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Saturday, October 06, 2007

The "Star Wars" school board commercial is 1 year old today

It was one year ago today - on October 6th, 2006 - that the now-(in)famous first commercial from my campaign for Rockingham County Board of Education started broadcasting on WGSR in Reidsville...

I had just finished it that morning, and while the video was doing the final render I ran out to find Debbie Moore so that I could give her the check for a month's worth of airtime. Then I got home, burned it onto a CD and drove it over to WGSR and handed it to Matt Smith. Right after that I had to go to Greensboro for an errand, then got back home and after seeing Lisa I went back to the station to see if the commercial was running yet.


Y'know, this commercial, I had to make it. If I didn't produce it for my school board run, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. It was one of those "vision things" that when it overtakes you, you're compelled to see it through. So I did it and thought that it did a pretty good job conveying who I was and what I believe in, so that should be the end of it, right? Right?!?

Instead I get to the station and Matt not only tells me that it's already running, but general manager Charles Roark tells me that my commercial is going to be the topic of discussion for the 5 o'clock show: "I've never seen a commercial like this before in my life!" he told me. So he started the show and he runs the commercial and the phone lines began lighting up like a Christmas tree. Quite a few people actually said that they would vote for me. About the same number said things like "I think this Christopher Knight has a mental problem" and "he looks evil" and "who does he think he is, blowing up a school right after those Amish children were shot?" etc.

Probably the best moment of it all was something that nobody saw on television, when Tyler Richardson walked into the front lobby just as the commercial started airing: the incredulous look on his face is something that I will remember for the rest of my life :-)

And then Mark Childrey started off his newscast talking about it, and during his Talk Back segment people were still calling in to either praise or rant against my commercial.

I got back home from the station and started uploading the commercial to YouTube, with the innocuous title "Christopher Knight for School Board TV Commercial #1". Along with some tags like "Star Wars" and "Death Star" and "lightsaber". I put it on YouTube mostly so that I could post about it on this blog and share it with a few friends.

Then the following week the News & Record ran a story about not just mine but the other wacky commercials in the Rockingham school board race. And then The New York Times featured the commercial! And over the next few days it would also wind up in the pages of The Reidsville Review (with a huge color pic of me wielding the lightsaber on the front page), the News & Observer in Raleigh, the Charlotte Observer, and a few other places. I didn't see them but people told me that Fox 8 WGHP and WXII (the local NBC affiliate) also ran the commercial during their newscasts.

So then there was the election, and I didn't win a seat. But was that the end of the commercial? Far from it: things were just getting ramped-up! A few months after I put it up on YouTube it started getting a lot more notice. This past June it was screened at the Pixelodeon film festival at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

And then VH1 featured it on their show Web Junk 2.0. Which ummmmm... led to quite a lot of commotion. But there's already been enough written about that.

So here it is: my very first commercial is one year old today. And what a long, strange trip it has been since then because of it. Y'know, I really did make this mostly for the local audience in mind, 'cuz those were the voters that I was trying hardest to appeal to. That it wound up going this far and being so widely discussed and apparently rather popular was something I never imagined would happen to it. And oddly enough, out of the three commercials that I made for my campaign, the "Star Wars" one isn't my favorite: that honor belongs to the third and final one.

But I'm still rather proud of this one. It was a lot of hard work (and not a lot of time to make it in). It uses a lot of humor to convey a very serious message. The commercial was even discovered by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which called it the "Best Campaign Ad Ever!"

Not too bad for a guy who used the Death Star to blow up a school while trying to win election to Board of Education :-)