If the vine – the short, looping video clip – is an art form, Vic Berger IV has become its Picasso. Or at least, someone who heightens existing awkwardness with really good cutting.
Berger has been making vines for about a year and a half, capturing celebrities (Vin Diesel, Bill Cosby, Christie Brinkley), religious figures (Pat Robertson), and politicians. He’s got a special gift for capturing Jeb Bush trying to seem folksy or cool.
We spoke to Berger, who works for the YouTube channel Hot Tolerance, from his office in Pennsylvania. The interview has been edited slightly for clarity.
So let’s talk about your vines of Jeb Bush. What makes him such a good subject?
His people are trying to connect with the youth of America — and I just find it hilarious. They’re trying to make him out to be this regular guy, this normal guy. But obviously he’s got this insane family history – his father was head of the CIA, and then president, then his brother was president.
But they try to put Jeb in these situations where he’s just doing everyday, normal things. But it’s obvious that he just doesn’t do normal things. Like the hoodie thing – that was probably the first time he’s ever put a hoodie on in his life – he didn’t even know how to unzip it.
So I just find it hilarious – how pandering it is. So I try to focus on that.
So you go looking for the most awkward and forced performance by him.
The strange thing is that I don’t even have to look that hard – all these videos are on his channel. They call them JebNoFilter… It’s like they’re doing my work for me. It’s just fascinating on many levels. His people are suggesting, “Here’s what you should do to reach people.”
Can you think of a candidate from the last decade or two as awkward as Jeb?
The thing with Jeb is that he’s trying to live up to what his brother and his dad have done. I think he’s gotten into it too far – but he has to follow through with it. I can’t think of anyone who’s tried to appeal to the youth – and everyday, ordinary Americans in general… Bill Clinton with the sax was on a whole different level; that was pretty weird. But Jeb has failed the most.
Whoever Jeb has hired for his social media doesn’t realize the power of it. Or they think they understand it, but they misuse it by putting these bizarre videos up there.
Do you have a favorite of these videos showing Jeb being a regular guy?
The hoodie one’s great. The biggest one is the Apple products one where he’s like “MacBook Pro, baby… AppleWatch.” There’s so many. There’s one of him using Uber. There’s no reason for him to use Uber. He’s like, “I use Uber all the time, man. It’s commonplace.” Okay, alright.
There’s one where he’s slapping the guy’s shoe because he’s got his father’s socks on.
Jeb’s not the only person you make looping videos around. What do you look for generally when you make a vine?
Usually most of a video is boring stuff, but [sometimes] there is one or two seconds of awkwardness – it’s almost as if the candidate is letting you know he’s doing something out of his comfort zone. With Jeb it’s usually blinking – he starts blinking faster. Sometimes I focus in on that and loop that to draw attention to it. There’s always this little awkward moment – that could last one, two, or three seconds – and that’s enough for me to edit and manipulate it to last for six seconds… That’s what Vine allows. But I’ve done longer videos with these guys; I can draw stuff out or put a bunch of stuff together to make it longer.
I made one last night of Jeb talking about his favorite concert – he said it was James Brown. He says, “Say it loud – I’m black and I’m proud.” It’s just not a good idea to do that. Really awkward.
How much time do you have to spend watching online videos, scouring the Internet, to get a good vine?
I’m working for a company called Hot Tolerance, making videos for them. As I’m making politically-based videos, I come across stuff and use that… That’s what I’m doing all the time. The stuff I can’t use in a longer video – that goes into the vines.
Do celebrity vines work differently – the Christie Brinkley one, say? Or do you just always have your eye out for the awkward moment that you can frame the right way?
That’s just how I am. I always see these awkward moments. And Fallon is a pretty good subject for that – he’s generally pretty awkward. If you just focus on him, he often just doesn’t know what to say, and let’s the person he’s interviewing say whatever they want. That’s why I like making vines where he’s talking with politicians. Fallon just laughs all the time – he doesn’t really know what to say to these guys.