Thursday, December 13, 2012

Metropolis, Eight Other Posters Sell for $1.2 million.

* Well-known movie poster collector Ralph DeLuca has won the vaunted three-sheet to "Metropolis" - and eight other rare items - including posters to the "Invisible Man" and "King Kong" - for a record-breaking $1.2 million - in a bankruptcy trustee sale held in Los Angeles today.

* Although the nine items were bundled in a lot - with a minimum $700,000 bid put up in advance by DeLuca - the additional $500,000 he paid for the collection, which had been "cherry-picked" by the bankruptcy trustee as being "subjectively "the most desirable" - gives, in my view - the Madison, New Jersey collector the crown as the #1 movie poster collector in the world.

* Although interviews are being conducted as we speak between Deluca and news organizations including Reuters and The Hollywood Reporter - a delighted DeLuca told me that he outbid Heritage Auctions in Dallas - and two or three other bidders for the collection.

* "I've been saying for years that I'm the #1 poster buyer in America and I proved it," he said. "When it comes down to putting cash on the table - I'm the #1 buyer. I believe in this stuff. I'm into investments - and I believe posters are a hedge against inflation."

* When asked to comment on the approximate value of "Metropolis" - independently of the other items he won, DeLuca said, "Honestly, in my opinion, the (monetary) equivalent to "Metropolis" in the art world - is $100 to $150 million. I believe it's a minimum seven-figure poster - because even if someone had $5 million to spend right now - he or she would NOT be able to find another "Metropolis" available for sale."

* The auction was was part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy settlement involving collector Ken Schacter of Valencia, California - whereby it was agreed by U.S. authorities that significant handling costs, commission fees and labor/time - could be avoided by bypassing conventional consignors and auction houses - by selling the prize items in Schacter's collection - via a direct sale to the public.

* "This was a great victory," said DeLuca. "It's been something I've been thinking about for months and months. I thought the poster was lost and was going to be given to Heritage (Auctions) to sell (in Dallas). But the bankruptcy trustee came back to me - and I responded by offering a 100% cash offer to start the bidding, while others would not put up more than 25 percent of the collection's estimated value."

* Meawhile, the fate of the remainder of the "known items" in Ken Schacter's prized collection isn't yet known. Schacter may keep the rest of his collection if it is judged that today's sale resolves all legal fees, as well as real and punitive damages accrued thus far. If not, the remainder of his collection could also be sold - with less fanfare and by more conventional means, e.g., via an auction house.

* The U.S. Bankruptcy Court's actions - which took place throughout 2012 in Los Angeles - were the result of collector's Ken Schacter decision to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy - to avoid re-paying a loan - said to be in the neighborhood of $500,000 and $600,000 - owed to Los Angeles investor Robert Mannheim.

* After "Metropolis" surfaced "for sale" for $850,000 on a movie sales website based in North Carolina (Movie Poster Exchange, owned by collector-investor-entrepreneurs Sean Linkenback and Peter Contarino) - Mr. Mannheim, reading forum postings on the Internet and news stories published in The Hollywood Reporter, The London Guardian and other news organizations in early 2012 - had the proof he needed - which he'd long suspected - that Mr. Schacter had been illegally shielding and selling valuable assets to avoid re-paying his loan - to the detriment of himself, to the memory of his late wife's estate and to his surviving daughter. This transformed the Chapter 11 proceeding (asset restructuring) to a Chapter 7 proceeding (asset liquidation).

* Ironically, Mr. Schacter was an early "business partner" of Movie Poster Exchange before the enterprise debuted this year - amid great publicity over the availability of Schacter's "Metropolis" poster for $850,000 - which had been acquired by Schacter in 2005 for the then astronomical sum of $690,000.

* After weeks of public silence from Movie Poster Exchange about the sudden disappearance of "Metropolis" from its website - co-owner Sean Linkenback - on May 4, 2012 - publicly detailed how Schacter's "Metropolis" came to him: "Ken (Schacter) later approached us about featuring the Metropolis poster on our website during our launch, and (co-owner) Peter (Contarino) was actually opposed to this, feeling correctly that we have built a sound business model and a fantastic site that will be able to stand on its own. But the price was reasonable based on its prior sale and it did allow us to take advantage of some publicity opportunities we may not have had otherwise, so Peter relented and we did spotlight the poster."

* In the end, a relieved DeLuca told me. "I'm absolutely thrilled with what happened. This was the highlight of my collecting year and I eagerly await for a phone call for the next batch of posters someone wants to sell."

