(This interview was originally published March 10, 2014 on the now-retired Kickin' it Old School blog. It is one installment in an incredible series of interviews we are republishing on Rediscover the '80s for posterity and your enjoyment. These are more than just interviews in a way; they are more like '80s timelines or oral histories on their respective subject matters. Please keep in mind the original date because some content could be specific to the time of the interview, though the majority should be timeless and totally rad.)
When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the '80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.
This time that awesomeness is Brian Grant. He was one of the trailblazing directors on the forefront of the music video revolution. He and MGMM, the production company he co-founded, directed many of the most successful, most ground-breaking music videos of the '80s. Grant wrote and directed the video for Olivia Newton-John's hit "Physical" which won him the Grammy for Video of the Year. He also created music videos for Queen, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston among many others. Find out about those videos, working with those artists and what it was like being at the cutting edge of the music video phenomenon as we get on to some selections from my interview with Brian Grant...
Q: How did you come to start directing music videos in the early '80s even before they went on to become so mainstream mostly from the advent of MTV?
Brian: I started directing music videos in 1979. Before that I was a cameraman at a company called ATV during the 70s for about ten years. But I have always loved music, I play myself and have always been interested in all sorts of musical things. One day I saw on the TV the, now very famous, video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. At that time, I had never seen anything like that before. It really piqued my interest. I was already thinking about directing by then and this really seemed to spur me on. So I made some inquiries and hooked up with a guy named Scott Millaney who worked at Island Records. He used to have a little studio, a very basic studio where they used to shoot videos for Island artists more for internal use. I asked him if I could come down and shoot a couple and so I did and I just had great fun. Then one day we decided we'd try to make a go of this and formed a little production company called Millaney Grant in 1979. For the next few months, we had no money and we didn't eat a lot while we tried to hustle up some work.
Eventually, I was offered my first real job, the chance to do a video for a band called M for the single "Pop Muzik". I think we had about 2,500 pounds to make this video. In those days, you used to set up things in the studio in the morning and then shoot in the afternoon, so you basically had one afternoon to shoot the video which was all done on video tape as well. We looked at the budget and figured out that if we edited this video ourselves that we wouldn't make any money because video editing was very expensive at the time. So I came up with the mad idea of actually editing this video as we shot it. If you watch the video you will see the result. I recorded a shot, moved the camera, recorded the next shot, moved the camera, recorded the next shot and so on. What we shot was actually on the tape and all edited together. When we were done for the day, we handed the tape over to the record company, they gave us a check and that was the first video I ever made. It took just a half a day and cost just about 2000 pounds. About a week later, there was a guy who would later become one of our partners, David Mallet, he was a director on a show called the Kenny Everett Video Show, a very hot show at the time. He saw the "Pop Muzik" video, he put it on that show, everybody went mad, about two weeks later the single went to #2 on the charts and then our phone didn't stop ringing. So that was sort of the beginnings of it.
"Pop Muzik" became a hit in the UK boosted by the music video. It made it to #2 on the UK chart (blocked by Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes"), but was later released in the U.S. and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as at least seven other countries. Here is the music video for "Pop Muzik" by M...
Q: What can you tell us about how, when and why MGMM Productions was formed?
Brian: Basically, Millaney Grant worked for the next year or so making little clips but not really making much money. There was another company in town in London at the time called Mallet Mulcahy, they were David Mallet and Russell Mulcahy. We were the directors making most of the videos at the time, since MTV hadn't started yet and most of these clips were mainly shown on Saturday morning kids shows. There were a couple others like Julian Temple and Steve Barron, but these were the main two. We knew them and we kind of looked out for what Mallet Mulcahy were doing and then one day we were at the same party and decided it was mad having two separate companies. So we decided to combine them and that is how MGMM Productions started. It was common sense really, rather than being competition why don't we just work together. Lo and behold, over the next ten years MGMM went on to become the most successful video company in London. I believe we made over 1500 videos between us, we made five feature films including one called Sid and Nancy , we made about ten television shows and about 300 commercials. Something like that, it was a big company that grew quickly and really gave us a career.
