Michael Jackson is responsible for creating some of the worlds most influential short film music videos. Unlike other artists who cut together short music videos that were used to play on MTV, Jackson would spend time to create long pieces that qualify more as short films. While many of these were truncated and then aired on MTV, and later VH1, the originals were sometimes shown in their full length on special occasions. These served as inspiration for future recording artists and music video directors. Here are two important short films by Michael Jackson. One is almost never shown in it's entirety while the other was crafted to be short enough so it could always be shown whole.
For his song "Bad," Michael Jackson hired film director Martin Scorsese to shoot it and novelist Richard Price to write the scenario. He envisioned a story of a young man who had gone off to prep school and escaped the ghetto. However, when he returns home he finds himself caught up in the old turf wars and gang violence. The full-length short film begins with Michael Jackson on a bus with a bunch of other prep school kids. It's shot in monochromatic colors. He then arrives home and is confronted by the gang and is taunted for not being "bad." The scene then switches to the subway (this is the section where the main part of the song kicks in) and the film changes to full color and Michael dances around the subway defending himself in song against the charges that he's not "bad" because he won't rob people. Scorsese made great use of the subway station, creating dynamic tension between Jackson's group and the opposing gang. It was also a visually diverse film style, ranging from the soft focus and muted colors of the opening to the harsh full color and frenzied movement of the second half.
While "Beat It" didn't have the same long length as many Jackson short films, it had a tremendous impact on the music video landscape. The song was much more "rock" than his previous efforts, thanks in parts to Quincy Jones discussing the band The Knack with Michael and the success of their smash hit My Sharonna. It solidified Jackson's love of group choreography and the importance of narrative to music videos. Instead of simply showing a band performing, artists saw how important having a good story was.
The video is short, with only a very brief opening segment where the gang members head off to fight. This makes it one of Jackson's most playable videos where there is no need to truncate any of the videos length.
The music video featured a treatment of gang lifestyle in urban America. Jackson said that he was inspired by watching the gangs in Gary, Indiana when he was a young child growing up. This inspiration, combined with ideas from West Side Story, created an amazing video.
In the video, Jackson cast real gang members from the Bloods and the Crips and filmed many of the exterior sequences in the Skid Row section of Los Angeles. The gang members squared off against one another in a beautifully choreographed dance sequence, culminating with the two gang leaders tied together at the wrists and fighting each other with switchblades. Jackson shows up on the scene and intervenes before either man is able to draw blood and he leads the group in a group dance.
The video was self-financed by Jackson since his record company refused to foot the bill for the shoot. Jackson handpicked the commercial director Bob Giraldi to shoot the short film. Jackson had previously worked with big name movie directors, so this came as a shock to some. The reason Jackson picked Giraldi was that he was impressed with the way Giraldi had shot a commercial that depicted urban decay and white flight. Giraldi had grown up in a working class, immigrant Italian neighborhood in New Jersey, so he was also able to use his experiences with gangs and urban violence to enforce the videos authenticity.
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In a month, my husband and I will celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary. I can’t believe we’ve been married for so many years. One of my favorite aspects about our wedding ceremony was the music. I selected two country tunes and a religious song to be sung at our wedding. A couple from my dad’s church sang the religious song beautifully while my cousin’s husband sang one of the country song’s perfectly. I sang the other country song to my groom. On this blog, I hope you will discover some tips for picking the perfect musical selections for an upcoming, important event. Enjoy!