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Making Money & Cracking the Amazon Code for Self Distribution with Ismael Gomez

Today on the show we have a filmmaker that was able to crack the Amazon code and actually make money self-distributing his low-budget film on the platform. His name is Ismael Gomez.

Ismael Gomez is a Cuban-American filmmaker. In 2009, he received an Artist Fellowship grant to pursue his B.A in Film Production. After completing his studies, he began to work as lead editor on several motion pictures and commercials for theatrical and TV release. Some of his projects have screened at Cannes, Starz Denver, Tribeca, and Miami International film festivals.

His film is Death of a Fool. 

A teenager and his dying grandfather conduct afterlife investigations in Miami when a mysterious man hires them to find the secret to immortality.

Ismael was able to generate close to $75,000 in rentals and sales on Amazon using about $9000 in Facebook Ads. In this conversation, I dig in deep on how he did this, his techniques, and how he used the Filmtrepreneur Method to create additional revenue outside of TVOD.

Enjoy my conversation with Ismael Gomez

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Alex Ferrari 2:49
Now guys, today we have a success story as a story of TVOD, actually working with Amazon and cracking the code of Amazon and making money with an independent film. The filmmakers name is Ismael Gomez, and his film is called Death of a fool. And he was able to use $9,000 of Facebook ads to generate $72,000 in sales through teavana on Amazon. And in our conversation, I dig deep in his techniques, how he did it, what his ideas were to target his specific niche audience, and much, much more. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Ismael Gomez. I like to welcome him so his Ismael Gomez III How you doing?

Ismael Gomez 3:43
Good, Alex, thanks for having me on the show.

Alex Ferrari 3:46
Oh, thanks for reaching out, man. I appreciate it. Anytime there's a filmmaker who wants to talk about distribution and the truth behind self distribution numbers, raw data and all the other little warts and all good and bad. I'd like to talk to them. Because it's rare, like you said in your email. It's a rare thing. You there is not a lot of transparency out there. So before we get into that, how did you get into the film business?

Ismael Gomez 4:14
Well, you know, I was, so I was born in Cuba in Havana. And I was oh,

Alex Ferrari 4:23
I couldn't help it, man I have. It just comes out.

Ismael Gomez 4:28
So I was born and you know, I was born in Havana. And I grew up watching, you know, Disney Pixar movies. And actually, the first time I went to a theater was to see the Lion King and I was obsessed with it. Like when I came out of the theater, I was telling my mom and my dad like, this is what I want to make. And he started as a cartoon, you know, like animated films. And then my dad because he was very well connected in the artistic world. He would get me into the film festivals in Havana. And I saw Apocalypse Now when I was like nine See if you can imagine being nine years old and watching Apocalypse Now. So, you know, I got really obsessed with that and, and I had the opportunity when I came to the United States. So I came to live, immigrated to the United States with my mom, my dad was already here. And I came on a plane in 2009. And I went

Alex Ferrari 5:23
To everybody listening. Us Cubans were known for being good swimmers. To play my parents came on planes as well.

Ismael Gomez 5:33
Yeah. So I came here. And I always had the passion in Cuba, but I, you know, I finished high school, and Cuba. So when I got here, I went straight. After one year that I got all my papers and everything. I went to the New York Film Academy, and I started studying film, and it was a great experience, because they're very hands on, you know, so I really, I've never shot I mean, I've made home videos, but I was there shooting with extra film, like 16 millimeters at 35 millimeters. And it was a pretty cool experience. It was an amazing experience. And after that, I, I moved back to Florida, I got my bachelor's in film, because my whole family was here ready. And so after I graduated, I went back to New York, and I started working as an editor. So I realized a while I was in film school, I realized, all right, I don't think people hire directors. Not off the bat. Not very often. So directors end up always working on their stuff. So I have to develop a second skill, you know, and I also realized, for me in the editing is where really the magic happened. Like I would be able to save because my shootings were always super chaotic, chaotic. And when I got to the editing, I kind of like make things work a little bit. So I realized, like, this is where the magic happens. So I've got to learn this skill. So I got very, you know, well versed in Final Cut seven, rest and peace, and

Alex Ferrari 7:09
The recipes.

Ismael Gomez 7:11
And, and then you know, and then premiere when it came out in avid, and then Final Cut 10. And so I started editing and I started editing my friends, short films, my own stuff. And then I got my first feature film. And then I got my second one. And I ended up editing like, I don't know, like nine feature films already independent feature films. And yeah, so and then after that, I, I moved back, you know, my girlfriend was here, my family was here, I was up there by myself dealing with the winter, you know, my Caribbean flesh, she's not used to those.

Alex Ferrari 7:45
They don't like to fiddle with her so much.

Ismael Gomez 7:47
He couldn't deal with it. So I came back here. And I have this movie death of a fool. And I have division of my company, rabbit hole pictures. And at that time, moonlight came out. And I was like, I saw what Barry Jenkins did in Miami. And it was very inspiring. And I was like, you know, I can I can do this I can be, let's say a big fish in a small town. Right? I can start here. Try to make fantasy films, which I don't see actually when I was doing a lot of research when I made death of a fool and thinking about other fantasy films shot in Miami and I couldn't find anything. So I got very inspired. And I was like, You know what, I'm going to open the company here. I'm going to start making films here. And yeah, that's kind of like how I happened.

Alex Ferrari 8:39
So it's so funny because you you you've walked very similar path that I have, because I did the exact same thing. I was like, I'm going to be a director. But I see that no one's hiring me right now. Because I'm 20 whatever young. And I started getting into post and that's exactly and it's and I discovered the exact same thing recipes found that seven, but also just everything happens there. And that's sometimes I think a lot of filmmakers don't do that. They don't understand that you need to have a skill that pays you while you're chasing the dream while you're building those tools in your toolbox. That's extremely Sure. Well, you jumped on your first feature much patch took me 20 years to jump on my first feature, so you've jumped in much much quicker. So a lot of begging. Oh, I can imagine I can imagine. So tell me so tell me. Tell me about your film death of a fool.

