My Trip To Oulu Music Video Festival

Jaakko Mattila returns to his hometown as a judge at this year's prestigious Oulu Music Video Festival. Oh, and there's air guitar for you too.

Jaakko Mattila returns to his hometown as a judge at this year's prestigious Oulu Music Video Festival. Oh, and there's air guitar for you too.

Jaakko Mattila

Jaakko Mattila. Rotuaari, Oulu, Finland, Tellus

I was born in Oulu, Finland 40 years ago. I spent my childhood/teenage years in the northern suburbs of Pateniemi and my high school years in the city centre as my high school was situated there.

In my youth, Oulu was never a hotspot for cultural events. As far as I remember there was only one really cool happening that included music (also for under 18s) and some weird side events associated with it and this was the music video festival held every autumn. As a music lover it was amazing to be able to see interesting documentaries and videos for free or just paying a few coins.

In my youth, Oulu was never a hotspot for cultural events

Now I’m on my way to visit the festival as a judge of the Finnish video contest for the first time. I was quite honoured that they asked me since I’m not really a professional in moving image. I’m excited since I’ve never been a judge in such a panel and don’t really know what to expect.

I am greeted at the airport by the lovely staff of OMVF and receive my schedule and passes for the weekend. I also meet the international guest judge Ian Pons Jewell and after awhile I realise that it turns out Ian went to the same university as I did. Small world indeed. We talk a lot about Farnham (the place where the college still is). We both meet the head of the jury Pasi Pauni (who had a Descendents T-shirt on so he must be cool).

After a brief getting to know-luncheon at Valve, the epicentre of the festival activities, we go to town to get some fresh air (and a beer) before the job starts. Our screenings are over two days. There are 4 categories that are being awarded: Winner, Filming, Post-Production and ‘Teenager’/Newcomer – and the competing videos have been split into 8 sub-categories. There is also a people’s choice award that is decided by online voting. The videos have been curated into themes as opposed to having them in alphabetical order as at previous events. Now since I heard about me being one of the judges I decided not to watch any music videos, trying to be some kind of neutral tabula rasa.

Watching music videos for 4 hours in a row is intense. It seems that the level of production is really high. Lots of slow-mo, forests and playing with food it seems. There are some really good ones and then lots of videos that don’t seem to impress, or start well and then lose the viewer. What really strikes me most is that there is so much really good music out there that doesn’t get covered via the media. This is my point in the interview I made for Aamulehti right after the session. We rush into a local skate shop, Real Deal, where Pasi is presenting his iconic skate videos to a really enthusiastic full house. He has made for example, the Control videos that are known to everyone skating in Finland at that time. It’s a real shame to leave for our reservation and some of the skaters commented online that they would have loved to hear more stories from him.

Watching music videos for 4 hours in a row is intense. It seems that the level of production is really high…What really strikes me most is that there is so much really good music out there that doesn’t get covered via the media

We discuss the music videos a bit over dinner and it seems that we have quite different tastes and points of view, but we talked about the same videos. We liked the same ones but for somewhat different reasons. It’s now clear to me that no-one makes a living off making music videos. The budgets are really small – even abroad. Ian heads back to the hotel to do some work on a commercial in Canada (it sucks when your work deadlines are in different time zones I guess). The rest of us head to the Black Horse Air Guitar Competition (with entry to the final) at 45 Special. This is where I started my DJ-career at 18… a long time ago! One of my favourite features of this festival is that there is a sort of open Video Jockeying platform. Even before youtube one could request videos that would be played in that order. They have all of their archive available and it is an incredibly vast spectrum of music and videos that rarely get performed. There are many songs that have never been released on record and I dive into the deep end of the archive.

It’s now clear to me that no-one makes a living off making music videos. The budgets are really small – even abroad.

Day 2, morning: I wake up before 8am and enjoy breakfast and even manage to visit a friend before the viewing starts at 10:30.

Jaakko Mattila

Jaakko Mattila. The judges before Day 2 screenings. Jaakko Mattila, Ian Pons Jewell, Pasi Pauni

The schedule is really tight. There is about a 15 to 20 second break between videos and as the next title comes up I use the light to write comments on the previous video. Basically I’m marking those that I’d like to see again – thinking about some of the categories. I think my system is quite fair since I have no idea in most cases who made the video or the music. We break off for lunch (20 mins) and head back to view more. After seeing all 8 categories my eyes are really sore and my head seems to be buzzing. So much good music and amazing videos!

