In Tuesday’s newsletter I gave you Part One of my SXSW Take Aways and I wanted to continue the conversation and talk about another big topic prevalent in all the panels I went to and conversations I had and that’s Branded Entertainment as a method of financing indie productions.
I’m particularly interested in this because hands down it’s one of the most common misconceptions I see out there from clients and fellow producers who include a line item of ‘brand integration’ in their finance plans.
Everyone thinks brand dollars are available to help finance a film in the same way I see tax credits misused on finance plans (but that’s another story!).
What I’ve observed with brand money is that it’s rampant on the high end (ex: James Bond franchise) and on the lower budgets, it’s more a barter situation. As in, no actual dollars towards your budget. (with a few exceptions of course)
Recently a producer I know went to a meeting with a big liquor brand who they thought would come on as an sponsor/investor in the movie and the meeting went upside down when the brand realized they were looking for money in the first place. They thought they just wanted to feature their products for free! LOL.
Back to SXSW…. the biggest take aways I had around the idea of branded entertainment is that for lower budgets it can work for documentaries and digital series, but brands are typically looking for guaranteed distribution or a director with a proven track record of Tier 1 festival exposure (ex: Werner Herzog’s doc Lo and Behold which was 100% brand funded). The guaranteed distribution part is usually the sticking point for Indies of course because we don’t get distribution until the film is completed.
I also took away that it’s best to engage the brands in the beginning of the development process, as sometimes they’ll want a say in what they are actually funding. So to come on half way and fund post, it can be too late.
And finally, start from the brands first and reverse engineer. Meaning, what you think is a brand’s mandate may not be accurate at all – they may be going after a totally different audience than you think, so it’s important to find out what their goals are first, and then as storyteller meet them in the middle for at true partnership (ex: look at the work Morgan Spurlock is doing with brands and getting his movies and series funded).
Hopefully this clears up some confusion around the topic of brands contributing to your indie film budget….
Film Finance Essentials – 2017
On that note, I’ll be running my Film Finance Essentials course during the month of April which is a true primer for what’s real in indie film finance today. I ran this course once in 2016 and probably only once this year as well.
This virtual intensive is an overview of today’s indie film financing landscape. Great for beginners and a refresher for intermediates. It is completely virtual, with weekly video modules delivered to your inbox, and a dedicated online classroom where you can get your questions answered and we can discuss your specific situations.
You can save $50 on tuition until March 23. For $199 you pretty much can’t go wrong!
Again, price goes up in a week, and class starts on April 3. Since the video modules are recorded you can go at your own pace and listen/watch anytime that is convenient for you.
I look forward to working with some of you in the Film Financing Essentials course!