WEEKEND EDITION

Every Block Has a Story…

| July 13, 2011 6:00 AM video

The Internet is flooded with amateur footage taken on the streets of New York City. Somewhere between the chaos of videos posted to YouTube and Vimeo and similar sites, there are stories that you want to see — and in some cases, that you want to tell.

A new online platform called MyBlockNYC hopes to do just that, bringing order to the chaos of user-generated content by tying locally shot video of all calibers to specific locations.

“We all have some sort of video or camera in our pocket,” said Alex Kalman, 26, co-founder of MyBlockNYC. “It’s a fun and easy way of storytelling, but we thought there could be a better way to organize and present these kinds of videos.”

We wanted to create, online, a way to explore a city from the human perspective.

The website, which is currently privately funded and launched Tuesday, invites users to upload personal videos and tag them to a specific block. The site already has quite a collection of featured videos — check out Opie’s Eye – Let your Freak Flag Fly, featuring fun (and funny) clips of a variety of street performers scattered throughout Central Park.

“We wanted to create, online, a way to explore a city from the human perspective,” explained Kalman.

Beginning July 24, the site will also be featured as an interactive installation in the exhibition “Talk To Me” at the Museum of Modern Art, which explores the evolving relationship between people and technological objects like cell phones and MetroCard machines.

Kalman, who also founded Red Bucket Films, said his parents, artist Maira Kalman and the late designer Tibor Kalman, piqued his interest in the nuances of everyday life in the city.

“My father…was interested in the vernacular and in presenting images in ways that tell stories…and finding the similarities within those ideas,” Kalman said.

MyBlockNYC also has an educational mission. Earlier this year, they established a video education program for New York City public schools in partnership with the city’s Department of Education. The program, which uses experiential learning methods, includes a lesson plan for teachers and a “Field Guide to Street Filmmaking” for students.

“The idea was to give each student the opportunity to discover whether video was in fact a language that spoke to them,” explained Alex Rickard, 25, Kalman’s business partner. They launched a pilot last spring with a group of 160 students in seven public schools. MyBlockNYC provided the students with flip video cameras and told them to “go home and capture what it means to live on your block.”

One of the students, Jamal Manning, 17, created a short film about a murder on his floor in his apartment. “The teacher had an extreme reaction,” Kalman recalled. “It developed an understanding of what a 17-year-old kid moves through in his home environment.”

They are looking to expand the program to 50 public schools in the 2011-2012 school year.

The site will evolve over time and the team hopes to do more with their new interactive platform, but ultimately Kalman said, “among all these streets are characters — it’s about exploring the city and meeting new people.”

Want an assignment?

“Share the moments you see on the wild streets of New York City. You can upload videos you have already have on your cell phone or computer, or explore the city and capture what you see. Each video should be shot outdoors and take place on a single block.”

  • renee wagner

    what a brilliantly executed idea! kalman, you are of amazing roots (your parents and your city). from a fan in los angeles, renee wagner

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