Breakwater Studios Breakout Films of 2019: Q&A with Founder Ben Proudfoot
**Breakwater Studios will screen selections from “Almost Famous” on Saturday, January 25th at Brand Storytelling 2020, a Sanctioned Event of Sundance Film Festival.
Almost Famous, a new series of four films released by Breakwater Studios in partnership with The New York Times, has garnered millions of views and as much attention since the series was released just before Christmas. The success of the series is one of many in 2019 for Ben Proudfoot, Founder and CEO of Breakwater Studios, who was named on Forbes 30 under 30 list for his success with Breakwater.
Brand Storytelling caught up with Proudfoot to learn more about the origins of Breakwater Studios, inspiration for the Almost Famous Series, and what to expect from the studio as they screen at Brand Storytelling 2020:
What inspired you to found Breakwater Studios?
I founded Breakwater Studios in 2011 out of sheer frustration and disappointment that movie studios didn't work they way I though they worked. When I moved to LA from Nova Scotia, I expected Hollywood to be comprised of booming creative campuses with department collaborating together for decades of their career. Instead I found a fractured, itinerant gig world where films were made over dropbox and email. I decided to start the company where I wanted to work and make movies.
When did investors come on board? How many rounds of investing did you do/have you done?
We partnered with Gigi Pritzker & Clint Kisker's MWM in October 2017, and we've closed two rounds with them, but far more important than cash is the transfer of their knowledge, acumen and relationships — it's transformed our business and given us a fighting chance in a highly competitive field.
How did you initially become involved in working with and securing financing with brands?
First time I made a film financed by a brand was in 2014. My friend Jeff Hurlow at Vimeo Brand Studio (now shuttered) reached out to me. I had a couple Vimeo Staff Picks, and Vimeo had a partnership with an agency that had a partnership with Charles Schwab. We made a 4-minute short documentary for Schwab and that kicked off a wonderful and continuing relationship with Kirstin Falk and her team.
What inspired the “Almost Famous” series of docs? How did you source the stories?
The first film, The King of Fish and Chips, about an (almost) fast food mogul inspired the series. Lindsay Crouse and her team at the New York Times challenged us to find three more stories that were not only fantastic tales, but dealt in societal norm/pressures/fissures as well. A lot of our research comes from googling phrases in quotations that pull up blog posts, local journalism etc. So we searched terms like "nearly the most," "would have been the first," and "you may not know his/her name but".
What can we expect from Breakwater Studios at Brand Storytelling 2020?
Myself, Abby Davis, our Head of Originals, and Norm Bolen, a tv/film veteran executive and member of our board will all be attending, and we are so excited to meet with friends old and new who are as passionate as we are about the intersection of filmmaking and brand storytelling. We will be holding a screening of several selections from the Almost Famous series at the Lodges at Deer Valley and I'll be giving a filmmaker's point of view on how brands and filmmakers can work together directly to achieve amazing, mutually beneficial, art.
About Ben Proudfoot
Award-winning director and 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur Ben Proudfoot is the founder and creative force behind Breakwater Studios.Once a world champion in sleight-of-hand magic, Ben now brings that spirit of wonder to filmmaking, directing or producing more than forty original short films a year, many in partnership with brands like The New York Times, Charles Schwab & Co., Annapurna Pictures and Unity Technologies. The Nova Scotia native drives Breakwater’s humanist storytelling across documentary, narrative, and branded mediums. Whether he’s crafting the latest Breakwater Original or directing an international branded documentary series, Proudfoot leads a diverse team of dedicated artists, craftspeople, technologists, and business people across a variety of pre-, post-, and physical production spectrums at the studio and around the globe, very much in the model of the original studio system.