Spurlock, DOC NYC launch branded documentary initiative

New York festival DOC NYC is teaming up with ad firm Grey New York and director Morgan Spurlock (pictured) to launch an initiative that will match brands with documentaries, with Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's upcoming baseball doc Knuckleball among the first to feature in the scheme.
October 31, 2011

New York-based festival DOC NYC, which kicks off this Wednesday (November 2), is teaming up with ad firm Grey New York and director Morgan Spurlock (pictured) to launch an initiative that will match brands with new documentary films sourced by the festival.

The “Launch PAD” scheme will provide filmmakers with expertise and financial support in the areas of prints, advertising, and distribution (the ‘PAD’ of the program’s title) by developing strategic brand partnerships for individual documentaries.

“We see tremendous potential for doc makers to leverage both the marketing resources and advertising expertise of these brands to gain more exposure,” said Thom Powers, DOC NYC’s artistic director, who created the initiative with Spurlock.

“Too many times we’ve seen great films create really strong festival buzz, but not have the means or the know-how to translate that into a meaningful release. Matching up filmmakers with people who are experts at getting their stories out into the marketplace will give a big boost to these documentaries’ profiles.”

Launch PAD will focus on identifying brand partners for a shortlist of films to be selected by Powers, Spurlock and Grey. Grey will work with its portfolio of companies and outside brands to create marketing programs to support both the brand and the film.

Three finished documentaries and a fourth work-in-progress doc have already been tapped for the shortlist pilot program: Bess Kargman’s ballet doc First Position; Laura Brownson and Beth Levison’s profile of Def Jam Poetry star Lemon Andersen, Lemon; Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s high school football doc Undefeated; and Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s Knuckleball.

The latter doc is a work-in-progress piece from the makers of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, which follows two Major League Baseball pitchers known for their ‘knuckleball’ – the most mysterious pitch of the game – through the 2011 season.

Launch PAD will tap another five candidates in upcoming months, with a view towards creating collaborative partnerships with at least three of the nine films in its first year, with more planned for subsequent years.

The move takes Spurlock further into the world of branded entertainment, coming after his recent doc POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold saw him tapping 22 different companies to provide funding for his film. The film opened at Hot Docs in Canada and Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK earlier this year.

“DOC NYC is a festival that’s dedicated to bringing documentaries to new audiences and fostering the kind of connections that can happen only in New York,” said Spurlock. “This is a unique opportunity for both brands and filmmakers to benefit from the other’s expertise.”


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