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antville Music Video Awards 2008

The Winners (say hi) !

In the final installment of acceptance blurbs this year, Chris Milk, whose Gnarls Barkley tale Who's Gonna Save My Soul? took Best Narrative Video (and, incidentally, a Grammy nom), has a few thoughts to share (after the jump).

ciao for now, all.

c.milk, January 7, 2009 at 9:55:14 AM CET

I was going to write a quick simple acceptance, but something the Encyclopedia Pictura guys said is leading me to go further with this than I normally would, or probably should. And I've got time today as the video I was to do for my absolute favorite "all-I-want-to-do-is-a-video-for-this-band-before-I-die" band, died because 12k total was too much to spend on a music video at the end of 2008. So, in the dawn of this new year, and hopefully a new direction for our shattered war-mongering country, a word to my most beloved ville... If you work in music videos in this market, you are by definition a struggling artist. Respect. There is a lot of hate on this board. It's fun to sling it, entertaining to read it, and most of the time, somewhat crushing to receive it. If you love music videos, realize we are all in this together now. No one is buying any houses in Malibu with video money, they do it for the love of the form. Pro co's are closing, labels are laying off whole video divisions, reps are writing children's books, directors are moving back in with their parents. And while I'm at it, on the topic of directors... I'm not aware of any other art form or medium where the artist, not just a director, but a writer as well, essentially create their works almost for free now, with multi-national corporate conglomerates as the clients, and while owning absolutely no rights or interests in their own art, which is being sold as content, for profit. Respect that, even if you don't respect the work. Music video is a dying art. MTV, our birth mother, has abandoned us on the stairs of the internet like a shriveled up old man baby. Imagine if radio suddenly switched to all talk shows, all the time. That happened to us. The web is our last hope of survival, antville is one of its most visible outlets; instead of just lobbing stones at the art form you love behind a cloak of anonymity, try being positive and constructive, show some love for your fellow mv kind, cause right now no one else out there is.
Respect one and all, and to all a good night. CM

ai, January 7, 2009 at 10:24:53 AM CET

Is that Debevec's lightstage?


, January 7, 2009 at 11:17:40 AM CET

Dang, Milk... fuck yeah.

igor33, January 7, 2009 at 1:01:01 PM CET

Been following your work since I first saw your awesome video for Flaming Lips 'The golden path'. Keep it up! :)

davidbowie2, January 7, 2009 at 2:43:52 PM CET


It's nice that director's are willing to do videos for free (almost) but if those videos are so completely compromised in their conception by the corporate bosses.. why sling respect at them?

we can say.. not only are directors writing and producing a product for free, they are also accepting to do that under conditions which severely limit their ability to produce a decent creative product in the first place.. think: "must contain performance", "Must get 1 million hits on youtube".

Why don't those directors make short films instead?

So what we should be saying, instead of hating, is.. Nice that you were willing to do this video for free.. too bad it couldn't be good.

luckily there are still one or two that are decent but the product's not getting any better out there..

spencefilms, January 7, 2009 at 5:26:01 PM CET

Great words Chris, very inspiring. Last I heard your dream video was back on? Is this an old letter or is it off again?

To davidbowie22 - "Must contain performance" yeah, so? It's a music video, how is that creatively limiting, of course a label wants performance, its the directors job to create a unique and interesting performance and to weave the performance and narrative (if any) together. If performance is something a director isn't into why not just shoot short films?

kalstark, January 7, 2009 at 5:27:07 PM CET

Thanks for taking the time to write in c.milk and thanks especially for the sobering perspective.

I'm often critical of a lot of the work that goes up here and although I know I'll continue to say what I don't like as well as what I do like about the posted videos I think I'll remind myself, before hitting that 'save' button, just what the people involved in creating the work most likely had to go through to even get it finished.

Thank you,


aaron stewart ahn, January 7, 2009 at 7:45:46 PM CET


Thanks much for this. I remember some essay of Wim Wenders from a long time ago when he was writing film criticism where he decided to no longer write negative reviews. Because it's so easy to express your dislike for something, but to convince or share love is not only difficult, it's the exceptional task of criticism. We're wallowing every day in online outrage. My wiser better half told me to stop reading angry blogs, and I feel much better for it. Sadly, it's one of the reasons why I stopped with antville for a long while (but there are too many treasures here).

