Advertisers Now Investing In Indy Films

Frodo Drinks Pepsi
The Los Angeles Times
and Tim Swanson’s blog reported earlier this month about Inferno Distribution’s recent financing of “The Women” starring Annette Benning, Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith and Candice Bergen. I’ve worked with Bill and Jim at Inferno before, and they can be very resourceful when it comes to financing their pictures.

Inferno financed about $3 million of a reported $15 million budget with an advertiser buy-in from Unilever/Dove. In exchange, Dove will share in profits at cash break-even on the negative cost of the picture (presumably, with some fees payable to Inferno and distributors off the top).

Similarly, Gatorade reportedly invested about $3 million in “Gracie,” a picture about girls soccer, making it possible for the producer to acquire an additional $7 million in financing from a hedge fund. In a deal that apparently proves that producing credits are the coin of the realm – even outside the entertainment business – Gatorade execs received three producing credits in exchange for Gatorade’s investment but neither they nor Gatorade are entitled to receive any back end.

Swanson’s blog reported that neither company demanded product placement for their investment though apparently both advertisers will receive it anyway. The girls in “Gracie” reportedly drink Gatorade on screen. Diane English, director of “The Women” is quoted in both pieces as looking for ways to incorporate the Dove brand “seamlessly.” (Funny, doesn’t the placement of product in the picture make these deals run of the mill product placement deals?) In both “Gracie” and “The Women,” advertisers are leveraging content that reflects well on their product or ties in a like-minded demographic audience to their product with the picture. Given advertising budgets in the hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars, an investment in an smaller budgeted, independent picture is a drop in the bucket for many advertisers.

Product placement and sponsorship are nothing new to the entertainment business and have been around even longer than motion pictures. What is new, is advertiser focus on smaller, independent pictures. Still, this seems to be more flash than substance since there is no business bang from advertiser investment in pictures without significant domestic (read: theatrical) distribution. In other words, independent producers without distribution (aka consumer reach) need not apply.

  • I don’t know if you’re watching much cable TV these days but USA is getting advertisers like Dove and VISA to do a lot more product placement in their shows like ‘The Starter Wife’ and ‘The Dead Zone’. I don’t think that the advertising execs got any produce credits on any of these episodes but I did notice that they promised viewers “limited commercial interruptions” and in most cases viewers see the characters actually using the products.

    The thing that gets me is the cheapening of the “producer” credit. If all you and your company did was put up a little cash and provide a product for a project to pimp, that doesn’t strike me as being a ‘producer’ as much as being a financier.

    One of the problems I think these modern day films and TV series have is far too many producer credits in proportion to actual creative contributions. But that’s just my opinion.

    Oh and if Diane English is remaking George Cukor’s “The Women” I have really low hopes for it…no way in hell are Annette Benning, Meg Ryan, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith and Candice Bergen in the class of Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell et al. Good luck to her but her cast is on the lightweight sided as far as talent goes.

  • I don’t know if you’re watching much cable TV these days but USA is getting advertisers like Dove and VISA to do a lot more product placement in their shows like ‘The Starter Wife’ and ‘The Dead Zone’. I don’t think that the advertising execs got any produce credits on any of these episodes but I did notice that they promised viewers “limited commercial interruptions” and in most cases viewers see the characters actually using the products.

    The thing that gets me is the cheapening of the “producer” credit. If all you and your company did was put up a little cash and provide a product for a project to pimp, that doesn’t strike me as being a ‘producer’ as much as being a financier.

    One of the problems I think these modern day films and TV series have is far too many producer credits in proportion to actual creative contributions. But that’s just my opinion.

    Oh and if Diane English is remaking George Cukor’s “The Women” I have really low hopes for it…no way in hell are Annette Benning, Meg Ryan, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith and Candice Bergen in the class of Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell et al. Good luck to her but her cast is on the lightweight sided as far as talent goes.

