CMDFF's First Feature Set To Lens

Additional brand partners sought

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% The Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival is gearing up to finally yield the ultimate in branded entertainment for the carmaker—a branded theatrical feature film.

As the five finalists for the second year of the contest converge at the Toronto International Film Festival in September to vie for a feature-film deal, the marketing efforts are being teed up in support of the festival's inaugural winner Jeff Wadlow, who starts production in October on his feature film "Living the Lie." It's about a young man who joins a group of recreational liars, and discovers that there is nothing quite like the rush of telling a good lie.

Chrysler will have its name and logo featured heavily in advertising materials for the film—in TV, print and radio. The film will be released next spring by Universal Pictures. The film festival—owned by DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler, Vivendi Universal's Universal Pictures and Hypnotic, the West Coast film-production company—features 25 young filmmakers competing for the chance to produce a $1 million feature film. The marketing for Wadlow's film will coincide with Chrysler's first-quarter launch of the PT Cruiser convertible.

"Chrysler's logo will be on [the film's posters]" said Doug Scott, exec VP-marketing for Hypnotic, and executive producer of the festival. "Their name will be prominent."

Scott said Chrysler's name will be above the title of the movie, with a tentative working credit of "Chrysler Presents a Hypnotic/Universal Production." It will be the first time an automaker has this type of credit for a full-length feature film theatrical release.

He expects the automaker will use the film's characters and content for its own advertising. Don't be surprised if Chrysler also makes a big splash at the movie's premiere by placing its vehicles on the red carpet.

"Living the Lie"'s release will be handled like an independent movie. That means the film will have a "platform" rollout—initially opening just in New York and Los Angeles, gradually going wide should the movie be a success.

Hypnotic is looking for other consumer product marketing partners for the film—those categories include telecommunications, electronics and fashion. These companies will have product placement in the film as well as using movie images for their print ads.

Wadlow won the 2002 competition with a short called "Manual Labor," in which a husband borrows a Chrysler car in order to get his pregnant wife to a hospital. Competitors for the festival heavily used Chrysler cars in their five- to 10-minute films.

"That was branded-entertainment, which was part of the contest," said Wadlow. "That is not what the [feature] film is about. Chrysler involvement in the film is two-fold— product placement and encouraging independent filmmakers."

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% The new 2004 PT Cruiser convertible and the Chrysler Crossfire are in "Living the Lie." The PT Cruiser plays an integral part in the movie. "[In the movie], the characters are trying to figure out where someone is," said Wadlow. "The main character's car was borrowed, and when the car shows up again we assume the character has returned."

Wadlow and other festival filmmakers say dealing with Chrysler suits them fine—considering virtually all theatrical films have characters using cars. "It's not like we have a corporate partnership with a mink coat manufacturer for making a movie in the middle of summer," says Wadlow.

Chrysler—just like other producers—has been giving Wadlow notes, which deals with the content of the movie, not with cars. "They get it," he said. For instance, Chrysler pointed out to Wadlow a specific moment in the movie that seemed hackneyed. "They said, 'doesn't this seem like this was in another movie?' I didn't think about it. But I took it out."

These efforts are being mounted at a critical time for Chrysler, which has been beset by slumping sales and a management shakeup and has been roundly criticized for its partnership with Celine Dion.

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