“Stunned and amazed.”
That was the reaction of Theo Kapodistrias and his wife Marllie as they watched the 2021 Prism Award ceremony on YouTube last week after “Thirteen,” the provocative animated video he directed for Toronto rapper Haviah Mighty, was announced as the winner. of the grand prize of $ 20,000.
“It was very surprising and emotionally intense,” said Kapodistrias, 38, a graphic artist who worked 12 to 14 hours a day for three months to complete the song project described by Mighty as “a three-minute history lesson. . “
“My wife and I were watching and she started crying, and we were both a little stunned and in awe.
“I spent a lot of time just working on that video and my wife was there, watching me work hard on it. It was a great moment for both of us. “
Taken from Mighty’s 2019 Polaris Music Prize winner “13th Floor,” the song places the origins of slavery in America in a modern context, says Kapodistrias. “It is a really powerful song.
“I just had a solid vision of what it would look like. I really liked the narrative. “
While the win was a win for Kapodistrias and Mighty, who will split the winnings 50/50, it was also a borderline feather for Louis Calabro, one of the founders of the Prism Prize, an award that celebrates music videos and their creators.
Now in its ninth year, the annual awards show has grown from its modest beginnings with a $ 5,000 grand prize and audience award, to six special award categories and a $ 20,000 grand prize.
Finalists receive $ 1,000; All winners receive equipment rental grants of $ 2,500 and a joint initiative with RBCxMusic called the Music Video Production Project (MVP) provides video production grants of between $ 5,000 and $ 15,000, with total funding of $ 300,000 annually.
“We’ve come a long way,” says Calabro, vice president of programming and awards for the Canadian Academy of Film and Television. He co-founded the Prism Prize in 2012 with his father, John, an author and former high school teacher, and Neil Haverty, a film composer and musician who is a senior manager of Project MVP.
It was established during the waning popularity of television music video programming, when the golden days of MTV, MuchMusic, and Country Music Television Canada were behind us.
But lately, thanks to YouTube and the growing TikTok craze, there has been a resurgence of interest in the medium.
Calabro says part of his intention in founding the Prism Prize was to serve as a bridge for a creative community that was not receiving adequate recognition.
“What we were seeing at the time, especially in Toronto, but across the country, was a lot of talent on the film side of music videos.
“We saw some really creative work done by people like Scott Cudmore, Emily Kai Bock, a collective called Exploding Motor Car… we thought it was legitimate art, and it seemed to be the norm that more and more interesting videos were being made.
“We also understood, working for the Canadian Film Academy at the time, that these filmmakers were never really talked about.”
Calabro also said that music videos were being released at an alarming rate and that a television broadcast was not necessarily end-game for creators.
“A floodgate started to open when creators were just putting things online. Those elements really led us to think, ‘Let’s find a way to celebrate this work.
Calabro sent more than 115 emails to journalists, filmmakers, curators, and visual artists to probe interest in the award idea.
“It was amazing how many people came back not only with a ‘yes’, but also an enthusiastic ‘yes’,” he recalls. “A lot of the comments I got were, ‘This is way overdue’ and ‘We’ve been watching videos forever.’ The industry came together and supported her right away. So that was huge for us. “
Using their experience and connections as DJing and event planning, Calabro and his partners held the first ever Soho House awards show, consisting of 10 finalists. Noah Pink won the grand prize for Rich Aucoin’s “Brian Wilson Is ALiVE” and Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II,” directed by Vincent Morisset, won the Audience Award.
Calabro’s most important Prisma mandate was to unify a disparate community.
“We just made it as inclusive as possible,” he says. “We invited everyone we could to make a music video that year; You could literally have been a 19 year old and you were invited if you made a music video. That philosophy has been true to this day. “
Over the years, Prism found more sponsors (Slaight Music, William F. White, FACTOR, and Telefilm Canada among them). The categories were expanded to include special achievements; the Arthur Lipsett “one to watch” award; the Hi-Fidelity Award and, more recently, the Willie Dunn Award for a Canadian Pioneer.
Several winners have achieved stellar races. Noah Pink is the creator and writer of the National Geographic series “Genius” and “Tetris” on Apple TV Plus. Shortly after winning her Lipsett Award, Karena Evans directed the music videos “Nice for What” and “Everyday Life” for Drake and Coldplay, respectively, and directed two episodes of the “Gossip Girl” reboot for HBO Max.
“Everything went crazy for her,” Calabro said. “She’s probably one of the most in-demand female directors right now… this is what awards are supposed to do: act as that boost that someone could use for their own career.
“That’s probably what I’m most proud of, is that we are right before people explode.”
Although the pandemic has disrupted the festivities, with both the 2020 and 2021 awards streamed online, Calabro looks forward to the day the show not only welcomes a live audience, but is televised.
“We want to be able to reach as many people as possible and we want to reach a different audience, and television is part of that.”
Apparently, COVID-19 has not stopped the creators, who have submitted more than 300 videos each of the last two years for nomination consideration.
Kapodistrias was happy to be one of them, and while it’s a bit early to determine how his Prism Award win will affect his career, the shared loot will pay off some of his student loans and free up time to work on a graphic novel.
“I think with this win, it will give me a bit of leeway,” he says.
Other winners of the Prisma Award 2021
Audience Award: Evan Elliot, Lance Sampson and Aquakulture, “Pay It Forward”
Special achievement: Jordan oram
Lipsett Award: Gennelle Cruz
Hifi award: Crack Cloud Media Collective
Willie Dunn Award: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Beatrice Deer