The scene is all too familiar to students these days: one person posts a taunt to another on a social networking site. "What are you writing your book report on? Memoirs of a Gay-Sha?" one student says, playing on the title of the popular book to poke fun of the other's sexuality. Other students soon pile on. "Does your dad know how gay you are?" one asks. "Everyone knows how gay he is," teases another. A neutral but silent student watches the scene unravel, but sits dumbstruck, uncertain what to do.
This is a script in the latest campaign from Click 3X and long-time partner MTV as they vigorously join the President and First Lady in their battle against cyberbullying - only the harassment begins as a live-action scene set in a school with kids jabbering at one another, then transitions through an online world, to reveal a fellow student looking flabbergasted at the comments posted onscreen. Producer Lindsay Nowak sought out Click to team up with Writer/Director Seyi Peter-Thomas - who have joined forces in the past on VMA campaigns and a promo for The Hard Times of RJ Berger - to master this transition from the online world to the real world. Click also handled all edit, animation, sound design, voiceover and mixing.
"The spot had to exist in two worlds, with the main character in front of his computer being the real world and everything happening in the school being part of a metaphor: a visual representation of the cyber world," noted Click 3X Entertainment Executive Producer Rob Meyers. "For the scenes that take place in the virtual space, we had to feel as though we were in a world that was slightly off, slightly Twilight Zone. The bedroom, on the other hand, had to look super realistic."
To accomplish this look, Click worked diligently to follow Peter-Thomas' creative vision of a school that was a representation of a social networking site, which required taking cues from the online world: the architecture had to be modern - more steel and glass than wood and tile - and there had to be sparseness and a very particular color palette. "All the things that make a school are there, but the environment lacks the haphazardness of regular life," said Meyers.
The spot took two months from start to finish. Once the shooting was complete, Click went into the studio, editing on Final Cut Pro, animating in Cinema 4D and After Effects, and generating the sound design on Pro Tools.
The most challenging element was the design and animation of the transitions that take viewers from the virtual school world into the kid's bedroom, a task that first required extensive on-set supervision to advise on the shots necessary to make the visual transition work.
"The spot really hinges on the viewer's understanding that the school world is a dramatization of the bullying these kids are experiencing online, so we had to create a design that looked enough like familiar social networking sites that it'd register to viewers as quickly as the page resolved on screen," stated Meyers. "We then had to work that design into an animated graphical transition, in which we pull out of the virtual world and get sucked through a digital tunnel toward the real world of the kid in his room looking at his computer."
The spot is just the latest in the network's multiyear A Thin Line initiative, which is aimed at stopping the spread of abuse in the form of sexting, cyberbullying and digital dating abuse. This particular spot screened for President Obama and the First Lady, who endorsed it during their White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.
MTV and Click have fostered a strong relationship in a long string of joint projects, from VMA campaigns to integrated campaigns for MTV and Wrigley's, MTV and Orbit gum, and with films like Nightmare on Elm Street, Splice, and Megamind.
"We're very proud to have this special relationship with MTV," stated Click Founder/President Peter Corbett. "And we're especially proud to partner with them on this latest spot, which confronts the consequences of the very useful tool that social networks are. By addressing the issue of cyberbullying on an important venue like MTV, we think we can really help bring an end to this scourge."