IFH 342: Making Money Self Distributing Your Indie Film with Naomi McDougall Jones

Share:

NEW 2021 PODCAST COVER 400x400

Top Apple Filmmaking Podcast

10+ Million Downloads

Right-click here to download the MP3

Today episode is probably one of the most important shows I have released in some time. On the show is filmmaker Naomi McDougall Jones the writer, actress and producer behind the indie film Bite Me, a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits them, directed by Meredith Edwards.

The filmmakers of Bite Me have decided to take a radical approach to distribute their film: they're doing it themselves. For 3 months, they traveled in an RV around the U.S. and screening the film wherever they can – be it a theater, a bar, or someone's living room. Not only did they tour around the country like carnies they also documented their entire process with a docu-series.

EVERY FILMMAKER NEEDS TO WATCH THIS SERIES. It is mandatory for every IFH Tribe member. I've never said this before so take it seriously. It will save you a ton of pain and suffering. Naomi is so open, raw and honest about her experience. Get ready for one heck of an interview.  Enjoy!

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Today's guest is Naomi Mcdougall Jones. And she is one of the filmmakers behind the independent film bite me which is a subversive romantic comedy about real life vampires and the IRS agent that audits them. Now what's incredible about this story is what they did and how they went about trying to make their half a million dollar budget back. Now they have no bankable stars in the movie. So there was going to be a little bit of an uphill battle to be able to recoup that money. And then when they went down the road of trying to find a distributor, they were just so disinherited by the horror stories and how the system is literally rigged with most distributors, not all but most distributors. And that whole model, that whole legacy model of traditional distribution is kind of set up to screw the filmmaker, I hate to say it, but it's the truth. There are really, really good distributors out there, like indie rights, which I highly, highly recommend. And there's a couple other ones. But generally speaking, every distribution company I've dealt with, other than a handful have been just horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible. And Naomi really wanted to kind of do something interesting. So they literally went on a tour around the country. And they called it the joyful vampire tour of America, where they rented an RV, put some things on it and went around to city after city like a carnival, and, and showed their films and sold their wares. Older ancillary products made money with their movie, and were in complete control of the revenue coming in. And their bravery of what they're trying to do. And this entire crazy journey. What's documented in this must see, I repeat, must see documentary series called the joyful vampire tour of America, where they literally as if I may quote her, they pull their pants down and show the good, the bad and the ugly of everything. They're completely transparent with all of their numbers. If they screw up, they let you know if they make money. They let you know what they could have done better. What could they have done worse, they interview other other filmmakers and their processes in this series. It is an amazing must see series for anybody wanting to make a movie in today's world. And specifically, you're going to try to self distribute your film. A lot of the things that we talked about in distribution, you know, even six months ago, eight months ago a year ago is obsolete now. It everything changes so rapidly. You know why? Because the industry is trying to figure it out. Everything is changing so quickly. The consumers are changing so quickly. Everything is changing so quickly, we got to try to figure out ways for independent filmmakers to actually make money. And Naomi was wonderful. She's a wonderful guest. She completely is transparent with everything and drops knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb with also a few inspiration bombs as well. So I'm not going to talk anymore. Without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Naomi Mcdougall Jones. I'd like to welcome the show. Naomi Mcdougall Jones, how you doing?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 5:32
Hey, I'm great. Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 5:34
Thank you for being on the show. I greatly appreciate it. You guys reached out to me. And I heard about your craziness. And I said I need to I mean, you're insane. And I love it. And anytime I mean, insane filmmakers who are good at it, because there's crazy insane, which is just like, I've lost my mind. I'm an egomaniac and that we've met those filmmakers. Yeah, but but you were you're good kind of insane. Something ambitious. You have Audacity. I love that. You had an audacity, I'm like, we're going to do this watch. So I felt that was a perfect story for film intrapreneur. And because you are a film entrepreneur without question, you are a a definition of entrepreneurship without question. So before we get going, I want to know, tell me a little bit about your film bite me and how it came to life because we're going to talk a lot about this film.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 6:29
Sorry. So binary is my second feature film. I wrote it. I was one of the producers and I started it. And it is a subversive comedy about a real life vampire IRS agent who audits her.

Alex Ferrari 6:45
Now when you say real life vampires like someone who identifies as a vampire.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 6:49
Yes. So there is a real global community of people who identify as vampires in real life. Well, you say of course, but not everybody knows.

Alex Ferrari 6:56
I mean, I've been I'm very, I'm very hip that way. Yes. Because when you say vampires, like cuz people might think is like, Is this like, interview with a vampire? I'm like, No, this is like, these are people who are real, who are in the lore. I mean, I, I had a lot of golf friends in high school, so I am aware of this.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:12
So so some portion of that community believes that they need to drink human blood to stay healthy. And they do through donors through donors. So so the genesis of the film was wanting to I to write a really great romantic comedy. I love romantic comedies. I'm really sad that the genre has taken such a horrible nosedive.

Alex Ferrari 7:33
Ever since Nora Ephron left us.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:35
Yeah, I know.

Alex Ferrari 7:36
She was so wonderful

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:37
The early 2000s it's just been terrible.

Alex Ferrari 7:40
It's been pretty rough.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:40
So anyway, so I was sort of, like, how do you? How do you make something smart, and edgy and well written and feminist and just like a well made movie that is also a romantic comedy. And I found out about this vampire community. And those two ideas kind of smashed together. And

Alex Ferrari 7:57
What what I mean, I heard the story when I when I saw the trailer, I'm like, well, this is genius, like, and the reason there is the IRS agent is, is because they are trying to identify as a nonprofit because of their religion. Or,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 8:11
Well,

Alex Ferrari 8:12
How does that work?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 8:13
So they so vampires would tell you that that vampirism is not a religion, it's it's a fact of their lives. Sure, and identity. But the vampires in the film have registered as a church, right, basically, for tax reasons. Right, possibly, to scam the government slightly. They get audited at the beginning of the film. And that sort of sets the whole story in motion. I mean, seriously, that just alone is hilarious.

Alex Ferrari 8:42
I mean, just that concept is it's a very high concept in film, which is great. Now, the other thing that I found interesting about this, is that you guys, you guys raised a lot of money for this film. I mean, I mean, and no, it's considered in the in the world of studios, a low budget, you know, argue some of them would even argue to say it's a micro budget, I wouldn't call this a micro budget, but it's a low budget film. The budget from what I've read is half a million, correct. That's right, that is a lot of money for a for a romantic comedy, with no marketable quote unquote, actors in it. So how, first of all, how did you raise the money for this kind of project? And then we'll talk about how we're going to get the money back.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 9:29
Yeah, well, so I made my first feature film, imagine I'm beautiful on a true micro budget scale for $80,000. And that we had crowdfunded most of that, and then kind of cobbled the rest of it together through some small investments. And then, you know, we made the film and it won a bunch of awards on the festival circuit, that film actually even got a traditional theatrical distribution deal, but we put it like and there are some things I love about true micro budget filmmaking, but we wanted a bigger.

Alex Ferrari 10:03
Yeah. You want to eat? I get it. You want to time to play.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:07
Pay ourselves and people and things like that

Alex Ferrari 10:10
Bigger toys to play with. Got it?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:12
Yeah. So we, when we felt like having demonstrated that we could do that with 80,000 that we could go out and raise the half a million, which we did over a three year period, it took us three years to raise the money. Yeah. Which is as you as from the face you're making you know, it's brutal.

Alex Ferrari 10:31
Well, yeah. Because how many how many filmmakers Do you know are still looking for that money to drop any day? Now that investor is gonna drop that money? And when you look, and you look at the clock, and you're like, oh, wow, five years have gone?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:42
Oh, totally. And, and, and it's brutal, because during that period of time, there's no guarantee that it will work, right? Because you also know that right there, the filmmakers were, like 20 years into this and never have found the money

Alex Ferrari 10:54
A day before a day before the money will go away.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:57
Yeah. Right. So. So it's just sort of like the sheer willpower of yourself and your team to keep going and the belief that this will eventually work out. But so we did raise, we use the New York's tax credit. So we took out a loan against the 25%, New York tax credit towards financing the movie, and the other 75% we raised through equity investments from private investors. We raised it from around 20 investors. So it was a it was a matter of cobbling together smaller investment amounts.

Alex Ferrari 11:32
Okay. So that makes that makes sense. And the tax credits are a huge deal. Especially. I had another New York filmmaker on the other day. And they they were saying that here, New York is a wonderful place to shoot. I hear they're just super open. And you know, and now let's think it's like 300 bucks. He told me that for all permits, like you could shoot

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 11:52
Yeah everyone assumes it'll be really, everyone always thinks it's really expensive to shoot outside in New York, and it's actually the cheapest place to shoot,

Alex Ferrari 12:01
And has the most production value. Yeah, they were they're really open because everyone here at La You mean you even you can't you need a permit to shoot in your house. Right? You I mean, technically, you need a permit to shoot in a house if someone calls you like if you're shooting a little movie in your house. And if some if the neighbor doesn't like and calls the cops, you will be ticketed, and you will have to go to court and pay a fine Oh, it's because because we're in LA. So that's why you assume all big cities are like that and they're not LA is LA is murderers,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 12:33
Although funny thing. So we have a scene that takes place in Central Park and and what we learned about Central Park is that you don't have to pay extra for the permit. However, you do have to convince the people in charge to let you shoot in Central Park. And and they've segmented Central Park into a series of tiny little fiefdoms. So even if you're shooting in a really bright area, you have to go convince like five different people to let you shoot on their patch of Central Park.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
That it's just basically like, like Lords Lords of the manor if you will. Like little like fiefdoms like little fiefdoms like you were saying, little Lords that you have to convince us Lord, can we shoot on your grass? It's free, but we just liked you know, yeah, but we need your blessing. So please. Wow, that's, that's super weird. That's hilarious. That's actually hilarious. Um, okay, so you're shooting in New York, you're shooting this movie. Now? Did I have to ask you a question? Did you at ever consider trying to cast a more marketable name, or a more marketable, traditionally marketable name in some sort of parts, which will make it easier to sell them? A film of this budget learned? I'm just curious that

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 13:48
I mean, I think realistically, for half a million dollars, unless you're friends with that person. It's it's virtually impossible to get bigger actors than we got. I think we certainly had ambitions to do that. And I feel like there you always hear these stories of like, people getting so and so for this tiny film. And I feel like underneath those stories, they're almost always related to those people before. Because because the problem, of course, is not the actors, it's the agents. And so like, of course, we put offers out to bigger people, but I'm almost certain that their agents never gave it to them. Because why would they don't want Daniel Radcliffe doing this film when Marvel might call at any moment and pay them 17 times the cost, right?

Alex Ferrari 14:38
If you're, if you're offering him let's say $50,000 for a day, the agents gonna pull in a little bit of money off that they rather pull it off the millions. Right and that's something and that's something that independent filmmakers even listening to this or watching this are not aware of this like, agents you there's so many Guards or gatekeepers to some of these actors. So like with my first film, I had an insane cast, but they were all friends of ours and they were all like they like all come out. I'm in LA Oh, come out for the day. Yeah. And, and these people have been in big huge movies and, and but they were all friends. So it really does help

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 15:19
It makes all the difference. Because as I'll tell you, we're really crazy story. So our cast, as we'll probably talk about in a moment are not like a list actors, but are named actors, in a sense, like they've been on their faces. So one of those actors we were, I had actually written the part in the film specifically for and we reached out to her, we, through our casting director, we submitted an offer to her agent and and I had actually written a personal letter explaining this that with the offer, and we haven't heard anything, and I was like this agent has not, has not given her her this offer. I just had this feeling. And so we had a mutual friend, and I asked the friend if she would just be willing to forward my letter to this actress. Just to make sure she'd gotten it. And within about half an hour, this actress called me and was like, of course, I want to do this movie nobody's ever written apart for me before. And her agent had not given her the offer. And she had to call her agent and be like, Hey, what's what is going on? And they were like, Oh, um, oh, yeah. Sorry. Sorry. And then they were incredibly obstructionist, like, the whole time trying to make a deal with her.

Alex Ferrari 16:40
Oh, absolutely. There's there's there's two quick, quick acting stories. One. The same thing happened when Tarantino when he was doing Pulp Fiction, submitted for James Woods. And James was agent didn't give it to them. And then after the movie came out James Woods, Matt quit and then quits like, yeah, I sent that to you like what? And his agent never gave it to him. And he was pissed. Sure. And there was another story of some filmmakers who this great story, they actually went to a film festival and Ed Harris was speaking. After the talk, they bum rush, the stage jumped on the stage. And they had a DVD player portable details A while ago, DVD player and showed them showed him the trailer for his for their film that they they would like like, you know, like a sizzle reel that they'd shot. And they literally went into the back. He's like, Come follow me. And he went into the back alley to smoke. And they tell him his whole story that I want you to play the par because you're you will be playing our alcoholic father, father and all this. And, and Harris said, Yeah, I'll do it. And I mean, and that Harris, if you remember, has doesn't do independent films. Like he's, he's one of those actors. He never did. But he said he was going to do it. Everyone at CIA was just trying to torpedo that left and right. And it was Ed that said, Sure. I'm doing this guy's so make it happen. So unless you're able to get direct access to some of these actors, it's it's extremely difficult. It's impossible.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 18:14
Well, because the agents are directly disincentivized from allowing that to happen. Did you know if you heard about Bill Murray's hotline? No. Okay. He's talking about please. Oh, please, Oh, please. Oh, Bill Murray does not have an agent, and refuses to have an agent for this reason. So Bill Murray has a hotline number that you can call that anybody can call and leave a message pitching their project. No. And then then from there, so so I read this story once written by a filmmaker who had eventually gotten Bill Murray to be in his movie this way. And he said, so he called the hotline and he left a message with a pitch. And then, like, three months later, it gets a call from Bill Murray being like, can you meet me in LA for lunch tomorrow? And the guy was like, like, No, I can't I'm so sorry. Like, I'm in New York. And Bill Murray hangs up the phone, click and the guy is like, and then. And then three months after that, Phil Murray calls him again. And he says, Can you be in? Can I pick you up at Li x in like, 12 hours? And the guy was like, Sure, yes. Yes. So he gets in an airplane goes to LA x. Bill Murray picks them up in the back of a limousine. They drive around for like, three hours or the driver dies or after three hours, they talk about the movie, Bill Murray says that he'll do the movie. And then they drive him back to LA x to drop him off. And the guy is like, like, Can you just like write on a napkin or something that you agreed to do? no proof that nobody's ever gonna believe that this happened. Right and what it will do? I don't think he wrote it down. But he did do the movie eventually.

Alex Ferrari 19:56
Wow. That's amazing. But you have to buy How'd you get this number? I'm not gonna promote it. But I just curious how do you know I think you can google it like I think it's I think it's a it's just a thing. Yeah. I love Bill Murray. I just absolutely love Bill Maher. He's like the coolest human being coolest. I mean, amazing. Okay, so did you call Bill Murray, you should have called the business. There wasn't a role for him. He could have played the female vampire he would have so love it. Alright, so you you've raised half a million dollars to make this romantic comedy about vampires. Now, when you were doing this, did you have a niche audience in mind? Did you figure out like, okay, we're going to target this group of people, because I'm assuming the the vampire community itself is a the people who identify as vampires is fairly small comparatively to the general public. But people who like vampires is a fairly large, yeah, niche audience. And then there's four and there's horror fans and people that actually it could spill over to was that was that a thought process?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:04
Oh, very much and actually circling back to the casting conversation that we were very intentional about how we cast based on the audience, even though we we weren't able to get bigger actors. So our our working hypothesis was that our our audience was going to break down into two groups. One, we lovingly term the mega nerds. So like people who at which I would like.

Alex Ferrari 21:31
I have a life size yoda behind me. So

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:34
I just I just clocked that

Alex Ferrari 21:38
this is a safe space this is a safe space.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:41
For people who play d&d people who are larpers people who are mega, sci fi comic,

Alex Ferrari 21:46
Comic Con, Comic Con,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:47
Comic Con, that sort of thing with the Vampire angle, and then secondarily, people who love romantic comedies. But we figured that that we needed to be a little bit more specific with that groups, we we figured people who love romantic comedies, and also Harry Potter, because the the the film is very much about sort of the feeling of being an outsider, and wanting to be seen and accepted. And so we felt like the people who were at the convergence of that were going to be the right people.

