Impact Driven Content for Brands: Q&A with Director Lindsey Hagen

Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv


In today’s world, it’s not enough for brands to simply exist on the platform of product alone. The modern consumer has become much more critical and deliberating when it comes to where they spend their dollars; their monetary investment also represents an investment in a brand itself, and that means needing to be able to stand behind a brand’s values and purpose-driven practices.


Gnarly Bay, the mission-driven video production house out of Rhode Island, seeks to inspire and connect with content that both captures beautiful moments and promotes meaningful impact. Recently developed films tackle issues large and small, broad and narrow, from homelessness to human rights.


Brand Storytelling caught up with Gnarly Bay Head of Development and Directing Lindsey Hagen to discuss her focus on impact driven content and how brands can foster stronger connections with their consumers by demonstrating impact through film and video:




How would you characterize the work you create at Gnarly Bay?


A majority of the work we focus on is tied to Social Impact and Environmental Justice. There's a lot of pain and suffering conveyed in the media right now and at times it's enough to completely saturate and burn you out. I personally trend towards individuals who are often positioned at the edge of light and dark- I think that's something we can all relate to. These subjects portray resilience and profound human spirit, even amidst trying circumstances. These tend to be unsung heroes doing good in the world or rising above all odds and setting a pathway for others. I think it's really important to celebrate those who are paving the way and acting as stewards for a brighter future. By focusing on resilience as an underlying theme I believe we can generate hope and bring our viewers into a place of convicted action, as opposed to debilitating despair.

Protest Image from the Gnarly Bay & ManeCo Film "The Golden Rule"
Protest Image from the Gnarly Bay & ManeCo Film "The Golden Rule"

Gnarly Bay has a history of working with brands, garnering multiple Vimeo Staff Picks and festival awards. What would you constitute as the common denominator across various brand videos that continue to earn the studio recognition?


The founders characterize our approach as "catching lightning in a bottle." We strive to share stories that make the viewer pause for just a moment. Perhaps we're challenging the way you see the world, your biases, and preconceived notions. Perhaps it's the inspiring visuals or heartfelt narratives that take your breath away and bring you into the present for just a moment. The team at Gnarly Bay leads with empathy and connection in all aspects of their work- I believe that comes through in the emotion of each film.


How do you choose what stories to tell?


I lean towards sharing the stories I want to see more of in the world. These are often people who have a unique perspective, journey or narrative that I believe could help inspire and inform others to make positive changes within their own life and the world at large. I want to move people into action, through compassionate and inspiring narratives. For some viewers, perhaps this is just the pat on the back they need to keep going.


Barbie Carter, subject of Gnarly Bay Film "After Skid Row"
Barbie Carter, subject of Gnarly Bay Film "After Skid Row"

Tell us more about the work you currently have in production or completed.


"After Skid Row", a film I recently directed is currently making the festival rounds. The film documents the journey of Barbie Carter as she navigates the transition to housed life following the brutal reality of a decade on the streets. The film illuminates the intimate humanity behind homelessness as Barbie rediscovers parts of her identity that she had been forced to stifle in order to survive. Her unique story and compelling character help to both demystify and deeply personalize a homelessness epidemic that continues to swell across the US.


We have another film titled "The Golden Rule" in post-production that we Co-Produced with an amazing team over at ManeCo that I had the opportunity to co-direct alongside Nolan Anderson. "The Golden Rule" is America's first environmental protest boat and began its mission in 1958 when a crew of 4 sailed across the Pacific into a nuclear test zone off the Marshall islands. Today the mission continues in partnership with Veterans For Peace to abolish the use and manufacture of nuclear weapons while reconciling with past traumas and looking ahead to mitigate further destruction of indigenous communities and our environment at the hands of nuclear mismanagement.


We also have some amazing branded projects in the works around themes of equity and inclusion and environmental activism that we're really excited to get off the ground!



Why do you think brands should invest in impact-driven content?


The viewer is starved for some good news, we are grappling for hope and inspiration now more than ever. Consumerism is a double-edged sword and a modern necessity. If our dollars can work towards something good, that's a hard equation to argue with. We've also felt particularly isolated since COVID-19; I think impact-driven content gives us back that agency to feel connected and get involved.