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07 VMA's: Britney In, Art Direction and Cinematography Out

At the 2007 VMAs tonight in Las Vegas, viewers can watch Timbaland, 50 Cent, and Fall Out Boy perform live and find out if Britney Spears will generate even more news for the tabloids. What viewers won’t see are the awards for two key video production elements, since MTV has eliminated the Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography categories from this year’s competition.

“The Moonman (award) was always a carrot at the end of the stick for us to some extent; it was always out there,” said Los Angeles-based art director Zach Mathews. “Now it seems like it is gone, it really does.”

In response to this recent change, Mathews sent an e-mail to MTV staffers he has worked with in the past, and copied the message to several music video production executive producers. “Within six hours…after I wrote the email, I had responses from nine production companies—I sent it to two,” said Mathews. “People…were sending me their support and airing their own frustrations about the production companies getting shut out this year more than ever before for both voting and the actual show itself.”

Since the VMA’s inception in 1984, numerous directors, art directors, DPs and other industry professionals have built their careers around winning one of these coveted awards. Mathews has handled the production design on about 70 music videos since 2003, and has worked in the art department in lesser capacities on hundreds of music videos since 1994. He won the 2005 MTV Video Music Award for Best Art Direction for Gwen Stefani's “What You Waiting For.”

“I heard that the nominations were out... I went online to see who the nominees were and was shocked to find that most of the professional categories were done away with or seemed to be done away with,” said Mathews. “It was in fact such a surprise that I didn’t want to believe it was true, so the letter was actually a request for an explanation.”

At this year’s VMAs there are only three categories that represent music video production: Best Choreography, Best Director, and Best Editing.


         
kevathens, September 9, 2007 at 8:54:41 PM CEST

To me this seems the pivotal year for the VMA's. There's a better draw in terms of talent and maybe even publicity. But if the show doesn't fly, will it get cancelled? And how long is MTV willing to vivisect itself?

Now that it's almost here, though, I'm honestly looking forward to it.


         
kevathens, September 9, 2007 at 9:04:12 PM CEST

Lol. There's a VMA Twitter feed.


         
filmasart, September 10, 2007 at 12:13:59 AM CEST

"MTV killed the video star.." Sing it with me!


         
vs, September 10, 2007 at 8:44:34 AM CEST

i really loved seeing JT telling MTV that people want to see more music videos and not reality tv after the girls from 'the hills' brought him up.


         
pasquerel, September 10, 2007 at 12:26:56 PM CEST

It's really a shame how MTV treats the MV industry...Best Choreography still exists, if choreography would be such an important part in music video aesthetics...cinematography or art direction are much more important. But since most of the directors working on HD film, we should not expect big cinematographic breakthroughs anymore...which is sad, but true.

Big up to JT however...at least he did something.


         
pasquerel, September 10, 2007 at 1:41:29 PM CEST

BTW...were any Video Vanguard Awards presented on this year's VMA's? Or is this 'category' also a now defunct one?


         
fungible, September 10, 2007 at 2:32:42 PM CEST

Quite frankly, I'm surprised those three categories you mention still exist. When have the VMAs ever been anything but a gross, overhyped vehicle of starfucking and excess? After all, Joe Teenager doesn't care about filmmaking, he wants boobies!

(Speaking of which: I did catch the "return of Britney Spears" open of the show. Her career is soooo over. That was one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen.)


         
mva, September 10, 2007 at 2:54:57 PM CEST

were Gym Class Heroes and Beyonce the only artists who thanked the directors while accepting their awards? i wish Rihanna acknowledged chris applebaum for the video of the year award...


         
30f, September 10, 2007 at 5:42:48 PM CEST

There is no big shift in MTV's attitude towards the makers of music videos. I think everyone is developing after-the-fact memories and nostalgia for the loving attention and respect that they imagine MTV USED to lavish on the makers of MVs.

Those "lost" technical awards are covered other places (like the MVPAs). On the VMAs the industry insider awards always went to the clip that was the biggest hit anyway, not necessarily the clip that really had the best art direction or whatever. MTV is making a TV show, not educating teenagers that art-direction or editing exists.

The Independent Spirit Awards are held every year and they have a different (i.e. much smaller) audience than the Oscars. One gets a lot of attention and the other much less. Makes sense that music videos would be in the same boat.

The VMAs have always been the equivalent to the Golden Globes (or maybe the People's Choice Awards) - so decrying that they missed out on the behind the scenes technical stuff to focus on famous people (duh!) seems kind of besides the point.


         
kevathens, September 10, 2007 at 7:41:26 PM CEST

VMA recap at Video Static


         
kevathens, September 11, 2007 at 12:17:24 AM CEST

MTV ROUNDUP:

Idolator covers a bunch Rolling Stone live blog NYTimes: The best may have been off camera Idolator asks was MTV banking on Britney's failure? Idolator live blog

Good quote: "they tried to bring the incoherence of the internet to tv"


         
kevathens, September 11, 2007 at 1:18:10 AM CEST

Who did this? It looks very much like Vernie Yeung's video for Faultline.


         
kevathens, September 11, 2007 at 2:18:14 AM CEST

MTV's Dave Sirulnick talks to Broadcasting and Cable.

Okay I'm burnt out now.


         
kevathens, September 11, 2007 at 3:02:04 PM CEST

30f: The awards have always been about celebrating MTV and the revolutionary significance of that brand. As all of the blogging/press has shown, people still see MTV as a cultural barometer. And many of them see the loss of the music video aspect of the awards as troubling - not to music videos, which will survive - but to MTV, which is struggling to find its future.

