Sundance 2012: 'Safety Not Guaranteed' meme maker bows
For about 15 years, the Internet has been laughing at this small, mysterious classified ad.
It became an Internet meme, tweaked and toyed with by online jokesters, though few knew where or when it originated. Those 43 words took on a life of their own.
At Sundance this year, the ad finally manifested itself as a full-length feature film — a comedy-romance-adventure starring Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza, and Jake Johnson. At the biggest public screening so far, the creator of the original text finally got to stand up and take a bow…
While developing the movie, director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly went in search of the source material’s author, whose identity was not widely known, even among fans of the meme. Eventually, they found their man — who has since confessed his role in the prank.
“Nobody knew where it came from, but we found out … and we actually have the writer here in the house,” Trevorrow told a packed 1,200-seat theater at the festival. “John Silveira, can you stand up… ? Where are you, man?”
A tall, snowy-bearded fellow in a flannel shirt and glasses, rose slowly from the middle of the theater and waved, as the audience rose up around him applauding.
“The background story on the original ad was it came from Backwoods Home Magazine, which is out of Gold Beach, Oregon,” Trevorrow said. “It was in 1997 that it was placed, and it has been a mystery since then. John actually just revealed himself. We had already written the script and were searching all over the country to find this guy.”
So why did Silveira place the ad?
He’s a senior editor at the magazine, Trevorrow noted, “and he needed to fill a little extra classified space.”
“But if you know John, it does have a lot of his personality in it,” the filmmaker added. “I imagine John would always suggest we bring our own weapons anywhere we go.”
Perhaps best of all was Silveira’s credit on the film: Time travel consultant. (He also did a cameo as a man checking the post office box beside the one Duplass’ character put in the ad.)
That’s called pushing it to the limit.