The Pre-Internet Viral Video

In 1986, two aspiring Washington, DC, filmmakers lugged their video equipment to a parking lot in Largo, Maryland, where people were coming in to see a Judas Priest concert. They shot footage of hyped-up fans and edited it into a 16-minute documentary called Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Now what? John Heyn and Jeff Krulik had no clue how to distribute a film, so they screened it at a local club and took VHS copies to some rental stores. People liked it. Their friends made copies and passed them around. And they kept passing copies around for years.  

Krulik: A friend of mine was moving - his name is Mike Heath. We call him the Johnny Appleseed of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, because he asked for copies because he was moving out west in 1992.

Heyn: I worked at a video dubbing company, so it was free copies with labels and boxes and everything.

Krulik: Mike got copies, took them west. And in 1994, John gets a call from Sofia Coppola. She’d looked his name up in the phone directory in Maryland.

Eventually, Nirvana got a copy and played it on their tour bus regularly. Heyn and Krulik built a website in 1998. And Heavy Metal Parking Lot is still an underground hit. The documentary was screened for its 30th anniversary at SXSW this year, and The Verge has an interview with the filmmakers that tells the story of the movie’s long slow dissemination. Oh yeah, you can watch it, too. The video is full of profanity, minors drinking, unlicensed music, and a couple of criminally loud ads. -via Digg  


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