We had the privilege to hang out and talk to Xeni Jardin, and I have to admit I was a little nervous. I'd talked to her at industry events and social gatherings, but it's not often that Zadi and I spend time with people who, like us, have such a vast knowledge of the web and its culture going back ten or more years. There is something special about the people who came of age with the first Internet boom and worked online during the transformation of the web from a tech curiosity into a mainstream cultural force. Luckily for us, she is completely charming and down to earth, and considering her efforts over the past two years with Boing Boing video, we had tons of common experiences.
With all that's happening in online entertainment, it's inspiring to see people take more innovative approaches to making and sharing media. Case in point, Brett Gaylor, creator of Open Source Cinema.
Long-time videoblogger, web activist, and filmmaker, Brett's most recent project is an open source documentary about copyright and remix culture. RiP: A Remix Manifesto, focuses on the state of media in the age of free-flowing information. Featuring Girl Talk, Lawrence Lessig, Gilberto Gil, and Cory Doctorow, all influential media figures, the film is set to really delve into some serious issues.
Ashton Kutcher's Twitter page, with over 1.3MM followers
With all the recent hubbub around Ashton Kutcher vs. CNN in the race to a million Twitter followers, a lot of people are getting self-conscious about follower numbers. We've been using Twitter since Fall 2006, when only a handful of our friends were active on it. Over the years, and especially in the last six months, we have seen an explosion of Twitter users, to the point where I think we can safely say that Twitter has gone completely mainstream. If the Ashton vs. CNN thing wasn't it, then Oprah joining up a day later certainly sealed the deal.
Just the other day Zadi and I were walking up the stairs to our apartment here in Los Angeles and we looked at the shelf where the mail carrier leaves oversized mail. And on that shelf was a circular for a local retailer with t-shirts for sale. What was on those t-shirts, you might ask? Fred.
Nothing short of a YouTube phenomenon, Lucas Cruikshank, the creator and star of the Fred videos (link to the show site), crossed a milestone the other day when he signed up his one millionth subscriber to his YouTube channel. It's incredible when you think about it. Some things just take on a life of their own, and when you try to deconstruct why something caught fire and took off, it can help you understand what went right.
Dan Martin is a funny dude, and it's the good kind of funny which effortlessly weaves itself into whatever the topic of conversation may be. When we visited him for an interview, he made us feel right at home in what he called his dollhouse - a very pretty house styled by his wife, actress Arden Myrin. As we sat and talked, he led us through the beginning of his career as a writer to the current projects he's working on for the web.
This week most of the country is in the midst of Obamamania. Whether they're braving the cold in Washington, DC, or watching the festivities from the comfort of their home, people all over the world are looking at this presidency as a monumental event in their personal, national, and global history.
We met Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab in 2007 when we invited them to give the closing keynote at Pixelodeon. They delivered a memorable talk about the process of creating Channel 101, a website founded in 2003 that invites comedy filmmakers to create pilots for original short web shows which are then screened for an audience who votes on which shows get a return engagement.
Dan and Rob took the idea for Channel 101 to television with Acceptable.tv on VH1, and they have also been creating other awesome tv shows, like The Sarah Silverman Program on Comedy Central, which they co-created with Sarah Silverman. They also wrote the screenplay for Monster House, which won the 2007 Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
Hard core EPIC FU fans know who Steve Woolf is, but for those who casually wander in and watch an episode or two, the machinations of our web series may not be as apparent.
As our last episode of 2008 wraps up, we thought we'd give a little love to the person we refer to as "The Wizard" here in the land of EPIC FU. He's the guy who makes sure all the gears keep turning and wheels keep burning.
Jay Smooth created and has been hosting The Underground Railroad on WBAI for a long time. In fact, it's New York's longest running hip-hop radio show. In addition to that, Jay launched Hip-Hop Music, one of the first hip-hop websites, in 1997 and started his videoblog, Ill Doctrine, in June 2007 (one of my favorite entries is embedded above). And, he's the owner of one of my all-time favorite quotes about the new media revolution: "At the end of the day, a medium is only as valuable as the ideas you're transmitting through it."