Alex Ferrari 22:22
Interesting. So that was just a demographic, I'm assuming in like direct ads and things like that is what you're talking about. target those people

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 22:29
We right, so we didn't test that. At the time we tested it before we released the film, and it did prove to be correct. But I am a person who likes romantic comedies and Harry Potter quite strongly both and so we figured that that was a pretty good cipher, mega nerd got it met. Yep. So and also the film has an almost entirely female creative team at the lead character is a is a super badass, edgy female character. And so we figured also, we wanted to grab people who liked that kind of edgy, feminine feminist content

Alex Ferrari 23:02
And know how did you target them through like Facebook ads and things like that?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 23:06
Through Facebook? Yeah. So when we eventually released the film, we had a number of marketing tactics. So so we did do the Facebook ads direct, okay. And then, and we, we had slightly different messaging that we marketed the film as to those two groups. So like, for the mega nerds, we pushed the vampire angle more strongly. And for the rom com people,we push the love stories angle more strongly.

Alex Ferrari 23:32
Interesting. And that actually, because I mean, I always preach in you know, as a filmtrepreneur like you have to niche down niche down niche down and understand who your audience is. So I find it interesting like because if you can try to, if you're going to try to reach romantic comedy lovers, that's too large of an audience. You don't have the resources to to do that. But when you combine the Harry Potter romantic comedy area, it niches a down, but it's not a niche that you would conceive normally it's like, and that's an interesting concept. I've really never thought of it that way. We're like, Okay, well, people who like romantic comedies, and also like Harry Potter's are probably gonna like this, let's do a test. Let's do a test ad, which you could do for 20 Yeah, 35 bucks, 50 bucks, right, and just kind of just test out your hypothesis.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 24:18
And it was interesting. So we we tested way at the beginning of the putting together the marketing materials, we we did a B test those two different demographic groups with our trailer. And we had exactly the same click through rate from both groups, which was really interesting because we thought maybe we've learned that one was stronger than the other and then target the phone that way and it actually came out totally evenly.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
Real. That's interesting. So that's a good way for people listening is well, you did market research prior to like you was trying to figure out how to do this by by doing these kind of like little test Facebook ads and stuff like that. You're basically doing a lot of the stuff that I preach, which is fantastic. And Hi, you're on the show. All right. So obviously, you had a very show you had a good,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 25:03
though just to close the loop on the casting thing quickly. So because we had the feeling that that was who our audiences, we then decided that it was important to get actors that that had fan following specifically in those groups of people

Alex Ferrari 25:18
so smart,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 25:19
that aren't necessarily household names, but we've been known to those people. So we really wanted a Harry Potter actor very much. And we ended up getting Christian Colson, who played Tom Riddle and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And then we got Naomi Grossman from American Horror Story. Perfect. And then Annie golden from Orange is the New Black, which we figured she's fabulous content. I mean, she's incredible. So we tried to think about casting.

Alex Ferrari 25:45
So it's so that is, again, what we preach. And it is, it is so wonderful to see this because, you know, look, if you made this movie for 50, grand, you have less to risk, but you have half a million dollars, which is a substantial amount of money for an independent film. And you're being very smart. So far, in this journey, I'm seeing it, you're being very smart and strategic on how you're doing this. Because again, I've always said like, if you're gonna make a horror movie, you might not be able to afford Brad Pitt. But you might be able to afford Robert England to come out for a day or two, who has a huge horror following. And if you're doing something that's aimed at 80s Horror, I mean, he's a dude that you would probably want to cast and probably affordable, comparatively, you know, to, you know, obviously, you can't get Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep or something like that. Right. But they actually are larger in the niche that you're trying

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 26:34
zactly it's who were. So we had, we had two young women. We premiered at cinequest in San Jose, California. So to

Alex Ferrari 26:44
get my foot my first film was it was awesome.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 26:48
I left in the quest. So we had the premiere. We had two young women drive 30 hours from Michigan, to San Jose for that premiere, because Christian Colson tweeted about it. And then later, they moved to North Carolina before we had a Brooklyn screening where Christian clothes was going to be there. And they drove another 20 hours from North Carolina to be at that screening and meet Christian Colson. Like that is the kind of fan that you want.

Alex Ferrari 27:18
Yeah, yeah, that's the kind of fans you want. And you in, in all honesty, you can't do a film like this without that kind of strategy. Like it's like, if you just like, grab, you know, grab a whole bunch of friends, or no name actors or non recognizable non marketable actors and try to do half a million out, which I've seen multiple times, it'll die on the vine, it just won't go there. So you have to this is like, you need something. You need some angle,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 27:45
that's going to turn out the people.

Alex Ferrari 27:47
That's awesome. That's awesome. Alright, so you finish making this movie. Now I'm assuming during this process, even during the making of this movie, or prior to it, you're already thinking how you're going to distribute this thing? Correct?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 27:59
Yeah, we were, although to be perfectly honest. So my first feature film, as I said, had gotten a distribution deal, which at the time, felt like oh, my God, it was a theatrical It was 10 cities.

Alex Ferrari 28:13
And you're still counting the money that they keep sending you, right? I mean, it must be tiring to to swim in the gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, and let's be real,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 28:24
I will tell you exactly what happened with that movie. So we got to do and I and we actually, I believe our distributor work wasn't we're honest people, which I think in and of itself is incredibly rare. And but we we have made to date came out in 2014, slightly less than $5,000. We have received from that,

Alex Ferrari 28:45
from the, from everything

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 28:47
from everything, Jesus, and to And to make matters worse, a year ago, that company folded and got their their titles got bought by another distribution company, which happens all the time because these distribution companies are turning over like that. And that company has had our film since last August, so a full year, and we have not received a single report or check from them. Despite the fact that we have emailed and called them multiple, multiple times, we had a lawyer contact them like they just won't,

Alex Ferrari 29:22
unless they're like if you want it to us. Yeah. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Basically, when is the original contract up in one year? Okay, and then it'll come back to you. And then you can do whatever you want with it.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 29:45
Right? So thank God it was a short I mean, it was a six year contract, which is relatively,

Alex Ferrari 29:50
it's relatively short, anywhere between five to seven is what I recommend, which is not recommend, but it's just generally you know, I literally just got a call from a filmmakers like yeah, this Distribution numbers they will not be named. But they offered a 15. Year. Yeah. Your deal with no money upfront with no money upfront. So my call you're dominating the film that your donation it's a donation. Right off, it's a write off because you're never going to see a dime. Oh and 100,000 PNA locked off at 100,000 psi. So I talked Are you kidding? Are you kidding me I'm never see a dime. Yeah. It's predatory these guys are.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 30:34
It's just we made it. We made a docu series about the tour, which we'll talk about in a while but but in the course of part of that docu series was that we wanted to be radically transparent about our data, and numbers and revenue and everything, because we feel like a huge problem in this space is that nobody has any information. So we're essentially all making dumb decisions, because we don't know what have any information. So because we've done that a number of other filmmakers began reaching out to us who had gotten to traditional distribution deals. And were, were willing to disclose to us what had happened. Numbers wise. So we had a pair of filmmakers Come on our on our series and talk about what happened. And it was

Alex Ferrari 31:23
the abuse for beating the beating Yes,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 31:26
well, and like the thievery. Oh, straight up. And so then we had a lawyer contact us who, who spends a lot of time fighting this stuff. And he said, I mean, hit the whole phone calls in the episode it and I'm and I'm crying by the end of the phone call, because it's so horrifying, what he told us. Wow,

Alex Ferrari 31:46
I would like to talk to him. Oh, totally talk to him, I will put you in touch. And we will talk after afterwards because I I really need to talk to him. Yeah, you know, I've talked about distribution. And you know, the whole film to printer model in general, is about giving power to thinking about film as an entrepreneurial endeavor, thinking of your movie as a product and audiences and selling it and all that stuff. And to use traditional distribution as a partnership or as a hybrid part of part of the hybrid distribution model, where you still retain some sort of control. And you don't get lost, you know, I know Sundance winners, with their movies that that got lost in bankruptcies of distribution companies. And yeah, their rights are locked up for years. And by the time six years rolls around, no one cares about their Sundance winner right anymore,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 32:36
right. It's so one of the filmmakers who came on our series to talk was that they didn't win Sundance, but they were at Sundance, which is, you know, like,

Alex Ferrari 32:44
know, when it's a witness winning, that's winning.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 32:46
Yeah. And they have received $0 back from their distribution company. So far.

