From her online presence, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the ridiculously friendly and warm chat with of Melbourne based producer and self-professed “bundle of fun”, Emma Haarburger. She is one of the key speakers at the Clipped Music Video Festival, part of the Vivid in Sydney, and this is a new experience as she has only spoken on panels which were “more about pathways and possibilities in the film industry” at events such as St Kilda Festival. It’s interesting to be part of a program devoted to music video production, as she muses “you never really feel like you know what you are doing and you are always kinda figuring it out because every job is different and it’s kinda nice sometimes to reflect on the experience that you have gathered along the way and to be able to share that with other people. You don’t really realise how much you have learnt until you can relay that to others who might not have as much experience.”
It’s evident that despite Haarburger’s impressive history, not long out of university herself she can relate the feeling of being new in the industry and shows a want to help out new practitioners. “It’s not easy, it’s a very blind thing when you are starting out and you have just got to figure it out along the way, it’s really nice if you can help others.” Haarburger has seven years experience producing music videos and commercials and is currently also in the development of some long-form features and web series with Screen Australia. Yet she says that she fell into her first music videos, early, right after uni and it snowballed from there. “It just kinda follows on”, she explains “I did a bunch over the last five years and it’s just kinda a revolving door, you start doing a couple and then they keep getting bigger and bigger…the directors that I started working with just kept pummeling them out. It’s just good fun.” Producing music videos are particularly appealing as it gives a greater scope of creative freedom to the director and the crew. Techniques which can’t often fit into the more commercial video work, “It’s a visual playground, that you can do anything that you really want in.”
However, throughout the interview, we discuss her tendency work on music videos with a strong narrative element, that tell some kind of story. Mentioning that my personal favourite of hers is Vance Joy’s ‘Georgia’, she gushes “I know, it’s one of my favourites, I love it!” However, despite receiving nods from the industry, Haarburger’s shows regret that this video did not reach as many people as she might have hoped. Yet this music video, she reveals is a demonstration of the power that this medium can have; “There is a really beautiful Youtube comment floating around on their somewhere that it changed a guy’s perspective in terms of how he saw guy relationships and I thought ‘that’s where it’s at, when you can change someone’s thoughts and feelings on the world and you can make them think differently then that’s the ultimate’. Then you kinda just hope it reaches more people at the same time.” Through this video, the director Luci Schroder and the crew did not only want challenge the audience’s view on gay relationships but on societal gender roles as well. Haarburger describes how “it’s meant to play on gender roles, like at the end of it when you see all the men crying and the females are quite stoic.”
Haarburger breaks down the music video process as “the director coming up with the creative vision and the producer makes it happen.” Yet Haarburger describes the level of creativity, she also needs to employ in order to make sure the videos get made. “I work in tandem with them, if you can’t achieve it logistically then you come up with another creative solution together. Then I get all the cast and crew involved and the locations and work with all the team to figure out the schedule and the logistics within that.” This can often involve very quick thinking, as she describes how the location for ‘Georgia’ pulled out the day before the shoot and they had to arrange a new location, “rejigging the logistics of doing explosions and smoke effects in 24 hours is pretty hectic.” As with the Life is Better Blonde video for ‘Follow Me’, in which they “were dropping a piano off a twenty-foot crane and getting all the permits and making sure that came through in a really short time frame. That was signed off on the day we started shooting…you just have to go through with it and be tenacious and hope it all comes through.”
While the burden of these last minute changes and disasters full onto her as the producer, Haarburger says it’s her favourite thing about the job, “it really draws on what you have got in you and works out with you can creatively solve it.” Throughout the interview, it seems that the least favourite aspect of music video making are the tight budgets, which she mentions as a big limitation. She describes choosing her projects carefully, “it’s whether you click on that creative vision and because you don’t get paid a lot for music videos, whether you want to spend the time actually investing so much time and whether you see that in the director and the story that you want to tell and also if you like the track.” Although the team seems to be the driving factor behind the videos she works on, Haarburger does reveal Asgeir and Nick Murphy as two artists she would love work with as well as Camp Cope, about whom she exclaims, “I am fricking digging their music at the moment.”
Moving forward, she shows enthusiastic interest in VR technologies – “I geek out on that shit”. Her penchant for narrative videos makes this technology more of a challenge, “I don’t think that the language has necessarily been developed for filmmakers. In terms way that VR fits into the scope of telling a narrative story but I think it’s a great realm to practise in and figure out what you can and can’t do it and the limitations.” Many music videos in this 360-degree format have stayed away from more narrative videos because Haarburger explains “it’s hard to develop that language and work out how to tell it because you have to direct your audience’s attention. VR has been compared to a theatre play or rehearsal where you have to direct the audience’s attention via movement or sound. But you don’t have that ability to direct it by soundscapes in music video so it has to be very visual.” Yet she again mentions the cost limitations involved in this medium, which she sees as meaning that filmmakers need to be more creative. She ends by saying that she thinks “it’s achievable if artists want to have different platforms to release it on, there’s a lot of space, in a digital scene you can do it by Facebook 360 and by Youtube 360 but you can also cut a linear broadcast version as well.”
Lastly, the video that she believe is the overlooked gem of her career? The Life Is Better Blonde ‘Fires’, a recent video directed by Natalie Erika James. It seems that she may have spoken too soon as this video was announced on Monday to be in the Clipped Music Video Award Top 20 Finalists.
See this amazing clip for yourself below: