Comedy is Not Pretty

That’s the title of a comedy album and television special from Steve Martin. He has this one line in the special where he says, “Hey Socrates, what is truth? Socrates, what’s the nature of good? Socrates, what should I order? Socrates, what are you having? No one ever says, ‘Socrates, that hemlock is poison!'” Informing somebody of truth or facts are, many times, overlooked or assumed. I’m taking time now to let you in on a television secret.

Comedy is not pretty. It’s a difficult, ugly thing that’s tough to master. How many times have you witnessed stand up comedy that makes you want to flip the channel or simply leave? Ugh. It’s not just a game changer for the audience but it can hurt your message. In our business, I’ve seen car dealers, retailers, etc. try and inject comedy. I give them credit but it’s an ugly business.

My advice: Unless you got a brilliant idea that you’re willing to gamble, don’t do comedy.

stevebroom

Steve Donovan, Senior Editor & Janitor

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Paranormal Activity

I saw Paranormal Activity last Friday night.  I hadn’t heard of it until my brother-in-law and sister-in-law started talking about it and suggested we go see it.  I’m always up for a scary movie, so off we went.  If you haven’t heard of it, either, the website provides this summary: “After a young, middle class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban “starter” tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night.  Especially when they sleep. Or try to.”

Like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity is shot with a hand-held camera, except for the overnight scenes when the camera is placed on a tripod.  These lock-down shots work well in contrast with the shaky hand-held scenes of the rest of the movie.  While I didn’t suffer from sleeplessness after seeing this movie, it was pretty scary.  Well not scary so much as creepy.  Unsettling.

Then yesterday, I heard a story on NPR about it, focusing on why films that rely on the hand-held style have been successful.  Here’s what they say:

“I do think there’s something horribly creepy about the shaky hand-held camera,” says Judith Halberstam, who literally wrote the book about horror and technology. “It comes so close.”

That shakiness pulls you right into the film. Think of the sequence in The Silence of the Lambs where the killer uses night-vision goggles to stalk Jodie Foster’s heroine in a basement. Or the movie Cloverfield, in which a guy at a party videotapes a giant mutant monster. The idea, it seems, is that the fourth wall has somehow sprung a leak.

“If the person shooting the film is about to get it, what about the person watching the film?” Halberstam asks.

I like the idea that “the fourth wall has somehow sprung a leak.”  The audience becomes a participant in the action in a way and more easily relates to the characters, since the camera’s point-of-view is the character’s point-of-view.  Suddenly we feel like what’s happening on screen is happening to us, too.  Scary!

But this technique – breaking down the fourth wall – isn’t limited to horror movies.  It can happen when the people onscreen are unscripted, too.  Whenever the audience feels that they’re watching something that isn’t staged, the fourth wall disappears.  That’s part of the reason reality tv shows are so popular – we can easily imagine ourselves in the contestants’ place.  It’s even more effective when the unscripted video isn’t edited.  We believe in it more when there aren’t any cuts.

All this got me thinking about businesses and how they can create a similar no-fourth-wall feeling with their clients.  Does your business relate to customers in a way that creates that same perception?  Do your clients feel like they’re being met on a human level?  Do they feel part of the action?  You can foster this feeling on your website.  There are a lot of methods to do it.  Adding video is one way, and Tweedee Productions can help.

Looking over my shoulder in fear.

Looking over my shoulder in fear.

The Blog Police

When you read a blog post with a glowing review about a certain product or service, do you ever wonder if the blogger who posted that was getting paid by someone to provide that glowing review?  Well, that problem has actually become an epidemic on the web and it’s gotten so bad that the federal government has stepped in to provide some oversight.  When you’re on-line, it’s often very difficult to determine if the content (blogs, customer reviews, etc.) you are seeing is a paid endorsement or an independent review.  So the FTC recently announced that bloggers who receive compensation must disclose any payments they have received from the subjects of their reviews or face penalties.  The changes are aimed at de-blurring the line between editorial and advertising on blogs, social media sites (like Facebook and Twitter), etc.

A study by Nielsen Online showed 78 percent of online users view recommendations from other consumers as trustworthy so the concept of policing pay-for-play bloggers sounds like a good idea.  But  the devil is in the details and this new regulation could create a myriad of problems.  For example, in previous blog posts, I’ve talked about videos we’ve produced for several different companies who have paid us to produce those videos.  But I’ve also referenced other videos that we have not produced.  So would future posts like that put me in jeopardy of being fined by the FTC if I don’t make that paid-or-not-paid distinction for every video I reference?  You can probably see how this problem would translate to any company, group, or organization that provides a blog or editorial content on social media sites.

As a production company, we are always creating videos that help a business or organization tell their story, connect with their customers or members, and market their services or sell their products.  In a previous Tweedee blog post, my colleague Steve Donovan provided links to six different videos to show further examples of what he was talking about that week.  Those videos were a collection of movie trailers and other videos that Steve produced himself.  So if Steve or I mention videos or provide links to videos in a blog posting to enhance our message, do we really need to distinguish for each and every one whether or not we were paid to produced that content?

It has been 30 years since the FTC revised its policy on endorsements so this new regulation is probably long overdue since these types of pay-for-play endorsements have become a rampant force in the internet world for shaping consumer decisions.  Of course, this new regulation will be very hard to enforce due to the overwhelming number of blogs, podcasts, social media outlets, etc. out there on the World Wide Web and we could have a Pandora’s Box on our hands.  It seems to make sense that a blogger should not be able to promote themselves as an independent reviewer providing their opinion as opposed to what they really are:  A paid spokesperson.  So this new ruling will hopefully provide some transparency among these pay-for-play folks.  But once again, monitoring and enforcing these new regulations seem like a real nightmare.

mac@tweedeeproductions.com

Glee!

Have you heard of the Fox show Glee?  It’s my new favorite!  Sure, it’s cheesy, what with the singing and dancing and earnestness of the characters.  But it is also entertaining, funny, and heartfelt.

I’ve told several people in the past week about this show.  And I’ve said pretty much what I just wrote.  Glee offers an hour of escape from reality TV, crime procedurals, and the news.  It is an example of successful counter-programming.  As cited on Wikipedia, “Mary McNamara for the Los Angeles Times wrote that the show had a wide audience appeal, calling it: ‘the first show in a long time that’s just plain full-throttle, no-guilty-pleasure-rationalizations-necessary fun’.”

Glee doesn’t rely just on the quality of the show.  When the pilot aired after American Idol, people on social media sites spread the word. “Glee was the top ranked topic on social networking site Twitter on the night of its initial airing.”  And there is an official Facebook page where behind-the-scenes videos and photos are posted as well as sneak peeks of upcoming episodes.  On the official Fox site, you can watch full episodes and “Behind the Glee” videos about each episode.

So even a big company like Fox, with deep pockets, uses social media and online videos in addition to broadcast television to market its products.  All these marketing outlets can be a lot to keep up with, but there are products, like Shoutlet, that make keeping up easy.  Tweedee Productions recently used Shoutlet and StreamPilot to help us get the word out about our latest sitcom newsletter.  Check it out!

Glee is so funny!

Glee is so funny!