meets Dustin Robertson, editor of many
Madonna music videos and creator of the acclaimed "Hollywood"
and "Nobody Knows Me" Aviddiva
Like a sort of Lewis Carroll's white rabbit, Dustin takes
MadonnaTribers through a journey behind the scenes of
the Madonna videos he worked on and reveals, among other
things, how the Queen of pop got into trouble with her
"Hollywood" music video, various
anecdotes from the sets of the "Human Nature"
and "Power of Good-bye" videos
and the naked truth about the "Me Against
The Music" video with Britney Spears.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
My name is Dustin Robertson
aka AVIDDIVA and I make music videos
and dance remixes for a living to fund both my work as
an independent filmmaker and chosen sport, competitive
I am also a music-producer, re-mixer and recording artist.
Thank you for interviewing me. It is an honor and I’m
Here are my Madonna credits only.
“HUMAN NATURE” Assistant to
“THE POWER OF GOOD-BYE” Editor
“HOLLYWOOD; THE AVIDDIVA REMIX” Director/Editor/Remix
“NOBODY KNOWS ME” Director/Editor/Remix Music
“ME AGAINST THE MUSIC” Editor
MadonnaTribe: Hi Dustin, welcome to MadonnaTribe.
I understand you're a huge Madonna fan. How did that start?
Dustin Robertson: It started at the very beginning
- a very good place to start… the very first notes
just happened to be EVERYBODY! I have loved her since
I heard her first track on the radio, sunbathing in my
back yard at 12 or 13. And I DID think she was black-
she sounded too cool to be a white chick. Who knew, 7
MT: How did Madonna come into your life?
DR: My first day in Hollywood, I worked
assisting Madonna’s sister Paula Ciccone
in the accounting department of O PICTURES… a production
company that had produced MANY Madonna videos. Madonna
had gotten her sister Paula the accounting job. I was
just an intern working for free to get my foot in the
door. I was only 20 years old and VERY eager to work!!!
I knew the company had done Madonna videos so I wore my
Madonna “Justify My Love” T-Shirt to work
PROUDLY… not knowing I would be assigned to work
with Madonna’s sister. Well, I was sent in to work
in Paula’s office and she just glared at me - wouldn’t
even talk to me.
So I went back out to the reception area where a few girls
had gathered and were now laughing. They KNEW that Paula
would throw a FIT having to stare at her sister, Madonna,
on some kid’s T-Shirt in her office all day but
they let me go in wearing it anyway just to see what would
happen. They gave me an O PICTURES T-Shirt to put back
on instead and sent me back into Paula’s office.
Paula said, “Much better”… and we got
Incidentally… I took up smoking cigarettes because
Paula smoked out on the roof of the production company
so, of course, I always jumped at the chance to BOND with
her and so I would always want to chat with her on her
cigarette breaks… to see if I could get any gossip…
well, I did… but even better, I MUST ADD…
I actually ended up really enjoying getting to know Paula
as a friend who actually never spoke much about her sister…
But anyway… it was through this production company
that I would get work on sets…
Jean-Baptiste Mondino on the Bjork VIOLENTLY
HAPPY video shoot the day after the big Earthquake
in LA in January 1994. There were still aftershocks shaking
the rafters on the soundstage as Mondino’s wife
packed up his family to move back to Paris from their
Malibu home just a few miles away. She did NOT like the
earthquake one bit. Even BOY GEORGE showed up on that
set- he was too afraid to stay at home alone without his
friend who was doing make-up for Bjork on set that day.
It was Mondino who later introduced me
to Madonna on the set of the HUMAN
NATURE video. I remember we all waited for her
to walk out onto set to begin shooting in that amazing
tight black leather outfit… as she stepped onto
that soundstage in Hollywood off Melrose with gal pal
Ingrid at her side, Madonna strutting in her boots, stepping
over cables and wires to reach the white set… EVERYONE
SILENCED… about 45 crew-members and producers went
silent- just staring and watching her walk.
It was one of the coolest moments in my life that I will
NEVER forget. She took my breath away- for me… it
was like, MADONNA… FINALLY!
On that shoot I remember sneaking Hot Tamales into her
bowl of snacks. She immediately snatched them up to nibble.
I laughed at that with the producer on set who didn’t
believe me when I told her that I knew Madonna’s
favourite snack. But sure enough, that was all we saw
her eat all day after that.
On the set of HUMAN NATURE Madonna joked LOUDLY with MONDINO…
“You’d better be nice to me or else I’ll
call MATTHEW ROLSTON! (another director she later worked
with and had already been photographed by- it was an inside
joke)… NOT!” Madonna dissed Matthew for everyone
Her brash over-zealous stage presence- especially on video
shoots, is super cool to watch. She gets in DIVA mode
because that’s how she ‘gets through it’-
or used to anyway… and I loved it!
