The MuchMusic Video Awards are ready to take over a strip of Queen Street West this weekend. But have you ever wondered what it takes to bring viewers one evening of spectacular musical revelry? How about a year’s worth of blood, sweat, tears, revised schedules, meetings, permits and more headaches than a migraine convention.
Such are the lives of Sheila Sullivan and Neil Staite, MMVA organizers for the past decade. While we’re gawking at co-host Miley Cyrus and watching performances by Ke$ha, Drake and Justin Bieber, this duo is breathing sighs of relief at seeing the past 12 months come to fruition.
In fact, before the lights cooled down after last year’s MMVAs, Sullivan and Staite were already organizing this successor, attaining artists, sourcing local equipment suppliers, budgeting staff, re-routing streetcars and garnering the inevitable permits/policing an event of such magnitude necessitates.
“Planning starts the day after the MMVAs,” notes Sullivan in the midst of a dazzling dance of riggers, materials and props that overtake the parking lot at 299 Queen St. W. “We immediately hold a postmortem on last year’s show, seeing what worked, what didn’t and how we can make things even better next year.”
Torontonians begin to see the fruits of such labour four weeks before the event looms as the asphalt becomes abuzz with activity. This year’s theme: each stage resembles various culinary gadgetry.
“That overhang one’s the ‘George Foreman,’” Sullivan smiles, pointing to the largest of three stages. “The enclosed one is ‘The Microwave,’ the one at floor level here is ‘The Griddle’ and if you look overhead, that platform jutting out is ‘The Spatula.’”
Turning attention to two more aspects, Staite notes that the popular red carpet ceremony has been relocated to MuchMusic’s side entrance in order to allow for yet another stage to overtake the infamous intersection at Queen and John streets.
Moreover, in order to ensure those at home aren’t left out, VJ Liz Trinnear will host the online-exclusive backstage Digital Lounge, she quips will “have a bit of everything. I’ll be talking to bands on-camera, blogging, tweeting, texting and on my phone.”
Of course, the means more technical strategizing. At that, gazing across the dozens of bodies, tonnes of rigging, cables, lights and massive machinery, one is mystified at how the MMVAs come together with perceived ease.
“It’s a big chess game requiring lots of meetings to make sure that we do everything in the correct order,” Staite sighs. “We have pages and pages of plans … that are still changing up to the second the show starts. But once it does, it’s worth it.”
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