And no matter who the masters are or who holds the purse strings (and there are people in the system who do care and do want to make good videos, but compromise has a tendency to metastasize) the fact remains that those of us who are doing videos do them for the sheer love of them, for the love of the music, for the love of the form, for the song, whatever. I just asked Jeff Cronenweth mostly rhetorically the other day why he did the Usher video given that there was no money to be made, and the look on his face said it all - it was just something he wanted to do.

I know it's a tall order, but imagine what antville would be if for even a single week people only wrote about why they loved something. I don't think effort in something excuses bad work - but the really bad work is easy to spot, and it becomes even easier and glib to say so. I don't think it's about effort involved so much as realizing that this medium we love is under siege, and we should be lifting up the ones that further it.

Because any video you see these days, any single video that nails it, is a minor miracle, that jumped through flaming hoops of ridiculous budget, naysaying, confusion, and the creative whims of twenty or so people who know nothing about filmmaking. Think of it this way: some stalwarts embraced by antville tell me they aren't doing videos because "there's more creative freedom right now in ads".

Circumnavigating the world shooting for two weeks without a crew put me in hospital. But that was easier than the six solid weeks beforehand to get the video into production.

Anyway, Chris said it better. Much respect and thanks.

budget, January 7, 2009 at 7:57:03 PM CET

When The Cure can't pull together 12k for a music video, well- we already knew we were in trouble.

familiar, January 7, 2009 at 8:07:12 PM CET

Budget, The Cure's latest album sold less than 45,000 copies in the States. What do you expect?

kalstark, January 7, 2009 at 8:18:06 PM CET


I really hope that you guys haven't outed the correct band... I used to love the Cure and it's not fun to think they can't pull 12k. It's not fun in part because I'm pretty sure they can afford that and more... I just shot a video 3 weeks ago in NYC for $20k and the artists didn't have even a fraction of a fraction of the history, name brand, or label strength behind them that the Cure would/should have...

Is $12k really that hard to come up with for a major part of a 'brand's' marketing efforts?



c-dub, January 7, 2009 at 8:27:26 PM CET

Chris, i fukn love you dude. Ill never forget early on in my music video foray, i would write to every video director i could get info for asking for feedback. YOU, sir, are on the VERY short list of directors kind enough to write back with CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. and for that i love you dude. Happy New Year.

piore, January 7, 2009 at 9:07:35 PM CET

funny you should say that c-dub b/c i wrote three emails to you guys before getting a response. but your response was kindly. Thanks Milk for the awesome response, and when we were working on our Gnarls vid, "Who's gonna save..." came out--we just about threw in the towel but then turned that jealousy into inspiration. gracias

true_fiction, January 7, 2009 at 9:32:15 PM CET

This award is well derserved. I noticed CM through his Kanye videos, which are some of the best hip hop videos ever made. His work outside hip hop is as excellent. "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?" was easily one of the best videos of last year. Jorma Taccome (the guy stabbing himself/ Lonely Island) is a fine actor. Thanks for the wise words Chris, and i'll be waiting for a feature film from you.

senilitynow, January 7, 2009 at 9:57:03 PM CET

i, like c-dub, used to write directors when i started out, and chris was the only one of the top-tier dudes to respond. even if it took him 8 months to do so, he had an encouraging word.

all the best for you chris.

shatner, January 7, 2009 at 11:01:57 PM CET

Chris Milk... Congratulations on the award. Well said on the speech. And bags of respect right back at you.

lusk81, January 7, 2009 at 11:35:31 PM CET

Bowie asked, "Why don't those directors make short films instead?"

I think I've been expressing this sentiment on the ville for some 3 years now. It's crazy any of you guys even listen to labels anymore. For what, maybe maybe maybe a 1k paycheck for 3 months of work?

A huge nod of respect goes out to anyone who actually makes money from videos. I'm still so on the fence for everyone else who makes no money making mediocre videos for "the love of the form". It just seems a little backwards to me....

If you're making no money, then the work should be entirely pure. No filters.

