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15 Musicians Who Became Filmmakers

April 27, 2012  |  11:20am

Horizontal movement within the entertainment industry is pretty common these days. There are actors who become directors, directors who get in front of the camera, actors who pick up instruments, musicians who decide to act and more.

While a number of musicians have successfully made the jump from stage talent to screen talent, we’re dedicating this post to those artists who chose to work behind the camera—the directors, producers, scriptwriters and editors. Here are 15 musicians who have gone on to become filmmakers.

1. Frank Sinatra
In terms of film, the classic crooner himself might be most recognized for composing the score to Scarface. However, Ol’ Blue Eyes did actually take to the director’s chair for 1965′s World War II drama None But the Brave. Sinatra also produced seven other movies between 1956-1981.

2. The Cult’s Ian Astbury
When The Cult’s frontman chatted with Paste back in March, he professed his love of film and subsequent involvement in that industry. “I’ve…been building a small film company [Nous Defions Films] for the past three years,” said Astbury. “I directed one film called A Prelude to Ruins, I’m producing a documentary called Conquest and currently have another film with the working title of Tania right now, which is kind of in development.”

Conquest, as Astbury referred to it, is actually Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, based on a book by Andrea Smith of the same title. More information can be found here.

3. Nick Cave
This Aussie singer/songwriter has had quite a successful film career, in fact. He produced the short film The Cat Piano in 2009 and directed the documentary The Work of Jonathan Glazer in 2005. However, Cave garnered the most attention from his original screenplay for The Proposition in 2005.

4. Jason Schwartzman
The oft-mustachioed actor was actually the original drummer for California rock band Phantom Planet and has long recorded music under the moniker Coconut Records. And while he’s probably best known as the star actor in many a Wes Anderson film, he’s also listed as the executive producer for the Jon Savage-penned documentary Teenage, which is currently in pre-production.

5. Wayne Coyne
The eccentric-yet-ingenious Flaming Lips frontman directed and acted in his band’s insane home movie of sorts, Christmas on Mars, released in 2008.

6. David Bowie
Bowie’s mastery of melding filmic and music elements truly shone through his album-to-album characters like Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. However, the British performers also has directing credits in both of his two video collections and producing credits in three titles—2006’s Scott Walker: 30th Century Man, 1998’s Passage to Paradise and 1994’s Magic Hunter.

7. Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink
Not only did this young Brit spearhead his promising indie-alternative band, he also wrote and directed Noah and the Whale’s lovely, nostalgia-evoking documentary named after their 2009 album, The First Days of Spring.

8. Bob Dylan
Even though it didn’t get very good reviews, the legendary Bob Dylan officially tried his hand at directing and editing the 1978 surrealist concert film Renaldo And Clara. Before that, Dylan also edited 1972’s Eat the Document documentary.

9. Califone’s Tim Rutili
Califone’s lead singer, songwriter and guitarist has a few notable soundtrack credits (namely, 2006’s Stranger Than Fiction), but he got his writing and directorial start in the 2010 drama All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. The feature-length film followed the band’s album of the same name, screening at both Sundance and SXSW.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers Trailer from Califone on Vimeo.

10. RZA
Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, better known as the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, began his work in film by scoring soundtracks and acting. Most recently, however, RZA wrote the screenplay and directed The Man With the Iron Fists, which is scheduled to be released October 26. The movie is based on the Wu-Tang man’s story concept and will star Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and RZA himself as an actor.


212151817 by YardieGoals

11. Gore Verbinski
This Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter and producer actually got his start playing in various (mostly) underground rock bands around Los Angeles like Thelonius Monster, The Cylon Boys Choir and Daredevils. These days, Verbinski is known for directing the Pirates of the Caribbean series and 2011’s Rango.

12. Omar Rodriguez Lopez
The guitarist behind the proggy Mars Volta and post-punk, recently reunited At the Drive In began his film career in 2001 with a couple of unreleased independent films. More recently, though, Lopez has writing, directing and producing credits in 2010’s The Sentimental Engine Slayer (which premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam), 2011’s El Divino Influjo de los Secretos and 2012’s Los Chidos.

13. Guster’s Ryan Miller
Guster’s lead singer spoke with us recently about his compositional work for the forthcoming feature, Safety Not Guaranteed, starring Aubrey Plaza (of Parks & Recreation), Jake M. Johnson (of New Girl) and Mark Duplass. Before this foray into mainstream film, though, Miller co-wrote the script to 2009’s Nobody.

14. Rob Zombie
Not surprisingly, metal band-man Rob Zombie has a fascination with the dark, dead and doomed. In the past few years, he’s tried his hand at writing comic books, and before that, he wrote and directed 2003’s House of a 1000 Corpses and 2005’s sequel, The Devil’s Rejects. Now Zombie’s newest directorial effort, The Lords of Salem is in post-production.

15. Madonna
Yup. It happened. Madonna (or do we call her MDNA now?) co-wrote and directed a movie. Filth and Wisdom premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2008 and while the movie as a whole received pretty negative reviews, Eugene Hutz—Gogol Bordell’s wild frontman who also starred in the film adaptation of Everything is Illuminated—stole this show.

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