13 Apr 2016
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Tribeca Film Festival unveils eight branded film finalists

In February, one of the leading film festivals Tribeca Film Festival, launched a new category to recognise the best collaborations between filmmakers and brands.

Tribeca Film Festival said, “As companies and brands like Netflix, Amazon, and even Chipotle establish themselves as formidable destinations for storytellers, the lines between advertising and entertainment continue to blur. Now, it's all about the best stories and strongest films, no matter how they're conceived.”

The Tribeca X Award aims to celebrate excellence, authenticity, originality, and creativity in sponsored or brand under-written content. 

This week Tribeca Film Festival announced eight finalists that it believes have achieved this: American Giant, Balvenie, Derek Lam, Kenzo, Olympus, Radio Flyer Wagons, Robert Graham, and Samsung.

Jane Rosenthal, founder and executive chair, Tribeca Film Festival, said, "For the past decade, a shift has taken place across traditional models of entertainment, art, and advertising, as brands step in to serve as financiers and studios, and become catalysts for high quality, provocative storytelling. We are looking forward to shining a light on the contributions that brands are making to support filmmakers and celebrating the exciting work that has been produced."

Genna Terranova, director of the festival, told AdWeek the decision to include branded content was driven by the fact that a number of festival alumni filmmakers are making branded content, such as Michael Rappaport, Brandon Oldenburg, Ariel Schulman and Rob Meyer.

"That brings along the authenticity that we're looking for, that the filmmakers have a creative vision for the work," added Terranova. "That's what we're really recognizing with this award: originality, creativity and the collaboration [between brands and] artists."

"It's not about who's produced a great story; it's about that story itself”, she said.

The Award is sponsored by GE, no doubt looking to further cement its positioning as a leader in the branded entertainment space. Linda Boff, CMO of GE said, “The best stories compel, engage and delight their audiences. And for brands to really break through, these stories need to be just as engaging as the best entertainment, films, and documentaries.”

The festival received more than 100 entries, this list was whittled down to eight finalists, with the winner to be announced on 21 April. 

UPDATED - Samsung and its short film 'Hearing Colours' has won the inaugural Tribeca X Award. The film follows Neil Harbisson, a man who has a rare condition which has rendered him colour blind, who implants an antenna in his head to enable him to hear colours. The film is part of Samsung's Connected series which aims to explore the relationship between humans, technology, and innovation. 

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The Tribeca Film Festival is sending a message to the entertainment industry with this award: this is a festival which aims to celebrate storytelling, regardless of whether it was bankrolled by a commercial brand.

This award is a huge boost to the legitimacy and authenticity of branded entertainment. It’s one thing to have advertising and marketing awards for branded entertainment, but when the film world recognises the marriage of entertainment with advertising, it’s a different story.

This sends a very clear message about the future of branded entertainment and an acceptance that the role of brands and commercial funding in filmmaking is very much here to stay.

It’s a savvy move by TFF too. By acknowledging and embracing the world of branded storytelling it removes any stigma or “sell out” issues that filmmakers might feel about these projects.

It also helps the festival create a new commercial platform to help attract even more sponsorship opportunities to the event. The event helps bring the advertising and entertainment world even closer together, which is a win for everyone. And no surprises that GE was on board as award sponsor, in fact, I’d wager money the brand suggested the category in the first place. 

While purists may bemoan the commercial invasion, many accept this is the reality of modern creativity. When even major blockbusters such as Skyfall require marketing investment to get made, it’s inevitable that branded entertainment will only continue to grow.

TFF are not the only ones to move to capitalize on this growing sector either. Haymarket publications PR Week and Campaign US announced the Brand Film Festival in January. The event, which will be chaired by branded entertainment trailblazer PJ Pereira, will showcase the most artistic, creative and effective branded content films, including Vines, YouTube videos, and long form content.

Cannes Festival of Creativity has axed its branded content category and launched a new Lions Entertainment platform, a two-day event which will “explore the ways talent and storytelling can elevate content into the cultural mainstream”.

And let’s not forget that brands have been scooping up Emmys in recent years for their work most notably Intel’s The Beauty Inside, and we haven’t even mentioned The Lego Movie.

TFF said they were inundated with entries and the finalists represent an interesting selection of work. There are notable absences, which may not have entered the awards. However, the finalists all represent standout examples of storytelling, entertainment, and craft.

This focus on craft and creativity provides branded entertainment with a sense of legitimacy and authenticity for filmmakers and ultimately for consumers too.

By opening its doors and embracing the category with its own award, Tribeca Film Festival helps the entire film industry, which in turn will help to ensure the commercial dollars keep flowing into the category. 

A brave and smart move by Tribeca Film Festival.


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