Photo: Julian Vassallo
Cedric Vella is a name you’ll be hearing more of in years, if not months to come. I first heard of Cedric when I saw a tweet about his short film called “YouTube, My Facebook” (watch it below). I was immediately mesmerised by the charm and clever wickedness of the piece. The two-minute clip went quickly viral on social media and has just won an award at the Palo Alto International Film Festival. Cedric is proof that living on a small island doesn’t have to be about limitations. So long as you’ve the belief to see your dreams through.
We caught up with Cedric recently over a beer in the garden to chat about his craft as a visual creative artist.
I always wanted to work in the music industry. I talked myself into a job at Temple Studios without any clear job description. But I was prepared to do whatever was needed. I’d make tea for the bands and hoover the dust off the equipment; more often than not, you’d find me retrieving lost knobs from the vacuum bag the following day! Talk about getting your hands dirty and working your way up from the bottom.
I am the product of a DIY culture. Much of what I know about design, technology, music, video and 3D animation I learnt by doing. Sure, I still went to university and got a communications degree. In fact, I’d started out on a science degree first but decided I didn’t want to spend my life in a lab coat. There’s nothing wrong with formal education, except that it doesn’t necessarily help you think or be creative. Or know how to execute a project. In Malta, we do education by rote – there is little to prepare you for being streetwise. Take Facebook – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that it offers great opportunities for networking, but that it’s not OK to share everything with everyone.
Sometimes you need to push the envelope a little bit. In 2010 I tried a video prank in the style of Remi Galliard. Simple stuff, just me on a deckchair sunbathing in a public space. We just chose unlikely places – the airport concourse, the Sliema front and finally we went to Valletta. In the airport, this guy drove into the back of another car to have a good gawp. Just our luck, the trip to Valletta coincided with a festa, so I got jostled a bit by the police when they spotted me in my deckchair putting on the suntan lotion in front of Cafe Cordina, right on the festa procession route. You learn a lot about the fabric of your society when you set up in front of the law courts and tune into the comments of the passers-by. The majority of bystanders assumed I was foreign. Many told me to go back home to ‘my country’. Perhaps it was the white socks that did it. You can see the end result in this link.
I filmed ‘YouTube, my Facebook’ over one and a half months. That’s the time to script, write some music around a sample, press-gang my friends into the project and film. Most of the production work was done in my bedroom. I bought realms of green cloth which I draped on a metal rod for the backdrop. It was a race against time, as my laptop was dying on me. None of my friends had any idea of what I was up to, until they saw the final piece. They just trusted me and went along with it without asking any questions.
I’d posted the clip on a couple of blogs, including Talent House, and then forgot all about it. Were it not for a friend seeing a Google Alert on the winning entry, I wouldn’t have known about the award. I’m off to San Francisco for the award ceremony on the 29th September.
I’m a typical product of Maltese society in some ways. I’m only now moving out into my own place. On the other hand, we’re a practical bunch deep down, with a survivor instinct.
In my case, that one short film has opened up creative opportunities for me that I could only have dreamt of a couple of years ago. I’ve just finished another project for a bike company and haven’t slept in two weeks. We were working with 47 kilos of bikes all shipped to Malta for us to play around with creatively. It was total mayhem but I’m really happy with the end product. There’s something edgy about it – the soundscape, the editing of the moving parts, an alternative way of looking at everyday technology.
YouTube and Facebook are tools that have opened many doors for me. I wake up in the morning and I go and do what I love. I still cannot understand why people let themselves drift into or remain in jobs that clearly make them unhappy when we spend so much of our lives working. I know people put you down when you have dreams. I just always knew mine weren’t about suits and ties and the nine to five. I get my creative kick from doing what I do every day.