* Ralph DeLuca's poster website is at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WARNING: Are you still yapping or texting from your cell phone?

** (Note:  This blog entry was first posted on August 23, 2009, and is being re-posted as a public service.)  WARNING – THE ABOVE CARTOON IS DARKLY FUNNY -- (Portland, Oregon-based cartoonist Shannon Wheeler is a fabulous talent who inspires humor and thought-provoking topics for discussion) – BUT THE IMAGES BELOW are screen shots take from a SERIOUS and GRAPHIC public service film from the United Kingdom - whose makers have authorized me to upload to my own You Tube Channel - and post a story about it on this blog.

** On July 1, 2008, California's ban against using cell phones while driving went into effect.

** While the law created a greater awareness about the dangers of using cell phones while driving – the sad truth is it will probably take more accidents – and more tickets – to get more people in line.  (Full disclosure: I haven't invested in hands-free technology, but I don't use my phone while driving.)

** Try this: The next time you're at a red light, count the number of cars going by with drivers using cell phones in broad daylight. I've done this several times and admittedly, it's not scientific, but about 3 cars for every 10 – contain drivers yapping away on their phones. (I've even seen drivers dropping/tilting their heads a little bit to avoid getting caught.)

** Between 2008 and 2010, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) issued more than 120,000 tickets against lawbreakers throughout the state. And when you include tickets issued by city and county police officers, that number balloons to about 250,000 citations. The average fine is about $120, depending upon where you live.

** And most of those tickets were for yapping. It's harder to catch people texting in their cars – which many believe is a greater scourge. Texting while driving is equivalent to an idiot using his thumbs to write a message – while at the wheel of a 2,000-pound killer clocked at 50-miles per hour.

** According to a release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, several deadly accidents involving texting behind the wheel have raised the possibility of even tougher laws and penalties. In 2008, a commuter train in Los Angeles -- whose driver was texting on a cell phone -- led to accident that killed 25 people and injured 135 others.

** "In another incident, a Florida truck driver admitted to texting moments before a collision with a school bus that killed a student," the release noted. And last month, "a 17-year-old high school student from Peoria, Illinois was killed when she drove off the road while texting with friends."

** And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's hard to tell which accidents are caused by cell phone use and which aren't – because drivers who survive them won't admit using their phones – and it's hard to prove in the aftermath of cleaning wreckage from a crash.

** In the United Kingdom, a graphic public service film depicting the ravages of using cell phones in cars has spread virally on the Internet. The four-minute sequence involves British actors and creative talent – and is part of a larger 30-minute drama produced and directed by Peter Watkins-Hughes -- an award winning, former BBC TV producer with 15 years experience in documentary, animation, comedy and drama -- with credits in every genre from melodramas to gardening shows.

** Moreover, Mr. Watkins-Hughes is also a lecturer for the Documentary Film and Television department at the Newport School of Art, Media and Design in Wales. He enlisted his own students to work on the film, which was made for - and with - the Gwent Police Department, located about 150 miles west of London. Mr. Watkins-Hughes says the longer-version of this film will be shown at schools this year, to be incorporated within what's called the Personal and Social Education (PSE) curriculum. And he's now in talks with the BBC to have the film, presently entitled "COW" – to be broadcast later this year throughout the U.K.

** WARNING – the graphic, four-minute video clip below is professionally staged -- but appears very realistic and does a fine job hammering its message home. In my view, every parent should see it.  It should be imported and licensed from Mr. Watkins-Hughes for broadcast throughout the United States. His contact information is available by clicking here.

** The clip above is part of a longer drama called "COW." According to its representatives, the film's synopsis is as follows: "It's all about Cassie Cowan, a nice girl from a Gwent valley's family who kills four people on the road because she used her mobile and lost her concentration for a few seconds. Gwent police is proud to have helped Brynmawr filmmaker Peter Watkins-Hughes in the production, which stars local drama students Jenny Davies as Cassie, and Amy Ingram and Laura Quantick as her friends, Emm and Jules." More credit information is available at the bottom of this post below.

** Many years ago I remember getting ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. At the time, the motor cop was almost embarrassed to hit me with a ticket for something other than a gross moving violation. Those days are gone. Today the state's seat belt law is vigorously enforced – and police officers no longer apologize. The combination of seat belts and air bags have dramatically lowered fatalities. You don't even have to look it up. Traffic accidents are still abundant, but lives are being saved. Most "higher-thinking primates" feel buckling up is an automatic reflex. So why then, are people still using their cell phones while driving?

** According to Governing Magazine, what's more astonishing is "while 29 states have passed some kind of limit on cell-phone use...none has gone so far as to enact a total ban on drivers’ phone conversations." This means millions of people are still yapping and texting away, in spite of, the Los Angeles Times reports, a "growing body of studies which show that texting, conversing on hand-held phones or even chatting hands-free...makes us dangerous drivers, as likely to get into an accident as if we were legally drunk."

** The news isn't all bleak. According to Steven Bloch of the Automobile Club of Southern California, cell phone use in cars is down about 60 percent since the law went into effect. But not in New York. "In New York State, where a 'hands-free cell phones law' took effect in 2001, almost no effect of the law was found a year later," said Bloch.

** What's being done?  Beyond the video above that should be licensed and imported for schools in the United States – there's the ALERT Drivers Act – which punishes states without laws against texting -- by cutting off millions of federal dollars for transportation. And U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has also taken a strong strand investigating texting and other driving distractions.

** Mr. Bloch of the Automobile Club reports that since the cell phone ban in California, the citations issued by the CHP alone – represents about 6 percent of all moving violation citations. "Hand-held cell phone use appears to have crept up slowly over the months, but contrary to a general perception of much higher usage, it's still far lower than it was before the law took effect..."

** Well OK, then.  But I still see a lot of people using their cell phones, inviting an accident to happen. Obviously if you catch someone doing this, get as far away from them as possible.

** Or honk like hell.

** UPDATE: After posting this video at You Tube -- click here, the bandwidth on my news site exploded. Thousands of viewers seeking the full context of the video's creation -- came over here, blowing past the standard settings on my photo-hosting account, temporarily knocking down many images. This problem has now been permanently resolved.

** I wish to make clear that I was NOT the first person to post this video.
The major difference is that my version is "authorized" by its makers to be posted on my own You Tube channel and is the ONLY one that provides news and other information about how the film came to be. Many production artists and creative talents in the U.K. who deserve due credit for its creation, have rightly expressed irritation about "losing control" of their film to the Internet. I wish to correct some of that now.

** This 30-minute drama is available in additional snippets which have been largely ignored -- (compared to the video of the crash itself)-- but can be seen by visiting the work posted by film editor Richard Jon Micklewright, who worked on this production with producer-director Peter Watkins-Hughes -- and goes by the handle, "richardjonm" at You Tube. I encourage you to visit his video channel, where you will find the crash video clip, production credits and his contact information. (Parenthetically, it also also features my own verbatim introductory words and phrasing with my permission, presented in my standard news summary format).

** You will also find a series of "tasters" (which are equivalent to the word "teasers" in the United States) -- from the drama that surrounds the four-minute crash video clip. My only role was to frame the video's titanic importance for the very news column you're reading -- in order to point out the woeful lack of comprehensive bans against the use of cell phones in cars in many states here in the U.S. My intent is to call attention to a problem that, when corrected, will serve the greater good.

(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mighty Mouse 1, Mouse Trap 0 -- When Does Guerrilla Marketing Go "Over the Line?"

"I thought your mouse commercial was horrifying. I know it went 'viral' and you certainly got your 15 minutes of fame. Shame on you. I actually gasped. It made me sick." - An indignant "Linda," reacting to a guerrilla marketing video that's racked up more than one million views on the Internet.

** When I'm asked, "What's Guerrilla Marketing and PR?," I give myriad answers. It can be considered "outrageous" by one company that has been very conservative with its marketing outreach efforts -- or considered "tame and tepid" by another company already comfortable enough to go beyond the stock tools of the trade, using unconventional methods to stir up the pot or to court controversy with maniacal zeal.

** But the definition of guerrilla marketing is poorly understood. It's a moving target that's evanescent, wispy and subject to constant change. It doesn't take long for something fresh and clever -- to suddenly become "so yesterday" absent the right touch. What's cute and funny the first few times can become tiresome and annoying after repeated viewings.

** Guerrilla marketing is marketing that doesn't follow traditional rules or platforms to get attention, sometimes bypassing research and other tools -- explicitly going after the jugular. It can be something as simple as changing the spin on an event so that it feels like "real news" -- to employing stunt-based methods fraught with great risk.

** The irony is that in most cases, what's being pitched in an offbeat way -- is already part of the mainstream, e.g., beer, fast food, cars, financial services, new homes, etc. Almost everything sold on the market today, regardless of how it's marketed, is mundane. Everything is nauseatingly "revolutionary," "state-of-the-art," "cutting-edge" or "ground-breaking" -- when in fact -- very few things meet such lofty criteria. When I hear such buzz words, I groan and think to myself, "Another opportunity down the drain, buried by string of tired clichés."

