Like Coca-Cola has done in the past, General Mills is sponsoring 21st Annual Independent Spirit Awards. More specifically, they are targeting the mutual affection of popcorn and the movies by showing short films made by aspiring independent filmmakers that center on popcorn, in particular General Mills' Pop Secret. I remember the Coke spots, primarily because they used to play before every film I went to see. They were clever the first one or two times, but quickly wore out their welcome because I saw them so many times. This is the first I have heard of an online screening room.
I took a spin over to the official website, WhatsYourPopSecret, to see what exactly was going on. What I found was a pretty nice site, with some fun little films at its heart. Upon arriving at the site, I was treated to brief animation that takes you into a cinema lobby, the "posters" on the side walls were links, some for fun, some for information. First up was a link to resources about independent filmmaking, which contained links to IFC, indieWIRE, the IMDB, and Netflix, each spotlighting independent films. Next up was a "?" that, when clicked, cycles through a trio of little animations related to a couple of the movies found inside. On the right wall was a link called "Indie Trivia" which takes you to a trivia game with 10 questions upon which your answering is timed, at the end, you calculated score is compared with others who have taken the quiz. The questions are updated daily, which is nice, giving you more chances to come out on top. Finally, there is a link for the Independent Spirit Awards, which leas you to the nominees and articles written on the films. To be honest, I did not go there for those links, I went to take a look at the films, of which there are six.
- Secret Stash from director Brett Simon, a teacher of film history and director of music videos for such artists as Hoobastank, Good Charlotte, and Sum 41. The short is an interview formatted piece with the subject talking about surviving the end of the world, while leading us into his bomb shelter. A shelter which is well stocked with, you guessed it, Pop Secret popcorn. This was pretty funny, but it is a success mainly because the star looks like such a quirky character. ***
- Mousey from director Evan Petty who has had a long career in advertising; this is his second short. Watch a man act out a cheese fetish involving a bag of Pop Secret, a mouse costume, and a big mouse trap. This was actually funnier the second time I saw it, and even better is the director's cut, which is also available for viewing. ***.5
- Girlfriend by Brett Simon. Recycling in the hands of a deranged man can be very creepy indeed. Instead of throwing out your used popcorn bags, think of the companions you could make for yourself. Watch as our subject introduces us to his baggy girl. This one was OK. Also included are a few production stills and behind-the-scenes footage. **.5
- Tail by Erik Moe, a writer and director who has worked on projects for NBC and Comedy Central, while also winning an award at Sundance for a feature he wrote and directed. This short takes us right into the movie theater, and a new way to try and get outside food into your favorite screenings. This one was clever, but not spectacular. ***
- Alpine by Molly & Mariah, a duo who have made a few shorts using a variety of animation techniques, as well as directing music videos, most recently with Sleater Kinney. This short didn't really do much for me, cutout characters fighting over a bag of popcorn with annoying voices. This was more grating than anything else. *
- Jacket by Brett Simon, the third entry from this filmmaker. Now that I realize that the same director was behind three of these shorts, and each feature the same lead actor, I am sensing a pattern. These are the chronicles of true popcorn addict, from stocking his bomb shelter, to crafting a girlfriend, to know, a jacket covered in Pop Secret bags. He calls it his "comfort jacket." I like this, and I like this strange character that has been created. There is also some behind-the-scenes footage to view. ***
I think the thing that bugs me most about these shorts, and the Coke ones before them, is the blatant imposition of commercial marketing in these independent short films. Corporate sponsorship would seem to be the opposite of the independent spirit. Still, I am glad to see up and comers putting their creative mark on what amounts to a popcorn commercial. These guys are being given a shot, and who am I to deny that? I wish the filmmakers the best, and it will be interesting to see what they will be able to accomplish in the future.