... for social media, that is.
I met Tim Gibbons, executive producer of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, during a conference at the Producers Guild here in Los Angeles, California. It was just before the writer's strike happened and all of Hollywood was setting their sights on the newly chartered land of the web. With good reason too. Since most productions were about to go on hiatus, it gave everyone the opportunity to explore the creative possibilities and freedom that the internet allowed.
On this week's show the FU of the Week is served by Wreck and Salvage, three guys working across the web to remix videos. If only it was that simple. The results of their collaboration run the gamut from hilarious to profound, and sometimes both. W&S is Erik Nelson, Adam Quirk, and Aaron Valdez, who have all been around web video for years already.
In my view they represent a part of web video production that, in these early days of online video, reminds me of hip-hop in the early 80's when music producers were creating a new genre by repurposing the work of others. The undercurrent of that movement was about giving a voice to a part of our society that was ignored, and I think what is happening with creators like Wreck and Salvage is very similar, except this time they are giving a voice to the utter absurdity of popular culture in the Western world.
We've known Bre Pettis for years now, and I have to say that no one epitomizes the web DIY ethic more than him. In the course of his varied career, he has been a puppeteer, a teacher, a videoblogger, a web show producer, and a television host, not to mention a founder of NYC Resistor. Phil Torrone of Make Magazine said in The Wall Street Journal that Bre was like Mr. Rogers, Mr. Wizard and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" rolled into one. That's a cool description, but I think eventually Bre will be a brand all his own.
In the Spring of 2005, indie filmmaker and Vancouver native, Jeff Macpherson, got together with some friends and decided to take his creative career into his own hands. Along with Kevin Gamble (Johnny Johnny) and Lara Doucette (Lala), Jeff built a swank tiki bar in his Canadian apartment and created Tiki Bar TV, a fictional webseries about a doctor (Dr. Tiki) who prescribes medicine for the ailments which surface in each episode.
Artemis Eternal is a movie created by filmmaker Jessica Mae Stover that aspires to create a studio-quality short film, but without the studio. She could have gone to wealthy private investors to raise the money, but instead she is using crowd-funding to raise the budget needed to shoot her picture. This is a very new type of model for movies that only the web could have enabled, and with the right energy and approach, it definitely sounds like she is really going to make it happen.
JD Lasica is one of the world's leading authorities when it comes to social media. When I first met JD in 2004, he was working on Ourmedia.org, a media sharing site and online learning center made up of a community of people dedicated to spreading grassroots creativity in the form of personal media. Ourmedia was the first video sharing site where people congregated to share their video creations, audio podcasts and music. It continues to be a beacon for media noobs and educators alike with their learning center.
Causecast is a social media organization where philanthropy, social networking, entertainment and education meet. It takes things to the next level by partnering with celebrities, nonprofits, brands and organizations whose main goal is to do good, whether it be for human rights, the environment or a slew of other social causes. Above all, it inspires people to get involved with the important issues they want to support.
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are the two comedic misfits who make up the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! team, a popular show which airs on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. The show, which premiered in February 2007, evolved from their previous hit show, Tom Goes to the Mayor, which got its start as a web cartoon on timanderic.com.
This week's FU is being given out by author, columnist and new media entrepreneur, Arianna Huffington, who by all accounts is a person known for upsetting the status-quo, stimulating conversation, and spurring change.
This week we celebrate the Ask A Ninja producers, Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine as our FU of the Week! Why? Because they will kill us if we don't.
Photo courtesy of IBM.
So how exactly does one become a master inventor? What makes someone qualified to be a master inventor? Those are exactly the questions we asked Andy Stanford Clark, IBM Master Inventor and home automation guru.
Andy looks like a pretty unassuming guy, but don't let the smile fool you. He's a visiting Professor at Newcastle University, a member of MIT Media Lab Steering Committee, has been granted 11 patents, has 33 patents pending, and has 30 additional invention disclosures. Whew... and that's not even the tip of the iceberg.
