What if Elton John asked you to make the official music video for "Rocket Man," "Tiny Dancer" or "Bennie and the Jets"? That's exactly what just happened. Except he's not just asking you—he's asking the whole internet.
John has joined forces with AKQA, Pulse Films and YouTube for "Elton John: The Cut," the ultimate creative gauntlet for music lovers. Its goal is to find videos that will go down in history as official accompaniments to three iconic songs—which, as luck would have it (for you, anyway), came out pre-MTV.
"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 [them] with younger fans," says Sir Elton John himself.
"I've always had a passion for youth and [for] the new. This is very exciting because we've never seen videos for these songs."
Below is the announcement video, featuring John and lyricist Bernie Taupin, who helped write all three songs—not to mention a slew of other iconic ditties. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the pair's creative collaboration:
YouTube creators Kurt Hugo Schneider, PES and Parris Goebel will shortlist the entries for the official contest judges, which include Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Grammy Award winner Melina Matsoukas, and Barry Jenkins, who just took home a Golden Globe for his film Moonlight.
"I've been a fan of Sir Elton John since 'Tiny Dancer' made a giant impact on music lovers everywhere," says Katzenberg. "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."
Matsoukas' music-video-directing chops include Beyoncé's "Formation" and Rihanna's "We Found Love." "Having the space to experiment and learn ... was vital to my success," she says of her early filmmaking career. "It's a dream to be part of this program, which is providing that opportunity for emerging directors and redefining the relationship between an iconic artist and his fans through video."
And Jenkins—who first cut his teeth on "the DIY tools of digital cinema"—says music is central to his films and creative process. " 'The Cut' is so exciting to me because it combines a number of things I'm passionate about," he says. "I hope to see ideas for this competition that push boundaries and defy expectations."
For their participation, a donation of $20,000 will be made for each judge to the charity of their choice. Katzenberg chose the Motion Picture and Television Fund, Jenkins the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, and Matsoukas will announce her choice later on.
Talk about high stakes. It's going to take more than a GoPro and whatever camera-stabilizer you funded on Kickstarter to earn a director title for an official "Tiny Dancer" music video. And to ensure you understand expectations for production quality, stop-motion master PES made an inspirational video, using the example of "Rocket Man," which has to be animated.
"You can animate miniatures, real people, objects, paper—just about anything that you can dream up. All forms of animation are welcome," PES says, as his own stop-motion examples glide effortlessly across the screen.
Each video should incorporate different artistic elements—while "Rocket Man" is animated, "Tiny Dancer" will be live-action, and "Bennie and the Jets" must feature choreography. Get more contest details on the site.
Submissions close on Jan. 23. Three winners will be chosen, and entries will premiere on YouTube this summer. You must be 16 or older to enter.