Internet Famous – A Response

Nine days ago my friend Richard Dunn (and I will never shy away from describing him as such ever again, lesson learned!) uploaded a video that went viral. Seven days ago I wrote about him, using his success to illustrate my thoughts about opportunity verses luck.  Five days ago, Celine Dion herself told him to come see her show.  And that was when it hit me that perhaps he’d moved beyond my sphere, which inspired my post two days ago about fame and friendship.

But I was wrong, because as you will see below, he understands a thing or two about the true meaning of friendship. He generously responded to my post with such honesty and humor, that I felt compelled, with his permission, to share it with all of you.

The words from my post are italicised and indented, and I added a few clarifying words for the readers who would be confused by our strange industry-terminology. Enjoy!

Part One: Friendship. A person I work with has recently become ‘Internet Famous.’ Prior to his sudden celebrity, I would have called him a friend without a second thought. In fact, I referred to this person as a ‘friend’ in a previous post, but I now hesitate to do so. Why? Because now I feel like I don’t have a right to that label.

RDD-This Internet stardom thing has been incredibly eye opening for me…..and your response here Jill, is the reverse of everything I’ve witnessed. Last night I was finishing a load in and I was in the lift focusing. [he was in a scissor-lift – aiming lights onto a stage] I needed to drive through a crowd of about 40 people who were in the room for a pre-con. [pre-conference meeting] They ignored me, they didn’t make eye contact, and even though I was working, I was in their way. (I wasn’t upset, this happens all the time, they were engaged with their friends.) The producers then showed my video to them (as they are incorporating it into the show) and all of a sudden these same people, that 5 minutes earlier wouldn’t acknowledge me, wanted my autograph, wanted to hug me, and basically wanted to be associated with me.

The very fact that you did not want to be perceived BY ME as trying to grab the coat tails, further defines us as friends. When I worked at Disney, and had free passes, it was always my friends that wouldn’t ask for them, but they were the ones I wanted to give them to.

Our association with each other has spanned a period of maybe ten years, over which we’ve spent perhaps a week or two of time together per year. The job we do requires long hours of collaboration, and at the end of each job, everyone on the crew feels close. Close enough to call each other friend.

RDD – I really can’t better the description you gave of “road friendships” but it’s not just the extreme stress of our road jobs that bring us together. There are many crew tables for dinner and many places to take the rare break, and if you and I didn’t have a bigger connection than “road friends” I would find those other places to eat!!! [] TRUST ME, I have been called “friend” by some pretty distant people over the past week. But I’ve also reconnected with some wonderful TRUE friends from the past. All in all, a great week for me and my friends. (Yes, I mean you.)

I’ve met his wife, he knows and has worked with my boyfriend, facts that normally imply friendship.

But for all this, when someone on Facebook made a joke on his page about how many ‘friends’ come out of the woodwork when something good happens to a person, I felt like the comment could be directed at me and the assumption of friendship I made in that previous post.

RDD- The fact that you were even the slightest bit sensitive to that comment shows the you were not being called out! I have had people say in comment posts….”I’m from Canton Georgia too!! Now I know someone famous.” YOU DO NOT KNOW ME!!!! WE LIVE IN THE SAME CITY AND I WOULDN’T RECOGNIZE YOU IF YOU PUMPED MY GAS!!!!!

Was he my really friend before? I think so. Is he now? I’d say no. Not because my feelings towards him have changed. I still think of him exactly as I did before: He is a hard-working, kind-hearted man who is good at his job and a pleasure to be with.

RDD – Here’s something I need you to concentrate on Jill, a famous person is recognized by sight as well. I don’t believe I am famous. I believe my video is famous. [emphasis mine] Of all the people I’ve seen since this “fame,” I’ve been recognized twice. It’s strange for me to watch my surroundings change when in my little world, EVERYTHING stays the same. Still need to empty the litter box, help around the house, take out the garbage and my perspective about my friends hasn’t changed (my actual friends), but my friends are perceiving me differently. I can’t MAKE you feel anything, but I can tell you this…. If you think I considered you a friend before (and I did by the way)….my outward perspective has not been impacted 1%. I view my friend in the same context as 9 days ago.

But I can’t call him friend now, because as a celebrity, even a potentially temporary celebrity, the definition of ‘friend’ has changed for him. By necessity, when you have (or are) something that everyone wants a piece of, you have to be very, very careful with how you categorize the swarms of people around you.

RDD- Recognizing someone as a friend requires a certain filter made up of memories, experiences, time invested and common things. All of these things. Not just one. So when someone calls me a friend because we’re both from Canada, I don’t register it the same way. Your perspective on me may have changed, but my view has stayed the same.

