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How to fake a viral video: the man behind the most-viewed fakes

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Olivia Luder
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Some of the embedded clips in this article contain strong language

The Woolshed Company, an Australian video production studio, has rocked the World Wide Web by revealing that they faked a series of viral videos. Wait, you mean not everything on the internet is real?

Their videos have amassed over 1.6 million likes, 205 million views and been reported on news networks around the world as news stories.

We spoke to Dave Christison, head of The Woolshed Company, to see what he had to say for himself…

So where did the idea to fake a viral video come from?

Dave: We didn’t have a grand plan at the beginning. The first Shark video was a one-off experiment. We kind of got really curious about how to replicate results like that over and over.

The second one that we made was the tornado selfie video and I think the reason we did it was because we were running off the Shark’s reaction. We thought, "hey, this is a medium that [presents] a really exciting opportunity to create a short, snackable piece of content".

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And why reveal they were faked now?

We always intended to produce a series of them. Somewhere along the way, we capped it at eight videos and timing-wise, we literally just finished the lion one a month or so ago. We were done and we wanted to come out to the world and tell them all the truth.

So what’s the magic formula to making your video go viral?

Dave: I kind of break it down into three stages - the concept, the execution and then the way you distribute it. These are the three key fundamentals:

1. Treat these things like short form entertainment - no matter how shallow or short, they’ve still got to have the basics of a story.

2. You’ve got to have a promise of a hook that’s so compelling that it makes people want to click, play and tolerate the first 10-20 seconds. Maybe a thumbnail or one image. You condense that into a few words in the description.

3. You’ve got to create an element of debate. It could be about the authenticity of the video because it looks fake, or it looks so real it has to not be real.

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Were you surprised by the reaction to the videos?

Not at all. If you look at the comments on any of the videos, there’s a sway towards more people believing they’re fake than real, but it creates this healthy debate about it. We would often get surprised if people really really, in their hearts and in their souls, believed it was real. Maybe it’s a compliment to the way it was produced!

Which was the most exciting video you’ve released?

A really exciting one for us was when we did the lightning strike video that ended up being our highest viewed video.

It was quite a spontaneous video. There were always these storms and so we thought, here’s an idea to capitalise on what’s going on. We shot it and turned it around in 24 hours. But something was missing, so two of my co-creators went down into the garage and started recording all these silly reactions. We picked the most ridiculous one just a couple of minutes before we ran with it so we didn’t have time to really think things through. It hit the Australian news within a few hours. That took off faster than any of ours really have before.

Note: This video contains strong language which may offend

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Are there any famous viral videos that you reckon are faked?

I’m certain that the crocodile crawling across the golf course is fake… Chewbacca mom is definitely real!

What’s the reaction been like now people know they’re fake?

The majority have taken it in good jest. Mostly it’s been like, “Man, I cannot believe I was convinced it was real, you got me!”

For anyone out there who genuinely feels hard done by, I give a genuine apology to you!

Reckon you’ll make anymore?

I guess you’ll never know!

So there you go. How does it feel to be seeing the world in a much more cynical light?

See more on how the company pulled the wool over our eyes below...

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