TruScribe, based in Fitchburg, is a leading producer of whiteboard videos -- those instructional or promotional videos in which illustrations are created before viewers' eyes to illustrate points made in the voice-over. Their clients include major players in the fields of healthcare, finance, non-profits, and they've even done work for NASA.
But they've never had a client like "Weird Al" Yankovic.
The world's foremost parody musician selected the company to make a whiteboard video for the song "Mission Statement," the eighth and final music video to promote his new album Mandatory Fun. For ten months, the team at Tru Scribe collaborated with Weird Al, and this video premiered today via the Wall Street Journal.
TruScribe chief innovation officer Eric Oakland, senior producer Bessie Cherry, and scribe artist Brian Wisniewski sat down to talk about the process of making the video and being part of Weird Al’s eight day takeover of the Internet.
Isthmus: How did Weird Al find you guys?
Oakland: We had the same question. Well, he searched the Internet far and wide, and one, we looked like a good company to work with -- we had a good reputation. Second, it was the style. With a parody artist looking to make fun of whiteboard video, you get nervous. But you’ve got to have a sense of humor, and we were honored to be selected to work with him.
Yeah, the video is basically self-parody of your company. Was there any trepidation in doing this project?
Wisniewski: No! It was a lot of fun. I got to thank him personally for allowing me to be able to make fun of what I do for a living. He was very receptive. I think everyone here was on board as well. We all pretty much latched onto it.
Oakland: You know the third or fourth season of Mad Men when Don Draper skewers the tobacco industry and they all turn their back on him? We were a little worried that we were going to make everyone feel bad because we were making fun of corporate jargon. For most people we work with, this language is a necessity, because jargon is part of how things get communicated. The other side of it is that we see this as an opportunity. Weird Al's song points out that if the language is hollow and fake, people are going to see right through it. So it fits right in with what we try to do with clients; even if there's jargon, it is backed up with honest, clear talk.
You mentioned a bit about working with Weird Al. Can you tell me a little bit more of what the collaborative process was like?
Wisniewski: Initially, I thought I was going to go crazy -- just the most ridiculous stuff I could think of. But, right away, he was saying, "No, I want to do something more like what you normally do. I wanted the buttoned down version." What he said was "straight-faced insanity." So we ended up doing a lot of what we normally do, but there's some other stuff. It's kinda subtle, but we fit the crazy stuff in the margins.
Cherry: We loved getting to work on this over a long period of time. Normally, we produce our videos over a very short period. So we had the luxury of communicating with Al for almost a year and getting his feedback over the process was a really wonderful example of synergy I would say. [Laughs]
How much did you know about Weird Al's eight days of videos across the Internet and that your video was going to be the finale? It seems like Weird Al has taken it over for the last week. When did you know it was going to be something big?
Oakland: A month ago, we were having discussions about where they might premiere this, and one of the ideas that popped out was playing it before the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. So immediately we knew it was bigger than just putting it on his website. We didn't know about the full eight days strategy until Al announced it on his website and Twitter. Then we saw the momentum that was building -- to be the encore is really humbling.
Cherry: All of the other videos have been great, and it's been cool to see how the different teams interpreted their song. So now that whiteboard music videos are going to be the new thing, what band or musician would you want to take on next?
Cherry: White Stripes.
Oakland: Anything with the word white in it.
Wisniewski: Black Keys.
Cherry: True, they are black and white videos so that works too.
Oakland: We've got a pretty eclectic range around here when it comes to music. Some of us don't listen to anything new, some of us only listen to things that are new. I don’t think there is a genre we would all be into.
Cherry: Ironically, it would be Weird Al. If anybody were to cross the whole office, it would be him. The gut reaction from everybody was "I love Weird Al."
Oakland: He really cuts across those gaps. Because he parodies everything, everyone has a Weird Al story.