Videos shine in St. Tropez sun

“Clipmania” arrived on the Cote d’Azur of France last week at the First International Music Video Festival of St. Tropez. Organizers of last week’s four-day festival hope to channel the increasing importance of music video programing into an annual event. At week’s end the questions of whether the festival will develop as an active marketplace, or whether four days of sun on the Cote d’Azur can annually draw the music and video industry, seemed largely unanswered.

Preliminary reviews from producers and distributors, buyers and sellers alike, gave the festival high marks as both a place of introduction for members of the infant industry, and as a marketplace of ideas. But the St. Tropez festival appears to have a way to go before it’s a marketplace for video product. Most also said, however, that they went without expectations of doing much business–some said they had no tangible business plan at all–and might be willing to give the festival a second look next year. There were also more than a few who just decided to drop by, or take a vacation in St. Tropez during the festival, such as Tim Newman, who recently picked up several MTV Music Video Awards including best director.

Screenings of music videos were dispersed throughout the resort town: in a shopping mall, hotel lobbies, a local movie theater, a municipal building and on a 13-by-18-foot “Diamond Vision” screen (made by Mitsubishi) facing toward the town wharf from the end of a pier, 100 yards away.

First-Year Foul-Ups

The midday sun, which warmed the seacoast town, eased some of the aggravations that beset the inaugural festival. At least one problem was outside local control: A nationwide strike caused some participants, including several representatives of Victor Co. of Japan Ltd. (JVC), to arrive in St. Tropez with their baggage somewhere behind them, while others found baggage pick-up had been moved to the runway, beside the plane. There were occasional long waits for free transportation (42 chauffeur-driven cars) between the festival, the airport–more than an hour away in Nice–and the hotels, some as far apart as 20 miles. Registration for the festival hit 1,400, plus 400 journalists.

There were technical problems within the festival itself. The simultaneous translation for those Americans and others who could not understand the French panelists captured less than half of most dialogue. (There were only three non-Frenchmen among the 20 panelists during the first three days of seminars.) Three members of the Big Island Productions crew said they went from Australia with written assurances that exhibiting equipment with Dolby sound capability would be available for their 12-minute video, but found none.

Patrick Morelli, who sports the lengthy title in France of president of the commission for new techniques for the literary society and for the society of multimedia authors, said that participants could not easily find videos brought to the festival because there were neither exhibit booths nor a central video library. Morelli also said that outside the colloquies, there were no other professional activities.

Rupert Schmid, an organizer of the festival, addressed some of the problems in a Thursday evening press conference, saying that it was hard to anticipate the needs of the marketplace but that the promoters were happy enough with the response and have already begun planning for a festival next year. Among the changes he said would be made were centralizing more of the festival activities and having a preliminary round of screenings before the jury actually assembles.

Yet despite these and other missteps, good humor generally prevailed.

Doing Business

anyone expecting announcements of major deals would have been disappointed, but reports of some business being done surfaced midway through the festival.

Luca Bentivoglio, director of promotion for Spanish International Network and a producer of one of its shows, Images, went to the festival both to shoot a segment of Images and to look for music videos for SIN’s Saturday afternoon youth show, Furia, to give it a more international look. He said he was successful in making contacts with distributors from both Europe and Japan but that the purchasing decisions would be made back in the U.S.

Henri Erlich, president of Film Search, a New York-based stock film company, stopped by on his vacation before going to VIDCOM ’84, the 10th International Video-communications Market in Cannes from Oct. 13 to 17. Film Search specializes in supplying cinematographic images–such as a sunset for an Eastern Airlines spot or the time lapse footage used for some local news openings–and Erlich had with him seven minutes of material rough-cut to a James Brown number. He said it was a first effort at a “non-narrative video” and he was looking for a possible co-production arrangement with a distributor.

Colin Medlock, director of Telegenics, which distributes promo music video programinng in the U.S. to more than 500 clubs, said Monday night that his company was looking at the possibility of programing for the cable and satellite industries.

Vestron Music Video was represented by Ian Ralfini, vice president, who went for a party and screening of Vestron’s Video Rewind-The Rolling Stones Hits. He said he had also managed to discuss possible long-form co-productions with representatives of both Showtime and HBO. “To use it as a marketplace…that really didn’t work. Next year it might help if they could attract some more of the talent, the artists. Having a few concerts would make it more like Cannes” (the film festival).

