Vimeo has announced the winners of their Staff Picks Best of 2018 Awards, featuring the following categories: Action Sports, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Eye Candy and Travel. The awards celebrate the best films the platform has deemed worthy of their prestigious Staff Pick badge throughout 2018. As a change of pace this year, nominees were announced beforehand and each of the winners selected by three industry jury members assigned to their respective category. DN was fortunate enough to speak with all of the winners, learning about the inspiration behind their stories and how they approached constructing their award-winning work.
Dean Goes Surfing – Caitlyn Greene
How did the idea for Dean Goes Surfing come about?
The piece was part of a campaign for Poland Spring with Vox about people doing good in their communities. The organization Surfing with Smiles had been identified as one they wanted to highlight, and the founders of Surfing with Smiles helped us find Dean, who we immediately fell in love with. We decided to show the organization’s work by focusing on Dean’s story and following him through the surfing event.
Most short documentaries tend to feel overly serious or focus too heavily on great cinematography but you balance a great visual with such a fun, warm-hearted story, was this intentional?
We knew going in that we wanted the piece to feel uplifting and have personality but not be overly sentimental. On top of that, I wanted the piece to reflect Dean’s spirit and the feeling of the surfing event, which was full of love and unbridled happiness, as much as possible. For our visual approach, our priority was capturing real moments and the feeling of the day, rather than creating a super-stylized aesthetic that might call attention to itself and away from the story.
What are you working on currently?
I’m developing a film about rental families in Japan, an anthology series at the larger-than-life roadside stop ‘South of the Border’, and a short doc at the world’s only public diamond mine.
The Shivering Truth – Vernon Chatman & Cat Solen
What’s the origin of The Shivering Truth?
I have never woke up screaming from a nightmare, but I have had a few dreams in my life that were so strangely intense that I woke up laughing until I coughed out huge handfuls of lettuce. I wanted to make a comedy that captured that sort of feeling, only sweeter. The idea was to create a format that could allow for endless stories told in endless ways, the same propulsive, untethered narrative freedom your brain spits at you when you dream.
Cat and I bonded years ago over a shared love of the impossible, and have wanted to work together ever since we accidentally ran over a baby Devil in our minivan and then pinned the crime on a drifter. So, when it occurred to me that this project should be done in stop motion animation, I wrote a few scripts and shared them with her. She possesses every technical skill on the planet and is able to deploy pure beauty as a weapon of terror if called upon to do so. Both of us had worked with Adult Swim for years, so they agreed to pay for a pilot if we would agree to stop sending them our handmade “sweet nothings” via literal snail mail.
The narrative is so unpredictable, was that developed in the screenplay or was it more free flowing? What inspired the chaotic nature of the story?
We wanted the narrative to feel free flowing, but everything is carefully scripted and had to be planned out meticulously so we could be as efficient as possible in production. The chaotic nature of the story was inspired by the chaos of nature.
We were also very inspired by the form of stop motion itself, how tactile it is, how it can feel like a sustained magic trick, and how breathtakingly stupid it would be to make something so idiosyncratic and esoteric in such a nauseatingly labor intensive medium.
What projects are you working on now?
Well, last year we got to make a season of six more episodes of The Shivering Truth, which just aired on Adult Swim, and now we are hoping we get to make 763 additional episodes. We are also working on a project to unseat the elderly megalomaniacal ape-boy who is desperately trying to crash the tower of our nation into an airplane.
Enough – Anna Mantzaris
We spoke in full last summer, but please remind us, what was the genesis of Enough?
It was a mix of many things. The premise was that we had quite a short time to make a film and, because it was my first year film, there was much less pressure than there would’ve been on a second year film to make something epic. I wanted to allow myself to be a bit more experimental and work in a storytelling way I had not done before.
I knew I wanted to make something about someone that had enough and sort of revolted but in a mundane setting. Like quitting their job or hitting someone in front of them in the queue. Revolting in their everyday life. At the same time, I started to commute in London during rush hour and I observed a lot of tension, frustration and stress, and also so many people in suits looking like they didn’t completely fit or were not really comfortable. I started to imagine what those people really wanted to do, and also to think about things that I felt like doing sometimes, but never would dare to. What would happen in moments of lost self-control or glimpses of emotional anarchy?
Comedy and catharsis go hand in hand, have audiences responded to this aspect of Enough? What have been your favourite response so far?
Yes, I have had many people being really happy because they actually had always wanted to do ‘this thing’ in the film, like they almost feel relieved to see at least someone do it. It’s very fun. My favourite response was a really old guest tutor we had, probably between 80 and 90 years old, I had a personal tutorial with him and showed him the film and he laughed out so loud during the whole film, I was almost worried for him. When the film finished he said “again!” and then watched it again and laughed just as hard.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
At the moment I’m mainly working on some commissions. I was working with Greenpeace France just before Christmas which was really fun. But I’m starting to think of new film ideas as well.
Alone – Garrett Bradley
What inspired you to tell Aloné’s story?
