Prism Prize Honours the Music Video
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Prism Prize Honours the Music Video

The young award ceremony honours the best in Canadian music videos, and the upstart filmmakers behind them.

Photo courtesy of the Prism Prize awards.

In 2015 nobody’s quite talking about wanting their MTV, and MuchMusic barely plays music videos anymore. So where, then, do music videos fit into the cultural landscape?

It’s a question that Louis Calabro is more than happy to answer. The founder and director of the Prism Prize, awarded to the top Canadian music video of the previous year, launched the award just two years ago—well after the medium’s pre-Internet “golden age”—as a means of shining the spotlight on emerging filmmakers and an under-appreciated narrative genre. Its third annual award ceremony takes place this Sunday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Calabro, the director of awards and special events for the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, also moonlights as one-third of the Goin’ Steady DJ collective. He explains, “My world is sort of split between film and music. So I thought that music videos were a place that maybe was not as appreciated as it should be. Someone needed to shine a light on the directors of the videos in addition to the cinematographers.”

The difference between this prize and other high-profile music video awards, like MTV’s Video Music Awards, is that typically it’s the recording artist or band that accepts the award. But as Calabro points out, the artist is only one part of a great video’s story. “There’s a whole crew involved that should be showcased,” he says, from directors to producers to cinematographers.

It’s an approach that more authentically mirrors the way music videos are currently produced, with artists and videomakers working more closely together than they had in the past. Calabro explains that if one band is consistently making great videos, audiences begin to think of that band as creative; the artist has tremendous stake in their representation. “This day and age, to stand up above the rest on the Internet, you have to be creative,” he says. For the Prism Prize, the 120-member jury looks in particular for videos that are innovative, creative and stylish.

The prize’s inaugural winner was Noah Pink, from the east coast of Canada. An art house filmmaker who had shown at Cannes in the early 2000s, his memorable video for Rich Aucoin’s “Brian Wilson is Alive” struck viewers in that it appeared to be shot in one take.

Last year’s winner was the well-respected videomaker Emily Kai Bock, who won for the Arcade Fire video “Afterlife.” What sets Kai Bock’s videos apart, says Calabro, is her attention to cinematic narrative, “She cares about telling a story.”

As for where the award fits into the greater media ecosystem, Calabro explains that the prize becomes a credential that brings more work and can lead to more opportunity in the commercial world. “All these guys want to make films. They want to create work that a lot of people will see. I think the trajectory is music video, short film, feature film.”

It’s also about artistic development. As Calabro explains: “Videos are like a sandbox where you can try different creative things and hone your skill of storytelling and working with a crew, and directing actors, and managing relationships with producers.”

The 2015 Prism Prize will be announced at a gala at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on March 29. The winner will receive $5,000.