Brand films and the rise of the amateur film maker.

How the rise of online amateur film makers is pushing big brands to adapt their approach to film.

Films. We all watch them. Some of us enjoy making them - particularly if you're witnessing something special.

If the moment demands documenting we instinctively go to grab the nearest tool to hand ­­– your phone or camera – and hit record. After all, what captures a moment with any real sense of emotion or engagement better than moving image?

As smartphone technology becomes ever more advanced, (coupled with a saturated market and lowering demands), more and more consumers are being given the tools to make high-resolution films at a relatively low cost. Gone are the days of having to invest in bulky camcorders to get a taste for amateur film making.

And with these technological advances, the level of assumed knowledge the average user has also increased. Not only are more people being given the means to be creative in film but people of different age groups or backgrounds have access – the democratization of film making if you will.

Aphex Twin - CIRKLON3 [ Колхозная mix ] – directed by Ryan Wyer

As the average consumer now has the ability to quickly add a level of production value to their film (through readily available apps and a little time to experiment) the requirement for formal training or experience in production becomes less necessary. Don’t worry about understanding the subtle nuances of composition, colour grading, depth of field, and even the role of the editor – take one look at the App Store and you’ll see the wealth of video-related apps, each offering straight-forward control of most of these production aspects.

So with all this acquired knowledge, mixed with the ability to put together a film with relative ease, the average consumer’s appreciation and understanding of film has increased. No longer should you settle with just watching the latest blockbuster – you too can sit in the folding chair and play director.

When you combine this increased awareness of the value in film with the ease of distribution brought about by social media and online video channels many brands have been quick to realize the impact of film to engage with many more consumers.

Creation and consumption go hand in hand in furthering the development of the medium. And as more and more people are relying on online video as their main source of information and entertainment, the demand for engaging and relevant content increases.

According to Cisco, it’s estimated by 2017, “…video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic”, with traffic for on-demand video doubling by 2020.

For brands that have cottoned-on to the significance of online video, their potential reach has increased exponentially. With the likes of YouTube currently receiving over a billion unique hits per month, these kinds of figures suggest exactly how sharable a brand’s content can be.

The $21,000 First Class airline seat – Directed by Casey Neistat

So whether it’s documenting your next camping trip, creating a new recipe for a stir fry, working up a sweat, or just being lucky, your story, big or small, has the platform to be told.

That all being said, the quality of the content has to be high. With consumer’s perceptions of what makes good video content increasing steadily (with their increased awareness of the medium) and the ease of releasing video content online, brands have to be able to adapt to how content is consumed.

Traditionally, businesses that sought to encapsulate the values of their brand through video would rely on self-contained, short-format brand films. With these higher-budget productions, there is usually a tendency for the business to want to sum-up every aspect of their brand, whilst squeezing every penny out of the production budget. This process can be incredibly tricky to manage from an agency/production point-of-view, whilst aiming to satisfy every key stakeholder and coming close to some sort of budget.

With the more traditional brand film format, the content of the film can age quite quickly – from experience anything from a senior management reshuffle to a change of brand vision can be the death of a production, killing any longevity of a film.

In addition, other more creative aspects such as art-direction, music selection, grading and styling can all place a production in a certain time or style period.

Many brands have since discovered that their reach can be furthered and budgets be used more efficiently by breaking from this format, and instead delivering the values of their brand through carefully curated online video content.

This more flexible approach allows for content to be kept fresh and remain relevant. However, with this shift in delivery and approach, the sheer volume of content can become overwhelming. Introducing further channels to advertise the brand only forces consumers to engage with the content on their own terms. The content, therefore, has to work very hard to compete and ultimately engage the consumer to change their behaviour or make a purchase.

In contrast to this shift to more bite-sized content, as expressions of a brand, many other companies are seeking a slightly different approach.

Rather than borrow ad space in between images of cats and pulled pork burgers, brands like BMW, Dolce & Gabbana, Volvo and Prada have been releasing branded films with the ambition and narrative structure of a feature film.

The Hire was a series of shorts films released in the early 00’s, featuring a young Clive Owen who played a hired driver (driving a BMW of course), having to run a variety of suspiciously dangerous errands.

The scale of the productions can be summed-up by the high-profile list of directors and talent involved in the series, which included the likes of, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Madonna, James Brown and Gary Oldman.

These films worked as a form of product demonstration. The product was always visible, but the brand’s values were expressed visually (rather than verbalized) within a dangerous and exciting narrative.

The Hire – Directed by John Frankenheimer

Other films take a far more subtle approach to how their content is branded. With the Prada/Wes Anderson partnership seen in the film, Castello Cavalcanti, any references to the brand feature sparingly throughout. The real value of the film is the entertainment factor. If the content of the film is enjoyable to watch, it will make it instantly more shareable.

And where a particular director’s brand of cinematography can be borrowed from, other creative opportunities can be presented, furthering the chances of the film being watched and the brand engaged with.

PRADA presents "Castello Cavalcanti" – Directed by Wes Anderson

Although examples of this feature-length format still aren’t that common, it points towards how brands are using the medium.

As the average consumer's perceptions and interaction with film increases, so too has the quality of the idea, execution and bending of budget. From simple iPhone based productions to big-budget features, the role film plays within brand is exciting, and looks set to become even more fundamental.