Where Should You Host Your Videos?

We recently conducted an (unscientific) survey of media professionals to answer the question “Does self-hosting videos on a website make them appear more professional than embedding them from a service such as YouTube or Vimeo?”  Responses fell into three major categories:

  1. “Use a video hosting service.”

    A plurality of respondants felt that there is no longer a stigma of hosting videos on external services like YouTube and Vimeo and that, in fact, using these services provided additional benefits such as ease of accessibility and avoided the undesirable characteristics of a walled garden model.  They strongly preferred service-hosted to self-hosted videos.

  2. “It doesn’t matter how you host it.”

    The second, smaller group were agnostic to the hosting method as long as it was quality content.  They asserted that the credibility stems from the creator, not the delivery mechanism.  This suggests that while the hosting of your videos may not matter, the rest of your web presence should project an air of professionalism if you want your videos to be viewed that way.

  3. “It depends.”

    The final group of media professionals felt that the circumstances mattered a good deal.  One respondant pointed out that signalling theory (as in economics or biology) applies to the degree that if an organization can waste money on self-hosting, then they are signalling economic health by showing that they have money to waste, in the same way that an opulent lobby is a signal of economic prosperity. While this might be of important to some organizations (investment banks for instance), others (such as non-profits) might be negatively impacted by the appearance of profligate spending.

    As for individuals and job seekers, the entire third group agreed that YouTube, Vimeo, and other video hosting services were perfectly acceptable solutions for portfolios of creative work.

While perceptions of self- vs service-hosting may be different outside of the media industry, it does seem that, among media professionals, there is only a percieved benefit to self-hosting in very specific cirumstances.  In general, the old adage still reigns: Content is King.  So focus your efforts on creating good content, and take advantage of the work others have put into providing ways to host it.

Anna and Teague at SILVERDOCS!

AFI Silver Theater, Photo Credit: Agnes Varnum on Flickr
AFI Silver Theater, Photo Credit: Agnes Varnum on Flickr

Anna and Teague, your faithful Still Indie bloggers, will be attending SILVERDOCS this week in Silver Spring, MD. For those of you who don’t know, SILVERDOCS is an 8-day documentary film festival and conference sponsored by the AFI that includes over 100 films and 25,000 attendees. We’re pretty excited.

Say hello if you see us! If the weather report for DC is correct, I’ll be the one in the bright purple umbrella.

Shasha Seminar Part IV: Pitching a Pilot is Really Hard

Photo Credit: Nammer on Flickr
Photo Credit: Nammer on Flickr

Last time on the blog: My take on the panels at the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns at Wesleyan University. Today, a look at how hard it is to convince people to make your show.

The Pitches

After the panel, everyone broke into either a TV session or a film session. I can’t speak to the film session, as I joined the TV group. Our goal, over the course of a couple hours, was to come up with a pitch that we would take back to be evaluated. In our group, Liz Garcia, David Kendall and Dan Shotz helped us develop a pitch, and Evan Katz (executive producer, 24) and Jeffrey Lane (producer, Mad About You), evaluated.

After a lot of shouting and giddy note-taking and several attempts by the group to create a procedural – only to realize we were coming up with the pitch for Cold Case – we came up with a comedy and a drama. The drama centered around a town on the Mexico border, where a disgraced DEA agent would struggle to keep his town safe while wrestling with moral dilemmas around drug trafficking and immigration. “Bordertown” was well received by our evaluators, who said that several shows around this theme were being discussed in Hollywood right now. The key component, all the professionals agreed, was coming up with a compelling character who would be able to carry the story through from episode to episode.

Our comedy pitch was, well, not as successful. We came up with a premise based around two actors we had in our brainstorming session – twin comedians Stone and Stone. The Stones would star in “Under Cover Models” – a half-hour comedy about hotshot romance novel cover models who, by night, fight crime. Desperate to win their mother’s affection and live up to the rep of their hard-boiled, but deceased, detective dad, the cover models solve cases that no one else can: Counterfeit couture, the theft of the mayor’s dog. They use their modeling “skills” to crack the case, stumbling onto the right answer in the vein of Get Smart and Zoolander.

The premise that we found uproariously funny in our brainstorming session didn’t translate well in front of Evan Katz and Jeffrey Lane. Both said they didn’t “get” it – why would cover models fight crime? Lane thought we had two different ideas that didn’t go together, but that perhaps it just wasn’t his taste in humor. Lane said that he could have made Mad About You about a city couple that ends up on a farm – but instead he just made a show about a city couple, and made it as realistic as possible. Evan Katz didn’t say as much, but I’m guessing he’s accustomed to hearing pitches for things that involve more guns and less hair gel. An idea that we thought had a lot of weight as we were coming up with it didn’t hold together when we had to explain it to people who were deciding whether or not to buy it. It explains why it’s hard to get deep genre pieces on the air – someone has to “get” what the writer is trying to create. And the writer probably needs more than two hours to invent a story that is rich enough to draw in a skeptical executive.

