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August 18 2005

(SPOILER) Viral marketing for "Serenity" underway? Originally seen on the official 'Versal board, it seems that the "marketing blitz" which Joss himself referred to the other day (saying it was about to get underway) has in fact begun. (Spoiler tag added for precautionary purposes. The clip you can play by following the headline-link is not itself from the film.)

This clip at iFilm begins with a splash screen stating this: "R. Tam, Session 416, Second Excerpt."

It's definitely a piece of viral marketing for the movie. It's also definitely morbid and creepifying.

If, as iFilm suggests, this really was originally found on a filesharing service, then it's time to fire up your filesharing clients and start digging for the other clips.

What.. the.. ****?
Wasn't there mention of some really cool viral marketing strategy for "Serenity" a while back? OK, now to watch the video...

ETA: Yep... pretty damn creepy.

[ edited by adam_tvs on 2005-08-18 05:55 ]
That will get the Internet talking. As if it wasn't already.
Viral marketing, eh. They must be Adherents of the Repeated Meme.
I never knew the correct term for this type of marketing, but I know I had seen it before (like the release of this video making the song's sales boost).

Pretty smart of Universal. I'm sure more is coming, fast.

And definitely creepy.
Holy crap, that was scary!
Ok, frikkin' uber creepy.
i agree creepy... I guess there's truth to the "I CAN KILL YOU WITH MY BRAIN" thing...
i agree creepy... I guess there's truth to the "I CAN KILL YOU WITH MY BRAIN" thing...

Don't assume. This is marked as "second excerpt" -- we don't know what led to this clip.

Edit: Except that we can see he's puling a pen from his neck.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2005-08-18 07:00 ]
Here's a direct link to the Quicktime file, 300k feed. It should be download/save-able:
http://download.ifilm.com/qt/portal/2677821_300.mov
SO MANY CHILLS!

That was PHENOMENAL and SO CONFUSING!

If anyone has any explanations, please, let them flow.

Man that was ... SO MANY CHILLS!
excellent find, theonetruebix! Not to be too "broken record" but yeah, that was very creepy; I immediately thought of the Hands of Blue guys and their sonic bloody death pen (or whatever that thing is ;-). By the way, check out the very first frame, the one with the text and background logo - does anyone else recognize that logo? It sure looks to me like **SPOILER**
gorramit, that is a most excellent catch. The design of the insignia in the clip almost definitely relates to what you say it relates to. Nicely done.
theonetruebix, holy cow, what a find! I literally grabbed the top of my head with both hands at the end and yelled to my partner, "Get in here - you've got to see this!" Boy, I sure didn't see this kind of marketing coming. What's next, a Blair Witch-type mockumentary on SciFi? (Oh, wait, this is 500+ years from now - never mind)

I couldn't make out what was said, though. Anyone?

(Oh, and ditto to the nicely done, gorramit!)
gorramit, that logo is nothing spoilerish. Some time last winter, rendered artwork for the movie was seen on artist Geoffrey Mandel's website (he took it down real quick after it had been noticed and reported on), some of it really spoilerish, some not. That logo was among the images. If that logo showed up at all in the film, no reference was made to it that I can remember. I'm pretty sure it's just the Alliance's crest (eagle for American, stars like on China's flag). And yeah, it would be on
Huh, Silent Hill much?
This kind of viral marketing existed long before Silent Hill.
The clip, not the concept behind it, screamed Silent Hill to me. I thought he was pulling his tongue out.
I thought he was pulling his tongue out.

At first, I thought it was a riff on River scaring Jayne by saying she could kill him with her brain. Then I finally saw the pen.
Pen? What does the pen mean?
Pen? What does the pen mean?

Watch the clip again very carefully.
He pulls it out of his neck. What does it mean?
He pulls it out of his neck. What does it mean?

