Film distribution veteran Ryan Krivoshey is taking a page from the success of “An Inconvenient Truth,” advocating for global issues by betting on film as the most potent tool for spreading awareness. The Founder and President of indie distributor Grasshopper Film recently formed a new production company, Grasshopper + Marks Productions, which focuses on producing issue-based films whose stories can inspire major movements.
One of the most innovative aspects of this strategy is how the company plans to find those stories. Krivoshey has partnered with his wife Beata Gutman Krivoshey’s advisory film Grasshopper Global, which builds social purpose campaigns for clients ranging from Disney to the United Nations Foundation, and with Andy Marks’ brand consultancy and production company Marks Entertainment + Media. The plan is to connect companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies with filmmakers to help tell issue-driven stories, all of which will have in-house distribution from Krivoshey’s Grasshopper Film. As financial backers, the corporate and non-profit clients will be given the opportunity share in the financial success of productions.
On top of sourcing meaningful, compelling subject matter, Grasshopper + Marks hopes its projects will magnify the reach of various causes. “One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had over the years working on big social purpose campaigns is that when you start a big campaign, you have a nice big launch, then six weeks or so of great follow-through, and the the campaign kind of just stops,” Beata Gutman Krivoshey said. “I’ve always felt that film was a way to continue the shelf life of a campaign and really initiate a major movement.”
While documentaries can be a more natural fit for telling issue-based stories, Grasshopper + Marks will also consider narrative features if the subject matter connects directly to a cause that’s important to its brand or non-profit clients. Importantly, the company insists on giving filmmakers more creative control than what is typical for branded entertainment projects. “There has to be the filmmaker’s imprint,” Krivoshey said. “Brands realize that it’s a win-win situation if they concede a bit of the control of the project itself and let the filmmaker carry the story.”
What makes it a win-win? Giving filmmakers this level of autonomy is the first step toward achieving higher quality storytelling than what audiences would expect from corporate and non-profit backers, according to Marks. “The whole branded entertainment scene has been very advertising-driven and media buying-driven, and I’ve always felt like the artistry was missing,” he said.
Grasshopper + Marks couldn’t share specifics on its clients or initial projects yet, but the company is currently producing a film based around the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, a feature-length documentary in partnership with a corporate client, and a collection of between 15 and 20 short films that will either be released together as a compilation or as standalone shorts. As of now, there is no set slate or number of projects the company plans to produce on an annual basis. Krivoshey’s six-month-old Grasshopper Film has a total of nine theatrical releases planned for 2016, and will continue to distribute films outside of what Grasshopper + Marks produces.
Though creating original film projects by bringing together filmmakers, brands and non-profits is in many ways an untested model, Beata Gutman Krivoshey says there is a strong demand from these groups to get their messages across in a different way. “They’re understanding that everyone needs to collaborate and cooperate if we’re going to tackle these issues together,” she said.