By Victoria Lee and Ted Max

In this hyper-digital age, the designer brand’s focus has gradually shifted from primarily print advertising media to reaching consumers through the Internet and many forms of social media with branded entertainment in the form of short fashion films. The fashion film trend pairs fashion brands with famous directors and actors to produce beautiful and easily-accessible short films, which feature the brand and highlight certain seasonal fashion designs or product lines. These films impact an advertising and marketing message while also appealing to consumers’ artistic sensibilities.

One recent example is the recent Prada short film entitled, "A Therapy” by Academy Award winning director Roman Polanski that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2012. This three-minute film about a Prada-clad Bonham Carter’s therapy session with Sir Ben Kingsley playing the analyst was shown before the screening of a restored version of Polanski’s 1979 picture Tess. Polanski described the short film as “sort of an anti-ad.” Polanski commented that he was given "total freedom" by Prada, observing: “The chance to dwell on what the fashion world represents nowadays and the fact that it is accompanied by so many stereotypes is fascinating and at the same time a bit upsetting, but you definitely cannot ignore it. It’s very refreshing to know that there are still places open to irony and wit and, for sure, Prada is one of them." Roman Polanski’s Prada short has averaged over 233,000 views per week on YouTube.

This trend has been growing in recent years. Shorts serve as strategic advertising vehicles because of their versatility and easy access and wide reach through the Internet on branded websites, sites such as YouTube, and through social media. Many fashion companies have recently showcased fashion short films or advertisements directed by famous directors. Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese directed a short film for Chanel that was also used as an advertisement for Chanel’s new Bleu de Chanel fragrance. The film featured Frenchman Gaspard Ulliel (of "Hannibal Rising") and a Rolling Stones song for the soundtrack. (Robert Darwell, Martin Scorsese Directs Television Commercial to Promote Chanel’s Next Men’s Fragrance, Fashion and Apparel Law Blog, Feb. 26, 2010, miscellaneous/martin-scorsese-directs-television-commercial-to-promote-chanels-next-mens-fragrance/). Other prior Chanel advertisements have featured Nicole Kidman for Chanel Number 5 directed by Baz Lurhman and Keira Knightly for Coco Mademoiselle directed by Joe Wright. Gucci released a three-dimensional advertisement for its Gucci Guilty fragrance starring Evan Rachel Wood directed by Frank Miller of "Sin City” fame. The full "film" debuted at the MTV Video Music Awards. Recently, Zoé Cassavetes directed a short called "Hide and Seek" for which she took Louis Vuitton’s summer apparel designs on a romp through London. Sofia Coppola and David Lynch have directed advertisements for Dior’s Miss Dior Cherie fragrance and Lady Dior handbags, respectfully; Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin directed “Secret Garden,” which features models running through Versailles wearing Dior’s spring collection. Dolce & Gabbana has paired up with William Zanardi to highlight its 2012 spring and summer collection at a Milanese estate. Some other brands that have produced such fashion shorts are H&M, Christian Louboutin, Cartier, and Levi’s.

Negotiation of the contracts for these films are more complicated because the short films may be characterized as both a film and an advertisement. Typical experience with talent contracts alone may not suffice when the advertisement can be considered a motion picture. Due to this potential ambiguity, care needs to be taken to consider and understand how these differences may implicate different usages and rights negotiations.