When does a brand biopic become a marketing ploy?

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Steve Jobs, the third film to be made about the founder of Apple in as many years, has been chosen to close the 2015 BFI London Film Festival. This news confirms what was already obvious: from Howard Hughes to Mr Heineken, Hollywood has an increasing obsession with entrepreneurs. With films about the founders of Google and McDonalds in the pipeline, it’s a trend that shows no sign of abating.

In many ways, it’s unsurprising. The origin stories of many iconic brands contain the hallmarks of the classic rags-to-riches plot that has long proved irresistible to filmmakers.

Whether or not an official studio-brand production partnership exists, films about existing brands inevitably come with a side-order of subliminal advertising that can diminish the power of the storytelling.

At their best, these films present an inspiring tale of vision and fearlessness. At their worst, they become little more than souped-up marketing ploys masquerading as artistic entertainment.

I’ve had a look at four films that revolve around brands and their leaders to decide in each case whether integrity won out over The Man.

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The Trouble Club: When Women Ruled Hollywood

The Trouble Club
I’m perched on a table, legs pressed against the small of a stranger’s back. Lauren Bacall’s eyes are on me, shirt sleeves rolled up to her elbows, cigarette hanging from her left hand, eyebrows arched wryly and eyes conveying an expression that combines an inviting magnetism with just the slightest hint of superiority. The surface in front of her is printed with a single word in bold yellow lettering: ’Trouble’.The Trouble Club is a new club for women founded by journalist Joy Lo Dico, originally pitched as a ‘pop-up’ experience for November and December 2014 (although there have been joyful whispers of an extension into 2015). The club hosts talks and debates on a wide variety of subjects, delivered by a host of women, all experts in their fields.

Scuttling down a dark alley in Soho towards an innocuous-looking black door, I was reminded of the club’s tagline – ‘She was looking for Trouble… and she found it’Continue reading