Professionals were involved in the production, including a handful of actors, an up-and-coming young director, Lu Zhengyu, and award-winning indie director Ning Hao, who was an art direction consultant on the project.
But the film essentially stars and was created by the young consumers who flocked to HP's Chinese web site (www.hpmystage.com.cn) to take part in the project.
In China, "you must be obsessed with the keenness to look at new technologies and and new media," said Robin Seow, Beijing-based director of marketing for HP's Personal Systems Group, the company's PC division. Mr. Seow has become a champion for leveraging new media marketing and user-generated content aimed at teens and college students.
"It's pretty clear that over 80% of netizens value and look seriously at user-generated content before they make a purchase or even do word-of-mouth discussion," Mr. Seow said.
HP's short film will debut on August 26
The road movie featuring Chinese teens has been compared to the 1986 Rob Reiner film "Stand by Me" and tells three intertwined stories in a "Pulp Fiction" format. Pending final government approval, the film will launch in Chinese theaters Aug. 26, and will be submitted in film festivals around the world.
The film's trailer will run on HP's website as well as video-sharing sites in China like Youku.com. The working title is "Show Yourself," but a final decision on the name will be made in August.
The film's debut marks the end of the longest and most complex of the three phases in HP's "My Computer, My Stage" platform in China, where more than 195 million young consumers engaged with digital media through phones or computers.
"My Computer, My Stage" has harnessed untapped creative talent while providing Chinese youth with an opportunity to network, brainstorm and create art, music and film via the internet," said Charles Sampson, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Beijing, which handles digital and traditional marketing for HP in China.
The platform is "the result of three years spent researching what the youth of today really care about, and realizing that what they were lacking was a platform for their creativity," Mr. Sampson said.
The first two stages involved design and music
In the first stage in 2008, young Chinese created a personal page of inspiration on HP's Chinese web site, culminating in a printed book.
The second stage was recording original hip hop tracks, including producing a hip hop music video distributed to schools and online networks.
The current stage, launched in September 2009, invited Chinese youth to submit film script ideas based on four themes voted on by young consumers -- holidays, student dormitories and bedrooms, love and dreams.
"The program offered a lot of opportunities for participation," said Dean Sciole, exec creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, Beijing.
The online community shot and uploaded their own films for each story based on the winning script. They could also vote for Academy Awards-like prizes such as best film, actor, actress, film treatment and musical score. The short film that will be introduced next month was put together by Mr. Ning using the best elements from the finalist film in each of the four themes. The finalists also won HP notebook computers.
Mr. Sampson would only describe the budget as "significant." He said "A program like this is not cheap but it does provide deep engagement. It pays back because youth really get engaged with the HP brand over three years. The average length of time on the site is about 2.3 minutes, but some people stay for hours."
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