Thursday, June 28, 2012

HBO's "Me at the Zoo" is an interesting bio of video star Chris Crocker, but it could go further

Me at the Zoo” (or sometimes spelled “Me @ the Zoo”), an HBO documentary (directed by Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch) and bio of Internet video blog star Chris Crocker, certainly comes from a different world than the family film last Christmas “We Bought a Zoo”.

In fact, I never knew that Chris (original name Christopher Darren Cunningham) had connection to the viral video “Nora, the Piano Playing Cat”, with which the film opens. It seems fitting that someone seen as a social pariah as a youth in a reactionary southern climate, would bond well with animals, on the way to his self-invention as a media star.  The film does cover lightly his social ostracism as a youth, including serious issues with being bullied, a major reason for eventual home schooling. 

Chris (now 24) is best known for his viral video “Leave Brittany Alone!” and during the film says that Brittany Spears is a metaphor for his own mother and her downfall.  He was raised by Pentecostal grandparents in Bristol TN, (the Shenandoah Valley city that straddles the border with Virginia).  I can remember being there at least twice, once in 2005, and once as a boy on an Easter holiday with my parents, on the way to the Smokies and then to Charlotte.  My own father was fascinated by the concept of the divided city.  In 2005, I was on the way to Natural Tunnel, on a weekend that turned out to be significant.

The film traces the history of YouTube and explains well, and shows its trademarked “Broadcast Yourself”  slogan.  The movie also shows how the Internet, with its no-capital self-publishing services, enables an otherwise powerless and non-competitive person to become famous.  A subsequent documentary film could explore the way these publishing services (Blogger, YouTube, and even the modern social networks like Facebook) depend on limitations in downstream liability for both libel (Section 230) and copyright (DMCA Safe Harbor) infractions by users.

Crocker did spend some time in LA as an entertainer, experimenting with drag, before coming back to Tennessee and refocusing on the video and indie movie business.  The film says he makes close to $4000 a month from ad revenue on his blogs.  But that’s not getting rich, like a Hollywood mogul.

Crocker’s appearance (and manner) itself is variable: often silly, sometimes drag, sometimes very conventionally “male” in its own way.  He can look quite attractive.

The official site on HBO for the film is here

I missed the HD presentation Monday night because of the film festival, and saw it Tuesday night on HBO2, which I could get only in standard format (not HD).  Life’s not perfect.  The film looked a little grainy, but that could be for this reason.

The film has a video clip of the Colorado "balloon boy" hoax.

The end credits of the film mention funding from Kickstarter, which I discussed yesterday (by coincidence) on my main “BillBoushka” blog, after a conference on seed funding in northern VA. That invokes today’s “short film”, “iPad Touchtype”, reviewed on that blog entry.

I will have to look into the possibility of Kickstarter for my own film project.  I need to find a local film producer’s symposium in Richmond or Baltimore.  We had these all the time in Minneapolis (because of IFPMSP) when I lived in the Twin Cities.

I’ll also mention that I reviewed “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” on my disaster movies blog, “Films on Major Threats to Freedom” last Saturday, June 23.

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