Vimeo is a video-sharing site founded in 2004 by a group of filmmakers who wanted a clean and beautiful platform through which to share their work and preserve personal memories. The site attracted other filmmakers and creative types, and quickly earned a reputation for high-quality content. The site was bought by IAC in 2006, and it became the first video-sharing site to support HD playback, in October 2007. That feature catalyzed growth of the user base, as creative individuals and brands flocked to the site to host their best video content. Vimeo videos aren’t preceded by pre-roll or flanked by banner ads; the interface is clean, and the focal point is the video itself.
Vimeo is a small (relative to YouTube’s billion users), niche community, with 70 million unique visitors each month. But these users are engaged, ready to offer feedback, engage in conversation and and even watch feature-length films. Anyone who’s ever posted a video on YouTube and been told by commenters that they “deserve to get cancer” can surely appreciate the nurturing and community-oriented user base on Vimeo. According to comScore, users spend an average of 28.3 minutes on the site during each session. And it’s no wonder — there’s a lot of great content to lure you in.
As the number of Vimeo videos grows each day, the team at Vimeo works hard to curate the very best content on the site — the content that, even if you’re really busy, is worth watching. One of these curators is Sam Morrill, who spends his days with headphones on, watching videos at Vimeo’s gorgeous Manhattan digs. We spoke with Morrill about his favorite Vimeo videos (embedded below), why he loves the Vimeo community and how he scored a job where he gets paid to watch videos all day.
Q&A With Sam Morrill, Senior Curator at Vimeo
As Senior Curator, what do you actually do at Vimeo? What does your day-to-day entail?
My job primarily consists of discovering and promoting awesome videos via the Vimeo Staff Picks channel, as well as building relationships between Vimeo and the most notable creators on our site.
Similar to how some people start their day by reading the newspaper, I begin the workday by browsing through my subscriptions on Vimeo, my Twitter feed, my RSS feed and messages that are sent directly to me. This is how I get a sense of which videos have been released and which ones are being shared. I then spend about two hours watching the videos that stand out the most. Throughout this process, my co-curators Jordan McGarry and Jason Sondhi are also searching for content, and we constantly share our favorite videos with one another, weighing in on each video. This process eventually yields the five videos that we feature on Vimeo Staff Picks every day.
What makes your job a dream job?
Sometimes I liken my job to that of a video game tester or a candy taster. I get paid to do something that other people do for fun. Although my job is comprised of a lot more than just watching great videos, it is a huge part of what I do, and I feel very privileged (and sometimes incredulous) to have landed such a great gig.
What technical skills do you have?
I compulsively update the apps on my phone everyday. Other than that, I’m technically proficient in the way one would expect from someone who spends almost eight hours a day sitting in front of a computer.
Vimeo is known as a platform for creators (as opposed to a site of panda sneezes and silly memes) — what do you love about the Vimeo community?
I love the level of discourse that takes place in the comments on most Vimeo videos.
I love the level of discourse that takes place in the comments on most Vimeo videos. The tone of comments on our site tends to be respectful, encouraging and inquisitive. This is in no small part due to the fact that most Vimeo users use their actual names and actual photos of themselves on their accounts. That sort of intimacy keeps people in check and encourages serious conversations.
I also love the sheer quality of the work on Vimeo and how it is produced by professionals and hobbyists alike. It’s a regular occurrence on Vimeo Staff Picks to see a video produced by an established director alongside another video produced by a student or someone who makes videos on the side. What’s so amazing about this is that even though these videos may be completely different, their quality is consistent.
Since you’re a curator for a living, what are some tips for culling through all the gems on Vimeo (and the wider web, if you’ve mastered that) to find what you’re likely to love?
When it comes to finding video content, a great place to start is Vimeo Staff Picks. Obviously, I’m very, very, very biased, but I truly believe that we do a good job highlighting content that is both well crafted and also appeals to a broad audience. Beyond our site, there are loads of great sites that aggregate content across different video sharing platforms. Devour, Short of the Week and The Curious Brain are a few that immediately come to mind.
You chat with a lot of filmmakers and attend film festivals — do most filmmakers understand the power of the web (and Vimeo, in particular) as a distributor of their content? What message are you sharing with people in the film community?
Most filmmakers that I encounter are well aware of the power of the web as a form of distribution and those that aren’t yet aware are quickly catching up. When it comes to the web, I think the challenge many filmmakers face is that they aren’t sure where to start. After spending months, if not years, carefully crafting a film, it can be a daunting leap of faith to put the film online and expect it to reach its targeted audience.
My advice to filmmakers who are considering bringing their work online is to do the necessary legwork to ensure that all of the major video sites/blogs are at least aware of your film (even if they don’t end up sharing it). This means sending a personalized email to each site, briefly introducing your film and sharing a link. No filmmaker should ever shy away from this. Video blogs tend to have an insatiable appetite for new content, and you may be doing these curators a favor by introducing them to your amazing film.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I’d say that the most challenging part of my job is constantly maintaining, if not raising, the curation standards for Vimeo Staff Picks. There is always a temptation to loosen the standards that we hold videos to since it would probably allow us to feature more content, but we realize this would ultimately compromise the quality of the channel. By limiting ourselves to featuring only five videos per day, we are really challenging ourselves to find videos that are unimpeachably good. There are days where we don’t find five videos that meet our standards and when this happens, we’ll feature fewer videos rather than lower our standards to meet our quota.
What path did you take to get to where you are? Are you a filmmaker/videographer?
I started at Vimeo as a Community Apprentice (basically a paid intern), helping people use the site and removing videos that violate our guidelines. After working at Vimeo for about a year, Blake Whitman (who created Vimeo Staff Picks) put me in charge of day-to-day curation for Vimeo Staff Picks.
Before working at Vimeo, I worked for the Film and Media Culture Department at Middlebury College, which is also where I got my B.A. in English. My background is a hodgepodge of videography, writing and travel, all of which has all served me well in my role at Vimeo. I think that in order to curate for the Internet, you have to be a generalist to a certain degree.
What’s the culture like at Vimeo? I know your office is pretty sweet…
The culture at Vimeo is pretty great. I’ve been here for a while, so I’ve seen the company grow from about 17 people to over 100. Throughout this tremendous growth, I can safely say that we’ve managed to retain a lot of what makes Vimeo such a special place to work. Last summer, for example, we rented out an entire summer camp in upstate New York and spent a weekend imagining what sleepaway camp would’ve been like with lots of beer.
I think that the environment that we’ve cultivated here allows you to be ambitious without having to maniacally shout buzzwords into a bluetooth headset all day. It’s cool.
Interested in working at Vimeo? Check out their available openings here.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Shantanu Starick, The Pixel Trade