Vanessa Pla Unpacks 10 of Her Magical Music Videos

Inside the busy director’s creations for Tele Novella, Night Beats, and more

Vanessa Pla captured in front of her former gas station house in Lockhart, as she's moving a few blocks away (Photo by Marshall Tidrick)

Vanessa Pla isn't a native Texan, but ask her about her interests, and you can see why she moved here. The French cinephile-turned-Richard Linklater obsessive snagged an internship at the Austin director's production company via insistent letters and phone calls, then quickly realized the city's robust psychedelic scene was perfect for a Black Angels fan like herself. Making music videos became a business-and-pleasure catchall, allowing the Lockhart-based filmmaker to support her favorite bands and "express the freedom and magic of cinema" all at once.

Pla released over a dozen music videos in 2023 for mostly homegrown artists, like Tele Novella, Megafauna, Night Beats, and Emily No Good. Though her influences are on full display with references to films from Harold and Maude to The Wicker Man, Pla resists pinning down her directorial style. "Every artist has a unique energy that I get to match and play with," Pla says.

Hear more from the director on the grandiose, meticulous style of her recent clips below.

Tele Novella, "Funeral"

"I feel like the whole village came for that one ... We worked with a new software and virtual studio space that generates an AI virtual backdrop but we had to build the surrounding space to accompany it. It's like mixing old Hollywood ways with a new form of imagination because you can digitally manipulate everything in front of you. If I die tomorrow, I'm so happy that 'Funeral' was made."

Holy Wave, "Nothing in the Dark"

"It was an all-nighter, so we started around sunset and then [worked] to the sunrise. Around 7 o'clock in the morning, I had to drive my cinematographer to the airport. Holy Wave, they're so aware of what it takes to make a music video. They were showing up as the art department and [appearing] in the video at the same time ... It was almost like we were kids at some giant slumber party at a camp or something. It was fun."

DAIISTAR, "Star Starter"

"I love capturing a band playing. With [DAIISTAR], we took a live performance and made it so much more. That footage went through so many different cycles of manipulation. We collaborated with this guy named Andy [Ray Lemon] who took this live footage and then ran it through VHS tape, and we got three or four different versions. So the editing process on that one was wild. I was just going back and forth [for] what color I wanted to see. It was very heavily color-driven."

The Stacks, "Dope Demise"

"It was Jake [Ames'] most precious possession. He had that van for years, and he called me up and said, 'Hey, I really wanna blow up the van,' and I was so honored. I had never blown anything up before, and I love explosions now. I will explode anything, any day of the week at this point. They're so fun when you do it carefully. We had a pyro team explode it. It was beautiful. I think Jake cried; I remember crying at the end. There were definitely little tears of joy shed on that one."

Tele Novella, "Eggs in One Basket"

"Natalie [Ribbons] had such an incredible vision when it came to these birds in a nest. I had a lot of ideas, and we just put them all in a melting pot. There was one specific image of a mime that I sent Natalie, and Humpty Dumpty."

Tele Novella, "Hard-Hearted Way"

"Natalie had said, 'We just watched Night Tide. I want to be a mermaid.' We went to Galveston twice. Natalie and I had our own playday of scouting and then the following day of execution. We treated ourselves to oysters twice."

Tele Novella, "The Unicorn"

"That was a cute little Wicker Man homage and love letter with the whole town of Lockhart. It was a breath of fresh air, from having to be so meticulous about art direction. Especially because 'Eggs in One Basket' took so much to realize, and we were also in the midst of preparing for 'Funeral.'"

Night Beats, "Thank You"

"Danny [Lee Blackwell] approached me with the song. Him and I were both really inspired by Eyes Wide Shut and Holy Mountain, and this is a secret one: I had just seen Cat People. I love Paul Schrader, and I was like, 'Wait a minute.' There's this beautiful scene where she's in this church, and I was so obsessed with the design from the church that I really wanted to re-create something like that."

Emily No Good, "Space"

"That was an incredible collaboration with [cinematographer] Ivy Chiu. We were chasing the sunset, and I still can't believe that we got everything we needed within so little time. I felt my friends having my back more than ever ... Camera assistant Sarah [Jones] would say, 'Hey, I think we can do another take.' I remember being like, 'Oh, wow. I thought the first one was perfect, but if Sarah wants one, let's do that.' That was such a great feeling to have, when your crew wants it even better than you want it. I will always hold that feeling."

Megafauna, "Sometimes Island"

"It was an early exploration of an Alice in Wonderland, The Love Witch, A Clockwork Orange vibe. I love Stanley Kubrick, and I feel like Clockwork Orange is a note on an instrument that I want to play again and again in bigger ways. So that was an earlier expression of a dark feeling that I definitely want to explore more in the future."

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Vanessa Pla, Tele Novella, Holy Wave, DAIISTAR, The Stacks, Night Beats, Emily No Good, Megafauna

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