YouTube turns six next month. By many standards, it’s been a huge success. Google paid more than $1 billion to buy it, making YouTube’s founders rich. It’s a popular site for catching up with whole variety of things (news, politics, music, sports, other entertainment), and for connecting people in new and different ways (social networking, education, marketing, etc.). It’s been a wonderful time-waste for millions of bored workers around the world. Where else can you find hours of video of dumb things pets do in the backyard? Or hours of new and old movie clips, for that matter—hey, what would this site be without YouTube?
On the other hand, much of the content newly created for YouTube is dismal, very primitive. We’re just a few years into the small-d democratic video age, and it seems that no one quite knows what to do with it yet. (Let’s agree that mumblecore and mashups are not the answer.) I’m not looking to compare YouTube videos with big-budget Hollywood productions. But the fact is, the tools needed to make a decent video are available to virtually anyone who has the interest, yet the appeal and production values of the typical YouTube clip doesn’t measure up to what you could have found in the past on public-access TV.
YouTube is just a distribution outlet (like Hulu and other sites), and it’s not in the production business. I understand that. But I think there’s much greater promise for independent video and film than what we’ve seen so far. Which may be, I hope, just around the corner. Looking back to the very early days of cinema, it took about a half-decade before some very creative storytellers started using the tools that were available then to make films that had aesthetic and lasting appeal. Maybe that’s where we are today.
With that said, here’s a perfect example of the future of independent film. In three minutes and thirty-five seconds, Jamie Stuart captures a few hours from a snowstorm in New York in a wonderfully fresh way that’s impossible to stop watching.
This film deserves to win the Academy Award for best live-action short subject.
(1) Because of its wonderful quality. (2) Because of its role as homage. It is directly inspired by Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent classic “Man With a Movie Camera.” (3) Because it represents an almost unbelievable technical proficiency. It was filmed during the New York blizzard of Dec. 26, and Jamie Stuart e-mailed it to me with this time stamp: December 27, 2010 4:18:18 PM CST.
Here’s more from Ebert, comments from Stuart, and other clips, including Vertov’s Man With a Camera.