** Guerrilla marketing acknowledges what you already know -- that your friends and neighbors -- are already being hammered with too much information. It's like those amusing commercials for Bing, Microsoft's search engine. Standing head and shoulders above an ocean of information competing for your attention sometimes requires drastic action. You must choose which platforms will best suit your products or services -- beyond traditional print and broadcast media. And your choices have become more difficult -- in light of recent studies which show that more than 40 percent of people under 50 -- are now getting their daily content from wireless devices.

** It gets worse. Let's suppose your "iconoclastic" marketing or PR campaign DOES get off the ground and even better, it DOES gets noticed. How will it compel people to reach deep into their pockets to buy your product or services? Nobody, even the so-called "experts" -- can give you much more than an "educated guess" -- because the rules of guerrilla marketing keep changing. What's also worrisome is another study which suggests that even if you're already hip with social media -- and have a dominant presence on Twitter or Facebook -- this doesn't mean your fans are more significantly inclined to buy from you.

** With the stakes so high -- guerrilla marketing and PR have increasingly crept into the minds of marketing chiefs who as recently as five years ago -- swore they'd NEVER let anything in the door that diverts from "tried and true" methods that have worked for years. I'm running into fewer marketing chiefs resistant to guerrilla marketing and PR -- even while they themselves continue to have trouble convincing their OWN bosses of its merits.

** Even before You Tube or Facebook or Twitter, I've used a number of guerrilla PR tactics during the past 10 years on behalf of willing clients, such as purposely putting a negative spin on something that will still generate positive coverage. But my methods still pale in comparison to some of the more outrageous stunts that have back-fired on others. If it works, you're a hero. If it doesn't, you're in the unemployment line.

** So what type of guerrilla marketing is considered "over the line?"

** Well, you're NOT "over the line" if your product or service is truly great enough for you to stand confidently behind it -- and your target audience thinks your campaign is clever. If scores of young customers are buying your stuff as a result of your tactics -- whether it's Axe deodorant, Bud Light, Carl's Jr. hamburgers or new video games -- it doesn't matter if others are on the sidelines wringing their hands about it.

** For example, I've never liked the "against-the-grain," snarky, sexist and messy looking ads put out by Carl's Jr. But I went into a Carl's Jr. for the first time recently and tried its "Six-Dollar Burger" -- after catching a spot promoting it for four dollars. And guess what? It tasted like a million dollars. Its irritating commercials suddenly became a "best kept secret" for baby boomers born before 1964. Carl's Jr. ads are NOT targeting ME. They are NOT targeting Generation X'ers born from 1964 to 1979 either. No, they're targeting Generations Y and Z, the so-called "New Millennials" born from 1979 to 1992, hip young adults who are in their late teens to early 30s. Until that "Six-Dollars-for-Four" promo, I reflexively switched away from Carl's Jr. commercials. Now I don't. I'm not looking for hip. I'm looking for a good buy and now I know their products are good.

** But that was an unusual case whereby Carl's Jr. got away with guerrilla marketing its burgers in a juvenile way. Its marketing is definitely NOT the same as McDonald's or Wendy's. Carl's Jr. ads are "in-your-face," but they're not grossly offensive. In sum, and this will sound silly to the "suits upstairs," but Guerrilla Marketing Rule #1 is you can get away with being juvenile -- but you CANNOT be offensive.

** An example of a "do-it-yourself-guerrilla-marketing-campaign-that-blew-up" -- involved the father of a six-year-old Colorado boy who was allegedly "trapped in a runaway balloon." Today we know it was a poorly-thought-out stunt. For all of his efforts, instead of landing a TV reality contract, the boy's father was arrested, earning the scorn of millions. His stunt, which held a nation spellbound for hours, emerged as a cruel and offensive hoax.

** And yet -- during the same four-month window as the runaway balloon hoax -- "quasi-guerrilla-marketing efforts" by -- Michaele Salahi, the glamorous wife who crashed a White House dinner with her husband...

...landed her a reality TV show gig on Bravo ...while 29-year-old Justin Halpern of San Diego, who posted R-rated comments on Twitter uttered by his hilarious 74-year old dad...landed him a book deal with It Books (an imprint of Harper-Collins) and a TV show from CBS (since canceled, click on the image below)...

** I describe the two examples above as successful "quasi-guerrilla marketing" efforts because their creators were never assured of positive outcomes -- and their offbeat efforts did not "appear" to be premeditated to garner anything beyond amusing notoriety for themselves and their friends. What they got instead was a bonus -- and that's word-of-mouth buzz that spread virally and explosively on the Internet.

