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by Bryce J. Renninger
September 12, 2013 2:26 PM
5 Comments
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Here's What Filmmakers Can Learn From the Jimmy Kimmel 'Twerking Fail' Video

When Jimmy Kimmel told the world this week that he was the man behind the "Worst Twerk Fail EVER" video, which featured a young woman setting her yoga pants on fire after trying to impress with a twerking-on-the-wall dance routine, the world felt duped, vindicated, or even offended.

There was a line that many (but not Damon Lindelof) didn't pay much attention to in Kimmel's explanation of the stunt:  the video had been shot two months ago.

While the video was released in the midst of a TWERKING MEDIA MAELSTROM, roughly a week after Miley Cyrus performed at the Video Music Awards, Kimmel's team had been sitting on this footage for a few weeks.  The video wasn't meant to be a Cyrus tie-in at all. 

The truth is, all of you filmmakers out there often have great content, especially short films, that aren't getting seen as much as they could, and potentially should.  And Jimmy Kimmel just showed you why you should think about releasing your content -- especially when there's a timely news hook. 

We hear a lot from filmmakers that want to know if they should put their work (especially short films) online.  Many of them are convinced that their work will lose its importance once it becomes a "YouTube video."  Others fear that they'll miss out on distribution deals (good luck getting cash for a short film DVD collection in 2013!) or that they won't be able to screen at film festivals while their film is online (Short of the Week put together a useful list of festivals that don't care if your film is on the Internet, many of them top-rate). 

The Kimmel video was compelling and it had a great title -- two things that help online videos take off.  We don't know if the video's title would even includde the word "twerk" if the whole Miley Cyrus fiasco never happened, but when it did happen, they had to include it in there.  If you've got great content that's timely and the title doesn't make this apparent - you can always change it.

We at Indiewire would never ask for more twerking videos to plague the Internet (this one is the only one anyone really needs), and Kimmel himself made a snide comment about how more people cared about his faux video than the debate over going to war with Syria.  But when filmmakers have short films that address timely news, they should always remember that aggregators like Upworthy and television news stations are always trolling the Internet -- specifically YouTube -- looking for trends and content.  The Nation's video about New York's Stop and Frisk (which we profiled here) went live in October 2012 but it only got picked up by mega-promoter Upworthy this summer, leading to a huge spike in views almost 8 months after it had been released, as debates over the policy continued to rage on.

This is one promise of the Internet -- that the worthy will eventually be discovered -- that has been well-publicized.  As people have begun to realize that this does not always come to pass, creators have also begun to become more wary of posting online.  But they may be doing it at a detriment to themselves -- and their content.

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5 Comments

  • LF | September 13, 2013 8:35 PMReply

    Bill Thompson you are so on point. I for one; thought there was something suspicious abt
    the video - b/c I have never - ever seen anyone twerk upside down, standing on her head.
    I mean! Get real...

  • Dan Mirvish | September 12, 2013 3:19 PMReply

    Bryce - great piece! It's a point I've been making for a long time: That some films are simply better at finding the right audience at the right time through online means than through film festivals or paid distribution.

    Case in point is my short "The Few & The Proud". It played at a couple fests just to get our actors on IMDb, but I turned down $500 from Atom (which wanted all rights in perpetuity on all media). A couple years later, in the midst of our Martin Eisenstadt fake pundit project, I posted it on YouTube as if it was a rejected red-band recruiting promo for the Marine Corps.

    Sure enough, if you Google "marine recruiting" it is almost always the first video that crops up. It's been seen by almost 340,000 people, and consistently gets about 400 views a day. (It's probably been seen by more people than have ever seen all my features combined.) More importantly, the comments are hysterical - and a reflection of the "right" audience for this film: Marines and other military, often ones on active duty deployment overseas. And they love it. If that film had played at Sundance, a couple hundred people would have seen it - and no doubt been offended by it. But through YouTube, it's being seen by the right audience on the right medium at the right time. As an "artist", what more could a filmmaker want?

  • christ_love | September 12, 2013 2:59 PMReply

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  • Valentina | September 12, 2013 2:43 PMReply

    A little glimmer of hope for my own forays into YouTube. Thank you.

  • Bill Thompson | September 12, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    The reason this video went viral is because Jimmy has a budget to manufacture that exposure. You can pay money to get a video viral. Companies do it all the time with their social media ads. The idea that some indie producer who has a very limited budget can make their video viral and gets hundreds of thousands of views is inaccurate.