An Interview with Vimeo’s Content & Community Coordinator – Cameron Christopher Dunn

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Cameron Christopher Dunn (above: photo by Ryan Pfluger) is a photographer and designer who also happens to be a part of the great team over at Vimeo headquarters in NYC. I got in touch with Cameron to find out why he loves Vimeo and to ask a bit more about some of his wonderful images.

When did you first become interested in art and design?

My family is very artistic so I’ve been exposed to this since I was a kid and find it very interesting. However, it wasn’t until high school that I found out exactly what design was all about, which is essentially problem solving. That’s what I really like about design. So, I ended up going to school for 5 years to study Interior Design. I still love the idea of design—how people move through space—but elements of this are changing and expanding. For example, here at Vimeo, I often have to use my design mind to figure out user experience problems; there are so many ways people use and interpret design.

Where you interested in film and video before starting at Vimeo?

I’ve been working at Vimeo since June 2012, but I’ve been part of the site for nearly 7 years; I’m old school Vimeo! In that time, I uploaded almost 200 videos. They were my way of participating in the community, and also how I got to know people on the site. However, I didn’t make videos to be a filmmaker; I just thought it was super interesting, and a great way to connect with people. However, I have become more interested in the technical aspects as an employee of Vimeo, mainly because so many of my co-workers have been through film school and make beautiful work.

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What is your job at Vimeo?

I’m Content and Community Coordinator, which mostly involves answering questions; basically solving the problems and easing the minds of our members. We really believe in handling each case personally, and interacting with the community by watching and commenting on as many videos as possible. I also have the honour of organizing, writing and judging the Weekend Challenges. This is my favourite thing. I used to participate in these Challenges a lot before working at Vimeo and used to dream of one day being able to write them! Dan, the director of Vimeo Video School, happily gave me the job!

Are the challenges your original ideas?

Most of them, though I remind everyone on the Community Team about the Challenge and welcome him or her to bring any ideas to the table. My friend and co-worker Rebecca “hosted” one recently. We have a lot of ideas that have been sitting in a to-do list for years. For example, last weeks Challenge, The Scavenger Hunt, has been in my head for a while. The list actually came from my friends when I asked them to call out random objects: “a shadow, something falling” all of which found there way into the Challenge!

I always have an idea in my head that I wish people would do, but I have to ensure that I make the Challenge broad enough for people to interpret it how they wish. People often ask little questions, but I always tell them not to worry when slightly breaking the rules and to experiment.

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Why Vimeo?

It’s such a great community. I got started in my first year of College. It was a very friendly online community and I got to know some of the people who went on to work at Vimeo. I remember when Andrea was hired from the Community, and she is now the ‘face’ of Vimeo and Director of Production! I really wanted to work for Vimeo for the same reasons I liked using the site. I also love answering people’s questions, especially those of the more advanced in age. There’s one person I’ve had nearly 70 emails back and forth with; she also shares her family videos with me!

Have you always been into social media?

I had a friend in College who would sit in her room and read Jane Austin all day. She didn’t see herself as a ‘connected’ person and used to joke about how ‘wired’ in I am. But, now, amongst my co-workers, I’m closer to the middle of the spectrum. I’ve had a blog for over six years now, which has gone from being my whiney life journal to a place to collect design and illustration (with a bit of whining still). I do share a lot of stuff on Facebook for family as well. Twitter, however, is harder—I feel like you have to witty and I could never figure out what to say. In middle school, I used to meet people in art community forums and that led me to Vimeo, which was the first online video community.

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Who are your influences in the world of design and photography?

Recently, I’ve had the good fortune of befriending some great photographers, Ryan Pfluger and Daniel Seung Lee, who inspire me. I also love a lot of work that I don’t do, for example portrait photography. I love natural opportunities for photography and design, and like to keep an open eye and be observational. Sometimes I’ll look at something and blink, which reminds me of a camera shutter, which in-turn reminds me to take a picture of it. I do edit my photographs, but I never cut and paste stuff; I’m heavy handed with color. This is because I like the picture to look like the vision I had in my head, so if this is gold and glittery, that’s how I’ll design it. I’m very taken by the ability to freeze a moment in time.

