The top 10 airline safety videos named by a film critic: And the winner is...

Author: Paul Byrnes

Airlines take our safety seriously, as they keep telling us, which might explain why they make such awful safety films. Most of them traditionally confuse being serious with being dull. That's why they make you do up the seat belt, to stop you walking out.

The dull airline safety film reigned for about 20 years, from the introduction of in-seat entertainment screens in the late-1980s until 2007, when Virgin America broke the mould. They commissioned a cartoon full of freaky-looking punk characters and added a slightly-over-it male voice-over: ''For the point zero zero zero one per cent of you who have never operated a seatbelt before, it works like this…''

They were a new airline with nothing to lose, and the idea caught on. In 2009, Air New Zealand released the first of its now legendary silly safety videos – and the whole idea of the safety film changed. The video featured flight crew in full body paint and not much else, doing the safety instructions. It was a tease, in other words, but there was an inherent gamble in this idea: would the passengers pay attention to what they were being told, or just sit there wondering if the hosties were going to do a full flash?

That's the dilemma when you try to make safety entertaining: there's a fine line between communicating important details and distracting from them. Air NZ is the world champion of entertaining safety films, but even they fell foul of their Civil Aviation Authority last year with a fast-paced video featuring some of the world's top surfers, in top spots like Raglan Beach, Malibu and the Gold Coast, talking people through the safety announcements.

The NZ CAA passed the film for use, but wagged a finger. "As we have commented previously, the video diverges materially from the 'safety message' at times, and whilst I appreciate the need to engage the viewers, the extraneous material detracts from the scope and direction of the safety message," wrote a CAA official in a leaked letter.

One might wonder why they passed it if they thought that. Could that have something to do with the large amounts of money Air New Zealand spends on its safety films? How much remains a secret, but it's a lot. An advertising producer I know believes they must have spent between $NZ1.5 million and $2.5 million on the Most Epic Safety Film Ever Made – listed below.

The surfing film, showcasing places they fly to, was both a marketing tool and a safety film and that's the new trend. That has only become possible in the last ten years with the rise of the internet. We no longer need the plane to watch a safety film. YouTube has hundreds of them, and some of them are extremely popular. Air New Zealand's dozen or so funny films since the body-paint one have gathered more than 100 million views. That's a powerful marketing tool. It's no wonder the airline is prepared to throw money at them.

Clearly, the airline safety film needs a film festival, where they can compete with each other. Cat videos have one, so why not air safety films? We could call it the Mile High Film Festival – although that might suggest a different kind of video. Perhaps the Buckle-Up Film Fest, the Captive Audience FF, or even the Higher Plane FF? Whatever, here are my picks for the ten safety videos that absolutely have to compete for the inaugural and highly coveted Forward D'or prize that I just made up.

Virgin America #VXsafetydance, 2013

THE REVIEW This one's so funky you want to get up and dance. In a warehouse set, a team of dancers struts forward with song-and-dance stars John Song and Madd Chadd leading sexy-as-can-be flight attendants through a fully choreographed tune about safety. Favourite moment: the guy sings about turning off your electrical devices ''as fast as you can'', as they all converge on a nun playing with her phone. He grabs it from her hands and sings ''and don't make me ask you again''. This was done by John M Chu, who has directed a number of Hollywood features, including Step up 2: The Streets. It's full of energy and would be very hard to ignore on a plane. 

THE SCORE 8 oxygen masks




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11 Creative In-Flight Safety Videos From Around the World


The last thing most airplane passengers want to do is pay attention to a rote pre-flight safety demonstration. After all, it's always the same from flight to flight. But some airlines are fighting back against ennui, producing creative and inventive in-flight safety videos to grab passengers' attention.

In 2013, Virgin America created an over-the-top musical in-flight safety video featuring singer Todrick Hall from American Idol. The video has everything from a dancing nun to an adorable kid rapping about oxygen masks. It’s well-choreographed and performed with dancers from So You Think You Can Dance. Virgin America even hired director Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2: The Street, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) to create the video.


Stafford brings production to its hometown of Whitefish, Montana.

Kayla Adams – Montana Real

Local country singer shoots music video in Whitefish

Kalispell native and country singer Kayla Adams was back in Flathead Valley last week to record the music video for her hit single, “Sober & Sorry.” The shooting took place over two days, at Casey’s in Whitefish, which the owner made available for the day free of charge, and at a farm right outside of town.

Kayla grew up in Kalispell and so coming back to Montana to shoot her first video was a no-brainer. “It’s the first a lot of people will see of me … and it’s where I grew up. This is me.”

Certainly at Casey’s, it seemed as much a community celebration as a music video shoot. Over 40 locals, friends and family members volunteered to be extras in the video, and they cheered raucously every time the song was played over the loudspeakers.

