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October 21 at 8:33am

How Big Brand Sponsorship Saved Our Indie Film (pt 2 of 2)

Guest Post by Amy Lo.  Yesterday Amy started the tale of Planet B-boy‘s march into brand sponsorship and how they teamed up with Samsung.  Today she concludes with how it was a win/win and some thoughts towards the future.

Taking the long view
We were relieved that our immediate need for post production funds was met, but our proposal also kept the door open for a much bigger fish to fry: distribution. Our initial strategy was the typical indie film non-strategy of keeping the film under wraps, doing a big premiere at a festival and waiting for any offers to come along. With Samsung unexpectedly involved at an early stage, we started thinking about how we could partner with them to bring the film out, either with or without a traditional distributor. We came up with a plan for live dance events combined with the film screenings, a 25-city tour presented by Samsung.

In the meantime, we finished the film and got it into competition at the Tribeca Film Festival. We had a magical outdoor premiere on the riverfront with Fab 5 Freddy as emcee, live performances, and breakdancing lessons before the movie. More than eight thousand people turned out. We’d made it an event. We knew we could be on to something.

We pushed Samsung and came so close – with no less than the Chief Marketing Officer for North America behind us – but internal politics and timing ultimately thwarted further P&A support. Planet B-boy still had a great run with distributor Elephant Eye Films, held over in NY theaters for 10 weeks and spreading to about 50 other cities. We threw some fantastic events, too.

Working towards the future
I’m convinced there’s a still lot further to go with sponsorship and indie film, particularly for distribution and the hard work of getting finished films to audiences. Folks like Rooftop Films , Alamo Drafthouse , and Range Life are making movies more of a communal event. Film festivals, too. Brands get behind those curators without dictating programming, so if a filmmaker’s vision is clear and resonates with audiences, why not experiment with individual film releases, too? Or theaters? Kind of like the old days of TV – Wild Kingdom never had anything to do with insurance but the show’s always been presented by Mutual of Omaha. Sponsorship’s coming back for indie music , why not indie film, too?

Samsung didn’t take any ownership or approvals of the film, and our deal with them paradoxically, became our best guarantee of creative freedom, no strings attached. Sponsorship wasn’t our plan at the outset, but by focusing on the film first, by preserving its quality and originality, we had something for others, both audiences and sponsors, to get excited about.

It most likely won’t happen the same way for me again on another film, and on each project, we as producers have to be more resourceful and more imaginative than ever, looking at every option. I’m telling you this story because the lesson learned is: You never know who might save you. When some doors close, just find new ones to knock down.

Amy Lo is a 2010-2011 Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellow. Through her production banner Mental Pictures , she develops and produces feature films, documentaries, and new media, focusing on director-driven original stories. She can also be found on twitter @amy_lo .

For more on this subject check out: “Can Brands & Indie Films Collaborate Without Sacrificing Integrity Or Goals?

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  • Shenan

    This is an interesting topic to think about. I am reminded of Brazilian films that usually involve a lot of brand/corporate sponsorship to be finished. Just look at the end credits on Brazilian films (and sometimes in the logos before the film starts) and you will usually see several corporate and foundation logos being shown. I've seen banks, oil companies, and other types of companies.

    So this may be something for

  • Shenan

    Got cut off on the previous post:

    So this may be a new avenue of funding that could be explored much further by American (and other countries') indie filmmakers.

  • FollowMyFilm

    Thank you again for a great two-part post, Amy. Now, here's the BIG QUESTION: how do us domestic/relational drama folks embrace what you're talking about? LOL

    I know it can be done and someone sharp and entrepreneurial like you will come up with the answer. It's just so much nicer to have “cool,” relevant, and/or niche content from the start, something to think about before one writes the script….

  • http://twitter.com/amy_lo Amy Lo

    I think you should always start with a story you believe in and find a way forward, whatever that may be. Brands are certainly not right for most films, but the broader point I was trying to make is that on each film you need to be open-minded and creative in making the most of what you got – figure out your strengths and go from there. Good luck!

  • FollowMyFilm

    Thanks, Amy!

  • Jeffrey Winter

    At The Film Collaborative (http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org), we've been trying to rope in big brands for distro sponsorship for a long while, and in my experience they aren't truly open to ONE OFF projects, but if there is a SLATE there is a much better chance. Right now we're talking to some companies of similar profile to Samsung, but around “themed slate initiatives” like Latino film, Black film, and LGBT Film. Unfortunately, I feel like trying to get a big sponsor for a single indie film may be more trouble than its worth, but if you crack the nut…please do let us all know!

  • Lisa

    Hi Amy

    Thanks for the inspiring and informative post. Question: How long did the process of getting Samsung on board initially take? And how long from the yes to the money in the bank? Lastly, were they interested in how the money would be spent, or how you came to the sum you came to be asking for?

    Many thanks,
    Lisa

  • http://twitter.com/amy_lo Amy Lo

    Hi Lisa, things went faster than expected but it was a little over three months from initial contact to signed contract. There were no questions about the fees!

  • Robin

    Hi Amy,

    working on a similar proposition at the moment, trying to generate money for charity through youtube with a 'non-worthy' comedy project and big brand sponsorship is likely to take a big role in pushing us forward. Nice to know it actually can be done. Well done.

    Robin

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheSUPERMASSIVERAVER

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