Bill Speed, a writer and producer for Black Entertainment Television, took sick leave to attend and serve as a juror of the video competition. Although he said he had no “clear cut” business plans, he had several results to show for his time, including “running into people I’ve been talking to for years on the phone.” Speed also said he had seen foreign videos he may now try to botain for the BET show, Video Soul, and, conversely, was able to identify black American performers for foreign distributors.

Mort Nasatir, consultant and president of the Music Video Broadcasters Association (U.S.), and another juror, said he had been contacted by a variety of people wondering what kind of product would be suitable for their respective countries. “My impression though is that there is not millions of dollars of business being done,” Nasatir added.

Eric Stanley Jr., director of international sales for NBC, the only one of the three broadcast networks represented, said he had also attended without “unusual business expectations. VIDCOM is where they should go if they really want a contract in hand at the end of the day.”

Whether or not the First International Music Video Festival of St. Tropez has a sequel may depend on whether the definition of music video comes to mean more than the three-to-five-minute rock promotional pieces that dominated the festival with more than 450 entries. The second largest category of material, about 100 long-form videos (mostly over one hour), was dominated by compilations of short videos or biographies and concerts of rock music. There were also 22 advertising video clips and an equal number of music “documentaries.”

Several jurors noted that after three days of judging they had yet to see either a classical or a jazz video.

Will Videos Be Sold Soon?

One question that organizers TF-1, the French television network, and Schmid, the 23-year-old publisher of several media trade journals, may have to ask is whether there is a need for a market dominated by a product that is not sold, but mostly given away as promotion.

In recent months rights and exclusivity payments for the future airing of certain music videos have been negotiated between MTV and four record companies accounting for an estimated 35% of the business (BROADCASTING, June 25). Britain’s equivalent of MTV, Music Box, which began broadcasting throughout Europe on Feb. 4 over Skyband–Rupert Murdoch’s DBS system–will make rights payments this year of about $400,000, according to Eddy Pumer, who heads Music Box’s program acquisition. The channel, which currently operates 16 hours a day–repeating four hours of original programing–and plans to go around the clock by the end of 1985, expects to turn a profit by 1987.

Pumer and Highman said Britain has been in the forefront of payments to the producers of music videos, mostly because of a copyright law stricter than just about any other in the world.

There is also pressure in the other direction, however. Pumer said that the most popular music video show in Great Britain, the BBC’s Top of the Pops, is taped by more than 1,000 clubs for commercial use without payment. And Highman indicated Diamond Time will also “almost certainly” be starting up a free channel that will not pay rights fees.

In Tuesday’s colloquy: “Technique and Creation: Film and Video,” Antony Payne, executive producer for Gasp Productions (Michael Jackson’s Beat It and Lionel Ritchie’s Running With the Night among other credits) said that his company chooses to shoot videos in 35 mm rather than videotape to distribute the promos to movie theaters where, he said, they will be shown with great frequency.

Fostering New Ideas, New Markets

Not all the fermentation of ideas took place in the seminars; much of it, including business discussions, took place late at night over champagne. At one such informal seminar, an American music video director was suggesting that the interest in creating new channels for music videos was in large part created by a surplus of product. As it turns out, many of those not accepted could be packaged for a slightly older audience. “Videos could be made,” he suggested, “to appeal to the daytime women’s audience.”

During the festival events in town, the 40-member jury was working at the Hotel Byblos, the unofficial hill-top headquarters of the festival. Each day the jurors were divided into groups of six, and over five days pored over at least 25 hours of videos. Jury duty was extended in part because of problems with a computer programed to tally the votes on a 0-20 scale (it had not been programed to accept “not-applicable.”) It would have been more strenuous except that many long-form music videos were only viewed in part.

In fact, a late development was that the jury decided not to consider compilations of short-form videos in the long. One juror said it was decided that compilations were really a hybrid form and that there was really not enough to set them up as a separate category. Some had reason not to be happy with the decision. Stuart Shapiro, who produced the music video shows, Night Flight and Radio 1990 for the USA Network, was at St. Tropez and had four entries returned.

With the core of the music-video audience generally considered to be under 25, there was one teen-ager among the approximately 50 judges, 15-year-old Tamurlaine Cohen, whose father, Herb Cohen, is a Los Angeles-based talent agent.

It was an international jury composed mostly of those from broadcast and cable television. Record companies were not represented.

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