Nothing other than River likely put it there.
I think the implication is that he was one of the Alliance scientists who (it may be assumed through what we learned in Firefly) examined and perhaps operated on River. For their sake, hopefully one of the more expendable ones. So I imagine he had a clipboard or pad of paper (can't remember if there's one in the shot, not gonna re-download it right now) and then the pen makes sense.

She put it in his neck. Was it an out of control brainwashed assassin thing, or more simply just River defending herself/lashing out ?
I love this. I can't wait for more clips.
Whoa, that was creepy! I love it. Summer Glau can be very scary, can't she? Wow.
I love this. I can't wait for more clips.

My suspicion, if the point is to provide more clips from the same session or similar sessions (the alternative is that this is a one-off, and other viral elements will be something else entirely), is that what we may need to start keeping an eye out/searching for is "First Excerpt".

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2005-08-18 09:27 ]
I have a theory already. Most viral marketing isn't just random, but amounts to a puzzle which when pieced together tells its own story.

So, my theory:

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2005-08-18 10:10 ]
What the hell was that?! I think I heard some kind of crack there in the middle. Was chilling to the bone. Wonder if there are more of these out there.
theonetruebix - I like your theory.
Ok I have a thought. We're talking about it (that's a given really). iFilms is talking about it. Is there any indication this piece of viral marketing is being talked about anywhere else? Or is it too early to tell?
Yep Simon, total Silent Hill; which is kool cause I love those games.
Now, I am wondering if that scientist looks a little familiar?? Was that a Joss cameo perhaps?

Edit to Add: We're talking about it in Australia.

[ edited by nixygirl on 2005-08-18 11:39 ]
I think she says, "I can see you." Jeez, it is creepy.
Okay. This rules.
She can see who? We're assuming it's us. She's leaning on glass or a mirror. Who's she talking to?

Although, fairly obviously this isn't mainstream advertising it is COOL.
Yup, morbid and creepifying.
I loved it. Been awhile since I've seen anything so spooky. It was very cool indeed.
That was incredible. I'm sending this round to all my non-Firefly watching contacts.
Yes, I thought she was saying "I can see you." to us, too. Did anyone notice this was creepy? :-)
Oh my God. I couldn't even get all the way through the clip. It's 8am on a beautiful morning, the sun is streaming through my windows, and I have seriously creeped-out chills.

It does strike me as odd that Universal would choose to go this route with Serenity's marketing, only because this is a scene that's so very outside the realm of anything that is actually in Serenity itself. I mean that in terms of content but also in terms of tone. Serenity has its' creepy moments, but believe you me I would not have been able to sit through the film were it this scary.

Since I didn't get through the whole clip, and I'm sure as hell not going to any time soon, anybody that wants to provide a detailed description gets a cookie.

Also, I'm not sure where else to put this so I'll mention it here: A friend of mine was at an advanced screening of "The 40-year-old Virgin" last night in New York City, and he said that the only trailer before the film was the newest version of the Serenity trailer. Nothing new to report, except that he told me he'd recognized "that captainy guy" and other members of the crew before they said what the movie was. He'd only seen one episode of Firefly, so it was nice to know that our BDHs are at least somewhat familiar to someone who'd casually noticed them before. It's also good to know the trailer is getting out there and getting noticed.
THAT... was beyond awesome!
I dunno that I *liked* it, but it certainly did get my attention, which would be the point.
There have now been 4,062 views. There is a tiny counter on the page. Cool. I saw a link to it at another site and posted it at two others. It will definitely get a response on one of those sites. Loads of new fans there. It's so cool to check out the online word in areas when I have time every week or so. It's being more and more talked about all over the place.

Yay Whedonesque! I've reached the upper edge of mid-level fandom! I'm now able to direct new fans to the links such as this one! The SciFi boards just got a burst of new life of the quality their BG boards gets, which are fun to read. I hope that "other board" mention here is ok since it's not a slam on other boards.
As implied by someone else, I immediately thought it was supposed to be a film of a "session" from when River was still at the institute with the "I see you" being directed at the observers behind the glass and/or camera.

