Sam Branson unveiled details of his newly rebranded UK production outfit Sundog Pictures, at Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Sam Branson, son of Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, is relaunching his production company Current Sponge, which he set up in 2009, as Sundog Pictures.
The first feature doc to come out of the newly branded company will be Breaking The Taboo, voiced by John Hurt and focusing on the failed war on drugs with high profile interviewees including Bill Clinton.
Funded partly by the Global Commission on Drugs Policy and the rest via private financing, the film will be released online this summer as part of the company’s strategy to embark on a new model for distribution, focusing on alternative platforms and ways of getting documentaries out to the wider public. It will be free to view.
Projects to date include Channel 4 documentary Turtle Boy, which aired in the UK in April and has just been picked up by the National Geographic Channel in the US.
The company was boosted by the appointment of Johnny Webb as managing director in March, who previously headed up Virgin Meda Television for five years. “Sam and I talked and realised that we were both driven by meaninful purposeful programmes that combine serious subject matter with real accessibility,” said Webb.
26 year old Branson, who set up the company with commercial director Nick Ryle, said the plan was to focus on a whole range of projects. “Stories that need to be told, or tackle big issues or stories that inspire people to engage in a subject matter. We want to back up our programmes with campaigns.”
“The rebrand marks a new era of the business. Sundogs are rainbows that form around the sun when there are ice crystals in the air and they are very filmic. We wanted something that reflected our ambitions,” added Branson.
Sundog plans to focus on social media to engage audiences. Branson managed to generate 4m tweets in relation to Turtle Boy when it aired in the UK.
“The idea is that we will use social media really seamlessly in everything we do. You can’t use twitter as a bare faced promotional tool, it has to be an authentic conversation, but the things we have in development are things that are social in their nature, things that require a debate, which is why we think it’s a sustainable model,” says Webb.
The other strand to the business will be brand funding. “We are always looking at new models and ways of telling brilliant stories funded in different ways,” added Webb.
The appointment of a new creative director is due to be announced next week.