Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and this summer’s web-based hit, Dr. Horrible, was just interviewed by Kim Werker of CrochetMe (transcript found here). What does Whedon have to say about crafting? Aside from setting us straight on whether Captain Hammer’s sweater vests are knitted or crocheted, Whedon speculates on the parallels between the DIY craft community and the DIY media community:
KW: I read a quote recently, in an article about the resurging DIY movement, that we’re “crafting to claim identity, to save the world from soulless junk.” Do you see any parallels in people’s approach to internet-based video productions versus the big-media productions for television and movies and how people are really taking those media into their own hands right now?
JW: Absolutely. I mean, let’s face it, in the media there are now eight companies. In any mall you walk into, there are now eight stores: there’s gonna be a Gap, there’s gonna be a Banana Republic. Everything is becoming consolidated, so where there used to be lots of variety, there are now, like, ten giants and tons of tiny little villagers. And yeah, the villagers are going to start making their own stuff because the materials will be available to all of them, and we can’t all just do things the way the giants want, because it does seep something out of your soul. I think it’s absolutely true on every level of art that this is the worst of times and, like some guy might have said once, the best of times.
I find this to be profoundly true. Everywhere I turn, I see that massive consolidation. Whether it’s NBC putting Jay Leno in a spot typically reserved for innovative dramas, or the CW potentially creating a Gossip Girl spinoff because it is less risky than shooting a pilot for a new show. Then again, I also see people figuring out how to entertain themselves with projects like Odd Noggin Land – in which the creators actually made giant heads shaped like ketchup and fries. DIY projects are inefficient, they are often messy, and they probably appeal to a small number of people. But the result often has a depth of character and breadth of experimentation that’s absent from a product brought into being by a corporation. That’s true whether you’re knitting a hat or making a movie in your backyard.
Like the man said: “You have to remember that if the thing isn’t slightly out of control, it ain’t art.”
Image from BobbyPromFor those of you who prefer your internet-musical-extravaganza soundtracks sans DRM, the Amazon MP3 store is now offering Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog soundtrack. We’ve talked before about Dr. Horrible before, and I am a fan, but I do think it’s a little strange that the soundtrack costs $8.99 when the entire show could be had for $4.99 on iTunes.
I guess that’s the price you pay for convenience. Honestly though, who would pay $0.99 cents for the opening 9-second track? Joss, I think you missed the mark here. Amazon lets you set variable pricing (one of their major distinctions over iTunes, as far as labels are concerned). Take advantage of that and pick some reasonable prices rather than just going with the default. Your fans will thank you.
Since the site appeared to be on permanent hiccup when I got home yesterday, I bought myself a season pass on iTunes. I wasn’t the only one: Dr. Horrible is currently the top iTunes download for TV single episodes and season passes. For something that people expected to get for free, that’s kind of amazing. The long-tail-economics of that situation are better left to someone with more expertise, but I will say this:
Studios and record labels have based their attacks on peer-to-peer sharing on the basic premise that if a piece of media is available for free, no rational person will pay for it. Either Joss Whedon’s fans are crazy, or there’s something else going on. My suspicion is that there is something valuable ($4 worth of valuable) about becoming a part of the first wave of media consumers. This is why people dress up and wait in line for opening nights of movies (like Star Wars and Sex and the City), even though they could watch the same movie at a discount theater in a month, or get it for free from the library a couple months after that. As we move toward an increasingly information-rich society, the information itself becomes almost secondary to how it helps us relate to other people. We want to know where our information came from and how we can share it with others. People crave communal experiences, and getting to gab about Dr. Horrible on the day it appears is just one of those community-building events.
More Dr. Horrible news is on its way! Next time, a serious discussion of silliness. No joke.
If you are a true fangirl or fanboy, then news of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” will be old hat by now. Bear with us, we’re excited: Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly) is about to release what he’s calling an “Internet Miniseries Event.” You can watch a trailer via vimeo, or you can read his comments on the Whedonesque blog.
The premise looks hysterical: Neil Patrick Harris is a supervillain, Nathan Fillion is a superhero. They sing, and potentially fight over a girl. What more could you want? The answer is, of course, to watch it free, streaming through your interwebs starting July 15th.
The format looks gosh darn revolutionary: 3 episodes, staggered throughout 1 week in July, free to watch. After that, they’ll be sold online for a “nominal fee,” then they’ll potentially go to DVD.
According to Whedon (or Joss as he likes to call himself), this all started during the writers’ strike, when he and other writer/producers started looking around for alternates to creating studio fare. Joss Whedon has a history of working in mixed media: Buffy was originally a film (a flop), then a TV show (a success), then a comic (wildly praised by pretty much everyone) [Editor’s Note: We’ve even seen the musical episode produced for the stage]. Science fiction in general seems to be ahead of the curve on this yes-people-watch-the-internet thing: Battlestar Galactica has released web-exclusive content, as has Heroes. But no one has ever tried to launch a potential brand from the internet, using known actors who are creating original characters specifically for the web. What’s more, Whedon’s “make it on the fly, on the cheap” concept makes it better matched to the bulk of current web content.
I’m sure this is not the last post we’ll do for Dr. Horrible, since (a) Teague is eventually going to get jealous [Editor’s Note: So jealous…]that I got to post about Joss Whedon and he didn’t and (b) This is pretty much the content we’ve been waiting to cover: Big names with big ideas experimenting in free web formats, rather than running around trying to shut them down.