Creative Product Placement in Low Budget Indie Films

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Product placement in film is so common place today I wonder if it's effective anymore?  Maybe on a subconscious level, it still is.  Who can forget E.T. and his love for Reeses Pieces? Or that James Bond drives an Aston Martin?  If the product is an integral part of the character, it's a much stronger message than just having your main character drink a certain type of soda with dinner.
Product placement can also help fund a large part of your film, but if you accept corporate dollars you also have to accept the possibility of the corporate office hovering over your shoulder while creating you're film.  There are numerous corporations I'd never accept money from, for a number of reasons - and I'll be a frozen fish in the hot desert before anyone takes creative control away from me.  But in theory - product placement is not a bad idea.  And there are many ways to use it that are mutually beneficial and maintain integrity.
My short film "The Silent Nick and Nora" is currently being rebooted.  We are re-editing the pilot episode and giving it what we've affectionately termed "The Dick Tracy" treatment. We are creating several matte backdrops to illustrate our film-noir world, and our city streets have buildings, business signs, radio broadcasts, billboards, newspapers, even a blimp!  And here's where we're getting creative with product placement.  We're not reshooting any of the original footage, so we don't have any shots of a character using a certain product.  However - we've been approaching friends with their own companies, and local businesses we patronize, to advertise in our noir-world.  For a small ad fee, we are giving them billboards, neon signs, naming buildings after them, etc.  It helps us populate our world and puts a little money in the production kitty. We also know these businesses first hand and can honestly say we love them and their products. And they in turn, know us and support our film endeavors wholeheartedly.  I'm thrilled to give the local business owner a chance to participate in product placement and get the word out about their company in such a unique way.  
I'm certainly not the first person to get creative with fundraising or product placement. And I'm continually inspired by indie filmmakers who find ways to make studio conventions work for their smaller productions.  I'd love to know what creative spins you've put on such methods for your own films!

About the author


I'm Lisa Stock, a writer and director based in New York. My films include “The Silent Nick and Nora”, “The Jules Verne Project”, and “HELL”. My work has been featured in festivals and screenings around the world including Cannes, London, New York, New Orleans, Tel Aviv, and Sao Paulo. I’ve…

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