Toastmaster generals: Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston used web site Omaze to translate donations to charity into contest entries.
When Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston roll into "Breaking Bad's" finale screening, it won't be in a limo surrounded by handlers. The pair will be driving the show's famed RV to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery screening, with two lucky "Breaking Bad" fans in tow. And they'll be raising an estimated $750,000 for charity in the process.
Paul is using the Sept. 29 finale screening as the centerpiece of a fundraising campaign for his wife Lauren Parsekian's anti-bullying nonprofit, The Kind Campaign. But instead of auctioning off the tickets to the highest bidder, Paul is using the fundraising site Omaze.com to solicit donations — with donors entered in a contest for the chance to win.
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Cranston held a similar Omaze contest for last month's "Breaking Bad" premiere, and was able to turn what likely would have raised tens of thousands at auction into hundreds of thousands in donations.
"Working with Omaze enabled us to raise $303,000 for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children," Cranston tells The Hollywood Reporter. "They did it efficiently and thoroughly, and in an incredibly short period of time. They were Omazing!"
With interest in the "Breaking Bad" finale reaching a fever pitch, Paul's campaign is tracking to be even bigger. Organizers expect it will crack $750,000 in donations. Tickets to the charity screening — which will be attended by the entire cast as well as creator Vince Gilligan — sold out about one minute after going on sale Sept. 4, with a scalped pair selling on eBay for $1,000 earlier this month.
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Part of the appeal of Omaze, say its founders, is it allows time-crunched stars to raise large sums in a short time.
"We've totally minimized the amount of time they have to give to be a part of one of these experiences," says Omaze co-founder Ryan Cummins. "For a couple of hours up front we can create a campaign that lasts four to six weeks. It really leverages the full influence of that celebrity as much as possible."
Cranston is also said to have liked the populist element of the contest.
"He just liked the idea that everyone had a chance to do it. He's a man-of-the-people type of person," says Omaze co-founder Matt Pohlson. "He liked that it wasn't the classic rubber-chicken event dinner type of thing. 'Breaking Bad' fans are such passionate fans, and he wanted to give them all an opportunity."
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Like Cranston's campaign, which featured charming video appeals from the actor, Paul plays up the humor in his. In a promo video, he pledges to call whomever the winner wants "a b----" during their L.A. visit, and vows they will "toilet paper the s--- out of" Cranston's house.
Dan Marolt, a 25-year-old fan from Minnesota, won Cranston's contest. Shortly after landing in L.A. he got a call from Paul, who said "congratulations b----," and he got a kick out of riding to the premiere in the RV with the show's cast and creators. Cranston broke the ice by showing up bearing "Breaking Bad –themed gifts for Marolt.
"We honestly just hung out like a group of friends. I expected to kind of be an outsider — or just along for the ride," says Marolt. "They made an effort to include me in what they were doing. Every single one of them."
A number of other stars are currently running Omaze campaigns. The cast of FXX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and CBS' "2 Broke Girls" are offering up set visits for their causes of choice. Previous campaigns have centered on Jennifer Lopez, the cast of NBC's "Parks and Recreation" and Kunal Nayyar of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory."
Omaze takes 20 percent of the donations and gives the rest to the nonprofit of the star's choice. Paul's campaign runs through Sept. 25, and can be entered here.
Watch video of Marolt mingling with the "Breaking Bad" cast below. (Warning: Some vulgarities.)
First published September 20 2013, 1:19 PM