Funding Solutions

Branded Content Could Change Everything for You and Your Film Career

Photo 1.jpg

In recent years, innovative new media opportunities have emerged out of the combined frustrations of both filmmakers desperate for the resources needed to prove themselves and corporate brands looking to connect with elusive demographics such as millennials.

In the early days of product placement, no-one was happy with the often-clumsy appearance of a product when, for instance, an actor reached into a fridge and produced a beer with the label displayed perfectly to the audience.

Far more subtle and sophisticated than simple product placement, this new type of media known as “branded content” may not even directly feature a product or service offered by the partnering brand. The content may simply align well with their own brand sensibilities or may represent the kind of content their target audience tends to like.

These new partnerships between brands and filmmakers are making a huge impact on the public and their familiarity with corporate brands who are getting very savvy at how to choose a suitable creative filmmaker to partner with and how to balance the valuable exposure they want with the artistic merits required to make these projects not only stand out, but to encourage multiple viewings and viral sharing amongst their target audience.

One of the earliest highly-successful branded campaigns was BMW’s famous “Driver” short film series starring Clive Owen as the titular character. The series was resurrected last year by filmmaker Neil Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) and once again went on to raise both the automaker and the filmmakers’ profiles.

Today, the opportunities being provided by branded content are vast. Take for instance the Jameson First Shot short film competition created by the world’s No. 1 selling Irish whiskey and Hollywood producer Dana Brunetti (The Social Network, Fifty Shades of Grey, House of Cards).

Jameson First Shot is a platform for emerging filmmaking talent. It is your chance to get your writing/directing skills noticed while working with Dominic West (The Wire, Tomb Raider) as your lead and the support of the First Shot crew.”

Photo 4.jpg

And let’s not forget about the award-winning branded content franchise, Carmilla, a Canadian single frame web series co-created by Jordan Hall, Steph Ouaknine, and Jay Bennett. The series stars Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis, and is loosely based on the novella of the same name by Sheridan Le Fanu. The series premiered on the Vervegirl (rebranded as KindaTV as of January 2016) YouTube channel on August 19, 2014. U by Kotex is the executive producer of the web series. The series takes place at the fictional Silas University in Styria, Austria and is told through vlogs recorded by Laura, a first-year student. When Laura begins investigating the disappearance of her roommate, she is assigned a new roommate named Carmilla.


In 2016, the series won a Canadian Screen Award and a Rockie Award for Branded Content at the Banff World Media Festival. As of August 2017, Carmilla had generated over 70 million views on YouTube.

So... this is all well and good, but how can YOU take advantage of branded content opportunities? Sign up today for the Forest City Film Festival’s Industry Session seminar “Current Trends in Funding” to find out. The seminar takes place on Saturday, October 27 at 2:30 PM and will feature a fascinating and informative exploration of branded content by industry maven, Kaaren Whitney-Vernon (Senior Vice President Branded Entertainment at Shaftesbury and producer of Carmilla).

Kaaren is a keynote speaker and marketing visionary. Before joining Shaftesbury, Kaaren founded two successful companies. The first, Youth Culture Inc., is a media agency specializing in helping brands target millennials. This worked with brands like P&G, L’Oreal and Coca Cola to reach millions of that demographic. The second, Shift2, created original programming for brands such as Walmart, U by Kotex® and RBC. Today, at Shaftesbury, Kaaren charges her team to produce original content for television, film, and digital brands designed to drive revenue.

Are you a talented filmmaker frustrated by your lack of resources and opportunities? Learn how to make branded content work for you at this year’s Forest City Film Festival!

Sign up for this and other invaluable Industry Sessions right now:


Jordan Morris