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Would Any Brand Sponsor a Free Film Studio?

There’s an interesting story in the NYTimes about sneaker brand Converse opening a music recording studio here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. By itself, it’s interesting for a brand to invest in a 5,200 square-foot state-of-the-art recording space, but check out Converse’s business model: the space will be free for musicians to use. In an era where content is becoming increasingly more and more branded, I can see how a lifestyle brand like Converse (no one is buying Converse shoes because of their superior performance) would find such a pursuit worthwhile. Music is “cool,” and giving independent musicians a space to record is also cool. But what about independent film? Is it cool enough that any brand would sponsor a film studio that was free to use?

Looking at the film festivals and conferences I’ve been to lately, most of the brands and partners are technology-related (camera companies, computer companies) or are otherwise insular to the film industry (film commissions, film publications). The first brand that popped into my head was actually Belgian brewer Stella Artois, simply because there always seems to be free Stella at independent film events (which is great). But would Stella open an independent film studio? Unlikely. What other brands might do it? Here’s the list of sponsors from this past year’s Sundance festival:

Entertainment Weekly, HP, Honda, American Express, DIRECTV, G-Technology, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Blockbuster, L’Oréal Paris, Sony Electronics, Stella Artois, Timberland and Utah Film Commission.

I just don’t see anyone in the list that could conceivably do the same thing for film that Converse is doing for music — and that’s because independent film isn’t cool enough, and it isn’t young enough. The independent film audience is predominantly older. This brings to mind the recent Independent Film Week panel with Ted Hope and Jeff Lipsky entitled Are the Kids Alright? Youth Audiences in the Art House:

Ultimately, it’s up to young filmmakers to make independent film cooler (the feature for which I’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign in a month or so is definitely youth-oriented). If Ted’s 9 year-old son recognizes that indie film “doesn’t have that corporate feel,” then we must be onto something. But as far as finding a brand that could conceivably open the same kind of cool, youth-oriented1 studio for the film world that Converse is building for the music world, I can’t think of one. Can you?

  1. Presumably, you will not find many 50 year-old country artists recording at Converse’s Williamsburg space. []


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  • Who should do it?

    Adobe. With the exorbitant costs of their products and the fact that both major platforms use a slew of their products for photo, video, graphic product; it would seem an appropriate ‘give-back’ and allow for them to create workshops and demo their new products.

    • Good one, xlerate. They could definitely open a studio (probably in LA, not NYC, but regardless). Great idea.

      As for their products, I think one could say their individual components are priced “exorbitantly,” but the suites are a solid value IMO (once you’re in, you qualify for much more reasonable upgrade pricing — though they’re releasing suites more rapidly now, which I suppose raises the cost).

  • A company like Apple probably wouldn’t be involved with something like this, but imagine if they pioneered this practice. Having free studios with studio space and also post-production machines for both film and still photo people would do unbelievable things for their image as the underdog, benevolent company. It would also probably sell a few macs, and this would be an especially good thing should adobe jump ship with Microsoft.

    Then again Apple’s pretty focused on the mobile platforms – but still – we can dream. Think of all the companies that would try to copy them if they did do this – it would be an overflow of free to use spaces.

    • Although that would be nice, I just cant see Apple giving away free anything.
      They had to have a month long meeting and fire an Executive when pressed with antenna-gate.
      Their ‘free’ bumper case promo ended just after 30 days.

      • Ky Wildermuth on 10.21.10 @ 3:20PM

        Joe and xlerate, I dont know about a free studio, but my local Apple store has free screenings for independent film makers which I think is pretty cool of them. They advertise it a little and give customers free popcorn. Goes to show that Apple has some sort of a heart.

  • …just realized I wrote ‘product’ 4 x in first comment.


  • Strange debat; as in fact no major company are never giving something for free. If the brand name is at the door of the studio, or “sponsoring” (another name to said : making publicity for cheap) a festival this is not free is just some a marketing disguise , to show how “cool” is the brand. Of course we can live with that, but, in the example of Converse “free” studio will they accept a group singing how good are Adidas shoes !!! Not sure.

  • They should open one here in Vancouver! I hadn’t heard about Converse opening the recording studio…thanks for the post.

  • Ky Wildermuth on 10.21.10 @ 3:17PM

    I don’t think it is a question of whether or not the film industry is “cool” and “young” enough, because I think the film industry is both cool and young, but independent musicians can play a set of songs over and over and different bars and locations every day if they wanted to, its the practical use of the tools provided as opposed to how cool they are. Also the ratio of independent musicians to independent filmmakers is always going to be in favor of the musicians no matter where you go.

  • I can pick out the sponsors based on the Sundance list: The space would be called “the DirecTV studio, powered by Sony.” Indie filmmakers would get to demo the Sony cameras, mics, etc. and become potential buyers of the brand. The finished films would air exclusively on on DirecTV, giving people another reason to use their service. Win-win?

  • I disagree about film making not being a “young hip” thing. Especially when you see the likes of Justin Beiber and others getting discovered through YouTube. In fact, there’s probably a good sponsor right there for a small studio that has two or three rooms with green screen setups where people could come in and shoot video blogs, music videos, web shows, and even short films. Toss in another room with several cubicles set up as editing bays. And stick it in a popular strip mall (or even just a mall) next to a coffee house that offers free wifi and you’ll probably have one of the most popular spots in town.

    • I don’t consider Justin Beiber being discovered on YouTube to be “independent filmmaking” in the sense that I mean it. I’m talking about a different kind of video making, but you’re right — if such a studio were to exist, it’d be more for the online/vlog generation.