How did you discover Chris Crocker, and where did the idea for making a film about him come from?
We started out making a broader, essay-style documentary about reality performance and the ways that technology is sort of mediating and changing our relationships and the way we see ourselves. We didn’t set out to make a film out of Chris, but when we met him his story was a way for us to explore a lot of the ideas we were interested in.
Chris' experiences are emblematic of a lot of the shifts that are happening in the media landscape. Not only with his overlap into a celebrity-crazed media culture. But also the way he ingeniously uses social media. He's like a social media prodigy. That was the path to getting involved with him.
Chris is a uniquely online phenomenon. What did you learn about the nature of celebrity through working with him?
Chris represents a new type of celebrity, what might be called a "microcelebrity." In a certain way he’s a self-published sort of celebrity. He wasn’t waiting for the entertainment industry to find him. Technology allowed him to create an audience based solely on the force of his personality.
Chris really represents the new democratized media landscape. And I think his ability to publish his own content under his own parameters and in his own voice separates him from other kinds of celebrities that exist within old media structures. He took his little camera and uploaded his video, and from that small gesture had a huge impact.
How quickly did Chris ‘launch' himself online?
When Chris was in junior high he got bullied out of school for being too overtly gay. He was stuck at home with no other creative or social outlets, so he turned to the internet. And by his own account he was raised on online. He initially started out on Myspace in 2004, uploading random videos which caught on with kids passing them around. And so even before the Leave Britney Alone video he was getting millions of hits on his skits and funny diatribes through Myspace.
And then when YouTube came on the scene in 2005, Chris switched platforms and started posting on YouTube. And it was through YouTube's video sharing interface that Chris really found his mainstream fame. And then, of course, there was his massive viral video, Leave Britney Alone, that got forty three million views and counting. His core fan base has stayed with him since Myspace. And now with even more immediate technologies like Twitter, Chris uses those to keep in touch with his fans. And they love it.