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May 18, 2023

Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson on the Video Shoot for “Scream” (1995)

In 1995, Janet joined forces with mega-popstar and brother Michael Jackson. The much-anticipated collab resulted in hit single “Scream”, of Michael’s ninth album HIStory, and one of the most expensive music videos of all time.

The music video for “Scream” was filmed in May 1995 and was directed by Mark Romanek with choreography by Travis Payne, LaVelle Smith Jnr, Tina Landon, Sacha Lucashenko, and Sean Cheesman, and the production being designed by Tom Foden. Jackson did not create the “concept” for the video, which he had often done in the past, but left it to Romanek. Jackson later described the making of “Scream” as a collaborative effort. The song and its accompanying video are a response to the backlash Jackson received from the media in 1993.

Foden commented, “Mark had written the treatment and the general idea was that Michael and Janet were on this large spacecraft. And they were alone... They were getting away from Earth, and the different sets were the different environments on the spacecraft where they could have a little bit of fun and where they could relax.” Production of the music video’s 13-piece set was restricted to a one-month period and was produced by Foden and art directors Richard Berg, Jeff Hall, and Martin Mervel. Foden described the assignment as a “military operation” explaining, “The idea was to give each of the art directors three sets: a complicated one, a not-so-complicated one, and one of the smaller, easier vignettes.”

Typography in the video was designed by P. Scott Makela. Jackson was happy to work with his sister again, explaining that as they still had a passion for dancing it reminded him of “old times.” Janet Jackson revealed on her 2022 self-titled documentary film that the two worked separately on set (Michael working nights and Janet working days) and that his team limited her access to the soundstage when Michael was filming which she attributed to an effort to keep things competitive between them. She also stated the video was supposed to be filmed over three days, and was “supposed to cost a lot less.”

In the video, Janet Jackson takes on a darker persona, previously unseen in her own music videos. Jim Farber of the New York Daily News described her as “Sporting a thick thatch of wig hair, and eyes darkened by coal-black makeup... sullen and arty... Janet, however, never looked tougher, or more in control.” The video has influences of Japanese sci-fi anime; in the background screens, several clips can be seen of the television series Zillion (1987) and Babel II (OVA, 1992), and the films Vampire Hunter D (1985) and Akira (1988).

Generally well received amongst critics, it has been compared favorably to other songs by Michael Jackson. The corresponding music video remains one of his most critically acclaimed; it won three MTV Video Music Awards and the Grammy Award for Best Music Video. At a cost of $7 million, it was listed in the Guinness World Records as the most expensive music video ever made; however, director Mark Romanek has refuted the claim, saying that there were two other music videos from the same era which cost “millions more” than the video for “Scream”.


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