How A Video Went Viral (Or Why I Dislike The Windsor Star)

August 25, 2011

Since I won’t get a letter to the editor published or have a comment on the article go undeleted…

Ok, so the surprise wedding of Shawn & Colleen Lippert became a worldwide sensation.  Most of us know this now, most of us followed along as it was a frenzy on facebook of links and updates amongst friends, family, and happy Windsorites that saw so much attention being brought to the region.  It’s pretty cool, I gotta say.  I am in Nashville currently and on set for the music video I was directing yesterday there were 3 people that had seen Operation: White Cake in the news down this way.  One of them has a Superbowl Championship Ring so that makes him cooler than you or I.

I hate making wedding videos.   I used to love it and I can’t slag it too much as it paid for the initial gear, office, and freedom to make my debut film with Mimetic Entertainment back in the day.  Forever indebted.  However – I’m often stating that “even if my own brother gets married he knows not to ask me to film the wedding because I’d rather pay the full rate for someone else to do it for him than film another wedding.”  When Shawn approached me almost a year ago with his plan for a surprise wedding I told him I would do it but half of the reason is because I have a dark sense of humour and the clip I could create from it would be equally good if she said yes or NO.  Imagine that… it would be like that episode of The Simpsons (“Simpsons did it! Simpsons dit it!”) where Bart is replaying the video tape of when Lisa breaks Ralph’s heart and going frame by frame to find the exact moment.  I would edit that together for Shawn.  Agony, captured on video.  Eventually Shawn would find it funny after his heartache healed years later.  Until then – Mr. Romantic might have ended up “Broken Heart Guy” on Youtube in a viral video.

Thankfully that didn’t happen (1% of me is screaming “darn it!” inside right now).  Back then I discussed with Shawn and look around the web and could not find much in the way of a surprise wedding.  Surprise proposal?  Yup – lots of silly dances and smoke machines and even a movie trailer but together to proposal – but an entire wedding planned by the groom without the bride knowing?  Never thought that Shawn Lippert of Life Of A Bar Owner infamy would ever possibly originate something so cool (that’s what I thought at the time, apparently there have been other surprise weddings but everyone steals from Shakespeare and as I said early… to quote South Park: “Simpsons did it!” – Homer had a surprise wedding to give Marge the wedding she always wanted but never had when they were originally married).    I even enlisted the help of a second camera operator, Marie Jeannette, for the day to make sure that every detail of the day.  Shawn and I had discussed and I we stated back then that this would capture some attention.  Not the goal of Shawn getting married at all but he and I having some minor success in viral videos in the past placed our wagers that this video would connect with people.

So let’s shift to today’s front page of the Windsor Star.  There is a follow up article with Shawn and Colleen about their time in New York City and the media frenzy that surrounded their wedding and the video going viral.  This is the second article the Windsor Star published – the first being Monday morning, August 15th. (appearing late night Sunday in their online edition) soon after the wedding itself took place on August 13th.  In today’s article, written by Ted Shaw, who interviewed both Shawn and Colleen, it lays claim that the media frenzy was kicked off by the Windsor Star first reporting about the wedding.  This is funny for a few reasons- number one it isn’t true.  Yes, we read the Windsor Star.  Yes there was a link mentioned in the article to see .  Those two points are true.  What is completely wrong is ignoring anything about what Shawn and Colleen said during the interview and how the events actually unfolded.  The article also mentions that it was Shawn that posted the video online.

Now I’m no expert but I have heard it straight from the source and after spending time in New York and sharing in some of the media frenzy and doing interviews myself alongside the Bride and Groom, I have to believe that the source isn’t feeding my false information when stating that it was clearly brought to the attention of the Windsor Star who created the video, who hosted the video online, and who’s video attracted the global media frenzy at the start.  Shawn and Colleen have been more than gracious in asking that myself/Mimetic is credited for use of the video on Television and have mentioned in every interview their thanks to me for doing the video and how the video made the whole story possible because that’s where most people discovered it as a news item.  They’ve gone as far to say that they hope something comes out of it for me because they are happily married and didn’t want/need anything else. **Note:  Shawn and Colleen – I was able to travel to New York City again – more than I could ever have expected so job well done! **  Somehow this is failed to be mentioned at all in the article, instead claiming that the Windsor Star kicked it off.  The exact quote is:

“An article in The Windsor Star on the Monday after the wedding set the wheels in motion.” – Ted Shaw, Factual Accuracy Award Winner 2011.

** You can read the full article here: **

It goes on to say that Fox and others called soon after, alluding to the fact it was the Windsor Star article that caught their attention.  Now I’m sure that Shawn was gracious as always and maybe even mentioned that the Star was one of the first to cover the wedding since he had called Dalson Chen in advance and the paper sent Kristy Pierce to take photos and do a write-up the day of.  It’s actually possible that if the Star had the foresight they could have got the story on the wire and busted that thing around the world by Monday morning along with their own article.  That however, was not the case.

