Vimeo Awards

Vimeo is kicking off a brand-new festival and awards program tonight at a party in Soho (it’s invite-only, though there’s an open bar, for those of you lucky enough to have received one). I spoke to Deb Szajngarten, Vimeo’s director of marketing, who in describing the new venture to me, rattled off a range of traditional and unexpected award categories, from music video, documentary and animation to remix, experimental and captured (think content over quality, like a live art installation).

The top prize, for the best online video chosen from all the categories, is $25,000. That’s a pretty sweet take-home, particularly in Web circles. But then again, Vimeo is not your garden-variety video sharing site. Time magazine named it one of its Top 50 Websites in 2009 and ever since HTML5, it’s been one of the few places on the Web where you can reliably post high-res content.

Among the confirmed judges to date are documentary filmmakers Morgan Spurlock, Doug Pray and Lucy Walker; Roman Coppola, son of Francis, brother of Sofia and co-writer/producer of The Darjeerling Limited; that subliminal kid himself, DJ Spooky; editor/remix/mashup artist Adam Quick of Wreck and Salvage; and DSLR video pioneer, Vincent Laforet.

Rounding out the list—in the apt to be weird and wonderful “experimental” category—is David Lynch.

True to the Vimeo tag line, Szajngarten said the new awards program is all about honoring the range of creative online video—and people—that use Vimeo every day. “We know that there are already tons of festivals and awards already out there,” she said, “and they are mostly for film. What we want to celebrate is all the other incredible content by people who choose the Web as their primary medium.”

Isn’t the Web video award space already getting a bit crowded? “The Streamys only recognizes Web series, which is a fraction of what’s out there on the Web,” Szajngarten countered. “And The Webbys have a corporate focus. They’re about the publications and the sites,” not the quirky, experimental one-offs that you see regularly on sites like Vimeo and across the Web.

“Our only criteria” she added, “is that the entry must have debuted somewhere online, whether on Hulu, or YouTube, or Vimeo or wherever.” If you are already a Vimeo Plus member, she said, the cost of entry is significantly less at $5 per submission. Non-members will pay $20 per submission.

A two-day festival, which will include workshop-style classes with Laforet and others, will take place in early October. A special preview screening of finalists’ work is also scheduled during IBC in Amstedam this September.

For more details about the award categories, judges and submission details, go here.