Filmmaker's Charitable Urge Turns Out to Be 'Truly Mitty Moment'

Viral Video Actually Meshes Well With Theme of Movie

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Filmmaker Casey Neistat is known for his run-and-gun viral hits like Nike Fuelband's "Make It Count," and other films that involve spur-of-the-moment decisions requiring him to jet off to far reaches of the world.

So perhaps it comes as no surprise that 20th Century Fox, known for its out-of-the-box marketing moves (like putting out a completely blank page in the New York Times), approached him to help promote its upcoming remake of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," starring Ben Stiller in the title role. The organization sent him an email asking him to illustrate the premise of the movie by creating a film based on the idea of "living out your dreams."

It was intended to be part of the film's "Live Your Dream" international social campaign, explained Bettina Sherick, 20th Century Fox senior VP-international digital strategic marketing. "My colleagues in Latin America had the great idea of reaching out to Casey to see if he would make a promotional video about living his dream. We are big fans of his work, particularly the Nike Fuel Band video." Knowing Mr. Neistat's work, and given Fox's limited funds, Mr. Sherick and her team didn't know what to expect. "We had a feeling his Nike budget was quite large, but we were near the end of our campaign and we had $25,000 for this project," she said.

Mr. Neistat quickly responded to Fox's request with an out-there suggestion: to use the marketing to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Since the funds had already been earmarked for a social project, the client bought in pretty quickly. "Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith," said Ms. Sherick.

And in the end, his idea was an appropriate fit for the film anyway. "We were completely moved," she said of Mr. Neistat's idea. "That he would forgo making anything on the movie to truly live out his dream to help the typhoon victims, well, to risk sounding corny, it was a true Mitty Moment."

As for Ms. Sherick's reaction to first seeing the finished film, "I cried," she said. "Several of us cried, actually. It's so moving, a beautiful story of Casey living out his selfless dream. To have played a small role in something so incredible is humbling."

Ultimately, the $25,000 provided over 10,000 meals to the victims, tools to 35 of the stricken villages and basic medicine to local organizations -- which Mr. Neistat's film shows provided some relief, but was nowhere nearly enough to restore the community.