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

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

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before