Introduction to Vintage Russian Lenses for Indie Filmmakers

Why should I care about old Russian camera lenses? As an indie filmmaker, especially a low-budget indie filmmaker, we are always looking for ways to optimize a very limited number of resources, and for most of us, the most limited resource is money. Ultimately, we are doing everything in our power to try and make our films look and feel the absolute best that they can, which means we are looking for value everywhere, and vintage Soviet lenses are the kings of value.

Why are these lenses such a good value?

World War II Knock-Offs

Some of you may have heard of a small lens manufacturer called Carl Zeiss. They were producing some of the best, if not the best, lenses in the world out of Germany. Germany, as we all know, started and lost World War II against the Allied powers which included the Soviet Union.

I am grossly over-simplifying a complicated issue, but essentially Russia sought reparations from Germany which included obtaining the designs and actual equipment (perhaps even some of the engineers) from Carl Zeiss plants.  As a result many Soviet lenses are based on Carl Zeiss designs that cost several times as much as their Soviet counterparts.  However, this does not mean that they are the same or as good as Zeiss lenses. It just provides some background on why they are so good.

Communist Cameras

In the Soviet Union socialist ideals lead the government to prioritize the equal distribution of resources to all people equally. Things that were once viewed as luxury goods should be accessible to everyone, and that’s how the Soviet Union theoretically approached the distribution of consumer goods, including cameras and lenses.

Now, if you actually want to provide those goods to everyone, you have to have two things.  First a government run system that can control production and price and secondly you have to make a crap ton of cameras and lenses.  So the Soviet Union took their Carl Zeiss designs and equipment and went to work.  This ultimately results in a lot of good lenses for very little money.

You can pick up a couple of the lenses I’m going to talk about for $20-$50. One of these lenses, the Helios 44, may be the most produced lens ever with millions of units out in the wild.  Now that all sounds great, but the flip side of socialist style production, is there’s not a lot of incentive to do better. Either in terms of new innovation or quality control, which provides some drawbacks and opportunities for the indie filmmaker.

Technology Can Ruin Stuff

The technological advances that have taken place over the past couple decades have made it so there is no better time to be an indie filmmaker. We have amazing access to filmmaking tools and equipment utilizing the most cutting edge computer driven design and production methods. But here’s the thing, as far as lenses are concerned, maybe it’s gotten too good.

Maybe technology has homogenized the look of modern lenses and the combination of the modern digital camera you’re using with the latest lens produces something too accurate. Film is inherently not optically perfect and if you’re looking for a film look using a lens that has not been over-engineered can go a long way to achieving that look.

Vintage Russian lenses were made by hand in factories for quite a long time with all of the minor imperfections involved in the process. They have character, and they have it in spades. Those imperfections can create magic and a different look than what everyone is doing running around with the same lens and the same cameras.

I’m Not In History Class, How About You Talk About a Lens.

Got it.  Let me start by saying there are a lot of Russian lenses. For filmmaking purposes they can be separated into photo lenses and cine lenses. Both offer great value to indie filmmakers, but the photo lenses are the real steal in terms of quality and price. Two of the most popular lenses are the Helios 58mm and the Mir-1 37mm.

The Gateway Drugs: Helios 44-2 & Mir-1

These are the ones that will get you hooked. They’re inexpensive, interesting, and fun to play with. I think everyone should go out now and purchase these lenses.  They should only cost $20-$60 and worst case scenario you can sell it on for about what you paid for it. However, let me issue a warning here.

Go down this path at your own risk. This vintage lens thing can get real out of hand real quick and I don’t want to see you in a couple months with a pickup truck full of Soviet lenses, an empty bank account, and the eBay logo seared into your eyes like you looked at the eclipse too long.

The Helios 44 58mm f2:

This Helios is a design based on (some would say copy of) the Carl Zeiss Biotar 58mm. It is one of the most mass produced lenses ever and was the standard kit lenses on several Zenit models. There are several versions of this lens, and they are all different.

Helios 44 58mm f2 variants:

  • Helios 44
  • Helios 44-2
  • Helios 44M
  • Helios 44M-4
  • Helios 44M-6
  • Helios 44M-7

Go straight for the Helios 44-2. It is labeled Helios 44-2 on the lens and is rather distinctive. There are different mounts that all work with various adapters. I recommend picking up the M42 mount, which is the most common. M42 adapters are readily available for all kinds of mounts and there are even m42 focal reducer adapters that can be fun to play with. The Helios 44-2 also has a clickless aperture and a decently long focus throw which is great for filmmaking.

This lens is all about the swirly bokeh and lens flare! This sucker shoots out flares like it’s the 4th of July. It’s Michael Bay’s spirit animal. Just point at some light and let it rip. The swirly, creamy bokeh produces beautiful images and a certain “je ne sais quoi” you just don’t get from modern homogenized lenses.

Now also keep in mind that each lens that rolled off the factory line was a bit different from the last in terms of quality control, so there are some duds out there, but it also means that each has a slightly different and unique variation that gives these lenses a certain artisanal feel that I enjoy.

To check out some lens tests and learn even more, I highly recommend checking out this link from the definitive vintage lens website: “Vintage Lens For Video“:

You can listen to our interview about ALL thing Vintage lenses below:

The Mir 1 37mm f2.8:

The Mir 1 is one of my favorite Russian lenses. It also produces a lot of lens flare which can be controlled quite a bit with a lens hood if you desire. They thing I love about this lens for me is that it produces the right amount of sharpness while still providing an overall softness to the image and interplays with light beautifully. Like the Helios 44-2 the Mir-1 has a clickless aperture and has an even longer focus throw of 270 degrees.

There are several versions of this lens as well that were made at different times and at different factories.

  • Mir-1 Silver
  • Mir-1 Black
  • Mir-1A
  • Mir-1B
  • Mir-1V

You can give all these lenses a try, but the one I like the best is the Mir-1 Black. It is also the most common, which works out nicely.  There are several mounts for the Mir-1 and as I have mentioned, I recommend going for the M42 mount version. One important thing to know about these lenses is that prior to 1967 the lenses had a more blue coating and after 1967 they received a yellow coating.

The yellow coating is the version I prefer and produces a more neutral color rendition. The first two serial numbers on the lenses denote which year the lens was made, which makes for easy identification on eBay.

These lenses were also made at different factories during their production runs. I have not tested a sufficient amount of these lenses to make any definitive conclusions, but I tend to favor the lenses made after 1967 from the ZMOZ plant which sport this logo on the lens:

Vintage Russian Lenses Tests

You can view some controlled environment camera tests for the Mir-1 along with some other Russian lenses I did in preparation of my upcoming film Auras.

I thought it was interesting how well the Mir-1 compared to the Lomo cine lenses (a topic for another day).

Lionel Kahn is an artist, photograher, and filmmaker. For more on Lionel go to lionelkahn.com and to check out his new film shot with these amazing Russian lenses check out Auras.




How to Distribute Your Film to SVOD and Keep 100% Ownership

The film industry and distribution marketplaces are in constant flux… but the problem for indie filmmakers remains the same:
How (and where) do I distribute my content? 

A  Quick Summary 

  • Subscription video on-demand is a $60B industry growing 10% year over year. 
  • Major streaming services are cutting down on indie film distribution, opening up new opportunities for independent streaming services, focused on indie film. 
  • Special.tv enables indie filmmakers, studios, and distributors to own their own SVOD channel, keep 100% ownership of content, know their audience, and keep 90% of revenue–while also proving to be a source of funding for future films. 

What was once reserved for the Hollywood elite…

The streaming giants–Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV, Amazon, HBO–are undoubtedly highly sought after by indie filmmakers as an avenue for distribution. According to Statista, global Video On Demand revenue grew to $60B in 2020 and is expected to reach $96B by 2025; Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD), makes up the largest and fastest growing segment of that market with 880 million pairs of eyes globally and 78% of households with SVOD in the US alone.

But while these streaming services certainly made a profound impact in the film distribution marketplace (particularly in the wake of COVID-19), they aren’t always readily accessible for indie filmmakers–and aren’t always desirable either. Loss of content rights, low pay (if any), flat rates that are often tied to budget regardless of performance, and typically long terms of exclusive agreements are considerable downsides. 

But hey, at least it’s being watched, right? Not necessarily. With thousands of titles, it’s easy to get lost in the sauce; unless your content is being featured or living on the homepage carousels, viewers have to sift through mountains of content to discover yours. And even then, you won’t get any analytics–yet in fact, while most of these streaming giants are certainly tracking watch time analytics and other metrics, they’re just not sharing them with you. Instead, they use the insights learned from your content, and apply it to the creation of their own original content–and then put that content on the home page. For an entrepreneurial filmmaker with big dreams, these are major thorns when considering distribution avenues.

Film festivals offer great exposure and marketing, but even winning awards at top tier film festivals doesn’t guarantee distribution. For many, film festivals are where deals are struck with sales agents, aggregators, and other distributors. The problem for indie filmmakers: of course the film has to be good to be picked up, but the reality is that just like their Hollywood counterparts, most distributors pick up films with concepts they already know how to market and package. It’s an understandable business perspective, but it inadvertently curbs creativity, creative control, and independence of indie filmmakers–which is what makes indie film so great in the first place. Sales agents and aggregators also often charge fees simply to work with them, and take a sizable chunk of the revenue your film garners with typical term lengths around 10-15 years. 

So after all that, it’s still a gamble as to whether your content will be picked up, you probably lost rights and insights into your work’s performance, and you are the last in line for revenue.

Another avenue indie filmmakers take, often after exploring other distribution options, is posting their content for free on YouTube or Vimeo–because at least eyes are getting on their work…right? Maybe. 

While these are discovery platforms, they are riddled with ads and algorithms designed to keep their users hopping from one video to another; these platforms foster escapism through a constant distraction loop of ads and suggested videos, oftentimes with click-baity thumbnails designed to grab attention. Your (potentially even award-winning) film that you’ve spent countless hours of “blood, sweat, and tears” on, is now competing with cute cat videos. And let’s get real, we all know that cats rule the internet. And there’s a reason they do: making money on these platforms is extremely difficult, and driven solely by ad revenue that requires a massive audience. 

So… now what? Where do filmmakers seeking distribution go from here? Subscription media is unbundling.

The distribution marketplace is just as confusing and chaotic now as it’s ever been–perhaps even more so now, after the impact COVID-19 has made. None of these avenues allow indie filmmakers to realize their full revenue potential, yet you still need to find a home for your content. 

Streaming is the new wave of distribution, and increasingly preferred among indie and network studio filmmakers alike given the sheer amount of viewers, global reach, and opportunity size–and SVOD in particular because of the recurring revenue stream.

Filmmakers want their content in an elegant interface that uplifts the value of their creation, but until recently, this has been reserved for the Hollywood elite or those that can afford the startup costs of making their own OTT product. Today, those that offer a platform to build and maintain your own OTT streaming service come with high monthly fees, video hosting fees, your own tech work, and more; and even when set behind a “free” start up model, users find they’re constantly being upsold to get the functionality that they want. Though the prices of building and owning your own streaming service have decreased and become more attainable, they still quickly run into the tens of thousands of dollars a year to build and upkeep. For indie filmmakers, this isn’t typically feasible. 

