Friday, February 23, 2007

Mystery Artist 4.0 - Live Free or Die Anonymous

The Mystery Artist is back, and this time they are multi-talented - fucking shit up as much behind the cameras as in front of it. As always, MA is not Elvis, but that doesn’t mean bedazzled jumpsuits aren’t involved.

MA is a big time mover and shaker – controlling careers and attracting as much attention as the artists who are being sold. Mystery Artist has their own recording career as well, and all the requisite trappings that go with that. But this story is about the behind the scenes “flavor” of MA.

The call goes out for a video for a new artist – signed to the label partially controlled by MA. Several big time directors write on the job, but their concepts end up as budgets too rich for the labels blood. So the video goes out again, this time to younger, hungrier directors. It is also possible that the established video pros kept their budgets real high to factor in the annoyance that they knew would come at the hands of MA, especially on a low-budget, one-day shoot.

The job for the baby artist seems ready to go to one director – but now the budget needs to get whittled down. The label rep was dealing with the prod co and the director – working out the details bit by bit. This is standard procedure, but this budget-trimming job was extra difficult. Every once in a while, the label would suddenly change course – ask for a different set-up within the video, or flipping some other detail that everyone thought was already locked down. It was clear that this was the hand of MA "helping out" and not the harried label commissioner.

The production lost money out of the art department budget. They committed to shooting less film. Mark-ups and profit were negotiated away. All the things that go on in the budget shaving process. Finally, the commissioner and the production team came to an agreement and contracts were signed on the lean and mean budget. The job was finally a go.

The shoot was set for NYC – another “must have” that added to the cost – and as the producer and director traveled to the city, things changed. MA started calling up everyone and asking where all his special riders were. The shoot was located less than ten NYC blocks from the offices of MA’s label – but MA was demanding there be a special RV on the set for their personal use. Rather than take a seven-minute limo ride from the office (where I assume MA has all their luxuries) MA wanted all the standard things that big stars want in their own RV. There was no “extra” cash lying around for MA’s very specific demands of three cases of this kind of imported water and that many bottles of chilled champagne.

Oh, and did I mention that MA is not even in the video. MA does not sing a verse or even make a cameo in the clip. MA just had to be on set to monitor things and MA needed the luxury RV. The commissioner signs an overage to cover these vanity costs – and the shoot hasn’t even begun.

The day of the shoot, things are going okay. Running a bit behind as always but the director and producer are doing their best. By lunch, MA has still not arrived and the vanity RV sits empty burning money as the generator runs and the security stands by to protect the six(6) new, white towels inside.

Finally MA arrives and wants to see all the footage that has been shot. MA watches the playback of the morning’s shoot – delaying the afternoon’s activity. MA demands some wardrobe changes for the real artist in the video – over-ruling the stylist and the artist themselves. The shoot crawls along – with MA an impediment the whole way. The director and producer bite their tongues - this is standard procedure for MA.

Now it is time for the producer to call a wrap on the one-day shoot. It is well after midnight on a dark, NY street and they got almost all the footage they wanted for the day. It wasn’t perfect, but everybody seemed happy. Except MA.

MA wants to keep shooting. The label commissioner tells MA that they simply cannot go over budget. MA says they can go over some, and the commissioner hems and haws – knowing that MA’s super-RV has already blown all their "some" money. The producer and commissioner insist that the shoot will end in just a few minutes. They simply cannot go into overtime for the crew – it would mean thousands and thousands of dollars to go even ten minutes into the next hour. Unless, MA will sign the overage himself. MA will not, but MA will insist the shoot go on.

The producer ignores the craziness, not wanting to kill the project by spending money on OT they don't have. The producer goes to call the wrap and – MA snaps. MA grabs the producer by the arm and makes the kind of violent threats that get people arrested. Seriously, violence is threatened and there are big dudes standing behind MA – making it even more scary. This is well beyond MA being “difficult” – this is criminal. The threats are specific and believable – a very tense and scary moment. MA is right up in the producer's face, telling them that the shoot has to go longer. The producer is scared and doesn’t know what to do. MA has a media-friendly image, but there have also been gun charges and beatings in the past.

Finally some of MA’s reasonable friends get MA to chill out and MA retreats to the RV. The producer and director quickly get a few shots that might satisfy MA, and then they hurry into a production van and get the hell out of there. Sure, they went into over-time – but they feel lucky they escaped with their lives.

Oh, did I mention the producer is a woman? Don’t know why, but that seems to make the threats of MA even more despicable.

Weeks later, the overages for the over-time all get paid promptly, for once. This is the first time in memory that MA’s label has not fought and delayed every payment. The producer finds out that the commissioner hustled all the payments through to keep a lid on MA’s threatening behavior. For once, MA does not have endless notes on the edit.

The video gets edited and delivered. Music television plays it exactly twice.

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absolutely Diddy. New York, media-friendly image, gun charges.
"vote or die" reference in the title too.
But what artist and song!?!?!
spam me
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