To fully understand why comedy guru Jay Chandrasekhar launched a new app called Vouch Vault, the filmmaker digs deep into his memory vault to reminisce about the events surrounding the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.
His raucous comedy super soldiers — about five prank-loving Vermont state troopers who try to save their jobs by outdoing the local police department in solving a crime — debuted at the Park City Winter Festival, where they landed with a series of warm embraces. “The Sundance experience was amazing,” says Chandrasekhar. “We had three midnight sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and each one was better than the next. It was packed, wild and amazing what happened next because we sold the movie to Searchlight on Sunday night. It was the first and only film to sell for a week. It was glorious.
What happened next ? So less. After spending a year recutting the film with reshoots, super soldiers was released in theaters in February 2002 and went on to gross $23 million to rave reviews from audiences. Reviews weren’t as enthusiastic. “The newspaper that I read every morning, The New York Times, didn’t like the movie, which is totally fine. It’s what you’d expect when high-profile critics write about R-rated comedies. Critics often get into comedy and horror because they can, and they’re more noticed and loved when they are mean.
Many were mean to super soldiers, proven by the film’s rotten 36% score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. But Chandrasekhar is not here to slam the critics. “To be 100% clear, I have no problem with reviews, and they have value,” he notes. “But I remember thinking at the time, who is a critic? Often it is great writers with immense power in the newspapers who can watch movies for a living and recommend them to their readers. When was the last time you met a stranger on the street and asked him what movie you should see? »
That’s why the value, for him, came as an inspiration to create a new kind of platform that puts the power of recommending movies back in people’s hands. “About three years ago, I started outlining what I hoped would be my revenge app to supplant the way Rotten Tomatoes is influencing the film industry,” Chandrasekhar explains. “I came up with the idea, met two app developers and probably had 10 meetings on Zoom. I was about to write them a check to help me build the app, then they told me they had similar opinions about reviews on Yelp and Amazon, asking, “Who are these people who write reviews?” So we combined forces and built this machine.
They call it Vout Vault. The goal is simple: “Take the power of recommendation from anonymous strangers and give it to people whose tastes you know and whom you trust.” It’s a social media platform where users share just about anything they like – movies, TV shows, books, podcasts, hotels, restaurants, cars, products, museums, services, etc. – in any city. Chandrasekhar personally vouches for his Tesla, Osteria La Buca in Los Angeles, Randolph Beer in Brooklyn, and sound experts at King Soundworks for post-production services.
“It’s the Instagram of recommendations,” he says. “You follow friends and famous people and see what they like and recommend. The real purity of that will come from friends and finding out what your friends like so you can check it out.
The app has a special feature called “Try Vault,” where users can bookmark recommendations they want to try later, and Chandrasekhar says searching for hashtags can be a user-friendly way to find recommendations in apps. ‘other cities. Want to find the best burger in Paris, search for a hashtag. But beyond the burgers, Chandrasekhar also sees it as a kind of “memory machine” that will allow users to store a digital record of everything they love for friends and family.
“Hopefully this will obviously be a hit, but also another way to have a collective memory bank of all the great pieces of pop culture that you might want to share with your kids one day,” says the filmmaker. whose next film, Easter Sunday starring stand-up superstar Jo Koy, is out August 5.
Speaking of success, Chandrasekhar invested some of his own money to make it work, as well as investments from fellow developers, family members, and friends. The app could be monetized through ads and affiliate links, and although it’s still in its infancy, it has big plans for expansion with the possible addition of video features. He even hopes to attract talents like Quentin Tarantino or Willy Nelson (a longtime friend he met while making 2005 The Dukes of Hazard) to offer their Vaults. (About Nelson: “He’s a valuable source of information that won’t always be there.”)
Asked to sum up his ultimate hopes for the company, Chandrasekhar throws a curveball and gets political in the end. “I truly believe Vouch Vault can have a unifying effect. If you see Republicans and Democrats all liking the same movies, we need that. We need unity in our culture. This also applies to reviews.