Any projects you guys over at Vimeo are working on, or you yourself?

Currently, at Vimeo, we’re coming up with an exciting new series of videos for Video School, as well as some new features for the mobile app. It’s the first time we’ve built an entire set for these videos, and it looks amazing — the production team does such amazing work. We’ve also just pushed out a new version of Vimeo pro with some cool features. Personally, I’m working on video from a recent vacation for my Mum!

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Where do you see the future for online video?

I think it’s about giving as much power as possible to the creators, which I think we’re doing with Vimeo On Demand. We want to be a friendly platform where people can distribute their own work and have the chance to make real money from their work, moving the power away from organizations that may take away 50% of a creators profit. I’d also love the creative community to continue to flourish. Vimeo is a place for quality videos by great filmmakers, which I love, but I don’t want anyone to ever avoid uploading to Vimeo because they are intimidated. This is the main thought behind the Weekend Challenges! I want everyone to participate and have a go at making a video. In my dream future, the Internet (and specifically Vimeo) is a platform to upload and share work with no self-conscience.

Any advice for people of creative content?

I find myself always comparing my work to others. As a person very interested in art, design, or film, you are going to find numerous elements about others’ work that will inspire you. You will end up trying to make this thing. Everyday, I’m surrounded by such creative people, and I end up getting tired of trying to be these people. I can’t vocalize it any better than Ira Glass, who said: “For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.” I have a really strong taste in the art that I like, but I can’t draw like these artists. I think you should try to work consistently to a level that, within your own bubble, you think is really good. You shouldn’t always compare this work to where you’re trying to get. Don’t say, “Why can’t it be like this other thing”. Take one step at a time. Appreciate the making of something.

Visit Cameron’s website here.

 

10 Ways to Stay Creative

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Below is a set of rules/guidelines that I’ve configured to help myself stay creative and ultimately keep on top of life. I’m not saying these will work for you, but, presently, I abide by this list. The list is as follows:

1 – Carry a Notebook, Everywhere.

This is the most essential item on the list. Whenever you get in idea, write it down. Especially when you first wake up in the mornings and all those wild dreams come spilling out. It’s surprising how fast you’ll fill it up.

2 – Make Lists (in your notebook).

People commonly refer to writing ‘to do’ lists. Although, I like to write all kinds of lists, including this list I’m writing now. Lists force you to come up with new ideas. When ticked off, the pathway is opened to the aspired feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.

3- Read.

An obvious one? Perhaps not. The greatest task of reading, for many, is to find the time. It could be seen as an unproductive way to spend time, for example. However, reading will soon open up your mind to new narratives and paths of life (fiction readers) or undiscovered and hidden depths of knowledge (academia). Reading is the prior body of our endless citation and reference in life, which I guarantee you will end up using to gratification somewhere in yours.

4 – Listen to Music.

By this, I don’t mean ‘chart toppers’ but something more inspirational and uplifting, perhaps experimental. I find it helps to ‘open your mind’, but many disagree. Take a film that’s really affected or inspired you on a personal note and download the soundtrack. This would be a good place to start.

5 – Be Observant.

Open your conscience up to various situations. Listen out. Exaggerate your everyday surroundings. Basically, observe what’s going on (try not to be too nosey though!) and you never know what you may discover.

 6 – Design Something.

This could be on a piece of computer software, for example, graphics design in Photoshop or motion design in After Effects. Or rather, you could design something architectural, draw something or even pick up a paintbrush. Create something that stretches your skillset and ability. Ultimately, something you can be proud of.

7 – Creative Writing.

This comes in many forms, of course. It could mean attempting that screenplay you’ve wanted to write for years, or perhaps a play, short story, poem or novel. Either is as creative as the other (arguable) and a great way to dive in at the deep end and discover your true capabilities.

8 – See New Places.

Similar to being observant. Travel whenever you can, discover new places, their cultures, the nature, landscapes, oceans etc. Don’t forget your notebook and camera if you have one!

9 – Take a Photo Everyday.

