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VH1's Pop-Up Video Almost Made It Into Maggie Levin's V/H/S/99 Short - Exclusive

Maggie Levin's "V/H/S/99" entry, "Shredding," rocks — literally. It's the story of an edgy group of young late-'90s musicians sneaking down to where a band tragically met their demise years prior. As "Shredding" is a horror entry, you can probably guess that all does not go according to plan, and the short concludes with an unexpectedly wild finale. It's a bold, brash short that captures a variety of late-'90s cinematography elements, from fisheye lenses to VHS static, loaded with late-'90s music-doc techniques and energy throughout.

The various shorts that compose "V/H/S/99" had many inspirations, from old-school music videos to unfulfilled childhood dreams. The music-doc vibe of "Shredding," born from a variety of influences, was the intent from the initial scripting process. In a new interview, Levin explains that a staple element of the '90s music-doc scene was intended to be in the neo-retro short. Had the filmmaker gotten her wish, VH1's classic "Pop-Up Video" series would have made a guest spot in the rock-themed horror entry. Read on for the Easter egg that almost was.

The Pop-Up Video reference that almost was

In the exclusive interview with Looper, Maggie Levin is asked about how she captured the short's 1999 music-doc vibe. "It was such a joy to enter that space, for which I am especially nostalgic," she notes, "and to pull from a combination of playing both mostly in a '99 landscape [and] a little bit in 1995." She used a specific set of influences to land the look of "Shedding," which is "widely influenced [by] CKY, the kinds of MTV and VH1 stuff that I was watching when I was that age ... and also these strange promotional videos that I used to watch from the Spice Girls and Ani DiFranco."

"I used to watch a lot of these VHS tapes that my stepmother, who worked for Virgin Records at the time, would get," Levin explains. "That's where a lot of that band interview vibe came from." It's an inspired set-up for one of the film's most interesting shorts. In addition to many of the visual hallmarks of late-'90s music-doc energy, some moments feel akin to the era's famous pre-Wikipedia celebration of random music facts, VH1's "Pop-Up Video." 

When asked about that possible inspiration, Levin replies, "Yes!" It was indeed something that impacted her approach to developing the short. "We tried to clear a piece of Sugar Ray's 'Fly' 'Pop-Up Video' episode," she explains. "[We had] not a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting that cleared, but it was a dream." She clarifies, "It was certainly in the script." In an already excellent entry, we almost had one of the most classic episodes of that series grace our screens.

"V/H/S/99" is now available to stream on Shudder.