This morning I woke up to see that a 30 second video I posted on YouTube had over 28,000 hits. I know that’s small potatoes relatively, but it’s the most damn views I’ve ever had and it’s exciting because I saw it happen in close up. For the last few months, YouTube success has been a topic on my mind. A colleague and good buddy of mine (or rather, a good buddy and colleague of mine) have been discussing how ludicrous it is that “YouTube Stars” make so much money out of silly little videos. Then we got past how ludicrous it was and decided we wanted a piece of that action! We are both in corporate video production in our day jobs, so we figured that we should use our “skill set” to jump on the band wagon.
Concurrently, Danger and I started UBTV – the Channel of Unbelievably Bad magazine. We want to churn out little videos every week, covering everything you’d find in the zine and more. One day we’ll give up our day jobs and do that full time. That’s the dream. So a couple of days ago, I had a day off work and I was editing videos from home. I have the attention span of a kitten, so I need to work on a few things simultaneously. Danger and I were emailing and I showed him a link to one of my old videos that employed a fun editing technique. We talked about making a video for UBTV employing the same technique. I said that it’d be good to use on a politician. Danger suggested the Tony Abbott onion video. I know nothing about current news stories, so I just googled the video and found it. Angus was home too and when he walked past my computer, I asked him what song I should use. He suggested Darude’s “Sand Storm”. I’d heard him mention this before as an internet meme and we’d had fun watching him and his friend Bo dancing to the song. Within the space of an hour – literally from the first email – I had the video edited and posted on our UBTV YouTube Channel. It was just a throwaway idea, executed quickly while I should have been doing something else. I shared the link with my buddy Jo and told her that we could easily make videos like that for our YouTube campaign. This was on the back of the mash up of the Dinosaurs and Biggie Smalls – which incidentally, has over five million hits (to put it in perspective….). Then I forgot about it.
A couple of days later (that’s yesterday), Jo sent me a link to a small article on the Junkee website that said that Tony Abbott had eaten another onion – big news apparently! But the interesting part was that the writer of the article suggested watching the six second clip of Abbott eating the first onion, while playing Darude’s “Sand Storm” in the background. Wait, what?? Isn’t that the video I’d already made? So I posted a link to my YouTube clip in the comments section. And the internet did the rest. While I was at work, editing videos about an ASX Conference (yep – riveting stuff), Jo kept texting and emaiing me updates of how the video got picked up and gained a life of its own. Junkee made a little reference to it and then it was picked up by Pedestrian TV. Later at home, when Danger was showing me all of the Facebook comments, we agreed that we couldn’t have planned it any better. It was the perfect storm. The day that I made the video, the onion story was already old news. It was only the fact that Abbott ate a second onion that gave the video a life. Watching how the video spread was like tagging a pigeon. Hopefully the next pigeon will be one I’m proud of.
Update: By late afternoon it’s up to 37,500+ – jeez!
On our first day in New York we literally stumbled across Times Square. I have no sense of direction and Danger never wants to be seen with a map, so we were just kind of ambling.
Cool kids and native New Yorkers will tell you to avoid it at all costs, but I enjoyed the energy and sensory overload, the way I don’t enjoy it when it’s somewhere like the Easter Show or anywhere else that involves crowds. Go figure.
After getting ripped off and hustled within minutes of arriving, a little niggling feeling of resentment was itching at the back of my mind. But later that night, as we started laughing about the experience over pizza and beer, I decided that I wanted to make a mini documentary about the Times Square Hustlers. We had our camera kit with us so that we could shoot interviews for our Warm Feelings documentary, so it was no hassle to go back and get some footage of the Super Hustlers.
The weekend that we shot was one of the coldest that New York has experienced in a long time. The first day it was snowing and magical. The second day it was just unbearably freezing. Danger was a trooper and he stayed out getting amazing footage while we ducked into Starbucks and Toys’R’Us to defrost ourselves.
Because it’s a fun subject with a human interest element, we are hoping to get the video up on some websites like Reddit or Buzzfeed or Huffington Post. Below is an excerpt of the story that I’ll be sending out with the video.
On our first foray into Times Square we couldn’t help but notice the colorful super heroes and Disney characters prowling among the tourists and civilians. Our children are thirteen and fifteen, so we didn’t pay much attention to the costumed characters, but before long my daughter spotted a plush Hello Kitty and she decided she wanted a photo with her. Understanding the basics of tipping, we gave our daughter a dollar bill to pay Hello Kitty and nudged her gently towards the Kawaii cult-figure. Like a shark will notice a drop of blood in the water, it was almost as if Hello Kitty smelt the money. She nearly lost her big, furry head in a rush to get over to us. Navigating crowds with restricted eyesight and no regard for the outer edges of her cat headpiece, Hello Kitty seized my daughter by the coat and pulled her into a pose. Within seconds, Mickey Mouse, Cookie Monster and Super Mario were flanking her on either side and our petite thirteen year old was dwarfed by a pushy pack of furry characters. After the photo was taken, she timidly proffered her dollar bill to Hello Kitty and tried to exit stage left. Obviously we didn’t know the protocol. The other three characters whipped up their headpieces so that they could make eye contact and held their palms up as if begging for alms. I was overwhelmed by the surreal nature of the scene. Super Mario was a small Latino woman, pleading with liquid eyes. As I fumbled for my purse, the furry characters edged in closer. Being unfamiliar with the money (to an Australian, it all looks the same), I pulled out a five-dollar bill. Realizing my mistake, I tried to fish out some dollar bills, but three voices assured me “It’s ok, it’s ok”. While I worried how they would share it, Mickey Mouse unceremoniously yanked it out of my hand and turned tail – off to find a new victim. Cookie Monster and Super Mario followed suit.
