IDEA: A man wakes up as a different person every morning—and one day, against his better judgment, he falls in love. It's an intriguing premise—not quite right for Hollywood, perhaps, where movies need one or two unchanging stars, but perfect for social media, where involving as many people as possible is the whole point.
Intel and Toshiba are doing just that with The Beauty Inside, an episodic social film starring Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and dozens of ordinary fans who auditioned via webcam to help portray the main character, Alex.
The agency, Pereira & O'Dell, which made last year's interactive suspense film The Inside Experience for the same two clients (thematically, both movies play off the classic "Intel Inside" positioning), saw great promise in a love story this time—particularly one about the fluid nature of identity, told through social media and in some ways a metaphor for social media.
"Young adults have their online persona, and it can be very different from their real personality. So it felt timely," said chief creative officer P.J. Pereira.
It also felt fresh for the space—branded content is still dominated by thrillers and juvenile comedy—and a great fit for Facebook, which, at its best, is its own giant compendium of love. "It's an absolutely romantic story," said Pereira. "I think that's why people are so psyched about it."
COPYWRITING: The agency had the core idea for the plot a year ago, then wrote a treatment this year—almost an episode guide—and gave it to directors. Drake Doremus, whose film Like Crazy won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year, was chosen to direct. He wrote the final script with his team.
There are six episodes in all, featuring Alex, who then meets Leah (Winstead), the girl of his dreams. Grace narrates the film as Alex's inner voice. Visually, Alex is played by different actors in each episode—and by fans in webcam recordings, scattered throughout, that are presented as Alex's video diaries to himself. That inclusive social component is nice, said Pereira, but secondary.
"The plot and the character and the struggle is what they gravitate toward," he said, "and that's very rewarding for us."
ART DIRECTION: Visually, the film has a muted glow to it. "We wanted to portray love and the mellow aspect of that—to make it feel soft, more than anything," said Pereira. "It's very low contrast, and the people really shine, more than anything around them."
The biggest challenge was how to identify Alex in each scene, but the agency found a subtle, product-friendly solution—he's always the one with the Toshiba laptop. "But no, he never looks at the computer and says, 'Ultrabook, I love you so much!' " Pereira said.
FILMING: The film was shot in a week in Los Angeles and edited to leave gaps for the fan clips, which are being woven into episodes week by week.
TALENT: Doremus got Grace and Winstead involved. "They immediately liked it, and said they'd do it," said Pereira. "They really got into the characters and wanted to make them feel real." The amateur talent, too, was clearly thrilled. "It lets everyone feel like the movie is a little bit theirs," Pereira added.
SOUND: Lots of music is layered into the film, like a feature. "We wanted to enhance the scenes without stealing and hijacking them," said Pereira. Sound design is minimal.
MEDIA: The episodes are uploaded to YouTube and then embedded on Facebook, which offers the core experience, including fan photos and videos that didn't make it into the movie. The agency did some viral seeding and has run pre-roll ads.
THE CASE STUDY:
Johan Jervoe, VP, Sales and Marketing Group; Director, Partner Marketing
Ryan Baker, OEM Partner, Marketing Manager
Billie Goldman, Co-Marketing Manager, Partner Marketing
Arturo Litvin, Regional Market Development Manager
Client: Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc.
Carl Pinto, VP of Marketing
Ron Smith, VP of Content
Tom Hume, Director of Communications
Michele Nguyen-Gueron, Advertising Manager
Lead Agency: Pereira & O'Dell, San Francisco
PJ Pereira, Chief Creative Officer
Jaime Robinson, Executive Creative Director
Jason Apaliski, Creative Director
Neil Ramanan, Copywriter
Chaz Whitworth, Art Director
Jeff Ferro, Executive Agency Producer
Elisa Moore, Broadcast Producer
Erin Davis , Sr. Interactive Producer
Gary Theut, Client Services Director
Henry Arlander, Management Supervisor
Lisl Schilperoort – Account Executive
Nick Chapman, Director of Strategy
Justin Cox, Strategy Director
Josh Brandau, Director of Media Strategy
Dan Beer, Media Supervisor
Liz Bell, Media Strategist
Pete Fishman, Media Strategist
Angela Eddleman, Business Affairs Manager
Corey Lenhart, Production Intern/Fan Consultant
Production Company: B-Reel Films
Film Director: Drake Doremus
Film Editor: Annette Davey
Trailer Editor: Tyler Higgins
Editorial Company: Lost Planet Editorial
Visual FX/Online: Ntropic
Music: Dustin O'Halloran
Sound Designer: Robert Feist at Ravenswork