If you haven’t seen Ryan Riffle’s winning Wildcard video for the DIY LEGO Movie Trailer project, do yourself a favor and check it out now. Ryan and his twin brother Richard painstakingly recreated the original LEGO Movie trailer shot-for-shot, entirely out of cardboard. That’s right, cardboard! The result is a giddy romp packed with action, humor, and an amazing a cappella soundtrack. Ryan and Richard’s hard work netted them $12,000 and (as of this writing) over 100,000 views on YouTube! Read on to see how they pulled off this crazy undertaking.
Matt Sweeney: What’s your filmmaking background? Did you go to film school or are you self-taught?
Ryan Riffle: I am self-taught. Started filming my freshman year of high school. My brother and I have filmed a little over 400 short films, which have improved my skills immensely. I first picked up a video camera after making a video for a film festival at church. I didn’t take filming that seriously until I got into college, and now I love it and want to make a career out of it.
Matt Sweeney: Your entry for the LEGO Movie project was a pretty ambitious undertaking. What made you think you could pull it off? Were there any points where you didn’t think you could finish?
Ryan Riffle: We had no idea if we could pull this off, having only shy of one month and two people doing all the work (my twin brother and me). There were many points where we were not sure if we could finish in time. It took us about 20 days to make 75% of the sets before filming. Once we got to the filming stage, with only 10 days left till due date, we were a little scared and behind where we wanted to be, but knew that since we’d already put about 150 hours into it, we were driven enough to finish the film.
Matt Sweeney: What gave you the idea to make the video entirely out of cardboard? Did you just have a lot lying around?
Ryan Riffle: This was our first time ever making a cardboard video. At first we wanted to do a stop motion video of the LEGO trailer on a whiteboard. After testing it out we realized that it wasn’t going to look professional enough. So we came up with the idea of trying to make it out of cardboard instead. We ran to Walmart at 1 a.m. and grabbed a full shopping cart’s worth of cardboard. After smashing it into the backseat of our car, we were ready to begin the very long journey of intense cardboard building. And what a journey it was!
Matt Sweeney: You and your brother spent over 200 hours on this. How was the workload split?
Ryan Riffle: The workload was split evenly. We each had our own skills to contribute. Richard made the characters, vehicles, and a lot of the backdrops. My job was to make some of the backdrops, 3D buildings, and to put the sets and rooms together. I also was in charge of filming each shot to make it look like the exact same shots from the trailer, and edit the movie as we shot it. We both spent about 6-7 hours on the music and sound effects alone.
Matt Sweeney: Where did you film the video?
Ryan Riffle: We filmed the video at our house. We used our bedroom, the kitchen, and the dining room. The house was covered in cardboard for a little over a week. There was so much cardboard in our bedroom that we had nowhere to step. Our parents had a difficult time getting from the kitchen to the living room. I’ll end it by saying our parents were thrilled.
Matt Sweeney: Your video is a shot-for-shot remake of the trailer. Do you think replicating a Hollywood director’s shots helped inform your own directing style?
Ryan Riffle: Doing a shot-for-shot remake of the trailer was tough. My brother and I are very detailed-orientated and wanted to make the sets exactly like the directors shots (prop for prop) but realized we didn’t have the time to be perfectionists about every detail. Overall, I think even though we replicated the director’s shots, we were still able to use our own directing style by the way we moved each piece, laid out the scenes, positioned the lighting, etc not using any kind of CG or effects.
Matt Sweeney: Who did that killer Elizabeth Banks impression?
Ryan Riffle: My brother Richard. He practiced for weeks just trying to get Elizabeth’s voice perfectly…and…NAILED IT!
Matt Sweeney: Your video has over 100,000 views on YouTube and more than 2,300 likes on Facebook. How’s it feel?
Ryan Riffle: It makes me feel fuzzy like my teddy bear and warm like I’m sitting in my oven. All jokes aside, we feel so grateful and blessed by the gifts that God has given us. He gave us the strength to put the whole video together and the patience with each other to not get too frustrated. Getting those views and likes is just a bonus for us. We hope to work with Warner Brothers again sometime, as long as it doesn’t have to do with cardboard.
Matt Sweeney: What’s the reaction been like from your friends and family?
Ryan Riffle: Our parents were very thrilled…once we got the cardboard out of the house. Our friends and family have been very supportive of our weird movie ideas and have stuck by us all the way. Our friends are so supportive that they are willing to be in our videos for free, and if we win, we give them some money. If we don’t win, they are still supportive to try another video with us. Our parents are so loving and we were thankful that they let us trash the house for a week!
