Zack and Miri Documenters On The Woes Of Webisodes

Zak Knutson and Joey Figueroa of Chop Shop Entertainment are all about using webisodes to promote your film, but the role of the promotional webisode as it relates to mainstream content turns out to have some awkward side effects, as they discussed on a panel at SXSW yesterday.

Hired to produce behind the scenes material for Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Knutson and Figueroa included as part of the package — which also included electronic press kit footage and a making-of documentary — webisodes that introduced audiences to the film months ahead of time; essentially an electronic press kit for the masses. “We just want to change the way the [electronic press kit] is done,” Figueroa says. “Because in my opinion, the way it’s done is boring.”

The Money Shots series they produced was the core of that — the funniest of which is a deadpan faceoff between Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen.

But there were some shorts they weren’t able to include, because it turns out that the MPAA now considers webisodes to be part of a film’s promotional materials, and it thus has to approve the content. Thus, a short featuring Rogan and other cast members discussing and interacting with the fake semen used for a shot was banned. The banned video (which they screened) is available on the Zack and Miri DVD as a special feature — but “it would have gone viral,” according to Knutson.

The rest of the Money Shots shorts were put behind an ad gate, which Knutson flat out called “bulls—” because while the content was restricted to audiences aged 18 and up, the actual R-rated film could be seen in theaters by those aged 17.

One of the unrestricted clips turned out to be the greatest success, although Knutson and Figueroa were initially reluctant to do it. Last February, when Elizabeth Banks, the film’s co-star, came to them with the idea of making a parody of the I’m F***ing Matt Damon short, the guys knew that the joke was already in danger of getting overplayed. But Banks really wanted to do it, so they went ahead with it — and it got crazy hits.

Not only that, but after the video was released, the Weinstein Co. got tracking numbers (stats which rank people’s awareness of upcoming films) that put Zack and Miri at No. 2 — just behind The Dark Knight.

Of course, that was at least seven months before the film was released, and the webisodes being produced were not part of the core marketing campaign, which neither Knutson or Figueroa thought was particularly good. Which is why the thing that they seemed most excited about was encouraging indie filmmakers to make their own webisodes. The final message? “Go crazy.”