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BuzzFeed, Instagram to Fund 15 Video Creators’ IGTV Projects

Have two months free — and a killer idea for a vertical-format original video? BuzzFeed and Instagram want to hear from you.

The companies have launched VerticalU, a program for 15 young video creators to participate in a training program on producing content for IGTV. BuzzFeed and Instagram also will fund the vertical-video “passion projects” from those selected, who will have the chance for their work to be featured on BuzzFeed’s IGTV channel.

VerticalU participants will be required to make a seven-week-plus commitment, including attending an on-site, five-day series of tutorials in Los Angeles. According to BuzzFeed and Instagram, they are looking for “thoughtful, creative pitches that represent diverse points of view and underrepresented topics, which will shine in IGTV’s vertical mobile format.”

Applications for VerticalU can be submitted starting Friday, Oct. 26, through Nov. 7 on BuzzFeed’s website (more info at this link; the application form is at this link). Candidates (either individually or as duos) must submit a story idea along with an explanation of why they deserve a spot in the program.

For Facebook-owned Instagram, the program is a way to encourage more creators to upload their videos to IGTV, using techniques specific to the vertical-video platform. IGTV, launched in June, allows creators to upload videos up to 10 minutes long. So far, Instagram hasn’t provided revenue-sharing or other monetization options for IGTV, positioning the longer-form video features as a way for Instagrammers to connect with their fanbase.

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BuzzFeed, for its part, is interested in finding and cultivating untapped talent who can make original content with viral appeal for millennials.

“With 98% of time spent on mobile happening in vertical format, BuzzFeed wants to help content creators develop the skills to crack emerging platforms and grow their audiences on Instagram,” said Maycie Timpone, BuzzFeed’s director of social media. “Our goal is to push the envelope and find ways to elevate the vertical-first experience for our audience on mobile.”

Content creators accepted into the VerticalU program will own the rights to their videos, and BuzzFeed will license the content for distribution on IGTV.

IGTV is “a place for the next generation of stars to shine and connect more deeply with their communities,” commented Lila King, Instagram’s head of news publishing partnerships. “We’re thrilled to work with BuzzFeed, a leader and innovator in social video, to find and support the next wave of storytellers as they launch new projects.”

The 15 selected students will attend an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles for tutorial and mentoring sessions from Dec. 3-7, 2018, to be held at the L.A. offices of BuzzFeed and Instagram. Classes will be led by producers, directors and execs from BuzzFeed and Instagram as well as “special guests.” Topics for the mobile-video training sessions are set to include what makes videos go viral; how vertical video is different from horizontal format; data measurement; and video-production basics about cameras, lighting, sound, legal issues, set design and casting.

Following the L.A. training, each VerticalU student will work with a designated BuzzFeed “mentor” to help develop their idea. The creators also will receive a one-time grant to cover filming expenses for their projects over the course of six weeks.

The VerticalU creators will debut their videos to at a screening event in early 2019 in New York City (with the date TBD).

VerticalU is open to U.S. residents 18 or older who have an active, public Instagram account. Finalists will be contacted for a phone interview by Nov. 19. The companies said the 15 VerticalU participants will be selected based on the content and quality of their pitch and will be expected to execute the project by the conclusion of the program.

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