NYCC: On the Scene: Chris Hardwick and Fred Siebert Talk Digital Culture

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IMG 3376 NYCC: On the Scene: Chris Hardwick and Fred Siebert Talk Digital Culture
By Hannah Means-Shannon

Following an afternoon’s intensive session in the highs and lows of digital media and the state of the comics industry at ICv2’s conference at NYCC, led by Milton Griepp , Chris Hardwick of the THE NERDIST PODCAST and longtime TV producer Fred Siebert (ADVENTURE TIME, FAIRLY ODDPARENTS, Frederator Studios) regaled the audience with a high-energy back and forth about their experiences in digital media. Their energetic prodding of the stodgier aspects of a “traditional media background”, which they both share, gave attendees a crash course in the wiles and woes of Youtube (mainly wiles) and of working in television (often woes). Youtube, Hardwick explained, involves “active consumption”. It takes a fan’s interest, enough motivation to press, click, and share to make a media phenomenon, whereas TV, ingested “passively” lacks that edge of viewer interaction. In that sense, Youtube is more of a two way street that provides “access” in new ways. This is a wide avenue, allowing both for the quirkier, less cerebral viral videos to take over the world (and they are appealing, we have to admit), but also for the often surprising spike in interest in well-created visual products that throw in for the free-for-all of the internet. They often come out tops, suggesting that Youtube-like venues may be the way of the future in terms of self-created artistic products.

Siebert, who’s seen in all in terms of pitches, explained that he’s looking for that unusual item that creates a “real laugh” for him, and with less constraint and control on low-cost productions, Youtube-launched creations are more likely to pack that punch. Then there are the sheer numbers. Youtube brings things “bigger, faster, to more people”, Siebert said. Siebert took his own particular slant on the issue, though, suggesting that creative people should bring their project to the world via platforms like Youtube to do banish the necessity of pitches. If a producer can look at a finished installment of a product, and even better see thousands, if not millions of viewers have already shown enthusiasm for it, it eliminates ambiguity. The producer can “see” what the creator intends, rather than having to try to visualize or imagine the project based on often wordy and stilted traditional pitches.

The dialogue between Hardwick became even more animated when they slipped into modeling idea-generating conversations typical of the way Hardwick brainstorms projects for his podcast or Youtube programs. In real time, the audience experiences the raw humor, exploratory back and forth of a simple conversation gone creative. Hardwick could round up directors in Hollywood and interview them on how they, personally, would remake a cult film like THE DARK CRYSTAL. Everyone wants to make THE DARK CRYSTAL, Hardwick agreed, commenting on the unusual commonality of it. In the “sharing culture” of Youtube, simply “doing something you feel like doing” can produce a “flood of creativity” that can have world-wide impact. It’s an attitude of “why couldn’t we do that”, that has driven his successes, Hardwick confirmed, and that makes the difference between an idea and “the next cool thing” that everyone can share. Hardwick and Siebert weren’t speaking hypothetically. They attested from experience that mediums which allow for a “true artistic meritocracy” are the way of the future. Youtube may eventually peak and drop off the radar, but it’s essential qualities have set the stage for a level of “access” viewers and creators want and need.

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.

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