Internets Celebrities: A Four-Year Collaboration, Still Going Strong

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[show=internetscelebrities size=large]Most online video pioneers, those early on the scene, have moved on: Either to obscurity or bigger and better things. Not the Internets Celebrities, though.

Filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski first teamed up with bloggers Rafi Kam and Dallas Penn in July 2006, when a series of blog posts led to the creation of Ghetto Big Mac, an instructional video on how to recreate the $3.39 hamburger at McDonald’s with a dollar and a small order of french fries.

The chemistry between Kam and Penn on-screen, and the collaboration process with Nozkowski off-screen, meant that all three men were eager to work together again. The newly born Internets Celebrities team quickly followed up Ghetto Big Mac with Bodega, a goofy documentary about local corner stores in New York that took second prize at one of our Pier Screenings, and then visited the 2007 Sundance Film Festival to produce a series of videos about the fest for GoDaddy.com and now-deceased online video filter The Daily Reel.

The Internets Celebrities have produced a total of 37 shorts in between day jobs (Nozkowski’s projects include cutting promos and trailers for AMC’s Mad Men; Kam and Penn both toil in day jobs beyond their personal blogs) — their most recent epic, The Vend Diagram, tackles the world of street vendors in New York City from a few different angles, including attending the monthly meeting of the Street Vendor Project and interviewing a wide assortment of urban merchants.

The Internets Celebrities videos are hard to categorize — they’re documentary, definitely, but their laid-back, conversational style is the sort that plays best online, occasionally elevating the situations chronicled to a comedic level. Their later videos haven’t reached the same success as Ghetto Big Mac (which, after being featured by both YouTube and MySpace in the same week, reached six-figure view counts), but the passing of the years has led to a greater sophistication in both their approach and their technique.

Nozkowski, who I talked with over borscht yesterday, raved about his collaboration with Kam and Penn, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary: “They let me do my thing film-wise, and I let them do their thing in terms of what they want to talk about and what directions they want to go. It’s so hard to find good collaborations, but with them it works,” he said. The dip in views over the years doesn’t phase him, since they still manage to maintain a steady audience — Vend Diagram, in two weeks of release, has hit 15,000 views. And they recently instituted a producer program that allows viewers to donate in exchange for screen credit; so far, they’ve received around $1600 from approximately 45 people, which “more than paid for our last two movies.”

The Internets Celebrities were born in a time when the concept of “being famous on the Internet” seemed kind of ridiculous, a pre-fameball Wild West-ish era rife with experimentation. As online video’s grown up and matured since then, a lot of that experimental spirit has faded. But Nozkowski, Kam and Penn are still doing what they’re doing, and don’t show any sign of stopping — ever.

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