vine enters the terrible twos: artists start playing together

A couple months back, I profiled “10 Artists to Follow on Vine who are not Adam Goldberg, James Urbaniak, Will Sasso, or Steve Agee.” In the life cycle of social apps, Vine was a baby, spitting up, pooping a lot, and screaming for attention. It had moments of brilliance mixed with a bunch of crap. Since then, something wonderful happened:

Vine entered The Terrible Twos.

That’s to say, it’s a walking, talking, wonderfully messy, sometimes belligerent, and still generally brilliant network of creators having their first conversations and collaborations. Yes – collaborations. Unlike Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the rest, Vine is not just a virtual playground. It has become a real life place for artists to collaborate.

I initially noticed it with one of my favorite Viners, Meagan Cignoli. Cignoli is a Brooklyn-based photographer who frequently Vines models on photo shoots, uses household objects to make magical eye candy, and was a finalist in the Tribeca Film Festival’s (TFF) #6SECFILMS competition. She’s also one of the first creators to feature other Viners in her videos.

It started with Virtuosic Dance, a dance company founded by choreographer Chelsea Robin Lee, also from Brooklyn. Cignoli featured Virtuosic in one of her #6SECFILMS submissions to TFF.

After I saw Cignoli’s collaboration with Virtuosic, I quickly searched the company and discovered they had previously worked together, shooting video and stills, so it was unsurprising they would make Vines together. Cignoli told me she didn’t initially see it as a collaboration, since they knew each other.

“As a photographer, when I see someone who does something interesting that I want to capture I have always just reached out to them and I say, ‘Hey let’s shoot,'” said Cignoli. “So with Vine, it was the same thing. I thought dance would look cool in stop motion, so I asked her to work with me a bit.”

A few weeks later, Comedy Central launched #ComedyFest on Twitter and experimented with Vine. They featured some of the aforementioned amazingly funny performers, Steve Agee, James Urbaniak and Adam Goldberg, who, you might say, was the first collaborator on Vine, creating accounts for his girlfriend Roxanne Daner and her friend, Merritt Lear, and making wildly bizarre Vines with them. Stir in one of the funniest people on Vine, Marlo Meekins, and you had the makings of some fun crossover Vining.

One day, shortly after the Comedy Central Vinefest, I saw this:

Aside from the organized collaboration by Comedy Central, this was the first time I saw one Viner – who did not know the other Viner before the advent of the app – appear in another creator’s work.

Nicholas Megalis is a musician from Cleveland (now, also based in Brooklyn). It’s hard to describe exactly what Megalis does on Vine. The general category is comedy, but unlike YouTube, which begs for a longer more engaging narrative, Vine allows performers to create mini-performance art pieces. Megalis sings, dances, eats gross food, raps, and spontaneously interviews people with bananas on the street. His short bio on Vine reads, “Musician/Artist/Idiot.” I’d add “Vine genius.”

“I thought he was very clever and cool and I wanted to capture his essence,” said Cignoli about Megalis. “So I emailed him and asked him to collaborate. At first he was like, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ So I sent a long list of ideas and he was like, ‘YES.’ So he came over a week or two later and we just started making cool things together. It was a lot of fun.”

Since their first collaboration, Cignoli has featured Megalis in more of her Vines, and recently she celebrated her birthday with these wild and wacky dudes: Michael LoPriore, Nicholas Megalis, Jerome Jarre and Rudy Mancuso, all prominent Viners on the platform.

New collaborations can be unwieldy, too. Vine is, like other social apps, an ego driven platform. Most creators work in their own bubbles. Bringing strong, creative minds together doesn’t always lead to productivity.

“We are all idea people so the hardest part is that we have too many ideas and too many big personalities,” said Cignoli. “The other problem is that we all get along so well, it’s hard to get any Vines done. We just want to hang out and joke around, have fun. Too bad there are not more female viners in NYC. I can’t wait to work with Marlo Meekins and Brittany Furlan.”

