Kristin R. Thomas is a producer for independent films and a specialist for product placement from Charlotte, North Carolina (USA). We have found each other via Twitter, where she regularly tweets about product placement and her current projects (on Twitter she’s known as @Indiefilmgirl). Kristin says that she loves her job and could not think of doing anything else. And that’s exactly why she’s perfect for the first interview on Brands&Films.
Kristin, you’re a producer for independent films and specialist for product placement. How did you end up in your current position?
I actually got an internship right out of college with Cutters Production in which I was a Production Assistant for 5 PBS shows and the Assistant for the Executive Producer. I took in everything that surrounded me in and I knew my heart belonged to filmmaking. So, I quit my job and the next day got an Executive Producer job for an Independent Film. I saw an area in financing that we could include companies in to advertise their products; in turn we get money toward financing the film. I sat down and started to create product placement proposals for indie films, television shows, web series and Broadway plays to present to potential companies.
I produce my films fully through product placement and corporate sponsorships and have been very successful. I produce films from $50,000 to 12.5 million. Recently I got $1 million for a feature film and I had to go out and celebrate. I have been very blessed in the projects that I have been hired for recently. I have now entered into the Hollywood field. Which I never thought would happen to me.
Could you describe your process of obtaining product placement deals? You tweeted several times that you write product placement proposals and prepare sponsorships packets.
Yes, the process is different for each project. If it’s a small budgeted indie film, it’s more difficult to place product placement, but you can search locally for corporate sponsorships in which you can advertise the company in film credits and on the film's official website. The project must be fully cast, distribution plan and have a marketable script. Once, I receive the script, I break it down to highlight the props, wardrobe, locations and vehicles needed. Then, I research the companies that offer those products that I feel that will fit the film.
For an example, if there is a middle-age runner, I would get New Balance on-board instead of Nike. Nike has a younger target market then New Balance so they would not be a perfect match for the film or character.
I guess the research is an important part of the process?
Yes, there is a great deal of research that goes into each project. You have to know the film in detail and also know the character you are placing these products with. Product placement and sponsorship proposals are what I send out to potential clients that explain the film, their placement benefits and how much it’s going to cost.
Now, like I said each company and film project is different. Everyone has different needs and you have to tailor to suit each element.
How do you choose potential products or brands that would be included in movies as product placement? Do you usually include local or national brands?
I pick products after I have done a week of research. I look at the companies target market, their gross income and their marketing plans. I also have to know what the character would be seen using, wearing or driving. Character portrayal is very important. If a film is going international then I will get companies on-board throughout the world for product placement. Now, if it’s a film set and filmed in Texas with no distribution outside of Texas then I will go more local.
How do you get scripts and how many of them do you receive?
I have clients that continue to contact me over the years seeking my help to finance their projects through product placement. But, I usually receive 2 scripts a week from various media like TV, web series, websites, blogs, concerts, Broadways plays and Independent films. I have started to work on projects for well-known musicians wanting corporate sponsorships for their concerts and CD releases.
What are the most important aspects that you have to consider when writing product placement proposals, e.g. context of the story, positive/negative placement, additional opportunities for promotional tie-ins…?
Excellent question and it’s very very important. This is part where people are either successful or they fail with product placement. You have to examine the content of the story, if there are any negative aspects to the story that can harm the image of the product placement company in any way. I look and see how I can incorporate the company throughout the production and post-production of the film. I see how I can tie-in with press during premieres and film festivals. You must think long-term when dealing with product placement not just how to place the product in the film.
Is current economic situation affecting your business? How big is the economic potential of product placement? Do you think that it will become more widespread and included in different media?
Last year was really slow because of the economy but now I am seeing a change. Now, bigger projects are coming that I could have never dreamed of. The media is getting much bigger with product placement, which puts a smile on my face. Companies now want to tap into plays, web series and music concerts. I have been contacted by producers from the US to Saudi Arabia. So, to me I see product placement taking over and investors being pushed back. You don't have to make sure you pay back a product placement company in the back-in but you must know how you are going to payback your investors. The turnaround product placement is also much faster. I do not see product placement going away anytime soon. Mark my words :-)
SHORT BIO & FILMOGRAPHY
At the age of 27, Kristin R. Thomas has accomplished more within the state lines of North Carolina than what often takes many within the L.A. city limits years to accomplish. From precocious film buff as a child to a self-made film student in college, with a voracious appetite for knowledge of the celluloid kind, is it no wonder that Thomas now calls the shots at her own production company: MountainGirl Productions. Right out of college at Appalachian State University, Thomas got a job at Cutters Production as a Production Assistant and Executive Assistant. While working at Cutters Productions, Kristin knew her heart belonged to films. In faith, Thomas quit her job and the next day starting working as a Producer for the feature film Cotton. Not looking back, Kristin Thomas starting producing independent films and started to specialize in product placement for films, television, web content, Broadway plays, photo shoots and music concerts.
“I believe in creating films that motivate, inspire and entertain ALL audiences around the world. That is my ultimate goal as a filmmaker.”