-Written by Erik Sargent

Lighting of filmset near Chinatown in New York City
New York City, United States – March 3, 2016: Cinema lights illuminate a film set in a small street near China town

At the start of each year, the world’s biggest movie stars gather in Hollywood for one night to recognize all of the achievements in the movie industry over the past year, and to award those who have created excellence in film.

This prime time event is known as the Oscars, and it’s the pinnacle of movie recognition. Hollywood superstars are on hand, and it’s truly an elite event. Larger than life actors and actresses like Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Ryan Gosling, and Natalie Portman are just a few of the actors who are nominated for Oscars this year, and they will be surrounded by other legendary actors in the crowd.

Movies are a medium of entertainment enjoyed by all backgrounds, age groups, and walks of life. So much goes into the makeup of these films recognized at the Oscars – the actors, production crew, movie sets, and so on. Everything is calculated down to the smallest detail, and the level of planning involved for just one film is unlike anything else.

One aspect of movies that often gets overlooked – yet plays a huge role – is the products placed throughout a film. How did they get there? Who decided on that placement? Does the brand get anything out of this placement? How is the process of placement negotiated?

These are all questions we had ourselves, and we set out to find the answers. We spoke with Mark Mills – president of Motion Picture Magic – a long established company based out of Los Angeles that focuses on this very subject, and has a proven track record of supporting its clients and negotiating with production crews to place products in films and television shows.

“We represent a number of companies. We have clients like Little Debbie, Hormel, JanSport, and so on,” Mills said. “Studios send us their scripts, we read the scripts, and we find areas where the product or the service can be seen, or where we could include some of the brand’s commercial or billboard signage. We will read the script, and send a breakdown back to the production crew where we can help.”

Starting the process

What comes first – the movie deciding they need the product, or the company recommending a product to the movie?

It’s a bit of a back and forth, but the process that is in place with MPM allows the movies to send out inquires of what they are looking for, and Mills and his staff will determine where their clients fit into what the production crew is looking for.

“We probably get five to six hundred movie scripts a year,” Mills said. “They would rather work through us, because they know we will get right back to them. They know that we represent our clients, so when we tell them they are approved for use in a film or show, they know they don’t have to worry and they have clearance to use the brand.”

Making the call

Production crews rely on companies like Motion Picture Magic, because it saves them the time of having to reach out to brands individually.

“The studio would have to contact these companies one by one and wait for their response,” Mills said. “The studio is looking out for the production, and we are looking out for our clients. We’re trying to make sure the film or TV show that we put a brand in meets the marketing guidelines of the brand.”

This process ensures the ideal products are getting placed in the correct setting within the movie, and that everyone on both ends is happy.

“A studio usually prefers to send just one or two script pages, but we make sure to read the entire script to make sure it aligns with all guidelines. That’s why production studios prefer working with us.”

What’s the value?

When a brand gets their product placed into a film or show, there is immense value that comes from that placement. For starters, the product is being viewed by however many people happen to catch that film – which means getting your product in a blockbuster movie could result in millions of people viewing that product

“They (our clients) are borrowing on the implied star endorsement of their company or service,” Mills said. “It helps to keep the brand top of mind so that if anybody is going to be using a product seen in a movie, they think of that brand.”

Mills pointed out instances where superstar actors like Tom Cruise have been seen drinking a certain brand of beer in a movie, and that brand of beer saw a major increase in sales.

When placements happen

One of the clients Motion Picture Magic represents is the nationally recognized moving company TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. The moving company has worked with MPM for several years, and has seen their products placed in recent movies such as “Final Destiny”, “Miami Vice”, “The Internship”, “22 Jump Street”, and “Limitless”.

In one instance from two years ago, the movie “Masterminds” had a scene that required actual movers and moving trucks.

Motion Picture Magic reached out to the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® franchise in Asheville, N.C., and worked out an agreement where the franchise brought their own movers and trucks to set, and all were placed in the movie.

Movers on set for the film “Masterminds”

“The overall experience was actually very interesting, just seeing how long it takes to produce such a short scene,” said TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Asheville Franchisee Todd Campbell. “It was really neat to know TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® was chosen to be in a movie, especially TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® of Asheville – it makes you feel good.”

Masterminds featured actors like Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, and Leslie Jones, so it was a high-profile film. Campbell assembled his staff for the movie set, and made sure everything fit TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® guidelines before getting to work.

“I had to be forthcoming about the fact that if our name was going to be used, we would be vigilant that we were continuing to comply with company uniform standards,” Campbell said. “They actually put makeup on our men, trimmed their hair, and told the guys how they wanted the moving parts performed. We brought three trucks and they used two of them, and we had five movers on set. The entire process took two full days.”

The art of filmmaking is an extremely complex process, and this is just another look into some of the minor, but important details that go into the films you will see nominated at the Oscars.

Along with the film and television industries, companies like Motion Picture Magic are working alongside popular sites like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, as they incorporate brand placement into the original programming produced by these media distributors as online streaming sites become increasingly popular.


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