Q: Many of your videos received lots of exposure on MTV along the way. MTV really seemed to change the music landscape with image becoming much more prominent. What are your thoughts on the impact that MTV had on music in the '80s, especially in America?
Brian: At first we had few outlets for the videos, but then MTV came and we had an outlet. Yeah, MTV had a massive impact, but not straight away. In fact, when it was first suggested that there was going to be a 24-hour music network, we all thought it was mad, we all thought it would never work. But luckily for us, it did. It did change the landscape. It became the new kid on the block and because there were not that many videos being made and most of them were being made here in London, it did really pique interest. There wasn't anything on American television like it and in the first few years it really stole the show. But interestingly enough, in those first couple of years, there weren't that many videos so they were rotating the same ones quite often. There wasn't that much material and, in fact, I was the first director to ever do an interview on MTV and during that interview I was told that for a couple of years that MGMM provided at least 50% of the content on MTV.
Obviously, it has had a huge effect, not only in music, but in cinema and commercials. It changed the way people got information from the television. MTV had a massive cultural influence everywhere. Now, it is very different, though it can still have a reasonable amount of power when the big acts come out with fabulous videos. But its power has certainly diminished as other cable channels and the internet (YouTube) has grown. There was nothing like MTV, it was like the internet is now, but back then. It changed our lives. I spent most of the 80s going back and forth at 33,000 feet in an airplane having to shoot in New York and Los Angeles and in London of course. It was great and we were kind of making it up as we went along. Getting any one of your videos onto MTV and getting into heavy rotation was huge. I was very glad that I was making music videos at the dawn of it all, rather than now, because it was a very exciting time and MTV had a lot to do with it.
Q: How did you end up directing the music video for Olivia Newton-John's "Physical"?
Brian: I had done a few videos in England and Olivia's manager, Roger Davies, called us one day. He told us that Olivia Newton-John was making a brand new album and they were going to shoot every single track on the album as a music video. He asked if I would be interested and I, of course, jumped at the chance. He paid for an airline ticket and I jumped on a plane for Los Angeles. I went up to her house in Malibu, she invited me in and she was in her bedroom looking at photos with a couple folks from EMI that could be potential album covers for 'Physical'.
Then I sat down to talk to her about ideas for the video and, as I said, it was for the entire album, all ten tracks. An hour went by and I came to say goodbye, and as I got to the front door I turned around and said it was great to have met her because I can go home to England and tell everybody that I sat on Olivia Newton-John's bed with her. She told me later on that was one of the reasons I got the job, because I made her laugh.
Q: What can you tell us about the concept for the video and how it evolved? Was the gym setting chosen to distract from the obvious sexual connotations of the song? In addition to the sexual connotations, the video also became controversial because of the depiction that some of the attractive men were gay. How was Olivia to work with? Any other interesting details about creating the "Physical" video?
Brian: When it came to coming up with the idea, my partner Scott Millaney put me together with a writer, Marcelo Anciano, on a plane to Los Angeles. He put us up in a famous hotel on Sunset Boulevard called the Chateau Marmont and told us we'd be in there for two weeks and that we couldn't come out until we had written a concept for every single one of the ten tracks. This was a big task in that amount of time, so Marcelo and I threw them all up in the air, flipped a coin and split them all in half. He did five and I did five. We sat in two separate rooms, though we collaborated on some things, but basically just out of pure chance, I ended up with "Physical". I listened to it and I thought this is a song about two people having sex and this is not going to work as a video for Olivia. I thought the best way to do this was to come at it completely differently, just play on the word physical and then take the piss out of it, I mean have as much fun as we possibly can with it. So I wrote this concept, the obvious thing was to put her in a gym with a bunch of good-looking boys, but you always want to undercut expectations when you write anything.