** Thus Guerrilla Marketing Rule #2 is you must strive to create an illusion of against-the-grain attitudinal thinking -- combined with an equally illusory feeling of spontaneity and surprise. In my business, we call this creating a message or a series of events -- that the ultra-competitive media finds too compelling to ignore. The media KNOWS what you're doing and might even hate it. But some producers can't afford to ignore you -- lest their competitors leave them behind in a cloud of dust.

** Case in point is the controversial guerrilla marketing video below featuring our hero, a clever mouse. It mixes pop culture tunes from the Carpenters ("Top of the World"), the Doors ("The End") and Survivor ("Eye of the Tiger") -- with morbid imagery designed to catch viewers in a "joke" that isn't as ghastly as it seems. But what's it trying to sell?

** Since last fall, the video has gone viral, mostly in the United Kingdom where it was created. It has become such a sensation -- that it's been written up in stories "across the pond" -- in the U.K. version of Esquire, the London Daily Star and Tweakerzine. But you have to watch all 88 seconds of the video to get "the joke." Some viewers don't even get there. They are so turned off by what they see, they indeed "tune out" before it ends.

** But viewers who DO react with revulsion -- don't matter to the video's creator. Such viewers are not his "customers." Click below.

** Does the guerrilla marketing video above -- "go over the line?" Only to audiences who don't matter to its creator. People who think of mice as disgusting, disease-carrying creatures -- suddenly recoil in horror at the "thought" of anything bad happening to just ONE of them. He's the video's "hero," we think, this is how he's presented. We ROOT for him. And indeed, at the end, the mouse DOES prevail. You discover you've been punk'd, that this is a "commercial" for a luxury brand of strong cheddar cheese.

** But no, you would be wrong. There is no such thing as Nolan's Cheddar Cheese," which is tagged as being "Seriously Strong" (which itself is the name of a real-life brand made in Scotland). But "Nolan's Cheddar" doesn't exist. The video is a hoax. A little research and you discover it's a faux commercial designed to generate curiosity and traffic for its creator, 29-year-old British animatronic-animator John Nolan.

** John Nolan studied cinematography at the London Film Academy in 2007 -- and earned a degree in Make-Up & Technical Effects for the Performing Arts from the London College of Fashion in 2002. He's worked on several television and film productions, including "Dr. Who," "Clash of the Titans" (2010), two Harry Potter movies ("Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2003 and "The Goblet of Fire" in 2005), "Where the Wild Things Are" (2009), "Hellboy 2" (2007), "The Brother's Grimm" (2003) and commercials for Nestlé tea and T-Mobile (2009).

** Thus we come to Guerrilla Marketing Rule #3. Know your target audience. Of course this sounds like ridiculously simple common sense, but it's excruciatingly true in Mr. Nolan's case, because he is clearly guerrilla marketing himself to TV and film producers. These are his true customers. You, a member of the general public, are just along for the ride. If you find it entertaining, fine. If not, Mr. Nolan doesn't care. How do I know he doesn't care? "Linda's" horrified reaction, whose words are posted at the top of this story -- were also spotlighted on the splash page of Nolan's website. (They were taken down in late March-early April 2010.)

** According to the London Daily Star, Nolan's guerrilla marketing video took two months and $1,000 to create. Not a bad investment considering the type of "payday" he's chasing. Beyond training a real mouse to scurry to the bait, Nolan says the dead mouse is actually an already dead rat he procured elsewhere. He says that rat "was actually a robot I made covered in silicon. It still had its real hair and nails of a dead rat, but I had to punch this in individually into the synthetic skin, a bit like how hair transplants work."

** In sum, guerrilla marketing and PR is anything that compels people to pay attention using iconoclastic methods. They do NOT have to be as extreme as the examples cited here. But you do have to be mindful that everything is a competition for attention. For me, it can be as conservative as doing what I describe as "hard-linking" a client's product or service -- to a much larger issue or problem that's oft overlooked.

** For example, if I alert the media about a bunch of happy kids painting an inner-city school on a weekend -- that's a strong visual. TV might cover it, but it will just be a 15-second "feel good" story. But if I can weave neighborhood crime statistics into the story and prove the event is a way to keep kids off the street, it becomes a bona-fide news story that reaches beyond the kids and into the faces of local and state leaders for a response. The kids become "poster children" for others like themselves -- about an issue that's bigger than themselves. What's "guerrilla" about this tactic -- is taking a random "feel-good" event -- and generating greater "urgency" by placing it contextually against a backdrop of a national problem for which there isn't one exclusive solution.

