CASE STUDY: ROCK SCHOOL
Director: Don Argott
Producers: Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce
Budget: $733,000 (including deliverables)
Production Company: 9.14 Pictures
Financing: Self-financed through Don Argott’s company, 9.14 Pictures
Shooting Format: Mini DV 24p – Panasonic DVX 100
Screening Format: Digi Beta (at festivals) – 35mm film for Sundance and theatrical release
Box Office: $58,241 (USA) (Per Variety 12 June 2005)
World Premiere and Festival Prep
After seeing an 18-minute teaser of the unfinished Rock School at the IFP Market in New York, September ’03, Micah Green and Dana O’Keefe of Cinetic Media approached the filmmakers about representing the film. Their fee would be 15% of sales. The fee included the legal services of Sloss Law (Cinetic).
The film was not complete in time for Sundance. Cinetic advised the filmmakers not to rush, as there would be other suitable festivals in the spring. With Cinetic’s advice, the filmmakers premiered Rock School at the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. Los Angeles has the market and it was convenient for buyers to come.
The Filmmakers were able to work out a deal with David Magdael (TC:DM & Associates) who lowered his fees, charging approximately $3,000 for publicity services. Magdael helped line-up interviews, managed red carpet appearances, and stayed on board through the sale of the film. They also hired the event-planning company Cashman & Associates to help organize the Los Angeles premiere party.
The publicity strategy was conceived around the film’s subjects — the kids. A special outdoor concert was arranged after the world premiere. Bob Berney, then of Newmarket Films, was at the screening and attended the concert. Berney made an offer, realizing how the concert experience provided a great vehicle to market the film.
The world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival was well attended by buyers, but most companies sent the junior staff members who report to decision makers. This gave Berney an edge, putting him in front of the pack.
The film was acquired at the Los Angeles Film Festival by Newmarket Films, which paid between $500,000 and $1 million for worldwide rights. Cinetic brokered an additional deal with A&E Indie Films for television.
The Filmmakers had to pay for all the deliverables, some of which included MPAA rating, insurance, Dolby sound, music licensing, film print blow-up to 35mm, and HD up converts. Besides the minimum guarantee, the filmmakers also got back-end deals for theatrical and DVD, soundtrack sales, and half of the sale of first window television rights to A&E Indie Films.
Rock School went on to other festivals like Sundance and SXSW and gathered momentum from positive audience response and good press (including Ebert & Roeper). This was great preparation for the theatrical release.
The film had a wide theatrical release – 41 screens on June 3, 2005. The Box Office was dismal: $800 per screen average. Of the original 41, 30 pulled out the next weekend. And of the 30 scheduled to open on the second weekend, 20 decided not to show the film at all.
Rock School opened the following weekend in Philadelphia, where it had a built-in audience and averaged $7,000 per screen. Overall, the box office did not meet expectations. Variety misreported that the film had closed after only two weeks, yet it continued to open not only nationwide, but also worldwide.
The filmmakers believe that overall, the summer’s box office was down from previous years, and Rock School suffered from poor placement against other competitive, even blockbuster films. Perhaps the film would have benefited from an earlier, pre-summer opening, not opening so wide, and more guerilla-type marketing.
Advice From The Filmmakers
The director says if he had to do it all over again he “would been more involved in the marketing of the film.” Even if your distributor has a great track record reaching audiences and marketing (Bob Berney handled films such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Monster) you should remain involved and ask questions.
What is the Filmmaker Doing Now?
Due to the initial success of Rock School, the filmmaker was signed by an agent at The Gersh Agency and is currently prepping future projects.