Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lazy Sunday #158: It Came From The Rec Room

wayne's world

Last week, "Saturday Night Live" opened reprising a sketch format and characters that hadn't been seen on television since 1994. Yet in 17 years, the iconic images of "Wayne's World" hadn't lost resonance with the SNL audience.

Although made world famous by comedians Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, "Wayne's World" actually first reached a mass audience as "Wayne's Power Minute" on the CBC series "It's Only Rock And Roll" many years earlier, when Myers was an up and coming member of Toronto's Second City Theatre.

For the most part, I think the concept owes both its longevity and its popularity to the conceit that Wayne and his Metalhead pal Garth are broadcasting live from his parents' basement.

Because, somehow, somewhere, we all got our start in mom and dad's basement.

I don't know how long the Rec Room or "Rumpus Room", as it was known in my day, has been around. I just know that in the summer of my 12th year, they were all the rage in the suburbs of my hometown Regina.

My dad was finally making enough money to turn our unfinished basement into a place where the kids could be sent after school and where the neighbors would gather on weekend nights to savor the pleasures of the Tiki bar.

Yes, my basement had its own Tiki Bar, created following the precise fold out blueprints from some back issue of "Popular Mechanics".

I myself spent most of my last summer before puberty carving the 4 foot Tiki God that greeted visitors at the bottom of the stairs. I'm pretty sure it earned me a Boy Scout Merit Badge for Wood Work.

I also recall visiting the local Beaver Lumber yard, where the harried sales guy haggled with my dad over the price of wood paneling, at a time when everybody hungered for exotic "Shan-Tung" but usually settled for low cost "Knotty Pine". Our Tiki bar was the pride of the neighborhood because it was backed by four panels of hard to find faux "Don the Beachcomber".

But when my dad wasn't mixing Mai-Tai's and my mom had stopped selecting Les Baxter records, and when my brothers and I weren't watching some late movie on the B&W TV exiled to the basement for the color RCA upstairs, the Rec Room became something else.

It was where I first learned the audition piece I needed to land my first high school play. It was where I plugged in my first electric guitar. It was probably the first place I ever got to third base.

Every budding artist and anybody who just wanted to say or do something creative to mark their passage through this life once curled up on a discarded couch in their parents' basement to see if they could get that spark to ignite.

If it did and you went on to a career, some secret part of you still remembers that moment of creative conception.

Moments that still go on in the basements of the homes kids grow up in today.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the neighbors I walk my dog with told me his son had just gotten famous on the Internet.

Working out of mom and dad's basement, Hip-Hop artists Dan Bennett and Dave Wallace had decided to see if they could write a successful pop song in eight hours -- just to prove how predictable and formulaic the current Pop charts have become.

Using Mom's alarm clock to verify they were keeping within the 8 hour challenge and with a videocam recording the entire process, they created a tune called "Lights, Camera, Action" within the proscribed time -- burger break included.

Then they posted the result on Youtube.

A month later, they had garnered a half million video hits -- and sold more than 5000 copies of the song on iTunes.

But there's more…

In addition to vastly increasing sales of their less tongue in cheek iTunes library, the song has also led to all kinds of other music and video industry opportunities for the guys.

Like Wayne and Garth, they connected with a world-wide audience from their parents' basement.

A couple of weeks following the debut of their 8 hour video, Dan Bennett appeared on CBC Radio's culture journal "Q" to discuss all that had happened, in the process revealing a deep understanding of not only the way New Media works but of the importance of doing work that matters to you as an artist and not just what might give you a moment in the sun.

At it's half million hits, "Lights, Camera, Action" stands head and shoulders above all of the New Media offerings funded by the Canadian Media Fund over the past year at a cost of several million dollars.

So if the real intent of that Fund was to establish a "Canadian presence on the Internet", it would appear that a couple of guys goofing around on a fold-out couch for an evening accomplished more than all of the government approved Media professionals over months of development, approval meetings and shooting.

I'm not trying to start an argument here. I'm just pointing out that maybe our subsidy system has got it backwards. And instead of trying to kick-start a culture, we simply need to start rewarding those who accomplish the intended goals through their own creativity and initiative.

In other words, maybe its time to stop investing in vague bureaucratic intentions and start coming up with some cash for those who actually bring in the harvest by proving they can reach an audience in the first place.

What's a Canadian "Internet presence" worth -- certainly it's more than Google Ads are paying.

In more cases than you can count, an idea nurtured under a paint-by-numbers picture hung on a wall of knotty pine has led to some real life director calling "Lights, Camera, Action" and this is just the latest. But it points in a direction we all need to start looking.

Enjoy Your Sunday.


Link to the CBC "Q" interview is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's the photo you should have used:

Barry Kiefl