Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Music Video Directors

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Everyone knows, or should know, that Houston is a hive of tremendous live musical talent. Seriously, go out sometime. Any time. There are bands for all tastes, from the light-hearted pop rocky to the esoteric beyond all measures of known sound.

However, it seems to be less well-known that many of these bands produce first rate music videos. I mean truly top shelf, ready-for-MTV-if-that-were-still-a-thing productions. Somebody has to direct those productions, and in hopes of widening local knowledge of my favorite art form even more today I show off the ten best.

10. Mike Terror: Though he's new to the world of music video direction, Mike Terror's first attempt, "Snakes 'N' Fakes", showed tremendous promise. He can clearly handle a location well, and has a gift for horror movie camera angles that bring out a disturbed feel to the finished product. I look forward to seeing more from him.

9. Kerry Beyer: It shouldn't be any surprise that one of Houston's best film directors (Spirit Camp, hello!) also makes a pretty good music video when he sits down and works on it. I'm only ranking Beyer lower on the list because of the limited scope he brings to the art. Since he tends to only work on his own music and only with what he can use by himself without rounding up his film crew, most of his videos remain beautiful and inventive but far below what his talent is ultimately capable of producing.

8. Albert Gonzalez: One of the slicker hands on the camera in the city is Albert Gonzalez. When you're a pop star that wants specifically to look like a pop star living a pop star life of ease but also heartbreak, this is the guy you want filming you. He's a master of crisp lines and hectic angle changes that bring any performer to high energy life.

7. Rachel Bays: Sadly there is only one women on this list, but I can't sing the praises of Rachel Bays enough. She is a mistress of melancholy lighting and slow, languid camera shots that drift in and out of soft darknesses. I love me some sad bastard music, and no one puts that sort of thing in better visual terms than Bays. Of all the talent mentioned in this article, she's the person I most look forward to future projects from.

6. Danny Ocean: In general I'm just not a fan of rap music videos because I don't think that standing in front of a place you like and talking is an overly gripping visual narrative. Danny Ocean's videos for The Niceguys are the exception to my rule. He approaches the videos with a very serious tone, and uses the movement of the environment to keep a sense of motion. He should really teach a clinic on the subject.

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5. Amir Valinia: Speaking of people that I wish would start a class on music video production, Amir Valinia made minor national news for filming a video for Paul Wall and Travis Barker on an iPhone. It had been done before, of course, but not nearly on the same scale. Speaking as someone who has shot two music videos on an iPhone specifically because I saw Valinia do it so well, I hope that his work continues to show musicians that the power to create high quality videos is literally in their pockets. You just need to learn how to use it.

4. Fletcher Stafford: Here's what I love about Fletcher Stafford; he's nuts. Bonkers. Off his trolley. Fletcher Stafford has left his cake out in the rain. At the top when I talked about people being esoteric beyond conventional measurement? Stafford is one of those guys. Whether he's turning a sign spinner's dance into an artistic interpretation of capitalism or building the strange maze in the video above he runs over conventional art like a human bulldozer. I always like when his stuff lands in my inbox because it's cheaper than chemical hallucinogens.

3. Josh Vargas: I don't talk much about Josh Vargas' music video work with the various metal acts that summon him from his little pit because if there's anything I find more boring than rap videos it's straight performance videos. That said, I can't deny that within that genre Vargas is a master. He really does make you feel like you're right there in the arena with Goblin and other acts. When it comes to a capturing live stage magic, Vargas is Houston's best.

2. Jerry Ochoa: The leader of Two Star Symphony has taken to filming music videos for the band, and the results are mind-bogglingly awesome. With an animated assist from Sophia Vassilakidis he made "Ninth Level" into one of the best music videos of 2013. Haunting, brilliantly shot, and with an amazing internal story that can actually hold your attention through the long song it is almost the apex of Houston music video talent. Ochoa is barely beaten out by...

1. Randall Hopkins: Featherface's own drummer Randall Hopkins is the director of their two music videos, and... whoa. Just whoa. After mulling it over from a couple of years I now think "I Saw Her Dancing" is the greatest music video ever shot by an indie Houston band. His follow-up, "Cosmic Draw" is no slouch either. There seems to be no one else in the city more able to capture the raw brilliance of a song and turn it into the perfect visual representation than Hopkins, and every thing he uploads to YouTube is pure magic.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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