Relentless, Justin Smith’s film about our student formula racing team, marks a major change in how we do online storytelling. We’ll be releasing the film on the web this Saturday, and hundreds of race fans and other teams are already queued up to see it as soon as it launches.
It’s a strong, compelling piece that has already earned both a commercial award at CASE (our higher ed industry PR/marketing professional organization) and an artistic award at the Reel Wheel International Film Festival in Knoxville, Iowa. Like our formula team, the film is two for two in competition. And it straddles the line between marketing content and pure entertainment.
We’re pursuing deeper storytelling for several reasons. First, we have a talented filmmaker on staff. But also, times have changed. You can’t load marketing content onto your YouTube channel and hope that people will choose to watch it. Your feature content needs to stand on its own and provide either entertainment or educational value in the opt-in environment of the Web. We need to find new ways to tell stories.
We probably could have created dozens or even hundreds of short YouTube videos in the time it took to make Relentless. But we’re betting that we’ll make deeper connections with the results of this project because it’s a great story told in a compelling fashion.
I feel there’s a strong case for investing in this type of feature documentary content. Universities and even corporations are filled with great stories. And a well made film can be used in a number of ways beyond Web streaming. We’ve created nice packaging for this film and used it as giveaways for our engineering alums who come back to campus to receive awards. We’ve held three events, two on campus and one at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, where there was a sizable crowd of family, friends, prospective students and race and auto fans. There was even a troop of Boy Scouts in attendance, and we hope a future engineer or two in the group. These events were bolstered by a display of the car and a Q&A with the team after the film’s screening.
Beyond events and online streaming, we’ll also be sending copies of the film to high school robotics clubs. We’ll be screening it for recruits, staff and alums in the future. A film project like this is a powerful format, and I think it’ll have a future in the work we do as communicators.