The meme-ing of Hollywood 

Editor's note: This story was updated on April 14 to reflect that the movie protagonist's name is Richard Rolland, not Richard Rollins.

Like millions of YouTube viewers, Andrew Fischer loves the Numa Numa Guy and Double Rainbow. But he's probably only one of a few who know them as Gary Brolsma and Paul "Bear" Vasquez. And he's certainly the only one who has them on speed dial.

That's because the Colorado Springs resident plans to take a more direct route to the fame and opportunity afforded to those who go viral via Internet video: He's making a big-budget action movie featuring them. Or at least that's the plan.

"It's certainly a different approach to movies than Hollywood typically goes [for]," says Fischer.

Were he to succeed — and turn Internet phenoms into film stars — he could signal a sea change in pop culture. The Internet might seem to have been made for meta-culture, a sort of peanut gallery to Hollywood's main attraction, but the success of a production like his would flip that dynamic on its head, essentially turning the local cineplex into just another YouTube channel.

"I've had several ideas over the years that I've written scripts for, and nothing really struck me as what I'm looking for as my first introduction to the industry," Fischer says. "I want to do something that really sets me apart — something different that would attract people even from the concept stage."

'A very different situation'

Though he's just 26, he's already basically done the same thing in the advertising industry.

He doesn't talk about it much now, but in 2005, Fisher auctioned off ad space on his forehead. Promising to wear a temporary tattoo designed by the highest eBay bidder for 30 days, he made the national talk-show rounds, and almost $50,000.

According to humanadspace.com, he took some of that money, left his job as a web designer, and started working on other projects. For years now, his full-time gig has been running NURV, a Colorado Springs-based production company that's done marketing work for national clients like overstock.com, uBid, and UFC fighter Matt Hughes. And he's been brainstorming his directorial debut.

One idea he kept coming back to centered around an ordinary guy named Richard Rolland, aka Rick Roll. The movie would capitalize on Fischer's love of Internet jokes, including the infamous Rick Astley music video (see "Rickroll" in "Pop and locked," below), but it would have the look and feel of a Hollywood blockbuster.

"I think the final piece of the puzzle," Fischer says, "was when I had the idea of casting actual viral video stars in [the film]."

He developed a script that was equal parts adventure flick, arch comedy and boy-rescues-girl romance, all revolving around one conceit: What if the Internet was a separate, but very real world?

To Fischer, that was an idea big enough, and unique enough, to carry his directorial ambitions all the way to Hollywood.

Drawing on his own money to hire a crew from Denver-based company Redrum Digital and to get a handful of viral-video celebrities on board, Fischer gathered his forces in Colorado Springs for a concentrated two days of shooting. The result was a slick concept trailer that looks like a mashup of YouTube highlights and Alice in Wonderland.

Fischer won't divulge the logistics, or how much has already been spent on the concept, but when it went live on YouTube, it garnered instant enthusiasm — so much so that Fischer and the project now called The Chronicles of Rick Roll wound up on the homepage of CNN.

"It's so appealing to people who are already fans of these videos to see these characters in a very different situation," Fischer explains. "The trailer was very epic-feeling."

The trailer, which now boasts more than 550,000 views on YouTube, has all the ingredients: heroes, monsters, sprawling battles. And if its producer has anything to say about it, it'll also slay some giants. Fischer is currently seeking additional financial backing and the support of major studios to turn his concept into a feature-length film.

"We're hoping for 10-plus million, which will allow us to cast several A-list actors and actresses as well as have a limited special effects budget," he says. "More would be even better. We would like to make this a blockbuster action movie."

From viral to blockbuster

Fischer is quick to point out that his big plans for the project do not include watering down the meme-heavy script's niche appeal. The Internet jokes will stay, as will the viral video stars. The A-list actors, whom Fischer is hesitant to name and even more hesitant to discuss hypothetically, would likely play the non-Net-related roles like that of Rick and his online-dating-site squeeze.

If all goes according to plan, Rick Roll will feature those camera-genic sorts playing second fiddle to everyday schmos whose mass appeal lies precisely in their supreme awkwardness in front of the camera. It's an interesting idea — one that places new online media on a level with the Goliaths of the old guard.

It's an idea of which Fischer and his viral-video stars are well aware. Although he declined to let us speak to his talent directly, he threw us a few scraps cut from his official press release, including a quote from Bear Vasquez, Mr. Double Rainbow himself.

"I know memes can translate easily to movies," Vasquez says. "They already have a mass appeal to humanity on a global scale. This is going to be the idea for the future. The people have chosen who they want to see."

It's a keen insight from someone whose fame rests on his reputation as an inarticulate ditherer, at least in the presence of meteorologically refracted light, but the point stands. Videos go viral because of popular enthusiasm, the same force that Hollywood studios try to capture to sell movie tickets. Fischer is banking on the concept that a unique idea, well-executed, will attract viral-caliber momentum just as much in one arena as the other.

"It's the concept of spreading the word and the personal satisfaction that you get by being able to tell friends to go look at something," Fischer says. "[When] they absolutely love it, you feel like you introduced them to something amazing."


Pop and locked

An intro to the online fascinations that just won't quit

— Claire Swinford


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