Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Several years ago, my friends and I made a cool little short film called “Diary of a Flagger.” It’s a comedy about a philosophical highway flagger trying to make it through another boring day on the job. It was an amazingly satisfying creative project, one done solely for the purpose of hanging out and making a movie with your friends. I’ve got nothing but fond memories and good feelings associated with it.
That is – until we went and put it on YouTube.
It’s been there for over a year. Just do a YouTube search for “Diary of a Flagger.” See? There it is. The one with 602 views!
Six hundred and two. Just in case you though I might have left out a few digits accidentally.
Now then, while you’re there, do a YouTube search for “cute kittens.” See that one at the top? The original “surprised kitty” video? 53,165,412 views.
Fifty three million etc, etc …
It’s a kitten being scratched on the stomach. That’s it! Sure, a cute kitten, but still …
But I don’t need to tell you that, because you’re watching it right now, aren’t you? Maybe even for the second or third time. Or maybe you, like 34,992,442 others before you, have moved on to the “i are cute kitten” video listed just below it. Or perhaps “Kitten and his box,” which has only been viewed a paltry 14,966,722 times during the five years it’s been online. Ouch. Sorry “auroral,” if that’s even your real name. Clearly you put a lot of work into this production, what with the whole shaky handheld pixilated continuous shot of cats in a box with a soundtrack that you stole from someone else. Numbers in the low teen millions have to be a real blow to the project.
I don’t want my pettiness to make me seem petty, but I actually sat down and wrote a script for my movie! Got a real actor. During our shoot we used two cameras, a boom mic and a field monitor. And props! And costumes! We did an action shot from a moving car, for God’s sake!
Then we spent two months editing, doing voiceovers, composing and recording original music. When we were done we made a DVD that includes a commentary track, deleted scenes, a “making of” documentary (that’s longer than the actual feature) AND a bonus video. We’ve sold upwards of a dozen copies of this DVD, so we’re thinking a special edition may be in order soon.
And after a year we have a mere 602 views on YouTube! Based on my research (which has admittedly taken longer than necessary, due to being distracted by watching cute cat videos), there isn’t a YouTube video out there with the word “cat” in it that contains less than 20,000 hits, and many are in the millions. Add the word “cute” and the numbers shoot up exponentially.
I’ve clearly been going about this all wrong. Script? Editing? Color correction? How could I have been so misguided?
But my quest for online mass approval is about to take a turn for the awesome, because I have my own cat now.
Shortly after moving to our new little hometown we inherited a cat. It’s pretty darn cute, likes to play with string, chase bugs, climb trees, scamper around and occasionally fall off of things. Basically all the cute cat things that gets YouTube viewers clicking like lemmings running over the iCliff.
My wife and I have made a pact to not actually talk about our new cat to anyone apart from each other. Because we know that, despite caring deeply for our little adorable furry friend, nobody else gives a crap. And I have to assume that this cat-discussion moratorium includes not writing about the cat. Yeah, it kinda has to. For someone without a cat, I’ve written an awful lot about cats over the years, so I’m fully aware of the slippery cat-writing slope on which I stand. Must. Maintain. Control.
But I don’t think this personal cat-based media blackout covers making cat videos. There’s obviously a demand for them, and I have everything I need to fill that demand – a cat, a camera and an Internet connection.
So I’m about to crawl out of the YouTube dungeon and into the land of the viral. Ever wonder what it feels like when your video gets 50 million views? I’ll let you know soon enough. I really hope it’ll finally scratch the itch of my deep need for the approval of strangers.
Quiet on the set. Here, kitty kitty … and … action!
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