It’s hard to overstate the extent to which making these videos was beginning to occupy all our time. During the week, Dan and I both worked at the same IT office in the University of Kent, but our weekends and evenings were now wall-to-wall Wicked Pig Challenges. Our girlfriends may have been understanding, but life was increasingly looking like the scene in Disparate Set Pieces where we talk over Becky’s head.
Of course, all-encompassing projects were nothing new for The Bakery. Mine and Dan’s friendship was cemented during the monumental production of Konkers, after all. But this was different…
You see, with a normal Bakery project, all we have to do is satisfy ourselves. We just have to make something we think is good. And that is motivation enough.
But in Wicked Pig Land, we found ourselves frustratingly beholden to baffling feedback; required to re-edit and re-edit, dragging the production out, and squeezing much of the fun out of the process. It was a collaboration of the worst kind, because we really didn’t feel like they quite got us (and we frequently felt like we didn’t get them!) and consequently could only ever make something that wasn’t quite what either party wanted.
You might be thinking: boo-hoo, that’s what happens when you are hired to have your creativity harnessed by a brand. Which is a fair point, but one glance at the subsequent CVs of myself and Dan will illustrate that we have no problem obediently working for paying clients in the name of advertising products.
But therein lies an important distinction. Because – and excuse the capital letters needed to truly emphasis this point: WE WERE NOT BEING PAID.
This was supposed to be a prize.
And so Dan and I always took the stance that we were prize-winners first and foremost.
Which is a crucial thing to remember when considering how we approached The Wicked Pig Challenges. We had been told that this was an opportunity for us to showcase our own comedy. And that was all that was really in it for us.
As an aside, it’s interesting to consider that the marketing agency’s earliest e-mail to us included the sentence “we have a professional film crew we can call on to film your ideas on location…”
At the time this idea was put to us, we pointed out that it wouldn’t be realistic to send a film crew down to Canterbury every time we needed to film scenes. I fact it was madness. The only support we were likely to need would be in post-production.
This shows the naivety of the marketing agency because “professional film crews” are of no importance when shooting YouTube videos. Any monkey with a phone could do that by 2010. But maybe some nice title card graphics, or to share some of the workload on the editing might have been a help…
Actually, forget that. All we needed from them was a strong marketing campaign, in the centre of which our video series could sit. And (hopefully, eventually) thrive.
Which brings us to the question: what actually was the marketing campaign?
Well. The agency had actually gone to the trouble of ensuring we got mentions in all sorts of trivial and unnoticeable corners of the media. Many of these web articles are no longer online in 2016, but a rare exception is this article for Real Business which I’m sure caused a rocket in our YouTube views, not to mention sales of the pork snacks.
Obviously there was also the interview with Florence printed in the Kent Gazette (ironically and discourteously edited out of Episode 2 itself) and New magazine highlighted our visit with this exclamatory news story.
But perhaps the only bit of exposure which was in any way exciting was that they paid for us to be advertised at the top of the B3ta newsletter. Of course this was back in the days when the B3ta newsletter was still a weekly round-up of satirical, funny, imaginative (or at the very least puerile) links. I know some people argue it is irrelevant in the post-Twitter environment, but I still kind of miss it.
Even this was a mixed blessing though. The audience of B3ta were notoriously cynical, sarcastic, jaded egg-throwers. And they were automatically (and understandably) suspicious of anything that was paid-for. Which meant us.
The ironic lesson to all marketing agencies should have been: if you want to appeal to the B3ta community, make something good and spread it virally. Don’t pay for it to be shoved under their noses.
Ah well. At least we were top of the B3ta newsletter. Look, I’m scrabbling round for positives here! The truth is, Dan and I were working our arses off, and no-one was noticing.
Talking of which: what were we going to do for Episode 3?
To answer that question, first cast your mind back to the debacle during Episode 2 when we were required to remove the footage of the local newspaper journalist. At the time, Dan and I had felt needlessly censored, and like the marketing agency didn’t want us to present the truth of how the challenges were put together.
So the only option open to us then was to transform The Wicked Pig Challenges into an entirely fictional series. Episode 2 had been a halfway house, with a mix of reality and fiction, resulting in compromises like the scene where Alaric played a photographer. So for Episode 3, we agreed to return to The Disparate Set Pieces approach of satirising our real lives through caricatured exaggeration.
But if we were going to do that, we needed to address our real-life frustration and dissatisfaction with how the series was going. It made sense to make me the voice-piece for our shared misgivings, because my comic persona was all cynical pessimism, whereas Dan’s was one of amiable optimism. Thus was born the scene in Episode 3 where I drunkenly rewatch Episode 2 and unhappily critique its lowbrow slapstick.
As we brainstormed further plot ideas for Episode 3, we decided that the double-act should split up because my character had been pushed too far. Dan would have to carry on alone. But then we had the idea that Dan might try to find a poor replacement for me, and we struck on the idea of it being a dog.
We had a specific dog in mind: the late lamented Aslan the dog. He was owned by our colleague Hannah Pilbeam, who worked in the same IT office as myself and Dan. And although I am known for not being at all keen on dogs, I nevertheless fully recognise the innate comedy of a Shar-Pei’s foldy facial expressions.
And so we set to work on the most sitcommy episode of The Wicked Pig Challenges yet.
But in the midst of all this, we were moving house. Dan and I (and Jan) were moving to London. And, as we filmed, it became apparent that we would need to acknowledge this. That shows how all encompassing this project had become – we actually filmed some of Episode 3 during our actual house move!
It may come as no surprise to learn that the agency/client sat on the finished episode for ages, and demanded extensive edits. Ridiculously, it was December before they put it online. But now, in 2016, we can at last present an improved and extended edit of Episode 3…
But the strange thing is…
That’s where The Wicked Pig Challenges ended.
The 2010 marketing campaign only ever made it to 3 episodes.
The whole series fizzled out at this point. Ending on a cliffhanger.
But, I hear you cry, what about that footage seen in the ‘next time’ teaser? Well, we had completed a fourth episode. And we’d even delivered it to the marketing agency. But they never put it online! The campaign was pulled. Despite the cliffhanger. And despite Zoo magazine running a competition to set our fourth challenge.
It was a terribly disappointing anticlimax to the whole project.
And you know what, for the last 5 or so years it has bugged me that The Wicked Pig Challenges was left open ended. Especially as we had actually made the concluding part!
It’s finally time that we did something about that.
(And it’s only half a decade late).