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User-generated YouTube film to get splashy Sundance premiere

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-07-22

Directors Ridley Scott (pictured) and Kevin Macdonald are inviting YouTube users to film their lives on July 24 and submit the footage. The result, which will screen at Sundance, is being touted as the first feature-length user-generated documentary.

For most of the world, July 24, 2010, will be a regular mid-summer day that comes and goes without much ado. But for 20 people, the date will be immortalised in a film to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, next January.

Hollywood directors Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald are teaming up with YouTube, inviting users of the site from around the globe to shoot moments from their lives on July 24 and submit the footage. Scott and Macdonald will then select 20 of the most compelling submissions and edit them into a documentary called “Life in a Day”. Those whose work is chosen - whether they are professional filmmakers or amateurs - will be credited as co-directors and flown to the movie’s premiere at Sundance, a festival known for showcasing new works by independent filmmakers around the world.

“Life in a Day” is riding a considerable wave of hype: it is being touted as a filmmaking breakthrough, the first feature-length user-generated documentary; director Macdonald has said it will be “unlike any film that’s ever been made before”; and an online teaser, featuring a music-video-style montage of slice-of-life scenes from around the world (a Little League game, Chinese factory workers, Jews at the Western Wall), culminates in a grandiose invitation for YouTube users to “be a part of history”.

It remains to be seen whether the result of the experiment will live up to the filmmakers’ bravado, the novelty of the concept, and its potential for telling unusual human stories - or if it will play more like a YouTube marketing gimmick.

Granting a much-coveted spot in a film festival lineup to a movie that has not even been made yet may look like a risky move. But in an interview with, Sundance director John Cooper said he was swayed by what he calls the “originality” and “scope” of the project, and was “inspired by [Kevin Macdonald’s] excitement and fearlessness of the unknown nature of it”.

Macdonald will direct “Life in a Day”, helping to choose and edit the submissions and define the film’s angle and tone. He is best known for directing Idi Amin biopic “The Last King of Scotland”, as well as “One Day in September”, a documentary about Israeli athletes held hostage at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Scott, the English director behind action hits like “Blade Runner”, “Alien”, and “Gladiator”, as well as seminal female buddy movie “Thelma and Louise”, will produce.

A ‘time capsule’ for generations to come

YouTube came up with the idea for the film last year. It is the latest example of the massively popular video-sharing site collaborating on a high-profile arts initiative. In 2009, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, assembled from musicians that had posted auditions to YouTube, performed at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. In May, New York’s elegant Guggenheim museum opened a competition that will exhibit the most creative videos posted by YouTube users this autumn.

But YouTube’s new artistic venture is being framed in particularly ambitious terms: Macdonald has said the film will serve as a “time capsule” that will help future generations understand what life on earth was like at this particular moment of history.

To participate, YouTube users must upload their footage to

Those hoping to be among the lucky 20 selected can visit the site for pointers from the men behind the project. Macdonald notes that the subject of a submission can be either “banal” or “emotional”. He also urges people to include in their video submission the answers to three questions: “What do you fear most?”, “What do you love?”, and “What makes you laugh?” Emphasizing the personal approach the filmmakers are looking for, Macdonald advises participants to “pull out whatever’s in your pocket and film it”.

And for those citizens of the world who don’t have cameras? The filmmakers, keen to ensure that their movie plays like an inclusive representation of different ways of life, and not a clip reel by highly-educated aspiring cineastes, will distribute cameras in poorer and more remote regions. The question of how those without internet access will then upload their footage to the Web site seems to be, for the moment, unanswered.

Date created : 2010-07-22


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