SBJ/January 23-29, 2012/Media

Heggans starts film distribution company

Derrick Heggans, managing director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Sports Business Initiative, has started a film distribution company that has found a niche in documentaries on minority athletes.

Rose Park Productions represents an outgrowth of Heggans’ work helping develop and distribute “Third and Long,” a history of African-Americans in pro football that ran on CBS. Rose Park has struck an extensive deal with Wal-Mart in which the world’s largest retailer will distribute a series of similar sports documentaries for home video, likely branded under the name “Breakthrough Classics.”

Heggans
The first such film, “Uneven Fairways,” a Golf Channel documentary chronicling the history of segregation in pro golf, is set for release Feb. 7. Following that project will be a history of black surfers, “White Wash,” and a film on the late track star and Olympic hero Jesse Owens that will also run on PBS in May. Heggans expects at least four or five films to be released this year to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores through Rose Park Productions and more in 2013.

“There is a great run of creativity happening out there in the filmmaker community. Lots of great content is being created,” Heggans said. “But there is also sort of a dearth of strategic thought. So what I’m trying to do is help independent filmmakers and these important stories find an audience.”

The Rose Park name is an homage to a park in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., where Heggans spent much time as a youth and held a job as a summer camp counselor.

Heggans declined to identify the other investors in Rose Park, but he has enlisted other industry executives as advisers to the new venture, including David Katz, founder and chief executive of ThePostGame.com; Doug Perlman, founder and chief executive of Sports Media Advisors; Derek Eiler, former senior vice president of IMG College; and Peter Zern, partner at Covington & Burling. Heggans is the sole Rose Park employee for now.

“Derrick is moving in a strong entrepreneurial direction,” Katz said. “But what he’s doing is very smart, and having this advisory team to counsel him on all the things that inevitably come up in an independent venture like this is exactly the kind of thing I’ve done, too.”

Rose Park Productions will not be limited to sports content. The company is involved in distributing “About Face,” a film on the culture of supermodels, and Heggans will be at the Sundance Film Festival this week in Utah to promote the project.

Heggans remains involved in the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, a research and education-focused think tank. The group this June will start a new NFL-backed, three-day leadership program for elite high school student athletes.

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