Marlo Meekins rocketed to the top of the Vine, and recently she made the move to Los Angeles from her base in Toronto. Since Meekins’ arrived in Tinseltown, she’s featured cameos from celebrity Viners, Andy Milonakis and Gillian Jacobs. She also appeared in Steve Agee’s Memorial Day Vines with Andy Richter.

http://twitter.com/steveagee/status/339202275945873409

These collaborations are exciting because they feature famous people, but I was most impressed with this gem:

If you’re not on Vine, you probably don’t get it. But all of these artists (Jordan Burt, KC James, Brittany Furlan, Nick Confalone, DirtyCurt, Jethro Ames and Jerome Jarre [with cameos on both coasts!]) are blowing up on Vine. Some of them have over 170 thousand followers.

This past week, it seems another top tier Viner, Nick Mastodon, known for his Disney cartoon/pop music mashups, LNAJ (Late Night Awkward Jams), and an unhealthy obsession with Ricky Martin, is in Hollywood from his native Minneapolis and hooking up with new friends. Here’s Meekins “celebrating” Mastodon reaching 40 thousand followers:

Artists are traveling to far away cities and connecting with other amazingly talented creators to make six second videos. People aren’t just liking and commenting on Vines, they are meeting up in person to socialize and make new work. It’s a fascinating sociological evolution.

And, when artists can’t be in the same city, they’re creating musical loops over which other artists can layer in their own tracks on the #songcollab hashtag, spawned by Jason Coffee, way over in Hawaii. Nicholas Megalis whipped up this witty ditty:

And Coffee responded with this. Search the hashtag, and you’ll find other collaborations, too. Sometimes, the #songcollabs go as deep as five or six musicians.

Fans following these inventive artists love it. When Meekins appeared in Mastadon’s 40K celebratory Vine, commenters lost their minds. Who knows what the next baby step is for Vine? The toddlers are playing together in this fantastic freaky sandbox. I can’t wait until they hit their tweens, and the awkward stage begins…

Pimples and pubes!

Wait. I’ve already seen both of those on Vine.

10 artists to follow on vine who are not adam goldberg, james urbaniak, will sasso or steve agee

For the past 45 days, I’ve been slightly obsessed with a new app called Vine. You’ve probably heard of it. Either you signed up to try it out, got bored and left, or you have made MANY more six second videos that you ever imagined creating before this mini-movie app appeared in January.

vine-logoFor those who haven’t heard about it, Vine allows creators to make six second shorts by tapping on an iPhone screen to shoot quick snippets of video. People typically use it to make tiny comedy sketches, mini stop motion stories, manic animations, and (of course) cat videos.

One of the biggest criticisms of the app (aside from some complaints with its UI), is that many Vines are so bad they induce nausea or seizures. It’s true. Most people don’t know how to make a good video. It’s much harder than a single shot on Instagram. And Vine doesn’t have funky filters to improve that crappy video of your lunch. It just shoots what it sees (and hears – you can’t mute the sound, so no MOS).

Still, there are some talented people on Vine. And I’m not talking about Adam Goldberg, James Urbaniak, Will Sasso or Steve Agee. These guys are all shooting fun work. I follow and enjoy them. They’re featured everywhere. But there are other spectacular, non-famous Vines artists who should be getting props, too.

For the naysayers who think Vine is a vomit-inducing mess of crappy videos, or for Vineheads seeking new, talented, non-famous creators, check out my list of 10 artists to follow on Vine.

(In alphabetical order. Click the artists names to see all their videos).

Brittany Furlan
GENRE: COMEDY
STYLE: SIX SECOND SKETCHES
SUBJECT: HERSELF & HER DOGS
It took a few videos, but Brittany Furlan grew on me. And that’s a good thing. A sketch comedy performer out of “Hollyhood,” Furlan has three schicks: booty dancing in inappropriate places (funnier than it sounds), a reoccurring show “Jokes with a Beekeeper,” and conversations with her asshole dogs, which are goddamn brilliant. She does other bits, too, but these are my faves.

