With the rise of more and more real-life YouTube events in recent years, a lot of the world’s perception of the site’s creators and stars has been shaped by the same image: thousands of screaming fans crushing themselves against barriers, waiting hours for their chance to meet and pose with their YouTube idol for just a few seconds.
And while we totally believe almost all fandom reactions are valid in some way, it’s easy to get lost in the noise and personalities, and forget just what it is that makes these internet kids so darn popular – their video content.
After a blur of a weekend in Toronto last week, this Unicorn has returned fresh and inspired from the third annual Buffer Festival. If your attention has tragically never been focused on the Canadian YouTube scene, Buffer is fast becoming one of the most important annual events on any serious YouTuber’s calendar.
Founded by Canadian YouTuber Corey Vidal and his production company/daily vlogging squad ApprenticeA, Buffer Festival brings its celebration of YouTube back around to the reason any of us are here at all – the videos. Unlike the convention-scale industry and fan-focused events like VidCon, Playlist Live, or the UK’s Summer in the City, Buffer is set up in a similar format to Sundance or Cannes or even Toronto’s own International Film Festival.
Kayla Briët – “Smoke That Travels (trailer)” (Played At Buffer Festival 2015)
Buffer is split into six screenings per day, each revolving around a certain theme or genre of YouTube video; full cinema-sized sessions dedicated to travel videos, short films and even types of vlog take place side-by-side in some of Toronto’s most prestigious media centres, and still come with an extra YouTube-y twist: each screening has its own dedicated meet-up first, where fans can engage with the creators they came to see.
— carlyn (@carrrrrlyn) October 24, 2015
And for those who can’t make it to the screenings for whatever reason, there’s always the chance to catch your faves on the red carpet, at Buffer’s internet star-studded opening gala premiere.
Louis Cole – “Buffer Festival Gala!” (Shot at Buffer Festival 2015)
Yep, at this event, creators are celebrated like the media pioneers they have become, instead of the scary digital experiment gone awry that many traditional media outlets would lead them to believe they are.
But, as stressed already, it’s not just about any one individual or personality – Buffer’s biggest strength is its celebration of the content these people create. This has become so recognised amongst the YouTube community, that not only did Buffer boast over 200 video premieres this year from attending creators, allowing real-life attending audiences to be the first to see their upcoming content; but it inspired Corey and his team to launch their first Creator Day, an accompanying day-long programme of panel content to encourage and educate aspiring creators.
Overall, “inspiration” is probably the biggest theme of this year’s Buffer Festival- even if I only say so myself. Speaking on the Comedy Vloggers screening alongside such masters of the video form as JusReign, Olan Rogers and Mike Falzone, I shamefully rocked up to Buffer with no new content to premiere, choosing instead to share an older video (that I was still admittedly quite proud of).
I have to admit, I’m my own biggest critic no matter the situation; but watching my little vlog from underneath a big cinematic screen, sandwiched between an epic lip synch video from Matt Watts and some sketch comedy gold from WheezyWaiter, I couldn’t help but feel like there’s more I can be doing. After vlogging for over seven years, I often worry that I’ve settled with the stripes I’ve earned as a YouTuber, to the point that I’m no longer pushing myself to improve.
WheezyWaiter – “Adventures of Metal Man and Lazer Dog” (Premiered at Buffer Festival 2015)
When internet stars are celebrated and obsessed over for their looks and “relatable” Tweets more than even their vapid challenge videos, it’s easy to get fatigued over the whole thing and stop trying to break the mould. But here comes a full event, willing to give credit where it’s due, and put genuinely good videos from YouTubers on a big screen and say “Look at this cool thing”. And if that doesn’t make a creator want to make something worthy of this opportunity, then I don’t know what will. I know that when next year’s Buffer rolls around, I want to be prepared with some amazing content to debut to a live and deserving audience. And that preparation started as soon as I stepped out from the gala premiere.
Andrew Huang – “We Are One” (Premiered at Buffer Festival 2015)
With all the meet-ups, stage performances and exclusivity that surround other YouTube events, attendees will typically feel inspired to want to become one of the site’s biggest stars. But from the content I’ve seen at this event, Buffer Festival will inspire you to become the best.