On your mark, get set: The Music Video Race is off and running — and expanding

Behind the scenes at a very speedy Rin Tin Tiger video shoot. The band plays MVR's premiere party Sun/20 at The Independent.

Everyone knows that true artists do their best work right before deadline. [Ed note: I may or may not be writing this an hour or so before mine.]

Now in its third year, the Music Video Race is an annual San Francisco tradition that takes this dictum to heart, pairing 16 different musical acts with 16 filmmakers for a challenge that makes that "find a flag in the middle of this big fake nose filled with green goop" thing on Double Dare seem like a cakewalk: Conceive, film, and edit an entire music video in 48 hours.

After accepting applications from both filmmakers and musicians for roughly two months, MVR organizers matched up pairs by random drawing at 7:30pm on Friday, July 11, turning the teams loose around the Bay Area, with a final deadline of 8pm on Sunday, July 13. This year's bands include SF's Rin Tin Tiger (which will cap their participation with a headlining spot at the video release party, held at The Independent Sun/20), Oakland's Bill Baird (fresh from rocking Phono del Sol), Rich Girls, Lemme Adams, and bed. [Another ed note: Yours truly is in the middle of judging said videos, and they're really freakin' good.]

"We try to pick a diverse group of bands — we don't want 20 garage bands or folk acts, etc. There's so much variety in the Bay, and we really ant to respect that," says Tim Lillis, an MVR founder, of how they select the participants. "But beyond that, we're mostly just looking for flexibility, a willingness to roll with the punches, a sense of adventure."

New this year: We Bay Area-dwellers aren't so special anymore. The MVR is expanding to Austin and LA, over the weekends of Sept. 5-7 and Nov. 7-9, respectively.

"We've had a few really expansive years here, and I think this will help people understand that this isn't just a San Francisco thing — we're stoked to help local scenes build themselves," says Lillis.

Last year's winning video, from Ash Reiter

The Music Video Race got its start in 2011, when Lillis and a few friends were out having a beer at Lucky 13 before a Mister Heavenly show — featuring Michael Cera on bass. 

"I don't know if subconsciously the worlds of music and film intertwined because of that, but that's what happened," says Lillis, who has a background in video production as well as having played in a few bands in the Bay Area. "I'd done a 48-hour film project before, which is fun, but a lot of times the results of those things are not the best, and I think it usually has to do with audio quality. With music videos, there's pre-reocrded music, so you're able to cut the film to the beat; there's already a rhythm for the editing."

The sped-up nature of the event isn't just for fun, Lillis explains. "I'm a pretty firm believer in constraints," he says. "Even in my work as an illustrator and graphic designer, I know that when you only have so much to work with, you have to just trust your gut and make decisions and go with them. Often your first instinct is valid, and there just isn't time to waffle on stuff."

And if he had any doubts about the race being good for the city's music scene, last year's event should have sealed the deal: A couple of musicians who met as MVR participants in 2013 — Alex Haager, then of the band Magic Fight, and Sierra Frost, then of Clintongore — fell in love, and are now married, and living in Portland, as co-owners of the Oakland/Portland-based Breakup Records. They're also in this year's Music Video Race, competing in their new band Bed

So, you know. Even if you don't have a musical or filmmaking bone in your body, there just might be something at the finish-line party for ya. As "how we met" stories go, speed-music-video-making sounds way more punk rock than speed-dating. 


July 20, 7pm, $14-$16

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF



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