Fiction Abuse

Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Ahead…

Yes, yes. I know. It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been working more than usual, and I haven’t had the blogging time I would prefer. I take that back – I’d rather be working. But I could take more time to do this as well. I promise to have some new stuff forthwith, but for the time being I wanted to share one of the more subversive pleasures to be found in the unusual kind of marketing onto which I’m often brought onboard to work.

Case in point: My production company was tapped to produce several videos for an online campaign for THQ‘s video game, “Homefront,” a shoot-em-up created by “Apocalypse Now” scribe John Milius. All of the pieces were some kind of futuristic/bleak home video, generally featuring someone being shot or other egregious violence. Fun stuff.

We’ve done similar work for projects like “Hellboy,” Audi’s “Art of the Heist” alternate-reality game (ARG), USA Network‘s “The 4400,” Discovery Channel’s “The Colony,” and HBO’sTrue Blood.” The agency we did most of these for, Campfire, balks at the idea of calling this stuff “viral video,” perhaps because that term tends to refer to spontaneous video capture of adorable-or-atrocious real-world events (kittens-on-a-Roomba or whatever extreme videos that Daniel Tosh deems worthy for broadcast on Comedy Central – and I seriously never miss an episode). I’ve heard it called “social media,” a term which seems to seek to sterilize whatever is “viral.” I think the idea about not calling what we produce “viral video” is that you can’tmake something go viral. It’s either a meme or it isn’t, it either catches on or it doesn’t. And when it does, as the creator, it’s out of your hands and spreading as if by its own life force. So we want everything to go viral, but only an elite few of us get to be Rebecca Black.

This should probably be the subject for a blog in and of itself.

Anyhoo – one of our “Homefront” pieces featured the beautiful and talented Salt Lake City being bombed to smithereens. We shot the piece on a hillside in SLC, and then our VFX guru Eric Hayden added the destruction. Here’s the video, as picked up by machinima.com:

Obviously, destroying a major city without anyone getting hurt is always lots of fun. But as Orson Welles would have told you, having one’s fictions make a splash in the real, actual, flesh-and-blood world is an unparalleled rush. What happened? Our little production (which consisted of a crew of 3, plus the kids, plus two people from the ad agency) ended up being featured on an actual local SLC newscast. Yes, it’s a puff piece about the video game. No, there was no panic in the streets. The video clearly says that this is 2026, so these kids featured in the video won’t even be born for a year or two. Still, this is that elusive beast known as “transmedia” showing its versatility – the media can become the story, a tale which simultaneously promotes the story-world of the commercial property, the world beyond that specific game or movie or whatever, and propagates both into popular consciousness. Sound esoteric? it’s not. With a little luck, it’s downright comprehensible.

So without further ado, here’s the video of the ACTUAL newscast featuring our little video:

Sure, we managed to not spark a riot or anything, but it’s great to know that our work was used to pad the SLC broadcast, and that nobody watching that broadcast would ever forget that their town was so charming that it needed a “Homefront”-style facelift.


3 comments on “Fiction Abuse

  1. Freakin’ awesome. That would be a great website- have different cities around the world that people could pick to destroy using different types of weapons. I’m sure that no-one would complain about it.

  2. Can you destroy Albany, NY next?

    Good stuff, Ben. I knew those destructive tendencies would come in handy one day, especially after the blown Mime thing at Winter Park.

  3. Pff. Leave it to Salt Lake to take being annihilated as a compliment. Rubes. It is understandable though, since it’s likely the most interesting thing to happen there since… um…

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