Art and Marketing All Mashed Up

Video Mashup with Dana Milbank
By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Just days after actor Mel Gibson went on an anti-Semitic tirade to a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy, the Internet weighed in with the kind of thoughtful commentary users have come to expect:

There's a video featuring a bearded Gibson juxtaposed with a bearded Saddam Hussein labeled "mel gibson has a long lost brother!" Old photos from Gibson's previous movies are woven together -- each with him looking wild-eyed and surprised. Then there's Gibson starring in a "South Park" episode with the introduction: "Passion of the crazy Mel Gibson coming to a highway near you."

In what has become a predictable pattern, the most-talked-about events of the day are quickly finding their way to the Internet and then "mashed up" by people who use the films as a form of commentary or entertainment. A mash-up video mixes original images or sounds with music, quick-witted narrations or creative transitions. The result is a video dialogue of sorts that makes a statement that is political, personal or merely entertaining.

"It's analogous to music remixes," said Josh Felser, co-founder of video site, which has carved out a section for people to showcase the mash-ups they have created. "You can take someone else's original thought, and it inspires a new application of the original thought."

Users at posted clips of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) making a rambling speech about the Internet, set to a techno dance beat. The gay-cowboy-themed movie "Brokeback Mountain" set off a wave of movie trailer mash-ups earlier this year, such as "Brokeback to the Future" (combined with the Michael J. Fox movie) and "Brokeback Penguin" (combined with "March of the Penguins"). Footage of French soccer star Zinedine Zidane's head butt of an Italian player in the World Cup final has been turned into an ongoing video joke -- Zidane flying in like a rocket, or machine-gunning his opponent, or as a video game character, scoring extra points for each player he knocks down.

Marketing and entertainment companies say these creations, most of which stream on video Web sites, are becoming a double-edged sword: a test of copyright laws by altering original content, but also an intriguing marketing tool that has been able to grab the attention of Web surfers.

Consider what Marc Lostracco, a video editor from Toronto, did when he mashed shoot-'em-up video clips from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's movie, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," with scenes from the film "The Break-Up," starring Pitt's ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston. The love-triangle mash-up -- which he called "Mrs. and Mrs. Pitt" -- was a hit among those who follow the lives of celebrities, Lostracco said.

"Part of the joke is that the mash-up looks similar to a real movie trailer, so as close as I can come to that, the better," he said.

Although many mash-ups use their own images or give credit to the musicians, films and artists who create the clips they use, it's not clear whether what people such as Lostracco are doing is legal. Most of the online video editors said they are creating a form of satire and exercising free speech and do not intend to profit from their work.

In any case, entertainment companies aren't complaining too loudly. In fact, several movie studios, musicians and television networks are actively encouraging fan mash-ups to generate buzz about their products.

In May, Warner Independent Pictures launched a mash-up contest to create a trailer preview for the movie "A Scanner Darkly," which came out last month. During the Academy Awards, MasterCard invited viewers to create their own messages using the company's "priceless" campaign.

And for the World Cup, Nike encouraged people to create a video of themselves juggling a soccer ball and then kicking the ball out of the screen. Nike wove together more than 300 of the submitted clips to create a television commercial that resembled a global soccer ball toss.

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