Ismael Gomez 9:29
Okay, so death of a fool was actually based on a semester film that I did a nyfa the the Film Academy and so I have been writing it for two years. And I was already in Miami and I started submitting it to screenplay competitions. And then I ended up being semi finalists in like three of them and then quarterfinals in two of them and then blue cat it's a screenplay competition in LA We ended up winning it in 2008 2018. Joe, my co writer and I, so we both won the competition and they give you $10,000. It's the cash prize. So that was kind of like the beginning of the funding process of the film. So after we won blue cat, we ended up like talking to some investors that I have worked with in the past for other projects or other businesses that are that I was running. And, yeah, it just took a lot of convincing and, and really, in it also, I got very prepared in terms of, you know, not counting on Sundance and or, you know, the lottery, the lottery ticket, and really trying to think, how would I be able to recoup this money? You know, so we were able to bring a few investors on board, then I did, I would say, like, 30% of the financing myself. And yeah, we got everything together

Alex Ferrari 11:06
What was the budget?

Ismael Gomez 11:09
It ended up being, like, $103,000. So 100, 100,000, which was really challenging, because let me tell you this stuff that we pulled with $100,000, because

Alex Ferrari 11:21
It's a fantasy film,

Ismael Gomez 11:22
And you know, you got like, you have a magic fruit and you have like, like magical places, and you have it's like flashbacks, like the 70s. So there's a lot of crazy stuff. And yeah, but you know, I had an amazing team. That's what I can say the cinematographer, the producer, everyone was just so awesome. And that's the also the cool thing about shooting in Miami that not a lot of films have been shot here. So everyone was really excited about that, you know, people were willing to just work in give you good rates and all that to make the film happen.

Alex Ferrari 11:56
Yeah, that's exactly what happened with me. When I made my first film there. It was so excited just to be like, oh, someone's shooting. Let's Let's do this. You know, it's not bad boys. But we'll do it. Let's go. Which is really cool. Now, you when you made the fit, you finished the film. And I'm assuming you went down the the festival circuit and the distribution path. So tell me about what you felt. Did you do the festival circuit at all? What did you feel? Well, I I sent the film to Sundance, of course, because we all have to donate money to a reference retailer now.

Ismael Gomez 12:31
So I was like, you know, let me send it here. actually listen to my tog refer. Layla Kilburn. She was a she had been to Sundance like seven times, he even won with documentaries. So, you know, I sent the film to Sundance and I did. I think Sundance was the Film Fest, I had just finished it and I didn't want to sound like work in progress to film festivals, you know? So I sent it to Sundance and then you know, got the rejection letter. And around the time, I had a really tough call. This is the when we get into distribution, because then 2020 had just started, you know, and I had to wait probably till the summer when the film festivals were gonna open again. You know, like the fantasy film festival salsa like Fantasia. Yeah, Fantasia Fantastic Fest, you know, also, I was like, should I wait until the summer? Like waste six eight months and wait for this film festival? Or should I just launch? Do do a theatrical premiere in the Coral Gables the art cinema and launch the film? And on Amazon, or should I just wait for the film festival? So I really hate being passive. You know, and putting, like, hoping that someone else, you know, allows in by the way, I didn't I didn't even you know i i heard about the Coronavirus in China and all this. This was like in January, or February. And, and also I had an eye opening experience because I ended up going to Sundance with the co founder of rubber Hill pictures. One of my best friends, Larry. I told them, you know, we should go to Sundance even though we didn't get in. I feel that we hear so much about Sundance, and I've never been to Sundance, so we should go check it out. You know, and for me when I went there. And the eye opening experience that I had is that even people that I saw got into Sundance, were struggling to get a distribution deal. Oh, absolutely. And I saw I saw everyone hustling. And I'm like, okay, they made it here and they're still hustling and trying to get a distribution deal. I'm thinking they may get like, ripped off. So this is not even a guarantee, you know, so I think I might be better off off just distributing the film myself learning this process, I try to do my best and really be self reliant, you know? So So yeah, so I made the call and I told you know, I spoke to my, to the producer of the film. And I told her like, I think this is the way to go. And we had the screening. Here Coral Gables we it was completely sold out. And then two weeks later, because you know, it was still hot. And I I released the film on amazon video. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
No. Did you? Did you get some deals? Did you get some deals offered to? Yes, yes.

Ismael Gomez 15:37
So I spoke to a few. First of all, I saw all the episodes on indie film hustle about distribution, you know, and I wrote, like, I actually have a notepad and I've wrote every time that I had an insight or something that I didn't know about ever write it down and then revisit. You know,

Alex Ferrari 15:55
You were prepared. You were locked, locked loaded. When these guys came? I thought,

Ismael Gomez 16:00
Yeah. So they came, you know, they came trying to buy a few of them. I think a few of them have good intentions, I would say. But still, I was like, even though,

Alex Ferrari 16:13
What were the kind of deals you were getting, you know, don't say names, just kind of deals

Ismael Gomez 16:18
With sales agents, you know, I feel them wanting to wanted to charge me which I thought, I don't know, if you really think the film has potential and you can make some money. Why would you want to charge me? You know, upfront, I put, I guess, you know, they need to keep their business going and all that. But that, for me was a, you know, a red flag. I didn't want to, even though if you have good intentions, I didn't want to get into that because it was morning that I would use that I can use some Facebook ads, things like that, you know? And with distributors, they a lot of them didn't reply them. The ones that did, they had, like 15 year, you know, 15 year term contract. Yeah. And I was 15 years, like, you're gonna own my movie for 15 years. That's a long time with no money upfront. With no, no minimum guaranteed.

