We spoke with Walter Smith, owner of Pantheon Productions, to discuss the "Wood Sitting on a Bed" meme that exploded in popularity at the beginning of the pandemic.
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(Suspenseful music) - Don't let your kids watch it.
- That was 12 years ago that I took that photo.
My name is Walter Smith.
I'm, the owner of Pantheon Productions, which is a niche gay adult company based out of California.
That was really pretty random.
I was working in the corporate world.
It was a long time.
In, the '90s after school, and just was burned out, and I wanted to do something different.
And so I learned a bunch of skills like camera work and lighting, and all that kinda stuff, 'cause.
It interested me.
And then a friend of a friend had started Pantheon, Productions and said, "Hey.
Do you wanna be a cameraman?" And, I, thought, "Well.
It will be some good experience.", And that's where it started.
That was like 2003, '4, maybe.
Then it just grew from there.
Well, it's, Wood, the model, naked sitting on the edge of a bed, sort of leaning over, looking straight into the camera.
We can talk more about his photo.
Shoot later, I guess., And.
The meme just took off.
It's crazy to me because I had no idea at first.
The original meme that I saw was him.
He was wearing a mask, and it had something to do with the coronavirus.
It was right at the beginning of the pandemic.
I was like, "What?" And.
Then you clicked on it, and it was information about the coronavirus, and you clicked on it and it.
The first thing I, saw., Frankly, I, didn't really know what to think at the time.
I, didn't, really..., I, wasn't, really that up on the whole meme culture.
And of course, it was the beginning of the pandemic.
So I was like, "Oh.
This is a little weird." The.
Same friend sent me like in the next couple of weeks like just meme after meme, after..
It just went on and on and on.
At that point I just had to embrace it, right? It's out of my control at that point you just embrace it and see where it goes.
Photo shoot was in January of 2010.
That was 12 years ago.
When I took that photo.
I worked at a gym, Gold's Gym at the time.
It was pretty..
Probably like 90%, gay men, went there, or gays and lesbians.
There was this small sort of light group of straight guys sort of big like (murmurs) guys.
And he was one of them.
I would see him there all the time.
We just happened to be there at the same time.
And he was super friendly.
He looked really intimidating, but he was really nice, really friendly.
And he was encouraging to me.
'cause I was trying to work out harder.
He just started calling me Big Wall, which I really loved.
He was like.
"Big Wall." And.
Give me a whole bro handshake., Which, I loved 'cause.
I felt like it gave me some cred in the gym.
Ridiculous, but (laughs) that's, how I felt.
We just started talking about working out, and supplements.
The usual stuff to talk about in a gym.
And eventually, I think somehow it came out.
I told him what I did for a living.
And he was like.
"Oh, that's, really cool, it's, really interesting.".
Finally, I worked up the courage to ask him, if..., I, said, "Would.
You do a shoot? "Would.
You be willing to do it?" And.
He was like, "Well." He was like, "I, don't, know.
Let me think about it." And.
Then he came back and he said, "Yeah, I'd do it." It was a photo shoot.
He came over to our studio and that's where it all happened.
I mean, I gave him some of the photos.
Of course, as I do with all my models, right? Yeah.
He seemed to like them., Of course, I paid him for the shoot, as normal model of payment.
And he seemed really happy with what came out., I, mean, I'd like to think the picture speaks for itself, right? That.
The picture became a meme because it just captured the moment.
It captured him in that moment., I mean.
And it really captured him like that., Like I said, this big guy.
But he has this rays in his eyes, just like are really looking right into the camera.
He's also got a real friendly, vibe, too, like there's, a whole lot going on, in his face more than anything.
Well, I think it's like the dichotomy, right? He's.
This great big guy in every way, right? But, then with his eyes and the look on his face, there's.
This sort of a gentle, giant aspect to him.
This big guy, but there's, no intimidation, really there., It's, just friendly, and open and sexy, all kind of wrapped up into one.
I think if he was just trying to look agro, or stereotypically sexy, it wouldn't work.
It would look like a joke at that.
Again, I didn't, really understand what meme culture.
And I was like, "Wait, it's.
A pandemic." I knew he had passed the way.
Of course, no one else knew that at the time, a few people did.
And, I, thought, I, didn't, like that, sort of bait-and-switch, I, guess, or click, bait aspect to it.
It made me uncomfortable.
But in hindsight I will recognize that it was a way for people to kind of gallows humor, laugh, at..
I'm talking about the pandemic.
Laugh at what was happening.
Everyone was scared.
And this was a way to make a light of something that people were scared.
Yeah, well, (laughs).
The first one I saw was when he was in hands., I mean, it didn't really surprise, me, right?, I mean, that's kind of what I would expect people to do.
First I was like.
"Wow I did a really good job.".
(Laughs) That was my first thought., I'm, like., "That's really hard to do, "a Photoshop that did that well." And I think by the time I saw that I was like.
Well, I had accepted that this had taken on a life of its own and I was not gonna control it.
And so I better just roll with it as best I could.
So then it was 2016, that sounds about right.
It was a friend of mine who still went to the same gym., He, said, "Hey.
You remember that guy "that, you would take photo shoot photos.
Of, "he went to the gym and I.
Guess there was something up, "at.
The gym about that he had passed." And.
So he told me and I was like most people, I was really sad about it.
He said, he was always a really nice guy.
And we obviously hadn't talked in a few years at that point.
But you hate to see anyone especially young.
He was younger than me, I, know.
It was just sad to see that that had happened to him.
I don't, see the memes as negative at all.
I, really don't.
I mean, at first I had that reaction, I guess to use Andy Warhol's, 10 minutes of fame.
We all get it, but it's, not true.
We all don't, necessarily get it.
Through that meme, he's brought a lot of joy to people.
Obviously like over the last year.
So I had multiple people reach out to me about producing an NFT out of this photo.
First thing, like with memes, I was like, "I, don't know, what that is, I need to learn." So it's been a long process of me, getting myself educated to really know what this is, and what it would do, and what it means.
But that's, a great question.
We've talked about whether we should do an NFT.
Initially it's gonna be one-on-one.
I think we think if there's interest, there's a whole series of photos of him in that pose in particular.
The opportunity may come for us to do more, to have a group or a collection of those photographs.
My big takeaway.
You, never know where life's gonna take you as we talked about, right?, I.
Guess, I want people to remember that in specifically, that Wood was like a fully fledged human being who had a fully rounded life.
Think he'd be getting a kick that.
This photograph is giving so many people's so much pleasure.
This, one photograph doesn't define who he was, and I think more broadly, there's.
No one thing that defines any of us, and that we shouldn't..
Don't limit other people based on that, right? One person does something..
There's, always more to enact to people.
There's, always another level.
And we gotta take our time to learn that, and get to know, that., (upbeat, music).