Matt Sweeney: What are you going to do with your winnings?
Ryan Riffle: “I am going to buy a llama.” – Richard Riffle.
As for myself, I’m going to hopefully buy my own T3i camera to improve our videos. Also saving some for a possible ring!
Last words of advice: If you want to make a video and have the idea and a camera, film it! If you don’t have the “money” for it, film it anyway! We spent about $10 making this video and made our money back!
Announcing our latest Tongaler of the Month: Anna Christopher! Her very first Tongal video submission “Read My Face” won second place in the Olay Fresh Effects Video Project. Read on to hear about her background, inspiration, and what she’s up to when she isn’t Tongaling!
Sarah Donze: Tell us a little bit about your background: how did you get into filmmaking?
Anna Christopher: I have always been writing but then in high school, influenced by my mom who is a painter and photographer, I explored visual storytelling with photography. By the time I was looking at colleges, I knew I either wanted to go into geology/plate tectonics (I was fascinated by earthquakes) or filmmaking, a place where words and visuals combine into a magical thing. I decided to study Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern University because they have a fantastic film program that would allow me to explore every stage in making a film and every position on a crew. I continued honing my craft getting my masters degree at the American Film Institute in the Directing Program. I loved my time at AFI and all the collaborators I met there.
SD: What was the first film you ever made?
AC: SOCK IT TO ME. It is about a mom, daughter and their rivalry in the cutthroat world of sock monkey-making competitions. Yes, it was a comedy.
SD: Sounds hilarious! How did you find Tongal?
AC: While working on feature films and TV projects, I had started doing branded digital content and was enjoying the fun of working with brands to create media that cut through the noise on the internet. A friend of mine had seen my work and knew about Tongal and introduced me to the site. It was love at first sight.
SD: A true romance. What attracted you to the Olay projects?
AC: I was so inspired by Olay’s interest in doing something new and different from typical beauty content. They wanted to speak to the younger generation in a way that respected their smarts, savvy, and appetite for fun. Olay wasn’t scared of trying something new, which is like jet-fuel for a creative person. Their willingness to do something that was a little out of the box, a little less conventional for the genre, made me feel confident and excited to push myself, which is something I’m always attracted to doing.
SD: Was there something specific that inspired your winning video “Read My Face”?
AC: I’ve had a version of that last scene in the video of my own life: being out all night with friends, having surprising adventures, hilarious mishaps, and unexpectedly beautiful moments, and then ending up at the beach with some of your favorite people on the planet. The beach location is a Cali thing, but I think that idea and that journey is something so many of us have experienced and remember viscerally. I worked backwards from that kind of moment and created original characters who had their own individual needs and obstacles that resulted in three mini stories.
SD: The resulting work was beautiful! Tell us a little about your new web series.
AC: LISA’S ADVICE has been one of my favorite projects of 2013! I love this web series… a lot. LISA’S ADVICE is a comedic web series that at first is a satire about advice-giving, but underneath is really about how women talk to each other and navigate the hilarious yet very real codes of female friendship. Written, directed and starred in by me and actress/filmmaker Regina Taufen (my real-life friend), LISA’S ADVICE began as a joke that we made over a hangover cure-all breakfast at IHOP. We got excited about making a project that cracked us up, i.e. we didn’t know if anyone else would think it was funny but we didn’t care, so we put in dozens of our own dollars and called upon a few helpful friends (and boyfriends) to actualize the web series. Now LISA’S ADVICE is 14 videos, each deliciously short (:30-:60), providing LOL-worthy insights into this fictional yet curiously familiar friendship between a lovable, try-hard straight woman and a vicious, unstoppable funny woman.
SD: How do you juggle starring and directing in the same project? Do you give yourself notes?
AC: LISA’S ADVICE is the first project in which I’ve acted and directed at the same time, and I wouldn’t have done it without Regina Taufen being there as my co-director and co-star. We have a great working relationship, very honest, very transparent, very positive. We did rehearsals and talked through our characters, the scenes’ beats, etc. These conversations, the same ones I have with actors any time I direct (I just usually am not the actor!), were the closest thing to “notes” I gave myself. On set, I knew that for myself to give a good performance, I needed to be in the moment, connecting to my scene-partner, being fully present. I could not be “watching” my performance, so I really looked to Regina, as my co-director, to give me feedback and help shape my performance.
SD: You work in so many different formats whether they’re commercials, short films, series. Do projects come at you randomly or do you seek out varied opportunities?
