The film ‘Kenny’ was released in 2006 and took over $8M in the Box Office (Jacobson, C. 2015). There was not a person in Australia, who was not talking about, “The return of the decent Aussie bloke” (Collins, F. 2007). Audiences presumed that ‘Kenny’ was a documentary style film based on the true life of plumber, Kenny Smyth. A clever marketing technique for this ‘mockumentary’ comedy, as audiences fled to the cinema to have their own say about the authenticity of this film. ‘Kenny’ quickly became well known for its toilet humour and reference to Australian culture. Shane Jacobson, who played Kenny Smyth in the film, shot up in his career becoming an iconic Australian comic actor. The question remains, how did the filmmakers turn a story of an average portaloo plumber, into a financial success?
‘Kenny’ began as a short film that was slowly being developed by Writer, Producer, and Director, Clayton Jacobson. The short film was submitted into the St Kilda Film Festival in Melbourne. In 2004 ‘Kenny, Self Proclaimed Scatologist’ won the prize for Best Comedy (St Kilda Film Festival, 2015). An eager investor who envisaged the film as a feature length success approached Clayton. With a high offering of $1M, Clayton predicted he would only need close to $500K in order to produce the film (Jacobson, C. 2015). ‘Splashdown, corporate bathroom rentals’, sponsored the production, providing many sets (toilet blocks), props, crew (employees) and many more. Clayton was very clever with his approach to the production, marketing and distribution of the film. An independent distributor, ‘Madman Entertainment’ locally in Australia, distributed ‘Kenny’. Other distributors for an international release include, ‘Lightning Entertainment’ (worldwide), ‘Odeon Sky Filmworks’ (2007, UK) and ‘Xenon Pictures’ (2007, USA, DVD) (IMDb, 2015).
The successful release of the film relied heavily on word-of-mouth and clever marketing techniques that generated interest and intrigue. Close to double the budget used to produce the film, was spent on marketing (Jacobson, C. 2015).
We went nuts with the marketing. There wasn’t anything we didn’t try… We did everything from viral campaigns… to getting dolls made up (Jacobson, C. 2015).
‘Kenny’ used a very innovative model of distribution focusing on targeting a wide audience. Clayton is aware that over the past eight to nine years marketing and distributing films has changed immensely. He found exposure through television interviews where Shane would remain in character throughout. Audiences saw Shane (Kenny) in the spotlight, out of context of the film, which evoked interest and enhanced the humour of his character. Modern forms of exposure can now be found through various social networking sites and multiple television platforms. Consumers are absorbed in their ‘screens’ and therefore distributors can use these as a tool to gain exposure and generate interest.
Measurements of success
To measure the success of a film depends on figures and the rise and fall of popularity. A feature film only has a nine-week window of opportunity in a big cinema chain, to make as much money as they can. The term used most frequently is counting the “Bums on Seats” (Hipwell, J. 2015) as a measurement of success. Other than popularity, the success of a film is also determined by the length of time in which it gains its profits. For example, a big blockbuster film may have a big opening weekend, encouraging a lot of people to come and see it. After this weekend, the ‘word gets out’ that the film was not as brilliant as was expected and the numbers run low from there onwards. At this point, the film has still made a significant profit, although the time frame in which it accumulated its profit is quite short. ‘Kenny’s’ success extended into the DVD release where more profit was made, making it a success beyond its initial release.
Films such as Kenny, which are aimed at a family audience, will always have a far better chance of reaching out. (Bosanquet, 2007)
Alternative Distribution Methods
An alternative model of distribution is to distribute the film slowly by screening the film at Arthouse cinemas in order to build momentum. If the film gains traction then here is less of a risk to distribute through big cinema chains.
Palace Films’ Zeccola warns, ‘once you go large you can’t go back. The amount of risk involved in releasing an Australian film is so great that you have to take extreme care.’ (Bosanquet, 2007)
…Distributors are now very wary of pushing local films into the main- stream theatres. This has meant steady, cautious campaigns where a film will spend a long, slow run in the arthouse cinemas and, if it proves itself, can then go into the larger chains. (Bosanquet, 2007)
Clayton grew up in a very theatrical household that encouraged creativity. His passion for the comical aspects of the story and the potential success of the film was the driving factor that propelled the film forward.
For me [cinema] was the temple of entertainment (Jacobson, C. 2015).