VKRS: Belgium (finally) has a video clip festival

April 30 2019

VKRS festival, what is it? Video Killed the Radio Star* is the first Belgian festival dedicated to the video clip, but it is not just that. During this first edition, the festival honours the video clip by exploring the different forms and combinations of music and images. The event also raises a question that the organised conferences and masterclass will try to give an answer to: is it necessary to have a video clip if you want to make it as a musician?

*In 1981, the release of a video clip by the Buggles introduced the brand new American TV channel MTV: Video Killed The Radio Star.

Maxime Pistorio, director, and Fanny De Marco are the organisers of the VKRS first edition, which will take place at the Riches-Claires theatre and Cinema Palace from 9 until 11 May 2019.

How did you come up with the idea of organising the VKRS festival?

Fanny: I used to work for a jazz label where I was in charge of promoting musicians, and I noticed that many bands were not in contact with any videographer and/or did not know where to look for one. I then came up with the idea of creating this kind of ‘meeting place’ where directors and musicians can get to know each other. I pitched this idea to Eric de Staercke, executive of the Riches-Claires theatre, and he introduced me to Maxime, who is at the same time director and musician, and who has already made various do-it-yourself video clips. Consequently, the plan of organising a festival focusing on different angles was born, involving: a ‘speed clipping’ competition, screenings of clips in the context of the national competition in the evenings, a day devoted to conferences and one during which workshops will be organised, and an award show at Cinema Palace to end with.

What is ‘speed clipping’?

Maxime: You could compare speed clipping to speed dating. Bands, directors, musicians, film editors and actors meet on the eve of the festival, after having applied for this in advance. Based on lottery, five teams will be assembled, consisting of musicians, actors and directors, and they will only have three days to record, edit and deliver a completely finished video clip. During the last evening of the festival, these clips will then be screened at Cinema Palace. As part of the competition, three prizes will be awarded at the end of the evening: for best production, best image and best edit. On top of that, there will also be an audience award.

What does this national competition entail?

Fanny: So we launched a national competition in the form of a call for applications, and in response we received nearly 150 applications. Out of those, thirty were selected for the festival, and these will be projected during the evenings. On the last evening, Saturday 11 May, the winning clips will be broadcast at Cinema Palace. There will be two prizes awarded by a jury, one audience award and one special prize for best actor or actress presented by PlayRight.

Based on which criteria did you make a selection from the submissions?

Maxime: The entire festival team was involved in this. First, all clips that we deemed not professional enough were eliminated. Second, we tried to present diversity in the aesthetics and discussed themes of the video clips. This means that, in the end, a lot of music styles are represented. We did realise very quickly, however, that it was often really hard not to focus on the music when watching the clips. But the festival is all about the video clips, so we want to focus on that, not on the music. Finally, we carried out a second screening in which we mainly assessed the performance, the idea and the coherence between image and music.

Do you believe that a musician or band with no video clips, cannot (continue to) exist?

Fanny: I think that people still tend to listen to music via YouTube, despite the success of applications such as Spotify and Deezer today. It doesn’t need to be said that an audience is more rapidly captivated with a video clip than with an image of the cover of an artist’s album.

Maxime: When making video clips, there are barely any rules, and that’s the cool thing about it. You can let your creativity run free. There are no obligations and you can come up with whatever you want. For example, I, personally, like making silent films that tell a story. But there are other approaches that, for instance, rather focus on aesthetics. With a video clip, you can do whatever you want, there are plenty of ways to tell a story.

What would be the average cost of making a video clip?

Maxime: If everyone were to be paid correctly, the cost of a clip would be between 15,000€ and 20,000€. However, in reality, we usually record a video for about 500€, only covering the cost of sandwiches, transport, costumes if needed, while turning a blind eye to insurance… Nevertheless, there is a great demand for video clips amongst artists, and the large number of applications that we have received is further proof of that.

Does this mean that there are directors who only want to make video clips?

Fanny: It’s rather production companies, advertising agencies or booking agencies that get involved in the industry.

Maxime: At the moment there is no real system active in Belgium, however. Advertising producers often make clips, and sometimes even film producers. An agent is never involved. Never. Or yes, maybe one in two hundred times an agent gets involved. When a producer makes a clip, it is usually to experiment, to test a team, to give a chance to a director, and so on. In short, there’s almost always an underlying reason behind it. This means that the video clip gets to exist because of an enthusiastic team that wants to create something very spontaneous. This produces great results, but strictly speaking, there is no “video clip industry” in Belgium. It is all improvisation.

Is that why you want to create specific encounters between directors and musicians?

Maxime: Exactly! Our idea is to create a moment during which professionals can meet. But on top of that, we are also going to organise two round tables, followed by a conference. The first round table will mostly focus on production, and will be led by a director, producer or manager of a record label. The second round table will be about the digital strategy: what do we need to do to “exist” online in the current society? Is the video clip a viable way to guarantee that existence? Finally, a critic of the French cultural magazine Inrockuptibles, Patrice Blouin, will give a conference on “the indomitable nature of the video clip”.

Fanny: Moreover, looking at the possibilities of video and music does not end with mere projections and conferences. On Thursday evening, we welcome June Peduzzi, a digital stage designer. On Friday evening, there’s a Cine-concert by We Stood Like Kings. The band made a new soundtrack for the documentary Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio, produced by Ford Coppola in 1982 (which had original music composed by Philip Glass). Finally, on Saturday evening, the Dwelllll Project duo gets carte blanche, and they will host a show and assemble and screen a series of film clips.

Could you explain why you also choose to focus on Quebec?

Maxime: Every year, we would like to show a series of clips made in another country. This year, we chose for Quebec, so we will broadcast a number of productions that were made there. What struck me most about the Canadian clips we discovered, is that the themes within the clips are very similar to the usual themes in Belgian productions. In fact, Belgians enjoy filming road trips through the Ardennes, while artists from Quebec love filming road trips through Gaspésie (a peninsula in the Southeast of the province of Quebec).

Fanny: There are indeed many similarities. We noticed that the submitted productions largely focus on family life, nature, the environment, etc. And this same focus we found in the Belgian submissions. The Canadian productions will be screened on the last day.

This is the first edition of the festival. What are your ambitions for the future?

Maxime: When we were making the programming of the festival, we often caught ourselves saying: “That’s way too difficult, let’s do so next year”. But we shall see when this edition of the festival is over. By the way, we must not forget that this kind of video clip festival and everything around it is a first in Belgium. It would be great if were to have a partner like RTBF next year, who could broadcast the winning clips. That would be a nice reward for the artists.

What support did you receive to fund this festival?

Fanny: The Riches-Claires theatre gave us permission to use their large room and a part of their team for free, so we could state that VKRS mainly exists thanks to their support. We also received subsidies form the city of Brussels to promote the image of Brussels. From PlayRight+, we got support in the form of an award for best actor and they also supported us for the festival itself, as did Amplo and Screen Brussels.

Maxime: All these partners make the organisation of the festival this year possible. As far as we are concerned, we do this on a voluntary basis at the moment, so we work under the same conditions as when making a video clip (laughs).

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