Friday, November 1, 2013
The Lunatic - 7 Million Viewers Can't Be Wrong
It all started with an actor getting warmed up before a take at a video shoot. Michael Jeremiah took out his phone and shot a 'selfie' video as he warmed up his voice with a slightly malevolent sounding version of the children's tune, If You're Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands) - next thing you know, the video is uploaded onto YouTube at his son's insistence and the next thing you know, it's got over 500,000 views. Entitled, The Lunatic, the short camera clip is virtually viral in the blink of an eye.
Jeremiah, realizing early on that there was something happening here, alerts his filmmaker friend Scott Rosenbaum and asks him to get onboard. Mind you, Rosenbaum is very busy making maybe the best unfinished documentary on the blues that I've ever seen (years in the making and quite remarkable), shooting record release documentaries for the likes of Mark Anthony and Joan Jett, and he doesn't really have time to blink, let alone start another new project. However, Michael Jeremiah is a charming and persistent fellow, and soon Scott was hauling his equipment into Jeremiah's basement to shoot episode number two, and suddenly a character is taking shape and the views on YouTube are entering the realm of seven figures.
Several more brief episodes are shot and uploaded, and all of a sudden the character has garnered several million views without the benefit of any prompting or manipulation from the hands of the maker - it simply grew legs of its own volition.
By episode four, we're starting to see other characters, and the plot is thickening - Rosenbaum enlisted his 90-something year old grandmother to contribute her voice to the reading of a decidedly Lynchian Little Boy Blue, and we start getting some insight into The Lunatic's psyche as we see Jeremiah in a dream state that includes some extremely eerie and disturbing footage - Rosenbaum somehow manages to identify most of the world's subconscious fears in less than a minute and a half, and still we're wondering where this all leads. All five million of us at this point.
Then, within a few short months, the videos are removed by YouTube without explanation - there was no copyright infringements, there was no nudity, there was nothing that should have resulted in the videos removal, but since when does YouTube need a reason to punish its non-paying customers and users? Did I mention that the film's makers had said no to accepting advertising when the view count went through the roof? I'm not saying that the reason the videos were removed was because Rosenbaum and Jeremiah weren't playing ball, but certainly the idea could be entertained by anyone willing to participate in conjecture.
By now, the creative team had gained traction and some confidence - they started speaking to friends in the film industry and several stepped up and encouraged further development towards a feature film. Producers Jeff Waxman (The Fighter, Immortals, Mirror Mirror) and Tony Grazia (Narc, 21 and Over, and Rosenbaum's first feature film The Perfect Age Of Rock 'N' Roll) convinced Rosenbaum to take the web series and turn it into a full length feature film.
It was episode 5 that blew my mind - fleshed out and lengthened to almost four minutes, we suddenly see that The Lunatic may be much deeper than previously imagined, and maybe even a hero (if somewhat disturbed) of sorts. This episode looks like a movie, and the soundtrack is a stunner - it's Michael Jeremiah's original song, 21st Century Man - the actor has long been a New York City rock scene figure, and they couldn't have found, nor paid for a more perfect track to the scenes. The song evokes memories of seventies glam and there is a definite sense of Bowie's darker side, but all in a very contemporary manner - that may not be my most elegant description ever, but watch the episode, and you'll get it. You will definitely get it.
Episode 5 - The Lunatic - A 21st Century Man
Scott Rosenbaum is a bright guy - one of the brightest I know, but don't tell him I said that, he'll bristle and grouse at that notion. He is enough of a visionary that he has chosen to go the crowd funding route to finish the picture. He's just started an Indiegogo project, with the thought being that since the concept and development has been so intrinsically shaped and shared by the seven million viewers who voted by watching that they should also be involved with the picture right down the line. This is not a project that was written and developed - it has developed organically and by the virtue of its own fate, it's destiny, if you will.
Click To See The Indiegogo Trailer
The Lunatic is Michael Jeremiah. His portrayal is masterly, and it's often the subtle nuances and spaces in between actions where the character makes his loudest proclamations, and we get insight into his being. We know these moments - they are somehow universal, if not often discussed. There's darkness in us all, and in many ways we may all have the capacity to be lunatics, and I'm guessing that's why a simple warm up exercise managed to draw in millions. Jeremiah makes his mark with this character, and he even writes the soundtrack - I get a sense of this is just meant to be.
I've seen crowd funding work for a great many musical projects, mostly when it makes sense - an agreement between an artist and their audience where there is trust and confidence. This one might be a little different - it could be that people will pre-pay in a manner of speaking to see where this all goes after being drawn in by something that just happens to speak to so many in these dark days of the American subconscious.
Be a part of the madness - let's see where this may lead. I'll be following this one for the next few months.