Uncle taps the BBC Motion Gallery

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As new distribution channels for branded content bust out of the boxy confines of TV, Santa Monica production company Uncle has aligned itself with the BBC Motion Gallery to help agencies and brands mine the new territory. "We know there are great ideas lying in wait in that top drawer," says Uncle SVP-director Jason Farrand. "This relationship gives those ideas a destination."

More like many destinations, including cellphones and wireless devices, in-store promotions, DVR, in-flight programming and other media that we can only begin to imagine. "You could get really drunk just thinking about the possibilities," says Farrand.

You could also get pretty soused thinking about the BBC Motion Gallery's stock footage. There's a rare interview with Elvis, Sigmund Freud audio recordings, and the largest natural history archive in the world. But this partnership is bigger than plug 'n' play clip licensing. Uncle, preparing to unveil details of projects in upcoming months, has unlimited access to what the BBC Motion Gallery's Michael Albright, creative consultant, calls an "entirely new breed of content."

The library offers flexible footage-shot not for stock but for programming purposes, with commensurately higher production values-in a range of genres and formats, including interstitial and sequential programming. All of this makes complete storytelling easy to do, says Albright, particularly when budgets for these projects can be as tight as their deadlines. "What's so exciting about this partnership is that if you laid out all the BBC Motion Gallery's programming end to end," says Robert Bauer, Uncle executive VP, "you couldn't watch it in several lifetimes."

That Uncle has one foot in entertainment and the other in advertising bodes well for its ability to nudge the two toward a union. In addition to traditional TV commercials for Mercedes and Citigroup, among others, Uncle recently completed television pilots for VH1 and the Discovery Channel and has begun pre-production on two features, Open Mike, written and directed by Tony-nominated Paul Gordon, and Waitress, by actress Adrienne Shelly. "We're blurring the lines between traditional advertising and entertainment via these filmic, episodic properties," says Bauer, "by bringing a filmmaker's sensibility to them."

Uncle's prior branded entertainment projects include a 20-minute film for TiVo, featuring PVR-loving celebrities Shari Belafonte and Neil Patrick Harris, and short-form web programming for Siemens. "As distribution channels open up," says Bauer, "we want to be a lifeline for clients. If you have an idea, even if you have a half-baked idea, we'll bake it for you."

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