Alex Ferrari 32:52
I mean, yeah. That's insane. Okay, so so you, you, were going to get about the docu series in a little bit. So your distribution plan, what was the idea? Like, when you started going down this because I'm assuming you feel responsible to pay back these people, and and even possibly make a little money on on this deal. So you as a responsible filmmaker, we're like, Okay, guys, we've got half a million, how are we going to make this back? What was the what was the thought process there?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 33:26
Yeah. So initially, we started going down the same old path of applying to film festivals and wanting to be picked, like Cinderella out of the masses and sort of like

Alex Ferrari 33:39
in lottery ticket, the lottery ticket mentality,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 33:40
a lottery ticket. And it's really two lottery tickets, right? You have to win the lottery of the film festivals to get into a major Film Festival, where you can even be looked at by seriously by distributor, if there's any left to win the lottery again, to actually get a distribution deal.

Alex Ferrari 33:55
Yeah, so basically, and there's only what 567 in the US five, there's five that matter. Yeah. And even then, even Sundance,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 34:06
though I had, I had a distributor, somebody who's worked deeply in distribution, tell me the other day off the record that she said, you know, all these distribution companies tell filmmakers Don't worry, if you don't get into one of the top film festivals, we still look at other festivals, whatever she's like, that is bullshit. She's like, the reality is, if you don't get into a top Film Festival, you are screwed. If you got into a top Film Festival, you are still probably screwed. But there is a tiny percentage of chance that you're not totally screwed,

Alex Ferrari 34:35
unless you go at it from a different point of view like you are and what we talked about. Okay, so alright, so So what was the RCW went down the normal traditional path at Sundance, you submitted to Sundance

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 34:48
Sundance, we were not accepted to not really a Sundance kind of movie.

Alex Ferrari 34:53
I mean, but also, you you did crowdfund with seed and spark, right? We did, yeah. Okay. So can you talk to us about quickly about you know, cuz I crowdfunded my first film on scene. And I love Emily and I love what they're doing their fan rates. They're fantastic. And you know, did you so you crowdfunded this. How much did you raise when you crowdfunded, crowdfunded? 35,000? So that's that's a good amount. Yeah, that's a yeah without question and then you and then you get the investments for the rest. But you started to build an audience with them. Yeah, with with seed and spark and then see the spark has their own kind of, you know, distribution output deal like their service and they have to deal with, with quiver and all that kind of stuff. Right, then you don't have to deal with quiver anymore. You got to quiver. Liz manna shell at Sundance source, Liz. Yes. A friend of the show.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 35:45
We had, we had gotten to the final rounds of being selected for their creative distribution lab. And they have a deal with quiver that if you're a finalist, you get a discount.

Alex Ferrari 35:54
Awesome. They were on the show. They were on the show. Did you get the funding a quick funny story about Liz. She called me and she's like, Alex, we have this distribution grant. We want to give people filmmakers way. But we have like 15 people who've signed up, I need help. Can you get the word out? I'm like, like, Are you kidding? Are you kidding me? Give me a minute. And then and then I put her on the show. And I go, be careful what you wish for. And they were in the data that shut it down. And I said it and they were foolish enough to leave their emails on the show. I'm like, don't. She's like, No, no, we don't mind. We want to help. I'm like, okay, and you're like, Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It was it was brutal. Yeah. That's awesome. Alright, so you went down that road, say so. So go ahead, continue.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 36:43
Okay, so we, I would say we spent about from like September to, to know, to like Thanksgiving sort of going down that path, having initial conversations with distributors and sales agents. And simultaneously sort of feeling our own souls dying by the by the just like sort of soul less horrible now horribleness of that process. And also. So I had had that experience with my my first feature film and my producing partner Sarah Wharton's past feature films, I had very similar experiences with traditional distributors. And, like, we were just kind of getting like, it just began to feel like, we were gonna hand our film to a person who is going to throw it off a cliff, again, in exchange for a large percentage of our revenues, like just

Alex Ferrari 37:37
throw it up against the wall and see what sticks.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 37:39
Right. And also, I think what was different this time, too, is is at this current moment in film distribution, you can feel the despondency wafting off of the distributors themselves, like you're in these conversations, and they're just like, well, we don't know what works. I love your movie, and I have absolutely no idea how to sell it. You can just feel the despair. But I feel

Alex Ferrari 38:03
it. But I think also distributors have the same problem as independent filmmakers is like they, they can't get above the noise like No, no. There's certain bigger distributors. I mean, I'm not even talking about Lionsgate or the studios or anything like that. I'm talking about just like even bigger indie distributors names. These guys. They just basically pump it out through their outlets. So they'll put it on iTunes, Amazon, they might make a red box deal if you're lucky, that maybe they'll do a limited theatrical if it has some sort of maybe if it maybe they'll get Netflix or Hulu to buy it, they'll just submit it, but they just basically shotgun it, they don't really have a plan. And it's almost impossible for a distributor without major money to distribute it to to get any sort of awareness for a film, even if you dump five or 10 million bucks into PNA. I still mean that's nothing

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 38:56
totally and and yet, there is no doubt that we are in a profound distribution crisis right now across the board. Like it's not it's not it's not like it's the distributors that not that piece of it is not the distributors fault. But But in that landscape. I feel like it makes the prospect of going with a distributor even worse. Like they're just like flinging stuff out. And nothing's working.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Because it's it's to it they they've caught that they're basically I hate to use the term blockbuster but then don't be blockbuster. That's what that is they got into they got fat. This is the way it's always been. And then when Netflix and when Netflix showed up and offered blockbuster to buy them for 50 million and blockbuster said no kid, we're fine. We're good on this video store thing. We don't need your DVD home sale thing, whatever you're doing. And but that's what that's where these old school distribution distribution companies are coming from. They're just they have no idea how to handle the new landscape and It's changing. daily, daily, daily.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:03
It's insane. Yeah, insane. Right. So I'm so in the middle of that mess there. There came a moment around Thanksgiving where we were just like, we just looked at each other. And we were like, we're not doing this again. This is horrible, and not gonna work. And his movie is too good. We have too much money on the line. We're just not Nope, we're not doing it. So we started. I had a dream actually, literally is what happened?

Alex Ferrari 40:28
Yes, MLK Yes.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:30
That we were driving around the country in an RV on something called the joyful vampire tour of America releasing the movie,

Alex Ferrari 40:38
you had a dream? You literally physically

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:41
dream that that was happening. And I called and I called Sarah the next morning and I was like, this might be crazy. But what if we just rented an RV and did the drive vampire to America? And God bless her she was like, Yes, and we should put things on it.

Alex Ferrari 40:59
This is the audacity I was talking about this is what I love about the story.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:04
So in just last December, we I had the stream and we basically started calling everybody that we knew within the industry and and sounding out this idea.

Alex Ferrari 41:15
Oh, and oh, that didn't go well. I'm sure

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:18
you know, the nothing will signal how giant a crisis the industry isn't as basically everybody's was Francoise. Well, nothing else is working. You may as

Alex Ferrari 41:27
well try. Oh, wow. That's that says volumes.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:31
Right? One, one woman read us the riot act about how we were throwing our careers off the cliff but truly wild for that phone call. And when it finally happened, I was like, Oh, this is finally happening.

Alex Ferrari 41:43
Okay, good. We we are crazy. I mean, can't everyone can agree with this.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:47
This is insane. Everybody else was just like, we don't know, probably try it. Um, so I guess we decided around Christmas that we were going to do this. And then we had from January to May to put together the tour. And and the basic thinking behind the tour was okay, if the hurdle is that it's really hard to get people to leave their houses. Now to watch a movie because you have infinite content from your sofa, then you have to offer people an extra reason to do it. Yes. So we thought a piece of that is certainly having the filmmaker be there being able to do a q&a after people meet the filmmaker got to talk about the movie. But we felt like there needed to be another element that that wasn't quite enough. So we came up with the idea that we would throw a joyful vampire ball after every screening. And that we would invite the audience to come dressed in costume, to the screening and the bar and the party.

Alex Ferrari 42:47
And if I may stop you for a second. And if you understand your niche, which you guys definitely do understand your niche, that audience would love to dress up and go.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 42:58
Oh, yes. Right. And, and funnily enough, the the desire to dress in costume, and wound up expanding way beyond our niche audience. Like it turns out that most adults are just looking for an excuse to wear a costume.

Alex Ferrari 43:15
Fun fact, fun fact, for everyone listening out there. People just want to dress up.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 43:20
Yeah. Um, so that was that was the concept. And then we we ran some back of the napkin math and quickly understood that we could not physically make back anything close to the budget, from the tour itself, because I had three months that I could do physically go on this tour. So we had, we had to do a three month tour and and Okay, you can't do a screening every night or you'll die. So maybe like, initially, we thought we'd do like 20 to 30 screenings over that time. Count the seats, them most you can make is like $40,000.

