MadV on The Message / We’re All in the Together

CollabDocs: What got you interested in the idea of a collaborative video project?

The idea of video collaboration projects wasn’t widespread in 2006 when I posted the first One World invitation, at least not to the level of participation that we see now.

I remember seeing a video called ‘Youtubers’ by Mike B, which is an extremely poignant mixture of clips from all over Youtube set to some beautifully stirring music  – and I think that video, along with the number of responses to my previous ‘illusion’ videos, triggered the thought that maybe a deliberate collaboration (as opposed to an edit of pre-existing clips) could be possible – with moving effect.

It is often said that the One World invite was the first purposeful call for responses with the specific aim of creating something from those responses – I’m not sure if it really was the first – but it was definitely the first collab project to gain attention. In a way, One World kick-started the whole collab idea, and now, three years on, we’re seeing collabs on huge levels – from individuals to large companies all asking for people’s videos and ideas.

CollabDocs: How does this work relate to your videos as an illusionist?

The eleven illusion videos were a completely different entity in themselves. Those videos were born from boredom – I was studying at the time, and had a spare mask and some tricks up my sleeve, so I posted some random ideas up on to Youtube, just for a laugh, never thinking they would be of particular interest. My third video ‘Antigravity’ went massively viral, and with the subsequent attention came hundreds of video responses and parodies. After that, the mask and character of MadV took on it’s own momentum, with each following video illusion being scrutinised and examined, and people trying to figure out my true identity.

After a couple of months I had passed my course and got a job with a TV company, so I posted a Goodbye video, thinking that would be the end of the MadV character.

6 months later I put the mask back on and filmed the One World invite, just to see if people would respond. The rest is history I suppose.


The Message

CollabDocs: How did The Message come about? How did you arrive at the idea of the hand writing approach?

My sister had something written on her hand reminding her to smile. She showed it to me, and it just made me smile – and got me wondering what other people would write if they were asked. The idea is actually surprisingly simple – it doesn’t take much effort to grab a pen and write something down.

CollabDocs: Can you talk about the choice of “One World” as your starter phrase?

‘One World’ I guess was my attempt to create a video that showed how connected we all are because of the internet. It’s not a political statement (or a New World Order stunt as some people have suggested) – it’s simply my way of saying that we are all part of one huge thriving and interconnected planet. We’ve created the internet – now let’s see what people have to say to each other.

CollabDocs: How many people responded to your call to action?

The One World invite, at it’s peak, had over 2200 meaningful video responses (as opposed to commentary). At the time it was the most responded to video of all time on Youtube. Since then my account has been hacked (twice!) and the videos removed so all those responses have been lost. Nowadays the most responded videos all have ‘spam’ responses, so I don’t think I could ever make it back into that list.

CollabDocs: What did you think of the responses?

What I really like about the responses is that you get the sense that so many people actually really enjoy taking part – thinking of something creative to say, and then filming it in a unique way. For a couple of days all you could see on Youtube was people’s palms! It felt like a real community event.

How did the editing process go? Did it fall into place easily?

The editing process took far longer than anticipated. I envisaged about 100-200 responses – so going through thousands wasn’t easy. There was no real goal to find a message within the responses – I just used clips that were a) clear enough to read, b) positive, c) non-repetitive (So many just said ‘One World’ again).

Downloading them was difficult – back then you couldn’t download from within your browser, so it was laborious! I just used simple software to piece them together, but I think my computer crashed several times processing them all!

CollabDocs: How do you go about deciding on music for your pieces? How did you choose the Mogwai track?

As with all my videos I choose the music incredibly carefully – and that track ‘Kids Will Be Skeletons’ by Mogwai is one of my all time favourites. I really love the slow crescendo, in a positive key with a great underlying swell. Also, there are no vocals – so the written messages can come through.

Audience / Press Response

CollabDocs: What did you make of the reaction to the piece?

