SXSWORLD November 2012


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Filmmakers Seek Cost-Eff ective " wrote and shot himself, urging fans to boycott Sleepwalk With Me in lieu of big-budget blockbusters that may or may not feature a team of superheroes. Birbiglia and Glass quickly uploaded a retaliation to YouTube. Th e videos were an instant hit. "Th ey were posted all over the Internet," says Birbiglia. Sleepwalk With Me was suddenly being written about on Th e Huffi ngton Post, Deadline and Th e Onion's AV Club as people became curious why the director of one of the biggest fi lms of all-time was taking about this little independent movie. "It was the fi rst piece of legitimacy we had. Th e noise level would participate in a fake online feud. "When Joss' movie (Th e Avengers) became one of the highest grossing movies in history, we just thought it was so funny because the projec- tions for our fi lm were so low." Just a few days later, Whedon delivered a video that he Birbiglia and his producer,"Th is American Life" radio pro- gram host Ira Glass, had signed with IFC Films and now faced grim projections on how their fi lm would perform in the marketplace. "We didn't want to go out like that," says Birbiglia. So Glass reached out to friend Joss Whedon, asking if he No one in America has heard of you guys." Th at's what movie executives told Mike Birbiglia, director and star of the SXSW 2012 hit Sleepwalk With Me. After working incredibly hard to get their fi lm made, Alternatives to Traditional Marketing by Mike Sampson Nick Offerman on the red carpet with director Bob Byington, at the 2012 SXSW Film world premiere of Somebody Up There Likes Me. and Megan Mullaly shot a video with pal Alison Brie (Community) ostensibly to promote a distribution deal by Tribeca Films and to plug the fi lm's Facebook page. But instead Off erman quickly corralled a TV crew in Cleveland with the idea to just sit on a bed and do bong hits with Mullaly and Brie (who doesn't even appear in Somebody Up Th ere Likes Me). It was, as you can imagine a video of NBC sitcom stars smoking weed would be, a huge success. Overnight the video logged more than 400,000 views and made the URL, Somebody Up Th ere Likes Me went from 100 likes to more than 3,500. And in an era where it's diffi cult to get views on your indie fi lm trailer, Byington more than quadrupled his trailer views after the bong video went online. Not bad for a video shot on the fl y without the assistance of the offi cial marketing team. (For the record, Tribeca Films 26 SXSW ORLD / N OVEMBER 2012 front page of Reddit. Th e video would have had even more success but was later fl agged for violating YouTube's "Community Guidelines." Despite the fact that the video never mentions the Facebook page showing during its opening weekend run at the IFC Center in New York City was sold out, setting a house record by a large margin. Original plans for a platform release to 30 cities were expanded to now include more than 250 theaters. IFC Films was, as Birbiglia recalls with a laugh, "very surprised." Birbiglia wasn't the only director who watched a promotional video go viral. Fellow SXSW alum Bob Byington had similar success while promoting his fi lm, Somebody Up Th ere Likes Me. In late July, the fi lm's stars (and real life couple) Nick Off erman rose tremendously," says Birbiglia. When Sleepwalk With Me hit theaters in August, every say they "loved" the idea but, because of the content, were not offi cially involved in the production or release of the video.) Th e most important part of a viral video is the whole "going viral" thing, though it is almost impossible to predict when or how a video will catch on and spread across the Internet. Th ere is an entire cottage industry of companies using metrics and spreadsheets to attempt to predict, explain and guarantee viral success, but Byington has a much simpler explanation for his online win: "People love Nick Off erman, and do not dislike the ladies fl anking him." Birbiglia and Byington both agree that by tapping into the online community and engaging their audiences, they were able to keep marketing costs down and make profi tability easier. "We have already recouped our costs," says Birbiglia, "which is exciting." It is not the last time you will see of either of these directors pro- moting their fi lms online. Birbiglia says he and Glass are working on a follow-up video campaign for the Blu-ray release of Sleepwalk With Me while Byington and Off erman are shooting another series of videos for Funny or Die. While viral video success can be mercurial and seemingly random (unless you are a cute kitten or a South Korean rapper with a signature dance move), these fi lmmakers proved you do not always need a big marketing budget to have a big impact. And now, with a little help from Joss Whedon, Ron Swanson and the Internet, America has offi cially heard of these guys. ■ Sleepwalk With Me will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 18. Somebody Up There Likes Me arrives in theaters in March 2013. JORDAN NAYLOR / WIREIMAGE

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