10 Things You Might Not Know About MICHAEL JACKSON'S THRILLER - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About MICHAEL JACKSON'S THRILLER

For no mere Geek Dave can resist the evil of the Thriller...

1. Released in 1982, Michael Jackson's album Thriller had spent more than a year at the top of the Billboard 200, but by mid-1983 sales began to decline. Jackson, who was said to be "obsessive" about his sales figures, urged Epic Records executives Walter Yetnikoff and Larry Stessel to help conceive a plan to return the album to the top of the charts. Jackson's manager Frank DiLeo suggested making a third music video, for the title track, Thriller. And make it an "event video", so MTV would put into heavy rotation, giving the track, artist and album a massive holiday season boost in promotion. DiLeo recalled telling Jackson:
"It’s simple—all you’ve got to do is dance, sing, and make it scary."
2. In early August 1983, after seeing his horror film An American Werewolf in London, Jackson contacted director John Landis. At the time, commercial directors did not direct music videos, but Landis was intrigued. He and Jackson conceived a short shot on 35mm film with the production values of a feature film, with a budget of $900,000, much larger than any previous music video. According to Landis, when he called Yetnikoff to propose the film, Yetnikoff swore so loudly he had to remove the phone from his ear. Jackson's record company, Epic, had little interest in making another video for Thriller, believing that the album had peaked but Yetnikoff eventually agreed, however Epic Records would contribute no more than $100,000 toward the production - which in itself was still more than the average music video of the day. If Jackson and Landis wanted to make a music video for Thriller then they would have to raise the rest.

3. To help finance the production, Landis's producer George Folsey Jr suggesting a making-of documentary that, combined with the Thriller video, would produce an hour-long film that could be sold to television. Initially, the television networks refused to finance the project, sharing the view that Thriller was "last year's news". MTV, which had featured Jackson's videos for Billie Jean and Beat It in heavy rotation and noted they were among the most requested of the time, had a policy of not financing music videos itself, instead expecting record companies to pay for them. However, after Showtime, then a new channel, agreed to pay $300,000 of the outstanding budget, MTV agreed to pay $250,000, justifying the expenditure as financing for a motion picture and not a music video.The two channels would share exclusive rights to show the documentary, with Vestron Music Video paying an additional $500,000 to distribute Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller on VHS and Betamax - this was a pioneering concept as most videos at the time were sold to rental stores rather than directly to viewers.

4. Jackson's idea was that he wanted to transform into a four-legged beast, similarly to the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London. This idea was replaced with a two-legged monster, as this made it easier for him to dance. Landis felt Jackson should become "scary" and "creepy", but not "ugly", and Landis also suggested that the video should have a 1950s setting, inspired by the 1957 film I Was a Teenage Werewolf.

5. Landis's wife Deborah Nadoolman, who was a costume designer on films including Raiders of the Lost Ark, designed the costumes for Thriller, including Jackson's famous red jacket. She chose red to contrast with the night setting and dark palette, dressing him in "hip", casual clothes that would be comfortable to dance in, and used the same color for his jacket and jeans to make Jackson appear taller.

6. Michael Jackson's Thriller was the first time Jackson had interacted with a woman in a video, which Landis described as a "breakthrough". Flashdance star Jennifer Beals turned down an offer to play the girlfriend, and so, according to Landis, Ola Ray, a former Playboy Playmate, was cast as she was "crazy for Michael" and had a "great smile". Landis encouraged Jackson and Ray to improvise during their scenes and urged Jackson to satisfy his female fans by acting "sexy" and showing "virility". According to Ray, the chemistry between them was real and they shared "intimate moments" during the shoot.

7. Jackson's transformation makeup was designed by artist Rick Baker. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup seven times from a record of eleven nominations, beginning when he won the inaugural award for An American Werewolf in London.

8. On November 14th, 1983, Thriller was shown to a private audience at the Crest Theater in Los Angeles. In attendance were celebrities including Diana Ross, Warren Beatty, Prince, and Eddie Murphy. Jackson stayed in the projection booth, declining Orla Ray's invitation to sit with her in the audience. The audience gave the film a standing ovation, and at Murphy's insistence the film was played again.

9. The video debuted on MTV on December 2nd, 1983. After each broadcast, MTV advertised when they would next play it, and for weeks recorded audience figures ten times the norm. Showtime aired the video six times in February. Within months, the cassette tape sold a million copies, making it the bestselling video release at that point. The video did exactly what Michael Jackson had hoped - it dramatically boosted sales of the Thriller album, which sold a million copies a week following the video's debut. It doubled album sales, helping make Thriller the bestselling album of all time. According to Landis, the response was "a surprise to everyone but Michael". The success transformed Jackson into a dominating force in global pop culture, and cemented his status as the "king of pop".

10. At the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards, Thriller won the awards for Viewers Choice, Best Overall Performance and Best Choreography, and was nominated for Best Concept Video, Best Male Video and Video of the Year. 25 years later, in 2009, Michael Jackson's Thriller became the first music video to be selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The Library described it as "the most famous music video of all time"...


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