Here’s Why the Tribeca Film Festival Created an Award to Recognize Branded Content

Derek Lam, Samsung selected as finalists

The Tribeca Film Festival today announced finalists for its first branded content award. That's right—even New York's sought-after film festival is championing the marriage of entertainment and advertising.  

Eight brands are in the running for the Tribeca X Award, which is sponsored by GE: Derek Lam, American Giant, Samsung, Olympus, Balvenie, Robert Graham, Kenzo and Radio Flyer Wagons. 

"Tribeca has always celebrated great work, great storytelling, and we believe that brands can be great storytellers, too," said Andrew Essex, CEO of festival owner Tribeca Enterprises. "Facing the loss of traditional canvas because of ad blocking and over-the-top television, brands are being forced to outthink rather than outspend and really produce work that competes at the highest level."

Genna Terranova, director of the festival, agreed. "For us, it's not about who's produced a great story; it's about that story itself," she said. 

As for GE, the brand wanted to sponsor the award "to inspire brands to push the envelope in their storytelling and strive for content that is just as engaging as the best entertainment, films and documentaries," said Linda Boff, chief marketing officer, GE.

Many of the filmmakers—including Michael Rappaport, Brandon Oldenburg, Ariel Schulman and Rob Meyer—behind the branded content are alumni of the festival, explained Terranova. "That brings along the authenticity that we're looking for, that the filmmakers have a creative vision for the work," added Terranova. "That's what we're really recognizing with this award: originality, creativity and the collaboration [between brands and] artists."

The festival selected finalists from over 100 submissions, which included documentary and scripted work as well as short-form and long-form content. 

"We got so many submissions in a short period of a time for a new award, which is significant that there are many players in this space," said Essex. "This is a rising tide forcing others to think about how they can make better work."

Laurie Anderson, Scott Carlson, Judy McGrath, Liev Schreiber and Hank Willis Thomas will serve as the Tribeca X Award jury. The winner will be announced at the festival's annual awards ceremony on April 21. 

Here's a look at all of the branded-content finalists: 

10 Crosby
Brand: Derek Lam
Directed by Benjamin Dickinson, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Albert Moya and Andrew Zuchero

American Giant X Wild Card Boxing
Brand: American Giant
Directed by Michael Rappaport

Hearing Colors
Brand: Samsung
Directed by Greg Brunkalla
 

The Irrational Fear of Nothing
Brand: Olympus
Directed by Paul Trillo

Raw Craft with Anthony Bourdain
Brand: The Balvenie
Directed by Rob Meyer

Second Sound Barrier
Brand: Robert Graham
Directed by David Wain

Snowbird
Brand: Kenzo
Directed by Sean Baker

Taking Flight
Brand: Radio Flyer Wagons
Directed by Brandon Oldenburg