The oil spill is killing me. My suitcase is killing me. But mostly it's Robyn's interactive twideo that's killing Twitter users. The firm behind it is Blip Boutique, an L.A.-based collective led by James Frost—the guy behind Radiohead's House of Cards video and Mary Fagot, ex creative director of Capitol Records.
Mary spent the last year at the Hyper Island school in Stockholm to boost her skills in interactive and digital art direction, and through that met Thomas Bjork, who was working at a production company in Stockholm called Stopp. Stopp had been playing around with anaglyphic 3-D, so after discussing how to make the text 3-D and the content interactive, so that people could send in their own gripes, she, Thomas, Robyn and the developers at Stopp Web put it together.
FastCompany.com got on the phone with Mary, who's the creative brain behind the 3-D code-based extravaganza to talk about the concept.
FASTCOMPANY.COM: Whose idea was the video?
MARY FAGOT: "It was mine. The way it started out was Robyn and I gassing on the song and how funny it is, and then spontaneously we started talking about this is killing me and that is killing me, and that spontaneous human need to gripe stuck with me, so I said to Robyn, 'we should do a text-based video that is all about gripes', and so that was the start of it."
Do you think that Sweden is way ahead of everyone else on the digital and interactive media front?
"Yes, I do. It's sort of evident that Hyper Island is 13 years there, and it's always been about digital media and interactive art direction, and there are so many good studios and shops and agencies there. I was for three months at a place called North Kingdom, which is revered as the tops in quality, and figured out how to do storytelling online for advertising. They're really ahead."
What does the "Killing Me" video signify for the future of the medium?
"When James and I came together about four years ago we wanted to explore what was going to be next. For a while that was video on the Web, but that passive experience where you watch is not satisfactory. It's not using the Internet for what it's good for, and the more people that become familiar with the tools with which they consume and participate in media online, the more it makes sense to give them a voice in the creative aspect of delivering content online. So it really made sense here—the song was perfect for this, not only to have this one-way voice of Robyn saying what's killing her, but to have this communication where people come back and say what's killing them. It was the perfect opportunity."
Have we arrived at an age where pop stars and their art are crowdsourced?
"There will probably be two channels—the mainstream, where artists give people what they want, and where people are free to tell the producers of the music what they do want, and they'll be serviced. But I still think that artists will have their own voice. It's the way they connect with the people who are interested in that voice will change. It's healthy and good."
Why aren't there more interactive videos like this?
"The record labels aren't asking for it. There's a long history with broadcast video and projecting an image for MTV and that's a very controlled situation. We decide what the image is, make people look good, and we put it out there and it becomes a slick presentation. And they've been slow to open up because there's a lot of fear. It's a very unhealthy industry and the more fear that there is, the more control gets placed. This was the kind of situation where we didn't exactly know how it was going to work out, and so there was some element of risk, but in this case it worked out really well. But I think it's that control versus risk thing that is the problem in the music industry."
Did Robyn's record label have a problem with the concept?
"Robyn is a very special artist, and she's very well known for having lots of her own ideas. She's been around since she was 16 and she was on a path that was very much the Britney Spears path—the producers she was working with and the major record labels. About eight years ago she walked away from her contract, and the last record she put out was an independent record on her own label that was distributed by major labels in the U.K., Europe, and U.S. She comes from a very independent angle and her record company understands that, so she has a little more room because of it. As far as it goes with this video, either the label just got the idea, and because it's a little more under the radar as it's Web only, maybe we had more freedom because of that."
Is the Twitter feed moderated?
"No, it's not moderated at all. It's straight through Twitter's API, so it's directly linked through the Twitter hashtag. Surprisingly, we haven't seen that much profanity or things we would even think of censoring, and it's run the gamut from banal stuff like, 'the heat is killing me' to touching stuff like, 'my loneliness is killing me.'"
"Yeah. It's interesting I think for me when I'm watching it, and these words are emerging from this infinite space. They sort of feel like they're coming at you from some person out there in cyberworld, and they're really saying something, and sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it can be quite touching as well."