Ben Relles created Obama Girl, one of the pop culture artifacts of the 2008 election, Relles, along with actress Amber Lee Ettinger and his team of collaborators, gave YouTube one of it's first original smash hits with their video I've Got A Crush On Obama.
I spoke with Relles and Ettinger just after last week's inaugural.
Were you a fan of Barack Obama when you created the "I've Got A Crush On Obama" video or was it strictly business?
Ben: When we first did the video I thought it might help him and I thought he was a great candidate. After the first few videos we were acquired by an online television company called Next New Networks. Now we are able to produce consistent videos. It's also enabled us to build our team - which now includes people that support Obama and some who don't.
Amber: When I was first pitched the idea I liked it in part because I saw Obama on Oprah and was impressed by him. As the year went on I started to learn more about him. And by election night when he won I was kind of caught of guard and started crying and was just totally ecstatic like a lot of people.
Were there any videos that never were released?
Ben: We had a few that were scrapped. There was an ObamaGirl15 series that spoofed LonelyGirl15 where Amber vlogged about him that was tossed out for being a little creepy. Same with To Catch a Political Predator.
Do you think you effected the election in any way?
Amber: Nah. I think online video affected the election. But I don't think me dancing to Obama songs impacted how people voted. I do get people telling me all the time the first time they heard of Obama was our video and I hope in some small way it helped Obama.
Ben: When we did the first video Obama was trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin. Then it just started to become really clear that he was a frontrunner. Online video kept playing an increasingly important role. From democratizing the process by giving user generated videos like ours an audience to the candidates figuring out how to use online video to the thousands of clips that surfaced on YouTube and accompanied almost every major political story. I don't think our video substantially helped Obama, but I think it is part of the bigger story of how online video played was a part of this election in a way it never had been previously.
Any reactions from people along the way that really surprised you?
Amber: Bill O'Reilly interviewed me and said he liked what we were doing. That surprised me. And at the YouTube awards Will.i.am said he watches our videos. That was fun to hear.
Ben: We met Karl Rove the other night here in DC. I heard he enjoyed it.
Ben Relles recently launched Barely Digital.
Lee Stranahan is a writer and filmmaker who has collaborated with Relles and Barely Political on videos like No, You Can't.