YouTube users worldwide gear up for historic cinematic venture

If you frequently post videos to YouTube, it’s more than likely that – at some point – you’ve harboured thoughts of producing your own blockbuster.

Now such ideas can no longer be dismissed as foolish flights of fancy. For they may well come true.

Tomorrow (Saturday, July 24), thousands of YouTube users worldwide will give free rein to their imaginations — and camcorders — in an effort to capture a significant moment in their lives, or the life of someone they know.

These moments could run the gamut — the sunrise, a child’s smile, a sumptuous meal, a commute to work, an afternoon prayer … literally anything.

Our amateur videographers will then upload that footage to a special section of YouTube — www.youtube.com/lifeinaday — and then … well they’ll keep their fingers crossed.

For all through next week, the clips will be carefully reviewed by a specially assembled multi-national team.

Clips selected by the team will be incorporated by noted filmmakers Kevin Macdonald and Ridley Scott into the first user-generated, feature-length documentary shot on a single day — Saturday, July 24.

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Macdonald, director of such movies as State of Play, Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void, will bring together the most compelling footage into a documentary. Scott (Robin Hood, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) is executive producer of the project.

“The film [will be] a record of what it is to alive on that one day,” said Macdonald in a video on YouTube’s Life in a Day channel. “It will be like a time capsule, which people 20, 30, 100, 200 years from now could look at and say: O my God, that’s what it was like.”

A YouTube blog expands on the same idea.

“Every day, 6.7 billion people view the world through their own unique lens. Imagine if there was a way to collect all of these perspectives, to aggregate and mould them into the cohesive story of a single day on earth.”  

According to MacDonald, there are hardly any restrictions on what you capture. “It could be something that to you seems really banal — your journey to work, washing your baby, going to the hospital to visit a friend, your birthday … Or it could be something more emotional: they’re knocking down the building next to where you live, that you’ve always loved.”

However, he urged participants to create videos that answer at least one of three questions: What do you fear most in your life today? What do you love? What makes you laugh?

Those whose footage makes it into the finished film will be credited as co-directors and 20 of them will be flown to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival for the film’s world premiere.

Given the global scope of ‘Life in a Day’, YouTube is hesitant to make projections about the number of people worldwide who will participate in the project and upload their videos to the site.

“One thing we do know — the response will be huge,” Sara Pollack, entertainment marketing manager, YouTube told ITBusiness.ca. “So far there have been three million views to the ‘Life in a Day’ channel and 30,000 subscribers. The project’s also generated a lot of buzz on Twitter, with a new tweet about it being posted virtually every minute.”

She said MacDonald has assembled a diverse team of bloggers and editors in London, England, who will sift through the massive footage all of next week. “They speak different languages, but the team will also reach out to translators if the video is in a language none of them speak… [Next Page]

The Life in a Day experiment fits in with a vital mandate of Sundance Film Festival – to support individual storytelling around the globe, said Festival director John Cooper, in a statement. “This is a great way to engage the You Tube community and to also provide Festival audiences with something new and unexpected.”

YouTube’s Pollack said cameras would be distributed to people in remote regions of the world to ensure the film is as inclusive and representative as possible.

Scott Free (Ridley Scott’s film and TV production company) has hired Against All Odds Productions, a California-based outfit to handle this part of the project.

Against All Odds specializes in the execution of large-scale global projects that combine story-telling with the latest technology.  

“Hundreds of cameras will be given to specific non-profits in South America, Africa, India and other parts of the world,” Pollack said. “Each camera will be used by several persons.”

She said a broad range of individuals and groups are collaborating to ensure the broadest coverage possible. “Sundance has been working hard to galvanize their film marker network, and getting them to participate. Kevin MacDonald has tapped into his own personal contacts.”

To ensure all the footage gets in, the submission period ends on July 31 (although the videos will have to be shot on July 24).

‘Life in a Day’ is an incredible brand building exercise for YouTube, says a Toronto-based technology analyst.

“It’s about marketing the power of their brand at an international level,” said Michelle Warren, founder and president of MW Research & Consulting.

She said online video is experiencing unprecedented growth and YouTube best positioned to take advantage of that. “They’re finding new and innovative ways to capitalize on that trend.”

Whether ‘Life in a Day’ really achieves what it sets out to do – document life on earth over a 24 hour period – will depend on how representative it is, Warren said.

“It would need to include footage from non-English speaking regions, and hard-to-access areas as well.” She said the idea of distributing cameras to these geographies is great, but a lot will depend on the execution… [Next Page]

Warren said the film makers — Scott and MacDonald – have a great challenge on their hands. “From this vast and varied footage, they need to make a documentary that’s representative, but not disjointed. They’ll have to put it together so it doesn’t seem like a hodge podge, but actually tells a story.”

In a project of this magnitude and nature, the metrics used to measure success are vital, Warren noted. “For Google and YouTube, success, in this case, may not be selling more widgets but inspiring a conversation and expanding the reach and power of their brand.”   

Pollack said from YouTube’s stand point there are three key goals for the project

  • Creating new opportunities for users – “We want to offer users opportunities they can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “Whether you’re a film maker excited about potentially working with Scott Ridley and Kevin MacDonald, or a mother of three thrilled to be part of something totally innovative … there’s opportunity here.”
  • To change way media is created and consumed – Film and tech are converging in many unusual ways, she said, and YouTube wants to be a trend setter in that area.
  • Give a voice to the voiceless – She said this project, as well as much of the citizen journalism on YouTube, accomplishes this.

Life in a Day is among other major YouTube initiatives to get online video enthusiasts and top professionals in a field to collaborate on projects.

Some of these blend online video with the more traditional arts.  

This was a key goal of YouTube Symphony Orchestra, assembled by YouTube-hosted open auditions, the London Symphony Orchestra, and several other worldwide partners. Another was the YouTube Play partnership with the Guggenheim announced earlier this month.

Here the idea was to discover and showcase exceptional talent working in realm of online video.

A jury of experts from the worlds of art, design, film, and entertainment will select up to 20 videos submitted from around the world for presentation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on October 21, 2010.

Simultaneous showings will be held at the Guggenheim museums in Berlin, Bilbao, and Venice.

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