What Did He Just Say?

Via @cshirky‘s Twitter feed, I recently learned about the BBC’s Digital Revolution Short Film Competition. Here’s how they describe it:

For the first time ever, uncut video for a BBC documentary series, is online NOW for YOU to download and re-edit. Cut it, clip it, mash it, animate it, make fun of it if you like. It’s free to use.

Awesome stuff–especially because remix contests that I’ve seen often ask contestants to remix music or video that is largely valued for its artistry (or its “poetics”). (Total Recut’s video remix challenge is an exciting exception.) That’s supercool, and I love those remixes to pieces. But I’m especially interested in the challenges involved with remixing something that didn’t have a primarily artistic purpose to begin with–in this case, documentary footage of smart people talking about digital culture. Yes, the shots are “artistic” in that they were carefully composed, well produced, etc.–but they weren’t designed with the same kind of purpose and aesthetics as a Radiohead song or a Weezer video, which I think makes the remix process different too.

Here’s the video that Shirky tweeted (in which he shows up for a couple seconds!):

This kind of playful misrepresenting reminds me of a favorite practice of some friends of mine in 8th and 9th grade: we would take an old karaoke machine (two tape decks and two mic inputs), hand a mic to a friend, and hit record. Then we’d interview the friend (including, at one point, @RachelleLacroix), trying to get him/her to say as many awkward, sexually perverse (8th grade, remember?), and rude things as possible.  Then I would sit down by myself with the tape, listening carefully for anything I could twist to make it sound like the interviewee was saying something s/he wasn’t. Typical fare was the interviewee saying something like, “My dog, my mom, my dad, all my friends,” which I would reedit as the answer to something like, “Who do you [sleep with] every day?” (8th grade! Remember that!)

What I’d really like to do is go back and ask 8th-grade Kyle what he was listening for in that moment of reediting, scouring the raw recording for something that would seem funny. Without using these words, I must have been attuned to my audience (knowing what they would find funny, and thus score me cool points), running quickly through many possible narratives in my head (wondering which answers would most profit from the funniest questions), all the while striving for a humorous organization and pace (so it would feel right in terms of both individual jokes and larger context, as a “bit”). How would Cassetteboy, who made the video above, answer those questions differently, I wonder?


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