Given that he boasts a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it's safe to say David Bowie can afford to do pretty much whatever he wants; including create whatever kind of music video catches his fancy.
So that's what makes his latest clip, for the new tune "Love is Lost," all the more remarkable -- the rock icon filmed it for a mere 13 bucks!
Bowie kept costs down -- way down -- by adopting classic D.I.Y. tactics. He worked with close friends, called upon existing resources (his NYC offices and archival puppet collection), and adhered to a tight deadline (the video was shot over one weekend). The only concrete cost ended up being a $12.99 thumb drive to store the finished file.
Fans and critics alike are unanimous in recognizing the homemade clip's cool/eerie vibe, especially the creepy doppelganger puppet representing an '80s era Bowie. But before you grab your smartphone/video camera/whatever cool props you have lying around to try and do the same -- let's take a look at what worked and didn't work in Bowie's bargain-basement production.
WORKED: The puppet (duh).
Bowie's freaky puppet, representing his "Ashes To Ashes" persona, is undoubtedly the star here, and commands an appropriate amount of screen time. The sheer uniqueness of this prop (and the fact that it is a work of art that in itself probably costs far more than any ordinary person could afford) carries the video.
Budding filmmaker's lesson: Don't try this with something you pick up from Toys R Us.
DIDN'T WORK: Bubbles.
In an attempt to create texture, Bowie's video shows him filmed straight-on in a stark bathroom...then an overlay of bubbles (not real ones; these are light-projected) flows across the screen. Simple and effective atmospheric trick? Or, well, kinda reminiscent of a disco ball at a teenage birthday party? We'll go with the latter.
Budding filmmaker's lesson: Alas, chiaroscuro is harder than it looks.
WORKED: Layering facial images.
Bowie used a classic and pretty simple maneuver here by projecting several layers onto his face, one appearing to be a still facial image, another a screen pattern. The result looks very special-effect-y, yet likely did not cost him much time, money, or effort. Of course, the fact that Bowie is a kind of weird-looking guy to begin with only enhances the overall vibe.
Budding filmmaker's lesson: Keep in mind, this doesn't translate on every average Joe out there. In fact, it could be unintentionally humorous on some faces.
DIDN'T WORK: Paper signs.
Love. Lost. Scrawled on sheets of (what looks like) copy-machine paper. Hand-scrawled signs are nothing new in music videos, and although this should be a nice R.O.I. in terms of poetic impact for the cost, it's just too hackneyed an idea at this point to be anything much more than silly.
Budding filmmaker's lesson: The clip for Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is nearing its 50th anniversary. 'Nuff said.
All things considered, we have to admit that Bowie's bargain-bin video attempt would hold up quite well in a "spend or splurge?-type comparison. Take a look at his last two videos from his new album, The Next Day, that debuted this year: Sure, there's no flogged-bloody priests, eyeballs on a plate, or irked response from the Catholic League as the clip for "The Next Day" boasted back in May. But we think that "Love is Lost" is at least as stylistic (if not more) than his similarly gritty/lo-fi video for "Where Are We Now," the initial single from his first album in 10 years.
Check out this screenshot: Now does this look like it costs more than 13 bucks? We didn't hear anything about the budget for this particular production, so we'll just have to guess it did! What do you think?