We're all aware of the prevalence of viral videos on YouTube. These clever little videos cause people to laugh and then pass them on to friends, being created either through dumb luck of recording the right moment at the right time and then presenting it properly, or through artful construction. However, for many of us who are not traditional comedians, the comic art form has been one we've been quick to turn up our nose at.
However, director Mike Flanagan, who I don't believe has ever done a comedy movie, turned the notion that dramatic filmmakers should ignore comedy on its ear. Those of you who read Mike's 'Kickstarted' article will recall that for him to get the necessary funds to shoot his critically acclaimed film, Absentia, he chose to explore crowdfunding. He'd created a snappy teaser trailer, crafted some really cool contribution gifts, constructed a business plan, and had a number of award winning films to his name. As such, one would think that he would've been the Kickstarter golden child, rolling in money as soon as he put up his page. That was not the case. In fact, for nearly half of his campaign, he received almost no contributions. At that point, he realized he had to really think outside of the box.
In a rush of inspiration, he realized that they needed to come up with a targeted campaign that would harness the social networks of each of the actors and main crew involved in the film. However, he had no interest in "virtual begging" as those are highly annoying and almost completely ineffectual. As such, he decided that each person who was involved in the film would have a three minute short created about them that played humorously off their foibles and idiosyncrasies that was memorable and amusing enough that their friends and family would pass them along to their friends. The catch phrase was the question: "Wasn't this worth $5?"
By using specific humor, targeting social networks that would most be amused by it, and using a small monetary hook, Flanagan started to see a turnaround in participation almost immediately. As more people contributed, others became attracted to the campaign, since it clearly had momentum. At this point, larger contributions rolled in as it became evident that this film would get made. By the time it was all said and done, Flanagan had nearly doubled the budget he was shooting for.
To further drive home the point of using humor as a way to get people invested into something, we have only to look at the current "Groupon" phenomenon. For those unfamiliar, Groupon is a company that approaches businesses about providing a heavily discounted product or service to the masses. The most successful Groupons are over 50% off the regular price for meals at fancy restaurants, spa treatments, or even electrolysis. The businesses benefit because they determine the discount themselves and are allowed to have a minimum number of sales before the groupon becomes active. While obviously, people like to save money, the secret to what set's Groupon apart from other discount offerings is the fact that, at the bottom of every discount email they send their subscribers, is a link next to a cat that says, "What Groupon Thinks." Folks who click on the link are presented with a short humor article on a plethora of subjects, from fiction writing to frugality. Taking a page from Field & Stream (who had comedian Patrick McManus write a humor article at the end of each issue for nearly 30 years), Groupon is able to provide a humorous conclusion to each email. And the brilliance in it is the fact that, if you read one of these humorous stories and tell your friends about it, you will of course tell them that the newest article is linked to whatever local business discount you read it on. This immediately uses what you found funny to essentially virally market the business being featured.
As a bit of levity is always welcome, we're actually launching a Humor Section here at MicroFilmmaker Magazine. After all, filmmaking is a hard job. Some things to make you chuckle are a welcome respite! (And, if you don't find our introductory foray amusing, not to worry. We'll be having new writers step up in the future.)