Northwest Film Forum gives YouTube a little online liberation

It is about you, after all.

During the last year, a variety of Internet crazes swept the nation and exploded beyond recognition. The leader in this online revolution, arguably, was YouTube, the Web site featuring video clips ranging from the bizarre and amateur to forgotten film moments and chunks of humorous advertisements. Before dismissing the impact of online video, note that Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion last year. This is hardly small change.

This Saturday, the Northwest Film Forum (NWFF) will present WeTube, which will liberate online clips from YouTube by showing them on a big screen. The evening will feature a selection that will include some of the more popular and outrageous clips of the last year. Peter Lucas and Adam Sekular, NWFF program directors, worked together to assemble the WeTube program.

"The concept behind WeTube is that a huge phenomenon blew up this last year," Lucas said, "but this whole internet sharing phenomenon is not exclusive to YouTube. Time Magazine's person of the year was 'You.' They were tipping their hat to YouTube, and MySpace. We want to celebrate (YouTube) and poke fun at it at the same time... Our staff is a bunch of media archeologists. We are interested in finding unusual cinema."

Lucas said the program will take some of the low resolution clips and expand them on the NWFF's large screen. He hopes that people will connect with the program and have a "communal experience" they wouldn't get sitting at a computer. NWFF will present a wide variety of clips that may also include some of the more popular films currently showing on the website, or they may venture off into the bizarre. At some point during the event, the audience will get an opportunity to participate in the program by interacting with the YouTube website as a group.

"YouTube is an anonymous thing that brings the world into a small community, so it's like everyone is a local weirdo," he said.

Lucas expects a diverse audience that will include the Web site's enthusiasts, along with people curious about the fad of home videos and personal movies made for online viewing. He said there is a great level of interest from both sides. When asked about the program, he said there would be surprises through the evening.

"Most of it will be amateur. We purposely didn't release a program," he said. "We want this to be a surprise. The oddity of some of these things really does reach people. We want to show slivers of normal people doing goofy things."

With 100 million clips being viewed daily by a worldwide audience, YouTube may not be much of an oddity anymore. Lucas spends a great amount of time watching like many others have found themselves doing. However, the online films absorb him. "It's an addiction," he claimed.

In talking to other film programmers, he said he is not alone in his obsession. He regularly asks his colleagues and peers if they watch YouTube, and almost all of them do. They talk about their favorite YouTube films with each other because the web content is always changing.

"I ask them what they watch," Lucas said. "I ask people from everywhere that are different from me, and they know and watch the same dumb YouTube clip as me."

"YouTube changes every day," he said, "especially with Google picking it up. There are corporate ads on there now and the whole thing is changing quickly. What is on there now will be completely different three months from now. Google was smart. They will make a lot of money from it, and they will change it completely."

Some of these changes will include more professional content, and potentially more corporate involvement. However, Lucas didn't sense that this buyoff would make YouTube any different in regard to its users or the people that post their films on the site. It won't "water down" the content, but it will change it.

"(YouTube) will be more than Google," he said. "Anytime something becomes popular it starts to involve a lot of elements. There is no going back to a random bulletin board of stuff. It may become more professional...but I am a fan of the chaos of a random bulletin board."

The NWFF may continue this concept in the future, expanding its focus with content from other websites like Lucas said they would like to make this a regular feature of the forum's events.

WeTube will be presented Saturday, Feb. 24, at 11 p.m. at the Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave. Tickets are $8.50 and will be available at the door or online at The event is free for NWFF members. And of course, you can visit YouTube at

Freelance writer Bill Freeberg lives on Capitol Hill and can be reached at editor@capitol

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