Zadi interviews Eric Steuer, Creative Director of Creative Commons
The web was built by people sharing content and information. Years ago if you saw something cool in a website's design, you'd view source, copy and paste, and tweak it to make it your own. It was exactly this collective pool of available knowledge that made the web grow quickly and exponentially. The same went for hip-hop music in its early days -- artists regularly sampled other artists like James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic.
The creators and artists who were sampled could benefit by being promoted, even if there was no monetary compensation. But at a certain point, content creators get understandably upset when others take their work without permission, potentially for profit. Unfortunately, the traditional copyright system fails to support the flexibility needed in the digital age where the sharing and proliferation of media is paramount. It's either Public Domain or All Rights Reserved. This is where Creative Commons comes in, offering a spectrum of licensing options for content creators.
By now the image of Bree sitting at her computer in her bedroom is iconic. Everyone has heard the story and the massive hubbub over the "discovery" that Bree was in fact a fictional character played by actress Jessica Rose in a serialized universe called Lonelygirl15.
What people now realize is that Miles Beckett, Greg Goodfried, and their fabulous creative team at Eqal invented a world that extended beyond the videos that the characters inhabited. Imagine a book extending beyond the last page or a movie continuing past the last film frame. Now imagine that you could play a part in the way the story unfolded. That is immersive stuff, and that is the future of entertainment. That's why they are this week's FU of the week.
Back in 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Heathcliff Rothman through a chance encounter. He had seen the music video mashup I had created about Hurricane Katrina and wanted to meet and talk about a project he was working on called Film Your Issue (FYI). It was a project aimed at encouraging young adults to participate in public discourse through video about issues that mattered most to them.
When Big Fantastic came on the new media scene with Sam Has 7 Friends in 2006, not many web producers were making dramatic serialized short-form content. The storyline to SH7F was compelling: "Samantha Breslow has seven friends. On December 15, 2006, one of them will kill her."
The project was a self-funded experiment. With $50,000 on hand, the team -- comprised of Douglas Cheney, Chris Hampel, Chris McCaleb and Ryan Wise -- set out to create eighty ninety-second episodes. After the first season had ended, it caught the eye of Michael Eisner who bought the rights to season one, an option to produce future seasons, and the opportunity to create new shows for his new media production company, Vuguru. The rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not exactly...
Lucas Gonze is an innovator in the social media space. He was the founder of the first web-based music playlist Webjay, which became the model for modern music sharing sites like Last.fm and iLike. Webjay was subsequently bought by Yahoo in 2006 and then sadly discontinued. Perhaps it was ahead of its time.
During his time at Yahoo, Lucas was the Director of Product Management in their music division, where he created the awesome Yahoo! Media Player and led the lineup of streaming media players, including Launchcast.
On this week's EPIC FU we sat down and talked to Hayden Black, who's best known on the web for creating the comedy series Goodnight Burbank and Abigail's Teen Diary. We've known Hayden for a few years now, and it's been great to watch the hard work he has put into his production elevate his profile and gain new audiences.
This week's FU is given out by none other than Doug Bresler, independent animator and creator of Doogtoons. One of his most well-known works is his animated music video for Weird Al Yankovic, Trapped in the Drive-Thru, which has gotten almost five million views on YouTube alone.
Frank Warren is the soft spoken man behind one of the most popular blogs on the Internet: PostSecret. Most people already know about the intimate project where people anonymously send in their secrets on beautifully crafted postcards. Frank created the project as an art installation before taking it to the web. As founder and curator, Frank receives hundreds of postcards from all over the world.
If you saw a bunch of bicyclists zipping past you on the highway, what would you think? Well, if I were stuck in traffic, as is usually the case in a car culture town like Los Angeles, I would think "I bet if I were riding a bike, I'd be home by now." That would probably be true -- and that is exactly the kind of thought that Crimanimalz wants floating through your head.
