How To Pitch And Get Attention? Feat. Danny Drysdale & The Killers
I had a pleasure to interview a music video director Danny Drysdale, known especially for working with The Killers (Directed and edited Human, The world we live in, Rut) and Echosmith (Directed and edited all videos for Lonely Generation album).
This interview is all about pitching ideas, working with musicians, planning complicated shoots, taking risks, thinking outside the box, making it happen under incredibly tight deadlines, behind the scenes including very funny stories!
You can also listen on all major podcasting platforms Girl with a Camera Podcast.
Me: Can you tell me when a musician or band call you, do they have a specific idea or vision for their music video or will they call you and say: ‘Hi Danny we have a new single comping up, can you come up with some ideas?’
Danny: Actually the second version is the dream situation. ‘Hey, we have this song, do you have any ideas?’ and preferably if it’s the artist themselves that’s very cool because there’s this whole world of pitching which is just very cold and dreary. You don’t know who you’re sending your information to really. You don’t know where your ideas are going to end up and it goes to some commissioner, somewhere and it’s a lonely and dreary, dreary thing and it’s where all good ideas go to die.
In the case of The Killers I knew this was a chance because they had seen one of my other videos and that’s how this all happened. I did a thing with them for The Enemy so this was my shot.
I just sent them what I thought would be the most overwhelming presentation of material. Seriously like 10-page pitches for each video ridiculous; artistic, total photoshop, every page was like a masterpiece.
I went nuts with it and I thought if they don’t think I’m visual after seeing this I don’t know I give up I give up…
but it worked. It did somehow I think because of the song too. There was an emotional thing with the song that I really linked up to so that’s how that happened.
The presentation of your pitch is super important. Make it as clear as concise and in your language and in their language. I mean, there’s formats that people tell you about but all kinds of things work.
You show them that you really want to get it but they also need to believe that you can do it, whoever your producing team is. For me it was just me and my wife at the time. It was kind of like we can do this and we can do this I mean it was like overboard, it was it was pushing the envelope but you know we pulled it off.
Me: Speaking of pulling it off, when I did my research I’ve seen you put a screenshot on the Instagram from The world we live in video production for The Killers, can you talk about this?
Danny: I’d love to tell this. I got a text from the manager he’s like:
‘Hey Brandon’s going to call you about this video.’
‘What video?’ he’s like: I don’t know.’
Of course after coming out of Human I was super self-conscious because it became such a big song and then it got so much praise and attention I was instantly wrapped in Los Angeles.
And then I got a follow-up. So Brandon called me and the conversation shall forever remain secret. (laugh)
I want to say what he said but it was cool, we just talked about the song and what he was trying to do. It was a great song on the album but I hadn’t thought about it the way he described it and he wanted me to bring something new to it.
And he said: ‘Oh we’ll be in Banff in like two days’ or something or like tomorrow or whatever I’m like: ‘What?’
I grabbed a DP, booked a flight and prepped the video. It was actually really funny. We wandered around Banff and I was looking for abandoned areas and couldn’t find anything and this was the night before they were supposed to show up. I’d already gone shopping so we’d gotten the chair and the sheet music. The stuff was coming together.
Emotionally for me when I heard it but I wanted to bring a different feeling to it than what was on the record. Something maybe a little darker, a little more drab. The song itself is so bright I wanted to kind of bring it down a little bit.
So my idea was like this is Ray Bradbury’s like The Killers moment like to me it was like the the world in the year 3000 or something and The Killers come back and they’re like: ‘Hey look at this place and people were shorter and it’s weird.’ and there’s like abandoned homes and things because they walk into that little cabin, it’s a real hermit cabin.
Me: How much do you plan, storyboard prior to the filming if you have the time?
Danny: There’s so many unpredictable things. I had a great shot list for Human. And I remember my AD came to me and was like:
‘Uh you’re only like a quarter through’
And I said: ‘Dude, we got it bro.’ (laugh)
Once we shot those lights that we got that before the band even showed up like those those white elements in the desert with the smoke. I was so happy because that was totally like a weird design element that i just like came up with that I didn’t even tell them about I just put it in.
Though it is rolling the dice, there’s plenty of footage that doesn’t make it.I remember a world we live in there was like a rodent that I had in there that was like eating something and Brandon’s like:
‘That has to go.’
I’m like: ‘What do you mean it’s so funny.’
Me: Do you also edit the videos that you direct because i have seen on the world we live in, you’re credited as an editor.
Danny: Yes I edit all the videos. I’m doing that more. I’ve had some weird experiences where clients are like: ‘What is going on? This doesn’t feel like your video.’
So then I go re-edit it.
I have no idea what’s going on. Literally don’t because I didn’t study editing or anything. My editing is so outside the normal understanding. Sometimes it makes people feel weird but generally it works.
I’ve had actually really interesting experiences because of the video edits. With Human the label hated the edit. They were like: ‘What is up with this edit?’
and I’m like: ‘What do you mean? That’s the video.’
It’s because it doesn’t hit the beat on a cut. It’s more fluid. The secret sauce is that I grew up in a band. I was playing in a band from when I was a teenager as a drummer so i hear all these different parts in different emotional ways.
I cling to those parts as I’m feeling them, whatever’s happening in the mix and I edit it according to that. The beat has very little to do with what’s happening with the edit.
I’m trying to extend the song beyond the norm through the video because the song is the most important element.
Me: You said they hated the edit but you didn’t do anything about it. This is the version that we see now or did you or did you change it?
Danny: No I didn’t change the thing. I’m very pleased with that. That was another risk. I don’t know where that came from I wouldn’t do that now but back then I was like that’s what it is.