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Local high school graduate lands national YouTube award


Former Prineville resident Jimmy Bates won the Best Response award for a music video he produced

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The above photo was taken during filming of a music video  for a cover of ‘Radioactive' that CCHS graduate Jimmy Bates helped produce.

Throughout his childhood, award-winning filmmaker Jimmy Bates wanted to be a baseball player.

While attending Crook County High School his junior year, everything seemed to going according to plan. He was going to finish his high school baseball career and continue the sport at Oregon State University.

Then fate intervened. Bates ended up with a torn meniscus in his knee that ended his baseball future.

“I was just kind of scrambling to figure out what else I wanted to do,” he recalls. “I was thinking about classes in high school that I really enjoyed, to figure out what my major (in college) was going to be.”

After taking inventory of his interests, Bates turned to video production, having enjoyed his high school’s video program.

“I remembered I liked doing all the video classes and editing,” he said.

Bates has since enjoyed considerable success in the video field and his efforts recently resulted in winning an inaugural YouTube Music Awards for Best Response.

The Best Response category is essentially reserved for music videos of cover songs, Bates explained. Nowadays, musicians often turn to YouTube when they are trying to break into the music industry. Piggybacking off the success of a current hit, they will compose a cover of the song, put a video to it, and post it on the popular video site.

“When they (the hit songs) peak in popularity, everyone is searching for that song everywhere,” he said. “Their covers will come up, and they will get views like that.”

Such was the case with the award-winning video. Violinist Lindsey Stirling, who has generated a strong YouTube following, had joined forces with the five-member acapella group Pentatonix, another YouTube success story, to produce a cover of the hit song “Radioactive,” by rock band Imagine Dragons. When it came time to put the music to video, Bates and his partners with FifGen got the call.

The origin of FifGen can be traced back to Oregon State University, where Bates first met good friends and future business partners Reilly Zamber and McKenzie Yeoman.

“We all met through the music program in college. We were all in choir together,” Bates said. “We started off doing old-school, goofy YouTube video skits ... It was something we bonded over.”

Not only were his new friends in the music program, they were musicians themselves, and the three of them later decided to make a video for a song Zamber performed. The results were a pleasant surprise for the trio.

“We thought, ‘Wow, this is kind of good,’ so we entered it in some film festivals and won four different ones."

For Radioactive, Bates chose to back the music with a bleak, post-apocalyptic video.

“I came up with a concept,” he recalls. “The location that we ended up finding was Salton Sea, Calif. It’s basically this city block of abandoned houses that are graffitied.”

The crew chose outfits that were well-worn and shredded and Bates intentionally used handheld video cameras and overexposed every shot.

“It was like this blaring sun without an atmosphere,” he said.

He later added some post-production coloring to give the video a gritty feeling.

Today, the video has exceeded 47 million views, with many more anticipated.

“It just kind of blew up — it was the right time, and the right people.”

When Bates learned that the video won the YouTube award last month, he and is crew were all surprised and excited. Because the YouTube Music Awards is so new, they had only just learned about their nomination for the Best Response category.

“We all kind of freaked out a little bit,” he said.

Back in his home town, his former high school video instructor Ramona McCallister is not necessarily surprised by the success Bates enjoyed. In her class, she remembers Bates exhibiting a natural affinity for video production.

“I really think we are just beginning to see his success in the video industry,” she said. “I think we are going to hear a lot more from him.”

His family, meanwhile, is beaming with pride.

“We are so very proud of him,” said his father, Jim Bates, the principal for Cecil Sly Elementary. “His talent and career was born at Crook County High, developed at Oregon State, and he's a product of people that care about him — that includes all his teachers and the community he grew up in. We have a lot to be proud of in Prineville and Oregon.”

To view the award-winning video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE2GCa-_nyU