  • I agree with you – far too many people get producing credits these days; even people who are not rendering meaningful services. The result is a dilution of the producer credit – at least as far as the industry is concerned – for “working” producers. The trades recently reported that the TV Academy is being more stringent with credits and the MP Academy wants to relax its standards. I think this is part of a normal process to regulate credits in a reasonable fashion that ultimately does not restrict credit to the point of denying credit where credit is due.

  • PLK

    I agree with you – far too many people get producing credits these days; even people who are not rendering meaningful services. The result is a dilution of the producer credit – at least as far as the industry is concerned – for “working” producers. The trades recently reported that the TV Academy is being more stringent with credits and the MP Academy wants to relax its standards. I think this is part of a normal process to regulate credits in a reasonable fashion that ultimately does not restrict credit to the point of denying credit where credit is due.

  • making$$$

    Well, it seems that we forget, that even a garbage man gets credit for driving the truck, and and producer or associate producer credit, should be given for the smallest of efforts, even a pimp gets his just acknowledgments, and gets paid well for his introductions.

    I am not making lite of the dilution of producing, by just being there, but most of these contacts would not have been made, had a new and enthusiastic production coordinator or associate producer not been able to make contact with a money source, thereby getting the bones to one day, maybe become a fully fledged producer or executive producer.

    Banks give money to productions – in exchange for participation in the back end and producers points, and that seems to be alright for producer’s credits & points, and they are after all – financiers and investors, just like a exec. producer would be; and if we stop the “pimping” of products, then we cause the flow of funds to help productions, to dry up and that money can be the difference of a day of shooting or not, and any help on a production is always appreciated.

    Let’s give credit where credit is due, and get on with the next project, and pay some bills – I also think this is part of a normal process to regulate credits in a reasonable fashion, and therefore if there is a need and a slot for a producer credit, and it is going to make a difference in the production quality by getting more money into the production, then if we need 20 producers in the pot, in order to facilitate a film, then who are we to say what is a dilution of producing credit is too much or detrimental to the residual income of the producing team?

    After all, the producing team decided it was necessary and ordinary in the scope of the production, and viable to the production in order to get the job done.

    After all, we should remember how tuff it was to get into the business in the first place, and we all still fight to hang on to our jobs by our past credits, contacts and worthiness to the production and its team, even if we are a lonely production coordinator or an inturn to the business.

    That’s my take on this discussion.

  • making$$$

    Well, it seems that we forget, that even a garbage man gets credit for driving the truck, and and producer or associate producer credit, should be given for the smallest of efforts, even a pimp gets his just acknowledgments, and gets paid well for his introductions.

    I am not making lite of the dilution of producing, by just being there, but most of these contacts would not have been made, had a new and enthusiastic production coordinator or associate producer not been able to make contact with a money source, thereby getting the bones to one day, maybe become a fully fledged producer or executive producer.

    Banks give money to productions – in exchange for participation in the back end and producers points, and that seems to be alright for producer’s credits & points, and they are after all – financiers and investors, just like a exec. producer would be; and if we stop the “pimping” of products, then we cause the flow of funds to help productions, to dry up and that money can be the difference of a day of shooting or not, and any help on a production is always appreciated.

    Let’s give credit where credit is due, and get on with the next project, and pay some bills – I also think this is part of a normal process to regulate credits in a reasonable fashion, and therefore if there is a need and a slot for a producer credit, and it is going to make a difference in the production quality by getting more money into the production, then if we need 20 producers in the pot, in order to facilitate a film, then who are we to say what is a dilution of producing credit is too much or detrimental to the residual income of the producing team?

    After all, the producing team decided it was necessary and ordinary in the scope of the production, and viable to the production in order to get the job done.

    After all, we should remember how tuff it was to get into the business in the first place, and we all still fight to hang on to our jobs by our past credits, contacts and worthiness to the production and its team, even if we are a lonely production coordinator or an inturn to the business.

    That’s my take on this discussion.

  • in exchange for participation in the back end and producers points, and that seems to be alright for producer's credits & points, and they are after all – financiers and investors, just like a exec. producer would be

  • Artificial

    in exchange for participation in the back end and producers points, and that seems to be alright for producer's credits & points, and they are after all – financiers and investors, just like a exec. producer would be