If you have ever looked into selling your film at a film market then you more than likely have heard of North America’s largest film market, AFM or the American Film Market.
The American Film Market is a labyrinth of crazy characters, thieves, wannabes, filmmakers hustling their latest film, distributors, industry professionals and of course buyers and sellers from around the globe.
My guest this week is Ben Yennie who has written the only real guide to this carnival called “The Guerilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget.” You should not go to the “any” film market without reading this book.
It’s a no-nonsense guide to establishing relationships with distributors at The American Film Market or any film market around the globe like:
- Marché du Film (associated with Cannes International Film Festival)
- European Film Market (EFM, associated with the Berlin International Film Festival)
- Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART)
- Hot Docs (For Documentaries)
- Independent Film Week / Project Forum (formerly known as IFP Market)
- TIFFCOM (Content Market at the Tokyo International Film Festival)
Ben Yennie is a producer’s rep. Yes I know I did an earlier podcast warning you to stay away from evil producer’s reps (What’s a Producer’s Rep and How Not to be Ripped off!) but Ben is one of the good guys. He doesn’t take cash upfront to sell or represent your film at a film market.
His new book The Entrepreneurial Producer: A Series of Articles on Growing your Filmmaking Career is great as well. Here’s the down-low on this remarkable book:
Film Schools are great at teaching you how to make a film, but not great at teaching you how to make money making film. The Entrepreneurial Producer: A Series of Articles on Growing your Filmmaking Career is designed to help bridge that gap, and teach the basics of Film Financing, Film Distribution, Film Marketing, and general best business practices for filmmakers of all kinds.
Are you a filmmaker wanting to know the real “skinny” on what goes on at the buying and selling of films at film markets? Then, this podcast is for you. Ben Yennie spits some major gold on the American Film Market in this episode.
Alex Ferrari 0:00
Today we have a great guest on on our show today, Ben Yeni. or as we like to call them or he likes to call himself the gorilla Rep. He is a producer's Rep. Now I know I did an earlier episode on the evils of producer wrap up producers reps. But Ben is actually one of the good guys. He's actually a good producers Rep. He doesn't take any money upfront. So he actually goes and hustles for you. Ben also wrote a book called the gorilla Rep. American film market distribution success on no budget is the only guy to ever write a book on the AFM or the American Film market. And it was an awesome, awesome book. So I suggest you read it. We discuss film marketing, distribution, the new world of distribution between self distribution and going after different markets, how you can sell a different markets and how to be successful at film markets. And there's only a handful of them out in the world. And we go over all of that. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my interview with Ben Yeni. Thank you, Ben, so much for being on the show. We really appreciate you taking the time.
Ben Yennie 1:52
No problem, Alex. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 1:54
Cool. So let's start off with a big question that a lot of people really don't know the answer to. What's the difference between a sales agent and a producer's Rep.
Ben Yennie 2:03
Yeah, I get that question a lot. Um, the biggest difference between a sales agent and a producer's rep is that a producer's rep basically acts as a filmmakers representative to a sales agent or distributors and sometimes international buyers. That that's the big thing on the distribution and but producers reps will sometimes also deal in financing. Like Me personally, I can help steer you in the right direction and help set up your financing mix, although I don't do that much financing myself, but steer you in bad steer you in directions to go as well as tell you what should be like how much should be product placement, how much should be tax incentive, what you should be looking at for pre sale backed debt. And then of course, there's always equity, which is what every filmmaker always looks for. But unfortunately, a lot of filmmakers are often overly reliant on Tom because if you do your entire fight, if you finance your entire film by equity, then first of all it's a really long road and it's really difficult. But it's also when you mean it's also not really good for you in the long run. When you mean investors take too much
Alex Ferrari 3:27
When you mean equity. You mean just like yeah, basically it's it's all cash basically.
Ben Yennie 3:31
Yes, taking like taking like cash from investors got it. That's specifically what I mean on that. And when the industries take an equity position, because there's kind of an emerging trend, especially in places like slated, where investors are taking a debt position instead of an equity position so they own no part of your film, but you are legally obligated to pay the back.
Alex Ferrari 3:54
Oh, that's interesting. So that is that a new kind of trend that's going on.
Ben Yennie 3:58
Basically what it's doing is replacing what used to be called gap financing by banks. And gap financing is kind of going the way of the dinosaurs because there's new private investor debt gap financing. This essentially serves the same purpose is way way way way way cheaper than debt financing was I heard stories that have gap financing being as much as 50% APR. Oh wow. Wow. So that's like sad legal baguettes insane pretty quickly.
Alex Ferrari 4:41
Is that legal? Like 50% APR Jesus?
Ben Yennie 4:44
There's no law against usury
Alex Ferrari 4:48
As as as hundreds of 1000s of years of banks will attest.
Ben Yennie 4:54
Yeah. But no, it is like I've heard stories of that and I can't cite my sources because of course, but there are people, but there were a couple of bigger people in the industry that would sometimes charge that much. So and that, of course, that was back in the 80s. So, interest rates were a bit different in general, of course, like inflation was like 10 to 15% or something. So it's a little bit weird today. Yeah. So, but no, go on?
Alex Ferrari 5:32
No. Um, so the so what is the traditional percentage that a sales agent or producers rep might take form for a deal with a filmmaker or an NFL?