Handymartian
GENRE: AUDIO/VISUAL
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: CLAY, MUSIC
Andy Martin, is an animator, illustrator and music maker from the UK who uses these skills to make some of my favorite stop-motions on Vine. Essentially, they are studies of music and colored clay. Andy imbues globs of earth with personality by revealing secret sounds from within. They are are super cute eye and ear candy. Check out his website, too. His long form animation reel is gorgeous.

Jack Shelby
GENRE: BRAIN BENDER
STYLE: ANIMATION
SUBJECT: ILLUSTRATIONS  
Want to have your head messed with? Check out Jack Shelby’s simple, twisted illustrated loops. His edits are superb, creating a trance-like state for the viewer. “Stabby Mouse” is one of the most disturbing videos I’ve found on Vine. It doesn’t seem like it at first, but watch it twenty times in a row and you’ll have nightmares.

Jack doesn’t seem to have a Twitter account. Twitter is the only way to embed vines on Word Press, but you can watch his work at seevine.com. It’s the closest thing to Vine on the web, since Vine doesn’t have its own web-based aggregator (much like Instagram in its early days.)

Jack Shelby Vine #1

Jack Shelby Vine #2

Jack Shelby Vine #3

Khoa
GENRE: FUN/CUTE
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: CONSTRUCTION PAPER
I debated adding Khoa Phan. Mainly, because (as of this writing) he has 10,672 followers on Vine. This is a list of Viners who aren’t famous. In a very short time, Khoa’s construction paper stop motion vignettes have swiftly risen to be one of the most popular feeds on Vine. There are a couple reasons for that. They’re damn good and they’re damn cute. And they’re timely. He made Vines for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and even Dr. Seuss’ birthday. And they’re all fun and imaginative. Khoa isn’t famous outside of Vine, but he should be. And that’s why he’s on this list.

Marlo Meekins
GENRE: COMEDY
STYLE: SIX SECOND SKETCHES
SUBJECT: HERSELF
A cartoonist by trade and a kook on Vine, Marlo is another early Vine superstar (she just cracked 10K followers and made a perfect video to celebrate). It makes sense a cartoonist might master a six second video medium. After all, they typically tell stories in three to six illustrated panels. Now, the panels can move. Mostly, Marlo’s Vines are set up expectations that she smashes with her warped sense of humor. Her Vines range from the ridiculous to the really ridiculous. Oh, yeah. And she plays the ukelele. Swoon.

MC and Friends
GENRE: COMEDY
STYLE: OLD SKOOL FLIP-BOOK
SUBJECT: ILLUSTRATION/VOICE OVER
Whether taking the piss out of CSI: Miami or manifesting Dupstep Oprah (hilarious), the funny voice impressions and simple flip-book illustrations make use of Vine’s time limit in a different way. Instead of stop motion, MC and Friends literally flips pages and adds to the silly snippets of weirdness.

Watch Dub Step Oprah here. (C’mon. You know you want to.)

Meagan Cignoli
GENRE: AUDIO/VISUAL
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
Meagan Cignoli is a joy. She plays with household items, like bottles and chopsticks. Sometimes, she plays with her food. It’s all stop-motion, but not in the classic sense. She’s not creating characters out of clay or construction paper to tell a story. Meagan uses the items to create seamless loops. Her designs are delightful. She’s a prime example of someone who is experimenting with the form and (I presume) reflects the aesthetic from her other work as a photographer of people.

Peter Heacock
GENRE: COMEDY & AUDIO/VISUAL
STYLE: SIX SECOND SKETCHES
SUBJECT: HIS BABY & THE WORLD AROUND HIM
Peter is from Philly. He’s super sweet. And he is in PR. My interactions with him were the first that really felt social on Vine. The comments he leaves on my feed are encouraging, and he genuinely appreciates the love people give him. His coolness earned him a follow from me on Twitter, too. Aside from his winning personality, Peter experiments with light and sound, and he seems to have started his own “news channel,” ViNews. But my favorite videos feature Peter teaching his baby boy about The Wu-Tang Clan. Those Vines, alone, are worth following Peter.

