The blood-splattered classroom in Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," Justin Timberlake's kiss in 'NSYNC's "Gone," the burning cross in Madonna's "Like a Prayer" — the most memorable videos can often be defined by a single image or sequence lasting just a few seconds: the money shot.
On paper, it's underlined or bolded. On the set, it's when the director clears the room to concentrate. On the screen, it's what instantly stands out.
The money shot is "impressive, very catchy, and, most important, melds the basic idea of the video with the heart of the song," explained director Philipp Stolzl (Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life"). "It's often an intimate moment of the artist or the moment when a star suddenly shows a vulnerable spot."
In celebration of the year's most memorable video moments, MTV News got in touch with the directors behind the clips up for Moonmen in the Best New Artist in a Video category. We asked them to cash in their money shot secrets, and here's what they told us:
Evanescence - "Bring Me to Life"
Money shot: Paul McCoy, standing in a window as the band performs behind him, grasps Amy Lee by one arm before she falls into the abyss.
"On the one hand, it brings out the most catchy part of the song, the bridge, the duet with the male and female vocals," director Stolzl explained.
"On the other hand, it reflects the ['Daredevil'] soundtrack background of the song." Certainly as intense as a superhero movie, the sequence also gives a nice visual to the song's most memorable lyric, "Save me." Stolzl, who made a name for himself directing Rammstein videos, knew the shot was key when he wrote the treatment, but he worried about pulling it off. "I did not know if I would have to use a stunt double for most of the angles, which would have restricted me a lot, but then it turned out that Amy did everything herself, hanging on Paul's arm for hours without getting tired," he said. "In the end, she is the one who made that shot strong."
50 Cent - "In Da Club"
Money shot: 50 finishes the final lines of the song as the camera moves "through" a two-way mirror to reveal Eminem and Dr. Dre, in lab uniforms, taking notes and nodding their approval.
"Seeing 50 with Dre and Em having his back is as big a visual statement as it is a musical statement," said Phillip G. Atwell, the de facto director for Shady and Aftermath Records. "You could see what the commitment was between Em, Dre and 50 and what this project was going to be about." Atwell was apprehensive about falling into the cliché of mentors appearing in their protégé's video, but "it was done in a way where the guys weren't standing around, mugging for the camera," he explained. "We came up with something that added to the story we were trying to tell." The shot is also significant in that it makes it clear the club is inside of the Shady/Aftermath Artist Development Center, not just irrelevant performance footage. "I thought that was pretty hot," Atwell said.
Simple Plan - "Addicted"
Money shot: The lights explode in slow motion as the song comes to an end.
"It was inspired by [the explosion in] 'The Natural,' " Ryan Smith of the directorial team Smith N' Borin said of the climactic sequence, which comes after basically everything else in the room has been destroyed by Simple Plan jumping up and down. "It was the final shot of the day, and the band was kind of tired and beat up but they were excited," recalled Frank Borin. Before blowing them up, the special lights got so hot that the bandmembers had to stand at least two feet from them. "They were nervous, but seeing the lights blast was just cool," Borin added. To shoot the explosion, Smith N' Borin, the go-to directors for pop punk bands thanks to their work with Good Charlotte, drastically slowed down the speed of the camera. "We stretched that less than a second into 15 seconds," Smith said proudly.
Kelly Clarkson - "Miss Independent"
Money shot: Clarkson is singing into the bathroom mirror when she catches her first glimpse of her love interest.
"That sets everything in motion," director Liz Friedlander said of the shot, which occurs at the exact moment the song explodes into the chorus. "It's the catalyst that changes the video." The sequence is very simple, which made it a challenge. "We knew it was important to be subtle," said Friedlander, best known for Blink-182's "Adam's Song." "It's not like they have this great, amazing moment; some chemistry just needed to be clear." While shooting, Clarkson insisted it felt weird, but the director knew she was nailing it. "Her performance in all of that was really good," Friedlander said. "Any time you have moments like that in videos, you have people who are meeting each other 15 minutes prior. That stuff is always really hard. We have miles of the two of them completely losing it, because it's so uncomfortable. 'Hi, nice to meet you. My name's Kelly. You're the love of my life.' 'Now go!' "
Sean Paul - "Get Busy"
Money shot: Paul grabs the microphone for the first time.
The main attraction of the video is the dancing sequences, which are triggered by Paul's performance, according to director Little X. "I usually shoot a lot of performance, but for this video I just did that one because it turned out so strong," X said. The key to the shot is how natural the singer appears, which the director credits to the extras. "They weren't really acting, that's how parties are in Toronto and for West Indians all around the world," said X, who directed Nelly's "Hot in Herre." "You have a basement and some speakers and you turn it on. It was almost like just filming what was going on."
All-American Rejects - "Swing Swing"
Money shot: A guy outside of the shed where the band is performing films his girlfriend blowing smoke into the lens of his Bolex camera.
"I always imagined the money shot in the video being a close-up of [singer] Tyson [Ritter]," said director Marcos Siega, whose résumé includes System of Down's "Chop Suey!" and Papa Roach's "Last Resort." "But as good as he looks, the image of the two kids really captures the tone of what I set out to shoot. I feel like the moment anchors the video in something very real, and that was always something that the band wanted to convey." Part of the reason the shot looks so natural is because the blowing-smoke part was unscripted. "It's a very subjective and intimate image," Siega added. "They are just real kids who do real things. They hang out with their friends and look for sh-- to do." The All-American Rejects were more than pleased with the simple approach. "We don't have any fancy lights or anything, we're just a rock band," Ritter said.
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.