Alex Ferrari 43:59
So just from but that's just from ticket sales, that doesn't include other streams of revenue.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 44:05
Right? So we so we decided quickly that the model that we were going to test was to use the tour to drive online sales. So we got the film transactionally on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. And and then we did a partnership with seed and spark so that they would help us market the tour. And so the film was available for subscription on demand through seed and spark. Which was worth it to us. Because if you're if they're your only subscription platform, they pay 40 cents per minute watched of your movie, that's amazing, which is bananas, which means that you make more money if somebody watches on seed and sparkling even if they buy a ticket.

Alex Ferrari 44:51
Wow, I wonder how that is. I have to call Emily, what's that business model working like? I

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 44:55
mean, I think the the only explanation I can come up with Is that they're artificially inflating it at the beginning of their model to try to attract filmmakers. And then eventually that will go down. But

Alex Ferrari 45:07
like Amazon did, yeah. But I'm happy to reap the benefits in the meantime. Fair enough. Fair enough. Okay, so so and then what are the other revenue streams that you were able to create on this tour.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 45:22
So, merchandise, merchandise, the major ones. So we, and because of the nature of the film, we've, we felt like, we just had a merchandise sort of extravaganza course waiting for

Alex Ferrari 45:36
it. But also don't forget, and I hate to interrupt you again. But that this audience is known for purchasing stuff, like Comic Con geeks, mega nerds, this is what they'd love to do. So they'd love to dress up, and they'd love to buy stuff. Thanks, great audience, great audience to go to Target. So I'm just trying, I'm stopping you every once in a while. So everyone hears and understands what the mentality and the process is because you guys are doing, you're basically hitting every note so far as the film intrapreneur you're hitting every note so far, so far, you're hitting every note.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 46:08
Okay. Um, so we had DVDs and blu rays print made up, we had posters we had very nice and that enamel pins, we had two kinds of T shirts. One that was the film's and one we had a very funny love sex.

Alex Ferrari 46:26
Design,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 46:28
Design.

Alex Ferrari 46:29
So okay, and I'll stop. I'll stop. I'll stop there. One more time is that now you understand your niche audience and you're creating not only merchandise off your movie, but you're also creating merchandise that that audience would like that is kind of related to your movie, but not directly related. So like the love socks, t shirt is just something that people who like vampires would probably buy,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 46:49
Right? Yes. And that design, one of the characters wears that T shirt in the movie, but

Alex Ferrari 46:54
Oh, that's so but that's but then you see again, now your product placing? Yeah, your movie. Oh my god. You're so hitting all the thoughts. Oh my god, I love this. I'm so glad I have you on the show. Alright, so continue.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 47:08
Um, okay, as we add hoodies, we had mugs, we had three different designs of mugs. And

Alex Ferrari 47:18
I think that's it. And then you sold every at every event you would sell merch ended, how much revenue Did you generate from all the merge through the whole tour? Give or take? I believe? Nine $9,000. Okay, so that's a nice, Hey, I'll take it if it's on the floor. You know, it's a nice, it's a nice, it's a nice chunk of change. Why not? Okay, great. So now, and then what other revenue sources? Did you create the ball? How does that process work?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 47:44
So the balls, we ended up deciding. Okay, so So the way it ended up working with venues and the balls is some venues, the screening and the ball would be at the same venue. So the whole evening would take place. And, and generally there, there was only one ticket price, and it was for the whole thing. And those tickets tended to be more expensive, right. And some theaters were or some venues were more traditional theaters, and they, they either didn't have the space or wouldn't let us do the ball at that venue. So in those cases, we would have the screening and then move everybody to addict who wanted to come to a separate venue, usually like a local bar or something for the ball. Okay. And in those places, generally, we didn't charge extra for the ball, we ended up deciding that it was more worth it to have the people come and meet us and be engaged and buy merchandise that like the longer they hang out the drunker they get, the more merchandise they're going to buy. So that's a plus, we just didn't feel and particularly because in those situations, we would be doing them often at bars where other people were present, it became kind of complicated to be able to it didn't feel like something we could really charge for. If I did this again, when I do this again. I would I would always do it in venues where I could do the whole evening in one place. It didn't really work very well when you had to move people. And then I would charge more for the whole experience. So so quite often at these events. My so my husband was always working the merchants my very, very nice husband who moved into an RV for three months to test a distribution model. What always work the merge table. And quite often people would come up to him and give him cash donations towards the film as they left the theater. Which was really interesting. I mean, totally unsolicited. Obviously we weren't asking for donations. But what that signaled to us is that people consistently felt like they had gotten more value than they had paid for. So that they would have paid more money for the experience that they got was a cost what was the cost for the for the ball and the ticket So a lot of a lot of places we were hamstrung by, by what the movie theater normally charged for movies. So some places that was like seven or $8. Whenever we could control it, we charged usually 20 for the movie plus the ball.

Alex Ferrari 50:17
Cheap, though, I mean, Ukraine, that's so cheap, you could have easily charged 5070 bucks easily.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 50:23
Yeah, we wanted to test it. And see, I think, I think in the future, I would, I would charge more.

Alex Ferrari 50:30
Yeah, because you're creating an experience, you're creating an event, like even a even if you go to a bar, sometimes the cover is going to be 20 bucks. Like, you know, there's, there's ways that you could have,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 50:41
we definitely lowball that with, with the feeling that we were really testing a model and we needed to, like, it was something that people weren't going to be used to attending, it wasn't really a concept that audiences were going to understand. So we had to kind of like, make the bar for entry. pretty low.

Alex Ferrari 50:59
Got it. Got it. Alright, so so when when it's all said and done, what were the the rough numbers coming in from the tour?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:07
So from ticket sales? I think it came in at about 17,000. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 51:15
Okay. And then close it, and then close balls.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:18
Yeah. Okay. About 17,000 from ticket sales, which we could have, I think, had we sold out every venue. We would have made about 40,000, I think. But we were marketing 51 screenings in two days with a very small team.

Alex Ferrari 51:41
So yeah, that was my next question. How did you actually put asses in seats? Like, what what? Because that's a lot

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:46
of money. A lot of right. Yes. So we, we tried everything. So we did, we did a lot of paid Facebook ads, both to drive online sales, and then also to drive people to screenings. So we would target people in a specific geographic area. I've been to screening, and the geographic targeting ads worked. Shockingly, well. I thought those wouldn't work at all. But consistently, at screenings, people came because they saw an ad on Facebook. One lady drove four hours to see it in costume because she's on ad on Facebook, which I find shocking. Whoa, because there's not a lot of places you

Alex Ferrari 52:30
can dress up as a vampire. And without being scanned at a scarf that and go there. So you, you really I think you you you left some money on the table. If I made it. Yeah,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 52:42
he did. But But the other thing is, we went, we went in blind, like we had no information, because there's no information. So there are 100 things I would do differently next time. And part of the reason we were doing the docu series is so that now other people can have our information and do better with next time. So we did paid for Facebook ads in almost every place, we had a local host, whose job was to help hustle their friends helping posters around town. A street team, that's great team. Yes. So they they were crucial. Like I would say that was probably the most effective means of getting people into seats. And oh, actually, so we with seed and spark, we ran surveys about this. So we we would have people sign up via text for our email list in the theater. After the screening, which everybody should do this is this worked incredibly well. And then the first email they would get would have a survey, asking them to tell us like why they had come to the film and where they'd heard about it on all this stuff. And so the top the top reason by far was hearing about it from a friend who was not involved in the film. So either word of mouth or local host. And then the next three tied reasons were paid Facebook ads, hearing about somebody it from a friend who was involved in the film, and hearing about it from the venue. Interesting. And then everything else like there was there was hardly anything else that even rate ranked on that scale. I mean, we did a lot of other stuff. So we we did have physical posters hung most all around town, not just at the theaters, but like around the communities. We we did we had a lot of very active social media life even outside of the paid ads which was effective we we did Facebook event pages which I do think were quite effective. We we targeted local grassroots organic we grassroots methods to target local organizations. So anything involving Women in Film, we would reach out to them anything and any really any local film groups, we would reach out to any local vampire clubs, any local d&d clubs, any LARPing groups, any Harry Potter clubs, they're a shocking number of Harry Potter clubs around the country, we'd reached out to them.

