Written and Composed by Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis
Produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis for Flyte Tyme Productions, Inc.; Michael Jackson for MJJ Productions, Inc. and Janet Jackson
From the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future—Book I, released June 20, 1995
Released as a single May 31, 1995
THE SHORT FILM
Director: Mark Romanek
Primary Production Location: Los Angeles, California
Michael Jackson’s short film for “Scream” was the first of seven short films produced for recordings from HIStory: Past, Present and Future—Book I, Michael’s fifth album as an adult solo performer. As a single, “Scream” reached No. 1 in Spain, Italy, Belgium and New Zealand, peaking in the Top 10 in another 11 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and Australia. In the United States, the single, a double A-side with “Childhood,” was the first in the 37-year history of Billboard to debut at No. 5, and topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
“Scream” was certified Gold and Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on July 31, 1995. The song was nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with vocals at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996.
The “Scream” single and short film paired Michael with his youngest sister Janet for the first time. “It was very interesting to see him at work,” Janet told MTV News of the “Scream” single and short film, her first time seeing Michael in studio since the recording of Thriller. “It was a lot of fun. We had a great time. We reminisced and laughed a lot.”
“Scream,” directed by Mark Romanek, set a Guinness World Record for the most expensive short film ever made. The highly stylized black and white production features Michael and Janet dancing, playing games and relaxing on a giant spacecraft. A dozen corresponding sets were constructed on multiple soundstages on the Universal Studios backlot over a period of just two weeks, including a Zen garden, a sport court and a room for dancing.
Romanek, who identified The Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save” as the first record he ever owned, relished the chance to work with Michael. “When it came time to perform for the cameras, the transformation from this relatively regular guy to some sort of divinely possessed super-being was really astounding, metaphysical — hard to fully comprehend,” Romanek told Rolling Stone in 2009. “The chance to experience the phenomenon of his gift from only a few feet away gave me chills. It was the treat of a lifetime.”
“Scream” made its world premiere on MTV and BET, debuting on ABC’s Primetime Live one night later. The short film earned a record 11 MTV Video Music Award nominations, winning three, including Best Dance Video, Best Choreography and Best Art Direction. “Scream” also won Michael his second Grammy Award for Best Music Video – Short Form. In 2001, VH1 ranked “Scream” No. 9 on their list of 100 Greatest Music Videos; in 2014, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 4 on their list of Michael’s 20 greatest short films.