The issues our nation faces are often removed from the emotionality or concrete effects they have on the individual. Alone is as much about incarceration as it is about the individual’s right and access to love. First and foremost, my goal was to find entry points and to connect women from all socioeconomic backgrounds on the premise of this truth.
Slapper – Luci Schroder
How did you discover the short story Babysitting and what interested you in adapting it?
I found it on the internet, on a blog. I thought the tone was fresh, perverse and offhand, these flavours spoke to me. It’s mostly the tone that felt really interesting to me. The film is quite removed from the blog story in its final form and I’ve added a lot of my own story design. Adding the possible pregnancy, and adding the hustling, adding interactions with Mum, and the boy in the store, adding the goats, adding the car hit, adding the Australian world, adding the reward for the dog (the red herring), adding that she’s already a mum to Vegas, adding the chemist scene and particularly the pill moment and the circling end, adding the dynamic between the interior house scene and the ex-boyfriend in the backyard with the dogs (who are for dog fights), and adding the ice drug taking and so on, so it’s quite different.
How much of Slapper was scripted, was there much improvisation given the realist, handheld nature of the film?
It was all scripted but we workshopped it a little in rehearsal. The handheld nature was by design to feel raw, lived in, and authentic, like the world of the characters. I didn’t want it to feel too clean or perfect, or made up, beautifully fucked up was the aesthetic. There was the added element that a lot of the cast had not acted before and so that was a lovely challenge to work with.
What are you working on currently?
I’m currently developing a feature film about a woman who’s a little older than this character. I can’t reveal too much yet as it’s top secret, but can’t wait to start bringing it to life.
Young Marco: Trippy Isolator – Rop van Mierlo
How did you develop this idea for Young Marco?
Before Trippy Isolator/Dances with Wolves (Trippy Isolator is the title of the track, Dances with Wolves the title of the video) I made another video titled Animation Study. Animation Study consisted of three animations of 150 paintings each, and every animation has 150 random chosen images with the same theme painted one on top of the other. Respectively; still life, landscape and portrait. The goal with Animation Study was to find out what would happen if I painted 150 random images one on top of the other, letting the paint and images blend together, peel it off, frame by frame and shoot it stop motion. Would you still sense the subject or theme of the images in the video?
While working on Animation Study I thought about various other ways of painting footage frame by frame on top of each other and let it blend into new images; what would happen if I copied existing video footage into a painted animation? Or what would happen if I combined two different themes? That last idea I took very literally by adopting the title Dances with Wolves from the motion picture by Kevin Costner. I only used the title as a concept for the video and gave it a new meaning. I just liked the idea of the combination of dancing people and wolves together in one work on music.
Was it something you took to him or vice versa?
We’ve worked together before, Young Marco used one of my animal paintings on his debut album Biology. For this project, I went to him because I had an idea that I wanted to execute and which I thought would fit perfectly to his music.
Could you talk about creating the video? What are you using to create the visuals?
It’s based on a technique I’ve developed over the years. For this technique I paint on wet filter paper. I paint an image, put another sheet of wet paper on top and paint another image, put another sheet of wet paper on top and paint another image and so on. I fantasized about the outcome but it would turn out differently every time.
What are you working at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on something a bit different. In 2010 I self-published a picture book called Wild Animals which won me a Dutch Design Award in 2011 and has made me known internationally for painting fluffy animals. Together with a friend of mine, I’m starting a brand called W.A. making various products based around these animal paintings of mine to be launched sometime later this year. If you want to stay updated please check, Wild Animals.
seoul_wave – Brandon Li
What brought you to make seoul_wave?
I wanted to do something different than before. My previous travel videos have mostly focused on traditional culture, but this time I wanted to show a city of the future, the bright and dark sides of it. I also wanted to get more personal than ever before, going behind closed doors and underground to catch glimpses of subcultures and niches that you never get to see as a tourist. A plastic surgery clinic, an e-gaming fraternity house, an English tutorial school, and so on. It was challenging to make these things visually compelling since they lacked the aesthetics of most tourist attractions. I just challenged myself to show them in a new light that was understandable to outsiders, yet authentic to the local culture.
I love that the camera is always moving, fast or slow it’s reflective of the location that you’re in. How planned out were the camera movements in advance? How much of the film was planned in advance?
The film was almost entirely improvised. When I attempt to plan shots, my mind stalls. I don’t feel connected to the subject until I’m physically there. The shape of a room affects how I shoot. The density of the crowd, the direction of the light, an interesting ornament on the wall. Little details can have a big influence on how I approach a scene. Instead of planning specific shots, I made a list of subjects I wanted to film. Then on location, I figured out how to move the camera.
What are you working on currently?
I have a short film about Catalonia coming out soon. It’s a departure from my usual style – this one is a narrative, with a plot and characters and stuff. I love the challenge of new genres. I also have an online film school I’ve been building called Unscripted Studio. It teaches my improvised filmmaking approach in a series of video lessons. I’ve learned to do things quite differently from how I was taught in film school, so I want to pass along that knowledge.
For some inside advice on how to maximise your film’s chances of being award the coveted Staff Pick badge, check out our interview with Vimeo’s Director of Curation Sam Morrill.