Shasha Seminar Part III: From the Page to the Screen

Photo Credit: NoHoDamon on Flickr
Photo Credit: NoHoDamon on Flickr
Despite what the last two posts might have you believe, the Shasha Seminar at Wesleyan University was not entirely about Joss Whedon. No, it was about how movies and tv go from an idea in some writer’s head to something that you and I watch (and then blog about).

On Saturday morning, we all listened to two panels, one on film and one on television. Heading up the film panel: Mark Bomback, (writer, Race to Witch Mountain), Matthew Greenfield (producer, The Good Girl), and Miguel Arteta (director, Youth in Revolt). On the television panel: Liz Garcia (producer/writer: Cold Case), David Kendall (producer, Growing Pains, Boy Meets World), Dan Shotz (producer, Jericho, Harper’s Island), and Evan Katz (executive producer, 24).

The Panels

Everyone talked about their first projects, their most recent projects, and how they figure out a balance between commercialism and artistic achievement. Mark Bomback and Miguel Arteta framed two different ways to go about being a screenwriter. Bomback decided not to produce his own work, and instead have a career writing projects that others will shepherd to completion. He compared this process to being an architect: “It’s not your house, you’re not going to live in it.” Arteta, on the other hand, directs his own screenplays. His advice to writers: “Relax and realize – what is my experience?”

The television writers and producers talked about writing a spec script (a sample episode of a running television show) and an original pilot script. They agreed that writers are most likely to get hired off of the quality of their original pilot script, since most shows want to know what that writer is like, not how well they copy another writer’s style. Liz Garcia talked about getting a story about a biracial lesbian bootlegger couple onto Cold Case, and the freedom she has in a procedural to tell stories that would otherwise be too edgy for network TV. Needless to say, it made me want to watch that episode of Cold Case.

Next Up:

We pitch to 24’s Evan Katz and Mad About You producer Jeffrey Lane, with mixed results.

Interview with Amanda Hirsch

This is the third and final interview in our series talking with filmmakers who led teams in 48HFP-DC 2009. In our first two interviews we talked with Jasmine Bulin, a first time participant and Ishu Krishna, a long-time veteran. Today we bring you an interview with Amanda Hirsch of CreativeDC, who entered her team for the second time this year.

Amanda Hirsch, 48HFP-DC Team Leader
Amanda Hirsch, 48HFP-DC Team Leader

Still Indie: Amanda, how did you get involved in the 48 Hour Film Project?

Amanda Hirsch: I perform with Washington Improv Theater (WIT), and they’ve been participating in the 48 hour film project for years. The WIT community has gotten so big, though, that it doesn’t make sense for everyone to work on one film anymore, so last year, a bunch of us decided to give it a go on our own, and we had a blast, so we did it again this year.

SI: What genre were you hoping for and which one did your team draw?

AH: We were hoping for anything but “mockumentary”, and we drew “mockumentary” 🙂 As improvisors we just thought that was low hanging fruit (we play with that style of storytelling a lot on stage), and wanted to challenge ourselves to stretch a bit more. So we put it back and ended up with “surprise ending,” which was the only other genre we really didn’t want — so it goes.

SI: What story did you tell?

AH: “Happy Hour” is about a lonely, lonely guy who so longs for friendship that he convinces himself he’s friends with complete strangers, creating elaborate back-stories in his head. The “surprise” is that for the whole movie, you think these people are really his friends, and then you realize they don’t know him from Adam. We tried to play with tone to underscore the element of surprise — you think it’s an upbeat episode of Friends, and then it gets really depressing and creepy really fast (we hope).

Production Still from "Happy Hour"
Production Still from "Happy Hour"

SI: What was the biggest challenge your team faced?

AH: It’s hard to assess how effective a surprise ending is when you’ve been so close to writing, shooting and editing the “surprise.” When we watched the first rough cut, our hearts sank – the surprise didn’t have any impact. We realized it was because there wasn’t enough of a tonal shift, so we redid the voiceover. When we watched again, we all had this moment of, “Ohh, wow, that was CREEPY.” So we were pretty sure it worked. But I’ve seen it 15 or 20 times now and I just have no idea if it works or not – I can’t tell! I need some distance.

SI: What was the best moment of the weekend?

AH: There were a lot of them – having everyone get really excited and on the same page about the story on Friday night was really cool. Then getting to see our editor, Jon Reiling, work his magic – seeing how he wove in b-roll and music to really bring the story to life on-screen. And he and our other director of photography, Bryce Whittaker, got some really cool shots looking in through the window of the bar where we shot, which were pivotal to conveying this notion of a stranger looking in on something he doesn’t have, and coveting it.

SI: Will you be participating again next year?

AH: Abso-fucking-lutely!

That’s the spirit! Thanks for taking time to answer our questions Amanda and keep up the great work!  If you still think DC is just a mainstream city, stop by Amanda’s site at CreativeDC.org and find out what you’ve been missing.  If you missed our first two segments this weekend, check out Jasmine’s perspective as a first-time participant and our interview with 48HFP veteran Ishu Krishna. If you’ve got questions for Amanda’s team, leave them in the comments section below.

