’re excited to start highlighting not only filmmakers, but awesome people from across the Vimeo community, and to have them offer insights into what they've learned from their particular area of expertise.
With over 35 Staff Picks as an executive producer and director's rep, Danielle Hinde, founder of music video production company Doomsday Entertainment, seemed like the perfect person to kick off this series. Credited hundreds of times in the description boxes of some of Vimeo's most celebrated directors like Hiro Murai, Lance Drake, Dave Green, and Carlos Lopez Estrada, Danielle has had a massive impact on the music video industry over the past several years. We sat down with Danielle to find out how music videos are born and learn what it takes to work in the industry at a high level.
As someone who works as both an executive producer and a director’s rep, how do the responsibilities differ and how do they work with one another?
The two roles are vastly different and the same, simultaneously. I’ve been doing sales forever so that feels natural and effortless to me. It wasn’t in the beginning though, I felt like I was learning Russian. As an EP [executive producer], you learn stuff everyday because you are always challenged with new scenarios. With sales, it’s like playing chess or putting together a puzzle. I love figuring out what the next move is that will help the director get to where we need to be whether it’s for commercials or features. Directors may never fully understand the intricacies of what goes on behind being a rep since it’s such a subtle art, so give your rep a big hug the next time you see them because you have no idea what they just had to do for you. Being an EP is a lot more chaotic and makes me exercise all the problem-solving skills I learned from my SAT tutorial class. You’re having to look at something as a whole and try to piece it all together with your crew, connections, favors, etc. Anyone who knows me well, knows I would be the worst line producer ever. That takes a whole different skill set that I respect so much. I have the best line producers in the world and we wouldn’t be as successful as we’ve been without them. EP-ing is all about the bigger picture, psychology, and client management which is definitely more of my comfort zone. I’ve found doing the repping and EP-ing together a much more streamlined and efficient way to do business, at least for me.
When you meet someone outside of the film industry and they ask you what you do, what do you tell them?
That I’m a wedding planner and a therapist.
How did you get into music videos? Why did you decide to start Doomsday?
I started out as an aspiring music video dancer but thanks to my amazing bio-chemist mother, I was strongly encouraged to go to college. I had no idea what I wanted to study so I just eenie meenie miney moed it and picked film since that seemed close to music videos and dance. From there I started writing treatments for some of the most prolific hip-hop music video directors and junior repped under a director repping company (one of the first) where I learned mostly everything I know. I transitioned to Michel Gondry’s company, Partizan, where I worked for eight years and my love affair with music videos continued. But I wanted more. I wanted to do more than sales and I wanted to physically make stuff. If I weren’t in this business I’d probably paint houses or move to Ojai and build shit. There is nothing more rewarding than creating something and seeing all your hard work in front of your eyeballs. So that’s when Doomsday started. Little bit of trivia for you that not a lot of people know… my company is named Doomsday because my Ironman Triathlon coach called me Doom about nine years ago. There are a lot of reasons why I got that name but the abridged version is… I did my first Ironman with a broken arm. Many people ask when I did the 2.4 mile swim with one arm, did I just swim in circles… the answer is basically, yes… I was on so much Motrin I barely knew what my body was doing. A whole fleet of people so insanely removed from this industry only ever call me Doom. My directors call me Mama Doom however, or Mom, which makes me feel really good about myself and my mortality.
What has changed the most about music videos since you started working in the industry?
Aside from the obvious… budgets, the risk/creativity level is at an all-time high. When I started in this business, a new artist got $200k — now they get $20k. It’s all good though because technology has changed and $20k isn’t so impossible. I get annoyed when people say music video is dead, just because they’re not broadcasted how they once were. I’ve never been more excited about music video because you can do whatever the f— you want to do now, purely because it’s not for broadcast. I’ve been on some shoots in the past five years where I’ve said to myself, how are we even allowed to do this right now?? And that’s an exciting feeling.
What are some of the qualifications you look for when signing a director to Doomsday? Where do you go to find new directors?