Economically, MV's as a form are dead. And politically, who wants to compete against 50 other treatment jockeys only to get ignored entirely?

We can cheer each other on all we want, but at the end of the day, we're just thanking each other for their 'passion'.

Otaku would rather we be constructive. But it's utterly destructive to run a gauntlet that completely compromises your work (and health) - aaron. I just don't know...

Bowie's on the nose here.

budget, January 7, 2009 at 11:42:15 PM CET

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh, the answer is simple: exposure. You could spend 3 months making something "pure" and end up with no money and a short film that no one wants to watch, or you could make a music video and end up with a final product that someone else paid for, a sense of legitimacy, and a foot in the door. PLUS, if its for a good band, actual people will watch it.

lex halaby, January 8, 2009 at 12:07:20 AM CET

@milk: respect.

my name is legion, January 8, 2009 at 12:09:30 AM CET

finally. thank god budget spoke on it. besides, am i living in a different world or you do need far mo money to produce a short than a vid?

shatner, January 8, 2009 at 1:11:51 AM CET

I'm with Milk and Budget on this. Videos are a thankless task, but I think that they are a good thankless task to do for a certain type of filmmaker in a certain stage in their career.

I like making films. When looking at the options, music videos give me a) a budget, b) an audience, c) a certain degree of creativity. That's not a bad situation. No other options that are available to me now give me those three things. To be honest I wouldn't know how to get funding for a short film, but I know it would be more painful that writing a music video treatment.

spencefilms, January 8, 2009 at 1:36:51 AM CET

Budget has it on the nose for most. I myself love videos and became a director to make music videos. I would like to think I will always make videos even if that means doing a lot of commercial work to make up for it financially. I know alot of you arent the biggest fans of Joseph Kahn but this is exactly what he does, that and the mailbox money from Torque helped as well.

jehrman, January 8, 2009 at 9:58:43 AM CET

congrats. feel the video. this will ll make sense one day...def a transition time for all media. on the bright side, we're lucky to have tools to make quality stuff for less and post them online for repeat viewing. i remember running home from school to watch YO! Mtv Raps or waiting forever for my selections on THE BOX. hopefully this is just a rough patch. happy new year.

winchandpulley, January 8, 2009 at 10:50:47 AM CET

Mega dittos Milk.

We're all in this life raft together. This is no time for mutiny or cannibalism. We need to be generous with the rations, do our share of the paddling, and keep an eye out for dry land.

Let's say goodbye to the hate of '08, and ring in the love divine of 2009? (okay, I need some sleep. that's retarded.)

davidbowie2, January 8, 2009 at 11:51:44 AM CET

There you go. Spence and Budget have it on the nose.

If you want to make films like Joseph Kahn you should slave away and reproduce the forms that are expected of you hoping that you'll get lucky and be noticed..

If on the other hand, you entered the Vid world by way of aspiration to gondry/cunningham/jonez levels...... sad to say but those days are gone.

maybe commercials are more interesting these days than vids, creatively.

quixoticnyc, January 8, 2009 at 4:40:27 PM CET

It is music to my ears to see that Chris Milk has passionately said what I have seen nobody of his regard express. I haven't posted in quite some time. Much like Aaron Stewart points out, my better half also suggested that I stop reading the posts and just watch the videos. It is true that over the years, a large portion of the posts here have been centered around negative energy in a less than fair critical manner. As a producer and director, being very aware of the painstaking process that goes behind making this kind of work, I've always been bothered that there is such a dismissive sentiment towards so much work here. Blood sweat and tears are what it is all about. And should that produce a gem, we should all be appreciative, particularly under the current conditions of the industry.

I also want to put some food for thought out there with regards to label relationships. The record label commissioners and video departments are not the enemy. Just like the directors and production companies, they have to go to work every day and perform the same task that they use to with very little in the way of resources. And that is if they even have a job anymore. The blame really should be aimed at the higher ups at labels who are also charged with an impossible task. The Recording Industry Association of America has spent gobs of money (with the support of all major labels) to litigate and sue every 16 yo they can, as opposed to figuring out a sustainable way to save their industry. Music videos are small peas in this larger issue.

Many production companies see the current state of music videos as a perfect training ground for young up and coming directors. The lack of profit isn't the biggest deal as long as the work can be made. After all, for so many of these companies, music videos have always been a novelty side of the business. This is also shaping the kind of new talent we see. For better or worse, this is why so many of the videos we see these days are made 75% in a computer where the labor costs just aren't the same. Many of these young directors play almost every role in the crew. On countless occasions, I have spoken to directors who are creating two, three or even ten unique deliverables as content for the label and making literally nothing in the way of compensation. When I ask why they do it, it's always the same answer, "I know I shouldn't do it but it's about relationships and there is pressure there." I stand by the notion that if we as creators continue to deliver "Fast, Good, & Cheap" there will never be the necessary shift towards a more favorable environment. Perhaps the production companies and top directors really should consider working together to create a better discourse with the labels. Instead of focusing on individual growth, perhaps we should stand in unity and work towards better solutions for all. Imagine if like a workers union, all top production companies and directors just refused to work until something more acceptable were agreed upon. The content can't be made without creators. We do hold chips here. The labels rely on our: creativity, resources, and proven track records. Chris Milk hits the nail on the head when he speaks of this being the only professional industry where creators are asked to make work for literally nothing, no royalties, nada. We can only blame ourselves for not doing more to fix the problem.

Chris Milk - Thanks for the inspiration, great videos and spoken truth. Apologies for being long-winded.

lusk81, January 8, 2009 at 6:11:19 PM CET

Again I agree with Bowie. Quix's utopia sounds desperate and although budget makes a good point, you still have to call in crazy favors to make an MV. The same would apply to short films. The difference of course being, you're the only "label" you have to answer to.

quixoticnyc, January 8, 2009 at 6:26:08 PM CET

Lusk, you yourself point out that there is something very wrong with the notion of pitching against 50 other directors. It wasn't always this way and doesn't have to stay this way. The idea of creators standing up for themselves is far from desperate. The only thing that I believe to be Utopia-like in this matter is to think that doing nothing will initiate a change. In plenty of fields including creative endevours in which art & commerce co-exist hurdles have been leapt when intelligent discourse is set in action. Your suggestion that lack of profitability in the video business should equal an unfiltered process is rather naive. How can you neglect the very basis that the label and band are still paying for the video and doing so to promote music the way they see fit? That's their job.

trans_alt, January 8, 2009 at 6:47:46 PM CET

There will never be a shortage of directors / producers that pride themselves on undercutting everyone else. That's why collective bargaining will never work in music videos. We're not making widgets were trying to live the dream and labels know it.

stratobee, January 8, 2009 at 7:41:55 PM CET

Well said, Mr. Milk!

But personally, I've always viewed music videos as paid (barely) film school. And I think that's how they should be viewed. It never really has been a field to grow old in, much like that first McDonalds job. You're supposed to film, film, learn, learn, dazzle, dazzle and then move to other things. And perhaps sadly, if you don't make that decision soon enough, the industry will do it for you - how many older or "uncool" mv directors are there that can't even get to pitch on a 5K video these days? I know several.

It's a young mans game, you play it as long as it plays you, but prepare for your future. Id' rather play it, than the other way around.

I remember David Fincher saying "you work where you can" when he was starting out with feature films and everyone was giving him shit because he was "just a music video director".

You do indeed.

my name is legion, January 8, 2009 at 7:43:25 PM CET

@quixoticnyc (i copied & pasted this, its difficult to spell)

i know of some particular instances where the (new to the industry) directors themselves had to put in a hefty amount of money when the vid went over budget. im not talking here about not getting paid.

and then again, its so more expensive to make an independent short film ( i produced two of my own, shot on film & shit and i am still paying for them) than a video. and im not even considering applying for funding. mv's are good for cutting your teeth, then you graduate to tvc's, and then features. isn't this what most directors want?

familiar, January 8, 2009 at 7:46:35 PM CET

This thread certainly proves one thing: Most directors/producers/DPs/etc. don't run record labels, or manage bands, and have no idea how much (or how little) money there actually is out there. Even for bands you think are "big".

