How far would you go to prove a point?
Would you, for example, smash you and your bike into stationary objects in order to convey a message you felt passionately about? Not just once, but repeatedly?
New York film-maker Casey Neistat did; and in doing so produced a YouTube video that would echo around the internet.
Not sure what I’m taking about? Check out ‘Bike Lanes’ below.
Now seen by almost 10 million people around the world, Neistat’s video is a simple and beautiful act of pushing a ridiculous argument to its ridiculous conclusion – no matter the consequences.
As a cyclist myself, I know the frustration of being treated like a 2nd class citizen on the roads – barely can 2 cyclists get together without eventually exchanging near-misses, and comparing abuse or infrastructure frustrations.
I’m sure that if any of us had been caught in the absurd bureaucratic/power-trip/contempt vortex that Neistat found himself in with the police officer, that we’d like to thing we would have reacted with the same level of committed artistic vengeance.
I have to admit that I still do get a little burst of vicarious, ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ satisfaction every time Neistat goes flying off his bike.
I was lucky enough to put some questions to Neistat recently, in order to find out more about the man behind –and in front of – the camera:
One Small World: I guess the obvious question is: How much did you hurt yourself during the making of ‘Bike Lanes’?
Casey Neistat: I didn’t get hurt at all. You fall off enough 10’ half-pipes on a skateboard and you get pretty good at falling.
OSW: So what is the philosophy behind what you do? What keeps you making films?
CN: I don’t know if I identify a philosophy behind what I do. My dream, my ambition in life, is to always be doing exactly what it is I want to be doing. Telling stories is my favourite thing; sharing ideas; capturing experiences or times in my life in these short films.
When I scroll through my YouTube movies and see them in chronological order, I see the last 3 years of my life and that’s an exciting feeling (I have been making movies for over 12 years but working alone ie. I’ve only had a YouTube channel for the last 3)
OSW: A lot people have seen the video; what has the response to it been like?
CN: Well, the movie’s 2 years old now but when it came out I think it spoke to anyone who’s ever felt helpless when faced with someone of authority who was in the wrong. I know there are times when I get so frustrated with people and wish there was something I could do or say but instead I just deal with it and go on living my life.
Bike Lanes was one of those rare times when I was able to speak up.
OSW: Does video have the power to actually change things?
CN: Of course! Look at how journalism has changed in the last decade. Look at the Arab Spring. Sharing video and images through social media has become the voice of a population that previously didn’t have one.
Thanks about that the civil rights movement would’ve been like if people had camera phones and Facebook.
OSW: Bike Lanes has had almost 10 million views; were you surprised by how viral it’s become? Is it actually impossible to predict what the internet is going to eat up?
CN: I never know. It’s always exciting when a movie spreads quickly and gets a lot of views but it’s never my goal. I just want to make really good work; to build a body of work I am super proud of.
Chasing views or virality is not the same as making great work.
The most subscribed to, most watched channel on YouTube hosts only shit videos of a guy playing video games while giving offensive commentary. Billions of views but no impact, no relevance; in a few years no one will care.
You can see Casey’s YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/caseyneistat
Or see his website: http://caseyneistat.com/ for more info.
I would also recommend watching his ‘Make it Count’ video below, which he made for Nike, very jealous-making.
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