Tale of a Viral Video: Striking Lightning With Rainworks

3.5 million views on Facebook. Over 2 million views on YouTube. Stories on Huffpost, Buzzfeed, and Seattle media galore. And, as of yesterday, even Nicki Minaj took note of the video on Seattle’s own Rainworks, showcasing their “rain activated art,” that became a big viral hit. By now you’ve probably seen the video, but what you may not know is that this hugely popular short had some very humble beginnings.

Rainworks Waka Waka Studios

Rainworks featured by Nicki Minaj on Facebook

The filmmakers behind the piece, Scott Morris and Jacob Christensen, are managing partners at Waka Waka Studios in Seattle; the two met at an info session for the Communication Leadership graduate program at the University of Washington (both are incoming students for next year). After originally founding Waka Waka four years ago, Christensen brought Morris on board for an initial collaboration for Boeing in January. “We immediately found out that we worked well together,” said Christensen, and he asked Morris to join Waka Waka as an equal partner.

Also in January, Morris decided to get a jump start on his graduate studies by taking a multimedia storytelling class, which required production of three short films in just ten weeks. But after being very pleased with the second video (also a collaboration with Christensen) Morris was afraid he’d peaked too early. “I was really worried and stressed about it.” Morris said. “I didn’t want to put forward a clunker for the last video.”

With the quarter nearing an end and the pressure on to find a compelling story for his final clip, Morris received a short email from Christensen, who had just been randomly invited by a friend to like Rainworks’ Facebook page. The email from Christensen contained the URL for Rainworks’ home page, and a single sentence: “I think I may have just found your next video.”

Morris and Christensen conducted interviews with the Rainworks team and filmed them at work around Seattle in short order, then edited the piece together in a matter of days. Rainworks and Waka Waka each posted the clip to their social media channels, but, at that point, virality was far from Morris and Christensen’s minds. “My goal was to tell a good story in a visually interesting way that would make both my professor and the Rainworks crew happy,” Morris said. “I thought what they do is awesome and I knew people would love it if they found out about it, but I had no idea the attention it would get.”

Waka Waka Studios Rainworks

L to R: Peregrine Church, Scott Morris, Jacob Christensen, and Xack Fischer: Image courtesy of Waka Waka Studios

The views racked up faster than they could have anticipated – major media outlets took notice and requests from the press poured in. In addition, the clip’s sudden transformation from non-commercial school project to viral sensation meant that Morris had to work overtime to secure licensing for third-party footage included in the clip. Fortunately, he and Christensen included attribution for all third-party footage used in the video. “I think that helped create goodwill with the other parties,” he said. ” We weren’t trying to claim we shot their footage.”

Now that a few weeks have passed, the Rainworks video seems to have been a crowd pleaser for just about everybody. Morris achieved his goals for class and then some; Rainworks received a deluge of attention for their ingenious art; Waka Waka can claim their first viral video production; and, according to Morris, even the manufacturers of the hydrophobic coating Rainworks uses are pleased that their product is receiving so much more attention.

Above all, though, the key to the video’s success with audiences may lie in a simple truth from Morris: “The message behind Rainworks is just so overwhelmingly positive, it’s hard not to like it.”

If you’ve been abstaining from all forms of social media for the last two weeks and haven’t seen the Rainworks video from Waka Waka Studios, check it out, above.

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