Huntsman Student Makes Viral Videos of People Having Extreme Fun
By Steve Eaton
Not many business models are dependent on one’s ability to round up volunteers who are willing to be flung off a cliff.
A Huntsman student, Chase Warner, has teamed up with his brother, Cole Warner, an electrical engineering major, to create videos on YouTube that are so fun to watch they’ve gone viral. They have attracted the attention of publications such as Time Magazine and television station KSL in Salt Lake City.
They tapped the talents of a friend and Brigham Young University graduate, James Dayton, to make some of their first videos. Chase and James had once worked together filming what Chase calls “high action dumb stuff,” but they had gone their separate ways when they went to college. It was after James graduated with a degree in media arts that they decided to try something again.
They found a ledge at Hyrum Dam and considered making a video of people diving off of the cliff, but they knew such videos had been made before. So, they built their own version of a Slip ‘N Slide that ended at the cliff’s edge and sent people free-falling some 40 feet into the water.
Chase jokes that Cole’s title in the company, which is called Indie Pictures, LLC., is “test dummy.” Cole tests everything out to be sure no one will be injured during the shoot.
Cole describes himself as an “adrenaline junkie” and said that since he was a kid he’s been someone who always wanted to “push his limits.” He overcame a fear of heights and has even gone through paratrooper training in the U.S. Army.
“I consider it an honor to be the guy Chase trusts to test out these kinds of things,” he said. “It means that he respects my abilities and opinions. When you are the first person to try something like this you never know what is going to happen. That unknown element makes it more exciting than it would otherwise be.”
Chase Warner gets wet as he tries to capture footage of people having fun flying over a pond in a farmer’s field.
Two “adrenaline junkies” leap off a tower onto a huge inflatable pillow called a “blob.”
People crowd around videographer James Dayton to see what he has captured just after he filmed a stunt that did not go as planned.
One USU student, Steven Koski, is launched high in the air after being blasted upward from a “blob.”
Photos by Steve Eaton
Participants also have to sign a legal waiver before they can participate, Chase said. So far, other than getting some bumps, scrapes, and bruises, no one has been hurt at one of their events, he said.
For the Hyrum Dam video, which was filmed in June 2012, they got the word out on Facebook, scheduled the shoot, and some 40 people showed up, he said. These “adrenaline junkies,” as Chase calls them, were having so much fun that they began to call their friends, and soon there were about 100 people running and diving onto the homemade Slip ‘N Slide and shooting themselves out over the water.
When Chase began to promote the film they had no subscribers to their YouTube channel and fewer than 50 "likes" on their Facebook page. He said he just began to e-mail people and news outlets such as CNN and KSL, hoping to spark interest.
They wanted to generate 20,000 to 30,000 hits in a month and benefit from selling advertising that popular videos can run before their YouTube video starts. Chase said in the first three or four days they already had 3,000 to 4,000 hits, which pleased them, but one night Chase got a call from James.
“Are you seeing this?” James said.
In a matter of hours the video had jumped to 10,000 hits. By the next day it had attracted more than 100,000 hits. It had gone viral.
Chase said that Time Magazine, CNN, and Good Morning America phoned them to get permission to post the video on their sites. Soon more than 500 websites had put up the video, Chase said. The fast-paced video has now generated more than 600,000 hits.
Since then, Indie Pictures has launched several other action videos including one filmed at a pond in Eden, Utah, that has generated more than 100,000 hits. The event, which drew about 250 people, is difficult to describe other than to say it involves a floating trampoline, another huge inflatable floating thing they call a “blob,” a scaffolding tower, and lots of flying, flipping people. It can be better understood and viewed by clicking here.
A similar video, which has earned nearly 2,000 hits, was filmed last September in a pond in a farmer’s field in Paradise. They set up the video with a clip that made it look as if the partiers were trespassing, but Chase said they got permission to film, as they always do, from the property owner. It can be seen by clicking here.
Other videos they have made can be watched by going to the Indie Pictures channel on YouTube.
The films are edited into two and three-second clips to keep people engaged, and they are designed so that “someone who is watching the video can actually imagine themselves there,” Chase said.
It is fun to go to the events and hang out with people who are so daring, Chase said. At the September filming a scaffolding was erected, and two people at a time would leap from the top of it, some 15 feet up, to land on a huge inflatable “blob” that was floating in the pond. One volunteer would lay on his or her back at the end of the inflated pillow knowing they were seconds away from being blasted upwards by the falling people behind them.
One USU student, Steven Koski, said he had second thoughts as he waited for two people to jump on the blob, knowing he was about to be launched 20 to 30 feet in the air.
“I was lieing there, and I had a little 20-second freak out where I was like, ‘Oh, this could end badly.’”
Connie Barnes described what it was like to be airborne and out of control.
“All of a sudden you are completely vertical, and all you see is water everywhere,” she said. “And you think, ‘Oh, my gosh, please don’t let me hit the bottom (of the pond).'”
All those interviewed, however, said they couldn’t wait to go try it again, giving Chase and James a steady supply of film fodder for the videos.
Chase is the owner of the company, and James still helps out, but is no longer as involved as he was in the beginning. They’ve been able to get businesses to loan them equipment, such as trampolines and the blob, in exchange for featuring the sponsors’ logos in the videos.
Indie Pictures doesn’t charge people to come and participate, but it will take donations that it promises will go, in part, to making the next event even better. Chase said the venture has been profitable, and they hope to demonstrate with the videos what they can do so they will become the “go-to company” for others looking to stage such viral videos. They aren’t saying what their next event will be because they keep it secret until everything is lined up, but Chase said they eventually expect to create a new video every couple of weeks.
Chase said that in addition to making money they do have one other goal in mind when they make such videos.
“We make these videos to inspire people to go out and do some crazy fun stuff once in a while,” Chase said. “After all, I come from a business school that encourages us all to ‘Dare Mighty Things.’ It sounds to me like that’s a tagline we should have nabbed first.”