For better or worse, the age of branded content is here—and with it the more aggressive and ambitious partnering of corporate sponsors and filmmakers. The Weinstein Company’s partnership with Lexus is another sign of things that are already here. We spoke with Joey Horvitz, the producer of the films, to discuss what’s happening now, and what’s happening next, both for this specific partnership and for branded entertainment in general.
Paste Magazine:Tell us about your specific role on this project.
Joey Horvitz:Officially, I’m the producer of these films, along with Marc Longberg as producer. However I’ve been involved in a lot—from working on the general creative of the whole project together with the Weinsteins, to searching for and identifying the directors, to actually producing the films, working on the post production, to finally now working on the marketing of the films. It’s a pretty great gig, and I’m so thankful to be able to work on such a dynamic project from inception all the way through to marketing.
Paste: How did the partnership between Lexus and The Weinstein Company
begin, and what is its history to date?
Horvitz: First off, I think it’s important to note that I am not an official employee of the Weinstein Company. I was hired as an independent producer to facilitate this project. As far as I know, Lexus was and is the official car of the Weinstein Company. Lexus wanted to deepen their relationship with TWC and do something with the short film format. I was brought on board at that point because I have produced feature films and I have produced commercials, which seemed like a perfect fit.
This is the second year of Lexus Short Films. Last year, we produced five films representing five regions; the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific, China and Japan. The five directors were from the five regions. The films turned out great, and we actually shot on location in Japan, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Once completed, all five films premiered last year at the 2013 Cannes film festival. There we had a big event, including a round table discussion with Tim Burton, Harvey Weinstein and all the filmmakers. It was quite amazing. This year, Lexus wanted to focus on two films. One film representing the United States, and one representing Japan.
Paste: How does this type of branded content provide advantages to the company above and beyond, say, a commercial?
Horvitz: That’s a good question. Today’s media landscape is changing so much and so quickly. If you think about it, unless a commercial is programed during a live event, or unless it goes viral online, the chances of younger generations actually viewing these commercials are slim to none. Brands understand this, and that’s why we’ve seen such a significant rise in branded entertainment. Ultimately, I think brands will reach more viewers and more consumers this way than with the traditional commercial, and perhaps in a more organic and effective manner. You will be seeing much more of this what I like to call “advertainment.”
Paste: This seems like an actual sustainable business model for filmmakers who want to make short films. How does that affect the filmmakers and crews?
Horvitz: These types of branded opportunities essentially open up a solid new pool of financing for filmmakers to create and realize their visions without compromising their art. If done correctly. And “done correctly” is a very important caveat. Many brands shove their product front and center, which I feel ultimately puts off the consumer.
Lexus should be applauded and congratulated to be such forward thinkers as to offer this opportunity without a mandate to use the car. The filmmakers were never instructed to include a car or write a story about a car. The general rule was if the story called for a car, then use a Lexus. That’s just unheard of. And of course these types of opportunities trickle down to crews, actors, and local economies. It’s win-win for everyone. I am so excited and thankful to have been able to meet so many talented filmmakers and be part of a process that offered seven talented up-and-coming directors these incredible opportunities to create art and realize their wonderful ideas.
Paste: What have previous filmmakers gone on to do?
Horvitz: I could speak to last year’s filmmakers:
Justin Tipping is one of the writers on a big feature coming out called Lowriders (See this article.)
Mitsuyo Miyazaki is directing and producing her new short film called Where We Begin. She’s got a Kickstarter campaign.
Campbell Hooper is directing a feature right now but recently shot a music video in Australia for Coldplay.
They are all doing really well.
Paste: What do you see in the future for this partnership?
Horvitz: Well of course I hope Lexus signs on for another year. I truly think they are trailblazers forging the path in branded content, while at the same time supporting a great cause. Finding up and coming filmmakers and offering them this type of opportunity is truly amazing.
Paste: What do you see in the future for branded content in general?
Horvitz: We are going to see a lot more of it. Like many other businesses, advertising is being disrupted. The ad industry has no choice but to evolve and adapt to the current media landscape. I also believe we’ll be seeing lot more of short film, to be specific. Cinema embodies a brand essence of sophistication, sexiness, art, glamour. This is the same brand essence of luxury brands such as Lexus, Prada, Rolex, etc. Also, it just so happens that the most consumed content online is short form content, by far. We’re all being bombarded by so many things all over the place … so much information to consume. Most people only have time for something bite-sized. Enter the short film. You take this fact and combine it with the rise of branded entertainment, and the short film finally has a solid, bona fide business model.
Operation Barn Owl