Filmmaker Jay Chandrasekhar on Why He Launched the Vouch Vault App – The Hollywood Reporter

To fully understand why comedy guru Jay Chandrasekhar released a new app called Vouch Vault, the filmmaker digs deep into his memory vault to recall the events surrounding the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

Your raucous comedy super soldiers — about five prank-loving Vermont state troopers trying to save their jobs by outmaneuvering the local police department in solving a crime — premiered at the Park City winter festival, where it landed with a series of warm hugs. “The Sundance experience was incredible,” explains Chandrasekhar. “We had three midnight showings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and each one was better than the last. It was crowded and 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? Any less. After spending a year cutting the film with the help of reshoots, super soldiers it hit theaters in February 2002 and grossed $23 million to glowing reviews from audiences. Reviewers were not so enthusiastic. “The newspaper I read every morning, The New York Times newspaper, I didn’t love the movie, which is totally fine. That’s what you’d expect when you have top-notch critics writing about R-rated comedies. Reviewers often take their first swing at comedy and horror because they can, and they get more attention and likes when they’re mean. ”

many were mean super soldiers, proven by the film’s rotten 36% score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. But Chandrasekhar is not here to criticize critics. “To be 100% clear, I have no problem with reviewers, and there is value to them,” he notes. “But I remember thinking at the time, ‘Who is a reviewer?’ They are often great writers with immense power in newspapers who make a living by watching movies and recommending them to their readers. When was the last time you walked up to a stranger on the street and asked which movie you should see?”

That’s why the value, for him, came as an inspiration to create a new type of platform that puts in people’s hands the power to recommend movies. “About three years ago, I started outlining what I hoped would be my revenge app to supplant the way Rotten Tomatoes influences the movie business,” details Chandrasekhar. “I came up with the idea, met with two app developers, and probably had 10 Zoom meetings. I was about to write them a check to help me build the app, and 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.”

The Vouch Vault team: Jay Chandrasekhar, Elijah Szasz and Eric Colbert
Courtesy of Vouch Vault

They call it the Vouch Vault. The goal is simple: “Take the power of recommendation from anonymous strangers and give it to people whose tastes you know and trust.” It’s a social media platform where users share just about everything they love — 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 LA, Randolph Beer in Brooklyn and the sound experts at King Soundworks for post-production services.

“It’s the Instagram of recommendations,” he says. “You follow friends and celebrities and see what they like and recommend. The real purity of it 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 hashtags can be an easy way to find recommendations in other cities. Want to find the best burger in Paris, search for a hashtag. But beyond the hamburgers, Chandrasekhar also sees it as a kind of “memory machine” that will allow users to store a digital record of everything they like for friends and family.

Image loaded with laziness

Vouch Vault user experience images.
Courtesy of Vouch Vault (3)

“I hope this is obviously a hit, but it also offers another way to have a collective memory bank of all the great pieces of pop culture you might want to share with your kids someday,” explains the filmmaker whose next film, Easter Sundaystarring stand-up star Jo Koy, premieres August 5.

Speaking of success, Chandrasekhar put some of his own money into making it work, along with investments from his fellow developers, some family and friends. The app can be monetized through advertising and affiliate links, and while it’s still in the early stages, it has big plans for expansion with the possible addition of video features. He still hopes to land talent like Quentin Tarantino or Willie Nelson (a longtime friend he met while directing the 2005 film). The Dukes of Hazzard) to offer your Vaults. (On Nelson: “He’s a valuable source of information that won’t always be there.”)

Asked to summarize his final hopes for the venture, Chandrasekhar throws a curveball and gets political in closing. “I truly believe the Vouch Vault can have a unifying effect. If you see Republicans and Democrats enjoying the same movies, we need that. We need unity in our culture.” This goes for reviewers as well.

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