No, brand isn’t a dirty word in many authentic artists minds, and to create branded content isn’t selling out. Well, maybe strictly speaking it can be, but it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your dearly-held creativity on an altar of cold hard cash. If you have some skills and you know how to make short films, it’s perfectly possible to create branded content that genuinely reaches out and connects with your audience, and provides much-needed funds throughout your career.
Filming branded content with genuine creativity is possible
First things first, just because you’re filming branded content, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be creatively honest and even deserve artistic merit. Take Prada’s Castello Cavalcanti for example. This particular short film was written by none other than Wes Anderson and produced by Roman Coppola. It’s eight minutes long, but doesn’t contain a single reference to Prada, apart from the jacket worn by the main character. Other than that, the film is a typical Wes Anderson story about an Italian racing driver who crashes by coincidence in the hometown of his ancestors. It’s a story, not an advert.
And believe it or not, but 2017 marked the second year of the Brand Film Festival, which was held in New York on May the 4th. Its purpose is to showcase the very best of the year’s branded content films. They even hold open discussion groups on topics like: ‘Ways to Deliver Compelling Content within Your Branded Film’, and ‘Providing the Perfect Pitch for Your Branded Film’. These questions are at the heart of real concerns for professional and amateur filmmakers, so the Brand Film Festival isn’t a cynical marketing gimmick.
So, take it from us, you aren’t the only one out there wondering if branded content can be anything more than subtle advertising. But if you’re to believe the Brand Film Festival, it certainly can.
Using branded content eases money worries
Filmmaking is a difficult industry to break into. Not only is there not a clear career path to the ‘top’- whatever the ‘top’ of filmmaking is anyway- but amateur and student filmmakers are ten a penny. In such a crowded competitive atmosphere, there’s not much room to turn down a paid opportunity to further your creative career, and earn money doing it.
Making branded content, however, can be a great exercise in how to make short films on a low budget. It gives you the opportunity to do what you love. And if you approach it with an open mind, it’s even possible to put your heart and soul into it just like you would with your own content. But best of all, it beats working as a cameraman by far, and can be a fantastic addition to your CV. What’s not to love about that?
Short films are often undervalued and overlooked within the film industry. Sure, they can represent the first shaky steps of a filmmaker but they can also show the magnitude and versatility the medium has to offer. Short films can play a huge hand in launching careers, much like they launched film as a whole back when the Lumiere brothers screened their first creations. Many of today’s most acclaimed directors first dug their nails into film through shorts and a few found those efforts lead directly to some hugely successful feature films.
1 – Whiplash
Despite having worked in Hollywood before, in 2014 Damien Chazelle was relatively unknown. His film Whiplash turned out to be a critical and commercial success, winning three Academy Awards. Three years later, Chazelle has a Best Director Oscar under his belt for La La Land, the most nominated film in Golden Globes history.
Whiplash was the film that launched Chazelle on to everyone’s radar but the journey to making the film was rocky. Despite having connections in the industry, Chazelle found difficulty gaining the right financial support to produce his breakthrough film. It was then that Chazelle decided to take a scene from his screenplay and produce it, entering it into short film competitions and presenting it to producers for financial backing. The short ended up winning Sundance’s Jury Award for Best Short Film in 2013 and the rest is history.
2 – The Babadook (Monster)
Although Australian director Jennifer Kent had experience in the film industry, she normally found herself in front of the camera. After being particularly struck by Dancer in the Dark, Kent took a chance and wrote to Lars von Trier asking to shadow him during the production of Dogville. Her experience with von Trier inspired her to make her own short film, Monster: a black and white supernatural horror film that would later find wide critical acclaim as The Babadook.
Although not a direct adaptation, Monster served as the conceptual brainchild for Kent’s debut feature, helping raise $30,000 for additional sets on Kickstarter.
3 – Saw (Saw 0.5)
Whether a fan of the franchise or not, one can not deny that the Saw films revolutionised the horror genre. In an attempt to find producers, Australian director James Wan filmed a scene from what would be the first film showing the intricacies and depth behind the life-and-death game so central to the franchise’s narrative. Wan used the short, cleverly titled Saw 0.5, to pitch the films to Lionsgate. Almost a decade and a half later Wan’s short has spun into a seven-part film franchise with one of the most dedicated cult followings.
Although there are many short films that have either been adapted for a feature or given inspiration to a big screen film, the three listed here show the importance short films serve in the film industry. A beautiful tool for helping students grasp filmmaking’s basics, short films are also an incredible medium for inciting inspiration and passion into all filmmakers with eyes on bigger prizes.