Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 1, 2006 12:00 AM
David Lehre is a 21-year-old short filmmaker who rose to fame after one of his shorts, called "Myspace: The Movie," was broadcast on Youtube.com earlier this year. Lehre, who lives in Washington, Mich., said he has been courted by MTV U and several networks and movie studios to create entertainment ideas that speak to young people. Here is a transcript of his interview with Washington Post staff writer Sara Kehaulani Goo.
Sara: Tell me about how you got started. It sounds like things really took off once you posted your "MySpace: The Movie" online.
David: I've been making movies since I've been in the 10th grade. I've always loved doing it and I have a huge portfolio of, like, over 50 films I've done over the past years with my best friends. I knew it was fun and high-quality, professional stuff. I wanted a bigger audience for it. I've been trying to get more exposure for it. It dawned on me a couple months ago. It was, like, man, "Myspace: The Movie." It's never been done. If I do "MySpace: The Movie," everybody--60 million users--is going to want to watch it and pass it along to all their friends and it's going to get all my other movies seen. So it's kind of like a promotional vehicle to get all my other work seen.
Sara: Oh, very strategic.
David: Right, so it's not like I'm the "MySpace" kid or anything. I was just thinking how to get how to get more exposure, how to catapult myself out of this sea of other filmmakers who are doing it too. And it worked well. Once the "MySpace" movie dropped, it was the No. 1 movie downloaded of all time. It has like 30 million views now. It's been incredible because I was just in LA for a couple weeks and I had like seven meetings a day with like the biggest people in the entire world, like huge executives and stuff.
Sara: Why do you think the movies you've created have been so popular? What is it, from meeting with all these high-paid executives, what do they say they really like about it?
David: Every meeting I went into, they were pretty much scared because people aren't going to the movies, they aren't watching TV anymore. They were kind of looking to me for the answer. I'm just 21 years old but I'm hitting a market they're not hitting anymore. They're not doing too well. They're looking for the next big thing. They're looking to capitalize on all this Internet stuff because they're like 40, 50 years old. They don't know what the Internet is. So when I walk into the room they're like, this kid's got the answers. Everyone is looking to me for the answers for what's cool, what's hot. People connect with my movies because I'm just 21 years old. All my friends are 18, 19, 20 years old. Kids our age want to see stuff that we make because we're just like them. We're not trying to be fake, we're not trying to be something we're not. We're just trying to make movies we enjoy.
Sara: How do you get ideas for the movies you come up with and how do you determine how long they are?
David: I get my ideas from life. I'll be with my friends, who are really fun and they're really great to hang out with. We'd like to have fun and laugh. We'll go somewhere and see something and say, "Oh my God, that's a great idea for a movie! Let's make that!" That's really how ideas come. It's not any harder than that. We have writing sessions and so all my best friends will come over to my bedroom and hang out for like an hour. We throw ideas back and forth and act it out in front of each other. "Oh my God, let's do this or that or Oh my God, that's funny!" The writing session is just like us being really energetic about making a movie and crazy ideas and making it funny.
Sara: Can you give me an example, like the Fernando the salsa guy one you produced?
David: I had a dance class at my college and my teacher was from Spain or Mexico. She was crazy, she was so outlandish and crazy. She would teach us the merengue, the salsa, the cha cha and she had that thick accent. I was so interested and fascinated by accents and different cultures. I would always imitate her and then it became something and I was talking to my friend Jeremy, who plays Fernando, and I'm like, "Dude, we're going to teach you how to salsa and we're going to make a salsa video!"
Sara: How much money does it cost to produce one of these videos?
David: Everything I do is zero budget. I live in a very small town called Washington, Mich. There are not many people in it. It's mostly woods, deer are in my backyard. It's a small town. There's not much going on so when I make movies, that's like the most that's going on in town that day or whatever. Everyone knows who I am and what we do. I have a great support group, a great community that really supports what we do. There's even the local movie theater with only two screens and they always screen our new movies and we have parties at our local movie theater and everyone from town comes. It's like a little event.
I went to school romeo high school in Romeo, Mich. Then I went to Oakland Univeristy in Rochester. All my teachers started asked me for jobs so I had to drop out. Iwas doing [filmmaking] full time before but I was also going to class because my parents were pressuring me to stay in school. I wasn't even taking film classes, I was taking general ed stuff. At first everybody started asking me to be in movies and that was OK. And then all my teachers asked me for jobs and give me demos. I was like, this is getting ridiculous, why am I even paying for this if people were asking me for jobs and giving me resumes. It was just too much.
Sara: So are you making any money off this now or is this all pending on the Fox deal?
David: I've been making money off this since I was 17 years old doing this stuff, for four years now.
Sara: Where do you think Internet video is going?
David: It's hard to say. I think that Youtube is very primitive right now. Internet video is very primitive, it's low bit rate, crappy resolution, small. You can't have a family huddling around a TV screen watching it. It's more for personal enjoyment. I see the whole industry moving toward something that's not even invented yet. I see everyone moving towards one screen, like one plasma screen that's going to be called the 'Google screen' or something and it will be everything all in one. You can download your movies on it, you can watch good quality Internet video, it's going ot have a hard drive on it. I see it all going into one screen eventually.
Sara: Yeah, but what about in terms of the format for allowing just anyone being able to put video online..
David: To be honest, I don't think there's a lot of good Internet content out there. I'd say 99 percent of Internet [video] content is really, really bad. There's not like professional people doing strictly Internet video. It's mostly like kids lighting poop on fire. So I don't see the Internet being the place to go to harvest new talent. I see it being a pure enteratinment forum where people turn their brain off and watch what's silly.
Sara: So you're the exception rather than the rule.
David: To be honest, Youtube is driven by T-and-A videos of girls lifting their tops and stuff. I want to be an all-around entertainer. I want to have the freedom in the entertainment industry to do whatever I want. I want to be able to do my own TV show. I want to be able to do a feature film. I want to be able to able to act in a movie, in a tv show, even in theater, to product a movie, produce a TV show, just do directing. I want to have that freedom. There's a lot of people who have careers like that. I don't necessarily want to model myself after anyone but I want to carve my own niche in the industry