Last Sunday, Florida short film maker Matt Morris posted his ode to a Bermuda 88-year-old as an early, universal Valentine's Day gift. A week later, he's set to cross the 150,000-views threshold on Vimeo, something that makes both him and smiles ambassador Johnny Barnes very gratified.
“Everyone knows someone who doesn't like Valentine's Day because they may or may not be in a relationship at that moment,” Morris tells FilmStew. “I thought it would be nice for people to know that no matter what, Johnny Barnes loved them. I also wanted to make sure I made the deadline for submitting to the Vimeo Festival.”
Barnes is a Bermuda local legend. Despite his advanced age, he continues to camp out for six hours each morning at the Crow Lane roundabout outside Hamilton, so he can blow kisses and pass on smiley good wishes to passing commuters. Helping the short along this past week was its selection as a Vimeo staff pick and a post, written by Morris, for Ted Hope's Indiewire blog.
It's a far cry from the few hundred online viewers who checked into Morris' previous short Pickin' & Trimmin', about a barbershop in Drexel, North Carolina. He says at that time, he set about figuring out what went wrong.
“I did some research and came across this really valuable post on Short Film of the Week on how to properly release a film online. After that, I just did lots of Google searches on what blogs were influential for sharing videos or might enjoy the film. With Mr. Happy Man, I just took lessons learned from that experience and built upon them.”
Morris is not getting rich from these efforts. Unlike YouTube, Vimeo currently has no cash-generating widgets. What's more, as is the case here, an upgraded subscription account is often necessary so that posters can control the quality of the work and how it's viewed. “If I was out to make money with videos on the Internet, I'd probably focus less on short films about interesting elderly folks and more on 15-second clips of hilarious cats,” Morris jokes.
So what's next for this happy messenger? Besides continuing to help out the barbershop he profiled in Pickin' & Trimmin' (his campaign has raised $1,500), he's dealing with an unexpected and very unhappy development pertaining to a possible fourth effort.
“I'm working on a short film about two lounge singers in Winter Park, Florida,” Morris explains. “I hadn't finished the film and was due to do another interview soon, but sadly one of the singers passed away this week."
"It was out of the blue and has really affected everyone who knew and loved him, so I'm still trying to process it, personally and in terms of the film. I'll continue to work on it, but I'm not sure as to the direction it will take at this point.”
As far as Mr. Barnes is concerned, Morris has spoken with him about the film's Vimeo success and couldn't be more thrilled about how the last seven days have panned out. “Johnny is one of the most amazing people I've ever met, but his audience is limited to the 64,000 people who live in Bermuda and any tourists who come through,” he explains. “If I can help him reach out to more people with a message of love and happiness, shouldn't I? That's the goal.”
[Matt Morris Films]