Alex Ferrari 55:22
Did you think Did you do any conventions? Like to show up at any conventions? You

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 55:26
did? We were invited to play at spike con in Utah, which we did, which was awesome. I think, do it playing more cons is going to be part of the next leg of our strategy. But we only played one on the tour itself.

Alex Ferrari 55:40
Okay. So Alright, so and then when so you obviously were thinking about developing ancillary products during the movie, obviously, cuz you had people wearing t shirts and you already thinking about ancillary products. So that was part of your strategy as well. Like, we're gonna self merge. We're gonna sell some merch on this like this. Before the tour, you were thinking of selling March?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 55:59
Yeah, I think that was always in our minds. Okay. Although, again, we we thought we would go down a more traditional path. Like, I think we were thinking we were helping set up a distributor to do a good job. And then, right.

Alex Ferrari 56:09
I'm sorry, I come. For people who are listening, you just see my face, like a distributor did like I my face said everything I was like, Yeah, right. You know, like setting. That's such a, that's such an indie filmmaker thing. This is a we all do is I'm gonna set them up properly to do a good job like they don't care. So now that you've done this, this, this tour, yeah, that you were trying to drive digital sales? Did it drive digital sales? And do you have any sort of numbers with that?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 56:38
Well, so here is the giant problem with these digital platforms is they don't tell you for three to six months. They don't give you any numbers for three to six months. So unlike any other normal marketing thing, I mean, like with with selling tickets on the road, we were able to, to very much adjust our tactics as we went, as we learned and saw was happening every night, and you just don't know. So that is a huge problem. So we will definitely make those numbers public once we have them, but we don't have them yet.

Alex Ferrari 57:11
And then what's the you were talking a little earlier about the next leg? What are you doing? How are you continuing this audacity of a journey?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 57:21
Well, so the tour ended two weeks ago, and we've all been in a bit of a coma, we all gave ourselves permission to be in a coma more or less since then. So we don't have an exact plan yet. We're going to start putting that together next month. But some things that we're definitely going to do start getting on the con circuit more aggressively. We have somebody who's helping us with foreign sales, we've we've had a lot of interest from international territories for the film.

Alex Ferrari 57:55
So So how are you processing that? Are you doing that to a sales agent? Or are you going to an international distributor?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 58:00
Well, I don't know yet. So we have, we have an Australian sales agent who I met through a friend. And his is like, actually trustworthy human, unlike most sales agents, and so she has very generously offered to help us sort of like suss out what the best way to go is q1 to wait till the end of the tour so that we had our materials. So one of one of the big advantages to the tour outside just the revenue we earned from the tour is that we now have video testimonials of people in costumes all over the country talking about how much they love the film, how their favorite film, you know, it's like so we have our documentary filmmaker who was with us making the docu series is putting together a sizzle reel for us that we can now send with our trailer to distributors. We're gonna go Holy shit, they ended up getting like they got people to come out in costume to watch this movie.

Alex Ferrari 59:01
But you're in the distributors with international. I'm assuming you're not going to get rid of you're not going to give them domestic. No, no, not domestic, internationally, internationally. Okay, and then you're just going to try to go territory or you're going to go to AFM or anything like that to see if you can do anything. I think we might try to go to AFM. Yeah. Okay. If you're there, we'll have coffee. I'll be there. No. Have you ever been Yeah. I've never been no. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Oh, prepare yourself. It's a it is it's an interesting place. Let's just get that way. I went one year and the biggest movie of the year was Steven Seagal versus mike tyson in a movie and of course you need to watch that movie because I want to know who wins. But that's the kind of place yeah, it's Yeah. Did you It's a Unix Unix place.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:00:02
Yeah. Speaking of soul crushing. And then I think eventually, we will try to just to make a deal with one of the streaming platforms. I think the feedback we've been getting is that the good thing about the streaming platforms at this particular moment is that they're all these new ones coming to market in the next six months. And they're all looking and they're all they're all looking. So it's, it is actually a little bit more of of a seller's marketplace right now than it has been with streaming platforms.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:36
Okay, and I'm assuming you try this. Did you submit to Netflix and Hulu yet or not yet? I am not yet. Okay. All right. I mean, it's you guys have I mean, you're you are hustlers. You are indie film, hustlers, your, your films, your printers, you are hustling that you're keeping going, you see most filmmakers would have just said, Well, that was the end of the tour. We're done. But you're like no, no, no, as we continue this journey,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:01:00
and this money back yet, and I think, like, part of this experiment to me, is to try to figure out like, Is there a market? Like, is it possible to make back half a million dollar money on indie films right now? And the answer may be no. And if the answer is no, because so to speak about digital sales for a second I, we don't have the final numbers, but I have a niggling feeling that we may have reached a moment where people are simply unwilling to pay even 299 for Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:37
I know the the future is is a VOD, is it's that's the future. I mean, I know filmmakers making a ton more than a VOD than they are an S VOD, or T VOD.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:01:49
Right. Without question. So that Oh, right. Also airlines, we're gonna try to make some airline deals, airlines,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:56
cruise lines, the churches not so much with the vampire movie, but they're vampire churches.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:02:07
Yeah, so I, I, I now suspect that our revenue model was wrong. I bet that that the tour will not have driven transactional sales in the way that we needed it to. so and so. But I think we have to look really into the abyss here as filmmakers and say, like, is it possible at any budget level? If it isn't? What does that mean? And and maybe the answer is that, like, you just have to make very micro budget films? Or the answer is that, like a lot of the arts, that the goal isn't actually to make money, it's to make impact. And that that ceases to be the goal.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:55
As long as the budget justify you justify the budget, then?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:02:58
Well, as long as you are completely upfront about that with your

