Q1: How did you come up with these guidelines?
A: It has been a long journey spanning several months to bring us to where these guidelines are now. First we talked to hundreds of directors at WDMV meet-ups, through email, and social media. From there we quickly realized the pitching process was one of the greatest sources of frustration for directors. We decided to follow in the spirit of the AICP and their guidelines for the advertising industry, and began drafting up our own guidelines. We used the information from the hundreds of conversations we had with directors, as well as precedent established in other industries such as the TV and Advertising industries, to craft the first draft. From there our network of volunteers began sitting down with commissioners, reps, legal advisors, and production companies to take feedback and revised the document accordingly. We now feel like its in a great place to share to continue the conversation on a larger scale. This does not mean they are perfect, and we are excited to have you all to give us feedback to help us make them better. That way we will make these first guidelines a robust foundation for us to continue to build more.
Q2: I appreciate what WDMV’s Pitching Guidelines are trying to do, but I have a few concerns and/or issues that I would like addressed before I pledge.
A: First of all, thank you for your support and taking the time to read the guidelines. It is important to remember these are just suggested guidelines and so they afford a degree of flexibility. As long as all parties are doing their best to follow in the spirit of the guidelines (RESPECT, TRANSPARENCY, MINIMIZE FREE WORK), these guidelines will have succeeded.
We hope by reading through these FAQs we can help clear up most of your concerns or questions, but if after reading these FAQs, you still have some concerns or suggestions, we are always looking for feedback on how we can make our guidelines better, so feel free to email us. If our community thinks it is a worthy revision, we will make it happen to better reflect our industry.
Finally, it is important to understand supporting and sharing these guidelines serves many other important functions:
1) To open up the bigger industry conversation
2) To educate directors and give them a clear rubric for what a respectful process can look like.
3) To educate label and artist representative who might not realize the harm they are doing.
4) To rally the community and realize that change is possible.
So even if you don’t think they’re perfect, I hopefully you see the value in still pledging your support. Don’t let Perfect be the enemy of Good. So with all this in mind, we urge you to reconsider and decide to support the mission and the spirit of the guidelines, knowing that they are a first step to bigger change.
Q3: Who has already pledged?
A: Check out our pledge list HERE. But in the meantime, we are excited to share that we have already garnered the support of Spike Jonze, Melina Matsoukas, Paul Hunter, Hiro Murai, Alma Har’el, Emily Kai Bock, Ian Pons Jewell, DANIELS, and the dozens of other directors from all levels of the industry who have pledged to support WDMV’s mission and adopt our guidelines.
Q4: Why does it matter that big name directors pledged to support these pitching guidelines when they don’t even need these protections?
A: While it is true that the more successful directors do not need the protection of these guidelines, many of them still remember what their first years of music video directing was like, and still see that the industry is broken in many ways. They are not just voicing their support for the guidelines but also for WDMV’s overall mission. By lending their support, they are legitimizing the document and spreading the word. It’s also important to note that the vast majority of the directors who wrote and pledged to support these guidelines are the beginner to mid-level directors who are still “in the trenches” and are the people who need this document the most. This document is still very connected to the people on the ground, still dealing with the realities of music video pitching.
Q5: Why is the Concept Phase necessary? Why are we limiting the treatment pool to 5?
First and foremost we are trying to uphold one of our organization’s major tenets: MINIMIZING FREE WORK. To better understand these decisions, let us walk you through our thought process.
