'Captain America' Directors, Justin Lin Launch Branded Entertainment Firm (Exclusive)
A version of this story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Anthony and Joe Russo are taking their directing talents to Madison Avenue. The brothers behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier are teaming with Marvel and Harley-Davidson on a digital franchise featuring a new set of motorcycle-riding superheroes. The project is among the first to emerge from Bullitt, a branded entertainment firm the Russos co-founded with Fast & Furious director Justin Lin and producer Todd Makurath.
Named after the 1968 Steve McQueen action film, which Joe Russo calls one of the "greatest commercials" ever created for the Ford Mustang, Bullitt works with brands and ad agencies to produce commercials and longform content. The production company is set up as a filmmakers' collective -- its roster includes directors Louis Leterrier and Troy Miller and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael -- and has a strategic partnership with RSA Films, founded by Ridley and Tony Scott.
"This presents an opportunity to not only work with new partners but to try new things and push boundaries," Lin tells THR.
Bullitt CEO Makurath adds that the rise of digital distribution has changed how brands reach consumers. "We want to help them create more engaging content and content that has a more lasting impression," he says.
Bullitt, which is self-financed, is experimenting with digital content in addition to traditional commercials. To wit: The Russos, who say they already are at work on Captain America 3, recently directed a 3½-minute commercial for Smirnoff vodka with RSA starring Alison Brie and Adam Scott that was released in full online and cut into 30-second television spots.
Anthony Russo says breaking from filmmaking for shorter projects is "very refreshing on a creative level. There's something very energizing and fun about being able to bite things off in smaller pieces."
The Russos and Lin say they will work on projects at Bullitt in between their other film and television commitments. They also hope to help match other directors from the collective to projects that suit their strengths. Makurath says that working with some of the top Hollywood directors helps Bullitt in its goal of making branded content that audiences want to watch.
"There is a misconception, generally, that branded content is purely just a product slapped in front of someone's face," he says. "That's exactly why we exist. We seen an opportunity to work with a brand as someone who wants to tell a story. It's the same as working with another creative partner."