Deconstructing Lady Gaga’s / Beyonce’s “Telephone”

Deconstructing Lady Gaga’s / Beyonce’s “Telephone”

I just finished watching Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s elaborate new music video “Telephone”. First of all, I absolutely loved it. Of course, as a PM my thoughts immediately turn to the organization behind the scenes (hey, it’s a Friday).

Given all the elaborate elements of the video, I’m forced to wonder how such a production could be put together. (If anyone from the music industry wants to chime in, you’re more than welcome in the comments section below–I’d be absolutely delighted for an expert opinion).

It seems to me, like with any project, you begin with something that tells you the scope of work you’re about to undertake. Since the song was available on Gaga’s Fame Monster album, we’ll start there.

Looking at the finished product in detail, I see the following elements, that I’ll organize in terms of execution (not planning):

Deconstruction of Lady Gaga's Telephone
On thinking about it, once the footage for the video has been shot, there’s a tremendous amount of risk if all the work that happens after production hasn’t already been planned out. What happens if something’s forgotten? They’d have to set up another production, which would be very expensive. That means that all of the planning needs to be done in advance of picking up a camera, such that from Production onwards, the producer only needs to worry about straight execution. I’m sure it’s much more complicated than that, but were I running the project, that would be my main objective to contain costs.

To prevent a scriptwriter from going away for a few weeks (for money) and writing a script, there should likely be an approved outline in place, which would involve a very short period of back-and-forth. When the outline is approved, the scriptwriter could take it away and flesh it out into a full script.

The script would inform a whole host of design concepts…from graphic design to the elaborate (and edgy) fashions in the video, to the set elements. All of post production would be planned here. I would expect to see storyboards outlining what the director wants to see in the finished product. I would also look for approval from post-production personnel that anything requiring effects has been identified and planned out. For example, in the prison sequence, the prison guards are searching for men(?) on the Internet. I will assume that the image on the computer screen was added in after Production was complete. That should mean, then, that if someone were to walk in front of the camera, post-production staff would be very challenged to add the graphics onto the computer screen. They might be able to do it, but I’m sure it would cost a lot more money. Those requirements need to be identified and signed off prior to production.

Lady Gaga

Courtesy of

I would look for some kind of “go / no-go” decision after all the development and pre-production activities were complete prior to entering production. The choreographer should say “the actors are rehearsed and ready”. Marketing should say “we have signed deals with those companies who will place their products in the video”. Legal should say “we have acquired the rights to Tarantino properties to shoot in the video. Only when all these things are ready should it be acceptable to move into production.

Of course that would raise the level of urgency during development. There would be non-refundable deposits, cast and crew would have to be paid whether production started on time or not, there would be a caterer with a ton of food to be paid…the days and weeks leading up to production would be very hairy indeed, as everyone pushed to be ready for that go / no-go check.

Were people not ready on time, the producer would have a very difficult call to make whether or not to proceed, or cancel and reschedule. Which would be more expensive?

Because I’m such a planning nerd, I’ve cobbled together a (very) high level plan of what such a production would take to put on. What would be very amazing would be to get someone from the industry to validate this.

Validation notwithstanding, it seems very impressive to me that given all the rivers that had to be crossed, mountains to be climbed and egos that had to be stroked, this project was completed in only a short couple of months! Well done, Lady Gaga!

And that’s my fun for Friday!

Very Sketchy Music Video Plan

Producing a Lady Gaga video?

I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • Look mate, I'm not quite a fan of Lady Gaga, but now that I've gone through your plans I might become one 🙂