Upcoming film Believe Me from Riot Studios is bound to stir some controversy and maybe even a few laughs along the way.
If your friend recommended a movie, would you be more likely to watch that trailer than a sponsored movie ad appearing in your Facebook feed? What if you learned that the friend had been paid to recommend it? That’s the promotional plan generating buzz around Austin-based Riot Studios’ upcoming feature film, Believe Me.
Notably, the subject of the story itself is a college student scamming Christians out of their money in order to pay off his college tuition. When Sam, played by Alex Russell, learns his scholarship ran out and he owes a semester’s worth of tuition before he can graduate, he gets creative. Recognizing the power of a platform, he and his buddies band together as “The God Squad” and start raising money for a fake charity from Christian audiences all over the country.
Sam eventually comes to a crossroads in which he has to confront the truth of what he is doing, and decide how to proceed in a way that stays true to himself. If he plays it right, he might also get the girl, Callie (played by Johanna Braddy of VGHS).
The cognitive check that comes from learning about the promotional microtransactions translates easily to curiosity about the blurred ethical lines presented by the film itself, which could make this a highly successful marketing idea. Producer Alex Carroll is banking on it. “The online generation suspects sponsored content,” he said in a press release. “So we’re paying fans, even motivating them, to do what fans do: to tell their friends. What better way to hear about a new movie?”
Both the story and the promotional technique are targeted at Millennials. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Millennials in Adulthood report, this demographic is characterized as being “detached from institutions, networked with friends.” This demographic could be swayed to view a trailer upon the recommendation of a friend; further, the subject matter capitalizes on a general belief of this generation that religious leaders should not automatically be trusted.
The press release acknowledges that the purpose of the film is to ruffle feathers. Preferably, those feathers would belong to Millennials, and they would respond by paying to see the film when it is released simultaneously in theater and on-demand, September 26.
Believe Me also stars Zachary Knighton, Miles Fisher, Sinqua Walls, Max Adler, Nick Offerman, and Christopher McDonald.