I'm not sure I am crazy about going this way. It certainly does match the psycho-killer look of the original River/Mal poster. The problem is that is not the feel of the movie--at least for me. Did anyone else get this as a true vibe for Serenity?

Marketing on the basis of what you think is popular rather than what the movie actually is, is dangerous. You can end up with people who see it and then are unhappy because it was not what they expected and people who would have been interested, not going because of the type af movie it appeared to be. I've missed quite a few movies I later saw and liked because they marketed them as a different kind of movie than they were.

Of course I am not internet savvy. I am going to have to go back and try to figure out what was said earlier in the thread about where this was found, and what April's post meant. Maybe this more complex puzzle giving people pieces that are different from the actually movie but feed into the backstory works with people who look for this kind of stuff on the net, whereas they'll keep it more straight forward in the more conventional advertising.

(sigh, I can kill myself with my brain.)
If anyone has a page on myspace.com send it to your friends in the bulletin section--only don't act like you know what it is. act all like wtf? wow. soooooo cool. so cool. hope there are more.......

[ edited by nakedandarticulate on 2005-08-18 16:04 ]
Sorry if something I said was unclear. I basically just meant I posted the link (not a link to Whedonesque) at the SciFi boards because there is a lot of new interest in Firefly/Serenity there. Articulate interest! The new interst there is really upping the quality of their forums for the most part, a process which was wildly speeded up starting with interest in BG. As far as thanks to Whedonesque, my time here has resulted in mid-level internet savvy. Instead of just being directed to links now, I can shoot cool ones out to some fans who might not otherwise see them because they are new. I not only hear The Word anymore, I can preach it to masses elsewhere alongside other Browncoats. 'Tis all! :)

ETA: grammar

[ edited by April on 2005-08-18 16:07 ]
I'm still confused about the beginning. He sits there.. and sits.. and suddenly starts coughing, most likely thanks to that pen in his throat he then pulls out. But where does it come from all of a sudden? Nobody to the right that could be "putting" it there and if it was there from the beginning, why not reacting earlier? Also not putting it there himself. Well, maybe not the kind of video to start nitpicking and overanalyzing. But kind of fun to show around and ask people if they can guess what it is *fg*
Could River move things with her brain? Like a poltergeist? Just thinkin'. This clip...whatever it is...is certainly doing what it's meant to do! (If that's stirring up a buzz about the movie!)
I'm with newcj on this one in that I don't think it matches the feel of the movie.

I'll avoid passing the link on to my friends. When I picture those on my 'come and watch Serenity then have dinner at my place' list (which is quite a long list) I just think that in almost every case it would put them off.
If anyone has a page on myspace.com send it to your friends in the bulletin section--only don't act like you know what it is. act all like wtf? wow. soooooo cool. so cool. hope there are more.......


Yup, that's exactly how viral marketing is supposed to work. Just post the link somewhere, anywhere and try to post a direct link to the video ( http://download.ifilm.com/qt/portal/2677821_300.mov ) instead of the iFilm html page to get people guessing.

Maybe even mention the posibility that it could be real.

Then if no one gets it after a couple of days come forward that it's from Serenity and link up to the website and trailer.

I think it's a brilliant way to market a movie, only we fans have to make sure we don't privide all the answers too quickly to non-fans guessing and push the marketing to more people as they try to guess what it is.
The pen thing? I think River forced him to stick the pen in his own throat. And then made him sit there till it got too much for her to control him.
That was incredibly badass, IMO. Loved it, immediately thought Silent Hill as well, which is fantastic. If you want to avoid iFilm and show it to someone -- http://godmonkey.com/files/rtam_session416_2_300.mov.
Just over 1,000 views, some multiple I'm sure, in the last 2.5 hours.
The pen thing? I think River forced him to stick the pen in his own throat. And then made him sit there till it got too much for her to control him.

