Interviews News Vimeo, , , , , , , , , , , — May 21, 2012 17:14 — 4 Comments

Content is king at this year’s Vimeo Festival + Awards, says director

lucy walker, vimeo festival, the waste land, film director, London

British film director Lucy Walker is one of the judges at the year's Vimeo awards

The Vimeo Festival + Awards 2012 will be held on 7, 8 and 9 June and it promises to be like no other film awards festival, its director Jeremy Boxer tells Tony Myers


While the traditional film industry is on its annual excursion to the French Riviera for Cannes week, the online video-sharing website Vimeo is preparing for its own, no less prestigious event, in New York City next month.

Matching the glamour and clout of  a well established event such as the Cannes Film Festival is pretty pointless, as is trying replicate online the tired format of most film festivals. But, as you would expect from an innovative company like Vimeo, that’s not what it is about, far from it, as festival director Jeremy Boxer tells me on the line from New York, where he is busy putting the finishing touches to this year’s programme.

“The difference to the festival this year is this is the first time around to be honest that we are trying to do something new, we’ve been looking at what would work and what wouldn’t, above all we want people to be engaged,” he says. “For the last Vimeo Festival [in 2010] one of the best pieces of feedback we received is that someone said that  ‘it felt like I had walked into the website’.”

“This year we want to go further, be more specific, make it a festival of action, a festival of hearing people speak, and what we want to do is take the best of all those elements and make a lovely stew, based around the theme of the end of the beginning.”

Vimeo, festival director, Jeremy Boxer, filmmaker

Vimeo festival director Jeremy Boxer. Photo: Lyle Owerko

Boxer, like the founders of the Vimeo website, is an established filmmaker himself, who spends half his time in New York and London. His creative energy is palpable and infectious as he outlines the plans for this year’s event.

“We hope it will be a call to action, let’s look to the future and create amazing new things, it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, or a seasoned pro, there will be conversations with filmmakers and workshops so we hope everybody comes away with action points.”

The 2012 festival has a stellar line-up of speakers including indie filmmakers Ed Burns and Casiey Neistat who will be hosting workshops and talks, while the judges’ panel includes the British film director Lucy Walker, director of the Oscar-nominated film Waste Land, and Colin Greenwood, bassist in Radiohead.

“These are hand-picked people who support creativity, aren’t afraid of taking risks and push boundaries in their own field,” explains Boxer. “For the first awards, we had Morgan Spurlock and David Lynch involved and who epitomise the indie spirit, and that is something we are keen to continue promoting,” says Boxer.

Neistat, best known for his mobile, guerilla-style of filmmaking, will hold a workshop and talk on using mobile phones, or the gear that you already have. His theme, which of course rings true with smart moviemakers, is you don’t need anything else that you already have, explains Boxer,  people are too obsessed with gear, not the content.

Neistat will argue that we should be more content focussed, and as he has proved it’s not impossible to do incredible things on a shoestring.

Winners of the first Vimeo Awards have also been invited back to talk about their experiences and what they used their grants for.

Although Boxer says he is not sure of how many of the entries have been made on smartphones as formats were not specific, the criteria being that films should have premiered only online.

“The films have been made on all sorts of devices, but a lot of filmmaking is borne from that [mobile] concept,” he says.

Personally, Boxer thinks the iPhone — and other smartphones – is an amazing tool to have. “It’s like a studio in your pocket, and up until now you haven’t been able to do that. I remember in the early days of digital filmmaking – when we took two flight cases of gear anywhere, and that was a big improvement – but now all that is shrunk down to fit in your pocket, it’s pretty amazing.”

At present the Vimeo Awards are running on an 18-month cycle, which is about right, says Boxer, as it gives people enough time to make work, without having to rush. Also, he says, putting on an event like this takes up a huge amount of time and anyway Vimeo speaks to its audience everyday through its website with both prospering from this community aspect.

The purpose of the festival, and indeed the Vimeo website is to profile work online, offer a gold standard and elevate types of works submitted on a daily basis and give it a platform worthy of the quality of the content.

This year the awards part of the festival has been expanded to 13 categories, with each of the winners in those categories being awarded grants to help filmmakers with their creative endeavours.

“There is great creative work happening in online fashion and advertising videos,” says Boxer, and he says that because of mobile cameraphones the action sports world has exploded online with a fresh burst of creative energy, rather than relying on old tricks.

Boxer sees the main challenge for Vimeo over the next couple of years, is to keep its creative identity while it continues to grow at an immense rate.

If you are lucky to attend this year’s event then you won’t be disappointed. “We want to do something not synonymous with a typical awards show — we don’t feel like why do something that is tired, already out there, when we can try new things so that it lives up to the creativity that we are seeing in the films. There’s a sense of let’s push it further than last time, make it entertaining and flowing and highly engaging so it’s great for everybody,” says Boxer.

The awards show hosts will be Beardyman and Reggie Watts, who will not be hosts as such, says Boxer, but the glue that holds the thing together, which with two anarchic performers it is a brave move and should keep everyone on their toes, at least.

There will also be a ‘sensory experience’ added to the event, which Boxer wants to keep as a surprise, but he did say the awards show is being held in a theatrical theatre, not a movie theatre so there is the opportunity to add dynamic concepts.

“I think we are at a crossroads; we have an online window into a new world where models are changing for filmmakers in fund-raising, methods of distribution, etc, anything is now possible,” says Boxer.

And with the conviction in his voice you know he is right, and of course Vimeo is where you can get a glimpse of this brave new world.

• The Vimeo Festival + Awards will be held on 7, 8 and 9 June and will be filmed and shown on the Vimeo website at a later date

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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