Peter Drinkwater uses market research to underpin the filmmaking process
Jessica Falkholt in ‘Harmony: The Five Frequencies Saga – Part 1’
Producer, financier, market researcher and distributor Peter Drinkwater is taking an innovative, intensively market research-based approach to creating, producing and marketing Australian and US films.
Drinkwater’s Cowlick Entertainment Group has set up an investment fund which backed Corey Pearson’s supernatural drama Harmony: The Five Frequencies Saga – Part 1, which opened in Australian cinemas last weekend.
That will be followed by I Am Woman, the Helen Reddy biopic directed by Unjoo Moon, which Goalpost Pictures plans to shoot in Australia, Los Angeles and NY later this year.
Also on Cowlick’s slate is The Stand-In, a romantic comedy which will star Drew Barrymore in the dual roles of a washed-up movie star who is busted for a tax evasion and hires her unemployed, adoring stand-in to do community service in her place.
Barrymore will produce through her production company Flower Films, directed by Jamie Babbit, whose credits include Silicon Valley, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Girls.
Drinkwater uses his research company Screen Audience Research Australia (SARA) to test each stage of a film from concept, title and script through to the final cut and marketing.
That includes a program he calls Scriptology, which entails having table reads of scripts at focus groups of people from the targeted age-group, leading to discussions about characters, story, pacing, delivery and marketing.
“This is very audience-driven market research which determines the target audience for each project and co-creates projects with the potential audience,” he tells IF.
The table-read for the Emma Jensen-scripted I Am Woman, which will star Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Reddy with Danielle Macdonald as Lillian Roxon, the legendary rock journalist, elicited strong reactions including tears.
The Harmony movie, which stars the late Jessica Falkholt as the title character who has superhero powers, took just $12,000 including previews, on limited sessions on 37 screens. Drinkwater was expecting more and hopes it will build in the second weekend after teenagers and young adults have seen Venom.
But he points out the movie, whose cast including Jerome Meyer, Jacqueline Mackenzie and Eamon Farren, used American accents, is aimed primarily at the US where it will be released on 80-100 screens by AMBI Distribution. The international sales agent Lotus Entertainment has secured a release in China and intends to sign more deals at the American Film Market.
Charlotte McConaghy is writing the first novel in the Harmony series and there are plans for a further four films and novels, each centered on an orphan who has a unique power.
All involved in the production were devastated by the death of Falkholt, who was 29, following a Boxing Day car crash last year. Her large extended family has been very supportive of the film and wrote a dedication to her at the end of the film. The producers are working with them to set up a Falkholt Foundation.