After posting the One World invite I kept logging on to see how people would respond. I was so shocked to see the video views, comments and responses grow literally by the minute. I think after 4 hours there were 300 responses – already on it’s way to a record. This was mainly down to a ‘front page’ feature (my second time on the front page) but also some high profile Youtubers making early responses and spreading the idea.

To this day I still get people messaging me saying how they cried when they watched it, and felt hope or inspiration for the first time whilst watching a video. Those kind of messages are so good to hear – all any artist wants is to hear positive reactions to their work.

After the initial Youtube reaction, the general press caught wind of what was happening. I was called by MTV and ABC, I did written interviews for several online blogs and magazines, and then other TV networks contacted me asking if they could show my video on their news networks. I think at one point I was in the same news story as the US Presidential election – probably an overstatement on the power of the video, but there you go.

On the whole, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course, being Youtube, you get trolls, and the more popular a video, the more trolls appear – but I don’t think anyone pays them careful attention.

We’re All in This Together

CollabDocs: What prompted you to rework The Message?

I have had many requests for ‘high quality’ footage of The Message – particularly from teachers, religious leaders or group leaders who show it to classes or congregations as an example of the power of connectivity and community. Of course the general video quality in 2006 was appalling, so I was excited to try the project again using HD footage. That’s why I changed the starter message to ‘Say It Clearer’.

CollabDocs: How would you compare the response in the submissions you received? (Any particular features to note – changes in theme, changes in demographics of respondents ?)

This time round, there were fewer responses, the count currently stands at around 700. This is due to two things – firstly Youtube has grown massively in three years and videos can get lost (even though they appear on the front page!), and secondly the idea of a collab project isn’t new and exciting, especially as this is exactly the same idea as before.

The demographics haven’t changed – it’s mainly young adults from the US and Europe, but the messages this time were more about saving the planet and actually coming together to do something pro-active. It’s almost as if the first video was based on generic ideas of compassion and respect, and the second is based on building on those ideas to create a better world.


CollabDocs: Were there challenges re working in HD?

The file sizes were bigger, but I have a better computer now, so handling them wasn’t an issue!


CollabDocs: How do you assess the success of these projects?

You can base success quantitatively or qualitatively. If you go by the numbers, then, yes, these videos are popular by Youtube standards. If you deal in real term outcomes – then all I can say is that if one person changes one thing to make this world a better place because this inspired them, then it has all been worth it.

CollabDocs: If you have plans to develop or rework this approach can you say what they are?

I have more ideas – but I think the use of directionless collaboration is coming to an end – people want to see real products and effects. It’s not enough to write something on your hand and making people think ‘Oh, that’s pretty’ – there’s more that can and should be done. I’d like to explore ways to make that happen.

I also have some ideas for some more art videos (in line with the ‘Inspire’ video).

CollabDocs: Who is your target audience, your actual audience? (Viewer numbers?)

My target audience is everyone! Really, it doesn’t make a difference who watches. I’d like everyone to be treated equally and have the opportunity to watch and take part.

My actual audience is (if you want to know)

64% male, 36% female

45% are 13-25, 22% 25-54

Mainly US views, but large numbers in China (!), Australia, South America and Northern Europe.

I have 46,300 subscribers, 1.5 million channel views.

(I can’t assess my total video views because I’ve been hacked twice and everything was been deleted last year, but it’s around the 20 million mark)


CollabDocs: Do you have plans for any other collaborative pieces?

Yes – but you will see!

CollabDocs: Can you say anything about them?


CollabDocs: Any other comments re collaborative video / collaborative creativity?

I’m a big fan of Professor Michael Wesch at Kansas State University (username mwesch). He’s been a huge advocate of my work – but he is also leading the way in understanding how online communities can grow and develop. This is the age of user-generated participatory media – I’ve proved we can connect in our thousands – now I’m excited to see just how far we can take it and what uses and changes to the world it will bring.