Alex Ferrari 17:09
And it was there any? Was there any marketing capital? Or? It was like

Ismael Gomez 17:13
100,000 $50,000 every year? It was. I was like, Alright, you're gonna spend $50,000 in my film every year, I guess, year they had that sunset. Yeah. And then and then you could you could, you know, you could, I was like, is this negotiable? And then there was said yes. And then Okay. And then they would negotiate and bring it down to 10 years. And you know, $20,000. And,

Alex Ferrari 17:40
But isn't that isn't that interesting that they said this a bunch of times that they throw out a worse deal to see if you bite and if you bite? Oh, good. I'm gonna screw you now. Yeah. And then if you want to negotiate, I'm just going to screw you a bit less scoring. At the end of the day, you're getting screwed.

Ismael Gomez 17:57
Yeah, it's kind of like they want to they want to stab you. Right? And they first put like a shotgun. You're like, Oh, shut down. That's really bad. And then they show you the knife. And so Okay, I guess a knife is not.

Alex Ferrari 18:09
Would you rather get your head blown off? Or just a little, a little stab in the back? It's just so so so. So then So okay, it's none of these. Obviously, none of these deals. After listening to everything I've said. You just said? No. If you wouldn't listen to all these podcasts, you might a bit Paulie. Yeah, probably. That's, that's, that's why I want that information to get out to as many as humanly possible, man. Yeah, it's a waste of me. Sure. What did they promise you? They promise you to get you on all the platforms, right? Yeah, we'll get you on all the platforms and somebody over at Netflix. So we'll pitch Netflix. I know somebody over at HBO, maybe I could get you an HBO deal. I guess I'm gonna Showtime, maybe we could do a paid cable deal. what's what's the special placement, well, then I get the special nice iTunes chart and all those goods. If you go with us, like if you go through an aggregator you're just going to be thrown in. But if you go with to get special placement on iTunes, and that whole scenario, it's it's so and it's getting worse. The predatory aspect of distribution is getting worse and worse, as everything starts to tighten, tighten around. So that's why I wanted to bring you on because you're pretty fresh. You're like this is happening within the last three or four months. Yeah, you read these off and

Ismael Gomez 19:26
Alright, so I had sorry, and even the ones that have good intentions, let's say they're still a business, you know, and they still need to survive

Alex Ferrari 19:35
Business markets.

Ismael Gomez 19:36
And if they have 10 films, and nine of them are performing better than mine, you know, they're gonna they're gonna sell those, they're going to pay more attention to those nine. It's not only that, it's also like I was put this analogy that it's a business right and if my film is a tangerine, let's say and people here buy watermelons. They will mark him Fill them as a watermelon to people who like watermelons, because they have to sell. And I don't want my Pete like, I want people who like tangerines to see my film, I don't care about people who like watermelons, because then that's where the bad reviews come and people, if I feel that I'm actually, you know, cheating, right, and I'm lying to people, because I made you think that this was one hell. And you came, saw my film pay for it, and now you're feeling happy. You know, and I understand that. So I that's, that was also for me, like, I wanted to have full control. You know, I'm a little bit creepy. So,

Alex Ferrari 20:35
Yah know, and obviously, so you're telling me that distributors might lie in trailers to get by the movie? I can't believe that, that seems so unlike. Yeah. Um, and that's the other thing that that filmmakers don't understand is when they do sign a deal with the distributor, unless it's in the contract, they have no control how that movie is presented. poster design trailer design. I mean, it's, I mean, I remember when I had my I had a short compilation, and a distributor picked it up, I was able to get it back from him. But he put on the cover some woman with a gun, what not? She wasn't even in the movie. It was it wasn't even the movie. I was like, what, what is it? What is this, and it's, it is a nature of what they're trying to do as the old model of doing things. So it's gonna be interesting to see how this is gonna keep going. So obviously, you decided that stuff, the traditional distribution was not going to be your path and your budget range makes it a good viable option for for self distribution. So tell me your journeys of self distribution and what and what's, what happened?

Ismael Gomez 21:47
So, you know, I started looking into how would I sell distribute, like, where you know, what platform I would use. So, you know, there was Vimeo, which obviously has an amazing, like, an amazing potential, because I think you keep, like, 90% of the revenues. And then there was Amazon. And then there was all the things like selling from your website, like gumroad, I think is called, you know, a bunch of those. But for me, just thinking as an audience, like, it's better, like people trust is a big thing, right? So people trust Amazon, people don't trust Vimeo or gumroad. Not a lot of people like 1% of the people so

Alex Ferrari 22:34
That movie going people, like people buying online products or courses or things like that, they might want to do gumroad and Vimeo, the filmmaker will understand who they are, but general public Well,

Ismael Gomez 22:44
yeah, so I was like, you know, Amazon is the best deal. And also, you know, even though I could have gone through an aggregator, right, um, I think I looked into film hub and bitmax. You know, I felt like, I don't want to sparse like, the attention. Like, I want to just have one place where I can send everyone and here's the film, watch it, which I also think if all the sales go there is going to help with the algorithm. And more people, they will promote her film to other people. Right. Right. So So I was like, you know, and I actually I did, I did a few polls on Facebook groups and stuff like that, where do you watch movies? And I would see, Amazon was always the top one. So I was like, okay, Amazon has to be and I thought of myself, I mean, I rent movies on Amazon. And so so yeah, so I chose Amazon. Which, you know, Amazon is amazing. It's great that they give the opportunities to filmmakers, you know, and I have spoken to them before it kind of it's kind of, you know, kind of sucks that they take 50% You know, I think I wish they would take less like like Vimeo, but you know, it is what it is you got to deal with.

Alex Ferrari 23:58
So first so for people to understand, so you they take 50% of your transactional?

Ismael Gomez 24:02
Yeah, like so transactional video. T VOD. You know, if you if you sell if someone buys a movie for $10.05 goes to Amazon and five goes to you. So they take 50% of them.