AC: I seek out opportunities that interest me creatively, whether that means visually or because of the talent/crew attached or the concept of the project or the script. If there is something in the project that sparks something in me, I wanna do it. Inspiration is a precious thing so I’m happy to ping-pong around in different formats to find it.
SD: What do you find unique about being a female filmmaker in such a male-dominated industry?
AC: Sometimes you’re the only woman in the room, on the set, in the meeting, which is all the more reason to rock it.
SD: We’d love to hear more about your film that screened at Cannes.
AC: At Northwestern University, I directed the annual music video for Niteskool, a student-run organization. That music video was extremely ambitious for a student film because it included a car chase, fantastic locations, and a nighttime shooting, but we had a tremendous team, and we made it a reality. The video won a student Emmy and also garnered a place at a special Cannes showcase of student work.
SD: Do you have any advice for your fellow Tongalers?
AC: Push yourself to think outside the box and take chances because Tongal is a great place to try new ideas and be recognized for your creativity.
SD: Are there any projects you’d love to see on tongal.com that we haven’t presented yet?
AC: I’d love to see Tongal actualize an idea that’s been floating around the indie community for years which is to create a feature film made by multiple filmmakers taking on different sections/acts/scenes of the film. Sorta like “Paris, Je T’aime” but a continuous narrative rather than thematically-linked shorts.
SD: Is there another filmmaker whose work inspires your own?
SD: What are your daily must-reads?
AC: Does Facebook count? Read-read wise, I’m currently loving the THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tart. It’s for book club.
SD: Fun fact or surprising hobby?
AC: I started horseback riding when I was six years old and still go once a week. Hanging with horses is super fun; they don’t care about deadlines, scripts, production schedules and all you have to do to get them to love you is bring them carrots.
SD: Thanks for your time Anna!
We’re excited to announce that Tongal has officially partnered with crowdfunding site, Indiegogo. That means starting today, you can create personal crowdfunding projects and post them to our branded Tongal Partner Page!
Whether it’s your indie film, your kickass new app, or a cause you believe in, you can gain increased visibility for your passion projects by posting them within the Tongal Partner Page on Indiegogo. Also, you’ll be able to check out all of the projects that your fellow Tongalers are working on. We’re really excited about this opportunity to celebrate and support everything our community is working on both on and off Tongal. And, who knows? In the future, Daddy Tongal-bucks just might throw in a few coins of his own.
If you’d like to create a new project to crowdfund on Indiegogo, and associate it with the Tongal Partner Page, you can do so here. If you have an existing project on Indiegogo, you can request to have it added to the Tongal Partner Page by emailing email@example.com.
Also, an added perk of this partnership is that the Tongal community will now have streamlined access to Indiegogo’s suite of educational tools and support resources. To learn more about crowdfunding and how to be awesome at it, you can access some great resources here.
If you have any additional questions about the Tongal Indiegogo partnership, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pulling in the BIG win is Margaret Condol who will be taking home a check for an additional $39,487.50. Condol created a splash with her animated LEGO wins – LEGO Hero Factory, LEGO Marvel and LEGO DC.
In a close second are North of Now. This Canadian duo rocked their Ford C-MAX spot and did fantastic work for Rit Studio and Kids Being Kids. Third place goes to Side of Fries with two first place wins – Chloraseptic and Shutterstock. Fourth place goes to Beautimus Prod. And, Don Broida pulls out a 5th place Seasons win for a single project – Quaker Real Medleys.
Let’s recap the winners:
Check out their profiles via the links above. Congratulations to all you Tongal rockstars!
For more information about Tongal Seasons, check out the brand new Seasons Community page. Also, please note that starting with Season 6, the Season Prize Pool will be divided among the top 20 from the Season Leaderboard.
The artist formerly known as Marshall Cook has re-branded as Convoy Entertainment with partner Tyler Hawes. Together they have placed in more than 25 Tongal projects in little over one year and won the 3rd Tongal Season–a payout of $37K! They also created the second most re-tweeted video ever in the oral care category and let’s be honest, what isn’t more impressive than that? While they highlighted some tricks and tips in their Success Story video here, read on to hear about their favorite projects, challenges, and in true Convoy style, a few random facts.
Sarah Donze: How did you two meet and decide to work together?
Marshall Cook: We met in 2006 on an indie film I was producing, “Danny Roane: First Time Director.” Tyler was hired to do color and finishing. It was a tough project in a lot of ways, but by going through the trenches we formed a bond. We solidified our relationship as producing partners when we developed “Division III: Football’s Finest,” a feature comedy that Tyler produced and I directed, co-wrote, edited and acted in.
