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INTERVIEW | Jason Zada, The Director Behind That Creepy “Take This Lollipop” Website

INTERVIEW | Jason Zada, The Director Behind That Creepy "Take This Lollipop" Website

On Tuesday, we told you about “Take This Lollipop,” a website that creates a horror movie starring you, your Facebook profile and your information.

Just as it started to blow up across the internet, we interviewed the director, Jason Zada, about the piece, its conception and its immediate viral success.

How did you come up for the concept of “Take This Lollipop”?

I’ve been attracted to horror movies since I was a kid, and I always wanted to do something serious within the genre and I’ve just begun to explore features. I’m a commercial and music video director, mostly. And as I started to explore, everyone always asked me what I’d like to do my first feature and I’d just like to do something really good in the horror genre.

I’ve had a fair bit of experience on the digital side of things in the past and I just decided that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and it would be a good time to get under people’s skin without any gore or anything. In the piece, there’s no gore or graphic material but it’s unnerving because it’s all about you and your information. It taps into this larger collective fear we have now. We’re all leading very public lives whether we want to or not, because all of our information is on the internet. You can find anything about anybody.

What would you call this piece? It’s not really a short film or a video or a program or an app. Where does it fall?

Previously, I did a project for OfficeMax called Elf Yourself and at the time it came out, it was a huge viral thing. It was super silly and everyone did it. I’ve always been a fan of exploring human interaction with media. When you’re in a movie theater, it’s the closest thing you have to tuning out everything and focusing on a screen. The internet provides a similar experience because when you invest your time to engage in something like that you go all in, so it’s not too hard to get caught off guard.

For me, the thing that was important in doing this was to provide an emotional punch that you couldn’t do in any other type of project. When I first was testing this out, I actually had friends of mine on Skype so they could watch it for the first time to see what their response was. Everyone had a moment of palpable shock. That emotional response was exactly what I was aiming for.

What kind of marketing went behind the site’s launch?

Actually, we have yet to go out with PR on it! I had a weird hunch that if a good friend recommends something and says you have to try something, you’ll do it. One thing that was difficult was the fact that you have to put in all your Facebook information. It’s something we do a lot because so many programs ask us to do it, but of course you’re always a little wary about it. Anyway, I sent it out to a lot of trusted friends yesterday afternoon. A couple of people posted about it on Twitter and that’s all it took to take off.

It’s an amazing experiment, because after 24 hours we’re up to over 30,000 Facebook likes and it’s been watched something like 400,000 times. Our servers crashed earlier. It’s been one of those weird things where it captures this weird nerve we’re all feeling right now and that mixed with friends’ recommendations just makes it work. I asked for a couple days before the press release to see what happens and it’s certainly been interesting.

So, one last question: Can you explain the title?

It’s funny. Around the time of the Night Stalker in Southern California, your parents would tell you to walk directly to school and if anyone comes up in a van offering you candy, don’t take it. We’re asking people to take the bait, if you will, and it looks like a lot of people are willing to risk it.

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