Planting the Seeds on a Marketing Deal

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The Beneath The Harvest Sky crew prepping for a scene in the LaJoie potato processing facility. These blue potatoes pictured actually went to Terra.

Terra Chips, makers of the famous Terra Blues potato chips (the official snack of JetBlue Airways), and Beneath The Harvest Sky have officially announced their partnership which includes working jointly on marketing activities to cross-promote the movie and the brand.  Jared Simon, of Hain Celestial (Terra Chips’ parent), and Beneath The Harvest Sky’s writer/producer/director Gita Pullapilly talk about how the relationship began, the marketing benefits to each of the parties, and the future of this unique collaboration. 

Q: Could you discuss how the Beneath The Harvest Sky team and Terra Chips first connected?

GITA:  Well it starts with talking about the LaJoie family farm – they’re an amazing family.  My partner, Aron Gaudet (writer, producer, director) and I spent about a year doing research up in Van Buren, Maine and through that process we were just blown away by this incredible local farm that was finding innovative ways to thrive in this community.  The LaJoie family is a pillar of this community; you could even say that they drive it.  When we started asking them more about their business, it was very apparent that Terra Chips played a key role in helping to support the Van Buren economy.  Aron and I were interested in knowing how a company like Terra worked so well with a small family farm.  We learned that Terra had come in right when this family farm was struggling so much, and became the saving grace to the family farm, and to the LaJoies, and we thought: ‘what a really touching, heart-warming story.’  We wanted to explore it more, and we reached out to Terra to see how we could all work together to create something special.

JARED:  It was serendipitous because the LaJoie family has been a great partner to us over the past decade since we introduced our Blue Chips. Since then the Blue Chips have grown to become a nice part of our portfolio at Terra.  The LaJoies have always been there – delivering in their commitments to us while helping us improve the quality of the crop and the yield. Together we have created a partnership that works for both parties. The opportunity to work with the Beneath The Harvest Sky  team was one that interested us right off the bat once we learned what the film was going to be about and understood more about the integration and the farming of the blue potato as an important part of the story the filmmakers were trying to tell.

Q:  Jared, can you talk about the importance of the script in your decision to partner with Beneath The Harvest Sky?

JARED:  First off, these types of partnerships are rare for us.  We’re not a brand that aggressively pursues product placement or any kind of stealth marketing. We would only integrate our brand where it really makes sense.  And here it really made sense, because truly what this story offered, which probably no other opportunity would have offered, was a way to tell our story and have our story told in a very fruitful, realistic manor.

And frankly, we were a little hesitant at first because the film is a fictional piece, and one for which we weren’t exactly sure where this script would go. We knew there was a narrative of this small farm that was loosely based on the LaJoie family and their interaction with us but we did not know how the rest of the story would unfold.  However, as we got to see the story that the filmmakers were trying to tell, we were really impressed with the power of this story, and really appreciative of the way we had an opportunity to show our story, of what we have done with the LaJoie family and other family farms over the years, through the making of this film.  So that was kind of how we were drawn into working with this particular film.

GITA:  I think it is important to note that this is a really rare relationship for any independent film. A lot of studios and studio products do focus on product placement and large marketing deals, but they use different marketing strategies.  As independent filmmakers who very much care about the creative art of our work, the last thing we ever want to do is a ton of product placement in the film that could taint that.  We strive on authenticity in our films. Aron and I also realized that we had an opportunity to work with Terra in a creative way, seamlessly integrating Terra into the film without sacrificing the art. Only for that reason did it feel right from our end as well.  These relationships really do rely on a trust between the filmmakers and the company and we just felt really good, talking to Jared about the possibilities, right from the start. And keep in mind, that’s just one component of this relationship. The marketing opportunities once the film is released, through this collaboration, are incredibly exciting.

Q:  Can you talk a little bit about what exactly the collaboration entails? What is everyone getting out of this?  How does this benefit Terra?  How does this benefit the film?

JARED:  From [Terra’s] end, the nature of the collaboration is really two-fold.  I think the first part is us really being hands-off and staying away from what Gita and her team are trying to make as an artistic piece.  Gita was just talking about the trust that went into it up front.  They were the filmmakers, they were the writers, they were the ones putting together this story – it wasn’t really our place to come in and dictate any terms of how they would tell that story.  So first and foremost we made sure that we were stepping back from that part of the process.

Where we are stepping in, and where I think this becomes really exciting for us – in addition to having our product featured within the movie – is all of the great stuff that goes on outside of the film itself.  That includes the marketing of the film, and all of the collaboration with other partners – some of which we’re still working on today – to get more recognition for  the film itself and for our products.  The partnership also includes a really nice collaboration that the filmmakers have helped us on, telling the real life story of our relationship with the LaJoie family over the past few years, through a mini-documentary that they produced for us.  And that’s something that we can, as a brand, go put out there to our fans, to our community,  showing how we’ve worked with the LaJoie family for years, and what their true small farm family story is all about.  So that willingness of Gita and her team to put together that mini documentary for us, as part of their filming process, was another piece of this deal that made it very attractive to us.

