Hemp for Victory


The Call

Our friends at New Belgium approached us wanting to produce a piece of branded content that felt like a mini documentary, about the fall of hemp and how New Belgium is supporting Colorado hemp farmers to rise again. This is always an exciting request because branded content should feel entertaining in nature, be driven by story like a TV show, and in this case being a documentary - have an important message for the viewer.

Branded content, also known as branded entertainment, is the practice of marketing via the creation of content that is funded or outright produced by an advertiser. In my opinion, the term "content" has a greater inherent value than the term "commercial" because in the entertainment world, a networks most valuable content is what the viewers comes for (the shows), and is only then broken up by the generally undesirable commercials. Branded content is a hybrid of content and commercial in one form.

But should branded content include some sort of sales pitch, or be merely "brought to you by" an advertiser, with no mention of them at all throughout the piece? Often times the only advertisers that can truly fund content without a direct mention of their product or service are large legacy brands who can afford this sort of thing. They also then typically have a deep social or economic interest in the story they are funding, so there is value created by spreading the message to the public.

Middle size companies like New Belgium should be applauded for wanting to make a piece like this on the demise of Hemp, but then need to lean on filmmakers like ourselves to decide how much brand story should be threaded in. As an executive producer, I think there is a total smart approach here to tell a great story, but also talk about how a company is involved in that story, and all the while make the piece remain interesting and entertaining. This is the art of producing branded content.

Pre-production & Planning

We were hired to produce a 5-minute branded documentary that tells the story of how New Belgium, in their ongoing effort to experiment and get creative with new flavors and beers, wanted to introduce flavors of hemp to replace the flavors of hops.

In order to make this interesting, we wanted to create a traditional 3 act structure. First we need to introduce the history of why Hemp has been shunned from society, and where things stand today. Then to build a point of conflict, we create the desire of New Belgium to use Hemp in a beer but present the array of challenges they faced. Then our final act brings together the collaboration story of the hemp farmers, the brewers, and the social advocacy side of New Belgium.  

The legal challenges alone that New Belgium faced were an interesting story to our team, and an obvious opportunity to create a piece around. Since Hemp is in the marijuana family, it's still a schedule 1 narcotic. The payoff would also be rewarding to the story - every hemp beer sold would raise money and awareness for hemp advocacy.

Technical Production

All documentaries have challenging schedules, but this is what we are prepared for. In these cases, we accept that fact that we won’t have it all planned out, and have to instead be flexible and confident that we can roll with what is presented to us and capture things as they occur.

This is when my teams documentary experience really kicks in. The art of a doc is not necessarily being in the right spot at the right time, but more so guiding the moments to happen when the production team is ready, and then letting them develop naturally. We shot 1 full day at a hemp farm in eastern Colorado, as well as 2-days at the New Belgium HQ. 

We shot the content on a Sony FS7, as well as a Sony a7sii on a DJI Ronin. In order to move quickly, we shot all broll material on a handheld shoulder rig with zoom lenses. Interviews were captured on sticks with Canon CNE prime lenses. 


Tight deadlines are always a challenge, especially with a project that is primarily unscripted. In order to deliver on time, we developed an aggressive edit schedule, and orchestrated timely review sessions with New Belgium.

This project was interesting because in tandem to producing a killer video, we brought on Legwork Studios to create the beautiful animated sequences within the video. This was almost a must-have since so many well produced docs have a visual graphic layer within opening titles or motion-infographics that really elevate the overall value of storytelling.

Results & Client Feedback

If you haven't tried this beer yet, you should. It's a tasty pale ale like nothing you've drank before! These videos just released, so we're still eagerly awaiting data and results.  

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