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MVPA Showcase Recap Pt 2: ‘How to Spot, Nurture & Develop Talent’ and ‘What Do Commissioners Want?’

MVPA Showcase Recap Pt 2: ‘How to Spot, Nurture & Develop Talent’ and ‘What Do Commissioners Want?’

Promonews - 8th Nov 2023

The second part of our recap of the issues discussed at the MVPA Showcase last month, covers the second and third panel discussions held in the cinema at All Is Joy Studios in Soho, chaired by Promonews editor David Knight.

The event, organised by the APA (Advertising Producers Association) with the support of Promonews and BUG, screened the work of music video directors of 13 member production companies of the APA’s music video production division, the MVPA, and held panel discussions on important subjects affecting the music video industry. It began with a panel asking ‘What Is The Value Of Music Videos?’ – summarised in the first part of our recap.

The second talk covered the subject ‘How to Spot, Nurture & Develop Talent’, exploring the rapidly changing landscape of talent acquisition and development, with the insights and perspectives from Sasha Nixon, MD and EP at Forever; Polly Millner, director’s agent at OB42; and Louis Dankwerts, senior creative commissioner at Polydor Records. The dialogue revolved around the shifts in approaches to talent acquisition, emphasizing the expansion of the search for emerging talent.

Sasha Nixon highlighted the intensifying competition in the creative industry due to a significant increase in people looking for talent. She noted that the industry now features very young directors, some in their early 20s, who have grown up in a tech-savvy environment, thus offering fully-formed talents at such early points in their careers.

Nixon discussed her use of platforms like Instagram and Vimeo to identify new talent and underlined the importance of being quick and efficient in this competitive environment, saying: “You’re competing with lots of reps who’ve seen everything. We’re all watching everything together.”

Louis Dankwerts explained how record labels are adapting to the evolving landscape. He noted that in the current climate, there’s a significant squeeze on middle-budget projects. As a result, there’s an advantage in developing talent in-house, fostering a direct relationship with artists and their creative processes. This approach can work well for new artists; however, as artists grow, the support of a production company becomes indispensable for pushing creative boundaries and providing the necessary resources.

Above, from left: Sasha Nixon (Forever), Louis Dankwerts (Polydor), Polly Millner (OB42), David Knight (Promonews)

Polly Millner emphasized the significance of diversifying talent acquisition. She mentioned that agents and production companies now look for directors who can bring a unique voice and vision, extending beyond music video directors. The discussion also explored the dynamic nature of short-form content and how directors need to adapt their creative visions to suit specific platforms and artist requirements.

Gender and diversity were essential considerations within the industry, with artists often expecting representation from diverse backgrounds in their projects. The panel acknowledged positive changes in the industry in response to these considerations.

In the context of transitioning from music videos to commercials, it was highlighted that discussions at the project’s outset are crucial. These conversations help agents and directors strategize how each project can aid in developing directors’ craft and expanding their reach. 

Polly Millner said: “Music videos act as stepping stones, allowing directors to experiment with different creative styles and formats.” But it was acknowledged that Selling talent to advertising agencies is a challenge, with quality work being the primary focus. It was noted that the industry’s three-director pitching limit in commercials presents a hurdle for young talent looking to break into the field.

“Selling has changed,” added Sasha Nixon. “It’s the kind of thing that we talk about all the time with directors, like how you can make work that can be translatable into commercials.”

In conclusion, the ‘Talent’ panel emphasized the need for diverse voices, adaptability to short-form content, and the importance of discussions and strategy when transitioning talent to new creative endeavours. 

Finally, the third panel ‘What Are Commissioners Looking For?’ brought three experienced commissioners to discuss the shifts in the traditional roles of commissioners, artists, and labels. The panel were Ailsa Robertson, freelance video commissioner; Mike O’Keefe, VP of Visual Creative at Sony Music; and Nicola Sheppard, senior video and content commissioner at 0207 Def Jam. They addressed the changing trends from the label perspective, most prominently the transition from music videos being the primary discovery point for music to the rising prominence of short-form content in the industry.

Nicola Sheppard began by highlighting that the process of music video production has become more complex, with multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making. Commissioners must now be patient and understand that not all their preferred ideas align with label budgets and timelines.

Ailsa Robertson, as a freelance commissioner, offered a different perspective, emphasizing the fast-paced nature of her work and the importance of quickly identifying key decision-makers on a project. She stressed that klnowing who holds influence is crucial in managing differing creative visions. “When it’s a new project with people you’ve not worked with before, it’s important to know who else is on that project that you’re not necessarily talking to on a daily basis,” she said.

Above, from left: Nicola Sheppard (0207 Def Jam), Ailsa Robertson (freelance commissioner), Mike O'Keefe (Sony Music), David Knight (Promonews)

Mike O’Keefe shared insights about how the role of music videos has evolved, with the emergence of short-form content and changing consumer behaviour. He discussed the need to strategize the creation of music videos more carefully, collaborating with marketing teams to align content with an artist’s overall branding and goals.

The discussion shifts towards budgets, with Nicola Sheppard noting the shift toward producing more content and the challenges associated with tight timelines. Ailsa Robertson emphasized the significance of the production team when budgets are smaller, as they often must wear multiple hats to get the job done. Both Mike and Ailsa highlighted the importance of delivering high-quality content over quick, but potentially less impactful, work.

“With fast-produced work, you can have good and cheap, but it won’t be quick,” noted O’Keefe. “Or you can have fast and cheap, but it won’t be good. And we normally go for faster and cheap.”

During the Q&A session that followed the initial discussion an audience member asked about scenarios where a brilliant idea is presented by a director with a weaker portfolio. Mike O’Keefe and Ailsa Robertson stressed the importance of building a strong production team around the director to realize the idea, and they may even act as executive producers. Nicola Sheppartd noted that commissioners can play a role in connecting directors with established teams that can facilitate their visions.

Lastly, the discussion explored the concept of visualizers and simpler music video content. O’Keefe clarified that the term “visualizer” is a way of defining content to manage expectations, but it’s not limited to simple ideas. He and Ailsa Robertson acknowledged the past prevalence of music videos with compelling single-shot concepts and appreciated the point made by an audience member about the blurred lines between music videos and visualizers.

In conclusion, the panel explored the dynamic and challenging landscape of music video production. This included the shift towards content creation, the need for strategic planning, and the support for emerging talent. The key takeaway from the discussion was the importance of understanding the changing dynamics and embracing a willingness to adapt in the face of new opportunities and challenges.

• Thanks to Nour Amkieh at the APA for her help with this article. 

• More on the MVPA here

Promonews - 8th Nov 2023


  • MVPA
  • APA
  • MVPA Showcase
  • Panel discussion

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