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We like making stuff. TV shows, movies, home videos, fake comic strips, teeshirts for our families — you name it, we’ve made it. We’ve been lucky to have access to all kinds of tools to do those things. At the Letterman show you can be sitting in your office and decide, “Hey, it would be funny if Dave touched Kenny Rogers’ beard” and then the next thing you know: you’re standing on a set with Kenny Rogers. And his beard. We did 83 hours of a show called “Ed,” for NBC and had every imaginable resource at our disposal. Ditto for our ABC show “Knights of Prosperity” (the one you never heard because it only lasted one season — about guys trying to rob Mick Jagger), which saw us fly to New Zealand to shoot with Mick Jagger himself.
But something fascinating has happened over the last decade or so. The cameras and computers we use are now pretty much available to everyone. Today, anyone who likes to make stuff can make stuff. (There’s a site called “YouTube” that you should really check out.)
So we decided to make a movie that explored this very phenomenon. What if a bunch of kids, in this case living in a crappy town with no way out, grab their video cameras and set out to make a hilarious prank comedy movie like Jackass or Borat in order to become famous. And what if, in this case, they’re just not that good at it. Hey, some people are, and some people aren’t. (There’s a site called “YouTube” that you should really check out.)
The little trick of our movie is that Lebron (our main character) gets a bunch of freshmen to follow him and his friends around with video cameras to record the “making of,” and these cameras start capturing glimpses of all of their actual lives. By complete accident, Lebron and his friends make a touching coming-of-age movie instead of the raucous comedy they originally envisioned.
We Made This Movie is about making stuff in a world where anyone can make stuff. We are who we are, which means we are no longer high school kids with video cameras. We are members of big time unions like the Writer’s Guild and the Director’s Guild. Our executive producers are the guys who made Little Miss Sunshine — not exactly film students. And Worldwide Pants is David Letterman’s production company, as elite as it gets.
We had a professional crew and used Red Cameras, but nonetheless took great care in shooting the movie with production means only available to normal high school kids. We never shot with dollies or cranes or any of the other bells and whistles that come with normal production. We used unknown actors (who won’t be unknown forever, mark our words). The craft service was a veritable lesson in different ways to serve Ritz crackers. (No offense intended to the folks at Ritz. You make a fine cracker.)
We shot the movie in 21 days in a bunch of small towns in Connecticut and it was about as much fun as two guys could have making stuff.
We Made This Movie exists at the intersection of Hollywood and the Web. When we finished it, we decided that we should follow the experiment to its natural end. Instead of pursuing a traditional theatrical release on a few screens in New York and L.A., we thought, “Why not release this movie the way Lebron would release it?”
Enter SnagFilms which is fast becoming a destination site for indie films on the Web. They loved the movie, completely got what we were attempting, and came on as partners.
So here’s our plan: We are going to have a big old-fashioned Hollywood premiere in NYC on September 20th. The red carpet. Popcorn. After-party. The whole shebang. Because Hollywood is really good at that. (And, frankly, because we need to get out of the house.)
But simultaneously, the movie will stream online to the Web for free. Of course we will open it up to bloggers of all sorts before the premiere for a sneak peak and will make it available for free for a brief time following the premiere.
Additionally, we will conduct panels (to be announced) and public discussions with thought leaders on this topic from Hollywood, academia and the Web. We will also do an IAMA at Reddit at which we will answer anyone’s questions about this movie, about the process of making an indie movie, how the Web is changing this movie and art form, or whatever else you want to talk about. (But mainly we want to use Reddit to shill for the movie, Rampart — that always works well.)
At the online premiere, users will be able to audit or contribute to a tweet stream commenting on it. The movie’s producers, actors and others will be on that stream, as well as some potential special guests.
After the online premiere, the movie will be available through multiple online channels via SnagFilms.com.
The most exciting part of this Hollywood-Web experiment has to do with the music. When we finished the movie, we went onto YouTube and put some temporary music on the movie — regular folks in their basements performing covers of well-known songs. It was great. It all felt like Lebron had gotten his friends to pitch in.
But then we got an even better idea. “What if we put some scenes from the movie out on the Web and asked people to supply original music for them?” After all, it’s a movie about people making stuff. So what better way to do so than let the audience make stuff, too. Or better said, let the audience actually help us make our movie.
We sought a partner who understood and embodied the spirit of our experiment and found Red Bull Soundstage, a platform for aspiring musicians. People will submit songs, and the Web can vote for which should be chosen. But ultimately we will decide which Web-supplied songs will make the final cut because in the end the movie must remain our vision. It’s really no different than the process of working with a professional composer.
We hope this competition will not only yield great songs for the movie, but also help use some of Hollywood’s power to assemble an audience for great, undiscovered musicians. To that end, the Web audience will pick one band to play on The Late Show with David Letterman.
We made We Made This Movie because we like making stuff, and because we are fascinated how the way stuff is made is changing every day.
We hope you will go on and be a part of this journey with us. Oh, and we also hope you like the movie. If you don’t, please just lie and tell us you did. (I know that’s not how it’s done on the Web, but that’s how we do it in Hollywood.)
- Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, Writers, Producers, We Made This Movie