GITA:   From an independent film’s perspective, having a respectable partner to come out with you on your film as it’s being released is amazing.  This collaboration, and exposing Beneath The Harvest Sky  to an audience in a positive light, is extremely important to us.  Having a partner like Terra really helps differentiate our film and elevate it.  And Aron and I also understood that Terra Chips and Beneath The Harvest Sky  have a very similar market/audience.  The people that love Terra chips also love independent movies, and it’s just a great promotion together.

JARED:  I couldn’t agree more.  As the film gets released at festivals and then beyond that into theaters everywhere, there is going to be a welcome opportunity for Terra to get back out in front of those moviegoers – even with samples of our products – and let them see what this product of hard work leads to at the end of the day.  And again, it’s having that connection between the real life story and that fictional story in the movie, and it’s having one more touch point for bringing those two together after someone has enjoyed viewing the film.

Q: Is this a typical relationship for a film marketing deal? And can this be applied to other independent films?

JARED:  What I would say is, the indie space is a wonderful space for someone if it’s right.  However, the key is authenticity.  That’s the big take away for me from this one.  You need to have that authenticity in the film itself and the brand fitting within that narrative, for it to be something that’s workable and something that is credible to the viewer at the end of the day.  If you’re trying to force fit something into a film that’s trying to tell a very credible, moving story like the filmmakers of Beneath The Harvest Sky  are trying to tell, the audience is going to see right through something that’s not genuine.  So I can’t say if these opportunities are absolutely rare, but they are probably not the norm.

GITA:  Having a marketing opportunity with another entity is so crucial for an independent filmmaker.  With that being said though, I think that the biggest missteps is that filmmakers don’t necessarily really think through what that relationship is going to be with that entity.  Before our teams jumped into this collaboration, there was a lot of thought on both ends on how to make this a winning opportunity for both parties.  And I think that so many filmmakers are just thinking ‘what is in it for me?’, and not thinking about how it benefits the company, and thinking strategically, so that it’s not just about seeing a logo in a film, but there’s actual tangible benefits to the company.  Aron and I spent a lot of time doing research in advance, figuring out strategies on how it can be mutually beneficial. And as a result, it can be hugely helpful in shaping something creative and interesting to both the filmmakers and the company.

Q:  How are these marketing opportunities ultimately going to help Terra reach additional consumers and help Beneath The Harvest Sky reach a wider audience? And what future marketing collaborations can we expect to see between Terra and Beneath The Harvest Sky?

JARED:  For us, being associated with a film like Beneath The Harvest Sky – a film that we think is going to do fantastic when it gets in front of audiences and gets it’s distribution – is something that’s real value-add material for our consumers.  And we are going to continue to give our consumers opportunities to participate in the greatness of Beneath The Harvest Sky  all along the way.  We are currently using our website and Facebook page to announce this partnership..  As we get closer to the film being released, we are certainly going to be using our voice to our consumers to promote the film, share with them opportunities to be the first to see interesting content that is going onto Beneath The Harvest Sky’s website or Facebook page, or other media.  And ultimately, as we get to the time of the film’s release, we are going to look for really fun ways to integrate the release timing of this film with promotions and activities that we are going to want to run to reward consumers for their support of our brand.  So that’s where it really gets exciting and fun from a marketing perspective.

GITA:  Absolutely.  And what’s so great is that this film is going to have a wonderful national release and overseas release.  And as we go into the festivals and then do a theatrical release, and then Blu-ray / DVDs, VOD and digital, it’s just a whole new world of fun and creative opportunities from a marketing perspective.  And to have a partner like Terra to work with us, to see how we can engage fans of Terra chips and fans of the movie, and to cross-promote each other, is a rare opportunity and one that we are going to enjoy.

JARED:  Exactly.  There’s a lot of fun collaboration ahead of us, great runway ahead of us.  And I think, to Gita’s point, if you talk to us six months from now we’re going to have more exciting marketing components to this partnership.  It’s something that we really see as an investment that we made a year ago that’s going to pay off dividends over the next two to three years, as a long-term partnership that mirrors the life cycle of a motion picture.

It’s been an amazing experience working with the folks at Beneath The Harvest Sky.  They’ve been fantastic at sharing information and including us in the process throughout the past twelve months as we’ve gotten this partnership off the ground.  But at the same time, what we really have appreciated is that they’re producing a wonderful piece of art and staying true to that value throughout the process.  As a brand, Terra has wanted to make sure that we can champion this wonderful film, and that it can be shown to audiences all around the world.

Read the Variety article announcing Beneath The Harvest Sky’s deal with Terra Chips.  

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