CMT’s Video Director Nominees Discuss Their Trade

Wes Edwards, Roman White Reflect on "Before He Cheats" and "Amarillo Sky"

Editor’s note: The 2007 CMT Music Awards show premieres live Monday (April 16) at 8 p.m. ET.

Roman White and Wes Edwards, both nominated for video director of the year at this year’s CMT Music Awards shared the techniques and limitations of their trade to an audience of students Wednesday (April 11) at Belmont University’s Massey Performing Arts Center in Nashville.

White is nominated for Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” and Edwards for Jason Aldean’s “Amarillo Sky.” The two other nominees — Paul Boyd and Shaun Silva — were unable to attend. Boyd is up for directing Gary Allan’s “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful” and Silva for Kenny Chesney’s “You Save Me.”

Dubbed “The Insider’s View,” the discussion was moderated by Harry Chapman, a former television entertainment reporter who now serves as Belmont’s director of development and major gifts.

White said he moved into directing from a background in animation and special effects, while Edwards said his early training was in editing. A director, White explained, is the creative force behind music videos and the one who usually comes up with the treatment — or script synopsis — on which a video is based.

Occasionally, the recording artist who stars in a particular video will offer creative input, Edwards acknowledged. But, he added, “Sometimes you have to talk artists out of bad ideas.”

White joked that a director has to “listen to the song a million times” before coming up with a viable video concept. Edwards agreed, saying, “A lot of times when you get a song from a label, you’re kind of flying blind.”

Both men stressed that directors have to take into account the budget a record label assigns a video before coming up with a final plan. Edwards said conditions are so variable that it’s hard to talk about “average” budgets for country videos, but he did settle on $75,000 as a common total.

A good producer is vital to a successful video outcome, White and Edwards asserted. They explained that a producer oversees casting, locations, props and the hundreds of other details each filming involves.

“They’re the backbone of the shoot,” said Edwards. Randy Brewer produced “Before He Cheats,” and Brittany Hailes produced “Amarillo Sky.”

White said he shot “Before He Cheats” in downtown Nashville from the early morning until 4 a.m. the next day and used special effects to “blow Fourth Avenue up.” Pointing out that Underwood came off as “sweet” in her two early music videos, he said he wanted to change directions for her by portraying her as “an angry woman blowing up buildings.”

Edwards shot “Amarillo Sky” in Rankin, Ill. Since the song is about the plight of the American farmer, Edwards said he originally planned to depict a “grizzled old farmer.” Then he decided that was too much of a cliche. So he opted to show young “next generation” farmers — actual local farm boys he recruited for the music video. He said he was able to get the aerial shots — normally a prohibitive expense — by hiring a small plane used by skydivers for just $150.

White pointed out that pop music videos usually give directors the opportunity to be “edgier and hardcore.” Edwards said the reason is because pop songs are “less likely to specify a time and place” than country videos.

Much of the magic in a video, the two men noted, occurs in post production. That being the case, they said, directors need to know their technical capabilities and how to maximize them. “If you have access to technology,” White told would-be directors, “learn it.”

Edwards’ next video will be for Trace Adkins, while White will develop one for former American Idol finalist Carmen Rasmussen.