What if this–all of this–could all be turned on its head? The future of SVOD is in niche genre content, streamed to niche audiences.

That’s exactly what the industry is starting to see. In the last few years, platforms like Patreon, Substack, and OnlyFans offer streaming to be accessible to all, putting control back into creators’ hands. But none of these platforms are suitable options for filmmakers to garner and grow an audience while earning revenue. 

But now, we’re finally seeing the beginnings of a new wave for independent distribution particularly suited for indie filmmakers beginning to surface: streaming SVOD platforms that include full transparency in analytics, revenue directly to the filmmaker or creative, maintaining distribution rights and ownership, while simultaneously owning your audience and creative vision. And Special.tv is riding the crest.

Special.tv empowers the creation and exchange of meaningful content

—but what does that mean for an indie filmmaker?

It means that whether you’re a solo filmmaker, an independent studio, or even distributing indie content from multiple creators, Special.tv could very well prove to be the best place to globally distribute your content independently. A home to own your audience, have transparent analytics, and establish strong recurring revenue at a price you determine–all while retaining complete ownership and rights of your content. It’s also completely free–no monthly fees, no hidden fees, no trials, no upselling, no hosting fees. Special.tv’s incentives are aligned with yours: they only make money when you do; you keep 90% of revenue that you make. With a sleek, elegant interface and cinematic, intuitive user experience, Special.tv is poised to serve as a home for you and your audience. And, it’s ad-free. 

Let’s look at a few examples of how emerging streaming services like special.tv are empowering indie filmmakers to create and distribute their content. 

Example 1: The indie film studio, direct to consumer model 

An independent studio with more than one film, series, or show

How Special.tv empowers indie film studios like Second World Entertainment

  • Own your own SVOD channel while keeping your creative vision and establishing recurring revenue, with none of the overhead and all the tools at your disposal to leverage, and create a successful–or grow an existing–media business.
  • Create a branded experience – customize your channel and content catalogue using simple, expressive branding tools to create a personalized home for you and your audience.
  • Control your pricing and create gated content – set your monthly and annual subscription price and Special takes care of the rest. Only your paying subscribers will enjoy exclusive access to your gated content.
  • Own your content and audience – stay independent and keep 100% ownership of your content and audience. 
  • Unlimited global distribution – stream to mobile, web, and smartTV to reach your subscribers wherever they are, and transact global currencies with secure payment processing to reach audiences worldwide. 

Example 2: The solo indie filmmaker

A solo filmmaker with a feature, documentary, masterclass, etc.

How Special.tv empowers award winning indie filmmakers like Cameron Beyl and The Directors Series:

  • A home for your content, and a base to grow. Stream your original films, features, series, shows, and episodes direct-to-fan and predictably grow with subscription memberships.
  • Authenticity, not ads – make content that is meaningful to you, and showcase it in a cinematic, ad-free interface where viewers subscribe directly to your content. 
  • Control, not algorithms – when a viewer is on your channel, they’re on your channel. Every video shown to them is yours and yours alone – and you determine the order in which you’d like to show them content or episodes, and guide their experience.
  • Independence, not contracts – your content, your control. Special.tv doesn’t (and doesn’t want to) own any of your content. Experience freedom in the distribution of your content.
  • Value, not donations – Special.tv believes your content has meaningful value. Asking for donations isn’t Special’s style; providing a platform where you can create and exchange meaningful content with subscribers, is. 
  • Own your audience, your pricing, and your brand – fans subscribe directly to you and their subscriptions help you bring more meaningful content to life. (Don’t feel like you have enough or the right type of content for SVOD? Special.tv also enables rentals, so you can still have a home for your content and generate revenue via pay-per-view, while you continue to build your repertoire.) With built-in subscriber loops, Special.tv enables you to build and hone your audience for your future work, too.

Example 3: Indie distributors

Special.tv is particularly well-positioned to enable niche indie distributors such as Massacre Video–and even collaborating indie filmmakers, studios, and producers–to establish a home for their audience, and grow predictably and sustainably via subscription revenue. 

How Special.tv empowers indie distributors and producer partnerships like Massacre Video:

  • Subscriber and viewership analytics – easily analyze subscriber acquisition, feature, episode and series performances, and viewership activity. Monitor active usage, retention, and churn to improve and grow.
  • Transparent revenue reporting – track your subscriber’s payments, lifetime value, and monthly revenue in real time. Know your income and transaction fees with transparent financial reporting.
  • Inclusive data export – your audience is your data. Access, review, and export your audience data as you please. Add your subscribers to a newsletter and provide exclusive offers beyond just your content. 
  • Unlimited global distribution in a branded experience – stream to mobile, web, and smartTV to reach subscribers wherever they are, and transact global currencies with secure payment processing to reach audiences worldwide.
  • Unlimited subscription memberships – whether you have 100 or 100,000 subscribers, Special’s rates never change. Take home 90% of your subscription revenue, no invoices.
  • Unlimited HD video hosting – dont worry about paying for video infrastructure. Take advantage of unlimited HD video upload, hosting, and storage for free, forever. Know your content is secure with digital rights management encryption

That’s a Wrap! 

Special.tv provides a platform for indie filmmakers, studios, and distributors to launch their own subscription video-on-demand channels with no fees other than a 10% cut of their subscription revenue. With a clean and intuitive interface, you could build your own SVOD channel in a few hours. There’s no exclusivity contracts or licensing agreement. Filmmakers own and control 100% of their content–meaning you’re free to premiere a film on your channel and keep it there forever as they develop your catalog, move it to another platform, or keep it on both.

All of the features and benefits described in the above examples are available for every creator on Special.tv to leverage. On Special.tv, everyone gets an opening night. You and your content are front and center within your channel, no more getting lost in the sauce. 

Another difference? You’re not left to fend for your own (unless you want to be). Special has a team dedicated to their creators’ success, because their incentives are aligned: Special.tv only makes money when creators do. From onboarding to launching to accelerating your growth, Special’s team works with their creators to structure their channel in a way that achieves their creative vision and goals, shares best practices and insights for to leverage as creators prepare to launch their channel, and even Accelerator program to help catalyze their growth (and no, no upsell–still free).

As for your audience, Special.tv also presents a welcome change: no more doom scrolling through mountains of content. Subscribers curate their own library by subscribing directly to the content they want, and Special.tv is transparent in communicating that 90% of revenue goes directly to the creator–which in turn directly empowers the creator to make more meaningful content that subscriber wants to watch–all packaged in an ad-free, cinematic experience. 

Altogether, Special.tv is worthy to keep on your radar for distributing your content independently (Variety thinks so, too), and as a home for you and your audience. 

This article was originally published by Special.tv, the independent streaming service powering global SVOD & TVOD distribution and monetization for independent filmmakers, studios, and distributors. Written by Ashton Solecki.

IFH 413: How a Predatory Film Distributor Screwed Over a Filmmaker with Terminal Cancer

Right-click here to download the MP3

Running Indie Film Hustle I hear story after story about predatory film distributors screwing over, taking advantage, and just plain stealing from filmmakers every day. I either get emails or read about them in our Facebook Group Community: Protect Yourself From Predatory Film Distributors/Aggregators.

I’m so sick and tired of this. These parasites need a light shined on them. The only way we as filmmakers can stop these predators from continuing to hurt filmmakers and devastate lives is to make their actions known. Predatory film distributors continue to screw filmmakers because their actions are performed in the shadows. They bank on that filmmakers will not fight back, that they will keep quiet and just take it. Well, ladies and gentlemen that ends here.

I broke the Distribber story around the same time last year. They were able to take advantage of filmmakers for a long time until someone finally brought their actions to the surface. That is the only weapon we as filmmakers have against predatory film distributors. Our Facebook group has helped thousands of filmmakers not get taken advantage of. I know that the podcasts and videos I put out have helped as well but it’s not enough. I’m only one voice.

We as a community need to stand up and demand change. The traditional film distribution system is BROKEN. I was just consulting with a filmmaker yesterday that told me that he too was screwed over by a film distributor. This distributor told him on the phone, once he confronted him about the theft of his film, and I quote,

“I’ll see you in the court of who gives a f**k.”

This distributor was in the UK and the filmmaker was in the US. The distributor knew that the chances of the filmmaker taking him to court in another country were slim to none. The filmmaker’s lawyer advised him to let it go because the cost would be too much. THIS CRAP NEEDS TO STOP.

Then I came across a video on YouTube of Michael Daniel, a filmmaker telling his story about how Michael Cowan of Phoenix Worldwide Entertainment screwed him over and never paid him the money he was owed. Oh by the way this filmmaker also has stage 4 cancer. This is the video I saw that moved me to reach out to Micahel.

He told me that this film distributor was literally waiting around for him to DIE so he wouldn’t have to pay him. Jesus Christ! I mean I thought I had heard it all but man this is a new low, even for predatory film distributors. Micahel has been fighting this fight by himself for over 18 months. He felt alone. No one would help him. If fighting terminal cancer is enough, he has had to deal with this situation as well. It’s just not right.

I knew I had to help and shine a light on this situation. So I invited him to the show and asked him to write, in his own words, his story and add proof in the article.

You can read his piece below.

I did my own research on Michael Cowan of Phoenix Worldwide Entertainment and discovered that this is not the first time he has been in the press regarding suspicious actions in the film financing/distribution world. According to the Mirror UK, Mr. Cowan was accused of raising money for a film called Mary Mother of Christ using Oscar® winning producer/director Mel Gibson‘s name but the rub is Mr. Gibson had never heard of the project.

This is not the first time Mr. Cowan had been accused of doing this. He had also raised money from the public for a film called Henry 5 that would have supposedly starred George Cloney, Matt Damon, Tom Hardy, Albert Finney, William H Macy, Sacha Baron Cohen, Micahel Caine, Gerard Depardieu, and Ray Winstone. All the actor’s agents said their clients had nothing to do with the project.

Stealth Media Group, the finance and international sales company founded by Michael Cowan and Jason Piette, was also accused of doing the same thing using John Travolta‘s name for a film called Gummy Bears. Again Mr. Travolta had no involvement in the project.

After digging some more I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of scandals and accusations that Mr. Cowan had against him and his companies. You can read about each accusation below:

This kind of crap needs to stop. Michael Daniel is a filmmaker who has struggled to follow his filmmaking dream and did all the right things and yet he’s in this sad and horrible situation. THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN. If predatory film distributors can continue to get away with screwing film producers over the system needs to change.

Both Michael and I are hoping this can help future filmmakers from making the same mistakes. I personally want to thank Michael for coming forward and sharing his story with the world. It takes a brave soul to do what he is doing. He’s not only fighting cancer but he is also fighting to get his film back and receive the money he is legally owed.

