Strategies and secrets from the artists, the producers, and the tiger trainers who know how to turn out the hits.
1. Figure out what kind of music video is right for you.
GO ahead and write your songs in L.A. Sign the record deal in New York. But when it comes time to shoot the music video for your soon-to-be song of the summer, get your butt down to Miami. We are the undisputed music video capital of the world and have been for decades, luring A-list artists with our postcard scenery, flashy lifestyle and general tolerance for bad behavior. But there is a science to the Miami music video, and we asked Gil Green—a Magic City native who has directed dozens of 305 videos for Khaled, Pitbull, Diddy, Romeo Santos and tons more—to walk us through the process.
LIFESTYLE: Is your music less an artistic expression and more an excuse to rub your success in the nose of every person who doubted you from grades one through 12? Then the lifestyle video—a supercut of all the yachts, Lamborghinis and models you can get your hands on—is for you. Perfect Example: “Miami,” by Will Smith
STREET: Want to give the viewer a taste of Miami’s less polished, more authentic corners? “There’s luxury and then there’s the Miami on the other side of the bridge: Overtown, Liberty City, Carol City—that’s the life that a lot of hiphop artists have grown up with,” Green says. Perfect Example: “Hustlin’,” by Rick Ross
CONCEPT: More of a storyteller? The concept video lets you take a creative angle centered around your song. You’ve got four minutes to tell a story of revenge, heartache, or just pull a Drake and spend three days going around town handing out a million dollars. Perfect Example: “Needed Me,” by Rihanna
2. Location, Location, Location.
Personally, we recommend a location with some waterfront views. The MacArthur Causeway, Star Island and the Miami River have worked for Green in the past. But you’ve got options: Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (see New Edition’s sensual “I’m Still in Love With You”), driving through Wynwood in a golf cart on LSD (see “Chains” by Nick Jonas) or Drake’s unfurnished downtown apartment (see DJ Khaled’s “I’m on One").
3. Get some fly girls.
Sisqó knew the power of some well-placed ladies, which is why he threw as many as possible into the “Thong Song” video to distract you from the fact that he is roughly the size of an asparagus spear. That video was, naturally, shot in Miami—and luckily models in this city are plentiful. Looking for high-fashion types? Elite or Next are model management companies with runway-ready talent. But stilettos don’t work too well in the sand, so Green prefers a Miami-based company called Ethnicity Models, who provide a more inclusive roster of all shapes and colors.
4. Find a tiger.
It’s a scientific fact that you’ll look 17 percent cooler standing next to a predatory cat. You also might be lunch, but is that not a risk worth taking? Green has had to wear a zookeeper hat on more than one occasion. Flo Rida wanted a camel in his “Zillionaire” video. Rick Ross needed a white tiger for “Here I Am.” And, thankfully, there has only been one trip to the hospital. (Actually, though: The tiger’s trainer was bitten in the leg during the “Here I Am” shoot.) But if you’re still set on a four-legged friend, hit up Green’s South Florida connects, two companies called Animal Crackers and Trademark Animal Talent.
5. Be prepared to drop some serious cash.
So what’s all this going to cost? Somewhere around $250,000 to $350,000, Green estimates. Slightly out of your budget? Try and find a couple of college kids desperate for experience. “With the technological advances, there is a more guerrilla way of tackling videos that a lot of young kids out of film school will do,” Green says. Just warn them not to make any sudden moves around the tiger.