** After spending years on a newsroom desk, being on the business end of a lot of inane PR pitches, I've gotten a better feel for what media types are looking for to preserve and enhance the value of their OWN jobs. In sum, it's not about you. It's about everybody else. So as you sand down the rough edges of commercialism so prevalent in your outreach efforts today -- if possible, you should strive to ensure that ALL of your guerrilla marketing and PR efforts are framed in a way that's funny or clever, that educates, amuses and entertains -- OR addresses a concern that's relatable to all.

Original material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nearly 10 Million Views of a Video WITHOUT Shock Tactics.

(NOTE:  This blog entry was first posted in April 2010 and is being re-posted again as a public service.)  

** Leave it to the Brits to once again spawn a video about safety -- that has spread virally around the world -- which in large part continues to go unrecognized by traditional sources of news in the United States.

** In August 2009, the very blog you are reading -- played in integral part in helping virally spread a video made in the township of Gwent (Wales) in the United Kingdom -- that explicitly dramatized the consequences of texting-while-driving. That source video eventually racked up more than three million hits. After exchanging permissions from its makers, e.g., this blog wrote the news summary exploring how it was made at You Tube for its makers, who in turn authorized its separate availability to readers of this blog -- the texting-while-driving video racked up an additional 700,000 views on this site, mostly from readers in the United States.

** Today's entry is about an 88-second video that has quietly logged nearly 10 million hits -- which, while eschewing the shock tactics of last year's texting-while-driving video -- effectively sells its safety message in a way that many people believe has resulted in one of the most poignant and elegant public service spots ever made. (Click below.)

** The spot was made for Sussex County in southeast England and is part of an "Embrace Life" campaign by The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership -- to remind people to wear their seat belts.

** At the video's website, writer-director Daniel Cox says, "The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership was already looking to create a road safety campaign with a more positive message -- and so when I approached Communications Manager Neil Hopkins and his team with ideas for a fresh take on road safety filming, it was evident we were all on the same page in our quest to deliver a powerful message, but in a new way.

** "(What was) key to the film's creation -- was to focus on a message that didn't take a conventional route to shock and scare the audience; rather it was my intention to bring the audience in on the conversation of road safety, specifically seat belts, and the best way to do this was to make a film that could engage the viewer purely visually -- (which) could be seen and understood by all, (regardless of who) they are and wherever they live."

** Working with what its makers say was an undisclosed "small budget," commercial film producer Sarah Alexander said the challenges were huge in that "we needed state of the art camera technology, more lighting than they use on a Hollywood feature film and a team of very experienced people that knew what they were doing and could rig and shoot within the tightest of schedules." High speed cameras were used to capture the film's power in slow motion.

** "I wanted to create a visual metaphor addressing how a single decision in a person's day can greatly influence both their own and their loved ones' lives," director Cox continues on the production video's website. "Choosing to film the story inside the family living room represents the feelings many people equate with their own car, in that it represents a level of safety and protection from the 'outer' world.

** "So to create the emotion of this dramatic moment, I wanted to tell the story using slow motion to allow the audience the time to be drawn into the film's world -- and to let them connect with and project their own feelings onto the scenario playing out before them. I wanted to give the audience the time to breathe, to absorb our message -- and using slow motion was the right technique to allow this to happen." (The video was shot in just two days.)

** But according to producer Sarah Alexander, what was scarier was anticipating how audiences would respond. "Touching people’s emotions is not a science at all," Alexander said. "It is an incredibly difficult thing to do and even after working on it for months you are still not sure how people will react. We always aimed to make something of TV / cinema quality so that is where we launched it. The first time I saw it on a cinema screen in front of an audience of hardened police officers and realized they were touched, I was sure we had succeeded."

** Although the video is primarily an "Internet-only" sensation, plans are in the works to have it screened in cinemas throughout the Sussex area and beyond. The video was originally posted on January 29, 2010 and is being licensed for broadcast around the world. For licensing information visit: Alexander Commercials in the United Kingdom by clicking here. Video © 2010 Sarah Alexander/Daniel Cox/Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.

Original material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Friday, September 23, 2011

One Year Later - The Book Version of San Diego's Viral Hit Is Still a NY Times Bestseller.

** UPDATE, September 23, 2011 -- The book above has been #1 for eleven of the last 72 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. The book finally dropped out of the top 25 on September 18, 2011. The CBS Television series, "$#*! My Dad Says," which debuted in September 2010 to mostly poor reviews, was cancelled in May 2011.   

