Interview with Creative Director Sami Kriegstein (Los Angeles Music Video Festival)

The Los Angeles Music Video Festival (LAMVF) exists to celebrate the art of the music video and to bring together the independent music and independent film communities of Los Angeles and beyond. We hope to encourage and promote the development of independent music video producers and their audience.

Interview with Sami Kriegstein
Founder, Creative Director | Los Angeles Music Video Festival
Producer | Figures of Speech

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Sami Kriegstein: I’m extremely proud of the safe space we’ve created for music video makers and the unique flavor of experimentation and poetic storytelling you only really find in this genre. So much of the glory of music videos goes to the artist or band; we celebrate the filmmakers and their team members and really bring them out of the shadows for the fest. We also create very real opportunities for attendees by introducing them to directors’ reps, music video commissioners, commercial production companies and more. It is the coolest thing in the world to know that we directly impacted someone’s career with our festival, and we hear those stories all the time.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

SK: 2016 is going to have a focus on dance in videos as an underlying theme. If you attend the festival this fall, you can expect some mind-bending screenings, eye-opening panel discussions with directors, choreographers, commissioners and artists, great food and drinks, unique performances, and maybe a workshop or two. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Cinefamily again this year and hosting the fest at the beautiful Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

SK: Selected submissions must all reasonably represent the music video genre (emphasis on a song paired inextricably from some kind of visual storytelling), and must have been completed in the past 12 months. Obviously the work needs to be original; but for our STUDENT and UNOFFICIAL categories the song used in the video does not need to be authorized or licensed. Beyond that, there are very few restrictions or qualifications. We instruct our screeners to look for emotional connection and creativity…there are so many great music videos that get the job done but when you watch something that really makes you stop in your tracks, that makes you smile in spite of yourself, or cry, or laugh, or dance, or want to share it with all your friends; that’s the magic we look for.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

SK: I can’t speak to other festivals but I can say that we always have entries we wish we could screen and honor that we just can’t find space for. As a grassroots fest we are restricted in the number of music videos we can program over a few days in a single location. I hope that as we get bigger we can increase the number of screenings and share the spotlight. Last year we started to post honorable mentions online leading up to the fest, which felt good. This is an issue we constantly grapple with. We want to make sure as many filmmakers and artists as possible get that extra visibility in such an oversaturated content environment.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

SK: Our team is really motivated by love for creativity, and of course, love for music videos. We are all connected to the indie film and indie music communities and see so much great work go up on various internet sites and get sort of lost in the shuffle…the festival is our way of collectively celebrating the amazing work being done. It’s cool shit. It deserves a moment of recognition.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

SK: Every year the festival changes cosmetically, meaning the venue changes or the number and types of events change; but honestly things haven’t changed much at all, which is a point of pride. The spirit has stayed 100% the same: we want to put on a kickass event, we want to show you some badass videos you’ve never seen before, we want to show you some familiar videos in ways you never expected, we want everyone to have a blast and leave inspired and be so glad they came.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

SK: I would love to see the fest in multiple cities and hosting events all year round. I think there’s so much potential for this kind of programming…the sky is the limit.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

SK: I’m gonna guess the music video I’ve seen the most times in my life might be Thriller…

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great music video?

SK: A great music video* is one that surprises and affects you on an emotional level; the visuals should feel intimately tied to the music; you should be left full, like you ate a rich and satisfying meal…whether it was a hearty steak dinner, a somber and painstakingly crafted omakase or a fizzy boozy brunch shared with all your craziest friends.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

SK: I split my time between LA and NYC and obviously both places are Mecca’s for film (and music). The only downside there is, festivals and screening events often get overlooked because there’s just so much going on all the time. It can be harder to get people to come out and play.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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