by Dominique Claire Shuminova
You may not have heard of filmmaker & Pelham Manor resident Michael Krivicka, but you have almost certainly seen his work.
Krivicka’s latest brainchild to go viral, a hidden camera video shot at Prisco Appliance & Electronics in White Plains for Paramount Pictures’ Rings movie, garnered over 200 million views in its first 24 hours on Facebook, shattering records, and quickly surpassing Thinkmodo’s previous campaigns – including their telekinesis stunt for Sony’s 2013 film Carrie, and the terrifyingly realistic demon baby they unleashed on NYC for Fox’s 2014 film Devil’s Due – to become the #1 most watched Facebook video of all time with over 316 million views and counting.
Michal, as he was known then, was born in 1976 in a small village called Cifer in what was then Czechoslovakia. “I walked to school. I played outside a lot. I liked fishing, and catching crab fish,” he reminisces. His father Jozef was an actor. In 1986, his family fled the communist regime and were granted asylum in Germany. “We were put in this immigration camp, and then the computer randomly selected where you’d start your new life,” he recalls, “and we ended up near Frankfurt.”
“In Slovakia what you were able to see was state-controlled, but after I moved to Germany, I grew up watching Ghostbusters and Crocodile Dundee,” Krivicka says, prompting him to move to the United States for college. He graduated summa cum laude from NJCU in 2000 with a major in Media Arts. After college he worked as an editor in New York City, creating award-winning short films on the side. He met his wife Nadia Krivickova on Match.com in 2006.
The couple moved from the West Village to Pelham Manor in late 2015, where they live with their three young children, Ethan, Miles, and Norah. The boys attend Mount Tom in New Rochelle. “We looked in Larchmont, Scarsdale, Irvington,” Krivicka reveals, “and this was the first house where we walked in and both said, ‘This is it!’ We put a full price asking, and then we had to wait and bid it out and we won by just a few hundred bucks. Our real estate agent, Arthur Scinta, did a really fantastic job introducing us to Pelham. We’re really happy here. The only thing missing is a white picket fence, and maybe me grilling, with a dog running around.”
Back in 2009, Krivicka created his first video to go viral, racking up over 3 million views on youtube. James L. Percelay, a veteran SNL line producer, saw a video he had made about a fake iPhone app called Nude that allowed you to see through people’s clothing, and reached out. They launched Thinkmodo together in 2011. “He was somebody who could open a lot of doors that I couldn’t open. I was that kid with, crazy ideas, like let’s rock this social media stuff, and youtube was exploding, and Facebook was exploding, but I would just have been some kid doing crazy stuff. He was the perfect guy to team up with.”
Thinkmodo’s only other permanent staff member, producer Sam Pezzullo, who lives in New Rochelle, joined the company in 2012. The award-winning team has an unparalleled track record producing branded viral video campaigns for major movie studios, magazines, and consumer products. “We don’t want to grow,” explains Krivicka, “We only do a handful of projects a year and there’s a reason for it. We want to do it our way. It’s not necessarily scalable, what we do. It comes down to the great idea and how we execute it.”
“A lot of stuff gets rolling with us when we sit down and start brainstorming,” Krivicka reveals. “It’s a collaborative process every single time. We have a handwritten napkin we call the ‘Thinkmodo vault’, I keep rewriting it because it has coffee stains on it. The Telekinetic Coffee Shop, one of our most famous videos, was an idea we had on there for a year.”
The average price tag on one of Thinkmodo’s videos is close to $1 million, on par with a regular TV commercial budget. That includes the production – they hire up to 50 people for each project – editing, creation of the animatronics or other props needed, and the rollout of the online campaign. Unlike a traditional ad campaign, when a client’s message goes viral, it generates priceless media coverage for free. If a promotional stunt makes it onto the news, it’s not a commercial anymore, it’s content.
“I have a really good understanding of what’s shareable content and how to package it,” Krivicka says. “I’m in the business of predicting that millions of people will watch something. I’m going to make a video that’s going to go viral, and tens of millions will watch it. Very few people can make that statement. You have to give people something they have never seen before.”
Nowadays, every time Thinkmodo releases something new it’s newsworthy. “We don’t want to put our name to something that we don’t think is going to go viral, that we don’t think is going to be a big hit,” explains Krivicka. “There has to be some viral DNA we can apply.”
“We are known for inventing really futuristic gadgets, cars, or vehicles, like we invented this golf cart jet pack, and we created the world’s first fully automated selfie stick.” A mischievous look dances across Krivicka’s face. “We do these hidden cameos, like there’s a framed picture of me and my business partner in the coffee shop video. Or we made this fake documentary about a guy living inside the Astor Place cube, and we created a perfect replica of the cube, and we are the guys spinning the cube in the video.”
Thinkmodo’s HQ is in Midtown Manhattan and most of their videos are shot in NYC, but Krivicka prefers to work from his home office. “I direct a lot of the videos that we do and I edit all of them. I pick the music. I’m involved in every part of the creative process,” he explains. “I would love to do something in Pelham sometime. I have some ideas, but it would have to be the right client, the right project because usually, my stuff is very wild and crazy and chaotic.”
Thinkmodo is producing their next project in California during the first week of March for a big telecommunications client. “That’s all I can reveal,” Krivicka teases. “And it’s going to be launched end of the month. It’s an invention. It’s another very cool, awesome thing, surprising and disruptive, that’s going to get a lot of people talking!”
@thinkmodo on Twitter