Although it would have been easier to shoot in Nashville, Kayla insisted that the video should be set in Montana, and Dean Scallan, the producer of the song, agreed despite the logistical difficulties.  “It’s just such a big part of who she is,” he said.

Yarrow Kraner, the director of the video who himself is based in Montana, added, “Kayla is a girl who at first just looks like a beautiful blonde, but she’s a badass, a Montana girl.”

The song itself shows off the fiery elements in Kayla’s personality. “I’m tired of waiting by the phone Gonna have a little party of my own / You’ll wake up sober and sorry / Start a fire, bring the hurt Pile it up, watch it burn.” It’s a “revenge-y song, a girl power song. Boys, be scared!” she says before launching into the first take of her video.

Scallan describes the theme of the video as “gritty meets pretty,” and on stage, with her glittering guitar and wavy hair, vapor all around her and a baying crowd beneath her, Kayla looks like she might just burn the stage up.

As with all of her songs, Kayla drew the inspiration for “Sober & Sorry” from personal experience. “I dated this guy, who would just disappear for the weekend, and then text ‘sorry’ on Monday. It made me so mad.” Her songs start off as the need to convey an emotion or experience, and then she works on the lyrics and melody concurrently. “If I don’t have the idea, I don’t even know what key to write in.”

No matter how far she goes, Kayla wants to stay true to herself and to her sound. On the return leg of a three-month tour, she wrote “Montana Bound,” a song about coming home.  The state remains central to her identity, and this new video by Virgin Produced is a way for her to introduce herself and her hometown to the world.

Once it’s released at the end of the summer, Kayla Adams’ “Sober & Sorry” music video will be available locally and featured on Virgin flights all over the globe.

Read the original Flathead Beacon Article Here. 


The Virgin America Safety Video, Reviewed


There’s a quasi-surreal delight in the singing of nonsense, from Ginger Rogers’s pig-latin bit in “We’re in the Money” to “The Name Game” to “What Does the Fox Say?” But this musical loopiness often enfolds a second, hidden delight, a sort of musical hyperrealism arising from lyrics that involve the opposite of nonsense: extraordinarily non-lyrical practical language set to music. This happens in all three of these songs (the phonological rules of “The Name Game,” the board-book zoology of “Fox”), and happens with authentic political urgency in the Depression-era Busby Berkeley number (“and when we see the landlord, we can look that guy right in the eye”—is there a less poetic word in the English language than “landlord”?). It’s the kind of furtive pleasure in incongruity that often makes the refitting of popular songs for TV commercials more memorable or, at least, less forgettable than the originals.

The latest example of these extremes touching is Jon M. Chu’s effervescent airplane-safety video for Virgin America, which fits into the category of noteworthy commercials made by feature-film directors. (Chu made “Step Up 2” and “Step Up 3D”; he also made “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” which I’m very curious to see.) What’s fascinating, at first, is the mere idea; then, the whimsical tone (the electronic nun-sense, the snark about “the .001 percent of you who have never operated a seat belt before—really?!?”). But as the video progresses, it offers remarkable signs of the cinematic unconscious—or a subtly brazen audacity—at work.

Doubtless more people have paid attention to the Virgin video than to decades of flight-safety demonstrations—but where the standard in-person, analog performances of flight attendants have the tendency to downplay, with a neutralizing tone, the underlying dangers that the safety procedures evoke, Chu’s video reaches an emotional peak (I get a viewerly frisson every time I see it) at the moment of real peril—“Just in case we must evacuate… In the unlikely event we need to get you outside.” The abstraction of the yellow carpet unfurling, the crab walk, and the backward dash to an exit set to a choral crescendo suggests that Chu and the choreographers, Jamal Sims and Christopher Scott, are as creeped out by the idea of evacuating the plane as we all are—and, unlike flight attendants, who do a good job of calming us down, they let us feel it.

P.S. There’s another noteworthy category into which the video fits: auteur safety films. The terrifyingly Olympian model is Carl Theodor Dreyer’s traffic-safety film “They Caught the Ferry,” from 1948. The protagonists cover seventy kilometers on a motorcycle in just under forty-five minutes; the two-lane road is no expressway, but, Dreyer being Dreyer, the real story is the devil in the flesh—in other words, the real danger isn’t the roads, but the assholes on them.






How Virgin America Got 6 Million People To Watch A Flight Safety Video Without Stepping On A Plane

When was the last time you paid attention to a pre-ight safety demonstration? In the past 12 days, Virgin America has managed to get 5.8 million people to watch their safety video without even stepping on a plane!

The airline roped in American director Jon M.Chu (Step Up 2, Step Up 3D) and a team of renowned choreographers, producers and dance stars to give their safety video a full blown makeover. 36 dancers spent 26 hours on set, using 14 different dance styles including broadway, contemporary, jazz, tango, b-boy and break dancing. The end result is this innovative piece of entertainment that has received over 5.8 million YouTube views, 430,000 Facebook shares and 17,000 tweets in less than 2 weeks! Watch the Video Here

The cast consisted of 10 So You Think You Can Dance alum, 2 former Olympians and 1 American Idol finalist. Watch this behind-the-scenes video to know more about the VX Safety Dance concept, the crew and the creative minds behind the campaign here.


Virgin America releases creative new in-flight safety video ... but new FAA cellphone ruling will send it back to the shop


American Idol star Todrick Hall (center) created the music and lyrics for Virgin America’s new safety video. It’s a remix of the airline’s popular 2007 hand-drawn video.  (VIRGIN AMERICA)

There’s a new kind of safety dance making rounds on the Web.

Virgin America capitalized on the popularity of its older hand-drawn flight safety video by bringing in the big guns—a top Hollywood director, famous choreographers, former Olympians and a dancing nun.

The pricey high-end production, created by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Produced entertainment company, made a big debut on a Times Square billboard and at the Ellen DeGeneres show this week.

But just two days after the video was released, the Federal Aviation Administration started singing a new tune. The organization announced that passengers will now be able to use cellphones from gate-to-gate. While passengers can't make cell phone calls, they will soon be allowed to play games and watch movies on their cellphones.

Which means that one line in the video--which asks passengers to shut off their electornic devices--is already outdated.

A spokesperson from Virgin America said that the company was aware of the FAA's revisions and hoped to implement the new cellphone rule in November. 

When a dancer tries to store his laptop in an empty seat, an air hostess lets him know that this is not FAA-recommended behavior.  (VIRGIN AMERICA)

The previous animated safety video was apparentely edited several times since its release in 2007. Virgin said it was planning to update the latest video early next year.



Virgin America Turns Pre-Flight Safety Videos into Entertainment


Airline turns to Jon M. Chu to direct new video, featuring 'American idol' and 'So You Think You Can Dance' stars to air online and on its flights

As more brands get into the entertainment business by producing their own films, TV shows and web series, Virgin America is showing that even the mundane safety video some airlines show on their planes can be fun to watch.

Virgin Produced, Richard Branson’s entertainment arm, turned to “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Step Up” franchise director Jon M.Chu to produce a new short, entitled “VX Safety Dance,” that stars dancers, singers and choreographers from “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” and features the talent telling viewers how to buckle their seat belts and what to do in case of emergencies.

The dance moves were choreographed by Jamal Sims and Christopher Scott.

The short (see a making-of video below) is being touted by the airline as the first domestic safety video set entirely to music and performed in dance.

In addition to airing the video on its flights in November, Virgin America has also released it on Google Play, YouTube and on digital billboards across Times Square including the American Eagle billboard.

The airline already had been having fun with safety videos through a snarky animated short it’s been airing since 2007. It’s become a cult favorite for passengers, the airline said, and because of that will still feature it on its Red-branded inflight entertainment system.

“We knew how much our guests loved the fun and irreverence of our current video, but after six years we wanted to give them something unexpected, a fresh take on what a safety video could be and even a chance to be a part of it, literally” said Jesse McMillin, creative director at Virgin America.

Virgin America is now auditioning dancers to appear in follow up safety videos.


Virgin’s ‘Departure Date’ Captures Love Story at 35,000 Feet

By Ella Riley Adams

Virgin Airlines has always set itself apart from the competition by appearing to own a fleet of party buses in the sky. With features like purple lights and goat cheese paninis, the airline caters to young, stylish jet-setters. Now, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Virgin Australia have partnered with San Francisco agency Eleven and Virgin Produced (the entertainment branch of the Virgin Group) to create their latest trendsetting campaign.

Instead of a staid Boeing 747 tour video or “Love Travel? Love Virgin.” gimmick, the team opted to make the first short film shot at 35,000 feet. Written and directed by Kat Coiro (L!fe HappensWhile We Were Here and A Case of You), Departure Date is a love story starring Ben Feldman (Mad Men) and Nicky Whelan (Hall Pass). In 20 hours, the cast and crew captured footage en route to England, Australia, and the US. And, perpetuating the glam Virgin lifestyle, some scenes take place in Virgin Australia’s International Business cabin that boasts a sit-down bar, Ladies-Only bathroom, and “exclusive Row Five.”

The trailer, which you can find out more about here, makes Departure Date look like a cheap Lifetime special (better font at least, please!). But the concept of a movie shot at 35,000 feet in the air is original enough to compensate for the lack of clever narrative. Though the love story may be tacky, Virgin is still an innovative, glamorous host.

