Around this time last year, in a Hail Mary pass moment, we decided to seek help from Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein for a small business competition.
“Someone just tweeted that film crews are over at the Goat Field in Southeast Portland. It has to be Portlandia!” We were intent on speaking to Fred and Carrie directly fearing a thicket of dead ends if we attempted to go through publicists.
Our mission? Indow had just made it to the next level of an Intuit small business competition and we needed to create a 90 second promo video to advance to the next round. The prize was something a small startup like ours could only dream about: a Super Bowl commercial on Indow’s energy efficient window inserts broadcast to 100 million viewers. With a Fred or Carrie cameo, surely we would advance. And then maybe the ultimate: a Portlandia-ed Indow Big Game commercial.
Kristina and Russ biked over to the Goat Field, but it was the TV show Grimm filming, not Portlandia. Jelica checked for more Twitter sightings. Portlandia film crews were spotted minutes before in the Kenton neighborhood! So we looked up coffee shops and called the first one.
“I know this is going to sound weird, but this is Carrie at Indow and do you happen to see any film crews outside your cafe windows?”
Yes, the barista replied: Portlandia is on the sidewalk out front. Kristina and Russ returned and dashed over in Indow’s ancient green and orange delivery Volvo but Portlandia was out to lunch by the time they arrived.
And we were seemingly out of luck.
Until we learned a colleague had a friend who was friends with Fred Armisen. We scored an email address. We sent Fred this letter:
Fred Armisen: this is your chance to save the planet.
Indow is a Portland startup that makes an ingenious product: a simple window insert that blocks drafts, reduces city noise and saves energy. The inserts are handcrafted in our warehouse on North Interstate Avenue by an eclectic team including a sculptor, handyman and fashion designer.
We’ve won many awards and just made it to the second round of a national contest. This time, the prize is a Super Bowl TV commercial. An Indow Super Bowl commercial would make the entire world more energy-efficient.
As part of the contest, we’re creating a short video. You’ve become a national face of Portland; a few-second cameo in our contest video would be like the heavens opening up and shining down upon us. It would be like Fred Armisen has just saved the world!
So what about compensation? We’ve got you (and your windows & cameras) covered. We’re offering free Indow Windows and Lensbaby special effects camera lenses – because our CEO Sam Pardue is so cool he started both companies.
We’re filming this week – so let us know soon!
– The Indow Windows team
Graciously, Fred replied:
Hi! I like the idea of doing this, but I have to say, my schedule over the next few weeks is insane. I mean seriously! When are you shooting?
We whooped. Sam wrote a script that Fred could take as-is or change. Whatever Fred wanted. One of the scenes was this:
Sam: Our inserts are simple to use but very effective. You just press them in. [Shot of Sam holding an Indow insert, squeezing the tube. He presses it into a window and Fred is on the other side of the window, smiling, looking in.]
[Shot of Sam and Fred at a window…Fred: ”Really you just press it in?” Sam – “Yeah!”, Fred – “Really. Wait. You just press it in?!…back and forth – both go from friendly to a little annoyed to play fight/aggressive…]
Six days after Fred sent our hopes soaring, we got this also very gracious email:
Hi! Good morning. This all sounds really fun. I have to say..it’s getting a bit frenzied at work these weeks. I don’t think I’d be able to really shoot anything until December. And even that is a maybe. I think I was under the impression that I had some more free time, but with this show, I am in every scene. I’m up this early to shoot all day today.
I am bummed, because I really like doing things and being part of cool ideas. Yours sounds like a good project to do. But it’s getting insanely busy, trying to make this show complete and right. Maybe another time?
And of course we understood because we all find Portlandia hilarious and know that it must take a lot of work. So we set about making our own video, which we’re quite proud of.
We didn’t advance further in the contest. No Super Bowl commercial for us. But there was for Fred. He appeared in this Honda commercial hugging Bruce Willis, funny as ever. We’re guessing that squeeze earned him more than rad window inserts and special effects SLR lenses!