Music videos

The Prism price started just as TV music videos dwindled, but TikTok has given it new prominence


“Dazed and amazed.”

This is the reaction of Theo Kapodistrias and his wife Marllie as they watched the 2021 Prism Prize ceremony on YouTube last week after “Thirteen,” the provocative animated video he made for Toronto rapper Haviah Mighty, was announced as the big winner of $ 20,000.

“It was very surprising and emotionally intense,” said Kapodistrias, 38, a graphic designer who worked 12 to 14 hours a day for three months to complete the project for the song described by Mighty as “a history lesson. three minutes “. “

“My wife and I were watching and she started to cry, and we were both a little stunned and in awe.

“I spent a lot of time alone working on this video and my wife was there watching me work hard on it. It was a great time for both of us.”

Taken from Mighty’s 2019 Polaris Music Prize winner “13th Floor,” the song places the origins of slavery in the United States in a modern context, Kapodistrias says. “It’s a really powerful song.

“I had just had a solid vision of what this was going to look like. I really liked the story.

As much the victory was a victory for Kapodistrias and Mighty, who will split the winnings 50/50, it was also a feather in the hat for Louis Calabro, one of the founders of the Prism Prize, an award that celebrates music videos and their creators. .

Now in its ninth year, the annual awards show has grown from humble beginnings with a $ 5,000 Grand Prize and an Audience Award to six special award categories and a $ 20,000 Grand Prize.

Finalists receive $ 1,000; all winners receive equipment rental grants of $ 2,500, and a joint initiative with RBCxMusic called the Music Video Production (MVP) Project offers video production grants of $ 5,000 to $ 15,000, with total funding of $ 300,000 per year.

“We’ve come a long way,” says Calabro, vice-president of programming and awards at the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. He co-founded the Prism Prize in 2012 with his father, John, author and former high school teacher, and Neil Haverty, composer and film musician and senior director of Project MVP.

It was established during the decline in popularity of music video television programming, when the heyday of MTV, MuchMusic, and Country Music Television Canada were behind us.

But lately, thanks to YouTube and the growing trend of TikTok, there has been a resurgence of interest in the medium.

Calabro says part of his intention in founding the Prism Prize was to serve as a bridge for a creative community that was not properly recognized.

“What we were seeing back then – especially in Toronto, but across the country – was a wealth of talent on the music video production side.

“We were seeing some really creative work from Scott Cudmore, Emily Kai Bock, a collective called Exploding Motor Car… being done.

“We also understood – working for the Academy of Canadian Cinema at the time – that these filmmakers were never really discussed.”

Calabro also said that music videos are being released at an alarming rate and that a TV broadcast isn’t necessarily the end of the game for the creators.

“There was a valve starting to open as the creators just put things online. These things really got us thinking, “Let’s find a way to celebrate this work”.

Calabro sent over 115 emails to journalists, filmmakers, curators and visual artists to gauge interest in the idea of ​​the award.

“It was amazing how many people came back not only with a ‘yes’ but also with an enthusiastic ‘yes’,” he recalls. “A lot of the comments I got were, ‘It’s so late’ and ‘We’ve been watching videos forever. The industry came together and supported him right away. So it was huge for us.

Using his experience and connections as DJing and event planning, Calabro and his partners hosted the inaugural awards show at Soho House, which consisted of 10 finalists. Noah Pink won the grand prize for “Brian Wilson Is ALiVE” by Rich Aucoin and “Sprawl II” by Arcade Fire, directed by Vincent Morisset, took home the audience award.

Calabro’s most important mandate for Prism was to unify a disparate community.

“We just made it as inclusive as possible,” he says. “We invited everyone we could have who did a music video that year; literally you could have been a 19 year old and you were invited if you had made a music video. This philosophy has continued until today.

Over the years, Prism has found more and more sponsors (Slaight Music, William F. White, FACTOR and Telefilm Canada among them). The categories have been expanded to include special achievements; the Arthur Lipsett Award “to watch”; the Hi-Fidelity Award and most recently the Willie Dunn Award for a Canadian Pioneer.

Several laureates have pursued stellar careers. Noah Pink is the creator and writer of the National Geographic “Genius” and “Tetris” series on Apple TV Plus. Shortly after winning her Lipsett Award, Karena Evans directed the “Nice for What” and “Everyday Life” music videos for Drake and Coldplay, respectively, and directed two episodes of the “Gossip Girl” reboot for HBO Max.

“Everything has gone crazy for her,” Calabro said. “She’s probably one of the most in-demand female directors right now… that’s kind of what the awards show is supposed to do: act like that nudge someone could use for their own career.

“Probably what I’m most proud of is we’re here right before people explode.”

Although the pandemic has disrupted the holidays – the 2020 and 2021 prices have been aired online – Calabro is waiting for the day when the show will not only welcome a live audience, but will be televised.

“We want to be able to reach as many people as possible and we want to reach a different audience, and television is one of them.”

COVID-19 apparently hasn’t slowed down the creators, who have submitted more than 300 videos each of the past two years for review.

Kapodistrias was happy to be one of them, and while it’s a bit early to determine the impact of his Prism Prize win on his career, the shared loot will pay off some of his student loans and free up time to work on a graphic novel.

“I think that with this victory, it will give me a little leeway,” he said.

Other 2021 Prism Prize winners

Public Prize: Evan Elliot, Lance Sampson and Aquakulture, “Pay Next”

Special achievement: Jordan Oram

Lipsett Price: Gennelle cruz

Hi-Fidelity Prize: Collective Cloud Media Crack

Willie Dunn Award: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Beatrice Deer


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