The Man Behind the Memes: An Exclusive Interview With Weezer ‘Pork and Beans’ Video Director Mathew Cullen

Like you — and the 4.5 million other people — who’ve watched Weezer’s new “Pork and Beans” video (from the band’s forthcoming Red album) since it was released into the wilds of the Internet last Sunday, we’ve spent the week mesmerized by all those memes: exploding Mentos and two-liters! That tender hug between Rivers Cuomo and Chris Crocker. Kevin Federline! And TAY ZONDAY! We figured that the video didn’t come together naturally or by accident, and we figured right.

After watching the video for the billionth time, we couldn’t stop wondering how the whole thing happened, so we asked the guy in charge. Director Mathew Cullen, co-founder of video production house Motion Theory, (both were behind Modest Mouse’s “Dashboard” video and Pharrell’s HP commercial) shot the video, and he also shot us an email containing basically everything you wanted to know about “Pork and Beans,” working with Chris Crocker, and, of course, directing Weezer in this instant classic.

Buzzworthy: Where did the idea for the “Pork and Beans” video come from?

Mathew Cullen: Two years ago I directed a commercial with Pharrell, and he wanted the AfroNinja clip in it. Because of rights issues, we had to re-shoot it with the original ninja, Mark Hicks. It was strange for him to be replicating that infamous moment in his life, especially when I had him land on his head a dozen times to get the take right. The final clip we shot was nearly identical to the original, and I knew I could expand on that concept of replicating and re-inventing iconic pieces of Internet popular culture.

When I heard “Pork and Beans,” I loved its non-conformist message and felt like it was a natural anthem for the self-expression that’s been taking shape on YouTube and the Internet. At that point, I connected the dots and wanted to create Weezer’s mash-up of their favorite popular culture of the Internet — a viral music video made of virals, rather than just a traditional music video.

BW: How did you select the Internet celebrities, trends, and memes in the video?

MC: There are so many incredible people creating content on YouTube. Someone or something new emerges every single day that surprises, entertains, or makes us think. It’s always evolving and these videos are windows into the faces of a community. Whether it’s filmmaking, music, art, or blogs — it was an extremely difficult task to select “the best” clips for the video because there are so many great ones out there. In the end, the band and I loved the combination of positive cult and more well-known virals that ran the gamut of what the YouTube community represents.

BW: Was there anyone you wanted to use for the video but couldn’t?

MC: We tried to find TechnoViking, but it appears he was out dancing and impossible to hunt down. He’s the type of guy that just shows up when he wants to, and when he does, you don’t get in his way. We also reached out to Ghyslain Raza, the Star Wars Kid, but he has been a victim of cyber-bullying over the years and prefers not being in the public eye.

BW: What was it like working with Weezer?

MC: I have been a fan of their music and videos since the Blue Album. They really helped bring the concept to life with their ideas and collaboration — especially when they were getting blasted in the face with a combination of Diet Coke and Mentos.

BW: What were some of the funniest moments from the set?

MC: The funniest thing was seeing everyone walking on the set and tripping out that their bedroom, recording studio, stage, etc. was mashed up in one space. It was a very strange thing looking around and feeling like you are actually in the Internet.

BW: Which was the most challenging scene to shoot?

MC: When we shot the Diet Coke/Mentos fountain, we had only one take to get it right. I was really into the idea of the fountain being like a giant equalizer and had to make sure that each moment connected with Weezer’s performance.

BW: What were the various cewebrities (Chris Crocker, the “Numa Numa” kid, Tay Zonday) like in person?

MC: As you can imagine, they all have very distinct personalities. Tay is an intellectual. Chris is soft spoken. Gary is friendly and kind-hearted. Kelly is … Kelly. Mark “Afro Ninja” Hicks’s skills are intimidating. Daft Hands and Daft Bodies are anonymous. Dramatic Chipmunk is stuffed. Everyone was totally professional and a pleasure to work with. I think we are fascinated with these people because we relate to them on some level. You think — I’ve been like Numa Numa before when I’m driving down the freeway listening to my favorite song. It’s good to sing your heart out.

BW: Why did you opt for footage of Kevin Federline instead of shooting him live on set?


MC: I have to give it to Kevin Federline for being cool enough to give us permission to use his footage. We would have shot him, but he no longer has the pony tail. We needed the pony tail to do an accurate mash-up of “Popozao” and “Chocolate Rain.” Check out the whole “Popozao” interview. K-Fed’s all right by me.

BW: Of all of the artists you worked with in the video (besides Weezer), who would you most like to work with again?

MC: I really respect how Liam Sullivan, a.k.a. Kelly, is creating his own brand on YouTube. It’s a different way to approach media distribution, and he’s created a huge fan base because people love his characters. It’s an empowering thing to be able to create a fan base completely online. We’re going to see a lot more people like him emerge in the future that are going to shape entertainment.

BW: How did the finished product differ from the original concept?

MC: This viral music video was completely dependent on authenticity. If we didn’t have the participation of the people in it, this experiment would have never worked. Everyone embraced the positive themes of the song and made it happen. I have to give credit to Weezer and everyone in the video for putting themselves out there in a very surreal situation. Everyone brought ideas to the table and helped make the video better. It’s been creating more awareness for YouTube as a viable creative outlet. People have been discovering and rediscovering all of references in the video. And for those that haven’t been paying much attention to their computers lately, the video is a Web CliffsNotes on Internet popular culture.