Alex Ferrari 1:03:02
investors, if everyone understands that, like, Look, we're making art here. And this is an art exhibition. And we're gonna put it out there. And this is the way it is. Yeah, I mean, to answer your question, I'm, I'm in I'm in the, in the trenches here every day in the indie film trenches. So the answer is, yes, you can make your money back. But you and that's what the whole film shoprunner model is about. It's about rethinking how you do it. Could this movie if you would have made this movie for $100,000? Which is, it's still a decent budget $100,000 if you would be very close to making your money back more unlikely, you know, so it's about always about the budget and keeping that overhead low, or, or whatever, there's always that balance, like, you know, if I spent a million bucks, well, what do I need to do to get that million bucks? And vice versa? So if this for argue argument's sake, if this movie would have cost $50,000, the tour would have been great. Right? The tour would have been great. Well, except, yeah, give or take, I mean, you're not gonna make all the money back on the tour. But you would be really close, you know, and even on just merge sales, you would have done pretty well, I mean, obviously costs and stuff like that, but yeah,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:04:15
right. So I but I have to say that and obviously, the money is important. Obviously. However, there, there is another bottom line here, which is impact. And I have never felt as an artist, like my work was having greater impact than on this tour ever. It was astonishing. To travel the country and go to Vicksburg, Mississippi and Wichita, Kansas, and like these places that I have never been and show my movie and talk to people afterwards. Many of whom had never met a filmmaker before. Like, I feel like in New York and Los Angeles, we forget actually what a big deal that is. Because if you can find a screening without a filmmaker in attendance, it's like amazing. But like in Vicksburg, they had never met a filmmaker before. Like for them. For them, it was like, I may as well have been Steven Spielberg, you know, and, and I had this one really fascinating dialogue with a woman in Columbus, Ohio, who the my film, lovingly pokes fun at Christians. But this woman, what, what took a great affront to that, and came barreling up to me afterwards. And was was very hurt about the fact that I've made fun of Christians and I and I said, you know, I'm so sorry, you feel that way, we had this whole really extended conversation about the concept of comedy and punching up versus punching down and sort of like, at the end of it, she was like, well, it felt really great to be able to say that to a filmmaker, because normally nobody, here's my responses to movies, and I was like, That is awesome. You know, and, and, and the idea, my hope, my dream now is that if we could get like an Oregon Trail of filmmakers, doing these tours, and bringing film independent from some parts of the country that do not see independent film that have no access to anything, in an in person setting other than the Avengers, and and they could meet and have these dialogues with filmmakers of all different backgrounds and perspectives, that would change the country, it would,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:29
it would, and I would, I would agree with you on that. And I think that the future of independent film, there's going to be, you're going to need to do a lot more work. So I think that's gonna, that's going to thin out the herd, if you will, because there's not many filmmakers that I know. Who wants to get into an RV for three years on it. And in travel the country, there just isn't. And it's going to that's what it's going to take it's going to take thinking about movies differently, it's going to think about how can it create other revenue streams from this film? Is the film a loss leader, where I made the film for 100 grand, but I'm really making money on these online courses or books or, you know, depending on the subject matter, you know, yeah, all this all this kind of stuff. It's about thinking about it differently. I do believe there's a space for us. But I think we're gonna turn into more carnies, where I think that you've got to provide a service that the studios can't exactly period, right, and what your you were able to do the studio, there's no Avengers ball. Now. Now, they also made $2.7 billion, so they don't care. Because that's not what that's not what their business model is. But for us, the scrappy, independent filmmaker, the film shoprunner, we got to figure out other ways to make it happen. And I, I always look at this whole process as the creative process. The movie is just one part of this entire, from casting to creating product lines do doing this tour. This is all creative. Yeah, absolutely. And has to become a part of the dialogue and has to become part of this process. Because you can't just drop off to a distributor, like as very, very, very much of city clearly have said in this in this episode.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:08:15
Right. And so many filmmakers, both before the tour, and during the tour was like, Well, I think it's really awesome what you're doing, but like I would never want to do all that work. And like, then but but to me, and which I have sympathy for on the one hand, but on the other hand, a Why are we making movies if no one's gonna see them and be I with you, like I found I loved being on the tour like getting I'm a filmmaker getting to show my film to people 51 times and listen to them laugh and have them come in caught like it was the greatest? I mean, I put I it's one of the greatest periods of my life.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:50
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, are, you know, you're not the first film to ever go on a roadshow, there's many have done it before. But and there's many that will do it after. It's creating a business model that consists state of the art because, you know, as I say, the word show, and there's the word business, and the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. And there's a reason for that. Because without the business, there is no show and as much impact as you want to make, when it would be better to make a film that you can not only make your money back, but everyone gets paid, you get a little bit of profit. And you could do it again and again and again and again. And if you control everything, you create your own portfolio, where you have actual revenue streams in that, like, maybe you'll get a report. Right. That's the future. That's the future.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:09:37
Absolutely. And I think the key pathway to that future is more films being willing to offer themselves as case study as radically transparent case studies. Because a filmmaker within their lifetime is not going to make enough films to crack the model based on their own experimentation. And so we have to be honest with each other even when we fail. You Like, we just have to, because then we will figure it out. Because there I believe I'm with you, I believe there is a model out there. But we don't know what it is right now. that's for damn sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
I mean, the model that has worked for me is doing ultra micro budget movies that have good production value that are aimed at a niche audience. And then in your control everything. And, you know, my first film cost me five grand to make. And I sold it to Hulu, and I sold it internationally. And I drove sales, but I have a platform. And I was able to build off that and there's audience building, and there's that whole conversation we never even got into. But that that is a possibility. If I would have made that movie for 50, or 100, grand, I don't know, probably probably would have been another statistic. So it's, it's a weird balance. This is a weird, it's a wonderful and an extremely dangerous time from being an independent filmmaker, because there's more access than ever before. But the competition is just, it's crushing it,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:11:01
I would say I would say the noise more than the competition gets it. I feel like it would feel differently if if you were if it was just like, eat, like such great work was being made. And you were like, up against like, anywhere, and you were losing out to films that like blew your mind. And that doesn't feel but sometimes you see those films, but I it's just it's sort of the noise.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:21
But but also with that said, The competition is not just films, it's amazing television. I mean, the television that's coming out right now it's where all a lot of independent filmmakers are going. Right? Cuz I mean, and you're competing for that hour? Oh, yeah, no, you know, your go. phones and video games, social media. In America, there's a million other things. So there's just a lot of competition for eyeballs. It's

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:11:45
what's interesting, again, about that, so so my hypothesis going into the tour was that you could maybe salvage the in person experience as long as you relied on, on online viewing for money. And I actually think it's the reverse, because the number of people that came up to me and said, like, this is the first meaningful human interaction I've had with strangers in months. And like the hunger of people to it is harder to get them out of their houses, for sure. But once they're there, you can give them like borderline religious experiences, with very little effort, you know, just but in the simple act of putting them in a room and giving them context to interact with other people.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:33
Yeah, it's it is the future is the future. I think this is a this is a model that can work. I think at a certain budget range. It could work without question, I think at this budget range, it will work but it's going to take longer, it's going to be hard hustling, and, and it's an experiment. You guys are really in your investors must be really cool. People

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:12:54
are really cool people. They're extremely cool. And we did ask them like we we explain, but But the other thing is like, okay, so I think you're right, I think there's money that we probably left on the table. How are we hold? No, but are we better off than if we had gotten a distribution deal? Yes, that we are you have money, we have some money, you actually got some money. We made more in the first week of ticket sales from the tour than I made for my entire first feature film from a distributor.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:27
Correct. So yeah, right. I mean, that pretty much says everything you need to say. So as a as a business person is you have to look at like, Okay, well, what cost does that potential revenue justify? And that's, that's, it's like, it's like, you got to look at it as developing any widget, keep the cost as low as possible by still maintaining as high quality as possible to be able to create a marketable product. You know, and then also, art, you know, it, there's that it's a weird, we're very unique, strange business. You know, we're the only we're the only business that says, We're gonna invest a million dollars into something that we kind of maybe figured maybe there'll be some way we'll make our money back

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:14:15
like this and has no inherent value. That's value will be decided upon financially upon completion,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:24
right? Because this is about random people, right? This This has a value. Yes, this phone has a value, and it costs X amount and it has this X amount of value attached to it. A movie. I mean, the room, you know, the movie, the room, which is considered one of the worst movies of all time, has a specific value attached to it, right. Is it better than producing your film? No. Is it better produce than most films? No, but is it more profitable? Yes, absolutely. Tommy was so is a millionaire off of this movie because of the perceived value of that. film. So it's such a crazy thing.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:15:04
What right, which is crazy as a business, and it's also the only art form that is expected to make money like no other art form is it really right is expected to make money.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:12
Right, exactly. But because the value the cost is so high, the cost is so high to create our art, you know, and there's so many and it's a collaborative art. So it's not even one person. It's a collaborative art. So now you've got to deal with all of that and the politics and the person doing well. I actually I came up with I came up with a basically an idea of what why we are is insane as we are, and you are literally a carny. I mean, you literally went on the road and put up a tent and put a shell on and packed it up and moved to the next step. So I mean, I was considered as of carnies. But I think we have to get ourselves checked out for Sally Lloyd, because we might have a bad case of filmmaking. And I think, and I think once we get bitten, there's no vaccine. Like, you're done. You're done. You're, it's over and, and to be a little bit more crass. It's kind of like herpes, because it's dormant A lot of times, but it flares up, and it's with you for life.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:16:08
Like, even even in the worst day, on tour, I would go into that theater and listen to an audience full of people laughing at the jokes I had written and I was like, I'm good, I'm done. My life, there's nothing else I can do. I don't even need money, I'm

Alex Ferrari 1:16:21
fine. It's, we're insane. We're insane. But if we understand our insanity, and we if we, if we are self aware enough of what we're doing, because a lot of filmmakers or not a lot of filmmakers are delusional. Trust me, I know, I was very delusional for many, many years of my career, I'm sure you might have had a few years of delusion, as well. But if we're self aware enough, and then we actually become smart about how we can actually create our art, and make a business out of art, and then create other revenues he streams to, to support us while we're making our art to the point where we're able to eventually do this full time. That's the dream. And I think also a lot of filmmakers have this whole, I need to make a million dollars, and I have to work in the studio system. And I have to do what like that dream that Hollywood's been selling us since the 90s. If I'm able to make money that pays my rent, and puts food on my table for my family, and I'm able to provide a service, which is entertainment, or some other service that I'm providing my audience. Isn't that the dream? Like man is Yeah, right. It's like, I don't need billions of dollars. You know, I don't, I'm happy.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:17:28
They do need to be able to pay my rent. And I think that's the people we're still not quite there yet.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:33
Right? pay your rent, pay your people that work with you on this crazy people that you conned into doing, going on these crazy journeys with us as filmmakers.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:17:43
But I mean, I do I do think there's something to the duplass Yes, model for sure of of very low, keeping the cost low up front by giving everybody a piece of the back end with the Touring model, because one thing. So I will say that, that having the name actors did help to a certain extent. But Naomi Grossman, who is one of them, hustled her took us off for us. And and like, got every cousin she has to come out to a screening and got every person she knows in every city. And she put more butts in seats, not because she's famous, but because she like hounded people to come. And for that reason, she was the most valuable actor. And I think, actually, if you if you had a whole team of filmmakers, actively hounding people in cities, because they were gonna get a piece of the back end, we would have sold more tickets than we sold because we had famous actors.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:45
Yeah, there's, there's, there's multiple different business models, and I think the duplass brothers have been able to they cracked the code. I mean, the duplass has cracked the code A while ago. And if you remember their first films, they were made for nothing. Right? And

