BMG’s first feature-length documentary, “Bad Reputation,” a film about Joan Jett’s life and career, will make its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The company is both financier and executive producer of the film, which is the first feature-length documentary project in a strategic move of the integrated record label and music-publishing company into music-related films and TV production.
Documentaries on T. Rex — which will be accompanied by a tribute album — the influential reggae label Trojan Records, and the legendary concert promoters and agents who built the rock touring industry are slated for next year, with more projects in the works. The goal is for the new business unit to include feature-length documentaries, narrative features, concert films, scripted and unscripted series, both long and short-form.
“Be in no doubt: This is a strategic move [for BMG],” CEO Hartwig Masuch said. “From YouTube to the rise of the music documentary to the increasing emphasis of Spotify and Apple Music on video content, technology is transforming music into a visual medium. These are early days, but increasingly we expect video content to develop into a formidable addition to BMG’s strategic offering to artists and songwriters alongside music publishing and recordings.”
The company’s first effort, “Bad Reputation” explores the life and career of pioneering female rocker Jett from her early days as founder of The Runaways and her first meeting with longtime collaborator Kenny Laguna to her solo career and enduring influence on rock and pop culture. It was directed by Kevin Kerslake (“As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM,” “Nirvana Live! Tonight! Sold Out!”), edited by Joel Marcus and produced by Peter Afterman and Carianne Brinkman; Submarine Entertainment also executive-produced.
“We have been pretty successful so far in keeping BMG’s strategic move into audiovisual production under wraps,” said BMG SVP Justus Haerder, who is spearheading the company’s move into film and TV since 2014. “’Bad Reputation’ being selected for Sundance kind of blows the lid off of that, but we are incredibly excited and proud. Joan Jett is an American icon and Kevin Kerslake has created a superb documentary which really captures her story.”
Haerder’s team, based in BMG’s Los Angeles office, includes Director of Audiovisual Kathy Rivkin-Daum (also an executive producer of “Bad Reputation”), Senior Manager of Audiovisual William Kennedy; SVP of Audiovisual Joe Thomas is based in Chicago. The team is also supported by industry veteran Bob Frank.
The company has revealed three feature-length music documentaries in production in addition to “Bad Reputation,” all three represented by Submarine:
“The Children of The Revolution” – A documentary film celebrating the music of T. Rex with a behind-the-scenes immersion into the making of a new album featuring Marc Bolan’s songs. Produced by Bill Curbishley and Ethan Silverman.
“The Show’s the Thing” (working title) – A documentary about the legendary promoters and agents who built the rock concert touring business. From a “wild west” culture in the ‘60s to a corporate take-over in the ‘90s, this story celebrates a little-known chapter of rock history. Executive Producers: David Simone, Steve Martin and Winston Simone; directed by Molly Bernstein and Philip Dolin.
“Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records” (working title) – A celebration of the music, history and cultural legacy of the pioneering British record label instrumental in introducing ska, rocksteady and reggae to a global audience (Jimmy Cliff, Toots And The Maytals, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s The Upsetters) to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Trojan Records, whose catalogue is owned by BMG. Produced by Pulse Films; directed by Nicolas Jack Davies.