Gregg Simon Directs KIDZ BOP Music Videos

The number one children’s music brand, KIDZ BOP has voted to introduce its innovative collection of popular songs for kids as sung by kids on a DVD collection entitled “Kidz Bop: The Music Videos,” and director Gregg Simon was awarded three of the ten videos for the project.

Music Video Wire: What was the process of being awarded this project?

Gregg Simon: I was contacted by Aaron Brotherton at Razor and Tie. They initially told me about the very successful Kidz Bop project they had been doing for a number of years. They do a CD compilation of popular radio songs with kids performing them, and it’s a really popular, huge selling product for them. In fact, they just recently came out with Kidz Bop Eight.

They had an idea where they wanted to take the greatest hits from all the Kidz Bops – one through ten tracks and make music videos of all of them. They were reaching out to different production companies and asked me if I wanted to submit some ideas. I submitted a bunch of concepts for them and wound up getting three of the ten videos, which was really exciting. We were awarded “Break Away,” “All Star,” and “Skater Boy.” They really liked the concept [for the video], because it was really geared toward a higher-end music video, such as an “MTV” type project, instead of a “little kid’s thing” you might see on “Sesame Street” or something like that. I didn’t want to talk down to kids on this. I wanted to give them something that felt like a real music video that they can aspire and relate to.

MVW: Were all three of the videos shot consecutively?

GS: Pretty much… we shot “Skater Boy” and “All Star” over the course of a weekend, and then we shot the “Break Away” video in Chung King Studios in downtown Manhattan the following Friday.

The other issue was that the first two videos were so well received that I got a call from the record label on Monday asking us to do a behind-the-scenes extra for the DVD (making of the video). We also had to edit all this behind-the-scenes footage from all three videos down to a three-to-five-minute segment on the DVD, so it was a pretty tight schedule.

MVW: How was the working relationship with Michael Huss, the DP?

GS: He was great. When I got out of school, he took me under his wing and shot my first short film, “The Final Resolution.” It was a finalist in Project Green Light. He’s shot a lot of my work. He’s just really a terrific DP and a mentor to me. I really enjoyed working with him on this project, and he really enjoys working with children as well.

MVW: What cameras did you use to shoot these three videos?

GS: The “Skater Boy” and the “All Star” video were both daytime exteriors, so we weren’t concerned with light in terms of exposure. Both videos were shot on the DVX 100a, shooting 24p. We had a dolly, but a lot of it was hand held. We wanted that. We were shooting with a skinny shutter too. You see more of that strobing sharpe effect, and it just creates more energy to the image. That’s what we wanted to do. For example, with “Skater Boy,” there was a lot of skating going on. There was a band performance too, and we really wanted to amp up the energy. With the “All Star” video, there’s no performance, but there’s a basketball game being played as sort of the main piece for the narrative. All the fans were watching and cheering, and that gave us a lot of energy to work with as well. It was definitely a conscious decision to shoot that hand held as much as possible in order to give that amped up energy to the visuals.

The “Break Away” video was totally different. It was a much more intimate piece, where we went back and forth between a sort of intimate stylized band performance and a recording studio, so we used this sort of home video DV camera behind the scenes. We even let the kids shoot some of it themselves. Anyway, we used a hand held on the home video stuff. For the intimate stylized performance, we wanted to use the T&S Technique adapter that allows you to attach 35 mm prime lenses to a mini DV camera because we wanted to create a much more shallow depth of field. We wanted to make the candles in the background softer and put our energy towards either the singer or whatever we were focusing on in that particular shot.

MVW: What was it like working with children?

GS: They were great. Kids are fun, because acting and the film world and all that is all playing, and kids love to play. It’s great directing people that are really excited to come to set, play, and try things out. They don’t have ego issues or worry about how they look. They just want to go out there and have fun. Sometimes artists are very concerned about things like, “Why are you putting the camera there, this side is my best side.” You have to reassure them and tell them you know how to photograph them to look great. You have to tell them to just have a little trust in you, tell them, “That’s why you hired me in the first place.” But kids don’t bring that stuff up to you. You put the camera where ever you want. You shoot them, and they are happy to be there and give their all.

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