2007 MTV Video Music Awards: Britney In, Art Direction and Cinematography Out

At the 2007 VMAs this weekend in Las Vegas, viewers can watch Timbaland, 50 Cent, and Fall Out Boy perform live and find out if Britney Spears will generate even more news for the tabloids. What viewers won’t see are the awards for two key video production elements, since MTV has eliminated the Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography categories from this year’s competition.

“The Moonman (award) was always a carrot at the end of the stick for us to some extent; it was always out there,” said Los Angeles-based art director Zach Mathews. “Now it seems like it is gone, it really does.”

In response to this recent change, Mathews sent an e-mail to MTV staffers he has worked with in the past, and copied the message to several music video production executive producers. “Within six hours…after I wrote the email, I had responses from nine production companies—I sent it to two,” said Mathews. “People…were sending me their support and airing their own frustrations about the production companies getting shut out this year more than ever before for both voting and the actual show itself.”

Since the VMA’s inception in 1984, numerous directors, art directors, DPs and other industry professionals have built their careers around winning one of these coveted awards. Mathews has handled the production design on about 70 music videos since 2003, and has worked in the art department in lesser capacities on hundreds of music videos since 1994. He won the 2005 MTV Video Music Award for Best Art Direction for Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For.”

“I heard that the nominations were out… I went online to see who the nominees were and was shocked to find that most of the professional categories were done away with or seemed to be done away with,” said Mathews. “It was in fact such a surprise that I didn’t want to believe it was true, so the letter was actually a request for an explanation.”

At this year’s VMAs there are only three categories that represent music video production: Best Choreography, Best Director, and Best Editing.

*complete listing of the VMA categories and nominees

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