Alia Shawkat Stars in Ingeniously Produced Ad for Snackable Comics

It took Archie generations to get representation like this

We're in a golden age of content, but some entertainment gets higher billing than others. Promos abound for films, series and games … but what of comics? Remember those?

Webtoon is an app that brought comics to smartphones, where snackable stories from diverse artists and authors are purveyed in a format designed for the medium: Pop in, pick a genre and scroll through scene after scene, from comedies and romances to thrillers and fantasies.

Webtoon claims to host 64 million monthly active users, 16.5 million of whom read daily—easily as much as a standard-issue sitcom (The Big Bang Theory clocked an average of 17.31 million people per episode), with an infinitely lower production budget.

So the app decided to make like its bigger-screen peers, and advertise.

Here's the full-length video promo for "Freaking Romance," a supernatural series with over 44 "episodes."

This is the work of Fred & Farid Los Angeles, whose remit was to raise awareness of Webtoon in the U.S. It features Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development, and the tagline "Stories to Obsess Over."

It's fun to watch Shawkat act, but the context is murky (is she literally talking about a ghost … ?) unless you understand the comic itself. So here's the content trailer for "Freaking Romance."

It follows young Zylith, whose first-ever apartment comes with a weird quirk—a hot guy who may (or may not) be a ghost. He seems alive, but they're living in different realities, which intersect just enough to spark irresistible, unrequitable lust ... not unlike that one movie with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves (no, not Speed).

Once that's understood, Shawkat's artistic interpretation feels like a witty breath of life. Our biggest question is whether every piece that follows will require the same level of context to fully appreciate what's here. Future iterations will ostensibly tackle other genre standouts and feature different actors. 

Perhaps sensing this question, Fred & Farid observed that the style—a lone actor playing out a protagonist's emotional conflict—is the fruit of a Covid-related pivot.

When live production sets were asked to lock down, the team worked with Ways & Means, director/DP Kevin Phillips, and video conferencing specialists to build a sustainable workaround, including adapting the creative for long-term remote shooting.

A pro-grade camera and a sanitized "filmmaker kit" were sent to Shawkat's home the day before, and as she shot, agency and clients watched live, as in a traditional on-set video village.

A camera assistant remotely controlled aperture and focus; even craft services were sent to clients via delivery, to maintain a cheerful "on-set" vibe.

Here's the behind-the-scenes:

When the shoot ended, a Phantom camera, lighting equipment and props arrived at director Phillips' home, enabling him to shoot a few slow-motion macro shots to interlace with Shawkat's dialogue in post-prod.

We were drawn to this work because we like comics. But what hooked us were the elaborate details about how Fred & Farid changed its production model. It didn't just jury-rig a right-now solution; it created systems that will be easy to replicate and optimize long-term—covering practicalities, like sanitized filmmaking kits for actors, while considering the small comforts that give a live shooting its ambiance, like remembering to send the client live snackies for D-Day.

Of course, production anecdotes include an intimate blurred-world detail, now so typical of our new normal. Shawkat's brother acted as "production assistant," moving equipment from one setup to the next.

"There's a solution to every problem! This new way of shooting remotely could reshape the way creative work is done for the foreseeable future," says creative director Chelsea Steiger of Fred & Farid LA. "Now we know we can pull off a broadcast-quality production safely, without making sacrifices creatively."

Check out the :15 variants, which are cuts of the larger version, below.


Agency: Fred & Farid Los Angeles
Client: Webtoon
Title of Ad: "Quarantine Series: Freaking Romance"
CEO: Ken Kim
Head of Marketing: Philip Ser
David Lee: Head of Content
Marketing: Erica Kim
Marketing: Crystal Chan
Chief Creative Officers: Fred & Farid
Creative Director: Chelsea Steiger
Writer: Hilary Smith
Art Director: Jocelyn Lam
Business Director: Nathan Smith
Agency Executive Producer: Amanda Van Caneghem
Agency Integrated Producer: Andy Caramanzana
Business Affairs: Jesse Sinkiewicz
Production Company: Ways & Means
Executive Producers: Lana Kim, Jett Steiger
Head of Production: Lauren Skillen
Director / DP: Kevin Phillips
Producer: Brandon Robinson
1st Assistant Director: Chad Nicholson
1st Assistant Camera: Matthew Sanderson
Remote Technical Supervisor: Dan Skinner
Production Designer: Ashley Fenton
Location Sound: Colin Alexander
Script Supervisor: Martha Dame Cary
Talent Support: Sharif Shawkat
Editor: Sean Leonard 
Color: Arsenal Creative
Colorist: Derek Hansen
Sound Design: Colin Alexander
Composer: Ali Helnwein
VFX: Stephen Pagano
Place of the shoot: Los Angeles (In the Talent's home)

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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