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"She was absolutely lovely, and she worked incredibly hard. I was very impressed by her work ethic," Dick tells PEOPLE about 16-year-old Spears

Nigel Dick directed Britney Spears' music video for "Baby One More Time"
"Who better to tell me what other 16-year-old girls are going to want to see in their video than a 16-year-old girl?" he tells PEOPLE
Of Spears' current situation, Dick says, "I am hurt about what's happened in Britney’s world"
It was the music video watched 'round the world.

In 1998, an upcoming 16-year-old Britney Spears was set to release her debut single “Baby One More Time” and needed a music video to accompany it. With the help of director Nigel Dick, the music video remains her most-viewed solo video, 25 years later.

How does one of the world’s most iconic music videos come to be? Says Dick, 71, “The magic ingredient is a hit record.”

The English director is known for making some of the most influential videos in music history — “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, Cher’s “Believe” and the 1995 Oasis hit “Wonderwall” — and believes that it’s the music itself that makes the video. “If you make a video for a song, which goes nowhere, nobody notices,” he tells PEOPLE.

It was the music that led Dick to direct a video for a relatively unknown teenage Spears, now 42, despite discouragement from others.

“I had done a few videos for [her label] Jive Records and they sent me the track and I thought, ‘This is a great record,' " Dick recalls. “And I was actually advised not to consider doing it because it was an unknown 16-year-old girl. But I said, ‘Look, it’s a great song. This is a hit.' ”

Trusting his gut, Dick pitched an idea for the music video — and was immediately shot down.

“The rep at the label said, ‘Look, we don’t like your idea, but Britney has a great idea so why don’t you have a phone call with her?’ And I put the phone down and I’m like, ‘Oh this is f---ing great. I’m now going to be told how to make a video by a 16-year-old girl,' " he recalls.

After a “moment of clarity,” Dick realized, “ 'Who better to tell me what other 16-year-old girls are going to want to see in their video than a 16-year-old girl?' ” The idea from Spears was simple: “We had a phone call and she just said, ‘I want to be dancing in a school with cute boys.’ And I’m like, ‘... and that’s it?’ So I put the phone down, wrote the idea and everybody loved it,” Dick adds.

While working alongside Spears went well for Dick — “She was absolutely lovely, and she worked incredibly hard. I was very impressed by her work ethic,” he recalls — there was one topic of contention.

“I assumed that she was going to be wearing gym clothes, and we did a wardrobe fitting beforehand, and she’s trying on all of this stuff — T-shirt, gym shoes and whatnot — and says, ‘Well, why wouldn’t I be wearing a school uniform?' " Dick recalls. “I went ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, we don't want to go down that road,’ but her record company person and producer were there, and they overruled me.”

Dick admits now that Spears seemingly made the right call, as “it’s become iconic,” but reveals that he “took a lot of stick” for the decision afterward.

“There was one review in a British music paper, which said, ‘Britney Spears is obviously dressed by dirty old men in raincoats,' " he says.

After a positive experience working together on “Baby One More Time,” Dick was approached by Spears' team two years later to direct the video for her new single, “Oops!... I Did It Again,” the first track off of her second album of the same name. “We had a phone call and Britney said, ‘I want to be with a spaceman. I want to be wearing a red suit. I don’t want there to be any rockets in it. And you’ll do the rest,' " he says. “I had no concern about if she was going to pull it off. She was always going to deliver.”

Dick adds, “We actually got a red suit together, which I really liked. And then the night before, somebody rang me up and said, 'Just so you know, Britney’s having the guy who did a suit for Michael Jackson make a suit for tomorrow.' So she turned up and it's all shiny and clingy, and I preferred my choice, but there you go.”

After filming wrapped on their second music video together, Dick and Spears never saw each other again. “I am hurt about what's happened in Britney’s world,” Dick says, referring to the coverage of the pop star over the years and her recent book, The Woman in Me. “For a young person to go through that, obviously there was some damage there. And I try not to feel responsible for that. But yeah, I mean, it's a vicious business.”
Still, he remains impressed by young Spears' stick-to-it-iveness.

He adds, "There's a few other artists in that vein that I worked with who could have learned a lot by following her example."