Ben Yennie 5:43
Well, yeah, I think I don't think I can quite elaborate on what a sales agent does a sales agent sells it directly to international territories, and then generally those territories pay cash. And then the territories have the right to distribute that film for whatever rights in whatever territory they bought, and the sales agent, sales agent to sell those rights. Whereas the producers rep acts as a go between between to help you find the right sales agent, who actually has the buyers who can sell it. And because of that, since he's basically a sub distributor he chart he or she charges a lot less like a sales agent will charge anywhere between 20 and 35%. Depending on the size of the film, if your film is more like, if your film is more like 100,000, or less often, you're going to be looking more at the 35% range. Just because in order to make enough money for them to continue to operate their business, they have to charge that much. Because markets are pretty expensive. But especially from a from an exhibitor perspective, but a producer's rap. Generally charges between five and seven, sometimes 10 if they have a lot of cloud. If they have like, very, very high levels of cloud, they might charge 10
Alex Ferrari 7:15
there's not that many, there's not that many guys out there doing it is there are there
Ben Yennie 7:19
there aren't that many real there? There's more than you would expect. But not as not many of them are quite as public as I am about what it is we do. Right. So that's a that's another thing on there a lot of times it's still one of those old you have to know somebody need to get in certain things. Or they charge on godly submission fees and on godly retainers and things I was gonna
Alex Ferrari 7:49
I was gonna ask you what is like, I've heard of sales agents and producers rep I've had experience with some producers rep like that, that they charge obscene amounts of money upfront, what's your take on that? Or sales I
Ben Yennie 8:02
Personally would make my life life a lot easier if I did it, but I don't feel ethically right doing it. Because I know that the people who would be paying me don't really have the money to pay me because I've been in their position before right. So like depending like there are jobs that I will take that I do actually require either an hourly or a flat pay rate for like that for my clients. Like if I'm generating a festival plan and telling and guiding which which festivals submit to which ones to go to, if you go to them all that sort of stuff. If I create that sort of plan then I just charged for that plan. I don't there's no real upside in it for me for doing it on a commission basis. And it takes quite a lot of time to develop a plan like that because it involves a surprising amount of research and a surprising amount of branding knowledge and not it's not low skill knowledge that goes into this either. So if so there are services like that. There's also things that I have that I just think that I just include his appendix to my contract is just a price list. Everything is like oh if you need an EP k if you need some like festival giveaway ideas and budgets on how you can make them because like Chris gore says, if you go to a festival and you want to actually make a splash have something physical to give somebody it's not just promotional material, like at very least attach a piece of candy to your promo material. Like I mean like just something to actually make people pay attention to it right. By there's been like, yeah, there was one film I was wrapping that was black cat whiskey, where I recommended the festival giveaway be A like one of those little 199 things of whiskey with production art taped over it. And then like the screening time, and then the representation contact on it as well
Alex Ferrari 10:14
That might have that must have done well.
Ben Yennie 10:18
It never actually went into production. Oh. But yeah, I imagine it would have been giving away
Alex Ferrari 10:27
Free booze free booze would have all the time worse.
Ben Yennie 10:31
I know. The issue is is like, how do you make sure like, you can't card everybody. We're gonna basically be like, really, really judging somebody.
Alex Ferrari 10:42
Yeah, I see the point. I see where the hiccups might come in. Yeah.
Ben Yennie 10:48
Yeah, there are a lot of hiccups with it. But it was a I don't know, I thought I thought it was a decent idea. And it was memorable.
Alex Ferrari 10:56
And appropriate, it was appropriate for the film. Yeah, no, I
Ben Yennie 10:59
mean, that's the other thing if it like, if you don't um, yeah, I mean, you've got you've got to actually have whatever giveaway you do. It's much better if it's tied into the film in some way. But yeah, so that so that, so that's basically it produce. If they're actually working on a commission, or a executive producer fee, or whatever they're doing, a producer's rep will generally charge between five and 10%. And the other thing that can make a difference is some producers reps are also lawyers, right? So if they're a lawyer, they're more likely to just charge you an hourly and either No, or a very, very low percentage of the deal. So that's kind of and unfortunately, these deals are so speculative, that most producers are upstanding entertainment, tainment lawyers just won't differ. Whereas, and there's such a small amount of money in the movie in the deal that they can't afford to defer their payment on it. Whereas like, a big lawyer in Silicon Valley, if you go to one of their bigger things, and you've got a tech startup, which I do, but you have a and you're talking to them, a lot of times if you have a solid business plan, and they actually believe in you, not only are they willing to defer their rates and not charge you anything, but they'll also introduce you to investors on the understanding that when the investment comes in, their firm gets do the paperwork. So sorry, that going on from tech industry for no reason.
Alex Ferrari 12:46
It's easier for Cisco, it's a pretty it's a prerequisite here in San Francisco.
Ben Yennie 12:50
It does. But yeah, the big so. But yeah, I mean, the biggest reason that I can see paying producers, Rob, is if they are actually a member of the Bar Association. And if they're charging, you ask that because a lot of producers reps are actually kind of full of shit.
Alex Ferrari 13:11
Yeah, I know this. So
Ben Yennie 13:14
yeah. Um, but yeah, I'm not naming names. But
Alex Ferrari 13:20
I know I haven't named any names either. But I completely agree with you and 100%. So let me ask the question, what is the if you get a film, and you got a traditional distributor to handle your film? Well, how do they handle a brand new film they just acquired? What's the process of that they've? they've signed the deal? What do they do?
Ben Yennie 13:42
I'm going to step back a minute. Sure. Because a lot of people use the term, the terms sales agent and distributor interchangeably. And while they're very similar in a lot of sales agents, are also distributors, they actually technically mean different things. Like a sales agent is somebody who sells your film to pretty much any territory besides North America, often including Canada, sometimes excluding French Canada. I'm so sorry. Yeah, that's the sales team, just everyone besides those. And then a distributor generally handles distribution within North America assuming or North American filmmaker. If you're a in then the buyers that they deal with are also technically distributors. It's just they tend to pay rights to pay upfront cash to distribute the territory, the film in their territory through their channels. So but yes, but speaking in terms of AFM, at least, the vast majority of the sales agents I deal with are also to a level distributors at least depending on exactly how big Their cloud is some of them have more capability to distribute than others like some of the sales agents who are also distributors I know can completely handle a fairly wide theatrical run some of them would just sell it on to another us distributor got it so that that's so there is a little bit of a delineation between the term sales agent and distributor but generally if you sign with a sales agent or distributor actually let's just stick into sales agent right now because that's most common especially the lower ends generally what they do generally the time that they're most looking for content is about three to four weeks before the next market um and the big thing that they're and they're looking for content to sell at their mark at the market so if they you sign your rights to them generally they'll want all right sometimes they'll get sometimes you can get away with not giving them North America if you have some sort of distributor or distribution plan for North America especially if they're primarily a sales agent not a distributor and they just be selling it to another distributor but or maybe several other distributors depending on the article and some other things but um the big thing that you the big thing that they do is just starts is get all of the deliverables to them. There are a couple of surprisingly important but often overlooked deliverables that may actually make or break whether you get a distribution deal.
