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A look behind Microsoft’s “Office 2010: The Movie”

A look behind Microsoft’s “Office 2010: The Movie” thumbnail

You’d never expect a behemoth of a company like Microsoft to dabble in the intrigue, action and literal explosiveness of an episode of “24“, but that’s exactly what they done in this viral that’s been taking YouTube by storm.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Well it turns out that Dennis Liu — the director, editor, writer, wardrobe manager, craft table supervisor and just about every other role — is a big ihaveanidea fan. “I’m a huge fan of the site,” he says. “I love the interviews with major CCOs and creatives. I never went to ad school, so I turned to your site often in college. It really, really helped, and kept me inspired.

Well we’re suckers for compliments, so we got a chance to catch up with Dennis and hear the whole story behind the YouTube viral.


dennis headshot fixed 1 A look behind Microsofts Office 2010: The Movieihaveanidea: So how did you come to be a director, one that likes visiting ihaveanidea at that? 

Dennis: I graduated film school at NYU a 3 years ago as an undergrad. Never went to ad school. I’m a Michael Bay fan (go figure) and was fascinated how he broke into directing, so I thought I would try the commercial/music video route, since that’s how he got in. I started as an assistant producer at Saatchi & Saatchi NY for a couple years and then went from there to being an assistant producer at BBDO. They learned I was an editor, so I cut a lot of agency award reels, which was great experience in seeing what truly great work is. I kept improving my spec reel on the side. It was always like working two jobs at once for a few years. Then finally, it happened… and now I’m signed with But yeah, it’s been a lot of brute force hard work. It’s not been easy. 

ihaveanidea: Apparently Microsoft approached you directly to make something for them, based on what they saw from you on YouTube. 

Dennis: I made this music video for The Bird & The Bee for their song, “Again & Again.” It took me 5 months to make or something crazy like that because I would do it after work at Saatchi, and it was grueling after a long day at work. If you haven’t seen it, the video takes a tour of Apple’s OSX, and uses every program that Apple supports. Larkin Clark, a very talented actress, sings the song as the video tours different applications. Then it buys the song on iTunes. I can’t explain it, but it’s pretty cool. 

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Anyway, I posted that on the internet, and it raked in 1,000,000 hits rather quickly. I got a lot of cool phone calls about it, and one of those calls was from Microsoft. They saw that video, and gave me an opportunity to write a viral for Office 2008 for Mac. So I got a bunch of friends together and we made a video guide called “Pretending to Work,” which shows you how to “Pretend to Work” using Microsoft Office. While it got great press — it only pandered out 100,000 hits. We were a little disappointed. 

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

But I think Microsoft liked it, which is important, and then gave my team a new brief to help release the Technical Preview of Office 2010. I always wanted to make an action movie, so it naturally seemed like a perfect fit with Microsoft Office! They took a gamble on a high concept idea like that, which I give them tremendous credit. It’s not easy making a big creative call like that. 

J.T. Arbogast and Gary Roosa are two comedy writer friends of mine, and we hammered together a silly story. We worked really hard on it. Although I produced, edited, co-wrote, and directed it,  I had a great production team behind me, all friends I had met in film school. One was even an old classmate from my high school. Filmmaking is not a one man show, and I had two great producers, Matt and Jon, who luckily are as insane as I am in making cool work. While this project came to us in a homegrown fashion through YouTube, it was a massive 7 day production, tons of locations, helicopters, motorcycles, a big cast, and special effects! @radical was great in cheering us on, and guiding my career as a director. 

Microsoft was very cool and collaborative, and creative. They came up with some great ideas.

ihaveanidea: Do you think YouTube truly levels the playing field between the big, global ad agencies who’d love to do a project like this, and people like you? I mean, you all put your stuff up on YouTube to get noticed…

Dennis: YouTube makes everything honest. If work is great, then it gets passed around. If work sucks, then it gets rated poorly and never sees the light of day. Global agencies are under more scrutiny to do great work with all the material out there. But they won’t lose their clients… and there’s not going to be a huge revolution. They might just be under more pressure.

But what I love YouTube most for is that it helps showcase talent. It helps showcase work from people that normally wouldn’t be able to get access to such a mass audience. I was having trouble people at work seriously believing that I was a “director.” It was always my dream, but some people want to hold you back, or just need you to “prove it.” Some people encouraged it, others thought I had no clue what I was talking about. YouTube lets people see what the masses think, which is especially important in advertising. 

Anyway, YouTube singlehandedly help launch my directing career, because it let a mass audience decide what they like and what they don’t like. I’m proud that all the virals my team has put together have 4.5/5 stars, with lots of comments and dialogue. We also always brand our viral videos a lot, and are concerned about trying to sell the product. Some virals I watch (client paid for) and while entertaining, I have no idea what it’s advertising. I think that’s the viral’s biggest issue, and must be infuriating to clients. Im proud that there’s something like 9 products featured in Office 2010: The Movie. I think that’s a lot. But yeah, I love YouTube ratings because it’s undeniable evidence whether or not people like the work. So far, we’ve raked in 850,000 hits in a week with a 4.5 star rating. Not bad!


Thanks Dennis! Credits are below, and to everyone else, Dennis is in the ihaveanidea community, so you can catch him at his ihaveanidea profile right here.


Official Trailer to Office 2010 The Movie

Client: Microsoft

Agency: Traffik

Director: Dennis Liu

Producers: Jonathan Hsu, Matt Anderson

Production Designer: Nicole Teeny

Script: Dennis Liu, J.T. Arbogast, Gary Roosa

Art Director: Kevin Su

DP: Doug Emmett/Dennis Liu

Editor: Dennis Liu

Sound Design: Dennis Liu

Music: Groove Addict

VFX Company: LOICA

Cast: J.T. Arbogast, John Di Domenico, Magda Bendek, Jeff Lepine, Elisabeth Hower, Tasha Perri




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