Music mayhem in video

Forget MTV: The music video is back with a vengeance—and on the big screen. This week, the Hollywood Theatre will play host to a festival of screenings showcasing some of Portland’s emerging musical talent and film expertise.

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Forget MTV: The music video is back with a vengeance—and on the big screen. This week, the Hollywood Theatre will play host to a festival of screenings showcasing some of Portland’s emerging musical talent and film expertise.

The second annual Portland Music Video Festival kicks off this Thursday with an opening reception at 5 p.m. In addition to two rounds of screenings, the festival will feature an awards ceremony and end with an after-party at the nearby Moon and Sixpence pub.

The festival is the work of Portland State associate professor of digital film production Dustin Morrow, who works with theater staff and several students each year to make the production happen.

“The festival shows a broad range of videos from a wide variety of artists,” Morrow said in an email. “We even have some foreign-language videos, as we received submissions from more than 30 different countries this year. We have everything from metal to rap and hip-hop to alt country and math rock. We’re showing a little something for everyone.”

In addition to content from across the globe, the festival will also feature a host of Portland-based filmmakers, such as Alex Huebsch and Cliff Sargent, the co-directors of the video for “Hall of Mirrors” by Beaverton-based band Helio Sequence.

Huebsch, who operates local production company Runaway Mustache Productions, noted that the musicians gave them creative control.

“I think the big thing is that they trusted us to do the work,” he said.

“They gave us a song and told us we had free reign,” Sargent said. “They didn’t want to be in the video. They said they weren’t actors, [that] it wasn’t their style.”

The video features a traveler in a muscle car racing across southeastern Oregon’s Alvord Desert. Amid a musical atmosphere of reverberating guitar wails, the protagonist encounters a postapocalyptic hell-scape, including wildfires and a mysterious cowboy in black. Surreal imagery unfolds in a brief narrative that responds to the musical composition.

“In the first meetings, we asked what images the video evokes,” Huebsch said. “We thought about darkness and long highways. We were trying to weave these fucked-up scenes from Americana.”

Sargent pointed to David Lynch as an inspiration, noting that “Hall of Mirrors” evokes the open space of the Oregon desert.

“I thought it was just this surreal, horrifying expression of the unknown,” he said.

The Helio Sequence video was not without its challenges. Huebsch and Sargent described stumbling upon a wildfire and the quick decision to film the inferno as it raced toward them despite protests from local rescue teams.

“The entire top of the mountain was on fire, and [it was] spreading rapidly,” Sargent said. “So we did the stupid thing and started shooting. If you looked just off camera during that scene, you would see the rescue teams yelling at us.”

Sargent also explained the visual power of the experience, which manifests as the climax in the video and the song.

“It looked like this huge opening into hell,” he said. “It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen.”

The festival will offer separate screenings for international and Pacific Northwest-based videos; much of the content was filmed in Portland.

Filmmaker Ben Fee shot the video for “Delicate Cycle,” by The Uncluded, entirely within the city.

“It’s extraordinary people and animals in ordinary and extraordinary situations,” Fee said of the video, which features some of Portland’s Internet pet sensations as well as acclaimed musicians Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock.

Fee was brought to the project by friend and colleague Peter Lee, who had been rounding out footage ideas with the band. Fee explained that he helped refine some of the final ideas before going into shooting.

“It was a completely collaborative piece,” he said. “[Lee] brought me on with a couple of scenarios they needed to flesh out. We all held hands through the directing process.”

Fee expressed excitement that the final product made its way into the festival, and praised the work of his colleagues.

“Through the process [and] before and after, they’ve been really great friends,” he said. “They’re talented and awesome people.”

Morrow pointed out the value of the Hollywood Theatre to the festival and the community in general.

KZME, PSU and the Hollywood Theatre present
The Portland Music Video Festival
Thursday, May 30, 5 p.m.
The Hollywood Theatre
4122 NE Sandy Blvd.
$7 at the door
Schedule details available at

“The Hollywood is the grandest movie house in Portland, and the people who work there are amazing and passionate about what they do,” he said. “They’re a nonprofit, which means that they exist not for commercial purposes but for sheer love of sharing film work with the community. That mission fits perfectly with the Portland Music Video Festival, which is a community-focused festival.”

Morrow also noted that he and the students working with him hope to build on the festival’s foundation going forward. He expressed an interest in bringing in speakers and adding workshops.

But he also pointed to his students’ hard work in getting the festival off the ground after working on it in class.

“The students loved the class and, with their aid, I launched this festival,” he said. “The creative directors of the festival, Kat Audick [who writes for the Vanguard] and Darcy Sharpe-Meade, were students in that class, and they’re amazing. The festival couldn’t happen without them.”