Webbys Film & Video Awards: Cool Creators, Big Laughs, Only a Little Nausea

While the Webby Film & Video Awards event wasn’t exactly full of high drama (for one thing, the winners are announced ahead of time), it was a superb opportunity to mingle with the men and women responsible for the bulk of today’s quality shorts. Due to our own ineptitude, I wasn’t able to get our Qik streaming to work, but I did get to talk to … well, just a ton of fascinating creators.

Amber Lee Ettinger at the Webby Film & Video AwardsOn the red carpet, everyone I asked agreed that Obama Girl would beat Tay Zonday in a fight. I did not ask Tay Zonday or Amber Ettinger, figuring that each would be too modest to claim triumph. Both were incredibly pleasant to speak with, however. I did ask Ettinger when she felt Obama Girl would become a woman: “I feel like she already is a woman. But Obama Girl is catchier,” was her answer. She was excited about Obama being the presumptive Democratic nominee — and not just because it potentially means another four years of public appearances. “I’m just really excited to think that I was maybe a small part of that.”

Jennifer Shiman dropped a few details about what goes into the production of a 30 Second Bunnies Theater episode (each frame is hand-drawn and -colored before being scanned into the computer and assembled in Flash — each short takes about a month to complete). Shiman’s deal with Starz only means that they consult with each other on which movies she should cover next. When asked how many times she rewatches a movie before recreating it, she would only say “a lot.”

Matt Bledsoe and Troy Hitch, the creators of You Suck at Photoshop, were really excited to talk about their Photoshop spin-off Snatchbuckler’s Second Chance, as well as the challenges of preserving the fiction of the series. About 60 percent of their audience still believes that Donnie is a real person, they estimated — it used to be more until the pair started getting more press coverage. “We really like preserving the illusion that Donnie Hoyle is a real person,” they said. They also revealed that while no one ever asks them for Photoshop tips, they’ve observed a phenomenon on graphic design message boards: If a user asks a stupid question, a more experienced board member will link to a random You Suck… video.

“So You Suck at Photoshop has become the Rickroll of Photoshop discussion?”


Host Judah Friedlander at the Webby Film & Video AwardsFun fact: Judah Friedlander makes his own hats. Your fashion report: His cap for the evening was a little black-and-white number, decorated with a single string of rhinestones salvaged from another hat.

I’m interested to see how much of the red-carpet footage other people will be able to use, given that the a capella group The Richter Scales was serenading anyone with a camera. Their video Here Comes Another Bubble won the Webby for Best Viral Video, and it’s hard to guess whether that’s due to its quality or its message that this could all end in a moment.

All three of Hometown Baghdad‘s young men were present at the ceremony, in part thanks to Baghdad producers Kate Hills and Mike DiBenedetto, who helped them get scholarships and visas to the United States. I asked them about the risks for the participants, and they detailed how hard they worked to preserve their safety, re-editing videos to remove identifying details. They also mentioned future spin-offs in the works, set in Jerusalem and Tehran. Baghdad won three Webbys, and one of the acceptance speeches was my favorite of the night: “Real news helps overcome ignorance.”

Mos Def couldn’t make it — fortunately, Rosie Perez filled in as the presenter of Michel Gondry’s Person of the Year prize. Perez admitted that she wasn’t terribly familiar with the world of online video, claiming to spend most of her time online downloading music. But she was quick to add that she pays for everything she downloads. “Artists should be compensated for their work,” she said.

Not a lot of video is actually screened during the actual ceremony, but I was moved to tears by the Hometown Baghdad trailer, reduced to hysterics by The Onion, and nauseated to the point of dry-heaving by a zip-popping romance short Judah Friedlander made 20 years ago. Moments like Alex Albrecht’s sans trou acceptance speech (“Has anyone seen my pants?”) aside, there’s not much spontaneity to the event. Without the tension of sealed envelopes and nervous nominees, the event has a brisk, matter-of-fact sensibility — everyone, including host Judah Friedlander, eagerly counting down to the last category. (It doesn’t help that the event starts at 7:30 and goes until 9:30 — the line for food at the afterparty was much much longer than the line at the bar.) But any awards show that can make me laugh, cry, and throw up… Well, definitely not a boring evening.

And check out tonight’s event! LizG and I have resolved our technical ineptitude (we hope), and will be live-streaming from tonight’s big official Webbys Gala red carpet. I promise!