Last Thursday I got the opportunity with my job as Arts & Entertainment Editor of The Gonzaga Bulletin to attend The Internet Cat Video Festival in Spokane. Needless to say, it was quite an interesting experience. I really love cats (I have one named Misty at home) and I love cat videos almost as much. Misty does some crazy things (like play fetch and climb up the screen door to the backyard), but after watching an hour and seventeen minutes of cat videos at this festival, I realized just how funny all cats really are. Below is my article and interview with the hilarious Will Braden, the creator of Henri "Le Chat Noir."
Originally published in The Gonzaga Bulletin
The Knitting Factory was filled with an atypical audience last Thursday. Children, teens and adults adorned cat ears, hats and kitten paraphernalia all in celebration of one thing: the Internet Cat Video Film Festival.
The world tour of this festival landed in Spokane with a special guest appearance by Keyboard Cat and his owner and choreographer, Charlie Schmidt. While the cat’s appearance was brief — he was overwhelmed by the sizable crowd — Will Braden, another cat video creator, took over as the emcee for the night.
After a few opening remarks, the one hour and 17 minute reel of cat filmography began. From popular YouTube videos (like Grumpy Cat), to short Vine clips, this festival had the audience chuckling from start to finish. Some highlights of the reel included a kitten befriending a porcupine, a blind cat attacking air blowing out of a vacuum and, most uniquely, a cat dressed in a shark costume on top of a Roomba chasing a duck.
“I love seeing the reel over and over again with different audiences,” Braden, who has traveled with the festival, said. “Some people find [some] stuff funnier than others and it’s interesting … Spokane may have been the most generous audience, with their laughter, that I’ve seen.”
Braden created a series of videos featuring his cat Henri, “Le Chat Noir,” that are parodies of sad French noir films.
“The best part of all of this is no matter where you are and no matter what the audience is, people can still get a kick out of it,” Braden said. “There’s something universal about cat videos … You have to be a monster not to laugh at something in these videos.”
Despite potential criticisms of the festival’s availability on the Internet, Braden says the video reel is a must-see for cat lovers. When people ask him if it’s recycled content from YouTube, he tells them there’s always new laughs.
“I professionally watch cat videos and there’s always stuff I haven’t seen so there is always a surprise,” Braden said.
Braden remarks that he feels grateful to be an emcee for the traveling show.
“It really feels like I lucked out beyond belief because it’s all the fun of being on a rock tour without having to play any music, or a comedy tour without having to be all that funny.”
Getting such an opportunity began with the instantaneous popularity of his Henri videos on YouTube.
“So much of it is serendipity and luck,” Braden said. “It started off as just a film school project in 2006 and I didn’t know anything was going to come out of it.
“There was no Facebook then, there was barely YouTube. People were still emailing each other links to videos like cavemen. I think after five or six years it had 300,000 views on YouTube. And then the second [video] came out and it got like a million [views] in like a week. Celebrities were tweeting it, and then very quickly after that the film festival happened.”
For Braden, he achieved almost overnight success thanks to social networks and the premise of his videos. Sometimes Braden can’t believe where he is at, but is appreciative of it all.
“It really is surreal,” Braden said. “I don’t at all take myself super seriously about the whole process. My business cards say I make cat videos … that’s it. It really is my full-time job. It would’ve been funnier if I had a cubicle job and at one point the cat money was just sort of at a point where I could go in there and be like ‘I’m out!’ and flip over my cubicle, but it wasn’t really like that.”
As a certified cat video mogul, Braden has plenty of tips for those who aspire to film felines.
“There has to be universal appeal in it,” Braden said. “It helps when the funny thing that happens is literally the very last thing in the video, so that as soon as the video ends people are still laughing and are more inclined to share it with somebody else.”
Henri and Braden’s future is as spontaneous and fluid as their fame. Henri has turned into a cat being filmed for a video project, to a bona fide feline celebrity.
“The character might move from being a video character to an online presence,” Braden said. “So much of the success of this is because I have been open to adjusting it. Everyone just wants to interact with the character and see more. If I hadn’t been open to this, none of this would have happened, especially if I had been more precious about the video rather than the character.”
Asked about his future after the Internet Cat Video Festival ends, Braden plans to go where the wind takes him.
“The short answer is: I don’t know and I don’t care,” Braden said. “I’m going to ride the wave until it hits the shore and it’s just a lot of fun … There’s not going to be a shortage of cats or cat videos in the future so I just think it’s going to go on for a while.”