A passionate interest in filmmaking led Mark Romanek to work as 2nd assistant director for Brian De Palma on Home Movies, which eventually led to directing a feature and music video before settling on screenwriting.
Ultimately, Romanek was lured back to directing music videos, where he is considered one of the best in the medium.
He directed “Scream,” the most expensive music video of all time, for Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. His work has earned him 20 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Direction for Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” and he has won three Grammy Awards for Best Short Form Music Video — more than any other director.
He was recipient of the VMA Video Vanguard Award for his contributions to the medium, directed the features One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go and has two videos in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Lenny Kravitz—“Are You Gonna Go My Way”
From the 1993 album of the same name, this video was nominated for a MTV VMA for Best Art Direction and won MTV VMA for Best Male Artist.
Nine Inch Nails—“Closer”
Controversy for this video’s contents ultimately helped bolster the band’s popularity and Romanek used a “slightly out-of-date film stock” to help achieve the video’s look. According to Romanek, “They had stopped making it three years before and we found some of it. All the new color film stocks have this T-Grain, like little Ts that are interlocking. The film stock we used had the original old granular grain. The new stocks are just really modern looking, really sharp, really contrasty, very fine grain. We didn’t want that. Normally you don’t want to use that kind of stock because the colors will be off. It does have a shelf life but in this case we didn’t care, the more fucked up it was the happier we were.” Romanek worked with the band again on their 1997 video, “The Perfect Drug.”
Winner of two VMAs, Best Editing and Best Male Video, the 1996 video “Devils Haircut” references The 400 Blows and Midnight Cowboy.
The third single from her 1997 album Tidal, this video won an MTV VMA for Best Cinematography (Harris Savides).
A song by frequent Romanek collaborators Nine Inch Nails covered by legend Johnny Cash, the stark video was shot just seven months before he passed away; his wife June Cash passed three months after filming. Romanek wanted to capture the singer in the present as well as in his youth, and the focus of the video was Nashville’s the House of Cash Museum. According to Romanek, “It had been closed for a long time; the place was in such a state of dereliction. That’s when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny’s health, as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs.” It was ranked the greatest music video of all time by Britain’s National Music Express.
“Hurt” received six VMA nominations, only winning Best Cinematography. It also won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
This black and white 2004 video featured mostly Brooklyn locations and had some criticism regarding scenes that featured dog fighting. Ultimately it won the MTV VMA for Best Rap Video, Best Director, Best Editing and Best Cinematography and was also nominated for Video of the Year and Best Male Video.
Coldplay—“Speed of Sound”
This performance-based video features the band performing in front of a curved ellipse wall backed by large LED displays that changes its colors as the band performs the song. The video was nominated for four VMA nominations in the categories of Video of the Year, Best Special Effects, Best Editing and Best Cinematography.
Romarek directed his first music video in nine years for this music video that was also shown in an edited version as a commercial during the Super Bowl to support (RED), an organization co-founded by Bono to fight AIDS.