Quick, name some new players making a big splash in showbiz these days.
You probably thought of Apple, Google and Netflix. Chances are you didn’t think of Red Bull.
But start thinking of them. The Austria-based energy drink giant, which has been producing action sports and lifestyle programs for more than 20 years to bolster its brand, decided to formalize its content business in 2007, when it launched Red Bull Media House in Europe. In January it set up a U.S. base in Santa Monica that includes production, distribution and licensing units.
The goal is to create a revenue-generating media business parallel to Red Bull’s beverage business, said the company’s U.S. topper, Werner Brell. “We want to be profit-making at some point in the near future.”
On Sept. 7, Red Bull will release “The Art of Flight,” an 80-minute film that follows snowboarders at locations around the world as they perform seemingly death-defying stunts. After a premiere at New York’s Beacon Theater, the film tour will continue to other cities through November. The film will also be available on iTunes and Blu-ray discs that can be ordered online, before moving to retail DVD release. Further theatrical and TV plans are slated for 2012.
Earlier, Red Bull scored high on the awareness meter for “Red Bull Project X,” an 18-month media initiative for which it built a training facility for snowboarder Shaun White, who went on to win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Like many of Red Bull’s projects, it yielded material for DVD, online and TV — fitting the company’s new mold of content for content’s sake. “It wasn’t about the brand, it was about how Shaun pushed the sport to new levels,” said production head Scott Bradfield.
Further pursuing that model, in February Red Bull inked a deal with reality production shingle Bunim/Murray Prods. to co-develop youth-oriented programming.
In addition to using its in-house production resources, Red Bull outsources projects to more than a dozen vendors such as Brain Farm Digital Cinema and Freeride Entertainment — specialists in daredevil-style action footage.
Privately-held Red Bull won’t disclose its budgets, but the exotic content, far-flung locations and ingenious camera rigging seen on much of the material don’t come cheap.
“We’ve done over 100 projects for Red Bull since 2000,” said Freeride owner Derek Westerlund, “from ice climbing in the Himalayas to Formula One ice racing in Quebec. Every one is an adventure. They’re always pushing the boundaries.”
In addition to the heart-pounding footage, Red Bull is basing its strategy for success on targeting multiple platforms. “We want to be on all the different devices people have at their disposal,” said Brell, “mobile phones, iPads, laptops, TV.”
Movie theaters are also part of the plan. The company is in talks with digital cinema services provider Cinedigm to license alternative programming for digital delivery to bigscreens outside of weekends.
“The action sports content they’re producing is perfect for digital cinema,” said Cinedigm topper Chris McGurk, who hopes to set up a “destination night for recurring, branded programming,” charging admission for screenings of first-run original HD and 3D content, perhaps with an interactive component such as a live Q&A with a sports star.
Brell said Red Bull’s U.S. division is also considering getting into scripted programming. Its European production arm Terra Mater unveiled three features in May, including fiction drama “Patagonia.”
Bookings & Signings
Digital Artists Agency signed motion-capture producer and supervisor James Knight (“Avatar”), vfx supervisor Gray Marshall (“The Hangover”) and animation director and supervisor Bernd Angerer (“47 Ronin”).
Dattner Dispoto booked d.p.’s Xavier Grobet on Kirk Jones’ “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” Giles Nuttgens on Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s “What Maisie Knew,” Bobby Bukowski on Brian Dannelly’s “Struck by Lightning,” Bob Gantz on CW’s “Hart of Dixie,” David Stockton on Fox’s “Alcatraz,” Arthur Reinhart on History’s “The Hatfields and the McCoys” and Arlene Nelson on Marta Cunningham’s docu “It Takes a Village”; and production designer Justin Dragonas on Geraldine Nakache and Herve Mimran’s “Nous York.”