When Billboard-charting rapper Cardi B watched the first cut of her music video “Bartier Cardi,” she had one suggestion for director Petra Collins: “More me.”
Collins’s directorial role marks a recent shift in music videos: more women in the director’s chair. As a result, the videos have become more female-centered, effectively creating more music videos that encompass Cardi’s “more me” ethos. There’s a handful of talented women directors that have made the recent renaissance possible, including Diane Martel (director of “Do You Want To,” by Franz Ferdinand), Melina Matsoukas (director of “Formation,” by Beyoncé), Sophie Muller (director of “Stay,” by Rihanna), and Hannah Lux Davis (director of “Bang Bang,” by Nicki Minaj).
This April, Missy Elliott tweeted: “Just like artist trusted me to write songs for them I wonder what artist would take a chance on me directing a video for them.” Janelle Monáe promptly replied, taking her up on the offer. Monáe’s latest video, “PYNK,” which was shot through rose-tinted filter, was directed by Emma Westenberg. Lacey Duke, another newcomer who has directed a video for Monáe (“I Like That”), said in an interview with Nylon: “Be amazing at what you’re doing, because you’re going to have to be better than the boys to even be considered, unfortunately.”
If at one time music videos created — and subsequently killedby overuse — the trope of women dancing in bikinis on cars, women behind the camera have opened up the genre to include shots of women in power. The sexiness is still there, but the gaze has shifted, away from male-only and toward more female ones. Tropes of the new women-centered music-video genre include warm filters, soft colors, and women as the lead instead of an accessory.
For Ralph, the Toronto-based alter-ego of Raffa Weyman, the collaborative nature between filmmaker and musician is imperative to the creative process. She is known for her punchy pop tunes where both the beat and the lyrics resonate widely. But she may be equally known for her dreamy music videos that create narrative through visual motifs and choreography.
Ralph’s videos are directed by her best friend and collaborator Gemma Warren. Warren’s distinct music videos are no doubt influenced by her photography background. Long, slow pans — even the actors and dancers appear to be moving in slow motion — create a distinctive seriousness to the videos. And then Warren’s signature move: the power shot. A person (or group of people) holds a pose and stares at the camera for a beat. Meta and self-aware, the power shots in Warren’s videos work as a nice metaphor for the current climate of women-directed music videos: self-assured, strong, staring the camera down and daring for anyone to say anything amiss.
I sat down with Raffa and Gemma to talk about what it’s like to create music videos with each other.
Tatum Dooley: Can you pinpoint the start of your collaboration?
Gemma Warren: It started in our kitchen. We live together, and she played the song for me and I couldn't stop moving. When I hear something, I just know it feels right. [“Tease”] was the most organic video I've ever done in terms of putting a concept together, and we wanted to portray the video as a celebration of women friendships. It was really collaborative from then on.
Raffa Weyman: I was always nervous to ask her to shoot, because when you have friends who are artists, you obviously want to collaborate with them, but when you don’t have the budget, you want to respect that they do this as a business. So I didn't want to ask Gem, and then one day she was like, "We should do a shoot together." And I was like, "Oh my God, yes, of course.”