The New Venue 1996-2005


More than anything, I wanted to make  movies . But I knew I’d need someplace to show them. And I figured I wasn’t alone.


This was the ’90s, a decade before YouTube – when “Netflix and Chill” was unthinkable, Blockbuster Video was everywhere, and the only place to see smaller films was a festival. Computers still used disks and modems, browsers barely played QuickTime clips, and the words “Online Cinema” sounded silly – if not sci-fi.


So I built the first showcase for movies made for the web – truly for the web – to promote the best the medium had to offer, and encourage other filmmakers to push boundaries – because constraints spark creativity. I couldn’t think of a name at first and kept asking my friends, “What should I call this New Venue?”


I launched it while holding down two jobs, assistant directing off-Broadway at night, working in Woody Allen's production office by day (back when it was considered an industry rite of passage to work for a suspected predator, and besides, I got fired). The day it went live, the New York Times called, livid they didn’t get to break the story. I asked, “What story??”


Then, my eccentric, scrappy, solo side project beat Rolling Stone for “Best Use of Video on the Internet” at SXSW. Someone nominated it for a Webby. Apple asked to partner. I spent my 20s being flown all over the world to speak, and followed around town for TV. ABC, BBC, CNN, ARTE, Variety, Spin, Fortune, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Kyodo, The Guardian, and Newsweek showed up at my door. They’d say things like:


“New Venue is about what’s happening now” – RES Magazine (1999)


“The New Venue advances the definition of what film on the Internet can be” – Apple.com (2000)


As a spin-off, in 2000, I held the first film festival for the Palm Pilot. Turn-of-the-millenium day-planners had recently been hacked into digital kinetescopes. To compensate for the technical limitations of the time, these first mobile movies had to be silent, black and white, lasting only a few seconds, hence our name: The Aggressively Boring Film Festival.


Persona (above), one of New Venue’s flagship films, was my collaboration with Kristie Lu Stout. The cardboard box was the site interface. It filled the full screen: monitors were smaller then. Its trompe l’oeil design was labeled “classy” and “witty” by journalists at a time when most sites looked chrome, clunky, “cyber,” or way too literal.


When the whole dot-com bubble burst, amid the collateral damage, I discovered it’s rarely a matter of who gets there first. I built a community, I stretched the limits of new technologies, I championed creativity – but I never did sell out, and then, without warning, I went from being called a futurist to an artist – long before Silicon Valley started saying it’s cool to fail. Still, the New Venue survived longer than most media platforms of that era and kept its loyal following for years after I stopped updating it with filmmaking tips, filmmaker interviews, and “new movies for a new medium.”


And that’s why, eventually, I wound up at  TED .

read: Wired 1998 > > New York Times 2000 > > Entertainment Weekly 2002 > >

Behind the scenes...  


You can  read  alllll about my starving artist days in “How I Survived Sundance on $31 (airfare included).”