Billie Eilish’s frequent music video editor talks working with Billie, student filmmaking, advice for industry

Noah Levine

Billie Eilish’s newest music video, “everything i wanted,” released Jan. 23, has already garnered over 29 million views. Music video editor John Paul Horstmann (“everything i wanted,” “bury a friend,” “xanny”) spoke with The Daily Texan about collaborating with the singer and his experience in filmmaking. 

The Daily Texan: How did you end up working with Billie Eilish?

John Paul Horstmann: There’s a wonderful (visual effects) house called Ingenuity (Studios), and (Billie Eilish has) done her last few videos there. I was just there one day working on something else and they’re like, “It’s Christmas, nobody’s available. There’s an artist that needs a video.” I had heard of (Billie), but I didn’t realize she was about to become so huge. It was the greatest time. I worked with Michael Chaves on “bury a friend.” He planned everything to the tee in terms of the timing of the lights and stuff. Then the video came out, it was like, boom, millions of views. I was (editing) it over Christmas. Like, literally while I was with my family, and they’re like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “Trust me, this is gonna be great.”

DT: How does the collaborative process work between you, Billie and the rest of the production team?

JPH:  When the first video was directed, I worked with the director right up until the editing process, then Billie came in and her process (is) very specific and hands on. She knows exactly what she wants — it was a real pleasure. I think it made it a better product to have that kind of feedback from an artist, rather than just somebody who was just concerned about how they look or something. It’s very rare that you work with somebody that has a very clear vision and accomplishes things and gets things done in a way that moves the influence. I feel like you could be on the most difficult job working with the best people and it’ll feel easy. 

DT: How did your relationship to student media in college help pave the way for your career?

JPH: We didn’t really have a film program at the University of Pittsburgh, so we just started doing it ourselves. Weirdly, that was the secret sauce. Actually learning how to do film is just (through) practice, not taking classes or watching every other obscure French film. I didn’t know how to edit at all, but we had all these projects and somebody needed to edit them. I started teaching the other students, and that led to a teacher being like, “You should apply for an internship in LA. I know one.” Because of the training I had, when (the internship) said, “What film school do you go to?” I was like, “I didn’t go to film school, but me and my friends, we made our own.” They’re like, “You’re in.”

DT: Any advice for student filmmakers?

JPH: It’s really now more than ever about branding. Branding yourself, like, “What do you do?” So when you first start out, a really important point is try everything. Try directing a short, try being a (production assistant), try working in editing, try doing visual effects. Then you’re eventually going to have to pick something. Your niche is what you’re going to be branded as.