20th Century Fox officials looking to market “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” were probably surprised by one of the pitches they heard: Spend the entire amount they had budgeted for one marketing video on relief efforts for the victims of last month’s typhoon in Southeast Asia.
They went with it, though, and are still feeling the impact of the decision.
New York City-based film producer Casey Neistat said he was approached by Fox a few days after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall, but on an unrelated matter. They wanted to know if he could make a promotional film about “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which opens on Christmas Day, centered around the theme of “chasing a dream.”
“I am a big dreamer, but at that time only one thing came to mind: If I could do anything in the world right now what would it be? That’s to help the victims of the typhoon,” Neistat said.
Neistat replied to Fox officials and said he only wanted to make the film if he could spend the entire budget on those impacted by the typhoon.
The storm killed more than 6,000 people and injured nearly 28,000 when it made landfall in the Philippines in early November. About 11 million people have been impacted by the storm, according to the United Nations.
Neistat said Fox agreed to the plan — much to his surprise — and he and a friend flew to Manila.
“My original thought was that we’d connect with an NGO already in place, a nonprofit that’s already doing a lot of good, and I’d simply hand them a check,” Neistat wrote in the description of the YouTube video he ended up producing about the trip. “But that turned out complicated and it sort of felt like the nonprofits we contacted did not want to link up with us.”
Neistat and his friend, Oscar, decided to launch a relief mission of their own. They purchased food and medical supplies and were able to provide tools to villages to aid in the rebuilding process.
Through it all, Neistat said a constant theme stood out to him.
“Never have I met such people with the resilience of these typhoon victims,” he said. “Of everyone we were face to face with, thousands of people, not once, at anytime for any reason did anyone complain. No one. Their focus was on rebuilding and healing, not sympathy.”
The video Neistat ended up producing for 20th Century Fox has been viewed nearly 300,000 times since it was posted on YouTube on Monday afternoon.