Chris M, Hunk du Jour: We're here with Michael DiMartino, from YouTube, who you've probably seen in that awesome Womanizer fan video where he signs the entire song... welcome, Michael!
Michael DiMartino: Thanks Chris!
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Chris M, Hunk du Jour: You released another video last week too, correct?
Michael DiMartino: Yes, thats right. If You Seek Amy, by Britney Spears
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Ahh, yes! So that's an interesting song in that if you hear someone SAYING "If You Seek Amy" it's quite a different effect than if you're just reading it on a page (or seeing it signed, I imagine.)
Michael DiMartino: Right. There is definitely the acronym for an obsenity that everyone has become aware of. When I first thought about doing the song I struggled with that.
As an interpreter I had to figure out how to put the MEANING of the song (the obscenity, the sexual undertone) without losing the gimmick of the song's phrase "If you Seek Amy." I decided to play with the idea of a girl named amy leaving me a note in bed, and chasing her throughout the video. And using a split screen to sign the two phrases "If You Seek Amy" and "F U * K Me"
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: You work as an interpreter too, is that right?
Michael DiMartino: Yeah. It is my current career.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Is that common in interpreting -- having to try to figure out how to interpret not only the literal language, but something like a pun... the other clues about humor?
Michael DiMartino: Yes! Have you ever stopped and took a second to look at the english language? it is full of back to back idioms! For example, in my previous sentence I said "Take a second and look at the english language." Are you actually LOOKING at a language? Of course not, but we understanding the meaning. That's an interpreter's job.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: To a complete newbie, we might assume that you're just doing a literal translation of each word... when really you're doing more reconstruction of entire ideas in sign language.
Michael DiMartino: Right. Even the word womanizer. Throughout the song I never actually say "womanizer" -- there is no sign in existence for a womanizer. I had to break it down "Your plan is to meet many women and take advantage of them. How? by sleeping with them, and leaving them." Luckily, it made for a cool dance. (smiles)
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Very cool, indeed! What was the first ASL-interpretation of a music video you did?
Michael DiMartino:The first music video i did was Gold Digger by Kanye West. However, YouTube took it down. Then I did Rihanna's Dont Stop The Music (which was my favorite) but it got taken down too. With Golddigger i was just standing there, though. I wouldn't call it a music video. I hadn't learned how to edit yet. With Rihanna's, that was the first real music video.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Are those the only two videos you've had to take down, or is there a library of videos that can no longer see the light of day?
Michael DiMartino: Those are the only two.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Maybe you should post them with only a few seconds of audio so folks can synchronize their iPods!
Michael DiMartino: Lol, good idea.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Or even post them without audio -- I think that'd be a pretty good statement in itself!
Michael DiMartino: I've thought about it. It's sad to me (the entire thing,) but that's a good point -- it would be a statement. If you would still watch, maybe Ill do it. (smiles)
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: I guarantee you there have been folks watching your videos on MUTE to see how it might be.
Michael DiMartino: Hopefully they still like it, get a fresh perspective on music without sound (is that a contradiction?!)
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: How has the rise in interest for your videos felt over the past few weeks?
Michael DiMartino: Hmm. It feels pretty good. Also a little overwhelming and can sometimes be alarming. Overwhelming, when I get woken up 43 times from my phone vibrating that I have a new comment or message. Alarming, when I go out to drink and I get stares and people are whispering "that's the womanizer guy..."
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: So you're getting noticed out in public now, too!
Michael DiMartino: Oh yeah, it happens.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: What do you do when you get the stares? Smile and wave, or pretend to disappear?
Michael DiMartino: I shrink and shrivel. (smiles) I'm never sure what to do exactly. I never want to come across cocky. I prefer to pretend I didn't notice. (smiles)
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Haha - I'd probably do the same. It's nice to be kind of a "behind the scenes" force at HDJ.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Your video appeared on Britney's official site, have you been contacted by her camp?
Michael DiMartino: Just by a few of her bloggers really. I would love to be contacted and told "We are gonna do a concert with you for the deaf" but nothing yet.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: At the very least I think a couple VIP tickets and a photo op are in order! (Just putting that out into the internet world...)
Michael DiMartino: (laughing) I agree!!!
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Is there such at thing a "performance ASL interpretation"?? I mean, watching your videos -- it's almost more dance than interpretation... It seems like there might be a performance genre here!
Michael DiMartino: There is such a thing. Nobody has really perfected it yet. I havent actually seen anything that incorporates dance and sign language together, unless its contemporary. I'm trying to bring it mainstream.
It is VERY difficult to come up with choreopgrahy that still shows the hands. It is even hard to make your body do one thing, while making your hands do something else. It's like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. Sometimes I have to do several takes because I end up on the floor tangled in a knot... and not even in a good way!
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: (laughing) What kind of response have you gotten from viewers? How does it differ from deaf/hearing or fellow interpreters/casual viewers?
Michael DiMartino: The response has been the same across the board. There is alot of excitement about the newness, and effectiveness of the videos. It's interesting to me that even the hearing world has taken notice and enjoys them as well. I think that says something about the future and sign language being incorporated. Because why not? If it is done right, everyone can enjoy it. I get contacted frequently by people in France, Barcelona, Canada, etc. And I LOVE that other countries view it as well.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: You were also in a play that sounded very interesting to me... can you talk a bit about it? As I understood, there were two casts performing side by side... one speaking, and one signing?
Michael DiMartino: Yes. it was called Kosher Harry. The play itself was VERY odd, nobody (including the actors) understood it. On one side of the stage, were 4 actors, talking. On the other side, were 4 actors who signed (one or two were deaf).
I was actually cast as a different role. But another actor had to back out of the play and I was asked to replace him (because I'm an interpreter). The opening night was the first time I ever even heard the new role's lines, and the guy [I was interpreting] had a very thick Brazilian accent. I was soaked by the end of it.
The New York Times happened to be there, and they called me 'the most magnetic actor on stage," which was hot. It couldve gone horribly wrong.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: So what does the future hold for Michael? Where would you like to be seen next?
Michael DiMartino: What most people don't know is that I've been acting since birth. I was baby jesus when i was 11 months. (laughing) So, I would like to translate this into a career. I am actually meeting with a manager next week to discuss the future. I can't think of anything else I would rather be doing than entertaining people, performing. And I truly believe I am meant for it. in m stomach I get a vortex of butterflies everytime I think about it. And I'm ecstatic that people are taking notice.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Well, I truly hope this is your big break! In the short, term -- is there another video in the works?
Michael DiMartino: I haven't begun yet becaus I am going on a vacation for 2 weeks, but I've been stirring some ideas around. Something more dramatic, something dark, rockish maybe.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Well to catch Micheal's next videos, you definitely need to subscribe to his YouTube channel. Anywhere else folks can keep in touch with you?
Michael DiMartino: Facebook they can find me under Michael DiMartino.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Fantastic! Thanks so much for talking with us!