The Evolution of the Project Video
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A Kickstarter project video communicates so much about a project. Everything from who is behind it to their whole-hearted dedication to — whoops, is that someone's cat in the frame!? Each project video is compelling for its own reasons. We should know, we've seen them all.
Over the past two years the project video has evolved from a simple thing to a medium all its own. We've gone from shaky webcams in a backyard to intricate plays and skits that have risen to the level of art. Let's walk through some of the highlights and milestone videos so far.
Where it all began. Perry Chen, Kickstarter's CEO, launches the inaugural Kickstarter project with his infamous, limited-edition Grace Jones T-shirt. Super casual and straight-to-the-point just like the man himself, his video is direct, frank, and distinctly low budget. (Unfortunately the project failed.)
From the school of "just be yourself." Who needs production value when you have this much freakin' charisma? Allison Weiss stole our hearts and our dollars with her crazy-charming pitch video, which was made with nothing more than a Macbook, some clever cuts, and her larger-than-life personality. She was proof positive of the "anybody can do this" ethos, and she quickly became our pitch video poster girl.
Mastering the false start. Robin Sloan took a lesson from the school of be-yourself-Weiss, but kicked up the production value a notch, employing some moderately fancy lighting and some slick looking title cards. As his project's status as our first-ever Project of the Year, it was an effective strategy.
Just some guy in his living room. Tom Henderson epitomizes the internet in his project video for an anarchist mathbook: just some dude sitting around in his living room with a laptop. Like Allison Weiss, he leverages quick, well-timed jump cuts for a sense of humor, and like Robin Sloan, he's hyper-talkative and clearly enthusiastic about his idea. No amount of executive production can fake that!
Don't be afraid to let it all hang out. Kickstarter is a platform that banks on transparency — your backers are going to see and know everything about your creative process because you're inviting them to be a part of it. Jonathan Mann, the Song-A-Day Man(n), fully embraced that fact in his no-holds-barred, maximumally silly project video. He made faces, he wore weird clothes, he wore no clothes, he admitted his insecurities. By the time you're done watching, you feel like he's your friend.
But what if I'm shy? No problem! There's room for you, too. Frank Chimero never actually appeared in his own project video (unless you count his hand), but that very fact made the whole thing even more fun. His video was meticulously designed and slickly produced, capitalizing on the fact that he has long established himself as a designer — as in, he's in the business of making other stuff look good, not so much himself. When people witnessed this slightly elusive, but enormously pretty, approach, they jumped all over it because it reflected the exact aesthetic that they already knew and loved him for. Brilliant!
Getting meta with it. The crew behind I Am I condensed the entirety of the filmmaking process into a single, gracefully executed, single-take project pitch video that really has to be seen in order to be believed. On the one hand it is a clever, entertaining, funny, and fully inspired approach. On the other, it is a deft summarization of time and effort already committed (considerable), and a demonstration of movie-making prowess (commendable). In the end, the project video for I Am I stands alone as its own micro-masterpiece — something to be enjoyed over and over again, just for itself.
The arrival of parody. We knew it could only be so long before project videos started making fun of themselves. That's just the cycle of self-aware, slightly cynical artist types. We got more than we bargained for in Henry H. Owings' anti-commercial for The Indie Cred Test, though. Owings wasn't afraid to make fun of you, your mom, girl scouts, or himself. Similarly to Frank Chimero, it was the exact brand of snark that he was already renowned for, so his fans ate it (and pledges for his book) right up.
The holy grail. The Freakerteam brought it all home. They were red-lining the personality-o-meter à la Allison Weiss, they were unbelievably enthusiastic about their idea, they turned making fun of themselves into an art form, and the whole freakin' world was their parody-stage. We definitely could (and have) watched this over and over and over again, just for the sheer joy of it, and it still warms us more than a hand-knitted cozy to see Head Freaker Zach Crain wrap it all up with a moment of earnest, very honest respose: "I love you so much, my heart is beating so hard, and .. ah! ... yay!"
Did we forget one of your favorites? Drop it in the comments!
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