Screenwriters are weird, part 2

            In an earlier post I asked what the appeal of packing up and moving to LA was for a screenwriter.  Here’s something: it’s not the promise of celebrity, but of community…

            My brother is one of the foremost critics of Channels 101 and 102, websites that show serialized short videos (which is perhaps not as much of a non-honor as it sounds; we’ll get to that).  With nothing else to think about in the shower the other day, I was trying to suss out the appeal of these sites.  The shows, on their own merit, are pretty unsatisfying.  Forget the problem of production values; the writing and acting and overall level of entertainment (with a few notable exceptions) fail to hurdle the admittedly low bar set by commercial TV.  Frequently the biggest difference is that the humor, unrestricted by censors, can be “edgier.”  Hardly an end to itself.  The amateurish theatrics have a certain appeal, but what does that mean exactly?  It can’t simply be a case of rooting for the little guy, right?

            I think more likely is the conclusion that the sites have managed to cultivate a community.  Filmmakers compliment and criticize one another, appear in each other’s videos, even read commentary by obscure bloggers like Yodelling Llama.  We continue to watch because we too have made videos, or at least thought about it, because we’ve read message board posts by Channel 101 celebrity Dan Harmon and he seems like more of a person than George Clooney, because the whole enterprise is immediate and personal and not a product.  It’s cozy; it’s manageable.  It’s the same reason we watch idiotic YouTube videos that we’d never tolerate in a movie theater and read blogs by people who could never be published.

John Doe has his day job, maybe he likes it, maybe he doesn’t.  Maybe it’s important and meaningful, maybe it isn’t.  On his way home from work he stops at a fast food restaurant and buys a dinner that was made by a person he’s never met.  Home at his fresh and indistinguishable condo, he sits in his mass-produced Ikea chair made in a country across the sea, turns on his Japanese TV and watches shows made by a small group of people on the other side of the country who might as well be from Neptune.  It’s not the commonality or nonspecificity of the experience that bothers me, it’s the distance.  If he doesn’t define himself by his job, not unlikely, and if he is defining himself less and less by the company he keeps, well, at least he has his favorite TV shows and his comfy space mattress and his other products of satisfying consumption.  Consumption may be the closest thing he has to life.  But never does Mr. Doe actually interact with the folk who make the things that shape his life.  There is, in the words of grammatically playful college professors / assholes, a disconnect.

            And so we zebes who move across the country to that unholiest of stank holes aren’t seekers of fame at all.  We’re just trying to interact with something that seems to have an effect on our lives and the lives of others.  We’re a more arrogant strain of that strange species who participate in community theater.  Or who set up mechanic shops in  small towns in upstate New York or Tennessee.  Or who make videos for Channel 102.  But instead of retreating from the big, scary, impersonal world, shrinking it to a manageable size, we’re moronically diving headfirst into it, attacking it on its own terms.  Leaning into the fist, if you will.

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2 Responses to “Screenwriters are weird, part 2”

  1. YLlama Says:

    I dunno. I think there is something genuinely appealing about a low budget version of a traditionally high budget art form. Like black box theater, Phish tapes, Channel 101 programs, and zombie flicks. I’m not sure if I can explain what the appeal is, though. Something about doing more with less. Note that whatever else community offers, it also adds to the cost savings (because you can trade tips and offers of help with other community members).

    Hooray for “on the cheap” aesthetics!

  2. Yodelling Llama » Blog Archive » Talent scout. Says:

    […] No sooner had my brother dubbed me “one of the foremost critics of Channels 101 and 102,” I received a telephone call from a talent scout. The gentleman in question worked for a company called SMS.ac. I cannot tell exactly what SMS.ac does, but I think it is sort of like MySpace for mobile phones. Which I suppose means that when the guy was calling and asking whether I’m a filmmaker, he was looking for short videos to put on people’s mobiles. I set him straight, of course, but the whole ordeal was a little odd. He seemed to have obtained my name because he was looking through Channel 102’s forum, where I have posted a total of three times. From there, he found my regular Yodelling Llama feature: the Channel 102 Roundup. He then for some reason assumed I am a filmmaker. And checked up who owns yodellingllama.com on GoDaddy. And called my home. Not that odd, I suppose. But you’d think he would have seen the lack of reference to any video on Yodelling Llama and moved on. […]

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