UKFC, Film Tree team for ad-funded finance

Film Tree to get brand owners and filmmakers together

LONDON -- The movie industry is historically adept at holding true the proverb "necessity is the mother of invention," especially when it comes to developing fresh production funding plans.

The latest plan, still in its infancy, is being developed here by the U.K. Film Council and film partnership specialists Film Tree.

The pair has teamed to develop an advertiser-funded movie production finance model for the industry here.

Think big brands paying for movie production and the resulting associations both on film and in the afterlife a movie enjoys and the idea takes shape. But it is not glorified production placement in exchange for hard production cash, a Council spokesman said.

U.K. Film Council chief executive John Woodward said the plans, still in their infancy, are a product of the old adage concerning necessity being the mother of invention.

"At a time when traditional sources of finance and revenues are diminishing, part of the U.K. Film Council's job is to help the film sector with practical solutions," Woodward said. "Essentially we are establishing a partnership that will enable brands to speak more directly to filmmakers about financing new films, creating a genuine fit between the brand and the film project looking for production finance."

Film Tree is charged with putting brand owners and filmmakers together to find ways of working together.

Film Tree partner Ed Sharp told THR the deals could see brand owners fronting up a percentage of the production cash during pre-production in exchange for an equity position in the movie or upside from future rights exploitation. Sharp said it was bigger than simple product placement deals because any brand involved in a movie would be in it to develop much more sophisticated marketing strands. One idea floating around would be the possibility of parallel content creation for the web or spin-off character episodes to help feed the growing digital outlet appetite around the movie itself.

But both Film Tree and the Council stress that there will be no question of filmmaker editorial freedom being eroded or influenced.

The plan would be to provide film companies with better access to brand financing, offer new ways of engaging with audiences, and promote closer working relationships between the creative industries.

Sharp said: "Branded entertainment can create even more engaging marketing campaigns and deliver tangible returns on investment -- for all involved."

There have been precedents for such relationships, with filmmaker Shane Meadows and his film "Somers Town" being one of the most recent and highest profile examples.

Back in 2008, Meadows wrote and directed "Somers Town," after train operator Eurostar commissioned the filmmaker to make a short film celebrating a new train to Paris from London.