Sarah Sands: A two-minute video is all the truth I need

Share
Related Topics

The publisher Caroline Michel explained the new business model to me over lunch last week. The important thing to grasp was that a book was no longer the starting point. These days the deal could begin with something as instant as a video clip. The video clip could lead to a book. The book could lead to a film.

She sent me off to look at "A Lion Called Christian", a sort of Born Free YouTube posting with an audience so big that Michel swiftly reprinted the story behind it and set out to negotiate film rights. A short video clip may lack the kind of epic quality that prompted the creativity of Antony Beevor's D-Day, but it is more virally friendly. About 44 million people watched "A Lion Called Christian".

I am not sure how I had missed the lion, for browsing video clips has become as habitual for me as reading newspapers. In our house, it took over from television months ago. I go to The First Post for film trailers and viral ad campaigns. I go to the BBC website for news, knowing that I would be able to watch the whole of Westminster's Titus Andronicus on Friday, boiled down to five video clips. President Obama's speech in Cairo, based on substance and reason and subtle understanding of human nature rather than rough old office politics, took longer to digest.

Inevitably, the most popular video clips are football goals, snatches of music or – universally – comedy. The current clips that I regard as my "A Lion Called Christian" are Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Bruno the gay fashion designer, dropping into Eminem's lap at the MTV awards and Boris Johnson, in character as Boris, dropping into a river during a photo opportunity.

Bruno's descent from the ceiling in angel wings and a thong may have been authorised and choreographed, but pushing his bare bottom into Eminem's face showed truly subversive invention. The rapper has been congratulated for taking part in the joke, but it was Baron Cohen who had the Swiftian wit to imagine it.

Boris is another, perhaps even greater, ambassador for British comedy, with perfect timing for the pratfall. He appears at the edge of the river bed. A broadcaster shouts at him to stay where he is for the camera shot. He hesitates, a blond rhino, and moves forward. He misjudges the depth of the water and sinks, cooing sorrowfully to himself: "Oooh no." The environmentalist with him then throws herself into the water in an act of futile solidarity. I must have watched this clip 30 times and still snort with laughter.

Whether rehearsed, ad-libbed or real, the video demands a peculiar authenticity that is beyond some participants. It is what Virginia Woolf might have called a moment of being. It is a complete fragment that offers a greater truth. Gordon Brown may retain sufficient power to scare his remaining Cabinet members, but his Talibanese style does not wash on the internet.

Perhaps Hazel Blears paid with her political fortunes for mocking her leader's appearance on YouTube, but hers was a simple human response. If you smile you have to mean it. By contrast, Prince Charles banging on about the rainforests with a toy frog on his shoulder was being true to himself.

Our attention spans have grown too short, but there is pleasure in the immediacy of these clips. I admire those who can extend their lives into books and films, but for me the joy is that video offers the distilled present, then nothing.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the London Evening Standard

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?