Recently, I sat in on an inaugural meeting of a video production coop struggling to get started in town. As with so many local indie bands, self-published authors and other DIY artists whose works don our coffee shop walls, the group’s goal is to figure out how to break into the mainstream.
Most folks discussed lavish concepts that would have us venturing into the jungles of Central America or adapting the life stories of personages so famous one would have to go into or have come out of the right vagina to get that brand of high-profile access.
One lady wearing a particularly Boulder-esque turban that may have once been worn by Ms. Gloria Swanson revealed that her life’s mission is to produce a viral video that will garner 100,000 hits. Those of us under 30 or who had actually worked in “the biz” immediately understood the unfortunate reality here.
First off, 100,000 hits? She might as well be Dr. Evil trying to extort one meellion dollars from the 1997 global community. I knew a comedy troupe that at one time accrued at least four million hits per video, and years later you still haven’t heard of them.
Secondly, as with the apt “South Park” episode “Canada on Strike,” even those people we might know who have millions of hits on their web video, thousands of friends on their band’s MySpace site or hundreds of followers on their blog space aren’t exactly getting anything out of it except for a patronizing nod on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Film festivals aren’t much better. The smalls (anything with the word “independent” in the name) are meaningless and the bigs are expensive, hard to get to ( you try booking a room in Cannes) and all the real deals are made at the 3 a.m. VIP parties you’re not invited to.
Sundance, SXSW, Toronto, Coachella, Bonaroo, friggin Farm Aid. We all know people who’ve burned a month’s pay traveling across the country to play their hearts out on stage or exhibit their films… only to come back empty-handed.
Thanks to the growing prevalence of Netflix, DIRECTV, iTunes, SoundCloud, print-on-demand books and social network sites, the so-called democratization of art has finally led us toward that most cogent aphorism in Pixar’s “The Incredibles”: “If everyone is special, then no one is.”
All we’ve done is bloated the proverbial slush pile, making it ever the more difficult to get our work — no matter what the medium — into the hands of the “right person.” You could have the cure for cancer, but without that “right person” (aka financier), back under the bed your scribbled formula goes.
You might be the only one watching your buddy’s new music video on Vimeo, but you’re also missing the good stuff on Netflix that happens to be beyond the A-G category or that hasn’t been prominently featured elsewhere thanks to corporate distributors.
As best exemplified by Rebecca Black’s universally maligned “Friday,” perhaps it’s time we start putting quality into a higher arena than quantity. Let’s take to heart the sage words of Fugazi — “It’s not what you’re selling, it’s what you’re buying” — and start worrying less about getting 100,000 downloads and more about what we’re giving those 100,000 hits to.