Alex Ferrari 24:15
Yeah. And you know what, I have the same. I mean, I self published my books through Amazon. And they're actually worse, worse than 50% sometimes. But the different that probably exposure. Yeah, you are the largest marketplace where everybody has their credit card, and everyone trusts everything. So a 5050 split might sound bad, but the amount of the amount of access you getting for that 50% is the only thing that makes sense for that scenario. But now if you would have signed the deal with a distributor than they would have taken a percentage of that. So at the end of the day, you might have 15% and now you might even get really 10%

Ismael Gomez 24:54
if you're not what I'm really curious about is like how much like how much Amazon I wonder if Amazon offers that same type of deal to big companies like Disney and Warner Brothers, if they give them 5050 or if they offer because I feel like, you know, a small businesses entrepreneur, the starting, they should offer better deals for us than Disney. But you know, that's that's not the way the game. So

Alex Ferrari 25:23
that's not the way the world works, but and we could have a whole episode talking about Amazon and how they treat filmmakers. But at the end of the day, they have opened up a marketplace that filmmakers, so let's take let's take Amazon off the table that they shut down into, like no more filmmakers. Yeah, that really, that really hurts a lot of a lot of businesses. So I'm really grateful. I think it's amazing. I think they're doing but I agree with you. It should be like 70 7030 is fair. 70 Yeah.

Ismael Gomez 25:51
70-30. I mean, I think it's amazing. I'm really grateful that I can do this stuff, you know, but if I have a basis in front of me, it would be something that I will bring up

Alex Ferrari 25:59
also also a Cuban brother. Yeah.

Ismael Gomez 26:05
So yeah, so I decided Amazon and then

Alex Ferrari 26:09
TVOD mostly right. Yeah,

Ismael Gomez 26:11
I personally, you know, I have seen a bunch of my friends gone through distribution and gone through Amazon too. And for me, something that I learned is to not undervalue your art. And this is something that I learned actually in the theatrical screening. So when I had the premiere of Coral Gables, we sold out the whole screening, and I actually brought some merchandise. And I remember, you know, it was like this, my cousin who's an artist made like this cheap printed poster, and like this wooden kind of like frame, and it was really beautiful. And we only made like, 20. And I was thinking, you know, I'm not gonna make too many, and we're gonna sell them for 20 bucks or whatever. Because, you know, not a lot of people gonna buy it and stuff. And like, we got there. We screened the movie. And right, when people came out, it got sold out in like, literally in one minute. And people want to like, we want more, we want more. And I was like, Oh, my God, I should have brought this more. Like, should we make more, you know, and the screening will sold out? Like, there were like, let's,

Alex Ferrari 27:17
let's talk numbers. So let's talk numbers on that screening. So you rent it out the theater, or was it a split?

Ismael Gomez 27:22
I for wall, the screening, so I ended up? So what are the costs? It was like, so they do by the hour, so it was like 250 an hour, and I ended up doing three hours. So it was like 750. And yeah, I did. I did like a q&a afterwards with the the cast?

Alex Ferrari 27:41
And how much? And how much did you end ticket? sales?

Ismael Gomez 27:45
Yeah, so I ended up using event rights. Again, for control, you know, I put the price on the tickets, everything. And between the tickets, and the merchandise I ended up making, like 13 1400 bucks. So it was a good day.

Alex Ferrari 28:02
Your, your profit, your profit, and about the merge how much the merchant take you over?

Ismael Gomez 28:06
Well, that's what the merchant was like. The tickets were like, 1100 and the merchant was like, 300. So combined, they were like, 1400 you know, today. Yeah. And I thought of I mean, I thought like, you know, I can't keep doing theatrical in Florida, South Florida, maybe, you know, do like five or 10 more of these, you know, um, but then I ended up like, two weeks after on February 20, I launched the film on Amazon. So the first thing that I did was Oh, so talking about Amazon for me, learning from that experience. I was like, you know, I'm gonna put my film for sale first. So you can only buy it for like only purchase option,

Alex Ferrari 28:53
and no rental.

