In the new video for LCD Soundsystem’s song “Pow Pow,” actress Anna Kendrick struts, flirts, preens, and may be some sort of soul-stealing goddess. It’s the kind of music video you have to watch more than once to really understand, the kind of esoteric, expensive-looking clip you used to see all the time on MTV but haven’t in years. Now, though, the network hopes to bring back the ambitious music video—and since the record companies aren’t paying for them anymore, MTV is going to finance them itself.
A funny thing happened since music videos stopped airing on MTV: They became popular again. Lady Gaga got 1 billion views on YouTube, and OK Go sent off their singles with their own “How’d they do that?” viral videos. In other words, the short attention span of the Internet proved perfect for the sort of three-minute tuneful clip with a hook that MTV has largely eschewed in the past decade in favor of reality shows like The Hills and Jersey Shore.
“Pow Pow” is the first volley in what MTV hopes will be a groundbreaking new series of videos utilizing A-list talent. Titled Supervideo, the series is the brainchild of Mean Video head Kashy Khaledi, 33. He grew up obsessed with music videos and thinks it’s high time for a revival of the format: “There’s a certain nostalgia, there’s a sort of excitement for the music video,” he says. Khaledi figured that MTV might be itching to get back into the game, and after enlisting big stars to appear in his “Cinemash” series (where Channing Tatum reenacted a scene from Dirty Dancing, and Cheech and Chong entered the world of Tron) and commandeering the cast of Kick-Ass to appear in a video for the Soft Pack’s “Answer to Yourself,” he met with David Gale, MTV’s executive vice-president of new media, to sell him on the idea.
For Gale, the pitch reminded him of why he came to the company. “When I started at MTV Films, the Michael Bays and David Finchers of the world were all making music videos,” Gale says. “Just about anyone who had a vision that was out of the cookie-cutter mainstream of Hollywood.” Back then, “the business was established where the labels were paying all kinds of money to support their talent,” he says. “Clearly, things have changed in so many ways.”
Khaledi and Gale enticed Training Day writer David Ayer (who also directed Harsh Times and Street Kings) for “Pow Pow.” He came on a month before shooting—which only lasted two days—and gave the project his full attention. “A lot of these directors have a lot of down time, and they don’t necessarily want to do commercials,” explains Khaledi. “I really do approach these more as films than music videos,” says Gale. “From our point of view, we’re financing small movies with great talent using music.” Though budgets are limited, Gale hopes to entice even bigger filmmakers to take part: “Obviously, the better this one does, the more likely we’ll be doing lots of them, but we’re already planning the next few.”