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: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific