If you’re like me, you spend three to five hours each night sitting in front of your MacBook. It may or may not be 3 a.m., and you may or may not be pants-shitting drunk. You aren’t doing research, or typing essays. Instead, you’re watching babies do gymnastics or videos of people breaking their limbs in surprising and often hilarious ways. You are drooling a lot, and the abundance of peanut butter on your clothes is, at the moment, awesomely exhilarating.
You are on YouTube, of course, and your morals, beliefs, and shapely physique are slowly drifting out of your dorm room window. Why do we subject ourselves to this lifestyle? Why am I so hopelessly addicted to these videos? Am I observing artistic expression or honing my skills at some new type of voyeurism? Wouldn’t it be better to just… die already?
Then again, maybe there are shreds of legitimacy in the way I live my life. Perhaps I am a smaller douche bag than I think.
To clarify these questions, and possibly raise my self esteem a wee bit, I spoke to Sylvan Lanken, one of the five organizers of M60, a film festival dedicated to minute-long films taking place today.
For Lanken, the YouTube phenomenon was a source of inspiration. “The idea that people now have shorter attention spans is not true,” he explains. “The ability to cram more into a minute is easier now than it has ever been. Older films feel slow because now things happen at a quicker and more human pace.” In fact, Lanken says that the 60-second time limit will provide a broader range of films. “You’ll see film makers doing very different things with their minute.”
And this seems to be true. There is graphic design student Janice Wong’s submission about her day off of work, only the second film she has ever done, ambiguously titled Janice’s Day Off. Then there are films like In a Mt. Royal Minute by Anna Berlyn. Berlyn uses her minute to capture a sunrise on the top of Mount Royal. “I spent a good two or three hours looking to capture the minute I wanted to get,” she says.
And although one would expect this type of work ethic from an experienced filmmaker, Berlyn is also an amateur, one of many who jumped at the chance to participate in a film festival that accepted submissions from anyone, the inexperienced and professional alike. “Making the film was an excuse to learn about myself,” she notes.
The only criteria for an M60 submission was that it arrived on time and was free of illegal material. Because of this, the film festival will be screening a wide array of submissions from a very diverse group of filmmakers.
By accepting work from anyone and collecting no application fees, M60 seems to escape the pretension that privately organized artistic festivals often fall victim to. After all, creativity is the only real prerequisite for artistic expression, and the structure of M60 facilitates this nicely.
But what differentiates the festival from YouTube and other “broadcast yourself” domains? What element does M60 have that online video seriously lacks? I’m not sure if I know the answer, but this juxtaposition lends itself well to the ongoing debate over whether or not “new short media” counts as a legitimate form of art.
Regardless of your take on whether or not the YouTube short-film phenomena benefits and broadens the media community, or detracts from it substantially by catering only to young, feeble-minded, often-stoned college students, you will definitely want to go and check out M60. So for God’s sake, get up, clean off those peanut butter stains (lick them off), and head to La Sala Rossa.
M60 happens today at La Sala Rossa (4646 St. Laurent). The showing starts at 8:30 p.m. and admission is $7.