After leaving Shawn and Colleen’s wedding before the dinner, I headed straight home to edit the video together.  Now all Shawn wanted was to see the proposal part of the video to share with friends and family at the wedding that had to hide and were unable to see Colleen’s reaction.  He thought it would be a nice gesture since those 200+ folks all played along and didn’t ruin the surprise during the planning.  I ended up editing together more of an overview of the entire wedding and telling the story of the surprise so that any one watching from the outside would understand just how much effort Shawn had put into this and understand Colleen’s reaction entirely.  So I came up with an eight minute clip.  Shawn really wanted their wedding song, performed by Joshua Radin, in the video – so I suggested that he call Joshua’s manager and clear the use of the song to not run into any copyright issues.  He did, we got the clearance, so I made sure to include that into the video.  It was the perfect song to underlay the tone of the day’s celebration and multiple surprises.

This video went online around 10-11AM on Sunday, August 14th, directly after the wedding.  Shawn and Colleen, the freaks that they are, even stopped by after their wedding to see the video for themselves before it was posted for friends and family.  By noon the video had over 100 views and had been shared on Facebook by over 60 people.  An hour later it had tripled.  By the END of Sunday night, around the time the Windsor Star’s online edition came out, still hours before anyone had the much wider read paper edition, the video had over 80,000 views.  It had been shared on Facebook over 700 times at this point and there were over 400 tracked references on Twitter about the video.

You can see it in the Youtube Insight Chart above.  By into the wee hours of Sunday night / Monday morning I had inbox messages on Youtube from some of the largest television shows, newspapers.  My email was also being flooded (I had taken the liberty of sending the video and brief write up on the wedding to many of the biggest morning shows, radio, newspapers, etc.

Take a look at what I received that Sunday and before sun-up on Monday:

Note that not a single one of these references their lead in from having read the article in the Windsor Star.

Let’s not forget that the Windsor Star in their original article covering the wedding spelled the Groom’s name wrong.  Shawn “Lipperd”.  There would be a really difficult process in being a media outlet having read the Windsor Star and wanting the story if they were trying to track down Shawn Lipperd I would think.  Honest mistake – there’s probably 16 typos per paragraph in this blog because I’m a horrible speller and too lazy to proof it properly.  However, I’m not claiming that my typos will lead anyone (or their horse) to water.

So just a little peeved this morning because I’ve yet to see the Windsor Star get it right regarding any story I’ve been part of.  Not even peeved, just more so disappointed.   I know I’m not winning any favours writing this blog but heck… with the botched articles and shoddy coverage and complete omissions now and in the past – is anyone out there really thinking I give a poop about being covered in this newspaper again?  I should hope not.  They’re off our press release list now.  The local radio, television, online news sites, and smaller community papers for towns I don’t even live in have always given much more coverage (and accurate coverage at that) for our film and music video productions that are focused on trying to grow a larger film community here.  Just disappointing that the city’s ONLY newspaper can’t just take the effort to portray stories as they happen in the way that they happened.  Certainly, they shouldn’t be omitting key information given by their interview subjects and taking claim for things the paper did not do.

These feelings about Ted’s reporting have been with me for sometime.  I remember being interviewed by Ted Shaw for an article regarding How Many Days? and the film production of Still Here at the time.  Brendan Byrne and I both attended the interview at the Windsor Star building for a face to face with Ted.  He used a digital (or maybe a cassette tape) recorder to capture the entire interview.  He called me with follow up questions the next day – yet somehow when the article was published there wasn’t a single mention of Brendan having been there or even part of the film, the quotes weren’t mine mostly… they were Brendan’s but with my name on them and very little of the article was accurate at all.  I was jaw-dropped reading it.  I think I did a How Many Days? video about it at the time… wish I could sort through the 1600+ videos and find it.  Brendan and I agreed at the time that it was a complete waste of time to do the interview because what’s the point when the message is way off base and the article doesn’t give the reader any correct insight or knowledge of what you set out to discuss?

My thoughts are shared by Brady Thrasher who was able to confront Ted about his coverage of the Drake After Party event.  Ted wasn’t at the event but managed to cover it anyways getting the incorrect low-down from “someone who was there” as he told Brady.  How is this allowed to be in our city’s newspaper?  To not even contact the organizers or have a reporter experience the event first hand before writing about it?

Anyhow, these are my thoughts, this is my blog, this is my opinion.  Take it or tell me to fuck myself, either way – I’ll be happy.

New blogs coming soon – have a back log of things to post, updates on the new feature Cheer For Your Life and some upcoming music videos.

twitter: @gavinbooth