×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Biz taps viral evangelists

Studios enlist help of leading Web comics

What do 30 million YouTube hits mean to a studio executive? A ripe opportunity to promote a film.

As movie marketers look for fresh ways to reach the often-elusive young male demographic, they are hiring well-trafficked amateur comedians to shill for their pics. Similarly, the majors are increasingly allocating P&A dollars to partner with online comedy giants like Funny or Die in an effort to spread the word about an upcoming release.

When Sony wanted to reach a young male demo for “Year One,” it tapped Web sensation Fred Figglehorn (aka Lucas Cruikshank) to trumpet the comedy via the tie-in webisode “Fred Gets Dissed at Bible School.” Insiders say Sony paid host YouTube $50,000 for the promo, with Cruikshank nabbing a third of the total. Walden Media also used Cruikshank to tout its movie “City of Ember.”

Likewise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” director Rupert Wyatt recently met with L.A.-based funnyman Nice Peter (real name, Pete Shukoff), who regularly amasses eight-digit hits for his “Epic Rap Battles of History” Web videos, about promoting the Fox release.

“In the comedy world, it is seen as a huge promotional vehicle if you’re an artist with millions of hits,” says Gersh comedy department head Rick Greenstein. “If I can walk into a studio executive’s office and show an Internet video with 30 million hits, it raises eyebrows.”

A handful of agencies, management firms and collaboratives including Gersh, the Collective and Maker Studios dominate the Web-based comedy arena. And though no one has yet figured out how to directly monetize the millions of hits enjoyed by the biggest acts and sites, comics are beginning to reap the benefits of their virtual stardom.

The Collective’s Evan Weiss, who handles Cruikshank, says that in addition to the budding movie promotion revenue stream, Web-based comedy stars are pulling in coin for product tie-ins. Still, he cautions against quick money grabs; instead, he steers clients toward quality exposure.

“When you’re assessing these opportunities, you’re not just looking at it as a payday,” explains Weiss. “Instead, you’re looking at it as a chance for your client to work with someone who is bringing in outside money and doing something bigger and with higher production values than what (the client) is accustomed to.”

With its access to in-demand talent, Funny or Die has become a go-to destination for studios looking to promote their films via online videos.

“Trailers come out six weeks or 12 weeks before a film comes out, but the online community craves more,” says Chris Bruss, who oversees production for Funny or Die’s branded entertainment. “Generally the studios come to us and say, ‘We have such-and-such big star in the movie, and we have an extra day of publicity for him. We were trying to think of something interesting to do with this person.’ ”

Though Bruss wouldn’t disclose how much an FoD video costs, he says the studios pay for the content like a typical media buy. FoD owns the material and licenses it back to the studio, as it did with promotional videos for such films as WB’s “Hall Pass,” Universal’s “Your Highness” and Warner Bros.’ Steve Carell starrer “Crazy Stupid Love.”

Ultimately, both the content creators and the studios are seeking quality exposure.

“As a marketer, you are always looking for innovative and creative ways to deliver or reinforce your message,” notes Sony marketing prexy Marc Weinstock. “Sites like Funny or Die, Crackle and others offer studios a strong platform to communicate with non-traditional vignettes that, when done right, get a lot of viral traction.”

MONTREAL JUST FOR LAUGHS
Biz taps viral evangelists | Brands frown on fair use | Ha-ha-honorees
10 COMICS TO WATCH
Jerrod Carmichael | Chris D’Elia | Josh Fadem | Pete Holmes | Thomas Middleditch | Tim Minchin | Amy Schumer | Rebel Wilson | Harris Wittels | Ali Wong

More Film

  • Steven Spielberg Branko Lustig

    'He Left Me Speechless': Steven Spielberg Remembers Branko Lustig

    Steven Spielberg has offered a touching remembrance of Branko Lustig, the Holocaust survivor who produced “Schindler’s List” with Spielberg and Gerald Molen and died Thursday in Croatia. “I was heartbroken to hear of Branko’s passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends,” Spielberg said. “When we first met to discuss ‘Schindler’s List,’ he [...]

  • Dylan Brosnan and Paris BrosnanGolden Globe

    Pierce Brosnan’s Sons Paris and Dylan Brosnan Named 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors

    Pierce Brosnan’s two youngest sons, Paris and Dylan Brosnan, have been named as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Thursday evening. Paris and Dylan are also the sons of journalist and author Keely Shaye Smith. The ambassador(s), a title that typically goes to the son or daughter of a [...]

  • Joaquin Phoenix'Joker' film premiere, Arrivals, 57th

    Film News Roundup: Joaquin Phoenix Honored by Palm Springs Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Joaquin Phoenix is honored for “Joker”; Legion M backs Joe Manganiello’s “Archenemy”; sales have launched on “Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper”; Warner Bros. shuffles execs and Universal launches a first-of-its-kind animation writing program. HONOR Joaquin Phoenix has been selected as the recipient of the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s chairman’s [...]

  • Danny Huston

    Danny Huston Discusses the Significance of 'Last Photograph'

    In the decades since Danny Huston made his feature directing debut with “Mr. North,” his 1988 film adaptation of the Thornton Wilder novel “Theophilus North,” he has kept busy in front of the cameras as one of film and television’s most versatile and sophisticated character players. In just the past year, small-screen viewers have been [...]

  • Rocketman

    'Rocketman': Chris Dickens Discusses the Inside Story of Editing 'I'm Still Standing'

    Endings are so important and how the viewer leaves the cinema is crucial. For editor Chris Dickens, finding the perfect ending for “Rocketman” was paramount, but it was also a challenge. Elton John’s hit “I’m Still Standing” was going to end the film with the original idea of going to Cannes to recreate the video [...]

  • A general view of the skyline

    United Media Asia Strikes Deal With Indonesian Giant Kompas Gramedia

    Newly-formed content finance, production and distribution company United Media Asia has struck a first look deal, brokered by Hollywood talent agency CAA, with Indonesian media giant Kompas Gramedia. United has also unveiled its first two feature films. The partnership provides UMA with access to Kompas Gramedia’s media network and its 100,000 pieces of intellectual property, [...]

  • Taron Egerton Fashion

    Taron Egerton's Stylist Used Elton John as Inspiration on Press Tour

    Showstopping looks: For Taron Egerton’s “Rocketman” tour, stylist Gareth Scourfield nodded to Elton John’s iconic wardrobe with bold colors, patterns and silhouettes: “We got a bit more eccentric.” May 16 “Elton is the real original showman,” says Scourfield, who met Egerton through another client, Egerton’s “Rocketman” co-star Richard Madden. “Part of Taron as a man [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content