Ismael Gomez 28:55
Just strictly because I knew the people that just seen the movie. We're going straight to get on T ball and we're going to rent it you know, there was a lot of people I got older emails that were waiting. So I went straight to T VOD. I think I put like 1499 was the first price that I did. And I put no rentals like the first week like the first 10 days because I knew it was going to be hot you know, those people were going to come and buy the movie. So I did that I put it for purchase option only. I get into any Oh, so I got a lot of you know, newspapers radio everywhere you know talking about the premier Coral Gables like local news. And and then a lot of social media and over Facebook and Instagram. And then I ended up just putting the purchase option for those 10 first day so and then only the let's say the warm audience the loyal audience right the true fans came those, those first 10 They purchased the movie. I can't remember the exact number of how many people you know, but I was. While that was happening, I've started learning Facebook ads, I already had, like ran Facebook ads in the past and Instagram, with some other businesses that I had in the past and also with the with rabbit hole on Instagram, but I hire someone to pretty much kind of teach me, like all the ins and outs, you know, all the tricks and little things. And even though you I thought that I knew a lot like this person really taught me a bunch of stuff that I was like, oh, wow, that's how it works. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 30:37
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Ismael Gomez 30:47
So, so that gave me a lot of insights. And I slowly started using Facebook ads and Instagram ads. And for me, what I think has worked so far, which I told you in the email, like, I feel that a lot of people always want to like, I want my film to be seen as many you know that many people as possible, see my film, right? And I found that's a big mistake. I mean, if they could see it for free, of course, try as many people as you can. But when you have to pay for the Facebook ads, you have to make sure that the person that watches the film, right though the trailer, the teaser, they're really, you know, they trust the brand. And if they don't know the brand, you know, why will they click to watch the movie? So for me, the name Miami, right was the that trust. So, for example, when I was running ads, I realized the copy that would get the most, let's say engagement was when I would put like a you know, Miami releases new mystical adventure, a new fantasy film, because I I thought if I put like rabbit hole pictures releases a new, you know, Mr. They're like, Who's rabbit hole pictures. But when you put Miami people somehow in their heads, that's what I'm guessing they're guessing like, Oh, so Miami, it's kind of like, made this film like the city itself. You know, it's it's made in Miami, so then I only targeted like 25 mile radios, racism and miamian. And that started getting you know, a lot of attraction, then, you know, a lot of experimenting, I think you have to do a lot of testing. Like a lot. Like, you know, I had a teaser on the one minute I had a trailer, which was a minute and 40 I had pictures. You know, I have different copywriting. And also, you have to get this is a trick that I learned also that you have to have social proof before you send out. So when I would first create the ad, I'd have like my small group of you know, friends and family that I will send it to them and be like, okay, like this comment that you saw that you love that or whatever. So when the advertisement will go out, right? You have social proof, someone sees and they're like, oh, there's people coming to you. There's people liking it. Let me check it out. Right. And so what I started doing also the strategy was I would do video views. So it's one of the options when you run Facebook ads. At first I started doing traffic, which was kind of like a mistake, but you the traffic strategies pretty much Facebook finds people that would click on the ad and would go to the website where you send them. But by doing video views, Facebook pretty much finds people that usually watch videos, like they watch the most percentage, let's say videos. So I started using the video ads, and that's sort of getting better results. And people will still click on it and go to the website. Right? And then I would do video views Monday through Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday I will do a reach strategy, Facebook ad, which I would say okay, so for Monday through Friday, I do this video views. And then Saturday, Sunday, I create an audience that everyone who watched the video from Monday through Friday 95% of like people who watched 95% of my videos right? I would make that an audience Facebook would find all those people create a custom audience and then on Saturday and Sunday I would just target those people again and with a reach strategy and be like okay, now reach as many people as you can within this parameter that I just put that they're ready a warm audience cuz they saw the teaser and find them and show them again you know, the trailer so that will bring that will bring really good

Alex Ferrari 34:57
You're using a you're using this based off of a 14.99 price point not that I started

Ismael Gomez 35:03
Yah when I started doing Facebook ads, I already had the rental option. So I actually brought it down to 9999 and 599. So I started seeing you know, what most of the rentals will be on Amazon and I saw a bunch of like new releases were not 599 for. So I put a 599. And actually, this was really funny because you have to you have to test things out. You have to just don't be afraid of like, sometimes people want to be tooled, like logical. And you think of like, Oh, my films, an indie film, who would rent it who would pay 599. And a lot of people don't know, you know, like normal audiences. They don't know. They just see. They just see a film and it's a cool trailer, a cool poster. Maybe they don't know the actors, but the genre itself, right, since it's a fantasy kind of mystical supernatural film, the genre itself will sell the film and if they connect with Miami, they will sell it and actually, I did a crazy thing for like a week. I didn't make a profit, but I broke even. But when the whole Coronavirus hit, they started doing this whole theatrical premieres for 90 9099. So actually up for a week, I removed everything that I put it for 1999. I was like, You know what, maybe people will confuse me with like Disney. And like any, like, the invisible man that was also coming out during that time. And, and like, I don't know, like, 10 people bought it, like 10 people bought it. And you know, it cost me a lot in Facebook ads. So I kind of like I ended up breaking even. So I was like, you know, I know that I can find more people, but it will cost me more. So let me let me just bring it back to to a different price. And I like what I had it before, but it was it was it was a you know, an interesting experience seeing that they were actually someone be willing to pay 1999 for the film, just like they would pay for any of those big studio films, you know.

Alex Ferrari 37:02
So it's not let me ask you in regards to the facebook, facebook ads, and Instagram ads, a lot of times I found that filmmakers who spend a lot of money on those, the ROI doesn't make sense to return on investment because they they're either not optimizing properly or their their offer is just too low of price, like you're talking about 99 cents, and when 99 to 9399, you've got to get volume, you know, so if you spend $5 to get a 199 rental, that's not business. So how did you make it work?

Ismael Gomez 37:33
Well, yeah, I mean, I kept the price of 599, you know, good rental, and purchase a 999. So I knew that every time there will be a sale, I will make pretty much $3. Right? So from 599 50%. So I knew that Okay, I have to make under, you know, under $3. And so I would make sure and this is really hard to what happens with Amazon is really hard to track the sales that come from the Facebook ads, because Amazon doesn't give you the information. Right? Amazon keeps all the data for them.

Alex Ferrari 38:13
So you have no so you can't do a facebook pixel with it.

