Any time you work on a brand-new event with a client, there’s always the possibility that — even with a great concept and a clever hook, after everyone’s hard work, late nights, inspired ideas, creativity, sharp copy, media hooks, great pitches, relentless social media outreach, promises from everyone to cover the event, smart media buys, great sponsors, high-profile partners, and every other factor you can imagine — you’ll have a half-full venue. There are so many intangibles you can’t control; then add in that it’s summer, in Florida, during hurricane season, when it usually rains every afternoon from 4:00pm until 7:00pm, it’s hot and humid and hair gets frizzy, people are away on last-minute vacations before school starts and/or work gets back to a more normal schedule, and did we mention it’s summer? And that no one knows what a “swede” is?
Yet none of that seemed to matter last Friday night when the inaugural SWEDE FEST™PALM BEACH launched to a sold out crowd of over 500 attendees on Mainstreet at Midtown.From the red carpet in front of The Borland Center for Performing Arts through the final credits, this was high-energy entertainment for everyone involved, with “swedes” submitted by amateur filmmakers ages 10 to 60.
First, the BG. A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – swedes, because it sounded really sophisticated. No, you probably didn’t see it — it’s not exactly a classic, but neither is it comedy kryptonite. If you did see it, it was probably late at night on Skinemax. We mean Cinemax.
Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them in another homage: to the indie film festival – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars.
And that is the somewhat long and winding road that leads to swede fest™ palm beach, the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, “the Palm Beaches” but really, Palm Beach Gardens, where our client is located. We suggested it was important to secure the trademark in such a way to lock up the event in the area and own it; anyone who wished to come afterward and imitate it would not be able to just tack on another word and piggyback on all our client’s financial investment and hard work. Sad, but a fact in the world of marketing and events.
Our job was to come up with the logo, tagline, all of the graphics necessary for social media, create a WordPress-based website for swede fest™ palm beach, write all the content for it, produce two 15-second promo commercials to be show in the local Cobb movie theaters (one promoting the call for entries and the other promoting the festival itself), and work closely with Belle Forino, our client Midtown’s Marketing Coordinator, to manage the social media while she approached local schools, the Palm Beach International Film Festival, the entertainment community, the Palm Beach County Film Commission, and Digital Domain (who became a major sponsor along with its Digital Domain Institute) to drum up support for a grassroots amateur film festival in which short, DIY versions of big-budget feature films are reproduced as cheaply as possible, using family and friends as cast; bedrooms, backyards, and local parks as sets; and toys, pets, and found objects as props.
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Bringing a swede fest™ to the area was Belle’s idea after hearing a story on NPR. She contacted the Fresno-based originators, and we were on our way with their blessing and the trademark.
Next came the design of the swede fest™ palm beach logo, and the creation of our tagline “A celebration of bad movie by good people,” which has been variously attributed to other people and festivals, but was created by Alchemy for Midtown. Swede fest™ tampa bay liked it so much they asked to use it, and in the best swedeing spirit, Belle said, “Of course.” Swede fests aren’t about competition; they’re about the love of movies, a fondness for a good time, and how sometimes bad can be so very good.
Once we settled on a basic logo design, we needed a variety of iterations: a “call for entries” version, a general all-purpose version, a variety of sizes to accommodate Facebook, Twitter, various electronic media buys, the creation of a masthead for the swedefestpalmbeach.com website, and versions in two complementary color schemes in various resolutions for print, web, and other uses.
We decided the fastest and easiest way to create a web presence for the festival was to build a WordPress-based site hosted on the MidtownPGA.com servers, availing ourselves of the handy array of templates and widgets that would eliminate the hours of programming necessary to create a site from scratch or add everything we envisioned it needing to the existing Midtown website. The site could then be constantly modified, added to, and manipulated by Alchemy rather than adding to the already heavy maintenance schedule of Midtown’s webmaster.
The date for the festival, the opening of the entry submissions and the deadline for those entries, and other milestones were scheduled in early March. However, everyone was so focused on educating people about swede fests, getting them excited about creating films and entering them, creating all of these ad/promo/social media elements, getting the local media interested in the event, securing an emcee, and all the thousand other details that ONE LITTLE THING escaped us that had a tremendous impact: the announcement that the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London would be on Friday, August 27th. Yes, the same day we’d scheduled swede fest™ palm beach.
Rather than see this as a PR disaster, once we knew we could roll the date back one week and still have our venue, we recommended that we make a big joke out of the situation rather than engage in any hand-wringing (we did enough of that internally). So we put out a media alert that said:
We’ve tried to ignore it, but it’s time we addressed what you all have been thinking: yes it’s true, the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympic Games is ON THE SAME NIGHT AS SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH.
You can’t fight the power. So we’re taking the high road. We’re willing to step aside and let the U.S. Olympic athletes, and the rest of those competing, have that special night without us siphoning off their audience. We’re moving SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH back a week to FRIDAY, AUGUST 3. Same time, same place. Because there’s no way they can pull off such a sweet move.
Since we’re moving our renegade amateur film festival back a week, we’re going to give our sweders another week, too. THE DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES ROLLS BACK TO FRIDAY, JULY 20. Everyone wins.
Put it on your calendars now. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH deadline for entries is Friday, July 20. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH is Friday, August 3. Screenings begin at 7:00PM at The Borland Center for Performing Arts. Take that, London.
And created a graphic that we emailed to the database and posted to all our social media that was essentially a gigantic mea culpa. It worked.
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And in spite of the fact that this did create a few glitches (the need to find new emcees — The Jove Comedy Experience stepped in and were just amazing; the fact that so many community calendars had already run the original date and it was too late to get most of them to run the new date; and a few other little things), the client was thrilled with the media coverage, the event turnout, how many new visitors of all ages were on Mainstreet at Midtown that night, how many great people volunteered “in kind” sponsorships to be involved (edited to mention that Hollywood Cupcake makes Kelly’s heart sing for joy and her cupcakes are little sugar bombs of happiness and rainbows and angels singing. Was that too much?)
In fact, we think you can consider a first-time event a success when the client tells you at said event the date she’s chosen for next year’s event.
swede fest™ palm beach will be on Friday, August 2, 2013 for those of you who want to start planning what film to swede now and whether you’ll be raiding Goodwill’s toy department for your cast, your pets will play supporting roles, or whether you’ve always secretly wanted to wear a superhero costume and/or play Wolverine. You know you want it.
Yep. we’re going to go out on a limb and say that not only do people now know what a swede is, we’ll easily double the almost 40 entries in swede fest™ palm beach 2012 with an embarrassment of riches — in this case, a plethora of swedes — in 2013. This is what special event are supposed to do for your client, and this little renegade, amateur film festival really delivered.