Madonna and I have worked together many times since and
each time is productive and exciting. We have a sincere
respect for one another and our work together. And we
have fun and laugh a lot- Madonna has an awesome sense
of humor about herself now… very healthy. She seems
quite happy in her life now, which is so inspiring.
MT: The "AVIDDIVA"
name is now tied to "Hollywood"
and "Nobody Knows Me" but the
first time you worked on a Madonna video was "The
Power of Good-bye". It was quite a while
ago, can you tell us what was that like?
DR: LOL… That’s a funny one…
and I’ll gossip just ‘cause I can and it’s
fun. On that particular job, Madonna had chosen to work
with a director who I had been cutting everything for
at the time, MATTHEW ROLSTON. The director she had dissed
years earlier on the HUMAN NATURE set. She and Matthew
did NOT get on well… at all. Madonna even made Matthew
cry on that set she was so fierce! I secretly think she
hired him to torture him but that’s another story…
Needless to say, by the edit, Madonna was over Matthew…
on our first phone call I tried to defend Matthew’s
directorial input, “But Madonna, Matthew wanted
to…” and she interrupted me and said “ah
ah ah… repeat after me… FUCK MATTHEW!”
I burst out laughing and we moved forward - she was very
very pleased with my work and even called me the next
morning to thank me for doing such a great job…
she didn’t HAVE to call- but she did… Madonna
is EXTREMELY professional and very sweet. It was on that
phone conversation with M that I THANKED HER… for
saving my life and for inspiring MY GREAT ADVENTURE TO
HOLLYWOOD. She was flattered and gracious.
Where does the name "AVIDDIVA" come
DR: AVID is the name
of my computer software program I create with. DIVA
is ME and, of course, my clients.
I’ll include my credits
list in case you want to list some other videos I’ve
done. Make sure you post the pic of my DIVA tattoo under
this interview! It’s a good one and, at one time,
DIVA in the spot I have it was the tattoo Madonna said
she would get if she ever got one… anyway, AVID
is DIVA spelled backwards… thus
AVID DIVA. Clever, no?
MT: As a Madonna fan myself, I consider
the "Hollywood" video her best
from the American Life album.
For the AVIDDIVA remix you had the chance to include some
unreleased footage from the Mondino shoot.
This was something that excited the fans a lot, and many
were really impressed by the "red dress on bar stool"
How was that experience for you?
DR: Well, many thanks for the compliment…
I LOVE remixing and that is one of my BEST ever. I had
a BLAST doing that remix. MADONNA LOVED IT INSTANTLY -
that’s my cut with very little comments from Madge.
But unfortunately for M, my wanting to include the red
dress set up got us into a bit of trouble…
It was basically an homage to a famous photograph…
in fact, a lot of the set-ups were an homage to a photographer’s
That RED DRESS sequence is what got Madonna sued by GUY
BOURDIN’s estate… but I think it was worth
IT’S A GREAT SET UP AND IT WAS FUN ACTION TO PLAY
MT: Is there more footage that did not
male the final cut, and more different characters Madonna
impersonated we don't know yet - or possibly never will?
DR: There were no other missing characters.
But so many great selects that the world will NEVER see-
her performances are FLAWLESS!
On your own website www.pumpingvelvet.com
we find a quote from Jean-Baptiste Mondino, "I'm
afraid to say you are trapped. You have to become an Icon".
Can you tell us about it, and how did you meet Mondino
and how is it working with him.
DR: Well, as I said, I met MONDINO on
the set of BJORK, VIOLENTLY HAPPY in 1994. We’ve
become closer ever since… and he has even sat with
me and helped me with directorial notes and comments on
my self-portrait “PUMPING VELVET”. It is a
2-volume double feature about my life in Hollywood and
the pathway it took to get here. I’m quite proud
of it. Mondino had seen the rough cut of my movie and
was commenting on how he saw me and my life, evolving
and he was right- I am becoming my own ICON within my
own art. It’s very exciting and he’s very
supportive. I am blessed to have such a beautiful friend
MT: You also edited the video for "Me
Against The Music". The collaboration between Britney
and Madonna is one of the most discussed moves in Madonna's
recent career - some fans really like it and some can't
stand it. What do you think about it?
DR: Oh - my, what juicy questions…
YIKES! Madonna threatened to take herself out of that
video at one point!
