First, can you give readers a quick overview of Benstonium. What you do and how readers can find your material?
Benstonium creates Pittsburgh-themed viral videos, which mostly combine sports and comedy. All of these jagoff-produced creations can be found on our website Benstonium.com and our YouTube page (http://yt.Benstonium.com)
How did you get started – who inspired both the idea for Benstonium and the direction/success you’ve had?
The name Benstonium was originally a drunken nickname based on m last name Benson, so it was appropriate that Benstonium found its roots with videos inspired by the consumption of beer. In 2008, Benstonium videos, which were mainly intended for a limited audience, went viral with the release of our yinzer-laced Mike Tomlin / Iron City press conference parodies and our path towards Pittsburgh-themed videos was serendipitously established.
Your work has spread pretty quickly and can be seen in various local media. What got the ball rolling for you – how did you get noticed so quickly?
An important factor in spreading our videos is the connections we’ve made with big names in many different local media outlets and the help they’ve offered in promoting our work. We strive to maintain a great reputation by consistently releasing viral videos of the highest-quality, and this has gained us a lot of respect among local media.
You come up with a lot of new material – how do you decide what to parody next and how? What’s the creative process?
One of our goals is to please our fans by appealing to Pittsburgh’s attitudes regarding timely topics. A key to creating videos with viral appeal is being timely, so we are always brainstorming video concepts related to Pittsburgh’s current hot topic. There are ton of great ideas that get thrown out because production would take too long for a timely release. Even if it’s the best video or most creative concept we’ve ever had, if it’s a day late, then it won’t go viral.
What are some of what you would consider your most inspired/best works to date, and what makes them so, from your perspective?
The viral video world is interesting in the fact that sometimes videos that require very little effort have the most viral impact and vice versa. When the amount of effort coincides with the viral impact, I consider it very rewarding.
One video that made a huge impact and also required a lot of effort was a sports / movie trailer I created in August 2011 which combined The Dark Knight Rises with the Steelers, and more specifically Ben Roethlisberger. The video took about three weeks to complete and quickly went viral upon release, being championed by national media outlets. When I received word that the video was also approved by Big Ben himself, I knew I had done something right!
Most of what yo do is parody/humor-based. Have you considered/done more serious/dramatic work as well? What, if so….If not, why?
We try to do about 70% parody/humor and about 30% dramatic/inspiring. I feel parody/humor can usually be done effectively in a more straightforward, simplistic way with considerably less production time. When I create dramatic/inspiring videos, I see them more as a work of art and effectively evoking those desired emotions from the viewer takes a lot more thought and effort than in comedic productions.
I love it when I’m watching my own dramatic/inspiring videos and they even give me chills.
Have you gotten any feedback/collaboration from teams and players – if so, what was that feedback and from whom?
Most of the feedback that we’ve received has been positive. When we’ve heard that our creations have actually reached the players/teams that they were about, it is very rewarding. It was really cool to get props from Big Ben about The Dark Knight Rises movie/sports trailer that focused on him. The latest Benstonium Penguins tribute, which parodied an ad from Google, was saluted by the Penguins video team and organization.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, with our first viral videos, which posited Mike Tomlin in a press conference full of drunken yinzers inquiring about his fictional trip to a local strip club, the response was less than accepting. The Steelers’ organization was [allegedly] looking into bringing a lawsuit against us and continued to monitor our videos for some time after that.
As most of the members of Benstonium were still in college and had very little to lose financially, we saw this this [alleged] response from a billion dollar company to something we created as a win. It’s still pretty cool to be able to say I was almost sued by the Steelers [allegedly].
What makes Pittsburgh sports/sports fans such an easy target for you?
All of us at Benstonium have lived our entire lives in the Pittsburgh area and surrounded by its amazing sports culture. It is easy to relate and appeal to Pittsburgh sports fans because we are born and bred Pittsburgh sports fans. Because the attitude and topics surrounding Pittsburgh sports is always evolving, there will always be content for new and different Benstonium viral videos.
From a Pittsburgher’s perspective, does the city and it’s people rely too much on sports to define the culture of the city in your opinion?
Pittsburgh sports and sports in general is like being immersed in a never-ending film. When you go to a movie theater, you spend two hours living in the fictional world provided by the movie screen. You become the ideal, you become the hero, you become the person you strive to be.
The athletes that we often hold up like movie heroes, leave us striving to be more than we are in our mundane lives. I don’t think there is anything that could bring an entire city like Pittsburgh together with an unbreakable bond that supersedes all of our petty differences like our sports teams. They are our never-ending blockbuster movies that always keeps us striving to better ourselves…as individuals and as a city.
What is success for you – and what’s next for Benstonium?
I hope to one day turn Benstonium into a career, where I can not only continue to entertain the city of Pittsburgh but do that for a living. I think as we continue to grow and gain followers, this goal will gradually become easier to achieve.
What would surprise readers most about Benstonium and the work you do?
In order to meet our self-imposed deadlines in order to keep our videos as timely as possible, many of the Benstonium videos are completed at 3a.m. or later…and we still make it to our day jobs a few hours later. Benstonium takes priority over sleep.
Any last thoughts for readers?
We are trying to get back to our roots (a la our Mike Tomlin /Iron City Press Conference parodies) and do more live-action comedy videos. We have a series of football themed videos coming up this season, which we hope will take the Benstonium brand to the next level and “Turn Pittsburgh Upside Down”.