So I came up with the idea that you think she is in a gym with a bunch of good-looking boys, but then the camera pulls back and it turns out she's trying to get all of these fat guys into shape. They are really fat and not pretty boys at all. Half way through the video she gets frustrated and leaves, goes into the shower and, by magic, when she comes back out all of these beautiful hunky boys are there that she really wanted in the first place. Then to add a final twist at the end, I thought it would be good to undercut the expectation again and have it turn out that the boys are all gay. So she really doesn't get what she wants and still ends up with one of the fat guys.
I do remember going to Capitol Records with this as the concept and having a whole pile of executives in this meeting room. It was dreadful and the only person who said anything was Olivia. She just giggled and thought it was great. Despite everybody else kind of thinking it was a terrible idea, she said it was a great idea. So we went off and made that one as well as the other nine tracks. Lo and behold, "Physical" became her biggest hit, it spent ten weeks at #1, the video went all over the place and she gained a whole new audience (including gay men) and I won the first music video Grammy ever awarded to a director. All due to throwing cares to the wind, a bit of luck and serendipity.
"Physical" was an enormous hit for Olivia Newton-John. It was released as a single in September of 1981, reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart by November and spent an impressive 10 weeks at #1. As mentioned in the introduction, "Physical" won the Grammy for Video of the Year in 1983. Without further ado, here is the music video for "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John...
Q: How did you end up directing the music video for Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey"? What can you tell us about Peter Gabriel and your experience working with him? What can you tell us about the concept for the video and how it evolved? Were there any difficulties from shooting with a real monkey? Any other interesting details about filming the video? How did you feel about this video when it was finished?
Brian: I ended up working on "Shock the Monkey" just because Peter had seen some of the work I had done and he liked it. Working with Peter was one of the nicest experiences I have ever had. He is a brilliant man and a total sweetheart. He is really easy to work with and will do almost anything to get it right. He's not high maintenance. He's a perfectionist, but in the nicest way.
It was a concept that came from an idea that men, as time has progressed, have sort of lost their primeval instincts. As we become more modern and the more technology takes over, the less instincts we have. That's what the two men in the video basically represent. The man in the business suit represents modern man. The man in all white is representative of his more primal side trying to tap into his subconscious. The white just felt more tribal, more primeval and we drew our inspiration from some tribes in South America. It wasn't that difficult working with monkeys. Children and animals, they say you should never work with, but I don't think we had that much trouble with the monkey.
There was lots of symbolism in the images used including the ceiling coming down on him and running through the forest. Other ideas in there, the lights inside and the lights outside, came because we had just seen a private screening of the film 'Blade Runner' and I was fascinated by all of the machines and the lights that whizzed by outside the windows. That is where that inspiration came from and then we had to do the opposite inside. I think the "Shock the Monkey" video is one of the best things I have ever done. It's a great song, it's a great artist. We got lucky that all of the imagery worked and it can be interpreted in different ways. Something very important about music videos is that you have to be able to watch them over and over again. The imagery must be able to stand up to scrutiny. I think it does in this case. The pictures seem to work with the music and people all seem to have a different opinion about it. I'm still very fond of it and, yeah, I think it is one of the best things I've ever done.
Peter Gabriel released "Shock the Monkey" in September of 1982 and it became his first Top 40 hit in the U.S. peaking at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is particularly memorable for featuring Gabriel in that white tribal face paint and a frightened-looking Capuchin monkey. Here is the music video for "Shock the Monkey" by Peter Gabriel...
Q: The following year you created the video for Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money". What can you share with us about how the concept for that one evolved?
Brian: I met Donna in Los Angeles and had dinner with her one night. I asked her where she got the idea for this song. She told me that she had actually gotten it right in that very restaurant. A very expensive restaurant in L.A. full of very wealthy people that served very expensive food. She said that if you go downstairs to the washrooms, there is a black lady or black man as an attendant who hands you a towel when you are done washing your hands or gives you perfume or aftershave. She said she was eating there one day and went down to the restroom and this little black lady gave her a towel. When she came back up, she was thinking that exhausted woman is stuck down there with no windows and she really works hard for the money. Then she sat down and wrote the song about a working women.
