We recently received an interview request from a Canadian college student who had seen “Cereal is Dope” and was working on an article for her school paper about web video. The questions came and I did my best to oblige but it’s kind of odd receiving questions that really aren’t specific to you as interview subject. Only three of the nine questions really asked us to draw on our own experience.
The rest were more pertaining to general knowledge of the internet and web video. Fortunately for this student, I’m a well informed person who loves the sound of his own voice schooling others.
This experience wasn’t all that different from the interview I did for Juice magazine last month representing OhWord.
By the way, feel free to send any interview requests to internetscelebrities at gmail. Here’s the one I did for the college paper:
When and why did short film making explode on to the internet scene
Wow, tough question. I’m an old-time nerd so I remember surfing the web back on the first Mosaic pre-netscape and there were no pictures in web pages. That was a feature that came in the next version! But everybody’s impulse off the bat has always been to make things more geared towards multimedia. How can we add sound, how can we add video. Only the technology wasn’t really up to it, the software had to develop and that took time. And more people got online and internet connections got faster and that took time.
In the late 90s if you had a broadband connection it probably meant you were on a college campus so really that was a good chunk of who was represented on the internet at the time. And I remember it was in that era literally ten years ago that I first personally came across short films that were “exploding” because of the internet. The two videos that come to mind are the short star wars spoof “Troops” which was a huge hit online and – even before that – the Satan vs Jesus short by the South Park guys. Nobody had ever heard of South Park before and then all of the sudden because of the internet you have all of these people knowing who they are which basically made their career. I remember it playing everywhere on campus… in the dorms, in the computer labs.
So those are a few early examples of web videos that went viral but things don’t really really explode for web video until you fast forward to a few years ago. Because people want rich media and fast downloads and because the technology becomes available and cheaper, everyone starts getting broadband. And then youtube comes along which gives people a way to share videos and embed them on their myspace pages or anywhere else. And a massive community grows which of course means anyone posting there has a potentially huge audience.
Before youtube you mostly had people who considered themselves unique for being filmmakers being the majority of people posting their videos online. The reason they were doing it? They could distribute their video cheaply that way. But still it was a small niche of web video evangelists or else well-funded media sources posting the stuff because there were so many hassles associated with web video. You had to find a host for it. Bandwidth costs a lot of money. You needed special software to stream it. Your audience needed special software to play it and it’s not getting a mass audience because your user has to wait for this experience. A lot of hiccups.
But after youtube, it becomes so easy to post videos, and the reach, convenience and fun of it becomes so clear, that basically what it means to be someone who creates videos instantly changes. Instead of filmmakers being this separate class of person with a huge barrier to entry. Now there’s basically no barrier to entry. A webcam can be bought for like $20 and you have the example of tons of people already doing it to encourage you. And even people who don’t make movies get involved. By posting other people’s content to youtube or by embedding videos that you like on your blog, the individual becomes a broadcaster.
what draws film makers in, why is the internet a good place for their work?
For the same reason the internet is a good place for any musician, writer, business person, human being… There’s no barrier of entry on participation. It’s cheap to distribute your message so you’re replacing so many obstacles and middlemen to be able to spread your ideas.
are interent films taken seriously?
It all depends who you talk to and which films you’re talking about. I think they’re taken pretty seriously. We were lucky enough to attend the Sundance film festival last year and they were offering courses there on how to use the internet to get your films seen, so that shows me that it’s something taken seriously by filmmakers.
You know the internet is in some ways just a reflection of the world so many internet films shouldn’t really be taken seriously. Most of it is made for fun and without much thought and it’s treated accordingly. That’s true of a lot of non-internet films too though, right?
what are your fav internet films ?
Hm, I don’t know. That’s a really tough call… I was pretty into ze frank’s video blog for a little bit. I like bike messengers are on crack. That’s a thrilling one. I’m terrible at “what’s your favorite” questions. I watch a lot of web video but years later I don’t know that any of them stand out to me as above all the rest. If I can be conceited and name one of our own, I pick Bodega.
Actually, I just heard a bit of a Steely Dan song on the Jimmy Kimmel show and it reminded me of Yacht Rock. That is probably my favorite internet film series of all time.
do you think this will get bigger in the future ?
It’s already gi-normous and yes it will get bigger. The internet is replacing television as we speak.
How many have you guys made? how and why did you start? what made you want to distribute over the internet rather than things like film festivals ?
Our director Cas comes from a background in film – he’s made tons and tons of short films. The 3 of us together, not so much. We’ve completed 6 official projects (with 2 more currently being edited) but then we’ll also post out-takes sometimes and 2 of our projects were in a series format. Like, we did a 7 episode series from Sundance, we did 4 covering different aspects of one concert. If you count each of those as separate videos plus the outtakes we have 22 videos up on youtube. But really it’s 8.
Dallas and I both run popular blogs (dallaspenn.com and ohword.com). Last year he had blogged about a way to get big mac for less by doing some creative ordering at McDonalds. I thought that was a great topic and blogged about it too, joking at one point that we should make a video about it. My friend Cas said that was an idea he’d be down to shoot, and shortly after we both met Dallas for the first time while on our way to McDonald’s. That became Ghetto Big Mac which if you add up various places it’s hosted at has nearly a million views. That was like a first swing home run so we knew we’d have to do more of this.
Honestly, I’d also been wanting to try web video for a few months by the time that came about because I think many people connect with video in a way that they can’t with writing. We live in a post-literate age. Maybe that’s a nice way of saying illiterate, but who am I to judge. It’s not like I read hoity-toity stuff. I read internet writing!
As for why distributing over the internet… the audience we’re already talking to through our blogs is via the internet. It’s clear how to post video on the internet, and it’s instant. And from what we saw with Ghetto Big Mac, it’s possible to reach hundreds of thousands of people just like that with the right idea and execution. But for the record, we have sent videos to film festivals and Bodega has played at a few film festivals as well as airing on TV. Those have been very rewarding experiences in their own right.
did it start out as fun and become for serious?
I think the 3 of us have a perspective in life of taking fun things seriously and trying to make serious things fun. So from the start yes it was a lot of fun but we’ve also worked hard to make good videos from day 1. It’s become more fun in a way because we’re more comfortable doing it now. It was a little awkward creating our first one. And it’s also become more serious because we’re seeing how this could feasibly become the basis of long term paying work which I don’t think any of us would have considered on that first day.
who are some of your influences?
wow. i’ll say woody allen, ice cube, seth godin.