Michelle Rose has been obsessed with singing and performing her whole life! She's been classically training vocally since age six. In her late teens, she began training in Pop/R&B and opera. Michelle Rose began recording original songs at age 11 and has recorded over 30 songs. Michelle Rose is currently working on a full, soon-to-be-released album with her producer, Dr. Matt Fink, from Prince's band, The Revolution. It's our pleasure to interview her for Toronto Film Magazine.
How did you start making music videos and what was the first music video you directed?
I eased into making music videos.
When I was 11, I was with a talent agency that wrote my first songs for me based on my ideas. They later encouraged me to do music videos for some of the songs, and they did almost all of the planning and directing. As I got older and had increasing input for my lyrics and music, I wanted the videos to more closely reflect my own visions. I also wanted to avoid the huge added cost of having a 'middle man', as I began to realize I could handle most of the planning and directing myself.
The first music video I had a significant hand in co-directing was for a song called 'I Just Cry', which I did while in high school. There were two filmmakers, Tyler Perry and Mike Mazzitelli, who had been making videos together for fun since they were eight, and they recruited me to act in one of their projects. I later asked them to do the videography for my music video. They're the same filmmakers who filmed 'Ghosted' for me. I loved that I was able to bring my own ideas, wardrobe, props and storyline into the production.
The first music video I fully co-directed was 'You're the Kinda Guy', which we filmed right after I graduated from high school. I developed the entire storyline for this music video, and had most of the details for the scenes already figured out, but needed someone to film it. Earlier that year, a videographer named Joshua McGrane had contacted me about acting in one of his projects. I loved the quality of Joshua's work, so I asked him to film my music video. He was mutually excited about the project, and our visions for it matched really well. It was the first music video where every single detail that I wanted was there, plus Joshua was able to add his own very creative touches and suggestions.
You are a musician and a singer who makes her own music videos. What inspired you to direct your own music videos for your own songs?
I love acting almost as much as I love singing. I've always been a perfectionist who knows exactly what I'm going for in my art, and directing the music videos is the ideal way for me to get the end result I want. I know what message I'm trying to put out in my songs, so it makes sense to be fully involved in directing the music video so that the visuals match what I'm trying to say. I've always loved planning and putting on big projects, probably starting with a 45-minute play I wrote, cast and put on when I was 8! I love picking out details - the locations, choreographer, actors, costumes, props, special effects - it's really a passion of mine.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent artist and a singer in the music and media industry?
It's incredibly difficult to be seen and heard. It's very important to me to put out the best products possible, and I just wish that my projects could be exposed to more people. I'm really proud of them, and I'm excited to have people see what I've created.
How difficult is it to fund, release and distribute music videos?
To keep costs down, I shopped carefully for the videographers. For 'You're the Kinda Guy', the first company I met with wanted to have a huge crew and film everything in studio on green screen, and the cost estimate was huge. Then, I met with Joshua McGrane, who has since filmed many of my videos. He's a one-man show, just a guy and a camera. He's willing to film at as many locations as I want, and exactly whatever storyline and scenes I want, at a very small fraction of the cost of a big production company, and his work is impeccable. I've also been able to secure many of the locations or props free of charge just by asking, and I've often cast friends or associates in various roles.
Because I'm a singer, my main focus is to expose people to my music, and hopefully, get a music following. I've easily been able to release my videos on YouTube and my website, http://www.michellerose.com, and I'm beginning to put them on Vevo. I'm also releasing them through various film festivals, which has often provided me with many offers of distribution at low or no cost.
Please name three of your most favorite directors and musicians. How have they been influential in your work?
I love Martin Scorsese and John Landis for their work in Michael Jackson's music videos. His music videos are iconic. I also love all of Taylor Swift's music videos that she's directed with Joseph Kahn. Her videos inspired me more than anything else growing up. I really looked up to Taylor. My favorite musicians are Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Prince. Whitney and Celine have influenced my singing techniques and the overall feel of some of my songs that lean towards Adult Contemporary more than Pop. Prince has inspired me to be more eccentric with my costumes/videos, and to push myself to work to become a more well-rounded musician.
What inspired you to work on The Ghosted and how did the project go into production?
I've loved celebrating Halloween ever since I was a little girl, and I always listened to Halloween CD's growing up. I've always wanted to record my own Halloween song, and this year felt like the perfect time to turn my dream into a reality. I realized that there were so many Christmas songs, but not enough Halloween songs in the world. I wanted this song to be spooky, yet something that you could play all year - even after Halloween. I wanted it to be haunting and beautiful, and I feel that we achieved that. I texted my producer, Dr. Fink, from Prince's band, The Revolution, to tell him my ideas, and then his son, MVXMILLI, created the song with him. My boyfriend, POEM KING, wrote the lyrics for his spoken word section. We recorded the song in two days and filmed the video in two days.
How did you find the cast and the crew of the music video? Tell us more about the production.
The leading man/co-star in the video is my boyfriend, POEM KING, who is an amazingly talented professional actor and spoken word artist, so that was a very easy and lucky casting. Marin Weinke, who played the 'Other Woman', has been one of my backup dancers in my other videos, like 'You're the Kinda Guy'. The extras included my Dad, Godfather; pageant friend, Lillie Imm, and her classmates. It was a very small, but very fun cast! I'm really grateful for all of the supportive people I have in my life.
What do you recommend to other music video directors regarding the distribution of their work?
I'd definitely recommend YouTube, but also, I've found that many of the film festival directors have been amazing with not only promoting the videos on their various social media outlets and their film festival screenings, but also by offering access to many distribution channels.
What is your next project and what are you currently working on?
I'm currently juggling several projects around my schedule as a full-time college junior!
My music video for a song that I personally wrote, 'Garden of Eden', is almost ready to release. Joshua McGrane is making some final edits that I wanted. My boyfriend, POEM KING, is my co-star, and it includes scenes with a 14' reticulated python, a white dove and a unicorn!
I'm also currently working on multiple Christmas songs, and I'm getting ready to film a music video for my song, 'Timeless', which will feature several decades and lifetimes. I'm so excited!
Why do you make music and direct?
It's my way of expressing myself and putting my visions out into the world. Some of my ideas, like my 50's music video, 'You're the Kinda Guy', have been on my mind since I first started training vocally when I was six. This is my way of making my dreams come true. It makes me so happy to see everything come together and watch my ideas come to life. I love to direct because I'm able to have control over what I release, and I can put my own personal stamp on my work. Everyone who sees my videos will know what I'm really about when they watch them. I have so many songs and videos that I want to make in my lifetime, and I can't wait to work on them and share them with everyone.