BIG TWEET photos by © Diwang Valdez – Tanya Ryno All Rights Reserved

Tanya Ryno, former Saturday Night Live commercial parody & TV Funhouse producer, has just completed a new project for Funny or Die, called “Big Tweet.” She was kind enough to share with me a bit about the behind the scenes development of this wonderful social media parody featuring Brandon T. Jackson. Tanya’s other current projects include directing “23 Seconds” in Atlanta,  Georgia and producing “A Room Of My Own” in NYC.

From Funny or Die – BIG TWEET’s power on Twitter has become a threat to celebrities, advertising agencies, network television & Twitter’s main competitor FACEBOOK. Online followers are the new currency. And BIG TWEET has them all. A billion. Whatever he says is heard. By millions. And his unmatched Internet influence has now made him (and his main girl) the number one target of the corporate underworld and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. BIG TWEET and his girl are about to be DELETED! Ordered by an underground secret corporate society, a group of Mexican gangsters have been hired to kidnap BIG TWEET and his girl. Their mission is simple. They must delete them both.

What was the inspiration for “Big Tweet?”

BIG TWEET was initially all Brandon’s idea … he came to me with the song already recorded and a vision. Basically, he’s ready to start creating his own content and because of my comedy background, we teamed up to create a short / music video / sketch.

From there we wrote a treatment without a real script and pitched our idea to Mike Farrah over at Funny or Die and while they’ve never done a short (a clip longer than 6 minutes), he was willing to take a chance on us and finance the project. From his experience anything over 5 minutes the viewers drop off … so they weren’t thrilled to find out that we were going to make it longer than that but they were still willing to let us do our thing and see what happens.

BIG TWEET photos by © Diwang Valdez - Tanya Ryno All Rights Reserved

In regard to the actual inspiration for the video, I would have to say Kanye’s video “Runaway” probably inspired us the most. While we reference a ton of other musician/rappers, “Runaway” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” probably inspired us the most. In fact, we shot in the desert on the same exact set that Lady Gaga shot “Telephone” … and we use a lot of visual things that Kanye had in his video. He takes himself so seriously that it’s fun to parody him. And some of the things we referenced from him couldn’t have worked out more perfectly and weren’t planned. Like the Twitter bird … In ‘Runaway’ the main character is this girl who is a beautiful Pheonix … so sitting around in a production meeting I go “I’d love to see us just reference some beautiful girl in a bird costume and randomly place her in the video” … then it hit me that Twitter’s logo was a bird! Hahaha … I couldn’t have planned that. It was perfect.

The Twitter vs. Facebook part of the short simply came from “The Social Network” just coming out and Zuckerberg getting person of the year. And because you can’t even watch the news now without the news caster going “Tweet me at blah, blah, blah to tell me what you think” … that’s just funny and says so much about the impact that social media has on everyone’s life. Adding that element though was a challenge. Seriously. Making a short around a music video that had a clear story with a beginning, middle and end that was not only about social media but referenced rap videos, not as easy as you might think.

BIG TWEET photos by © Diwang Valdez – Tanya Ryno All Rights Reserved

The casting was amazing; Who was in charge of casting?

I was the final call on everyone, but Funny or Die did the casting … I’m not sure exactly who they used, if anyone, but Betsy Koch (a Funny or Die producer) was the person who had the connections. She was really amazing at recommending all the right people! It’s apparent she has a great talent for that.

BIG TWEET photos by © Diwang Valdez – Tanya Ryno All Rights Reserved

Where was it filmed?

We filmed in several locations. The W Hollywood (in my hotel room), The Four Aces (the same set as ‘Telephone”) … it’s a diner, gas station and hotel all in one out in the desert, at the Funny or Die headquarters, and the El Mirage Dry Lakebed. We had a permit for only one of those locations!

BIG TWEET photos by © Diwang Valdez – Tanya Ryno All Rights Reserved

You really have to watch the video a few times to pick up all the social media nuances. How many were scripted and how many were spontaneous?

That was my call … I was hoping that you would have to watch the video more than once. This is my first time doing any kind of work for the internet so I went about it in a completely different way than I normally would for television sketch or a commercial where the viewer needs to absorb and comprehend all the information immediately. I wanted to create an environment where someone might go “Hey, did you catch that Kanye’s tweet cuts off Taylor Swift’s?” … or “How funny was Chelsea Handler’s tweet in response to 50 Cent?” … those that didn’t catch that the first time around may go back and watch it again.

And all the Tweets were scripted, but scripted spontaneously as we went along (in fact the whole thing kind of developed as we went along) … I spent many nights up at night (til 4:30am) with Diwang Valdez and Sebastian Urrea working on those. I would write them, Diwang would design them and Sebastian (CBass) would put them in the piece. Aside from the Oprah tweet, it was important to me to make each tweet seem like the person we were referencing actually wrote them themselves. Ironically the Evan Williams tweet was taken from an actual tweet of his. I went to his page and laughed at how random it was. And because of who he is, it was perfect for the Facebook scene with the Zuckerberg character. Truth is, I hope the Tweets are funny and that I really did capture the voice of the person we referenced, cause I wrote most of them at 4 in the morning, when just about anything is funny.

BIG TWEET photos by © Diwang Valdez – Tanya Ryno All Rights Reserved

What made you consider online web entertainment?

We didn’t have an idea for a show or anything of significant length, so the web seemed like the perfect place for BIG TWEET. Also because I wanted to jump into the internet arena. While I know there is no significant money there right now, I wanted to learn more about it and stay on top of what is happening in the world of entertainment.

What do you see in the future for quality web series and videos?

That’s one reason I did this project, I want to see for myself where it’s going and I also wanted to put a video out there that actually had a high production value. It’s so annoying for me to watch people share videos online that are blurry, out of focus, with terrible sound and accept it as entertainment. They are missing half the experience. I wanted to show that you don’t have to spend money like Kanye or Lady Gaga to make a video that looks just as good.

BIG TWEET photos by © Diwang Valdez – Tanya Ryno All Rights Reserved

What was the craziest thing that happened during the filming of “BigTweet?”

The craziest thing that happened during the filming of “Big Tweet” would have to be almost getting arrested at the El Mirage Dry Lakebed. We had no permits and went there with about 5 minutes of light left. We had a generator and we set up DJ Skee out on in the middle of the desert and just started blaring the music. Meanwhile there were a ton of campers nearby. I’m not really sure what they were thinking when we started shooting, but while we were … actually during the video you can hear the sirens in the background. Those are real. With about only 5 minutes left of shooting, the cops pull up, I see them coming and I yell “keep filming” … I should share that scene because I have it on tape. Not a good situation.

After making this video, will you ever poke anyone on Facebook again?

Sadly that “Poking” joke never gets old. And for the record, I have never poked anyone on Facebook. It’s ridiculous and so is Farmville. My favorite line is when Sydney goes “Do you even know what that means?” That’s funny.

Can I get the Lyrics to this masterpiece?

I had the lyrics somewhere ….

Enjoy the “Big Tweet” Experience!