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Second Annual Los Angeles Music Video Festival Gears Up For Spring

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By: Noah Nelson

Later this spring the Los Angeles Music Video Festival, launched last year as a one-day celebration of the art form, will return in an expanded format. While last year's festival featured competition amongst 200 entries from 16 countries in student and indie categories, this year's fest is growing to five categories, with three days of events and screenings in the planning stages.

The existence of the festival is another sign of the health of the music video, once thought to be a relic of an earlier age when MTV actually played them. While YouTube remains a jungle of content, its sub-site VEVO -- and the filmmaker driven Vimeo community -- are places where the music video stands tall.

Festival founder Sami Kriegstein tells us that the idea for the festival came to her while she was a student at the University of Southern California, when the relatively inexpensive Canon 5D was becoming the student videographer's tool of choice.

"Everyone that I knew, all of my friends, were either filmmakers, aspiring filmmakers, or aspiring musicians, and all of them were making music videos," says Kriegstein. "I would hear about the videos for weeks, that they were working on this video. And then I'd run into my friend later on and say 'Hey whatever happened to that?' and they'd say, 'Well we finished it and we put it up on YouTube.'"

"It was sort of anti-climatic; it was like, well, wait a second -- watching a video that was shot in HD that looks amazing on a screen that's [tiny] and out of my laptop speakers, it just didn't seem right."

While they were born as promotional tools for record labels to push artists, the music video became an important place for experimentation. Directors like David Fincher and Anton Corbin honed their styles on music videos during MTV's heyday, crafting short films that pushed the edges of visual grammar. The music video remains the one place outside of film festivals and schools where an eye for experimentation is a required asset.

"Short film is kind of a grab bag," Kriegstein says. "I always tell people that if you ask the average person on the street to watch a four minute experimental film they'll look at you like you're nuts. But if you ask them to sit down and watch a music video, which is essentially the same thing, everyone gets it. It's so universal and accessible when you put it in that context."

This year's competition categories will be Narrative, Non-Narrative, Comedy, Student and Unofficial Tribute. The last category embraces the current spirit of remixes, lip-dubs, and other expressions of fan love that prevail as the lifeblood of the internet. While Kriegstein recognizes that there are some murky waters for the festival here (are they representing a path to and within the established industry or do they reflect the literal state of the art) she's passionate about the role that the fan made works play.

"I had a friend who was in a music video class. He totally blew off an assignment. The night before a video was due, he threw together a music video for his favorite MGMT song and he did okay in the class. Just for the hell of it, he threw the video up on YouTube. It was for the song Kids before Kids became a single. And if you look it up, the video now has over 40 million views."

That video still has more hits than the official video for "Kids", and scored its maker and stars cameo rolls in the official video for the band's single "Electric Feel".

Beyond being a celebration of the art form, Kriegstein sees the festival's mission as a gathering place. Her goal "is to bring together independent filmmakers and independent musicians because they need each other. Not just for music videos, but for any project that they do."

Expansion means adjustments, however, and the festival has yet to lock down its dates for the year. While the first was held at the end of January last year, Kriegstein is looking as far forward as April for possible dates.

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