When Meelah Adams and Erdal Ceylan scoured the internet in 2015, hunting for social influencers to push their horror short — a jump-scare piece titled Selfie From Hell — to the heights of virality, little did they expect to be sitting on 17.5 million YouTube hits twelve months later. Now, following a feature-length movie deal, a bunch of awards and a little help from Movie Pilot, that's the "dream come true" scenario they've found themselves in.
And now, to mark the Exclusive Movie Pilot release of their second horror short Demon's Dawn, Adams and Ceylan have come back to share their inspiring story with the MP community.
'Selfie From Hell'
This under-two-minute fright film started as part of Adams' bachelor thesis, a project that aimed to investigate, explore and analyze the phenomenon of viral videos, and then recreate one herself. She teamed up with author and director Ceylan, whose upcoming novel Fuck You Zombie, passion for the horror genre and talent for storytelling leant wholly to the cause.
Working without a large production team due to budget restrictions led to a number of reshoots for the two perfectionists. However, that enabled the two-person team to deliver their vision without compromise, while constantly learning on the job. With no-one around to help, they found "it easier to put the project in action without others telling [them] how it ought to be done." And after three nights of filming and days of post production, the horror short #SelfieFromHell came to life.
A simple narrative that stays true to Ceylan's style of "taking classic ideas and making them up-to-date," the short follows a young woman as she takes a cleavage-filled sexy selfie for her boyfriend — and then finds herself trapped in her home with an unwanted visitor.
Once the video was ready, Adams began her search for "influencers to make the video viral," and it was through this search that she came across Movie Pilot's Horror Facebook Page.
She explains, "I didn't believe they would be interested in featuring [the short] because they were so — but, I just tried it, I contacted them and then Julian replied to my message and everything started from there."
Julian Gerdes is one of Movie Pilot's Community Team members, a group of scouts whose days are dedicated to finding talented, passionate film fanatics around the globe. Adams continues, "Movie Pilot was already well known for us, so when Julian replied it was just like, "Whoa, really?! For sure?" Because I just really didn't believe it! I just thought maybe someone else would reply to my messages, but if Movie Pilot would be interested then that would be unbelievable."
Once Adams and Ceylan created a Movie Pilot account and uploaded the video, alongside an article explaining the concept and inspiration behind the piece, MP shared it across its social media networks to 30 million fans worldwide. That's when the YouTube clicks began rolling in.
"It really took off with Movie Pilot," Ceylan recounts. "The article made it worldwide known. You could really see in the YouTube statistics — it was everywhere. We got some clicks before, but after Movie Pilot it really exploded. You have a really great audience, all over the world."
As the YouTube numbers grew, their phones began to ring. A flurry of responses, which initially felt like pranks, turned into an unbelievable overnight success story.
"It was really crazy, a lot of people wrote to us, wanted to support us and do YouTube stuff with us." And just when they thought the interest would peak, the call every filmmaker dreams of arrived. Hollywood was on the line.
"We just thought, 'No, that cannot be true.' It was just unbelievable that these people were real and looking forward to working with us!" Adams exclaimed. "Before, nobody ever was interested. We just never had this audience before. And then everyone, all of a sudden, wanted to work with us."
Skip forward a few months and Adams and Ceylan have signed to Industry Works, the studio who produced American Mary, and are now working to turn Selfie From Hell into a feature-length movie. They've flown out to Canada to be fully immersed in the narrative development process, and, as if that weren't enough, they've also picked up an iHorror Award for Best Horror Short, exhibited at the Berlinale film festival and received several other nominations including, most recently, the Deutscher Webvideopreis — the most important video prize in Germany — which you can still vote for by following this link.
Although they make the whole process look so easy, these two certainly are not ones to rest on their laurels. The pair — who's progress you can track by following their Facebook Page, Fuck You Zombie — are now developing two more shorts to complete a trilogy exclusively for Movie Pilot. The first of which, Demon's Dawn, you can watch below.
Adams explains, "It's about a comfortable evening, a girl relaxing at home and then, again, something creepy happens. You'll just have to watch it," she laughs, before clarifying that this concept is entirely new. And while there are no zombies within this demonic short, you can rest assured there are plenty of cool prosthetics — at least, if her 4–6 hour makeup time is anything to go by.
Tell Stories, Get Active
While it's easy to see that they got exceptionally lucky with the awesome and totally unexpected success of Selfie From Hell, which is now undoubtably one of the best viral horror movie shorts ever, progress wasn't made while sitting on their asses. Their advice?
'You Cannot Make A Good Movie Out Of A Bad Script'
"You need a good story," Ceylan stresses. "There's this saying: You cannot make a good movie out of a bad script. Don't tell yourself it will work out — it never works out. You feel it when it's not working.
"You need something that pulls you in and makes you want to watch it, and maybe take with you. It may not work every time but at least you should try to make a good story."
And, perhaps most importantly, "Get active. Do it yourself. Practice. If you're not active, nothing will work out. You can't just wait for Hollywood to call you when you're not doing anything. Get active, that's all!"
If you fancy yourself a master of the macabre, check out Movie Pilot's scary competition in conjunction with Crypt TV!