You guys need to look at sales numbers and balance those against production costs for the band in question, then figure out how any profits transfer through percentages to the artist and label, then figure out how much of that must be used for the artist and label to eke out a living. What's left is usually pittance, or a deficit. That is the truth.

(PS: The video in question here was one of my favorite of last year. Just amazing.)

30f, January 8, 2009 at 8:52:31 PM CET

Hey ‘Villains –

Love the comments from Milk – his thoughtfulness and refusal to think and act like everyone else is both what makes his work so special AND makes him work so little. Sigh.

So here are my thoughts on many of the topics raised in the comments above. Yes, many of these are links to my blog – but I figure that some folks may not have burrowed down through all three years (?!?) of 30frames.

On why directors don’t make short films. My thought would be that they do, but a music video – even an ultra-cheap one made with favors called in and so forth – as stated above, gets waaaay more attention that the artsy short a director might make flying solo. Yes, a 5k music video budget is crap, but it is 5k more than you’d have to make your genius short.

The huge number of directors pitching themselves on every job is an obvious flaw, but everyone wants to work. Without any kind of organization, MV directors are stuck with this.

Why can’t a very famous band that I love (maybe The Cure, forzample) get more money for their budget? Video budgets are determined by what a label THINKS they can earn off the music sold by the artist in question, plus a side order of how much power the artist (or their manager) have at the label to get a higher budget. That ‘side order’ part shrinks in significance by the day. No label makes a Cure (or Bon Jovi, or Bjork) video to celebrate the past, they make videos to sell music in the future. This may leave the cherished stars down in the low-budge muck with the new guys, but the other choice is to opt out of the video game like Tom Petty.

The labels are, by and large, not the enemy (as quix states above). The labels are stuck in a really bad place right now, and whether it is their fault or the inevitable shifting of the tectonic plates of the economy is meaningless to a young MV director trying to get his film transferred.

Production companies and their executives are often just as up against it as the under-funded directors themselves. Sometimes it gets real, real bad.

This leads us back to where music videos started, with productions being fast, dirty and largely amateur. Is this horrible? Only if you like professional, high quality music videos.

This last link is included because, well, just because.

Alanedit, January 9, 2009 at 5:44:16 AM CET

I like what Milk is saying, that's all I'm going to say. I'd rather listen to a professional who loves the form than anyone else.

stuwillis, January 9, 2009 at 10:08:43 AM CET

Many years ago when I asked for some advice, Chris sent me his treatments.

Fucking respect man.

captainhairy, January 9, 2009 at 11:40:06 PM CET

if you want to make money and be succesfull in the music video industry, you need to take inspiration from one very special man : Dale "RAGE" Resteghini.

slickityjim, January 14, 2009 at 10:47:20 PM CET

I'm not a music video director, and kind of came on this post by accident, but I thought I might be able to contribute to the issue that Chris has raised.

As a commercial art director my take on music videos has always been that they are another form of commercial media. They are meant to serve a business purpose: promoting a band. For stations like MTV the purpose of a music video was to have content that could be used sell advertising space. For labels they are promotional.

With the rise of Internet distribution the value of the music video in the eyes of networks and labels must have dropped, but that doesn't make the video itself any less valuable. The right concept in the right hands, delivered through the right channels, still creates interest in the band. MTV becomes streaming video, album art becomes web site. The power of the content is the same.

Unfortunate or not, distasteful or not, the value of a music video isn't as art in the traditional sense. With a few notable exceptions videos aren't bought and sold in their own right like a painting, feature film or song. They are created to serve another purpose.

MV's are faced with a new distribution model, and that means new promotional techniques are required, but the potential is no different. A million views on YouTube is as good as a million on television (yes, compression sucks....I know...I feel it too...I'm really just talking about doing what you love and being able to pay the rent). In fact, as an ad industry guy I'd say it's better, since YouTube requires activity on the part of the viewer.

Basically my long winded point comes down to: you can't let someone else dictate what your work is worth, or depend on the generosity of a client. You have to understand the value of creativity. Saying you can make them a video is one thing, saying you can help them get 1 million downloads on iTunes is something else.

Best to all.

my name is legion, January 23, 2009 at 1:30:45 PM CET

my name is legion, January 27, 2009 at 8:24:29 PM CET

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