What do a 19-year-old theology student at Oral Roberts University, breakdancing pioneers Turbo and Ozone, and Weezer have in common? A few weeks ago, they all came together to create a fantastic bit of Internet buzz.
It all started late last month, when Rafael Sans, a theology student at ORU, grew tired of studying for his Greek test and decided to make a video for Weezer's "This Is Such a Pity," from 2005's Make Believe. For some reason, he remembered a particularly cheesy scene from 1984's pop-and-lock epic "Breakin'," and the rest was history.
"I don't really know why I thought of it. I mean, it's 'Breakin'.' Nobody watches 'Breakin'.' I think my girlfriend and her family watch it once a year to laugh at it," Sans said. "But I was studying, and it all kind of clicked. The song has a really '80s feel to it, and the scene is completely ridiculous, so I decided to make a video that combined the two."
Using what little audio/video skill he had — "I had no idea what I was doing," Sans said — he used Windows Movie Maker to cut the Weez tune to a scene in which good girl Kelly comes to breakdancing gurus Turbo and Ozone to learn their "street moves." Within a few hours, he had the finished product posted up on YouTube.com, a site dedicated to the free sharing of video.
"I put it up on the site and then sent a link to a Weezer message board, and I e-mailed it to [Weezer.com webmaster] Karl [Koch], and he told me it was awesome," Sans said. "Then he linked to it on Weezer's site, and people started freaking out. I mean, my girlfriend was going crazy because it was on Weezer.com."
The "Pity" video began to make its way around the blogosphere, and within weeks, Sans' YouTube page was flooded with hits. Of course, this is when the trouble started.
On April 3 — just 13 days after the video was posted on YouTube — administrators for the site pulled the clip, claiming it violated copyright law. In an e-mail written to Sans, YouTube claimed "a third party" had notified the site about the offending video, and that "repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of [his] account."
"Basically someone ratted me out, and YouTube pulled the plug on me. I was really bummed because I didn't steal the 'Breakin' ' footage. I bought the DVD and just used footage from that. I wasn't making any money on the video either," Sans said. "Every Weezer fan wants to get on their official site, and I did. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done. And Karl said he had no problem with the video. He thought it was great."
But YouTube disagrees. According to Julie Supan, the site's senior director of marketing, Sans' "Pity" clip violated copyright law from the beginning because he failed to get permission to use footage from "Breakin'."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Weezer's label, Geffen Records, said they were unaware of the "Pity" video, but that they will look into it. (The spokesperson added that there are no plans to make another video for a song off Make Believe.)
Sans said he was inspired by Weezer's bizarre clip for the song "We Are All on Drugs," which was essentially a re-editing of British metal band Grim Reaper's 1985 video for "Fear No Evil" (see "Grim Weezer: Band's Leather-And-Wolfman 'Drugs' Video Not Their Video At All"). And he's not letting YouTube get him down. He already has video number two stewing in his brain — though he's not exactly forthcoming with the details.
"The whole experience has made me think about doing more stuff like that because I've always been creative, but I've never really expressed it. But I just don't have a lot of time to do it. Maybe I'll make another one during the summer," he said. "I mean, I did the 'Pity' video when I was doing Greek homework and I had a test the next day and I totally bombed the test. So something good has got to come from all of this."
For more on Weezer, check out the feature "Distraction Subtraction."