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Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Jenkins Tapped as Judges for Elton John’s YouTube Video Competition

Variety logo Variety 1/10/2017 Todd Spangler
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DreamWorks New Media chairman CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and “Moonlight” writer-director Barry Jenkins are among the judges for the competition from Elton John and YouTube inviting creators to create music videos for three of the pop singer’s classic tunes.

In addition, Grammy-winning music-video director Melina Matsoukas has joined the panel of judges, who together with Elton John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin will select three winners to create the official music videos for “Bennie and the Jets,” “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer.” The videos are slated to premiere on YouTube this summer.

Entries for “Elton John: The Cut supported by YouTube” are open through Jan. 23, with more info available at thecut.eltonjohn.com. Music-video entries for each of the songs will feature different artistic elements: submissions for “Rocket Man” will feature animation, “Tiny Dancer” will be live-action, and “Bennie and the Jets” will feature choreography.

YouTube will make a donation of $20,000 in the name of of each judge to a charity of their choice. Katzenberg has selected the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) and Jenkins has selected African Heritage Cultural Arts Center. Matsoukas will announce her charity at a later date.

“Like countless millions of others around the planet, I’ve been a fan of Sir Elton John since ‘Tiny Dancer’ made a giant impact on music lovers everywhere,” Katzenberg said in a statement. “But in the early ‘90s, it was my extraordinary good fortune to get to know him personally when he wrote the incredible songs for ‘The Lion King.’ Since then, not only have I gotten to continue to work with him, but I’ve had the privilege of calling him a friend. So, I can think of no better way to start the new year than to embark on this new journey with Elton, as he brings phenomenal creativity and innovation to YouTube.”

Jenkins, whose film “Moonlight” won best motion picture — drama at Sunday’s Golden Globes, commented, “Music is core to my films and to my creative process. ‘The Cut’ is so exciting to me because it combines a number of things I’m passionate about. As a filmmaker whose first film was made with the DIY tools of digital cinema, I love how the democratization of the filmmaking process and platforms like YouTube enables people to tell stories that in previous generations simply could not be told. I hope to see ideas for this competition that push boundaries and defy expectations.”

Matsoukas, who has helmed music videos including Beyonce’s “Formation” and Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” added, “I grew up on music videos in the MTV era. Having the space to experiment and learn as I was getting started in my filmmaking career was vital to my success. It’s a dream to be part of this program which is providing that opportunity for emerging directors and redefining the relationship between such an iconic artist and his fans through video.”

According to Elton John, one of the main goals of the project is to share his older hits with younger music fans. The three songs in the competition were released in the early 1970s. “I’ve always had a passion for youth and passion for the new,” said John. “This is very exciting because we’ve never seen videos for these songs.”

The shortlist of entries for “Elton John: The Cut supported by YouTube” will be selected by three YouTube creators: Kurt Hugo Schneider, PES (Adam Pesapane) and Parris Goebel. The global competition is open to anyone over 16, subject to local terms and conditions.

The contest is being produced with the help of digital agency AKQA and production studio Pulse Films.

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