June 15 in NYC: Bodega on the big screen!

One of our videos was selected by Rooftop Films to be part of their summer series this year.

Bodega will be shown as part of Rooftop’s New York Non-Fiction night this Friday June 15.

The event starts at 8pm
350 Grand Street @ Essex (Lower East Side, Manhattan)
F/J/M/Z to Essex / Delancey
In the event of rain the show is indoors at the same location.
Tickets – $8 at the door or $5 online HERE with code: RFJUNE
Presented in partnership with – IFC.com, New York magazine & Open Road New York.

There’s more info about the event available at the Rooftop Films site.

Come on out to support and holler at an Internets Celebrity!

Video: Internets Celebrities at Sundance 2007

The Internets Celebrities – as nom de plume – is really first put into effect when we storm down on Park City, Utah. Faced with the daunting task of producing 7 videos in 7 days about the Sundance Film Festival, we decide to form like Voltron and phrase our movies under a name that characterizes what we are: internet dorks with a vision.

Specifically, Sundance comes about through the largesse of one TheDailyReel.com. An internet content aggregator – which is to say a website that links to their favorite viral videos – The Daily Reel names Ghetto Big Mac one of their ten favorite videos of 2006 and soon after, licenses the one-week exclusive premiere of our second movie, Bodega. Pleased with the attention it gets on sites like Huffington Post and Salon.com, they vow to do business with us again soon.

And by soon they mean the following week when they propose sending us to Sundance as would be correspondents. Going to a cultural flashpoint like Sundance with a movie-making purpose sounds right and good – the next step in the Internets Celebrity evolution and a great chance to stretch our video reporting muscles.

We tell the Daily Reel that we have a plan for the shooting and blueprint a scenario that sees us making two videos – one to be posted during the festival and one immediately following. They take two weeks to get back to us while they search for a sponsor. During that time, radio silence convinces us the deal is dead. Then the Wednesday before the festival, we get a call: TDR has found a bed-partner in GoDaddy.com and we are all set to ride their dime to the festival. Somehow the short notice does not create major waves in our day-jobs and we holler back that Saturday to Saturday sounds like a fine ole time to uncover the Hollywood/Redford/Mormon connection clearly at play in Park City, Utah.

Oh, also GoDaddy wants us to make 7 videos in 7 days. Not 2. No problem. We slept enough last year. This winter its all about the work: In retrospect, its funny to think that we almost head down there with just one camera-man/editor. Said camera-man/editor would have died. In fact, we add Mr. Ian Savage to the mix who brings a fancy camera, extra computers, bright ideas and limitless enthusiasm to the project. Having produced Rocketboom for a couple months he knows what its like to churn out the videos. Okay we’re good to go. Lets catch a plane.

Two of us skid over to JFK at 5AM and just barely make the plane. Two of us miss the heck out of the plane and get stuck at the gate inexplicably unable to board despite the plane continuing to sit at the gate de-icing. Plane takes off with only two of us aboard. This does not bode well. No matter, the two of us on the plane are waylaid anyway in Phoenix when we miss our connection. We manage to find a much later connection and all parties wind up at the Park City Hotel on Main St. in Park City, Utah a comfortable 12 hours after we leave New York City. Time to hit the hay? Hell no. Its time to hit the streets. We’ve got videos to make. Moments after we all rendezvous, were out on Main St. investigating the proceedings: Dallas supplies the theme for the week: Sundance is actually Grown Ass Spring Break.

People at Sundance are dying to be on camera and interviews are easy to come by. We are certainly never for lack of material. The challenge starts to take the shape of managing post-production. Between taking/fighting notes from the website in LA and continuing to accumulate new footage from varied locations (as in not always in front of out hotel – a veritable font of celebrity sightings) theres not much margin for error if were to stay on schedule. We draw out themes for each episode and then quickly eschew those themes when new ones present themselves in the shooting. We tackle opening weekend, swag, the parties, the filmmakers, survival tips (laminate your own press badge) the networking scene, the local celebrities, Robert Redford’s unicorn problem and other “real facts” of Sundance . We stay up very late every night drinking beer and throwing together five little movies while at the festival with two more to follow the Monday and Tuesday after our return.

