DIY Media 2010: Fan Vids (Part One)

This is the third in an ongoing series of curated selections of DIY Video prepared in relation to the screening of DIY Video 2010 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and organized by Mimi Ito, Steve Anderson, and the good folks at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy. The following curator's statement was written by Francesca Coppa, a long time fan and media professor researching the feminist tradition of fan vids. Vidding is one of the oldest forms of DIY remix. Invented and still largely practiced by women, vidding is an art form in which mass media texts, primarily television and movies, are remixed into fan music video. In the mid-1970s, women created vids with slides; in the 1980s, they used VHS footage, editing with home equipment and tape-to-tape machines. Today, vids are made with digital footage using computers and sophisticated digital tools, and vidders - who have always been interested in aesthetics as well as argument - have more and more opportunities to bend the both style and content of pop culture to their will and taste.

Many people still don't "get" fan vids, seeing them either as incomprehensible mashups or mere celebratory slideshows. In fact, vidding, like most forms of remix, is about critical selection and the editing eye: deciding what to put in and what to leave out. Vids can make very sophisticated arguments about the source text's plot and characters, and even its ideology. While some vids are edited to broadly emphasize certain themes, images, or characters, and are thus easily understandable to the uninvested spectator, other vids are made specifically for fellow fans who are assumed to be familiar not only with the source text but also with the conventions and established aesthetics of vidding.

At the most basic level, turning film and television into music video represents a fundamental change of genre. While most mass media stories have a forward-moving, plot-driven structure, music video is more like poetry: expressive rather than descriptive, concerned with feelings and rhythm rather than the distanced narration of events. Like poetry, music video is also a highly concentrated form, distilling hours, days, or even weeks of footage into three or so minutes! Consequently, looking away from the screen during a vid is considered to be as offensive as arbitrarily deciding to skip words in a poem, since every moment, every conjunction of image and music, carries meaning.

While not all vidders are part of the organized communities, there is a longstanding tradition of vidding within shared groups, partly because in the pre-digital age, vidding was complicated and expensive, and so the mostly all-female vidding collectives shared equipment and skills. (See Henry's 1991 chapter on fanvidding in Textual Poachers.) While today most vids are released straight to the web, fans making vids in the 1980s and 1990s had to take their vids to conventions if they wanted anyone to see them, so even today many vidders debut their vids at conventions like MediaWest, Escapade, Bascon, and Vividcon, which is entirely devoted to vidding.

Moreover, the fans who attend these conventions have developed their own critical vocabulary for talking about vidding, and an institutionalized "vid review" based on art show reviews. Escapade features a 2 hour vid review; Vividcon not only has that, but also an additional "in-depth vid review" focused on only one or two vids. Even more recently, vidder bradcpu has been making a series of vidder profiles: short documentary films historicizing and analyzing the work of particular vidders. Like any advanced art form, vidding has developed its own conferences, critical literature, and theoretical apparatus.

Vidding Programme.

* vids marked with an asterisk appeared in the main programme.

The following represent a selection of notable vids made from 2007 - 2010.

* I'm On A Boat, by kiki miserychik (Star Trek, 2:36)

This vid expresses the widespread fannish joy over the 2009 Star Trek movie; it also captures the reboot's younger, more frat-boyish tone compared to the original series. It's worth noting that this vid, along with a wave of others, was made from a camcorder copy in May 2009. (See also: Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor by Sloane in the political remix section.)

Handlebars, by Flummery (Doctor Who, 3:27)

Probably the most successful vid of 2008, this meticulously-crafted character study of the Tenth Doctor spread beyond its community and intended audience almost immediately, eventually reaching--and being praised by--the show's creative team. As one fan noted, "Flummery completely called Ten's character development, and well over a year ago at that. The Doc has, indeed, gone completely handlebars on us."

Francesca Coppa is Director of Film Studies and Associate Professor of English at Muhlenberg College. She is also a founding member of the Organization For Transformative Works (OTW), a nonprofit organization established by fans to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and culture. Coppa and OTW recently worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to get a DMCA exemption for noncommercial remixers like vidders. Coppa also writes about vidding both as a feminist art form and as fair use.