"Fraud": Family's YouTube Videos Used in an Independent Film

Updated on December 18, 2017
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I have been a writer in some capacity since I graduated from college. I thoroughly enjoy writing, especially about my travels and science.

Many people dream of fame. Some spend a lifetime seeking it, only to fall short of achieving their dreams, while for others, it just falls into their laps out of the clear blue sky. A Pennsylvania family has found fame in a most unusual way, without even seeking it; by just being active members of the digital era.

The father of the family loves to chronicle his family’s outings by filming them and sharing them with the world on YouTube. They are among many thousands of people that literally share their lives on YouTube, from trips to the mall to trips to the beach. Over the years, they have garnered quite a following on YouTube, with over 1,300 subscribers and well over 1.8 million views. While this has brought them notoriety among the YouTube faithful, it has not brought them any fame among a wider audience. Little did they know that it was just around the corner.

The Movie "Fraud" Title Screen

A Pennsylvania family's YouTube videos have been turned into a movie called "Fraud" by a famous independent filmmaker.
A Pennsylvania family's YouTube videos have been turned into a movie called "Fraud" by a famous independent filmmaker. | Source

Filmmaker Inspired To Make The Movie "Fraud" Using a Family’s YouTube Chronicles

An independent filmmaker named Dean Fleischer-Camp, who is known for a popular series of award-winning short-films known as “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” came across the family’s YouTube channel years ago and started to follow their never-ending saga of adventures and antics. He had been toying with the idea of making a film using their YouTube videos for some time, and finally became inspired to make a movie out of their far-flung videos. The movie eventually became known as “Fraud”, which premiered at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto, Canada during May 2016.

Keep in mind, this is not your typical movie, low budget or otherwise. The filmmaker literally took the family’s raw YouTube videos and turned it into a sensible movie based on a crafty story-line and valiant video editing effort. There was no collaboration between the filmmaker and the family. They did not shoot scenes or videos on the filmmaker’s behalf and then upload them to YouTube, so they could be used in his movie. Rather, the filmmaker made a movie out of whatever he could glean from their videos, with some minor additions to make the movie work. Sound quirky and unworkable? Perhaps on the surface it does, but give the movie a watch and you’ll see that this talented filmmaker and his editor (Jonathan Rippon) actually put together a movie that is both entertaining and makes sense. Those who have watched Fraud agree, with many rave reviews for the film on the Internet.

Filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp

The Filmmaker and Director Was Inspired To Make The Movie "Fraud" Using a Family'€™s YouTube Videos
The Filmmaker and Director Was Inspired To Make The Movie "Fraud" Using a Family'€™s YouTube Videos | Source

What Is The Film Fraud About?

Fraud is a fictional tale of a family caught up in consumerism to the point that they are living well beyond their means, and as the moving title suggests, get caught up in fraud to keep their consumer-driven lifestyle going. While the film sucks you in and makes you believe that they are committing fraud in real life, in reality it is nothing more than a concoction of the filmmaker using one family’s take on modern consumer oriented life as they have lived it and shared with the world on YouTube. The filmmaker and editor made a backbreaking effort to piece together the videos, with some filmmaking liberties as far as adding content, into a story that revolves around consumerism-inspired fraud; a story that is not hard to believe.

Controversy Surrounding the The Film Fraud

While Fraud has been well received by those who frequent independent film festivals and enjoy watching the latest endeavours by independent filmmakers (even receiving positive reviews in mainstream outlets such as Variety and PBS), the film is not without controversy. Fleischer-Camp chose to categorize the film as a documentary. While it is true that the movie Fraud uses real-life videos of an American family, some have argued that it does not fall under the true meaning of a documentary, since the filmmaker used real-life scenes to spin a story that is not based in reality and added some minor content to make the story work. While the story may represent reality in an abstract sense, as what the film depicts fraud that undoubtedly occurs in the United States and elsewhere around the world, it is not a true depiction of what the family actually did. In other words, it is a piece of fiction that is packaged as a documentary.

But, don’t let the controversy surrounding Fraud’s categorization ruin your interest or enjoyment while watching the film. It is a thoroughly entertaining film and really quite a remarkable movie when you consider that the family and the filmmaker did not collaborate at all to produce the footage. Instead, it is a film that was entirely contrived in Fleischer-Camp’s head using random benign videos of an everyday family doing leisure trips, outings and events.

The movie will be running at independent film festivals for the foreseeable future, so check your local independent film festival to see if Fraud is on the schedule. A downloadable version may be available at some point in the future.

The Family Behind The YouTube Videos

The family that is depicted in the movie Fraud continues to upload their ongoing saga of family trips, outings and events to their YouTube channel. It is fascinating to watch their innocent videos after watching what a creative filmmaker and editor did with their videos to turn them into a nearly hour-long movie about the relentless pursuit of consumerism by way of fraud.

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Dean Fleischer-Camp's Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

© 2016 John Coviello

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    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      John, Thanks for that additional information. It's good to know that Dean Fleischer-Camp, the movie-maker, did indeed ask for permission.

      Out of curiosity, I just checked my own YouTube rights. It's the same as it is for writers who publish articles, as we do on HubPages. All creative works are copyrighted intellectual property unless the author specifies it as Creative Commons Attribution license.

    • Rock_nj profile image
      Author

      John Coviello 4 weeks ago from New Jersey

      Glenn - I actually know the family from my college days. They told me that the movie-maker did contact them to ask for their permission to use their YouTube videos, but I don't know if legally that was even necessary, since they posted them in a public forum. I guess since he commercialized them, the filmmaker had to get their permission to use them.

      One thing I do know is that none of it was orchestrated with the family. The filmmaker just used raw YouTube videos that were posted on their channel.

      They were trying to keep their ID secret last time I asked. I will ask them again and let you know their YouTube channel, if they are okay with it now.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Interesting how he did this. You didn’t say if he asked for permission to use their family videos. Or if he even needed to. I’d like to know what the legalities are once someone posts family videos publicly. This would be an interesting addition to your article.

      I would love to watch this video, or even the raw material he took the parts from to piece it all together. I searched for it on YouTube but couldn’t find it.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 11 months ago from Philippines

      I never believed something like this could happen. Is it legal? A most absorbing article.