In the world of music videos, the director can often prove to be underappreciated. Indeed, unless the filmmaker behind the camera attains a cache in feature films such as the likes of Michel Gondry, David Fincher or Spike Jonze, people are less likely to know or recognize their names.
Unlike other festivals, Athens, Ga.’s Sprockets Music Video Festival serves to exclusively highlight the men and women who help singers and bands add the visuals to their songs. This year, the 8th annual festival is scheduled for June 15.
“The focus has always been on the filmmakers,” festival organizer Danielle Robarge says. “I think that a lot of times [directors] might get lost in the shuffle as far as music videos go. Obviously, people focus on the band or the song. We try and make it true to the film festival spirit and certainly a celebration of music videos.”
The festival sprung from FilmAthens, a film group launched in 2003 that Robarge co-founded along with Chris Hines and Stephanie Skinner. The organization’s intent was to foster Athens’ status as a viable film town via the production of independent films, networking and promoting the city’s status as an inexpensive and welcoming filming location.
In 2004, organizers from local music and arts festival AthFest, seeking to expand their festival to include film, contacted the organization about putting an event together.
“Obviously, being a film group in a music town, music video seemed like the logical thing to do,” Robarge says. “So, we put one up in about a month’s time, it was real quick.”
The event proved to be a success and, as each year went by, Robarge says they saw their entries grow not only in number but in geographical diversity.
“At the very beginning it was pretty much 100 percent Athens and then overtime, bit by bit, it expanded, partially due to Athens filmmakers moving across the country and still entering videos,” she says. “Over the years, it’s more consistent that we get entries in from all over the countries. Last year, we got one as far away as Hong Kong. This year it’s been crazy. I think we’re on seven different countries now and I don’t even know how many states so far.”
Though the festival looks to be growing in scale, it has continually worked to gather together a diverse and high-profile group of judges for the competition. Past guests have included Grammy-winning songwriters, Peabody Award winners and producers for NPR. This year’s rooster is equally impressive, with the list boasting Christopher Roberts, the Head of Artist Relations for VICE Media;
Coleen Haynes of Black Dog Films; Jennifer Smith, a filmmaker as well as Professor of Video Production at UGA’s Grady College; Stephen Pitalo, a writer/editor and music video historian; and Heather McIntosh, a local composer who made the Academy Awards shortlist this year for her score to the drama Compliance.
“The focus is to try to get the videos in front of people who the musicians and filmmakers would want to see their videos,” Robarge explains.
For their part, many of the filmmakers who have entered in past years have gone on to secure steady employment. Atlanta-based filmmaker David Bruckner, who won in 2011 went on to direct a segment of the controversial horror anthology V/H/S. Tim Nackashi, who entered back in 2006, now lives in Los Angeles where his resume includes a live video for the the Death Cab for Cutie song “You Are a Tourist, which was nominated for a 2011 VMA for Best Art Direction.
Applications to enter the festival are open until April 15. In order to better accommodate foreign entries, Robarge says they accept digital entries via services such as Dropbox. The videos selected to compete will be screened on Saturday June 15 at Athens’ 40 Watt. The “Best Music Video” and “Audience Choice” winners will be screened and awarded at the 2013 Flagpole Music Awards on June 20th at the Historic Morton Theater .
As the program nears its 10 years in business, Robarge says FilmAthens plans on further expanding the festival’s scope.
“We’re working towards having it be a full weekend festival where we have workshop and panels and things like that,” she says. “So we’re just going to build it up as we go.”