Multimedia round table | “I kill a friend” (warning: graphic content)
“I Kill a Friend”: Users can choose one of five hit men to carry out their assassinations
This month’s round table discussion is about one of – if not THE – most controversial multimedia packages I have ever encountered. If you watch the trailer to the French advertising site “I Kill a Friend,” it goes something like this: “Want to kill a friend? Need to get rid of someone? Call our professional killers. All you need is a photo of the victim. ‘I kill a friend.com’: now you can kill on the internet.” Low and behold, I inserted my photo, chose one of the five killers, and watched my death unravel right in front of my eyes.
For the purpose of this discussion, I will allow you to watch my assassination in case you don’t feel comfortable uploading your own photo. Although I didn’t use my real name, I still feel extremely uneasy knowing that this video is archived and linked for the entire world to view. They do email you a link to your murder and give you the option of deleting the final video, but I always wonder with those options if it is actually being deleted because there is no way to confirm it.
My first reaction to the site was that of sheer anger after experiencing the inappropriate and gruesome content. Isn’t this promoting the use of hit men and glorifying murder? My second instinct, however, was curiosity to see who built the site and what the purpose was behind it. Regardless how I feel about the message, the innovation and interactivity of the site is evident and the components are extraordinarily well-produced. The ability to morph an uploaded picture onto a stuntman and then instantly produce a customized video is extremely impressive.
Users upload a photo and make several adjustments such as color and contrast.
I wanted to provide multiple perspectives about this site, so Andrea interviewed Michel Teicher, one of the site’s producers at Euro RSCG, to get his opinion.
The purpose of this site is to promote the French cable network 13eme Rue (owned by NBC) that runs shows about crime. Therefore, Teicher argued that this type of site was fitting for the content.
“In general, the strategy behind this interactive website has its roots in the â€œ13eme rueâ€ DNA. Itâ€™s a cable network that had always focused on the network of crime and police investigation. So it seems ideal to talk about this channel in this way,” he said.
Teicher continues by saying that this site was produced in good humor as a joke.
“Today violence as entertainment is everywhere: movies, video games, comics, cartoons, online gaming and so on. But here you donâ€™t kill … youâ€™re watching a scene that could be extracted from any blockbuster, and we took a lot of precaution in the way that we shot those scenes to always look like a real movie (itâ€™s not done with a cell phone or an amateur camera). Every shot is perfectly filmed and edited so it doesnâ€™t appear to look real. As our Creative Director Olivier Apers says, ‘Here we kill people for fun, but we do it seriously.’”
While I definitely agree that violence is evident in all entertainment venues, I would argue that the high quality filming and production DOES make it seem real, which is why I feel so violated. Furthermore, you can use social media to spread these assassination videos, and they promote the “Top 13″ killers on their homepage. Currently, one person has “killed” 42 people. I understand testing out the site to see what happens with each hit man (I tried two of them), but doing it 42 times is utterly disturbing.
If their goal was to raise awareness about the television network and to create buzz, they have succeeded. Teicher noted that although the site is currently only in French, they have already had more than 400,000 kills and over 10 million pageviews in a month. “We are currently working on launching it in other countries,” he added.
If you choose the woman killer, you die while going for a jog, as seen above.
In response to our question about ensuring that this site was used by a mature audience and only for entertainment purposes, Teicher said, “First of all, you donâ€™t have to play this game if you donâ€™t want to. We also have a pg 16 sign on the website page.”
We also asked about the behind-the-scenes production in case you are curious how they made the site:
“In terms of shooting, the first goal was to shoot all the crime scenes in the spirit of the great movies that everyone likes (the goodfellas, kill bill, Leon etc… ) We picked the perfect location for that – Romania – where the sets are amazing, very dark and strong. We shot all of the scenes in four days with our director, Nicolas Benamou from Dak Tirak productions. The casting of the killers was important, because everyone fits the part perfectly (the classy killer, the gorgeous and lethal sniper …)
Technically, the stuntman (itâ€™s the same person in most of the sequences) had to look androgynous enough so you could put a male or a female picture inside. We took care not to see his hair on every sequence so the matching of the picture is perfect, without looking odd at the end, and thatâ€™s why he always has a hoody or a cap on. After that, all the morphing/3D aspects, as well as the website, was done internally with a technology our web team created just for this application.”
For examples of Euro RSCG’s past work, check out “Evian Live Young,” “Peugeot BB1,” and YouTube sensation “Canal+ – the closet.”
Take some time to watch my assassination and check out the site. Do you think this is a clever and well-done production for a fitting client, or a disturbing use of technology? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
NOTE: Andrea Ballocchi conducted the interview with producer Michel Teicher via email in French & English. Therefore, some interview quotes and the summary of site content are English translations of French content.
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Tags: 13eme Rue, crime, Dak-Tirak, EuroRSCG, Flash, graphic animation, Je Tue Una Mi, Michel Teicher, multimedia, technology