 If you don’t have a camera…well, this just isn’t much of an excuse anymore. Use your phone or the cheap 2nd hand compact digital at the local store. Finding something new and interesting to photograph each day will keep your senses alive and your observant mindset on cue. Write about this photo or maybe even blog it to the world. Alternatively, feel free to film something each day!

10 – Watch a Film Everyday.

 Quite possibly my favourite on the list. Again, this may concur with time constraints. But, even if it’s just watching a short film on your lunch break, it may leave you with a fresh view on a differential aspect of life – a leap always worth taking. Films can open your eyes (not just literally!). Get watching!

No Tripod!

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It’s 11 at night and I’m writing my list of things to remember for the 6am start tomorrow. At the top of this list, I write, in block capitals, TRIPOD. I then position my tripod next to my packed bag. This tripod is not getting left behind!

The alarm sounds, a moment of dread envelopes my mind upon the realization of the early hour, but, shortly after, excitement kicks in and I’m up in no time (at least a few minutes). I run through my routinely morning procedures in a flash, grab my bag and head out of the door as my family are waiting impatiently in the car. What happened to the list you might be wondering? Absolutely nothing.

It’s too late to turn around, we’re five minutes from the ferry port when it dawns on me, like a virus apocalypse inside my head. My blood boils, I panic, how could I possibly capture a weeks photography and video without a tripod?

Thinking cap time. My father had continually told me from day one: ‘always think positively about bad situations’. I was struggling with this one. Finally, I came to the conclusion that without my tripod my cinematography skills would have to find new and inventive ways of capturing image and, ultimately, advance. This may be true, but I’d certainly choose a tripod over duck taping a tabletop pod to a broom pole and waving this unreliable invention around in the air.

A – it was awfully time consuming and tedious to operate. B – you put £2000 at risk of falling ‘down the drain’. C – It frankly looks ridiculous.

I purchased the tabletop pod (as it’s labeled on the packet) at a local photographic print store named ‘phox’ – whether this meant ‘x’ rated photos or ‘phoxy’ ones being sold, I’m not sure. Somehow, this small village seemed to be the only remotely inhabited place we came by on our 3-hour drive to my parents boat. It was, consequently, a minor miracle when a old, stereotypical French lady (she just looked really French, okay!?) replied “Un magasin de photographie? Oui, oui..” followed by some directions I couldn’t recite for the life of me. Good job the shop was just around the corner!

The male shop tender thought he saw an alien when I walked in, his jaw dropped to the floor. A customer, a customer with a camera in his hand, a customer with a strong intensive look on purchasing something! The man had business. I pointed at my camera before making a buffoon like attempt to draw a tripod below the latter with my hand. The man was sharp on his toes and quickly conjured up a neat little package containing the fore mentioned ‘tabletop pod’. The device was no more than a centimeter wide and a few inches tall. I looked down at the canon 7d hanging around my neck and then at the pod that stood elegantly on the counter below. You’ve got to be joking. It was an Arnold Schwarzenegger versus Predators moment – I can tackle this.

“You’ve not got anything a little bigger?” I asked, whilst using some sort of great hand gesture to get the point across. “Ahh, no,” he sounded in a deep French accent, of course. The man then explained that the nearest ‘real’ tripod was at a store over 100 kilometers away. So, I decided to tackle the miniature device (which fortunately didn’t have night vision). It was a desperate moment. Upon attachment, my SLR instantly flopped forward, hopeless. Seconds later, “I’ll take it.”

7.90 – an extreme rip-off for 3 tiny prongs of plastic.

However, I take my hat off to the shopkeeper. What a great little device – it even fits in my pocket! By the end of the week, I’d mastered the use of it and managed to get some very steady shots – I was soon over the depression stirred by my maddening ability to simply forget.

So, the long overdue message of this post is really to put emphasis on how important using a tripod is, but, that if you forget it, there’s always a way to get the shot you want (if you intend on going for a handheld look, then sshhh). In the past, I’ve stacked my whole shelf of books upon one another to place my camera steady at the height I want it. Try new things and you’ll soon get over leaving your tripod behind.

However, carrying a tripod is always worth the hassle (just remember it). In the case of my situation in France, thank you Mr. Phoxy!