No one is more deserving of this week's FU of the Week (check out the full episode here) than Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Zack Whedon, the notorious writers of the epic three-part musical mini-series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. If you haven't heard the story of the evil Freeze Ray toting mastermind with a heart of cold created by Joss Whedon, where the heck on the InterWebs have you been?
Scott Sigler is the Future Dark Overlord™. That's what he says. We believe him. He has a pair of chicken scissors ready if we dare say otherwise. So that's what we'll all say "Oh, hail Future Dark Overlord!"
On a more serious note, there is a reason why we chose Scott to be our FU of the Week -- he epitomizes the FU. He's a science fiction horror novelist who took matters into his own hands after getting rejection letter after rejection letter. And they didn't involve sharp deadly weapons, though some may consider podcasting equipment just that.
If you haven't heard of Mortified, it all began in 1990 when founder Dave Nadelberg found an old unsent love letter and shared it with friends. In 2002, he teamed up with Neil Katcher, formally formed Mortified and began sifting through thousands of people's forgotten diaries and photos in an attempt to "crack the lid off our cultural shoebox and expose our inner geek."
Note: Check the extended interview after the jump!
I remember the first time I watched The Guild. I was surfing around on YouTube, looking at various web shows and funny one-off videos. Thinking back, I'm not quite sure which breadcrumb lead me to The Guild, but as soon as I finished watching the first episode I clicked "subscribe." With its clever writing, nuanced acting, and that web aesthetic that is so hard to pin down by many "experienced" Hollywood producers, it stood head and shoulders above most web shows. When I took a look under the hood, I became especially thrilled to know it was written and produced by the lead actress of the series, Felicia Day.
Note: Check out the extended interview after the jump!
Sustainable Dave first caught my attention when he was interviewed on NPR at the beginning of the year. I only knew him then as the guy with the crazy trash saving idea, but it was intriguing nonetheless. Before heading over to Dave's house to interview him, I decided to keep all my trash for just that day. By the time 2pm rolled around, I already had the cardboard box from starting a new tube of toothpaste, a box and waxed paper from a morning bagel run, napkins, a plastic Starbucks cup, and two receipts. That was just in the span of 6 hours!
To tell you the truth,
I didn't know much... I had never heard of KCRW before moving to Los Angeles. Even then, it was just a station someone had recommended that I program into my car radio. Surprisingly, I don't spend much time in my car, so I never get to listen to most of those stations.
Fast-forward a few years and we're interviewing KCRW for the FU of the Week. I quickly learned that the local public radio station based out of Santa Monica College is a beacon of light to a lot of indie musicians and responsible for launching many of their professional careers. It's also known far and wide for the way they use technology to get their content out on a global scale.
Meanest Man Contest is a hip-hop duo featuring Quarterbar and Eric Steuer. The guys met in college and first started recording rap songs on a "barely-working 4-track." In 2002 they released their first single, Contaminated Dance Step.
Elon Musk is the principal owner and chairman of Tesla Motors, an electric car company that actually released a 100% electric car -- their first model is a gorgeous sports car dubbed the Roadster. In April, they opened their first U.S. showroom in Los Angeles where Zadi got a chance to speak with Elon about electric cars and some of Elon's other endeavors.
Sounds stuffy, but really it's not. They ask a simple question: Why do Americans vote on Tuesdays? Why not another day, why not weekends, why not on a national holiday? You might be surprised by the answer. Be sure to watch Zadi's interview with Jacob to hear his explanation.
Each week, we here at EPIC FU highlight someone or something who is giving the ultimate FU to the status-quo. This week, the FU of the Week is being served by Jonathan Coulton, the former computer programmer turned Geek Rockstar.
In 2005, Jonathan stopped writing software and started writing song lyrics. He immediately tapped into his online roots and decided to release a song a week for an entire year as free downloads on his site. The combination of the web's love of free things and Jonathan's readiness to take creative risks turned the experiment into a crazy success. The project, called Thing a Week, garnered a legion of loyal fans, who are now the core of his online community and continue to fuel his music career.