Still of Stormzy surrounded by young people in the music video for Vossi Bop by Henry Scholfield

Henry Scholfield on making music videos worthy of hit artists

The director behind videos for Stormzy, Billie Eilish, Rosalía, and now Ed Sheeran, talks the importance of the edit, thinking on your feet, and making space for self-initiated work

Like many directors who have found a career in music videos, Henry Scholfield grew up on a diet of MTV. It was mostly thanks to his friend Benji, who had access to the channel. Scholfield would go around to his house even when Benji wasn’t there (Benji’s mum would let him in) and he’d absorb it all. “I would watch music video after music video, and sit there just waiting for my favourite ones to come back around,” he remembers. Those include, amongst others, “anything Gondry. You’d have to just sit closer to the screen. It was like watching magic in some of those videos.” Jonathan Glazer, too, namely his video for Unkle and Thom Yorke’s track, Rabbit in Your Headlights. “I was curious because it wasn’t like film, it wasn’t like anything you saw,” an experience echoed by plenty of YouTube commentors. “Spike Jonze as well, obviously.” But above all else? “99 Problems is my favourite video of all time.”

Fast-forward to Scholfield’s final year at university and he was beginning to experiment with his own creations, gorging himself on scholarly books about filmmaking and UCLA’s reading list in place of the usual film degree route. Armed with the handycam he filched from his sister, Scholfield made his first amateur documentary about the hip hop subculture in the UK at the time. “It was like graffiti artists, scratch DJs, MCs, and stuff like that – lots of MCs. I’d go into venues and I’d interview them and I’d shoot rap battles and all this kind of stuff,” he recalls. It eventually evolved into him making his first hip hop videos, which in turn formed the foundations of a career directing music videos (many of them award-winning) for some of the world’s biggest music artists: Billie Eilish, Stormzy, Rosalía, and now Ed Sheeran, whose new video is out today.

Watch even a handful of Scholfield’s videos and his propensity for movement, dance and choreography is obvious. Is there a link? “My mum was a dancer,” he explains. “And also I was a very graceless B-Boy. All power moves in breakdancing and no uprock or toprock. I was less good at it, but always into the idea of dance and I saw a lot of stuff growing up, contemporary dance, that influenced me. But I have always been interested in it as a form of expression and how you use dance to make feeling or use choreography to make feeling.”

SENIOR DESIGNER

MANCHESTER