BY:Steven C. Beer
Faith-based and other special interest groups have turned to independent films over the past decade to propagate their points of view. “An Inconvenient Truth,” for example, raised awareness about the potential hazards of global warming, and “Gasland” sounded the alarm against potential environmental perils from extracting natural gas through “fracking.” Since 2006, producers created more than 50 faith-themed films, including “Fireproof,” the highest grossing independent film of 2008. Following those successes, consumer brands also have been looking toward independent films as a platform for exposure. Beyond product placement, an increasing number of brands are becoming involved with production itself as a means of boosting corporate image and sales.
For example: the Academy Award-nominated “Blue Valentine” received early-stage financing from the Chrysler Corporation, which joined forces with the Independent Feature Project to solicit scripts and finance short films that featured Chrysler automobiles. Days before the 2011 Sundance Film Festival premiere, Hennessy Cognac committed to be an executive producer of a music documentary, “Beats, Rhymes, and Life,” which secured for it a unique position in the film’s artwork and on screen credits. (The brand also hosted a VIP reception at the festival and helped raise the profile of the film in its marketing activities.) A popular travel and leisure company contributed money and marketing resources for a lifestyle documentary currently in post-production; in addition to associating itself with a quality film project, the brand acquired use of the film for its own marketing and promotional objectives.
Although the financial support of companies with brands to promote is welcome to producers, their involvement in independent film production raises some issues. Those companies may have marketing priorities that diverge from those of the producers. How does the brand want to include its products, or have its name mentioned, in the film? What if a brand seeks to promote its involvement prior to the film’s festival run or theatrical release? These and other issues need to be considered by producers, distributors and the brands at an early stage of the brand’s involvement.