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:18:58
You're also friends with famous people, which again, like what now but now right now?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:03
Yeah, not when they were starting out when they were start when they did puffy chair. You know, they had they had Sundance because they got the short film The year before, but it took them a minute before those famous people friends. And now they can leverage everything that they have. But you know, the whole Marvel story with them. Right? Have you heard that story? Marvel called the doop losses. And they offered them a movie. And they turned it down. Because they said it's just not us. And that is self awareness. And that is a clear understanding of what is important to you as a filmmaker that said, Look, we would be locked up for three years. And it would have been fun maybe but it's that it's kind of like that. We don't want to do that. Like we want to make other films we want to employ our friends. We want to go out and do this to tell the stories we want to tell like why would we lock ourselves up for write this kind of film like we're good. You know, we're making Netflix movies. We're making Netflix shows we're doing HBO shows like I don't need that. That every filmmaker that hears the story, many of them are like, You're crazy. I'm like I said, No, he knows. And they both know exactly what's important to them. Right? And I think that's where we all have to be. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my entrepreneur guests. What advice would you give a filmtrepreneur starting a project today?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:20:26
Liberate yourself from the system.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:29
The matrix

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:20:31
Unplugged from the matrix,Take the red pill, because from the beginning, because the other thing that I like, if we had known from day one of making bite me that this is what we're going to do. A we would have done things differently, and we would have been able to set ourselves up so much more successfully.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:52
Very good. Now, what is the biggest lesson you've learned? Going through this audacity? of this this tour of this project? where you are, what's the biggest lesson you've learned so far?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:21:06
The system is a lie.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:09
The Matrix is a lie.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:21:11
Right? It's true. Like, I mean, I just can't tell you how many things people said to us like, well, you're never going to get theaters to agree to this Really? Well. So many theaters said yes, that we had to cap the tour at 51 screenings like that was not that like they're just the idea that film festivals are the be all end all know, when, when in reality, they're eating up your profits? Realistically?

Alex Ferrari 1:21:34
Of course.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:21:36
It's a lie. So like, think differently,

Alex Ferrari 1:21:39
Think differently. Okay, perfect. Yes. like Apple says, think different. Back in the day. Now, what is? What did you learn? What have you learned from your biggest filmmaking or business failure? Like that first movie, besides selling the traditional distributor?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:22:00
Yeah. I mean, I feel like it's the same.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:10
Just don't just just

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:22:11
It's that, that the decision to set to give your film to a distributor, is the last decision you get to make with that film, basically. Whereas that's great. Whereas whatever mistakes or successes we had with this tour, we now get to make an infinite number of decisions. Next.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:34
Do you see Do you see yourselves partnering strategically, with a traditional distributor? Like carving out certain rights, like actually doing a real partnership if you found good distributors? Because I have, and I have.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:22:49
Sure it's so hard to know, I mean, this is the problem? Like they all sound great up front? And then. But yeah, I mean, of course, like, if the right opportunity came along, I think particularly internationally, it makes a lot of sense. And

Alex Ferrari 1:23:05
It just all depends, it all depends. Because there are there are models out there, there are distribution companies that I work with, that can do good stuff. But I would agree, like if you just sign everything over, if you can try to, you know, like, I'm going to keep the DVD rights, I have the rights to sell it on my website, something that's a huge thing. Like, if all hell breaks loose, I can still sell it on my I might, I could sell it on my website. I could put it on Vimeo plus and sell it Right, right, if worse comes to worse. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:23:46
The system is a lie? Okay, so basically, you grow up watching the Oscars and you like, and then everybody talks about Sundance, and it's like, there's it's so it's feels magical. So true, and it just isn't and it and like, and it's so I feel like I've had to learn that lesson over and over and over again.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:08
Okay. Now, in your opinion, what is the definition of a filmtrepreneur?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:24:15
Think a filmmaker who understands that their job does not end when the picture is locked.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:23
That's great definition. Great definition. I love that. Now, where can people find out more about you about bite me about everything you're doing?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:24:33
Well, I have a website. What 2019 NaomiMcDougalJones.com

Alex Ferrari 1:24:42
It's not Geocities. Sorry. Isn't on is it on AOL no joke.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:24:49
Maybe How Does that ever work? Exactly. Um, bite me. thefilm.com is our films website. And I would very much encourage people to watch our doctors series which is on YouTube, you just search for the joyful vampire tour of America. It's 12 episodes. It's that was made by Kiwi Callahan. It's incredibly funny and fun just as like an adventure story of us living in an RV for three months traveling around the country, but also does, we pull our pants all the way down and everything. So if, if I had had that tool as a filmmaker six months ago, my life would be different.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:28
Wow, that's awesome. Naomi, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, I'm so glad we were able to finally get together. And I hope and I do hope that this episode really educates some people out there and really inspire some people to do something and also terrify some people. Because it ain't easy out here. It isn't easy. And like you said, the filmmaker understands that their job is not done at cut. Final Cut is a really great definition of a film entrepreneur, because you've got to think about other things, you got to look at things differently, as you so wonderfully put. So thank you, again, so much for being so candid, and dropping some knowledge bombs, and inspirational bombs on the tribe today.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:26:12
Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:15
That was an epic interview. Naomi, thank you, again, so much for not only being on the show, but for everything you're doing for filmmakers with that amazing series, which by the way, the series is available on indie film hustle TV. So anybody who has membership to indie film hustle TV, you can watch the entire series there as part of your membership. It's also available on YouTube as well. But I will put links to all of that in the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/342. I'll also put links to the movie where to buy it rented, see it and support this amazing group of filmmakers who are trying to make it happen for not only themselves, but to help the community as well. And I'm always behind anybody, any filmmaker, who is willing to be so open minded and completely transparent about their process of trying to make money in this in sane business. So thanks again, Naomi for coming on the show. Now, if you haven't already. And if you really liked the show, it really mean a lot to me, if you head over to filmmakingpodcast.com it'll take you straight to Apple podcasts, subscribe, leave a review, it really helps the show out a lot. It really, really, really appreciate it. And I have a little bit of update on that book, The rise of the filmtrepreneur, it is about a week away from me delivering it to my editor and getting everything ready for our October release. So I will keep you up to date on that. All I'm going to tell you guys is this, this book is going to blow the lid off this piston. I mean, I go buckwild on the business in this book, I really really do it is a eye opening book that tells a lot of truth bombs and a lot of hard realities about this business, but also gives you a blueprint on how you can actually make a business out of your filmmaking out of your films and to be able to build an actual business around what you love to do. So if you want to, again, preorder that book, head over to filmbizbook.com that's filmbizbook.com which will take you straight to Amazon where you can preorder the book to be the first to get it. Thank you again so much. This has been a cross over addition with the filmtrepreneur podcast of course if you haven't gone to the filmtrepreneur podcast please head over to filmbizpodcast.com. That's filmbizpodcast.com that takes you to the filmtrepreneur podcast. It is growing very, very fast. And it's getting a lot of great reviews. A lot of tribe members are heading over there. It's a lot of great, great information, new episode every single week. So thanks again for listening guys. And as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

LINKS

SPONSORS

  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)

Share:

FEATURED EPISODES

Where Hollywood Comes to Talk

Oliver Stone

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)

Edward Burns

Writer/Director/Actor
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)

Richard Linklater

Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - BILLY CRYSTAL

Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)

JOE CARNAHAN

Writer/Director
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - ALBERT HUGHES
Eric Roth

Writer/Director
(Menace II Society, Book of Eli)

Oscar® Winning Screenwriter/Producer
(Forrest Gump, Dune)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - EDWARD ZWICK
HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - DAVID CHASE

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Last Samurai, Blood Diamond)

Emmy® Winning Writer and Showrunner
(The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark)