iPod: TV’s Odyssey: Do-It-Yourself Filmmakers Move Into Television

Oct 9, 2006  •  Post A Comment

In mere months, viral video Web sites have produced the first crop of viral video stars. The people described here are the next generation of Internet video content creators, who have risen above the crowded field with at least one head-turning, crowd-pleasing video or video series. Meet TelevisionWeek’s five viral video prospects—the upper echelon of the garage video auteur crowd—who are poised for breakout success.

Greg Goodfried, Miles Beckett and Mesh Flinders: ‘Lonelygirl15’

Scouting report: “Lonelygirl15,” aka Bree, appeared on YouTube in the spring, gripping Web audiences with her video tales of teenage angst. More than 30 “lonelygirl15” videos have regularly landed among the site’s most viewed. In early September, the Los Angeles Times revealed her true identity—she’s an actress playing a part. The series was created by three filmmakers—Greg Goodfried, Miles Beckett and Mesh Flinders—who have been somewhat cryptic about their long-term plans. Mr. Goodfried said in an e-mail that the videos are not the precursor to a film. The creators plan to stick to the Web to “fully realize the vision of our show, which is a new kind of entertainment that is 100 percent interactive and driven as much by the fans as the creators,” he said. The trio plans to explore advertising models and to create more interactive shows in the future.

Chris Van den Durpel: ‘Daniel Chesterfield’

Scouting report: Belgian comedian Chris Van den Durpel made his mark on YouTube for his spoofs of the dramatic performances of magicians. Appearing as “Daniel Chesterfield,” he used elaborate hand gestures and intense facial expressions to pretend he was magically making an escalator move, for instance. He’s been on several TV shows in Belgium, but it took the YouTube videos for Hummer to notice him. The car maker nabbed him this summer, and now the Chesterfield character uses that same approach in Hummer’s commercials, which rolled out in August.

Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda: ‘Chad Vader’

Scouting report: Amateur filmmakers have been crafting “Star Wars” spoofs since 1977, when the first of the iconic series was released. Blank Society, a Madison, Wis.-based filmmaking duo, turned the epic tale on its head and its tail, imagining that Darth Vader’s lesser-known brother Chad Vader is the day-shift manager at a grocery store. YouTube promoted the video as “featured” video in the spring, and to date the three episodes of “Chad Vader” have generated about 4 million views. The creators, Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, now have an agent at William Morris and are working on a production deal with a large entertainment company, Mr. Sloan said, adding that Episode Four is slated to premiere Oct. 11 on “Good Morning America.” Mr. Sloan also contracted with Lucas Arts to do a voiceover of Darth Vader for a computer game.

Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe: ‘Diet Coke and Mentos Fountains’

Scouting report: Two theater performers created an Internet sensation in June when they set off a geyser fueled by Diet Coke and Mentos. They tested out various concoctions for eight months before shooting the video, which has been viewed more than 3.5 million times online. “Once we saw how cool it was, we knew we had to do a big version and that it had to go online,” said Stephen Voltz, one of the creators. The Mentos experiment was the pair’s first video, though both have backgrounds in live performance and physical comedy. They just completed another short Diet Coke and Mentos fountain video that’s going to open Blue Man Group’s new “How to Be a Megastar” tour. They also plan to introduce several new video channels at EepyBird.com. They earned more than $35,000 from the video through Revver, a video-sharing site that splits ad dollars with creators.

Brooke ‘Brookers’ Brodack: ‘Crazed Numa Fan’

Scouting report: The “Crazed Numa Fan” started posting her self-made videos on YouTube last fall. In the spring, NBC’s Carson Daly noticed her work and signed her to an 18-month development deal. Now she’s creating new shorts for Itsyourshowtv.com, the Carson Daly user-generated online video contest. “I am getting in the loop and getting used to deadlines,” said the 20-year-old Ms. Brodack, who worked in restaurants before she inked her NBC deal. She estimates that in the past year she’s produced 50 to 60 movies, about half of which have landed on the Web. Some, she said, she doesn’t finish editing. The key to being more than a one-hit wonder is to not make sequels, she said. “I’m not going to make another Numa video,” she said. She wants to do something on a larger scale, such as a live-action anime flick. “What I don’t want to do is make a super-cheesy video.”