Two years ago, the Grammys retooled its music video and film field to include a music film category. And on Feb. 15, that Grammy will go to one of five films — two of which also happen to be Academy Award nominees for documentary.
Oscar contenders “Amy,” the acclaimed doc on Brit chanteuse Amy Winehouse, and “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” about “high priestess of soul” Nina Simone, are up against the HBO doc “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown,” Dave Grohl’s eight-part Foo Fighters series “Sonic Highways,” also for HBO; and “The Wall,” the film of Roger Waters’ 2010-13 concert tour.
“Not that long ago, something that was eligible for the Oscars was not eligible for a Grammy,” says NARAS awards VP Bill Freimuth. “If it had an MPAA rating, or distribution in theaters, that disqualified it. But with the resurgence of the music documentary and the concert film, we found that we were excluding important musical films that we wanted to recognize.”
The category has actually been around since 1986, but most of that time it’s been known as longform music video. It became music film in 2014, and now covers concert films or music docs released theatrically, shown on TV or available for sale.
“At least half the playing time of the entire film needs to be performance-based material,” Freimuth adds. Biopics, which often contain fictionalized material, are ineligible. Last year’s winner was “20 Feet From Stardom,” which also won the 2013 Oscar for documentary feature.
The Grammys go to the directors and producers, and also can go to the artists, although they are not specifically listed among the nominees.
Despite the ever-growing intersection of musical and visual material in the media world, Freimuth says there has been no talk of adding more categories along those lines. “We do accept interactive videos and things like that currently, essentially new-media items,” he says. “Maybe if there is a real groundswell and burst of productivity, but as it stands now, there haven’t really been discussions about expanding that field.”
As for music supervisors, who have been lobbying for their own awards at both the Oscars and the Emmys, they remain restricted to the compilation soundtrack for visual media category (where music supervisors are often the producers of those albums).
“Once a compilation soundtrack is nominated, a music supervisor is not considered a nominee,” Freimuth says. “But if that soundtrack wins, the music supervisor is considered a Grammy winner. It’s the same way we treat producers and engineers in our genre album categories.”