Video sharer casts itself in 'Home' movie


A video-sharing site is taking on an unusual role — as investor, producer and marketer of an independent film starring Danny DeVito and Katey Sagal.

Vidshadow.com will produce two scenes in the film, "No Place Like Home," that will feature the site and its content, and it will create an innovative online marketing campaign that seeks to build an audience and find a distributor for the film.

The deal is a potentially groundbreaking one for video-sharing sites, independent film and integrated marketing partnerships.

The indie comedy "Home" is being produced by Wayne Rice ("Dude, Where's My Car") and was written and directed by Sam Harper, who wrote and co-wrote "Just Married" and "Cheaper by the Dozen." It's about a father (DeVito) who in order to enjoy his retirement takes drastic measures to get his twentysomething slacker sons to move out and fend for themselves.

As part of the marketing campaign for the film, producers from Vidshadow will create 12 weekly video segments featuring footage shot during each week of filming. The segments will include interviews with talent and behind-the-scenes footage on how the movie was made, all captured by a Vidshadow crew that will shoot daily b-roll.

Starting the first week of September, the "Home" videos will be featured on a specially created microsite on Vidshadow.com as well as on 16,200 other Web sites that are part of Vidshadow's syndication network. Vidshadow CEO Jordan Hudgens said the goal is to have more than 10 million people view the content before the movie opens in hopes that the hype will help secure a distribution partner.

"This is the first time this has ever been done," said Hudgens, 23, reportedly the youngest CEO of a publicly traded company. "Most directors would never allow anyone to create and release the kinds of trailers we will be doing while their film is still in production.

"We think what we are starting here will be the norm in a couple of years, and we are happy that Sam (Harper) gets it. Right now, we're building audience anticipation for the wide release of this film."

Vidshadow's filmmakers, including two finalists from Fox's "On the Lot" reality filmmaking competition, are shooting the opening sequence of the movie, which features one of the characters watching an online video on Vidshadow, and the so-called "Dancing Legs" sequence, which is basically a viral video featured in the movie that also will be posted on Vidshadow and its syndicated sites as part of the marketing campaign.

"The filmmakers wanted to partner with someone like us — who could provide this kind of content for them," Hudgens said. "They didn't want to have something that looked too commercialized or professional. They wanted to catch the vibe of what is happening in online video."

Vidshadow is committed to investing a couple hundred thousand dollars in the marketing and production of the film and is likely to spend at least a couple hundred thousand more, Hudgens said. And though Vidshadow is featured in the film as part of the deal, the company is planning to raise much of the funds it is investing by integrating other advertisers in the movie.

"We're working on some product-placement deals inside quite a few scenes in the movie," Hudgens said. "It's one of the big ways that we're going to be able to hand over pure cash to the movie." Vidshadow also will generate revenue from advertisers when viewers click on the "Home" videos.

Hudgens said an integrated marketing package like the one Vidshadow is offering Rice and Harper would normally cost an advertiser more than $250,000. "We're flipping things around," he noted. "We're not only doing it for free, but we're giving them money to get this accomplished. Then we can generate revenue from it at the end of the day as well."

The novel deal marks a new way to seek a distribution partner for an indie film. In addition, it appears to be the first time filmmakers for a video-sharing site are producing scenes for a theatrical release and the first time a marketing and integration partner on a movie is funding its fees (or, in this case, its investment in the movie) by doing its own product-placement deals.

Vidshadow also is producing the full-length trailers for the movie that will run online (unless they are nixed by an eventual distribution partner that wants to make its own trailers).

Hudgens noted that Vidshadow's content had more than 25 million unique viewers last month on its own Web site and its syndicated network of more than 16,000 other sites.
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