While I was in Los Angeles, Dana Brunetti — producer of the recent hit film 21 and head honcho at Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street Productions — sat down with me to talk about their site, Triggerstreet.com, and how Hollywood interfaces with filmmakers through the internet. [Editor’s Note: This is an extended version of the interview that appeared in the print edition of the May 1st, 2008 issue of The Cornell Daily Sun.]
Matt Palmer: What’s the story behind Triggerstreet.com?
I have cried only three times in my entire life. The first time was when I was born. The second was when I first watched the film Bicentennial Man. The third time I ever cried in my entire life was when — a year after I saw the film — I started to think about it over dinner with some family friends and, after laughing about having cried the first time I saw it, began to cry again just from thinking about it. I was seventeen years old at the time. My father sent me from the table.
Since freshman year, I’ve found that college culture has become extremely attentive to internet video. It has become increasingly acceptable to just start quoting your favorite lines from internet videos when hanging out (read: drinking irresponsibly) with friends. I like this trend. It’s much better than singing your favorite songs, because most pop music these days is hip-hop, and sometimes when you get really drunk and into singing a hip-hop song you accidentally sing along with some lines in the song that are racist. And then you get kicked out of Barnes and Noble —which sucks, even if you should have known better than to throw a rager in the Self Help aisle with a bottle of Malibu and the latest Jay-Z album.
In his book The Selfish Gene, renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins came up with the idea that bits of culture could propagate themselves in a similar fashion to the evolution of living organisms. Ideas, music and scientific theories all behave this way. Some mutate into new forms with the addition of new discoveries, inventions and social dynamics (religion). Some die off (swing-dancing). Most are annoying (flossing, alternate side parking, rap-metal). The orchid of the memetics, though, has to be the “catchphrase.” With more social cache than the soundbite, and less actual usefulness than the quote, the perfect catchphrase is a rare species of memetic data that has an extremely short lifespan, is widespread, and is usually instantly regarded as hilarious.
My sister knew what to get me for Christmas because I told her, in no uncertain terms, that if I didn’t get a special-edition copy of Steven Spielberg Presents Michael Bay’s Transformers I was going to Grinch the holy hell out of the month of December (literally). And so it came to pass that I received Steven Spielberg Presents Michael Bay’s Transformers on DVD on the 25th of December. When the family all left, Your Columnist retreated with a leg of turkey and a bottle of scotch, to the BFP (Big F-ing Plasma) in order that he might experience the true spirit of Christmas: watching giant robots murder each other.
But there was something wrong.
One cold morning nearly a century ago, D.W. Griffiths took some time off from being one of History’s Greatest Bigots* and sat down to invent a system whereby he could establish a “parallel action” between two concurrent scenes by moving back and forth between those scenes through cutting. And while this might not sound like a big deal, it is. Nowadays we call what he invented the “crosscut.”
Internet video is quickly becoming a universal experience, but I’ve never been hot on the idea of telling people that, aw shucks, Andy Warhol was right about that whole in-the-future-everyone-will-have-fifteen-minutes-of-fame thing. Nor is there a warning for pedestrians to avoid the sidewalks around entertainment industry buildings — as studio executives, facing diminishing returns against the competition of pirated and free internet material, hurl themselves screaming out of their office windows — apropos just yet.
The internet collective unfortunately named the “Blogosphere” was on fire earlier this week with rumors YouTube would be adding short “pre-roll” ads to the beginning of user-posted videos. The brouhaha erupted over the simple fact that pre-roll ads — short ads that automatically play before streaming video content — are just slightly less annoying than having a nest of Africanized honey bees sting you repeatedly about the knee-pits.