June 15, 2011

The Man Behind the Name

McG Visits with SCA

McG, the director of Charlie’s Angels, We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation, followed the path of many filmmakers who made the transition from music videos to feature films in the late nineties including Spike Jonez, David Fincher and Hype Williams. When he visited the USC School of Cinematic Arts on June 14th to speak as part of the YouTube Creator Institute, he drew parallels between the DIY aesthetic of music videos in the nineties and the content creators of YouTube today.

McG, Dean Elizabeth M. Daley and Google/YouTube
Program Director Bing Chen

“My whole thing with music videos was to try to tell stories and make mini-movies,” said McG. “Those were the pieces I responded to the most. That’s what Spike did very well. Mark Romaneck did very well. David Fincher did it really well. Michel Gondry did it very well. We were all doing it together and we all had very different imprints.”

“It was a result of having the opportunity to push so much film through the camera. We got to shoot on the mountain top, underwater, at night, during the day and deal with difficult personalities.”

McG’s presentation was part of a summer speaker series hosted by the USC SCA Summer Program. SCA Professor Pablo Fransconi, who moderated the event, asked the filmmaker if the stigma of being a music video director hurt him when he transitioned to drama with We Are Marshall.

“I never wanted to be pigeonholed,” he said. “It’s the privilege of the audience to put me in a box and say, ‘You’re the guy that calls yourself McG. You made the OC on television. You do dancy music videos and Charlie’s Angels. You’re that disposable piece of pop candy.’ There’s no real shame in that but I wanted to be more. I think most directors want to be what they are not. “

The presentation was held in SCA 108 in the School of Cinematic Arts Complex and was attended by Dean Elizabeth M. Daley, SCA Summer Program Coordinator David Weitzner and YouTube Creator Initiative Director Bing Chen. As part of the focus on new media, McG gave advice to the students on how to navigate the shifting landscape of entertainment.

“I only have two things to say,” said McG. “One thing is, the path that’s in front of you as filmmakers is extraordinarily difficult. You have to just lean into the difficulty. The second thing is, get off your ass. Directors direct. Writers write. Actors act. If you love it, you’re going to do it. Nothing's going to stop you.”

McG was the last speaker for the summer series. His new film This Means War starring Reese Witherspoon is in postproduction.