Vimeo Festival + Awards wrap up: Go out and make a video

The Vimeo Festival + Awards blew through NYC this weekend, temporarily taking over the IAC Building (and Vimeo HQ) on the Hudson River with cute, young, artsy people and others who watch video online (i.e., a little bit of everyone). Video artists, digital wizards, crack-shot editors, sound mixers and filmmaking hopefuls presented their work in a variety of screenings and presentations, as their peers and admirers crowded the ground floor of IAC and nearby Root Studios to get a peek at what is usually viewable on their computer screens.

It’s curious to note the novelty here–not specifically with regard to a video (as opposed to film) festival per se, but a real-life festival for online video content, and at a time when so so many people are producing it. While YouTube has become the equivalent of being out on the sidewalk and never knowing what’ll hit you (not to mention the crush of ads), viewing material on Vimeo can be likened to the experience of this festival; a more vetted lot of stuff will come your way, still with the thrill of the unexpected, the beautiful, the awry or the just plain twisted.

This year’s theme (after the inaugural fest in 2010) was The End of the Beginning, denoting this new turning point in the world of online video–how at present, you or your mother can shoot, edit and upload something using your basic digicam, iMovie and Vimeo and hey, it’ll look great (or at least not nearly as amateurish as it would have even two years ago). From the fest itself:

We feel that online video and creativity are transitioning from an age of wonder to an age of action. Video has revealed itself to be a medium of incredible power and potential, and we are on the cusp of fulfilling the promises of the first act…the barrier to entry has fallen, and so the Festival + Awards focus this year will be on making instead of talking. This is a moment of empowerment and accessibility for all, and we want to inspire people to create with purpose and take action on their ideas.

The crux of the festival was enablement: Go out and shoot a video, kids! And all joking aside, that is exactly what the winners did. Edward Burns, in a panel discussion on the notion of failure and how it figures into the creative process, reiterated over and over again the fact that now, ANYONE can make a good-looking video or film, which was a lot harder back when he was a nobody and put the entirety of his blood, sweat, tears and bank account into a lil’ film called THE BROTHERS McMULLEN. He discussed the initial ‘failure’ of that venture, saying “BROTHERS McMULLEN was dead” because not one distributor would come close to purchasing the film (of course, we all know the end of that story: McMULLEN went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1995).

The point he was making, though, was that if you don’t want to play by the (obviously) elitist and restrictive rules of Hollywood, rules he himself flees from often, then now is the time to go out and make a movie with your friends, using available light, and still have the end product be up to snuff (technically) without the dollies, cranes and film of yore. “Film is no longer a capitalistic enterprise,” he encouraged. It goes without saying that this is all a little easier said than done, and Burns has connections and fame to steam-engine his projects forward, but on paper, his recent films (notably the very well-done NEWLYWEDS) were made (and distributed) entirely outside of the ‘system’, like many of the remarkable videos present at the festival.

Breakdowns of some of the Festival categories and winners to come!

Sundance Channel is a sponsor of the 2012 Vimeo Awards + Festival.