This episode is brutal and painful to listen to but I believe it will help countless filmmakers. Stay strong Michael, you are no longer alone. Enjoy my conversation with filmmaker and fighter Michael Daniel.

UPDATE: The Daily Mirror UK just published an in-depth article on Michael’s case: Click Here to Read

Alex Ferrari 2:38
Well, guys today, this show is man, I don't even know how to say it. I am. I am extremely pissed off and extremely upset for having to do a podcast like this. Today on the show, I have filmmaker Michael Daniel, and his film, get gone, was licensed to a film distributor in the UK called Phoenix Worldwide Entertainment. And they offered him $100,000 mg or minimum guarantee upfront. Now Michael did everything in his power to get everything done. And all the deliverables delivered according to the agreement. And he did that he even sold his truck to get those deliverables done. And that cost him anywhere about $15,000. 14, $15,000 something along those lines to get the deliverables done for his film. And he was supposed to get the money, the $100,000 right away. It has been a year and a half. And they're still playing around with not paying, Michael. Now this story in itself is not as unique as I wish it would be. I hear stories like this all the time. Many of us have heard stories of distributors not living up to their agreements. But the thing that adds a little bit extra salt on this wound is that Michael is fighting stage four cancer. He has terminal cancer, and he is fighting for his life. And he told me that this distributor is literally waiting for him to die. So he doesn't have to pay him. I mean, I thought I've heard everything in regards to predatory distributors. I thought I've I've seen the lowest bottom of the barrel kind of situation. But this takes the cake This is at a whole other level of evil. Now, I saw this video this very passionate video that Michael posted in our Facebook group how to protect yourself from predatory film distributors slash aggregators. And he posted this video there. And I was blown away. He was literally telling a story about how he's fighting stage four, colon cancer. And, and he's stressed out and he's lost friends and he's lost family. And you know, he's almost homeless, he'd sold his car, all this whole story, while these guys, Phoenix worldwide entertainment, according to him, have not have done everything in their power to not pay him. And Michael had proof, emails, contracts, FedEx, receipts, everything. And we put all of that information in an article that he wrote, because I wanted him to tell his story, in his own words, at the show notes at indie film, hustle, calm, Ford slash 413. And you could read that there and also see the original video along with other videos in regards to his journey fighting cancer, and his journey making his film. Now after I heard his story, I started to do some research on Phoenix worldwide entertainment. And what I found was not only disturbing, but I was just overwhelmed at the just immense amount of fraud cases, and impropriety and lawsuits that hit this man and these companies that he runs has had over the years. And I have links to all of the research that I found at the show notes, but I'll give you just the cliff notes of what I discovered. He was accused of raising money for a film called Mary mother of Christ, using the name of Oscar winning producers and director Mel Gibson, Mr. Gibson had never heard of the project. He also did the same thing with a film called Henry the fifth, where he supposedly had starring Tom Hardy, Albert Finney, William H. Macy, Sasha bar Cohen, Michael Caine, gerada, Purdue and Ray Winston attached to the project as well. And when the actors agents were contacted, they said they had never heard of the project and had nothing to do with it. And then once again through another company that he co founded called stealth Media Group, which is a finance and international sales company. He was accused of doing the same thing again using john Travolta's name for an animated film called Gummi. Bears. Again, Mr. Travolta when reached, knew nothing of the project and had no involvement in the film. And the list goes on on the amount of scandals and accusations against Mr. Cohen and his company's guys, I have to say something here. This needs to stop. This kind of absolute crap that keeps happening in our business needs to stop. The system is broken. If predatory film distributors can continue to get away with screwing film producers and filmmakers, again and again and again, the system is broken and needs to be changed. And the only weapon that we as filmmakers have against these predatory distributors is to shine a light on when and where they do this crap. They work in the shadows, all of these deals are done in dark alleys back where somewhere, and no one ever hears about it because filmmakers are afraid to come forward or don't want to talk about it. Or just think that they're just a small little filmmaker, and can't possibly take on a big powerful predatory distributor. I was literally on the phone in a consulting session with a filmmaker yesterday, where he told me his story about how a predatory distributor had screwed them over. And when he confronted the distributor about it, the distributor said and I quote, I'll see you in the quarter of who gives a fuck. Excuse my language. But that is a direct quote. The distributor in question was in the UK in the filmmaker was in the US. The distributor knew that the chances of the filmmaker taking him to court in another country were slim to none. And the filmmakers lawyer advised him to let it go because the cost would be too much to take into court and the distributor knew this. This crap needs to stop. That's why I wanted to give Michael a voice. I wanted to give him a platform so he could share his story with 1000s and 10s of 1000s of filmmakers that listen to this podcast and watch my videos and read my blog posts For so long, Michael felt like he was alone, that nobody would help him. And I know that's how a lot of filmmakers feel in this world. You bust your ass, trying to get your movie made you, you sacrifice, you scrape and claw your way to the finish line to get your movie made. And then at the end, some predatory bastard comes in and steals your movie from you, and doesn't pay you and laughs in your face. This needs to stop. I personally want to thank Michael for coming forward and sharing his story with the tribe. It takes a brave soul to do what he is doing. He's not only fighting cancer, he's not only fighting for his life, but he's also fighting to get his film back, and to receive the money that he is legally owed. This episode is brutal and painful to listen to. Both Michael and I believe that this episode will help countless filmmakers around the world. Without any further ado, here's my conversation with Michael Daniel. I like to welcome to the show Michael Daniel, man, thank you for coming on the show, Michael.

Michael Daniel 11:20
Thank you, Alex for having me.

Alex Ferrari 11:21
I wish it was under better circumstances. But I saw this very passionate video that you posted up on YouTube, telling the story of how you're experienced with a specific distributor who will we'll be talking about soon. And, and how you you were stating that they are taken advantage of you and not lived up to their agreements. And I hear those stories on a daily basis, I get emails on a daily basis about those things as sad as and tariff is horrible as that stuff is I get it all the time. And I try to help as much as I can. And obviously through what I do at any film, hustle. And everything I do on a daily basis. I'm trying to get the education and the information out for people not to get screwed, but yours was even you had something that I had not heard before. You are struggling with cancer currently and and when I heard that a distributor was doing something to someone was essentially dying or fighting for their life. And still doing this. I can't sit back and not allow you to come on the show and spread the word about what has happened to you and hopefully that can help other people. So before we go down this road, how did you start in the business? Because I think that's important for people to understand.

Michael Daniel 12:42
Okay, honestly, the very first script I wrote was involved with Project Greenlight men back with Matt Damon Ben Affleck because back in the day,

Alex Ferrari 12:47
That would be I was in season two, sir. I was in the opening sequence of season two, sir.

Michael Daniel 12:54
To Park City Party and the what are the LA parties the bowling alley? So yeah, back then. Yeah. So yeah. My first script was a comedy called misinformation. I'd never I wrote it in word like an idiot. So I had to do change everything cuz I didn't know what I was doing. So anyway, that was the start. So my read like this is really funny. Blah, blah, blah, Minister just writing other stuff. And then I turned to street rumor that day. Yeah. So truth free.com, I start putting scripts up there. And then I started getting the top three. And then I got a couple of screenplay that month and I won something then then they had me come on and do like an interview about it. And that the fifth first 10 pages that I'm not really big contest enter into Earth. But I had a script I was really passionate about those. I care a lot about civil rights and people being treated like human beings. And it's a it's a film called a circle that circle in the water. And it's basically a story that starts with a hit was born. And it ends the day Obama was elected. But it follows this black family in Stone Mountain Georgia, trying to build a dairy and fighting racism in the south. And then they happen to be at like all these different places. Anyway, so I wrote that entered nickel fellowship with that script. I came in to semifinals without nine I've been a quarter. I've been a quarterfinals three times and it was no semifinals once that got me introduced to my buddy john Orland because I couldn't afford to go to into pitch fest. So I volunteered that I got meetings because of volunteer and at the cocktail party is shit with people and people said, Oh, yeah, cool. Yeah, let's talk. Then I got hired to write two scripts ideas I have from him. You know, it built and built and I started making short film have one or two short films and then I was like, You know what, I want to make this but I've never had money. I've never had anybody believed in me family in never. I know a lot of friends now. And believe me, I really see what I'm doing. But I had to go through a lot to get to this point. And my buddy Joseph shell, who's the executive producer, he and I paid for him most mostly he you know, they they screwed him out, like nine grand or more, you know, so he knew me for a long time. He knew I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, you know, I mean, documentaries, hiking the Appalachian Trail, walked across an American did a documentary, he knew all this. He knew if I set out to do something, I would complete it. And he's like, Hey, man, I just sold this property up in Oregon. I've got like an extra 80 90,000 I can throw in if you've got Story, you're going to write a script. So I popped out a script moved up there and got it all together, you know. And that's how I finally got to the feature. So it was like, you know, it like most filmmakers, it's not giving up. And it took me from Project Greenlight to now to get that movie to get a real movie made. I worked with Christopher on a few projects, and I wrote for him a couple of times. And other people I've met, oddly enough, either through on the water Project Greenlight, so you know, Internet's been great. So that got me to get gone. See, dedication, man. movie? Um, so yeah, that's about you know, that's the condensed version, there's a whole lot more stuff.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure. Yeah, that's definitely the condensed version, well, then tell me So tell me about your film and and how it got made and how, what the struggles were just to get this thing to get to the thing to where you have it. And again, we could do a condensed version.

Michael Daniel 15:51
I can say has enough if I go too long. Alright. Um, so like I said, I moved to the town got into all the people who live in a specific town Cascade Locks, Oregon. And I started looking for locations and stuff trying to make this work, you know, and I wanted to get all the Sorry, just cat's meowin'. I'm sorry

Alex Ferrari 16:09
That's okay. No, you can, Cat meows its. Okay. No worries.

Michael Daniel 16:12
Okay, cool. All right. So Cascade Locks, Oregon, blah, blah, blah, got to meet all the locals found all the locations. I cast it, I get a local caching at the Best Western there and cascade for Oregon, folks, Portland come in. But a lot of great people hired a lot of great people right there was looking for a dp I told him, I was like, dude, we started this, we only had like, $65,000. That's all we had. And the Joe was cool enough to say, All right, I'll throw in a little more since you got land Shay, you know, because mark, the DP that I contacted, he had done a movie with Lind before. And he's like, well, I can't promise you bro. I was like, Alright, well, I'll just write a nice letter. And I wrote her letter, she loved the letter, got back to me talk to me a couple of times. And she agreed to read the script. She read it like the part and agreed to do it. And I was like, Hey, this is a low ultra low budget movie. I was like, it ain't gonna be like what you're used to. I was like, we were doing those. Half of my crew had never done any kind of film where ever in their life, we had a crew of Chris one liner, who was the ad and strange bird, Adam. And that was it. And this mail was there a couple days, but we had three people doing all of our lights for the first two weeks, and we shot for 14 days, we lost a day and a half for a specific reason. I'm gonna get into that you're out. But uh, so we got it all done. We had, we missed a couple of scenes. So we had to get everybody back a couple of weeks later. So we shot the final bit. And then we had to get it edited, obviously, and at this point, I was cutting clips with this other kid and both Portland and I was planning to go to AFM that was 2018. So I was taking clips of the film to AFM so I can help you know, I could try to market my film try to get people look at it. Um, so it was getting edited a little bit at that point, but this decade, we had to rehire a different editor. That's a whole different story. You know, so, so we had to do that. And I got the clips too. I talked to gravitas offered me a deal. I and offered me a deal. loski and Shane, Sean Shane, they took me out to dinner and offered me a deal. I mean, everybody, I had met him MGS from 40,000, to about 10. And I was going to take the 40 i think i think that was that was my friend Gianni. He had some friend of his who was at the market who liked He's like, Well, look, we can make this back. He said that we can make this money back because the hook, you know, just the stores. I was a cool. So I did at that point I got contacted by Phoenix, you know? Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 18:34
So who are we talking about? So for people who don't know who was the who's the company, you're talking about?

