Floria Sigismondi, an OCAD University alum, is a world-renowned creator of film, music videos and art.
Among her many accolades, Sigismondi has won the Video of the Year at the MTV Music Video Awards for “Mirrors”, by Justin Timberlake, and the MTV European Awards for “Untitled #1”, by Sigur Ros. On top of that, she’s directed influential videos for a who’s-who of A-list artists,
including Pink’s “Try”, Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter”, Katy Perry’s “E.T.”, Sheryl Crow’s “Anything But Down”, The White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid” and Leonard Cohen’s “My Secret Life”.
What was your “aha” moment — when you decided, “Yup, I’m going to make a go of it as an artist”?
I knew I wanted to be an artist from a very young age. I remember the moment when I truly connected to the power of creativity and thought this is where I need to be. At the time, I hadn’t had much success at bringing the vision in my head to fruition, but when I was approached by Marilyn Mason to direct the music video for “The Beautiful People”, I was inspired and my mind was flooded with ideas. I filled a whole sketchbook with specific ideas and looks I wanted to achieve. There was a moment on set where I felt true magic was happening before my eyes. I had drawn this image and now it was coming to life. I felt like I was plugged into something mysterious and larger than myself. I was hooked!
You directed the critically acclaimed film The Runaways, and it’s been announced you’ll direct The Delivery Man based on the novel by Joe Mcginniss Jr. and Alejandro Jodorosky’s Bouncer. Is it getting easier for female directors? Why haven’t you directed more features?
I’ve spent time developing projects and reading a ton of scripts, trying to find the right projects to make. It just takes time. I feel filmmaking moves by a different clock: “hurry and wait.” I am also busy preparing my next photo book and painting.
You’ve directed so many award-winning music videos with amazing artists. Do you come up with the concepts or are they the results of collaborations with the artists?
Normally, I'm given the song and I'll listen to it hundreds of times until images come. Sometimes, it’s the lyrics that inspire me, and sometimes it’s the melody. I work best when I am free. I do ask the artist where a song came from, if it was personal. Sometimes that will lead me in a creative direction.
Your videos for Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” and Sigur Ros’ “Untitled #1” were influential and showed that music videos were a real art form. What do you think of the current state of mainstream music videos?
Thank you. I think music videos as an art form go up and down. There is some really interesting work that's being done right now. We did have a lull where mainstream music videos were shoved down our throats, but I feel there are now so many different outlets that really interesting ideas and films can be created and seen. The music industry isn’t really spending money on music videos any more, so it makes it difficult to create — but challenges sometimes take you in surprising directions.
The world was shocked when David Bowie recently passed away. You directed several of his videos, such as “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “The Next Day”. What memory sticks out most of your frequent collaborator and friend?
My collaboration with David began in 1997 with “Little Wonder” and “Deadman Walking”, which I shot in Toronto. The fondest memory I have was our first meeting, which lasted five hours. We spent it talking about art, and that's how we bonded. He was super respectful and let me take the films where I saw them going creatively. He truly respected the creative process of the artist.
He really changed my life. He taught me that I could spend my life being creative. All I had to do was look at his life, which he dedicated to music and art and spent as a fearless innovator. He taught me to listen to myself.