She did NOT get along with the director on that video,
PAUL HUNTER, either. She had already worked with him on
the GAP spot and had not had a good experience.
I remember she called Paul to give him some specific notes
on the video and I guess, from what Madonna told me right
after, she asked him if he was writing down her comments
and he said, “No, I’m DRIVING.”
Madonna said, “FUCK YOU”, hung up and called
me right away.
That was the last video I ever cut with Paul Hunter as
I sided with Madge instead of him on creative issues and
the direction of Madonna’s performance in the clip.
I WAS TRYING TO HELP, I SWEAR.
I got it to a place where Madonna was happy. I think the
art direction is horrible and the wardrobe is stupid…
it should have been way more modern, hipper and edgier
for both Britney and Madge. It was one of the weakest
videos ever, that NEEDED to be strong but just wasn’t.
MT: Looking at
the impressive list of music videos you worked on, there
are two that captured our attention - probably because
they are from artists we like a lot. "Waiting
for Tonight" by Jennifer Lopez
and "Come Undone" by Robbie
Williams are very different but are both very
strong visually. Can you tell us something about them
- how was it working on such different kinds of footage?
DR: I cut EVERYTHING for Jennifer Lopez…
THAT’S MY GIRL, YO!
Interestingly enough, that ROBBIE WILLIAMS video was a
job I cut while Jonas was deep inside
the edit for American Life The Original Version and couldn’t
break away to finalize…
Madonna would NOT let him leave her edit to work on anything
else during her job. Madonna always gets what she wants.
I LOVE working with Janet Jackson as well- she is a SWEETHEART!
And Marilyn Manson- he’s awesome… I’ve
done a bunch of videos with him as well. I cut EVERYBODY
so I’m afraid to say I’m a bit jaded at times-
it’s all just performance clips and slo mo b-roll
to me now… arrange it over 4 minutes… done-
it’s formula now. But I still love what I do. I
know I always will.
MT: The AVIDDIVA video for "Nobody
Knows Me" came to life after you showed Madonna some
footage you made for your self portrait "Pumping
Velvet". You can really narrate Madonna's story from
the covers of the magazines she's been on, but you were
probably the first one who turned this into a video production.
As it was part of your own original project was that tribute
also meant as a way to state also that "Nobody Knows
Not so much directly… but an editor’s work
is basically INVISABLE and so is he - yet he is the one
who ends up with the most intimate relationship with the
images by the end of the project. And a lot of the RIGHT
people know me so that’s ok… the people who
can afford to hire me know exactly who I am and what I
can do for them.
MT: Let's talk about the Re-Invention
Tour, which is probably the most emotional memory for
all Madonna's fans this year. Did you have a chance to
attend the show? What do you think about this tour, compared
to the previous ones?
DR: Everyone is going to HATE me…
I must admit, I have not gone to see Madonna LIVE since
the Blonde Ambition Tour because, for me, THAT WAS EVERYTHING
I EVER NEEDED FROM HER and the way I most wanted to remember
her and that time in my life.
Of course I have seen ALL the tours on DVD and I LOVE
them ALL… but… I have definitely focused on
getting to work WITH her instead of just WATCH her.
But I was in the audience for THE VIRGIN TOUR when she
played DETROIT! And it was MIND BLOWING when she did GAMBLER!!!
That’s gotta count for something! And I promise…
I’ll go next time she’s ‘round.
MT: From a visual point of view at certain
times the Re-Invention Tour was really overwhelming.
Video projections were already playing a major role during
the Drowned World Tour but this time you can really say
that at some points there was nothing but Madonna and
videos on stage.
From your point of view of both a professional and a fan,
what do you think of this?
I LOVE the IDEA of using videos during live performances-
although I’ve not seen anybody come close to getting
it right yet except for Anton Corbjin for DEPECHE MODE
back in 1998 I believe… as a fan, I prefer a big
dance number and real interacting with the audience to
a video clip backdrop that doesn’t compliment ANYTHING.
I have seen Madonna’s projections - they feel weak
in my PROFESSSIONAL opinion.
MT: If you were asked to direct one backdrop
video for one of Madonna's performances on stage, which
song would you like to work with, and what would the video
DR: The track would be ‘BEDTIME
STORIES’, my own AVIDDIVA TRANCE OVERDRIVE remix
version, and my concept would be based on “The Lion,
The Witch and The Wardrobe”, the book by C S LEWIS.
A young boy in a proper English bedroom inside a proper
English mansion can’t sleep and gets up out of bed
because he hears something coming from inside his wardrobe
closet. He steps into the OLD closet full of thick pelts
and cloaks and falls out into a cold forest in winter
at night… there is snow on the ground.