Highlights include:

A candid interview with MC Hammer
The Hot Tub Party
Spicy Sausage, egg and cheeses at the Clockwork Cafe
Turning local residents into instant Internet Celebrities
Interviewing Four-Eyed Monster
Interviewing the FBI agent from Sopranos
Teaching Hollywood how to fill their hearts with love again
Getting on the bus and asking people in loud voices where all the filmmakers were at

Video: Bodega

Was it all so simple then?

Bodega is a playful homage to the kind of corner store that we all grew up next to when we were kids in the city. As you grow older you come to realize that there are choices being made for you on a nutritional level due to your lack of options.

For some people the bodega represents the sole option of fresh foods in some communities. In the tragically impoverished Bronx neighborhood of Hunts Point there are fenced off warehouses and wholesalers that distribute fresh food and fish to the entire city. Meanwhile the residents of Hunts Point are relegated to shopping at bodegas.

For thirty years New York City has started, stumbled, staggered and swaggered its way into the paradigm American metropolis. The Bronx? Not so much. New York City has less respect for the entire Bronx County than it does for Jersey City. Still the Bronx remains. Still the Bronx stands. Still ready 24-7. Just like the bodegas.

Video: Ghetto Big Mac

April 2006: In a blog post titled “Supersize Me”, Dallas Penn detailed a “loophole” that he had found at McDonalds where one could order a double cheeseburger with Big Mac sauce and a seeded bun creating a “Mini Mac” at a fraction of the cost.

June 2006: About six weeks later, Rafi Kam from Oh Word musters up the courage (or shamelessness) to try Dallas’s trick at a McDonald’s drive-thru. It works like a charm and he blogs about it at the tail end of a link post.

Hip-hop blogger Byron Crawford likes the idea and mentions the trick at the end of a fast food post he does on his site. In the comments Billy Sunday introduces the ideas of replacing the traditional Big Mac middle bun with a layer of fries.

It is at another fast food post by Byron Crawford – this time at the XXL site – that the phrase “Ghetto Big Mac” is coined. Although the post is not directly about the Ghetto Big Mac, the very first commenter uses the post’s McDonalds theme as a lead-in to detail his own experience with remixing the dollar menu:

Rags Says:

I just ate McDonald’s today. I got the ghetto Big Mac-double cheeseburger that I read about somewhere on the internets (probably from one of your blogs) and a large fry.

Ridiculon9000 in the delicious department.

Oh, and first.

A few days later Dallas puts up a post expanding on the technique of constructing his sandwich with photographic instructions on creating the fries layer. While clearly no longer a “Mini Mac”, Dallas doesn’t adopt the Ghetto Big Mac name as of yet.

Fascinated by all these recent developments, Rafi posts describing this whole series of events and how word is spreading about the Ghetto Big Mac. In jest he says “I smell a delicious artery-clogging trend starting up here. I think we need a YouTube video so this can really go viral.”

Filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski sees Rafi’s joke and approaches his old friend with 100% faith in the idea that such a video should be made. Rafi is convinced. The duo hooks up with Dallas so that he can star in the movie about his sandwich. History is made.

July 2006: Rafi and Cas meet Dallas for the first time when he flags us down on some street corner in Long Island City. We drive to the McDonalds in Williamsburg right off the BQE and plan our actions for about 20 minutes. We shoot a bunch of posing out in the parking lot. Then we go in guerilla style and order the components for the Ghetto Big Mac.

While editing the video, Cas has the brilliant idea of adding the Masta Killa / RZA / Ol’ Dirty Bastard song “Old Man” with its Sanford & Son theme song sample and Ol’ Dirty Bastard spouting off the Big Mac ingredients. The song’s energy really makes the video.

Cas also cuts the video down to just over 4 minutes. A great finished product but along the way he cuts out dialog that would have answered the questions of hundreds of YouTube commenters. So here goes:

  1. There’s no lettuce on the Ghetto Big Mac because McDonald’s lettuce sucks.
  2. The french fries aren’t just a substitute for the bread – they are an improvement on the bread. McDonald’s fries >>>> hamburger bun.
  3. Yes we know we had to pay for the small fries but if you’re eating this junk you were probably going to buy fries anyway and it only takes a few to make that fry layer.


Ghetto Big Mac makes it to 150,000 views fairly quickly and then plateaus for a while.

In spring of 2007 the video finds a second life when it becomes a featured video on both MySpace and YouTube in the same week.

As of now, Ghetto Big Mac on these two sites has nearly 700,000 served.

That was our debut video and the best was still to come…

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