Director Spike Jonze has had a busy 2013: He produced Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (currently the number one movie in the country), his next directorial effort Her is set to roll out at Christmas, and this Sunday, he’ll oversee the first ever YouTube Music Awards.
The show, which celebrates both high-octane stars and viral upstarts, will beam live from New York City’s Pier 36 and will feature performances by Eminem, Lady Gaga, and Arcade Fire. The whole thing will be hosted by Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts and will air live (naturally) on YouTube beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.
But what will the show actually look like, and how will it differentiate itself from the other music award shows crowding the calendar? Jonze spoke to EW about the process of putting it together, the goals for the evening, and more.
Entertainment Weekly: How long have you been working on this show? How did you get involved?
Spike Jonze: About six months ago, YouTube approached Vice and I about creating and producing their first music awards. It seemed like such a natural thing both for them and for me. I’ve always loved YouTube and the idea that anyone can make something and put it up. There’s no gatekeeper anymore—someone can just be creative and share it.
We came up with the idea that this night should be all about making things. So we’re giving awards to people who made things this year, but we’re also trying to make the whole awards show feel like a YouTube video. It’s about being creative and making things, and one of the main parts of that is we’re making live music videos with these artists, and as opposed to artists performing on a stage to an audience, though there might be some of that too if that’s the idea. It’s more about making these live videos in front of and with the audience that is there.
So will the artists be performing in full-scripted, narrative-type videos?
Some of them will be more straightforward performance videos, but some will be more conceptual. I don’t want to give away too much, but we’re trying to make a whole variety of videos. They’re all being done live with sets we’re building. Instead of doing it at a theater where everyone has to be on stage, we have this giant warehouse where we’re gonna have sets all around the perimeter, and each set has a different video being produced on it.
Like a lot of things like this, it has really come together in the last month and a half. Right now we’re making it up as we go. Literally none of us have ever done this before, so it might be a little messy around the edges. But hopefully a beautiful mess.
It sounds a little like how the MTV Video Music Awards used to be.
That was one of the references. We all watched old VMA clips on YouTube. It was a reference a few of us had come to separately. Those ‘80s music video awards—there’s a sort of “anything could happen” kind of feeling.
What about the actual handing out of awards? Will people be giving acceptance speeches?
Jason and Reggie are the hosts, and we are trying to have fun with all of those different parts of it. I don’t know if there will be traditional acceptance speeches. Maybe in some form.
What would you have done with YouTube had it been around when you started? Do you feel like your career would have been different?
It certainly would have been different. To have YouTube and make something and immediately put it online would have been amazing. Back then it was VHS tapes. I’d make a skateboard video and then give it to somebody in a parking lot. It was a whole different thing.