** On May 4, 2010, "Sh** My Dad Says," the "R-rated" social media phenomenon that began in August 2009 on Twitter – attracting millions of followers as it moved to Facebook and to other social media platforms around the world – entered the rarefied air of the printed page.  

** It Books, an imprint of Harper-Collins, released a 176-page hardcover version of "S*** My Dad Says" – filled with hilarious and sometimes poignant stories - supplemented by only a few of the more than 100 profane, ribald and politically incorrect quips posted on Twitter and uttered by Samuel "Sam" Halpern, the 74-year-old father of Justin Halpern of San Diego.

** The book does NOT replicate nor re-hash what's available online. It is a stand-alone product, a memoir of sorts, filled with short chapters - whereby son Justin provides the "back story" about his relationship with his father. The publisher's marketing notes describe the book as an "all-American tale that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and - most frequently - in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts."  

** While some of the quips seen on Twitter do re-appear, the book is filled with fresh material. It is an equally hilarious but more fully formed (and surprisingly touching) collection of stories that paint an almost loving picture of what it was like for Justin to grow up in the shadow of his brainy and brutally blunt father.

** Justin's story has been told numerous times – and is available at so many other online venues – (the best, in my view, was published last year in the Los Angeles Times) – that I'm not going to get into an in-depth recap of how he got here today. In short, after being dumped by his girlfriend in Los Angeles, Justin Halpern, now 29, founder of the humor website, "Holy Taco" – and a senior writer for – moved back with his parents in San Diego.

** On August 4, 2009, he began posting a string of outrageous quips spun by his father – some dating back to Justin's own childhood – to a Twitter account, which in turn spread virally, capturing the attention of celebrities, literary agents and entertainment producers.

** Justin's father Sam, who's described as being "like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair" – is a retired scientist from the University of California, San Diego. He's not only corrosively blunt – but he's also, according to the Los Angeles Times, reported to be extremely protective of his privacy, refusing all requests for interviews. Whatever else we might want to know about this secretive but sometimes hilariously crude man - can only come through his adoring son - who describes his dad as "awesome."

 ** "My dad went to medical school," Justin Halpern told the Times in February. He lectured at Harvard. He's [expletive deleted] way smarter than I could ever hope to be."

** Sample quips from Justin's dad:  

"Look at that dog's rear. You can tell by the dilation of his a** that he's going to take a s*** soon. See. There it goes."  

"Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it."  

"You ranked the 25 Christmas presents you want, in order of how much you want them? Are you insane? I said tell me what you want for Christmas. I didn't ask you to make a f***** college football poll." 

"I'm sitting in one of those TGI Friday's places, and everyone looks like they want to shove a shotgun in their mouth."  

"Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn't stand for sh**. Just sat there. Big let down."  

"Why am I going to pay $200 (for a plane ticket) so a six-year-old can see a wedding? You think that's a moment he cares about? Two years ago he was still sh****** his pants."  

"The worst thing you can be is a liar. . . . Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar. Nazi one, liar two."  

"My flight lands at 9:30 on Sunday...You want to watch what? What the f*** is Mad Men? Well I'm (going to be) a mad man if you don't pick me the hell up."

** The thing most surprising to me as a reader are passages in the book that illustrate the humanity of Justin's Dad. There are numerous "father-to-son" conversations whereby Justin's Dad, almost surreptitiously, dispenses advice based on his own experiences with the business of living and being a parent.

** For example, when Justin forgets to meet his Dad to help tend the garden - and decides instead to have a fun time with pals in Mexico - Dad is at first enraged, screaming that he almost called the cops. Then he calms down, motions Justin over, and in a rare display of open affection, grabs and bear-hugs his son and says, "You dumb s***. I can't wait until you have a kid of your own and you have to worry about what happens to him. You never stop worrying about your children. It sucks. You watch what you (get into), because this is your life, this bulls*** right here."  

** More quips from Justin's dad:  

(While watching "Schindler's List"): "What do you want? You want me to pass you some candy? They're throwing people in the f****** gas chamber, and you want a Skittles?"  

"How the f*** should I know if the food's gone bad? Eat it. You get sick, it wasn't good. You people, you think I got microscopic f****** eyes."  

"You're being f****** dramatic. You own a TV and an air mattress. That's not exactly what I'd call "a lot to lose."

"I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It looks like God took a s*** on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."

"Remember how you used to make fun of me for being bald?...No, I'm not gonna make a joke. I'll let your mirror do that."  

