Given how successful last fall’s Demand It campaign for Paranormal Activity was in bringing audiences to a movie-star-free horror film, it seemed almost a certainty that another horror project would try and follow in its footsteps.
However, the film in this case is the MTV-produced Savage County, and while the Demand It campaign launched this week — and is already close to a third of the way complete — may lead to the project’s television broadcast, the film was originally born as a web series.
David Harris, a producer in MTV’s new media department, originally pitched the project back in 2008 as a multi-episode web series that could also function as a feature film, drawing his inspiration for the film from classic horror flicks like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. “It was written to arc across 90 minutes, or 10 eight-to-nine-minute episodes. We had some flexibility in the editing,” Harris said via phone.
After receiving a green light in April 2009, Savage County was shot in Memphis, Tenn. with the help of Hustle and Flow director Craig Brewer’s production company BR2 (which was also behind the web series $5 Cover) with no stars and a budget of $250,000.
Originally intended for release around Halloween 2009, the series ended up not making it online due to several issues, including an inability to attach a brand to the film’s mature content. “Savage County is not for the weak of heart,” Harris said. “We’ve had some sponsor interest but it takes a certain kind of brand to commit wholeheartedly.”
Hence the decision to take an alternate approach to the project’s distribution, aided and abetted by Executive Vice President of MTV New Media David Gale meeting Eventful CEO Jordan Glazier this March at SXSW. MTV launched the Demand It campaign for Savage County three days ago, promising that after receiving 100,000 demands, Savage County would receive a television broadcast.
As of writing, the campaign is almost at 30,000 demands, which puts it far ahead of everyone’s expectations. “We do a lot of these campaigns of different shapes and sizes,” Glazier said, “And you can get a pretty good read of interest pretty early out of the gate. Sometimes it takes a little time for interest to mature, but this one came out strong right away.”
It probably helps that Savage County is relevant to Eventful users; according to Glazier, well over 3 million of the site’s 15 million registered users have expressed an interest in horror films.
The Demand It campaign’s success will ultimately drive a lot of distribution decisions for Savage County, but one element that’s not in question is whether the project will receive an online release. According to Gale, the project will be posted in web installments prior to the television premiere (provided the campaign meets its 100,000 demands goal), though they might not debut the full series in its entirety beforehand.
The version that eventually airs on MTV won’t be quite as extreme as, say, Paranormal Activity. Harris guessed that Savage County, as it was shot, would receive an R rating from the MPAA, but some edits will have to be made for the MTV online and television audiences. “We have a standard for air, we have a standard for online content and then a standard for online content behind an age gate,” Harris said. “As the father of a 5-month-old, I’m fine with putting it behind an age gate — I’m not encouraging 12 year olds to watch it.”
He does however believe that if the project receives a home video release, it’ll be true to the original cut. “If we put out a long version on DVD or Blu-ray, it doesn’t make sense to bleep things or cut back on blood spurts.”
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