The night before I moved from Tallahassee, FL to Corning, NY, a friend and I spent the evening watching the then-new viral sensation, literal videos. Though not the original, I can safely say that Total Eclipse is the best literal video out there. In fact, it is one of the most successful and enduring viral videos of all time. What I couldn’t have known that night in Florida is that when I got to Corning, I’d be working with the guy who created the masterpiece.
David Scott is a local TV producer, creating and editing commercials and televised local events. He is obsessed with: 1) local theater – performing in nearly 80 shows in the past 8 years and 2) The Monkees – he produced 20 Monkees mash-up videos for YouTube after the passing of David Jones. He also has an estimated 8 million other side projects to fill the hours when he’s not sleeping (which I believe he never does).
An Interview with David A. Scott
What type of internet content where you creating Prior to Literal Videos?
When I began my YouTube page in 2007, I was in a dinner theater group that I was acting and writing scripts for, and whose website I was in charge of. To drum up further interest in our shows, I posted behind-the-scenes videos of us. By the end of 2008, there was no more dinner theater, though I was doing a lot of other plays.
Did you have any Internet hits prior to your literal videos?
I did a really stupid commercial where I had to do a “pizza dance” back in 2006. It aired for one month, but a friend of mine posted it on YouTube, and it got thousands of views. Eventually, it was featured on BET, G4’s Web Soup (below), and Current TV. It made a lot of “best/worst local ad” lists on various websites. I was amused, and quite glad to see it getting some mileage, considering what a pain in the butt it was to do, and given that it only aired for a month.
Early literal videos were having some success, what motivated you to jump into them yourself?
I wanted to see some favorite artists of mine and my friends’ represented. I’d assumed that literal videos had already run their course by then… The concept had been around for six months, after all, but I figured that my peers would still get a kick out of it. My biggest faves were the Monkees and the Beatles, so I started with those. I especially wanted there to be a Monkees one. Once people enjoyed those, I moved on to a longtime friend’s favorite band, Crowded House. Then a newer friend’s favorite band, Journey. And then my wife’s favorite artist, Meat Loaf. I thought that Meat Loaf’s would be my last one. It nearly was.
Why did you keep going and how did you choose Total Eclipse?
I did a random internet search, to see what literal videos everyone was talking about. One message board said, “Someone should do Total Eclipse of the Heart.” I looked at it, nodded my head, and moved on. But when my singing partner in the Meat Loaf video asked me to find a song/video with a female lead vocal, I made my way back to Bonnie Tyler.
Were you able to track the progress of the video going Viral?
Three days after I posted the video, a mention appeared on Entertainment Weekly’s website. Two days after that, my video got a 30,000 view boost. People who didn’t know me were forwarding the video to people who did. A friend on Facebook messaged me to say, “You’re going viral!” And once I realized that Ashon Kutcher had mentioned me on Twitter, I knew that my friend would be right.
It was after it exploded online that it began to pop up on television. The biggest surprise was that practically none of the national shows ever told me they were using my video. Thank goodness for the internet and re-runs, because I had to rely on fans of the video to tell me when CNN, ABC, and other stations were showing my work. To this day, there are mentions from E! and Current TV that I’ve still never seen. The real honor was Wired Magazine’s print mention of my work, followed by TIME. The BBC sent someone to interview me two years ago for a show called “Rude Tube”, which was a treat.
For all I knew, this was the most famous anything of mine was going to get, so I was certainly going to keep an eye on the views, and certainly going to toot my own horn about it. Here’s what I ended up with:
- 1,009,331 views in 10 days
- 2,001,171 views in 3 weeks
- 3 MILLION in 2 months
- 4 MILLION in 4 months
- 5 MILLION in 6 months
- 6 MILLION in 8 months
- 8 MILLION in one year
What was your emotional state during that time?
My mom had unexpectedly passed away about a month or so before. I was having a terrible time in theater, I was getting sick a lot, frustrated with co-workers, and so on. Watching the video go viral made for a strange high. It kept me from being completely miserable, though combined with everything else that went on with my life that year, including moving into our first house that fall, it all left me a little exhausted.
I noticed through the years, the video would get taken down and reappear mysteriously. What type of legal issues did you run into?
When the video first became a big deal, EMI had it blocked from YouTube for what turned out to be a few days. After that, it was blocked in select countries, including the UK. In 2011, they blocked it for an entire year, after the video had gotten 11 million views. And this past year, it was unblocked again. The relationship between YouTube and record companies is confusing and unfortunate. The digital age has created the opportunity to twist other people’s work in so many wonderful ways, and the people that own the originals don’t really know how to handle that. And the “fair use” argument can only hold up so well, especially if you’re not the guy holding the most money and power over the other.
I’ve reposted a lot of my material to Funny Or Die, and if I decide to do literal videos again, I may have to post there exclusively, depending on how many more obstacles YouTube and the record companies throw my way.
[UPDATE: YouTube has taken down Total Eclipse again!]
What are your plans for the future? Do you think you can make lighting strike twice?
I do new literal videos now and then, but also dabble in riffing and redubbing videos. Last year, I was so shaken up by the passing of David Jones, I shifted my focus towards a full-length Monkees-themed mash-up album. I knew it was not going to be huge like my older literal videos, but it was a labor of love, and a project I’d been wanting to do for five years anyway.
I would like to return to literal videos this summer. I want to get a bunch of local friends, and maybe some more internet colleagues together and collaborate on writing and voicing at least ten or twenty. If I go through with this project – and I make no promises, given how busy I’ve been with theater – it will either be a big hit with people, or it will be my way of finally tying a bow on this five-year old concept.
Dustin McLean, who created the [literal video] meme, has himself moved on, creating popular and amusing low-budget recreations of recent movie trailers, and doing other cool films on his two YouTube channels. If I should move on too, then I want to go out with a bang of some sort. This is all based on the permissions of time, and how many other things are on my plate. Last year, I was in FIFTEEN different plays, so aside from the Monkees project, my internet presence was somewhat lacking.
David is super humble. Maybe too humble! He points out that literal videos were not his own invention and even the idea to use Total Eclipse came from a random message board. But there is definitely something about his videos that really stands out. Perhaps it’s just the natural progression of the meme. Or maybe Total Eclipse is just the perfect storm. But I think it’s because David is an extremely motivated entertainer, a hilarious writer, and smart enough to make an Evita reference-joke work in a viral video. He even let me say 5 lines as the Boy in a Window in one of his literal videos. That will probably be the most famous I’ll ever be. [Note to David: I do a killer Neil Diamond.]
Want to follow David? First off, you can (and SHOULD) buy a Total Eclipse t-shirt from him to sport around town. His hilarious Tumblr Page, The VCR from Heck. His Glee Club of the Damned Facebook Page. His Funny or Die page (probably preferred for Literal Videos, but they aren’t all up there yet). His YouTube Page. Get it all via his twitter. And / or support local theater and you’re bound to run into him! I’d ask him to write some stuff for UrbanCorning, but he seems kinda busy!
UPDATE: This is really fantastic. David’s Video can be viewed until June 16th in Astoria Queen’s at the Museum of Moving Images. A music video exhibition features David alongside giants like David Bowie and The White Stripes. I am definitely going to check it out this summer. I went to film school, used to work at VH1, and I love music videos as an art form; this is right up my alley! Click here for more on the Exhibit and location.