The Making & Marketing of Herbert Wilkes - A Hungry Life

I recently caught up with James Whitrow of Get Seen Online to discuss their creative and promotional video, 'Herbert Wilkes - A Hungry Life.' Watch the video below and see my interview following that.

What were the objectives of the video?

  • To entertain. I’ve been a hobby film maker, and actor, for a few years and I wanted to make something for the business.
  • Steve wrote the script with purely commercial intentions. Then we thought about it and decided to modify it to be purely entertaining. We analysed each part as asked ‘is this entertaining enough?’ and then it was altered to make it more entertaining
  • It was originally written with the main character as a person, only later did we decide that a rat would be more entertaining.

Did you have any goals in mind in terms of number of views, links generated etc.?

  • Not goals exactly, just ideas, nothing specific. We kept to the main goal of entertaining.

Has the video achieved those goals and objectives? If not, why not?

  • I was hoping for 100,000 views, but there’s still more promotion to be done.
  • We have seen an increase in business, some of which can be directly attributed to the video, some not.
  • More clients have been gained than I expected.

So, if the video had less views than you expected and it resulted in more business than you expected, is if fair to say that the video had better leverage than you’d expected?

  • Yes, definitely!

Who is Herbert Wilkes?

  • Herbert is a purely fictional character
  • He is a brilliant painter that nobody knows about, then he died.
  • Herbert is played by Daisy, a rat owned by the business. Daisy lives in our office with her friend Scribble.
  • After we released the video we actually found another video about a person named Herbert Wilkes, who is also a painter and who is 97 years old - all a complete coincidence.

Was Herbert difficult to direct on stage?

  • Initially yes, but once we got to know each other it got easier.
  • It’s a matter of limiting the space he has to move within and putting the reward in the right position to get him to do the right thing.
  • In the art gallery scene, which was filmed without Herbert then green screened in later, Herbert was put on the table and left to improvise, he did exactly what I had in mind for him to do on his own and it worked perfectly with the actions of the human actor on set.

Where did the props and sets come from?

  • We shopped at several different stationery and craft shops to acquire the materials to make the sets. The majority of the furniture and props were bought on eBay.

I particularly liked the little toilet plunger, did that come from EBay too?

  • The toilet plunger is actually a little device for propping up/holding a mobile phone which was given to me a couple years ago. The scene was originally written with Herbert standing next to a regular sized plunger, then I realised the phone holder would make an ideal rat-sized prop.

Is Herbert working on anything right now? Is there anything else planned for the future?

  • There are more videos in the works, stay tuned.

How did you come up with the idea for the video and why did you think it would achieve your objectives?

  • We did lots of research. We looked at the top videos on Youtube and realised many of them featured animals.
  • I wanted to do something quirky and out of the box and rats are nice to work with, which helped make the choice. We went to lots of pet shops to audition rats. We wanted to stay away from black, hooded rats as they have that typical ‘evil’ look about them, and white rats are bad as white can be hard to work with on camera. Daisy is a nice apricot colour which was perfect for the role.

How did you distribute the video?

  • I sent lots of emails out to friends and colleagues, everyone I know really, and encouraged them to send it on to their friends.
  • We also posted it to Youtube and Facebook
  • We also posted it on various 'hot video' and 'trending video' websites as well as social sharing websites like Reddit.

What were the steps to create the video?

  1. Writing
  2. Pre-production- casting (most of the actors were people I had worked with in the industry), costumes, locations, props and sets
  3. Production- filming
  4. Editing- The editing took 3 solid weeks, this included high quality video, colour corrections, pulling and pushing focus, fixing the blurry bits.
  5. Release and promotion

How long did it take to create the video?

  • The video took 8-9 months. We estimate that about 250 hours were contributed to the film when you count everyone involved.
  • There was a hold up on the music. I couldn't find anything that fitted the video the way I wanted. We eventually had it composed by a very talented composer in London.

How much did it cost to make?

  • A couple of thousand dollars. Many people donated their time, big thanks to everyone who gave their time to the project.

Have you made similar sorts of videos for clients? Is this the sort of video you might recommend to a client?

  • I wouldn't ever recommend this kind of thing to a client as it is high risk; a lot of effort goes into it and there’s a low certainty of results. But I would happily make creative videos like this for clients if they wish to show themselves to be out of the box... I will definitely be making more for ourselves.

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