So what is the problem? The problem is, it’s not uncommon for 40+ directors to blindly invest days if not weeks on treatments without compensation or any confidence they will be read, let alone considered. How do other industries fix this problem? First, the easiest analogy to the music video industry is the advertising one. With commercials, bid pools usually consists of no more than 3 directors (per the AICP Guidelines). But this wouldn’t make sense for music videos because commercials can afford to have such a low bidding pool due to the fact that the agency and client probably spent months, if not longer, developing a single script and concept. This means they can have the confidence that all there treatments from the directors will vary only in execution. Music videos don’t have that luxury. Who knows what the artist is going to respond to? Will their favorite idea even fit the budget constraints? Too many unknown variables. That is why we added the Concept Phase, which allows the labels and artists to still solicit ideas from enough directors that they can feel confident that they will find a good fit, but without asking dozens of directors to waste weeks of work on a fully fleshed out treatments, many of which would have ideas that wouldn’t even be considered in the first place. Now when we presented this idea to a few trusted label commissioners, they were honest and told us 3 or even 4 treatments would be really hard for them to adhere because it left so little margin for error in an industry that is unpredictable. They said they usually tried to get 5 treatments at most because it wasn’t so much that it felt exploitative, and not so little that their artists would feel limited by their options. So we revised it to 5 treatments based on the commissioners’ own history. It felt like a good compromise and a hell of a lot better than 40.
Q6: I’m just starting out. Will these guidelines close off opportunities for new directors like me?
A: No! You will still have the same opportunities to pitch on all kinds of videos. Many labels and musicians are still going to need to see a lot of ideas before they can decide on a director and concept to go with for their music videos. This is why we made sure the Concept Phase had no pool limit to ensure there was still room for young up-and-coming voices to emerge. We only limited the number of directors who actually have to write full treatments to limit the amount of unnecessary work that is put into treatments. This way none of us are wasting dozens of hours working on a treatment, without even knowing if the original seed of an idea is something the artist would even consider. This is how most other creative industries work to ensure less time is wasted. It is also important to remember that these suggested guidelines are there to protect you. If you are just starting out, feeling passionate, and you choose to put in the extra free work without first getting your idea approved by the artist or artist representative, that is your choice and your risk to make. As long as it’s not the expectation. (And trust us, after your 20th full treatment in row gets rejected, you’ll be grateful when this is no longer the expectation)
Q7: What if I am a very visual director, won’t the Concept Phase hurt me?
A: In these situations, it is fine for directors to send over a page of images. Whatever makes the most sense to sell the concept/vision without asking directors to put in more work than necessary. These guidelines are meant to free up directors, not restrict them. Like the guidelines say, whenever any project needs to deviate from the guidelines, all we ask is for all parties to continue in good faith and upholding the spirit of the document.
Q8: Will these guidelines actually work? Is change possible? Will commissioners actually listen to them?
A: One of the great things about this document is a lot of it is common sense. They’re the kinds of standards that most other industries already have. We are throwing a softball to the industry, and we believe, based on most conversations we’ve had, that many of the individuals and companies in our industry will agree to these terms.
That being said, these guidelines also have the potential to wield great power. Like in the case of any collective bargaining, the more people pledge to adopt these guidelines, the stronger they become. Here are just a few of the ways this can playout:
Blanket agreements over production companies and rep rosters are a great way to protect entire rosters of directors. Basically they’re a handshake agreement saying, if you want to work with any of the directors at our production company, you have to adopt these guidelines. Imagine if every major production company adopted the guidelines in this way and you can begin to see the potential strength this document can have.
If almost every director that a commissioner or manager is reaching out to is asking to adhere to the guidelines, obviously it is going to make their jobs a lot harder not to comply.
But what about people without a company or rep? These guidelines serve as an educational tool, not just for the directors to empower them with understanding of their own rights, but also to educate the labels, managers, and artists who might not be aware of how their actions have been hurting directors. The more educated and aware our community is, the harder it is for directors to be taken advantage of.
Finally, worst case scenario, if a company or individual repeatedly and intentionally deviates from the guidelines in a way that negatively affects the process, we can alert the community so we can collectively avoid bad work situations.
Q9: Someone isn’t following the guidelines? What do I do?
A: Send us an email! We would love to help you out! But before you do send us a message, ask yourself these questions about the person or company involved:
Was the situation out of their control?
Was this the first time they deviated from the guidelines?
Was anyone intentionally hurt or mistreated?
While it’s important that we do our best to ensure our industry is upholding these guidelines, we also have to grant a little bit of leniency because our industry can be so unpredictable. Our industry has been a chaotic place to work for so long that it may take a little bit of time and a lot of effort for it to be fixed.
Q10: Why are you fighting for directors? There are so many producers and crew members who are also taken advantage too!
A: We know that our crew members, producers, production companies, and all other collaborators are also effected by the broken system. This is very important for us to emphasize. But we believe before we can completely fix the industry for everyone, we have to start somewhere small. By starting the conversation here in terms of respect and transparency for directors, we hope it begins to reframe the entire way we as an industry looks at ourselves. It might seem too small for some, but all big changes have to start somewhere. We are merely a tiny volunteer organization completely run on passion. Rather than framing this as an organization that is only looking out for directors, I hope you see that our fight is your fight, we are just using whatever power we have left to lead the way. Please come join us.
Q11: Shouldn’t directors be happy that they get to do something fun like make music videos for a job? Why are they complaining about this?
A: While there are many wonderful things about making music videos, it is still work and all work deserves to be recognized. This question is an unfortunate and unhealthy way to frame creative work in general. This narrative hurts anyone who follows their passion (writers, painters, musicians, filmmakers, etc). It only helps those in charge who hold all of the money and power by justifying the status quo. In a recent study they found that passionate people in creative industries were far more likely to be exploited. We cannot reward any system that takes advantage of this. Everyone deserves to be compensated for their time, energy, experience, and creativity. We need to reframe the labor conversation to see creative labor is still labor. Full stop. When we “complain” about it online, we are not complaining in isolation. We are apart of the community of laborers all around the world. We are pushing this collective narrative forward for all laborers without protection in all industries.
Q12: Why do the guidelines seem so overly complicated?
A: We thought a lot about this! It's important to keep in mind that these guidelines are that… just guidelines. No one is expected to follow this document 100% to the very last line. It would be impossible knowing how chaotic the industry can be. They are meant to help educate young directors who have no idea what a respectful process should look like, educate labels and artist representatives of how their actions might be hurting the people they are working with, and lastly help us hold one another accountable. This is why we wanted to create a comprehensive and detailed breakdown, so anyone who is excited and willing to learn, can have this document as a resource. There are about as many stages in our guidelines as in the commercial world. And yes it may feel like an inconvenience for some people, but we have to remember that convenience usually comes at a cost, and that cost usually is exploitation. We must not let our desire for efficiency come at the cost of how we treat people. The one extra step we are adding, the Concept Phase, is meant to stop the all too common practice of soliciting 40+ treatments from directors that a majority of which will never even be read or seen by the artist. A treatment can take many days, to even weeks to create. Thats 20-40 directors performing 20-40 hours of unnecessary work for the sake of convenience. We are not asking for much, just respect and transparency. What decent human being wouldn’t want that for their industry? It is worth it.
Q13: This is just how “supply and demand” works. There are too many directors and not enough work. Isn’t it the directors’ fault that they are not getting paid?
It is true, the music video industry is highly competitive. Directors are very passionate people, and so they are willing to sacrifice a lot for their work. There is no way we are going to change those things.
You might be misunderstanding our intentions if this is your response to our guidelines. We are simply making our story known and advocating for respect, transparency, and minimized free work. We as a culture cannot use “supply and demand” arguments to justify a blatantly disrespectful industry. You can have “high supply” and “low demand” for directors while still treating them like humans. And that is all we are asking for. We aren't necessarily advocating for higher fees. We are advocating for transparency, which will lead to financial transparency. And financial transparency will be important for us to truly understand the economic reality of our industry. Before we can know how much of the pie we can ask for, we need to see the whole pie. We know in some ways music video directing will never be financially lucrative for most people (in the short term at least), but we still deserve to know how much our videos are making the music industry in ad revenue. The music industry is on course to reach its late 90’s revenue peaks. Youtube is paying almost $2 billion a year to the music industry. 90 of the top 100 most viewed videos of all time on youtube are music videos. Transparency will clarify so much and help us all understand exactly what we deserve. If it turns out we deserve nothing, then that’s fine. We just deserve to know. And until we know, we at least deserve to be treated and respected like human beings in the meantime.