Esquire Parlays Foxy Video Into Cover Story Stills
When Esquire magazine earned the 2009 Publishing Innovator of the Year Award from Publishing Executive magazine, it was for efforts and ideas like the men's magazine's latest.
For the first time in Esquire's history -- and, the magazine's editors think, magazine history in general -- a cover image was shot as a video. Using the RedONE, a video camera that captures images at four times the resolution of high-definition, photographer-director Greg Williams recorded 10 minutes of loosely scripted footage with actress Megan Fox.
"It allowed her to act," Williams says. "She could run scenes without being reminded by the sound of a shutter every four seconds that I was taking a picture. As in still photography, a lot of it is capturing unexpected moments. This takes that one step further."
He then went pulled out the best images, which accompany the cover story in Esquire's June issue.
Publishing Executive Inbox spoke with two Esquire staffers who played pivotal roles in the groundbreaking project: David Curcurito, design director, and Matt Sullivan, senior Web editor.
INBOX: Where did the idea to capture the cover story's stills from a video shoot come from? Was this the idea from the start (when you first secured the video shoot with Megan)?
DAVID CURCURITO: … Years ago, I had the idea of using a 72mm film camera/Panaflex to capture a scene with a model or actor. I wanted to then publish the shots. That was a really, really expensive idea so it was shelved. One hundred years later, photographer Greg Williams came to my office and introduced me to the Red One and showed David Granger and myself some amazing work he had done with it. Greg showed us stuff similar to the moving Megan Fox cover at the end of our film. It blew our minds. We knew we had to use it immediately.
I don't think we approached Megan with the idea of only [doing] a video. The magazine obviously is our first priority. We approached it as a photo shoot where Megan would be acting rather than just posing. It's a win-win situation. Megan's comfortable acting and we're able to have something great for the publication, and hey, we get a film too.
INBOX: Has the Fox video been a huge traffic-driver to Esquire.com?
MATT SULLIVAN: Having watched the video probably 150 times myself by now, what I still find unbelievable -- besides how much more attracted I am to Megan Fox with each play -- is that it went viral without our contracts permitting other sites to embed it across the Web. I think it really speaks to the combination of high-quality filmmaking and the Esquire brand that an Internet video can be watched 500,000 times in 43 hours -- and a million times in less than four days -- without being allowed on YouTube. And I think it speaks to the future of how to brand print publications online that of all the tens of thousands of Tweets and blog posts and Diggs and e-mails about the video, most of that reaction still came down to our goal: people really wanted to head to the newsstand and pick up the magazine. So the Megan Fox video wasn't a case of Esquire meaninglessly giving away content for free. It wasn't some behind-the-scenes gimmick. It was an incentive for new readers to engage with the magazine. And we're just getting started.
INBOX: How were you able to secure the rights to Chris Cornell's "Climbing Up the Walls" to accompany the video?
CURCURITO: I've been a huge fan of Chris Cornell's music his entire career. I knew he was coming out with an album. His publicist just happened to call, and I asked for the song immediately. Somehow, after a month of negotiating, we made it happen. Esquire knew this was going to be a huge success. We took a chance, they took a chance, and it paid off.
INBOX: Could shooting video to also obtain still shots be the future for consumer magazines? Is this something Esquire plans to repeat in the future?
CURCURITO: Shooting a video certainly could be a future for some consumer magazines. Remember, the camera is a tool. It all depends on what you do with it. For us, the videos just aren't about printing the stills. It's about sharing things we love in different mediums, different formats. It's like, "Here's something fantastic in the pages and oh, by the way, look at this other great thing we're going to give to you." It also helps tremendously to get the brand out there more.
We are now working/scripting our November cover and story which is our Annual Sexiest Woman Alive issue.
INBOX: In your opinion, could this method eventually be a cost-effective way for publishers to handle both their photo and video needs?
CURCURITO: It sure can. Just remember though that it's not a solution first. It's a tool for an artist first.