While some riding enthusiasts recognize Harley-Davidson as a leader in American motorcycling, a few UCSB students have come to associate the brand with secret agents and massive gobs of JELL-O.
This past quarter, students enrolled in the UCSB Film & Media Studies 118 course produced 10 short films about Harley-Davidson as part of a viral video contest, where the winner will receive a $5,000 grand prize. The Harley-Davidson sponsored course examines viral videos, which are generally low-budget film that occasionally garner massive popularity through Internet video sites, such as YouTube.com.
UCSB lecturer and filmmaker Loren Mendell said the course analyzes how such videos spread on the Internet, especially during the course’s final three weeks which are dedicated to marketing and distribution.
Some of the films have already gained Internet popularity. One short, “Invisible Harleys: A Mario Kart Parody,” was featured on Collegehumor.com.
Contestants enrolled in the course received a $1,200 stipend from Harley-Davidson to produce a short movie that captures the essence of the motorcycle brand, according to the Film & Media Studies Dept. website.
First year history major Paul Rosenburg said he was amused upon his first viewing of the short, “Biker Babes.”
“It was a little bit like someone had too much time on their hands,” Rosenburg said. “But other than that, it was extremely creative.”
Competition between participants for spots was tight. Mendell said only 15 students were accepted to the class and were chosen from a pool of more than 40 applicants. The final films are subject to an online popular vote, Mendell said.
“The top three vote getters from the poll on the website will be sent to Harley-Davidson corporate, who will decide on which video receives the $5000 grand prize,” he said.
Second year film and media studies major Arturo Morales traveled to Compton along with art studio major Emanuel Garcia to produce and direct “Harleys in tha Hood.” The movie documents the Harley-Davidson culture in south Los Angeles.
Morales said the original idea for his film was to produce a commercial set in South Central. But after pitching ideas to a group of Harley-Davidson representatives, Morales said the representatives suggested they do their film in a documentary style.
Morales is from Paramount, a city next to Compton and said he hoped to show a side of Compton that most people don’t know about.
“The goal was to try and show the [Harley] scene in South Central,” Morales said. “In the process, I learned how to shoot a documentary.”
Third-year film & media studies major Michael Figge, co-director of “Invisible Harleys,” attributed his video’s success to hard work and luck.
“CollegeHumor picked [“Invisible Harleys”] up after a staff writer saw it on Digg.com,” Figge said. “It was featured on the front page of last Wednesday’s CollegeHumor videos section.”
Most of the movies feature real Harlery-Davidson motorcycles on-screen. However, Harley-Davidson did not provide any of their motorcycles as props for the movies, said Film & Media Studies Dept. Chair Anna Everett.
“Many of the students went out to dealerships and arranged to use some of their motorcycles for filming,” Everett said.
Harley-Davidson originally approached the department because it was interested in sponsoring a course that would reveal young people’s attitudes toward the company’s motorcycles, Everett said.
“I was intrigued by [Harley’s] interest in a different demographic and new media,” Everett said. “This was a good chance for studying viral media.”
She also said she would like her department to continue offering the class in the future.
“I hope it’s going to be something we can offer again,” Everett said. “The YouTube phenomenon and the explosion of viral videos is something we need to think about.”
Mendell said launching a viral video course on campus was groundbreaking.
“A class on viral video hadn’t been taught before this quarter,” Mendell said. “This was a great opportunity for a real life case study for students.”
The videos will appear online for public voting at http://www.filmandmedia.ucsb.edu/announcements/