When you watch Stupid for Movies, an independently-produced movie chat show live-streaming weekly on Ustream at 8 PM PST, you see Los Angeles-based film critics Mark Keizer and Wade Major sitting side by side on a red-curtained set that invokes the golden days of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies, reacting to an enthusiastic audience’s applause. Keizer and Major banter back and forth about the week’s new releases and films the audience should “Buy, Burn or Rent,” while director Mike Rotman chimes in occasionally on the banter.
With five cameras, a small crew and live-streaming technology provided by NewTek, Stupid For Movies has been running for two months now, with the live episodes archived on Blip the following day. Last night’s episode’s stream received a total of 5,799 views, with 300 live viewers tuned in around 8:40 PM PST — a viewership number that is only built upon once the episode is archived and spread around to its distribution partners.
The magic all happens in a converted garage up in the San Fernando Valley — one of Los Angeles’ most suburban sectors, where most of the houses look the same. Inside that garage, though, is a surprisingly professional operation crammed into a space that would barely be able to fit two Volvos.
The production behind-the-scenes was a mix of laid-back and professional, with the breaks provided by short clips from films used to adjust camera angles and touch up makeup. On screen, that attitude carried through: Both hosts were confident and relaxed on camera, with only the occasional moment of hamming on the part of Major. (Mocking Major’s shirt appears to be a running theme.)
I consider myself a movie nerd, but watching Keizer and Major identify random obscure films from the last 40 years made me feel ignorant — their film knowledge is wide and all-encompassing, to the point where it seemed that many of the films suggested by viewers for the Buy/Rent/Burn segment were submitted just in the hopes of stumping them (which only sort of happened once with the old Wes Craven film Deadly Friend, though they quickly recalled it once given a hint).
The key to Siskel and Ebert’s dynamic was always that they weren’t prone to agreeing with each other, but while Keizer and Major (who also host IGN’s Digigods podcast) do demonstrate some distinctively different taste in films, Major estimated in a post-shoot conversation that they agree with each other about 65 or 70 percent of the time. What that contributes to, though, is a very distinctive point-of-view about the film world, one that has no patience for video game movies and dismisses the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films out of hand — but does genuinely love film. The audience attracted to such a perspective is thus pretty specific, but with real potential for loyalty.
Rotman, who’s known Keizer and Major for years, has been working in web video for some time and currently directs The Kevin Pollak Chat Show on Sundays. When he came up with the idea for Stupid For Movies, he shopped it around to a few different parties but wasn’t happy with any of the deals he got — hence deciding to produce the show on his own, a decision made easier when he found a house for rent that had a soundproofed garage, thanks to its former tenant, a musician.
Currently on Stupid for Movies, online video legend Chad Vader does a weekly news rundown and at least once so far, Kevin Pollak has Skyped in to give the guys grief. Future plans for the next few weeks include bringing in celebrities to discuss their favorite movies ever, more giveaways, and possibly a sponsorship by one of the obvious movie-related brands online, leaving Stupid poised to become a much bigger player in the live-streaming world — especially for those who love movies.
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