July 25, 2013

Thicke’s "Blurred Lines" video may have cost a quarter-million dollars

Here are some things that cost $250,000:
Know what I did not expect to have cost up to a quarter-million dollars? Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video. You know: The one with three girls, no clothes, a handful of mylar balloons shaped like letters, and a white backdrop. The video looks so minimal, so cheap, I figured that it cost next to nothing to make, especially compared with the heyday of music videos, when Madonna would plunk down upwards of $5 million to re-create a factory filled with 'roided-out slave workers.

But just to be sure, I reached out to Tim Hyten and Jack Daniel Stanley. Those two have actual experience making music videos, commercials and short films, so they know what budgets look like. The two graciously agreed to break "Blurred Lines" down for me, even if that meant looking at the NSFW version over and over and over again. You know. For the sake of journalism.

Hyten’s initial theoretical budget hovered around a more reasonable $20,000 to $40,000. But then we started to drill down. And the numbers started to, well, balloon.

“I think Tim's just including studio space, gear, wardrobe and crew,” Stanley mulled. But then Stanley noted that the director of the video is a veteran–Diane Martel, the same woman who documented Miley Cyrus’s latest adventure in twerking

And we haven’t even discussed the three models yet. Breakout star Emily “Meow” Ratajkowski is no Linda Evangelista, but she’s not a $3,000-per-job nobody, either, having appeared in campaigns for Forever 21 and Nordstrom as well as big mags like GQ.

So how do those two factors affect the price tag? Well, put it this way. Hyten says there's still a chance that the video was made for under six figures, or maybe $120,000 or so.

But then again, maybe not, Stanley guesses.

“Tim could shoot it for under $15,000 if it was some up and coming no-name rappers, with no-name models at $2,000 or $3,000 per model,” Stanley told me. “But it would get this is in the $250,000 range once the personalities, the director of photography, the director and the models collect their fees.”

All that said, a quarter-million does seem kind of quaint compared to the heyday of music videos. Back in 1995, top director Mark Romanek directed Michael Jackson and his sister in a video for the single “Scream.” The cost? Something close to $7 million.

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  1. So I was watching True Blood last night (which is why I am commenting under a pseudonym). I'm wondering how much money the extras in the opening title sequence earn every time an episode of the show airs. I'm talking about the frenetic yokels who hop around baptizing and dirty dancing in gator-infested waters. Has True Blood put them all on RV Park Easy Street?