While the label for my association with him has changed from ‘friend’ to ‘work associate,’ essentially, nothing else has changed for me at all. I am still reveling in the joy of watching the show from really up close, even if I’m not in the front row.

RDD– This above statement drives ever further the fact that your sensitivity to this, secures your spot!!!!

Here’s the really interesting question: when this is all over, when I see him on a job sometime in the future, if he still has to work like a normal person, will we go back to being friends? I’d like to think so.

RDD – When you think of the filter I described earlier, nothing will have changed for us. (It hasn’t now) My wife has worked as a production assistant a few times, and every time the week is over, she is struck by how little we see our road family and how close we are when we see each other again.[…]

Part Two: Money. So, will he have to work like a ‘normal’ person when the nine days’ wonder has ended? Other forms of celebrity have clear links to monetary gain. A stage or screen star is paid per performance. As are sports stars. Writers make money selling books, and artist make money selling their works of art.

RDD– This is 100% in perspective for this Internet star. I was called over the weekend to to another interview on HLN at CNN. The “hit” was supposed to be at noon… call time [for work] 6 blocks over from CNN was at noon. I declined the interview rather than ask my [boss] if I could be an hour late. You know why I didn’t ask? Because she would have said yes. My commitment was to her [job], not my video.

But how does an internet celebrity pay the bills?

I watch a lot of YouTube channels, and I see that many of the internet-famous make money selling t-shirts or coffee mugs. When they have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, the profit from those little items, along with the per-view pennies the really popular ones get from the Google supplied ad’s that play at the beginning of their videos, can definitely add up.

But does a single, viral-video make money for anyone involved? Even one that has, at this moment, been viewed almost 15 million times? The people I know who know him have discussed almost nothing else since last Tuesday, when this officially became a THING. “Yes, the video is great, but, dude, what will it lead to?” (yes, we all call each other ‘dude.’)

Will Hollywood movie moguls be offering him production jobs? Would one of the bigger channels on YouTube offer him a job? What sort of money would those sort of jobs pay? I can make a pretty good guess as to what he makes now (based on what I make), if someone offered him a job making short videos full-time, for a company like Machinima, or Buzzfeed, but he had to take a pay cut, would he do it? Would he want to turn his hobby into a career?

RDD – I have been asked to speak with the president of the company that owns the I “heart” LV logo that was on my T-shirt. That is tonight. This is THE ONLY chance I have for revenue at this point. I refuse to monetize the video on YouTube. I did not have permission to use the song and it’s not mine. Although I now have the blessing of Sony Music Canada, and Celine herself, that doesn’t change the fact that I DO NOT HAVE RIGHTS TO THAT SONG! If I can make money off the behind the scenes or anything else, trust me I will. But for now, I need to concentrate on the job that pays cash not clicks.

Back to Part One: I’d like to send him an email and ask him all the above, but my boyfriend just said, “I don’t think now is the best time.”

RDD- Tell [my boyfriend] that now is a GREAT TIME!!!!! If my friends can benefit in ANY WAY from this snippet of fame (that will be gone in a couple weeks) I say do it!!!!! CALL ME!!!! Write your butt off about it!!!!!!  [yay!]

Part Three: Vicariously famous. I want to somehow capture all the excitement I’ve felt since this started. But how do I do that without prompting some to say, “but it has nothing to do with you at all?”

My analogy of sitting not quite in the front row applies here as well. No – it has nothing to do with me, I am not up on that stage, but I am close enough to get hit by the occasional drop of sweat. (Did I take that too far?)

I’m close enough to picture myself in that seat, fielding all those questions, trying to tell my story in three-second sound bites, over and over again, until the whole thing starts feeling like something that happened to someone else. I imagine feeling frustrated with the misunderstanding and the misinterpretation, overwhelmed by the buzz of text messages and ping of emails. Frightened by people who don’t really know me at all writing long blog posts about what it must be like to be me, right here, right now.

RDD- As a sanguine personality, this has been awesome. I have been laser focused to make sure my child is not affected by lack of attention. I have been asking my wife DAILY if she’s still having fun. If either of these 2 things change, you will not see from or hear from me again regarding this. This is a moment in time and nothing else. If something develops in the future, I’ll look at that then. But right now, I am enjoying every second of this with my wife.

Creepy, right? Perhaps I don’t want to be any closer.

Oh, who am I kidding?

Bring on that fame, even temporary internet fame, cause, wow, if it’s been this much fun from twenty feet away, the real thing must be awesome!

RDD- Can’t lie…’s pretty cool!!!!! Keep writing Jill. If you have questions ask, if you want to call…call!!!!

Thanks Richard, for this sane look from the inside of an insane moment. Can’t wait to see you in person and get your autograph and a hug!!!  HA!