DIY Media 2010: Fan Vids (Part Three)

Vidders: In Their Own Words Vidding curator Francesca Coppa interviews vidders Giandujakiss, Flummery (Part Three), Counteragent, and kiki_miserychik (Coming next time). Coppa and Stanford's Julie Levin Russo will also be co-editing Transformative Works and Cultures' special issue on remix video: anyone interested in submitting should check out the call for papers.

An interview with Giandujakiss.

Giandujakiss is a prolific vidder who has worked in many fandoms. . Notable vids include "Origin Stories" (2008; submitted for the 2010 DIY festival), "It Depends On What You Pay," (2009; a vid critiquing rape in Dollhouse), and Hourglass (2008; a vid which looks at the Groundhog's Day trope in multiple media.) Her vid "Origin Stories" was included in the 2010 DIY show.

FC: What was your first vid and why did you make it?

GK: My first vid was a Highlander slash vid pairing the characters of Duncan and Methos. I made it because I couldn't not make it. A friend had introduced me to the concept of vidding maybe several months or a year earlier, and suddenly I had all of these ideas and I couldn't get them out of my head - they were driving me crazy. So I finally broke down and figured out just enough of the technical aspects to be able to make my own, very low-tech vid.

FC: What do you remember about the experience of making "Origin Stories"?

GK: "Origin Stories" was unusual for me because it's the most collaborative vid I've made. The idea wasn't mine - it was Thuvia Ptarth's - and she came up with the song and the theme and part of the basic structure. The biggest challenge from my "perspective was to figure out ways to make Thuvia's ideas work visually and be clear to the viewer. And that was particularly difficult because the whole point was that we were focusing on characters who were underrepresented, and so the amount of available footage was limited. I also tried to stretch myself technically; that vid made a bit more use of effects and certain stylized cutting than I'd done before.

FC: What kind of reception did "Origin Stories" get when it was released?

GK: The reception was really positive and really overwhelming. There were so many downloads when I first posted it that it blew my site bandwidth after just a few hours. And lots of people started posting long analyses and thoughts about the vid, which was just amazing. I hadn't anticipated any of that - I'm a Buffy fan, obviously, but I hadn't been all that active in the Buffy fandom community, so I hadn't realized how much of a hunger there was for this kind of critique.

There was another thing that really struck me, though. A little while after the vid was posted, Thuvia posted a short essay about Spike and Robin Wood and why she'd wanted the vid made. The purpose of the essay was to explain where the idea for the vid had come from and what she'd hoped it would convey. That essay got linked by a couple of blogs that were outside our internet fandom circle - I think they were race blogs, or feminist blogs. Anyway, what was striking to me was how those blogs overlooked the vid itself, like, they barely even seemed to understand that Thuvia wasn't just writing an essay about Buffy, but was writing an essay about a vid. It really brought home how difficult the concept of "vids" or "vidding" is to grasp if you're unfamiliar with the form. It wasn't just that they didn't understand the vid - it was that they didn't understand that the vid was the primary document in which the argument about Buffy was being made; the essay was just a supplement.

And I'm not mentioning this because of my vanity :-). I'm mentioning it because it was a really visceral demonstration of how hard it is for people to understand even the idea of "vids" when they haven't seen them before.

FC: Have you seen any of the other vids in DIY 2010 vidding program?

GK: I've seen all of them! Within my particular corner of the internet vidding world, most of these vids are quite justly "famous." I think they're all brilliant in different ways - some are more of an internal analysis or celebration of the source material ("I'm on a Boat", "Handlebars"), others are more political critique of the source ("Women's Work", "How Much is that Geisha"), and Counteragent's, of course, are explicitly celebrations of fandom that are almost divorced from the source itself. I think "Still Alive" in many ways captures my experience of fandom - the television show is just a jumping off point; what I'm really here for is the artwork by other fans.

FC: What are the best and worst things about vidding?

GK: The best is probably the experience of "vid farr" - which most vidders have felt at one time or another. The term is a play on the Star Trek phrase "pon farr," and in vidding, it means you're essentially "in the zone." The clips are coming together the way you want them to, you can see your vid developing as you'd hoped or better than you'd hoped, and it's like a compulsion - you can't stop for anything, not sleep, food, or work.

The worst thing for me are the technical challenges. Figuring out how to get the software to work with the source, and formatting and you're tearing your hair because there's some bug in the program ... it's incredibly frustrating. For some reason, for example, my video editing program has decided to declare war on the .wmv format. I don't know why. It always worked fine before!

An interview with Seah and Margie, aka Flummery.

Seah and Margie have been vidding together as Flummery for ten years. . Among their best-known work is the multimedia vid "Walking On The Ground," which tracks the history of vidding through various times and technologies. "Walking On The Ground" was featured in the 2007 24/7 DIY Show at USC. Their Doctor Who vid "Handlebars" was featured in the 2010 DIY show.

FC: Tell us about your first vid.

Flummery: Our first vid was "Kryptonite", for the tv show Invisible Man. We came up with the idea in 2000, listening to the song and thinking that hey, this would make a great I-Man vid! We did a whole outline on it, complete with complicated POV shifts, and sent it off hopefully to one of our favorite vidders asking if she'd be willing to make it, since neither of us could vid. She said no very kindly and gently, leaving us with no option but to eventually figure out how to do it ourselves. That same vidder flew across the country the next year to help us with some basics, and we plugged away at it for months, finally premiering it at Escapade in February 2002.

FC: What was it like making "Handlebars"?

Flummery: We were vidding this [Doctor Who] live - episodes were still airing right up till our deadline. It made things a little tense, as we had to hope that we could find enough footage to fill in the holes we were leaving along the way. It meant that we redid entire sections a lot more than we were used to, ripping things out to rebuild them from scratch as better footage appeared.

We also weren't at all sure what the reception would be. We'd never done a vid where we so blatantly pointed out the negative aspects of our main character before, and we thought there was a really good chance people would hate it. We spent a lot of time being nervous about how it would play at Vividcon.

FC: How was it received?

Flummery: We were gobsmacked at the reception, which has been almost uniformly positive. This vid has gotten more attention than anything we've ever done. The most interesting part about it is that we get the same reaction from fans who love Ten and fans who hate Ten -- they all think we did a good job of capturing him the way they see him. Which is incredibly cool.

FC: For you, what's the best/worst thing about vidding?

Flummery: The worst thing about vidding is discovering that the perfect clip that you KNOW was somewhere in the source is really only in your head. And clipping in general is just a pain.

The best thing about vidding is having made a vid. And really, the way vidding changes the way you think and see -- it's a real shift, at least if you start out as more verbally oriented, the way both of us did. Learning to think visually, and to tell stories visually, is amazing.

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.