Viral Video Lipdub Lessons, Director Shawn Slavin Interview

Welcome Shawn – it's great to have a chance to sit down with you a year after the release of UVic Lipdub Canadian Video!

Thanks, it is great to reminisce about this experience as well. My name is Shawn Slavin and I am a recent graduate of the University of Victoria. In the summer of last year, I took on one of the largest online marketing projects that Victoria has ever seen, through the creation of a Lipdub video. I was in charge of coordinating, directing and producing the project, in collaboration with more than one dozen local businesses, 100 volunteers, and 1000 participants.

What is a ‘lipdub' video? Where did the idea for this ‘lipdub' originate?
SHAWN SLAVIN: A lipdub video isn’t just a video, but rather it is an experience. In simple terms, a lipdub video is a short movie in which individuals lipsync the words to a song, and the audio is dubbed in afterward. In addition to that, the video is an attempt to convey a sense of excitement, happiness and enthusiasm. The first notable lipdub was done by Vimeo co-founder, Jake Lodwick, and over the last couple of years, it has been a running trend through the Internet. There are now thousands of Lipdubs on YouTube, with maybe a couple hundred of them being a large scale production like ours was. Most of the lipdubs are being done by colleges and universities, and some businesses are taking part as well. The lipdub phenomenon is just taking off in North America, whereas in Europe, it has been going strong for a couple of years. Surprisingly however, the most viewed lipdub video online was done by UQAM, a university in Montreal, to the Black Eyed Peas song ‘I’ve Got a Feeling.’

When was your “I got a feeling” moment when got caught by the Lipdub bug and decided to jump-start one yourself?
SHAWN SLAVIN: Another one of the most popular lipdub videos was done by a university in Catalonia (Spain) called the Universitat de Vic. Like our university, the shortened version of their school’s name is also UVic (though spelled Uvic). After their video was posted online, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton picked it up and mistakenly attributed their video to our UVic. To be honest, when I was first watching their video, I was trying to rack my brain around figuring out where on our campus they were filming. After a little bit though, I realized that it wasn’t my university that had shot that video, but rather a different one. Being that many people thought that we had done this video, I thought that it would be more than fitting for us to actually do one.

People are often shy when it comes to the camera – even creating a simple webcam video can seem like a burden! How did you know it would work? During preparation, what gave you the confidence to go ahead and run with it?
SHAWN SLAVIN: To be honest, I wasn’t certain it was going to work, but I had to pretend like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t have any filming experience, but I worked with a very talented production company called Aclara Promotions who was constantly asking about things that I wouldn’t have even considered. The first step that I took in this process was to create a Facebook group to see if there was any interest – this entire project is social media based and this was an ideal tool to gauge opinion, support and ideas for an idea of this magnitude. After only a few days, more than 500 people from UVic had joined the group, interested in knowing more and getting involved in some fashion. I had a gut feeling from the get-go that if there is so much momentum with only a Facebook group, it would only get better from here. At the beginning, I didn’t anticipate how much work it would be, let alone that I would be the one coordinating it. I am not a film student, let alone a drama student – my degree in Chemistry was not going to be of any use here.

What was the shoot-day like?
SHAWN SLAVIN: The shoot day was exciting but stressful. The goal of the project was to do something fun on campus, that brought different people together that wouldn’t have otherwise gotten together to do something. Going into it, I wanted to have all of the stress on me so that everyone else could enjoy the day without any worries. I can’t say for certain if that was the case, but surprisingly my stress level was lower than I expected…overall. There were a few instances where things didn’t go as planned which made it that much more unnerving, but it was expected. When we finished filming the first shot, I was standing on the roof of the library watching 1000 people below dance in almost perfect unison, and the energy and excitement of something like that is fascinating. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to see your vision take physical form, in a way that is better than you could have ever imagined.

Uvic Lipdub 2010 Victoria Video:

What was the reaction like upon release?
SHAWN SLAVIN: Most people were really excited about the video, but as with any art project, people have criticism. For the first couple of days it was a little difficult to take some of the critique and criticism of a project that I had worked tirelessly on for a few months, but after stepping back and realizing what our goal was in doing this, I knew we had accomplished what we set out to do. To be honest, I felt like the project had concluded on September 25th when we had filmed the video – our goal was accomplished and I would have been happy to never see the video that we had produced. In retrospect, I am glad that the video portion was completed…it is a great keepsake, though I believe the memories from that day are even better.

What made ‘it' Viral? Choosing one element, what was ‘it' that made the video viral?
SHAWN SLAVIN: It is hard to choose one element that made the video viral because there is no definitive definition of what makes something viral or not. I got a call early on the morning that the video was launched from someone who was showing it to a crowd of 25,000 people in the US…that was when the feeling started to sink in about how big this video may go. When the video was released one year ago, I pledged that for the first 24 hours I wouldn’t check the view count on YouTube to see how many times people had watched the video. When I checked the view count after 24 hours, I was floored to see that almost 30,000 unique computers had watched the lipdub video. In my eyes, it was at that point that I knew the video was viral.

What's something you learned that surprised you about creating a video of this scope? Or, if you were doing this exact video again, what would you do differently?
SHAWN SLAVIN: The only major thing that I would do differently is to accept that help that people want to give you. When a project consumes your life for such a huge amount of time, it becomes your baby and you want to do whatever you can. Be assured that for a project like this, there are likely lots of other people who are just as passionate and interested in doing this and will dedicate as much of their lives to it as you do.

In your opinion, what is a common misstep you see many organizations trying to create viral video making that could easily be corrected?
SHAWN SLAVIN: Don’t overplan. The approach that we took to the video, and it is something that I have stressed to a dozen other groups that have created phenomenal lipdub videos over the past year. You can’t anticipate everything, and you don’t want to. With something like this, you can only plan and facilitate the framework, every individual who comes to participate will bring the content. Let things happen as they happen…at the end of the day, re-examine what your goals are because you aren’t in it to make a viral video, but rather to do something fun and exciting.

Any advice on creating a viral video?
SHAWN SLAVIN: Enjoy it. Try not to stress over it. You are creating a video that hopefully people will smile while they watch it – smile while you create it. From a logistical standpoint, Facebook is your best friend; you can’t organize and communicate so easily with that many people without the advent of social media.

Thank you! Anything parting words you'd like to leave us with? Any particular Lipdub favourites we must watch?
SHAWN SLAVIN: After you watch our lipdub video, watch and read the Viral Video UBC Lipdub! Andrew Cohen Interview! They started their process after seeing our video, and that is the true essence of a lipdub…inspiring other people to do something different.

Read More:
Twitter: @uviclipdub
UVic Lipdub:

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Reel Designer is an online resource magazine showcasing expert-lead best practices, interviews and original articles on product strategy, video production and marketing, and, user experience design.

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