Can Twitter’s nano-video channel Vine effectively promote a movie as one of its central channels? None other than blockbuster director Jon (“Iron Man,” “Cowboys and Aliens”) Favreau is giving it a good try. Starting back in the summer when he was casting his upcoming indie effort “Chef,” Favreau published Vines of his cast as they came onto the project, including Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson. According to Favreau in an interview at SXSW, Hoffman was reticent and clueless about Vine until he tried it. Now he is pressing his co-stars to do clips for the effort.
It is ironic that the helmsman behind some of the most elaborate, expensive, CGI-driven action summer blockbuster fare of recent years is embracing the six-second smartphone video format.
Favreau is no stranger to hip and indie work. His early success came with the cult classic “Swingers.” After his multi-gazillion-dollar work on summer tentpole films, he scaled back for a personal effort about restaurant kitchen culture and food.
The Vine idea, along with his current promotional swing at SXSW, fit the indie vibe, as familiar and inauthentic as that path has become of late. But his use of the #chef channel since last summer has been an interesting test case in how a creative effort can leverage these mobile social channels. Favreau has been posting not only celebrity snippets but on set clips, bits from the promo tour, and occasional cameos from his dogs.
But wisely, intentionally or naively, Favreau also chose a generic hashtag that also attracts a stream of posts that are likely oblivious to the filmmaker’s project. And yet, the #chef posts from around the globe form a curious stream of content that is in fact related to the spirit of “Chef” the film. What is interesting about using this social media technique is how deliberately or not Favreau is building a stream of content, both amateur and promotional, that supports what he is doing in the indie spirit in which it is intended. And the timeline structure of the posts give a narrative sense to it all. We are with the director watching the film build toward release in a way that doesn’t feel as mediated and contrived as Web site “director’s diaries” and such.
It is hard to imagine crafting a more effective Vine channel for the film. Its blend of backstage content, celebrity cameos, user-generated drive-by posts and Favreau’s own personal authorship behind a lot of it makes for an ongoing storyline. The stream could have been tweaked by a slightly less open-ended hashtag. But it is the inclusion of ordinary posts on the general topic that give it (pun intended) special native flavor. We get woven into the celebrity and filmmaker posts clips from professional kitchens and even plain folks in kitchens trying to flip an omelet. The cumulative effect is somehow on point for the film project itself -- a reiteration of the professional kitchen theme but with everyday home clips that make the theme of the movie identifiable to a larger audience.
My guess is that the end result of Favreau’s Vine project is a happy accident. But it is there nonetheless and offers some hints about how marketers can think about how this channel really works.