Josh Forbes was ecstatic when he woke up one August morning to the news that a music video he’d directed, for indie popsters Walk The Moon, had been nominated for a Video Music Award for Best Rock Video. He started making plans for MTV’s star-studded, Miley-hosted show set for August 30 in downtown Los Angeles. Then, to his utter disappointment, he learned that he wasn’t invited.
Like most of the filmmakers behind this year’s nominees, Forbes wasn’t offered a ticket to the awards show to see his own video vie for the annual MTV-hosted honors. But, Forbes learned after countless calls and inquiries, he could buy his own tickets to the show for $450 to $800 a piece.
“My heart sank,” Forbes admitted in a video this week for a shot-in-the-dark online campaign he launched to crowdfund his way to the VMAs. “I don’t have that kind of money.”
This year, tickets to the MTV VMAs are not being officially sold to the general public. Tickets for the VMAs are typically offered only to the musical artists who are nominated, as well as the Kims and Kanyes and Nickis and Taylors of the world. If you’re a non-famous director, MTV only extends comp tickets to those who are individually nominated in the Best Director category.
Other directors of nominated videos like Forbes are only given the opportunity to attend if they buy tickets offered at three exorbitantly priced tiers: $450 for mezzanine seats, $650 for loge seats, and $800 per ticket for orchestra seats.
A helmer of music videos and commercials, L.A.-based Forbes has his first feature film due in theaters this September, horror sequel Contracted 2. Unlike most indie filmmakers he opted to make his first foray into crowdfunding not to raise money for a movie but as a “sort of social experiment.”
“If I could get a bunch of people to donate a few bucks apiece I just might have a shot at going to this silly thing,” he wrote when he launched his GoFundMe campaign on Saturday with a goal of raising $1,300 to purchase tickets for himself and his six-months pregnant wife, a red carpet-worthy suit, and an Uber to the Microsoft Theater at LA Live.
“And if I go, I'm not just going for myself, I’m going as a champion for the little guy. The outsider goofball who wasn't invited to his own party. I represent every little guy with a dream, hoping for a shot at the big leagues. Is that too grandiose? Perhaps, but it’s worth a shot.”
In three days, he exceeded his goal. He’s currently collected over $2,000 in donations from supportive friends, family, and strangers.
“It started as a pragmatic thing,” Forbes told The Daily Beast shortly after hitting his fundraising goals and confirming his VMA ticket purchase. “‘I want to go to this!’ But to just spend that much money on a one-night event, it feels a little bit like buying your own birthday present. It kinda sucks.”
“I don’t even have cable,” Forbes laughed, considering the alternatives. “I can’t even afford to watch the award ceremony in my home!”
Before he dreamt up his GoFundMe campaign, Forbes first waited to receive info on how to attend the VMAs—surely MTV would be in touch!—but those details never came. He started reaching out, more than a little perplexed. “It was so hard to even figure out what to do,” he said. “I called up MTV and was like, ‘Hey, I was nominated! What do I do?’ And they were like, ‘Who do you want to talk to? Well, you should give them a call.’ But I made the video!”
Most directors, he figures, just have to come to terms with the disappointment of being left out of their own awards show. “I have a rep for music videos, and she was getting the run around,” he said. “She was like, ‘Well, you know, they don’t really care about directors. Don’t sweat it. A lot of people don’t go.’ It’s just the idea that this is the highest award for the thing that I do, and I can’t go unless I pay a ton of money. It’s sad.”
Andrew Hines also directed a video nominated this year at the VMAs, for Big Sean’s “One Man Can Change The World.” And he’s also been befuddled by MTV’s policy of giving the cold shoulder to the filmmakers who direct the music videos up for the year’s biggest accolades.
“I’ve been thinking about going to the venue in my suit with a sign that says, ‘I directed a nominated video but I’m not really trying to drop $2K on tickets right now’ to see if I can get one of the scalpers to give it to me,” he joked Tuesday via phone.
Earlier this summer, Hines was nominated for Hip Hop Video of the Year at the Much Music Awards for another music video he directed, Tory Lanez’s “Henny In Hand.” He attended that awards show, where the video lost to P Reign, Drake, and Future’s “DnF.”
When he heard the news that his Big Sean video had earned a VMA nod, Hines was thrilled. “But then I also thought I was going to the show,” he said.
Hines, like Forbes, wasn’t even contacted by MTV with details on how he could buy his VMA tickets; his August 30 plans are as yet TBA.
“I don’t feel that in the current industry right now, in music, that the director is really considered,” said Hines, whose black-and-white OMCCTW is up for Best Video With A Social Message. “This isn’t the late ’90s when there were five to 10 directors who had everything. But it’s the director who’s directing a video. Not the label or artist. So they’re disregarding a cog in the cycle. If nothing is captivating, people won’t watch it.”
Reached for this article, MTV had no official comment on the VMA ticketing situation. It’s not hard to see why the celebrity-fueled awards show might prioritize filling seats with celebrity talent versus talent behind the camera. Tickets are allotted to talent on a case-by-case basis with no set per-nominee quota, according to one source. In theory, however, the VMAs venue at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater can fit a capacity audience of 7,100.
Given the impact a VMA nod can have on a music video director’s career, it comes down to the principle of the thing for Forbes. “You spend your whole life making these things and it’s nice to feel like you’re part of something, and then it’s depressing when you find out you’re not invited,” he said. “‘You are part of the club—and we’re having a party!’ ‘Cool! Can I go?’ ‘Oh, no—YOU can’t go.’”
Even if his video won, Forbes knows he wouldn’t be the one to accept that Moon Man. “The band would go onstage. I think that’s pretty standard, for good reason,” he said. “I mean, I’d rather see Taylor Swift than Joseph Kahn!”
In any case, Forbes finally has his tickets—even if it took a village to buy them. It remains to be seen if he’ll be invited to walk the red carpet. “I don’t want to say it’s a fuck you to MTV,” he said of his funding campaign, “but I also did it to raise awareness for what artists and filmmakers are going through. Support your local filmmakers!”
For now, Hines might just be watching the VMAs at home. “What if it wins? I’ll pop open a beer in my living room,” he laughed.