Friday, September 26, 2008


I can’t get Fred off my mind. Not because I think he’s as funny as his legions of ten-year-old fans do, but because he, or rather Lucas Cruikshank- the 14-year-old boy who created him- has enough raw flimmaking talent and understanding of how to entertain his peers that his short movies have attracted literally nearly a hundred million viewers.

Who’s Fred? Have a look:

Charming, isn't he? But once you look past the fact that he creates his films on a nonexistent budget, and that his character has a personality that is about as pleasant as underwear made out of sandpaper, you can’t help but notice that young Mr. Cruikshank has a good understanding of how to build a movie that speaks to its intended audience in a way that keeps them coming back for more.

Yes, the core of his appeal (to his fans, of course) is slapstick. But that’s not the only tool in Cruikshank’s toolbox. Besides the swimming-with-clothes-on antics, or the squeakier-than-a-chipmunk voice, or the nearly uncomfortable looking facial expressions, he manages to address a range of topics that are a big deal in the life of an average 12 year old. And his over-the-top comedic treatment of these themes, combined with his on-camera confidence and knack for tight, rapid fire editing, creates an end product that works well. Don't believe me? Then consider the fact that the Fred YouTube channel has over 500,000 subscribers. That's 500,000 people who are clamoring for Lucas Cruikshank to keep sending them more Fred videos.

Whether you or I think his films are worth watching is irrelevant. There are enough people (admittedly they’re under the age of 14) that do want to watch them that he’s caught the attention of major Hollywood corporate types. Why? Because he has managed to do what has been so elusive for the film and television industry- create a successful product that is brought to market exclusively online. And if you don’t think his films fit the definition of successful, consider what the LA times had to say about him-

"Hollywood, ever hungry for tween eyeballs, has predictably caught the scent. Cruikshank recently signed with James Dolin, an L.A. business manager at Sonesta Entertainment. Along with the product placements -- for which he's being paid "generously," Moizel said -- he's also appeared in a commercial for the ZipIt (instant messaging device) that aired on Nickelodeon, ABC Family and MTV." "Once Fred's videos are released, they rocket into the YouTube exosphere, generating 4 and even 5 million views a pop -- repeat viewership numbers that are unmatched anywhere on the Internet. Fred's most-viewed episode, "Fred Loses His Meds," would've been the top-rated show on cable last week."

Lucas Cruikshank and others like him are turning the concept of mass entertainment on its ear. They're proving that attracting large, loyal audiences doesn't require the use of big Hollywood studios and big Hollywood budgets, and that the internet can be used as an exclusive means of product distribution.

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