With the success of films like Star Wars Uncut and, more recently, Life In A Day, the concept of crowdsourced film projects is gaining traction. The latest well-publicized video project seeking content assistance from fans and viewers comes from a pretty unlikely source: Michael Jackson. Well, to be technical, it's Michael Jackson's estate. The project? A new music-video art project for the posthumously-released single, Behind The Mask.
Michael Jackson's estate is doing pretty well lately, having brought in a reported $310 Million since the singer's death. It's safe to say there are still plenty of Michael Jackson fans out there, and the producers of the Behind The Mask video are hoping many of them are in a video-creating mood.
Fans who wish to help create the music video can visit http://behindthemask.michaeljackson.com/ to find guidelines and instructions–the website isn't live just yet, and currently redirects to MichaelJackson.com. It'll go live on March 7, which is the official start of the project. There will apparently even be simple tools to help users record video using their web cam right there on the spot.
From the announcement:
"First, users select a move, a lyric, or a crowd reaction; performers can even demonstrate their own moonwalk, the anti-gravity lean or the toe stand. Then, using the site's split-screen template, contributors can shoot their move right on the website with their web cam (or their video camera) and upload their clip at the precise time it occurs in the video."
Then, the director will take the very best submitted footage, and mix them into the video. The finished product will be unveiled in April.
So, in many ways this is sort of like YouTube & Kevin MacDonald's (& Ridley Scott's) Life In A Day film, where users got to submit their own filmed creations and the director picked the best for his project. But it's also like Star Wars Uncut, because these users are getting to "claim" their scene in the original Behind the Mask video that they want to recreate. But ultimately, the fact that these user-generated dance moves and filmed bits are going to be rolled in with professional footage of MJ, which kind of makes this project it's own thing.
I guess the idea is that Jackson's music is inspiring to people all over the world, and this is a way for them to participate in celebrating his career. That seems to be the pitch, anyway. And what little I know of obsessive Michael Jackson fans–which, admittedly is not a lot–tells me they're going to eat this up.
In a way, this unique kind of filmmaking is really like taking the video creation process and making it interactive. We talk a lot about interactive video, where the viewer of the video can click on or control or impact the outcome of what they're watching. This sort of thing is like the flip side of that coin, in a way, giving users the chance to interact with each other and with professionals to be involved in the video's origins. How can you get more interactive with video than that?
Will it work? Maybe. It certainly can't be easy to take footage from hundreds of amateurs and mold it into a coherent movie or short film. But the success and critical praise for Life In A Day means we're going to see people trying to catch that same kind of lightning in their own bottle. We're going to see copycat projects from large brands and small. The key with online video for brands is to make it memorable. And what can be more memorable than letting fans briefly play the role of director… cinematographer… actor?
If you're a Michael Jackson fan, and are interested in participating (Mark, I'm looking at you), then perhaps you'll want to listen to "Behind the Mask" for inspiration: