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-oriented ((Presumably, you will not find many 50 year-old country artists recording at Converse's Williamsburg space.)) studio for the film world that Converse is building for the music world, I can't think of one. Can you?