News Column

Punk dream spawns hit site, movie

July 7, 2013

YellowBrix

July 07--Talk about life imitating art imitating life:

A decade ago, Scituate native Scott "Smitty" Smith moved to Hollywood and penned a screenplay about a fan who started a punk rock video website.

Smith couldn't sell it, so he followed in his protagonist's footsteps and, yes, started a punk rock video site.

The channel, BlankTV.com, has since become a blockbuster, streaming as many as a million videos a day.

Here's where it gets stranger:

Smith resurrected and revised his screenplay, sold it, and the film, "Blank Nation," is set to go into production later this summer. Haley Joel Osment has been cast as the lead.

"The first script was incredibly dumb and everybody hated it," Smith said from his new home in Portland, Ore. "So I made the fictional company in my script real. When the site worked, that renewed interest in the script. I'll admit it's all a bit insane."

Smith grew up a hardcore kid in Boston during the '80s -- the heydays of Slapshot, Gang Green and DYS. He was the perfect person to curate a punk video channel.

It was a blast of a hobby, but there wasn't any money in it until a fellow Detroit hardcore kid became a bigwig in Google's video department.

For years, Smith was operating in secret (a nice plot point for the movie -- darn those meddling kids!). When Google bought YouTube, BlankTV finally had a platform with enough bandwidth to succeed.

Since he hooked up with YouTube in 2007, he and his wife have been working full-time on BlankTV.

"At the start, we were just working at some dot-com startup and spending hours a day loading grainy old VHS tapes up to the web," he said. "The guy at Google said, 'You know you can put ads on your site and make money?' Suddenly it was a real job."

Well, sorta. Real jobs don't let you watch Gang Green club clips 12 hours a day. BlankTV features videos from 30-plus years of hardcore, and some of the wildest are of Boston acts: Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dropkick Murphys, Mission of Burma, Darkbuster.

Director Susan Dynner, who is helming the film "Blank Nation," says Smith's authenticity made the script work.

"You can't fake this stuff," Dynner said. "I spent four years of my life documenting the music that I love in (the 2007 documentary) 'Punk's Not Dead.' I'm not going to turn around and alienate that scene. Thankfully, Smitty's script gets it right."

Smith and Dynner are so deeply in with the punk crowd, bands have been begging for cameos in the film. But the coup will be the soundtrack.

"(Rancid frontman) Tim Armstrong is doing the music," Smith said. "When we got Tim, it started to feel real."

___

(c)2013 the Boston Herald

Visit the Boston Herald at www.bostonherald.com

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