04/25/2023

Helping Our VeeFriend on Burn Island 5

A buddy of ours asked if we were game to help him create a 20s video debating a fictional cat about fear and negativity. The answer was a resounding “yes.”

I personally know very little about NFTs and Gary Vee. I’ve heard about dude forever, and have even at times been accused of “sounding like Gary Vee.” Luckily for Aaron Wenzel, other folks on the L+S team are a little more familiar than that. 

We got together with Aaron to learn more about VeeFriends, Burn Island, and Gary Vee. From there, we started brainstorming ideas. We identified a few key characteristics we assumed would be important to Gary and thereby important to his 3rd party judges, then tried to triangulate around our greatest opportunity. 

We distilled it down to: 

  1. Inspirational
  2. Inventive
  3. In your face

Prompt

Here’s what we got from the VeeFriends blog

Cynical Cat sneered: “Humans will NEVER overcome their fears and negativity! I challenge you to a debate, to prove me wrong!… Do you think you can change my mind? Ha! I doubt it!” The VeeFriends characters exchanged glances, uncertain of what to do when one VeeFriends stepped forward and said, “I accept your challenge!”

The winner would be selected based on what video best proves Cynical Cat wrong through some combination of ingenuity, storytelling, authenticity, and debate. 

Story

Aaron’s story is rad. He always says he “took the road less traveled” to get where he’s at today. The short version is he went from a 2.3 GPA in high school without ever taking the SAT or ACT, and ended up through med school with a super successful private practice.

We got him to outline key bullet points of his story. These had a lot to do with the various directions we explored. 

Ideas that didn’t quite make the cut

Here’s a sample of the ideas we threw around. 

  • Pinnacle Puss, Cynical Cat’s positive alter ego debates CC from the future. 
  • Montage of humanity overcoming adversity
  • Deep cuts of Aaron’s life
  • VeeFriends as a devil and angel on Aaron’s shoulders
  • Coming up with any stupid argument and then showing Cynical Cat as the thought explosion emoji with a green check mark instead of a “no” symbol
  • React video TikTok style
  • VH1 Pop-up Video


We got to various degrees of ideation on some of these.

Pinnacle Puss, Cynical Cat's Alter Ego

We wasted a lot of time trying to get Midjourney to design us a zen, self-actualized version of Cynical Cat named Pinnacle Puss.

I personally created this horrible thought explosion Cynical Cat (don’t ask me how I did it, it was a total nightmare). 

Helping Our VeeFriend on Burn Island 5 1

We storyboarded the TikTok idea, but just didn’t have enough back and forth to keep it going and interesting at the same time.

Helping Our VeeFriend on Burn Island 5 2


I hand drew a bunch of icons to emulate pop-up video graphics. 

Helping Our VeeFriend on Burn Island 5 3
“VF1” Pop-up Video experiment

Here’s an early storyboard that is pretty close to where we landed.

Helping Our VeeFriend on Burn Island 5 4

Positioning & Direction

Luckily, entrants were posting to Twitter quite a bit. That gave us an insight into the angles folks were leaning into. We looked for green space in hopes that we could keep our video off the cutting room floor while still hitting the requirements per the prompt. 

It was clear that people were leaning heavily into inspirational and in-your-face with little in between. We came up with a basic script and idea that wasn’t the most amazing thing in the world, but only dipped the toe into inspiration and in-your-face, with a light sprinkling of inventiveness. 

We wanted to include Aaron’s real story, some Veeisms, and make use of the characters in some way. 

  1. We decided on Aaron telling a simple, scientific (but impassioned) story. 
  2. We used the characters for his personal subtext in a “live stream” setting. We had Cynical Cat call out 2 points in Aaron’s story. One that could just be construed as something “negative,” the other that could be viewed as something to “fear.” We used Positive Porcupine to “rebuke” the negative thought and Brave Bison to address the fear. 
  3. For Veeisms, we leaned into not caring what anyone else thinks and the concept of 400 trillion to 1 – which Aaron was uniquely positioned to describe… being a doctor and all that jazz.

What we needed

  • A script
  • A  source video with passable audio
  • A list of “anti-credentials”
  • Sound track
  • Graphics to support our direction

What we developed

The Script

We started with this:

First, I don’t have to convince Cynical Cat because I don’t care what they think. [CUE “anti credentials” in livestream comment/chat style on side of video] Truth is, humans come into the world pre-packaged to overcome impossible odds. [CUE sperm / egg visual] 400 trillion to 1. It’s unimaginable and it’s undeniable. Humans were born to win. [CUE lower 3rd] Trust me, I’m a doctor… now *wink*

Working with Aaron’s ad libs and our amazing friend Hans (Hunz) in Australia, we hashed out the final form and ended up here:

  • Aaron: I don’t really care what you think. Cynical cat. I’ve been overcoming fear and negativity my whole life.
    • CynicalCat7665: Yeah, like your 2.3 GPA? Lolz
  • Aaron: <sperm gif> All humans come into the world day one pre packaged to overcome impossible odds.
    • por_CU_pine: Dude, you do know he’s a doctor now, right? 
  • Aaron: 400 trillion to one that you became you, humans are just born winners. 
    • CynicalCat7665: Is that why your first business lost $1 million dollars? 🤔
  • Aaron: It’s science. 
    • BraveBisonOfficial: Uh, then he founded a multi-million dollar medical practice
  • Aaron: Trust me. <i’m a doctor “wink”> I’m a doctor.


The Video and Anti-Credentials

Aaron shot his own video with a Rode lav mic and an iPhone in his office. He was a trooper and shot multiple videos throughout the day to get us what we needed. We ended up with some clipping on the audio, which was a drag, but given some of the stuff we saw, we figured it was passable. 

Aaron doesn’t have a problem with authenticity or transparency. He delivered the goods on his anti-credentials. Learning more about Aaron’s backstory makes it easy to understand why Gary Vee appeals to him.

The Sound Track

We came up with 3 potential vibes and quickly zeroed in on what we called “upbeat urban” – Jesse grabbed Get Along by J5 and LA by Murs as examples.

Daniel wrote an original audio track in what felt like 30 seconds to try to capture the general vibe. We wanted it to feel a little “SoCal Schooling, After School Special.” Daniel titled the piece, “Aaron from San Diego.” He wrote a second piece “Cynical Cat Gets PWND” that didn’t make the cut (but is still awesome in my opinion). 

“Aaron from San Diego”
“Cynical Cat Gets PWND”

Graphics

We took our mock ups and ideas to Hans who took it home for us. A few light rounds of back and forth and this is where we landed:

Despite the volume of stuff we just walked through – we did a lot of 11th hour pivoting. And Hans was instrumental in some of the best final decisions. Like the “Thug Life/Deal With It” treatment to address Aaron’s doctor “wink.” 

What do you think? Did we take down Cynical Cat? I guess we’ll find out in 3 weeks.

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