"S.F.W." is getting a bad rap.
A&M Films' social satire of teenagers held hostage in a convenience store has become a prisoner of its own title and content when it comes to product placement.
The film, set for a late summer '94 release through Gramercy Pictures, has been rebuffed by such major advertisers as Budweiser, Johnny Walker bourbon, Lucky Strike cigarettes, Campbell's soup, People and Mirabella magazines, Circle K and Southland Corp.'s 7-Eleven stores, to name a few.
Only Black Death Cigarettes and Black Death Vodka didn't seem to have a problem brandishing its skull-blazoned labels in the film.
"We were too controversial for alcohol and cigarettes! Can you believe that?" said producer Dale Pollock, who heads A&M. So Pollock and crew invented their own products to place. Instead of Budweiser, the plain wrap domestic brew became Bulls Eye Beer. The Lucky Strike label was rubbed out for a red label target brand called Strike Out.
And lines were changed to reflect the same: "This Bull's for you."
All of the potential sponsors that the production crew approached said they declined to have their products portrayed because of the film's title--an acronym for So (Expletive) What--as well as their objections to the underage drinking and violence in the film. Companies generally clamor to have their products showcased in films as a means of subliminal advertising.
"The film didn't really have any positive elements about it. The target audience for this film, which will really be teen-agers, can't even buy our product," said Dean Ayers, director of entertainment marketing for Anheuser-Busch Inc.
The picture is about three kids--Stephen Dorff, Reese Witherspoon and Jack Noseworthy--held hostage in a local convenience store for 36 days. The terrorists demand the networks to air the videotapes they make of the violent ordeal, making the characters overnight media stars.
Pollock and Levy say the film is not a story of violence and drinking but one of a character, with irreverent disregard for everything in life, who learns to take love and friendship very seriously . . . a sort of "Rebel Without a Cause" for the '90s.
The producer seems to think the title is no "B.F.D.": "I know from being a parent of teen-agers myself, the more adults make a big deal out of being offended by the title, the more kids will want to go to see it."*