Michael Daniel 18:39
Phoenix worldwide entertainment is our is the company that I made the deal with. And what happened was I they approached me after after AFM and I said, hey, look, this is the situation. I've got these offers. I was like so and this is the best one. I'll get to that company, blah, blah, blah, what's your official offer? They sent me a contract. I thought it was kind of fishy. So I sent it to my buddy. He works at an agency. He's not like I don't have an agent or anything. But I sent it to him. That's why I wish I had an agent. But I sent it to him. And he like he's like, yeah, you need to take this, I'll take this out, fix this. And he did all that I sent it back to them. They approved it, signed it, send it back to me. And I signed in the whole deal is as you know, the contract for a sales agent who is getting it to distribute distributors. There is a you know,there's there's a set of deliverables that you

Alex Ferrari 19:24
So hold on for one second. Okay, so Phoenix worldwide is a sales agent and not a distributor.

Michael Daniel 19:30
They're both

Alex Ferrari 19:31
they're both okay. So they dance in both and both things. Okay, great. And, and they're based in the UK if I'm not mistaken, correct?

Michael Daniel 19:39
Yeah, they have addresses here for some reason, but I've noticed to like the one of the information things I have, has an Arizona address. And then there's another it was in Maryland or Delaware,

Alex Ferrari 19:50
Ofcourse. Yeah. Yeah, that would that would be for local taxes. So yeah, that's why they're in those in those setup, but generally they're probably just peel boxes or something like that. General but they are a UK based company, correct?

Michael Daniel 20:02

Alex Ferrari 20:03

Michael Daniel 20:03
Yes. They handle, you know, all kinds of films.

Alex Ferrari 20:06
Okay, great. So, so continue. So they asked for deliverables,

Michael Daniel 20:10

Alex Ferrari 20:10
And what was their deal? What was the deal they offered by 100,000 100,100?

Michael Daniel 20:14
$100,000 On acceptance over deliverables within three days, except the deliverables we get $100,000 in deposit in our bank.

Alex Ferrari 20:20
Okay, great. And then also, what was the term? Do you remember the term meaning like, is it five years a 10? year? Is there a marketing cap anything like that?

Michael Daniel 20:28
Was 7 25,000 on a marketing cap? That was supposed to come after the fact after we got our mg the surety said, Sure. $25,000 marketing guy did most of the marketing. They did a couple of posters, which is great, but I was one just all over the place.Yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 20:45
And then and then the cost and then the Okay, so the MG I'm trying to I'm just reviewing this it was it was a five year deal or seven year deal. $25,000 marketing cap. And and you were supposed to get $100,000 mg. And your budget for the film was how much

Michael Daniel 21:01
Was about 97 plus post and I had to sell my truck proposed because we kept having to do more deliverables and I had to get rid of one editor. So we basically had to start fresh again.

Alex Ferrari 21:09
Okay,All right. So let's go into let's go into the deliverables real quick.

Michael Daniel 21:13
Okay, yep. So what? So I got all the deliverables done, put them on a USB got their information, Pinewood Studios in the UK, delivered it to the FedEx, but they told us the address they told us to I got confirmation that was there. Then all of a sudden three or four days later Hey, guys, we got to drive yet. They're like, Well, no, it's it's it's FedEx, which was five miles from Pinewood Studios. And they're like, It's over there. The FedEx how we, you know, they haven't delivered yet. I was like, Yeah, I know, I've talked to FedEx International, like seven times, they're saying that you guys need to give them some tax number that you didn't give them so they can give you the package. I was like, I just need one of you guys on your way to work on the way home stop by just pick up the two months past. They never fixed it up. And I at that point, I that's when I sold my truck. And actually a couple of friends. I've taken loans from to pay for the for QC. For a little extra editing some music stuff, we needed to pay for all this extra stuff. I was borrowing money, because I was under the assurance that I'll be able to pay everybody back. So I would like an apple.

Alex Ferrari 22:09
So no, no, no, no. Okay, so what was the final cost of all the deliverables? For you out of pocket?

Michael Daniel 22:17
Well, after about 14 after the BS,should have been eight or nine Max,

Alex Ferrari 22:24
But it was about $14,000 cash out of your pocket. And you were saying, Well, sure, I'll pay it because I have a guarantee of $100,000 going into my bank account, why wouldn't I pay it? So I can get this thing up and running? And let's let's go. Okay, so so two months passed, they still haven't picked up the thing? Which of course, by the way is the laying there $100,000 payment?

Michael Daniel 22:46
Oh, of course. Yeah, of course. And so what ended up happening is we had recent another drive, and also hook them all up everywhere at Pinewood who work them on a Dropbox file, and upload all our doubles on a separate Dropbox file on top of USB. Then that took for some reason that still took forever for them to look at. And you know, then Rachel, I guess one of the employees there got back said, Yep, this looks all great. Everything's good to go. Okay, great. And then, as you know, now we went back and forth. Now then, that was in October. So the first one was in July 2 was in and what's funny enough morning, but in July, I was super horribly sick. August is when I got my cancer, I got stage four colon cancer with metzen, lungs, liver and kidneys. And I'm doing amazing. I was supposed to be dead last Christmas. And I think they think I was gonna die because they knew I had cancer as soon as they get that drug because I was horrible to you go back and look at my videos. And that time, I'm about 60 pounds heavier. Last week, oh, like that, you know, but my doctor told me was gonna be dead, you know. And I did infusions, you know, for a while anyway. So there were situations that came up during that time, too. As a guys. I'm going through really horrible stuff here. Man. I was like, I need to be able to pay for meds I have to set up interest. I don't have that yet. I don't have a place to live up here yet. I was like, I just moved out of one house because I was finally going like a three month hike. That's my plan. I started with mountain hikes out. And just the world fell apart out of nowhere. You know, I've been sick I guess for a long I made the whole movie with stage four cancer didn't know I made a movie, you know, while I was sick. So I put up all that fun stuff. So yeah, I was begging him and I have emails and messages that say do we will definitely send you something to help with that. Then we'll work on this other stuff. And that happened 56789 times. My power has been turned off twice. I can show you my bet. I think my bank account has seven or $8 in it right now I live on because of this. I let you know because I know I seem pretty hyper active. And I am like I said I try to take care of myself. But I do tend not to dog I'm laying down because I'm so winded and I'm trying to build that back up and I'm doing really good. But there's you know, every problem I've had on top of the stress of dealing with cancer deal with not being paid, I'm dealing with my buddy Joe who put all his money to I'm dealing another buddy Scott who handed me six grand just cuz he's an awesome human being. You know, I paid him back three out of the first because I'm like, dude, I tried to pay as many people back as I could Right away, and I left us with nothing again, you know, it's like I wrote a script, I got paid a little bit for that, because Joe's asked me to carry me on that. But basically two and a half years of work, I got nothing. These assholes had their name above my film, beat a tool writer to present above my name.

Alex Ferrari 25:15
Alright. Okay. Okay, so so let's, let's take it back for a second. Alright, so now they have, they have been pushing and pushing and pushing for you to to get your money, any sort of money, any sort of money whatsoever. They've been let go, it's coming. It's coming. It's coming. It's coming. And you've already delivered. So you've now you've now abided by the agreement. You've delivered it, they've approved those deliverables. And now you're waiting for their part of the MG, which is what they're supposed to pay, according to the contract. So it's now been how many months since the moment you deliver to the point where they won? Well, it's actually up to now, today, me today. Yeah. So you still that you're a little over. So a little over a year, and they still haven't paid you the MG that they promised you according to the agreement. Okay. So I just want everybody to understand that everyone listening, just because it's on paper doesn't an agreement doesn't mean 100% that they're going to do it. You got to be careful about who you're walking into these deals with, because you just don't know what the scenario is. And a lot of times the distributor might have the greatest the best intentions in the world. But something like COVID hits and all their money dries up another screwed. So there's other which I'm not saying that's this case, but it's just the world. It's just business. It happens in every business. But this is different, different scenario. Okay, so they haven't given you any money. And then they're just constantly just kind of gaslighting you. And it's all it's all coming. It's coming. It's coming. It's coming. It's coming coming. All right, so what's the next Oh, do you go after? What What's it what happens to your movie? Because the movie gets released, right?

Michael Daniel 26:58
Yeah, and I didn't know what have been sold. And anybody knows anything about this business knows if you're a filmmaker, you deal with sales agents and distributors and they are both supposed to come to you and say, Hey, this is a situation we have somebody to territory that wants to buy your your bill. Would you agree to this? Would you sign this so we can sell it so we can get paid? And you can get paid? And then a filmmaker says yes or no, that never happened? What happened was Lin Shaye got a hold me Okay, congratulations. I hear they're doing a screening of your movie in LA at that little you know, the Hollywood at the cinema. Cleopatra doesn't have screenings that I was like, Wait, what? I was like, Wait, what? And so then I you know, the main DJ got on the phone like wait, you sold the movie? Who do you sell it to? They found out was sold to Cleopatra, then we were trying to get a receipt? No. Hey, man, listen.

Alex Ferrari 27:40
So we're gonna real quick clip. Because people I want to make sure everyone keeps you know stays with the story. So Cleopatra is another distributor who purchased the rights to your film from Phoenix entertainment worldwide.

Michael Daniel 27:54
Yeah, here's what I'm doing. Yeah, they're a wash. And they're great. And I'm gonna say this to make sure everyone understands Cleopatra, entertainment, Tam, those guys. They've been awesome. To me. This was not their fault. What they did their business people, they were offered a product, they pay the price for the product, and they put the product out. The people who are fucking me are the people who kept 30% of my money. And on top of that, you know, another almost 80 grant. So

Alex Ferrari 28:19
By the way, what was the deal? Well, that was one thing I forgot to ask you about the deal. What was their percentage? It's not 30%. Was it a 70-30?

Michael Daniel 28:26
I didn't look at that contract. You know, I think it's I think it was, what was it? Like? 10% 5%? Honestly, God, I have to look at that front page. Again. I don't have in front of me.

