Can you be commercially successful over time by regularly producing videos that suck, either intentionally or otherwise? Well, Fred and Sharon Spencer of "Who Needs a Movie?" fame proved that it can at least get you to be YouTube, B-List caliber celebrities. Learn about their rather interesting story, decide if their videos suck or shine for their declared business goals, and learn what they're already doing for 2011 with a goal of 1 million subscribers to their YouTube Channel – with big hopes of fame and fortune!
Who Needs a 'Movie?' It Could "Improve Your Life!”
Just a couple weeks ago I started a new series, "Your Business Video Sucks!”, where I review submissions from our readers to review videos that they think are so obviously bad in at least one particular way, that they deserve our special attention. The video below was submitted to us by Nashuavideotours, who liked it so much that he has it posted on his own website. Some of you may remember this YouTube Classic, "Who Needs A Movie?" (Well, guess what, my editor didn't, and he's supposed to be on top of this stuff!)
This video was first posted on YouTube by Fred and Sharon Spencer of Kelowna, B.C., Canada around February 2008. Back then, their video business was then named, "Fred and Sharon Spencer Movie Productions; and has since been retitled, "Fred and Sharon's Movies." This video, their very first posted on YouTube, has received over 1.3 million views. Many of the posted comments for the video express a perverse fascination about their production style, along with an ongoing debate over whether it was a real business or just a hoax? Maybe even, as some have suggested, sly performance art?
Well, for those of you who are still unsure, I can confirm that they are for real. In fact, the more I researched this, the more I found myself actually smiling about the story of a couple who wanted to start a business doing video production, and wound up doing 'infamously bad' YouTube videos – part attributed to the awkward production quality, but also because of the co-hosts combination of physical appearance with their pleasantly mild, deadpan delivery.
CTV News picked up their story in June of that year, who's newscaster had this to say about their web video. "Call it radical anti-comedy, call it mind-bogglingly self-unawareness, or call it a bit of fun, but a couple from Kelowna, B.C. have became Internet sensations" after putting a 'movie' on YouTube. It was intended by the couple to get them paid video production work. What it got them was a lot of extra attention.”
Websites were buzzing over whether it was legitimate or some kind of publicity stunt. Some were tongue-in-cheek with their praise, while others were coming up with new words in the English dictionary to describe how bad they were. Here's a few examples from what I pulled back then:
- The Consumerist dubbed the video as part of the "Great Moments In Commercial History," saying this: "Here's a commercial that demonstrates that even local public access TV has standards that must be met. Fortunately for us, when public access says no, YouTube says 'yes.'
- Cartoon Brew had this to say: "Fred and Sharon, hailing from Kelowna, Canada are redefining the possibilities of filmmaking and animation by producing movies for any type of occasion. You can learn about their skills by watching [their introductory piece], entitled "Who Needs a Movie… Fred and Sharon are specialists in the art of animation. They work in a dizzying array of styles, including hi-end computer animation that is seamlessly integrated into live-action settings…”
"I'll be the first to admit that sometimes these videos are not perfect." – Fred Spencer
Fred and Sharon's video was reportedly mentioned on the Jay Leno show; and CTV reported that Jimmy Kimmel Live! had offered them $1,000 a day to make more videos. Fred and Sharon were then seriously thinking their newfound YouTube celebrity status might even land them their own TV Pilot.
Well, none of that ended up actually happening. But that didn't deter Fred and Sharon from making more YouTube videos offering their professional video production services (and talent):
How about a professional music ballad?
How about a professional video interview with cool animation?
How about some celebrity relationship advice from Canada's #1 "relationship expert?”
Fred and Sharon's New YouTube Video Business Strategy
Flash forward to January 2011. Fred and Sharon have a new business goal: Become YouTube celebrities again, but this time by continuing to regularly make videos that suck. So while the couple is reportedly still offering video production services to whoever will hire them, they are planning for bigger financial rewards to come from what they hope will be a resurge in popularity with their made-for-entertainment YouTube videos which, they hope will they will get discovered by someone on television for their uncommon personalities.
Fred announced this week on his YouTube channel that they have just started a "vee-log," as part of their subscription drive towards getting 1 million subscribers. (Currently Fred and Sharon's Movies YouTube channel shows them to have 2,117 subscribers.)
I had the opportunity to talk with Fred and Sharon on the phone, who shared with me that they've produced these two other videos below as part of their subscription drive, and will be doing their best to regularly have more out.
D-List YouTube Celebrities for Now… Do they Have What it Takes?
Could Fred and Sharon Spencer get back to being YouTube B-List Celebrities like they were in 2008? Perhaps even, A-List, with a nice TV deal somewhere, somehow? It would seem to be a monumental challenge for Fred and Sharon Spencer to maintain the degree of viewership they had with their original video – which may have gone viral out of two things: 1) A initial curiosity of who these guys were who were showcasing themselves to be at least somewhat accomplished (yet clueless) professionals in video production, and big unanswered question to whether it was real or a hoax. What makes the story still enjoyable is that they weren't trying to fool anyone. They were just being themselves and enjoying doing video.
Whatever you may think of their attempts, Fred and Sharon Spencer may have shown that you can "suck" at video production and still go viral on YouTube. But are their personalities entertaining enough to have them reach their subscription goals, which they believe will naturally lead to fame and fortune? (What's also questionable is that even though they have a YouTube Partner Channel, they don't appear to be familiar with how to generate shared revenue with advertising on their channel, or get any sponsors or advertisers.)
In extremely rare circumstances, coming across as really bad in your web video, with how you present your professional services, can result in something positive in an unexpected way. Fred and Sharon have managed to keep their YouTube channel active for a few years with new videos; and while their viewership seems to have trailed off over they years, they are still able to get thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, of viewers to their videos (and quite the responses from those who still follow them). But are they realistic with wanting more? Do they have what it takes to become really popular again with a niche audience, not to mention a mainstream one? And can they actually make any sustainable income from it?
The Fred and Sharon Spencer Interview!
Stay tuned as later this week I'll showcase my webcam interview with Fred and Sharon spencer from their house in B.C, Canada. They're both very friendly, and just like their personalities in their YouTube videos (Fred was generous in not charging me for the interview, like some celebrities do. ;)