IFH 476: Building Long-Term Filmmaking Revenue Streams

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Not many of us get to tick off ‘sailing around the world’ off our dream to-do list. But our guests today, Brady Trautman and partner, Alex Blue, have been living their ultimate best life at sea for the last ten-plus years while creating video content for their business, Cruisers Academy

The adventure began with Florida natives Brady and his older brother, Brain, with whom he initially started the youtube channel, Sailing Vessel Delos, back in 2008. It wasn’t until 2012 they received their first check from Youtube, which was basically ‘bear money.’  Soon after, they joined Patreon. 

Eight sailors, filmmakers, and adventurers pile into a 48 ft sailboat with the goal of exploring and capturing the beauty of Svalbard, the northernmost settlement in the world, only 600 miles from the North Pole. The sailing expedition brings 24 hours of sunlight, dangerous glacial ice flows, and up-close encounters with polar bears, beluga whales, walrus’ and much more! After 2.5 years of post-production and over 2000 hours of editing, it’s time to bring YOU our biggest project yet!
Alex, a media student running her film and photo company shooting on party boats across South America, joined the Delox crew in 2017 on a sail across the Atlantic to South Africa. 

Alex’s valuable skills helped tell their story of adventure and friendships, dreams more skillfully. 

SV Delos has sailed 45 countries and over 70,000 ocean miles since 2008. 

Ever wondered what goes into making a documentary series? Well here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the 80 North Series was created! Andy Schell invited us to be on his podcast which was the perfect opportunity to film the chat, share some sneak peeks, and relive funny stories from our sailing expedition in the Arctic Circle.

Finding your niche in the film or creative space, in general, can be a struggle, especially since it is becoming more and more competitive by the second. But the Delos crew modeled their business to service a niche audience and have created multiple revenue streams from sailing around the world and doing what everybody wants to do.

Due to the COVID pandemic, Alex and Brady have halted sailing for over a year now. They have had to adjust production strategy by outsourcing editing and diversifying their output.

Six months ago, the couple, along with a business partner, Sean, launched the Cruisers Academy—offering sailing lessons, charters, and they released a four-part docu-series, 80° North. It is a compilation of two years worth of videos honoring the beauty of the sea and their journeys. 

Enjoy my fun conversation with Brady Trautman and Alex Blue.


Alex Ferrari 0:08
I like to welcome the show Brady Troutman and Alex, how are you guys doing?

Brady Trautman 0:15
Good. Thanks for having us on the show today.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
I said it right right. I said the name right.

Brady Trautman 0:19

Alex Ferrari 0:21
For a second I went, did I say the wrong name again. It's been a long day, guys. I apologize. Hi, guys. How are you guys doing, man? Thanks so much for being on the show.

Brady Trautman 0:32
Yeah, we're doing good. We're, we're currently in Lake Tahoe and California. And the seasons are transitioning from spring to summer. So we're kind of in in a really good spot and excited for the summer in the lake.

Alex Ferrari 0:43
So very tough life is what you're saying? Very tough life.

Brady Trautman 0:46

Alex Ferrari 0:47
it's rough.

Brady Trautman 0:47

Alex Ferrari 0:48
very tough.

Brady Trautman 0:48
It's rough.

Alex Ferrari 0:49
So, It's rough out there. It's rough out there in Lake Tahoe, the main streets of Lake Tahoe. It's tough.

Brady Trautman 0:53
Yeah. Pretty bad, actually. But

Alex Ferrari 0:57

Brady Trautman 0:59

Alex Ferrari 1:01
So, um, I want to get you guys on the show. Because you've had you, I've had other you know, youtubers on the show, and other people who kind of use this futurpreneur method. Not specifically that you use it for me. But you might have modeled it after some, someone like yourselves, who do that kind of like building content and creating multiple revenue streams and servicing a niche audience and all that kind of stuff. But you're very, you have never really kind of spoken to anyone with a niche like yours, which is boating. And I want you to explain a little bit more. But how did you guys leave the normal world and go straight into like boating around the world and just following basically doing what everybody wants to do other than like, going off and joining the circus? I think basically swit sailing around the world essentially would be on the top of people's like, dream to do list. So how did you guys go, I'm assuming you didn't just come out of the womb like that. Got your boat at five and just kept going? From what I read. You guys started in the normal world and said, You know, I'm tired. So can you tell us how you got in there?

Brady Trautman 2:06
Yeah, for sure. I guess I'll start first because Alex joined the journey a little bit later on. And she had her own journey before we met. So I grew up in Orlando, Florida, and I was going to college there. And my brother at the time was up in Seattle, Washington. He's 10 years older than me. And he had a web design company that basically he left it. And we were both getting into sailing at the same time. So neither of our parents were into sailing, we didn't grew up sailing. But we were both getting into sailing at the same time. He was 32. And I was 22. And we ended up getting a 53 foot sailboat. And the plan was to basically hang out Mexico for a little bit, and maybe eventually cross into the South Pacific and go to Tahiti, because it was just like an incredibly big dream. And so that happened, I had one semester left of college, and we made a decision that we were going to leave Mexico and sail out into the South Pacific. And I took out all my student loans that I could sign up for as many classes as I could took out all my student loans and then dropped all the classes and figured I'd use my student loans to go to university of life, I guess. Wow. So yeah, that was that was in 2010. And I was only supposed to help him because he was kind of a little bit in a better financial position to travel long term than I was at the time. So I was supposed to help him for like three weeks, the passage from Mexico to the mark cases was about three weeks long. And we got the mark cases. And they were like, oh, a couple more months. I'll say a couple more months. And then we got to Tahiti, and it was a couple more months and then yeah, that eventually turned into 10 years and a circumnavigation so that that's kind of the the journey and then along the way, a lot of things happened, you know, are we ran out of money a lot, of course, but our family and friends we had a blog and photos, but it wasn't enough for our family and friends. They were always just still like, What the fuck are you guys doing? Like, I don't get it? Like, are you camping? Or got a motorboat? Like does your boat have an engine? It's a sailboat, but just people didn't really understand. So we just started filming our journey, little clips at a time and uploading small short videos to YouTube. The first videos were even like pictures with music behind them. So they were just complete like family slideshow kind of things. Which is great. Our family loved it. But then as we started to film and progress, other people started watching. And it was kind of at a really interesting time in YouTube where it was new and fresh. And it wasn't like click Beatty. It wasn't really you didn't have to try as hard if you had good content. It got put in front of people naturally I think so yeah, people kept watching and we eventually saw that there was a opportunity to make like a full on production from it. And keep filming and keep sailing and and yeah, here we are now.

Alex Ferrari 4:54
And Alex How did you leave the normal world enjoy this psychic, psychotic pirate on his Island

Alex Blue 5:02
Well, I got pretty lucky Actually, I don't know if I ever quite entered the normal world. Nice play. Yeah. In in college, I started Yeah, I was studying like media. And so I started my own film and photo company and got basically what the goal of wanting to travel I had this random dream I don't know where I got it from, but I really wanted to work in Central and South America with my camera. So pretty much once I graduated, I made my way down there and was able to get paid pay my way with my camera. And one summer I ended up on in Colombia, and I got offered a position on a sailboat that sailed between Cartagena, Colombia and San Blas islands, Panama. And so I lived aboard this 5052 foot catamaran for a summer and we would take like 20 backpackers from Panama, spent five days in San Blas Salem to Cartagena and then have a couple days pick up 20 more backpackers from Colombia sailing back to Panama. And anyone that's ever been on a 52 foot sailboat will understand how ridiculous it is to have 20 plus people sleeping on a boat like not just people but backpackers. Yeah. So it was pretty much a big party. But it was beautiful. I mean, yeah, I slept outside every single night in the hammock for the entire summer and pretty much fell in love with living on a boat and started to see other people on boats to at the anchorages and realized that people were living on their boats and that cruise cruisers were a category of people that I have come to know a lot about and become one myself. But yeah, pretty much after that came back to Tahoe for a winter. And then a sailing friend of mine sent me a Delos episode on the YouTube channel and said, Hey, I think you'll like this. So I gave it a watch. And they were Yes, sailing, scuba diving, which I had also been getting into and filming, which is pretty much all the things that my life revolved around as well. So I just sent them a random email. And they actually now in retrospect, I know that they get, you know, I don't know, probably 1000 of those a year or something like that if people didn't want to join through with them. But for whatever reason, luck was on my side and Brady's older brother Brian caught the email and said, cool. If you want to be in Africa and South Africa in two weeks, then you can cross the Atlantic with us. So I just went again, I didn't have to like quit a job and sell my house or anything. a transitional phase. Yeah, I already worked for myself. And I was just floating around anyways. So what I did there, and then within like a month we were we were dating and yeah, I like to say our first date was crossing the South Atlantic.

Brady Trautman 7:47
How romantic?

Alex Ferrari 7:48
Yes, it's very intense. I'm imagining it's an intense first date, to say the least

Brady Trautman 7:53
I was I was away, I was away at a wedding. And my brother called me He's like, hey, this guy, Alex, he's a videographer. He's a sailor. And like, you know, we're looking for crude to go from South Africa to Brazil. Like, what do you think, man? And then we had we had a video call like Alex isnt, a dude. Perfect. guy was good here in a week and a half. And she made the decision. And then yeah, we were we sailed on that book for three and a half years together before we moved to town.

Alex Ferrari 8:21
You know, it's, it's, it's insane. Because I love the way you guys talk about these trips, like, it's, it's just like, I'm going down to get a cup of coffee, like we're going to just going across the Atlantic, or I just want to go to Tahiti, you know, in going into the South Pacific, like when I think of the South Pacific, all I think about is just like this massive amount of water. And this and this little little island called Tahiti or Fiji, or you know, like, like Hawaii is essentially a monster complex comparatively. And you're like, yeah, you know, just just gonna just keep going and I love that mentality because for you, that's normal. To me, that's insane. But in a great way, and I admire that so much because you are truly living you living the dream because you guys are doing what you love to do. You're making a living doing it, you're helping other people, you're you're providing value to people around the world. And you can literally travel the world on your own dime and do whatever the hell you want to do. You have complete freedom and I think that's I think we all that's the one that's going to the you know, running away with the circus, essentially, we're gonna go with the circus, but I'm wondering

Brady Trautman 9:36
thank you for saying that. I think I don't know after doing it for 10 years. I definitely got a little bit jaded and you know, as pretty as it is like anything in movies or documentaries it or series whatever. It feels incredible and you're watching it. It's like oh my god is the dream but there's there's hardships and there's a lot of difficulties that go along with living on a small sailboat with five people at a time. It's amazing. I wouldn't trade it. For the world, and I'm so grateful that I did it. It's just yeah, it's nice to hear again, people from the outside, like you say stuff like that cuz it's like yeah, I'm really lucky. I was able we were able to do that.

Alex Ferrari 10:11
Yeah, absolutely. And but, you know, I couldn't look you're traveling to South Pacific you're traveling, you know, across it, you know shits gonna happen, you know, I'm imagining it's just that like crystal blue sales and everything's running in the dolphins are jumping over next to you like the entire way. You know, I'm assuming you run out of money, you run out of food, you run out of gas, or whatever you're doing, like things happen, like, oh, there's a hurricane showing up. Like, I have to imagine things like that happens. But that's life. But you're but you've taken life by the kind of horns and just done what you want to do with it. Which is, believe me, I talked to a lot of people. And I talked to filmmakers, which we're all nuts. We're all we're all nuts, filmmakers. And filmmakers are insane people. I mean, I'm insane. We're all insane. My family looks at me like, what do you do? 20 years, 25 years. And you make and you do what? And now they see me on YouTube. So now they're just like, oh, he talks to famous people. I'm like, Yeah, okay, that's sure. That's what I do. That's all I do in my life. And I was that Sure, why not? But there's an insanity that comes along with being a filmmaker, but you guys just amped up that insanity. Like, instead of shooting a movie, let's shoot a movie on the open sea for months at a time. And oh, let's open up a YouTube channel. And you can like, Oh, my egg. You can never leave set. Yeah, exactly. It's always going. So when you guys started doing the videos that sent back to your family, because they just wanted to make sure you were alive and doing well. How, by the way, how do you communicate like carrier pigeon? Or like How? Like, I'm assuming the cell reception? I'm assuming the cell reception is not so well down there, especially 11 years ago?

Brady Trautman 11:52

Alex Ferrari 11:53
In the middle? Yeah.

Brady Trautman 11:55
I mean, yeah, the best way to communicate really was, was when we get to an island and you'd find a random computer, somebody would have a computer with internet and you'd sign in checking emails. Really, that was it. I mean, we didn't even have cell phones weren't really a thing through the South Pacific in 2010. Now you can find the cell phone pretty much anywhere you go. And you buy a SIM card, a local SIM card, and you can get you can get calls and data and stuff. But back then yeah, it'd be months before we'd we'd reach out or do anything and even uploading stuff to YouTube, right? Like there was times where, where we couldn't we leave the laptop in like a cafe somewhere for like two weeks to try and upload, like a 500 megabit video, and it just wouldn't upload. So we found we buy the small little USB thumb drive, put an episode on it, ship it across to my friends in Florida, and they would upload it for us and then post it for us. So that was faster than actually uploading a video at that time.

Alex Ferrari 12:51
Jesus. And you certainly you started doing this for your family, essentially. And you just opened up a YouTube channel just like start doing things. But then eventually, people just started finding it. And you're This is about 11 years ago?

Brady Trautman 13:02
Yeah, yeah, really, it was 2010 is when we first started uploading the little picture slideshows, and then 2011 there was a bit more video involved. And then, yeah, I think 2012 is when we really decided I think we we ended up getting a check from YouTube at some point for like $18 or $20. I don't remember the amount and we're like, holy shit, what is this? Like they made a mistake or something. And we didn't realize that they were monetizing our videos. So we realized that there was a way to make money on youtube, even if it was small. That was like a case of beer, which is awesome at that time when you have zero money. So yeah, we just kept doing it. And then once we realized that there was a way to grow it, it was growing and growing. And we found out that as long as we were consistent, and we were ourselves and being authentic and honest, and we just kept growing. And then the real real change happened when one of our one of our followers, one of our viewers on YouTube reached out and said, hey, there's this new thing called Patreon. It's perfect for you guys, you should check it out. And it must have been the first six months patron was was a lot. And we signed up for a Patreon account. And then yeah, people really, really understood that because there's something really special about giving directly back to an artist or somebody you like it's a personal connection, instead of giving it to a cable company or a network, and maybe it'll trickle down to them, like literally giving $5 or $10 to that creator. It has an emotion attached to it. And that's 100% why we were able to be successful.

Alex Ferrari 14:30
So so with YouTube, you start making some money with it you realize that there's an actual something there at least it's you know, beer money, we can work for beer money, basically. Yeah. You start working with beer money. And I put what Alex At what point did you like coming? What year did you jump in with him?

Alex Blue 14:46
Let's see. It was 2016 or 17.

Alex Ferrari 14:51
I think 17 March. So you guys were off and running already. The YouTube channel had already been Oh, yeah.

Brady Trautman 14:56
Yeah, we were full on by then we're just started. Like probably right then is when we started making a profit, I would say, like our expenses were paid for. So like, the boat was paid for insurance, food fuel, like cameras, it was kind of breakeven, like our lifestyle was paid for. And then right around that point that Alex joined us when it kind of kept going, and we were able to pay ourselves $500 a month.

Alex Ferrari 15:21
I mean, obviously. It's all Alex is 100% but Alex joy, the videography got better. The storytelling got better. The editing got better. Yeah, perfect.

Alex Blue 15:33
No, I mean, it's actually funny. Yeah, to look back, because when I once I realized I was going, I didn't watch any more episodes or anything to me, it felt weird to know that I was going to show up and know these people and they weren't going to know me or anything. So I kind of just went and didn't really look into it much shows like they seem legit, whatever, just go

Alex Ferrari 15:54
Okay, so let's, let's stop there for a second. I want to because my daughter's not see this one day, and I'm gonna say no, this is not the way to do it. I looked at the video, it seemed legit. I flew to Africa. This is not a statement that I ever want to hear my daughter say.

Alex Blue 16:11
Yeah, my mom had some doubts.

Alex Ferrari 16:14
I would hope so.

Alex Blue 16:17
But No, I didn't. I didn't know that. That Um, so the tribe is what they they kind of tell us refers to as the the people that watch their videos, and I'm telling you people are so inspired and like touched by these videos. I had no idea. It's like a it's like, it's almost like a cult classic in a way with Delos. The Delos episodes like people are so into them. And they've people have altered their lives so much like so many people have sold everything they own went and bought sailboats move their families aboard, like I'm talking hundreds, if not 1000s of people from these episodes. So they really touched people in a lot of ways. And yeah, and I just had no idea any of that before I got on the boat. Some people like to think that I saw Brady online buddy was cute, and like, came came in to swoop a map, but I did not have that much foresight

Brady Trautman 17:09
I was a lot skinnier and Tanner.

Alex Ferrari 17:14
No, it's it's it's really interesting, because as a creator, you know, with with what I do on a daily basis with podcasting, I've done hundreds and hundreds of podcasts. And you as a creator, you don't know what effect it has on people. You really don't you just put it out into the universe. And only when I'm at an event or at a film festival or a if I get emails or something like that. Do I realize the impact that Yeah, an episode? Did you found me listening to podcasts? You're like, Oh, yeah, yeah. And I have people who follow me like, Oh, my God, you know, you saved you saved me from losing $500,000 because that predatory distributor was gonna screw me, or those kinds of things all the time. So but as a creator, you just don't know, man. So I can imagine I understand that feeling of just putting it out there. And it really does affect people lives. For me. It's just like an interview. Like, I'm having an interview with you right now. And then I promise you somebody will just like, Oh, wait, what's that? What? Let me click on that YouTube channel, boom, all of a sudden, and they sell their boats. They sell their lives, they get a boat, and they go with a strange man. With a strange man with a strange man. Oh, no, she's a strange men. Exactly. But you don't know. But I promise you probably something like that will probably happen at one point or another, someone listening to this will happen. So it's, it's really, I always tell people, it's so important to put whatever's in your heart to put it out there. Because you just have no idea what effect it will have on another human being. It could be nothing to you. And you could say something like I say stuff on the show all the time. That to me, it's just not that's something I just it's just part of my vernacular, but it will blow someone's mind who's never heard it. And I'm assuming this, like, if I started watching your videos, if I wanted to get into boating, you'll probably save me years, FPA years of pain and suffering on how to run a boat or take one of your courses or, or you know, or something like that. It's it's pretty remarkable. It really is. Now you started once you speak regard, you started doing the YouTube channel, you started seeing there was a real thing. How did you build the audience? Or was it just strictly like I'm just going to create content? or How did you start interacting with them? How did you build that tribe? Because I called my guys the tribe as well.

Brady Trautman 19:28
I don't know our when we first started getting followers besides our parents. There was something inside of us like I knew something was I just knew it was gonna be big. Like I knew we were the first sailing YouTube channel in the world. And now there's, I don't know 10,000 or something, or I don't know how many there are, but I just knew that it was gonna go big, like, it was gonna be something big and we made kind of a rule just to only make videos that made us smile. So to be authentic to be ourselves. 100% never make A video based on a comment or, or what other people think. And and only only do it if it makes us happy. So if it ever came to a point where it was just too much and too stressful, which those times definitely came, then we had to take a step back and reassess. And that combined with the consistency is I think what grew the channel like we were releasing one episode 20 to 30 minute episode every Friday, still to this day, it's a brother scene. It's it's, it's ridiculous. And now I've been off the boat for full time for a little over a year now. And my brother and his wife and they have a baby on board now. And they're still doing it. And we have we have outside editors and stuff helping out but it's just like seeing it from the outside. Now I'm like,

Alex Ferrari 20:43
How the fuck did we do that for 10 years? Like I don't it was just 30 minutes of fresh content shot and edited every week is obscene.

Brady Trautman 20:53
The content was probably five months behind real time. Sure. So is backlog but yeah, it was every Friday 20 to 30 minute episode,

Alex Blue 21:03
sometimes maybe even longer labs every five minute episodes, double releases to try and catch up. Yeah, ridiculous.

Alex Ferrari 21:10
It's insanity. That's insanity. That's absolute insanity. Now out of sight out so you've mentioned a couple of revenue streams, you've created the YouTube advertising, which generally from my own experience on being on YouTube and just from other other youtubers I know. You got to have obscene amount of numbers to make, like people think like you're making a million a month I'm like, Dude, are you out of your mind? Like maybe in the beginning that was like it was a lot easier to make money when it started. But now you know, you got to really work to make and it's an it's not make make a living off of YouTube. Unless you've got millions of them. You got to have a lot a lot of us. So but you able to build that revenue stream? And then Patreon How did Patreon do for you guys? Is that really supported you?

Brady Trautman 21:54
Yeah, that's been the main revenue stream. By far. I mean, the ad revenue in the beginning in 2014 15. It was good. I think around 2016 it just started to drop even though our numbers grew, our ad revenue didn't really go up very much, because it was just so flooded. But Patreon yeah has continued to grow since we started it. I think we started it in 2013 is when we first started our Patreon account. And yeah, people find us on YouTube. And they watch a couple episodes. And of course, we push it in our YouTube videos like these videos are free. If you really want to support us head over to Patreon. And we give them rewards of course, t shirts, and sometimes we pick somebody's name out of a hat and they get to come sailing with us. So the rewards is it's a really cool platform. And without Patreon, I don't think we'd be where we are, we would have found a different route to continue. But I don't know if it would have been as big or successful as it is at all. We also have another revenue stream, which is really fun. Is our it's not a donation button because donation seems so like

Alex Ferrari 22:51
oh the give me buy me a beer.

Brady Trautman 22:53
Yeah, Bobby and beer. Exactly. And we came up we were sitting down having beers when this is before Patreon existed and we're like, yeah, people should like they people want to give us money. They're asking how to donate but you're like, come on, who's gonna donate to two younger dudes on a sailboat living living a great life in the South Pacific. Like, I wouldn't donate to those guys. But we we kind of formed it more in the way of if you're at a bar, and somebody tells you to good question or tells you so it tells you a good story and makes you laugh. Then you buy him a beer, right? It's like, Oh, that was a great story. Let me buy you a beer. So that's kind of how we did the whole thing. And that was a huge success. And it still is Yeah, cuz

Alex Ferrari 23:30
you guys start building out your website and yeah, I mean, all that all those kinds of things. And then obviously have some merge that you submerge and Oh, the one other other the US now do tours. You also do is you don't you have a course or like some sort of training Do you do as well,

Brady Trautman 23:48
I have a separate now like, since since we left the boat, Alex and I have started our own. I'm still part of Delos. But we're not involved in the filming or the editing of it. So we've kind of done our own thing. And instead of relying solely on YouTube to create an income, and to constantly pump out videos as much as we can. We've taken our experience of sailing around the world and all the stuff we've learned and we've made sailing school. So we're teaching, it's not through Delos, it's not through the YouTube channel. It's just something we're doing. So that way we can go back to filmmaking as a passion instead of a constant like, how are we going to make money off this next film?

Alex Ferrari 24:24
Now is that is that is that online? Is that an online course? Or is that an in person course? in person? It's an in person course. Alright, so do they fly in? And yet? Oh, wow. So I must be Yeah, solid. And then you could just film when you want to film and it's good. It's It's remarkable how you guys have been able to just figure it out in a way that like I'm just gonna keep doing what I want to do. And I'm never going to work with a man and, and just and just live the life you want to live and it's really inspiring truly, truly honestly as filmmakers and it's just a human being To be able to just I don't think you could ever get a chocolate could you get a chop? Like could sound like

Brady Trautman 25:05
why we there's no way I could get a normal job. I just don't I wouldn't know how to do it. I'd fail. I get fired probably right away.

Alex Ferrari 25:13
I always I always tell people, I'm unemployable. I think I'm psychologically unemployable. I cannot I there's no way I can have a boss. No, I get. I just got rid of my clients like three years ago. When I when I close my post, I was done. I was like, yeah, I'm done. I can't do this all full time now. And it's, it's been great. Now, you also did a documentary series called 80 degrees north. Where, because you know, this opposite, it's not enough. And of course, the Atlantic is not enough in the Indian Ocean. And you're like, well, where Haven't we gone on this planet? On the Arctic? Oh, there's that's so. So let's go up to the Arctic and do this adventure. And you did this movie called 80 degree movie, but a series called 80 degrees north. Can you tell everybody a little bit about that? That project? Good.

Alex Blue 26:02
Yep. So we have a couple of friends who are also sailors, they have more of a it's not a charter. It's kind of like a blue water ocean experience school where you can go make long ocean passages with them. And they were going to be up in small Bard for anyone who doesn't know who that is, which is good chance probably.

Alex Ferrari 26:25

Alex Blue 26:26
Yeah, it's, it's north of Norway. It's about 600 miles from the North Pole. It's a group of islands. And yeah, they're, they're very, in the in the summertime, it's 24 hours of daylight, and polar bears and all kinds of wildlife up there. And they recently have become more of a tourist attraction because a lot of the ice the pack ice the normally kind of packs them in, even in the summertime has been melting. So they had this idea they wanted to go up there, it was kind of between trips, and they invited the Dallas crew to come out and meet them, which definitely isn't something normally that the Dulles crew does, like we're always on Delos sailing around from place to place filming kind of doing our own thing. But it was an opportunity at that point where I think that everyone is pretty ready to try something new. And Delos has spent most of her life, you know, at the equator. And so everyone was like let's go see what you know, Coldwater sailing is all about. try this out. So yeah, we all flew there and hopped on their boat. They have a 40 foot swan. So it was them too. They had a ship photographer and then five of the Dallas crew came. So there's eight people on a 40 foot boat for three weeks. And we sell like 15 cameras. Oh my god, so much camera gear flying everywhere. So yeah, hopped on board with them sailed around and pretty much just filmed our experience everything from sort of what it took to prep the boat to the encounters that we had with glaciers to seeing polar bears, beluga whales, walrus, the sailing conditions, everything. And yeah, maida ended up making a four part documentary series with it.

Alex Ferrari 28:08
So I got I just want to go back to that for that scent that you said, hey, let's fly up to the Arctic and see what that's about. Again, that's something that is normally set by a normal human being. I just want to let everybody know that right there. Cuz you say it's so weird. Like, it just rolls off the tongue. I just want to stop for a second just so you're aware. That's just not the way we're normally used to living living in our underwear and bikinis in Brazil. Right? Oh, let's

Brady Trautman 28:32
try and fancy Yeah, let's do that. What a great idea. It was a great idea. It turned out to be a great idea. But looking back, it was like, we had no idea what we're getting ourselves into. It was just a completely opposite thing than what we knew and what we're used to. And I think that's why it excited us because at that point, when you're constantly filming your life every day and and editing the same footage, you kind of you don't get burned out, so to speak, but it's not as you're not as passionate about showing it anymore. You're like, Okay, get it doing the same thing we've done 200 times getting in the dinghy go into an island. So the idea of going to the Arctic someplace we've never been with totally different conditions, reignited our passion for filming and exploration. And we knew we wanted to do something different with it than the YouTube channel. Like we didn't want to have it just a normal Friday release and one of the time grows is filmmakers and just learn more and try different things. So we spent a ton of time it took us about two years to finish editing it and we did tons of interviews and yeah, so full on little mini series.

Alex Ferrari 29:33
That's That's awesome, dude. And I was gonna say, I don't know how you guys edit yourselves for over a decade because if it wasn't for me talking to other people, I can do this. Like I could not edit my source My life is boring as hell, but nothing nearly as cool as you guys do. But like just seeing myself all the time and doing the same thing after like, it might be cool for a little bit but after a while, like you said like okay, we get The thing again, we're gonna go to the, you know, I know everyone everyone watching is like, Oh my god, but for us, it's like, you know, like, Okay,

Brady Trautman 30:08
before she joined Bella, she was behind the camera like, 100% of the time. And she got on the boat until Africa. And there's a camera in her face. And she's like, Oh, so that was the last thing for you to get used to. Right?

Alex Blue 30:19
Yeah, I think it's actually there's a lot of value in you know, people always say if they have to listen to voicemail that they leave or, you know, watch a video clip of themselves. And they, they're like, I hate my voice, or I hate the way I look. And for me, it was really, really interesting. Because Yeah, I'd always been behind the camera and but there's a lot of value, even though it's straight up sucks. And it's really hard to like, watch yourself on camera, you realize a lot of I realized two things, I realized things about myself that I never realized before, from not new perspective that I wanted to change. And then I realized things that maybe you know, weren't perfect about me. But that's who made me who I was. And I was never going to change those things. So it actually really helped me grow as a person and see myself from, you know, someone else's point of view. And I think I became a better person for it from it. But it's, it's brutal.

Alex Ferrari 31:10
Most human beings go the other way. They go like, Oh, my God, this sucks. I'm just a horrible, I can't do this. And it just you don't find the positives or even the constructive. You just look at the negative. I took me years before I can listen to myself, like I know. Now I've got a little more accustomed to listen to my voice. But all was proved. It took me forever to get on. It took me forever to skim. If you if you go to my YouTube channel, the first videos, it's all just audio, I just threw up the audio. I just took me like two, three years before I started putting myself on video. I just I'm like, Oh, I want to be buying the camera. I don't want to do it. So it is brutal. It's brutal. So I tip I tip my hat to you guys, for doing it for as long as you have. Now the really interesting thing about 80 degrees north is that you have a very unique distribution model. And how is that working for you? And what is it?

Brady Trautman 31:57
Yeah, it's actually turned out we took a big risk, and it worked out very well for us. Luckily, when we first Yeah, when we first started editing this thing together. And we had three parts and four parts and we knew it wasn't going to go on YouTube. I started reaching out to you know, distribute distribution networks. I started listening to your podcasts like what other avenues other What do people do? I started talking to aggregators, I talked to people at all the major streaming networks that I won't name but all you know all the big ones that are out there. It's a short list. Yeah, yeah. And the most common thing that I heard back from them was where where's the arguing? Like, where's the drama where I'm like, we're fucking sailing in the Arctic, we have to carry a rifle. Because polar bears can attack us for protection. Like, is that not enough for you? Like it's not enough drama, you really need to the Alice to throw like they just wanted like, they're like, when did the crew argue? You know, if you argue with your brother, there had to be eight people on a 48 foot. You had to have argued? Like no, like, we didn't actually it was perfect. We didn't have any arguments. We didn't have any disagreements. So

Alex Ferrari 32:59
they were they were looking for the housewives of the Arctic is basically Yeah, no. Don't make a spoof of that now. Oh, my God, oh, Housewives of the Arctic

Brady Trautman 33:10
glaciers, beluga whales. Let's just you guys argue in a small space. It was a I don't know, it was a wake up call and a turn off really because as a as an independent filmmaker or something you feel like getting on one of those streaming platforms is like this is that's where you want to go. That's you get in front of so many people. And it's almost like a notch on your belt. But then I realized that we have such a cool, dedicated audience already, like our YouTube following our Instagram accounts, everybody is so engaged and so interested in what we're doing, we realize that no matter where we release it, people will want to watch. So instead of Yeah, instead of going with the streaming platforms or, or even charging, like on amazon prime, where you charge a certain amount for the for the episodes, we decided to give the people the choice and how much they wanted to pay. So we did a pay what's fair model, who built their own website, put up a trailer of it at North series.com is where it's all at, which is a podcast and people started hearing about it and then there's a little box where you can go and you type in whatever amount you want. And then you get to watch you get to stream all four parts of the series for as long as you

Alex Ferrari 34:22
have to ask you I mean, I don't want like accounting but like what's the average? Let's see. I was $15.35 Wow for two visitors and almost a little bit over two hours that the full series if I'm not mistaken.

Brady Trautman 34:35
Yeah, yep. So it's about 30 minutes so it's Yeah, a little over two hours. So I thought more people would watch. I mean, I'll tell you the amount of people that have watched it is right around 14,000 people right now are sorry that I paid 14,000 people

Alex Ferrari 34:50
so you can do this amazing.

Brady Trautman 34:52
It's great. We were able to cover our production costs like the flights of the crew, all the camera gear you know, all the all the stuff that goes into that. But it didn't reach as many people as I thought it would. Because we get, you know, in our in our YouTube channel, we get close to two to 300,000 views in a week span, like from the first Friday release. So it's a small percentage of people that are watching, but they're actually paying more than I thought, maybe I thought it would be 100,000 people or they pay $4.

Alex Ferrari 35:20
But I'll tell you getting 14,000 people off of a 200,000 like audience is a massive amount of conversion. That's it. Yeah. Really massive. And at that price point that you're talking about, is massive, because I've seen guys who have guys and gals who've got a million. And like, if they can get, if they get 10,000 off of a million, it's you're you're winning, it's again. So that's a that's a really big conversion. That says a lot about the passion of your audience. Now, you know, when I saw the pay to play model, I was like, Okay, this sounds great. But without an audience, this is really a tough sell. This is a hot, you know, if you if you got nobody, and it's only your mom and your uncle and maybe your best, and all the actors, or all the crew, people's parents and friends, yeah. This is this the pay, it's not going to really work. So it's so important. I've been yelling at this from the top of the mountain for so long, building that audience, connecting with that audience, and then feeding that audience, giving that audience what they want, providing a service to them, through your videos, through your services, through your products, through everything that you create. And you didn't go off and make you know, a movie about the carnival. or running off with a circus. You didn't make that movie because that movie wouldn't sell to your audience, maybe maybe a handful who just want to like, Did Davos, just join the circus. Which, by the way, would probably be an interesting documentary. It's a documentary but but you focused on the niche and you stayed within that niche, which is a niche you love. And you've maintained your life livelihood for the last decade by doing what you love. And isn't that every filmmakers dream?

Brady Trautman 37:06
I think so I never thought I would be a filmmaker or make documentary films. And then it just kind of came to fruition by necessity, I guess then yeah, it's 100% energy, my talk to a lot of other YouTubers, a lot of people that have YouTube chat sailing YouTube channels. And it's always the same question like, how do you create revenue from your YouTube channel or for making films, and it's so hard, it's really hard. And that's why we're really grateful to have such a good audience. And that audience was born out of going back to what I said before, being authentic, and just being ourselves. And you can see, you know what, the minute somebody is fake or does something to think that audience will like or something for money, the audience can see it right away, like the viewers will notice right away. And they'll be like, Okay, this person's not not real. They're only doing it for these reasons. So being authentic, really helped us all the way through, even for this documentary series, because people really stood behind us. And they're like, yeah, screw those guys trying to make you argue, do your own thing, and we're happy to support it.

Alex Ferrari 38:06
Now, did you just do you guys do sponsors as well? Or no?

Brady Trautman 38:10
No, no, we do. We do like gear sponsors and stuff. We don't do any big paid sponsorships? We've kind of stayed away from all that. If somebody wants to send us something like a dinghy or or sales, and we use it organically in the YouTube series, then awesome. It'll show up, like, organically, we don't have to blatantly put it out there. So we've never actually done really big paid partnerships. And for the at North series, we didn't do anything. No,

Alex Ferrari 38:35
no. Is there? Is there any reason? Would there have been a partner in the at North series that might have been a good like a maybe a couple brands or something like that, that would have aligned with your message of what you're trying to do? And help that also help pay for it? Yeah, I mean, the whole the whole series is pretty much alley hands and commercial. Yeah.

Alex Blue 38:54
We had a, we had a pro deal with Helly. Hansen. And yeah, we got like, 50% off. Yeah. And none of us had any snow gear or anything. We all a bikini, so we had to get literally fully fitted out all of our gear, all of our valleys and Helly Hansen. So like Brady said, the whole thing is a Helly. Hansen, essentially, but I mean, yeah, maybe if we tried to work it before, but at the end, it's like, well, it's already there. So yeah. Look what we did, it's already released.

Alex Ferrari 39:22
Do you want to give us money? Give us some money now for it. Now, what do you guys what do you guys planning in the future? I mean, obviously, obviously, this season, you're going to be at Lake Tahoe and sailing. I'm assuming you're doing courses or training. Now. You're gonna be doing that this summer. So what's up next for you guys now?

Alex Blue 39:40
Yeah, so Well, actually, me and Brady had the the idea of starting our new business, the cruisers Academy, which is the sailing school, when we were still on Delos. We really like teaching people. And yeah, like Brady said, just take a little bit of pressure off the filmmaking so that we can kind of you know, Enjoy it again. Not put so much not not put so much pressure on it. So yeah, so doing the sailing school and our original idea with it was to teach people how to live on boats how to cross oceans, Offshore Sailing, yeah, how to provision for six months at a time. And that still is our goal. But you know, given the last year and the travel restrictions and everything, we just decided to keep it local on taho. So we're kind of getting the Tahoe chapter set up. But we also are in the works of buying a blue water boat that can sail around the world. So we're going to be hopefully buying that boat this summer, and expanding the cruisers Academy to the ocean side as well. And then yes, still making films. We actually just got back from a dive trip in the Galapagos Islands for weeks. He told me

Brady Trautman 40:49
how was that? Like? It's like everything you see on Discovery Channel. There really is it's not? We're Galapagos

Alex Ferrari 40:57
is we're off of South America. Ecuador, right? Yeah. Yeah. It's off of Ecuador. Yeah,

Alex Blue 41:01
it's actually right at the equator. So yeah, we're diving with schooling, hammerheads out there and sea lions all around the streets, like, you know, dogs and everything like that. So we shot about four terabytes between the two of us two weeks. And that's going to be Yeah, the next film project that we put together, again, not putting a huge amount of pressure on when we're going to get it done. But hopefully by the end of summer, we'll have either some kind of long format product from it, or a few different episodes on our new cruisers Academy YouTube channel, but pretty much just still doing sailing and filming, but switching it up the amounts that we're doing of it, I guess.

Brady Trautman 41:38
Yeah, it was the first time this Galapagos trip was the first time we really picked up our cameras. And we're so intense with filming in about a year. When we when we left Delos and came to Tahoe, we kind of put our cameras down and we're like, okay, let's take a break from filming everything all the time. And then this Galapagos trip, we were right back in it with all of our cameras. So it felt really good. And it was like rejuvenating to film again, and be creative behind the camera. So I'm excited to see what comes in the footage. We haven't looked at any of it yet. But I think it'll be pretty cool. If it's not if we don't get cool footage from that trip, then we should not have ever again. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 42:13
All you gotta do is basically just turn it on and expose it. You should be take the lens cap off, and you should pretty much good.

Brady Trautman 42:20
So yeah. And then apart from the sailing school, we did because we've kind of branched off of Delos, because like I said, my brother and his wife and baby are still on board doing that. So we started our own YouTube channel called Crusaders Academy, same name as the sailing school. And that's what we'll be posting our short little stuff like, like, we're not going to do stuff once a week, like we talked about before. But whenever it's just a place for us to release our creative energy and to film and to edit stuff, but not in any way. Trying to turn it into a big business.

