Viral Hitmakers Team With Indie Doc About…Grocery Baggers?

Last fall, I interviewed Pixar CTO/indie film producer Oren Jacob for a GigaOm Pro piece about using online data in the offline world. At the time, Jacob was considering the idea of putting his latest project, the Spellbound-esque documentary Ready Set Bag!, online in full for free, as a means of figuring out how to target audiences who might subsequently go to theaters to see the film again.

Since then, though, Jacob and his team have revised their strategy considerably, and today, at the Tweet House SXSW event, Jacob announced the launching of a new Blip channel for the purpose of spreading the word about Ready Set Bag!, enlisting an eclectic yet well-known team to create content about the film, including Auto-Tune the News creators the Gregory Brothers, mash-up artist Mike Relm, animation studio Jib-Jab and Pop17 founder Sarah Austin.

Ready Set Bag! tracks a large ensemble cast of grocery baggers training to win the title of Best Bagger in America at a national competition held every year in Vegas. Jacob is currently in process of negotiating a deal with a to-be-named distribution company and is aiming for a summertime release in 35-40 cities (to date, the movie played at film festivals and individual theaters, mostly in northern California).

Because the film was a documentary, there’s hours of footage directors Alex D. da Silva and Justine Jacob had to leave on the cutting room floor — and it’s that, plus the existing film, which will be made available to the Gregory Brothers, Relm, Austin and anyone else who wants to get involved with the channel, which launched today with the film’s trailer.

Each will experiment with the existing content in their own way — for example, JibJab will use animation techniques similar to their other photo-based series to introduce audiences to the film’s cast of intrepid grocery baggers. (If you need help guessing what the guys behind Auto-Tune the News might do, then I feel sorry for you.) In addition, excised storylines and deeper character pieces will be uploaded as well, giving audiences a broader look at the world of the film.

In order to get his starting line-up of channel contributors, Jacob relied on both old-school and new media networking, which included approaching Michael Gregory in the men’s room after seeing him speak at NewTeeVee Live last November. But with the channel’s launch, anyone will be allowed to submit ideas for their own remixes, spoofs or other contributions directly to Jacob, who called it “a wide-open casting call” when we spoke via phone. [UPDATE: If you’re interested in submitting an idea, send them an email at [email protected]]

Those involved committed for a number of reasons, ranging from altruistic — all ad revenue from the online content will be donated to food banks around the country — to more nerdy — Jacob showed them the film, and they liked it. Having been provided with a DVD of the film as well, I get why so many have gotten on board. Ready Set Bag! is an extremely kind, human story, and you also learn a lot about the challenges of grocery bagging — which might not seem super-exciting to you, but that’s just because you’ve never seen it done right. The challenge for a film like this is, of course, getting seen, but Ready Set Bag! might just be able to bring the eyeballs in.

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