Pinot
GENRE: CUTE & VISUAL
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: ILLUSTRATION, PAINTING & HIS KIDS
An Indonesian father of three glorious children and a graphic designer who lives in Kuwait, I want Pinot to be my dad. Okay, not really, but when I have children, I want to play with them like Pinot does his kids. Primarily working in stop motion, Pinot creates time-lapse Vines of illustrations that make you want to watch them over and over for each detail he drops into the frame. His “painting in the air” series is mind blowing, and the stop motion Empire Strikes Back he created with his daughters is just about the cutest thing you’ll find on the platform.

Yell Design
GENRE: FOOD PLAY
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: FOOD
Matt Willis takes playing with his food to a new level. From Australia, Matt is another artist I started following on Twitter because he is so darn genuine. The Vines Matt makes are pretty intense. They’re not just your run-of-the-mill-stop-motion. He deconstructs and reconstructs whole pineapples. From the can. He resurrects raisins to grapes. And he gives breakfast in bed a whole new meaning.

MY VINES
Of course, I’ve been having fun with the app, too. Sometimes, I shoot spontaneous Vines inspired by my surroundings, and others are more planned out, like a mini-series I’m calling #jdjames. It’s a glimpse at my id. Or, something.

I hope, if you were a naysayer, you’re showing a bit more interest. If you’re a Vine lover, you discovered some new artists. Who knows if Vine will be around in a year? For now, I’m enjoying new bits of art from around the world. And that makes my present moment a little bit better.

w. kamau bell is totally biased. and totally funny.

In 2010, I was the lead curator for terraNOVA Collective’s soloNOVA Arts Festival, which celebrates a variety of solo genres. It presents magicians, burlesque, storytellers, dancers and comedians. One of those comedians was W. Kamau Bell, a funny, smart, social activist from San Francisco.

If you haven’t heard of W. Kamau Bell, he recently procured a late night talk show on the FX Network by means of another little known comedian, Chris Rock. Mr. Rock (who seems to be everywhere these days), is executive producer on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. It premiered two weeks ago after one of my favorite shows, Louie.

Whenever someone I know gets a break, I really hope they knock it out of the park. I was eager to see what Kamau would do with this golden opportunity, and I’m pleased to report the show is wonderful. It’s not because the show is funny. It is, and if it weren’t, Totally Biased would be totally dead in the water. It’s great because at the center of his show is truth. The adage, “It’s funny because it’s true,” is elevated by a heart we haven’t seen in late night comedy for a while.

On the second episode, Rachel Maddow came through and talked about comedy entering a golden age. She emphasized how humor opens avenues that lead to important issues.

And that is precisely why “Totally Biased” is brilliant.

The strongest segment from the two aired episodes is Kamau’s man-on-the-street segment, “Stop & Frisk,” where he interviews people, including a representative of the ACLU, about the NYPD’s stop and frisk strategy, which violates individuals’ civil rights.

Kamau sheds a light on this racially charged strategy and ends the segment with a list of impractically funny items to put in your pockets “to make it a little more awkward for them, and a little more fun for you.” It’s truth mixed with absurdity as only W. Kamau Bell can do.

For me, a white man who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn – or someone who never gets stopped and frisked on the street – W. Kamau Bell pushed me to research the issue. The New York Times has a great analysis of the strategy, along with a documentary short featuring the neighborhood of Brownsville.

It’s super to see Kamau simultaneously making it in TV-land and making a difference. Here’s to many seasons of thought-provoking, hilarious comedy.

Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell – Thursdays at 11:00pm, after Louie.

Sources: NYTimes.com, Totally Biased YouTube

pitch perfect trailer hits the right note

In spite of (or maybe because of) the Glee-derivative, pop-culture laden, formulaic structure, Pitch Perfect’s trailer is hilarious.

Its tongue firmly placed in cheek, the movie shows tons of promise as a cult film. The attempt to make a capella hard core by setting a “Riff Off” in an abandon pool lighted with flashlights while they cover Dr. Dre’s “No Diggity” is deliciously over the top.

And my new favorite commedian/actor may very well be Rebel Wilson, who plays “Fat Amy,” calling herself that so “twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.” Instead of waiting to privately view on Netflix next year, I may actually catch it when it hits theaters October 5th.