That moustachioed fellow at the coffee shop may look like just another hirsute hipster, but don’t write him off as genteel and harmless. He might, in fact, be possessed by alien facial hair that’s trying to take over the world. Sound too strange to be true? This is the story imagined by the creatives at Pereria & O’Dell for The Power Inside, the third social film in a series for Toshiba and Intel.
Looking to follow up on their groundbreaking 2011 social film Inside and their multiaward-winning love story, 2012’s The Beauty Inside, Toshiba and Intel are now delving into the invasion genre with the six-part series. The Power Inside revolves around Neil (Craig Roberts), the only man able to save a world under siege by an evil ‘stache and unibrow alien race, the Uricks. Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, the film’s cast includes Harvey Keitel as a badass barber, Analeigh Tipton as the love interest, Reid Ewing, and Zack Pearlman. Neil, with the help of these friends and technology finds the inner power to become an unlikely hero.
If an invasion flick seems like a jump from the tenderness of The Beauty Inside or the thrilling intensity of Inside, that was by design. PJ Pereira, chief creative officer of Pereira & O’Dell says the idea to model each installment after a genre was set from the start. But where to go after the blockbuster success of 2012’s work? "We knew it wouldn’t be a thriller or a love story; that’s all we knew," says Pereira. "We got the team together and started to work on plots that would work as a metaphor for the computer and the chip. We started to play with a bunch and when we came up with this idea, we thought it was a way to be silly and to let go. We thought it was the kind of silly that we could see people obsessing about."
And getting an audience obsessing is an integral part of creating a social film, of course. As with previous iterations, The Power Inside is designed to allow the audience participation to affect the story’s narrative. Since the films don’t officially launch online until August (only the trailer is being released today, along with a consumer casting call for a chance to be included in the films), Pereira describes the social integration thusly: "There’s only one man on the planet with the inner power to save humanity. We can’t fight that war for him, but I can tell you that if you make a video of yourself shaving your beard or moustache and upload it to the website, you can make a big difference in saving the world."
With that act of being shorn, people are pledging to join the Guardians (that’d be us humans who are presently un-possessed by furious facial hair). To join the Urick team, people are invited to upload a photo to "The Power Inside" and the facial recognition software will add a moustache or unibrow. Uploading a photo also means there’s a chance they’ll be included in the episodes.
Though the invasion film genre brings to mind schlocky camp fests, Pereira says that despite an implausible premise, they played it straight. "We originally started to think about this as a comedy, but as we started to write, it started looking like an invasion movie with disaster and paranoia rather than a funny, goofy story. It’s a dry comedy. The premise is absurd, but we took this super serious. There’s not a comedy actor in there. We’ve seen people laughing out loud, not because there’s a funny gag in it but because they’re like, I can’t believe they keep pushing that idea.
Pereira says that the entire project is designed for maximum enjoyment, no matter how deeply different people engage with it. This, he says, is something they’ve learned through the two previous films. "We’ve learned that you have to plan everything to multiple levels of engagement. If you do it right and have a good story, there will be a small group of people who will geek out about it and want to spend hours obsessed about it. Others will want to be far less involved but wherever you are, the brand message needs to work on all those levels. Finessing the structure is the most important thing," he says. "This is one of the things we’re getting better at: honing the story to help people feel fulfilled with however they want to participate."
A recent development with The Power Inside suggests they’ve hit their stride with engaging people in a way that’s pleasing to brands. Says Pereira, "the previous movies were so successful that a few other brands are doing product placement in this one." Yes, you heard that right. Spotify, Skype, Fossil Watches, and Skull Candy are all doing product placement in someone else’s ad, making this social film experiment one to watch, as it may very well be hiding a new model for branded content, just as the Uricks might be hiding right under our noses.