The discovery of the 2011 Santa Barbara Film Festival may have taken place before the first screening. It's the Lego-animated musicvideo “Megaphone,” which SBFF director Roger Durling adopted as the event's trailer for the year and illustrates the frustration of standing in line and discovering you won’t be able to get into a festival movie.
The song was written by Santa Barbara local Parry Gripp, a musician and online superstar whose song-of-the-week site had a U.K. fan in 16-year-old and "brickfilmer" Harry Bossert. He spent a few weekends working with Legos, posted the result to YouTube and sent Gripp a Tweet asking him to take a look. Six months later, Durling introduced the young animator to the opening-night audience at Arlington Theater.
It’s a charming story, but the most fascinating bit may be Bossert’s avowedly digital nature. Not only was his collaboration entirely virtual – he didn’t even speak to Gripp before they met on opening night – but the teenager also cites YouTube as his biggest influence and says working with others in person seems… unnecessary. indieWIRE spoke to him (in person) at the Santa Barbara Hotel’s Filmmaker Lounge on January 28.
How did you find that song?
I only found it because I’m a big fan of (Parry Gripp). I found it one day through YouTube. I was just going through songs and I found “Megaphone” and I thought that song just sounds like a movie. When I was listening to it, I could just see all the characters and knew pretty much what I wanted to do. Seeing as I was pretty desperate to make a music video for him, I just thought, “I think I’ll do that one.”
So that was your goal, you really wanted to make a video for him, for one of his songs?
Yeah. I didn’t ask him at all. I just one day, spur of the moment, started making this video.
How long did it take you to make it?
It took me about three weeks, working straight through weekends. My whole Saturday and most of my Sunday were spent doing it because I couldn’t really do it during the week because of school.
What year are you in?
I’m in year 11, which I think is grade 10?
So when you finished it, did you just pop it off to him in email and say, “I hope you like it”?
Well, all I did was I loaded it up to YouYube the day I finished it. Then I sent him a Tweet and he saw that and said, “Wow, that’s amazing” and just posted it to all of his followers. Later that day I got a YouTube message saying, “That’s an amazing film. I know Roger, who runs the film festival. Would you like me to get it shown there?” And I said, “Yes, please.”
How long ago was that?
That was about six-seven months ago now. Since then we’ve been corresponding back and forth.
What is next for you?
I don’t know. I’m at school – I’m mainly studying theater – but I’m also studying media and I’ve been doing this hobby of brickfilming for 3 ½ years. It was during the summer holidays and I really had nothing to do. I’d only recently discovered YouTube, so I was going through some of the old PC and Mac adverts and someone had done a Lego stop-motion spoof of it. It was a pretty good movie and I thought, “Wow, that’s amazing. I wonder if I could do that.” So I showed my dad and we went upstairs and made a makeshift animation setup and I’ve been making movies out of my bedroom since. He gave me a desk that I could use and an old DV Sony camera and some tape to film it on. That’s what I’ve been using, only I’ve changed to digital now.
Is there a whole cadre of brickfilmers?
Yes, there is. There’s a big community behind it -- they’re based at bricksinmotion.com. I wouldn’t have found out about the hobby if it weren’t for the community.
Which filmmakers do you admire?
In terms of filmmakers that I find for inspiration, there’s no one director or one actor that I think, “Oh, I love their work I want to see everything.” My main inspiration, the people that I follow, are from YouTube. There’s such a variety on there and I have my favorite vloggers, my favorite people. I like Wheezy Waiter – he does some good comedy skits – and people like the Vlog Brothers who use their YouTube fame to do really amazing things.
Your influences are from the web, not from filmmaking.
Yes, because that’s how I got noticed for the film festival and my whole filmmaking career has been centered around the internet. That’s where I first found a film to make and that’s where I first started posting them and I’ve now gained 5,000 subscribers on YouTube – just the other day I tipped that. It’s just been the biggest influence on my filmmaking career.
So are your goals for movies, for the web, somewhere in between?
I just like making movies, showing them to people and getting a response. And the internet just seems to be the perfect place to do that because there’s so many people and you can keep track of who likes you and who doesn’t. I’ve never really had a goal and my goal certainly wasn’t to become popular. I just made what I want and people seemed to like it.
If there was anyone you’d want to meet in the movie world or in the online world, who would it be?
(long silence) I’ve never really… there’s never anyone I’ve wanted to meet in person and to talk with them or sit down with them. Because my work is so centered around the internet, that’s how I like to communicate. If there’s someone I want to communicate with, I do it that way. I don’t think if I was to meet someone in person I’d gain all that much more except for going and making a movie with them that day for the sake of it.
Did you meet Parry?
I did meet him. I only met him yesterday. We’d never even so much as talked on the phone before. He’d done most of the legwork on this end in getting the film played and we’d just been communicating through email, so to meet him in person… he’s a really cool guy.
I guess meeting in person is a “nice to have”?
Yeah! I mean, to meet some of the people I’m big fans of and have a chat with them -- it would be nice, but there’s never anything that I particularly want to say to them.
Traditionally, filmmaking is a very collaborative art. Do you see your work going in that direction?
I don’t know. Brickfilming does tend to be very sola-, sola-
Yes, a solitary hobby. You write your own scripts and then hide in your room for a week or two making this movie and then you edit it by yourself and then you post it and that’s when everyone else gets involved. Generally, the only time you want to get other people is if you want them to check your scripts or if you want them to voiceact for you. Because if you did all the voiceacting yourself, it wouldn’t turn out that well.
You can find Harry Bossert at his YouTube channel, Zoot101.