Before I did TED, I did this...
The New Venue 1996-2005
“New Venue is about what’s happening now” RES Magazine (1999)
A decade before YouTube or Vimeo, when computers still used disks and modems and the promise of online cinema was distant, before browsers could handle postage-stamp sized video clips and there were still plenty of post offices to buy stamps in the first place, I created the first showcase dedicated to movies made exclusively for the web. It was an art house for the future, encouraging filmmakers to push boundaries, because constraints spark creativity. I couldn’t think of a name at first and kept asking, “What should I call this New Venue?”
It launched while I worked by day in Woody Allen’s film office, my first real job after college, from which I would soon be fired (nobody likes an intern with interns of his own). Then, in 1999, my eccentric, scrappy, solo side project beat Rolling Stone at SXSW for “Best Use of Video on the Internet.” Other awards followed, someone nominated it for a Webby, Apple called me to partner. Unsolicited coverage came from ABC, BBC, CNN, Variety, Spin, Fortune, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Newsweek, and more.
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. You can see how the web site looked and functioned. The cardboard box 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, cyber, or overly literal.
At 25, I was flown around the globe to lecture on the future of film and explain how, one day, video would be everywhere. I built a community, I stretched the limits of new technologies, I championed creativity until I failed. When the whole dot-com bubble burst, amid the collateral damage, I discovered it’s rarely a matter of who gets there first. The New Venue survived longer than most and kept its loyal following for years after I stopped updating it with filmmaking tips, filmmaker interviews, and “new movies for a new medium.” I finally put it on ice when I started with TED .
But that was a long time ago.