That would suggest that River isn't just psychic but exerts some sort of mind-control, which frankly is a new notion I'd rather they didn't suddenly insert into things. It's far more likely, and more consistent, that River jammed it into his neck herself.

As for why he just sits there. I imagine (other than it was required for the clip to be properly creepifying) that it's some sort of system shock over having a pen jammed into his throat.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2005-08-18 18:13 ]
April, sorry. I wasn't criticizing your post, it's fine, I'm sure. I was admitting my own lack of understanding of how anything but the surface of the internet works. (What does BG stand for? I know I'm going to go "duh" as soon as you tell me, < whine >but I've got a lot on my mind < /whine >) For instance, I really have no idea what this means,

"If, as iFilm suggests, this really was originally found on a filesharing service, then it's time to fire up your filesharing clients and start digging for the other clips."

but I figure if my brain doesn't turn to mush permanently today while I'm at work I can figure it out...eventually. Course if anyone wants to throw me a clue, I wouldn't say no.
Well, River had blood on her hands, so we might assume she shoved it into his throat. Or maybe it's metaphorical 'blood on her hands'. Cuz Joss does love Madam Metaphor.

But no, I think it's literal blood...
newcj, often in viral ad campaigns such as this one, something about any given "ad" suggests things to keep an eye out for, or to search for, in order to find another parrt of the campaign (which could be another clip, or a website, who knows). For example, in this clip, we first see prominent use of the words "Session 416" and "Second Excerpt" -- the question for people like us here is, "Do these mean something? Should we be searching for, say, "First Session" or is it just nonsense that's not meant to lead us anywhere?"

That hunt for other pieces may happen just via searching Google, or there could be other files on fire-sharing networks such as LimeWire, or distributed sharing systems such as BitTorrent.

At this stage, we have no idea whether this particular campaign will be small and unobtrusive -- meaning they will just feed us interesting clips like this from time to time -- or if there's a larger campaign underway where we're supposed to be hunting out new pieces ourselves.
Didn't do much for me. After too many seasons of The X-Files and too many links like this one*, I've become sadly desensitized to that sort of thing. But hey, if it drums up excitement about the movie, great!

*Not for the weak-hearted.
Guess it's time to start keeping an eye on BlueSun.org again....
Guess it's time to start keeping an eye on BlueSun.org again....

Hah. I had the same thought, about whether or not they would tap the owner of that site to participate.
OK, I said it before...and I'l say it again.

Who else thinks THAT is Joss??
Zuckerbaby mentioned it on another site, and I had previously mentioned it here.
Question, since viral marketing often is supposed to make you paranoid and question everything.

A link to this clip was posted to a Summer fansite, with the explanation that a "Paul Probo" had tipped them to it.

So the question: Is "Paul Probo" a real person? Or has the fansite been recruited as part of the viral campaign, and "Paul Probo" is a name we're supposed to be looking into?
Hmm, is 'Paul Probo' an anagram for something??

U poor blap???
Blau(rhymes with Glau, eh??) propo?
Bop or u lap?
Boop ur pal?

OMG, what does it all mean?!?!
Want more mystery? I've been told this film has NOT come from any official paths, and they don't know where it has come from.
Want more mystery? I've been told this film has NOT come from any official paths, and they don't know where it has come from.

Of course, they can lie. ;)
Want more mystery? I've been told this film has NOT come from any official paths, and they don't know where it has come from.

Well, isn't that all part of the marketing gimmick? Does anyone actually believe for a second this wasn't put out deliberately by Universal?
Hee.

Obviously, there is the aspect that viral marketing has mystery as a critical part of it. Ultimately I can't say much about it, but let's just say its surprised a few people.
Okay, I got up the nerve to rewatch it, and I'd have to agree, nixygirl. That looks like Joss to me, too.

gossi, is there any way you can say just a little bit more on the fact that this ad "surprised" people? Pretty please? :)
Hmm, well, I've uploaded it to f.. WHACK! REMEMBER THE FIRST RULE!
Sorry newcj. BG is Battlestar Galactica. Lots of BG fans are now Firefly fans and vice versa.