Alex Ferrari 28:34
Okay. Okay. But it's, but it wasn't 30%

Michael Daniel 28:37
No, God, no, it was I'm saying DJ, my buddy DJ, he was, you know, helps him with like this kind of stuff. You should get the mic and then do. He's like this ludicrous. He said, they should have kept two grand three grand Max, Max. He said, All they do is sign a paper. I ain't done anything, you know. And he said that he will tell you, they did the deal. Literally, I had to find out later and then beg and plead. And I got to the point now I'm going to be honest with you, brother. I was pleasant for a time. And I've used very, very, very choice words and emails to these people. And I have no problem saying that. I'll admit it. I'm a nice guy. I'm a loving good human being. But if you step on me, I'm gonna step back, you know, and it's not right. And I again, I own up to anything bad I ever said anything vulgar. I ever send an email because I've had, you get to a point you snap me and these people still don't care. They I snapped because they started ignoring the emails. They won't even respond. I haven't heard from Michael Cohen in probably eight or nine months.

Alex Ferrari 29:28
No, of course, of course. Just blocked this off. All right. So okay, so now your film has been purchased by Cleopatra entertainment. And they release it, they release it and they have and from what you have what you discovered by the way you you had to find out outside of these people. So all the information that you're getting about what Cleopatra has done is from Cleopatra themselves, or other people that you've gotten this information from but not from Phoenix. Okay, of course, so they purchase from what you've told me they purchased English Speaking rights. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Michael Daniel 30:13
Well finish worldwide, purchased universal rights.

Alex Ferrari 30:16
Correct. But then

Michael Daniel 30:19
suppose what I was told was they purchase domestic rights. But then what I found out later was it supposedly purchased all English speaking territories, which is a bunch of crap. And I had, I had no idea about that. I didn't know if I would agree to something like that, because that's markets that you can make more money off of. And that's,

Alex Ferrari 30:36
Of course, that's huge. That's huge markets that you're just giving away. So Alright, and Do you mind? Do you mind saying how much you they paid for that those rights?

Michael Daniel 30:46

Alex Ferrari 30:46
No, no, no. Cleopatra

Michael Daniel 30:48
Oh, they paid 20. It was supposed to be 35,000. Total. That's what they gave those guys. And then they sent us only 25 without telling us how much they owe us. Well, I never even heard the deals for I just knew we were getting paid me to argue back and forth to get that.

Alex Ferrari 31:00
But you've got. So Phoenix did send you 22,5 off of this deal. But they still have never paid you any of the MG. I don't know.

Michael Daniel 31:08
And that that took months and months and months and months to that was a battle.

Alex Ferrari 31:12
Oh, it wasn't like a magical check that showed up that you actually had to fight for that.

Michael Daniel 31:17
Over and over phone bank. They did the bank they use denied they sent the transfer, I kept asking for a tracking number confirmation bank info, they wouldn't send, they would talk to me, they will have that we don't have to

Alex Ferrari 31:27
So you discovered so I just want to create the timeline for filmmakers listening, you find out from Lynn Shea who by the way, if everyone doesn't know who Lynn Shea is, can you tell him what Lynch has been in? Because

Michael Daniel 31:37
Something about Mary and every other movie Kingpin Jesus, you know,

Alex Ferrari 31:41
she's been in 1000 things. Alright, so she's a very well known actress. So Lynn Shay calls you and says, Hey, congratulations. So then because of that information, then you reach out to Cleopatra. And, and they're cool with you about it, and they start giving you all this information, then you reach out to Phoenix and going, Hey, where's my money? And now the beginning, from that process of the phone's phone call about Cleopatra, to the point where you got your 20 to five, how long did that take?

Michael Daniel 32:12

Alex Ferrari 32:13
months, and it was just hounding and beating up and emails and calls and just obscene amounts of time.

Michael Daniel 32:18
And being told that I was a bad person for getting mad at them for doing this and stuff like that, and that I was wrong for saying they're stealing my money and this and that. They told me I was a bad person more than once more than once for saying that. Wow, that's what this made. I can't I can't do this anymore. I can't. Wow. Boy, brother, and people need to know, and people will find out. So but yeah,

Alex Ferrari 32:41
You're the bad person for asking for the money that you're owed, in addition to the money that the $100,000 that they never gave. So they they've reneged on their agreement with you, or they've never, they just never paid you. And then they're upset with you, because then you call them out on a deal that they sold your movie and never told you about it, which is also I'm assuming part of your agreement that you're told when something is sold, or at least even told that you're going to be sold, or should I sell it? Yep. Oh, God. Okay. All right. So you get the 22. Five, and then you're still fighting to get that and that took? So you got 22 five. Great, fantastic. It's some money. Fantastic. And I'm sure when they sent you that check. They're like, Are you happy now?

Michael Daniel 33:24
Yeah, no. Roby actually put in one of the emails. This is this is the end of this whole thing or something like that. No, it's not.

Alex Ferrari 33:31
This is the end of this whole thing. So they've never did you did? Did you keep bringing up the $100,000 they owed you?

Michael Daniel 33:38
All the time. I sent him emails with the contract in it.

Alex Ferrari 33:41
And then they what do they do? What do they say?

Michael Daniel 33:44
Where it completely, they don't say anything? Nothing, zero. Now and then, because they're all blaming each other. This point is true. Michael's blaming, he's blaming them. This guy says he doesn't work at the company where this guy said they made the deal that this guy, it's bunch of bullshit con man. That's all they are, you know.

Alex Ferrari 34:00
Wow. And I want to I also want to clarify something. Just so we so everybody is aware. I did a little research on on Michael and Phoenix and these guys. Can you tell the story from what I saw my research? They had issues with Mel Gibson? Correct. Can you tell that story?

Michael Daniel 34:21
What I know all I know is I found that out later, I did research because I was getting pissed. And I started finding stuff about the guy and the other guy. But it was mainly it was some kind of stealth something is some film company that they put together and they raised millions of dollars from different investors to make a movie called Mary Magdalene. And what I gathered from that was that the movie was never made. Mel Gibson had never agreed to be involved in the movie, didn't even know anything about it. And they were just pulling in lots of money to go and suppose he wasn't involved. But I see a court case where he was banned from doing business in the UK for a decade or something like that, and he's doing this deal. So maybe he's breaking the law. He doesn't know it.

Alex Ferrari 34:58
So there's definitely some There's some smoke here. There's definitely some smoke here. Okay, so Alright, so now where so basically you you're at the end of your rope, you you're dealing with fighting for your life, because you have cancer. And you're still struggling just to get paid the money that you're owed. Essentially, what who owns like, so now you can't get the rights back to your movie if you try because Cleopatra has them.

Michael Daniel 35:31
Right? They have the missile We need to talk. All of us need to have a talk. I tried to call him a couple times like this, this they know the deal. They've been included a couple of emails, they know the shady shit that's going on. So hopefully they will stand up for the reckoning.

Alex Ferrari 35:45
Even in Cleopatra he's talking about

Michael Daniel 35:47
Yeah, I don't want to drag violence in. But I will tell you this Cleopatra is a conglomerate are a part of Sony, which is the orchard 1091 Oh, yeah. The first day when I posted that video bitching about Venus worldwide. Yeah, guess what a copyright claim on my fucking video. The orchard? Why? Because that opening song, which is off iMovie. Right claim on me. How about that? What a bunch of dick bags?

Alex Ferrari 36:13

Michael Daniel 36:15
It was right after I you know so. And that's their company that owns Yeah, I don't know. Who knows, man. But you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:22
Interesting, interesting.

Michael Daniel 36:25
So he told me that I need to be Yo, you shouldn't do this because it could hurt your career, the future. And I say this again. People who do this to people I don't want to work with, I would never want to work with them. If you back people who do this kind of shit up. I don't want to work for you either. I mean, you don't say anybody who backs up the horrible stuff these people did. It's not okay. And like you said earlier, it happens all the time. And people just ignore it. Right? Like, it doesn't happen. And then most people can't fight it. Or they just give up after a few months. I that guy you know, and that's the thing. It's, they weren't expecting the fight. So

Alex Ferrari 36:54
This is this is the this is the problem I see in general, and I'll get on my soapbox for a second, the system is broken. The system needs to change the system of distribution for films, and compensating filmmakers feel producers, even other distributors in this chain, because a lot of times smaller distributors are in the same boat as filmmakers, because then they'll sell to a bigger distributor who screws them out, which in turn screws out that the filmmaker so there's multiple people in this chain, the system has not been designed to help you or to help predict they're just not built it. The system has not never was designed to help filmmakers since the days of Buster Keaton and Chaplin. I mean, that's just you know, how many times have we heard the term Hollywood accounting? Right? I mean, how many times we've heard about the distributor screwed me, I mean, it's the equivalent of the casting couch until the metoo movement, the casting couch, which was his punch line, like, Oh, she got the part because she had to go on the couch to couch or he got the part because of that. It was part of business as usual until someone stood up, and the movement stops. So this kind of bullshit wouldn't happen anymore. And I feel that this has to happen in our side of the business, because in many ways is just, it's I hate to use this term, but it's like a financial raping of a filmmakers. I mean, look at the stuff you're going through, and how much struggle that you went through to make your film. And you sold your car and you're you know, you almost homeless, you're dealing with cancer, you've you've taken loans out and you're and by the way, your story is insanely horrible. But I've heard other stories of people completely becoming desolate, like just gone, like moving like 50 year old men and women moving back home, because they lost everything because they they trusted a distributor or trusted an mg or trusted that this or you know, whatever it needs to change. And that's why I wanted to have you on the show to kind of share your story. So people really get this man that this is not BS. You know, and I know you know this as well as from what I did last year with the stripper when I broke that story. And what happened with that, and that's still going on. And I after the New Year, there'll probably be some updates. I'll just leave it at that on that scenario, but it's This is it. This is wrong, man, this is absolutely wrong. And it's it needs to stop. And now by the way, it's getting tougher for anybody to make money in the business COVID has changed the whole game completely. And now the pressure is starting to be applied on this system that was broken before COVID. So now guess who's gonna get screwed? All the filmmakers are gonna get screwed more and more and more and more, there's going to be more more companies that are going to do this kind of these kinds of shenanigans because either they have to or because they want to You know, and again, I'm sorry. And this all started pre COVID. Yeah, it This all started pre COVID. So all right, so Oh, by the way, I heard that that your video caused a little bit of little havoc. It has how many times this have been seen so far? Like 600? I think this morning. Yeah, 600 topics, we'll probably get a couple more hits by the time we're done. But, but didn't somebody reach out to you from Phoenix?

Michael Daniel 40:29
Oh, yeah, yeah, they reached out to me. They're like, hey, if you'll take those videos down, we'll give you $3,000 of our personal money right now to take all the videos down, and then we'll pay you the rest or whatever we can at first of December. No, first, it was the first of the year. And I was like, no, they're like, Okay, well, we'll give you 3000 out, then we'll give you more of the first to December. I was like, No, I was like, what I would like, I don't want less. I don't want money as a favor. I don't want any I don't want to frickin whatever I want you to pay what's in the contract? what you owe us what you took. That's it, none of us will be going on. If they honor the contract, they just what they owes. I'll be working on another film right now. I would not be doing this shit. You know it because I can't stop until this is handled. I can't move on until this is handled. They moved on their fucking other people and taking their money. You know, I haven't, I haven't moved on. And I've been I'm glad you reached out. Because I've been doing this by myself. I had nobody to help me with this. You know.