We were left scratching our heads wondering how we had just lost $6 in a matter of a minute. As we continued on our way, running the gauntlet of Times Square hustlers, it became apparent that we would need to be on guard – or flush with dollar bills. I felt a little dismayed by our ignorance and determined not to be suckered again.
Our next visit to Times Square we came armed with our camera and a fat stack of dollar bills. It was our turn to approach the furries and the super heroes and find out what made them tick. Getting right into the spirit of it, I was waving dollar bills like a businessman at a strip bar while my husband caught everything on film.
“If I give you a dollar will you answer a few questions?”
We quickly realized that a large number of the costumed characters didn’t speak any English. I was impressed with the resourcefulness and spirit of these entrepreneurs. When all communication is pantomimed and the language of an outstretched hand is universal, there is no job discrimination. One clever Smurf answered humbly “No sorry, no English” and plucked the dollar bill from my hand with a rueful smile.
Refining our technique, we first asked whether they spoke English before offering to pay. Before long, the checkbook journalism paid off and we found our story. A sweetly innocent young man, dressed as The Flash, told us how he was just learning the ropes, mentored by his friend, Spiderman. He told us that he gave all his earnings to his Mum, as she put food on the table. We asked The Flash if we could take him somewhere quiet and pay him for a proper interview. He couldn’t leave his post at the most lucrative hour on a Saturday evening, so we tried to set the interview up for the next day. The only problem was The Flash didn’t even have a phone. Excited by the prospect of appearing on YouTube, Flash called Spiderman over to help out. Visibly irritated at being called while he was on the job, Spiderman quietly schooled Flash on the ways of maximizing a prospect.
“We’re not going to talk now, we don’t have the time. Give them my number, ok?”
The next day, in weather just over 2 degrees Fahrenheit, we met up with Spiderman – aka JJ. The Flash had stayed home for the day because he was too cold to hustle.
With relief, JJ/Spiderman quickly steered us to a deli just off Times Square that he used as a home base. For twenty dollars he told us his story and shared with us his dreams of starting his own fashion label and starring in a YouTube series.
The video below is a small introduction of what could be a fascinating story of New York grit and ingenuity. The hustlers of Times Square are paying their way through college, feeding their families and starting empires one dollar at a time.
We will be hosting the video on YouTube soon, so I’ll replace this link when it happens and everyone will need to watch it again so we can get as many likes as possible.
“I got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart took eighteen years to get this far”Alice Cooper, Eighteen
“Western astrologers believe that, as Saturn “returns” to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood”The font of all knowledge (Wikipedia)
There comes a time on every personal blog where the blogger will write a grovelling post apologising for neglecting their blog and cataloguing every exhausting reason for why they have been absent.
I have been so busy!….
I had an inkling when I started this blog that it would become just another obligation. Like a fireman on an old steam engine, I am constantly shovelling coal to keep the engine running. I was worried that my blog would become just another scoop to keep the fires burning and keep that monkey off my back. But in fact, I really enjoy it and I have missed my quiet times with a coffee and the computer screen in the early hours of the morning.
So here I am with a long list of excuses for why I have been away. I am entering a renaissance period in my life (grandiose, much?)…or to put it more prosaically, I’ve got a rocket under me, and I feel compelled to finish old projects, start new projects and generally overhaul my entire life.
My Mum tells me that when I was a baby, I used to carry around three dummies – one for my mouth and one for each hand. I have continued this trait throughout my life; I always feel the need for more than is necessary. For example, I always have two drinks on the go at the same time. I store our money in multiple different bank accounts. On my desk there are several notebooks and lists. In Corporate-Speak I am all about diversification. If we kept chickens, I’d be using a lot of baskets.
Analysing myself, I would say that my mania for diversification is a way of shielding myself from disappointment. If one thing doesn’t work out, I’ve always got another thing on the boil. Another dummy to suck.
Musing on this topic, I got to thinking about how all of us in my immediate family have extra-curricular activities. School and work are just the things that we are supposed to be doing with our day. It’s our extra curricular activities that define us. On any given day, Danger* will be working on another issue of Unbelievably Bad, Saltt-Roazt* will be dashing off another artwork on the computer and Meow.Cheow* will be bent over her needle and thread sewing a new Cos-Play outfit. Among other things…
So it turns out that I don’t have time for that long list of excuses. Time to move onto a new task. Hopefully I will find some time to get back into more regular blog posting.
*We all have aliases for our extra-curricular activities
And here’s three pictures of coal shovelling just to illustrate my earlier analogy and because I love old pictures of old occupations.