In this digital age, it sometimes seems as if the whole world is made up of amateur videographers. With the introduction of online video forums like YouTube, just about anyone can post just about anything on the Internet. And YouTube is just one of the many sites dedicated to such things.
The problem with YouTube is that it’s not very selective. For every memorable video, there are thousands and thousands of essentially useless clips. Imagine the time it takes to find the diamonds in the rough.
But the people behind Vineyard Voice, an online magazine dedicated to arts and ideas around the Island, believe Web video is a promising and powerful medium that will continue to grow, as a forum for ideas and a bridge for communication.
And they’ve established a new enterprise to make sure that Islanders have access to the tools necessary to make Web video work for them. Vineyard Community Media, a new offshoot of Vineyard Voice, will offer Islanders a chance to learn more about videography, and Web video in particular, and provide them with an online forum to showcase their work.
On Thursday, they’re inviting Islanders to an open house at Featherstone Center for the Arts to see what the program’s all about.
“What we’re hoping to do is not just create a new generation of Web-savvy kids, but in a larger vision, help establish a digital technology industry of sorts here on the Island. We’d like to be able to grow our capacity to help kids and adults through this service,” said executive director Patrick Phillips.
The project came about last year, when Vineyard Voice, in a grant-funded collaboration with the Vineyard Conservation Society and the Vineyard Energy Project, offered seven children a course in video journalism. The video projects covered subjects including wind energy, sustainability and farming, and water quality, and aired some 90 times last summer on local television stations, thanks to a partnership with MVTV. “They were trying to tie these stories into local and relevant and important issue-based public interest elements,” said Mr. Phillips.
Additional grant funding from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council and the Farm Neck Foundation helped support the growing program, and this year, a newly-established media lab at Featherstone Center for the Arts will help launch the community media program, which will offer videography courses to children and adults across the Island.
“Our drive is to tell stories, not make commercials. There’s a difference,” said marketing director Stephen Zablotny. Web video has become like a language to the current media generation, he said, and the project will give people a professional setting in which to sharpen their skills, or even start from scratch. “Hands on experience is invaluable,” said Mr. Zablotny.
Web videos created in the courses will be published on the Vineyard Community Media Web site at vineyardvoicemedia.org, and will also air on MVTV. “We’re kind of a social entrepreneur, in that we produce content, we publish content, and we market content. And we teach people how,” said Mr. Phillips. And it’s not just a fun hobby, he said, though it can be. “These are all applicable skills that people can make a bunch of money doing. So we’re hoping that we create opportunities for people to have a growth path, and employment opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Mr. Phillips said.
The project is still in its earliest stages, but Thursday’s open house will give people the chance to check out the equipment, which includes brand new iMac computers, video cameras, and editing software. “It’s really going to be a bit of a media party,” said Mr. Zablotny.
The event will also be filmed, and the video will be streamed live to the Internet.
“What this will do is demonstrate that not only can we project live events, which may or may not be important right now, but we can team up with other people around the world to have events and conversations. That’s what I’m really psyched about,” said Mr. Phillips. “The open house will be making it possible for people to kind of get their hands around and eyes around and minds around what’s going on, in terms of what we produce and what we publish, and how we use it for people’s benefits. And then how we do teach them.”
At the videography courses offered this summer, the categories range from video arts to video journalism. “Video arts can be anything imaginative, but we’re focusing on video storytelling. So how do you tell a story about a creative idea, a memoir, a reflection on form or color. And then of course the journalism component will appeal to some too,” said Mr. Phillips.
“Basically, what we’re saying is we share your story,” said Mr. Zablotny. The kind of story is up to the student. “We’ll structure the classes when we get a sense of who is there. It could be a story about the other guy making a video. It could be a story about what they see outside their window when they’re out at Featherstone. It could be a story about what they do with Legos. We really don’t know,” he said.
Like Vineyard Voice, Vineyard Community Media offers Islanders a platform to share their work and ideas. And while the exact vision is still developing, both students and creators are excited for the possibilities.
“It’s a big public interest cycle of education and publishing,” said Mr. Phillips. “The community media part is to help it become real.”
The Vineyard Community Media open house will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Featherstone Center for the Arts. For more information, or to register for classes, visit vineyardvoicemedia.org.