Focus on Fun and Feedback

Lasagne, enchiladas, salads, crepes. . Potlucks offer a wide variety of homemade specialties In a fi-ieudlly, festive atmosphere.

Sampling this smorgasbord of culinary delights can be a tasty treat-but it’s not everything. The pride taken in the dish you bring, the exchange of recipes, or the simple nature of sharing can be equally satisfying.

Consider the videomaker. Most of us are accumulating extensive video libraries which no one else has the opportunity to appreciate.

Things are changing. Enter the “video potluck.”

Soup to Nuts:

A video potluck is a gathering ofvideomakers for the dual purpose of sharing the craft and having fun-the perfect opportunity to display your video talents, meet people with similar Interests, or simply to share slices of life with good friends.

You’ll discover there’s more to be gained from a collective debut than merely keeping the dust off your videomaking investments. The video potluck is freedom of expression in all its glory.

This exhibition of modem-day folk art opens a new channel for video hobbyists eager to experiment and anxious for feedback. As art feeds on art, the blending of fresh concepts and resources generates creativity at every level of production.

Our personal style is like a fingerprint, an exclusive trademark, and even though we may perceive it as “off the wall” or “weird,” it’s our own. It’s reassuring to know there are other videomakers doing theft own thing, too.

Videoheads aren’t the only ones to benefit from this type of potluck. It’s a great way to hook friends on the video movement!

As with any social trend, peers make the most likely converts. People survive through shared interests in every culture, from food to fashion, politics to religion, even hobbies and habits. Our friends and neighbors influence our lives and make us who we are. So bring a friend.

Just Do It

A video potluck can be limited to a small group of friends or become a well-advertised public event.

In small groups time restrictions are looser and the viewing/reviewing process is more personal and intimate. In this context tastefully edited footage of summer vacations or Junior’s first soccer game can offer just as much entertainment as video “art.”

Sharing aspects of our personal lives can strengthen or create bonds. It becomes easier for others to identify with and relate to us. We learn to laugh at ourselves, and with each other.

The more impersonal nature of a public showing has certain advantages, however, especially for the “serious” videomaker. In smaller groups “quality” work may seem pretentious or ostentatious; but the same type of work shown in a large-group context is entirely acceptable.

Large groups promote a feeling of anonymity among participants; resulting in a certain level of candor. This is a plus for anyone desiring a true critique of their work.

Uncensored feedback from an audience with diverse interests and talents-videomakers themselves-is sure to contribute to the quality of future endeavors. Both positive and negative reviews can result in a beneficial learning experience for everyone.

Having the audience fill out critique forms between programs provides the videomaker with insight into his or her project’s strengths and weaknesses. This type of feedback (in addition to any verbal suggestions that maybe offered) can improve future presentations, and make them more palatable to boot.

Although critique sheets can be used to rank videos in each category (first, second, or third place in poetry, sci-fi, music, sports, etc.), competition should be discouraged to maintain a feeling of camaraderie.

In keeping with the video potluck theme of fun, sharing, and mutual help, competition seems inappropriate. Organized contests and festivals exist to meet those needs.

Hit the Streets

Finding a suitable location for your video potluck shouldn’t be difficult, regardless of audience size.

A little smooth talk and a bit of reasoning may persuade an open-minded cafe or pub owner to host the event. (They’ll be more than happy to sell food and beverages throughout the evening.) Many establishments have a big-screen TV and some even have banquet or meeting rooms.

Time limits on videos can be set at around 10 to 15 minutes each. You can schedule by rating (G, PG, R, X), category, or with a first-come/first-served signup sheet.

To further ensure a glitch-free presentation, technical needs should always be pre-assessed. Differing formats must be taken into consideration and a remote control kept handy to accommodate variations in audio levels (if they cannot be preset). An extra VCR eliminates between-program “white-out.”

If equipment is nonexistent or inadequate, invite local retailers to sponsor the show. If you are a video retailer, think about sponsoring a video potluck yourself, supplying the necessary equipment. You already know many people interested in video, and it can’t help but give your business a boost.

Come One, Come All

Get word out to the videomaking public using posters, flyers, radio or TV announcements, phone calls, and invitations. Advertise in schools to attract talented video students. AV instructors may even suggest a cooperative effort.

Teachers should consider initiating an annual potluck event. An end-of-the-year video potluck and party is an excellent opportunity for individual students to shine among peers.

Students can spend the school year collecting ideas on videotape, culminating their efforts in a proud display of art, information, and imagination.

If the video potluck in your neighborhood becomes an ongoing event, all kinds of possibilities arise. A newsletter will help videomakers establish contacts with one another. Theme nights can be held (this may help balance the programming on “general subject” nights). Public-access TV can expand the audience and spotlight video productions.

Large-scale or small, video potlucks can be anything you want them to be… as long as they’re fun!

Larry Leigh is a California-based freelance writer and photographer.