Alex Ferrari 41:20
And, you know, if I if my platform can help get the word out on on stuff, and educate filmmakers about what's going on in our industry. That's what I do. And again, when I heard your story, I had to I had to, I wanted to shine a light on this because I just wanted to like, this is come on to the dude's got cancer. I mean, I mean, like, come on, man. Like, just just a little bit human. Just not a lot, just a little bit human. And, and even if like, look even it's like, Look, we can't pay you the 100,000 the way we promise you can we pay you 10 grand a month, can we pay you five grand a month, can we pay you something until we pay it off, because we're having struggles, there's conversations, man, there's something that could be done. If they truly cared about helping you

Michael Daniel 41:25
All the BrahMos they sent me their confirmation from the bank, they showed us what they paid us. And what they the mistake they made was they included their balance. So I saw they had my money, they just opted to not pay it. Oh, frost bank, it shows their accounts like 67,000 they sent me 22 and they owed me 35 so it's there, it's on paper, it's it's right there that they fucked me. And it's like you had the money, you could have done the right thing right away, you didn't you know, just for the domestic deal. And I told them that at that point is like if you can pay us for the domestic go for an hour, we can work out the other later, you know, and no one wanted to do that. They just want to ignore everything and not paying anybody you know, sick.

Alex Ferrari 42:46
It is it is unfortunate that this this continues to go on in our industry. And I want filmmakers to be really just aware that this is the way business is done a lot of times unfortunately, you know, predatory distributors are out there and doing business and hurting filmmakers on a daily basis all around the world. And, and you know, when when this gets released, AFM is going around the corner. It comes it comes out, you know? And can the castle market Berlin, MIPCOM, all of these, you know, there there are these kind of predatory distributors out there doing this kind of business. So, in all honesty, you know, when you sign a deal with a company overseas, it's really difficult for you to do anything. Am I wrong? So like, let's say you wanted to, you know, put a legal case against them. You got to hire an attorney in England to take them to court in England right?

Michael Daniel 43:49
They do no pay no pay no fee attorneys there. And what I've already been contact what they've done is an offense and you can get prison time what they've done in UK it's a it's a it's a prison terms offense. It's not a it's not an offender but and these people contacted me like yeah, you know, you might want to show them this and maybe they'll have it straight out their accounts. But of course that's when they called me to after I said that he or I'm sorry, that's an easy contact about the three Isabella's after sending that little little note

Alex Ferrari 44:18
$3,000. So they're trying to hush, it's like a payoff to basically to take it off. Right. And they didn't disagree with you. Right. And the email they didn't like, they didn't say you're absolutely lying. We've paid you all our money. They didn't say that. Did they add nothing against? Nope. Right. So we just tried they, they're just setting you up to trying to shut you up. That's hard. It's Yeah, well, it's gonna get harder. That's for sure. It's gonna get harder. I microman I let me ask you a question. Because I'm just so upset about this and I just holding back as much as I possibly Can, what do you want to happen? So if they're going to see this, and they're going to hear this that I can promise you, what do you want to happen? Now? At this point, I mean, I don't want to get all dark but no, no, no. Okay. Okay, let's, let's Okay, hold on. Let me let me rephrase the question because I could see where this is going. What? What would you like to happen in regards to your film, getting paid and moving on with your life?

Michael Daniel 45:33
Well, what I would like is finish worldwide to pay me. I told them, they already took it off their site just recently, again, they had him on the eighth and page yesterday for sale, they had get gone on a pitch for silly. And I, I sent him Jonathan wolf in the midst of an email saying, Get my movie off your page, as I talked about Phoenix was like, john, this is my movie, they have no right. And they took it off like that. But I think they're still doing it. They're still doing it. But what I would like to happen is my buddy Joe to get his money, me to get enough money to get my fucking truck back for God's sakes, I don't care about the rest, man, I love doing this. So I don't like this part of it. But I love doing it. You know, I love the process. I love the people. And I want to say that to real quick before anything else, the film get gone, man, my casting crew, I love those people very much, we accomplish something that's really hard. You know, we and i just i, this has nothing to do with any of those people. So that's very important that everyone knows as well, they're, those people helped me accomplish a dream, it means more to me than anything in the world. So I want to get that out, too. You know, that's, that's super important to me. So, but yeah, those other guys are dicks.

Alex Ferrari 46:33
So you just basically, you basically just at this point in the game, want them to, to live up to their agreement, pay you the $100,000 that they owe you. And, and and then at the end and then go away. And just that's it. And they can, they could go off and live and you can go off and live.

Michael Daniel 46:50
I want to I don't want him to go off live successful, I want them to never get to buy another film, I don't want them to ever get access to the project. You know, I've already I have stepped in have had people call me and ask my advice. And I say don't make a decision based on what I tell you. But I'll tell them my story. And then they make the decision. And I have a feeling both of those films did not get picked up by peanuts on entertainment. And that will continue as well, you know, so I'm gonna be honest, I'm not going to downtrodden anybody, I'm not going to defame anybody, I'm not going to lie about anybody, I'm going to be honest. Because that's bad enough, the truth is fucking horrible. So,

Alex Ferrari 47:23
Right, and this is the, this is the truth. This is the truth based on the paperwork, and the and all the stuff that you have in the agreements, and, and bank of receipts and all the stuff that you've been laid out. And we're going to also be putting in the show notes, an article that you're writing, detailing a lot of this stuff with, with collaborating, corroborating paperwork to back everything up that you're saying, on our site, as well. So if anybody wants that, I'll leave that in the show notes. And I'll let you know where to go get that and read that information. Because, man, all right, so yeah, cuz I understand a lot of people are going to start to start reaching out to you, and they're gonna, if they, they're going to look up these guys, and your name is gonna probably pop up. I've had that happen to me. I've had people look up a certain company. And, and then and then my podcast shows up. Like if you type in the word distributor. I was like the number one search, I was the number one and number two blinks on Google for distributor for the longest time, until the LA until the LA Times picked up the story. And then they became number one. But I was still a story about me dealing with a stripper.

Michael Daniel 48:39
You brought it to it, man, that's that's the thing. You got it out there. That's the key to get it all fixed this problem in this industry, we have to do this kind of thing. You know,

Alex Ferrari 48:47
We gotta shine the light.

Michael Daniel 48:49
Yeah, none of us are perfect human beings. No one's perfect. We all make mistakes. I understand that. And I'll forgive people, if they say, hey, look, we fucked up. I'm sorry. Because I've had to do that. I was like, Look, I've made a mistake. I'm sorry. You can't get better. You can't fix problems. You can't move on unless you're able to do that. And they need to do it to a lot of people, at least four or five people I know that they fucked over. So you know, it's

Alex Ferrari 49:11
I think that i think the thing that a lot of these kind of distributors are just generally predatory distributors in general, they like to live and work in the darkness. They don't want light shine on what they do. They don't want transparency. They don't want to see what's going on behind the scenes. They don't want you to see they don't want information to get out there. They don't want to educate filmmakers about what cross collateralization is, and and not putting on a marketing cap and locking up your film for 10 years plus and you know, you know, not getting paid. They don't want people to know what the stuff is because that gives them power. So I feel it's my mission and my purpose to shine as much light on What they do in this business so everyone can see it, because that's the only way our business is going to be able to grow. Because at the end of the day, if we keep screwing over the content creators, we're not going to be able to keep making content. And if we can't make content, there is no product. And by the way, a lot of newer generation, younger distribution companies are figuring that out. And they're not all about like the grab the one off, let me steal as much money as I can from these guys. And they're like, let's build a partnership, let's make sure that you can do more of this because the more product you can bring to me, the more money I can make, the more money you can make. That's the way it should be. It shouldn't be this kind of predatory. Let me screw you for as much as you can, because there's another 20 Films sitting behind you and right now that might be the case. But I promise you if you keep screwing this up and the information continues to get out there, I actually showed like my book to a few people who are outside the business and I have like I have like four or five chapters on distribution and all the craziness and they said Why would anyone do this? Why would you Why would you get this is not a business it's it's it's different. We're Carnival folk. Like I always say we're carnies. Absolutely I have a Barker that's for sure we are we are carnies magician party. But But Michael Mann I do by the way, how are you doing with your with your your your your cancer and how what's the prognosis? If you're only asking

Michael Daniel 51:33
If anybody here is watching this and actually interested I've been if I could talk about this it's cool. Um November 21. Last year I stopped taking chemo infusions so that almost killed me I started to do blood working and stuff and this little thing here my chest but I stopped because it almost killed me I was died in hospital and I decided to switch over to C CDs and THC and I swear to god on my soul since November I stopped that in January stopped the pill. So January of last year I've had no pharmaceuticals at all. I've had only oils and tinctures and my doctor is blown away my tumors are all shrinking I have my lungs are a little progression. kidneys are doing great. The colon thing they That's it? They don't they it's like it shrinks and grows and shrinks and grows. But overall man I feel better than I felt in a couple years. I'm just tired I get winded that's the worst sure I'm always trying to work up you know, but I felt better a day when I made get gone you know I got more energy I feel better you know I'm well like i said i'm thinner to I'm eating like salads and fresh fruit no meat no bread no no alcohol. You know what a monk who likes wheat?

Alex Ferrari 52:37
Fair Fair enough, man Well listen, I I I really wish you nothing but the best man and and I'm glad you're doing better and I hope that continues down that road. And I know the stress of this bs is probably not helped your condition in the least. But But I do really wholeheartedly hope that you do continue to do well and get out of this and and continue to live a very long and make a long healthy life and make a lot more films that hopefully will generate revenue. If you partner with the correct the correct distribution partner on it or self distributor, however you want to eventually go down that road. I'm going to ask you a few questions that I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to get into the business today? I'm afraid to ask.

Michael Daniel 53:33
Um, be honest, Don't bullshit. They'll spend your time in bars, make a socialize. But don't get a producer card never produce shit. You can run your mouth all you want. But if you don't do the work, you're just running your mouth. I lived in Los Angeles for a long time I ran into 100 people a day that a produce card never produced jack shit accepted bus, take it home. If you're willing to suffer, you can do it. If you care if you're honest with yourself about your art, you can do it. If you're just a little shit. You're trying to get a lottery ticket don't don't waste your time. Because you're you're you're wasting everybody's time too if you love the work if you love creating create.

Alex Ferrari 54:06
Fair enough. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Michael Daniel 54:12
Some of the people that you love and trust the motion was a fucking over the worst.