I always look for directors who have a unique voice and aren’t just mimicking what their mentors are doing. There are always trends whether it’s stop motion, phantom camera blowing stuff up, smoke flares, abandoned youth robbing grocery stores, natural light realism doc vibes, treadmill running, etc. Be original, even if it’s super weird. I’ve said this a bunch before as well, but just be a decent person. There is no reason to be a dick so I often filter that immediately before I sign someone. What we do should be fun and creative, we’re not saving lives. Its incredibly hard work, don’t get me wrong, but let’s all remember why we’re doing this. I’m not even kissing ass, but I often find a lot of new directors through Vimeo and Staff Picks. I also get a lot of referrals from people. It’s hard to keep up with all the directors emails I get in a day but if I get an email from someone I know whether it’s label, agency, or management, I tend to pay attention more. I also get a lot of recommends from my own directors which I think is very cool. I don’t know what they’re doing over at Emerson and Chapman but the majority of my directors/interns came from there.
Do you have any advice for unsigned music video directors hoping to get representation?
Following up on my last statement… if you know anyone at all in this business, it always helps to have someone send an email on your behalf. Especially from a name that we recognize in our inbox. Unfortunately, the influx of director submissions by email is so intense that we often don’t have time to get through them all. It’s not like the old days when we would get something tangible like a DVD in the mail and it would sit on your desk for weeks. Perfect example: Pensacola reached out to me awhile ago and I missed their email somehow, so my old directors CANADA reached out to me on their behalf and said I should sign them and I did. I’m so glad I did because they’re genius. I also seem to respond to modesty and humor in director’s emails as well, it catches my attention. If I get an email that says, "I am the best director of this generation,” I ignore it immediately. And you should make videos for your friend’s bands! When you do, if you’re going to use every favor you have, make it worth it. Really think about the execution of what you’re doing and if it makes you stand out from the crowd.
How many music video briefs do you get in a week? How do you determine which of your director’s to write on which video?
It really depends on the week. It could range from 10 a day to one a day. It also usually depends on the financial quarter of the labels so we can’t always control that. Last August it was so slow that we made an obnoxiously elaborate Ice Bucket Challenge video because we were bored and just wanted to make something. Most of the time the commissioners have a good idea of who they want to write. If they don’t, I pitch some of my guys who either fit the creative brief or I know the artist is on their wish list or I feel like it’s something that will build their reel more.
Music videos saw a decline in popularity and cultural impact after MTV basically stopped playing them in the early 2000s. But with the top 10 most popular music videos on the Internet all coming from 2010 or later, it’s clear they’ve seen a significant rise in popularity over the past few years. What do you think is responsible for this turnaround? Has the raise in popularity impacted music video budgets at all?
I think it just took the labels a minute to figure out how to evolve with the new platform. There are now all these exclusive premieres for music videos on Noisey, Vevo, Revolt, IFC, etc., and a lot of added promotion which helps drive those views up. Labels are making so much more content than they used to, like lyric videos, teasers and BTS videos (which are all great ways for a new director to build their reel btdubs) to support the video so that helps get as many eyes on videos as possible. Back to my original point, we’re able to take more risk with videos and they’re often controversial or shocking so that will definitely get people’s attention. We often get briefs that say we want people to be able to sum up the entire video in one sentence “did you see that video where they were covered in tabouli” or whatever it is. The raise in popularity has definitely not affected budget in anyway. In fact, I find the budgets shrinking across the board. That’s where good ol’ product placement comes in handy for some of the pop videos; it helps supplement the budget required to pull some of these videos off. Most videos we do would look insane with product placement, so we just have to pull every favor we have and often lose money on them. It’s usually worth it in the end if the final product is incredible and it only helps build the reel.
Is there anything about the music video industry that still surprises you?
Every day is a constant surprise. I guess that’s why we’re all still doing this. I get to wake up every day and not know what’s going to happen. It could be a total shit storm of problem-solving or it could be one of the best days ever with elephants, explosives, helicopters, and kittens. We get to travel all over the world doing what we love. We were just in Capetown shooting a commercial and everything went wrong like, everything, and I’ll never forget my director coming up to me on hour six of OT, let’s call him Scmhiro Schmurai, and as everything was falling to shit, he said, “Do you ever just not want to do this anymore?” and I shook my head violently in agreement because yes, there are plenty of times we all feel that way. But when you climb out of the mess and you still create something so amazing, it’s the most rewarding feeling. So… yes, it’s stressful and full of surprises and yes, we’re usually dealing with the most insane circumstances, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else… except for that building shit in Ojai thing, that’s real.
Sounds awesome. Thanks, Danielle!