The concept of “going viral” is a fairly new one when it comes to the current usage of the term, as it is mostly a product of social media and YouTube. As a metaphor, it is evocative and accurate, though after 2020, it may prove to be a little problematic. For the time being, it describes a person or a piece of media that originates from one source, gets shared with others, and then proceeds to spread exponentially through the populace, “infecting” millions with a specific message or idea. It’s a mysterious, complex process, and it is almost impossible to predict what will and will not “catch”, but when it does, it’s usually over just as quickly as it began. But sometimes, the idea is so strong that it refuses to dissipate into cyberspace. Sometimes the message is so important that it becomes something more.
In 2012, I produced and directed Love is All You Need, a short film that was a passion-project for my collaborators and I. The story used high-concept to bring light to critical issues about bullying, homophobia, and intolerance. We methodically crafted every moment of the film with the intention of it not only being a piece of entertainment, but also a conversation-starter and an educational tool that could spread an important message and be used to make positive change. We were thrilled to see it succeed critically, winning numerous awards, but seeing as it was a short film, we never expected many people to see it outside of the film festival circuit. We thought this was it. Then one day, we woke up and realized it had become so much more.
After Love is All You Need was leaked on-line (another story for another post!) It proceeded to, in fact, “go viral” and spread its message of tolerance, inclusivity, and acceptance to viewers around the world. Within X days it had already racked up Y views and was spreading like wildfire. The message was out there, but how was I going to capitalize? That’s when I realized the power of this single piece of content and what it could be used for. I recognized that this movie was not only inspiring people, but also educating them more effectively than textbooks and lectures could hope for. As the film continued to spread, it was quickly adopted by educators across the country and brought into their classrooms to create conversation and teach lessons about hate and discrimination.
This phenomenon of mine was not unlike many others throughout history, where video, film, television, and other media have been utilized to promote and inspire positive change in individuals, their communities, and the world. I have made it a kind of mission to show educators, activists, filmmakers, content-creators, and even parents how digital media can be used effectively. The presentation of the message can be nearly as important as the message itself.
This is what inspired me to create my company, Genius Produced. Over a long career in which I have worked on probably 1,000 commercials, 100 episodes of television, and about two dozen movies, I kept sensing that there was more we could be doing with this incredible influence we have. It wasn’t until I went viral that I realized what that was. It wasn’t enough to make them laugh or to give them chills. Not when you know you can do so much more.
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