Pioneer music video director and 1970s UCSB alumnus Wayne Isham returned to Pollock Theater Saturday night to speak about his work filming videos for 1980s rock stars like Metallica and Bon Jovi.
Hosted by Pollock Theater Director Matt Ryan, Isham’s Q&A session was a part of the Department of Film & Media Studies’ CamCon, a three-day event for film students every spring. Isham has directed some of the industry’s hallmark music videos, including Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca.”
The director cited David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” video — which came out during his college years — as his inspiration to start producing music videos. Since then, Isham has brought to life over 150 music videos for various artists such as Michael Jackson, ’N Sync and Britney Spears. In 2007, the Music Video Production Association awarded Isham a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Isham said his prolific career is rooted in his lifelong interest in music. He told the audience of mostly film students to only pursue music videos if they are truly dedicated to the art.
“I truly believe in the art form of music videos and I think it’s a great art form for up-and-coming filmmakers to focus on,” Isham said.
However, the well-known director said he was disappointed in MTV for shifting their broadcasting focus from music videos to reality shows, and thinks the emergence of branding and product placement within music videos is detrimental to the art form.
“There’s the people that you can see that have taken it … ‘into the dark side,’” Isham said. “They’re just doing it purely out of the greed of finding their way forward instead of the beauty of what music videos are about.”
Isham also shared behind-the-scenes tales from shooting his videos. On the day of Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me” shoot, Spears was chased by paparazzi that all over the film location, a scene Isham said was one of the craziest moments of his career. Another landmark moment was when he was shooting Skid Row’s “18 and Life” in downtown Los Angeles. The crew found an abandoned car in a factory and kept the cameras rolling as they threw flammable bottles into car and added the bursting flames to the piece.
Shannon Leskowitz, a fourth-year film and economics double major and executive producer of CamCon, said program organizers found out Isham was a UCSB alum only a week prior to the event.
“Someone literally we don’t know — it’s an unknown person — expressed interest in bringing him here and then no one acted on it,” Leskowitz said. “This year, we decided to actually act on it.”
Calvin Chung, a film and media studies major, said his interest in music videos brought him to the event, but he had admiration for the high-profile work done by Isham.
“It was really interesting that someone like Wayne would be here,” Chung said. “He’s one of those people that you don’t really know about directly — you know more about his work.”