Ismael Gomez 38:17
with Amazon, no, you can't because it's on the Amazon page, right? So pixel that right? They're not gonna let you pixel that. So you could I couldn't do a pixel. So it was, but what happens is that say, like people what I'm guessing like people, a lot of times they try many strategies at the same, like, what I would do is say I'm going to stick with one strategy one week to see the results of that week, right? And then I will see, okay, so this week, I spent this much. And this much came in. And you know, I wasn't doing anything else. And I have kind of the clicks on the Facebook ads. And I saw that, you know, every 25 cents, someone was clicking on the ad. So I started as kind of like comparing the numbers, and then after one week, I would switch to a different strategy. And that way, you know, I would kind of like know what strategy worked the most. But again, for me, it was all about that, like you have to know your audience, you know, and, for example, I also thought even though the film has a, let's say, the film is about a grandson, the grandfather, right? They're like afterlife investigators. So there is a younger audience and there's an older audience. And for me, I focused mostly on the older audience because they have money. Number one, you know, younger audiences I say it you know, for my sister they don't like to pay for stuff they want just free content, you know, cuz I mean, you know, they grew up on YouTube and even I sometimes they struggle like oh, should I pay it? Should I really rent this movie or Should I wait until it comes out on Netflix or any? You know? So it's that's just the subscription mode has changed, you know, people's mentality when it comes to that, right? So I was like, I have to focus on the older audience because they're the ones that are really going to pay for this, right. And most of the time, maybe they're bringing their children you know, their grandchildren, whatever, to watch the movie. Now the problem with the also have to think about the downsides, like the problem with the older audiences so so they don't leave a lot of reviews, right? Older people don't go on Amazon and start reviewing, you know, like, Oh, I love to film or whatever. And which actually, you know, the reviews is such a tricky game, because, you know, mostly like, people who only have negative things to say are the ones that go and review. Like you watch the world that is like this was the best movie ever. And you don't go on like IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes, and you don't review it. You're like, this was amazing. But then, you know, those pesky haters, negative people, the trolls, they just go there and start like, Oh, this was awful, you know, but it is what it is. But then I tried to like, you know, if I saw that someone watched the movie or tagged the trailer, or the post or something, I've messaged them, like, please, if you liked the movie, leave us a review on Amazon because it can help you know. So but it was a combination, Alex of of a lot of like, work on my site. I did, I did a lot of like, say, you know, guerilla marketing myself with you know, on Instagram, I, for example, the Coral Gables art cinema, I went on Instagram, and I saw you know, that they had 8000 followers. So I will go to each one of those followers, and literally messaged him, like, Hey, where am I am film company, we just make this film. If you like, you know, this type of genre go check it out. Literally every day, I would message onto like, Instagram blocked pretty much like you exceeded like your limit for today. So, you know, so it was it was a combination of things, you know, and like being on the Miami Herald on the newspaper, also, you know, brought sales and then just combining all that with Facebook, Instagram, and, and just doing a lot of work. And also, like I told you trying a lot of different content people, sometimes you create, we create a trailer and that's it. Like they market everything without trailer. Like, you know, I have Trailer Teaser short clips, like I least like out of my like 30 different types of like assets, let's say

Alex Ferrari 42:39
Right now. The the thing that's fascinating, as well as that you decided to focus on your local regional market, which is something that most filmmakers Don't think about because they're like, Oh, it's just the local, I need to be big. I need the world to see my movie I, I need to be as big as Terran to Dino and Nolan. I need to do that, where you focus on the regional, which is extremely powerful. That's a much warmer audience. If I can take your tournament, it's a much warmer audience. And a lot of people will just support because you're a local boy and Miami's not a small town either know, it's some big city, it's one city, it's one of the big in the US. Absolutely. So but even with that, you were still able to generate interest and revenue from that. So that's, that's a really great way of doing it.

Ismael Gomez 43:32
And that's not you know, that's also like, you know, this was like, I at the same time, while I was in post production, you know, I really studied a lot of like marketing, you know, like Seth Godin. Sure. Yeah, you know, the purple cow and there's another guy called Roy Sutherland he's from London you know, and really started marketing and, and try to learn as much as possible and one of the ideas is like, how, you know how ideas like spread, right and everything starts small like if you think about Facebook, how did Facebook start Facebook started in Harvard. And then it started with only Ivy League's right. And then once they got the ivy League's when people see something that they like, they will tell their friends and the friends will tell the friends and that's how things spread. So I was like, I'm only going to focus in Miami and then from there on, actually, later on, I started seeing there were some sales in the UK where I was doing no marketing, and which was really interesting. I was like, I don't know how people in the UK are watching this. But I guess they're just like because they see as an American movie. They're they're watching it but you know, I really focus just a local and make like I would target Miami 25 miles radius, right. And I will say people who liked Pixar, Disney, Harry Potter, you know, films that we've kind of had the same tone to my film. Um, and then I would also do besides that, and would narrow down down the audience that they would also purchase on amazon.com, which is pretty much everyone, but you know, but that would really put it, like, just find those people that have purchased on Amazon, which you know, that, like, they have Amazon Instant Video, whatever. And they like these type of films are similar.

Alex Ferrari 45:25
Now what? So let's get some numbers, if you don't mind, what are the returns of all of this work? And how much revenue Have you generated? With off of Amazon?

Ismael Gomez 45:35
So Amazon has been like, a $36,000 which That's insane. Which is, I mean, when you really think about it was 72 you know, but that's 36. To you. 36. To me, yeah. 30. So

Alex Ferrari 45:53
you generated 72,000 gross, off of this technique off of what you're doing. In your in your $100,000? Yeah, indie with no stars attached. And a unique genre being like fantasies, not, you know, it's, it's, there's less, there's less sharks, or less blood in that water, it's a little bit more blue ocean, if the fish is better in your area. So it's a niche. It's a niche. It's a large niche, but it's a niche. So you've been able to generate, and then how much does that cost you?

Ismael Gomez 46:27
And then yeah, and then $9,000, in marketing around $9,000. So far, so that profit ends up being like, what 27 plus the one I made in the theatrical premiere. So

Alex Ferrari 46:40
I don't know about I don't know about you, but I will spend $9,000 every day to get 27,000 Oh, yeah. All day, I'll just continue to feed that beast. So it's fascinating. You're one of the few heard of, you're making it work. Now you have a very, there's a lot of unique elements, like in every project, like and you mentioned range 15, in your email, that was a unique set of circumstances in a unique time period, every movie is going to be a little bit different, like your movie might be hitting at the right time with the right mood that

Ismael Gomez 47:16
Also helps in you know, the I mean, the whole vacation that everyone was stuck home, you know, stuck at home,

Alex Ferrari 47:22
looking for new fresh content, and then you just happen to be fresh content. I also know how to market it. Because I've done my homework, I've done my research. And I want you to I want to I want you to tell all the filmmakers out there, please, because I've been preaching this for the longest time that filmmakers need to understand marketing, they need to educate themselves on the distribution, process itself distribution process all the non sexy, because everything you're talking about is not sexy. It's not as sexy as the new Alexa with a new cook lens. Yeah, you know, the techno crane that I'm going to work on, and it's not the sexy stuff. Can you please tell the audience the value that you have found by doing that deep dive into marketing? Because obviously it's working?

