How Vimeo’s Staff Picks Became the Next Great Talent Finder

"The Maze Runner" director Wes Ball was discovered by the heat-seeking team at the popular streaming site.

As the line between online and brick-and-mortar film festivals continues to blur, industry insiders have begun to lean on the curation of Vimeo's Staff Picks to scout new voices in much the same way they do Sundance or Cannes.

The indie community initially galvanized around Vimeo when the company introduced the first high-definition player in late 2007, just months before the first high-definition DSLR cameras were released and a wave of new HD content was looking for a place to stream. Once HD video became standard on the web, Vimeo remained the preferred player of many filmmakers by staying advertising- and pop-up-free, while offering high-quality HD compression.

"We believe in the sanctity of the frame and for the filmmakers to have the best possible viewer and the best possible viewing experience," Jeremy Boxer, Creative Director at Vimeo, tells The Hollywood Reporter.

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Vimeo created Staff Picks in 2008 to highlight some of the best work on the site. The popularity of the page quickly grew to the point where it now has a staff of four full-time curators and features five videos a day. And it's not by accident that the Staff Picks logo looks like a film festival laurel.

"It used to be going to festival was the only way a filmmaker could get the attention of the film industry by getting the right people into a 150-seat theater," explains Boxer. "Now you can have your work hit 90,000 people in the course of a weekend and also have it go to the right people. A majority of the agents in Hollywood and production companies are looking at Staff Picks to give them an insider view of what they need to see on our site."

Boosting Staff Picks' profile is the fact that a majority of festivals now accept films that have premiered online. And its batting-average speaks for itself: Staff Pick films this year went on to be nominated for a Goya (Lucas), Oscar (Feral) and won the BAFTA for best short film (Room 8).

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The visibility also leads to collaboration and contacts. "I started my account in the summer of 2009 simply because I enjoyed Vimeo's interface and the HD compression method was far beyond YouTube's," writer-director Saman Kesh recalls. "Cut to a couple months later, little did I know that Staff Pick-ing my very first project [would result] in the Vimeo community helping me."

Kesh tells THR that because people saw his Vimeo-approved Cinnamon Chasers - Luv Deluxe, he was able to collaborate with musician Calvin Harris on a future project and received money to develop a film at a major studio. And two upcoming studio releases -- The Maze Runner and Earth To Echo -- were helmed by Staff Pick alums Wes Ball and Dave Green.

“We are living in a world where cat videos on YouTube are getting millions of hits,” says Boxer. "It's not really about the quantity and more about the quality of the people who are watching [Staff Picks]. What's really important to people on Vimeo is creativity. Creativity is what goes viral on Vimeo."