Alex Ferrari 42:50
Right, just just enough to kind of keep the ball rolling, just to keep the ball Yeah, and that's the thing a lot of a lot of filmmakers always think you know, that you have to be, you know, living in the Hollywood Hills making millions and millions of dollars as a filmmaker or as a YouTuber. And at the end of the day, like, is your is your is your roof paid for? Is your free pay for? Like, you know, can you buy a couple nice things if you need to go to the Can you go on a trip? You're living the dream, man. Like if you're making you know, even more importantly, do

Brady Trautman 43:21
you enjoy what you're doing? That's a huge value cleaning a lot of people forget about is maybe you can get a job paying double what you'd make for yourself, but that value of enjoying eight hours a day, 10 hours a day doing what you're doing is worth way more than double your salary.

Alex Ferrari 43:37
Oh, that's huge.

Alex Blue 43:39
And so are you proud of what you're making? You know, like, it's so fun to be able to go to the Galapagos and film exactly what we want edit it together exactly how we want like, we're the final. Like when I worked for production houses when I was first getting going in video, I just remember making an edit on something and someone coming in and telling me to change it to some horrible way. I was like, I cannot do this. This is literally ripping my soul out of my body. And that was when I decided like I'm making my own things and I'll make way less money but I'll be so much happier and yeah, it's a good path. Oh, trust me.

Alex Ferrari 44:17
I was in post for 25 years all I know I did everything so I Oh dude, dude, I direct and then I would do post that my post was like my day job. So like I always had post to pay the bills and then I would go off and direct stuff. But man all from color grading, editing post supervising VFX ah

Brady Trautman 44:39
brutal, brutal, brutal. A lot of a lot of your listeners are in those fields. Now.

Alex Ferrari 44:44
They're like, they're like, damn it. Damn it. Hey, but some people love that. Like I've interviewed I've interviewed Academy Award winning editors who are just like love that collaborative process. I'm too much of an entrepreneur. I'm too much of my own boss. I like collaborating, but I can't, I can't man. And as you get older, and I think you guys can feel this, as you get older the tolerance just actually go down of what you're gonna put up the shit that you'll put up with, it just starts, because you'll put up with a lot of 22. But a 32, things start getting different at 42, things get really different. And that's why you see the 82 year old guy walking out with his with his underwear half off his shirt to pick up the paper in his eye, he doesn't care. He's done, done. Now, I'm gonna ask a few questions asked all my guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker tried to break into the business today?

Alex Blue 45:41
I think it's interesting, because the business has changed so much from what it traditionally used to be. And there's so many different things that you can do within filmmaking, whether you're interested in writing or directing, or editing or, you know, filming or vlogging, you know, is a huge new one. So I think it really depends. But, as we've said multiple times over the last hour, I think staying true to yourself, even if there's less of an immediate reward is the way to go. And you know, in the long run, you're you're really shaping your your career path. As you go every job you take every client, you take every decision you make every project you work on, that's going to lead you to your next step. And if you can make good choices and kind of make sacrifices along the way to stay true to yourself, I think that's going to get you to where you want to go.

Brady Trautman 46:32
Yeah, for sure. I think besides like what I said about being authentic, it depends. If you're behind the camera, and you're on a set, you know, you're not filming yourself, you're not creating a vlog but for for a filmmaker that has total control over everything, to be authentic, and do what makes you happy. Like I've said many times during this, but also, I think a lot of people nowadays, especially in the YouTube world get caught up on the most expensive gear and the craziest transitions and, and stuff like that. And you're just like, just tell the story. At the end of the day, like that's what it's all about is is editing something that makes somebody else feel something on the other side of the screen and focus on that, like I've followed some people that film their YouTube channel with like iPhones the whole time. And it's incredible because they are who they are. And it's it's not very cinematic, but it's real. And they're great storytellers. So focus on that first and not the big effects and the big cameras in the transition the slides.

Alex Ferrari 47:31
I like the star wife personally, that's just made up stocks. Fantastic. Let's do one finds all the blinds the blah you could do it this way if you're if you're fancy you could do it angled wise this way. Yeah. Oh, hey, let's not get crazy man. That's like that's actually that cost a little extra? Yes to start wipe. Fantastic. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? lesson to learn? That's a tough question. You're both looking over to your right. So I guess the answer is over there. That's just a window. That's a beautiful window. It's because I was wondering are the answers there?

Brady Trautman 48:14
The first thing that popped into my head with taxes. I wish I learned all that shit earlier. Like, I still don't get it. I still .

Alex Ferrari 48:25
Dude. We were just talking about that. You know, California. Hey, man, taxes. It's like the second and that's the second highest second or third highest place to live after New York and New Jersey. As far as taxes are. It's insane. It's insane. It's insane. But you know what remaining? Yeah, thanks. Thank you so much, sir. Hey, man, hey, I'm with you. But I'm still I'm still on this boat. I'm still in this boat. Sir. I am still in this boat for the time being. But you know what, that is probably one of the best answers I've heard on the show. taxes, learn taxes, learn accounting, what everything does and how to do stuff. How to deduct, how to legally deduct, like, I'd love to. I'd love to see your itemized list like, Oh, yeah, everything. Everything is deductible, everything, food, the whole thing. It's all part of the show about you, Alex.

Alex Blue 49:16
Let's see. I think something that I've learned is that when you find good people, like treat them right and do what you need to do to hold on to them. I think that one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur probably no matter what business you're in, even if it's not filmmaking is that it's hard to find another one of you, you know, and if you can find someone like that, they are worth their weight in gold and like, you know, make sacrifices to keep them on board and keep them happy and value them because, you know, together you can do way way more than you can separately. So that's that's a big thing that I've learned and something that I am definitely going to carry through As we start this, this new venture,

Alex Ferrari 50:02
and three of your favorite films of all time.

Alex Blue 50:06

Brady Trautman 50:08
that's a really good question two out the window. What do we got?

Alex Blue 50:14
I really went by the ones that I've watched the most. I'm going to go old school and save 10 Things I Hate About You like Heath Ledger five years and put it on and still no, like every word that movies I had. I remember how to like I recorded it off TV on like a VHS tape when I was little and I used to watch it all.

Alex Ferrari 50:32
I don't know what I don't know what VHS is our way to that.

Brady Trautman 50:41
The first one that comes to my mind is The Goonies it's always holds a special. My heart sounds probably a classic that many people say The Goonies Yeah,

Alex Blue 50:49
there's actually Yeah, one of my favorite films, also, like independently made it's called chasing bubbles. And it's about an absolute legend named Alex rest. I think you can watch it for free on YouTube. Go watch it and just be prepared, you're going to want to like sell everything and buy a boat after it. But it's so worth a watch. It's really really good.

Brady Trautman 51:11
Yeah, Chasing bubbles. That's a good one. Um,

Alex Ferrari 51:16
one more.

Brady Trautman 51:17
That's really tough.

Alex Blue 51:18
I have one more I have one more. It's actually a film about the wild mustangs in the US, but it's called on branded. I read horses and I have a Mustang. But even if you don't, the film is really, really well made. And it tells the whole story of Mustangs and it's about these cowboys that actually go get wild horses and put a little bit of training on him and ride them from all the way up the PCT from Mexico to Canada. so crazy story. really well done. Go watch it.

Alex Ferrari 51:47
Wow. I see that you is which one? Yes series. Of course.

Brady Trautman 51:54
Probably not original, and everybody probably loves it. But I've watched It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia like 10 times over. Like I put it on I'm going to bed in the morning. I don't know he's got to just geniuses.

Alex Ferrari 52:05
The the two shows that I do that too. And that's also not originalist. Seinfeld and friends. Like I'll just I was I was just watching Seinfeld the other day. And I'm like, so good. It's just so good. I can't I can't believe they got away with this stuff they got away with. And then I and then my daughters now are obsessed with friends. They're, they're like young, like super young. And they just sometimes you're like, no, that's not appropriate. It's not appropriate, and appropriate. But now like it was so funny, Jennifer Aniston we watched Marley and me the other day, and they go, is that is that Rachel from friends? I'm like, my wife and I both looked at each other. Like, we've done something right or wrong. I'm not sure what it is. We don't know. Yeah, we don't know. Something. And where can people find out more about what you guys are doing and follow you guys.

Brady Trautman 52:55
The best thing is cruisers Academy. So you can find that on Instagram cruisers Academy or YouTube search cruisers Academy, or cruisers academy.com for a sailing school. So if anybody's interested in coming up to Tahoe and sailing, we're pretty booked up. But we'll find some space to do some charters and whatever, just stay in touch. So cruisers Academy on all platforms, is the best to stay in touch.

Alex Blue 53:16
And also Brady mentioned it before, but 80 North series.com if you did want to watch the docu series that we made about our adventures in the Arctic.

Alex Ferrari 53:27
Yeah, very cool. And we're looking forward to the Galapagos series coming soon. Well, maybe not that soon. Because you guys will take by two years to come into

Brady Trautman 53:35
It will come when it's supposed to come.

Alex Ferrari 53:39
As, as a true filmmaker, as a true record filmmaker would say, guys, thank you so much for being on the show you are an inspiration on how to live life to its fullest and follow the dream follow the bliss and you guys are definitely examples of that. So thank you so much for being on the show, guys.

Brady Trautman 53:54
Thank you so much for having us. It was really nice.



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IFH 469: Hemingway and the Art of the Documentary with Lynn Novick

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I am a huge fan of today’s guest. Since seeing one of her first documentaries, I was transfixed by her power of storytelling. Our guest is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary filmmaker, Lynn Novick—a formidable and respected PBS documentary filmmaker with thirty-plus years of experience in the business.

Her archival mini and docu-series documentaries bring historically true events to the big screen alongside her filmmaking partner, Ken Burns. 

You’ve most likely seen some of her landmark documentary films. The likes of Vietnam (2017), TV Mini-Series documentary The Civil War (1990), College Behind Bars (2019), eighteen hours mini-series, Baseball (2010), and many more. All are available on PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel.

Just this year, the pair premiered their latest co-produced and co-directed three parts documentary on PBD—recapitulating the life, loves, and labors of Ernest Hemingway. The series explores the painstaking process through which Hemingway created some of the most important works of fiction in American letters. 

Novick is an experienced-learned documentary filmmaker. In the mid-1980s, she applied to film school but did not pursue that lane when she couldn’t find a documentary filmmaking-specific program. Instead, she sought out apprenticeships. Starting at the PBS station in New York City WNET, for six months. And then worked for Bill Moyers as an assistant producer on a series of projects, including her debut production in 1994 with Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, followed by A World of Ideas with Bill Moyers, etc

The Civil War is a comprehensive survey of the American Civil War.

Novick’s decades-long collaboration with Ken Burns emerged in 1989 and has led to the co-production of a number of renowned docu-series.  First, there was the highly acclaimed ‘The Civil War’ which traced the course of the U.S. Civil War from the abolitionist movement through all the major battles to the death of President Lincoln and the beginnings of Reconstruction.

Her vast experience as a researcher comes in handy on these kinds of projects, she explains during our convo. 

She won an Emmy Award in 1994 for producing the Baseball documentary and won a Peabody Award in 1998 for her co-directing and co-producing of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s documentary. 

Baseball covers the history of the sport with major topics including Afro-American players, player/team owner relations, and the resilience of the game.

Other must mention include multi-Emmy nominations documentary ‘Prohibition’, The Vietnam War, Jazz, and Novick’s first solo directing, College Behind Bars (2019). 

College Behind Bars explores urgent questions like What is the essence of prisons? Who in America has access to educational opportunities? Six years in the making, the series immerses viewers in the inspiring and transformational journey of a small group of incarcerated men and women serving time for serious crimes, as they try to earn college degrees in one of the most rigorous prison education programs in America – the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI).

Novick is one of those filmmakers who have combed through an obscene amount of knowledge and understanding of documentary films. I have a feeling you will enjoy this chat as much as I did.

Enjoy my conversation with Lynn Novick.

Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show, Lynn Novick. How you doing, Lynn?

Lynn Novick 0:19
Great. Thanks so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:20
Thank you so much for being on the show. I am a big fan of your work. I've seen many of your documentaries over the years, I've gifted many of your documentaries, especially to to my father who just devoured baseball. And other things like that. And jazz. I know you were part of those projects with Kenya, as well. So and I dying to ask you how the hell you do these things. So before we get started, how did you get into the business? How did you get into being a filmmaker?

Lynn Novick 0:52
Sure. Well, first, before I get started, thank you for having me. I'm a little bit subconscious, because I had some dental work, and I'm missing a tooth. And so anyway, I asked your forgiveness about that. But it's a temporary situation. So there you are

Alex Ferrari 1:02
in there it is, in looking in the world that we live in a missing tooth is very low on the priority list of things that could happen so anyway.

Lynn Novick 1:20

Alex Ferrari 1:21
in the grand scheme of things, the way the world is working, a little bit of dental is, I'll take that over the worst things that could happen to you in today's world.

Lynn Novick 1:29
So for sure, especially nowadays, my goodness, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:32

Lynn Novick 1:32
Minor nothing. Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:34
So how did you get it? Yeah.

Lynn Novick 1:36
So you know, I was, I would say, if I look back on my trajectory, such as it is, now it didn't, wasn't clear to me when I was first starting out. I didn't know what I went through. When I got out of college, I was very kind of lost. And I actually saw a number of documentaries, both on PBS and in the movie theater back in those days, which is in the mid 80s. That made me think, wow, you know, I don't really know what I want to do with my life, I might go to law school, or maybe I'm gonna be a professor, I really didn't know. And I just was so transfixed by the power of storytelling, true stories on a big screen based on history and things that really happened. And I love photography, and I loved history. And I just thought maybe I could do that. No idea how or what it would involve. And you know, if a film is well made, you really don't see the effort. It's like the swan going along, and you're just gliding on the water, but you don't see the feet, doing all this below the surface. So I had no clue what was involved in making a documentary, or how challenging it can be or how rewarding but I just naively thought I'd like to do that. And I actually applied to film school. And I got in. This was in the mid 1980s. There weren't many programs where I couldn't find any that taught documentary filmmaking. They're all narrative, scripted, based. And so I decided not to go to film school because I didn't think I had the imagination, frankly, to make up stories and to tell them on the big screen. And I really want to tell true stories. So I decided to apprentice myself if I could. And I really did go through kind of an apprenticeship starting at the PBS station in New York City WNET, for six months. And then I worked for Bill Moyers on a series of programs that he was doing at the time. And then I freelance for a while and I kind of each job I had, I learned a little bit more about the process, and different pieces of it that I could sort of master. So archival research, filming interviews, organizing material, writing a script, you know, different aspects of what kind of goes into any particular film. And luckily for me, I did hear that this filmmaker named Ken Burns was working on a film about the Civil War. And I thought, wow, that that's my dream job. And I managed to meet someone who knew someone who knew someone who can, and literally was so lucky that somebody quit as he was finishing the film. And he really needed someone to come in and help finish up the sort of administrative licensing process for all the pictures they used. So I just walked in the door at the right time, I had enough experience to do the job he needed done. And when we finished that, I was looking for another job. We only had a six month job when I first came. And he said, Oh, wait, don't leave. I'm going to do the series on Baseball, and you should stay and produce it. Wow. That was for me jumping off the high diving board. I had never produced a series I didn'y know about baseball,

Alex Ferrari 4:26
like a 38 hour looking like

Lynn Novick 4:31
joking the other day because the original proposal he told me was five hours. It turned out to be 18. Exactly. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 4:39
So when you work when you work with Bill, memoria, did you work on a power of myth?

Lynn Novick 4:44
I did.

Alex Ferrari 4:45
Oh, my God, you were. So you were there with Joseph Campbell. And we're not there. But

Lynn Novick 4:50
I wasn't there. Actually, when I came onto the project. This is a series of interviews with this incredible philosopher Joseph Campbell about the power of myth and different cultures and how there's, we tell this Same stories in different cultures, whether the Aztecs or the Greeks, or you know the Norse gods, he found these incredible patterns of kind of the human journey he had passed away. Before I came on the project, he was quite elderly when Bill started interviewing him. So they were organizing the material. And my job was to find the visuals. So he mentioned the Aztec ballgame. I had to figure out what are we going to show where he mentioned, you know,

Alex Ferrari 5:25
Star Wars, the Wayne

Lynn Novick 5:26
and the, you know, the Holy Grail, we had to find stained glass that could show sort of he he covered such a wide range of topics. And I was in those days, sending snail mail letters to the far flung corners of the earth trying to get images to show.

Alex Ferrari 5:42
Right, and I'm assuming, how did you get the licensing? Well, I guess the licensing for Star Wars was pretty easy, because you could just start talking to George.

Lynn Novick 5:48
That's what Bill did. Exactly. So the Star Wars, right. So George Lucas was hugely influenced by these works, and this writer. And so that is how the project I believe, got started that Bill Moyers and George Lucas basically agreed that bill would do the interviews of Joseph Campbell, and they had them at Skywalker Ranch. And then George Lucas, let them use the footage, I believe for, you know, some nominal fee. So that that was the organizing principle. And I have to say, when we were working on it, I did not realize how popular it would be. I thought to myself, what did I know who's gonna want to listen to some old guy talk about the Aztec ball game and Hercules and whatever. And it was huge. It was huge. So it was really it was a wonderful experience to see that people really responded to it.

Alex Ferrari 6:31
Oh, no, absolutely. And I actually saw years later, Bill did an interview with George Lucas on the power of myth on just George Lucas's version of that. I remember watching as well, no, I was a huge fan of that. I mean, I've seen that power of myth thing. 1000 times. It's just so awesome. And any filmmaker, any favorite maker listening today should absolutely watch that. Because also the narrative structure that he talks about, is involved sometimes in documentary and documentary work as well. Just the the, because that's life. That's what the myth, hey, it's life in all our lives as the call to adventure, the refusal, I don't want to go take that new job in, in New York. You know, I live in Kansas, and I'm scared, but then I go and the adventures and the tricksters, and that's life. So it is really, really powerful. So I think why it's so popular.

Lynn Novick 7:21
I agree. And I was just very naive. And I just didn't appreciate the power of what Joseph Campbell had to say and how it touched that deep nerve. And people have tried to find meaning, trying to understand our human condition. And the moment we're in and how it resonates with what happened, people in the past, you know, had the same questions that we have. It was it was, I should go back and watch it again. Because I think it also does have some storytelling lessons for, you know, how to put the pieces together so that the story unfolds in the way that people can watch it.

Alex Ferrari 7:54
So I've always been fascinated, because when you can go down this road to make a just, just ridiculous 18 hours. I mean, they're, they're obscene. They're obscene. How long jazz? How long was jazz? jazz was like 10 hours, eight hours, I

Lynn Novick 8:09
think it was more like 20 because it was 10 parts. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 8:12
expect that going on. So how do you start a project like that? Like, how do you you're not just covering like Hemingway is a fairly large. We'll talk about your latest project in a minute. Hemingway is a man's life. I know you guys didn't, Mark. I'm sure if you did. I know Ken did Mark Twain. And you have Frank Frank Lloyd Wright's poster in the back. So those are specific people's lives. And that's pretty extensive. When you tackle a concept like baseball, or jazz, like the obscene amount of knowledge that you have to comb through? How do you start a project like that?

Lynn Novick 8:45
Yeah, I find the beginnings of project probably the most terrifying, because you don't at least for me, I usually don't know that much about it. So I have a huge amount to learn. And then to figure out well, how does this fit into something that could be on television, people would want to watch. And, you know, I have to say that one of the critical ways that we go about doing this is in collaboration with other people. So our writer, Jeff Ward, who Kent has worked with for longer than I've worked with Ken, he wrote the Civil War script and several other scripts before that. And he wrote baseball and jazz and all the other films Ken and I've made together so he dives into the deep end of the pool. Also, we order a lot of books, we start to read them, we start to take notes, we started to make outlines. And then we also figure out who is a smart people who are experts, in whatever subject, it happens to be, who are they and can they help us? So when the history of jazz it was when Marsalis you know, we went to see him early in the process and said, Will you help us? And he said, Yes. And then he said, here's the 10 people, you should talk to hear the 20 books you should read, and that lead to other people. So we build a kind of a team of people who really keep us on the straight and narrow in terms of what's important to include and what we don't have to include and you know how to understand that A picture that we're trying to tell. So in the start is hard.

Alex Ferrari 10:04
And I'm assuming though, as you're going through this process that, let's say you have a structured outline, and then all of a sudden you read a new book, or you hear something new from a new interview, and you're like, Oh, God, everything's got to be shifted. We got to insert this here. Now. Now, everything has been all. And I'm assuming that's a constant. It doesn't happen once in a project that happens constantly, because you discover new things in your archival or archaeology. archaeological dig, that you going through

Lynn Novick 10:29
Yes. And once the word goes out that we're working on something, people are always sending us stuff, which is so great. So the worst thing that can happen is after the film is done, and then that happening has every project Yes, of course. And it's just you sort of just feel I wish I knew about that two years ago, but what can you do? So you know, but we don't try to be the last word. So new materials always coming out about every subject. And someone else can take up the baton and continue telling that story in some other way. And you know, that's fine. With baseball, one of the challenges was there, you know, so much, there's more to now but there wasn't a lot of serious academic historical scholarship on the topic. Frankly, there were, you know, history of the Boston Red Sox, or biography of Babe Ruth, or you know, something about baseball, and the Black Sox scandal, but there wasn't really a big shelf of serious kind of academic historical work. So we really had to find historians who knew American history and happened to be baseball fans, and they could help us kind of get this in the context, because we weren't just doing a sports show, we really wanted it to be about the story of America through the lens of baseball,

Alex Ferrari 11:34
right in the watch national national parks one was, because I'm a huge national parks fan. And that's actually kind of my dream project as well, because you guys got to travel to every single

Lynn Novick 11:44
measure the water, I did work on that, but I, I know, an invitation to go to all those incredible places may have it

Alex Ferrari 11:51
must have been a rough job, like okay, we're gonna go to Yellowstone again, oh, we gotta, we gotta go to Yosemite again, you know, but those, that's another thing that you guys get to do. And sometimes, obviously, depending on the on the, on the topic, but you get to meet some of the most interesting human beings who've ever lived, you know, and, and you're talking to people who either know a lot about a subject or are part of the subject, like you said, a jet and jazz with Marcellus. He, he is like a living legend. So to talk to someone like that. I mean, that must be amazing as a documentarian to be able to talk to you talking to history, essentially,

Lynn Novick 12:28
yeah, that's one of the best parts of my job, I would say is the chance to meet and get to know people, really spend time with them and hear their stories. And, you know, you inevitably understand the history in a completely different way, once you've talked to someone who lived through it. So, I mean, I will never forget, we're working on a film on the Second World War. And some of the people we meet don't end up in the film for whatever variety of reasons. So we were trying to find some people who had been on D day and Omaha Beach, and I remember going to visit the veteran and his daughter had contacted us, and this happened a lot on that project where a family members would say you should talk to my dad or my uncle. So we would go to their home. And I remember going into this man's kitchen, and his daughter said, Dad, Dad, you know, Linda's here that they're making the document tree, they want to hear about your time in the war. And he was saying, okay, okay. And I said, so, you know, after chitchat, whatever, just not talking about the weather, then I sort of got to my point. So I understand you were on D day. And he said, Yes, I was in the engineers Battalion, which means I had to get out early to kind of take out the mines and blow up things that shouldn't be there and credibly dangerous job. Okay. So he said, so I'm sort of trying to understand what he's saying. And he said, I got out of the boat. And for me, D day, I always think, how do you get out of the boat? I mean, I would not be able to get out of the boat. But everyone's getting out. So you get out, even though you're getting fired on. He said, I got onto the beach, a shell came in and killed my best friend. And then he started to cry. And then he didn't talk anymore. So he he and he had to leave. I mean, he couldn't actually speak. understandable, right. And his daughter sort of said he never talks about this. And she had hoped that he would be able to but he actually was so traumatized. Even 60 years later, he couldn't speak about it. And even though we didn't put him in our film, because he he couldn't really participate in that way. Spending that morning with him helped me appreciate in a very visceral way. What we're asking people to do by reliving these really difficult moments and how hard that can be. And the gratitude and humility you have to have because you just, you know, the generosity of someone to even try to do that is is is sort of inspiring.

Alex Ferrari 14:48
Yeah. I mean, it's one thing to talk about jazz and talk about my good times playing baseball. Right another thing about like the Vietnam War, you did the Great War, World War Two and all these other like dark dark times in American history. That's what I love. What you can do is you really are historians of the American experiment. You know that you all I mean, is there any, it's all American based pretty much if I'm not mistaken, right? Is there anything world based? I don't?

Lynn Novick 15:20
Well, the Vietnam War is the first time for that in work that Ken and I have done together where we really tried to represent a story that was, you know, as Americans were interested in it, but the Vietnamese story wasn't as important to us, right. So we tried very hard and I, I made a number of trips to Vietnam with Sara Botstein, the producer, to get to know Vietnamese, people who had lived through the war and to hear their stories, and hear how they talk about it and what it means to them, which is very different than how we talked about it and what it means to us. So, yeah, so that's the first time we've really ventured to another country, another culture to that to gray so that the film hopefully really represented, you know, as best we could do, not just an American story,

Alex Ferrari 16:07
right? Exactly. Yeah. It wasn't a completely American point of view is like the oppressor and the pressy. kind of vibe, or that's not the proper word, but the

Lynn Novick 16:17
four antagonists or whatever, yeah, yeah, yeah, antagonists attack Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 16:21
So you got the point of view, because to us, to them, we're the bad guys to us. They were the bad guys. Like I always tell people, we're all everybody is the hero of their own story. Nobody goes to sleep twiddling their mustache going. Evil. No, everyone thinks that they're the good guy. If they're right,

Lynn Novick 16:40
which is, and you're right. And for Americans, the Vietnam War was the first time and if we really had to face as a culture, maybe we're not the good guys. Maybe we're not always good guys. And that was a reckoning, that we still haven't really sorted out.

Alex Ferrari 16:54
Because after World War Two, we're just like, you know, as you were, we're g we're super we're Superman. We're, you know, American Pie and baseball. And we saved the world. And that and we're still kind of on that high. In you know, that pr, pr is still running. But I think from the Desert Storm and all these other wars that we've gone into people's like, you know, maybe, maybe we're not always the best guys. We try. We try.

Lynn Novick 17:22
But like any human try,

Alex Ferrari 17:24
but the thing is, like any human being, we have different, you know, we can't be perfect.

Lynn Novick 17:30
Well, we're certainly not perfect. Yeah. I think if we're perfect, it would be so boring. It's exactly sitting here talking because there would be nothing to tell. So I think it's especially hard for Americans, though, to really examine our flaws and our failures. I do think culturally, like you said, We'd like to think of ourselves as the good guys, and that we're always on the right side of history, and that we, you know, stand for something that's good, and, you know, inspiring and noble. And it's a lot more complicated

Alex Ferrari 18:01
as a human being is like, you can't it like there's so many layers, like as they say, Shrek, like Shrek, you're like an onion, multiple layers, multiple layers. Now, the other thing I find fascinating about documentarian work is and I've worked on documentaries and post editing them, but nothing like a 90 minute, you know, documentary. So I have some very small experience doing that. But the durance that you need to have as a filmmaker, to sit like some of these projects not only takes years, I mean, some are like, Did you do anything to quit like a decade? Or am I exaggerating? Well,

Lynn Novick 18:41
the national parks, I think they really did work on for almost a decade. And that allowed them to visit all those parks and film them at different seasons and accumulate all that material. But but in fairness, it's not the only thing that they were working on. Right. So it's not your only project for 10 years. But you know, we might work on it a part of the time and work on something else that shorter term, and then come back to it depending on

Alex Ferrari 19:04
Yes, yeah. Cuz I'm assuming you guys don't just sit down and just do like, okay, we're just doing jazz for the next three years. You've got four or 568, different little, some like Hemingway over here and, and a jazz over here in the Vietnam War over here, Frank Lloyd Wright over here, and you're kind of like dabbling in a bunch. It kind of keeps you all busy and sane.

Lynn Novick 19:24
Yeah, well, I mean, Ken does work on I think he says he's working on eight or nine projects right now. Right. And they're all at different stages of production. So he can be in a room with one project. And, you know, the film is being let's say, they're shooting interviews for another project and developing a script for another project. So using different parts of his brain for different aspects of that, for me, I like to work on maybe no more than two or three projects at a time. So my brain can't handle it. So but that's enough. So, you know, today I'm working on one or two projects and tomorrow, but like eight or 10 I don't know how can does it honestly, it's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 19:57
It's exact, but even two or three is like you know, because as As narrative filmmakers, you generally are working on one. And that one could take two years. You might be writing maybe something else, but I've been on projects that's take two years, three years. And that's all you do all the time, it becomes kind of crazy, but the endurance is remarkable. Now I have to ask you, what do you think the job of a documentarian is, in your opinion?

Lynn Novick 20:23
Wow, you know, documentary and the time I've been working in this field, which is more than 30 years, it's really evolved. And, and even the genre such as it is, is so capacious, there's so many different kinds of documentaries and different approaches and different kind of philosophies. So, you know, it's almost hard to pin it down, because different people approach it with different expectations. So I like to think that it's a way of putting on the screen, it doesn't have to be the big screen, it could be a small stream, a true story, not based on a true story, or inspired by a true story, but an actually true story, something that really happened with real people. And that, then, you know, that's the number one for me, then is it going to be sort of a story of something that's happening right now, that would be sort of a, you know, present day story that you're following action as it happens? Or is it something that happened in the past, like what we have mostly done or though not exclusively, where you're excavating? A long ago story and trying to put the pieces together, like you were the jigsaw puzzle, of, you know, figuring out what happened. Hopefully, it has a beginning, middle, and end Aristotelian poetics of just, you know, a story that kind of makes sense, and the way that we think of narrative, which means you have to impose some kind of order. And some kind of, you know, right, you have to pick out the things that you think fit to get your beginning, middle, and end, you can have some detours along the way. But ultimately, for me, it's has to touch people, it has to have a human dimension and mean something to the people who watch it so that they are engaged in care about the story that people the information that is true, you know, and that you come away with some new perspective, or deeper understanding of some aspect of history, the human condition, what it means to be alive, you know, those kind of things,

Alex Ferrari 22:21
the because, you know, a human story, you know, history generally is not so neat, as have a middle, it's not constructed in the middle, a beginning, middle and end a human life. I mean, yes, does have a beginning, middle and end, but it could be very anti climatic, it could be very wide open, it could be multiple different things. So it's interesting how you, you are able to put together you have to put a structure, there has to be some sort of narrative story put into history, which is so much more complicated I feel than just writing what I know, I've seen in some of your other interviews that you're like, Oh, you just said it here. It's like, I can't do afresh come up with the story. I'm not that creative. But I'm gonna give you more credit than you're giving yourself is to construct a narrative out of history. Yes, sometimes it falls. But sometimes you just kind of really work it and understand the structure of story. So well, even more so than I think when you're creating it.

Lynn Novick 23:17
That may be I've never tried the scripting adventure. So that seems like it would be harder and easier for me that, you know, I came to understand this in a deeper way, when I was working on documentaries that I made over a number of years called college behind bars where we were filming not history, but life as it was happening. And it was filmed over four years, as we got to know people, Sarah Botstein, a producer, and I got to know people who were in prison who were enrolled in college, which is very unusual, because most people in prison don't have access to college of any kind. And they were in this incredibly rigorous and impressive program called the Bard prison initiative in upstate New York. So you know, we would come in and out of the facility multiple times a year with our cameras, sometimes without our cameras, other times, get to know people, or hopefully earn their trust over time, and follow them around through classes, into the yard into their selves, you know, meet their families, and kind of understand the beginning, middle and end was basically you're enrolling in the program. And hopefully, four years from now there'll be graduation. So luckily, school does have a beginning, middle and end, right. So we knew, we hope we begin with, you know, orientation and end with graduation. But along the way, we had 400 hours of material of all kinds of things, you know, that we didn't know how they would fit into our film or not, and you just be kept filming. And a lot of the times we wanted to call the company seat of the pants productions, because we just had I felt we had no idea what we were doing. But if we sort of showed up enough, maybe it would all make sense later. And working with our editor, Fisher Reedy and assistant editor chase Horton meet eventually managed to kind of wrestle these 400 hours into four one hours where you really get To know people and see how they evolve, and are transformed by the process of education, and overtime, get to know why they're in prison and their families. And some of them came out of prison while we were filming. But at the beginning, we had no idea. And we really did have to impose a structure on each scene. And each episode, and on the whole thing,

Alex Ferrari 25:20
there wasn't any structure. Right? And that's the thing that I feel that with, with the historical documentaries that you do you do those? They're safer in a sense, because, you know, you're discovering the archival, yes, you'll have surprises. And yes, you'll have things but it's not gonna hit you not gonna blindside you. Whereas if you're following real life, it's unfolding in front of you are on the edge, you really have no idea and you might start the documentary and the story in one way. And then all of a sudden, it just turns like, that wonderful document or Hoop Dreams back in the day. Oh, my God, like, how did that like, you know, just the like, Oh, my God like it. So something like that you really it's a completely different kind of documentary and different kind of filmmaker to go down that. How did that feel jumping from? From very safe, historical, very long, laborious, you know, process to? I'm on the edge? Like, you're like, Yeah, what's happening? How did that?

Lynn Novick 26:21
I mean, it's kind of exhilarating and terrifying, and exhilarating, in a sense of is exciting, because you don't know what's gonna happen. Right? And you sort of are open to whatever happens, we'll figure it out. But it's also certainly scary to think, wow, what if I mean, I had the feeling okay, we started this film. But what if the Department of Corrections which gave us incredible access, or the students, the people in the film decided they didn't want to do it anymore? Right, that could have happened, someone could have said, you know, what, actually, we're not doing this anymore, for whatever reason, that could have happened or, and things did happen. People got in trouble and was transferred to another facility and couldn't be in the program anymore, or something happened in their personal life or, you know, academic things, whatever. Just all kinds of things happen that you can't predict in life. But when you're trying to make a film, it can be very destabilizing. You just have to stay open to that. But you know, even with historical films, I mean, for the Vietnam War, it may seem like it made all sense when you see the final film, but at the beginning, we're not at all sure what the hell we're doing. Yeah. Because, first of all, I've never been to Vietnam, I don't speak Vietnamese, we have to go and want to go over there and meet people and figure out how to what questions to ask them, and who to talk to, and how we're going to do that. And we've never really thought about the Vietnam War, from the perspective of the Vietnamese get turns out, it's really complicated. So even just, and we wanted it to be from the ground up ordinary people telling their stories, but then we have to figure out well, we're not going to interview john mccain and john kerry and Henry Kissinger, we're going to talk to regular people with regular people. So it was you know, word of mouth and sort of going out into the world and trying to find people who fit certain criteria that we had of being in the anti war movement or being on a college campus or being you know, a soldier who then turned against the war, we had like different ideas of things, or someone who covered the war. But we didn't really know what that would be. It all makes if we do our job right at the end. It looks like it all fits in and makes sense. But it really doesn't at the beginning. And even at the middle of we're not too sure.

Alex Ferrari 28:31
Now with college behind bars, I wanted to wanted you to kind of express to the audience what it felt like because I was I was I had the privilege of doing location scouts for a film that I was going to direct and every prison in Florida, I went to every prison that would allow us to I was to shoot there if we wanted to shoot it. I got access to it. And I'd never been in, you know, in prison. I you know, I was a boy from Florida like, I mean, I I'm a good boy, I don't have never been in prison. So when you walk through those gates, and you feel the energy, and we were in empty areas, we weren't within you anywhere there was inmates, though, we did see like some of them were very low, low security, low security areas, so that you see them walking and stuff. But I never was in a place where there was like, you know, as as they said, the HBO show oz or something like that. I wasn't in that. But that feeling of that place, the energy the almost the ghosts, if you will, of that place. Did you feel that? And you were going into a place with live, you know, people and interacting with people. Can you express to people about how that goes and how you put that onto the screen with college behind bars?

Lynn Novick 29:48
Yeah, thank you for asking. You know, I do think it's important for all of us as citizens to try to have some proximity to the problem of criminal justice and incarceration. In our society, which is horrendous and appalling, and it's, it's not easy to get access, if you're not don't have a family member that's caught up in this, you know, it's far away from most of us, and it's behind walls. And so I had never had the experience of being inside of prison until I got invited with Sarah to give a lecture basically, in this college program, and that we went into that we went through the, you know, the double gate, and then the other double gate and then walking through the, you know, long hallway and kind of could see the yard over there, and then down another hallway and then update, you know, I remember every step of this way into past an officer into a classroom. You know, it's, it's an oppressive, dehumanizing, really just degrading and oppressive environment. And it's meant to be that way, nothing, there's by accident, it's all by design. It's very purposeful, and especially, probably do in Florida. But in New York State, the majority of prisoners are black and brown, the majority of the officers are white, the dynamics of how control is managed and security is done is I found extremely disturbing. Just, I did feel, you know, it's just I found it really, really upsetting and disturbing, to say the least. And yet. I also think it's easy for us if we have seen Oz, or locked up, or the other kind of Hollywood versions of incarceration, to have a very skewed perception of what is actually like, and one of the most profound things that one of the students that we've gotten to know really well said, is that suicide is a much bigger problem than homicide inside prisons. It's about despair, and loneliness, and isolation, and giving up hope, and a place where there is no hope. And people, you know, to compensate in different ways in that environment. And so we have this image of this violence and you know, awful things happening, but actually, it's most, a lot of it is really designed to make people isolated and lonely. And to not care.

Alex Ferrari 32:11
Yeah, I'll tell you the one of the officers, that was our tour guide, he actually is like, do you want to go on one of the cells and I went into one of the cells and they shut the door behind me. And that's sound, I'll never forget the sound, I'll never forget the sound because I'm like, I'm playing, I'm cosplaying this right. Now. This is right. This is not real for me. But I can, I can feel it. It is a feeling and you were like, it was visceral. And I was a young man, I was in my mid 20s at that time. And boy, was it powerful. And I agree with you. I think if any of you ever, everybody could just feel that. I think our opinions of that whole system, honestly, needs to be needs to be addressed in a very, very, very big way.

Lynn Novick 32:55
I agree. Well, that office experience that we had, you know, we did, we spent a fair amount of time inside people's house with them. And when you see the film, people who are the people that we got to know are college students, so their cells are full of books. So you're seeing American literature, art, history, philosophy, economics, algebra, Mandarin, you know, all the things they're studying, they're their selves are full of books, and they're doing serious academic work, while in this very inhumane space. So there's kind of like a cognitive dissonance about that. But also, it's extraordinarily inspiring to see that even in this dark place. They hold on to and many of them have talked about this just a sense of hope that there's something other than this place. And the way to move through it is to make sure you use your time the best you can and to, you know, open your mind in whatever way you can.

