I’m really liking this viral campaign for the upcoming series on FX, “American Horror Story,” which is created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Galchuk of Nip/Tuck and Glee Fame.
I know what you’re thinking: Wait, the guys from Glee are doing an edgy, creepy horror genre show? Can the guys from Glee actually SCARE us?
Which leads to this question, especially if you’re a writer…
What’s the story?
I want to know, too. And guess what?
They’re not telling us.
Which is frustrating, but great! How refreshing, in this media-intensive world of ours where every detail of a new show or film is leaked weeks or even months ahead of the release date, that we haven’t even seen a clip with actual footage of the show (assuming these viral clips are just promotional, not from the show). It’s exciting to know there’s a secret out there that the network is able to keep from the spoiler-riffic Internets and it’s great to see them focusing on the story as the most important aspect of the project.
In fact, they’re challenging us to guess the story, with a campaign entitled What is American Horror Story’s Story? They’re releasing short clips with creepy imagery that are definitely hinting at a pregnancy gone wrong and not hinting about a guy in head to toe black vinyl…
Okay, they are giving us a tiny logline: American Horror Story revolves around The Harmons, a family of three who move from Boston to Los Angeles as a means to reconcile past anguish.
Not much to hang your hat on, is it? So they’re going to keep teasing us until the premiere on October 5, and they’re adding an interactive element.
The second aspect of the campaign is a user contest named American Horror Story House Call…
There’s two clips up now that look to have been produced by the network as samples. The first one’s pretty scary and also kind of funny once you get past the jolt, and the second one is more cool than scary…
I’m not sure what they’re looking for in the applications, but it will be interesting to see what the winning clips look like. I’d apply to scare my wife but she would divorce me on the spot if I put a gimp in her shower. No doubt about it: it would be the “Big D” for Ol’ Telly Danny, no matter how many Mad Men premieres I get her into.
I highlight this to say to you creatives: if you’ve got your own film or tv series to promote, think outside the box and produce a viral campaign that touches on the themes and imagery of the series but doesn’t utilize the actual footage, thus building in a mystery element. Everybody loves a good puzzle. And keep it short — one of the best things about these clips is how quickly we can bang them out as we try to find the secret. They’re not trying to tell a story in each clip, they’re hinting that there’s a larger story in the composite of all the clips.
So if you’re a filmmaker, as said by the billion dollar comedy screenwriting team I blogged about on my screenwriting site, one of the best ways to get noticed these days is to produce your own content. Webisodes, trailers and teasers can really open doors for you, so go for it.
Put on that vinyl gimp suit and hit record on the ol’ flip cam. I’m doing it as we speak!
Keep it real, keep it creepy,
From the official press release for American Horror Story from the FX Network:
American Horror Story revolves around The Harmons, a family of three who move from Boston to Los Angeles as a means to reconcile past anguish. The All Star cast features Dylan McDermott (The Practice) as “Ben Harmon,” a psychiatrist; Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) as “Vivien Harmon,” Ben’s wife; Taissa Farmiga as “Violet,” the Harmon’s teenage daughter; Jessica Lange (Tootsie, Blue Sky, Grey Gardens) in her first-ever regular series TV role as “Constance,” the Harmon’s neighbor; Evan Peters (One Tree Hill) as “Tate Langdon,” one of Ben’s patients; and Denis O’Hare (The Good Wife) as “Larry Harvey.” Guest stars for the series include Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) and Alexandra Breckenridge (Dirt) as the Harmon’s housekeepers; and Jamie Brewer as Constance’s daughter.