PSFK interviews Jeremy Boxer, Vimeo’s Festival Director, on their latest developments and fundamental creative criteria for what makes a great video.
Vimeo–the online video sharing platform–has added two new categories to their annual festival that showcases online talent: advertising and lyrical, the latter being a category that will reward creativity for how DIY filmmakers document their own lives. Vimeo aims to open up access to some of the world’s best talent in film and video arts, and production so they’re taking things up a notch by challenging film festivals to accept work that is uploaded online.
We interviewed Jeremy Boxer, Festival Director for Vimeo Festival + Awards, to get an in-depth look at the goals and future developments of this event.
Tell us about your role at Vimeo and what being Festival Director entails.
My role at Vimeo is a bit of a hybrid. The Festival Director role is only a part of what I do at Vimeo. My other role as Creative Director entails looking at strategic creative partnerships for Vimeo with the industry at large. I am also responsible for our sponsorship division, which decides which events or areas we will invest in. As Festival Director, I work with the programming team and the core creative team to come up with the direction and reasoning for what we do at the festival by looking at themes, programming ideas and coming up with the general creative direction for all of it.
All in all, I am kind of like an ambassador to the industry, and I try to look at things in a different way by looking at how we can make a difference to the community in new and interesting ways.
What are the goals of the festival itself? How is it different from other more established festivals?
The main goal of the Vimeo Festival + Awards stems from the need to celebrate the best in creative online video. We see amazing work daily that gets overlooked by most festivals and awards shows. We wanted to create a space where works that have only premiered online could be celebrated because they were often shunned by other film festivals. To this day, almost all traditional film festivals disregard work that has premiered online. Our festival is a safe haven for those films to be celebrated and in doing so helps create new careers for our winners and others.
The parallel goal would be to introduce the world to all of this amazing online content. We want to introduce new audiences to what Vimeo is about by helping up-and-coming filmmakers to be inspired and educate them through our talks, workshops, screenings, or other events at the festival. These events dovetail with our Vimeo Video School initiative and all of our tools that we have online.
We’re accepting works that have premiered anywhere across the internet and not just on Vimeo. We just found that we’re in a place where we can offer those winners an audience that they might not have gotten elsewhere.
Why did you decide to add advertising as a category to this year’s festival? The Lyrical category seems to be an interesting way to reward autobiographical creative expression.
In advertising, we’ve noticed that there has been more work that has been created for the purpose of advertising and entertaining online, and that’s different than traditional advertising.
The stuff that we’re looking to celebrate is more the highly creative ideas that have been executed well. It wasn’t possible to do this as widely before, but it’s always been there. Great ads can be restricted to prime time television, during the Super bowl, or other tent pole events and usually restricted to people who had lots of budget. But it’s a form of expression and deserved to be recognized.
At the other end of the spectrum of what we added, the Lyrical category celebrates works that are more about people’s daily life and the ways DIY filmmakers are going out there trying to express those lives poetically. We’ve seen lots of time-lapse films and poetic travelogues or new forms of expression about people’s daily life. We didn’t feel these pieces worked into any of the other categories we had the last time around. We find them to be uniquely something that has exploded online and so we wanted to celebrate them to give the yin and yang of the whole spectrum.
There is this idea that commercials are moving away from being mere interruptions to being stand-alone entertainment, something that can be awarded and judged irregardless of whether it sells a product or not. To what extent is an ad a source of entertainment or form of self-expression that is detached from selling a brand?
With advertising if it is more entertaining you will inherently have a bigger audience for it. And so I think that it can also be a tool to get bigger audiences for that kind of work.
What we are trying to do, the way we see the kind of work that is entertaining and advertising, we see it as a growing trend. We don’t know if it will take over from traditional forms of advertising or not, but it is more engaging, so potentially people are more tolerant of work that is entertaining and engaging versus work that isn’t. So, in the end it might be more productive for the brands and for the people that are advertising those products.
What are the implications for the Vimeo brand with this festival initiative?
The implications for the brand is that this is one of the tent pole events that we do and I think it exposes many more people around the world to who we are and what we intend to celebrate. It dovetails nicely into what we do on a daily basis, which is giving filmmakers the tools they need in whatever way possible. We want to always provide the best tools and the best experience for our community and we hope to introduce new people to that community through the awards itself. All in all, we’ve always been about promotion of good content and quality content and this is just a step towards that.
What is a trend that makes you hopeful about the future?
I love what we’re doing at Vimeo and the success stories we’ve had. It’s just blown me away to see how the attention that winning the awards has given all of our winners. I met one of them yesterday and his response was that his life has completely changed. I would say that that trend of people being discovered and lives changed by what we do is very rewarding.
Anything else to add?
The thing that I would say is that all previous winners will be judges this year. We’re bringing back all our winners to be judges this year because we wanted to give them an extra profile jump. They know what it means to win the award and that having them on the jury would change things in one way or another. We really feel that we wanted to show how winning the award is more than just winning the award trophy.
Eliot Rausch is one winner who received so much attention and now has more work than what he knows what to do with. He was even picked up by the Carson Daily Show who talked about his short film that he made with a very small crew. He and a few friends went out and shot the film on a digital DSLR camera, a very personal story that couldn’t have been made any other way.
Another interesting thing that came up as a byproduct of winning the award. Our experimental winner, Chris Beckman’s film called Oops, resulted in me getting contacted by Sundance to see if I could put them in contact with him for their up and coming festival last time around. It was nice to see Sundance opening up and accepting works that are online. We hope more and more film festivals accept work online.
We get these stories everyday. In the past month, we heard that a 28-year old animator from England, James Curran, made homage to the credit sequence of Spielberg’s “Tin Tin” film. As soon as he posted it online, someone reached out to him from Spielberg’s office and decided to hire him for an upcoming job. These kinds of stories make our day and it’s what it’s all about.