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Interview: Ross Kimball, Host Of The Chicago Vine Film Festival

By Matt Byrne in Arts & Entertainment on May 24, 2013 6:00PM


Vine, a wildly trendy mobile app, empowers anyone with an iPhone and six seconds to spare to craft and release hyper-short films that loop ad infinitum. The app has been embraced by aspiring filmmakers, comedians, and bored teenagers worldwide, publishing clips that are often (reductively) described as .GIFs with sound.

Tonight, at Andersonville's DIY comedy haven the Upstairs Gallery, a pair of local comedians will join forces to present the first-ever Officially Unofficial First Annual Vine Film Festival. Since the fest was announced earlier this month, local Vinemakers have been hard at work, crafting six second clips to compete for the top prize in a variety of genres, including comedy, documentary, and stop motion.

The whole thing seems like it's going to be pretty surreal in execution; these super short films will loop three times before unceremoniously moving on to a new piece of media immediately afterwards. If one was to get too philosophical about things, hamfisted thoughts about the culture's ever-decreasing attention span might crop up, as if this were a postmodern art project with parameters defined by an iPhone app rather than a lighthearted celebration of creativity.

Chicagoist caught up with Ross Kimball, co-creator and host of the festival, to dissuade us of any hesitations and explain the event's Cannes-inspired hook.

The Officially Unofficial First Annual Vine Film Festival is tonight, Friday May 24, at the Upstairs Gallery, 5219 N. Clark. The event is free with donations accepted.

CHICAGOIST: This a brilliant idea for a film festival, can you tell me about how it came together?
Ross Kimball:
My friends have Vines and I love watching how they can tell a story in such a short amount of time. I thought it would be a lot of fun if we collected a large number of Vines and watched them on a big screen. Since it's festival season, I decided this would be a fun thing that a lot of people who Vine could get involved with.

I contacted Tim Lyons, who makes some of the finest Vines in town, we then contacted the Upstairs Gallery to see if we could have us for one night, and then we got the word out. This is really a celebration of a new form of social media. Big thanks to Tim Lyons who did a lot of the heavy lifting on this thing!

C: What has the response been so far? Have you gotten a lot of submissions?
So far, the response has been very positive. We have a lot of people saying that they will be there on Friday night and the submissions have been coming in slowly, but surely. 

C: I like the idea of splitting submissions up into different categories, were there any categories you came up with ended up rejecting?
I initially wanted a bunch of categories (horror, historical fiction, Lifetime movie, infomercials, etc) but then I realized that was biting off more than I could chew. I mean, this is the first annual Officially Unofficial Vine Film Festival, I don't want to stifle people's creativity. 

C: You've got a panel of judges on board to pick the winners in each category, what sort of things will they be looking for in these films? Will it be purely by gut feeling or are there criteria for each submission to be judged by?
The judges will be looking for creativity, effort put forth, and how much they could fit comfortably in six seconds. Since this is the first time we are doing this, a lot of the judging will be done on a gut feeling. 

C: What is it about the Vine format you enjoy the most? The strange aspect ratio? The brevity? The ease of use?
My favorite part about the Vine format is the fact that you can tell so much in six seconds. Whether you're showing dogs running at a dog beach or pretending that your house is falling in love with you, you have the power to create something unique to you. You really get to take a peek inside people's minds when you watch a Vine.