So I thought it would be good to do the video as a tribute to working women and wrote a story based on that. I think it might've been the first proper narrative I ever directed. It's about a working woman with two unruly kids who works three jobs every day struggling to make ends meet and gave up everything she wanted to do. She'd always wanted to be a dancer. So the video shows what her life is like and then turns into a fantasy of what she really would like to have done. Like I said, it was meant to be a tribute to working women. An interesting story, when we were in pre-production Donna said she wanted to play the waitress. I wasn't sure because this wasn't a fun video, it was a serious video that had a meaning, a point. I told her that nobody would believe her as a waitress because she was Donna Summer, a famous pop star. Eventually she agreed and I told her that she should be more of the narrator like it was a documentary and she was an observer. I think that made all the difference because I think it gave the video some weight compared to if she would've just sang it the normal way.
"She Works Hard for the Money" was released as a single in May of 1983. It went on to reach #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and peak at #3 on the Hot 100. It became the first video by an African-American female artist to be placed in heavy rotation on MTV. Here is the music video for "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer...
Q: I am going to jump to "New Moon on Monday" by Duran Duran. How did you come to direct this video when Russell Mulcahy had done many of their previous hits. What can you tell us about the Duran Duran guys and your experience working with them? What can you tell us about the concept for the video and how it evolved? How did you feel about this video when it was finished since have read that some of the band does not seem to like it as much.
Brian: The reason I got to direct this one is simply because Russell wasn't available. We were partners at MGMM, Russell suggested that I do it, I met the guys and they were fine with it. So I sat down with Simon [Le Bon], John [Taylor] and Nick [Rhodes] to write down some ideas. We came up with a very simple concept that there is a cultural repression in a country somewhere and Duran Duran were going to lead the revolution. That was basically it in its simplest form and we all contributed to the ideas. I wrote a story which everybody seemed to like. We then all went off to France to shoot it. We shot some of it in Paris. Simon meets a girl [played by Patricia Barzyk, winner of the Miss France title in 1980] who knows about what he does and persuades him that she can help his cause which is called "La Luna". So they go off into the country where the revolution is beginning to fester. We shot that in a village called Noyers just north of Paris during an icy-cold January.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the most successful thing I've ever done. I think the biggest problem was that it just didn't quite work. It's not one of my favorite videos and it's not one of the band's favorite videos. I also think, to be fair, it's not particularly one of the greatest tracks by Duran Duran ever made. Therein lies the problem. It's a classic case of if it's not in the music, you can't turn it into something it's not. As we were doing it, it felt right, but when we put it together afterward, it just didn't work. I just think we got it wrong in this case. But it was still a very pleasant experience working with them and I have seen them many times since. It is interesting because you just don't always know when things are going to work. When you're working on something slightly abstract, there is no guarantee. Sometimes you can do something abstract that seems to make no sense at all, but when you put it to music it works. I don't have an answer on why "New Moon on Monday" isn't a great music video, it just isn't.
"New Moon on Monday" was the second single released from Seven and the Ragged Tiger in January of 1984. It was another successful hit peaking at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. As mentioned, the band is not all that fond of it because of the conditions and "particularly the dreadful scene at the end" where they all dance together. Here is the music video for "New Moon on Monday" by Duran Duran...
Q: What can you tell us about working with the legendary Aretha Franklin and making the video for "Freeway of Love"?
Brian: I've loved Aretha Franklin since I was about fourteen years of age. When I was offered the chance to work with her, I jumped at it. I listened to "Freeway of Love" and I thought it was a fantastic song, absolutely brilliant. When you work with Aretha, you have to go to Detroit since she is the Queen of Soul and wasn't going anywhere she didn't want to. So I got on a plane to Detroit with my crew and Arlene Phillips my choreographer. I wrote the idea for the video on the plane. It had to work in Detroit. I thought it's got to be upbeat and it's got to be fun.
