Sprockets’ wheels are turning again as Athens’ premiere music video competition gets underway. Sprockets has been an annual part of AthFest since 2004, with Danielle Robarge as the official “Sprockets organizer” since the beginning, when AthFest asked FilmAthens to help add a film component to the music festival. Five years later, Sprockets was a legitimate, well known music video competition with submissions coming in from overseas. However, those years of courting sponsors and wrangling the help of volunteers left Robarge, as she says, "tired of hitting people up." So, she let the next two years’ competitions drop. Over the course of her hiatus, she ran into friends and film contacts who wondered when they’d be able to offer their help again, and Robarge realized she missed Sprockets. Bringing the festival back to life was harder than she expected, but the added time gave her new commitments from her old sponsors and even more volunteers onboard.
Sprockets now attracts submissions from across the globe (a fact Robarge partially attributes to Sprockets' top placement under Google's "music video competition" search results). The competition is judged by an impressive group of filmmakers and music industry and media professionals. Of the five judges, this year's biggest names are Bob Boilen, host and creator of NPR's "All Songs Considered," and James Ponsoldt, a former Athenian and writer/director of the feature films Off the Black and Smashed.
"I’m not shy about emailing strangers,” says Robarge. “In past years we have had judges who were number-one songwriters and Grammy, Rockefeller and Peabody award winners, which I think adds to the credibility of the show."
Videos in the current competition include the music video for Patterson Hood's love ballad to Athens, "After It's Gone," and videos for artists Kishi Bashi (see this issue's cover image), Madeline, Electrophoria, Kuroma and more. Screening and judging of the videos takes place at 10 p.m. on Saturday at the 40 Watt, and the "Audience Choice" award is chosen by ballot that night. The winners of "Best Music Video" and "Audience Choice" will be awarded and screened at the Flagpole Athens Music Awards on Thursday, June 21. Admittance to Sprockets is $4 with an AthFest wristband and $5 without.