Alex Ferrari 54:16
Oh, that's a rough one. That's

Michael Daniel 54:20
I've got a lot of great lessons too. But I'm just saying, you know, that's, that's it's a sad fact. You know, it includes people you bring into we're gonna film and includes people at home or whatever. You know, there's it's just important, and I don't mean that in a negative way in any way.

Alex Ferrari 54:37
I'm sorry, it is a fairly negative.

Michael Daniel 54:40
Okay, in the end the meaning behind it, though, is that people that care about you a lot will give you information that will instill fear in you and make you not go after anything correct. They do. That's the point about that. I don't I'm not insulting people love me because I love them too. But the point is that people that love you and trust you whatever. protect you. And they will stop you from being a filmmaker, my family my entire life. I felt my family to my mom never brought it. Up until five years ago, it was still a waste of time, all this stuff even though I was making money and getting stuff done to my mom, it's a huge waste of my life. And I had to fight unfortunately, everybody my whole life, and it's called it's the thing I love more than anything. It had I and I'm not saying we'll have things happen at the right times, you know. So it's that that's the whole point. So yeah, I'm not insulting love and trust. I'm just saying, the people who do love and trust you will protect you. And that can really hurt you. Sometimes, instead of letting you you know, you're a peacock, you have to let them fly.

Alex Ferrari 55:36
Let him fly picker guesses. I completely understand. I think every filmmaker who ever turned to their parents and said, Hey, I want to go to film school. I'm going to be a filmmaker. Nine out of 10 times that's generally not probably going to be a good conversation. I you know, my father, and my parents didn't understand it. But I was lucky enough that they supported me whether they believe that or not, they supported me. But it is it is a conference I understand completely where you're coming from. Now. I'm in three of your favorite films of all time, sir. Purple. Shallow Grave. In The Blues Brothers. Got what the heck of a combination, man. I like that. That's a

Michael Daniel 56:15
Promo makes me cry to this day. Yeah. When when Sealy? Wouldn't Danny Glover's walk across that silhouette in the back of those kids, dude, I started thinking about it. I almost want to cry because it's the ridic the level of redemption that has to come. And then the preacher's daughter her, you know, coming back church, Holy Christ. I mean, there's so much about that movie. There's so much beauty. You know, that's why I love it because it's true. It's about pain. It's about life. It's about all the shit we go through. You know? Um, so yeah, Blues Brothers obviously for main reason shallow. You know, that movie. You know, it's you and McGregor way back in the day.

Alex Ferrari 56:47
I remember. God 127 hours. Boy, Danny Boyle? Yeah, Danny Boyle. Danny Boyle. Yeah, love that. That was I was in I was in film school when that came out. So of course, every all of my classmates and I went to go see that with a roommate now. And then where can people find more videos? Because I hear you're going to be posting more videos, and and all the stuff that you're doing? Where can people find you, sir?

Michael Daniel 57:16
Well, if you go to my YouTube page, I guess we can maybe put a link in there. But it's I'll put Michael Yeah, okay, we'll do that. But my websites getgonethemovie.com you can check that out. You know, it's an Amazon it's on Google Play. It's on iTunes. It's all over the place. If you look for get gone, you'll find it. It's a you know, it's a low budget movie. It's it's got hard, it's got comedy, there's a lot of cool, there's no nudity, there's language, you know, it's fun. It's there's a lot of humor, because I'm a kind of a darkly humorous person. So some people don't know if they should laugh or not. But you should.

Alex Ferrari 57:45
Fair, fair enough man, Michael man. Again, I really thank you for your honesty, your bravery for coming out publicly with this story. And, and just trying to shine a light on this side of the business and, and just, hopefully this story, and this this episode, and everything that you're doing will continue to help filmmakers avoid a lot of the pitfalls that you fallen into. And I applaud your bravery for not only this, but what you're dealing with on a personal level, man. So thank you so much for doing what you do, brother, I appreciate it.

Michael Daniel 58:18
Thank you trying to help everybody out. It means a lot. We need it.

Alex Ferrari 58:22
I can't thank Michael enough for being on the show and sharing his journey, what he's going through personally and professionally, with the tribe. And Michael i know, you felt that you were alone before but you are no longer alone, my friend. This will get out to a lot of filmmakers. And I hope that it will help a lot of filmmakers and producers out in the world. Like I said before, guys, this needs to stop. And the only way it can stop is by people coming forward by people telling their story by people shining a light in the dark crevices of the nasty back alley crap that is done in the film distribution space. Like I said, there are many good film distributors, good sales agents, good reps out there trying to do business properly, trying to help filmmakers actually get paid actually put their movies out into the marketplace and receive an ROI receive a return on their blood, sweat and tears. I'm putting a movie together. But unfortunately, they are rare. And we as filmmakers have to be vigilant to not just hand over our hard work our hundreds of 1000s if not millions of dollars of investment to a predatory distributor or predatory sales agent. Every time I hear a story like this My heart breaks Because I am trying so hard to get this information out into the ether into the filmmaking community, I need your help. To get this word out, please share this podcast episode with as many filmmakers as you can. This information, this story needs to be heard. And I hope it galvanizes the community to stop being taken advantage of by predatory film distributors and sales agents, I will do my part and continue to shine a light on these parasites. But I am only one voice, I need the help of the tribe. I need you to get the word out on these podcasts on these episodes on these articles on these videos that I'm posting, we've done a lot of good and I know personally I know that I've helped and you have helped so many filmmakers not to be taken advantage of to avoid these ridiculous deals because of the information we are putting out there. But it is not enough. We as a community need to stand up and say enough is enough. And change has to be made. And we do that with one deal at a time. We send a message to predatory film distributors, that this is no longer allowed. And if you do screw us, we will talk we will shine a light on predatory deals of 25 years or in perpetuity deals that don't have marketing caps, or abusive terms. It is a responsibility of the filmmaker to be able to see these con men for who they are, and stop it before you sign on that dotted line. And the biggest weapon we have is education, to educate ourselves to get the information out. And the second weapon we have is to talk to discuss to share information with other filmmakers, other producers, even other low level distributors smaller mom and pop distributors that I know of personally who gets screwed over by bigger predatory distributors. It is a rampant systemic issue in our business and it needs to stop now if you want to read all about Michael Daniels journey and all the details look at the emails look at the the proof that he provided the documents and some other videos please I implore you to head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustlecom/413. And I've also included the audio from the YouTube video Michael posted that got me to call him in the first place. It is a very passionate video and I wanted to include it in this podcast so you guys could hear it firsthand.

Michael Daniel 1:03:07
I guys alright, so it's almost two in the morning. I got to get some stuff off my I'm so, so mad. And so just, you know, we have dreams as human beings and a lot of us work really hard to attain those dreams. Especially when no one is there. To believe in you and to help you ever you know, and you're struggling you're striving your entire life. And you do shit work for you suffer and you go without, and you give up things and you bust your ass and you've worked so goddamn hard. And you take shit from so many people who fucking need a punch in the face to accomplish something. And when you get it done, it's amazing. And you try to get out there in the world. And you have people completely Fuck you and he steal from you. And he would lie. Phoenix worldwide entertainment Michael Cohen, Robbie Roby Moffatt, mopitt whatever the fuck Emmanuel more Yeti, those people were involved in this, they made a deal for my film $100,000 minimum guaranteed to get that we have to get deliverables done and accepted which we did back in July yet they wouldn't pick the goddamn USB up from the FedEx and UK. So it sat there for two months and then how to get reshipped So anyway, they got the deliverables accepted the the contract via agents a deal or via IFTA. The contract they signed when they bought the film. They were supposed to within three days of acceptance pay us $200,000 they did not do it. They made excuses and excuses and Excuses, excuses, excuses and excuses. I sold my fucking truck. I still don't have a truck. I still have stage four. Cancer. I've dealt with this every single day since July of last year trying to get these motherfuckers from Phoenix worldwide entertainment to do the right thing. I get constant emails. Oh, my mom is sick. My dad's sick. I was about my grandma's here. This is it. Oh, the bank will transfer we sent it but it's not there. It's coming. It's Fuck you. Fuck you Phoenix worldwide. Fuck you Michael go. Fuck you, Robin. Fuck you Emmanuelle. If you guys were in front of me, oh my god, Holy fucking shit. I've tried so long to keep this pub private is I can. No, it'll help me. IFTA won't fucking help me. I'm so mad. I'm so hurt. I put my trust when I made this movie to start with. I put my love and my trust in every single person involved. And we made something we got something done. And I got it out there. So who all that and I had stage four cancer while that was going on while dealing with it while dealing with this now, while trying to get paid for a year. Over a year. They did a domestic deal with kleopatra Entertainment, which is marvelous. I'm so happy my movies out there and on Amazon and all these other places. The deals for $35,000. They gave us 22. Five. They didn't even tell us they did they do I found out about the deal later from someone else. I didn't even know they sold my movie. They didn't they were supposed to come to me and say hey, this is the deal. Here's the contract or do you accept this? And I say yes or no. And Had I known at that point that it was eight all English speaking territories, which is a bunch of horseshit that I never agreed to I would have never agreed to that. Long story short, Venus worldwide entertainment. Fuck you, man. Well, Michael Roby. You guys are the worst of the worst. You know what you did? This is just the beginning. I'm gonna do this every day. I will do everything I can to destroy your company. You broke my heart yet? I worked for a long time. I've been homeless for this. I've been without for this. I've gone hungry for this. I thought I followed my family for this. I stayed. I've lost relationships for this. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. God dammit, man. Where's the help for people like me? Because they do it other people. There are a lot of these fucking companies that do this kind of shit to people all the time. No one helps. What the fuck? Oh my god. look them up. Michael Cohen finish worldwide entertainment. He fuck Mel Gibson supposedly they say that didn't happen. It still. You can find that? I found that out later. They're con men. They're scum. Do avoid them. Oh my god. It's what the fuck? I can't even sleep today. I'm so mad. Sorry.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:06
Thank you for listening. Guys. Again, please share this episode with as many filmmakers as you can. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.



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What to Do When a Distributor Goes Bankrupt

What to Do When a Distributor Goes Bankrupt

Read this if you:

  • have been using Distribber
  • need to know what to do if your distributor collapses
  • want to reduce the chance this will happen to you


When Distribber was launched in 2007, it provided a new way for filmmakers to get their films on iTunes and other digital platforms. Instead of having to find a traditional distributor and split the revenues from digital platforms, filmmakers paid Distribber a one-time fee and received 100% of the revenues from digital platforms. For many years Distribber provided this service to independents, guaranteeing they would get on iTunes, and passing on all of the revenues from TVOD platforms.

It was shocking to hear that Distribber and its parent company GODIGITAL have collapsed financially. While much is still unclear, here’s a breakdown of what I’ve learned so far.

NOTE: The following is not legal advice. I recommend you speak to an attorney for legal guidance.

1. Distribber is in dire financial straits. It has not paid many filmmakers for many months the money it owes them from the revenues received from platforms. Some other filmmakers have paid Distribber to place their films on platforms but Distribber has not done so.

2. Rather than entering into a bankruptcy process, Distribber is utilizing an ABC (Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors) process.

