Create films that are exceptional in storytelling, or exceptional in craft.
A few words for filmmakers to live by. We recently caught up with Vimeo’s Senior Curator, Ian Durkin, in Las Vegas. In Sin City for the Adobe Max Conference, we were there expanding our minds with the future of creativity, but still found significant time to spend all of our money on blackjack and memorabilia from Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. In between spins we grilled Ian as to what goes on at the video hosting giant, and exactly what it takes to get a Vimeo staff pick.
(Interview by Matt Pike)
How did you get your start at Vimeo?
I started off just making films and using Vimeo as a place to host them. I got a job there six years ago and I’ve of kind of stuck around ever since. For the past four years I’ve been on the curation team and doing the Staff Picks.
Do you still make your own films?
Yep, still making films and keeping busy. (From personal films to paid work with brands including Patagonia, Reef and Gerber. For more, check out Ian’s Vimeo page)
Can you tell us about the process behind Staff Picks and what it is you look for?
We consider Staff Picks to be a 24/7, 365 days a year film festival. Each and every day our team of five curators are watching films on Vimeo and finding films that we personally like or think that others on the team would enjoy. We then pass the films around the team and weigh in so we effectively act as programmers and the jury for this never-ending film fest. The films that the team reaches a consensus on are then deemed Staff Picks. We feature the Staff Picks in prominent places on Vimeo and promote them elsewhere with social media etc. Basically Staff Picks is our way of celebrating the films and the filmmakers that we are working to make Vimeo a home for.
Some of the picks from the early days, have you seen those filmmakers grow and get more attention?
Yeah it’s been really cool to see this recent generation of filmmakers get their start on Vimeo and see where they’ve gone on to. Looking at filmmakers from the past decade that have started out on Vimeo with test films and music videos and being able to follow their work as it matures into longer form and often times, more narrative work. A good example of this is the directing duo Daniels. They were the kind of guys that became known on Vimeo for their imaginative techniques and off the wall music videos. They then progressed to narrative shorts like Interesting Ball and recently debuted their first feature film Swiss Army Man at Sundance in 2016. It’s interesting to see this all exist in one place and to be able to look back and track a filmmaker’s progression.
Absolutely. Can you tell us what storytelling in film means to you?
Well, the things we look for when selecting Staff Picks are films that are exceptional in storytelling, or exceptional in craft. For instance, films that tell you something that you’ve never heard before, or films that tell you something that you may have heard but in a way that you have never heard told. We like to support filmmakers that are progressing the medium and are thinking originally.
Since you’ve started out, how have you seen filmmaking change and evolve?
The quality has gone up a lot. I think it’s a consequence of camera technology becoming super accessible, as well as inspiration becoming equally as accessible. Platforms like Vimeo are great for people to find films that speak to them and allow them to iterate upon that work. Nowadays with so many visual platforms out there, you’re constantly being exposed to works that enable you to pull little pieces and ideas to use in your own work. We’re seeing things adapted and new styles developed. It’s moving fast. I think that’s the biggest thing, that trends and styles are moving a lot faster these days.
How many films get submitted to Vimeo in a day?
I’m not sure per day, but millions a month. The curation team obviously doesn’t watch all of them but we watch a lot and feature around three a day on Staff Picks.
What’s the future of filmmaking and online content?
I think that online content is going to continue to be dictated by how people are digesting content. That’s not to say that long-form films are going to disappear to make way for short content on your phones. But rather that filmmaking will continue to progress and find new and interesting ways to fill each medium and length.