Interview with Ishu Krishna

Today is our second in a series of three interviews with team leaders from last weekend’s 48 Hour Film Project in DC.  Yesterday we talked with Jasmine Bulin, a first time 48HFP participant, and today we bring you an interview with a old hand at the 48HFP game, Ishu Krishna.

[Interview edited for clarity.]

Still Indie: Ishu, how did you first get involved in the 48 Hour Film Project?

Ishu Krishna: Five years ago my friend Courtney Davis was in a 48 Hour Film and I went to watch it.  I was so impressed that I decided to do one myself the following year.  I loved the experience so much that I started doing it every year.  The last two years I did both DC and Baltimore.

SI: What genre were you hoping for this year and which one did your team draw?

IK: We were hoping for Thriller, Romance, Mockumentary, or Superhero.  We drew Thriller.

Ishu Krishna, 48HFP-DC Team Leader
Ishu Krishna, 48HFP-DC Team Leader

SI: That’s a fortunate turn of events.  What story did you tell?
IK: A man wakes up after a party and has blacked out of the events from the night before.  Things that people say and things he finds triggers memories of the night before.  He doesn’t remember what the lady he met looks like, so each vignette in the flashback is played by another woman.  Eventually he regains memory of what happened the night before, and the ending is very thrilling.

SI: During filming, what was the biggest challenge your team faced?

IK: An ambitious shoot schedule with 4 locations all over Virginia and DC.  During the export of the edit we started downconverting to Standard-Definition from High-Definition as per regulations listed on the website.  After we finished it ended up being 10gb.  Too big for a DVD.  I quickly tried to burn it onto a dvd and it burned in like 3 minutes. I am pretty sure I burned the wrong thing.

After we got there we found out that 48HFP-DC accepts HD entries.  We would have been able to view the product to see if it output correctly, had we known.  They also said no one was allowed to render in line.  We had rendered hours ago, and were exporting in the Subway a couple of doors down.  Other people were exporting in line.  If only we had done that too, we would have had more time to spare.  If by a miracle, my DVD is good, we’ll be on time.  Just in case it’s wrong, I dropped off a backup with Nicole, the festival editor, to be counted as a late film.   If it is a late entry, we are hoping for the Audience Award and to make it to the “Best-Of”.

SI: What was your favorite part of the weekend?

IK: The final product and the synergy of the group.  Everyone just worked really well together.  The concept came together pretty quickly.  We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about many ideas.  We picked one and went with it.

SI: Will you be participating again next year?

IK: Why yes of course!  It was a very fun experience and I love doing something artsy in DC, since we lack that scene here.  The people are great and the reward is even better: A finished film.  We don’t have to sit around with our friends just talking about making a movie.  We actually get to make one.
Thanks Ishu for sharing your experience with our readers and best of luck making it to the “Best-Of”!   Check out videos from Ishu’s team Writing Meeting on YouTube. Please send us your questions for Ishu or her team in the comment section below.

If you missed yesterday’s interview, check out Jasmine’s perspective as a first-time participant. Check back tomorrow to read our interview with a team leader, and local arts-scene maven, who entered her team for the second time this year.

Slick or Real?

Gritty VW Bug
Image from iboy_daniel
Seth Godin, with yet another interesting post, talks about the idea of being stuck between gritty realism and hyper-produced slickness. Things that fall in the deadzone tend to fail the appeal test.

This idea is perfectly applicable to films as well. Think about some that you’ve seen recently. Chances are that the independent ones traded well on being real and honest while the large studio films leveraged their budgets to produce something more stylized.

One great film that comes to mind for me when I think about the “real” end of the scale is “Once.” At the other end of the spectrum, think about the last action movie you saw. Chances are, it was glossy, heavily edited, and expensive. What’s the learning for independent filmmakers? If you can’t get all the way to slick and glossy, don’t try for it. Embrace the realism and frankness that come with the territory.

Update: client k has a post on a similar topic today.

Favorite Gaming Moments YouTube Contest

Pirates fighting with swords
Image from thebusybrain
iBUYPOWER is sponsoring a contest where filmmakers can submit a video to YouTube of a real life re-enactment of any event that happened in a computer or console video game to be voted on for a chance to win a $2,000 gift card and a $1,800 iBUYPOWER PC. One submission, any length, must be over 18, and various ‘decency’ rules apply. See http://www.ibuypower.com/WinAPC/WinAPC.asp for the complete rules.

There are plenty of fun possibilities for this contest. Lazy folks could probably get away with something from a sports game. People with a lot of time/money could try for something like the Neill Blomkamp’s live action Halo shorts. Personally, I would vote for anyone who re-enacts the insult sword fighting from Monkey Island.

“You fight like a dairy farmer!”
“How appropriate. You fight like a cow!”

Olympic Glory, Minus the Peacock

I was going to bring you a post today about how to get at some alternative Olympics coverage, but Smart Mobs beat me to it! They give a nice little list of ways to watch the Olympics that don’t involve NBC. Or that theme song.