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Music videos on the big screen

by Andrew Doerfler / Beacon Staff • January 24, 2013

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The logo for the Los Angeles Music Video Festival.
courtesy of LAMVF
The logo for the Los Angeles Music Video Festival.
courtesy of LAMVF

Shunned by MTV and left to navigate the mire of YouTube, music videos don’t often end up in the most glamorous venues. But tonight, a select few will make it to the big screen.

The department of visual and media arts will be screening a selection of finalists from last year’s Los Angeles Music Video Festival in the Bright Family Screening Room. The night will also feature a Skype video Q&A session with “DANIELS” — the directing duo of Emerson alumni Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who have made videos for artists like Battles, Chromeo, and Foster the People.

 The event is part of a recent push by the department to give the form more attention, according to events and internship manager Anna Feder. After noticing that music videos rarely made it into the school’s annual “LA Showcase,” Feder spearheaded a presentation in November called “Silversonic,” which featured 16 music videos from students and alumni. She said she has also been in touch with faculty from Berklee, discussing the possibility of a collaborative ProArts course that would match film students with musicians to produce videos.

 “It’s not something that’s necesarily in the curriculum. It’s just something [students] are doing, and doing fairly successfully,” said Feder. “Usually for directors, it’s a way to sort of launch their careers.”

Many directors, though, continue to play with the form after making it big — Feder points to Michel Gondry, who followed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with videos for Kanye West and the White Stripes.

 The event at Emerson, which will showcase both narrative and non-narrative videos, will be the first time the Los Angeles Music Video Festival brings a program to a college. The festival, now heading into its third year, tries to promote the genre as a legitimate art form. It awards the finest videos of the year, celebrates the form’s auteurs, and highlights some work by amateurs and students.

Sami Kriegstein, the festival’s founder and artistic director, said a great music video complements the song while adding something new.

“I am a big fan of attention to detail. Music videos are like poetry: You only have a couple minutes,” she said. “The opportunity is a little wasted if you aren’t taking total advantage of every second you have on screen with interesting choices clearly made with a purpose in mind.”

Collen Curlin, the festival’s director of industry and media relations, said that since people are used to watching music videos online or on TV, they get a new perspective when experiencing them in a cinema with a full sound system. (Some directors, she said, have even joked that the big screen revealed mistakes they hadn’t noticed before.) A screening of Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” video, Curlin recalled, was particularly jarring.

“We’ve all seen that music video a ton of times, on TV and online, but it was so cool and so powerful to watch that on the big screen,” she said. “Everyone was glued to the screen, smiles on their faces.”

 The night will also be somewhat of a test-run for future video Q&As in the screening room, something Feder said the department wants to try more frequently. 

“If someone we want to bring in is in the midst of a tour or on a set and can’t make it here, it’s a really great alternative,” she said.

Still, it’s a work in progress. Attendees will have to ask Feder their questions, which she will then relay to the Daniels, who will answer on the big screen. 

 “It’s not the most elegant set up,” she admits.

 Scheinert and Kwan have worked with the festival in the past, and the event is hoping to feature them in one of its new monthly director spotlights. 

“Even just hearing about those guys puts a big smile on my face,” said Kriegstein. “I feel like you see the joy and the fun that they have making the video in the video. It’s infectious.”

The festival is currently accepting submissions for its 2013 event at http://bit.ly/2013LAMVFCallforEntries.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Anna Feder's title.