I am quietly contemplating what makes a good music video for me. Most essentially, the song/lyrics and how the sound relates to the colours/feeling of the video. Visually there are so many different possibilities. I guess when there is a story in the video that elevates the lyrics and connects vision with the musical performance the video is good. There must be an idea. There are of course a lot of videos that seem to be editorials of glossy fashion magazines. Some are done well and some videos clearly have no script whatsoever but are a result of a session with a camera, director, possibly the band and some red wine. There is nothing wrong with any of those things but if you want to stand out from a mass of hundreds of videos there needs to be substance in the storytelling that connects to the song and makes the viewer want to watch and listen again! Like in literature, the viewer (me) just loses the connection with the song because of the video. I’m thinking in terms of visual art. Sometimes the content gets lost if an artist is trying to put everything in one picture. One good idea executed well is enough (this text is going to be very hypocritical in relation to that I bet). Then I guess it’s about trusting the material. Special effects do not necessarily make things better. Why do rap videos always have the rappers in them? (There were many hip-hop/rap videos this year).

the viewer (me) just loses the connection with the song because of the video. I’m thinking in terms of visual art. Sometimes the content gets lost if an artist is trying to put everything in one picture

We head up to a restaurant cabinet where we decide the winners and honorary mentions. Basically we go through our lists together and each tells their favourites. Those get put to a list of videos we’d watch again. There is a laptop with all the videos on the table and we start. I’m a bit shy in the beginning but soon relax since we pretty much have similar videos on our lists. The winner was clear already for us. Earlier that day in the screening when the winning video begun I thought it was going to be one of the cliched ones. Slow-mo, (there’s a lot of it in music videos), winter, frozen lake and lapikas. Oh no…here we go again. But then – the music pulls me into the story which is really beautifully executed. By the end of the video I got hairs on my arms sticking out and chills. I turn around and it seems Ian felt exactly the same. Pasi’s face is gleaming – he had already seen all the videos – since this was his favourite as well and he was really scared whether we would like it or not. We loved it. Basically I could not wait to see it again.

In the end we had something like 30 videos to choose 4 winners and 4 honorary mentions from. The categories made the selection quite difficult, but we reasoned our choices really well. There were many that I thought should have been screened again but didn’t fit in the program. Maybe 6 honorary mentions next year? But this was the moment when Pasi Pauni, the head of the jury became priceless. He knew which director had made what. Me and Ian didn’t have a clue – we had code names like Lake, Drag-Lady, Pekko etc. for of all the finalists. We watch the shortlisted videos over and over – especially the ones we couldn’t be sure of. I’m really gutted we couldn’t screen them in the gala – so many amazing videos. But we agree on them and as soon as the decisions have been made we heard that the directors are on their way from Helsinki. We were warned that they would do anything in their powers trying to extract information from us. Game on!

He knew which director had made what. Me and Ian didn’t have a clue – we had code names like Lake, Drag-Lady, Pekko etc. for of all the finalists.

Stepping out after the 10-hours of watching and judging music videos in a row is a feeling I can’t remember having before. My eyes hurt. We head back to the hotel and rest a bit before the world air guitar championships final would start in Rotuaari. An event that was invented in a bar in Oulu 21 years ago for a side event to the first music video festival has grown into an international phenomena. Its really quite a spectacle and draws people from around the world to the event and this seems to be a really amazing tradition as to why the same people head to Oulu every year. Rotuaari is full of people singing All You Need Is Love karaoke style, hugging people around them. In the end, Keep On Rockin In The Free World plays. The world needs more air guitar!

Rotuaari is full of people singing All You Need Is Love karaoke style, hugging people around them. In the end, Keep On Rockin In The Free World plays. The world needs more air guitar!

Ian and Pasi had some work to do so the jury separates. I’m heading to Radisson SAS where Pimeä Festivaali is happening. There is a street food festival, frisbee golf championships and a Venetsialaiset (Venetian) happening on the same weekend. Oulu is really feeling like a city. Unfortunately the Pimeä festival, despite the incredible lineup, suffered the most from a lack of audience. Eevil Stöö was deejaying some insanely good grime /club rap beats. Reino Nordin made all them girls dance, which was super. After Yona’s amazing performance with her guitarist we head to 45 Special and just about make it. The rest of the musicvideo crew is there. It’s quite nice to reset the hard drive after that intense watching.

