Total Frat Move expands its reaches with film, New York Times bestselling book
Briana Sanchez / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Creator/ actor/ co-writer/ co-director/ editor/ producer Jimmy Tatro, cinimatographer Jonathan Kaplan, and director/co-writer Christian Pierce work on Monday night’s video upload on Feb.14 at a friend’s house filming a party scene for the YouTube channel Life According to Jimmy.
Conceptualized in the halls of a Texas State fraternity, the satirical and unapologetic website TotalFratMove came to fruition in June 2010. TFM is a brand under Grandex Inc., which also oversees Rowdy Gentlemen, Total Sorority Move and Post Grad Problems.
The website was originally a place for sharing humorous short posts and photos but it has quickly expanded.
“First, it was a cult thing for sure,” said Rob Fox III, a writer for Grandex Inc. who is commonly known as Bacon. “I think it spread kind of virally and now it’s pretty mainstream. But I think we’re all kind of stunned how it went from this kind of niche audience, really, to young guys and girls everywhere.”
Receiving 1.6 million viewers a month, according to the website, TotalFratMove has swept the country and outgrown its cult following.
“The personalities inside of a fraternity house, it’s an atmosphere that a lot of people don’t know about,” said Dillon Cheverere, a writer for the website who is commonly known as Roger Dorn. “So much funny stuff that goes on inside of there, so many little nuances that people don’t really think about and we’re just trying to make that mainstream and shine a bright light on the lighter side of that culture.”
Ranked the number one Internet comedy destination for college undergraduates, according to a 2011 Youth Trends Lifestyle report, founders of TFM said they knew they’d have to expand on what Cheverere called the site’s “bread and butter” to stay pertinent.
“We had to add more to the site than just one-liner TFMs,” said Ryan Young, co-founder of Grandex, LLC. “We then added photos, columns and a news section in order to capitalize on current events.”
Since the start of the website, Young and co-founder Madison Wickham had plans for a book and movie. The brand brought the first part of this vision to life in January, with its current New York Times bestseller, “Total Frat Move.”
“It’s accurately representative of a lot of campuses and that’s not to say it’s every single one because every fraternity, every house and every school is different,” said W.R. Bolen, author of the book and director of content for the website.
Bolen, who took nearly a year to write the book, said critics question its accuracy of Greek Life but that his goal was to keep it as “realistic and authentic as possible.” He added that it couldn’t have happened without personal experience.
While successful, the brand and its exploits have been criticized for their “extreme” representation of Greek Life, but Grandex LLC advises viewers to take the site lightly.
“It’s not to be taken literal and those that do, I feel sorry for them because they’re missing out on some good humor,” Cheverere said.
Young described the accuracy of his site’s portrayals of Greek Life as “life imitates art and art imitates life.” However, he said he does believe the cliched TFM persona may be outlandish.
“The ultimate TFM character would be an extremely exaggerated yet stereotypical fraternity man,” Young said in an email. “He would be the coolest guy on campus with the brightest of futures while simultaneously partying his balls off.”
While the site may test several boundaries, Bolen added there are lines they won’t cross, no matter how blurred they are.
“It’s kind of on a case-by-case basis, on photos that are really, really inappropriate,” he said. “Not necessarily having nudity, but … we’re not going to put up a picture of someone doing a line off of a stripper’s forehead, it just doesn’t go that far.”
Although the site tries to keep content within a loose degree of reason, Grandex aims to create the first accurate representation of fraternity life since “Animal House” was released in 1978.
Continuing their relationship with TFM, Jimmy Tatro, a former UA student, and Christian A. Pierce, a creative writing junior, play prominent roles in the film. Tatro said he believed his relationship with the site accelerated the success of his and Pierce’s YouTube channel, LifeAccordingToJimmy.
“This movie will be as authentic as our website,” Young wrote. “Nothing will be watered down for the sake of Hollywood.”
Produced independently, so as to keep creative control, the “Total Frat Movie” is supported by private investors and fan donations.
“They’re going to put their spin on it and yeah, it might be successful but it won’t really capture what we’re going for,” Cheverere said of keeping the film away from big studios and out of Hollywood.
As for the distant future, Grandex LLC hopes to continue expanding and build upon what Cheverere called an already “whirlwind of amazing things.”
Bolen said he is nothing but enthusiastic about the growth of TFM. “It’s been awesome to watch it become something that so many different schools and different groups of students have embraced and can enjoy with us.”