As bizarre as it sounds, I think people who grew up with MTV would see the loss of the channel as a significant loss in the war of humanity v. technology. To see the VMAs reinvented as it was last Sunday seems like a triumph of the human spirit over the crushing force of technology, which is changing the game at such a rate that, as Ray Kurzweil has forecasted, I wouldn't be surprised if people start ditching technology altogether. We all want cool jobs, right? So what happens when our cultural idols/peers lose their jobs?

Though perhaps, as a psychological force, the loss of MTV and its corporate mentality would be a positive sign of change, as it is still owned by Old Media. Maybe the best thing for MTV to do at this point is to get its inspiration from the Internet, and blokes like us who love it despite the fact that it's grown up, left the house, and has to find a job.


         
familiar, September 11, 2007 at 4:33:30 PM CEST

30f hit the nail on the head -- he has no idea how close he is to the truth on this. Great analysis.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I can say first-hand that MTV is aware of this, and are doing exactly what he's suggesting. Anyway, that's about all I can say on a public forum.


         
30f, September 11, 2007 at 5:15:21 PM CEST

I am torn. familiar thinks I know what I am talking about (yay), yet that is also somehow something I am not quite aware of (hmm).

The ratings are in for the VMAs and the show apparently did quite well, both on-line and on TVs. Videostatic did a great job of getting into what MTV is trying to do with creating re-mixable content aimed mostly for the web and not Sunday’s TV broadcast. That may turn out to be a genius move, but it sure didn’t make watching the show any less annoying.


         
familiar, September 11, 2007 at 5:29:23 PM CEST

I really wish I could say more.

MTV is not a wholly stupid company by any stretch. They can see what's happening. There is a small team there working on new ideas, of which I am a part. Whether what we're doing reaches the light of day remains to be seen.


         
progosk, September 11, 2007 at 7:36:25 PM CEST

so, fam, are you at liberty to chime in on the supposed deliberacy of the britney debacle?


         
familiar, September 11, 2007 at 9:10:25 PM CEST

I think we all want to know the answer to that. Ugh.


         
kayser_sauze, September 11, 2007 at 9:54:06 PM CEST

more interesting than all this spears gossip is the question who created these short clips shown to introduce every award. i know that they were done by yU+co. for one of the previous shows. are you familiar with that matter? a little list would do no harm.


         
kevathens, September 11, 2007 at 10:38:09 PM CEST

Here's MTV.com's ratings in rough, estimated graph form.


         
kevathens, September 13, 2007 at 1:12:03 AM CEST

I think I post this at the risk of deleting all the other comments, but if you missed the rest, familiar said 30f hit the nail on the head. 30f was flummoxed that he knew more than he thought he knew. prog asked fam about the britney debacle. fam wished he knew. ugh. I pontificated some more but that's probably best left scrapped in Macro error hell...

kevathens, Sunday, 9. September 2007, 20:54 To me this seems the pivotal year for the VMA's. There's a better draw in terms of talent and maybe even publicity. But if the show doesn't fly, will it get cancelled? And how long is MTV willing to vivisect itself?

Now that it's almost here, though, I'm honestly looking forward to it.

kevathens, Sunday, 9. September 2007, 21:04 Lol. There's a VMA Twitter feed.

filmasart, Monday, 10. September 2007, 00:13 "MTV killed the video star.." Sing it with me!

vs, Monday, 10. September 2007, 08:44 i really loved seeing JT telling MTV that people want to see more music videos and not reality tv after the girls from 'the hills' brought him up.

pasquerel, Monday, 10. September 2007, 12:26 It's really a shame how MTV treats the MV industry...Best Choreography still exists, if choreography would be such an important part in music video aesthetics...cinematography or art direction are much more important. But since most of the directors working on HD film, we should not expect big cinematographic breakthroughs anymore...which is sad, but true.

Big up to JT however...at least he did something.

pasquerel, Monday, 10. September 2007, 13:41 BTW...were any Video Vanguard Awards presented on this year's VMA's? Or is this 'category' also a now defunct one?

fungible, Monday, 10. September 2007, 14:32 Quite frankly, I'm surprised those three categories you mention still exist. When have the VMAs ever been anything but a gross, overhyped vehicle of starfucking and excess? After all, Joe Teenager doesn't care about filmmaking, he wants boobies!

(Speaking of which: I did catch the "return of Britney Spears" open of the show. Her career is soooo over. That was one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen.)

mva, Monday, 10. September 2007, 14:54 were Gym Class Heroes and Beyonce the only artists who thanked the directors while accepting their awards? i wish Rihanna acknowledged chris applebaum for the video of the year award...

30f, Monday, 10. September 2007, 17:42 There is no big shift in MTV's attitude towards the makers of music videos. I think everyone is developing after-the-fact memories and nostalgia for the loving attention and respect that they imagine MTV USED to lavish on the makers of MVs.

Those "lost" technical awards are covered other places (like the MVPAs). On the VMAs the industry insider awards always went to the clip that was the biggest hit anyway, not necessarily the clip that really had the best art direction or whatever. MTV is making a TV show, not educating teenagers that art-direction or editing exists.

The Independent Spirit Awards are held every year and they have a different (i.e. much smaller) audience than the Oscars. One gets a lot of attention and the other much less. Makes sense that music videos would be in the same boat.

The VMAs have always been the equivalent to the Golden Globes (or maybe the People's Choice Awards) - so decrying that they missed out on the behind the scenes technical stuff to focus on famous people (duh!) seems kind of besides the point.

kevathens, Monday, 10. September 2007, 19:41 VMA recap at Video Static


         
kevathens, September 13, 2007 at 1:12:37 AM CEST

Vanishing-comment-syndrome!


         
lusk81, September 17, 2007 at 7:42:15 AM CEST

Kanye Flips: www.youtube.com
















 

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