Prop master Scott Bauer on how brands can drive a story

As a story unfolds in film and TV, there are plenty of those who help craft the work. Though writers, producers, directors and actors get the spotlight much of the time, the rest of crew plays invaluable roles in making it all come to life.

Nowhere is that more evident than the role of the prop master — who takes some of the raw materials that is a story and crafts it into something that is truly special. Nuance, in getting everything right is a big differentiator and 20-plus year veteran Scott Bauer is a master of using props — and brand products — to great effect to take a story from great to brilliant.

Over the years, Bauer has seen how brands continue to help drive a story forward in both TV and film. From the early days to today’s level of sophistication with brands and products, the way that a prop master imbues work with special, considered touches hasn’t changed.

In his mind, brands can lend a true level of authenticity to a story. A recent example that he believes hits the brand/story target right in the middle is the Kellogg’s integration, with Eggo waffles, in Stranger Things. In it, the character found comfort in the product — and that familiarity helped create a relatable moment that was honest and true.

For integration to work, Bauer believes that all stakeholders, including the brand, need to have an open mind and dialogue to fully understand what the product can do for the story. Forcing the issue, or the brand, can be problematic but being honest throughout the process is the best route.

Bauer’s role is fluid. In some cases, he’s a facilitator between brands and production. In others, he’s more directly involved and is given creative freedom and producers trust that he will work his magic to realize a scene. This is when he gets to work to determine the little things that will make a difference in the story — and he feels that real brands can help tell the story well.

As for the brand integrations that he feels are at the top of the success list, Bauer points to Heineken and Jaguar for the James Bond franchise. Additionally, the entirety of Mad Men, and the ability to create a narrative around specific brands, many times over throughout the life of the series, is something unique and a rare opportunity to steer a storyline purely based on a brand.

See what Bauer thinks makes a great story in The Drum's What's the Story? series on storytelling.

What's the Story? is sponsored by Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), the first global network for branded product integration in the entertainment industry, across all media, including the influencer space.

Filmed at Branded Entertainment Network (BEN)

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Doug Zanger

Doug Zanger is the Americas editor for The Drum. He leads the Americas editorial team’s content activity in the growing region. Based in Portland, Oregon, he is committed to sharing the most meaningful stories that benefit the global industry and its people. A Minnesota native, Zanger has covered a wide range of brands, issues and personalities, including Aloe Blacc, Seu Jorge, Wendy Clark, Susan Credle, Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby and more. Fiercely dedicated to diversity, equality and talent, he has interviewed several women in leadership roles through his Exceptional Women of the World podcast.

All by Doug