MadonnaTribe meets Dustin Robertson, editor of many Madonna music videos and creator of the acclaimed "Hollywood" and "Nobody Knows Me" Aviddiva remixed videos.

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 bodybuilding.
I am also a music-producer, re-mixer and recording artist.
Thank you for interviewing me. It is an honor and I’m very flattered.
Here are my Madonna credits only.

“HOLLYWOOD; THE AVIDDIVA REMIX” Director/Editor/Remix Music Producer
“NOBODY KNOWS ME” Director/Editor/Remix Music Producer


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 years later…

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 to work…
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…


I met 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 to hear.
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: Does madonna have a special place in your own life? Did her art and music give something special to Dustin - the person besides Dustin - the artist?

DR: I have had the honor of working with my childhood idol, Madonna, quite a few times now. It’s always very exciting and always seems to heal some part of me that wanted this dream so bad for so long.
Finally getting these great opportunities to showcase my talents as an artist alongside other artists like Madonna let’s a little of that edgy, yearning in me relax a bit and a voice says, “Cool, you really did it. Good going! THAT dream sure came true!”

I made my dream of working with Madonna come true by focusing on it and making that fantasy a REALITY for who I was becoming as my own artist; based on how I saw Madonna use her own talents to manifest her OWN destiny in front of me on MTV growing up as a GAY BOY in the 80’s - I WAS OBSESSED BEYOND WORDS!
I would have to say MADONNA was what inspired me the most as a developing artist. Period. For so long I focused ONLY on Madonna and on how she did what she did and why- what it got her, how it made her feel and why she kept going.


People freak out when they know she’s coming in the building - no matter where or who you are… (Except for her family and friends of course) Mondino and I have had a good laugh at this - people STARSTRUCK… even jaded Hollywood people get FREAKED out by Madonna coming and will light up a cigarette or something to deal with the anxiousness of her arrival… that’s just INSANE POWER!

How she can make people feel such excitement, even just ahead of her daily presence, is what I find most fascinating about her and what she has accomplished.

She IS amazing and an unbelievably cool chick who’s lived a life VERY few in Earth’s history will ever experience the size, scope and impact of.

What Mondino and I are most interested in and what we chat most about Madonna is how will she say good-bye to all of this? How can she let go of what she has created when it is this MASSIVE!?

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… LOL.
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.


MT: Where does the name "AVIDDIVA" come from?

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" sequence.
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 work.

That RED DRESS sequence is what got Madonna sued by GUY BOURDIN’s estate… but I think it was worth it too!

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!


MT: On your own website 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 in JB.


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 Dustin"?


DR: 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?


DR: 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.

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 look like?

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 have… lol.


MT: 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.


MT: 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, 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 Together".

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 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!


MadonnaTribe 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 love.

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, to find out more about his life, his work and his art


Copyright 2005-2006 MadonnaTribe.
Pictures of Dustin Robertson used by permission.

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