Way back in 2011, I had my very first viral video, Shakespeare in Celebrity Voices I watched breathless, as in a few days it surpassed half a million views, changing my life forever.
It wasn’t the first time I’d voiced a video so popular that the effect of “virulence”, a rapid exponential spread of popularity; my collaboration with the Spiridellis brothers for their fledgling Jibjab Media brand resulted in server crashing successes in the early 2000’s.
But when something you make at home, in your little studio, all by your lonesome goes viral… well, it’s kind of magical.
Many opportunities sprang from that success, including my appearance on America’s Got Talent in 2013, and the television series, Impress Me, now on Amazon Prime.
You might have noticed that last week I launched a collaboration with a programmer from Manchester, England utilizing the new (and disturbing) Deepfake technology, and as a result I find myself with another viral hit!
This one is growing more slowly than Shakespeare did; and with the advanced Youtube analytics, I can literally watch the views add up in real time… it’s a bit of an attention suck. Okay, a MAJOR attention suck.
A Deeper Look Int The Life Of An Impressionist features me morphing, literally, into 20 different celebrities, as I recite a poem about impressionists. I’ve done two other videos with this same poem, some different voices. I even did one with different impressionists reciting the lines in the voices of celebrities they’ve mastered. Neither video got much attention.
Apparently it needed something more. Something… fake.
This viral hit has several of the same elements as the Shakespeare one, (poetry, impressions, me and my quick changes) and, as with the first, it’s something we haven’t seen before.
I’m very grateful as a pro actor for over 35 years that the YouTube platform allows me to reach a world audience, but I am sensitive to the fact that Deepfake does have the potential to be a disruptive game changer, both in entertainment and society.
As with all art and expression, intent is paramount. What entertainers like myself and directors like Martin Scorsese do with this technology is far less troubling that what social engineers and “bad actors” in the political realm might attempt.
Many commenters on my new video say words to the effect of, “we’re screwed.” I understand, but I don’t think I agree. Deepfake will present new challenges, but that’s no different from any new technology. Every beneficial tool can have a destructive application.
What are we to do?
The only workable preventative measure I endorse is AWARENESS. Awareness, judgement and rationality are the kind of open-ended skills that we can ill afford to let languish.
This is not the age to be dull-witted, if any ever was.
And, selfishly, the dull-witted aren’t my audience anyway. Bright people like you, who have enough bandwidth to deploy a sense of humor, are my peeps.
Question: how will this disruptive digital revolution in face-swapping affect your life or your business going forward? Is it to be feared, or embraced?