Vimeo launches new platform for documenting small businesses during the crisis

Stories in Place sees eight Staff Picked filmmakers produce a film remotely in just 12 days, chronicling real people as they try to keep their ventures afloat.

1 May 2020


The video platform Vimeo has launched a new series of eight short films, each created remotely by filmmakers who have previously won the brand’s coveted Staff Pick laurel. The series, called Stories in Place, focuses on small businesses and their owners as they try to navigate a turbulent and uncertain time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Small businesses are among the worst impacted by the global shutdown and this series tells some of their stories in ways that are by turns funny, harrowing and deeply moving. The eight filmmakers involved are Law Chen, Danny Madden, Rachel Knoll, Morgan Maassen, Jesse Atlas, Yoko Okumura, Case Jernigan and Réka Bucsi. The films were made in just 12 days, while the filmmakers themselves were sheltering.

Each filmmaker was tasked with making a film about an impacted small business they love personally. Vimeo gave each $5,000 and each business they featured a further $5,000 for participation in the project. The stories that have resulted from this reveal the innate adaptability and ingenuity of many entrepreneurs, showing these small-business owners scrapping, hustling and getting very creative. Together, their eight stories make up Stories in Place.

Arguably the most personal story comes from filmmaker Morgan Maassen, who documented his own father Jeff, who had been diving for sea urchins for the past 40 years until Covid-19 brought his business to a grinding halt. Afrocontigbo by Rachel Knoll tells the story of Korma Aguh-Stuckmayer, who is forced to take her dance studio online, but then discovers a community around the world ready to come together and dance in their living rooms.

There’s animation, too, in the form of Danny Madden’s Coco’s Variety, which chronicles a Los Angeles bike shop, as it continues to serve its customers despite the crisis. And Desert Island Comics, a cut-paper animation by Case Jernigan, depicts the iconic Brooklyn shop (now closed indefinitely) and suffused with a love of comic books and their connective power.

In a statement about the project, Vimeo announced: “The whole world is feeling the impact of the pandemic, and Vimeo’s community has not been spared. With productions coming to a halt and brick-and-mortars closing their doors indefinitely, small businesses and freelance creatives – two pillars of the Vimeo community – are some of the hardest hit. Stories in Place was born from wanting to help, wanting to humanise this situation and shine a spotlight on the stories we don’t see.”


Still from Afrocontigbo by Rachel Knoll


Still from Jeff Maassen by Morgan Maassen


Still from Plante by Réka Bucsi


Still from Coco’s Variety by Danny Madden


Still from Desert Island Comics by Case Jernigan

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Still from Jeff Maassen by Morgan Maassen

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About the Author

Matt Alagiah

Matt joined It’s Nice That as editor in October 2018 and became editor-in-chief in September 2020. He was previously executive editor at Monocle magazine. Drop him a line with ideas and suggestions, or simply to say hello.

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