How To Watch Several Cat Videos, Without Getting In Trouble

Mike Ramsey
August 31, 2018 - 5:45 pm

courtesy: CatVideo Fest

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Do you enjoy watching wobbly camera footage of cats knocking over vases, jumping 15 feet in the air or being the cause of other hijinks? If so, a fancy feast awaits you in Chicago.

On Sept. 9, the Music Box Theatre will host CatVideoFest, a 70-minute reel compiled by Seattle's Will Braden, author of the "Henri, le Chat Noir" series of books. The family-friendly presentation, which will help support local cat shelters, is littered with more than 100 clips. 

WBBM Newsradio recently spoke with Braden about what the audience can expect. Below is an edited transcript.

WBBM NEWSRADIO: How did people get their cat fix before the Internet? Was there something comparable?

WILL BRADEN: I don't think so. There were seeds that you could see were going to become something later, once the Internet sort of took over. But it was really no different than any other niche market. I mean, yes, there was Cat Fancy magazine and there were cat shows and things like that. ... There were definitely ad campaigns with cats -- Morris, things like that. I think there were as many dogs as there were cats, in terms of representation. 

WBBM: The phrase 'cat video' has become part of the lexicon. It's become this shorthand for a goofy waste of time.

BRADEN: It's not entirely undeserved, because people do waste a lot of time watching cat videos. Also, the term 'cat video,' it's used in a certain context, just depending on how people want to use it. If the average person says cat video, they think of a shaky camera phone video of a cat trying to jump on something and falling down and we chuckle. To be honest, a lot of what's in the reel is that type of video. That's okay. We enjoy it, and that's fun. But one of the reasons that CatVideoFest is a thing and not just people going, 'Well, that was okay, but I've seen all those videos before,' is that I really try to put in all kinds of videos. I really want to subvert peoples' expectations of what the 'cat video' can be. It's important that there's always a music video, there's always some animated things, there's always a short documentary feature.

WBBM: Is it harder to find cat videos that truly surprise anybody anymore?

BRADEN: There's a challenge, for sure. ... What I also think about is somebody that's coming to the show who really is kind of obsessed with these things and is going to have seen a lot of most popular videos of the past year, which means I have a little more difficult task, which is to make that person come away from it thinking they've seen something worthwhile to spend their money on. So, I have to learn how to say 'funny cat' or 'cat fail' in like 25 other languages, so I can find little videos in the corners of the Internet that really would be popular if they had been searched for in English. My biggest source of gratification after shows is when people come up to me and say, 'I am obsessed with cat videos. I was coming here thinking I'm going to have seen all of these, and I haven't seen half of that.'

WBBM: Do you have a favorite cat video?

BRADEN: My favorite series of videos is the Maru videos. Maru's the most famous cat in the world, I would say. He's from Japan. I really love the minimalist, simplistic way they're shot. All it is is just him jumping in boxes and getting into various things in this very Japonese-style apartment. There's no music, the camera doesn't move. It's very bare-bones, and it just showcases the cat. There's just something really exciting about that.

WBBM: From a rights standpoint, when you're compiling something like this, are there any hoops you have to jump through, as far as getting permission?

BRADEN: In general, most of the videos, if they're up on YouTube or if they're up on Instagram or on Facebook, I can find where they are. I get in touch with the content creator, I explain what we do and just get a very simple permission. 

WBBM: Do you ever have anybody tell you, 'No, don't use it'?

BRADEN: Once in a while. Like, I remember one video I found -- really cute. It was a Polish video, and this guy had uploaded it, and it was a kitten doing something really cute. And I contacted the guy and explained what it was, and the guy wrote me back and couldn't have been nicer. He said, 'I've got to be honest. I just made this for my granddaughter, and there's a reason it has 14 views, and I just don't want other people to see it.' It was kind of quaint.

(For more information about CatVideoFest's Chicago stop, click here.)