Eighteen years ago, Coca-Cola launched the inaugural edition of what was then called the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award, offering students from participating film schools the opportunity to compete for their short film to be screened at select cinemas nationwide. The program relaunched as SpriteFilms in 2010, expanding the scope of the program before being put on hiatus. Coca-Cola relaunched the initiative in partnership with Regal cinemas earlier this year—under the branding of the Coca-Cola and Regal Films program—and the two leading companies are already busy at work putting together their 2017 edition.
“We’re all about supporting filmmakers and putting things on the big screen, having that sense of community in watching content the way it’s supposed to be watched. Instead of just doing a typical Regal-Coke spot like we’ve done—and like we’ll continue to do—we love that we’re getting more than 20 film schools and hundreds of filmmakers immersed in our brands and bringing them to life,” says Regal chief marketing officer, Ken Thewes, on the project.
The Coca-Cola and Regal Films program works with its more than 20 film school partners to find five finalists. Those finalists then receive a $15,000 stipend to develop and produce their own 35-second short film about the moviegoing experience. The winning entry is screened in spring 2017. The program’s first grand prize winner under the new partnership, Blindfold, directed by Ameer Kazmi from New York City’s School of Visual Arts, began screening in Regal locations on October 28.
“What I really love about this program is that it’s really about giving back and giving access to these students in a way that they would not be able to get if it weren’t for Regal and Coke,” says Coca-Cola’s Stefanie Miller, group vice president of strategic partnership marketing.
“The access across the 7,500 Regal screens and being able to work with the expertise of their vast network—to me it’s something that feels like it could change the trajectory of these students’ careers, launching them in a much more accelerated way that they could otherwise.”
This year’s finalists are currently gearing up for production, which is scheduled to take place in January and February. The grand-prize winner for the 2017 edition will then be selected by a “Red Ribbon” panel of entertainment-industry professionals and executives from both Coca-Cola and Regal. The selection will then be announced to the public at CinemaCon, with the film’s premiere at Regal to follow soon thereafter.
“If you’re thinking of this partnership as a triangle, with students at the top and Coke and Regal on each end, the guests are in the middle. At the end of the day, it’s about that entertainment value and how you entertain on a 40-foot screen versus when you do it on a phone or a computer. It pushes them to a space where they have to think about the entire stream of production,” adds Miller. “When you’re in this captive environment where there aren’t multiple screens and the expectations are very high in terms of why you’re there, that requires a very strong skill set.”