10 incredible women who directed some of your favorite music videos
Meet the women behind some of the most iconic videos in music.May 29, 2020
There are more than a few artists who’ve released videos throughout their career without ever working with a director who’s a woman. It’s an unfortunate truth, especially when you consider the iconic and era-defining videos that directors such as Hannah Lux Davis, Roxana Baldovin, Melina Matsoukas and more are creating with artists who are actively diversifying their collaborative pool.
Here’s a list of 10 women whose work you probably already know, and didn’t realize it, or whose name you’ll hopefully be seeing in the credits of more amazing projects soon.
Alisa Ramirez of the Aces
The Aces drummer Alisa Ramirez takes on a multitude of roles in the band’s video for “Daydream.” She wrote the carefree, elated story the video follows, and she also directed and starred in it alongside her bandmates. It’s a story of grand theft auto, downing stolen drinks in a motel room and skipping out on the check at a diner to make the craziest memories with your closest friends. Ramirez now has four directing credits under her belt, including for the band’s 2018 singles “Last One” and “Volcanic Love.” As a director, her close relationship with her bandmates and their creative processes brings each scene to life in the most natural, vivid way possible.
Hannah Lux Davis
Hannah Lux Davis has been racking up directing credits on music videos since the mid-2000s. She’s now one of the most sought after directors in the industry. Most recently, she’s been working with the biggest names in pop, from Ariana Grande to Demi Lovato. But even back through 2010, Davis was teaming up with the likes of Breathe Carolina, Twin Atlantic and Machine Gun Kelly. Straddling that line between pop and alternative is Halsey, whose intensely sharp video for “Nightmare” was directed by Davis, too. The essence of every artist she works with oozes through each video, flawlessly bringing every idea and vision to life.
L.A.-based music video director Roxana Baldovin has a reel that shows off collaborations with artists from all over the world. With credits on projects with Kehlani, Neon Trees and Doja Cat with Rico Nasty, her portfolio manifests a distinct attention to detail. One of the best examples of this, though, is in the visual for Lil Uzi Vert’s “Ps & Qs.” Baldovin reimagines the rapper as the star of his own school-based anime. From the writing on the chalkboard to the posters on the classroom walls, she leaves no detail overlooked. She’s even sure to highlight an actress in the music video wearing a jacket identical to the one Hayley Williams wore in Paramore’s “Still Into You” video.
Ivanna Borin made her main stage directorial debut in 2016 with Nathan Sykes’ music video for “Famous.” The video was followed up with directing credits on videos for Bon Jovi, HRVY and Steve Void. All of these bits and pieces eventually led to a career-defining opportunity to co-direct the music video for 5 Seconds Of Summer’s 2018 hit “Youngblood,” which has been viewed over 123 million times. It’s a captivating presentation of Borin’s knack for compiling quality storytelling and character development into a visual journey.
Malia James’ reel is packed to the brim with videos that make the simplest emotions feel visually intense. In the video for Troye Sivan’s 2015 single “Youth,” even the pairings of random people at a house party had their own mini storyline within Sivan’s larger message, as the director made the most out of every detail. James uses unorthodox angles and scene cuts alongside ornamental lighting choices to bring her treatments to life, such as in the video for “Ghost” by Halsey. Her unstructured formatting allows each scene to permeate the viewer’s emotions in a way that a clean-cut setup can’t.
One of the earliest additions to photographer and music video director Megan Thompson’s portfolio was the music video for Billie Eilish’s “ocean eyes.” The visual features Eilish singing directly to the camera while a purple haze swirls around her. This is a common occurrence in Thompson’s work, a one-take focused on the artist and the emotion conveyed through song. Most of “Long Night” by With Confidence takes place at a piano, and the entirety of Hands Like Houses’ “Colourblind” is the band performing to the camera. The simplicity of Thompson’s centering of each artist without distraction brings viewers even closer to the music itself.
Sophia Peer is responsible for one of the most memorable music videos of the 2010s—Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun.” In the video, the band set out to break the record for most world records broken in a music video. They proceed to smash clocks with guitars, break vinyl records and cartwheel while wearing boots. The video is charmingly chaotic. Peer’s work on other videos, such as the National’s “I Need My Girl,” which is all charm and no chaos, goes to show the span of her range as a director. She succeeds through both disorder and simplicity.
Diane Martel doesn’t shy away from wild treatment ideas, no matter how controversial they may be. Her work drove pop culture conversations in 2013 with both Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” When she paired up with the 1975 in 2015, it was a match made in heaven. Band leader Matty Healy always seems to find himself embroiled in some lighthearted controversies, and Martel made perfect use of that in the “Love Me” video. Healy weaves between cardboard cutouts of Harry Styles and Charli XCX while taking swigs directly from a wine bottle, and Martel continues her streak as a boundless creative.
Sophie Muller has directed well over 200 music videos in a career that spans over two decades. Among these are projects with bands such as the Cure, Weezer and Coldplay as well as videos for massive pop artists such as Beyoncé, Selena Gomez and P!nk. When you have a portfolio that looks like Muller’s, everything is a career highlight. However, her work on the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” is a standout moment. The theatrics go hand in hand with the song’s drama, etching it permanently into the canon of music history.
Melina Matsoukas is the director behind the music videos for some of the most iconic songs by women in pop. Her videos are extravagant productions without a single dull moment. Of her era-defining credits with Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry, the most encapsulating is Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” There are few things that scream 2008 more than the staples of party culture that Matsoukas highlights throughout the video: glasses with the lenses popped out, animal print mini skirts and a cameo from Akon. Much of Matsoukas’ reel exudes this rare gift for preserving pop culture in a timeless way.