Bob Tourtellotte

If you can't beat 'em, YouTube, join 'em.

Long since video-sharing website YouTube became an Internet sensation, media watchers have wondered how it can take users' appetite for 2- or 3-minute videos and transform it into a hunger for full-length film and TV-style content. On Thursday, Sundance Film Festival audiences got a first taste.

To be sure, YouTube's full-length movie Life In a Day is nowhere near the scope of a project needed to make YouTube a common destination for watching Hollywood movies and TV shows as people do with Netflix, Hulu or iTunes. But it may be the start of something new, and YouTube insiders say more is to come.

Life In a Day was a project conceived by YouTube and carried out by Scott Free Productions, the movie and TV company run by acclaimed directors Ridley and Tony Scott. It was directed by Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald from a concept conceived by YouTube and film producer Liza Marshall.

The idea was simple, yet in its execution very complex, its makers said following Thursday night's Sundance premiere. The idea: ask YouTube users to videotape one full-day in their lives, July 24, 2010, and send in the video. The execution: from the footage, pull together a 90-minute movie.

Macdonald admitted some trepidation ahead of the project. We called it an experiment because with an experiment you can fail, he told the Sundance crowd, When we started to realize the film worked, we stopped calling it an experiment.

The film's makers said when they put out the call for videotape back in July, they expected to receive some 10,000 hours of footage. They got 80,000 hours.


In all, they received 4500 videos from a wide range of people in 192 countries: young filmmakers looking for a break, and individuals and families who simply had a story to tell.

There is a Korean man traveling the world on his bicycle trying to make the impossible, seem possible. There is a Japanese man -- a single parent -- caring for his son; a family dealing with cancer in Chicago; an Indian gardener working in Dubai; a shoe shine boy on the streets of Peru and a U.S. man spurned by a woman he wants to date.

The film's makers said, oddly, they received a lot of video of people's feet. Surprisingly, they said, most of the footage was happy material and it was hard to find dark material.

Few major events happened on the day, with the exception of people being trampled at a Love Parade in Germany. But the lack of any big news is what the makers seized upon.

You focused not on the big event, but on...the ordinary person on the street's view of life, Macdonald said. Sometimes even the banal details can be the most telling, and can be the most familiar and touching for us to view.

The message of the movie -- and its makers admit it sounds corny and cliched -- is one of connection. Regardless of where we live, what language we speak, or our circumstances in life, we all need to connect with others to make our lives whole.

To further that point, YouTube streamed the premiere around the world live on the Web.

Macdonald -- who won an Oscar for One Day in September about the 1972 Olympics hostage crisis -- said making the movie gave him a new appreciation for the beauty and intimacy of amateur video and the kind of things you can do with a little tiny camera you can't do with a big professional camera.

Life in A Day is being released by the film division of National Geographic on July 24, 2011.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)