Takes branded entertainment into feature realm
TorontoAlliance Films and Toronto ad agency Grip are pushing branded entertainment into a new dimension with a full-length buddy comedy “starring” the Labatt brewing company’s popular Kokanee beer. Set to lense in Western Canada this summer, the as-yet-untitled pic extends the 20-year campaign of commercial spots featuring promotional characters like Sasquatch. Jeff Sackman and Michael Baker will exec produce with Toronto’s David Hicks directing. Writer Matthew Bass, who has worked with Seth Rogen, was engaged to develop a screenplay based on an original story cooked up inhouse. Alliance will distribute the pic next year. Grip is harnessing the brand’s active consumer base with a crowdsourcing campaign, launched in late May, including open auditions for extras and an invitation to submit prop ideas and soundtrack songs. After several years of success engaging consumers via social media in the “fates” of Kokanee ad characters, a feature seemed the next logical step. “We found people were excited and curious to get involved because we’re breaking new ground with this,” said Grip creative partner Randy Stein. “Branded content is becoming more accepted, especially with younger consumers — so long as it’s entertaining.” Producer Laurie Maxwell says casting, which begins next month, will tap Canadian and ex-pat comedy talent. “The movie will have a level of self-awareness, of course, but the whole purpose is to make something funny.” Grip won’t reveal the budget, but Stein says it’s in line with typical independent Canadian features.