Alex Ferrari 16:51
Now what are the what are the deliverables that a filmmaker is responsible for?
Ben Yennie 16:56
The biggest one is generally a full high quality export like pro res export of the film and at least 10 ADP if you're looking at something with the Africa you might need to do more like two or 4k as well as attend ATP. But the other thing that most makers don't look at is what's called an m&e track. Yeah, and a two and a textless. And, and make sure that all your text is on a separate video track. And when I say an m&e track, I mean the music and effects track, because remember, this is being sold internationally, so there's a good chance you're going to hire other actors to dub over your movie. So if you have all of your music and effects on separate tracks from your audio, then that makes it very easy to export and put in and they just have to dump in the audio. That's the same reason that like, unless you have like fancy credits, in your opening sequence, you need to make sure there are points or if there's ever a point where there's a text underlaid or like, like say, in, in some movie, they just moved to France and it's like Berlin, or they moved from France to Berlin, and then it says Berlin under there, you're going to need to have that on a separate track. So that that can be put into Chinese if it needs to be. So yeah, those are a couple of the things that filmmakers just often don't think about that are incredibly practical, in why you do it. But it seems like a unnecessary complication if you don't actually look at the reasoning behind it. And it's a film school doesn't always teach you as they should.
Alex Ferrari 18:54
Yeah, I've been a post supervisor for about 15 years so I've done I've delivered probably about 50 or 60 features in my day so I completely understand people that a lot of filmmakers just don't get what deliverables are and also the cost involved them and what you're saying is just the the digital aspects of things and there's a five one and there's the five one m&e if you want to get the deeper into it, and then the HD cam, HD s Rs, split track, all this kind of stuff. And all of a sudden, your deliverables will cost you anywhere from 15 to 25, grand DCP and so on. So it gets it gets it gets kind of crazy, and it kind of hits everybody from left field when it happens. I've seen that. I've seen the face go whites. Yeah. When I've told them the price.
Ben Yennie 19:36
Yeah, no, and there are very legitimate reasons for the cost. Again, this is not low skilled labor. But the but yeah, no, I somehow I missed the europos provider so you totally get it. But I think a lot of but a lot of my clients don't quite understand the importance of it. Which is more why I'm saying this because I don't think you're your only listener.
Alex Ferrari 19:59
Absolutely no, no, no That's why I asked the question completely. No, absolutely. It's a conversation between the two of us. But this is more for our listeners to talk about. So that's why I'm asking questions and I might know the answers do, but I want you to, to, to explain it to them. Yes.
Ben Yennie 20:13
So I'm joking. But yeah.
Alex Ferrari 20:18
Now let me ask you a question. We've all heard the big the, you know, the legendary stories of Harvey Weinstein seeing a movie at Sundance and, and every year we hear a movie sells for like 3 million upfront and all this kind of stuff. are the days of big payouts from distributors gone, like I know, like in the 80s, you could just make a feature. Like if you just made a feature, you're going to get some money upfront from a distributor, but nowadays with the gluttony of of product out there, like are the days of like, payouts from distributors gone? Up front at
Ben Yennie 20:49
least? I wouldn't say they're gone. But I would also say that I would also say caution, filmmakers not to expect it.
Alex Ferrari 21:00
They're unicorns more than anything at this point. Yeah, they're
Ben Yennie 21:03
their unicorns more than they're their unicorns more than their horses or even zebras. The Yeah, so they do happen. It's kind of rare they happen. And generally, if you're talking about a micro budget feech, you're probably not going to happen. If it's anything less than about 500,000. It doesn't have any talent in it. Any notable talent in it. Your it's pretty unlikely you're gonna get a minimum guarantee. Now, is there any glitches?
Alex Ferrari 21:36
Yeah, no, is there? Is there a big Can you explain to the audience a little bit how important name talent is, especially in foreign regions, and to the success of your movie, depending on what your goals are with the movie, a lot of people just want to make art, and they want to make, you know, beautiful feature film, and it might get picked up from Sundance and might get this or that. But if you're looking at it as a business standpoint, can you explain how important you are to name talent? And what is exactly named talent?
Ben Yennie 22:07
Okay. Yeah, that's a really good question. There are a couple of things that I want to address on them. If you're making feature film, as art, because you just love movies and you want to make in Generally, the people who say this, I'm stereotyping a little bit, but it only people who say they want to make feature films or make dramas.
Alex Ferrari 22:29
Yeah, not a lot. Not a lot of genre action film guys that,
Ben Yennie 22:33
no, not really. But the. But if you want to do that, you can go ahead and do that. But don't bother calling a guy like me. The way you can make a sustainable living doing that, is you make the best possible movies you can for the least amount of money you can and you get really freakin good and social media. And you become your own source of income and you develop your own following Yep, direct to consumer through social media. That's how you monetize that. And that's how you be. That's how you get to stay in artists and keep your artistic integrity and make what you want to make is by being able to be your own marketing department. Basically, until you get enough of the following that then studios like hey, you have the big following let's let's let's make something and that's how they do it. But um so that's basically how that model works. Now, generally, if you want to make it into a business, what you're going to need is some recognizable face. It doesn't they don't necessarily need to cost that much. I'm often surprised how little they cost. I know this. If you do your if you do the if you do the research and find the right ones. But basically, name talent would be anyone who's got a at least a recognizable face. Ideally, a recognizable name. Who can actually reach out and who's, who's brand will help, will help. Audiences actually recognize your film. Like if they see his face, they'll be like, Oh, I know that guy. I like that guy. I'm gonna go see that movie. Basically, why you need name talent. Um, and there are entire films that exist that were sold solely on the merits of their name talent.
Alex Ferrari 24:39
Majority of them are The Expendables. Of course.
Ben Yennie 24:43
Of course not. Yeah. But yeah, they're, it's, it's an old model. And that's, that's one of the more sustainable ways to make sure you get a distribution deal. There are a lot of them that you can get that are again surprisingly affordable and surprisingly willing to take your Film and I'm forgetting his name there's one who has done this so much and made his brand basically doing anything and he'll do anything that was that.
Alex Ferrari 25:10
Would that be Eric Roberts? Yes That would be I know I know. I know.
Ben Yennie 25:15
So basically don't hire Eric Roberts ever Roberts actually does more to hurt you and help you
Alex Ferrari 25:21
I'm gonna be I'll be honest with you I've worked on for Eric Robert movies in the last year and a half and then I'm not kidding you. I'm not joking. I'm not joking. And then the producer The Director Producer came up to me He's like, I can't sell this movie because I have Eric Roberts in it all the distributors are saying I've got five other Eric Roberts movies this does nothing for me. And I felt so bad and I'm like yeah cuz Eric Robert didn't care He's like, I'll just show up and happens with it. There's, there's there's that list of guys that will just show up. Yeah, there's a handful of them. And got you know that everyone's got a mortgage. You know, everyone got it, you know, and I've talked to a couple of these guys. And I go, you know, what's, you know, what's, why do you do these kind of movies, he goes, he goes, I know, they don't, they're not particularly good. But I've got alimony, I've got a mortgage, I've got to pay my bills. I've heard that straight up from you know, some of these guys. And they're like, Look, man, I just I'd like to, and some of them, like, I just like to work man. And I don't want to wait around a year to to like find the perfect script. I'm like, I just like to go out and work and being on set. And you know, just doing what I do. And if I can get paid something, I'll do it. But some of these guys I found, like you were saying surprisingly affordable. And this is for all the filmmakers out there. You know, and I'm not going to name names because I'm not going to do that. But some of these guys you can hire for five grand for the day. You know, they'll show up and you can knock out three scenes in a 12 hour day. You know, three grand, five grand even for the bigger names 10 grand for two or three days. Well, that's all you need. Yeah, for a certain movie time, like he comes in. And
Ben Yennie 26:59
since we're talking to filmmakers, I think both of us realize that 10 grand is not nothing
Alex Ferrari 27:04
but but in the grand scope of things to get a major star major phase or star that gives you some sort of Mark ability to get out there. Like you said, it's like, oh, I've seen that movie. Do you know how many times I've watched a movie because there's an actor in it that I've known and liked his former work and he's might have never he might have never or director for that matter. And he might have never hit that stride that he hit in those movies that I loved. But they were so big. Like you know, I'll watch you know, I'll watch a Will Smith movie because Will Smith's in it, you know, because I love Will Smith. And then after Earth came out. And everyone said I
Ben Yennie 27:36
Know and I was I was gonna ask her about that. Like everyone
Alex Ferrari 27:39
Everyone was like, oh god, this is Oh, oh, this is horrible. So and then, and then that kind of hurts his brand a bit. And then people will forgive it some Tom Cruise for God's sakes. I mean, Tom Cruise was the biggest one of the biggest movie stars in the world. And then he did a few movies. They're just like, yeah, and the people aren't going on
Ben Yennie 27:57
cruises. For all I don't think was necessary. The Tom Cruise did a couple bad moves. Well, he didn't call
Alex Ferrari 28:03
Tom Cruise. Tom.
Ben Yennie 28:04
I think that was the issue and now he's recovered the
Alex Ferrari 28:07
Tom Cruise Line Tom Cruise, like like, like Chris Rock said in a famous joke about Oh God, the two guys that do the tiger show in Vegas. Sigmund Freud and people were like oh, that Tiger went crazy because now the tiger didn't go crazy the tiger went tiger. So and the same thing with Tom Cruise Tom Cruise they go crazy Tom Cruise is just Tom Cruise he's been that by way all his life they've just had a bunch of people holding them back and then when he got he they'd let him go boom that happened. But he has recovered and the saddest thing about them that we're now getting on a tangent about Tom Cruise but the saddest thing about Tom is he's an amazing actor. He is a wonderful wonderful as as he is he is a movie star he is one of those guys there's a handful of them out there but that he hasn't won an Oscar is fascinating to me you know like seriously
Ben Yennie 28:55
had done anything recently sanely good since like
Alex Ferrari 29:00
Rain Man and Born on the Fourth of July but yeah but still like he's he's yeah good but anyway so like I was saying to like the filmmakers out there you know five or 10 gram maybe sound like oh my god I'm so not there but like, but if you're doing $100,000 movie or $150,000 movie and you spent fine the
Ben Yennie 29:17
five to 10 grand higher base your sale price. Like if you like it's I'll be honest a lot of times unless you've got even if you've got really high production values it doesn't matter in a in the right genre which is which I don't know if everybody knows the genre is actually really important for international sales.
Alex Ferrari 29:42
Action horror, action horror, right?
Ben Yennie 29:45
But the Yeah, action horror thriller family right now. Oh, yeah, family. One of the things is not like the eighth as well. So those are the big ones but um, The but yeah i mean if you don't even if you do have a hot piece in one of those genres, you need named talent and it will pay off immensely when you actually start seeing returns from your distributor it'll also make it a lot easier for you to get a as a distributor and they'll probably give you a better deal so in addition to actually making more money like from the international sales and having a higher buying price, so you get more money that way you also probably get a better deal with the distributor because they're going they know there's less risk so instead of charging you 35% they're more likely to charge you 25 to 30% and so that additional 5% goes it does make a difference it's business
Alex Ferrari 30:47
this is show business for a reason exactly it's show business for a reason but I can't fat I mean I like I said I've delivered over 50 movies and you'd be surprised that you know action movies with high production value or something like that and I'm like there's no stars in it guys you're not it's gonna be rough for you. And they asked me because they know I've done a lot of stuff I'm like guys, I'm just telling you and I tell you what one movie I did that they shot the whole movie shot it on read it was kind of like a cipher. And when I say kind of like a psychological thriller with some sci fi elements in it takes place here and everything but some side kind of some some sci fi elements in it look beautiful, what's nice, great, no stars. He went out, I got I finished the movie. He went out, talk to all the distributors. Everyone said no. He went back hired Tom Sizemore for a day and he hired and I forgive me, but it's the black guy from Stargate. It's a face that you would remember from the, from the TV show, the TV actor, and they hired him for for a couple days. They replaced a few scenes, went back out sold the movie. Yeah, that's he was like, I'm never gonna make a dime without this. And that and there you go. So it was it was a it was a perfect example of how it works, how it really really works. Yeah. So let me ask you to
Ben Yennie 32:05
Alex Ferrari 32:06
No, no, no, I was gonna ask you. The big question is and I've never been to AFM. Can you explain to the audience what is AFM or the American Film market and how important it is and what you know, what's the, what is it?
Ben Yennie 32:19
Well, I'll give you as candid answer as I can in five minutes, the Chevy or less the, the big thing is that it's it's quite a lot of things for quite a lot of different people. Um, AFM is the is America's only film market. And a film market is very different than a film festival, a film festival is very much about celebrating the art of films in some of the bigger film festivals, like Sundance like TIFF, sometimes films will be picked up for distribution there. But that's more the exception than the rule. Whereas a film markets is very much about a sales agent selling films to buyers. And maybe sometimes towards the end of the market sales agents buying films from filmmakers. But some, but not all filmmakers, sales agents will actually meet with filmmakers in the market, some of them will just some of them only sell at the market. And obviously those often tend to be the sales agents you want because they tend to make bigger sales and sell more territories. So but that's not always true. Sometimes the sales agents that open up at the end acts are able to open up because they've sold all their products and now they need new product. Right so that happens sometimes. But um the but it's much better if you can get your place your film place three to four weeks before the market, because then the sales agent has the ability to sell it for while they're at the market. And you get a return quicker. Basically, the entire international sales game revolves around about eight markets that happen on a yearly basis. What are the What happened?
Alex Ferrari 34:09
What are those eight markets
Ben Yennie 34:11
I'm on I the big ones would be AFM, the European film market, the world content market, which is right after the European film market. Then there's MIPCOM which is more TV based. Then there's Khan which is which is only about two weeks after MIPCOM in the same damn place. Then there's pretty much a break and then there's also MIP TV somewhere in there. AFM and I'm forgetting one, but um, yeah, that's basically all of them. There also and then also some of the festivals have gotten to the point that they've essentially become de facto markets.
Alex Ferrari 34:55
On dance to buy
Ben Yennie 34:59
again, They're late Sundance and TIFF are really the only two that are at all local cons. Khan itself also has the merge to film, which is actually the world's biggest film market. Honestly it kind of makes a little bad given I wrote a book on AFM guys an AFM and I know all the guys over there cons is a bit bigger. But yeah, all right.
Alex Ferrari 35:24
Now do you suggest do you suggest filmmakers go to AFM here in LA without a film just to kind of see how things go in the process that happens.
Ben Yennie 35:38
I a year ago I definitely or a year and a half ago, I definitely would have. Um but I have some knowledge that I don't know all if all of its public or all of its actually happening. I can say it comes from a very high source. But last year they last year they closed the pool to the filmmakers. So the only place you could get in are to anyone not holding a badge. So just as an idea. The the AFM takes place at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. It also spills over into the the Marigot, which is another hotel that's right next door. The Loews hotel has eight floors. And basically there are two floors below that are more lower level new distributors often exploitation films. The main floor and sorry, there are eight floors. The bottom floor is just an entrance exit and like staff stuff, but then the, to the second third floor or what's good known as the dungeon, which are kind of the exploitation new film new distributors and the cheap offices. They're also actual filmmaker offices that are being put in there now. At least as of last year, you can get a producer's office where you'd be sharing the office with another group of producers. And it was something like $1,000 or maybe 1500. I don't remember offhand, okay. But you could get but with your producers office, you would also get three badges for the entire market that included access to all of the seminars and everything there. So it's actually a really good deal if you're going with three people. Yeah. It sounds great. But yeah, but um, the, I don't know if they're doing yet this year or not. But that was one thing they did. It sounds like, I think it's just
Alex Ferrari 37:42
No, no, it sounds like almost like a Bruce Lee Game of Death kind of thing on on floor one and two is floor two, and three is this and then three. So what happens on four or five, six and eight? What how many different villains Do we have to defeat to get to the next level
Ben Yennie 38:00
four, four is the main lobby. And there's also some distributor offices off in the corner. And then also, the main lobby extends into floor five. And they're like film Commission's and varieties generally they're selling subscriptions as as The Hollywood Reporter, and basically other sorts of things that are trying to attract filmmakers. So like, film conditions, services, things like that are all on the second floor because they don't allow booths on the first floor. And then, so those are the and then again, they're also offices off to the side. But it used to be until last year, that right off the fourth floor, you could walk out and there's this beautiful pool area with an amazing view of beach. And you and like lots of tables face and stuff like that. But this year, they closed it to only air last year, they closed it only badge holders, which given that they gave me a free badge last year I was kind of happy with because I always had a place for meeting. But the but it makes it but it means that the lobby gets pretty crowded pretty quickly. Because they've basically they've more than have the space that used to house all of the AFM for the people who didn't have badges. So in the past, I've recommended going for the entire market and just or just even showing up if you're in LA, even if you don't have the back edge. But it's the value of that is becoming less and less,
Alex Ferrari 39:36
but you do so would you suggest that they actually get a badge and go and see what it's all about?
Ben Yennie 39:42
That I would suggest Yes. What I would do if you're a filmmaker and not as a distributor or buyer or anything of the sort. Even if you don't have a completed film I would get the last three day badge. It's I think it's just called the industry badge or maybe if you want the seminar with the industry, plus Because their seminars are these seminars are actually really good speaking to somebody who organizes seminars, but they are. They they are really good and it's worth it is worth doing that you have the money, but it is about $150 more. Got it. But the but the maybe only $100 a month, but the industry bad gives you access to all sorts of markets for the last three days with markets, which would be Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. And it is. And it's only three, it's only $295. Which is really a steal for something like this on education. It is I learned more my first AFM where that's the only badge I got that I did in my entire four years of film school.
Alex Ferrari 40:54
Yeah, I can imagine I was also there. I showed
Ben Yennie 40:57
up early on because this is when you could just hang out in the lobby. But I don't even know if that's gonna be possible this year. Rumors are asking or rumors are floating, interesting. But the the big thing is just that it is worth going to see how it goes. You'll be intimidated when you go. But it's worth going because this is something you need to understand as a filmmaker, especially if you're a producer. Also, if you're a director or even an actor, you need to understand what happens in the independent film world and how films get sold. And I mean, I've heard a lot of other stories, and sometimes it can get a little depressing because you basically see this guy in a hotel room. Yeah, you may go see this guy, this guy in a polyester suit walking down looking at different catalogs for to buy for his VOD catalog for his chain of hotels in Kazakhstan. I mean, is what if that happens there? So you kind of need to be aware of that. But
Alex Ferrari 42:07
yeah, I had a friend. I had a friend of mine who won, who won a very large festival and the best, like one of the best deals they got after winning these big festivals was the airline license like to sell it to the airlines. And they and they were like that was the deals are still actually pretty strong. Yeah, they're like they make good money off it's like when I was the biggest deal we made off this you like you think airline rights but Yep, airline rights. So um, it's what I try to do with any film hustle also is just try to kind of let people know about how to make a living doing what you love and and knowing the business is a big part of that.
Ben Yennie 42:49
So it really is and you can't make a living doing what you love without actually knowing how to make money doing it. And this is where the money comes in, at least for now. I mean, it's gonna be interesting to see in the next couple of years.
Alex Ferrari 43:05
Now I was I was actually at the Toronto Film Festival a few years back and I was there working with a producer that was interested in some of my projects, and I was taken into the hotel and it was very similar to what you're explaining in AFM that there were like you know, there was a floor not nearly as obviously as organized or as big as AFM is. But I was told then and this is going back probably about five or six years like that Toronto is kind of turned into a mini market kind of like there because there are hotel rooms for that. Yeah, unlike Sundance Sundance there's nothing like that that goes on like Sundance is too small like there's no hotel rooms there's no
Ben Yennie 43:43
Sundance is also Sundance is Sundance is basically a spring break for young entertainment executives
Alex Ferrari 43:50
at this point it is it is I've been there that's
Ben Yennie 43:53
what I've been hearing I haven't been so maybe I shouldn't be talking about it but I have heard that from like three or four different people now have you
Alex Ferrari 44:00
been you've never you've never been to Sundance I know oh my god I've been there I've been there about three times and it is yeah if you're if the one thing was cool about Sundance is when I went I wasn't living here in Los Angeles at the time so it was my access to meetings and things like that because in the end that four or five block radius you've got the town you've got a tremendous amount of influencers that are sitting there drinking coffee things like that you can make money so I always tell people is like it's kind of like Disneyland but instead of the characters walking around you see actors like you know and like you could walk around and at the time you like you get all like you know star gaze where you can you take a picture you can take up all that kind of studio craziness when you're when you're young but but it was a lot it's a lot of fun and there's no other kind of festival like when I went to Toronto Toronto is like this. Just spread out like super spread out kind of festival, but wonderful as well. Anyway So I wanted to ask you a few more questions. What do you think of the new self distribution model versus the traditional, traditional model,
Ben Yennie 45:14
new self distribution model is I have very mixed feelings about it. I think that it's possible to make quite a lot of money during the very least enough to sustain yourself and sustain your world as a filmmaker, if not actually make a decent living. The big problem is that you've basically got to become, on your own personnel, you got to have a very, very keen understanding of branding. Because your art in yourself have to become a brand that you do through social media, if you're going to do it successfully. And all the trappings of managing a brand come along with it. Interesting. And if you went to film, school, and not Business School, these are things a lot of times things you are not necessarily the best understand. So it's not you don't assume you need to have an understanding of everything that goes along with managing a multimillion dollar corporate brand now, but you need to know what you're saying. And you need to have a strong identity in you need to be able to have a brand that at least your core audience strongly identifies with. It enables you to find your end you need to also. So aside from all the branding stuff, really, if you're going to find success in the new self distribution model, you need to stop thinking of yourself as a filmmaker, and you need to start thinking of yourself as a community leader. Also, it doesn't necessarily need to be in your filmmaking community, because honestly, you filmmakers aren't really going to buy your film, because they have no money and they need to sell their own
Alex Ferrari 47:16
Ben Yennie 47:18
But you need to sell you need to become a community leader, or at least a very strong presence in whatever community, your film takes place in. Generally, it's much better to do some sort of well established niche. I've heard of people doing well, in the running niche. I've heard of people doing well, in the In any event, I mean, like the ones that popped ahead to my head, because I'm San Francisco would be like the golf, counter, golf, punk counterculture, knishes, those sorts of things. They're really hungry for good content. LGBT, or particularly queer markets are really hungry for good content, because there's almost no good queer media as separate from LGBT media, because that is actually a different thing. I don't know that. But it is. So it's kind of a. So there's a lot of places like that, that if you really want to make those sorts of movies, even before you start making the movies, you need to become a part of that community. By the time you're actually releasing your movie, you need to have become a leader in that community. Does that make any sense? I mean, otherwise, you don't have a customer base?
Alex Ferrari 48:41
Well, that's the thing. That's a lot. A lot of people when they when they're crowdfunding, they're just like, I'm just gonna put up on Kickstarter. And I'm like, No, you can't just throw it up on Kickstarter, or Indiegogo or seed, spark or any of these guys, you've got to have somebody who's interested in what you're selling. It's like you have to go where as this old old term is, you got to go where the people are. So whatever you're selling, if it's, you know, if you if you're selling a vegan character, who you know, eats vegan is a vegan chef. Well, you know, maybe you should hang out in some vegan Facebook groups, you know, and start building up that, that world, definitely, you know, things like
Ben Yennie 49:16
the vegan world, and also that feeds really well into the Bohemian vegetarian and artists worlds. Right, exactly. So there's an environmentalist to know you can read a lot of crossover from your core demo, but first establish yourself in the core demo. And then from that core demo, you need to thought Actually, this was in a seminar that Maya Zuckerman did on for producer foundry. That's actually available on our website. Pitch now, anyway, but she said that, basically, your community are your early adopters. You're the your diehard fans, those are the people that will actually shell out to buy the movie. before it comes out they're the people who will be in your Kickstarter being all of that and then the next set I forget exactly what she said but the next set is your customer base. And that is your and that's more the rest of that larger community not specifically your community. So basically you need to figure out what your movies about or what you want to tell a story about and find people who identify with it and then actually get in there and it's really just as much work to break through if not more than it was to break through the Hollywood hierarchy and the rewards are in some ways much greater in some ways much smaller because there is something about actually engaging with your fan base and you can't in again coming back to that if you want to do this you can't just be like I want to make movie you should bomb a movie right? Oh don't beg you need to actually engage and become interested in your community and become an actual real part of it. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 51:08
that's what that's what I'm doing with indie film hustle I'm building up my community and giving them content like this to kind of help them make their movies and so on and so forth. And it's just being interested in the community just that like begging to like buy my movie you know like if you if you want a bag just go to your friends and family you don't need to set up a Kickstarter just have them directly give you cash to try to make your movie but you know like why give Kickstarter any percentage at that point that's that's the only people who are gonna give you money anyway. But I think it's just kind of like you know, and that's one of the big things I try to teach as well as learning how to market learning how to sell your brand create a brand whether that brand is you or a company because you can brand a company that does certain amount of films like trauma or those kinds of things, but you have to do that you know you have to do that if you're going to try to do this on your own without question though
Ben Yennie 52:01
and the other thing I think you shouldn't be looking for and I think this is where the markets really heading is that it's basically going to come down to tastemakers just as it did before when did they call in name yeah the guy and that yeah guys with huge followings with huge blogs that can recommend their friends and recommend their other content that means their demographic so PR is going to be a huge it's going to be easier because there are quite a lot of well followed like horror blogs or action or all these different sorts of blogs that you can get to review your movie surprisingly easily really um but that's kind of that's really where it is and so yeah, I think that covers everything
Alex Ferrari 52:55
i was i was i was doing that I was doing that with my film 11 years ago I hit every film blog every every URL and I was able to generate a lot of sales through my DVD that I was selling directly to the customer by doing that and we were covered by 250 websites you know reviews all that kind of stuff Yeah, it was a it was a huge deal back then. And I was selling a DVD directly to the to the consumer and I did fairly well it was a short film on top of that and I did very well but again that back it might be I might have done that 10 years ago but that still works very well today that same concept it does
Ben Yennie 53:33
it's just it's easier to do now much more such methods of delivery.
Alex Ferrari 53:38
Absolutely. And there was via and there's the viral aspect of things to where you put something in it just keeps going and going and going where before it was much more difficult to make things the concept of something going viral was you know i mean 10 years ago what YouTube had just got started you know my space was what might look like a lot of sales out of my space but you know Facebook I remember Hey, you know what I love but it was a look you know what, what what No, I
Ben Yennie 54:11
think you may have been the only person to ever make money on my face.
Alex Ferrari 54:15
I got a lot of sales off my space because I hit those democrat those groups, those people that were interested in what I was selling, but I remember when Facebook was just for college I remember literally go into a room of an office like Oh, what's this? I'm like, this this thing just for college kids. It's called Facebook. I'm like, Ah, I'm old. I'm old. So yeah, let me ask you one last question, then. We'll find out a couple more questions. The process of finding investors for a film nowadays obviously crowdfunding is all the rage but we've just discussed what you really need to do to make, you know to actually get money from crowdfunding, how would you go go about trying to find investors for a film for like a you know filmmaker trying to look for ambassadors and where do you find them? and so on? I know that's a big question, just try to turn to
Ben Yennie 55:04
look for investors. I'm get so often I get asked this question,
Alex Ferrari 55:09
I'm sure we're gonna get money, where can I get my
Ben Yennie 55:15
money where you have to go? The real answer is actually just to go to places where investors are. And the answer to where investors are very much depends on where you live. Like I live in San Francisco, qualified investors are everywhere. Every I have met qualified investors who are now very close friends singing karaoke, and debars. Of course, it happens. And then one day, he picked me up in his Ferrari to show me his Lamborghini and his other Ferrari, of course, so that was, so that was just basically it. But the end. So anyway, there are better places to go. The big issue to networking with investors is
the big trick to networking investors, and not really that much of a trick is to just treat them like people, and actually try to establish a relationship with them. Depending on where you meet them, try to talk talk to them in the, if you're meeting them at an investor networking event, it is more appropriate for you to try to pitch something to them. However, don't start with the pitch just to actually talk to them before you do just get to know a little bit about them. What they do all that sort of stuff first, and wait for them to ask you to pitch.
Alex Ferrari 56:47
They're, they're human beings not bank accounts.
Ben Yennie 56:51
Exactly. Yeah. They're human beings, not ATMs don't treat them like an ATM, because that's a great way to piss them off and make sure they never call you. So basically. And also, it's actually really similar dating.
Alex Ferrari 57:09
It's gonna say, it is yeah,
Ben Yennie 57:13
it's a little shocking how similar it is. And I've heard some people who have raised literally hundreds of millions of dollars for different companies, and different nonprofits, and including some schools here in California. Like huge amounts, just just ungodly sums of money. And he's basically like, Yeah, no, it's really like dating. You just have to kind of like, you don't give it up on the first day. You don't give it up on the second date. Maybe the third, probably the fourth
Alex Ferrari 57:43
wrong. And you don't ask for it. When you
Ben Yennie 57:47
ask for it either. Yeah, ask for a check. No, that's a great way to get slapped. Right.
Alex Ferrari 57:52
And a lot of people, especially, especially us filmmakers, who are desperate bunch, and I put myself in that category, you know, like, I've met a lot of investors. And when I was younger, it was just like, Hi, how are you doing? Here's my movie, here's this, I need. That desperation, it gets you, you get turned off, like right away. So you have to kind of be much more subtle about it and much more.
Ben Yennie 58:13
The last thing you want to do, yeah, the last thing you want to do is sound desperate, is people will automatically assume you're going to fail if you're desperate.
Alex Ferrari 58:23
That's a good that's a good point. It's very, very good point. Yeah. So um, let me let me This is a question that I asked all of my guests. It's a very tough question. So prepare yourself. What are your top three favorite films of all time?
Ben Yennie 58:41
Can I add a qualifier on that? Of course, I'm going because actually this is a question I ask when I'm trying to pick women up in bars. The biggest difference is I say what are your top three favorite films of all time? As it stands, right this second now? Correct? Because I know these mind change
Alex Ferrari 59:03
daily. Of course, of course. So
Ben Yennie 59:07
um, anyway. I would have to go with in no particular order. Gatica Oh wow.
Alex Ferrari 59:21
Okay, yeah, I haven't heard that one on the list before. Good flick.
Ben Yennie 59:25
Thank you for smoking. And the shining
Alex Ferrari 59:35
the shiny is one of my favorites I'm assuming I'm assuming you saw room 237
Ben Yennie 59:41
Actually, I didn't Oh, you've got to watch them
Alex Ferrari 59:46
it's like it just blows it blow
Ben Yennie 59:47
your documentary on the making of the shining Yeah, yeah, it's
Alex Ferrari 59:49
a blow your mind Yes. Yeah. Okay. No,
Ben Yennie 59:52
actually I did see that okay. I got it confused with like room at the end of the hall.
Alex Ferrari 59:56
Oh, no, no, but yeah, the documentary Yeah, on It. Isn't that crazy that documentary.
Ben Yennie 1:00:02
Yeah, yeah. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:00:06
I'm a big Kubrick fan. So the shining is definitely up there on my list. My huge YouTube grants out. So I'm Ben, where can people find you and what you do, and I know you have a book out. So where can people find out? Yeah,
Ben Yennie 1:00:18
actually my book is, it is used as a text and 10 film schools available at Barnes and Noble on Amazon, as well as about 100 different independent bookstores. I definitely don't have time to list any of them. But what's the name of the book? The guerrilla rap American film market distribution, success on no budget, it was actually also the first book on film markets. Oh, wow. Cool. But yeah, there is one other one right now, but I took a lot of their market share before they can publish.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:53
And hence that's another lesson that's another lesson in the in the film world you got to get to market first.
Ben Yennie 1:01:00
Yes. But the so then you can also find me at the gorilla rep calm if you're looking for representation services, or you can find everything else I do. At Producer foundry.com. And you do
Alex Ferrari 1:01:17
you do podcasts as well as, yeah.
Ben Yennie 1:01:21
We do podcasts as well as blogs and we also do in person meetups, sometimes we streaming on Periscope. And we also do them on earn. We also do like full workshops that we do for a very reasonable price. I believe the average price for our workshops right now is only 20 bucks. We have worked up yeah, that's Yeah, I know. Right? At 20 bucks. I
Alex Ferrari 1:01:47
might show up
Ben Yennie 1:01:49
for 20 but they're sorry, they're 20 bucks for the replay. video, which you get to keep forever? That's why. Yeah, the they we have one on from we have one from somebody was to work with Tim Allen and Woody air sorry, Tim Burton and Woody Allen teaching budgeting because she did their budgets before that a transmedia one, then one from somebody who's helped raise more than $3 billion on pitching. And then there's also one that I did a couple weeks ago that's available for pre order because we haven't caught it yet. Um, that's on AFM. Oh, very so yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:29
And when is it when is AFM? It's I know it's coming. November 4 through through 11th. Okay, so it's coming up in a little bit this year?
Ben Yennie 1:02:36
Yeah, it's generally the first to second Wednesday and in November, there have been a couple times where it's been like due to the timing of it. There have been a couple of times where the first day has been Halloween, but most of it's generally the first is second Wednesday in November.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:53
Very cool. So well, Ben, thank you so so much for taking the time out to to speak to my audience. I really, really appreciate it. I hope you had a good time.
Ben Yennie 1:03:00
I'd actually love to have you on film inside at some point.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:02
Absolutely. My friend. I'm available anytime. Thanks again, my friend. Thanks for Ben for taking the time out to talk to us. I learned a ton about the American Film market, I plan to be going to 2015 American film market and checking that out and reporting back to you guys about my experiences there. So I'm going to put all of Ben's information, links to his books his he has some video courses as well on distribution, put them all in the show notes. Ben's a good guy. So definitely check out what he's got to say he's got a lot of great, great information. So don't forget to head on over to free film book calm that's free film book calm. So you can download your free audible.com audio book, we get over 40,000 different audio books you can download from so head on over there as soon as you can. And also please don't forget to head over to indie film, hustle calm for slash iTunes. And leave us an honest review about the show. Any review that you guys leave us help us out a ton on iTunes. So it'd be really, really helpful for us. Thank you guys again, so much for all the support, all the love. I'm gonna keep putting out this great content for you guys. If you want anything that I'm not covering, send me messages, send me emails, send me Facebook, and I'll start trying to give you guys as much as much as I can. I'm doing as much as I can. And I'm gonna keep doing, providing you with great content so you guys can survive and thrive. And this film business so don't give up the hustle. Keep pushing forward. Don't give up on the dream. Okay, no matter how hard this business cracks you over the head. Got to keep moving forward. I'll talk to you guys next time.
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- The Guerilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget – FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSION
- The Entrepreneurial Producer: A Series of Articles on Growing your Filmmaking Career
- Producer’s Foundry Film Marketing Workshops
- American Film Market
- FreeFilmBook.com (Your FREE Audio Book)
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- Indie Film Distribution Course: Secrets to Selling Your Film
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Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
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