Jaakko Mattila

Jaakko Mattila. The Beast and the Beauty: Eevil Stöö and Yona

Next morning is definitely not the freshest. I head to Valve where the festival is held after noon to see Ian’s presentation masterclass. I hadn’t seen anything by him at this point and it was nice to ask the question whether he had done anything in Farnham – our mutual college. He did manage to put one small video in that was filmed partially in one of the student halls. Oh my god the memories that followed it. It was quite the contrast to what was coming after. Ian’s approach to his work was through storytelling and he is clearly inspired by legends and folktales. He explained thoroughly the meaning of the work and what inspired him in making it happen and also showed us ‘treatments’ that are used in pitching for video/commercial work. This was all new to me. I think the audience was captured by his honesty about the industry and the quality of the material shown.

Jaakko Mattila

Jaakko Mattila.

After Ian’s thing I head to a discussion held by MES (musiikin edistämissäätiö) that seemed nightmarishly boring – especially since I don’t make music videos and apply for the available grants. Luckily the refreshments and in depth discussion that went on during the presentation really livened up the room. I found it fascinating to listen and give outsider feedback to the discussion. Pretty soon Pasi and Ian joined the ranks as well and we started to make our way to the famous Pumpeligaala (Finalists Award Ceremony). I have visited the gaala previously and it’s always entertaining and surprising. Needless to say taskumatit and pikkupullot are present and the atmosphere is electric. We choose to sit at the back of the room since we have seen the videos and hope to discuss them more. All and all it was time to party! I know the music and the videos will be solid gold!

I have visited the gaala previously and it’s always entertaining and surprising. Needless to say taskumatit and pikkupullot are present and the atmosphere is electric.

The program was impressive, hosted by Perttu Häkkinen. Musical performances were by Tuuttimörkö, Folk Boys and Keiska (that hit the spot for me!) Dance Performance by Space Hybris and DJ xWxusx

As the awards were handed out the audience cheered like mad. It seems that some of the videos were the makers’ favourites as well. The acceptance videos were really well made and fun – here is Anton Tammi’s one. Me and Ian had no clue as to what the winners looked like since we had the code names when discussing them. It was quite a surprise to realise after the final announcement that the winning director Ezra Gould was sitting next to us at the awards!

Jaakko Mattila

Jaakko Mattila. Ezra Gould, Perttu Häkkinen and Pasi Pauni recording the historical moment

The afterparty of the gala is full of the directors and people associated with the industry. It was nice to be able to give feedback to the videos that did not make it to the top and to discuss about other important topics, such as how the hell we will ever get to Kurattola. It’s a really good atmosphere and there is a lot of hugging involved, and that’s always a good thing.

It was nice to be able to give feedback to the videos that did not make it to the top and to discuss about other important topics, such as how the hell we will ever get to Kurattola.

Trying to wrap this up: Music videos are now more important than ever. Some videos promote music that is rarely seen on TV or heard on the radio anymore. The industry is moving more towards songs rather than albums. Equipment and platforms for publishing are more available than ever. The internet and its content seems to be headed into an even more fragmented future; think of Facebook parameters, curated suggestions based on your search history etc etc. Oulu Music Festival is a unique event where musicians and makers of the videos can meet each other in a neutral environment, watch air guitar playing, drink beer in search of the mystical place of Kurattola – that is the source for the inspirations and magic that push this artform forward. Long live OMVF!

Awarded videos

Best Video / Kultapumpeli – Mikko Joensuu: Warning Sign directed by Ezra Gould

Best Filming / Linssipumpeli – Irma Agiashvili: In vain by Juho Ilmari Laine

Best Post Production / Postpumpeli – Asa: 5000 by Totte Rautiainen and Miikka Kaila

Best Newcomer / Teinipumpeli – The Holy: This will be the day that i die by Juho Länsiharju

Honorary mentions

Draama – Helmi : Kukkuu by Helmi Kajaste

Huoratron: Bit Rot by Kim Koponen, Tuomas A Laitinen and Aku Raski

Äänet Päässä Hiljaa!: Uraputki by Roosa Melentjeff
Pekko: Hunger by Anton Tammi

People’s Choice / Kansanpumpeli

Cristal Snow: Love is blind by Viivi Huuska

Oulu Music Video Festival
Jaakko Mattila
Ian Pons Jewell
Pasi Pauni

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