As part of IFP Independent Film Week’s Filmmaker Conference, yesterday at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, a group of creators discussed breaking into the film industry with the help of branded content. Panelists included director Barry Jenkins, producer Kaylee King-Balentine, Content Strategy Director Shane Malach, and Ghost Robot Executive Producer Zachary Mortensen. Based on their discussion, here is a list of six tips on how creators can use branded content to further their artistic vision (and get paid):
1. Pitch your ideas to advertisers with visual images, not written descriptions.
“I think people in general are much more visually savvy than they were in decades past. You could sell people any damn thing if you could put two sticks together in the 60s, just like in ‘Mad Men.’ When you approach brands today, we find that the best method is to deliver your vision through images rather than writing, that way advertisers know exactly what it will look like, and will be more willing to comply with your ideas.” – Barry Jenkins
2. Be thorough with your visual presentations.
“It’ll probably take the form of a five to twenty page PDF that has a small and concise introduction, a lot of images that represent the cast, the style of filmmaking, the locations, wardrobe, the directors vision, you name it. However, less is more in this visual culture, so those paragraphs of texts should turn into single sentences.” – Zachary Mortensen
3. If you’re a start-up filmmaker, work with brands directly.
“The best way to gain power when starting up is to work with brands directly. There are young filmmakers, potentially even in this audience, who are making some really cool shit. And there are brands out there who have this product they need to push to people, and they need your new cool shit. Post everything you have on your Vimeo page, on your YouTube page, Twitter, and even Facebook. Advertisers are constantly researching for your new ideas.” – Jenkins
4. If you’re an established filmmaker, work with an advertising agency that can vouch for you as a filmmaker.
“They can be very helpful. They also have the keys to the galaxy. The more lucrative work you’re going to do is probably going to come through an agency. And that’s because the brands trust that the agency is going to protect their interests. And in the past I’ve have the agency completely save me from horrible experiences. It’s nice to have the agency be able to step in if or when things get out of control. What might take me thirty minutes to explain would take [Mortensen] two minutes to explain.” – Jenkins
5. Put everything you have, including minor creative projects, online for people to discover.
“That’s huge for me. I’m always looking for filmmakers to work with and I find a lot of them on Vimeo, and a lot of them react like ‘How did you find me? This is awesome!’ because they don’t realize how often we look.” – King-Balentine
6. Make your films with your voice and your original vision. Brands will often seek creators with a vision.
“If you tell the best stories, brands will find you. It’s really that simple. Especially speaking from the documentary perspective, it’s not about the crew, it’s not about if you shot it on a GoPro camera–if you find the best subject, or the best story to tell, you win. So, brands will find it because they are looking for it. They are always making partners with the best storytellers. PBS is doing some really great stuff with their point of view digital shorts–a lot of those filmmakers were discovered through that.” – Malach