Elton John: The Cut – Judges and Call for Entries announced

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We already reported on Elton John: The Cut, the competition giving young filmmakers the chance to create the official music videos for iconic Elton John hits, but this afternoon, the judges line-up and official call for entries was finally announced. Three of today’s most innovative minds are lending their expertise to select the final three winning entries for the contest, which will finally result in official videos fro three classic Elton John songs; “Bennie and the Jets,” “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer.”


Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Grammy Award-winner Melina Matsoukas, and Barry Jenkins, the writer-director of Golden Globe Best Picture (Drama) Moonlight, will serve as judges for the competition that gives aspiring creators from all over the world the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply their creative vision to creating music videos for these iconic hits. Together with Elton John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin, three winners will be selected, and those winning entries will premiere on YouTube in summer of 2017. Entries are now officially open to the public, with submissions open until January 23. In honour of their participation in the program, a donation of $20,000 will be made in honour of each judge to a charity of their choice. Katzenberg has selected the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) and Jenkins has selected the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center. Matsoukas will announce her charity at a later date.


To further inspire applicants, YouTube creators Kurt Hugo Schneider, PES and Parris Goebel will also shortlist the entries and present their selections to the judges. They have put together their own ideas to kick things off. Check out the video from PES, an Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmaker, who applied his unique stop-animation style to “Rocket Man,” below.

Elton John will be collaborating with AKQA, Pulse Films and YouTube to create official videos for these classic songs that were released before the rise of the music video. Applicants have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to showcase these best-loved hits with their own creative vision.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, said: “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. 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.”

Melina Matsoukas, said: “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.”

Barry Jenkins, said: “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 democratisation 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.”

Elton John, said: “Artists like me have to embrace technology, because it’s the only way forward. One of the reasons we are doing this project with YouTube is to encourage young filmmakers to create visual ideas for these songs, and it gives us the chance to share these songs with younger fans. I’ve always had a passion for youth and passion for the new. This is very exciting because we’ve never seen videos for these songs.”

Ken Scherer, Chief Executive Officer of the MPTF Foundation, added: “The Motion Picture and Television Fund is grateful that Jeffrey Katzenberg has designated our organisation as the recipient of a generous donation from Sir Elton John and the producers of The Cut. This donation will help fund our charitable programs and services, including financial assistance, crisis and personal counselling, child care, elder care and, of course, the legendary retirement campus in Woodland Hills, California.”

Meet The Judges


Jeffrey Katzenberg is the founder and CEO of DreamWorks Animation, with a film career that spans almost four decades. He is the creative force behind the studio’s biggest animated hits such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, as well as producing some of Disney’s most magical and iconic films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.


Melina Matsoukas is a Grammy-award winning music video director with a distinctive, bold and provocative style. She is one of the most in-demand directors in the industry, working with the likes of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, Solange and Pharrell. In 2011, she became the Creative Director for Beyoncé’s album 4.


Barry Jenkins is a Golden Globe-nominated writer and director. His feature film debut Medicine for Melancholy was hailed as one of the best films of 2009, with his second feature Moonlight premiering in 2016 to immense critical acclaim and is becoming one of the best reviewed films of the year.

YouTube Mentors


PES (Animation mentor) is an Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and the creator of some of the most widely-viewed stop-motion films of all time.


Kurt Hugo Schneider (Live Action mentor) is a filmmaker and musician, who has been sharing his interpretation of popular songs on YouTube for over a decade with his 7.8 million fans.


Parris Goebel (Choreography mentor) is the director and choreographer behind Justin Bieber’s “Sorry (PURPOSE: The Movement)” video, with over 2 billion views on YouTube.

Check out our feature from last month for more information.


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