MATT H. MAYES: We purposely chose lower quality cameras to feel like anyone could have made this video.
MIKE GRAVEL: I wasnt aware that they were using second-class equipment. That wouldve maybe affected my attitude.
IMAGE MAKERS: POLITICAL ADS THAT SHAPED THE BATTLE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
ARCHIVAL (FUNNY OR DIE, THE LANDLORD, 2007):WILL FARRELL: Hi Pearl.PEARL: Wheres the rent?WILL FARRELL: You dont have to raise your voice.PEARL: You pay now!
MATT H. MAYES (ARTIST/FILMMAKER): At the time in 2007 YouTube was reshaping how people were sharing stories and representing themselves. We were looking at viral videos and trying to figure out: could there be a recipe for this? Is there a way to get in there and do something that would become viral?
ARCHIVAL (YOUTUBE, 2007):TODDLER: Charlie bit me!
MATT H. MAYES: And then we saw Gravel.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 5-20-07):RICK SANCHEZ: He has been called a loose cannon, and a maverick.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS):MIKE GRAVEL: Some of these people frighten me.They frighten me.
MIKE GRAVEL: My intent was not so much to become president because I thought that that was more than a long shot.
ARCHIVAL (COMEDY CENTRAL, THE COLBERT REPORT, 4-30-07):STEPHEN COLBERT: Now Ive never heard of this guy before and a lot of the other candidates didnt seem to either.
MIKE GRAVEL: My major interest was to try to bring attention to developing direct democracy, which is where the people could make laws by initiative.
MATT H. MAYES: It seemed like we could team up and do something amazing.
MIKE GRAVEL: And they did. They did. They had it all figured out and I had confidence in them. I was impressed with them as young people, committed. And so, I didnt understand it. As I was looking at the camera all I could think of, my God, I must look dumb as all get out. You always think that when the cameras are on, youre gonna be saying something, but I just stuck with it. Then they said, Senator, turn around and walk down the path a little bit, pick the rock up and throw it in the water. Now, interesting enough, they brought these rocks up from Los Angeles, if I recall correctly.
MATT H. MAYS: Yeah, we had all of our props lined up. We wanted to make a video that looked like maybe Gravel just put a camera on a tripod and was just improvising, the way someone might take a selfie.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS):ANCHOR: Wow. One of the more unusual presidential ad campaigns begins.
MIKE GRAVEL: The media had a mystery on their hands.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS):ANCHOR: Why would any presidential candidate produce a video that is this strange?
MIKE GRAVEL: So, normal reaction was, Well, well contact the senator and find out what the heck he thinks he was doing with this. And, of course, thats when it came into the situation where I hadnt given any thought to what I was doing. Im embarrassed if I have to call them and ask em, and so I just doped it out, that this was a metaphor of life.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS):MIKE GRAVEL: I didnt view it as a political spot at all. Throwing a rock in the in the water was a metaphor for causing ripples and changes in society and then walking down and disappearing. Isnt that what lifes about?
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS):MIKE GRAVEL: Now, thats a metaphor for somebody whos trying to do something significant. Now, that many of the pundits dont understand that, is that a surprise to you?ANCHOR: Thats right, we dont understand it.
MATT H. MAYES: At the core of the videos isnt a code to be deciphered, but was designed to elicit a certain response. We wanted people to sit up from their couch and ask, What was that? Who is that person? And specifically, to go to the website. Now we have a theater of politics. Its just one more way for people to entertain themselves. One more channel to tune into, one more show. While politics has theater as a component of it, our politics shouldnt be theater.