SD: How do you best complement each other in your work?
Tyler Hawes: We each have our strengths and slightly different styles, and I think we’re able to be pretty honest with ourselves and each other about what they are and divide and conquer accordingly. Because of this, we learn from each other and challenge one another, and I think we tend to produce work representative of our combined strengths while hopefully filtering out any weaknesses we’d have on our own.
MC: We just absolutely trust each other. Which is integral to running a business and the creative process. We don’t pull punches. Ego is set aside and it’s all about serving the project. I’ve said before that he’s Spock and I’m Kirk, but I don’t think Tyler likes that because we’re more equal and Tyler is less alien.
SD: Which project did you have the most at stake creatively?
MC: Duck Brand. My pitch did not win and this was before Tongal let us know we were in the top percentile of non-winners. So they could have really hated the idea. Without changing anything, we shot it as a wildcard because whether the brand believed in it or not, it was a good idea. Sometimes people need to see it to understand. It was a bold choice with no guarantees. We ultimately won 1st place. It was not only great to get the prize money, but it also validated our instincts and put us on the map.
TH: The Gorilla Glue mailbox spot was an ambitious idea with two locations and a lot of shots, an animatronic Gorilla suit that required three people to operate, and a complicated gag with a prop mailbox. We knew the brand was going to be on set watching us work, so if we didn’t make our day there’d be no hiding it. We ultimately made it by the skin of our nose as the sun set, and it turned out well.
SD: What was your most challenging project and why?
MC: Excedrin was the most challenging for me on many levels. Predominately due to the fact that we won three pitches and had to shoot three one-minute spots in a relatively short period of time. It was a good problem. We were thankful to win the pitches, but it was part of a larger, more valuable lesson about quality over quantity. We’re now a lot more selective about what projects we pitch on and only submit pitches that excite us.
SD: What do you look for in a project and what specifically attracts you to one when there are so many on the site?
MC: If an idea doesn’t come to me organically and I pull my hair out trying to force an idea/pitch, it usually means I’ll be pulling my hair out through the entire process. When I started, all it had to be was a project and I was interested. Now I look at minimum guarantees, so it’s two parts:
1. If the pitch money plus the lowest video award is high enough for us to make something we’re proud of with minimal risk.
2. I have a strong idea that excites me, (or get inspired by someone else’s winning idea and can expand or adapt that into a pitch). If I laugh out loud (alone in my office) I know I’m onto something good.
TH: I need to hear an idea when we’re brainstorming that makes me laugh out loud, or get a thrill of excitement, or presents a unique challenge I want to tackle. Ultimately I just need to feel like we have strong instincts for how to do it “right.” But honestly, there has to be enough money involved for it to make sense before we’ll ever get to the brainstorming in the first place.
SD: How do you stay current with the latest trends in pop culture and comedy as they relate to advertising and filmmaking? Or do you at all?
MC: More than not, I stick to what I think is interesting or funny to me. But I do watch a lot more commercials than I used to and actually use my DVR backwards. Instead of skipping all of the commercials, I’ll scroll back, watch things again and break them down (game film style).
TH: I watch commercials I hear people talking about. But really, with our style, I feel like I get just as much out of watching good TV and movies.
SD: What advice do you have for your fellow Tongalers?
TH: Everything has to be good, and there’s no points for effort, only results. This goes for all filmmaking.
MC: Assume there are at least three AMAZING ideas, pitches and videos in every competition that did not come from you. Look at your work. Take a break. Look at it again. How can it be better? Remember, you’re not just representing the brand that’s footing the bill, you’re representing your own brand.
SD: What are your daily must-reads?
SD: What are you working on outside of Tongal–do you have a passion project?
MC: We have a couple branded shoots coming up. My passion project is my latest screenplay I’m co-writing and hope to direct next summer. Funny how movies have become passion projects or even hobbies lately… Actually that’s not funny.
TH: I have a short I’m shooting soon, hopefully followed by a feature next year.
SD: Fun fact or surprising hobby?
TH: I have two daughters that are pretty much my whole hobby life. But I do love computer games, especially Star Craft and Sim City.
MC: Surprising Hobby: I’m going to play a super aggressive game of flag football on Thanksgiving morning in my hometown. My team has won the last eight years in a row. I’m fully aware it’s absolutely ridiculous, but I’m dead serious when I say I’m going to do everything I can to win nine… whilst wearing an American Flag bandana. Fun Fact: Food tastes better when someone makes it for you. When we make it we get desensitized to the smell.