Alums promote horror film with viral marketing, embedded puzzles, cross-country tour

Jose Sauceda and Gabriel BarbozaTake two guys, an independent film and a unique tactic to attract viewers and you may have the latest formula for movie-making success.

Gabriel Barboza and Jose Sauceda met while they were radio, television and film majors at UNT. Both graduated with bachelors of arts degrees in 2004.

While they were students, they collaborated on several projects, so when Barboza realized in early 2007 that he could begin filming his first serious movie project, he asked Sauceda to sign on as assistant director.

Shooting for the movie began within days of Sauceda joining the project.


About the movie

The project – a horror film called Green Eyed Monster – is based on Barboza's screenplay that incorporates urban legends and Hispanic folklore. It retells a well-known South Texas myth about friends who gather at an abandoned ranch to search for buried money.

As they look for the fortune and dwell on the prospect of found wealth, the monster lurking in the heart of human nature stirs and the friends begin to turn on each other – and one by one, they vanish.


An interactive twist

Before he began writing the screenplay, Barboza read a book that had clues about the secret hiding place of a real treasure woven through the plot. Readers could decipher the clues and find an actual prize. Intrigued by the interactive concept, Barboza decided to use it in his first film project.

"When I read the book, I had been working on a concept for my first film that centered around Hispanic folklore because, as anyone from Texas can tell you, Hispanics are very superstitious people," Barboza says. "I wanted the film to focus primarily on a common bit of folklore that deals with fortunes buried in people's backyards -- the money is also almost always cursed. I decided I wanted to toy with the idea of audience participation. What if someone watching a movie about hidden money could get involved in the legend? What if they could search for the money and actually find it?"

Barboza bounced the final drafts of the screenplay off Sauceda and the Green Eyed Monster concept was born. Hidden within the movie are clues to three different prizes. Each prize has its own set of clues and each set of clues reveals a puzzle with a cash reward. The prizes total $10,000. You can buy the G.E.M. DVD and watch the movie over and over again to figure out the clues. Read the official contest rules and regulations.


The promotion tour

Sauceda and Barboza with their truckWhen you make independent films and you have few resources, promoting your movie projects is a challenge. To get the word out about Green Eyed Monster, Barboza and Sauceda launched a cross-country tour, using a home-built modified box truck to advertise their film as they drove to horror film festivals on both coasts and to other screenings along the way.

"We really got to know each other on that trip," Sauceda says. "I mean, we literally drove from Dallas to Houston, to San Antonio, to Austin then back to Dallas, then all the way to Memphis, Tenn. And we talked nonstop." 

You can hear more about the tour by watching video blogs posted by Barboza and Sauceda.

To augment their modest budget, Barboza sold space on the truck and plastered its sides with sponsors' advertisements.

"I thought I wasn't going to be able to do the tour because I simply couldn't afford it," he says. "I knew I couldn't pound the pavement for leads so I jumped on eBay and sold about 14 spaces in just under a month.  If it weren't for eBay and the ads, I wouldn't be doing it."


Viral marketing gets the word out

As the tour wound down, another element of the Green Eyed Monster marketing plan was launched – trailers with clues for $500 prizes hidden within them.

Barboza posted the first trailer on YouTube April 22 and the page got almost 4,000 views within the first 24 hours. By April 25, it had gotten more than 12,000 views.

He created MySpace and Facebook accounts for the movie and posted code on the movie's main site so that horror and indy bloggers can promote the film from their sites.


Spring board to other projects

Barboza and Sauceda both say the challenges they faced making Green Eyed Monster taught them valuable lessons that will help them make future movies. They two are already talking of collaborating to film a movie based on a script Sauceda was writing during the first leg of the Green Eyed Monster tour.

"I hope this project will lead to another movie," Sauceda says. "Whether its Gabe's or mine or someone else's from the Green Eyed Monster project. I think that's what every filmmaker wants ultimately, to keep making movies. I know we want to keep going for as long as we can."