Posted by: Burth Helm on October 27, 2008
This morning when I blogged about the “Wassup 2008” Obama video, two questions sprung to my mind. First, who paid for this thing? The production values are very high – one person from Budweiser’s ad agency, DDB, estimated it could have cost as much as $750,000 (she also said DDB had nothing to do with the video). Second, how could Budweiser possibly be cool with such a clearly partisan advertisement?
After some digging, I found out. First, it cost way less than $750k. Second, Budweiser had no clue it was happening until after the video hit YouTube on Friday.
The man with the answers? Charles Stone III, the director of the original “Wassup” commercial and the movie Drumline (and the guy who answers the phone in the first frame of the video). He decided to make it about two weeks ago, he told me, with a crew of about 50 volunteers (all professionals working pro bono). They put it together in 9 days.
It was all possible, Stone says, because Budweiser never owned the rights to the idea. He’d originally made it as a short film independent of the brand, and Budweiser had only leased the rights, paying a mere $37,000 for five years of use. Back then, people gave him a hard time about the low price. Now Stone, a diehard Obama supporter, says it’s more than paid off. “That I’m able to use an idea distributed by a huge company, who made a lot of money off it, so that now when I put out what I want to say, it’s recognizable, and it sparks -- that’s worth $1 million to me.”
It came together after emailing with friends about ways they could make a video supporting Obama. Once they’d settled on the concept, he got on the phone with the original cast (all friends of his, who are now actors living in New York, Philadelphia, and LA), and called up his Director of Photography from Drumline, Shane Hurlbut, who brought in his crew. He also signed up Gerard Cantor and Maurice Marible, from commercial production house Believe Media, who co-produced. They shot over two days. The war-torn Iraq setting is actually a preexisting set in Santa Clarita, CA.
After they finished, they uploaded it to YouTube with distribution company 60Frames, set up a website, wassup08.com, and sent links to everyone they knew. As of writing this, it’s been viewed almost 1.8 million times, and picked up across the blogosphere, including on BoingBoing, Daily Kos, and Huffington Post. The final price tag? About $6500 out of his own pocket, Stone says.