Creating Branded Content for Coca Cola

Coca Cola. 

Easily one of the world’s most recognizable brands, this behemoth of a product has easily nestled itself in the memories of hundreds of millions of patrons through a hundred years of advertisement. It is, without a doubt, the epitome of brand, and despite its age, Coca-Cola is on the cutting edge of branded content. For a young filmmaker, a chance to produce content for America’s favorite soda is like a shot at the Olympics.

Thanks to Short Commercial Forms at NYU, I got my chance. An email from Jon Weinstein would soon lead to a $15,000 check from Coca-Cola and Regal Cinemas to create a short film of my own design. 

Out of hundreds of applicants to the Coke + Regal Films contest, I was contacted 24 hours after my submission with an unusual urgency: “We like this idea, and we want to hear more about it.” For two weeks, my idea was passed between the branding folk. I was pitching an experimental medium: Projection Mapping, which had seen a great success months prior when I successfully pitched and produced a large-scale 8-story projection mapping installation at NYU as Branded Content, called the Violet Lights Project. 

I drafted mockup after mockup, constantly sending over updated presentations as to what this medium is, why it feels like magic, and how it could be used to visually manifest the desire & craving for my to-be client’s product. We would use a projector to bring the dynamic surfaces of a movie theater to life: The carpeted hallways, the concession stand, and the faces of the audience. 

My story was nominated as a semi-finalist, and then one of five finalists. The only East Coast team, against 3 teams from Los Angeles schools and one from North Carolina. We each received the funds to make our film. 

I quickly enlisted Class of ’16 peer Brian Blum, whose thesis film was of the caliber I seeked, to produce. Together we gathered a cast of 10, a crew of 21, and the support of NYU, RED and Christie Digital. 

It felt like a dream. The set went so flawlessly and the attitude was so supportive and light-hearted. The brand folk at Coke were darlings to work with, and the whole process was smooth. It was strange to have my idea guided and molded by suggestions from the brands, and I must admit that the attitude of the piece changed entirely from the start. But we were working at a professional caliber and I had never worked with such luxuries: we shot 6K footage, had a London-based orchestra play the soundtrack, andI even got to sit in a fancy director’s chair. 

We developed a product that we are all proud of. NYU was supportive of our efforts and to this day I credit NYU for the network I’ve built as well as the project management & directing skills to make it all a reality. 

I can’t recommend these competitions for students enough. If your idea is unique, they’ll walk you through the process. If I learned anything from this whole process though, it’s this: the Rapid Prototype is essential to the pitch. Nowadays for young filmmakers to make their project a reality, they must take full advantage of accessible/owned technology and skills to create a low-cost visualization of the work they intend to make with added resources. That’s the sort of thing that brands see, respect and now, expect.