A suspenseful, fast-paced instrumental plays. Close ups of a microphone, a semi-circular table and Whitehorse’s city crest flash across the screen. The door opens, and the fire chief, city manager and mayor walk in… slowly, intently, stoically.
Around 24 seconds in, the music halts. It’s the climax. Mayor Dan Curtis says, “We’re fortunate enough to give your museum $15,000 for the spring rec grant.”
Northwestel’s latest commercial for city council meetings has gone viral. Posted on YouTube a week ago, the video has received 76,419 hits as of Monday morning.
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The team behind the video never anticipated it would explode on the Internet. “We were just trying to get eyeballs on the channel,” said David Hamelin, who shot and edited the video.
It was his boss, Northwestel’s community TV manager, Chris McNutt, who came up with the idea. Around two years ago, he thought of taking some of the city’s dry subject matter and turning it into “over-the-top exciting.”
The irony was definitely appreciated by all the eyeballs that have since landed on it, including the mayor. “I don’t think we take ourselves very seriously but looks it like we’re making decisions for the ‘free world,’” Curtis said, chuckling.
The National Post, Toronto Star, MSN, and Huffington Post published news pieces on the video sensation. Even the Chicago Sun Times and Washington Post picked it up, garnering the video international attention. “This is the best ad for a city council you’ll see today. Or maybe ever,” reads the Washington Post headline.
Andrew Coyne, a political columnist with the National Post, was probably one of the main instigators of the video’s viral success, said McNutt. He tweeted the trailer as promoting “the best 3 hrs on TV.”
The video seems like an ode to a legal drama TV series such as CSI. Its music rivals the sound track of the hit period fantasy Game of Thrones.
“I make my own short films so I’m a big cinephile. So when this idea of making a fake trailer came up, I knew exactly what to do,” said Hamelin.
To give the video an “epic feeling,” the 31-year old filmmaker knew he needed close-ups and slow motion. He filmed city council with his summer intern, Alex Chan.
It took only four hours to edit, Hamelin said. “Had I known it was going to be this really big thing, I would have put more effort into colour-correcting,” he said.
Everything just fell into place after he found the video’s sound track, Hamelin said. He bought the music for $17 on a royalty-free website, AudioJungle.net.
Hamelin studied film at Langara College in Vancouver and moved back to Whitehorse in the hopes of jumpstarting his career as a director.
He and co-filmmaker Neil Macdonald formed White Hole Productions, which specializes in “genre content” in 2003, according to their Vimeo site. One can find nine short films on the site that the aspiring filmmakers made, including music videos and short film noir mysteries.
With support from the Yukon Film and Sound commission, Hamelin and Macdonald hope to launch a feature-length version of their zombie film, Fragments.
Considering the pair’s most popular video has 500 hits, Hamelin giggles at the thought of the commercial for city council being their big break.
So what’s next? Hollywood? “Yes, that’s the dream.”
Contact Krystle Alarcon at firstname.lastname@example.org