Short of the Week

Interview with Kurt Nishimura (O Valencia!)

Interview / March 12, 2008

How did you hear about the contest MTVU/Decemberists contest and what made you want to participate?

I heard about The Decemberists contest from an e-newsletter that my school put out (The Art Institute
of Portland). The deadline was like two weeks away, and I was seriously considering passing it by. However, thankfully my friends convinced me otherwise.

The concept, a girl and her TV… something you worked on, or an instant spark? And what was your inspiration to go narrative, and cut away from the green screen band footage?

As for the crazy idea about the TV and the girl, it didn’t come instantly. I knew I had to do something different and for some reason I figured I stood a good chance winning if I stood out just that little bit. So I thought, why not shoot my own stuff and figure out a way to incorporate the footage.

I came up with the idea in San Francisco because I flew down there for a concert and the clock was ticking. By the time I returned to Portland, I had an idea and some serious scrambling to do.

What was the turnaround time from concept to completion?

The turn around time was initially something like two weeks since I only found out about it last minute. I hustled and we shot and then edited it quickly. Then, I was in a bit of a dilemma, because I needed help
with the motion graphics for the band footage, so my good friend Adam Long at paperhousefilms.com very reluctantly agreed to the insane task of manipulating the band footage within days time. Then, we all worked together to composite it all together. Stayed up all night before the deadline…then, I checked back at the site and they had pushed back the due date.

That kind of saved us. We made everything look perfect and a wonderful extra month of breathing room and sleep.

We have a fair share of filmmakers who tune in to the site who care about stuff like this, so what’s your equipment setup like?

My equipment setup varies from shoot to shoot. If I’m doing one of my animations I’ll use a Nikon digital SLR, but live action is usually shot on the Panasonic HVX for principle photography. I edit always with Final Cut Pro and do any sort of motion graphics in After Effects. Fun fun.

I saw the Atari short available on Kurtnishimura.com, and then the TV in the Valencia video, do you have a fetish for older electronics?

No fetish for old electronics. Although it would seem that way though. Hah. Maybe it’s an obsession with bringing the inanimate to life. Who knows?

Walk us through winning the competition, your emotions and the followup with the band and MTV.

Well, after I got word that I had won the competition, I was flying on cloud nine. It seemed quite surreal. I knew I had to keep the ball rolling and squeeze as much press from it as possible. As for the follow up with the band, I was able to get in touch with the guitarist, Chris Funk. I went to one of his side project shows. No real talking however. I do wish I could do a legit video for them, but I know that bands like the directors they work with and there is a sense of loyalty there, so I’m still not expecting much.

Some people, myself included, thought it was kinda weak that your video only ended up on MtvU, rather than MTV or MTV2 and that the band recommissioned a “directors cut” video of O Valencia to play on those more popular networks. Were you hoodwinked at all in this situation, or eyes open? And what were your thoughts on an official Valencia video getting made?

I had friends that actually worked on the “official” video and so even as the contest was going on I knew that there was another video already being shot. So I wasn’t too surprised. I do wish it could have been played on MTV and VH1, but I’m not so sure it would clear through standards and practices because of the blood. I hear that the “official” video had tons of blood but a lot of it was cut out, I’m sure because of the harsh standards and practices that MTV has. All I have to say is that I am deeply honored that my video got nominated for an MTVU Woodie Award and the “official” video did not. I suppose that says something, right?

Despite everything, your work got a significant amount of exposure. Has this helped you any in your professional life? Have you been able to get gigs based off of the strength of the video, and how does this compare to your expectations following the contest win?

This contest has done me nothing but good. I am now in touch with an awesome bunch of people within the music video industry. So many people are helping me out in terms of trying to make a living making music videos. One day I will, I promise. I’m currently working with a music video rep who is helping to develop me. As for music videos, I have had opportunities to submit treatments but nothing yet… sad, but it doesn’t really stop me from hunting. I’ve found a couple artists that I think are going to blow up, Olivia Broadfield and Barcelona. I just finished a video for Olivia and I am going to have a video for Barcelona this weekend!

I must say this, after winning the contest, I had the false presumption that everything would fall into
place and that was my break into the tight knit music video industry. Boy was I wrong. I’m still clawing
at the door and I think they see me from the window. We’ll see when they let me in.

Any short film online resources that you admire or visit often?

I actually visit videostatic.com everyday to keep up to date with music videos and such. That’s the main ones. I’m not really a youtuber. I do like hunting down the different music video production companies and checking out all of the directors and music videos. I guess you can say I’m obsessed with music videos.

Whats next for Kurt Nishimura? Any projects you’d like to pimp?

What is next for yours truly… well, I hope to be getting paid to make music videos sooner than later. I am trying to get commissioned to do a video for The Hush Sound…and trying even harder to come up with something stellar for She and Him (Zooey Deschanel & M.Ward). Wish me luck. I’m always on the hunt for the next big thing. Myspace has made it so easy to get in touch with bands…if only people knew the power. Check out some of the fantastic cats I often work with, Alec Cohen, Uli Beutter, and Colin Brown. We help each other out. Their stuff and some of my stuff can be found at sandymontana.com.

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Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.