Then I came up with the idea that, in the video, Aretha actually works in an automobile factory. Eventually singing the song, it's an uplifting experience and she leads the workers away from the drudgery of making cars like a pied piper and out into the open road. That's where the initial basic concept came from. So we set it up and we used some local dancers. The first day and night we used the dancers and shot some stuff all over Detroit. In fact, there is a shot of me in that video in front of Hitsville, the original Motown studio there in Detroit.
The next day, I got a phone call from Aretha saying she didn't want to do it anymore. I was completely shocked and she wouldn't even give a reason. We didn't know what to do. We had shots of a bunch of dancers all over Detroit, but we had no shots of Aretha at all. So a little bit of panic set in and I went back to my room. While I watched the sun go down in Detroit, I decided I wasn't going to leave without getting something with her. So I found out who her record producer was, Narada Michael Walden, I called him up, told him about the situation and he was great. He got on a plane and flew over from Los Angeles, we went up to Aretha's house and talked to her. Eventually, after a lot of cajoling, she agreed to be in the video but she just wanted it to be a performance in front of a band. So we quickly put a band together, Michael was actually playing the drums [and Clarence Clemons who played sax on the actual track]. We shot it in a nightclub. We now had a performance as well as the shots of the dancers around Detroit.
I took it back to England, went into the editing room and began cutting, but it just didn't seem to work. It needed a third element. So I started thinking and came up with the inspiration of using some stock footage of cars and what makes Motor City work. So I went back into the editing room by myself for three days and just cut the different images together with no story in my head or really any rhyme or reason. Eventually it worked. Turning it into black and white helped. The video ended up being very successful for her. So it was very successful for me as well.
"Freeway of Love" was released in June of 1985 and went on to become Aretha Franklin's biggest pop hit in over ten years and one of the biggest hits of 1985. The single peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent five weeks at #1 on the R&B chart. Here is the music video for "Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin...
Q: You directed two popular videos for Whitney Houston. How did you first end up directing "How Will I Know" from her debut album? This was her first up-tempo hit, so what can you tell us about the concept for the video and letting her dance? What can you share about the late, great Whitney Houston and your experience working with her on this video?
Brian: I was in Los Angeles at a music conference where I was on a panel with some other directors. Afterward, I was approached by Peter Baron from Arista Records who I had known from some previous work I did with Arista. He told me they had this brand new young artist on the label named Whitney Houston. He said this was her first album, she was just nineteen and asked me if I would be interested in making a video with her. By this time, I had gotten a reputation for shooting women, as a photographer and a director for making people look good. I think that helped. Anyway, I listened to the song and thought it was a great piece of pop music. So I said yes.
The concept came from a play on the words, how will I know, which led me to the idea of a maze as a metaphor for relationships. The set was basically a lot of panels made of plastic and all of those bright colors are just printer's ink thrown on there by an art director. Whitney came over to London. Lovely Whitney that she was at just nineteen. Absolutely beautiful. Absolutely lovely to work with. Nothing bad had happened to her at this point. She had come from gospel and had been brought up well. She had great manners. She had no entourage, just one friend with her. I had a technique that I always used when I shot women. No matter what other ideas we had going on, I always would spend an hour and shoot what I called a master close up of them singing the song all the way through. I'd light it and operate the camera myself and it would almost be like a photographic session. It was very personal. I would always clear the studio and it would be just me and the artist. She'd sing the song to me, basically. I still remember the first time I was looking through the lens and Whitney looked into the camera and just smiled. My knees wobbled and I thought, my, that is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. When you stand that close to someone like that, it is quite astonishing. Her voice was absolutely amazing. It was the most incredible sound.
Arlene Phillips choreographed all of the dancers. What we discovered, interestingly enough, was that Whitney really couldn't dance. She had good rhythm, but couldn't put one foot in front of the other. Arlene recognized that, so she surrounded her with other great dancers from England. Then we made sure that she felt comfortable and had as much fun as we could. We could hide her dancing in the edit, but what was important is that she looked great and had a good time. Which you can tell that she did and it was a hit.
"How Will I Know" was the third single released from her debut album in November of 1985 and it became her second to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was not a ballad and gave her lots of exposure to a wider audience. The video went on to win Best Female Video at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. Here is the music video for "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston...
