You never know where you are going to find the next great talent. In this case, I received an e-mail about a debate going on within the Wikipedia web site about whether or not to the Wikipedia editors should delete an article about an Internet video series called “The Suburbs.” (The article was retained after a brief debate.)
That, on the surface, might seem fairly dull – but upon examination, it appeared something very unusual was going on. “The Suburbs” is an ongoing series created by a 16-year-old filmmaker named Charles Plummer, who lives in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Yes, a 16-year-old filmmaker is directing, producing, filming and editing his own Net series, which just completed its second.
Even better, “The Suburbs” is a genuinely entertaining and often compelling slice-of-reality view of contemporary teenage culture. The young stars of the program are refreshing and charming, and Plummer has a natural gift for video production.
So, what’s it like to be a 16-year-old filmmaker with his own Net-based video series? I got in touch with Plummer to find out…
What inspired you to create “The Suburbs?” And why did you decide to shoot this as a series instead of as a standalone film?
I love reality shows. I watch “Baldwin Hills,” “Laguna Beach,” “Real World,” etc, and I had figured that my friends and I are entirely more interesting than the people on those shows. The first episodes we put out were viewable to friends and ourselves in October and December of 2007 under the tentative titles “Westchester Heights” and “The Heights,” but later I took those down, re-edited the heck out of it, renamed it “The Suburbs” and added more people to the cast.
We basically put our drama and lives out there for everybody to see, with no hopes to attract many viewers.
The whole idea of a standalone film is fun, quick, but short-lived. When you have a series it is much more deep because it lets you into the lives of people. And admit it – people love watching other people.
So is this real “reality”?
When I say reality, I mean the drama aspect of course, because that’s usually what’s going on in a lot of episodes. There is no scripting – we all give here and there in the story lines and we schedule when were going to film and what were going to talk about, so its not so unorganized. I do all the behind the scenes work camera, editing, etc.
How do you compare “The Suburbs” to films and TV shows that focus on contemporary teenage life? Do you think Hollywood has a good idea of what today’s teenagers are all about?
Definitely not comparable. We are real teens with real problems, and it doesn’t get anymore raw than this (besides taking out the profanity). Scriptwriters can have any idea of a teen, but there’s nothing better than the truth and realness coming directly from their mouths. Shows such as “Degrassi: The Next Generation” and “90210” are realistic, but are slowly pushing on purely entertainment.
When did “The Suburbs” first go up on YouTube? And what are you doing to make the series stand out amid the many videos on that site?
The “final” version of The Suburbs first appeared on YouTube on January 9, 2008. I loosely promoted it, locally, globally (YouTube, Blogs, Forums, etc.). The greatest thing about YouTube, is that its a BIG community, you tell one neighbor about something they tell another and word eventually gets around.
What has the reaction been from people who discover “The Suburbs”?
A lot of people love it, and some just find it amazing that a group of teens have a homegrown reality show. The reactions are mostly positive, a few oddballs and haters out there but, our goal is not to please. Nor is it to fully entertain. Instead, I want to show people out there that they’re not alone in their situations or troubles. I am doing that via real teens on YouTube, presented in a fun series format.
Are you planning to have a career in filmmaking?
Not really. Strangely, I’d like to be a writer for sitcoms or plays. I’m pretty certain id like to go into creative writings, some type of communications, journalism, or television production.
What advice would you give to your fellow teenagers who would like to make their own films and videos?
Go for it! There’s always somebody somewhere who will recognize you and appreciate the time, hard work, and effort put into anything you’ve done. Pick up a camcorder and do it, NOW! Best of luck with it all, and you never know what can become of it.
“The Suburbs” is now online at http://www.youtube.com/user/TheSuburbsTV