Lucky Idiot with a Tripod

I’ve been struggling with the success of the latest web video sensation. His name’s Jamie Stuart and he’s responsible for “Idiot with a Tripod”, the latest viral video to get an inordinate amount of playtime – 384,684 views so far on YouTube – and recognition – an ITV profile piece on Jamie as Suddenly Famous Filmmaker and an early Academy Award nomination from legendary film critic Roger Ebert.

It’s not the film I’ve been struggling with. It’s not even the enviable number of downloads. It’s the recognition.

Jamie knows how to make a film. That much is obvious. “Idiot with a Tripod” chronicles the blizzard that hit New York City on December 26, 2010. Jamie knows his camera equipment. He used a Canon 7D with multiple Nikon lenses, a portable slider and tripod (as the film’s title suggests) beautifully. He knows his post production. He used Final Cut Pro, converted his H.264 footage to Apple ProRes 422, and edited together a beautiful story using music and shot length to increase pace and create tension and interest, just like the storm’s pace increased throughout that day, increasing the tension and interest of those who witnessed it firsthand.

Jamie knows he was in the right place at the right time living in Queens, New York on December 26th. His background in news videography served him well that night. Instead of stocking on up milk and toilet paper then hunkering down like most sensible people would do, Jamie went out into the maelstrom, camera, lenses and tripod in hand. He forgot weather-appropriate footwear, so he’s not the most seasoned news videographer, but we’ll forgive him that. He went out multiple times and recorded a truly remarkable visual event. It wasn’t the worst blizzard New York has ever seen. It might not even be the worst blizzard Jamie has ever seen. But he made it epic by taking the time and expending the energy to record it skillfully and then turn that skillful recording around QUICKLY and get it online. This is where his news background really shined through. A current event is, most importantly, current. If he’d waited even one more day, the film’s relevance would have lessened.

ITV’s interest in Jamie makes sense. News outlets mostly follow other news outlets. Especially in these days when fewer and fewer journalists are working to fill more and more airtime and online space. But Ebert’s interest confounds me. He’s clear in his Chicago Sun-Times blog post why he’s interested in “Idiot with a Tripod.” He lays out his reasons for declaring the film worthy of an Academy Award for best live-action short subject. What he isn’t clear about is how he found the film. And this is what I’ve been struggling with.

I suppose it’s what every filmmaker struggles with. How to get his or her work in front of the right people – discerning, knowledgable, influential people – who can get other people to flock to Vimeo and YouTube to check you out, who can make international news outlets want to do profiles on you.

Hey Roger? Have you seen my Vimeo channel?

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