Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mystery Artist III

Once again, the photo here represents our Mystery Artist (previous incarnations are here). The MA in question is not Elvis but is very, very famous and not dead. Almighty Spell-Check help me now … Schadenfreude.

A few years back, there was a pop star-slash-actor appearing in a kid-centric feature film. The pop star had begun their career working for the kiddiest of all entertainment enterprises, but this project looked to be MA’s last with the studio.

The movie was wrapped after a long and tabloid plagued shoot. MA had been a problem during the filming but now was MA’s chance to shine – promotion. One thing MA can do, it’s attract attention so the studio, and their record making arm, had contracted a soundtrack with MA performing the lead single and video.

Soundtrack jobs are always hard – there are at least two masters to serve, the label and the film studio. Sometimes the artist is signed to their own label while the film soundtrack is on a different label associated with the studio releasing the feature film. That means three masters. The commissioner involved varies from project to project – sometimes the artist’s label, sometimes the soundtrack label, occasionally even an exec from the film studio.

When concepting a soundtrack video, the treatment first goes through one of the entities. They inevitably say “Don’t worry about those other guys, create an idea that works for us.” That means focusing on the imaging the artist’s label likes if they are the first contact – ignoring the demand for including film footage that will inevitably come from the studio.

MTV now has a rule that no more that 30 seconds of a music video can be footage lifted from a film, in order to force studios to buy commercial airtime to promote their movies. So most soundtrack videos are now created to make the performance and other footage shot for the video “feel’ as much like the movie as possible. The studios want maximum promotion. “Seamless integration” and blah, blah, blah.

On this job, MA was not at all interested in making this music video. I believe they were contractually obligated to do it, but that doesn’t mean MA was happy about it. The money for doing the work of shooting the video was probably rolled into the payment for the film, so it seems likely MA had been paid for this gig 3 or more years earlier when the film was green-lit. That means a cranky and non-cooperative artist.

For the concept, the director was coming up with stuff that would work with the film, but MA would throw their 2-cents in every once in a while with crazy, off-topic ideas. Seriously, MA pitched a video based on magic butterflies when the film had nothing to do with butterflies. AND the MA is not Mariah Carey. That slowed things down, but the film studio finally got their way.

MA felt they were far more mature than the movie. MA didn’t want to be seen in this film at all, I would imagine, even though they no doubt spent the money. The video was one more immature thing that did not fit with MA’s “new” image of sexiness. Why do the young ones always believe that “grown” and “sexy” are exactly the same thing. Is it Chamillionaire’s fault?

The music video shoot was a physically massive undertaking and the prod co rented out an enormous building for the two day production. The building has been used for shoots before and it is gigantic – just at the edge of the 30-mile zone. The production started filling up the space with art-direction and equipment until the day of the shoot and …

MA does not show up. Six hours late and no MA. The director is trying to stay cool and shoot B-roll stuff, but you only need so much of that. The weird thing is …

The movie studio people were actually laughing. They all had experienced so much of MA’s un-professionalism in the past they were actually hoping MA would NOT show up at all. There was a VERY high level exec from the studio arriving and the lower level types wanted the big-wig to realize how difficult MA had been. I guess BigWig simply loooved MA and minutes before the boss type showed up, MA arrived.

MA seemed to have dodged a bullet as they greeted the BigWig like MA had been working hard all day. The label and film producers WANTED this to turn into a blow-up and they got their wish. A few minutes after greeting BigWig and shooting a single performance bit …

MA’s cell phone rings. It is obviously a member of the opposite sex and MA scrambles away from the set – eager to talk to their crush. The BigWig is left with jaw hanging – his impression that MA was a true professional harassed by the press is ruined. BigWig wheels around and the other execs and commissioners have to stifle their smiles and “tsk, tsk” over the behavior of MA.

This giant production, stands idle and many of the people in charge are happy about it. THAT is how bitter they were over the way MA had been acting. Money is being burned like crazy – but they hate MA enough that it seems okay.

After the phone call, MA leaves the set all together because they are feeling ill. (Later than night MA is seen at Concorde, slightly less ill.) The shoot gets shut down after MA leaves. The prod co begs the label types to cancel the second day. Begs them. Everyone knows that MA won’t show the next day, but the label and movie types seem to be reveling in MA screwing everything up so they refuse to cancel the second day.

Day Two. No MA. More b-roll shooting by the director. He gets lots of footage he hops can build his commercial reel. More money burns. They hear from MA – too ill to come to set. Day Two is a complete waste.

The whole production gets pushed to a single day, a week later. That means the prod co and the label have to keep paying for the massive location for the days in between. More money gets burned, but the people paying – movie studio and movie studio record label – are eerily okay with it all.

A week later the video is finally shot. MA shows up on time and the film gets into the can. The video is nowhere near as good as it could have been. But the movie the soundtrack is from ain’t very good either. Lots of money got burned, but that is one job where the label was happy to pay the overages because they got to make their “point” that MA was nuts.

I try not to think of all the cool stuff Chris Milk could do with the money that got wasted.

Anyway, is the MA still a mystery?

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For some reason I cant help of thinking of this:
Wow, good call, anonymous. I was honestly thinking this MA was Lil Bow Wow with his clip for "Basketball"...but this LL vid matches up with 30f's description (and LL's reputation) almost too perfectly.
Dude, Annette Funicello is crazy unprofessional. Everyone knows that.
Yeah, this matches verbatim with the stories I heard about Lohan on the Herbie video shoot. At least she's all grown-up and calmed down now, right....um.
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