Southwest Airlines unveils first branded film, adapted from the winning story in a creator contest

The carrier worked with both Wattpad and Tongal on ‘Alone in Tombstone,’ a 15-minute film set in a replica frontier town

Published On
May 10, 2023
A woman in a cowboy hat looking pensive

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Southwest Airlines has been quiet on the branding front since its scheduling meltdown last winter, but here’s an interesting project it’s releasing today—its first piece of longform branded entertainment.

The project began in 2021, when the carrier held a “Storytellers On The Rise” writing contest in partnership with Wattpad, an online platform for reading and publishing original stories. The contest called for stories about kindness that are rooted in travel.

A story called “Alone in Tombstone,” written by Wattpad author E.A. Comiskey, was crowned the winner, and now it’s been made into a short film with help from content creation platform Tongal.

The 15-minute film, posted below, tells the story of a woman who’s working as a photographer in a replica Wild West town, though she harbors more artistic dreams as well. This internal conflict, along with questions about a romantic interest, come to a head when she receives a surprise visitor.

 

The film was shot at Mescal Movie Set in Benson, Ariz., by Kelsey Taylor, a Tongal community member. The screenplay was written by Paul Horan, based on Comiskey’s story. There’s no mention of Southwest at all in the film, aside from a “Southwest Airlines Presents” card at the beginning, and there’s only a cursory reference to travel (when the father mentions his “nice flight” on the way to visit his daughter).

Indeed, Southwest is positioning the project as less of a direct brand play and more of a way to support up-and-coming creatives.

“The ‘Southwest: Storytellers On The Rise’ writing contest uncovered meaningful stories of human kindness, and we are grateful for the opportunity to bring ‘Alone in Tombstone’ to the screen,” said Brandy King, managing director of public relations at Southwest. “Our ‘On The Rise’ platform supports creatives to give them a lift in their careers as they reach their goals. We look forward to continuing to uplift new voices as they share their unique perspectives and help creatives as they pursue their dreams.”

The “Alone in Tombstone” film premiere takes place tonight (May 10) in New York City and will include a panel with Taylor, Comiskey and representatives from Southwest, Wattpad, and Tongal. 

Southwest’s “On The Rise” platform began in 2017 with the launch of “Destination: Red Rocks,” which spotlighted six rising musical artists competing for an opening set performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.