The Holderness family’s musical video Christmas card propelled the pajama-clad foursome into YouTube fame last year, leading to appearances on national television, and now, a deal to star in a reality TV show.
The “Xmas Jammies” video has been viewed 15 million times, and those who got beyond the adorably off-key children and the blur of green- and red-striped booty-shaking may have caught a serious message – that patriarch Penn Holderness was leaving his job as a news anchor at WNCN-TV in Raleigh to make similar videos for his wife’s production company.
In the year since, the family has created several follow-ups, including a back-to-school video based on Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back” and a recent ode to Holderness’s role in preparing Thanksgiving dinner, “All About That Baste.” Their 2014 Christmas video was just released. See it at http://nando.com/oa.
The family, including mother Kim Holderness, and children Lola, 7, and Penn Charles, 4, also starred in a Monopoly ad and spots promoting the Home Shopping Network website, and perhaps predictably, selling personalized Christmas pajamas for Chasing Fireflies.
Most recently, they signed a deal to start filming a reality TV show in January for the UP and UPtv.com.
Their company has also been behind the camera creating offbeat videos to generate buzz for corporate clients. We talked to Holderness about his family and the business they run from the basement of their North Raleigh home.
Q: How did you make the decision to leave your job?
A: Kim and her partner had started The Green Room as a media training company, and at first when people asked if they did video, they didn’t. So we went to the Apple store and got a Mac and a camera, and we played with it and put together a portfolio. The company wasn’t sustainable enough to raise a family of four, but Kim just kept putting the bug in my ear that we could do this full-time.
Q: How did the success of the “Xmas Jammies” video impact the company?
A: We didn’t anticipate the music part of it. We didn’t anticipate our family being involved. But it’s been incredibly advantageous. We got 17,000 emails after the video went out, and some of them were legitimate leads. It really helped us land a couple of early clients.
The family videos are not the core of our business, but they’re the most important advertising we have. Every time we put one of those videos out, we get a bunch of phone calls from different companies.
Q: Tell us about some of the videos you’ve made that don’t feature your family.
A: We did one for Rex Express Care that was really fun because the doctors did the singing and really took center stage. We did a campaign for Shari’s Berries, and we wanted to do a romantic gesture, so we got this middle school kid who did a dance for a girl he liked and gave her chocolate-covered berries. We did one for Halloween for a company in Philadelphia that makes GMO-free candy. We got all these trick-or-treaters to come to our house, and cast this local woman to come to the door and pour cornstarch in their buckets and throw gluten at them. Their reactions were priceless.
Q: Are there projects you’ve chosen not to do?
A: We’ve turned down a lot of work with junk food companies that reached out to us. Kim’s very aware of what we’re putting in our children’s bodies, and she felt strongly about that.
Q: How do you deal with the exposure all this has brought to your children?
A: We spoke to our pastor about it, and to the educators at our kids’ schools. Their answer was that we are giving them a unique experience, and they are at the ages when experiences are how they learn. We do some other things to mitigate the effect on them.
(For instance), when we make the videos, we treat them like George Clooney. The lighting is done, everything is ready when they come in, and they can participate or not. They have that control over what they do. Lola has really embraced parts of it, even the production side. She has filmed some of the clips, and there’s emotions she can conjure up if we need her to, like acting annoyed, and she thinks that’s fun.
Q: Tell me about your upcoming reality show.
A: We’ve been working with Figure 8 Films, a (Carrboro-based) production company that did The Duggers’ show. They’re still working out the details, but the network we’re signing with will focus on watching our company at work, how we go about making the videos.
They are interested in uplifting, positive entertainment. We aren’t going to be the Kardashians.