"Give your mother the front seat...I don't give a s*** if she said you could have it, that's what she's supposed to do, and you're supposed to say, 'No, I insist.' You think I'm gonna drive around with my wife in the backseat and a nine-year-old in the front? You're a crazy son-of-a-b****."

** In my view, the greatest of ironies – one that has been missed by many observers amid the fun and frivolity about a cantankerously funny old man – is this: It's not about how popular Samuel Halpern has become – it's about how we accept and laugh more readily – at off-color remarks coming from a senior citizen.  

** My theory is because we enter and exit this world in diapers - we're reflexively more tolerant of people who are very young or very old - than we are of people who are "in the middle." We know this to be true because if Sam Halpern was a 30-year old man, he wouldn't be as funny. It's not just his words that make us howl – it's the fact that they're coming from a 74-year old man – to whom we've given more latitude to say or do whatever he wants. We give him a pass, a badge of wisdom for seeing it all. Conversely, for a toddler, we impart an aura of innocence and cuteness onto a being who's seen very little. In sum, we tend to let the very young and the very old - get away with things - that we'd never allow from others.

** More pearls of "wisdom" from Justin's dad:  

"I don't give a s*** how it happened, the window is broken... Wait, why is there syrup everywhere? Okay, you know what? Now I give a s*** how it happened. Let's hear it."  

"So he called you a homo. Big deal. There's nothing wrong with being a homosexual. No, I'm not saying you're a homosexual. J*s*s Chr*st, now I'm starting to see why this kid was giving you s***."

"Why the f*** would I want to live to 100? I'm 73 and sh**'s starting to get boring. By the way, there's no money left when I go, just fyi."  

"You need to flush the toilet more than once...No, YOU, YOU specifically need to. You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet."  

"Sometimes life leaves a hundred-dollar bill on your dresser, and you don't realize until later that it's because it f***** you."  

"Can we talk later? The news is on... Well, if you have tuberculosis it's not gonna get any worse in the next 30 minutes, J*s*s."  

"A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one of them wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you've failed."

** Why are we more forgiving of senior citizens delivering off-color remarks? In fact, there are educated answers that go beyond our own sense of intuition.

** Dr. Michael Mantell, a clinical psychologist, author, television correspondent and columnist for San Diego Magazine - and a former chief psychologist for Children's Hospital and Health Center of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department - believes this phenomenon is partially rooted in "a fundamental respect for elders that many still have in society."  

** "Those who don't have it," Dr. Mantell says, "are not tolerant of seniors, and are likely not tolerant of people who are younger as well. We tend to equate seniors with our grandparents. And again, for those (of us) who have positive, living relationships - our sense of respect for them continues."

** Even more gems from Justin's dad:  

(On finishing last in the 50-yard dash): "It kinda looked like you were being attacked by a bunch of bees or something. Then when I saw the fat kid with the watch who was timing you start laughing... Well, I'll just say it's never a good sign when a fat kid laughs at you."  

"You're like a tornado of bulls*** right now. We'll talk again after your bulls*** dies out over someone else's house."  

"I need to change clothes? Wow. That's big talk coming from someone who looks like they robbed a Mervyn's."  

"If mom calls, tell her I'm sh*****g. Son, marriage is about not having to lie about taking a s***."  

"Happy birthday, I didn't get you a present...Oh, mom got you one? Well, that's from me then too, unless it's sh***y."  

"Mom is smarter than you...No? Well, ask yourself this; has mom ever unknowingly had toilet paper hanging out of her a**?...Mom 1. You 0."  

"No. Tell 'em we're not doing Christmas dinner at a casino. Don't be an a** about it, but tell them why it's a f****** stupid idea."

** Meanwhile, as you read these words, the latest chapter in the saga of "S___ My Dad Says" has come to an end. Justin Halpern, who co-wrote and co-produced the television sit-com version of his Twitter feed (with William Shatner playing Justin's Dad) - was cancelled last month by CBS.  The show just wasn't any good.
** Situation comedies featuring curmudgeonly parents have been a television staple for decades. It was too much to ask the television series to defy the stark reality - that there was only so much "funny" - that could be squeezed out of this formula - and more specifically - from Justin's dad.

** So how much longer will the "Sh** My Dad Says" phenomenon last? With the death of the television show, I can't help thinking this is just a passing fad, a bright star that will quickly fade.

** So I'll stop thinking about it for now. We already know few things last forever. We don't know whether Sam Halpern is a passing fad or a potential institutional fixture on the landscape of American humor. So let's just sit back and enjoy the moment, and see how long we can continue to be lifted by our own gales of laughter.  

Original Material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.