As for the video, no one knows where it came from? Hmmm. Maybe if that's true, we'll hear from the man himself.
Someone over at the Serenity boards made a good point - that Summer is a member of SAG (I assume this is correct, though I don't know for sure - but it only makes sense) and thus is bound by law to only do Union work. (I know with stage actors there are ways to "donate" a performance, or something, but I'm not familiar with screen stuff.) In that case, it means this better be something official or she could get in trouble.

Also, I've heard the "Oh it looks like Joss!" thing from a lot of people and I really don't see it, but I do think it could be Chris Buchanan. Who, I'm pretty sure, is NOT an actor of any sort.
Um. That was a little too gruesome for my tastes.
A poster elsewhere seemed to think it could be a reference to "Session 9" which sounds like a very cool horror flick in which some tapes are discovered in an abandonded mental ward. I hope I got that right because I haven't seen it.

And as much as I think He can do no wrong, I don't think it has Joss written all over it. He could do something like this but it doesn't remind me of anything in his previous works. The actions maybe but not the style.
So here is my total ignorance on display. I have used bittorrent (painfully) and I have used links that took me to Live Journals and I post on the Whedonesque Flicker site, but I do not conceptually get the way these things are constructed and used. I just know that they are part of a "network" but don't understand how to use them as networks. Later I'll follow some of the links supplied to try to fill in some of the pieces.

Thanks, April. I thought of Battlestar Galactica but I thought people were using BSG for that one so I figured it was something else.

Oh, and yes, Summer Glau would definitely be a member of SAG and SAG does take a dim view of not getting paid under a union contract to make a produced film that is used to market a major motion picture (or for any other purpose.) However, there are loop holes for all sorts of things. Mostly you just need to get union approval to do things that are outside the norm. Of course if this is all part of the Serenity marketing it is a moot point because it would be covered by her contract.
I really think it's Joss. It even sounds like him, and just the shape looks like him. I was wondering where his cameo was, I guess this could be it.
Ok, ew.

But hey, if it gets butts in seats...not really wanting to speak any badness here.
This is pretty clearly a fan film. It's certainly not from the film, and has pretty low production values. Also, that's clearly not Summer Glau at the end. Plus, there's no way for anyone who's seen it to know that it relates to Serenity unless they're already really familiar with Firefly. I'm not trying to disparage amateur fimmaking here, but that's clearly what this is.
This is pretty clearly a fan film. It's certainly not from the film, and has pretty low production values. Also, that's clearly not Summer Glau at the end. Plus, there's no way for anyone who's seen it to know that it relates to Serenity unless they're already really familiar with Firefly. I'm not trying to disparage amateur fimmaking here, but that's clearly what this is.

First, appparent production values on viral marketing often (not always, but often) is at this level, precisely because the "is this real?" or "is this official?" is part of what generates buzz and discussion -- without which viral marketing fails.

Second, there are more people so far who say "that IS clearly Summer at the end" than say that it is not, so that argument isn't an argument in either direction, but simply people's perceptions (on both ends).

Third, the notion that it's not clear what it is to the non-fan also is irrelevant, because part of what generates buzz around viral marketing is the "what is this?" question. If this is a viral campaign, the first piece would never overtly tell people what it was.
If this is a viral campaign, the first piece would never overtly tell people what it was.

Well, it is a piece of "viral marketing" no matter who made it, since it's getting people talking about Serenity. After all, the majority of promotion I've seen Serenity get so far has been from fans who are in love with the movie, or at least greatly anticipating it. I'd be very surprised if this turned out to be any different.
I can't tell you what I think of this. Too late to the party as is my habit. "I'll have to write it down..."

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