DJ Steve and I are bombarded almost daily with questions from people asking our opinion on a wide array of topics. Is this movie good? Should I buy that one album, or the other one? Should I join the military? But we don’t want to tell anyone the best way to do anything. That’s your business, first of all; what you decide is your choice. Moreover neither one of us is an expert on anything practical, what advice we could even sort of offer coated in near-complete ignorance. Mid-20th century doctors would have diagnosed us as “morons.” Let’s say you come at us with something like, I don’t know, taxes: “what service should I use?” A pause, then: “do we do have to do those again this year?” We’re the guys smiling as we wave you into an already-full parking lot. Or over a cliff.
But one thing we do know? The Internet. Also cats. And since for many people those two are today virtually synonymous, we thought it would be fun and more importantly SELF-AFFIRMING to take you step-by-step through the process of conceiving, shooting, editing, and marketing your very own viral cat video. Yesterday you were consuming; today, creating. With our method, in no time at all YOU’LL be the one grandma singles out as her favorite. And of course raking in those FAT YouTube views.
I. The Cool Factor
Cat videos begin just like any other form of visual entertainment, with a question: what looks really cool? If your idea does not look cool, get rid of it. Immediately you can throw away any idea garbage — your cat sleeping on your lap; your cat gently nibbling at Fancy Feast — and head straight for the money-makers, like ACTION and DANGER. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “could my cat injure itself in this scenario?” Animal endangerment obviously presents some ethical issues, sure, but high risk = high reward. If you can sell a credible threat to your animal’s well-being, you are ALREADY AHEAD OF THE GAME.
(The above situation is a subjective example of “danger,” but I think still fits the needs of our approach.)
II. A Numbers Game
Step two: get more cats. Unlike books or whatever, where “less is more,” cat videos DEMAND that you stuff the frame with as much subject material as you can fit/afford. If one cat can occasionally be humorous, then two cats mathematically doubles that potential. (Five cats practically insures an audience of at least a thousand.) “But I’ve only got one goddamn cat, guys — how am I going to make an epic video?” Friends and family are great for feline loaners, OR if you’re already way-deep in cat culture and don’t have “people” you can call, head down to the local shelter and ask about their rental policy — they’ll generally understand your situation and be happy to help. Just remember to return the cats as you got them!
III. ‘Cat on a Hot Tin [Video-Making] Roof’
Once your cast is assembled and a rock-solid cat video premise locked down, it’s time to shoot the thing. “With what?” you’re asking. These days? Practically anything. An HD video camera, iPhone, or Flip cam will all give you that homemade “look” so important to independent cat-filmmaking. Or if your vision is more “Social Network, but with cats,” there are any number of unnaturally wealthy young artists in Los Angeles who would be happy to take their Red cams out of the box for the first time! Anyone not in LA can likely find what they need at a rich neighbor’s house or private school AV room. You have OPTIONS, is the take-home here.
(Maybe some of you have no designs on your project going “viral,” in which case you can form a movie frame with your two thumbs and index fingers and shoot the video in your head. Fun AND cost-effective AND crazy!)
You’ve finished principal photography and upon reviewing your work, know you have a certified CATS-terpiece (!!!) in the making. Now comes the hard part: whittling all 200 hours of footage down into something that holds the attention of your ADD-addled audience. WHERE TO BEGIN?!? For this step you will need access to a computer (which I assume you already have, even if you are reading this at a library station) and non-linear video editing software, more commonly referred to as “iMovie.” Once you’ve found or stolen those two things, the time has come to call up your dorky nephew and offer him $5 to edit your video. In about an hour or however long he has between piano and karate classes, you’ll be the proud owner of a YouTube-ready CAT-OM BOMB. If your nephew has been hanging out with those weird kids with the airbrushed van lately or just watched Alice in Wonderland, that bomb might look like this:
V. Many Roads to Rome
Let’s say you’ve made it this far…and you just hate what you’ve produced. Something is off — the cats are too boring, too quiet, too European — and you’re not convinced “Missy Does the Dishes” is going to catch fire the way you originally intended. STOP FREAKING OUT! The Internet exists as a fail-safe for dud creative endeavors just like yours, with troves of material ready for you to peruse and appropriate at your leisure. If you find a foreign cat video, like this one-
-don’t be afraid to copy, re-dub, and slap on a brand-new American title! No one in China is going to sue you, because they’re not even allowed on the Internet anymore. There’s also the tried-and-true “slideshow” approach, that bypasses filmmaking entirely to just string together a series of random LOLcats images. Your only job here is selecting the background music, which need only meet one requirement — is it ironic? — before you’re good to go.
ONE NOTE: be sure to avoid “Cat Stevens” songs, both for the religious connotation (he’s Muslim, which is frightening to most YouTubers) and the fact that your audience likely won’t get the joke.
VI. “Extra, Extra, [Meow] All About It!”
YouTube is a napalm-burned jungle where predators wear their kills proudly around their necks and the weak huddle in its dank, dark recesses, praying without preference that they see light or death. But it can be a lot of fun if you know the right tricks! Properly marketing your video on the Internet is just like selling something anywhere else: it needs a little sex. Not CAT sex, you PERVERT — sex tags. Most people find videos through their friends, a forwarded e-mail. But those weirdos who will form the foundation of your viral audience, they’ll be searching. And any tags that might help to draw them in can only help your cause. “Funny cats” and “pet freakout” are good and descriptive, sure, but throw in an “XXX NSFW!”? A “beastiality”? Seconds are too inaccurate a measurement to chart how quickly you’ll get your first million views.
(The user above opted to actually follow through on some of their tags, which is…weird, but hey — the numbers don’t lie.)
If you’ve done everything suggested above and you’re STILL not getting the response you deserve, it’s time to spam the living shit out of your social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Reader, MySpace, AIM, Adult Friend Finder — whatever you use, however many you use, GET THE WORD OUT. This is a delicate stage that often results in de-friending or un-follows, but attrition is to be expected in the pursuit of your goals. DO NOT GIVE UP.
Cat videos are not for everyone. Dog people, for one, but also any person not willing to put the blood, sweat (you likely already do this), and tears (………) into something so pure and wonderful — those people without vision, or who might have other interests and hobbies. But you are not one of those people. You are a cat person, and now a cat filmmaker, who has contributed another square to the patchwork quilt of feline-centric Internet media. You are one with forever, and your cats’ cuteness,
and mental disabilities
…will never be forgotten. Here’s to you!