For those who want a blazing fire at Christmas but don’t have a fireplace, Longview businessman George Ford has a solution that’s spreading like wildfire.
Ford, co-owner of Navigate Wireless, created an hourlong video of a merrily burning pile of wood in a fireplace. The video has become a top seller on Amazon Prime and a popular pick on Netflix and Hulu.
Ford, 46, spent a year and a half and $35,000 filming the perfect fire. (More on that later.) When he released the DVD in 2010, Direct TV made it available to its customers nationwide. Then Netflix picked it up — and released an official trailer this month to promote it.
Set to soaring, epic music, the campy trailer features footage of a roaring fire with a dramatic voiceover saying, “This winter, sparks will fly when a pile of wood meets its destiny.” Subtitles of viewer reviews flash on the screen: “I cried when the fire spread to the other log,” one said.
At the end, a teaser appears for a parody “making of” video of the “Fireplace for Your Home Series” that shows a neurotic casting director (not Ford) searching for the perfect piece of wood.
“It’s not too far from the truth of how crazy it was for me to film a fireplace,” Ford said Friday, calling the attention “pleasantly surprising.”
The Netflix trailer was quirky enough to attract the attention of the media and bloggers. In the last couple of weeks, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly all ran blurbs lauding “Fireplace for Your Home” and its clever spoof.
Customers love the fireplace video. One woman wrote in her online review: “My husband went online and saw this product and bought it for me as a joke. As it turned out, we both actually love it, it looks and sounds so real. I think it is the closest thing that we are ever going to be to having a real fireplace in our home. Highly recommended if you don’t have a fireplace or if you just want to avoid all the work and cleanup involved in having a real fire.”
It’s that kind of feedback that makes the effort Ford puts into his videos worthwhile. In another instance, representatives from a “major” water faucet company called to say they loved the video so much they wanted to order 150 DVDs for their executive team to enjoy in their homes.
“That just drives me,” said Ford, 46. “People just email me all the time.”
Ford has been creating niche CDs and videos on the side for more than a decade. He started in 2001 with Feathered Phonics, a CD that trains parrots to talk. That led to a series of other bird CDs, cage perches and seed guards, toys, and animal training DVDs that Ford’s company Pet Media Plus sold at Petcos and Petsmarts all over.
Ford, who served on the KLTV Board of Directors for six years, learned the video production side of things from local residents such as Gregg Campbell and Barry Verril. Three years ago he decided the original video shot in 1968 of the burning Yule log looked dated and could be improved upon. A split wood, Northwestern fire was in order, he decided. But Ford quickly learned that shooting the perfect fire — one that burns hot but not too quickly, gives off the right amount of smoke and has a satisfying pop and sizzle — is extremely difficult.
Some fires would burn from the left to the right, or worse, from the sides to the middle, creating an unsettling devil-horn effect.
“You’d have to sit there for an hour and a half and let it burn out. Then you’d have to reclean it, readjust it,” he said. “I just kept learning and I said, you know what, I’m going to make it work.”
He experimented with different types of wood. He hired professionals from Portland to film the fires but was never happy with the result, so he rented equipment — sometimes paying $2,000 a day — and shot it himself. (He emphasized that he never used KLTV’s equipment for personal gain.)
His wife, Lori, and three children thought he was “absolutely crazy,” said Ford, who reassured them it was the same idea as investing money, and that the payoff would come later. His family became his best critics, telling him what looked stupid and when his camera angles were off.
More than 30 fires later, Ford finally was happy with his final footage. “Fireplace for Your Home” launched nationally on Direct TV in December 2010.
“It exploded the first weekend,” he said. “That’s when they called me back ... and said we want this in 3D and we want more types.”
He created four versions of the same fireplace: crackling only, crackling with instrumental background music, crackling with Christmas music and 3D.
Now it’s the No. 1 fireplace DVD on Amazon.
His other videos of a saltwater aquarium, a mountain stream (shot at Mount St. Helens), a winter wonderland and a campfire all have been extremely popular, too. He takes the profits and reinvests it into cameras, equipment and expenses “to keep it going and keep having fun,” said Ford, who works 80 to 90 hours a week.
“I love it. I also just love being out in the wilderness and being able to go see something that no one else has seen before and capture it and share it,” he said.
At this point, about 24 of Ford’s video segments are on the market, and he plans to release 40 to 50 more in 2014. On a trip to Hawaii this year, he filmed ocean waves, waterfalls, tiki torches, flowers and whales breaching.
“There’s lots for me to film that’s left,” he said.
Christopher Bradberry has been named president of Fibre Federal Credit Union. Larry Hoff, who joined the credit union in May 2001 as president and chief executive officer, will remain CEO.
Bradberry has been a part of the credit union family for more than 10 years and has more than 25 years of financial service industry experience. He started with Fibre as chief financial officer in 2002.