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Red Bull to Sponsor IFC Search, Series

Jan 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Red Bull has signed on to sponsor an original scripted series for IFC’s Web site.
In a nod to the trend toward user-created content, the series will be developed from ideas that come from IFC’s new Media Lab Studios.
An offshoot of IFC’s Media Lab, where aspiring filmmakers can post their work, Media Lab Studios will pay filmmakers and help to get their work produced.
IFC’s Media Lab Studios this month will ask for series ideas based on the theme “After Hours,” which readily ties in with Red Bull’s energy drink brand.
The IFC cable channel does not run advertising, but it has a growing sponsorship business and has worked with Red Bull twice in the past on action-sports filmmaking.
“They came back to us because they really wanted to get more into the ownership of content,” said Lee Sparer, VP of sponsorships at IFC.
IFC was in the process of looking at how to launch Media Lab Studio, and Red Bull was a natural fit.
Mr. Sparer declined to say how much Red Bull was paying to underwrite the project.
In addition to having a hand in picking the theme for the series, Red Bull will get “co-produced by” and “presented by” credits when the series appears on IFC.com. The series also will appear on Red Bull’s Web site.
IFC plans to produce a special on the making of the series that will appear on both IFC and its Web site, presented by Red Bull.
Craig Parks, VP of branded entertainment for IFC, said its group of independent-minded filmmakers wouldn’t see Red Bull’s participation in the project as crass commercialism.
“The Red Bull brand is always ahead of the curve,” Mr. Parks said. “It sort of brings a level of cachet and gives it greater context.”
“Our viewers are sophisticated about media and know marketing is a part of it,” Mr. Sparer added. “Sponsorships allow us to run our films uncut, and the viewers appreciate them for that.”
Media Lab Studios will open this month as IFC asks filmmakers for 4-minute videos or trailers employing Red Bull’s “After Hours” theme. Calls for entries will be on air and online.
In March, IFC and Red Bull will pick a pilot to greenlight for a full Web series. The winning filmmakers will work with a top production company to create a polished product.
The production process will be filmed for a mini-documentary and progress reports will appear capturing each step, including casting, location scouting, set design, cinematography and editing.
The series itself will premiere during the summer on IFC.com and RedBull.com. IFC plans extensive promotion of the show, with supporting content including runner-up pilot submissions and outtakes.
IFC, which started to run series including “The Whitest Kids U Know” and R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” on its Web site, plans to use Media Lab Studios to produce other series for IFC.com and expects many of them to be sponsored.
“It’s a very sponsor-friendly vehicle,” Mr. Parks said.
In addition to being a way to generate inexpensive content, Media Lab Studios has the potential to serve as a marketing engine for the channel. For example, IFC in the fall plans to air a documentary on the death penalty; it could ask its Media Lab Studios community to pitch their own short documentaries on the subject, which would drum up additional interest in the programming.

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