Travel videos a hit 8 million times over

WHEN Melbourne filmmakers Rick Mereki and Tim White went to sleep in the early hours of August 3, the three travel videos they had just put online were making little less than a ripple in the vast waters of the internet.

By the time they woke, the one-minute videos - Eat, Move and Learn - had inspired emails from viewers around the world and within 24 hours they were played more than a million times.

Quickly, links to the videos appeared on Oprah Winfrey's Life Lift blog as well as the blog for celebrity music producer Pharrell Williams' Billionaire Boys Club brand. Now, nearly three weeks since that quiet launch, the videos have been played through Mereki's personal Vimeo site more than 8 million times.

The response stunned the Melbourne-born, Daylesford-raised Mereki. Until recently he was making his crust as an artist and, when necessary, worked in retail and as a DJ. Suddenly, he was being moved to tears by people's heartfelt messages, and job offers were coming from as far afield as luxury fashion houses and an iconic children's television show.

It seemed almost unnecessary when his client, STA Travel, later launched the clips on TV as part of a marketing campaign because, well, it had already taken off.

"From a brand perspective it smashed all our benchmarks," STA's community co-ordinator Adam Fyfe said.

The story of the videos and the people behind them is not just another marketing exercise, it's based on genuine friendship and connection. Friends Mereki, 31, and White, 25, used to share studio space in Footscray.

The "actor" in the videos, Andrew Lees, 26, is a friend of White's from childhood and starred in White's first video, shot when they were 15.

Mereki got the chance to pitch to STA Travel thanks to his friendship with Fyfe. And it was Facebook, as well as the artistic community on video-sharing site Vimeo, that helped direct much of the initial web traffic.

The videos were dubbed by the Huffington Post as the male version of Eat, Pray, Love and took the trio to 11 countries in 44 days. On their return, Mereki and White spent two months locked away editing the clips and commissioned Melbourne songwriter Kelsey James to score them.

"We haven't had much time to stop and figure out how big this has gone," Mereki said. "I've been working so hard for six months that I just want to fall asleep for a week."