Creative Control: Filmmaker or Brand?

I just got off the phone with a wonderful filmmaker and his business partner/producer who asked to have their interview posted in a couple of months.  The conversation was great, and while I’m excited to post an article about them once their big news hits, I also wanted to share their comments with our readers.

This filmmaker is an award-winning producer/director/writer at Cannes Film Festival and American Film Institute, and has also been involved in television.  He has done lots of work for large corporate clients, too, so he’s just overall super-accomplished.

We talked about the CrewTide process of matching independent filmmakers with brands, and he had some great questions.

Filmmaker:
What about the freedom of the filmmaker?  I’ve worked with a lot of these big brands, and they want a lot of control.  They want storyboards, they want to have an account executive looking at every shot for product placement, they want total control of the final script. How will you manage those expectations?

CrewTide:
Yeah, the giant brands do want that kind of control.  Kmart spent $100,000 per 8-minute episode on a low-budget web series, and that is part of what they paid for — dozens of rounds of script changes, someone on set checking off product placement in every shot, etc.  One of the questions we ask brands when we interview them is, “If you could get more options of video content for a lower cost, would you be willing to give up some control over script & storyboard?”  When it’s phrased that way, they are usually pretty happy to have less involvement, even the bigger brands.

So our pitch to brands is that we can provide them with low-cost, high-quality alternative, but they have to leave the creative control with the filmmaker. Some of them are even relieved because it saves them time, and the savvy ones realize it makes the production more authentic.

Filmmaker:
That’s great.  I did music videos for a long time, and I’d do it over a commercial any day because I get to create it, try stuff, do whatever I want.  The idea didn’t come from the record lable or the artist, it was my idea.  We (filmmakers) would create content for a lot less if it’s what we want to do. If you can get brands to give filmmakers freedom, that will be a hit on both sides.  The fact that you’re running a competition and that all entries are being paid for, so there’s no risk, the filmmaker can just stick to budget and have creative control, it’s a win-win situation.

Producer:
I think pretty soon you’ll have a great variance of quality.  This is an idea that will appeal even to very successful filmmakers, so how will you include younger, less-experienced filmmakers?  Even if all your filmmakers are award-winning, I wouldn’t want to compete with my partner here.

CrewTide:
We’re not there yet, but I think you’re right. So far every filmmaker I’ve talked to is super-excited about this concept, even the ones who are already working with brands.

Producer:
You should create a masters group and a regular group.  For the filmmakers who have already worked on successful features or who have had their pilots bought by television networks, or even famous YouTube creators — for the really successful ones, you charge brands more because every piece will be a masterpiece.  Then you have a regular group that includes award-winning filmmakers — for many brands this is what they want. [Editor’s note: this is why he’s the business guy.  🙂 ]

CrewTide:
I love that idea.  BMW went to A-list Hollywood directors, and Kmart went to the producers of Gossip Girl.  Some brands will want to pay more for these names, and this will also make it more fun for our main body of award-winning full-time filmmakers, evening out their chances.  We can’t offer that yet, but once we get more filmmakers and some well-publicized competitions, I’d love to move in that direction.

CrewTide:
What do you think of the process CrewTide will use for matching independent filmmakers with brands?

Filmmaker:
I think it sounds great, and you’re doing it at the perfect time. More and more brands are hiring for online video, you could change the lives of a lot of people.

I don’t doubt that many of these series will be successful – there are some crazy-creative people out there. You get a couple that work, and you’re going to be really big.

CrewTide:
Thanks guys!  Can’t wait to interview you on the record in a couple of months!

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