UBC students create YouTube sensation with cast of 1,000 and a helicopter

Jordan Chittley
Daily Brew

University of British Columbia students Andrew Cohen and Bijan Ahmadian set out to help students feel a stronger connection to their largely commuter school, and ended up creating a YouTube sensation.

The viral 10-minute 'lipdub' video viewed almost half a million times in four days, was shot with the cast of 1,000 people and mostly on a single shot. They required a cut for the aerial shot from a helicopter.

"We wanted to go where no lipdub went before, that's why we went underwater," says Cohen, the film's director and executive producer. The video also features karate kicks, pirates sword fighting, ballerinas, superheroes,  the annual Storm the Wall event, a rolling keg and scuba divers all dancing in front of the camera while lip-syncing to Pink's "Raise Your Glass".

While Cohen and Ahmadian came up with some of the ideas, they also encouraged people to bring their own costumes. Cohen says two girls came up to him and asked if they could be zebras and rub pudding on each others' face. "I never had to say no to anything."

It took Cohen and Ahmadian four shots to get everything right.

"The first two were good, but people were still getting into the groove," says Cohen, who booked seven hours for the shoot, but only needed five. "The shoot schedule was very tight, getting 1,000 people to give up time was difficult."

Cohen and Ahmadian wanted to produce the video to help foster a community feel at UBC.
"I never felt a deep-seeded affiliation (to UBC)," says Cohen. He knew other people out there felt the same way and he wanted to create something to change that.
"A lipdub seemed like something that would get people away from studying and bring them together," says co-producer Ahmadian, who didn't know a soul when he first started at UBC as an international student.

The goal of a lipdub is to try to fill the video with as much stuff and do it in as few shots as possible. Cohen says this similarity to the Old Spice commercials is the reason why they borrowed the idea for the beginning. They added the scene to be different and capture people's attention, he says.

To outdo previous lipdubs they also went to the air in a loaned helicopter. "The pilot cancelled a family trip to the Island to shoot for us" because he cared about the project, says Cohen.

UBC is not the first Canadian school to film a lipdub. In 2009, the University of Quebec-Montreal became the first when students lip-synced to the song "I Got a Feeling". In September 2010, the University of Victoria showed students lip-syncing to Michael Buble's "Haven't Met you Yet" and earlier this month Queen's University students lip-synced to "We Are Golden".

Money raised from corporate sponsors is going toward the Make a Wish foundation. Cohen says they are still looking for more sponsors, who will be featured on their website and in the video. So far, Blue Cross has donated one cent per view for the first 50,000 views. They reached that number in less than a day.