Q: Then you came back to direct "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" from her second album. What can you tell us about making that one? Any other comments on Whitney or her tragic passing in 2012?
Brian: There isn't really a concept in the song itself other than wanting to dance with somebody, so I came up with the idea of shooting every single scene in the video slightly differently. It was just about giving her lots of different looks. So we used two cameramen in a tiny studio in New York. We set up one cameraman to give it one certain kind of look and while he was shooting I set up the other cameraman at the other end of the stage giving it a different kind of look. Then we would ping pong between the two. Again, we surrounded her with a bunch of great dancers, lit it beautifully and just had some fun. It was as simple as that. Both songs were great pieces of pop music and that's why they worked.
Her dying two years ago was terribly sad. I was very, very fond of Whitney. She was one of those great artists and I think about how much more music could have came out of her. I think she would've recovered and she would've gotten back on top of the game again. But it was a real shame especially the way she died. They interviewed me on the BBC here about it because I was one of the only British guys to work with her. It was a real shock and I was really, really saddened. When I met her, she was the loveliest woman to work with. The things that happened to her, who knows why they happened, that's for other people to comment on. But for me, it was one of the loveliest experiences of my life working with Whitney.
"I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" was released in May of 1987 as the first single off of her second album. Like "How Will I Know", it was also co-written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam of Boy Meets Girl. It became her fourth consecutive single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here is the music video for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston...
Q: You worked on several videos for Queen. What can you tell us about working with Freddie Mercury and the guys?
Brian: Queen, one of my favorite bands. Interestingly, I was a huge fan of them right from the beginning. I used to see them live back in the 70s and, as I said, it was "Bohemian Rhapsody" that ironically got me into making music videos in the first place. So the chance to work with them was fantastic. I ended up doing four or five videos with them myself. Fantastic bunch of guys and all very intelligent and fun. Freddie was a fantastic person. He was a dream to work with. He had his moments, but always in the right way. He was a terrific performer. We did some outrageous things with them.
We were shooting "I Want to Break Free" and I had to put Freddie on something up very high. He had a few drinks by that stage of the evening and he fell off. We had to rush him off to the hospital, but we carried on shooting the video with the others. My producer got a call from the hospital and they told us that we had to come and get Freddie because he was disturbing the other patients. So we went over there and found Freddie (with his bottle of booze that he brought with him) having a drink with some patients and singing to them in a hospital corridor. He was a real character. There are many more stories that I wish I could tell you, but I cannot. Terribly sad to see him go and especially in the way that he did. We watched a brilliant performer waste away in front of our eyes. Queen was a fantastic band to work with and really bright people really trying to do something different.
Brian Grant was one of the most prolific and influential directors in music video history. His videos often propelled the songs to greater popularity. In addition to his creativity, he really seemed to have the ability to make the artists, especially women, more comfortable and more gorgeous on screen. In addition to the many songs already discussed above, Grant also directed many other significant music videos including Kim Wilde's "Kids in America", The Fixx's "Saved By Zero", Bee Gees' "The Woman in You", Tina Turner's "Private Dancer", Moody Blues' "Your Wildest Dreams" and Jody Watley's "Looking For a New Love".
I wanted to ask him about all of them, but just couldn't for sake of time. MGMM had offices in London, New York and Los Angeles and produced some of the most ground-breaking and now classic music videos ever made. Brian Grant and his partners attracted some of the other top directors to create over 1500 music videos and win over 200 awards during the '80s. They made about as great an impact as anybody on music videos that decade this side of Michael Jackson himself.
Q: What do you remember best about the decade of '80s music and music videos? What lasting impact do you feel music from the '80s has made?
