Videos have gone to the cats

Will Braden, producer of the Internet Cat Video Festival, with Henri, Le Chat Noir.

Will Braden, producer of the Internet Cat Video Festival, with Henri, Le Chat Noir.

By Sherry Warner

Who could have predicted that a cat video produced on a whim in film school would lead to the creation of a feline celebrity and a great gig producing cat video reels seen by millions.

Will Braden is the creator of Henri, Le Chat Noir: a pampered, existential French cat. “When I was in film school I had an assignment to do, which was to profile someone,” says Will. “I procrastinated and then I didn’t have a lot of time to do it so I decided to profile a cat and do it as a parody of old French new wave artsy films we’d been watching in film school.

“I thought if I made it funny maybe nobody would notice I didn’t follow the assignment,” laughs Will. “And it worked — I got an A.” Several years later Will created a Facebook page for his character, Henri. Le Chat Noir’s page grew quickly and when Will realized how many fans there were of the film and the character, he decided to make a sequel.

Fortunately for Will, the creation of Henri’s second video coincided with a call for submissions to the first Internet Cat Video Festival, the brainchild of two employees at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This inaugural festival was an experiment as part of the center’s outdoor programming. “As soon as they announced the call for submissions and was picked up by mainstream press it snowballed from there,” says Will. As a result, 10,000 people gathered in August 2012 on Open Field to take in the show.

At the end of the video reel, the first Golden Kitty (People’s Choice) Award was presented. As luck would have it, Will Braden and his sequel of Henri Le Chat Noir won. Will was there to accept the award in person. “It was the beginning of my relationship with the Cat Video Festival and it was a huge spike to the success of the cat video I made,” says Will. “The only word to describe it is serendipitous.”

Before the Cat Video Festival, Will was a camera for hire doing weddings, local commercials and the like in Seattle. He’s now the producer of the Internet Cat Video Festival. “My title technically is curator although I think a lot of people on the old guard at museums would probably take issue with that,” he says.

“This may seem like a dream job, but it’s no piece of cake,” he adds. The festival got close to 10,000 submissions for the 2013 event, which had to be culled down to fit into about 70 minutes of video. “I watched every single video that was submitted, I really did. I took it seriously,” says Will.

The Internet Cat Video Festival plays at the Walker Art Center's Open Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Internet Cat Video Festival plays at the Walker Art Center’s Open Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

After the kick-off festival in Minneapolis, tour dates for the reel are scheduled. People can request the reel to show at all kinds of events such as pet-industry fundraisers, corporate events or performing arts centres to name a few. Sometimes Will hosts the show or the organization can put the show on itself. “We make sure they get a copy of the reel and that there is charitable component to any showing that goes on,” says Will. “The universal appeal of it means we get a lot of different types of requests from a lot of different places. Everybody likes funny cat videos.”

For inquiries about bringing the Internet Cat Video Festival to your venue, please contact catvidfest@walkerart.org.