Madonna would play the witch that sweeps down on her sleigh
to scoop up the boy in the story (much in the same vein
as her relationship to the young boy in “Open Your
Heart” which I always saw as ‘that’s
me’) and wisk him off on a wild visual hallucinogenic
journey away from all his worries that are keeping him
awake tonight. “Let’s get unconscious honey…”
She would begin by handing the young boy a piece of “TURKISH
DELIGHT” (symbolical-ly ecstacy or any trip drug)
and proceed to show him through ‘CLUBLAND’
in all its’ splendor, narrating like a storyteller
as she races the two off through the night on her sleigh,
through crowded dance floors and past scenes of overindulgence
throughout the centuries- wild parties and things that
little boys just SHOULD NOT SEE so young.
The imagery would be fantastical and ‘trippy’
and feature a very sleek, calm, icy performance from a
very pale, glamourous Madonna with long, dark natural
flowing hair (my favourite look on Madonna is her natural
brown) and a completely white, rich fur Galliano coat
with wrap, cape and hood.
The film would be very dramatic yet colorful and every
frame would be hand-painted like Pierre et Gilles to make
it even more story-book like.
One funny scene to include would be to have them zip past
Studio 54 and see Andy or Keith and then by Danceteria
and maybe even see a very young MADONNA performing live
for the first time from somewhere off in the distance
of the blackness of the forest at night. Madonna’s
sleigh ride would wind through the history of nightlife
through the ages.
That’s just ONE of about a MILLION ideas that I
You know that director Jonas Akerlund
had been filming an enormous amount of footage during
the Re-Invention Tour - to work on what is going to be
Madonna's second documentary about her and herself on
tour. How do you expect the final product will be?
DR: Jonas is BRILLIANT beyond words so
I’m sure he’s gotten some EXCELLENT stuff.
It should be HOT! And fun to see how Madge lives now that
she’s a working mom on the road.
And then was your turn to work on a Madonna tour background
video. The Confessions Tour presented a stunning "Get
Together" projection using some incredible footage
edited in your unique AVIDDIVA style.
What's the story behind the video and how were you asked
to work on it.
DR: The summer before Madonna began to
put CONFESSIONS together, I got a call from Steven Klein's
office in New York. Steven had watched my professional
show reel (37 minutes, TheAviddiva.com)
I had given to him over breakfast at the Chateau Marmont
on Sunset Boulevard in LA a few months earlier.
Steven was gearing up to do some work with Madonna and
asked if I would come check out some footage he had shot
of her during the photo shoot for Madonna's ''Confessions
On a Dance Floor'' album artwork. Madonna had just been
thrown from her horse and was healing at the time.
I went to where Steven was shooting in Manhattan to meet
with him and to hear the first single Madonna had given
to him. It was "Hung Up". I remember listening
to it through headphones in private on that set on August
16th of 2005 (coincidentally it was Madonna's BIRTHDAY!).
I was immediately in love all over again -much in the
way I always am when a new Madonna album drops. I was
hearing this track for the first time and couldn't wait
to be involved with this amazing album. I could only hope
that I would get a chance to work with this dance music.
I LOVE dance music - especially by Madonna.
Madonna healed and shot a video for "Hung Up".
The single came out and I bought the twelve-inch version
on vinyl and would stare at the cover photograph by Steven
Klein. I thought he did a great job with all this. I sat
at home watching from the sidelines. I watched Madonna
announce her tour on Ellen. I watched Jamie King, looking
so cute and adorable, on Ellen that next week talking
about the tour. I was starting to get a bit annoyed that
nobody had called me!!! LOL.
Then... I got the call I'd been waiting for.
Steven, Jamie and Madonna wanted me to create the video
screen backdrops for the opening number "Future Lovers"
as well as the 2nd number, "Get Together". They
sent me the footage from the Steven Klein shoot that I
had watched the summer before and I got to work on "Get
I was so excited to be creating visuals for this music.
I LOVE this album and still listen to all of it non-stop.
Please visit dustinrobertson.com
for my complete credits list and to view my world famous
professional music video showreel.
MT: And we all know of "Get Together"
was. Thank you so much for chatting with us, Dustin! All
the best for everything!
would like to thank Dustin for finding
some quality time to share with us and our readers and
for giving us a glimpse at his work for the woman we all
Special thanks to Celeste Kim from the
Aviddiva production company for her assistance and for
making this interview possible.
Be sure to visit Dustin's official website, dustinrobertson.com
to find out more about his life, his work and his art
Copyright 2005-2006 MadonnaTribe.
Pictures of Dustin Robertson used by permission.