By Dr. Charlie W. Starr
I’m proud of my son, Bryan. Last year he found a website devoted to filmmaking that holds monthly contests for independent short films. The site provides an opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to send in projects and possibly win some prizes, not the least of which is bragging rights. Bryan’s short film, My Life the Movie (vimeo.com/62062898), won not only the monthly contest but the annual contest as well!
If you’re interested, you can see some of Bryan’s other movies on YouTube. Just search for his username, gooberboyfilmmaker. I mention this not just to brag but because we’re in a series discussing the good things happening in mass media and popular culture. Though far from perfect, his film is one of those things.
The Fuzzy, Funny, & Fascinating
YouTube has been around for almost a decade now, but its uses continue to expand. The site exists for people who want to put movies in a place where other people can see them. The material isn’t always family friendly, so parental supervision is necessary. But YouTube provides content we can find valuable.
A lot of what’s there is just for fun (which isn’t a bad thing). It seems like first-time parents and many pet lovers (especially cat people) are rather addicted to uploading videos of their babies, puppies, and kittens. I’m not a big fan of the cat lovers’ videos, but I get a kick out of Grumpy Cat.
Besides the funny there’s also the fascinating. Try looking, for example, at the videos produced by the Slow Mo Guys, a pair of Englishmen who make use of high speed cameras to slow down events we could never see with the naked eye. “Cool!” is the typical response out of my family members to the slow motion movement of paint on an audio speaker or a water balloon popping. Those of us who see theological meanings every place we look can watch these videos and almost imagine how a thousand years can be as a day to God (2 Peter 3:8).
You Can Tube Too
My wife has been viewing how-to videos for the last several months. The demonstration videos she’s watched on quilting techniques have improved her knowledge of the craft greatly—she frequently mentions being “blown away” by what she’s learning. Along with artistic endeavors, there are all manner of educational videos on YouTube, whether for home improvement or homework in math.
Again, it’s a great place for young filmmakers. You can encourage your kids to not only make movies but actually load them to a site where they can be seen by a ready-made audience. I’m excited by the fact that my film class students can make movies that don’t just gather dust but are available for viewers. (My YouTube page is called Alistarfilms if you’d like to take a look.)
Try going to YouTube and searching for “Christian Resources.” You’ll find a long list of story and teaching videos made by Christians for both Christians and non-Christians alike. YouTube is one of numerous places churches can upload Bible lessons, sermon series, and the highlights from last summer’s VBS. I like YouTube because I can often find a video clip I need to use as an illustration in a class.
One surprise use I discovered is a huge music library on the site. Have you ever been in a mood to listen to a song that’s too old for the radio and you don’t own a copy of anymore? YouTube may have the song as well as the whole album it played on—you know, that album you used to own a vinyl copy of till you wore it down and had to get rid of it when CDs came along? There are all manner of free songs available on YouTube. Few of us purchase classical music on CD, but when we want to have something playing in the background while we read, we can listen to whole symphonies on YouTube. (My daughter does this as a regular part of her homework strategy.)
Technology has its good uses and its bad. YouTube seems to be one of those Internet sources which isn’t going to disappear soon and which can be used for a variety of good purposes. It’s easy to access and has much to offer. It lets us find information we need in video form and gives us opportunities to make and promote our own video projects. It’s another example of how newer mass media have good things to offer.
Dr. Charlie W. Starr teaches English, humanities, and film at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Kentucky.