Departure Date premiered last night at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival. See the full credits after the jump.



‘Departure Date’: Virgin Airlines’ Rom-Com Advertisement Features Ginsburg From ‘Mad Men’

By: Kia Makarechi

Just as “Mad Men” fans begin coming to terms with the fact that they won’t be seeing the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for some time, Sir Richard Branson’s airlines pop Michael Ginsburg into a new romantic comedy.

Virgin Airlines (Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia) debuted “Departure Date,” a short film starring Ben Feldman (Ginsburg on “Mad Men”) and Nicky Whelan as in-flight lovers. According to Ad Week, it’s the first short to be filmed at 35,000 feet.

“Departure,” which was produced by the airlines, ad agency Eleven and Virgin Produced (the company’s in-house media arm), cost $1 million to make. Virgin is reportedly negotiating a TV deal for the ad/film. Kat Coiro (“L!fe Happens”) directed, but the most interesting thing about the project is its unlikely list of supporting actors: Janeane Garofalo, Luis Guzman, Philip Baker Hall and Max Brown all make appearances in the short.

Shooting took place over nine days and three continents, but, as Adweek also noted, the short doesn’t seem destined for any museum archives. Take a look at the trailer and some behind-the-scenes content in the video below and let us know what you think in the comments.


On Location: Virgin flies high with 'Departure Date' film

British tycoon Sir Richard Branson has made a career out of bucking conventions — opening a recording studio in a country estate, building an affordable, premium airline service with soft violet mood lighting and seat-back entertainment screens, and even launching a space tourism company.

Now Branson’s Virgin Group is breaking the mold in the movie business. Virgin’s America, Atlantic and Australian airlines have teamed up with the company’s new film and TV company to shoot a half-hour movie filmed and edited entirely aboard regularly scheduled commercial flights — believed to be a first.

Titled “Departure Date,” the airborne romance between two people who meet on a plane was shot over nine days and three continents last week during flights from Los Angeles to London, Dallas, Fort Worth and Sydney, Australia.

The project involved a crew and cast of 20, including actors Janeane Garofalo, Ben Feldman and Luis Guzman.

“Virgin airlines have swept all the awards for having the best entertainment systems in the skies, but a movie about falling in love with a stranger onboard a Virgin plane: now that’s in-flight entertainment!” said Branson, the founder of Virgin Group.

Directed by Kat Coiro, the film is part of a marketing campaign to promote Virgin’s services to Los Angeles. It will be featured as in-flight entertainment and will debut in June at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Virgin is also negotiating to land a TV deal for the film.

“We really wanted to [do] something that would convey the unique Virgin experience in a way that was meaningful and relevant to Los Angeles,” said Simon Bradley, vice president of marketing for North America for Virgin Atlantic. “That’s where the idea of a movie came in because of L.A.’s strong connection to the movie industry.”

Commercial airlines have long played a major role in scores of movies, including the 1980 screwball comedy “Airplane!”; the 2005 thriller “Flightplan,” starring Jodie Foster; and Paul Greengrass’ 2006 film “United 93,” based on an account of one of the planes that was hijacked and crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. But those movies took place mainly on soundstages, making the Virgin production particularly unusual.

“We pride ourselves on doing things that are a little bit different, and this is certainly an example of that,” said Jason Felts, chief executive of Virgin Produced, which released its first movie last year: “Limitless,” a sci-fi thriller with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. “As far as we know, nobody has made an entire movie at 35,000 feet.”

Filmmakers went out of their way to not turn the work into a blatant commercial for Virgin. The airline is a “character” in the film in much the same way that the hotel is a character in director Sofia Coppola’s 2003 independent film “Lost in Translation,” starring Bill Murray, and how the FedEx and Wilson brands had costarring roles in the 2000 Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away.”

“At the end of the day, the film stands on its own,” Felts said. “We’re telling a real narrative story. We’re not overtly trying to promote Virgin.”

The picture, which cost less than $1 million to produce, tells the story of a young man who meets the girl of his dreams on a plane, lets her slip away and then takes the journey of his life on three airlines to win her back. Along the way, he encounters a future version of himself.

Of course, filming at 35,000 feet poses certain logistical challenges that ground crews don’t ever encounter. Turbulence forced the crew to take a break from filming during one especially bumpy section over Iceland.

Producers also had to take pains to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules limiting the size of liquid bottles used by the hair and makeup department. They enlisted lightweight hand-held digital cameras without the use of a dolly to film scenes that were shot mainly in first-class or business-class lounges and other discrete areas to minimize inconvenience to passengers. Some passengers volunteered to be extras in the production.

“I would never rule out doing a sequel,” Bradley said. “But we see this as pretty much a one-off.”