Ismael Gomez 48:06
Yeah, I mean, I will tell you this, this is how I think about it. If you know how to market, if you know how to distribute, if you know how to sell anything, then you can make anything. Right? It's not like you make something and then like, how am I going to sell this? It's like learn how to sell things. Like I think of like Steve Jobs, which I think is once one of the greatest marketers ever, right? How he created apple and all those things, and he would find a how to like, think about it, I help people pay six times more for an iPhone, which is pretty much does the same as a as an Android, you know, an LG, like,

Alex Ferrari 48:48
It's just not as pretty

Ismael Gomez 48:49
Its not as good. And it's the brand because you grew the brand change by he connected with a certain type of appeal. And for me was like I thought about, like, you know, I have because people just like to make things that you know, as an artist, you just want to think about the creative process, but then you end up being you know, at the mercy of like, you know, distributor and sometimes you will find a good distributor but like, even if you have a good distributor, wouldn't you want to know how that works? And they might not even you, I mean if you know your audience, if you know your movie, your input might be, you know, so valuable for them that might help even with the sales. So for me, it's like you have to learn, you know, again, like I was recommend Seth Godin. Ma all his YouTube videos. He also has a course that I took online. It's called the seven the marketing seminar. Roy solid land from from Great Britain. You know, Gary Vee Gary Vee. It's amazing. Yeah. You know, he's actually doing tea with Gary Every morning at 9am I thought, yeah, he's, he's pretty cool. He's got a bunch of good stuff, you know, and and yeah, and of watching the film, hustle all the episodes about distribution, you know, try to learn as much as you can, because that's the only way that you can be self reliant and, and not depend, again on the lottery ticket of getting into Sundance and, and I also thought about that I was telling Larry the my friend, the co founder, I told him like, you know, like, I think of Disney, okay, there's so successful, but I think of Disney. I think of like, you know, Warner Brothers, they don't go to no film festivals, they don't care about film festivals. They go straight to the audience, why should we? And I love film festivals, I have nothing against them. Right, but you playing by the rules? So why should we be like waiting? I was I will keep some minutes of Film Festival. But we shouldn't be waiting for that to be our strategy. We should be just getting straight to the audience, you know? So So yeah. So that's that's it.

Alex Ferrari 51:03
It's it's an inspiring story. But I really appreciate it, you've been able to do the numbers that you've talked about, which is that no one's getting rich, you're not getting you're not you're rolling around in it. But it's a you're building a business, you're saying,

Ismael Gomez 51:17
Pay my investors that that's the most important thing now that I'll be able to pay my investors, you know, that I can talk again, for my second feature film that I want, you know, so it also creates that, you know, trust, which is really important, and I'm building my audience as well, people who already saw the movie and liked it. And, you know, saw the company in Miami, so

Alex Ferrari 51:37
I just thinking just thinking for listening to your story, I think you could definitely benefit from reading Rise of the film entrepreneur, I think your head's gonna explode. For sure, if I may do a self plug. No, I think there's a lot of I think you're leaving a lot of money on the table. Honestly, with this, but you're doing fantastic. By the way, you're doing better than 99.5% of filmmakers I talked to. So you're doing extremely well. But I think you could even do, you could take it to the next level. But I'm really, you know, I'm really excited that you are good example of what how filmmakers can make money on Amazon during COVID. This is all happening. This is all happening during COVID. And what are your plans now? Because you know, you did this all t VOD, which is something that unless you know how to drive traffic t VOD is a lost cause. Unless you can drive check traffic and target an audience or have an audience to bring along with you.

Ismael Gomez 52:33
Yeah, I mean, I'm gonna keep you know, sometimes the the sales are down. Sometimes they go up. It's a little bit you know, but I'll keep investing a little I think I may expand now to Florida. Try to expand to Orlando Tampa, you know, but yeah, I'm gonna keep in. I actually put, you know, I found the right spot. Now I have the movie for 299 and 1499. Because I feel there's a actually I feel that somehow I'm getting sales with a marketing sometimes I think Amazon is promoting the movie itself. Sure. I brought money for them. So I guess the, the algorithm or whatever. But I would tell this, also going back to the whole distributing and stuff like for me, I would never put my movie for free. That's just like,

Alex Ferrari 53:24
So your not, we're gonna put it it's about like Amazon Prime.

Ismael Gomez 53:26
And I see I would I would suggest to everyone, I mean, put 99 cents, you know, like, that's, that's an okay price. If you have a movie they unless, unless you really don't care about recouping your money because it was your own money or something and you just want to get people to see your film. And in that case, I mean, you know, you can also put it on YouTube, right? If that's your strength, but if you really have to make money to pay investors to recoup some money, forget about as VOD, like, you're not going to make a lot of money. Unless maybe you have it on. I don't know to be like a bought at other places, but just put it

Alex Ferrari 54:04
AVOD AVOD at a certain point when you're when your sales have gone down to a point because like nobody really makes a whole lot of money on the S VOD Amazon platform anymore. That's pretty much gone. But AVOD, as we speak today is a re I've seen the numbers. I mean, there's 10s of 1000s of dollars being made by certain films in certain genres. So there is potential there, but absolutely milk this cow for as long as you can. AVOD could wait, it can wait a year. It could wait two years before before you go to AVOD.

Ismael Gomez 54:36
Sorry, I forgot to mention that I actually I put the film also on film hub now, as as VOD because the rest of like other English speaking countries don't have T bot. So I couldn't rabbithole pictures. You know, I couldn't put it on the rest of like Latin America have to say also because I do have some Hispanic stars that are well known in Latin America. So and I have the movie subtitles. Oh, that was something that actually bothered me. from Amazon, that they didn't let me they didn't let me put Spanish subtitles. They don't have that option, which I thought like you're missing out on like

Alex Ferrari 55:12
they're they can't deal with that kind of complexity from the masses, they can deal with that complexity from distributors who handle 234 100 movies. And they allow that situation. It's a completely different business.

Ismael Gomez 55:25
Like if you go and actually no, no, like Amazon doesn't doesn't allow Spanish subtitles on any film doesn't matter. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 55:33
Now they stopped it. Yeah, you're right. They did stop the subtitling and now it has to be I think

Ismael Gomez 55:38
it's so I don't know if it's a legal issue or what but I told him, like, Netflix has been doing this for like, years. And like, if you really want to compete, like you're missing on, like, let you know, the whole like Hispanic audience in the United States that would rather, you know, like, my, a lot of my family members, you know, they when I actually put the movie with subtitles, because they understand English, but you know, you will miss a lot of little details, not the same reading in your first language, you know, so, yeah, that was one thing, but through film hub, that now I'm putting it on Latin America.

Alex Ferrari 56:10
But have you had anything from them yet?

Ismael Gomez 56:12
Nothing come in yet? No, nothing. It's been recent. It's been recent. I haven't done any marketing also out there. So I'm just letting it to see, you know,

Alex Ferrari 56:23
See what happens well, keep us keep us updated on the film hub thing I'm really curious to see. I haven't heard a lot of success stories from film hub, meaning that filmmakers actually making a lot of money. So I'm curious to see, in theory, he sounds great in the in the in the marketplace. Sounds great. But I'm curious to see real hard numbers come in. But man, you're an inspiration, brother. Without question, I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Ismael Gomez 56:56
Um, I would say focus on providing value to others, which is something that, you know, me as a director, when I started, I, a lot of my friends now that work with me had a really hard time working with me because I was sort of a dictator. And it was always like, you know, I would always think of my movie. And this needs to be perfect, because it's my film and my name is on is and I'm the director. And then that was just bring a lot of suffering, really, because I will be so frustrated and stuff. And when I kind of switched their mentality and started thinking about a be, you know, a provider value service to others to the crew, I want to, to really try to have everyone in the crew to reach their maximum potential in the cast, I want the actors to do the best performance that they can I want the DP to have the best images. And I'm just the catalyst for these people to really push them hard, so they can get there, you know, and also for the audience's going to watch my movie, it's not like watch my film is like, how can I really make your time worth that you can spend an hour and a half watching my movie, and you're gonna have a lot of fun. So I just kind of like switching that mentality of, you know, providing value to others in it really. You can tell when you work with someone who's just there for a paycheck, you know? Yeah, I don't I don't like working with those type of people. I feel I can see when there's someone there who obviously I want to pay everyone. And I think everyone should get paid, but they're there because they care about their craft more than a paycheck, you know?

Alex Ferrari 58:41
So I would say no. And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Ismael Gomez 58:50
On film, or in life I would say, Don't take it personal. That's it. Don't take don't take film reviews personally. You don't know who that person is. If they like, if they like happy endings, and you had a sad ending, of course, they're gonna hate your movie. You know, they had don't take personal the film projects, the film festival rejections. Maybe they didn't even watch your film. Maybe that person had a bad day. God knows. Right? Don't take it personal. It's it doesn't. It doesn't say anything about the quality of your craft and all of your film. So that's it, you know?

Alex Ferrari 59:36
And then what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Ismael Gomez 59:42
That's a tough question.

Alex Ferrari 59:44
Three that come to your head right now?

Ismael Gomez 59:45
Well, I mean, definitely The Lion King, you know, as a child and in Cuba, I would say, I think of films in like different stages of my life. So I would say definitely as a child The Lion King and the gold rush from Chaplin.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:03
Yeah

Ismael Gomez 1:00:05
Yeah. It's a fun movie. I always loved watching the movie now, as a grown up, I think, you know, I've seen brilliant films, you know, a lot of brilliant films, but I feel that films that let's say that I really saw and were like, really changed my perspective on what a movie could be. That I was like, I've never seen anything like this, I would say the tree of life from Terrence Malick and synecdoche, New York from Charlie Kaufman. Which is, which is really funny because I see Kaufman, which I think in my opinion, Jesus, he's the most original writer and creator like in Hollywood, when it comes to film. I think his stories are the most original. And I see him struggling to make to get financing and I'm like, I mean, if Kaufman is like going through this, I'm okay. You know? Yeah, it's fine.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:05
Exactly. Now, where can people find you your movie and you work?

Ismael Gomez 1:01:09
Well, the movies on Amazon, you know, Amazon Video and they can find us on you know, rabbit hole pictures on Instagram. rabbitholepictures.com. Rabbit Hole pictures on Facebook everywhere. Rabbit Hole.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:25
Yeah, it's my thank you so much for being on the show, brother to you. You're an inspiration. I'm glad to highlight a success story, you know, on Amazon in today's world, and teavana and everything else. So thank you so much for coming on and being so raw and honest with your with your numbers in your experience, man. Thank you, brother.

Ismael Gomez 1:01:42
Thank you, Alex. I hope this really helps a lot of filmmakers out there and you know, keep hustling.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
You could hear at the end that we finished that interview with a thunderous applause back when that lightning strike happened. Wonderful Miami thunderstorms. Oh, so well. I want to thank is my child for coming to show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe and inspiring filmmakers that you can make money on Amazon and you can make money on TVOD, but it takes work. And you really need to understand what you're doing and is my is an amazing example of that. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, including watching his film, Death of a fool, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/403. And thank you all for signing up for my new podcast inside the screenwriters mind a screen writing archive of the best of the IFH Podcast Network. If you want to check it out, and you've not signed up yet for it or subscribe for it yet, head over to screenwriters mind.com thank you again for listening guys. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.


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