Stephen Marshall at the Drake
"We want to build a network that is user driven and user generated" explained Toronto native, indie film director, activist and GNN founder Stephen Marshall at the Drake earlier this week. As he wraps up post-production of This Revolution, an official selection of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, Marshall took time-out to show some past and present video clips and talk about the war in Iraq ("It's either Big Mac or falafel"),copyright ("I'm all for stealing stuff"), and the future of media ("We all have a part to play").
The rise of GNN has been staggering. Marshall founded it with "no money" back in 2000 when he was living on a friend's sofa in New York. Later that year he moved to Berkeley where he directed the Countdown video which mixed Ralph Nader and the Beastie Boys. Web traffic immediately jumped from 300 to 400 users per day to over 5000.
Since that time, GNN has continued to evolve and grow its audience but the real breakout came earlier this year with the release of Eminem's ground-breaking Mosh video. Enthused Marshall "After Mosh, we had 200,000 people on the site." Although it wasn't discussed how the site brings in revenue, Marshall did reveal that GNN became profitable in 2003.
The future of GNN seems to be about packaging the content in a way that is digestible to more of a mainstream American audience. As much as he detests Bill O'Reilly and company, Marshall does see value in making the media as glistening as Fox News and to be as fun to watch as Beavis and Butthead.
Earlier this year, Marshall traveled to Iraq via Jordan where he met a former anti-Saddam guerrilla who was returning to Iraq after 13 years to see his family. In
BattleGround, Marshall captures video of the man's first steps back on Iraqi soil as well as impossible-to-get interviews with Iraqi citizens and American soldiers, secured largely in part from the support of financial backer Penguin Books.
The event at the Drake was well attended with the Underground space attracting a standing-room-only crowd. The Drake's Barnaby Marshall played the role of host, a huge screen was set up for everyone to watch the videos and someone set up a table at the side of the room to sell autographed copies of Stephen Marshall's book True Lies.
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