Brian: The '80s, one of my favorite decades. I was lucky enough to be a teenager in the '60s and I was in my 30s during the '80s. Two decades that were a lot of fun. The '80s was obviously a very, very important decade for me. I was 29 when I started directing and coming in at the beginning of music videos. And I got to be there along with a few other very lucky directors. We got to experiment with other people's money and had a lot of fun doing it. Basically the '80s and music videos were my film school. Other people paid for me to try things out. They didn't always work but some of them worked spectacularly well. But because, as the director, you also wrote everything, you could choose to shoot in a helicopter or underwater or try anything you wanted. They were a bunch of little experiments. But I earned a decent living, got to travel all over the world, got to meet some amazing people in a time when the music was fantastic and this new art form was burgeoning. We were in the vanguard of it all. It was a wonderful time.
If I am completely honest, I don't think I would like to be making music videos now as much, though the technology is there now to do things that wasn't possible back in the '80s. But I did think there were lots of very good ideas back then and not so much now. It's more difficult to be original now. You really have to troll through a lot of videos to find a good one. It takes a lot to stand out. The world (anybody with a camera) is making them now, which is great in some ways, but the downside is that everybody thinks they can. It's the democratization of the form, so I am glad I was there in the beginning. Because nobody knew anything. The record companies didn't know anything. The artists didn't know anything. We all didn't know anything and you could kind of do whatever you wanted. Where as now, I suspect it's a little bit more restrictive, in fact I know it is.
I was very privileged to be a part of it and I think the '80s made a huge impact, especially MTV, on film, on commercials, on music itself. Even on the way we, as the audience, process material with the way we increased the cutting rate compared to what television used before. It taught a whole new generation's brains how to download imagery quicker. There was a whole short-hand in film and television that was a direct result of what some of us did in the '80s.
Q: Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since that time and why you moved away from music videos.
Brian: Towards the end of the '80s, there was a stock market crash that affected basically everything. People stopped making as many videos and commercials for a little while. We all decided that it was time to move on and try different things.I wanted to direct films, but I had come from television as a cameraman. I thought the best way to get into film was through television drama. So I persuaded a producer to give me a shot directing a television drama. It was an American show called 'She-Wolf of London'. It was being shot in London at first and I did a few episodes of that. They moved the show to shoot in Los Angeles and, while there, Universal offered me a movie-of-the-week. So I directed 'Sweet Poison'  and it won a few awards. Then Universal Studios offered me a three-year contract as director and I did a whole pile of movies and television through the rest of the '90s.
I got a bit homesick, decided I missed England, decided to move back home to England and carried on shooting drama here. I co-created a few shows that I am very proud of including one called As If [2001-2004], a teenage drama series that was very successful here (and, in fact, we made a little version of it for the United States as well). It wasn't as successful in America, but it was quite successful here. I have gone on to shoot all sorts of dramas like 'Doctor Who', 'Sinchronicity', 'Party Animals', 'Merlin' and many more. And that's what I am doing now, I am basically producing and directing. I have shot some documentaries including some music documentaries. I don't really make music videos anymore. I've made over 250 of them in my career. As I said earlier, I was lucky to do it when I wanted to do it. So now it's really just doing television dramas and films.
Q: What else is Brian Grant up to nowadays? Any remaining ambitions or regrets?
Brian: I just want to keep directing good dramas and that makes me happy. Dramas are all about scripts and actors. I love working with actors as I enjoyed working with musicians. Any regrets? Well, you know, it's mad to have regrets. There are things I would have done better, of course, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Most importantly, the experience of making music videos has helped me so much in making drama. Music videos gave you a certain amount of money to work with and a certain amount of time to shoot it. You don't have a choice, you've got to deliver. If it rains or snows, no matter what happens you've got to come up with an idea. Very often you have to think on your feet. Many lucky accidents were just that. That happens in television and film all of the time. Being creative on the spot is a joy. I was able to hone that through music video. I will always do anything that involves music. I love music to death. If somebody asked me to do a music video today and I thought the song was good, I probably might consider it. But nothing will be like the '80s again.
I am so honored that Brian was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. You can find out more about him on his official BrianGrant.co.ukwebsite. I want to take this occasion to again thank Brian Grant for his contributions to '80s pop culture especially through the great music videos he created and, even more, for going back to the '80s with us here for a little while as well.