3. Distribber is using GlassRatner to manage the ABC process. Senior Managing Directors Seth Freeman (San Francisco Office: 425 California Street Suite 900 San Francisco, CA 94104 – 415.839-.9280 x 700) and George Demos (Orange County Office: 19800 MacArthur Blvd Suite 820, Irvine, CA 92612 – 949.429.4288) will be leading the process. (see #8 below)

4. The best way to contact Distribber is to email: [email protected]

When filmmakers contact Distribber, they can:

  • terminate their agreement with them (see termination language below)
  • request that Distribber take down their film from each platform
  • request that Distribber release all rights back to them
  • request that Distribber pay all monies owed to them and provide a full accounting of all revenues Distribber received on their behalf
  • request that Distribber ask the platforms to pay all future revenues directly to the filmmakers
  • request that Distribber refund any fees paid to them for services not provided

5. Here is the termination language in many Distribber agreements:


Either Party may terminate this Agreement by written notice to the other:
1   in the event of a material uncured breach or default by the other Party of any of its obligations under this Agreement, such to a thirty (30) day cure period (if the breach is curable); and/or

2   in the event that the other Party (i) institutes or otherwise becomes a party, voluntarily or involuntarily, to a proceeding alleging or pertaining to the insolvency or bankruptcy of that Party; (ii) is dissolved or liquidated; (iii) makes an assignment of its material assets for the benefit of creditors; and/or (iv) initiates or is subject to the reorganization proceedings.

Upon any such termination, GoDigital shall be relieved of all obligations to Licensor hereunder, provided Licensor shall remain obligated to pay the Delivery Fee.

Under this language, filmmakers can terminate their agreement immediately. They do not have to allow a 30-day cure period since Distribber has already made “an assignment of its material assets for the benefit of creditors.”
6. Filmmakers can also contact the platforms where their films are available:

  • alerting them to the fact that they have terminated their relationship with Distribber
  • requesting that all future payments be paid directly to them (rather than Distribber)

Platforms never want to interact directly with filmmakers and make it very difficult for filmmakers to contact them. However, this is a critical situation affecting many filmmakers that the platforms are well aware of. Netflix is already transferring titles from Distribber to individual filmmakers, enabling them to receive payments directly.

Filmmakers should request that all other platforms do the same. Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, and other platforms should follow Netflix’s example and help filmmakers through this crisis.

While it is possible for platforms to simply change the payee as Netflix has done, some may require that each title be first taken down (by Distribber or the platform itself) before the film can be put back on that platform via another aggregator. This will require the filmmaker to find and pay another aggregator. I don’t know how much this will cost or how long it will take.

7. Filmmakers should be very careful about selecting a new aggregator. They should do due diligence to make sure that the aggregator:

  • has direct deals with each platform Distribber put their film on
  • can efficiently place their film on these platforms and possibly others
  • has competitive rates
  • has good customer service, enabling filmmakers to speak with someone when needed
  • is financially stable, ideally part of a larger business that generates income from other services

8. Filmmakers can also contact GlassRatner directly to:

  • request the payment of all monies owed to them and a full accounting of all revenues Distribber received on their behalf
  • request the refund of all fees paid to Distribber for services not provided
  • request that all platforms be instructed to pay all future revenues directly to them

9. Filmmakers whose films Distribber failed to put on platforms even though it was paid to do so, are in a special position. They don’t have to get their films removed from platforms; no revenues are owed them by Distribber.

It’s possible that they may get their initial fees refunded via their credit card companies. See the following post from Protect Yourself From Distribber


Here is a copy of the letter that Laura sent to her credit card company:

Dear ____,
I am writing to dispute a charge on my Credit Card on November 14, 2018, to the company GoDigital in the amount of $1,520.00.   This was supposed to be for aggregator services to place my digital content on iTunes and Amazon.  I had sent them all the needed materials and they never completed the work.  My last day of communication with them was in March 2019 and I never heard from them again.  I just discovered that the company has recently closed down and is filing for bankruptcy and is currently working with bankruptcy specialist GlassRatner. GoDigital will be owing to its clients’ hundreds of thousands of dollars and they have not been communicating with their clients. I would like this charge to be reversed.  Thank you!

Kind regards,

10. Filmmakers must be determined, persistent, and loud to maximize their chances of succeeding. When contacting Distribber, the platforms, and GlassRatner, filmmakers must be clear about what they want and unwilling to take no, or silence, for an answer. The squeakier the wheel, the better. Filmmakers can have an attorney write a letter discussing possible litigation or make it clear they will hire an attorney if they don’t get a satisfactory response. Either way, they need to let the decision-makers understand that they are serious and committed to achieving a fair outcome. They fought hard to make their film and bring it into the world and they must stay as tenacious as necessary.



The Distribber situation is a cautionary tale. Here are the key takeaways.

1) If your distributor becomes insolvent, files a petition for bankruptcy, or makes an assignment for the benefit of creditors, act immediately. Speak with an attorney and other filmmakers to learn as much as you can.

2) You may be able to easily terminate your agreement with your distributor.

3) You can request that the distributor immediately provide letters of direction to all sublicenses exploiting your film directing the payment of all future advances, fees, royalties and commissions to you.

4) You can request that your distributor pay all the monies owed to you and provide a full accounting of all revenues received.

5) You can contact digital platforms, alert them to the fact that you have terminated your relationship with the distributor, and request that all future revenues be paid directly to you.

6) If the distributor is using an assignment for the benefit of creditors process, you can contact the firm managing the ABC to request: the payment of all monies owed to you and a full accounting, the refund of any fees paid to the distributor for services not provided, and that all platforms be instructed to pay all future revenues directly to you.

7) You may be able to get a full refund from your credit card company for any services paid for but not provided by your distributor.

8) You must be determined, persistent, and loud to succeed.


1) Before you sign any agreement:

  • do due diligence about the company with 5 filmmakers currently working with them (in addition to any references the company provides)
  • make sure the agreement includes fair bankruptcy, termination, and dispute resolution language
  • have an experienced attorney or producer review your agreement before signing
  • negotiate for a shorter term
  • avoid automatic renewal clauses

2) After you have signed your agreement:

  • make sure you receive revenue reports and payments on time and review them carefully. If they are delayed significantly, determine whether the delay is a sign of underlying financial instability. If so, take steps to protect yourself from an impending financial meltdown.
  • pay attention to reports and articles in various publications and online that may give you a sense of the distributor’s financial health

For more information on distribution sign up for Peter’s Distribution Bulletin.
For the latest updates on Distribber join the Protect Yourself From Distribber Facebook Group.

Peter Broderick is President of Paradigm Consulting, which helps filmmakers and media companies develop strategies to maximize distribution, audience, and revenues. His seminal article, “Maximizing Distribution,” has been reprinted in publications around the world. His reports, “Welcome to the New World of Distribution” and “Declaration of Independence” are concise guides to the latest distribution strategies.


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How to Become an Assistant Director

In the film industry the 1st Assistant Director or “1st AD” is the driving force behind making sure a film is completed, safe and organized. Becoming an Assistant Director can be a tricky thing and becoming a member of the DGA (Directors Guild of America) even more difficult.

How do you know if being an Assistant Director is right for you?

Being an AD is tough work and sometimes one of the hardest jobs on set. It’s definitely not a job for everyone and you should evaluate whether or not it’s really a fit for you.

Here are a few factors before you consider the profession:

  • Are you an organization freak?
  • Are you a stickler for punctuality and timeliness?
  • Do you generally love schedules, calendars, and deadlines?
  • Do your friends think of you as practical and level-headed?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in front of 300 people and giving direction to large crowds?
  • How do you feel about standing on your feet for 14 hours a day?
  • Do you love solving problems and coming up with solutions in a calm assertive manner?
  • Do you handle well under pressure?
  • Do you love challenges?

If the questions above don’t scare you then continue reading….

What are the paths to becoming an Assistant Director?

Path #1

Start working as a 1st AD or 2nd AD on student projects, short films, music videos for free or cheap. You will gain lots of experience, be forced to solve lots of problems, and have the ability to start building a resume with actual credits that will help you to land your first feature film as a 1st AD or 2nd AD.

Path #2

Work as a Production Assistant or “PA” for short.  Now getting a job as a PA is competitive so building a good resume and maintaining key contacts is essential. You might end up working free or low-paying jobs at first.

Path #3

Apply to be a DGA Trainee. Essentially if you are one of the few chosen each year you will be enrolled in a training program that will actually secure work as a trainee and eventually membership into the guild. Trainees meet lots of great contacts and in general get the best training available.

https://www.trainingplan.org/ to apply

Path #4

Produce your own projects and then hire yourself as the 1st AD.  While this may sound unconventional it is a path that some take.

Is it important to attend film school to be an Assistant Director?

Yes and No.

I know ADs who attended film school and those who skipped it all together. I personally went the film school route and believe it certainly helped me in some areas. I do think that a majority of what I have learned as an AD has been in the trenches doing the job and learning from other ADs and Producers. If you want to eventually director or produce, then film school definitely has its advantages and value that can be difficult to learn on set.

Where should I live if I want to break into the industry and work as an AD or PA?

Pick a state that has good tax incentives or consider a large market such as Los Angeles or Atlanta, or New York.

If you want to be a big fish in a small pond consider a state such as Kentucky or Louisiana.

Check out this interactive map that will show you what the current incentives are available across the US.

By living in a state with high tax incentives you are increasing your chances of finding work even though this is not always the case. Some producers may choose to film in a state with no incentives just because they have access to certain locations or crew in that state.

What tools should I have if I want to be an AD?

Having the right tools and equipment will help you to be successful onset. Yes, it can be expensive when you first start out, but not having the right tools can cost you a lot more in the long run. 

What skills should I learn to be an Assistant Director?

  1. Learn how to schedule a film. You must buy/own. You can watch these useful tutorial videos on Youtube (see video below), take an EP training class, or find an AD who can show you the ropes with MMS.
  2. Understand scene blocking, the line, and general directing basics. Consider taking the Master Class with Ron Howard or a workshop on Directing basics.
  3. Know how to update a script and show a first-time Director how to update a script using Final Draft. Good knowledge of script colors, revisions mode, and how to update scene numbers is essential.
  4. Know the ins and outs of creating a great call sheet.
  5. Understand how to run a production mtg / page turn and a tech scout.
  6. Know how to creatively set and run background action so that it looks realistic.
  7. As an Assistant Director, you are essentially a leader on set. Read as many leadership books as you can and even consider attending leadership or business seminars from time to time.

What resources are out there to learn more about Assistant Directing?

  1. Liz Gill’s book.
  2. PA Boot Camp is a great training event that will give you the essential tools to being a PA which can be a great path to being an AD.

Brandon Riley is the President of Radiant First Productions where he develops and produces Film/TV projects. Having worked on more than 30+ movies as a Line Producer / UPM or AD, and as a member of both the PGA and DGA, Brandon brings a wealth of knowledge to any set. Brandon is the author of and runs a blog called assistantdirecting.com.