ROCKLAND—With Maine coming in second (after Vermont) as the state with the most cat-owning households, it makes sense that the 2019 Cat Video Festival should take place here. The first stop will be at the Strand Theatre, March 24, and after that, the Festival will host several screenings in Portland. Will Braden, curator of the Cat Video Festival, lives in Seattle, but travels all over the U.S. and Canada each year to screen the Festival. Braden has led a very curious career; let’s find out a little bit more about him.
Pilot: Do you have another job?
Braden: No, this is it. I’m technically the president and CEO. We’re a pretty small operation; we don’t have many employees. Before this, I went to film school and did a lot of video work for hire in Seattle. So, I’m in charge of putting together the reels of the Festival. I look at about 10,000 cat videos a year and whittle that down to the final reel and do the music. The final reel is almost 75 minutes long, about 115 videos.
Pilot: How did you get involved with it?
Braden: In 2012, there was another festival called the Internet Cat Video Festival; the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis started that. The first year it took place, I entered my own film called Henri [a web series of short films on the existential musings of the tuxedo cat Henri ] which won The Golden Kitty (People’s Choice) Award. It got all of this press attention and I became attached at the hip with the Festival. And in the third year, I took over curating the reel for them. I did that for a couple of years and in 2015, they had their last show and moved on to different projects, so I started Cat Video Fest in 2016 to keep the tradition alive. Since 2012, one way or another cat videos have been my full-time profession.
Pilot: Do you own any cats yourself?
Braden: I have one cat, now. Her name is Nin, after Anais and she’s half Bengal and half who knows? She’s great, but mischievous, but loud and annoying.
Pilot: So, 10,000 hours of viewing cat videos?
Braden: No, no, no. 10,000 videos; if they were all an hour long, I don’t know if I could make it though it. But any time, I start to feel sorry for myself, I remember there are people who have to do roofing in July. Putting cat videos together is really more rewarding than challenging.
Pilot: What’s a ringer for a video?
Braden: It has to be edited down very tightly and has to have some kind of pay off at the end either the big laugh or the big ‘ohhhh.’ The thing that makes a video go viral is something that happens right at the end.
Pilot: This is pretty unscientific, but I’ve heard that watching cat videos alleviates stress.
Braden: I can’t imagine it wouldn’t. I’m the least stressed-out person and I watch more cat videos than anybody. Proof positive right there. But it’s true. So, many people come up to me after the Festival, lay a hand on my shoulder and say, ‘I needed that.’ They need 75 minutes of turning their brains off, joyously watching cat videos and laughing.
Pilot: is this a national or international festival?
Braden: It’s mostly national, with maybe six locations in Canada. So far, we’ve screened in about 100 venues with more to come. Although, this is stating to be the breakout year and we’re getting international invitations to come screen the Festival in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It’s funny, people think this Festival would only be in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Portland or some sort of hipster enclave. The fact that we’re selling out shows in Appleton, Wisconsin shows that there are cat lovers everywhere.
Pilot: Is it a surprise to you where your career has ended up?
Braden: I have a business card that says ‘I make cat videos.’ That was my dream to put it on my business card. I have to embrace the surreal, unusual and kind of silly nature of what I do, but at the same time I really love it. And you’d be surprised how many times I get interviewed and they ask, ‘So, was this always the plan?’ How on earth could that have been my plan? No, it’s all been serendipity, procrastination and luck.
The show starts at 3 p.m. FMI: Strand Theatre
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com