Alex Ferrari 33:47
Yeah, I would, I would, I would completely lose myself in in books, I would completely lose myself into that I would escape into that, because that just makes the most the most sense. The most sense without question. Now you were talking about 400 hours for this project? 400 hours, cut down to four hours? Uh huh. I mean, I've edited 25 years. So I understand the process. I've never had 400 hours of footage. So how do you be? I mean, I'm assuming it's a team. There's not one person?

Lynn Novick 34:23
Well, you know, in all honesty, because we're shooting digitally these days of cameras rolling, especially if we're in a prison where you just, you know, yeah, just keep rolling, because you never know. So there's a lot of that 400 hours, probably 50 hours, you don't even ever look at that just as just like, you're walking down the hall or whatever, and you're not really you know, but nonetheless, we filmed interviews, so we transcribe them only pick out the best, you know, moments from those. We filmed a lot of classes because it's a film about college. So in those an hour long class might be five minutes. That's really interesting. So we sort of like whittled down from the beginning, that what we'd say the highlights, and then we basically put them in a String out and watch it and our string out was like nine hours long. So then it was just that's not bad, though. 400 to nine, you know?

Alex Ferrari 35:08
Yeah. Right. And in the scope of the projects, you do nine hours, bad.

Lynn Novick 35:12
Yeah, well, we were planning to make a feature length Doc, though, at the beginning, we had nine hours to boil down to 90 minutes. And I realized that's not going to be possible and make what would be possible, of course, but we just decided to go back to PBS and saying, you know, what, this material is so rich, and they actually had said at the beginning, you know, you might end up with something bigger than the feature because this is a very profound and, you know, rich story to tell, and to get to know people and see what happens to them. So you know, we, it, I have, our editors do an enormous amount of the time spent looking at the material over and over and getting to know it really, really well, and picking out the things they think work best. And then we would react to that and kind of fine tune and home with them. And we also brought in the people who were in the film, if they had been released from prison, especially to see it and kind of help us to get back to my point about being authentic authenticity and being true. You know, they live this and we've got a version of it, that we captured with our cameras, right? But we didn't want to put something out that didn't feel authentic and true to them. Because you know, you have the camera on for a little while you turn it off, or you look over here, but something else happened that you didn't notice. And just there's a lot of subtleties to what gets into, you know, gets captured on film or whatever we capture things on nowadays. It's always

Alex Ferrari 36:39
it's it's hard because I need to Xerox like, it's just film film is gonna be film, I need to film it or I need to tape it. You know? It's just the way it is. I just heard I heard a newscaster the other day say like, Oh, yeah, we were taping this. I'm like, they were on it was on an iPhone. It was on an iPhone, come on. But it's just it's just it's part of the lexicon. Now, tell me about your new project Hemingway, which is a fascinating subject. He is such a larger than life figure in American history. In the literary world, he is a giant up there with Mark Twain and Shakespeare. I mean, he is our Shakespeare in many ways, a give or take. But he is a giant and has so much information or like, even I, I've read a bunch of Hemingway, you know, growing up and right, but and but the myth of who Hemingway is, is larger than life. It's as art like I don't know much about Stephen King's personal life, though he is a giant in the literary world as well. Different than Hemingway. But, you know, other than a few things he's not there's not a myth about him. No, there is a myth about Hemingway, how did you go to tackle this subject matter?

Lynn Novick 37:56
Yeah, well, you you you really hit the nail on the head there because Hemingway is unusual in the sense that he, the myth is sometimes bigger than him. And I think many people that we talked to said it kind of gets in the way of actually seeing him. But he's so famous because of this myth. His work is extraordinary, as he said, but it's the myth that people know. And he created that that didn't just happen to him. He was the reason why there's a myth. He very consciously created this persona, and then kind of fed the flames of that throughout his life in very conscious and sort of

purposeful ways. Was he branding? Yes, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 38:39
He was branding himself. He was he was, he was an influencer before they were influencers.

Lynn Novick 38:44
Exactly. He understood all of that in a way that I think a lot of writers don't, or wouldn't want to more than like a movie star, or a rock star, you know, he had a sense of his brand. From a young age. It's fascinating, really. And that's a story in and of itself.

Alex Ferrari 38:59
Before there was ever a concept of a brand, like a human being being a brand. Like, you know, Marilyn Monroe became a brand but Maryland did not know about it when you know, those big movie stars of the day did not think about that. But you're right, we're using rock star movie star, he essentially is the rock star or movie star of the literary world.

Lynn Novick 39:19
Yeah, I agree. And that's not necessarily the best thing for a writer, just to say, you know, he's not playing arenas, you know, anything like it on the big screen, right? So he's writing in his room on his typewriter. So but what he was famous for was kind of these escapades, you know, hunting and fishing and you have, there's, I can't tell you how many pictures that are of him posed with the enormous fish he caught or the animal that he shot, you know, or in kind of like pretending to be boxing, you know, all these really macho sort of what we would now call hyper masculine poses. And even in his own lifetime, it got a little tired, and there was criticism of it. You know, Even then he was he was at the extreme of this masculine persona. And he also kind of knew that, but I think he was trapped by it at a certain point. And it's true. He did enjoy the things that he was famous for doing. But having to perform the role of being Hemingway must have been sauce very tiring. Yeah, exhausting. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 40:23
Yeah, cuz once you build a myth like that, you've got to live up to it.

Lynn Novick 40:27
Right? And it's

Alex Ferrari 40:28
a beast that you can't control. And that's the thing about brands and about your career, your legend or your myth that you create. It goes off and you can't, if you build to a point, it becomes its own monster. And I think I think the myth is the monster that ate Hemingway. Unfortunately, unfortunately, at the end, it was too much for him. Yeah,

Lynn Novick 40:50
I mean, it is it's a tragic story back to our hero's journey from Joseph Campbell there, you know, it's, there's hubris, and there's just tragedy that happens to him and some things he's responsible for, and some things he isn't. There's a family history of mental illness. And so, you know, you're born with that that's a something you can't control and the time when he was alive, certainly true now, but even more so then there's such stigma around mental illness, depression, anxiety, no one talked about that. They would say, somebody went for a rescue here, or they're just taking a break or something, you know, you would rather I don't know. I mean, the shame of going to a mental hospital. You know, he didn't want that. And he was suffering from very serious psychotic depression, among other things at the time that he should have gone to a mental hospital.

Alex Ferrari 41:41
Did he write any of his works? While really going through some episodes?

Lynn Novick 41:50
Yes, I I'm, I'm not sure I can line up everything chronologically. Exactly. But he also suffered from alcoholism, chronic alcoholism, which no one does affect your power to

Alex Ferrari 42:06
mission, mythical alcoholism. I mean, yes,

Lynn Novick 42:09
he glorified drinking, right. So but then he, you know it that got the better of him. And then also, he suffered from a number of serious concussions, head injuries, over the course of his life, probably eight or nine very serious concussions, which now we know that does really serious damage to your brain and your capacity to think and function and your moods and can cause depression and paranoia and all the horrible things we've seen happening with people who have suffered from traumatic brain injury and CTE. He had no idea about that. So he, you know, one of the psychiatrists who studied his trajectory suggests that he had a kind of a dementia, which is not like you don't know your name, but you there's a kind of confusion and lack of capacity to really do organize thinking. And he really struggled with writing. The last 10 years of his life, he had a lot of projects, he couldn't finish any of them. He couldn't figure out how to edit himself. He was just sort of overwhelmed with a lot of ideas, but nothing really jelling. And he did manage to write the old man to see in the middle of all of that, by some miracle, they had a few months of clarity. But before and after that he was really a mess.

Alex Ferrari 43:24
It's it's fascinating. What was the one thing that you discovered by Hemingway that you did not know when you started this project? that surprised you?

Lynn Novick 43:36
Well, I mean, a lot of things surprised me because I was not an expert when we started the project. So it's hard to say the one thing but one of the more fascinating themes that emerged in the course of making the film was an eye maybe I kind of vaguely had heard this, but I don't think I really understood it, that he for this hyper masculine guy, who played the part of the man who was the man's man, right, who was always strong and tough and didn't betray weakness, and, you know, courageous and morally right, and all these things that he, you know, held such high esteem. He was vulnerable. He was anxious, he was empathetic, he was concerned about how male behavior affected women. So he writes about that really beautifully in ways that I don't, I didn't fully understand. And that, you know, we have this phrase now toxic masculinity, which I didn't have that in my vocabulary 10 years ago, but I understand what it is now. Hemingway could be the embodiment of that in his personal life, in his relationships with his wives and other women in his life, but in his work at times, and not always, he critiques that, so he writes a story called hills like white elephants, where it's a man and woman at a train station. This is written in the 1920s. So it was quite, you know, I don't know, risky thing for him to do. But it was unusual in that it was about an abortion. man wants a woman to have an abortion. Now, she doesn't want to, they never say the word abortion, he just keeps saying to her, it's just a simple operation. They just let the air in, and then you'll be fine. We'll be just like we were before. I promise. It's just a little operation. And she's not sure. And he keeps at her and at her at her. And when you read the story, you're not thinking, Well, what a great, strong, tough guy this is, you're thinking this guy's a jerk. I don't care if you're a man or woman reading that story, your sympathy, and you're the hero where the moral center of the story is the woman. At one point, she just says, Tim, will you please, please, please, please, please, please stop talking. And, you know, the Hemingway the myth of Hemingway should be capable of right having the sensitivity to write that story in the way

Alex Ferrari 45:58
that he does. And that's that's the beautiful duality with Hemingway is that he portrays this complete macho man drink until you're you fall over, then get up and smoke a cigar and write a masterpiece, you know, while while you're in the keys are in Cuba, and then you're hanging out with Fidel and all this, like all of that, that's the myth. But if once I did, I've seen parts of not all of them, because again, it's six hours, and I have children. But the parts that I have seen that he when he was younger, was dressed as a girl, and his sister was dressed as a boy. And above that, through the through his life, he actually had his wives cut their hair short. And they would this gender kind of thing that they he would like he would play with. there's a there's a sensitivity behind all of all of that macho pneus. And I found that to be true with. I've mean, I've spoken to many, many people in my life. And I've met many, many interesting human beings in the entertainment industry, the more macho, big they are, generally, the more insecure, the more scared, the more they lash out, because they they want to show any, and they can't show any weakness, because of something that happened in their childhood or something like that. It seems very similar to with Hemingway, he put this, this shield up, I think it was almost a protective thing for him, because he didn't want anybody to know who he really was. But it would slip through in his writing, he couldn't hold it back there. So that's really, he's such an interesting character.

Lynn Novick 47:34
I agree completely. And you know, that, that what you just described is something I was sort of focused on, we started the project on this kind of obnoxious mess, and some beautiful writing that I loved. And I didn't understand the complexities of what you just described, until I've gone all the way through the whole life. And, you know, late in his life, he he started to write more explicitly about his interest in gender fluidity and in gender role playing and in a kind of vulnerability in his intimate life. He never published that during his lifetime, but his family has allowed some of this material to be published, especially in the novel called the Garden of Eden, which is not my favorite in terms of Hemingway, great work. But in terms of understanding Hemingway, the man, it's really fascinating. You see a man, his wife is sort of transitioning to male, I would say in the story, and they bring in another woman into the relationship. So there's a polyamory component to this, the husband becomes kind of the female in bed with her, the wife who's more of the becoming more of the husband, and then this other woman, and it's very interesting and relatable to us today, in a way that in his lifetime, I think, you know, what, if he couldn't publish it, let's put it that way.

Alex Ferrari 48:48
Right. I mean, it be interesting to see how, because and there's that whole concept now kancil culture, and you know, like, you know, oh, you can't say that you can't do this. You can't do that. There's a lot of stuff in Hemingway, that is arguably like, when's that? When's that shoe gonna drop? And he second now, when is it? When is someone going to go? Well, we can't we got to pull out these books that I mean, Hemingway's, which, what do you think? I don't want to talk about canceled culture in general, but specifically with Hemingway? Why do you think that he kind of transcends that? Because there's nothing like if they're, if they're knocking out, you know, the Swedish chef, and, and Dr. Seuss, I mean, anyways, a much easier target than Dr. Seuss. So what do you Yeah, makes his work kind of almost impenetrable to that kind of, you know, what makes him stand away from that?

Lynn Novick 49:43
Yeah, you know, we'll see how it all plays out.

Alex Ferrari 49:46
We're still early.

Lynn Novick 49:49
And I'm glad we're having a conversation as a society about you know, reevaluating these icons of the past and looking at them honestly for who they really were and what they really said. And what They say about us good and bad. And I think that's healthy. And I'm not big on the Pantheon, where you can only have so many people up on Mount Rushmore, or you know, it can only be four writers and you have to pick, I think we have room for a lot of people to be read and discussed and to whose voices matter. And it certainly shouldn't just be Hemingway by any means. But taking him out of the equation is a mistake, too, because he helps us understand some of the problems and challenges in his limitations, as well as his strengths, raises incredibly offensive words, hurtful words, he, there's anti semitism in his work that I personally find deeply offensive. But it doesn't mean that I don't want to read this on all survivors, it means that when I do read this, I'm also rises, I'm going to be thinking about anti semitism in our culture, and why does it exist? Does it still exist? Why would you know, what does it say about the people who read this book then? and loved it? You know, it's in other words, it's part of our history that we have to face, like it or not. And there's also potentially a critique of those things in there, too, if you want to look at it that way.

Alex Ferrari 51:10
I mean, look, you know, look at Mark Twain. I mean, you look you read Huck Finn. I mean, he's saying some stuff. That's probably not the most PC stuff in the world nowadays to listen, but I always find it, especially in history, and you're much more more of a historian than I am. But from my, my, my limited perspective is in history. It is a product of its time, and has to be looked through those that lens. If it's being brought into today's world, there's a conversation to go, you know, what, what they said, there isn't appropriate from our point of view, they're just like, and I promise you and everyone listening in 100 years, they're going to be looking at stuff that we're doing and going Yeah, well, we really the social media thing, not really the best idea, you know, you know, polluting the entire planet and killing ourselves. So not denying the global warming, not the smartest thing. So we're going to be judged as well. So

Lynn Novick 52:04
I think we should be and we should be right. Yeah, look, I mean, just because you brought him up Shakespeare, there's racism, there's anti semitism, there's misogyny, you know, and we don't just say, well, we're not going to read Shakespeare or we aren't going to ignore those things. We're going to have that conversation. You know,

Alex Ferrari 52:21
it's as a teaching tool, I feel it's a teaching more than anything. With my daughter's with my daughters, as I'm watching things sometimes now, you know, things that I grew up mechanical things I grew up with. I mean, I'm stuffed suffice on TV, some episodes of Tom and Jerry, some Looney Tunes episodes, which are straight up just racist, completely racist. And we didn't think twice about it. And then my daughters will watch something. And they'll point out what is that? And then there's a conversation to be had about it. It's a teaching tool at this point in the game, but you can't sanitize it. Because,

Lynn Novick 52:57
right when,

Alex Ferrari 52:58
let's say a child is sanitized from all of that. And when they hit that, imagine getting hit with racism for the first time at 30. Yeah, you can't. It's a difficult, like the concept of racism, like you've

Lynn Novick 53:10
been so sheltered. Now. It's out there, right?

Alex Ferrari 53:13
You shouldn't really

Lynn Novick 53:14
Yeah, I do think with children's literature and children's books and children's media, it's maybe a little bit different criteria, right. And for adults, because we have the tools hopefully to kind of have that critique in conversation. We're working on a film, Ken and Sarah Botstein and I about America's response to the Holocaust. Right? So we're, and we're trying to understand anti semitism as a factor of life in Germany, and we came across a book that the Nazis put out a picture book, about the horrible Jews and how they are, you know, subhuman. And, you know, we'll destroy you and put you in the beautiful illustrations, incredible, you know, with a devil. And I mean, if you were a kid reading that you would just, it's captivating. So I kind of think, well, maybe for children's literature, we have to have different criteria, because children don't have the framework

Alex Ferrari 54:06
or the tools

Lynn Novick 54:07
to read that. Right. Exactly. So I understand the impulse to remove some Dr. Seuss books, because, and that was done by the estate, when they decided they didn't want these books out there anymore. You know, the cat in the hat is still great.

Alex Ferrari 54:21
Look at the cat hat is still great. Yeah. And it's, it's, it's, we're living in very interesting times, and I'm as a documentarian, I'm assuming you're looking around going, Jesus, I'm just pulled there's so much I want to say right now, there's so many different projects I want to do. But out of all the projects you've done, which is the most difficult which is the one that was the longest, just even if it wasn't timewise just difficult to get through because you've tackled some tough subject matter.

Lynn Novick 54:48
I you know, I think, truly the Vietnam War series and the college behind bars which we were working on, more or less at the same time, both were dealing with enormous trauma traumatic extreme. variances and tragedy. And cause behind bars was also an uplifting story of transformation. But there's tragedy and devastating human experience within it. So and the Vietnam War is just an unending tragedy. So spending the time to get to know people who are still carrying that loss and grief, unprocessed, and anger and rage and disillusionment, especially with our country. As we said before, sort of, you know, we weren't always the good guys, and our leaders lied to us and let us down and told us we were there for one reason, or other reasons, or the reasons kept changing, or said, we were winning when we weren't or minimize casualties on all sides, just the kind of the betrayal, I would say, of the American government, of the people by the government, and the Vietnamese government. Not a whole lot better, by the way. So you just have epic tragedy on all sides, kind of sitting with that, for all those years was

Alex Ferrari 56:02
difficult to to me day in, day out. I've been emotionally spiritually it must been rough.

Lynn Novick 56:09
Yeah. and spending time with the people who were still carrying that weight. And then, you know, watching the film, as it evolved with some of the veterans that we got to know and some of the people who protested the war and still felt very raw about it. It was it was really painful, I think. So that that experience that sits with me, and there are some days both on both of those projects of, especially filming interviews with people who shared extremely difficult stories and really open themselves up in ways that I have never experienced before. was just a profound experience that I will never forget.

Alex Ferrari 56:51
Now, I have to ask you, I because I'm not I just need to know your opinion. What do you feel about the rise of the docu series? Oh, of Tiger, King of those kind of, you know, that's why I want I know you cringe right there for people that watching she cringed. I want to know what a true documentarian who's, you know, considered a very serious award winning someone who's deadly serious about what you do. For debt. You know, for decades now, there is a rise of docu series, and some are really good. Some are, you know, Tiger King is just what it is. I'm not specifically asking you to comment on specific ones unless you'd like to, but just in general, the whole rise of docu series, because there are some docu series that are fascinating to watch.

Lynn Novick 57:38
Absolutely, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 57:40
We just, which is the one that we just want. My wife was watching the one on the Menendez brothers, and now that there's a whole movement to free them Menendez brothers, and I'm like, are you like, there's a bunch of millennials? Oh, like freedom. They were like, What is going on? And watch that whole series? My wife and I were just like, are we free Brittany? Like that, you know, that whole thing? That was a fascinating document. She's just sitting there going again, and please. Well, you can do

Lynn Novick 58:07
it. I'm just curious, oh, wait into this. I don't I you know, I look. Sometimes I feel there's a very fine line between telling someone's story and exploiting them and sensationalizing them and actually using them. And, you know, and sort of having the it's really a reality TV kind of ethos in the documentary, space clothing or whatever, right? And so the people are kind of performing, you know, outsize version of themselves like Hemingway did. Right. But you know, they're not there. They're, yeah, they're on camera. So but, you know, how much are they able to really have agency and that maybe a lot? You know, there's it's just it gets very complicated, I think in terms of what is a documentary and what is kind of a performance. Now, everybody, when there's a camera on them, including me, right now, we all perform to some degree, we're, you know, if I were just talking to you on the street, it would be a different conversation. We all know that. But if you are being filmed, and you're sort of the more you act outrageous, and the more you just play it up, the more you're going to be on screen, then you know, that's what happens. So everybody gets it, and everyone is part of that. So some So anyway, I think some of the some of it is in that mode, right? And Tiger King I would say I didn't watch the whole thing I heard it was great. It was beginning of the pandemic entertaining, entertaining as heck back great. It totally entertaining. But after a while, I just thought, where's this all going? I don't know if I really care in the end. So

Alex Ferrari 59:47
it was it was it was a I think the timing of that release. It was the beginning of the pandemic. That's why I was at home. And everybody was like, What is this? I saw it come across my screen. I was like, what I saw my wife I was like, why are you watching this? And I'm like, because I it's the pandemic and there's nothing I gotta watch this. And it was a UK it was it was but it was a train wreck. It was a train wreck and you were watching the train wreck and that is very reality show style stuff. Whereas in you know Oscar winning documentaries like searching for sugar man, or, or the wire? Is it the wire or the Yeah, the

Lynn Novick 1:00:22
wire is actually not a documentary. A great TV. No,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:26
no, the one about the guy who, who won the Oscar. Yeah, man, a man or a white man on what? You watch those kinds of stories and you're just like, Oh, my God, that's like amazing storytelling.

Lynn Novick 1:00:38
I, you know, I look, I mean, I think a docu series is wonderful, because it's like reading a novel or having an extended podcast where you really dive in and get to know people and a story from multiple perspectives and over time. So if you listen to cereal for eight hours, you get really sucked into Who are these people. And there's different ways to think about this. And, you know, if it's artfully done, it's totally captivating. And I'm really thrilled that these that there's a huge audience for this kind of storytelling and these kind of stories to be told. I just when it gets into the sort of sensational, almost exploitation, exploitative realm. I get uncomfortable. So like making a murderer, right. That was fascinating. Right? You know, that was landmark docu series. I'm not sure in the end, that they fully gave you all the information you needed. They sort of shielded certain parts of the story from the audience. I think that is problematic. I loved oj Made in America. I thought that was one of the greatest amazing share brilliance. Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:43
But there's, but I think at the end, that opens the appetite for other documentaries. And I think that's a good thing. You know, so Tiger King probably brought in a generation or a bunch of audience to the concept of a docu series. And now there'll be more interested in might be watching, you know, one of your projects or college behind bars or something along those lines, because they associated the docu series. I could jump into them. It just yeah, I think it helps everybody. It does help everyone, even though some of it might be more exploitive. It does open up hopefully the audience to other great documentaries.

Lynn Novick 1:02:15
I agree. And to get back to what you said at the beginning. It's about real people. You know, so there's something absolutely fascinating about this is not an actor, right? So person doing their thing, whatever it is. This is not somebody wearing a costume,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:30
right? Or superheroes outfit or a giant lizard or giant girls. But yeah,

Lynn Novick 1:02:36
there's something is absolutely fascinating for us as human beings to be eavesdrop on somebody else's life.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:42
What's the voyeuristic is that voyeuristic thing that you know why voyeurism is such a powerful thing. I mean, Hitchcock knew that extremely well.

Lynn Novick 1:02:50
I know, I was thinking

Alex Ferrari 1:02:52
extremely well. We're all fascinated, like, Who's What? What's going on behind that closed door out there? What's going on? And that's what documentaries do. They peek you through the door like yours. Like in Hemingway, you're seeing things that were not made public, you know, and you're seeing things behind the scenes that are really, you know, almost voyeuristic in a way. I had one other question for you in regards to because the kind of the kind of documentary you are is you tell the story. You tell the truth. You put it all out there. But there are documentarians and filmmakers who put themselves in the story. They're the guy they're the narrator. The supersize me the Michael Moore, the michael moore's very famously, who put themselves in the documentary, how do you what do you feel about those kind of stories? And that kind of, I mean, just not specifically just filmmakers, but just, it's a different kind of documentary?

Lynn Novick 1:03:41
Yeah, it's wonderful. I mean, I think in a way, it's very honest, because then you know, who's telling you this story? Here's the guy or the woman whose story this is there's no kind of objective, anonymous, invisible force of story, God, whatever. It's, here's the person who's you know, Michael Moore is going to walk you around and tell you what it is. And I think if it works, it can be really powerful. I actually admire filmmakers for being brave enough to put themselves in. And, you know, be in front of the camera. I hate to do that. My partner is a psychiatrist. His name is Ken Rosenberg, and he's also a documentary filmmaker. And he when I first met him, which was five years ago, he said, I'm working on a film. And it's about serious mental illness in America. And he, he filmed at the LA, the emergency room in LA for a number of years, and people who were in psychotic states, and then followed them over time. And as he was working on the film, he realized he needed to put himself in it, which is why so he ended up basically narrating it and being on camera, talking about his own story of his sister's descent into schizophrenia and how she died and how he'd been carrying this burden as a doctor who couldn't help his own sister and how many families suffered so and he very consciously chose to use himself and his story. To kind of ground the film, and so then, you know, well who's telling me this story? And why should I care. And it was, you know, he didn't start out wanting to do that. But it was a really powerful device was also helpful for him to exercise his own demons and tell the story. The film is called Bedlam. And he got to DuPont last year. I'm very proud of him. It's Yeah, so but it was a really good example of the power of the on camera filmmaker, being inside the story and helping you guide you through it, and also being really transparent about why this story is even being told in the first place. So it can really work well.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:34
Yeah, it's a way to connect the audience to the subject matter sometimes, because something's like jazz or baseball, you don't need someone walking you through it. It's not a weird, it'd be weird. Like, Hey, hi, how you doing? I'm Alex. And we're gonna back in the day like that's just like, it seems very kind of kitschy, and it doesn't really like something you would see on Sunday at like three o'clock on. Unlike you're not even local public access, it would just be like, it's a weird thing. But certain topics like supersize me was all about him going through the process. He's the subject, you know, which was, I mean, I mean, he literally changed McDonald's. I know. Like, it was remarkable, that whole world. And I have a couple questions I want to I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a documentarian wanting to break into the film business and into the business of making documentaries today?

Lynn Novick 1:06:29
I'm of two minds.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:31
Let's explore less explicit. Yeah.

Lynn Novick 1:06:34
You know, I think, you know, be sure you're passionate about the story you want to tell? And why you want to tell it and really drill down on that, why you care about it, and what you can say that hasn't been said. And then most important, how will that affect the people who you're going to be filming? which is sort of back to our Tiger King point? You know, is this going to be something that will, your subjects will be okay with when it's over. And I'm not talking about expos day of, you know, corporate malfeasance. If you want to make a documentary about Purdue pharma and the sacklers. Go for it. They deserve whatever bad things can happen to them as far

Alex Ferrari 1:07:13
as I'm concerned.

Lynn Novick 1:07:14
Right. But if you're talking about ordinary people, and you're gonna write so but if you're gonna film just your neighbor, and their relationship with their dog, or something like the truffle hunters, let's say, you saw that right? So is this, why are you doing it? And what are you trying to say? And is it honorable to our larger point, but if you're passionate, and you have a story that you think needs to be told, then you should go for it.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:39
And it's so affordable to do it nowadays? I mean, the cameras are expensive. It's super inexpensive and made before you had to get the film camera and the dad and all that stuff. I'm assuming you guys shot some film back. Yeah. And cut it on flatbed. And

Lynn Novick 1:07:54
the four guys who repaired the scene bags went out of business about 20 years ago. But yes, yes. infrastructure of that world. So, you know, yeah, I think the mode of production is much cheaper and more available and more democratized. You can film it on your iPhone, you can cut it on your laptop, you can put it out on YouTube, you know, so the barrier to entry is zero. So it's more just, is the story worth telling? Is it really important? Is it gonna be worth your spending X amount of time of your life to tell this story?

Alex Ferrari 1:08:22
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life? Oh, wow.

Lynn Novick 1:08:31
That's such a profound question. Not sure I can answer it. A few things come to mind. The longest to learn. I've learned a lot of lessons. So I, you know, pop this, I don't know if that took me the longest to learn. But it's something I hold on to is how important it is to just be present. And especially now, it's so hard because we're so distracted. I haven't looked at my phone the entire time we've been talking. And that's maybe a record, you know. So, to really, but that's, you know, I'm here with you. I'm not doing anything else. And that's great. We've had a great conversation. And I think we lose that so easily. Just, you know, yeah. How often have I been doing something and I get distracted, and then I'm lost. And then I don't come back to where I was. And so trying staying focused and being present. And just letting things happen because you are present is really, really important. And I think it's it takes a lot of discipline to do that. Especially now it's really really hard.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
And three of your favorite films or documentaries of all time.

Lynn Novick 1:09:40
Oh, wow. Okay, well films of all time. I don't have the Godfather way up there on high on the list. Yes. Which, you know, I don't know that's a desert island movie. I could watch it over and over again. So there's there's a few others. I've just documentaries. There's so many I don't know. That's really hard to say. Wish I was prepared for that I have a list.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:02
What comes to what comes to the top of your head?

Lynn Novick 1:10:05
Well, interestingly, under Francis Ford Coppola sort of genre the hearts of darkness. As such, it writes

Alex Ferrari 1:10:12
Eleanor Eleanor Coppola hits Wow. Oh my god, what

Lynn Novick 1:10:17
an amazing documentary amazing documentary. It's about the making of Apocalypse. Now, for anyone who doesn't know an apocalypse now, it's kind of a flawed film, but has moments of brilliance in it. And her telling him how challenging that was. I wasn't a filmmaker when I saw it. But it really stuck with me, eyes on the prize, which was a series on PBS in the 80s, about the civil rights movement, had a huge profound impression on me because it was first time I'd seen that kind of storytelling, just regular people who were witnesses and participants in history, telling their stories. It's such an important historic experiences of our country that I had read about in books, but I did not understand and seeing eyes on the prize brought that epic time in our history, vividly to life and just indelible ways. So that's way up there on the list for me,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:07
well, Lim, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you all things documentary, and I tell everybody out there to please go watch Hemingway and all of your films, honestly. I mean, if you if you've got like a year or two to put away cuz it's gonna take you a minute to watch it. How many hours have you like, I read somewhere, like 80 hours or something like

Lynn Novick 1:11:29
that, if you like that, but it's been 30 years.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:31
Right? So I mean, it's not like you just did that last week. I mean, it is, but but Thank you, sir. Thank you so much for doing what you do and fighting the good fight as a documentarian and telling the truth out there and helping get a little bit bit of clarity on your subject matter. So thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Lynn Novick 1:11:48
Thank you, Alex. It was a great conversation.



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IFH 464: How to Make Money with Your Film for 10 Years with Mike Dion

This week, I wanted to pick the brain of a brilliant filmmaker and Filmtrepreneur, Mike Dion. Mike is an award-winning filmmaker, marketing strategist, and multimedia storyteller who has made a living over the last 20+ years applying all the tools needed by a Filmtrepreneur. He’s found his niche creating documentaries of adventurous brevets and transcontinental cycling races across the US, Mexico, and Canada. 

By using the core concepts of the Filmtrepreneur Method, he has been able to continually make money with his films for over a decade.
These core principles are:

  • Find a Niche Audience
  • Be of Service to that audience
  • Create a Film and Products they need or want
  • Create ancillary products that service that community
  • Build multiple revenue streams

Mike has produced globally distributed feature-length projects like Hair I Go Again, Inspired to Ride, Reveal The Path, Where The Yellowstone Goes, and Ride the Divide that can be streamed across major platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. 

On June 7, 2014, forty-five cyclists from around the world set out on the inaugural Trans Am Bike Race, following the famed TransAmerica Trail. Their mission is to cover 4,233 miles in one enormous stage race, traversing through ten states in a transcontinental adventure of epic proportions. Inspired to Ride follows a handful of cyclists from around the world as they race unsupported in the inaugural year, with four cinematographers, cameras flying in the sky, and GoPro’s galore. 

Here’s a peak of Mike’s latest documentary, Hair We Go Again: Facing a midlife crossroads, two longtime friends risk everything as they set out to fulfill their dreams of achieving rock & roll stardom. The first and last chances happen only once as their improbable journey is chronicled in the feature-length documentary, Hair I Go Again.

One of the reasons I invited Mike on the show was to have him share what he’s doing, how he’s selling content, what’s making money, and what’s not making money. In 2008, he created Mike Dion Productions which original content like films, strategy, and branded content for social media, marketing, etc.

In 2012,  he paired with his producing partner, Hunter Weeks for his directorial debut documentary film, Reveal the PathA genre-defying adventure film that contemplates what it means to live an inspired life using the bicycle as a mechanism to explore, dream and discover.

In true Mike Dion niche-storytelling fashion, one of his first producer/editor gigs was the award-winning feature film about the Tour Divide Race in 2010 titled, Ride the Divide. The film weaves the story of three characters’ experiences with immense mountain beauty and small-town culture as they attempt to pedal from Banff, Canada to a small, dusty crossing on the Mexican border.

The Tour Divide Race is basically a mountain bike race that traverses over 2700 miles along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

The COVID pandemic has required everyone to profoundly change how we budget, prep, and produce a feature film or television show project in order to work safely and effectively. So this is a very educational episode if you are looking to learn how to safely shoot a feature film during COVID and how to make money from it.

Enjoy my informative conversation with Mike Dion.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 2:32
I'd like to welcome to the show, Mike Dion. Man, how you doing Mike?

Mike Dion 3:44
Doing good. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 3:46
Good man, thank you so much for coming on the show man. I, our mutual friend kiya kieso, who's also a friend of the show, then on the show as well. She has been talking about you for as long as I've known her. She's like you and Mike have to get together. You guys think alike. You got to do all this stuff. And you and I've been so busy. We've been just going back and forth trying to figure out times for us to actually do so we finally did this. And when I started to dig in deep into what you're doing men, you are the personification of my book come to life. It is it is you. It's like you, you got my copy of Rise of the film entrepreneur and went back in time. And like I'm gonna do this before anybody does, like you were doing everything I talked about and rise the film entrepreneur years ago, almost a decade now ago, when it wasn't cool. And it wasn't the thing to do and self distribution was like, Are you insane? What are you doing? You are building up this, this, this this mini Empire business that you've built over the years and I was just so blown away so I needed to bring on the show. So you can share all your secrets on how you do this so other filmmakers can follow your path. So before we get started, man, how did you get into the Business

Mike Dion 5:01
actually went to film school back in the day in an amazing film school at university You know, I'm sure we've all heard of it. So I was started off there graduated in the early 90s. And luckily enough there were some films being shot in Montana the year that I graduated far and away A River Runs Through It. And luckily enough Professor virus goddess on set for for these, you know, crazy crazy s films getting to hang out with Ron Howard and Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and Robert Redford. But I think interestingly enough, you know, kind of having this chip on your on your shoulder, it's like, I should be directing these films, I shouldn't be like charging walkie talkie batteries for you know, for Ron Howard's this, you know

Alex Ferrari 5:45
how to be a film student. Oh,

Mike Dion 5:46
my God, look back on that I'm gonna use Silly child. But I think what was interesting about that is I almost got, you know, it's like, this was too big this Hollywood stuff was was was too big. So it almost kind of made it okay then to go get a job with a local video production company and start doing commercials and shooting and producing and editing and everything else. So that's kind of where it all started way back in the day.

Alex Ferrari 6:12
Now, you the movie that kind of launched you into this, this film entrepreneurial business model, if I may, if I may, coined my own word was ride the divide. Now ride to divide, please tell people what rider divide is and who is it aimed at as far as an audience is concerned?

Mike Dion 6:31
Sure thing, right. The divide is a feature length documentary film, that covered an inaugural mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico, and was centered on this cycling, ultra endurance cycling bikepacking. And back in the day, this was kind of a very under the radar event, it's the antithesis to things like the Tour de France. It's the opposite of that, where it's all self supported. There's no teams. And it wasn't really directed at anybody, it was one of those pure passion projects where here's this crazy event, we should capture it to the best of our ability, and then see what happens to it. And, you know, what, could have just been a YouTube video with some effort in the editing and the packaging actually became a real film that, you know, went on to do great things.

Alex Ferrari 7:23
So, so the take me through the process, because there was no Rise of the entrepreneur, there was no education, there's no information about what you're doing. Like there is today. So how did you come to understand like, Okay, well, we've made this movie, obviously, our audience is one of our audiences is bikers and people who like to mountain bike and who are bike enthusiasts and cycle a cycle enthusiasm. How did you begin to put everything together? Like, wait a minute, let's target these people. And how did you target into that? Was it 2010 2010? Early

Mike Dion 7:56
2010 is so

Alex Ferrari 7:57
so Microsoft's my space? My Space was all the rage. So there was no there was no Facebook ads yet there was wasn't no

Mike Dion 8:05
ads, Facebook was Facebook existed and sure existed, but yeah, there was we're spending money on ads then.

Alex Ferrari 8:12
Right? Exactly. There was no targeting like you could do now to find an audience and target and all that. So it was it was a lot more difficult back then. So how did you so how did you start figuring this out?

Mike Dion 8:22
I think the mindset came, the film got into the Vail Film Festival, and it, you know, actually won Best adventure film at the Vale Film Festival and we packed the screening through our own efforts of putting the word out there. It's like, hey, our film is finally done. Come see it. So people traveled to Vail to come watch the film. And when we sold out there were people standing in the back of the room watching this film. And in my mind, it's it was like, the Vail Film Festival is collecting all the ticket sales from this and we're not getting anything we're not writing any of this. So So that gave me almost it's like, Well, shit, I'm gonna start booking my own my own theaters. And one thing that you know, being that it is sports, there was a ski film director Warren Miller I don't know if you ever heard of Warren Miller's ski films but he's been around forever and I remember being a kid going and watching Warren milewski films in auditoriums and things like that so so he kind of had this model where take a film on tour you know, book it book an auditorium or theater sell tickets to the passionate skiers and and kind of have prizes and giveaways and can you have a have a good time so that you know having that as a kid but then wanting to it's like, you know, monetize, collect my own ticket sales. Well, that kind of started it off. And then you know, we booked the the boulder Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, which was 160 seat theater and we sold 550 tickets and had Gregory Allen isikoff perform the music who was from Boulder and also had some sound songs in the film itself. So that was the beginning of What kind of kicked off? It's like I'm taking control of this thing.

Alex Ferrari 10:03
Yeah, cuz you did you even try to go down that the traditional distribution route?

Mike Dion 10:08
Yeah, most definitely. So we did get the film side with new video, which is an aggregator which then got bought out and became cinna dime. So the cinah dime did get us into iTunes and and did get us a tiny Netflix deal super freakin tiny Netflix deal. And it got us into the the digital platforms. But then we also, you know, we're continuing the path of putting on our own events, putting our own DVDs up on Amazon and, you know, direct to consumer type mentality of sales.

Alex Ferrari 10:45
It's so obvious because I missed. So that was your first experience. But did you? Did you get like, I don't say the word screwed. But it wasn't like it wasn't a distributor, it was an aggregator you were dealing with mostly?

Mike Dion 10:56
Yeah, well, yep. So we know they treated us pretty good for, you know, up until about year six or so payments kind of stopped for a while I think as as they kind of transitioned from new video to send a dime payments stopped. But But and there was a good year and a half where payments didn't happen, but then they started making good on on things. So I haven't been royally screwed knock on wood, by by anybody yet. But, you know, we haven't really kind of gone down the path of, you know, I can recognize that a shady situation, perhaps and you know, having enough belief in myself, it's like, No, I don't need you. This doesn't feel right. I'm gonna, I'm not going to choose you.

Alex Ferrari 11:46
Fair enough. Now, you say that you put the word out? How did you actually start cultivating this audience?

Mike Dion 11:52
Yeah, I think Facebook was you know, it was early, it was early on and and Facebook and actually Twitter, were using using Twitter. But then as we would put on our own sort of theatrical screening events, we tried to the best of our ability to connect with local bike shops and advocacy groups and partners in any city that did have potentially newsletter lists and email lists and their own fan bases. So so definitely as much partnership mentality as we could do to help spread the word and then even forums, thinking back

Alex Ferrari 12:29
Oh, yeah, oh, no,

Mike Dion 12:30
we're a thing. message

Alex Ferrari 12:31
boards, message boards, message

Mike Dion 12:32
boards. Absolutely. So it was it was everything and everything, just kind of taking them that that mentality of a PR type person,

Alex Ferrari 12:41
but you were going after cyclists and

Mike Dion 12:43

Alex Ferrari 12:45
So you're going to message boards about cycling and bicycle enthusiasts and anything dealing with that, that niche, if you will, that kind of audience and just starting to pound them as much as you could. That's something I was doing in 2005, with a little short film that was aimed at independent filmmakers to teach them how to make a low budget independent film. And I did it instinctively kind of like you. I was just like, just kind of figuring it out. Like Wait a minute, the audience is here. I've got a product for them. Maybe I should connect these guys.

Mike Dion 13:14
These are my people. How do I present what I just created to my people?

Alex Ferrari 13:18
Right, exactly. And that's, that's amazing. So you start building it up? Did you start figuring out email yet at this point, as far as grabbing email lists, and how important is an email list to you in your business model now, huge,

Mike Dion 13:30
massive email list is freaking massive. And so we did cobble together a WordPress website. And we did start collecting emails from there and then did get sort of a merchant sort of aspect on to this cobbled together. WordPress.

Alex Ferrari 13:50

Mike Dion 13:51
And it was early EA junkie.

Alex Ferrari 13:55
Oh, you did Oh, you use eg I use the junk

Mike Dion 13:58
Yeah. junkie. So eat junkie. How was the merchant piece to this cobbled together? A WordPress site and and, you know, we've kind of put that together and then what was interesting, we finished the website and then I think put put a link on on on Facebook or something woke up the next morning and there was like seven DVD sales. And it's like, isn't

Alex Ferrari 14:20
that isn't that something isn't isn't that the most amazing feel? Like when I when I did that for the first time when I launched because I've been talking to my I was talking to my audience for months, and they had trailers and people were like, excited about this DVD. And the second I hit send on that email. Like it was like, I don't know two maybe like 500 people I collected over the over whatever. And I did it manually. There was no email service. It was just like a manually sending it out to people back in the day. You can't see and all of a sudden I would just hear Pay Pal emails. Ding ding, ding, ding, ding ding. It was just the best, but then you had to fulfill it and that was that. My God

Mike Dion 14:59
you It's like, I still I fulfilled everything out of out of my out of this freakin house for the last 10 years, it's, you know, our garage has been filled with with boxes that it times. But, you know, that's, that's the battle. It's that is the game and, you know, in because I'm fulfilling everything I also get on a postcard to write a little thank you note, you know, john, thank you exclamation mark, Mike Dion put it in the package. So, you know, 98% of everything I've shipped out of here, people have got a little, you know, signed, thank you card for me in over the last 10 years. So it's that I think it's that kind of mentality and strategy and thinking and caring about an audience if someone's going to go through the effort of whipping out a credit card and sending you, you know, money? Or should we not be appreciative for that?

Alex Ferrari 15:53
No, absolutely. Because a lot of times, you know, filmmakers, a lot of times Think of it as almost transactional. And it's not really grassroots, it's not really building a community. And it's because, look, it's daunting to build a community, it's daunting, and it's time consuming, you know, this as well as it takes years, to build a passionate community, you have to provide a tremendous amount of value, you have to give them what they're looking for. It takes time, it takes time, but, but I think you could attest to this, once that audience is built, and that relationship is solid, you can build upon that, and continue to make new products and new films. And that's what you've kind of done.

Mike Dion 16:32
Yeah, it's it's to us ecommerce type men, you know, it's customer lifetime value. So by putting in the effort of building a customer, and or a fan, you've now then you have this customer lifetime value, where if you do then have a new project, and you want to send an email list, hey, here's my next Kickstarter, you hit send. And within 10 days, there's $25,000, you know, right, because in an account because of you know, of that effort that you just said you put into, into that audience building.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
And then also you were doing films in this niche because you just truly loved this niche. Like you didn't do this, like all the money's in biking movies.

Mike Dion 17:15
We should, you know, horror films are doing pretty good. Let's go make a horror film. It's like no one ever said, there's great money in bikepacking films, let's go make a second documentary said no one ever

Alex Ferrari 17:27
write but but once you figure it out, but this is something you truly enjoy. And you've been able to figure out how to monetize this for not just a year or two or not for one or one project or two, you've built an essentially a business a full blown business around this, right?

Mike Dion 17:41
Yeah. And when you say monetize, it's, you know, it's really just creating products for these particular people, and then making the products available to them. And the products just happened to be a film A t shirt, a poster and experience how to piece of content. So, you know, I think we go into too much strategy of, of, you know, what, you know, what's the hot commodity? Right now? It's, it's like, no, if

Alex Ferrari 18:13
you were to go create a product, what would the product be that that you enjoy putting out to your audience? And that, and that's the thing that filmmakers don't get is like, Don't Don't just because it's art, and I get it, sometimes it's art, but art, it's an expensive art form. So if you're going to do something that's expensive, you really need to fit or it's going to take a year of your life, if you want to get paid for that in some way, shape, or form. Even if it is art, you really need to go who's going to watch this? And that question is rarely asked I find with independent films in general, like, Who is this targeting? Who is this aimed at? Who's gonna watch this?

Mike Dion 18:45
Yeah, you know, to, if I often think of this, like, as a startup, you know, let's just like to have a startup mentality, I'm gonna go create a SaaS product, or I'm going to go, you know, create some consumer, packaged good, you know, almost kind of take on the thought process of I'm going to go on creating, if this is a startup, if this film is a startup, exactly, to your point, who's the audience? How is it packaged? How are you, you know, what's the what's the sales mechanism, you know, for this? How are we going to continue to create customers for for this particular product? You know, I think from films, we get into this release, launch works for three months, and then it kind of dies. But if you've got a nutrition bar, if that's your product, are you going to market that for three months? And then it's like, well, that was near the end of my promotion for this awesome nutrition bar I just made now you're gonna continue daily, weekly basis for years upon years upon years, marketing your product, so

Alex Ferrari 19:53
yeah, and that's the thing that that films you're right because films that like they think there's a shelf life, a lot of times films Sometimes they might, there might be a shelf life like, oh, that came out in 2019. I can't watch that. If the if the pandemic has taught us anything, I've gone back to movies, I've watched their 2001 2002 I've gone back and watch old series that I don't remember anymore. And started watching those again. It's it, there is no shelf life. And by the way, ask any of the studios, if there's a shelf life to their, to their libraries, are you kidding me? You know, I mean, Spielberg still makes 5 million a year, he said, I think I heard some more 5 million a year off of Jaws, residuals,

Mike Dion 20:32
I get it, but it's a great story is going to have a shelf life forever. And I'm not sure if you're familiar, I don't read a whole lot of books. But there's a book perennial seller by Ryan Holiday.

Alex Ferrari 20:49
I know, right? Yeah, I know. Right. So

Mike Dion 20:51
he's a perennial seller is the idea of if you're going to put the time and energy into creating a piece of art, whether it happens to be a painting, or a book, or a film, or, or music, put in the extra energy and effort to make it a story that's got staying power, that you're going to surprise and delight the world with this piece of art that you put all this extra thought and energy into. And because it now does rise above and has potential staying power, it becomes something that you can continue to market to 7 billion people in the world. No one's ever going to, you know, fully know your piece of art. So you can continue to market it for your entire life and still not reach every potential person who could appreciate watching it or seeing it or hearing it.

Alex Ferrari 21:46
Right. And if you can figure out a way to automate that process, like with because a website's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 a year. So it's not like you have a lemonade stand that you have to close up after a certain time. If you figure out a way to automate that meaning like you put out content into the world that they click on and like, oh, there's this or I watched this video, oh, look, there's a link to the movie. If you're able to automate that. That is that's where that's where you start really getting into passive income and really start building that stuff. I've built my entire business around that like my I've built this universe of indie film, hustle, and bulletproof screenwriting and all these other companies around this, this model of this ecosystem that I've created, and it's constantly working for me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And not only am I'm being able to get money from it, but I'm helping people. I'm educating people, I'm helping them on their journeys, my books, I'm assuming the same thing with your movies. They just they just, every day I checked, there's someone bought a book. Somewhere in the world, someone bought a book. It's an audio book, ebook every and it's constant. And when I got into the book, book publishing game, with my first two books, oh, man, I was just like, wow, this is, this is awesome. It's just good. And books are one of those things that day, just go books, just you could find a book from 20 years ago. And if it's as long as it's still relevant information. I mean, look, was it Napoleon Hill? You know, Jesus, you know, I mean, those kind of those kind of self help books, and they just go on and on and on. So do you have that same kind of?

Mike Dion 23:20
Yeah, absolutely. But you say automation, but I wouldn't, you know, let people think automation is easy, right? So, because it's it is easy after the fact. Yes, once you've put the time and energy in creating the gears of the machine that was built, then become a flywheel that have continued motion. So you know, what does automation look like its website is SEO, it's putting out YouTube videos, articles, and content and links and it is building Facebook content Instagram content, and it is putting email automations in place when two people do so but once you've put that system in place, then yes, it does have automatic

Alex Ferrari 24:05
yes situation to it. But it takes a while it takes years sometimes

Mike Dion 24:11
to put that to that strategy, right. But if you've got that mentality back again, this is my startup This is my product, this is my sales mechanism that I'm putting in place and then once it's in place 80% of it is automation and now the 20% that you're kind of putting continuing to feed the machine on a daily or weekly basis becomes easier

Alex Ferrari 24:32
right and like what you've done because you hadn't ride the divide but then to continue to feed that beast you you did inspire to ride you did reveal the path which were all like not sequels but they definitely all go together in a nice package, which of course you should sell as a as a package. But that but you kept feeding that beast over the years, as well as we'll get into the all the product lines and other things that you were built up but just on the movie standpoint, you kept feeding into Do this audience and you kept giving them new fresh content. Right?

Mike Dion 25:04
Correct. Yep. That's right. So for for good. From 2010 to about 2007, teen 2018 it was, it was exactly as you just described, that was a full the full time job really putting out, you know, films and content and marketing. And then, you know, 2018 or so one of the main characters in my film inspired to ride was killed in a in a cycling event and that, that only put through me back but you know, kind of the whole community so that put a wrench in thing for a few years and kind of reassessed things and did a lot more sort of freelance work and contract work. So but you know, now it's kind of coming back into the into the swing of things again, you know, with new ideas, so

Alex Ferrari 25:56
right, exactly,

Mike Dion 25:56
but no for this audience, but new distribution, media company type ideas.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
That's, that's excellent. Now, when you were when you releasing your films, did you do a theatrical self to set a theatrical runs on this stuff?

Mike Dion 26:09
Yes, every single one. And we, when the film's first came out, we would do a good foot 20 to 30 City Tour with with the film mostly, mostly in the in the western states. I'm in Colorado, and you know, a lot of cyclists between the Rocky Mountains and West so so why girl kind of hit a theatrical tour for six weeks or so. And then kind of made it available where bike shops and other entities could put on their own theatrical screenings and then almost hired a tour promoter to kind of put on on shows and and stuff like that we can a little secret weapon with that. So

Alex Ferrari 26:49
now did you did you do for walling? Or did you actually get booked?

Mike Dion 26:54
The bulk of the bulk of it was for walling. Yep. And then there was some split ticket sale splits happening as well. But the bulk of it was, was for walling, yep.

Alex Ferrari 27:05
Okay, and then did you sell products at those screenings?

Mike Dion 27:09
Most definitely. That was, that was key. So definitely merge table set up. DVDs, posters, t shirts, all set up with the merch table signing, signing posters, and, and then also to the best of our ability collecting, collecting email addresses, if we were selling our own tickets through something like for, you know, brown paper tickets or or Eventbrite or something like that, well, we then had the email address, and I even cut it for for the last film, when it was out there actually kind of had a little preview, that was nice, welcoming, welcoming people to the screening event, and saying, hey, without your cell phone, right now, I know, which is weird, because, you know, it's dark, and no one should, you know, whip out their phone, but hey, I want you to text, you know, the word inspired film to I forget what the number was 444222. And, and you'll I'm going to, you know, I'm going to select some winners from that. So, you know, that actually was a killer strategy, because then, you know, not only did I get people's phone numbers, but then they entered their email address within this. And then as the film went on to some, some film festivals, and then I mentioned, we kind of had a tour promoter that kind of took the film out on his home. So I'd be sitting at home, and all of a sudden, my phone would just like, go off with, you know, 60 text messages, you know, when he had the film out there, and then you know, that that played, and then and then I waited about 85, like 90 minutes until the film was done. And then I started texting people back. Hey, this is Mike, the director, did you hope you enjoyed the film, and people would lose their minds is like,

Alex Ferrari 28:48
Dude, that was awesome. I loved it.

Mike Dion 28:50
Thank you. So, I'll just have unique strategies, right, you know, having fun with with this whole game?

Alex Ferrari 28:56
Now, did you talk a little bit about hosting your own screenings? How did you do well, with those hosts your own screenings,

Mike Dion 29:02
some of them would would break even some of them, you know, made 1000s some of them made hundreds, some of them lost $100. But, but what I, you know, the goodwill and, you know, creating a fan and having that face to face communication, and then having them potentially go tell a few people. And then if we do you know, again, your earlier question about an email list? Well, no, I haven't, you know, to be able to if I lost money, I now have 70 emails that over the next five years, I likely generated 1000s and 1000s of dollars from those 70 people who showed up at a screening earlier on so so that's kind of how I see that.

Alex Ferrari 29:50
So yeah, when you when if you get 70 people to come up to a screening for a documentary about bike riding. They're pretty passionate, targeted people. They are more unlikely that the percentage and imagine of them purchasing another product, or watching another movie or renting something else you did, or and it's very high, because that's

Mike Dion 30:13
when I'd say 70 was the, you know, between 70 and 250 is generally the screenings

Alex Ferrari 30:19
weren't, and that's, that's worth the price of admission, if you broke, even you're winning, if you lose 100 bucks, you're winning, you know, unless

Mike Dion 30:26
you've got that lifetime value measure structure

Alex Ferrari 30:30
infrastructure in place. Yeah, if you have if you have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of the kind of opportunity to to better serve that that potential customer. All the better. Absolutely. Now, I was always wondering about those sorts of screening things, but and I also saw that you sold credits to your film. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah, a little bit here and there for like, 25 bucks or something like that, which

Mike Dion 31:06
is, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 31:06
you want your name in the movie credits. 25 bucks, it was like that do anything? Did you make any money with that?

Mike Dion 31:12
So we still it. Let's see, for the kicks inspire tribes inspired to rides Kickstarter, we did that. And then with this new thing we're doing now, you know, as we're editing this new thing, where I've kind of got a founding members sort of thing happening where Yeah, you do get your name in the credits and, and you get to win the actual camera that shot the original, right, the divide, we haven't talked about what our Td 10 is. But I think if you do it in a cool way, then then yes, I think it's, it's,

it's cool.

Alex Ferrari 31:47
It's a cool thing. But it's also it builds your community, it builds the audience, it builds the niche, and you're connecting with them, like they really are invested in you. Because now My name is on that movie. So now you've created a much more even passionate,

Mike Dion 32:03
right, especially knowing that these films are on iTunes, and these bigger platforms will then it becomes bragging rights. It's like, Dude, come over, we'll watch this, you'll see my name go buy. In the credit roll.

Alex Ferrari 32:16
I think as filmmakers, we forget the power of a credit because we are like, we can just type in our own names because we made the movie so it's not that big of a deal for us. But for for as they we'd like to call them normies. Because we're Mike, we're Carnival folk, we're Carnival folk.

Mike Dion 32:32

Alex Ferrari 32:33
we are Carnival folk, and there's no question about it. So, but carnie and accardi is the normies they would lose their mind and like, Oh my God, if they imagine being in a theater, and seeing your name pop up for the first time. Oh my god, that would be massive. So and if you sell them for 25 bucks a pop? Why not? It's like, or whatever the price is, but still, it's a great, great strategy.

Mike Dion 32:57
Yeah, and there's sort of packages Where? Yeah, as we're kind of working on this RTD 10. If you could also, you know, with the movie poster, we're creating a new movie posters, you know, again, selling an associate producer or producer credit, which, you know, so many how many producers, you know, buy their way into the credits anyway, so,

Alex Ferrari 33:14
well, there's that that too. So yeah, there's, you know, I've, you know, when I was making films, sometimes you'll see like six, seven executive producers, or produced by credits because they like, well, he gave me the grip truck. And you know, he, he brought the cameras so I didn't have to pay for that for the shoot. So, you know, you do what you got to do at the beginning. Like when you're coming up, you do you know, you do whatever you can. And sometimes it's still even as you're going, you know, if you can sell an executive producer credit for five grand. That's, that takes me two minutes. That's, that makes, that's more than any attorney on the planet.

Mike Dion 33:50
Yeah, yeah. It's, again, if you look at this as as a game, you know, carny game or whatever, it's, you know, you get, you know, hey, Step right up.

Alex Ferrari 34:05
No, we didn't look as as filmmakers, we all gotta hustle and do whatever we can. But at the end of the day, we're providing that person who buys a credit experience and bragging rights and an IMDb credit and there's value to that. And I remember I sold I bought I think, originally I might have when I was first starting, I might have bought like, an associate producer credit for like 20 bucks. I was like, Yes, I have an IMDb credit. That's awesome. But everybody that was like 2000 or 996 I think it was 97 or whatever it was when I did it but um, but yeah, it's it's a thrill when you especially when you're just starting out or you just want that that little shiny executive producer credit on there as well. And there's different packages too. You could sell like premiere tickets and other things like that as well. Correct?

Mike Dion 34:53
Yeah, exactly. So it's, it's, again, how can you surprise and delight your audience with whether it be a credit or a unique piece of piece of merchandise or a bundle or a signed movie poster or whatever. So again, it's a utilize the indie music industry, you know, as a lot, you know, from from an example that I kind of steal. I'm kinda like a sponge. It's like, what industry? Can I steal ideas from that work with what I'm kind of doing at the moment? And, you know, I think, you know, traveling musicians putting on tours and selling merchandise and, and putting bundles together and packages together. I think as much as we can look out into other industries. And I'd like I mean, I mentioned, you know, software as a service. Yeah. What ideas can you get from the SAS startup company that you could utilize as, as a filmmaker and strategy and marketing. So be open to getting outside of this little bubble of like, I hope I get into a film festival and someone discovers me, it's like, screw that.

Alex Ferrari 35:57
No, you've got it in today's world is because it's so much harder to make. I mean, even when you were starting out in 2010, and when I was coming up in 2005, with selling stuff, it was easier to make money, like, you know, I sold 1000s of DVDs, back then, now, it's so much harder to generate revenue, because the audience is more, there's so much more competition, these platforms are taking a whole bunch of we'll get into the platforms in a minute. But it's just harder, the more you can control multiple revenue streams, outside of the standard distribution model, which is what you've done, the better you because if sales go down to the DVD, but the T shirts are killing it, because they just happen to be really cool t shirts. All I all the better. And what's to say, you know, three years later, you

Mike Dion 36:41
can't drop a new t shirt, just like a band would, you know, here's our new, you know, designs, here's three new designs, and then you even go to Facebook and Instagram. It's like, Hey, here's five concepts, pick, you know, what are your favorite and then it becomes community engagement. And then you know, the your audience picked the two winners, and now you go produce those. And you're documenting that whole process, you're in the, in the ink printing, you know, facility, videotaping them making it, they're now available, you know, are and then throughout that whole process, you've got them for sale for pre order up on the website. So you've already probably maybe sold four or $5,000 as they're being made. And then once they're made, then you're documenting the shipping out, which generates just more buzz and more interest. So

Alex Ferrari 37:27
Mike, you're talking dirty to me Stop it. Just stop it. Stop it. Pre orders packing stop. And it's just dirty talk, sir. It's so wonderful to talk to someone who gets it. Like, it's just such a wonderful, I'm assuming it's the same for you. Because there's not many people you can actually have a conversation about this with this. I this

Mike Dion 37:48
is you know, like people say are you passionate filmmaker. I I appreciate the art and the steps of Yeah, we documentary filmmakers, we made it we wear a lot of hats. We're shooting we're editing where we're everything else. But this strategy of marketing, dude, that to your point, it's like, Oh, stop talking to me about that. That's exciting. To me. It's like, no, let's try it. Let's see if it works.

Alex Ferrari 38:13
Exactly, exactly. And that's what I always gets me excited as well. I mean, I'm an art. I'm an artist, I'm a filmmaker, I love doing that. But I also love the business side. I also love the marketing side, I also love being able to think about how to put it all together. And it to me that gets me really, really excited. It most filmmakers just I just want to make a movie,

Mike Dion 38:32
right? But it's that that that marketing stuff is dirty. I'm a director, I just want to direct I just want to go from film to film and direct. And that's awesome. That's great.

Alex Ferrari 38:41
If you if you could do it, and I can promise you that's that's 2% of the entire industry that gets to do that as like, like just go and direct and not think about anything else and someone else handles it. Those days are are gone. And there's a small, maybe two to 5% of all directors trying to direct the movie in the world. Get that privilege. And and I've spoken to many of those directors on the show who had this and even they and I promise you like me, the bigger the guy or gal that I talked to. They all still have to hustle to get the next project. It's so fascinating. You know, we were talking to somebody the other day and we were talking about Spielberg. And I'm like, yeah, Spielberg couldn't get money for Lincoln. He had to go hustle his money for Lincoln. Scorsese couldn't get silenced, made. He tried 20 years and he had to go hustle money from India to make it happen. Now he's hustling Netflix, but that's a whole other conversation. Netflix just keeps giving him up to $100 million to dh Robert De Niro. Jesus, but but that's the thing. They always have to hustle and it never stops. It never stops for anybody no matter who you are. You still got to go do it. But the level that we're talking about, which is the indie level, you definitely can't hustle. You can't stop that hustle

Mike Dion 39:58
no with no question. As business you know what company do you have you ever worked for or, or know out there that you don't have to put in an eight hour day? You know what, even if you have a regular corporate job, you're still working eight hours a day. What? It's just, you know, as indie filmmakers, it's like we're just doing we're still putting in eight to 10 to 12 hour days of work. Right.

Alex Ferrari 40:21
Exactly, exactly. Now, how big apart get I'm assuming before physical media was, you know, DVDs and blu rays and that was that was a much bigger deal four or five years ago? What part does it play still to this day?

Mike Dion 40:38
What I haven't put out a whole lot like a new film and you know, in the last three years so you know, I don't have what a new product would do. But I just know from you know, from a library of stuff Absolutely. DVDs have have dropped off however you know, DVDs are still selling on a weekly basis from our we've I've now kind of moved from WordPress to Shopify so Shopify site is kind of our main platform now and then Amazon but absolutely dropped off but you know, they're still selling on a weekly basis physical items like you know, t shirts and bundles you know, do well as they're marketed you know, just from the kind of set it and forget it standpoint. You know, when you put effort into it, people making it aware that it exists whether it be Facebook Can you know, retargeting on Facebook ads or, or an email drop with you know, 10% off or, or something then yeah, they move but but again, it's effort. You're selling your products.

Alex Ferrari 41:43
Right, exactly. And physical products I know depending on the physical product will still do well. And DVD people keep saying Oh, it's dead. It's not dead. It's not that it's still making money man. I know guys. We're making a lot of money but it depends on the niche depends on who it is. Where it is some places in the world. Still DVD is the things still, Netflix still sell still does that the DVD by mail thing? Nobody likes to be Oh, yeah, they don't like to talk about it. But it is still a thing. Red Box is huge. I still

Mike Dion 42:17
still you know, outside of front of my grocery store. I still saw I see people in front of the red box. Yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 42:23
so it's still it's still going. And if you could get a Redbox deal. Oh my god, those things are so Oh, we could talk offline. I could tell you the numbers. Oh my god, it's it's insane, insane. Best distribution deal on the planet right now if you get a good Redbox deal, but anyway, we'll talk about that later. But, um, but yeah, like I saw some, like special wood covered DVD additions and things like that, that you were selling for premium, like 50 bones. But that's something that the collector wants.

Mike Dion 42:52
Right? Right. Yeah, that goes back to right the divide, we did put a bundle together, we It was a wood wood box with a laser engraved sort of top and then inside was a book and a T shirt. And do this goes yeah, you just don't you just want a man is back quite a few, quite a few years. So and we did. We did sort of a live thing with with a fan, you know, a few weeks ago, and he was you know, they're kind of, you know, talking in on his, on his bookshelf behind him was one of those boxes, like from 2010. And like, holy crap, dude, you saved that. He's like, No, dude, it's of course,

Alex Ferrari 43:30
it's a wood. It's a wooden case for a DVD, what am I going to do throw it away.

Mike Dion 43:35
And I'll walk into bike shops and whatnot. And there's, you know, one of my posters, you know, sitting up in a corner somewhere, you know, in a bike shop, and then we got we shipped out probably 6000 posters over the last 10 years between all the films. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 43:53
And that's and that's, that's, I'm assuming a good profit margin on those things.

Mike Dion 43:59
Some of them were profit, and then some of them just happen to be you know, as we, like, you mentioned earlier, when we went into a city for a theatrical event, I you know, I sent posters to all of the bike shops in that particular city with the letter and everything else just to you know, build buzz and everything else. So it's, and then with with some Kickstarter campaigns, in bundles, and things like that, you know, any posters,

Alex Ferrari 44:25
right? And the thing is to like thinking about it, because I've been in bike shops I have I have a bike I'm not anywhere near what you guys do, but I ride, not to divide I just ride but that hobby is expensive. And bike riders spend money. Like it's not just buying a $200 bike you're talking about I've seen bikes, the six $7,000 it's like right, and they and MPN they're very passionate about riding so they will spend money so as a niche audience to provide products for them. is not a bad one to pick.

Mike Dion 45:02
No, you're absolutely right. And it is interesting. So we helped produce another documentary called hair I go again, which was sort of about, you know, kind of like where where are they now from an 80s you know, hair hair metal band. And And what was interesting is like, I think I got spoiled exactly what you just described, here's this middle class upper middle class demographic with with cycling and then we were pushing out this Hara go again, documentary, with, you know, a different sort of niche and, and, man, it just would, it didn't, it did. Okay. But man, it wasn't doing what I got what I got spoiled. You're doing with with the cycling projects,

Alex Ferrari 45:43
right? And people always ask me like, how do you make money with independent filmmakers? Everyone's broke, I'm like, Well, you know, it's just about providing a service and things like that. But a lot of people come into the game, trying to try to just grab money and try to take advantage of filmmakers and things like that. And I feel that filmmakers are the most abused demographic of an audience ever. And they start with film school. Like it starts with starts with paying obscene amounts of money for film school, which you're not going to get an ROI on for a decade, if you're one of the lucky ones that can actually make a career out of it. In film school, so it's I feel that they're just constantly being abused and abused.

Mike Dion 46:20
And then even like the film festival, it's like, oh, it's the please choose me. Industry. It's like, please choose me. Please choose me. It's like, yeah, we we've, we've been. Oh, yeah. No, that's a whole nother topic.

Alex Ferrari 46:34
Yeah. And the whole please choose me. And I think what you've been doing for a long time, and what I talk about in my book, and what I've been doing as long time is to take control, stop asking for permission, start building out your own systems, or building out your own infrastructure. So you can make a living doing this.

Mike Dion 46:48
Can I get an amen?

Alex Ferrari 46:51
preach brother free. Now, um, I saw I see that you use you use Vimeo and msph acts prior to that before Vimeo bought them for sales of your own T. VOD, do you and I saw that it was making me wrong. Some of them are on iTunes, or all of them are on iTunes and all the major TV platforms as well.

Mike Dion 47:11
Correct? Yep. And you know, even though Yeah, is, you know, I put as much effort into as much as I can control. I then, you know, as many places as I can get it from a traditional standpoint with iTunes and Amazon on demand and things like that. Absolutely. And, you know, I know people are like, what's the best platform for my film? It's like, there isn't a best platform. It's like any platform you can get on is the right platform to be on. So

Alex Ferrari 47:38
if you can drive traffic, it's, of course, it's all about driving traffic and but I was gonna ask you what part is t VOD doing well for you because I've been saying for a while now that T VOD. Unless you can drive traffic is pretty much dead for the independent filmmaker. If you could drive traffic, there's still some hope but people's did they've just stopped and I know probably back when these were released. T VOD was still think people are still renting but they don't rent as much anymore. Because everyone's just got used to that whole subscription model. Like I you know, I pay I pay I pay $10 a month I expect to get all these movies eventually.

Mike Dion 48:15
That's exactly right. Now we've been Yeah, Netflix is kind of rude. You know, ruined it, you know, going back a couple years ago and even more so even more so now but but again, it's it's like you've got to keep at it as many places as you can get then frickin do it and you know, yeah, things have have dropped off but you know, there's still there's still sales happening on Vimeo on demand there's still sales on iTunes there's still sales on Amazon on on demand. There's still you know, every place the film is placed. Our jet is generating some some revenue still even

Alex Ferrari 48:55
still to this day on all these films.

Mike Dion 48:57
Yeah, it's you know, granted, they're old old now. So it's not 10s of 1000s of dollars a month but it's absolutely on a daily basis like you said with your book on a daily basis the films are being sold somewhere

Alex Ferrari 49:09
and that adds up you know, and it's something you created 10 years ago is still making you money. And a lot of it's a lot of it is passive even right because it's just out there in the ecosystem that's a that's a win win and it's not going to a distributor somewhere who's smoking a cigar and going Haha, like you know, that image of that cigar that distributor it's it's actually monies going to you and you are controlling that revenue stream because you decided to self distribute. And also I was gonna ask you how dense is this market for movies like documentaries about bike riding, because I haven't seen a tremendous amount of them in my travels

Mike Dion 49:50
not in the cycling world. You know, I think so many there's so much free content up on YouTube for from from cycling and and you You know that the extreme stuff and like Red Bull is kind of got the market on the extreme side of things, which, you know, they put a ton of stuff out for free but you know, with this ultra endurance type stuff that I've put out there, it's, you know, there isn't that much out there and, and I've got the mentality of you know, this is premium. This is premium content. This is a premium story, it's got, you know, great music and tremendous emotion built into into this storytelling. It's, it's a professionally packaged film. And, and there's really no place you can watch the film, you know, for free Unless, of course it was it's on a TV network or something like that, where there's, you know, advertising on it or something like that. So pretty much every place my films are, are either rental or are transactional in nature.

Alex Ferrari 50:51
And you don't you haven't gotten into the A VOD world or s VOD world.

Mike Dion 50:55
Some of them have ended up there. I'm super intrigued by, by by the Avon type stuff. And that's, I'm almost worked what I'm working on right now, again, with the whole, you know, screw the gatekeepers. It's like I'm actually working on building out my own bike packing media company as you should you know, where it's where we're going. It's it's almost kind of merging, you know, Netflix and masterclass calm for bikepackers. So it's going to be video content and how to content and, you know, on our own apps, and what i

Alex Ferrari 51:28
will i can i can after after we get off the air I can I can guide you in this process,

Mike Dion 51:34
then, I've been down that for the last month I've been doing tons of demos and chatting with with folks. And the deeper I go into it, the more My mind is absolutely being being blown. So

Alex Ferrari 51:46
Oh yeah, we could talk I could, I could definitely give you some, whatever advice I could give you, for sure, but of itself. And I saw another product that you created, which was in which is why I talked about in the book, educational products, educational products are so powerful because they tap into an emotion or a need of something that the audience really wants to learn about. And it's when you can tap into emotion of an audience member or a customer that's when you can really make a difference in their life. So something like which was your educational product called bike back a bike packing secrets, which was sold for like 80 bucks about how to backpack properly with all these stars and it's like 10 hours something ridiculous like that. And I looked at that I'm like, oh God, he gets it so well. Oh my god. And it's just and that's just and that's all digital. So that's there's no packing because you're not packing 10 hours of DVDs

Mike Dion 52:39
is exactly right. Yep.

Alex Ferrari 52:42
And then it did well,

Mike Dion 52:43
it did do do well when so with with um, you know, it was stuff that we would put on the DVD extras you know, how to you know, bipac and how you know, the gear and whatnot so, so then then it was you know, people a again mentioned you know, Netflix is ruining it because their people expect it to be free for with their subscriptions. So that the thesis what was you know, people are more willing to pay for information than they are content. So that's kind of where that came from, let's actually package you know incredible how to information what became masterclass calm. So this was, you know, perhaps the precursor to when when masterclass calm kind of started doing, doing their thing, and then bundled it up and put it in a website together and marketed it from a strategy, strategy standpoint, put ad dollars behind it, and, and you're right, what, what my production costs were probably $2,000 to actually go shoot this how to content, whereas, so it cost nothing to shoot and create. And there was not a whole lot of editing involved. But then you know, the payoff is the strategy now the strategy about how to package in marketing and putting it out to your audience, right, and

Alex Ferrari 53:59
you're feeding in you're feeding the audience what something that they really want you to be giving them data, and it's an audience that you've already you've already gathered them. You're like you love my movies. I know you like but you like bike, bike riding and bike packing. Here's a course on how to do it properly. Here's a T shirt because you want to represent, here's a cool poster for your wall. And then you just start adding different product lines, different things. What other ancillary product lines did you create, like, I mean, I'm assuming sweatshirts and T shirts. What are the things that you put together?

Mike Dion 54:32
t shirts, sweatshirts, posters, DVDs, blu rays, were the bulk of it, and then just some unique little one off items here, here and there. Like we took a bunch of titanium bike tubing and chopped it up into sections and put a USB drive so you've got a titanium bikes on that USB drive with a 4k version of the film, so so I guess that The bulk of it and you know nothing too, you know, absolutely, absolutely crazy. And then from, from the T shirts side of things, you know, we've, you know, use our own printer, but then also some print on demand type stuff, which, you know, did okay, but not great. So I guess that's as

Alex Ferrari 55:16
crazy as we got. But then, of course, selling credits, educational products, all these other these, these are all revenue streams, these are all for sure these are all there and then you use also Kickstarter to kind of get things going for each of these projects.

Mike Dion 55:28
Yeah, so Yep, exactly. So the inspired to write film was made. So the Kickstarter for Inspire to ride, which went back to to 2017 was to kind of kickstart the world premiere. And the hook was, what if I could invite the entire world to this world premieres. So we had the, you know, the athletes kind of come to Denver, Colorado, and again, back to the How to tech content before the film for three or four hours. Earlier that day, we put on sort of a summit. So I kind of had a film festival mentality. It's like, when you go to a film festival, you will you attend panels, and you and you kind of have discussions about you know, different topics. So we kind of had sort of how to summit type things going on throughout throughout the day, before the film in the theater, but then we again, the whole inviting the world's we, we sold tickets to people around the world could attend. And this was before live streaming became, you know, was the thing I think, I think YouTube Live, you know, just started later in 2017. So we were kind of getting cobbling together, live events, live streaming events. And we had actually, like 40 people from 40 different countries bought a ticket in tuned, tuned in to, to kind of have this summit that we put on. And then when the film screened, we did utilize VHS. So when the film screened, everyone got their email around the world to watch the film. And then at the end of the film, they could tune back into our live stream to watch the q&a and everything after that did did really well.

Alex Ferrari 57:11
Yeah, and the A lot of times filmmakers underestimate the international market. A lot a lot everyone here in the States. only think about Oh, it's just the US May we can and I may be the UK with a generally just focus on the US. Yes, us is a very large markets are one of the largest markets, I think it still is the largest market in the world. But take it from someone who's got an international podcast, and sells products, digital products online all the time. International is huge. And there's so many people who Imagine if you're living in Nepal, and I've had it and they just like I want to tune in and watch this. Like, because there's no way I'll ever get to go to this thing. I can't afford it. It's just the other side of the world. But for 50 bucks or whatever. 30 bucks. I can log in and watch it that is so powerful. Absolutely. Yep. You're right. And I'm assuming there's bike riders all over the world.

Mike Dion 58:17
Absolutely. And yeah, UK is is a big market for us. Yeah, yeah. Europe and UK in particular has been huge.

Alex Ferrari 58:24
Now, did you? Did you ever approach any promotional partners to help you market or sell this like bike shops or bike brands or anything like this

Mike Dion 58:32
some brands, you know, it was you know, can you know difficult to get a lot of brands to say yes, some brands have have said yes. But I think it's just you know, a lot like trying to go out and find an investor for your indie film or, or again, trying to get into into a festival or something. Do there's still a ton of nose even though even though I've kind of got the three films, you know, that have done well. It's like I can't call up specialized and you know, say Oh, yeah, Mike, you're here I'm here. Now we're going to 350 $1,000 for your next project. I I still don't have that and you know, perhaps haven't put the the same amount of energy energy into it that I should have but it's still a struggle and perhaps, you know, I don't know where we kind of are going with this but I'm still you know, the direct to consumer. It's like I would much rather put my time and energy into again using the frame surprise and delight 1000s of people who appreciate I would much rather try to presale $25,000 worth of my next thing to this audience who I put the time and energy into then trying you know, of course if a sponsor is going to throw me money great, but it's still a struggle there. You know, to get a yes is difficult.

Alex Ferrari 59:49
Yeah. The hustle is real, sir. The hustle is real. Yeah, always, always hustle admit always hustling. We'll be right back after a word. from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now, I know we talked a little bit about you've mentioned it a couple times RTD 10. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Mike Dion 1:00:14
Yes, right, the divide had its 10 year anniversary last year. So kind of in the middle of the pandemic, you know, we kind of put a virtual event together to kind of celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the film and in brought some some Oh, geez in from sort of the divide bikepacking sort of world and attic and kind of did a cool, sort of three, four hour again, sort of interview type type thing. And then then we watch nail the film with a lot of the people that athletes who were part of the original, right, right the divide, and then as part of again, with bundling, it's like the tickets were, were $10. But you could also then order, again to the pre order, and RTD 10 bundle, which was a new version of the RTD 10 filled with a new poster and new packaging. So we're actually working on on that right now, which is going to be so RTD 10 is going is is right the device, 10 year anniversary box set. And it's still working on what's going to be inside the box set, but there's only going to be 1000 of them ever created. So you know, like the official movie poster will be one of 1000 to have 1000 hand hand number and then probably some some new physical items and T shirts. And and this is where you're getting some brands on board. Hey, brands, do you want to you know, send us 1000 of something that we could put into this box that bundle? So that's kind of where what we're working on? And

Alex Ferrari 1:01:47
what is that going to retail for it just out of curiosity,

Mike Dion 1:01:49
the it'll probably be $125 for this box, that bundle

Alex Ferrari 1:01:58
is kind of 125 bucks times 1000 that's not bad, man.

Mike Dion 1:02:04
That's pretty good. And then and then it's it's a new version of the film. So wait, so the film is back in the edit bay. So we're telling the same story. But anywhere from 25 to 40% of the footage will be different. So potentially new music and, and new scenes and new stories because we ended up with 170 hours of footage from tumor, you know, covering the events so so now it's like it's the same story but you're seeing new new unique scenes and awesome habit, which then I think could really inspire people to like, go back and watch the original to see what's different and then how it is totally different. And then it's also a new film that ends up on iTunes and all the other platforms so and we get to go hopefully pandemic providing some some live events and back to our whole sort of what we do.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:53
That's amazing man. Again, it's been such a just such a pleasure talking to you man and talking to some of the cats it before we get go before we get before we finish, I want to ask you a few questions to ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Mike Dion 1:03:08
break into the business? You said the word of the hustle is real man. It's like hustle, get on the phone network, make connections. You know, do what you can do. Gosh it dude and anymore. It's like, again, this fricking iPhone, you know, I'm holding I just saw that DGI just came out with a brand new frickin drone that that you know, fits in your hand to to get aerials. It's like you can go create whatever the note whatever you want. So just get out there and do it hustle make

Alex Ferrari 1:03:40
Yeah, exactly. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life man

Mike Dion 1:03:54
I don't know. Um, gosh, the longest? I don't know. Let's hit the next one. Let's

Alex Ferrari 1:04:03
come back to that one three of your favorite films of all time.

Mike Dion 1:04:07
Ah, freakin Lost Boys. Just so good. So good. It's like I was in dating myself but dude that came out when I was was in college and it was like a midnight screening of Lost Boys and got we were just drunk him you know having a crazy time up in the balcony watching the Lost Boys and and then you know, bought the DVD DVD of that film and just watched it over and over and over again.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:36
Can I tell you my last story? Yes, please. Okay, first. So first of all lost boys. Arguably the coolest vampires of all time. Cinema cinematic vampires near dark pretty close to it but but they would argue the coolest looking pitchers coolest vampires. A buddy of mine was an actor in Lost Boys to not the one they made the direct their direct sequel. That is Didn't get finished. They shot footage, but never finished it. So this is the story. The story was that you remember when Kiefer Sutherland got impaled? Right when he didn't like blow up or sparkle? Or, or something. Sorry, did you hear the tone in my voice when I said you know he didn't blow up or anything so he's in like the in the coroner's office and they pull the they pull the horns out, and he comes back to life. That's how they were gonna start the whole thing and then he was gonna and then all his guys. I think some of his guys actually did blow up but he didn't. So he would they he just breaks out of the thing. And he's just starts grabbing the first people and starts vamping out on them to build up his crew want my buddy was going to be one of those vampires. They shot a bunch of scenes. And then like I think a week into it, someone one of the director walks up to everybody. I was like, we are we're announcement everybody. We're closing down the production because Mr. sutherlin has decided to move on to another project instead. And that was young, and he went on to do young guns. He wanted to go do Young Guns instead of Lost Boys too. So we never got to see a loss boys to I don't even know if Joe Schumacher was directing it or not. But that is the story. That is a little tidbit little Lost Boys trivia.

Mike Dion 1:06:19
That's amazing. I had no freaking clue. I remember my first time in Santa Santa Cruz going holy crap. This is Santa Clara man. This is the bridge that they were hanging from.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:32
Alright, so the other two other two?

Mike Dion 1:06:34
I don't know. I think Lost Boys. You know, that whole discussion covered? You know, number two and number three is fair enough.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:40
Fair enough. And do you want to go back to that other question or just let it go?

Mike Dion 1:06:44
Say it again. rephrase it.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:46
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Mike Dion 1:06:52
Did Yeah, I think I've always had the mentality of you know, don't burn your bridges. Yeah. I think that's just you know, holes hold so true. And of course, I I've probably burned you know, a bridge or two my time but man I think that is don't burn your bridges.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:18
You know, I ever I had a running gag with a lot of the guys I used to work with who were working in my my VFX company and take like, Alex, you don't nuke bridges. You don't you don't burn bridges, you nuke bridges. I'm like, yeah, that's a thing. And when you're younger, you do things like that. But as you get older, you start realizing how small this business really is. And from someone who talks to people on a daily basis interviews and stuff. I'll talk like, look you Nokia I Nokia there's like it's if you and I just met, Oh, I know kale, you know, it's in a few screwed if I screwed key over or you screwed it, you see what I mean? It's so it's such a small business. And that's something that filmmakers really need to understand. They think it's huge. It is not, it is a very, very small, even these big guys who I talked to sometimes on the show, who are very established filmmakers and big, you know, big making $200 million movies. They'll start talking about like, Oh, this guy connected me I'm like, Oh, really, he connected that other guy too. And oh, he's like, it's just fascinating how small the business is. And it gets smaller on a daily basis. It's pretty good. So that's great advice. Don't burn your bridges. Now, Mike, it's been a pleasure talking to you, brother, where can people find you and everything that you're doing?

Mike Dion 1:08:34
Probably, you know, the easiest, gosh, I don't know, Mike do calm is a frickin really old website. I haven't updated it forever. But there's some contact information in there. The new project RTD 10, calm is a place to kind of go, that website will evolve and change as the project kind of goes through its evolution over the next three to three to six months, if you want to check out sort of the Shopify site inspired to ride it is, is that sites done, you know, incredible amounts of revenue from that site. So if you want to see a site that's kind of one of those direct to consumer sites that's actually generated some great revenue, you could check inspired to write it out. Hit me up on LinkedIn, if you want to talk biz.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:19
That's great. And I'll put all the up put those links in the show notes. Mike, man, thank you again, for coming on the show. Man. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to someone who gets it. Who's been doing it. You're an Oji in the film shoprunner space, sir. So

Mike Dion 1:09:32
I appreciate that. Appreciate your time.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:37
I want to thank Mike for coming on the show and not only dropping his knowledge bombs, but providing inspiration to filmmakers around the world that it can be done you can sustain yourself as a filmmaker doing what you love to do. Thank you so much, Mike. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at indie film hustle.com Ford slash four six, four. And if you haven't already, head over to film, biz book calm and pick up a copy of Rise of the film intrapreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. It has become a Amazon number one bestseller and continues to surprise me how many books that we continue to sell day in, day out month in, month out. It's pretty, pretty inspirational. So please pick that book up. It will definitely change the way you make films. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 457: Will Netflix Destroy the Last Blockbuster

The Last Blockbuster with Taylor Morden

Many of the tribe know that I spent thousands of hours working in a mom and pop video store throughout my high school years. This is why I’m so excited to bring you today’s show. We have Taylor Morden, director, and producer of the nostalgia documentary, The Last Blockbuster (2020). And if you want to know how to sell a movie to Netflix, just make a documentary about the company Netflix helped destroy. 

The Last Blockbuster is a fun, nostalgic feature length documentary film about the rise and fall of Blockbuster video and how one small town store managed to outlast a corporate giant.

In 2017, when Morden started filming the Blockbuster documentary, there were only 13 blockbusters around the United States. You need to listen to him recount the moment he got the idea to produce The Last Blockbuster and all the ways the universe aligned for this project. We talked a great deal about his distribution plan, the challenges indie filmmakers face, and his company PopMotion Pictures.

Enjoy my nostalgic conversation with Taylor Morden.

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Alex Ferrari 0:01
I'd like to welcome to the show Taylor Morden. Man. How you doing Taylor?

Taylor Morden 0:17
Doing great, Alex. Thanks for having me. Thank you, man,

Alex Ferrari 0:20
you by far have the coolest backdrop of anybody I've ever recorded with Ben very nice. Art directed sir.

Taylor Morden 0:27
It was my my COVID art project was just keep upping the zoom call background over and over again. I mean, I look back at old interviews of me and there's different backgrounds every time it's it's come a long way.

Alex Ferrari 0:39
I have that. That is the video from Hollywood video right in the background.

Taylor Morden 0:42
Yeah, yeah, I had the old neon sign

Alex Ferrari 0:45
how'd you get the app?

Taylor Morden 0:47
There was a couple selling it on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace or something. And I saw and they had the whole the Hollywood video sign but the word Hollywood is like 50 feet long. And I'm 12 feet tall. So I asked him you know, can I buy just the word video and it was an old neon sign so I had to like take it apart had been sitting in the dirt and clean it and do all this and then converted it to LED and hung it on my wall.

Alex Ferrari 1:13
man that's that's a different level of cool sir.

Taylor Morden 1:17
different level of nerdy I think he's saying nerdy

Alex Ferrari 1:19
nerdy Look, man, I got a Yoda behind me. So you know, not too far behind you, sir. So before we get started, man and go down the nostalgia road that is video stores and blockbuster in your amazing documentary. How did you become a filmmaker? Why did you want to become a filmmaker?

Taylor Morden 1:37
Yeah, I so I in the 90s I'm aging myself a little bit. I was when I was a kid in high school. The school had a VHS camcorder, like the big you know, put it up on your shoulder uses full size VHS tapes. And that was my first introduction to video. We never, you know, could afford a video camera at home or anything like that. So I would check it out from the school is very small school. So they would know like have the video cameras out, Taylor's got it. And I would do all my projects, you know, school projects. If I if I could get out of writing a five page report by doing a five minute video. I did that all through high school. And I loved it and you know kind of got the bug in my senior year the school invested in Premiere 1.0. We had a soap some kind of video capture card we had to plug the VCR into the computer,

Alex Ferrari 2:29
an RCA RCA capture card and RCA

Taylor Morden 2:31
RCA and it would capture at like 320 resolution 320 by one. Whatever that ratio is for four by three, you know. It was bad. And then it kind of got out of it after high school but I loved it. I did a ton of like little goofy videos with my friends kind of got out of it after high school because I was more into music. I was playing in bands. I wanted to be like a rock star and tour the world. Put out albums and do all that. And I did. And I was always a little involved in our music videos. You know that was like, Oh yeah, that's right. I do love video. And then after college, I got my, my job was flash animator. I got a digital arts degree. And I was doing those flash intros on websites that you couldn't skip that everybody hated.

Alex Ferrari 3:18
So for people listening, I just need to stop for a second. Because Yeah, a Macromedia Flash. If it was

Taylor Morden 3:26
Yeah. Before

Alex Ferrari 3:27
before, Adobe. So it was Macromedia Flash. You got a degree in, in Flash?

Taylor Morden 3:35

Alex Ferrari 3:36
So you got a degree in in multimedia production slash flash? money well spent. I think for a long term. It was definitely a long tail. It's essentially it's essentially me getting a degree in VHS repair.

Taylor Morden 3:48
Yes. Which was a degree at the time.

Alex Ferrari 3:52
Sure. Yeah. I'm sorry. I had to I just had to point that out. Continue.

No, no, no, you're very much correct. And then you know, around 2010 2011 Apple killed flash basically, they just said we're not going to support it on our iPhones and iPads and then the whole internet went, Oh, okay, well, we're not going to use it anymore. And it was gone. And so also at that time, video was taking the place of that, you know, broadband was everywhere, you could put a video on a website instead of a flash animation. So and DSLRs were getting to the point where even a struggling musician like me could afford one that could do a decent job I had the Canon T two I did okay looking video within you know, the 50 millimeter 1.8 lens that everybody had. And I started just doing video work with that like commercials and weddings and just anything you could point a camera at Real Estate shot real estate for a while. And I did that for a while and I made a decent living as a videographer in Washington, DC and then I moved back here to order Again, six years ago, and all that work dried up, because it's a small town and there aren't enough weddings and car commercials to keep me afloat. And that's sort of when I decided I wanted to try making documentary movies, I figured I have the skill set, I had a slightly better camera at that time. And I thought, maybe I can make a documentary and basically ask my wife, is it okay? If I spend a year trying to make a movie, because I'm not going to earn money. And she gave me one year, she said, you know, try it, figure out how to do it. And, you know, in a year, if it looks like it's gonna make any money, you can keep doing this. Otherwise, go get a job at Best Buy. And it's almost six years later, and I haven't had to get that job yet.

But but but the thread is always they're

Taylor Morden 5:53
always they're always hanging

Alex Ferrari 5:54
over your head, like, I believe in you. But the clock is ticking.

Taylor Morden 6:00
Go make your movies, but you know, eventually you'll have to get a real job. Yeah. And

Alex Ferrari 6:05
I've been I've been trying to get a real job now for 20 odd years. So I feel you, oh, no, you can imagine if I tell I tell my dad now or my parents now. They're like, so what do you do now? I'm like, Oh, I talk on the internet. I've got a podcast like what's a? What's a podcast? I'm like, man, I also do movies. And she's like, What? What? And they're like, Okay, do you live in Los Angeles? You have a house? Apparently you doing something. Okay. So go with God.

Taylor Morden 6:34
Right? Well, people think you're telling me make movies and they either think you're a millionaire right? Oh, you make movie your film director

Alex Ferrari 6:41
like guarantee?

Taylor Morden 6:43
Like Spielberg? Like guarantee now Can I borrow $200,000? Not sure. Or if they've ever met a filmmaker, they know. You have no money. And they're like, Oh, I'm sorry.

Alex Ferrari 6:52
Oh you're a filmmaker. That's a shame. Yeah. So that's essentially that's essentially what we get. No, it's always fascinating to to meet people outside of the the carny world that is filmmaking because we are carnies. I mean, it's just, we're corny, folks. You know, we smell of cabbage. We have small hands. Sorry. That's a reference from from Austin Powers. But no, but we are. But we are carnies in many ways that the film industry is such a small business. And it's kind of very misunderstood by people outside of the business. So they automatically think that you're super wealthy or super rich, or you're famous, or this or that. And it's it's it's really interesting, especially from the older generation, who has no idea, get a real job. I was talking Africa, I was talking to somebody who's a very accomplished screenwriter. His father was just like, when are you going to stop with this writing stuff? He could actually make get a real job. Like, but that I've won an Oscar. Yeah, play a real job, something you could do honest work with. It's just, it's hilarious. Now, I wanted to bring you on the show, man. Because you you directed this. This this, this wonderful documentary called the last blockbuster. And many people listening on the show know that I, too, worked at a video store, not the corporate, horrible corporate juggernaut that was blockbuster that just crushed the mom and pops, I worked in one of those mom and pops, and only went to blockbuster when I couldn't find a copy of something. And every time I'd walk in, I'd be like, this is amazing. They got 400 copies of something. But yet I still hated them because they took business away from us. But now I look back at blockbuster and Hollywood video. I'm just like, oh, like I kind of miss it. But you wrote this, you did this amazing documentary. I got to know. First of all, how did it get started? What did you like? Why did you say hey, blockbuster, let's do this.

Taylor Morden 8:54
Well, I loved renting videos, since I can remember since I was a kid, and it was always like, a big part of my life. And I loved it. And I would like you know, save up my allowance. So I could walk down to Hollywood video or blockbuster or the local store, read my bike and rent a VHS and take it home for the weekend and watch it four or five times that kind of thing. So you know, I'm of that generation where that was a big deal. And I've watched it kind of disappear. And then like I said, I moved here to Oregon, six years ago now. And the first week I moved here, right by my house, there was a blockbuster video that was going out of business. This was 2015. So you know they had recently corporate had gone away and I knew of blockbuster videos going away. There's not really video stores anymore. Netflix is huge. But before even our furniture arrived, you know we had like shipped it via pods. And I went to this Blockbuster Video that was closing and I bought all the DVDs. is an Xbox games and things that were 90% off and, you know $1 and bought all the things and tried to buy the, you know the blockbuster sign on the wall, but they wouldn't sell it to me. So I was excited. I was like, Oh, that's cool that this time and I just moved to had a blockbuster still Too bad it closed. And then flash forward about a year I had been driving around town and I would see another big blockbuster sign the Big Blue ticket that we all know the shape of and I thought look at that they couldn't afford to take the sign down. They just had to leave it because it's so expensive. You see him all over the country people send me pictures of them now. Once a week somebody is like did you know there's still a blockbuster? I'm like, yeah, go inside. See what you find.

Alex Ferrari 10:45
I gotta I gotta mines is a Petco. It's but they wouldn't take the damn thing down. So it's a movie ticket with Petco. I'd have to like, yep, I'm not taking that down. That's gonna cost ,

Taylor Morden 10:56
Yeah. I didn't want in Washington, DC.

Alex Ferrari 10:58
It has a cost to take that down. It must have cost a lot. It's huge. They're huge, right? They're

Taylor Morden 11:04
huge. You got to get a crane in there. It's a whole thing. If you've ever had to have a hot tub moved, you know,

Alex Ferrari 11:10
the way you said it in Washington, what?

Taylor Morden 11:12
In Washington, the one near me was a liquor store, but it was the ticket shape. And it was you know, liquor store, liquor store video

Alex Ferrari 11:20

Taylor Morden 11:20
But for some reason, one day I just did my curiosity got the better me I wanted to take a picture of the abandoned store for Instagram or something. And I stopped, and I went in. And it was like going through a time warp. It was like no one told them blockbuster had gone out of business. Like they didn't get the memo. I went in and it looked the same, it felt the same. And it smelled the same. As I remembered. It was like, Oh, it's 1999. And I'm going to rent The Phantom Menace. And it's awesome. And the only difference was this was 2017 by this point. And so it was the new Star Wars movie. And it was the new Marvel movie, where were the 200 copies up on the new release wall. So it was very nostalgic, but at the same time, exciting of like, wow, what the heck is going on here? Who is still renting movies? Because that was the other thing. It was packed with people renting DVDs.

Alex Ferrari 12:18
It's like this weird Back to the Future scene. Yeah, yeah.

Taylor Morden 12:21
I couldn't understand what was going on. And so that day, I talked to the owner and the manager and said, Hey, I'm, I'm a filmmaker. I'm doing air quotes for those listening. I'm a filmmaker. Would it be okay? If I started bringing cameras around? And just like interviewing some customers if they're okay with it, you know, I'll I won't get in your way. I'm just fascinated. And they said, Okay, that's weird. No one's really ever tried to dinner. Nobody cared at that point. And that was that was the beginning of it. I've been it's now four years later. And the movies just now out. So.

Alex Ferrari 12:59
And when you started, there was still but 13 blockbuster 12. So 12 blockbusters around the country. And then yeah,

Taylor Morden 13:08
the 13th. One was the one by my house that closed.

Alex Ferrari 13:10
Right. So it just so happened, that you you befriended the one blockbuster that's still in existence. So it just was happenstance that you move or you move to Oregon and you were close to that one. You could have moved to Alaska. All right, because that one held up for a little while. And in that whole John Oliver thing and remember John Oliver sent the jockstrap from Cinderella man or something like that. Russell Crowe to get get people to come in the store. And you know, hear like, oh, in Alaska, they've got blockbusters like that. That makes sense. There's this very bad, bad internet there. And you know, it's still a thing and it's smaller towns I okay, out. I'll buy, I'll buy

Taylor Morden 13:53
Yeah, when we started, we for sure thought the Alaska stores would outlast the Oregon store mix. We had no, we had no delusions that this was going to be the last blockbuster in the whole world. But we still thought it was an interesting story. And we're just like, well, we'll follow this store and see what happens. And we could there's like, nothing we could have done to make it happen the way it did. It was all you know, documentary filmmaking magic of being in the right place at the right time and making friends with the store before everybody was beating their door down and trying to get the exclusive.

Alex Ferrari 14:29
Right so that you were in already and well, I forgot the name of the manager and the lady who owns it. What's

Taylor Morden 14:34

Alex Ferrari 14:34
Sandy so Sandy, Sandy. By the way, when you watch the movie, Sandy's to star, she is she is the star of the show. She She is the heart and soul of that place. She doesn't own it. She just manages it. But the whole thing is, is run because of her and she's like, ride or die like she will not know. She's not like she told her husband like I'm not retiring. I am here as long long as the store is open, and I will continue to keep. It's just amazing. So while so while your mate you you got in early in 2015, then I'm sure there was other filmmakers or other news organizations or other that wanted to come in to have that kind of same access. And Sandy's like, Oh yeah, we're good. We got somebody, we've got this filmmaker who's, who's already doing a documentary on us, and we love him. We'd love Taylor, is that basically the way it goes?

Taylor Morden 15:24
That's a little bit how it went. After I was making another movie at the same time, which ProTip Don't do that. But I was making two documentaries at once. And I brought on a partner for the blockbuster doc who had a little bit more Hollywood experience than me. He was a writer for years on Dexter's Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, bunch of kids shows in the 90s and stuff. And he was very smart. He early on was like, hey, let's just get a little contract in place for the life rights for the story, just in case it blows up. And I think we would have been fine with that. But it was, in hindsight, it was a great idea.

Alex Ferrari 16:06
What a great,

Taylor Morden 16:08
great suggestion. Yeah. So if you're starting the documentary, and something that you think might blow up, that's a great tip is just get something in writing that says, You're the only one who can make a movie about this.

Alex Ferrari 16:20
Yeah, that doesn't use news stories and all that stuff.

Taylor Morden 16:23
Yeah, they did a ton of news stuff. But anything that was longer, even short form stuff, they they would run it by us. So Sandy would call and say, I don't know, this kid wants to do a short documentary for their college thing. Is that okay? And then we would talk to the kid and be like, What's this for? You know, you're not going to turn it into a feature or,

Alex Ferrari 16:43
you know, we don't want to have to sue. Right. That's, that's awesome. That's an amazing, that's amazing. I don't know if I might have mentioned this to you once. I know I mentioned it on this on the show once. But my when the video stores were all going out of business, hollywood video was the big one that kept going out of business around me. And I figured out to go in and buy some old videos, DVDs, and then I would sell them on Amazon. And I did a little bit here a little bit there. I made a little, little extra cash. And it was when you could still sell DVDs and stuff. But then right before we moved to LA when I had no very little savings, we were moving to LA my wife and I didn't know anybody. The videos, the Hollywood video around the corner, finally put up the going out of business line. And I walked in and said, Can I speak to the manager? What can I do for you, sir? I'm like, I need everybody to leave the store, please. Why? Because I'm going to buy everything you have. And I bought the entire they're like, fantastic. We can close up early. And go do you take discover? And they go yes. And I bought God I don't even I it was just too many, I think 1000 10,000 DVDs and video games. And I spent about 12 grand or something like that on my credit card. And then I told my wife well, even when we get to LA I can't get a job or you can't get a job at least we can sell DVDs to keep the lights on. And and that's what we did. I mean, we fortunately both of us got jobs right away and I was off and running. She was off and running. But we must have made 30 40 grand selling DVDs for the next year for the next year. That was just a slow drip of like DVD sales and video game sales. I had GameCube like those old GameCube Oh, yeah. The little disc I sold everything. And that was the Hollywood video that that was the one that went down on but I never I never did a blockbuster because I think blockbusters were still too solid when I left because I left in a way. Mm hmm. And oh wait.

Taylor Morden 18:44
Yeah, they were so

Alex Ferrari 18:45
blockbuster was the Hollywood video was having issues. So that's when that's when they went down so I'd never did a blockbuster they would start going out of business. And I wouldn't be here in LA when I got here. There were still blockbusters I got here in 2008. So the blockbusters everywhere. Then, as the years go by, I would keep driving by this block like how are they still alive? How are still going and that one turned into a Sherman Williams paint store. And then the other one turned into the Petco and and then slowly but surely, there was a couple of video stores left in my area in the valley and one of them is still there, but they're like a VHS, they only do VHS. They're still alive. And I think it's just like anytime you see a documentary about nostalgic VHS or they just go there and rent it out for the day. It's so it's amazing. Now, the one thing I noticed with with the last blockbuster, you've been able to tap into something afraid kind of filmmaking I kind of coined which is nostalgia filmmaking. You are You are attaching your your your film to your to an existing audience. That's really all about nostalgia. So all those VHS documentaries, all the documentaries on, you know, like, Oh, that was that one that HBO about the the water theme park that killed people that was that tapped into an 80s nostalgia. I mean, Stranger Things obviously touches it big time. But you're able to do it, can you? Can you discuss what you were thinking about? Because I mean, obviously you understand what I'm saying? I mean, it is definitely a stylish thing to watch this documentary.

Taylor Morden 20:27
Yeah, no, nostalgia is kind of my brand. If I, if I had one, because I've done this is my third feature documentary. And all three of them are pretty much rooted in the 90s. And I, as a human, I'm also pretty much rooted in the 90s that I still love. I collect action figures and, and VHS tapes and vinyl records. And I'm, you know, I am my target audience, which is a really important thing. I think, as a filmmaker, for anybody, it makes stuff. If you need to figure out how to get to get through to an audience, just figure out what you like. And if there's enough other people like you in the world, then you have an audience. And I've done it with all three movies. And the thing that I kind of figured out really early on my first one, when we did Kickstarter to raise the money is, you know, with Kickstarter, you can raise some money, but you also build a community that is invested in this thing. And he found through the internet now like minded people, you know, my first movie was way more niche, it was about a single one hit wonder band called The refreshments. And there's not a ton of refreshments fans. But I found them all. And I sent them to the Kickstarter. And then my second movie was little bit bigger was about the music genre ska, right so no doubt real big fish, the mighty mighty bosstones a lot more fans. And I found them and that Kickstarter went bananas. And I still, you know, have the email list. And I'm still pushing those DVDs and trying to get those people but I'm engaged in that community because I'm also a fan of that thing from that era. And then with blockbuster, it was the same thing. You know, I grew up loving it. And when I walked into that blockbuster, for the first time, I had that wave of nostalgia that like I said that first day was when I asked if we could film there, because if I figured if I could capture any of that feeling that I felt going there, and then try to sell it to people who are my similar age and have my similar life experiences of those Friday nights, a Blockbuster Video, and maybe you get a pizza and you know, hanging out with your friends and you rent the matrix and oh my god, and then you watch all the special features. And then you watch it again, because it's not due back till Monday. Like that feeling. It's gone in the world now. So being able to tap into that, you know, just from like you're getting at the marketing standpoint of like, how do you you know, capture this, this vibe or this nostalgia and then try to sell it to people? I don't think it's that hard. It's people want it. People long for the good times the good old days that we all remember. I mean, you see it in every like you said Stranger Things in every facet of pop culture, it comes in waves, you know, there's a reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every six years, because New Kids don't know what it is. But also because the parents are still going to go back and watch it because I remember Leonardo that was my favorite, you know?

Alex Ferrari 23:39
Yeah, it's I mean, well, I mean, Disney is doing very well with that with the Marvel in the in the Marvel in the Star Wars franchise

Taylor Morden 23:48
and just reboots in general reboots and remakes it's it's the world I'm thankful to be doing you know documentaries are different. I'm not just rebooting short circuit to but you're reminding people why they liked the original one

Alex Ferrari 24:04
right so like it you know you're tapping into those those that time so like that that documentary series on Netflix the movies that made us which is the toys that made us which they like break up like you know to transform an hour about how the Transformers game or E man game or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game or like the making of Die Hard or and they just do it in a very so strategic Mr. Logic way. They got me because I watched all of them. Me do every season. All of it. I just like, Yeah, sure. I'll watch the Barbie one too. I don't care. I want to just it's fine as part of the series I got to watch. But so you were you were figuring you figured out at the beginning of your of your journey as a filmmaker, that you need to find your audience and make product for that audience. So you were using the film entrepreneur method in many ways before you even knew What an entrepreneurial filmmaker was because you're selling, you're still selling DVDs, you're still selling other products and things that you're seeing, you're still making money off of these old.

Taylor Morden 25:10
What's the same, same kind of thing where I said, if you make stuff for yourself and find other people, right, I love physical media. I am the person who if I find an indie movie that I like, I'm going to buy the VHS version because that's cool to me. Or, you know, if a band I like puts out an album, I'm going to buy the vinyl record it whether I listened to it on the turntable or not, because that's cool to me. You know, I'm, I like movie posters. I like things like that. So it was easy then to think, well, if I like that, maybe the people who like my movie would also like a poster or a hat or a T shirt, or, you know, if I could make action figures I would, but it's weird with documentaries. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 25:54
got Tiger King would obviously have them.

Taylor Morden 25:57
Right? No, I listened to your your book, the entrepreneur book. And I, as it was going through, I'm like, Oh, yeah, I do that I do that. I do that. I do that. Oh, that's a good idea. I haven't tried. But I do that one. And I do that. And it all kind of works in different levels, depending on the project, too. And I've done three of these. And, you know, I blockbuster sells a lot more VHS copies, obviously, than the other ones.

Alex Ferrari 26:27
Right? Exactly. And you mean being strategic like that to tap into that nostalgia, and it's something that just keeps going. It does. Like I I accidentally made an astrology film with on the corner, desire, which was about you know, filmmakers at Sundance

Taylor Morden 26:45
Sure, now that we can't go to film festivals, like a relic,

Alex Ferrari 26:49
I don't think there's going to be a time like it was even a year or two ago. at Sundance the same way when there's 50,000 people jammed into Park City, I don't. I don't know if that's ever going to happen again. Or if it's going to be completely I don't think what I was able to capture will be there again. And it wasn't it wasn't strategic. I can't say like, yeah, there's a pandemic coming. So I'm no people. But in many ways, I've made like a Christmas movie, because every year now around Sundance time, people are like, Well, I didn't get into Sundance, but at least I could. I could watch Sundance. Yeah. You know, watch and be there kind of feel like it be there. So it was kind of like a weird nostalgia,

Taylor Morden 27:31
as well. unintended, unintended nostalgia. Yeah, we we didn't get into Sundance as well. But we turned our lemons into lemonade. And we put the rejection letter, quote, the nice. The one nice thing they said, We put that in our trailer. And our distributor was like, are you sure you can put that in there? We had to prove that Sundance had said it.

Alex Ferrari 27:55
Hey, look, I mean, when I i've been rejected so many times from Sundance, I can't I've lost count. But early on, I would just say I would put the laurels on my website for some of my short films, and I would say officially rejected really late on at Sundance Film Festival.

Taylor Morden 28:09
Okay, you paid for it.

Alex Ferrari 28:10

Taylor Morden 28:11
You know? Yeah, so it's $100 graphic. It's

Alex Ferrari 28:17
well, I just I tried to get in the earliest it was only 50.

Taylor Morden 28:20

Alex Ferrari 28:20
I wasn't. I wasn't the guy that just showed up last minute. That's $125 That's ridiculous. But now one thing I did notice about your you're filming the music you guys had like you had a couple of songs there that? I'm like, that can't be cheap. How did you get the rights to Smash Mouth? was a very it was it all star? It was an all star?

Taylor Morden 28:44
All Star? Yeah, sir.

Alex Ferrari 28:45
So all star is like, probably one of the more licensed Smash Mouth songs. That's been in a million big movies. And I can't believe that was cheap. So can you tell us how you got those rights? Because I'm assuming you're not rolling deep enough to to drop 150 or $200,000 for that? That needle, right?

Taylor Morden 29:04
Yeah, no, we did not. We did not spend what we were supposed to spend. Now that came from, like I said, My other movie I was working on two at a time is about ska music and Smash Mouth was part of that scene. So I had approached their guitar player who is their primary songwriter to be in that documentary. And he was a cool guy, and we were hanging out. And my producer for blockbuster was there with me because to save money, you know, I'm flying to LA I'm going to shoot both, you know, interviews for both movies at the same time because it's my 500 bucks in plane tickets, right? So we probably I think we came from I can't remember the maybe the Adam Brody shoot or something and went straight to the Smash Mouth shoot. And so he was there with me. So after we were done talking about ska music, we started talking about home video rentals and Blockbuster Video and had some fun takes that actually made it into the movie. So that's pro tip number one is if you want to hit song, find the person who wrote it and put them in your movie. So we reached out when we were doing the music, we thought, wouldn't it be fun if we put a couple needle drops in here that were songs from the 90s, early 2000s that were big in movies that people associate with blockbuster videos, subconsciously, right? Like, Smash Mouth all star was in Shrek. And Shrek was a huge home video hit because kids you know, every week, can I get it? You know, before you could stream anything. So it was an obvious choice. And we knew the guy. So we reached out and said, Hey, can we get this song? You know, is there any way we can get it for free, you know, and music dogs, you can get a lot of music for free if you know the right people. And he was like, well, we do own all the rights, but we can't do free, but I can get you the really good friends and family discount. And that, that knocked down a ton. I mean, I'm talking like 90% off. And so it was only a couple $1,000. But we didn't have enough money. And we have no real budget, we're self funding everything after the Kickstarter money dried up. And so the way music licensing works is you got to pay for two licenses, you have the publishing, and then the master. So the publishing is the songwriter whoever wrote it, they get paid, and the Masters whoever recorded it. So a lot of times it's the same people write the Beatles wrote and recorded their own songs. But a lot of times somebody else wrote it, so you got to pay two different people. In this case, they own size, a doubled the price. So me being a musician is another pro tip for indie filmmakers out there, I just recorded it myself, we did a sound like that played all the instruments except the drums, I had my my buddy do the drums. And I sang it, I figured I could do a pretty good Smash Mouth impression, I got a gravelly voice. And that's the version in our movie is just me doing a cover of Smash Mouth because it was half the price did the same thing. There's another hit song in there. And it was my producers wife is also a professional singer and she sang the other song so that it wouldn't give away our secret. But it's in the credit. So it's not really a secret. But so that's all star written by Smash Mouth performed by Taylor Morrison.

Alex Ferrari 32:26
So So that's, that's a really great typical, it's even for for not even for dogs, but for features as well. You can use if you can get the songwriter to give you the rights at an affordable price, which a lot of times the songwriter will give it to you for an affordable, right? It's generally the master whoever owns the master, which is that the original recording, that's where the money is

Taylor Morden 32:49
the big record labels, yeah, and they're not. And then a lot of times, they'll do a most favored nations deal where you have to pay the same for both. So even if you can get the publishing, you know, for 1000 bucks, which is cheap, the master holder might want 10 grand, and then you have to pay 10 grand for both. So now it's 20 because of the way they work those deals. So it's it's a slippery slope. But yeah, if you even if you just know somebody, you know, find a local band you like and say I'll pay for your studio time. Go record me a version of the song. That's also why you hear so many covers now in movies and in trailers especially, like it's always like a cool modern cover of an 80 song. Well, a lot of times it's way cheaper to do that than to get the real song.

Alex Ferrari 33:34
And that's another great, great tip. Like, again, you could just find cover bands on YouTube, or on Soundcloud or on Spotify or something like that. I'm like, hey,

Taylor Morden 33:42
yeah, in my first movie I did. I just found a cover I liked on YouTube, emailed the artists and said, hey, I've got you know, the songwriter signed off on this, can I use your cover, and she was so happy to be in a movie shouldn't charge me anything. She's just like, great, put my name in the credits and send me a DVD when it's done. And that's pretty common.

Alex Ferrari 34:03
Pro tip for everyone listening. Now, the other the other thing that I saw in your movies, and I've always wanted to know about this and documentaries, video clip rights, you you can weigh two clips that are not specific to, you know, to what I mean, it is kind of specific to what you're talking about. But it's kind of like a reactionary thing. But it's not like part of a blockbuster documentary. So it's not like a clip from a blockbuster commercial, which we could talk about as well. I know there's limits to that. But like you would kind of wait to a shot of a film. I forgot which one was that Tom Hanks or somebody like that that are

Taylor Morden 34:41
at Apollo 13 in there,

Alex Ferrari 34:42
right. You had an Apollo 13 through so you're like how does that work? Because I'm assuming you didn't call universal up before that those rights.

Taylor Morden 34:50
We did not. And I would appreciate if nobody calls them now. But

Alex Ferrari 34:56
they don't know about it. Quiet.

Taylor Morden 34:58
Yeah, that that stuff is a little bit over. My head, as far as the legalese of it, but what what you have to do when you're making a documentaries is you need a lawyer, unfortunately, and that's on this one, I think it was our biggest budget item really was legal fees. Because somebody had to write up those contracts to clear those songs, and all those movie clips, and even the things you pay to license, you need all the paperwork done correctly, and contracts and all that. And then you also need somebody for if you're doing this kind of documentary, something called fair use, which is not like a hard and fast rule. It's, it's an argument. And you need a real lawyer and entertainment lawyer to provide you a fair use argument that they stand behind that says, Here's why this is considered fair use for this movie. Right. So like with Apollo 13, it was because we were telling the story of the Netflix founder, who had claimed in an interview that he founded Netflix, because of too many late fees from renting Apollo 13. So it's kind of the, the punchline to that story. We tagged it on Houston, we have a problem, right? It all fits. And there's a couple of arguments there. One is the fair use for context. And then you have to, for the lawyers, you have to tell them, we used seven seconds of the movie, but total movie is two hours long. So this is 0.3% of the movie. And we used it, you know, to illustrate this point in this context, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they put all that together to come up with a fair use argument, a fair use argument. For our movie, I think it was like a 50 page document that covers everything. And you take that, and that's what you give to your insurance company and get your E and O insurance, which is what you then take to your distributor. So it's this whole chain of like, the lawyer says it's okay. You know, for whatever legal reasons, a lot of times I don't understand the argument, but they're like, Well, in this case of, you know, the NFL versus John's, if it was proven that you can, whatever, and it's either. I think there's satire, there's educational, and another one. But there's a few different things that you can claim because it's it's okay to make fun of someone. And then those clips, yeah, and use those and use their picture or something like that. commentary,

Alex Ferrari 37:27
Commentary yeah, materia is another thing like if as long as you are actively talking about it, unless the entire, like, I can't just take a movie, like Apollo 13. And just do an audio commentary and sell it. That's not doable, like there has to be dressed like that, like, right,

Taylor Morden 37:44
but if you were doing an essay about movies about space, and what they got, right, and what they didn't, you could show a clip that says, Oh, they got this right. Here's the 10 seconds where they got it, right. So it's all about context. And, you know, like I said, there's a reason these lawyers make more money than I do on this project.

Alex Ferrari 38:03
Like if you're making a document about Ron Howard, I mean, you you can show clips of his filmography, as people are talking about his stuff. So there is it but it's not

Taylor Morden 38:12
a hard and fast rate, we can still get sued. It's just in these lawyers opinion based on other cases, in similar situations, we would win. And that's what the insurance company uses to say, Okay, we'll give you insurance. Because that's who pays the legal fees in the event that whoever universal sues us for five seconds of Tom Hanks in our documentary about Blockbuster Video, which I would argue that all movies are fair game. They were all in blockbuster.

Alex Ferrari 38:40
To be that's an argument to be had. But there was that room. That movie called room two, not two to seven, the 237

Taylor Morden 38:49
Oh 237 to

Alex Ferrari 38:51
379, which was the the documentary on Kubrick and the shining. And my God, the entire movies, just wall to wall clips from shining eyes. Why

Taylor Morden 39:03
they may have had to get him, they may have had to get permission.

Alex Ferrari 39:07
I doubt that.

Taylor Morden 39:08
There's a limit.

Alex Ferrari 39:09
I mean, no, but I don't know. I don't know how they did it. And I might have him on the show soon. So we'll find out. But I want to find out like what, how did they get away because it's like, and but at the very beginning, they say Warner Brothers does not. This is not this is not approved by them or anything. So there was a big disclaimer. First things that come up, so there has to be I don't know what they did. But I want that lawyer anyway.

Taylor Morden 39:36

Alex Ferrari 39:37
That's pretty much the thing you had to do with seven seconds. I can imagine having to deal with the whole movie like that. That's

Taylor Morden 39:43
Yeah, in my in my music, Dr. Scott one, we had a few news clips and music, video clips and music is way more dangerous. You know, you're not supposed to use any seconds of any hit songs. But you know if it's attached to a music video in the context of talking about music videos being on it, TV. It's like borderline okay, but my lawyer on that one, she kept sending me back things in me like you got to shave two seconds off of that clip, you got to make sure the audio doesn't go You can't do any j cuts or l cuts with Fair Use clips. That's a fun tip.

Alex Ferrari 40:16
Yeah, you get it has to be just the clip.

Taylor Morden 40:20
Yeah, the audio has to be contained within the video. You can't

Alex Ferrari 40:23
You can't have someone that you can't have that music kind of fade into another color. Exactly. Clip because it's like, oh, it's smoother. It's nicer, yeah no

Taylor Morden 40:31
So we would record sound like music that's like, in the same vibe, but it's nowhere near the right song so that it wouldn't have a hard stop. Right? So it could keep going. And it would just be like our little lounge music version of.

Alex Ferrari 40:46
So um, so what's your What was your? What's your distribution plan? And what did you did you I don't think you self distributed, right? You actually have a distributor.

Taylor Morden 40:56
Right? So I self distributed my first two movies and using film for printer methods and selling DVDs out of my garage still to this day. And it's great. And I love it. I love the relationship you get with your audience and the control you have over everything. But with this one, Blockbuster Video is such a well known thing. It's It's nice, but it's not, right. Like if you go into a room of 10 people and you say, Hey, I got a story about Blockbuster Video, nine of them are going to be interested. Because unless they're under 20 years old, they grew up with it. And it's been a part of their lives. So we kind of knew early on with this one. And I also have a partner on it, who has done more of the traditional route where we wanted some kind of a traditional, you know, we want a good publicist, we want to get reviewed in the New York Times and we want to be on all the platforms, you know, because self releasing, you can only really get on Amazon unless you go through an aggregator.

Alex Ferrari 42:00
And like I was always, by the way not Yeah, not anymore.. Yeah. They started accepting documentaries, which was that's a whole other

Taylor Morden 42:06
Yeah, I had one of mine pulled off of it was up for Prime in the UK, I was testing out prime to see like, everybody says you can make some money on prime because I've always only done t VOD on Amazon, which has been great because I can drive the traffic. But I was testing out prime and they just pulled it yesterday. I got the and they didn't even tell me. I just logged on and it said your prime minutes have gone to zero. My checking it says platforms restricted or something. So I'm hoping they don't pull me off TVOD because you know, those. My first two movies, they're doing pretty well on T VOD. on Amazon. My thought is as long as because they take 50% as long as they're making money. They have no reason to take my movies down. But no one thought they were going to turn off documentaries for a reason

Alex Ferrari 42:56
they turned it to they've turned into the evil empire at this point. They like you know, they have man they have they, they their whole prime was built on the back of independent filmmakers. Like all when that's launched, it was crap. And all the only thing that people would you know, that's why they opened up amazon video direct cuz they needed content. And now that they're all cloudy and tidy, and they're like, oh, we're good now. And now they're like kicking everybody off without any. It's just anyway, that's scary.

Taylor Morden 43:25
It's scary, because it is a big percentage of my income.

Alex Ferrari 43:29
Right. And I know, I know, filmmakers who have lost like, yeah, like that. That whole business model was wrapped around prime and all of a sudden now it's the on hand Scott film to printer method, multiple revenue streams, as many of them that you can control. You selling a DVD, you control that?

Taylor Morden 43:46

Alex Ferrari 43:46
that's right. Yeah.

Taylor Morden 43:47
And the same with this. So we did do it as a traditional distributor, we went with a company called 1091, who used to be part of a company called the orchard and they've done a lot of really cool indie releases, like the early Tyco, ytt movies and stuff like that. And they're, we kind of like their vibe, we talked to a bunch of distributors. And we did get a little bit of a bidding war of, you know, bouncing deals back and forth. And they beat everybody else's offers. So we went with them, because they also sounded like they kind of understood what we were trying to do and how we wanted to market the movie and all that. But we did keep our physical rights and our theatrical rights, which at the time, we thought there might be theaters, there aren't but we were able to do some drive ins and stuff, which was cool. But physical has been doing well. For us as a self release. You know, we happen to have a retail store, right? We have big racks at Blockbuster Video, which not many filmmakers get when you make an indie film

Alex Ferrari 44:26
No you have exclusive blockbuster

Taylor Morden 44:57
for me Did we actually I looked it up. We have The first blockbuster exclusive DVD since 2011. And we gave them we gave them a four month window. Before it's on, you know, you can buy the DVD on Amazon now. But for four months, you could only get it through their website or in their store. It was a blockbuster exclusive.

Alex Ferrari 45:17
And then helps them keep keep them alive, too. I'm assuming that's like a great souvenir.

Taylor Morden 45:23
When people go to visit, it's a great souvenir. And they, yeah, we're helping a huge chunk of the revenue, we basically split the profit on the DVD with the store. So it's, it's great for them to have something like that, that they can sell, because a lot of their customers are tourists and they're not going to rent something. But they will buy this movies about this store. And I can buy it at this store that I've been to Wow.

Alex Ferrari 45:48
That's cool. It's actually kind of cool that they could do that. And I'm assuming those VHS sales are slamming.

Taylor Morden 45:57
So we did partner with like an indie VHS company called lunchmeat VHS, and they did a limited run of 100 units, and it's sold out in 30 minutes. So we're doing another one. You got to keep an eye on our website to know when that's gonna launch because I'd probably sell out in 30 minutes.

Alex Ferrari 46:16
So but the thing is when you're making VHS, there is no new VHS is being made right now. Right? There's no it's, it's there.

Taylor Morden 46:22

Alex Ferrari 46:23
There's no company in the world, or at least not in the states who actually manufacture brand new VHS now, there's still a lot of VHS out there still a ton.

Taylor Morden 46:32
And now like, I don't think that's true. I think that's the case,

Alex Ferrari 46:36
are they old schooling a piece of tape on it and recording it.

Taylor Morden 46:39
So I had to we did a Kickstarter reward of just like limited to 20 units, because I knew I'd have to make them myself of like the first run of VHS made by the director. And I literally put the tape over the old VHS and recorded it in real time. You know, it takes two hours to make a VHS Not to mention the time to print the cover cut the cover Stephen in the thing, brutal. And I don't know where you get new clamshell cases. So I went to thrift stores and bought, you know, old movies that were in rental cases. Some of them have like the cool, you know, three day rental or, you know, new really stick on the case still, then I figured those are cool, limited variants. But for the new ones. They're getting, like new VHS from somewhere like it's it's not being taped over something. It's a fresh tape and they even do them. Ours are in yellow and blue plastic tapes to be the blockbuster colors, which is really cool.

Alex Ferrari 47:41
That's Yeah, that's just pure nostalgia. All that is just 100% pure nostalgia. And do you The other thing, when was there's this great Twitter account? called the last blockbuster? I thought it was connected to you? It is not apparently. And what happened? Have you you? Have you reached out to them? Have you worked with them at all? What's what because it's it's a genius account. I mean, the stuff that comes out of that Twitter feed is hilarious.

Taylor Morden 48:10
Even one of the funniest Twitter feeds out there. We don't know who runs it, we reached out to them a few times to be in the movie, too. You know, after it came out to tweet about the movie no avail. They didn't seem that interested. My theory? And is probably not true. But my theory is that it's somebody you've heard of some comedian or somebody who you would know who doesn't want people to know it to them. Because there's you never see an interview with the person who runs that Twitter account. But it did help us out a lot when we were reaching out to some of the celebrities to be interviewed in our movie, because people thought we were them. And we didn't correct them right away, you know, as you should, as you should, you know we'd go we'd show up like Ron Funches house and we'd say, All right, let's you know, get set up and talk about blockbuster. You'd be like, I love your Twitter. We'd be like, thanks. Our Twitter meanwhile, has 50 followers,

Alex Ferrari 49:07
right? So let's, let's just let's just record. We'll talk about that later.

Taylor Morden 49:11

Alex Ferrari 49:12
Sign on, sign this release. Thanks.

Taylor Morden 49:17
you got to do what you got to do

Alex Ferrari 49:19
now. And now just was just released a little bit ago that you guys got a big Netflix deal, which is the most ironic thing ever.

Taylor Morden 49:31

Alex Ferrari 49:31
So how did that come about? Man?

Taylor Morden 49:34
Yeah, that was, you know, Netflix is a character in our movie. There. You know, as much as blockbuster was a villain big corporation. When they were on their way down. Netflix was on the way up. So they became sort of the villain in the blockbuster story, and we always thought making the movie we're like, wouldn't it be hilarious? If one day or a little movie about blockbuster could end up on Netflix? That would be the icing On the cake. And before we had a distributor, we actually, I had a direct contact at Netflix and we tried to get them, you know, onboard earlier and sell it directly and not go through distributor, do it the real DIY way, and we were turned down twice, by them, and by everybody else, Hulu, Amazon, all the, you know, they don't really like direct submissions, it's very difficult to get beekeepers and all that. So that is part of the reason I went with a traditional distributor. Because a, we get a second chance, you know, be resubmitted by somebody they know. And B, they have a track record, they have movies on netflix, they've had that relationship. And so once we signed with 1091, back last summer, and we were working out all these, you know, license deals, they got offers from all the big platforms for us. And we were astonished, we were like, well, that just goes to show you, there's a limit to what you can do in a DIY way, because people just won't listen to you or they don't want to deal with you, they don't want to put a new vendor in their payment system to cut you a check. It's just as simple as it's annoying to work with somebody new. So going through the distributor, they got us these offers and Netflix was I don't even know if it was the best financially, but it was the funniest, funniest place for it to end up and we figured maybe that would get us, you know, on a BuzzFeed article or something.

Alex Ferrari 51:31
So that was kind of, you know, a lot of people gonna see it now.

Taylor Morden 51:36
Right? We'll never know how many people because Netflix, you know, guards their data, like it's a pile of gold, but, and it is. But it's, it's hilarious to me. And, you know, as an indie filmmaker, trying to make some kind of career, I feel like, I have a movie on Netflix is a good opening line for a future conversation.

Alex Ferrari 51:57
There can be no, there can be no harm from it. I don't think from people I've interviewed and spoken to over the years who would like if their film gets on Netflix. A lot of people see it. A lot of people will see it for the most part. I mean, it depends on the movie and things like that. But something called the last blockbuster on Netflix, I have to believe is going to be a huge hit. And

Taylor Morden 52:18
I hope so we'll see. It's hilarious either way. So

Alex Ferrari 52:23
he's gonna be well, she's already famous. She's already famous because of you.

Taylor Morden 52:28
Just famous around here, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 52:31
Everybody knows her. Now, I want to ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Taylor Morden 52:42
Today is weird. Like little because it's hard weird, literally today, with COVID. And all that. What I've been doing is just writing stuff and planning for future shoots. Because I'm one of those people who's not out there filming. But if it weren't COVID times, I think the advice is just is do do the thing. Everybody who's starting out now is so much luckier than we were starting out with the VHS cameras and the two VCRs hooked together to try to figure out editing all that stuff. And now our phones are, you know, 10 10 times better than anything we ever had. So the advice is just make stuff and and don't ask anyone for permission. You know, you'd be surprised what you can already do. I think that's that's kind of the thing, just go for it. And

Alex Ferrari 53:40
now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Taylor Morden 53:46
So I just recently did my taxes. It started doing what people would call real bookkeeping for my business. I'm doing air quotes again. I would I would say how to deal with the the money side of all of it. I'm still bad at it. So it's still something I'm trying to learn. But you know, I just want to make movies and make art and make music and do all these things. And I've always hated the money side of it. I wish I had started to pay attention to it earlier.

Alex Ferrari 54:24
You hammer.

Taylor Morden 54:26
Yeah, me an MC Hammer. Yeah. That That one's taken me quite a while and my wife doesn't love my inability to keep proper books.

Alex Ferrari 54:36
Oh, my wife stopped. Stop worrying about that years ago because now she doesn't. So that's the that's I because they just have a look. I can't I can't hunt and cook. I'm sorry. I didn't go hunt. But I can't cook as well. So I and I'm okay, she could be the hunter. I could be the cook it doesn't matter whichever way it is. I want to rent all that but i You know, there's certain skill sets that you have as an artist. And I know what my I know what my sweet spots are. You want me to start doing accounting and math, you're going to run into trouble. It's just so you can afford it. I mean, look, a lot of times if you're out there listening, a bookkeeper is not that expensive. You know, you know, if you're if you're making some money that you need to keep track of your books. Right, you know, it's not that expensive to hire a bookkeeper to come in every quarter. And and look things over, hopefully. But yes, taxes, or

Taylor Morden 55:35
maybe I'll try that.

Alex Ferrari 55:36

Taylor Morden 55:38
The worst part about being indie filmmakers, you have to do all of the jobs, right? You don't just get to be a director, producer and editor, a colorist, a sound mixer. You do get to do those things, but you have to, but you're also, you know, market driver and logistics coordinator tax. Yeah, accountant, chef,

Alex Ferrari 55:59
Chef. And that's why I tell that's why I keep telling people so many times on the show is put as many tools into your toolbox as you possibly can, because you're going to need them even once you start rolling in the money. Once you you know, you're you're living the high life. Hopefully one day, you're going to, I promise you that you're going to really fall back on those tools that you've used that experience without question. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Taylor Morden 56:33
Well, I limited to one per trilogy to make it fair. Because otherwise, you know, all three of them would be so similar. So I'll start with the Empire Strikes Back. I'm a huge Star Wars fan and it's the best one. So. But most of those movies I really enjoy. I'm one of those. I'll even tolerate the prequels kind of people. But Empire Strikes Back has always been

Alex Ferrari 57:02
we can have a conversation about the prequels. If you look, look okay, let's just stop for a second because I have a Yoda in the back. So let's talk about this for a second. I went back and watch The Phantom Menace with my daughter the other day. And I you know, I am a huge Star Wars fan. It was not particularly good. buttoned. Some of the stuff inside of it is legendary. The Darth Maul sequences. Oh, yeah. The the pod race. Great man could have done without Georgia. I'm sorry. You didn't need Georgia. The sin? Awesome. They're elements. Ewan McGregor. Your McGregor's Obi Wan? Just no question. And I can't wait for the new series. And it's gonna be great. Yeah. But they there was sections of the prequels that had there was moments, but looked at people who were that was their trilogy, there was a generation that was their trilogy. Like our generation, our trilogy was the original trilogy. That other people's was that trilogy. And then there's another generation that is the new trilogy, like my daughters and my younger sons, who think that that's like the greatest. And for another generation, it's the Clone Wars and the animated stuff, because there was that long period between

Taylor Morden 58:18
Oh, yeah, that that was Oh, and then I'm the luckiest. the luckiest generation are the youngest kids now get introduced through the Mandalorian

Alex Ferrari 58:26
Oh, my God.

Taylor Morden 58:28
It's they that's their first thing. It's like the best. Can you imagine being that lucky

Alex Ferrari 58:33
to be the intro? Look, I was in the theater. And I saw Empire. When I was a kid. And I didn't. I was too young for Star Wars. But I did see Empire and I remember watching Star Wars for the first time on a black and white, seven inch TV in my room. And it was the greatest thing. It was the first time it was broadcast. It was like the craziest thing anyway, sorry, everybody I just did to touch on Empire and

Taylor Morden 58:59

Alex Ferrari 59:00
Hence, the whole theme of the show. Not all nostalgia. nostalgia is very powerful. If you want to make a living in this business, if you could tap into any nostalgia, which is just another word for niche, but niche mixed with nostalgia is very powerful fair, because I think and I think you will agree with me on this. It connects to you emotionally. And you connect emotionally to something you will it'll cut through any marketing budget. What ever you could be throwing $100 million worth of ads to watch the next Aqua man. And and don't get me wrong, like the first couple of men but like, I'll put up a man too. Because I want to watch the last blockbuster. Because I want to go back to that emotion again. And that's so powerful.

Taylor Morden 59:48
Yeah, but if you were one of those kids who growing up, aka man was your favorite comic book. The trailer could be one second, have a picture of a fish and you will be there day one. You know that a special moment. Extra expensive ticket, whatever it is because of that nostalgia, so, and we see that all the time, like they know when they make an Avengers movie, that it's weird that they spend so much on marketing because they really really don't have to. Because of the built in nostalgia, because I grew up reading Spider Man comics, I'm gonna watch whatever movie you make with Spider Man and I'm not gonna like some of them. But I'm still gonna be there day one, and you're gonna get my ticket money.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:27
And now I think also that with the Avengers, specifically, they've built in a decade plus of nostalgia, like so, Robert. Downey's Iron Man writes in the stars now, like Captain, Chris Evans is Captain America because they're not quote unquote, doing anymore. I think I just heard that Chris Evans might come back for a little bit. I read somewhere that Chris haven't signed to come back to do a few and I think even even Robert said, Ah, right. Give me another 7 million. I'll come back. Yeah, yeah, he might, he might come back. But there's nostalgia now for those like those early movies as well. And we're living in because we've never had has there been a series that was a decade old, and you just so nostalgic with those characters. And we've seen like, we've seen a lot of Robert Downey design. Yeah. Over the last 10 years.

Taylor Morden 1:01:20
I think james bond is the only other one. And then Star Wars when it came back. Right. You know, like when, you know, no, Mandalorian spoilers, but the last scene of the thing when that happens. I mean, that's

Alex Ferrari 1:01:34
all that's that that is that's, that was such a blatant. Oh my god. So and I swear, I said, you see the reaction videos online of grown ass, like us, just sat there. And the daughters, and they're young, like teenage daughters are filming their dad losing their collective shit, crying at that scene in Mandalorian. I was I was there. I was here like this, like, it has to be. No, it has to be that. Like, it was just the weirdest, weirdest thing I've ever experienced. Because I was thank God alone when I was watching it. And I was just acting like a child again. It was just such a amazing thing that they've done with that show. Oh, guys, I'm sorry. We have gone off the tracks back to the show. to other films, you look

Taylor Morden 1:02:20
Great. The other one is Back to the Future Part Two from a trilogy. And it's not everybody's favorite of the trilogy. But it's mine. I love it. I think you can't have Back to the Future without hoverboards. So it's the first one that has that.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:35
And it's and it's obviously almost as accurate of predictions as the Simpsons for the future. There are so many things are right. They got so many things right about the future again, back to the future to was pretty amazing. And I don't know if you saw that you probably have but the fake documentary or the fake news story about the hoverboards with Robert Zemeckis, talking about like, yeah, they've been hiding this technology. And it was like, and they're just letting us use it. Now. It's really real. That whole thing was pretty amazing.

Taylor Morden 1:03:03
Viral Marketing at the time when I was. So I was a little kid when that came out. And an older brother 10 years older. And we lived in a small town in Oregon. And there's about an hour to get into town. We drive into town once a week, right for shopping. And we're going to Toys R Us. And we had seen that on TV. And my brother had me convinced that when we got to Toys R Us they were going to be hoverboards and the whole thing i thought you know that it's going to be the real they're going to be they just released them. They're in the store and I'm like nine years old and he's totally got me convinced. We got there. And you know, keep pulled the switcheroo of like, oh, no government says they're too dangerous. We can't have them. They're real. But the government says, and I probably cried all the way home. But then I went back to elementary school, like convinced that they were real and told all the other kids that they were real. And it was years before anybody corrected me and was like, you know, that was just marketing.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
Marketing. So marketing. Yes. Yeah. Well,

Taylor Morden 1:04:05
good. Mark works. It works.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:06
It works. And third movie.

Taylor Morden 1:04:09
The third movie is as an often overlooked gem. We talked a bit about Tom Hanks earlier, but my all time favorite movie that's not part of the trilogy. Is that thing you do? The Tom Hanks classic from 1996 about the one hit wonder band The wonders.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:27
Love Toriel check view if I'm not mistaken, wasn't it

Taylor Morden 1:04:30
It might be I know he directed accident and wrote some of the songs.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:34
I think that was that the first time that he kind of jumped into the director's seat. He wanted to do something cool. I remember that. Yeah, that's a great film. A great sound. It's great. Great.

Taylor Morden 1:04:43
It's great. always makes me smile. It's one of those if it's on TV. I'll watch it even though I have it on VHS, DVD and blu ray. Watch it on youtube

Alex Ferrari 1:04:52
of course and beta SB Of course, beta backs. Wish and where can people find More about you your work, where to get VHS is and things like that.

Taylor Morden 1:05:05
Yeah, so my company is called That's my production company and pop motion pictures.com links to all the movies but if you want to go straight to the last blockbuster, you can find it on Netflix over the last blockbuster movie.com to find, you know, the DVDs and VHS IS and the T shirts and all that stuff they have at the store.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:24
Yeah, is the lab blockbuster.com that's for the store or is it just for the movie?

Taylor Morden 1:05:29
No, we link to the store for March the stores bendblockbustercom. And we It's weird. It's you know, we're both on all the social media platforms. So you got to one we try to put the word movie in all our accounts. So you know ones, the documentary ones the store. They do a pretty good job with social media considering they're an outdated video rental store, but but they're on the tick tock just like we are. And yeah, you know, if you google the last blockbuster, you'll find both the movie and the store.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:00
tillerman Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for making this movie. Because it took me down memory. I wish you could give me the smellivision I wish you could like when we watch it, I could smell it. And it Ah, look at

Taylor Morden 1:06:14
Listen, listen for that for the people.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:18
Ah, stop

Taylor Morden 1:06:18
that sound, right.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:20
Stop the click Oh, like VHS

Taylor Morden 1:06:24
tape. And that's the closest I can do for smell for you. But I do tell people if you order a DVD from the store, it's shipped from the store. So you know, if you're not worried about COVID when you open that package, you take a deep breath and it smells like blockbuster. And that's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:40
It's amazing. Gentlemen, thanks again for being on the show, man. I appreciate it, brother.

Taylor Morden 1:06:45
Thanks for having me.

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IFH 456: From Indie Docs to the Last King of Scotland with Oscar® Winner Kevin Macdonald

On the show, today is academy award-winning documentary and film director, and producer, Kevin Macdonald. He is one of few directors who dance the line of film and documentary seamlessly. He directed documentaries like Whitney (2018), crowdsourced documentary – Life in a Day (2011), Marley (2012), among others.

He is famously known for his 2006 drama film, The Last King of Scotland, starring Oscar-winning best actor, Forest Whitaker. Kevin has made a huge name for himself and his work over his 27 years in the industry – dabbling in commercials, films, and documentaries.

As a boy, his granddad, Emeric Pressburger who was a legendary filmmaker in the 1940s  lit his passion for filmmaking. When his grandfather passed, Kevin wrote a biography in 1994 about his grandad’s life journey, titled, ‘ The Life and Death of a Screenwriter’, which he later made into a documentary ‘The Making of an Englishman’ (1995). This was the start of him becoming a documentary maker.

In 1999 he directed the Box office hit and Oscar-winning documentary, One Day in September, which is about the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre, featuring a lengthy interview with Jamal Al-Gashey, the last known survivor of the Munich terrorists.

This project catapulted his career big time. He then made the adventure-docudrama, Touching the Void, another critically acclaimed film that won Best British Film at the 2003 BAFTA. The true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

Kevin’s directorial debut on a film was the Oscar® winning, The Last King of Scotland. It is an adaptation of Giles Foden’s 1998 novel by the same title. This historical drama which also carries a political thriller genre received riveting reviews and performed exceptionally – both commercially and critically.  Forest Whitaker’s performance stole the show and earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. This $6million budget film grossed $48.4million at the Box Office and has an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The story details the brutal reign of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin as seen through the eyes of his personal physician. James McAvoy stars as the doctor who slowly realizes that he is trapped in an inescapable nightmare, and Forest Whitaker assumes the role of the notorious despot.

In commemoration of Youtube’s fifth anniversary, Macdonald was hired to direct and produce the very unique film, the Life in a Day (2011) documentary. It was crowdsourced from 80,000 Youtubers and regular people all over the world sharing their life in one day. The film serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on July 24, 2010. The completed film debuted at Sundance in early 2011

In February of this year, Kevin’s latest film, The Mauritanian was released in the US. He explains in this interview that it was a very difficult subject matter to tackle. The entire movie was shot in two locations. Both in South Africa and in Mauritania.

The Mauritanian is a suspense legal drama based on the 2015 memoir Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a true story of Salahi’s experience of being held for fourteen years without charge in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The film stars Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

You going to really enjoy this conversation. We dig into the nitty-gritty of documentary structuring, tales of directing huge movie stars and navigating the Hollywood machine.

Enjoy my conversation with Kevin Macdonald.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:06
I like to welcome to the show Kevin McDonald. How you doing, Kevin?

Kevin Macdonald 0:09
I'm good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:10
I'm very good. Thank you so much for doing doing the show. I am. I've been watching your films for quite some time since since the early days. So I'm very excited to get into the weeds with you on your your filmmaking process and your adventures in this crazy, crazy business of ours.

Kevin Macdonald 0:27
Thank you. I'm really happy to be here for a little bit of shape. So it's exciting to join you.

Alex Ferrari 0:33
So So how did you get into the business?

Kevin Macdonald 0:37
Why? Well, I got into business a really weird way. I guess. I my grandfather was a filmmaker. There Wellman, United Kingdom things Emeric Pressburger, which you can imagine not a great British name he was he was a East European Jew, from Hungary more or less. And he made films in Germany. And then he ended up in Britain on his way to Hollywood, he thought and met a man from Michael Powell. And together they formed a partnership and he stayed in Britain and that that partnership went on to produce 20 something films together, which were unique because a bit like the Coen Brothers, they were older films were written, produced and directed by micropile, and requested to share all the credits. And they did some classics like the red shoes, black Narcissus, a matter of life and death, and in great classic movies of the 1940s. Now, I then grew up on a farm in Scotland, so I had nothing to do with him, I'd be doing movies, and but when he died, I thought, I'm going to write a book about his life, which is fascinating life escaping that Germany and arriving not speaking any English in the UK. And then, you know, within four years, he won an Oscar for screenwriting in English. And you know, it's kind of amazing man. And I said, writing his biography, and got really interested in movies, and watching all movies for researching that book that I wrote about him. And that was what got me interested in it. And then I also made a documentary about him at the same time. And that got me into a documentary. So for many, many years, I was a documentary maker, I was really, you know, not interested in drama, except, you know, loving watching, watching your movies. And then I made a film in 2019 99, I made a film called one day in September, which won the Academy Award for documentary, it was about the Munich Olympic Games massacre, right? In 72. And it was a kind of a revolutionary film, in a way at the time, because it was a concept was, let's make a documentary thriller, let's see if we can make that and that thriller. It's a document, you know, using documentary material only. And so film was, was was was, you know, well received. And that allowed me to go on and make another one. And I made a film called Touching the Void, which is about mountain climbers that begins with a documentary, but it uses it uses. reconstruction uses actors to reconstruct a story of a very dramatic server to climbers who have a mantle in the Andes. And one of them ends up breaking their leg and the other one tries to rescue him, but in the end, has to cut the rope on his friend and sort of see his friend go to his death, or we think through his death, and turns out he's not. Anyway, but it's like, so I did something which I thought I'd never do, just try and combine documentary and, and drama. And it worked. And it was a big box office hit for me for that category for a documentary, and able, suddenly, people were saying, Oh, you want to make a feature film. ever thought about making a feature I'd never thought about making? I mean, are you making you making a dramatic feature film, I never really thought I really had thought of myself as a documentary maker. And I thought, well, why the hell not? I, I found I probably never get another chance to do this. I mean, I said, you know, your, your subject. And I'd read this book, The Last King of Scotland, which was that area mean, in Uganda, and a doctor from Scotland who goes and works for him. And it's kind of a political thriller, I suppose you would say with lots of great African music. And, and so I went and did that. And I didn't know anything about making a film. So really, the first time I'd ever been on a drama film set pretty much was when I turned out for day one. That's that's,

Alex Ferrari 4:26
that's fascinating. So Alright, so we'll get into last King of Scotland, which I just absolutely adore. But you are one of those few directors that, you know, that are prolific in many ways in both documentary and narrative. And you kind of dance the line because it's not like you gave up documentary once you started doing like after you did last game in Scotland. You You kept going back and forth, and you continue to go back and forth. How do you dance that line? And because there's not many to my knowledge directors who are able to do both very well.

Kevin Macdonald 5:00
consistently, I think a lot of people see documentaries where they start out and then they get into, into narrative into drama. Maybe and they think, you know, that's that's grown up filmmaking documentaries, Jr, Lee. But I certainly that's the way it used to be seen. I think that I think because I started off as a real documentary nut, you know, I was really obsessed with documentaries. I even edited a book about documentary The history of documentary filmmaking, by all the retailers huge,

Alex Ferrari 5:31
huge, huge, huge box office,

Kevin Macdonald 5:33
Huge. I get it, I get a check for about $100 every year for actually. Good. Anyway. So yeah, so so I think that I just really genuinely love documentaries. And I love as much as the sort of just watching them and figuring out different ways to sort of handle real life stories and, and real footage, you know, as well as that. I also just love the fact that when you do a documentary of you and a couple of other people, and it's very low pressure, and you can make mistakes, and you can spend a few days doing something and your odds is actually not going to work. And when you making a feature film, the pressure is so much, there's so much money riding on it. You know, it's exhausting. As a director, it's, you know, it's one of the things I think you know, that you haven't made official numbers. It's, it's really exhausting physically and mentally and mentally, lately draining. And so, you know, after you spent two years or wherever it takes to make a feature film, to go straight into another one. I think it's kind of, for me, it's psychologically hard. So I actually like to do documentary after I've done a piece of a piece of narrative filmmaking. And I kind of done that pretty much deliberately. But also, yeah, there's times when you can't get the money for a feature film as what you are.

Alex Ferrari 0:09
so the how do you how do you approach structuring a document? Because I've, I've dabbled in documentary, but I've never actually sat and done an entire future. Do you construct it more in the Edit? On paper? Do you discovered as you go along? Do you have an outline to start? I mean, I'm assuming you start with a narrative that you're kind of looking for, or is it completely exploratory the entire way?

Kevin Macdonald 0:31
It varies, but I like doing ones which are completely explode exploratory. Where you kind of, I think the thing is, you have an instinct, do you think there's something interesting there, the story doesn't quite add up, or there's a, you know, the character or whatever it is, you think, hmm, there's some, I think it could be documentary. And then sometimes there isn't. And you said, you make something kind of boring, because you because you can't really find what you thought was interesting, but most of the time, your instinct is, right. And so I like to do it is just to start a lot of my documentaries, not all, but a lot of them are kind of interview based. So I just start interviewing people, and learning as I go and chatting to people for hours, sometimes I'll interview someone for four or five hours or something. And through that process, you come across fascinating things. Wrestling language, and behavior and psychology. And, and you just get to meet people. And if you're nosy, curious person like I am, it's kind of like, it's, there's no better thing you have that, you know, you're the perfect excuse to ask any question like, if people, so But I, you know, I, I genuinely have a sense of what the narrative is, I think, I think if I've got a talent, it's probably you know, being deceased, or see a story, whether it being a drama, or a documentary, and I pretty quickly can see, okay, that's the, that's the shape of the story, I can feel the shape of the story. Sometimes it changes a lot in the Edit, but usually you have something to start with. And then when you and then you've got all this material, whether there's merit, tainment material, or whether it's interviews, and archive or whatever. And then you just have to start somewhere and start with a seat. So you start cutting a scene, and then you've got another scene and they don't necessarily, and then at a certain point, like Well, I've got a lot of scenes, let's put them together and see what happens. And what and but I think this is the thing, I think that one of the reasons A lot of people have been like documentaries is it, I think, psychologically, it requires you to be really open minded, and to be open to you know, to not be not not not be prejudiced in your thinking. So you have to you have to think, well, maybe my original ideas were wrong. Maybe actually, that person isn't the key, the hero of the story, maybe that person turns out to be So if you kind of you have to balance the sense of, you know, I feel as a story, but also, oh, you know, maybe it's somewhere else, maybe it's And so that kind of open mindedness and a lot of directors are directors because they want to control every little thing. And if you're kind of directly control a little thing, then documentaries onthe whole pleasure of documentaries is not being controlled as spontaneity, you know, things happening unexpectedly in front of the camera.

Alex Ferrari 3:16
Isn't isn't a Hitchcock that said that when you're a director, You're the God of the of this, you're the God but when you're a documentarian the life is or nature or life or no God is, or God is in control, or something along those,

Kevin Macdonald 3:31
you know, well, I didn't know Hitchcock had said that, but I have my own version of that. Yeah. But I think that I yeah, I mean, I always say that, when I'm making, when I'm making a drama, I'm trying to take something that is, you know, written and sit down and dead in a way and try and make it feel like a document trying to make it feel spontaneous, to bring life into something that isn't dead on the page. And when I'm doing it, and when I'm doing a documentary, and trying to make what is chaos, feel like it was preordained, and it was scripted.

Alex Ferrari 4:04
And Yeah yeah. Because it sounds very chaotic. I mean, just like, we'll do a scene here, we'll do the same there. And after I've done like, 10 15 scenes, we'll just put it together and see what happens that as a filmmaker, it takes a special kind of filmmaker to do that. Because if you've been trained as a narrative filmmaker, that's insanity.

Kevin Macdonald 4:22
Yeah, no, it's certainly true. It is. And I think, partly the reason that, you know, I enjoy is because I'm a chaotic person. And I believe that, you know, there's a lot of wisdom and beauty in the every day and in things that we you know, don't necessarily pay much attention to in, in in narrative filmmaking. And so yeah, I think I'm sort of turned on by the idea of things happening for real in front of my camera, a real argument or real, you know, a real murder or real whatever, that there's something about that. That's just too Super exciting, I think I mean, to go back to sort of Hitchcock, I feel like there are two types of directors broadly speaking, I think there are those who like the children of Hitchcock, who do want to control everything and imprint themselves and everything. And then there are the children of Victoria De Sica, you know, Bicycle Thieves and all that. And those people, which I'm one, want to try and capture a sense of reality, and a sense of the spontaneity of life. And they often use non professional actors and music realization and that kind of things. I think they're I think they're two very different schools of schools of filmmaking. And you're either putting reality first or you're or you're or you're putting your vision first.

Alex Ferrari 5:38
And sometimes, and I'm trying to think of Jeremy Cassavetes is, is a good example of that. Yeah, he's a really good example of that. And sometimes you dance between the two, sometimes you have a vision, but yet you're open enough to being to see what happens. Like I've made I've personally directed a couple films that were very improv based. And it's, you're on the edge, like, you're on the absolutely on the edge, because you have no control, you're really just there to capture the magic, it's pretty, pretty, it's fun

Kevin Macdonald 6:08
And I think certain, you know, it's like a performance every day when you do that. So if you're not feeling it, it's kind of like, you can't get the actors to feel it. And you can't, you know, you've got to be person sort of creating that atmosphere of improvisational magic. And so you've got to be on. And so that that can be difficult, but I think all you know, every feature film I've done, or every, you know, narrative feature I've done. I think, you know, it is always a balance, it's a balance between things that you really want to control, whether that be the design, or whether that be the lighting in the scene, or the symmetry from that scene, or the way a line is said or whatever, there are obviously certain things that you would you want to really control and then the balance is the other side of it is that spontaneous stuff? So I'm always trying to have both and in the recent film, I've done the Mauritanian I worked with a dp is a great great German British American dp he lives here in LA now but he's but he's from Germany, originally called Alvin cooker who, who worked with Lynn Ramsay, I'm sure you let your listeners know. And Danny Boyle, sunshine, and Steve Jobs. And he's very dramatic. And he very organized, he wants to know, what are we doing? What does this shop saying? And that's that was really good for me working with him because he's not chaotic. He is he does want to think you know, very intentionally about everything. And actually, I think the balance between the two of us worked out really, really, really well. He I sort of brought more spontaneity to him, and he brought order to me.

Alex Ferrari 7:39
Now, one thing, when you're doing docs, you've done two documentaries on two musical icons, Bob Marley and Whitney Houston. How do you edit down a life of an icon into a feature film? Like I mean, I'm assuming both of those could have been multi, you know, that series essentially?

Kevin Macdonald 8:01
Well, they probably couldn't be but you know, their very first of all, they're very, very different lives. So Bob Marley wrote all his own music, wrote songs, which are about his own life, and expressed the central themes of his life. And so that film in a way was, you know, it was about taking someone who is a legend, who is a myth, and humanize them. So who is this person really? Who is this person who we all know who's part of everybody's like, when you can't walk down a street anywhere in the world without hearing my illness? I'm coming out of a restaurant or a bar, or a show. And, and so it's like, Okay, so here's a guy who's, you know, got this whole mythology around him, you know, who actually was the what was really motivating him and that so that, to me, is often the interest I have in celebrities. It's kind of like, let's push aside the veil. Let's actually see who is this person? And I think that's the curiosity that I that I have for about celebrity. I once did a film I did another music film, which was a big disaster, which was about Mick Jagger and that was done his invitation outs and followed him around little cameras in 2000. What does he want? I actually watched the Twin Towers come down with Mick Jagger standing in a suit dressing again, that's my favorite memories.

Alex Ferrari 9:24
Favorite and worse at the same time?

Kevin Macdonald 9:27
surreal is the correct

Alex Ferrari 9:29
that's exactly right. Can you imagine?

Kevin Macdonald 9:35
So so so getting in that film didn't work, partly because he is a really difficult person to get a handle on and to get beneath the surface on the surface is very entertaining with the funny bit. You always feel like you're on the surface. He's very protected after 50 years of biggest celebrity. But I also don't think I learned was don't ever accept a job. You don't have Final Cut. And I didn't have final part in the movie, we're kind of taken away from me and recap. And I was like, I'm never doing that again. And that's a that's been a, that's been a real, I think important decision I made in terms of documentaries and documentary about celebrities is, you know, you there's no point even enter into a conversation with someone unless they're willing to give you the final part. Because you're going to end up having to make the switch. Right, exactly. Yeah. But but but obviously, Whitney Houston is a very different thing. If Whitney Houston was a mystery, it's like, Who is this person? She's this voice, which makes you cry, which is incredibly emotive. But she never wrote her own song. She never gave any interesting interviews her whole life really, you know, she was an enigma. And that that was kind of what the film was the film that a film became about, you know, what's behind the Enigma? Who is Who is this? Who really is this person quiet? This voice that why is it so emotionally affecting? Is there something in her life that is brought given her this kind of ability to reach out and squeeze your heart. And so that actually was really hard. It was probably the hardest I've ever made a because it was so dark for life and the family have so dark and so depressing go to work every day? To an extent, and but also because it was everybody around her kind of lies about the library. Nobody wants to tell you what really happened, which we'd really like was because what was really happening was so difficult to prime to even, you know, 10 years after her death. We met, they wanted to be a fairy story, but it wasn't a fairy story. So so. So yeah, that was a very difficult and different different kind of film to make.

Alex Ferrari 12:01
Now, so you were saying earlier, the last, when you did the last King of Scotland was the first time you were actually really on a proper narrative set. That's a heck of a first set. I mean, that's not a simple film to make. This is not two people in a cafe talking. It's a fairly complex, large scale. I mean, it is really a story about the you know, the two, the two main, you know, Forrest Whitaker and James McAvoy is, but there are other subplots, and so on, but it's a big

Kevin Macdonald 12:30
it's a big skill film. And but I think, you know, sometimes ignorance is bliss. You know,

Alex Ferrari 12:36
I've heard that so many times on this show. So many times on this show, I've heard that from guts.

Kevin Macdonald 12:42
If you don't know, you're stepping into, you know, something difficult. I think also, you know, if you look at people's first films, a lot of people's first narrative films, they're, you know, there's some of the most interesting because I think you're, you're breaking the rules, and you don't know you're breaking the rules. They're not self conscious. And so I was bringing my documentary techniques, and my love for certain kind of film and my love of music to this thing. And I didn't know, I wasn't trying, you know, I had actually a very interesting experience before, and my brother used to produce Danny Boyle's movies. And so when I got the gigs do the last year of Scotland. When it looked like it was actually happening. I found out Danny Boyle, I said, Will you teach me how to make a movie?

Alex Ferrari 13:30
First of all, not a bad Not a bad phone call. If you have that number, not a bad number to have.

Kevin Macdonald 13:35
We met for a cup of coffee and then an hour he gave me a you know, two years of film school. And

Alex Ferrari 13:42
well, I have to stop you there. What can you give me one or two of those little tips that in that one hour

Kevin Macdonald 13:47
was your right now? I mean, you know, there were things that there were things that were just like small technical things like make sure your close ups the eyeline is as close to camera as possible. And I I didn't really understand why that was important. But then when I started doing it and started to sit, you know, get your airlines as close as possible to Okay, I can see this a bit like when I make a documentary I often use the Errol Morris technique of having people looking directly into the camera using what you know. I direct they're called is reflecting things so you can have somebody seeing your face, but it's sitting from the camera and there's something about the connection between the eye and the camera that even if you can't even directly looking into the camera, they're just off it because the emotion the seat of emotion is in the eyes and that's where you want the actors to be so and then he said things you know, we talk about sex scenes. I had a you know, quite a quite a big sex scene in that Kerry Washington and James McAvoy and I was nervous as hell about that. He told me Look, you got to rehearse it until it's so boring, but it feels like you're doing the laundry. And so I did that. And nice. And then he said to me, if your crew like you, you're making a mistake.

Alex Ferrari 15:03
Wow, that's the first time I've heard that.

Kevin Macdonald 15:05
Don't worry about the crew yet. If you'd like us because you're letting them go early, and you shouldn't be letting them go, you should be pushing to the edge. Anyway, there were a few others.

Alex Ferrari 15:16
That's amazing. That's got to be a fly on that wall. That was, but like I said, it's a good phone call to have. But if you if you make that phone call, good meeting to take. So you you're shooting last King of Scotland. I mean, when you're when you see forest doing what forest does in that film. It's remarkable. I mean, I remember that year when that movie came out. I mean, nobody could everybody just could not stop talking about Forest Whitaker. And we've all I mean, Forest Whitaker had been Forest Whitaker for a long time. But that that moment, it was like, perfect actor, perfect part. Perfect director of perfect story all hit at the exact same time. When you saw Forrest working on set, did you have an inclination and like, this is something he's This is special. And this is something going on here? Or did you just go good take force, let's move on.

Kevin Macdonald 16:07
Well, you know, it was kind of complicated because I so I cast James McAvoy read quickly, but he wasn't a star. I needed somebody you know, it wasn't an expensive movie. It was made for five or $6 million, no five or six main patents. So whatever that seven or $8 million at the time, that's 15 2015 years. So so so I met with a loader came to came to LA and I sat in a room with a sunset with the Chateau Marmont, actually on Sunset, and lots of actors came in Now obviously, I'd never done auditions before, really. So I didn't know what you were meant to do. But all the experience experienced casting director and actress came in. And I met kind of every well known African American actor of the time. And Person person came in and I felt they're not right, they're not right. doesn't feel right. And Forest Whitaker and he put on the list and I had said to the Casselberry something here is so clearly not right. Because he's such a gentle guy, his whole thing was this very lovely Zan kind of gentle. Jones, right. And the customer had said to me, Well, you know, we can't, we can't, we can't say no now to him, because it will look, you know, offensive, let's just get a let him come in and, and first arrived. And so literally, I had less than zero expertise, I thought we were just taking the meeting, because we had to, and he came in, and he he prepared like two scenes, which very few actors do for an audition, you know, they're not, you know, main actors and other, he had prepared, said he is he did an approximation of a Ugandan accent, which he'd also had to prepare. So it was immediately clear that you're someone who really wanted this who really connected with, in some ways, actually,

Alex Ferrari 18:06
essentially, audition. He, he's an

Kevin Macdonald 18:09
addition. Now, and, and he and he, he prepared these scenes, and we did them. And and he was and he was, he was amazing. And he and and so different than what I'd seen the first week before. And I guess it's, it was a lesson to me, you know, you know, if somebody really wants to do something, let even if you think that there's no way they're going to be right, let them let them show themselves, you know, because sometimes you can have got other things inside, I remember seeing the Forest, you know, I thought you were too nice. And he said, I've got a lot of anger inside. And so, you know, I think like a lot of really nice people, you know, maybe they're hiding something else, you know, and maybe those that it's this way they brought being brought up or whatever is to sort of, you know, appear to be quite passive. So, so yeah, he came in, and he came to Uganda, where we were shooting it, which was, I think, a key decision for me, I decided we have to shoot this in Uganda, that's the finance who is wanted to shoot it in South Africa, which was the kind of the known film place in Africa. And I went to both Africa and Uganda. And so that person has made people look completely different, the landscapes, completely different dresses with, you know, architecture is different. And I said, we've got to be in, we've got to be in, in Uganda. And I think that's a consistent thing throughout my career. I mean, it's either a good thing or a bad thing that I have no imagination about how to turn one place into another place. If some, if somewhere feels like really real. I'm like, well, we should shoot it here. Why would we not shoot it here? This is the quality, you know, that we're not going to get if we try and build a set or we do it. Right, right. I think that texture of the reality the real feeling of the place is important in filmmaking. And so he came to Uganda a month before we started shooting. And he hung out, he learned the language, he started eating Ugandan food, he just really immersed himself in it in a way that, you know, was was was deeply impressive, but also sometimes slightly worrying, because he, he started to believe that he was Idi Amin, in a way, and he started to believe that he I mean, was an innocent man. And that all these rumors killed people. Well, it's just rumors, you know, it's not, it's not reality. Because as he said to me later, when he came out and said, I have to believe that this man is a good person, a sympathetic person. So. So yeah, he went in, he went in deep. So it became, again, a very interesting thing on set, actually, because often, I was having to push him to be more villainous, you know, more aggressive, more mean more, whatever. Because his instinct was always to kind of go, Oh, I'm really I mean, and I'm a good guy. And a very interesting dynamic. So you say that was I looking into and looking at his, you said at the started all this off by asking, you know, we're then looking at his performance and going, Oh, my god, there's something incredible and special here. I was, but I was feeling like, you know, this is a battle of wills, in a way for me to, for him to get him to show the side of video mean that he didn't want to show. So that was very interesting. Also, on top of that, there's a very interesting kind of racial dynamic, obviously. So, so forest was a African American guy who was going to go to Africa for the first time, and I think that can be for any African American, I think, can be a really profound and meaningful moving experience. So I think he was sort of dealing with all of that. And in some ways, I became a kind of surrogate for the colonial idea, you know, the clone list in Africa or something. And so it was quite, it was quite a, there was a lot of friction in it, you know, it all ends up in the film in a good way, because the film is about colonialism, about post colonialism. And about, I guess what we would now call white privilege, you know, the, you go as a white person into African, you're like, maybe you can touch me, I can do what I want, I'm special, like, I can just get up and leave if anything goes wrong. That's sort of what that's kind of what the film is about. And so the energy that Forrest brought and his attitude to me and never actually really played into the film. ,

Alex Ferrari 22:40
so like, you were saying that, a lot of times you want an actor's especially in these kind of roles, the director, sometimes you just let them go, and, and you kind of maneuver, but I feel that from what you're saying, it was your presence, and his presence together that really built that up, because you're saying that without that friction, he might have just been a really nice, nice murderer.

Kevin Macdonald 23:06
Exactly. And obviously, the one of the side of that goes, the movie is kind of like the other part of the character rather, is a guy who and what makes us good performance is a guy who is funny and likeable, and sweet, but also that is a monster. And he's like, Yeah, he's a, he's a child in some way, psychologically, who's, whose development has been stunted by his experience of colonialism, and the expectations placed on him by colonialism. And, and so he, he knows no other way to control things and through sort of temper tantrums and, and violence and aggression. So yeah, to the end, it was a fascinating experience. And of course, because it was my first first feature film, I didn't know this was unusual or abnormal, or what it was, you know, this was just like, Oh, this is an interesting experience. And we, you know, we did we had, you know, all sorts of things on that film, which, you know, you would never normally do is we had soldiers from the Ugandan army come and they had their real rifles with them. And a lot of them were, they were fighting a war in the north Uganda that time and they were war vets, and some of them had PTSD and an explosion with some they were gunfire and the film would go off and they would all go go kind of crazy. And terms of very febrile atmosphere, at times on the set, but it was also had a degree of kind of non professionalism, which I think was useful, you know, so we had a lot of the crew, we couldn't afford to take over our crews. We trained a lot of people in Uganda, who had done a little bit so maybe a local video or this or that or, you know, but they didn't, you know, like the electricians were just household electricians, their hair and makeup people we found who did hair and makeup in Kampala, the capital. And so we, you know, it had this homemade feel to it, which I think was really Really nice. And it also meant that I was always exposed to real Ugandan opinions about Idi Amin and about the story I was telling, and people would not be shy about thinking wouldn't happen like that, or no, you know, when that line isn't right. And I remember one in particular, that was like, the guy said to me that there was a scene where I mean is with two hookers. And they were originally called, you know, Susan and Jane or something. And this guy came up to me, he was like working on the film without fusions, he said, in those days, all the hookers in the in Uganda Kob. Betty, that's what they should be called. That was the name they all use, and wine. So But more than that, there were people coming up to me in the film people, crew members, Ugandan members who would say, you know, this is this, you know, this is an important story to tell, because, you know, I mean, kill my father, or this is the consequences of the, you know, the consequences of this for my family were x y Zed. So, it became this very meaningful experience for the whole crew, they were all doing something that actually affected everyone in the country.

Alex Ferrari 26:14
That's, that's a remarkable story. And so you so that you're directing first time, you're really directing actors in that you've gone on to direct, you know, bigger films, larger scope films, I mean, the state of state of play alone has an insane ensemble cast. I mean, remarkable cast. I mean, as I was, as I was watching him, like, he's in this too, and she's in this too, and just like, My God, like, how did he get all these? This is amazing. How do you what is your approach to directing actors? Because every director has their own kind of flavor of doing it? How do you approach directing actors?

Kevin Macdonald 26:48
Um, well, I think it's probably the thing that I was most nervous about. Or when I came from documentaries, that not really understanding and feeling the actors were kind of alien species, what is it? They actually do? I did that, you know. And that's, it's taken me quite a few films, I think, to get into a position where I'm comfortable, I feel comfortable in the presence of actors and comfortable understanding, I guess, what they're trying to do and how you had best to communicate with them. I think it is a complicated thing. I think people who maybe come from a background, and we've done a lot of short films ever done a lot of theater, whatever, it may be better place, you know, than I was when I started. But I think that, you know, what I try and do very simply, is to create an environment for the actor where they feel like they can try anything out. And I'm really kind of, I'm judgmental most of the time, because I'll try and, you know, I try and get people to feel not just comfortable on the set. And it's a kind of family atmosphere on the set, loose, loose sort of feel, and a place where they can make mistakes. And nobody's going to judge them. You know, I want my actors to make mistakes, I want them to sort of try something. And they actually that didn't work. Let's do, let's say, and I guess I'm always just trying to get it's what I said earlier, I think about spontaneity and trying to get it to feel like it's real. Fun feel like the emotion in that moment is, is real. And I think through improvisation, whether might be like, you know, just throwing things up in the air. So, you know, forget about the dialogue, just do in this scene, what you think you should say? And you try that once? And maybe you get, you might get a moment, that's really great. But it also might loosen them up. And, and also, I think one of the things you've learned is that, you know, I remember being terrified in my first couple of films, you do, you rehearse a scene with actors, and the scene doesn't work. And you're like, Oh, my God, why did this just doesn't work? And then you're left thinking, Oh, my God, what do I do about it? And do I rewrite the rewrite the dialogue, I might just cut this story would have. And I think that what you realize is that you listen to the actors, because it's usually not working because the dialogue is, or the or the action, as described in the script is not what their character would do. And they know their character way better than anyone else. And they are usually the one that can help them. They can say to us so many times your scenes are saved by an actor saying to me, you know, I just wouldn't say that. But if he said that, and I said this, then suddenly, like, that makes sense for my character. And you're like, Oh, yeah, that's totally right. And so yeah, I mean, I admire what actors do so, so much, and I and I, and I could never, ever do it myself. And I think there's nothing better than that moment of magic when the camera turns over the first time. And the actor does something to a scene that you thought you knew what it was about. And suddenly it's like whoa, this is about so much. More than I thought I was seeing the surface of this, and there's so much else going on here, and the actors just made that happen on camera. And I love that. But I also think nobody's gonna say that, you know, I'm always fascinated when I started out, I think I used to think I want to do lots and lots of rehearsal. And he's trying to get as much rehearsal as possible time with the actors. And I've slowly come to realize that actually, rehearsing usually with Screen Actors, is only useful up to a point, there's no point in doing more than two or three days of it. Because people do not bring their A game to the rehearsal, they maybe don't even bring their c game to the rehearsal, because they're holding it all home. But so what rehearsals are great for is going through the scenes, and trying to iron out those script problems that are going to cost you a huge amount of time. When you get on set. You don't want to be sitting there discussing my motivation in this scene two hours in the morning, when you've got a hell of a lot to do. To discuss your motivation that that's in that scene or to RNA dialogue doesn't work or just to genuinely talk about the scenes. It's great. But actually performance, I found that never ever you get something in rehearsal that really even closely resembles on set. So over the year now, I sort of I will try and do two or three days of rehearsal, if you think it saves time, ultimately, later on, but I don't think there's much value in doing more than that.

Alex Ferrari 31:33
Now, your latest film, and please forgive me, the more Mauritanian

Kevin Macdonald 31:38
Mauritanian, you got it? Right.

Alex Ferrari 31:40
There it is. I got it, the Mauritanian starring the legendary Jodie Foster. Can you talk a little bit about that film?

Kevin Macdonald 31:48
Yeah. So this is a film which I think try and make for like three years, it's a very difficult subject matter. I guess. It's about preserving the Guantanamo Bay prison. And we we sort of take his point of view through the film. And he's played by a wonderful French actor called to Tahar Rahim, who even might have seen him in a profit, the Jakob reorg film from like, 2009, I think it was, which if you haven't seen it, it's a great great prisons and gangster movie. And he is an old friend of mine, we work together if you you know, 10 years ago, and he is a French actor of Arabic origin and North African origin, and has recently learned to speak English wonderfully. So he, you know, he performs in French and Arabic and English. And I needed to catch in order to get even a small amount of money to make this movie. He wasn't obviously a star enough and I needed to catch some big names and I was lucky enough that one of the producers on the project with Benedict Cumberbatch, he of Sherlock fame, then Dr. Strange

Alex Ferrari 33:00
Dr. Strange. Yes.

Kevin Macdonald 33:02
Yes. So he's a he's a he's a producer on the project and and he came on board as an actor to play a supporting role. And then I you know, that still wasn't enough and then Schilling Woodley came on board doing again, if you know, I supporting role, and then I needed you know, the other kind of main role aside from Tahar Rahim plays the prisoner in Guantanamo, is the defense lawyer, the real person for Nancy Hollander, and the first person in my head was Jodie Foster, because I could see that this character is going to be someone who's really tough on the outside. But, and kind of, you know, brittle and doesn't want to let you in. But when you do see inside you see someone who's kind of a bit broken a bit on so comfortable in their own skin. And I thought that if you look back at Judy's best performances, they were always something in that area. Yeah. And I sent the script to her pretty much 100% certain she's gonna say no, because God doesn't really act anymore. You know, she's so fussy about what she does wants to direct. She kind of as even her agent said to me, you know, I'll send it to her. But yeah, good luck. Yeah, exactly. Three days later, she comes back to me, and she says, Let's, let's meet and talk. And funnily enough, because we're discussing the title that we're retaining,

Alex Ferrari 34:31
just rolls off the tongue.

Kevin Macdonald 34:32
He says, It rolls off the tax rolls off me. That was the reason she responded to the email because she said, What the hell is the majority? She said?

Alex Ferrari 34:43
No, no. So note that never changed it. So that's so note to everybody make your title a completely very difficult word to say that no one recognizes and that's going to get

Kevin Macdonald 34:53
kind of an interesting thing because we did have a lot of arguments when it was sold under a different title than that, but it came back eventually to Mauritania. Thanks in part to Jodi's, Jody saying, you know, that's the title that hooked me. And also, there was a word of wisdom I got from my brother who's a producer and who produced the Alex Garland's film x maximum. There's another title, none of the knows how to say that

Alex Ferrari 35:17
rolls off the tongue

Kevin Macdonald 35:18
rolls off the tongue. But they had come to the conclusion when they were making that I think the producer Scott Rudin had said to them, it's fine to have a title that nobody knows what it is, because they that's intriguing. What is that? What does that mean? How do you say it? I kind of think this, you know, rather than kind of justice and honor, or something.

Alex Ferrari 35:38
Right? out, you know what, to be fair, if it would have been called justice and honor, I would have been like, but this No, you're absolutely right. If there is something to be said, I had a friend of mine who had a film called up solidia. And it was like, it's a made up word. And she told me, she was a Scottish director. And she and she told me she's like, it's the best thing because anyone looks, looks us up on Google where the only thing? We're number one, we're number one on Google for Absolutely.

Kevin Macdonald 36:06
Yeah. Anyway, to the to the to Jodi, and I talked about the character, we did some work, she was very astute about who this character was, and how much she needed. And that was, that was the first actor I've ever worked with, where she would go through the script and go, I don't need that don't need that. Because she says, precise about what she needs to express who this character is. And her whole feeling was, this is not about me, this is about Mohamedou, who's the prisoner in Guatelamo, and I didn't want to have like it to be about my personal life, my failed marriage. Those things can sit, you know, in a very nuanced way in the background, maybe. But this is about me being a lawyer and doing my job, and trying to create a relationship with this, this, this, this prisoner. And so, so, yes, she she, she worked in the script with me for a few weeks. And then, so yeah, and then, and that was, that was great. Because I think, you know, she is still, as you said, a legend, and she still brings a lot of cachet, you know, to the project. And that was the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle to get the movie financed and and get it made. And I you know, it's a it's a an amazing ensemble cast, if you think about it, you know, shaylee, Benedict, and, and dirty and Shahar is just magnificent. You know, I mean, I think he was made for glow, did a best act of God, one for Best Supporting Actor of the globes. And, you know, I think they deserve it. I think they deserve you know, more. So, you know, I think it's something magical. So when you get two actors together, who work in very different styles like God and to heart, the heart of every kind of improvisational, try this, try that. Jodi's very much like she's thought about it, she knows. But seeing them playing off against each other, that each one kind of seeps into the style of the other, it's really rewarding.

Alex Ferrari 38:12
So if our interview has said, our conversation has said anything, obviously you shot in Guantanamo Bay, so when you flew in, it was what everyone just let you in, right? It was no problem at all. You just got a permit. You just call up, you just call

Kevin Macdonald 38:27
It's what you know, we'd all seen Sherlock. Or dr. strange, but of course, we couldn't do that. There. We shot that in South Africa. We shot the whole movie except for we shot between South Africa and Mauritania, which is a country for those who don't know. So. I also by the way, on the subject of the title, my last word in the title, I said to people, you know, the Mandalorian nobody told them that doesn't mean anything. How do you say it? To be fair, people watching our movie, you've accidentally come into the theater thinking they were buying a ticket to the theatrical Mandalorian

Alex Ferrari 39:05
and they're and they'd be going, where's the baby Yoda? Where's the baby Yoda? I see Jodie Foster. I don't see a baby Yoda. If you would add a baby Yoda. It's a Final Cut somewhere. I think. I think the box office might go up a bit. I'm ready

Kevin Macdonald 39:16
to go. Yeah, so we we shot in Mauritania, which is on the northwest coast of Africa, below Morocco, Senegal. It's like one of the biggest countries in Africa. But nobody knows of it because it's like 3 million people. And it's desert is basically a big chunk of the Sahara Desert. And the people dress in this beautiful way and flowing to robes and the women are in colorful scarves and it's really a stunning place. June's camels, 500 miles of white beach that nobody goes on. It's amazing. And so we shot there for a week for the bits of the shed in Mauritania and the rest of it is South Africa. And we constructed the Guantanamo on the coast in South Africa because the real returns on the right on the coast in Cuba, I mean, it's kind of like, yeah, it could be a, you know, sandals Beach Resort or something there. It wasn't a prison. It's a kind of tropical paradise.

Alex Ferrari 40:12
Yeah, it's, it's, I've heard I've heard a bunch of stories about I'm Cuban by, by, by birth. So I am, I've heard many stories of, of Guantanamo and the soldiers fishing and just hanging out on the beach, surfing surfing and stuff. It's a it's an insane, it's an insane place. It's like there's no other place like it on the planet. But really, sort of

Kevin Macdonald 40:36
the whole point of that reason that they opened the prison there is because it's America, but it's not. So American law, according to George Bush's lawyers does not apply, because it's actually Cuba. And America only leases it. So, of course, there's many, many contradictions in that it's kind of like, you've got a naval base there. And the people, the soldiers and and sailors have to abide by American law. There are there's even, you know, America's endangered animals laws apply there, because there's a lot of reptiles, as they call all lizards and things were one of the ironies of Guantanamo is that all over all over the prisoner, the signs would say, Do not touch the iguanas, fine of $10,000, if you touch the iguanas, or of course, the same time, they're torturing prisoners, and, you know, not offering people the opportunity to even have a trial. And that's, that's really what the film is about. It's about this, the idea that these people were plucked from places in the world that were accused of terrorism. And then never charged, because they didn't have evidence against loving 85% of people who went there, we're just innocent people who got picked up, because their neighbor, you know, get a deal with the American government, we got $50,000 off or whatever, you know, American dropped a lot of leaflets in places and said, you know, if you have no pride of member in your midst, we'll get into them, we'll give you 100,000 bucks. And of course, you would like I don't like, I don't like Brian, who lives down the road. And he's adamant, five Member Assembly, but I'm gonna get rich. And that's what happened. They do recognize at 85% of people that had nothing ever to do with terrorism. And he was one of them. And yet he was caught there 14 and a half years. And it's the story of that injustice. And I think, you know what, I think for me, the key the story and why I wanted to make it is there are so few movies to the American movies, maybe none in the mainstream, which have a sympathetic Muslim League. Oh, man. Yeah. So So here's a movie, which is basically the trick of the movie is we're trying to get you as someone who might be, you know, anti Islam, and terrorism. And you would never rule out terrorism, but you know what I mean? And you by the end of the movie, you fall in love with this guy. And you feel like, this is a terrible injustice. So you start off being like, I know, like, everybody went down, but he must be guilty. And you end up feeling like, Oh, I love him, I want to drink. And so that's the kind of that was the that was the kind of just a simple kind of goal of of the film.

Alex Ferrari 43:20
That's amazing. And it's where's it available right now

Kevin Macdonald 43:22
to see is available to see right now in a very few theaters. wherever it's some theaters were open. And that mostly available on DVD? I think it's on you know that all the usual pay per view.

Alex Ferrari 43:37
Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Kevin Macdonald 43:48
like sex or about moviemaking

Alex Ferrari 43:50
about life in general, but less, but let's keep it I mean, sex? Absolutely. We could all go back because Jesus Christ Really? No, I'm talking about the business, let's say about the business.

Kevin Macdonald 44:03
Okay. Um, would I go back? And? I that's a really, that's a really hard one. I think I think that, you know, the key to any artistic endeavor, I think, is to find out what your subjects are and what your style is, discovering who you are as an artist. And I think that takes some time and take some mistakes. And so I think that I think that, you know, movies are very high pressure business, and people are always terrified and a lot of the bad behavior that happens in the movie business because a year I would say don't be frightened, you know, expect to fail. Don't worry about it. You know, you that's how you make Discovery that's how you find what's good and what what you know what you really what you really should be doing. And also think you just have to accept that, you know, not everything you do works. And obviously, the old days in the studio system, you know, you'd be a filmmaker, and you'd make 10 films in five years, and three of them would make money and the rest wouldn't. And that wasn't a problem. One of the difficulties these days is that you know, you're just judged on your last performance of your last film, what was, and that's a very, very high pressure thing. So try and ignore that pressure, that would be my

Alex Ferrari 45:35
now What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Kevin Macdonald 45:42
Be yourself, try and find the ideas that are uniquely originally yours. And don't worry too much about technique I think a lot of young filmmakers I meet and talk to are so obsessed with technique with, you know, style. And I think well, ultimately, that if you're making a pop video, yeah, that's super important. But if you're making a movie that people want to really connect to and love, it really doesn't matter. I think people obsess too much about stuff.

Alex Ferrari 46:11
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life? This could be about sex?

Kevin Macdonald 46:20
I'm not going to inflict those on my Yeah. So what's the lesson? That I took the longest like, Well, I think maybe no, this is a cop out. But I'm going to I'm going to say, working with actors trying to understand and not be kind of not feel that actors are aliens. You know, directors are from Mars actors are from Venus. No, it's not true. We are. We're actually both from Planet Earth. And I think it's that is that sort of being talking in very simple, emotional terms to actors. And understanding, you know, what the limits of what they can do, and what they can bring to the scene. But I think, you know, I remember talking to Great British director Stephen Frears. And he said to me, you know, as a director 90% of your work is done before you even step onto the set. It's about the script and the casket. And if you've got those two things, right. It's hard to miss out. And I think I think there's a lot of truth to that.

Alex Ferrari 47:31
Yeah, absolutely. And finally, three of your favorite films of all time.

Kevin Macdonald 47:35
Oh, boy, you should give me some warning about that. Three of my favorites. Okay. The Battle of Algiers.

Alex Ferrari 47:43

Kevin Macdonald 47:43
Yeah. Which is very influential film on me. I would also say a filmmaker, my grandfather, which I'm alive to have in this list, and I would encourage everyone to watch is the British system Kane. It's called the life and death, of course,

Alex Ferrari 48:00
Criterion Collection. LaserDisc. I saw that many years ago,

Kevin Macdonald 48:03
hearing collection Exactly. And then I'd have to say, seeing the rain because it's the most perfect, we've even made

Alex Ferrari 48:10
it very, very true. Very, very true. Kevin, thank you so much for being on the show. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. And continued success. And I really am glad that there's filmmakers like you out there, still trying to push the envelope and taking those swings at bat with stories that are important and it's not. I'm a big fan of the superhero films. I'm big fan of the big pop films, but sometimes you take a nice meal as opposed to just fast food all the time. So I appreciate you, my friend. Thank you so much

Kevin Macdonald 48:37
It's always really nice to talk to you.


  • Kevin Macdonald – IMDB
  • The Mauritanian – Watch


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IFH 421: Drugs, Sex and Higher Love with Slamdance Winner Hasan Oswald

Right-click here to download the MP3

Today on the show we have Slamdance Grand Jury winning filmmaker Hasan Oswald. Hasan’s story is pretty inspiring. He did exactly what I preach all the time, he picked up a camera and began to tell his story. He made his first short film that was later tweeted by Stephen Fry, and National Geographic came calling to work on their film Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS. 

He has since covered the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, drug trafficking, and homelessness in Philadelphia. He quickly established a unique ability to capture the human experience through “cinema verité.”  His unfettered access to and intimacy with his characters creates a seamless veneer between the filmmaker and the subject.

After getting much need experience in the field he decided it was time to tell larger stories. His first outing as a feature film director, Higher Love, won him the top award at the Slamdance Film Festival. To finance his film he pulled a page out of Robert Rodriguez’s playbook and sold his blood plasma to finance his film.

Daryl Gant is a Camden native, father of eight, and a printing press operator. He was raised by a single mother and strives to be a better father than his own, who abandoned him at birth.

His girlfriend, Nani, is the love of his life but struggles to cope with a crippling crack and heroin addiction, and the nefarious lifestyle to support it. More troubling is that Nani is pregnant with their new baby boy, Darnez. It becomes Daryl’s newfound purpose to forge a better future for both of them.

Nani is also a Camden native, whose mother died with a needle in her arm. Now she struggles with the responsibilities of motherhood in the face of her own addiction. Daraz was born healthy but needs particular care growing up in an environment rife with safety and well-being concerns. Their friend, Iman, was once a drug dealing kingpin in Camden in the 1990s.

He was also a father and a mechanical engineer until he caught a dealer’s habit of selling dope. He embodies the spirit of many disaffected residents of Camden, taking the viewer on a tour of post-industrial American decay. His own quest for sobriety will eventually force the hand of Nani to make a change, as they forge parallel paths to recovery.

Hasan’s filmmaking journey is inspiring to say the least. He is using cinema to tell stories that will hopefully change the way people think. Higher Love is available on all major VOD platforms. His current project focuses on the Yazidi Genocide in Iraq.

Enjoy my conversation with Hasan Oswald.


Alex Ferrari 2:03
Now guys, today on the show, we have filmmaker Hasan Oswald and Hasan won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's slam dance film festival with his first feature film higher love. Now Hasan story is extremely inspirational, because he took a page out of Robert Rodriguez book Rebel Without a crew and sold his plasma to help finance his film. It is a very touching and gut wrenching film. So in this episode Hasan and I talk about how he made his film all the journeys and craziness that happened while he was making his film, what it was like to win the slamdance Film Festival and get the Grand Jury Prize there. And how the industry reacted to him winning that festival and how it helped him get his film out into the world. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Hasan Oswald. I'd like to welcome the show Hasan Oswald, I thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Hasan Oswald 3:11
Of course. Alex, longtime fan. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 3:13
Oh, man, thank you for being on the show. And you are the first filmmaker that I am interviewing from not only the other side of the world, but you can you tell the audience where you're at right now, sir.

Hasan Oswald 3:25
Sure. I'm in northern Iraq, the Kurdish region of Iraq,

Alex Ferrari 3:29

Hasan Oswald 3:30
Yeah vacationing, it's really beautiful this time of year 105 at sunrise, its peak. It's awesome. Now I'm working. I'm working on my next project. And I've been working on and on and off for the last year and it came back in February for what was supposed to be a three week wrap trip and going on for months with really no end in sight is all the airports are shut all the boards are shot. So yeah, that's what I'm calling from.

Alex Ferrari 3:56
Like you're basically trapped in a hotel Baghdad, if you you can check it you could check in but you just can't check out.

Hasan Oswald 4:04
You can't check out.

Alex Ferrari 4:06
So before we get to your movie, it's your movie. How did you enter the business man?

Hasan Oswald 4:11
Um, how I got in. So I actually I my film background is very vague. I'm definitely a new face in the business. I I went to something I don't know if you've heard it's a Waldorf school. It's kind of like Montessori based. Yeah. So I went to Waldorf School in upstate New York just outside the city actually. And you actually you do not have to watch movies, no media. So my whole childhood I watched very few movies. We didn't have a TV in our house. And when we finally got one I remember I used to when my parents were out I used to watch TV and then I put an ice pack on the TV because they would come home and feel it to see if I've been watching TV so that's that's how little exposure I had to movies. So I wasn't This movie buff who, you know, had a camera, his dad's camera and learn how to edit on to VCR. That wasn't me. I remember I was I was rad to watch one movie a month. And we just go to this video store giant video that was before like Hollywood video, Mom and Pop around little place. And every time I go in there with these big ideas, I'm gonna watch this new movie. and nine times out of 10 I'd come home with Waterworld. And I have no idea why but Waterworld was my was my go to and I just absolutely loved it. And I still I still love it. So I didn't have any kind of a background in film, I would go to Costco and had all the TVs lined up and my mom would go shopping and I'd get my TV in there. And I was so it was really a precious, precious finite resource for me. So I didn't have that background. And after I went to school at Villanova, I studied creative. I was an English major, but studied creative writing and had some journalism, journalism minor or concentration. And so I always had a interest in storytelling. I wrote a good bit of novel novella, short story, that kind of stuff ever any screenwriting, but as always fascinated with storytelling. And when I graduated, I had no idea what I was going to do. I applied and was accepted to work on a cattle ranch in Australia, they still have these, you can still be a cowboy in Australia, million cattle ranches. And then my visa got messed up. So kind of on a whim, I moved to Thailand to become an English teacher. I just had no idea what I wanted to do. And there goes here's our watch time so I had no idea

Alex Ferrari 6:51
So for people for people listening he since he's in Iraq, there are power sword surges or outages every every Yeah, so every few minutes, but everything is on a on a journey. So we won't lose his connection. But if you're watching, he will go Blair Witch.

Hasan Oswald 7:07
Exactly. So only my fingers is lit off about every 15 minutes. So yes, so in Thailand, I went to be an English teacher. So I wanted to do this kind of European gap year, I spent a lot of time abroad as a child. And I wanted to kind of gap here and find out when I was doing really film I still film was not a big part of my life. I you know, I love and love, love actually like till then I was certainly not watching. Certainly not watching old classics. If it's in the theater, if it was

Alex Ferrari 7:48
You know, sitting there watching like Kurosawa and Scorsese,

Hasan Oswald 7:52
Who. So we, as a teacher in Thailand, we would take a lot of trips. And I mean, it was just, it was incredible life. We live there, and we had a GoPro. And so we would film everything. And this is right about the time where you could get 1080 on I got an Android. So really in your pocket, you had a bunch of good resources for pretty cheap. And so all my friends had these GoPros and cameras, and so we take trips, weekend trips to Vietnam, bus trips to LAO, and we just gather material and then at the end, we were like, Alright, what are we gonna do with this? And so I was like, Alright, I think I can do this on iMovie I can do something. So I remember I laid a track down it was Moby play, which is got to be the most overused

Alex Ferrari 8:45
Oh, Most sampled album in history.

Hasan Oswald 8:51
Yes. And it was glorious. So it was that, uh, that paradise song from the beach?

Alex Ferrari 8:57
Yeah, I know. It's in my head right now. I don't have the rights to it. And I can't play it on the show. But I have it in my head, sir.

Hasan Oswald 9:02
Yeah. So the beach, the film The beach with Leo. That was the soundtrack. That's why we used it. And I remember I remember cutting to the music and loving it. Like I thought this is really cool. I mean, it was trash put it I mean, trash, but I really liked it. It was we were creating something. Um, so we were just doing that on the side and teaching I still had no I had given up drip my journalism routes as well. I was throwing through an English teacher. I had I felt I was teaching second grade, seventh grade and I fell in love with my class. So I thought I got it. I applied and got accepted to Columbia to do my Master's in education. I was going to come back to New York City and become an English teacher and that was my career. About a year and a half in. We were set to renew, renew, renew our contracts and instead My friends and I, we quit, or didn't renew our contracts and just traveled throughout the region. We tried to go by train from Southeast Asia, all the way to Europe. So there's trains all the way up. And then we took the Trans Siberian cross, and we recorded the whole thing. When I got back to Europe, I had a bunch of new footage. And I added, I, we called it or I called it 1818 countries in 18 minutes, and there's an 18 minute video that went on Vimeo, and it made the front page or a front page, I think the travel of the front page of Reddit 10,000 views I think, which was just I can't imagine, I still can't imagine why 20 people watched it. And it's still one of my favorite things I've ever created. It was the first thing I ever created. And just the feedback from that. And the kind of the creative process that went into it. I just I fell in love with, I guess then editing. And I still had no idea how to shoot, but because I taught myself editing through YouTube tutorials. Just books. I, I could edit, I just couldn't shoot at all, but I knew I could teach myself to shoot. And of course, that's when I found Rebel Without a crew. And I thought, oh, wow, like this, this can be done. And of course, it was stupid travel videos. But those travel videos turned into kind of my education. And so I didn't go home. When I got to Europe, and do my Master's in education. I stayed in Barcelona and started doing these freelance gigs. totally fake it till you make it. I remember I connected. I remember I went to different hospitals. And I'm still teaching part time at an international school in Barcelona at this time to kind of make ends meet. But I remember I went to a hospital. And I said, Oh, I make these promo videos. Can I do one for you? Because each hospital in Barcelona, I've got a party night. And I don't know. So they said, Sure. Just send over your reel. I was like, My what? So I remember doing my first kind of Franken cut off Rip Cut off of different people's videos on YouTube. I mean, it was that will never see the light of day again. And then so and then I did another kind of similar thing to with my friend had an apartment complex used to rent to students and I remember pulling my camera on a string across a marble countertop. Yeah, my Pan Pan shot. So that was kind of the the the genesis of of how I got into film and

Alex Ferrari 12:50
That's awesome. Yeah, no, that's a really that's, that's I always loved hearing these stories, because everyone has a different path in and obviously you found your path and kind of Miranda around literally continents, trying to figure find this out. So let's get to your film, hire love. Tell me about hire love and how it came about?

Hasan Oswald 13:12
Sure. So I guess just kind of a brief synopsis. It follows a man named Daryl Gant in Camden, New Jersey. Darrell is a factory man from Camden. And he his long term girlfriend, Nani are ginetta. She is a heroin addict on the streets of Camden. And how she pays for that habit through various while she lives and works in the streets. And she becomes pregnant. And so the first half of the film follows his obstacles his journey well to every morning, he leaves she she leaves the house runs away to Camden. And it's his journey to find her over two years. And then once the baby is born, a different journey begins. So it's on the surface. It's this, this search for the love of his life. And he as he tries to protect his unborn baby. But it's also each obstacle that Dale faces it. It's kind of a obstacle that a lot of these cities face. It's not just Camden. It's you know, Flint, Michigan, Cleveland, these post industrial cities that the American Dream is kind of crashed and burned in. So that's kind of what the movie is about. And it it came about kind of in an interesting way. So if we backtrack a little bit, I still was doing travel films. But they were kind of turning into a more more interview based we're doing. I remember getting darker and the people were filming these travel films for we're like, we don't want to listen to the Sri Lankan lady about losing our family and the tsunami of cheese like we we will Yeah, we want to we want to live. We want Wanna hear about the best beaches in Sri Lanka? So already the disconnect was beginning. So at the end of filming that travel show, it was my now ex girlfriend and I, we both, both things were coming to an end. So it was time to do something different. And so at the end of that travel show, I went to Lesbos, Greece, where the refugee, so that's where the Syrian refugees were, they kept drowning in the Mediterranean, doing that crossing into Europe and their raft. And so I went there with more skills than I had and better cameras, but still very new. And this was kind of my first documentary. And I made, I joined a rescue squad. They're the ones who pull the rafts and the people from the from the ocean. So I joined a rescue squad bear and did a 15 minute short, and came back, edit it myself, colored it myself, figured out that color was the thing. So yeah. And I thought, Alright, here we go. Like I have a 15 minute Doc, this is good. I don't know, 700 views. Maybe? It was it was that was gonna be my big ticket. And I'm living. I'm out of money. I don't know if this film thing's gonna be, you know, if this is my way,

Alex Ferrari 16:29
Right. But then Jesus, I had to go to do a very not uplifting documentary in the streets of Camden.

Hasan Oswald 16:37
Right. So well, how that came around was maybe a month after this film's public, the refugee film was published. Stephen Fry tweets it. And then a few more, Neil Gaiman. guimond is the author of a few bigger names, tweets, tweet it. And then I get, you know, 100,000 views under this amazing one, 1000 views. And from that, so National Geographic saw that saw a tweet. And they call me and I'm living in Boulder at the time with my with my girlfriend. And they so gold crest films was contracted by natgeo. So they're making a film for natgeo. And the director and Nick quested and Sebastian, younger, they call me and are the existing calls me and says, Hey, can you come do the Can you, the director would like to meet you? And so I'm thinking, Oh, great. This is an interview. So I get up, packed up. And then right before I leave, I email them. I say, hey, just making sure we're on for tomorrow and interviews in New York. So we're on for tomorrow, no response. So I'm like, Alright, I gotta go. So I just fly to New York on miles, get out of the airport, go to the interview, go to the interview spot. And I'm just thinking, like, I don't think I have an interview. And so I go, and like five minutes before they respond to my email. They're like, Yeah, he's still planning on me meeting you. And from there, within a week, we hit it off. And within a week, it was my first kind of film job ever. I had $10,000, taped to my chest, heading across Turkey meeting with smugglers. I'm with the director. He's teaching me all these things, all these cameras. And so this is my first documentary, real documentary experience. And I just, I fell in love with it. And I came back and I continued working for them, and learned a lot of great stuff. But after about a year, it was time to move on. And that's where I knew that I wanted the whole time, I knew that I would. Eventually, if I was going to fail, I'm gonna fail big. So I knew I wanted to direct and my father's from Camden, New Jersey, where higher load takes place. Got it. It was I had no budget, I'd son save some savings. For my time with the natgeo film campaigns, only a two hour drive from New York. Because my family my dad's family is all from now they all still live in the surrounding area. So I knew that all I was gonna have to pay for with gas money. I had a strong enough backing and editing and filming and producing that, well, I didn't have a choice. I had to wear all the hats. But I knew that I could make this movie and Camden kind of had this. Throughout my life or just from my dad's background there, I've kind of had this morbid curiosity with that city and cities like it, as you mentioned, like the post industrial decline the empty factories. It's America's most dangerous city or one of them for the last decade. So I thought, you know, this is a story that needs to be told.

Alex Ferrari 19:38
Now. So what was the budget of this film? If you'd want me asking?

Hasan Oswald 19:43
The budget was less than zero.

Alex Ferrari 19:45

Hasan Oswald 19:46
To start. It was a it was I, I knew that a camera and a dream, basically a camera and a dream. So I knew I was gonna have to do everything to start at least before I could kind of To show people that, that this was a project worth investing in, this was a project worth joining. So I had some savings, as I mentioned, but I would so there are still expenses, this food, although my uncle was amazing with that he's an associate producer on it on the film. He took great care of me, but there's still food, there's still gas, there's still, that's a lot of stuff that go into it. And so to make ends meet, there is a lot of tricks that I used to start, I knew right away, I could sell my blood. So I've sold my blood plasma, twice a week. 50 bucks a pop. And that was more than enough to make ends meet to get going. And then and then I need a drone. And then I needed another lens, zoom lens, and then I needed other things. So we would it's it's not a lot of blood, but it's it's a lot of fun out there. We're out of blood, the blood, literally the bank.

Alex Ferrari 21:07
Literally suck the blood out of you.

Hasan Oswald 21:10
Out of it. Yes. So the next step was I figured out that and I had nothing to edit for I made the mistake of filming and it turned out fine. But I couldn't edit 4k on my laptop. So I needed a new laptop. So what I would do was, this is frowned upon, but I would go to Apple and I buy their best system. And then I edit for 30 days straight 29 days straight and then I'd return on the system. Because there was no restocking fee, there was no anything. Right. And so that's how I was doing the Edit. And then I was the next 30 days when I didn't have an editing system and I didn't want the local Apple Store to become wary. I would shoot that whole time the next month so what I would do

Alex Ferrari 21:52
3030 on 3030 off

Hasan Oswald 21:55
and then the next 30 on was for lenses do the same thing for lenses camera body steady cams at Best Buy a 29 day rental for free. So that's how I was that I had an amazing kit. I had you know top of the line stuff rented and I know you know i it skirts the bounds of efficacy but

Alex Ferrari 22:18
You know I look. Sometimes you've got to as a as as the as the the glorious Axel Foley once said, Sometimes you've got a fracture and occasional law. And you don't break it. It's just kind of bend it a bit and look you are working with in those guidelines. Look, when you're starting out, you do what you got to do to make it happen. You're not the first person I've ever heard that the Best Buy deal. I'm sure people listening now they're like, wait a minute, you could do what a Best Buy. I'm like, Yes, you can go to Best Buy, buy the best camera you want and use it for 30 days. I did not think about Don't drop it. Yeah, don't drop it. Don't scuff it. It's got to be it's got to be pristine, because they will check. But if you're good, you've got a hell of a kit. I never thought about Apple because I've never there was no Apple computers when I was coming up anyway, like that. They there was no Apple stores, let's say. So that's interesting. So that you would edit and what did you edit in just out of here? I'd like Final Cut or veggie?

Hasan Oswald 23:23
Yeah, so I learned I learned in Thailand on iMovie. And then I taught myself Final Cut, Final Cut 10 and then quickly moved into premiere because I remember I was back in the studio one day and they were like, what are you using Final Cut? I was like, Yeah, what am I using Final Cut? I have no I still don't know what I prefer. What's better, but now? Yeah, we did the whole editing in Premiere.

Alex Ferrari 23:45
Okay. that's, that's amazing. So, so you would you would edit one month that go shoot footage for another month, then go back and buy another laptop and edit for the next 30 days. How long did you keep this up?

Hasan Oswald 24:01
Yeah, cool. And we used to use different credit cards. We used to use like I borrow my mom's credit card and then Venmo her the money and then she went she'd get the money return on our account and then we use my uncle's credit. It was it was bad. So I mean, I probably did that on and off for about eight months. Oh, that's amazing. So probably four rentals from each rental area.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
I'd like to rent us I love that I love that you've now just automatically just called it a rental even though it is absolutely not a rental but yes

Hasan Oswald 24:38
yes. zero budget rental

Alex Ferrari 24:41
Cheeses. No, I mean look like I said sometimes you got to do what you got to do to make it happen and and it's it worked. It worked. Yeah. Did you did you keep any of it ever or is it all gone?

Hasan Oswald 24:55
No. So I mean, we we eventually kept once we brought on a little Money we kept stuff that I'm still using. And but it also I mean, it really caught I think having zero, that zero budget kind of made the movie what it was. We were going to there are other we would go to. If you go to eBay, eBay, YouTube, you can learn how to make a $1 $2 rig with pvc piping. Oh yeah. And so we learned all that stuff too. We would buy all our stuff aftermarket on eBay, it would take you know, four weeks to get there from from China, we could never have anything that we really needed. But um, so we use those tricks also. And then yeah, once we found out kind of our go to kit essentials, we kept those. I got a laptop that can handle 4k. And so while we were coming up, we were, you know, playing with some ethical boundaries, but we eventually got on the straight and narrow and did it the right way.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Look, I mean, I'm assuming you know who Werner Herzog is? Of course, yeah. Okay. So Warner, you heard that story of him with the with the papers. Yeah, with 4g. He literally forged his papers to get when the police came to wherever he was shooting, he forged papers proving that he was able to shoot there. You do what you got to do. You know, as long as you're not hurting anybody or literally stealing, literally stealing. Yeah, you do what you gotta do?

Hasan Oswald 26:33
Yeah, and we did a lot of that stuff, too. I mean, Werner vanner was one of my original inspiration. So yeah, we copied a lot of that stuff with just fake it to make it and if they're gonna assume something going into a shoot, you know, I guess I didn't tell them I was with HBO. But if they're gonna call me the HBO boys, I didn't say it. Someone else said it. So like, we we faked it till we made it with a lot of those tricks.

Alex Ferrari 26:57
Did you? Did you have an HBO shirt answer? Is that, that HBO hat that you bought it? At the souvenir shop in downtown Manhattan?

Hasan Oswald 27:10
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 27:14
Look, look. I mean, look, I could tell you stories and stuff I did. And when I was coming up, I mean, I don't think I've told this story on this show before but when I my first edit reel was based off of raw footage that I got, from an OS from a European group of filmmakers that came into my commercial house that I was in Miami, and I grabbed all their footage and I re edited distance was insane, like million dollar budget footage, re edited, it all slept the Nike Nike logo at the end of it. And I cut together five or six reels, and then I quit. And I went out with that reel. And people were like, they assumed that I was that guy. When they asked I would go No, no, no, that's just a speck spot. But if they didn't ask, there you go. Yes. Exactly. You know, it's, if you assume that's up to you, you know, it's like I was asked for forgiveness, not for permission. Yes, shoot, shoot birth. escalator. Yes. As my entire my entire last film was Sunday. Yes, exactly. Exactly. Alright, so alright, so you've sold plasma? Or you have you have skirt the line of the return policies over at Apple and Best Buy for eight months? And and then you've gotten you finally got some money together? And then how did you remember you saying to me that you kind of mariachi camp done a little bit in the sense that you became very well known in the area? Can you tell us a little bit about how you kind of started having almost free rein in that in that town?

Hasan Oswald 28:49
Yeah, so I think having no money helped us in a bunch of ways. Like, for example, I mentioned that we didn't have, I didn't have a zoom lens, I was filming everything with a fixed lens. And so there are some really great shots where we wouldn't have gotten and I had this incredible access to my characters and out because I had to be I was a foot away from them. And it lends this kind of like raw, this pure Verity almost, that I wouldn't have gotten if I could afford a zoom lens, I had to go in without a foot of all my characters. And I think that kind of was the case. In one way or another with a lot of these things. I didn't have a producer, I didn't have anybody. So I had to go to Camden, which is, you know, it's one of the most dangerous cities in America. And I was terrified and I had to go knock on doors and meet these characters where they were. So I would go you know, I'd start out I'd go to town meetings and kind of find out who the town leaders were and the different advocacy groups and then I would branch out to I would go knock on the door. Have were known drug houses, but I would be with one of those town advocates. So they would kind of give me an ounce of credibility.

Alex Ferrari 30:10
It's like Donnie Brasco. They were Donnie Brasco when you like he's a good guy. Yeah, it's fine. He's a good guy. Exactly. he's a he's a real guy. He's a CSV, okay. csv. Okay.

Hasan Oswald 30:19
Yeah, trust him. So, they, I mean, they really appreciated that. Camden, it's been a drive by a guest to drive by city, but also a drive past city, a flyover city, one of the first titles for our film, actually, for a long time, it was titled below the brine. It's, it's after a Thai poem by Walt Whitman, who's actually from Camden. And it's about this world that exists below the brine below the surface of the ocean that nobody ever sees. But there's life down there. There's heartbreak down there. It's society down there. And that's Camden. They, you know, they build the retaining wall in the highway, so you can't see into it. No one goes into this place, no one talks to these people and learns their story. So when I was knocking on doors, just because I had to, I didn't have a producer. They really appreciated that. And so the guy was nice.

Alex Ferrari 31:13
I'd like how did you how did you? Because I mean, from watching portions of the film, like ye they're doing not only illegal things that you end, but they're allowing you to come in film this. Some of it's extremely personal. And yeah, I mean, there's there's characters who are high on screen, there are characters who are pregnant and high. And there's, there's so many, like, how did you get them to agree to do this? Like, what, what was in it for them for them to be able to allow such access to their lives?

Hasan Oswald 31:47
Yeah, and, yeah, a portion of why they did that always comes down to an aspect of they will, people want to be on TV, you know, the second a camera turns on, no matter what anyone says, it changes the dynamic, however, I think because I where I went and met them where they were talked to them first. And really, I didn't just come in for a weekend and film a bunch of people shooting up. I knew them became really entrenched in their lives. Night after night, day after day. They respected that I wanted to and this is how I approached it, I wanted to tell their story, the story of Camden, the story of this opioid epidemic, I want them to tell it, so I wanted to see it through their eyes. And they right away, kind of, we're open to that. And one of the first scenes in the motel where our pregnant character is injecting was my first kind of realization of what trust and what access they had given me. And that carried for the next year and a half. And after that motel scene, I received a very angry phone call from who turned out to be the protagonist of the film, Darrell, about filming with his pregnant drug addicted wife, long term girlfriend and was very angry said meet me the next day, I thought, why the film's over, maybe my life is over. And he basically just he pulled up, he said, Listen, let me tell you my side of the story. And so that's where we learned his side of the story. Every morning, he wakes up goes to search for Nani who's trying to save his unborn child. And so when he said, let me tell you my side of the story, I think that's why I was so embraced by cam tonight. because nobody's given these cities a seven second look, no one. No one, no one ever stops to say, oh, you're living on the streets, in in on heroin highway, as they call it, in America's most dangerous and one of America's most dangerous cities. You know, how did you get here? What What went wrong? Why people think, you know, who in the right mind says, I want to give up everything, lose my kids, my house, my car. I want to give that all up and live in a gutter for 1510 years. If I'm lucky, no one stopped to ask the question of how they got there. They just treat them you know, as animals almost. And so that trust was kind of achieved right from the beginning of me even coming into their doorstep. And then they just gave me the permission almost to give the means the agency to tell their own story.

Alex Ferrari 34:36
That's That's fascinating. You're right, these stories are a little too few and far between. and, and a lot of the stuff that's going on right now, back here in the states that you have been safely in Iraq avoiding which is Corona and and what's going on with the death of George Floyd. I think that's one of the reasons why these There is such uprising here now is because, yeah, it's because of stories like this that that these these people have have been handicapped from the moment they were, you know, they were evicted from their womb, their mother's womb. Yes. Yeah, you know, there's no doubt about it. And these stories are so, so important. And that's why it's so much more beautiful on the way how you did it. Which, like, if you told me like, yeah, we have like two 300,000, we had an Alexa. We shot with cook lenses, we had a full rig, it wouldn't have you can't make this movie like, you need to. You need to go to Best Buy an apple and do what you did. It goes to the whole story. Now. Now, this is your first feature, right? This was your first feature?

Hasan Oswald 35:46
Yeah, it's my first feature. It's only the second. My only my second credit. So I worked on that National Geographic film. So I was really, I'm still of course learning everything as I go. But that was my film school. That that a year, year and a half in Camden. That was my film school, you'll see. I mean, if you look at our Instagram, you'll see some funny things of a first time director. But also, there's so many stories of I had no idea what was what I was doing at the beginning, especially, you'll notice things in the film, if you watch it with a close eye that I can point out after you watch it. It's a first time filmmaker it but we did do an amazing, they did an amazing job of saving a lot in post and it looks incredible. But there's some funny things that I learned the hard way.

Alex Ferrari 36:33
But did you but the question is, did you wear a director hat or a director t shirt?

Hasan Oswald 36:38
No, I just carried the chair around. And you know that like that, that gift where the guy just unfold the chair and sits at a director's chair.

Alex Ferrari 36:49
I I always make a joke because when when I was first coming up, I had the director hat and a director t shirt on because that's what a just a pompous film student would do. So anytime I see a director walk on set with a director shirt on, I'm like, Oh, god, oh, god, oh, no, this is not going well, this is not going to go well. And every single time has ever happened. I've never I've never been disappointed. So you you submit your films to all these film festivals, right? And not only did you get into slam dance, but you also got some interest from South buy of this of this last year. So can you tell me what happened between slam dance and south by? And then how did it actually? How did it all workout?

Hasan Oswald 37:35
Sure. So we we really, I'm not the only young filmmaker on this team. It's really an inexperienced team of four people probably still is, which I love. And now we're actually really good. So we really didn't really even know what we're doing going to festival season either. So we got into slam dance. That was our first. Well, first we got rejected by Sundance, obviously. I mean, we all fantastic. Yes, exactly. It was our first you know, welcome to the Welcome to the show. And then we got into slam by which we were really blown away. And for those, we were unfamiliar, I was unfamiliar, but it happens the same exact week, the same time as Sundance. So actually, if you say it fast enough. Oh, yeah. Honestly, a lot of people think so we post on social media and a lot of my university friends. They just assume I once Sundance and there's no I'm not gonna correct them

Alex Ferrari 38:42
Again HBO HBO guys. HBO

Hasan Oswald 38:45
HBO guys. Yeah, we're HBO guys who won Sundance. So we got into slam dance. And it was just it was an incredible, incredible week. But we had Sunday slamdance deadline to accept was right around the same time that South by was their deadline was for their notification deadline was and in our minds, my mind at least I would lean toward not anymore, of course, but I was going to lean toward our premiere at South by just has the big name. And just as a first time filmmaker, I just was going by the name. So there was disagreement within the group. Eventually we decided we're going to premiere at slam dance. We ended up not getting in to south by so we're at these parties and everything and we're retelling the story and how we chose to premiere at slam dance and it turned out that through various programmers, I guess and I'm not 100% sure on this but um the rumors on the street, the rumors on the street. The rumors are street that South by does not take kindly to slamdance Especially if you're wanting to choose between the two. And we had gotten kind of a cryptic email from south by that before we got the rejection email, and so they knew we were choosing between the two. And we chose slam dance and didn't end up being accepted to south by, which turned out so we won grand jury at slam dance so amazing, the best, the best choice. And then a week after we come home COVID hits and south by is the first one to go. So it really was the right the right decision. They are all worked out in the end.

Alex Ferrari 40:39
Now what was your What was your Sunday slash slam dance? Park City experience like because you were you were like Fresh Off the Boat. This is your first movie you've never been it is your first film festival if I'm not mistaken, right? Like,

Hasan Oswald 40:55
I didn't even I couldn't even I wasn't exactly sure what I knew what a film festival was. Obviously, I thought of it more as like a market. And then my only background is the entourage episode, which I watch. You know, again, right before I left, right and I'm so I'm a director. I'm going to a major film festival. I'm picturing a lot of entourage stuff. And there was a lot of entourage stuff. I mean, we already is amazing parties. Yeah, we had a great PR team that hooked us up. We went to like the cinetic party. We went to the HBO HBO party of course,

Alex Ferrari 41:32
obviously because you the HBO guys.

Hasan Oswald 41:35
So we had a great time there was you know, the hot tubs the late nights, it was amazing. But then there was also the side. So that was the entourage side. And then your film comes to mind at the corner of ego and desire. So these, For those unfamiliar, you shouldn't be it's a great movie, go watch it. But it's three young filmmakers go to Sundance to try to pitch their film, and everything kind of falls apart. And so we had a lot of those moments. We, you know, we just first time everything, and I didn't, and I just didn't know anything. So there was a lot of mistakes made. You know, what's a sales agent? You need one, we went in very, very excited. But I'm excited in green. So it was a brilliant mix of the entourage episode and and your day in your film.

Alex Ferrari 42:27
No. And I mean, I've been there. As you know, I've been at slam and Sundance many, many times over the years. And slam dance is an experience. And I love slam dance. As you can see, I have my I represent this lambdin shirt all the time I do. I do love them. I always found myself even though I was rejected from slam dance, and I'll call them out all the time because Dan, co owner, co founder was in it. And I still got ridin Yeah. But to be fair, I think I said the word Sundance like 50,000 times in the movie, so they probably didn't want to promote slam dance. Like we were talking about that earlier. Like, you know, maybe I would have just said slam dance slam dance, slam dance. Oh, they would have accepted it in a heartbeat. But of course we always go for the for the girl that doesn't want us. Yes. The hot girl that teases us constantly. That is that's the relationship with 99.9% of every filmmaker ever.

Hasan Oswald 43:26
And then we keep saying that. So southpaw was the hot girl that didn't want us and then it got canceled. So every time we don't get one, we're like well that hot girl is about to go down cuz it's gonna get canceled and it keeps happening.

Alex Ferrari 43:37
Yeah, God knows what's gonna happen in the future. I you know, I'm still in the in the camp of I don't think Sundance is going to happen in 2021 in the same way, I can't you know, I can't even imagine it happening. But we'll see. But you once you say you won southpaw. Excuse me, you, you you excuse that you want slam dance. You want the jury, the Grand Jury Prize is slammed. So that's a big, that's a big deal. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Hasan Oswald 44:14
We were just it was really just a dream. It was. I still I'll never forget when they call her name like it was. I mean, I blacked out just from the adrenaline. I'm not even sure what I ran up there. I'll never look at what what that acceptance speech was. Yeah, I'll tell you the Alex was not good. It was it was fine. It was bad. But um, it was Yeah, it was just it was a dream come true. When that and then we so that was our first festival. It's the you know, the first festival, one of the first festivals of the year. And so from that we got waiver waivers to maybe everywhere and can't It was so strange being contacted to show your film. So we just We just this weekend we did our European premiere at Krakow in Poland, which is an amazing festival. Yeah, and we're, I think one or if not the only North American film, selected for competition. And it was online, which was a new experience. But that was right off of we actually got the news about Krakow right after the grand jury win. And then also, we were accepted this past week. Sorry, we were in this past week in Brooklyn, where we won best new director and Spirit Award for, for Documentary Feature loss. And so that grand jury win, just, yeah, that snowball into everything. And we have a bunch of festivals coming up, that are either going to go online and be canceled.

Alex Ferrari 45:47
So I want I want to clear exactly who knows what's gonna happen. So I want to I want to be real clear. So I want to bring this and you've been listening to my podcast now for a while, and everyone who's listening automatically, but he won slam dance, like he won the Grand Jury Prize it slammed and so that so when the when the trucks of money came? Did they just did they unload by the pallet? Or did it just dump it all on your front yard? How does that work? They just they delivered it in their hands, a little bit at a little, little by little, just like a little 14, the 14 quarters, the fourth thing called the 40 quarters that they gave me, I want I want people to just understand that just because you win the Grand Jury Prize at a major festival like slam dance, it does not mean that you automatically get checks. It's not 1994 anymore.

Hasan Oswald 46:38
No. And we have that kind of a lotto ticket dream. And I will stick by that it is important to have a dream. But also, it's also important, and I'm so happy I I didn't have any money. So I actually had to build up technical skills. Sure, along the way, while maintaining that lotto ticket dream. So yeah, when we when we won grand jury, I thought, you know, here comes HBO again, again, comes up, here comes the big deal, like Netflix is calling flicks. And we did yeah, and we got all those calls, and it's a lot less money than you would think, a lot less money to any deal any offer that you would think there's no truckloads of money coming. And we found that out pretty quickly. However, I will say that it not only did it open up doors for other festivals, which is really, really important for a young team, such as ours. And I know festivals, I learned this the hard way festivals, you know, they don't, we can win a Grand Jury. And still, that's not going to move the needle on a higher even when three grand juries it's not gonna move the needle on a higher, it doesn't make sense, like people like your movie, but it's not gonna move the needle on your, your your distribution deal. So festivals really aren't going to do much for that. We found that out. But it really did. These festivals are great for myself and the team. Even so I'm in Iraq filming now. And we have some really big names attached to this film. This is the my second film directing. And that's all from, I'd say 90%. From these festival wins. Yeah, it lends credibility. So know that we're not, we're gonna be lucky in all honesty right now to break even even though our budget was so so we kept it so low. And down the road, hopefully, we're turning it we're working on a narrative version as well. So hopefully that will drive interest that way as well. But it it pays off in ways such as now I'm over here filming, as I like to call it my real directorial debut since I actually know what I'm doing now. I couldn't have done that. I couldn't have patched these names to it. Without without that grand jury win.

Alex Ferrari 49:04
Yeah. And that's, that's the thing. filmmakers need to understand that the film festivals, especially if you're a new filmmaker, oh, my film festivals are the best. Like, yeah, you got to go into the red carpet into the parties and meet other plumbers. It's amazing. It's wonderful. Take, you know, go to those seminars, go to those workshops, you know, meet people network, it's great for all the obviously that's been put on hold right now for the next foreseeable future. Because of COVID. But when it comes back, it's still a wonderful experience to go through. But I am just constantly beating my audience over the head that it is not 1994 anymore. This is not what it was. They don't have the same kind of poll as it did before. So but they do have a place in the ecosystem without question, and I would have killed to go through your experience like I've never gone through that experience. Like I've been to hundreds of festivals, and won awards and all that kind of stuff, but I've never won a Grand Jury Prize at slam das nor have ever been yet at slam dads are accepted into slam dance. But that's amazing, dude, that's an amazing story. And I'm glad that that you did it the way you did it and you're trying to get the story told and get it out there. And it's not over yet the story's still continuing, you still got to figure out how you're gonna make money back with this what type of distribution deal you're going to finally land on. If you're going to self distribute, there's a lot of different avenues you can go down.

Hasan Oswald 50:24
Yep. So yeah, definitely, it's, yeah, it's exciting. It's still very exciting. And mistakes will still will be made. But at least there is gonna be we have more people on the team who know what they're doing a sales agent, good PR, good, good. Everything. So mistakes will be made. And it's it's still a learning curve. But um, yeah, it was definitely a great experience.

Alex Ferrari 50:47
Awesome, man. I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all the guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today? Obviously go to Best Buy an apple and do your trick. But besides that?

Hasan Oswald 50:59
Yeah, um, so I guess for advice for someone who did it like myself with no zero film background besides. Waterworld. And

Alex Ferrari 51:12
By the way, it's like a side note. I did have the screenwriter of Waterworld on the show. But we never he did on a documentary. I had never talked to him about Waterworld once, but I found out later a failure is a complete failure I have to get I have to get him back a paragraph to get Peter back on just to talk about Waterworld. But yes, I found out later after I interviewed him, because we were just focused on his documentary that I did. But yes, so Waterworld is like your godfather. It's kind of like your Star Wars

Hasan Oswald 51:39
It is my godfather. Yes. So I guess advice for a real real new. I was an English teacher. So I had my my baseline was zero. So for someone and you can right now is a brand new filmmaker. I mean, you can buy amazing 4k, you know, five year or a seven s, you know you can get those bodies for how to use for 1000 right now, even if you don't want to do the return trick. You can film 4k amazing 4k in your cell phone as everyone knows. So

Alex Ferrari 52:14
Look like a Panasonic G gh four, I can get that usually, for under 50 bucks.

Hasan Oswald 52:20
Yep, yep. And then you can also learn how to you can learn everything I'm so not only did I learn the three different editing software's just on YouTube, but still, when I have a problem, you know, I was trying to figure out how to pin a graphic in, in Premiere the other day. And I just googled those words how to pin data in in Premiere, and there's 50 tutorials how to do it. So really, all the resources are right there, the gear for the first time is available. So if you're a brand new filmmaker, just kind of do it, I did just get a camera and go do it. Now keep your expensive expenses low. So choose a story. I really want to tell a story that, you know, really, really moves them. But meat meat in the middle do one that you care about, but it's also doable. So I you know, I stayed with family I could drive to and from Camden. So yeah, I would say just kind of go do it. And there is this kind of I don't know how to say it not. There's a hierarchy in film. And a lot of the older generation, especially if you get into these editing houses that have been around for a while. They're going to want you to pay reduce. And I ran into that a lot. I was told after I guess two months that I had to pay my dues before and I quote I was allowed to sit at the big boys table who said this like this was the job I was working I won't say names but basically you're getting to you're getting way ahead of your paygrade with your I was bringing story ideas. I was I wanted to really go go go and I was in my in. In reality I was you know assistant to the assistant to the assistant editor coffee, coffee getter. So I was basically told to go and I had skills I had I really knew what I was doing. So I was told and I quote you're not you can't hit the big boys table yet. So I've kind of carried that with me forever. I think that this pay your dues thing is nonsense. I think you can go do it you if you can. If you don't have that stuff $1,000 at $500 to get the camera go do that.

Alex Ferrari 55:03
So your plasma

Hasan Oswald 55:05
About your blood plasma, if you really want to learn, you can learn on YouTube. So there's kind of not that many excuses why you can't go do it.

Alex Ferrari 55:14
And I want to just add something to that. And that's excellent. I agree that there is the old system of you have to pay your dues in order to play that game. If you want to play that game, you've got to pay your dues, if you want to play in those in the in other people's sandboxes. Yeah, but then what you did is you still paid your dues, but you paid your dues in your own sandbox, and creating it on your own project and learning along the way yourself. So you no matter what you're going to have to pay your dues one way shape or form. But I would much rather learn it in my own world that I control. And I have all the power in and it's my own Big Boy table. Then playing in someone else's sandbox at the beginning.

Hasan Oswald 55:56
Yeah, and I read a great quote, quote, somewhere it said, film scores, sorry, film school has never been more expensive. And film gear, film gear has never been cheaper. So use that. And the reason these these kind of pay your dues hierarchies are starting to shake is because anyone can kind of go out and make a film right now. I just went out and made a film. So I understand that they kind of want to hold on to this, this control they have but as you said, Go play in your own sandbox and make that sandbox something. And you can be the big boys table after not not much. Not that much time.

Alex Ferrari 56:37
I mean, you won. You won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance with your very first film, sir. So I mean, that's if that's not the big boy table. I know. There's I know, there's guys and gals who've been working 1520 years. I've never gotten that opportunity. So yeah, there's something to be said about that. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Hasan Oswald 57:00
Oh, yeah, I guess. I'm still definitely definitely learning, especially during this lockdown. There is a lot of time to do a lot of stuff. You don't waste that time. I so when I was wrapping up my time at this post house, I knew I wanted to go and direct something. But also the same time, I was, you know, physically addicted to every app on my phone. I went out three times a week in Manhattan. I just wasted time I was buried and things that weren't going to benefit victory my head. And I realized I realized that and so I moved out of my Harlem apartment, Airbnb it, because somehow you can make a lot of money doing that move back in with my parents. And I remember the first few times, and this is at age. So I'm 31 now. So I guess two, three years ago, I was too old to be living back with my parents. But I knew that I had to fund I had to save up a little money to go do this when I eventually left the post house. So and I remember when guests would come over family friends, I'd you know, not come out because I was so embarrassed to be back at home. But I kind of retreated from everything I gave up. I gave up actually alcohol and partying for a year. I deleted all the apps on my phone. barely ever use my phone. And that might not sound like a lot. But you'll be surprised if we look at that screen time thing how much time you waste. So, I had so much time to dedicate toward screenwriting books, every movie that I missed out of watching because I wasn't allowed to have a TV and I can now watch them with a critical eye. And I could I mean, I just learn podcasts like yours all the no film school type websites, I just absorb everything, everything everything. And within not too long. I had enough skills to head to Camden. So I guess I'm still learning it and this this lockdown is made it extra issue is even more magnified because there just is so much time on my hands lockdown in Iraq.

Alex Ferrari 59:29
That's the name of your next move locked down in Iraq.

Hasan Oswald 59:32
Yeah, so I guess the lesson is that there is enough time to make this happen. Whatever that dream that end goal is for you. There is enough time in the day to make that happen. There are going to be some sacrifices but if you're as long as you're not wasting time, there is time to get this stuff done.

Alex Ferrari 59:51
Now And last question, what are the three favorite films of all time besides Waterworld, obviously is one so

Hasan Oswald 59:59
Whoo. Yeah. Waterworlds? One a and one B? Let's see three favorite movies of all time. Okay. There's a Swedish movie called let the right one in.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:12
Yes. Great Movie movie. Yes. Oh, it is. Absolutely.

Hasan Oswald 1:00:17
I don't like vampire movies. I don't like horror. Do not watch the trailer if you want to watch this movie, because you'll never you'll never turn it on. The trailer is nothing like the movie. But yeah, let the right one is definitely top three. And also don't watch the American version. It's good but not nearly as good as the Swedish version. Let's see the lives of others. The German film a fantastic film district nine that really I love the idea so I love documentary obviously but I'm actually starting to move in to narrative. I mentioned I wrote a screenplay for IRA love. And that's moving forward and so I really love the idea of mockumentary bridging the gap between what's what's narrative what's documentary and so yet district nine is definitely definitely up there for me and I guess a close close fourth you will never really hear is great I just saw that with with Phoenix really dark film Yeah, so that's a that's a top four your top three

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
and I forgot one other question. I have to ask you who is your such a Waterworld fan? Have you been to the Waterworld ride at Universal?

Hasan Oswald 1:01:38
No. And I actually was this is gonna sound I remember when I was talking about Don't waste time and you'll have a lot of time I was wasting a lot of time the other day and was researching Waterworld cuz I mean, it's actually you know, it's it deserves a laugh or two at its expense. But there's a lot of people who really do deep dives on the internet about this. Oh, don't

Alex Ferrari 1:01:59
don't question no question. I mean, just let's be clear, real quick about Waterworld and I this is a topic I have to talk about. In all of my episodes. I've never Waterworld has never come up. But But Waterworld is honestly Yes, it you absolutely can laugh at it. There's definitely things you can laugh about it without question. But it was a fairly successful film. It is done. It did really actually did well, box office wise. It launched two rides at both universal parks. It has a lot of merge that it's sold. Like quietly it's it's not cats. Let's just put it that way. It's not as bad as like cats. You know, it's or anything like that. It's it's not showgirls, because showgirls is a perfect film, obviously. But yeah. But so people might make fun of it. But it's not as you know, it's not as a color. It's not as bad as the postman. Now, if you watch the postman, that is a horrendous piece of film.

Hasan Oswald 1:03:05
Right and it certainly Waterworld certainly did well, at my local videos, rentals. Oh, yes. rented like crazy. And also, I mean, I think everyone carries this kind of, for example, I don't think six months ago a year I would be on a podcast admitting to a loving Waterworld, or, I guess, basically, I think everyone carries this kind of imposter syndrome. That they feel like they don't belong. And I certainly felt and feel to an extent that I don't belong. And I think it's natural for all humans that way, but especially in the film industry, especially in artistic endeavors. And so while we're laughing about Waterworld, I don't think I would have talked about it. That I love that I would have made up something you know, to make me sound like I knew what I was talking about. I don't

Alex Ferrari 1:04:00
Seven Samurai Seven Samurai, taxi driver,

Hasan Oswald 1:04:05
Taxi driver. This you know, these black and white? Casa Blanca, I just know, I would have gone that route. Because I think this imposter syndrome is is really real and it still is really real for me. But I think that no one really everyone's got it. You just got to kind of remember that. You got to remember that not only in this kind of gorilla indie filmmaking, especially documentary filmmaking where, you know, I really didn't belong. So I guess. Now I belong a little more than that. But um,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:42
Like, at the end of the day, we all have that imposter syndrome. I think we all have it on a certain level different levels of it. I mean, I even you know, speaking to some of these big giant directors and writers, they have it you know, and they have billion dollar movies behind them and they still have it. So it's it's an all of us. But I think as you get older, you start becoming a little more comfortable in your skin. So I have no problem saying that the room is a fantastic film and I would watch it not by myself ever, but with a group of people that show girls is great. Again, not but I could probably watch your girls by itself because it's it's it's it transcends how good it is. There's a new documentary out about it. By the way. I don't know if you know that. There's a showgirls documentary. They just broke down. What showgirls is, and I'm like, I still haven't seen cats, but I'm actually dying to watch it. Because when something is that bad, it will eventually transcendence. Yes, that's a morbid curiosity. The same reason I went to Canada. Well, cats in Canada, we can't connect those two. I don't know how we connect those two. But you haven't. So you haven't gone to the Waterworld ride yet?

Hasan Oswald 1:05:59
No. So yes, I have not gone to the Waterworld ride yet. And I actually just assumed what I was saying I was doing a deep dive. And before that, I just assumed why would that still be open? Oh, it's it's still open? Yes. So that's definitely on the on the bucket list.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:16
I saw in LA and I saw it at Florida when I was in Orlando back in the day as well. So it's still there. It's actually a fantastic show. I have to say it's a fantastic show you I think you will enjoy it even more than most. Definitely for sure. And then where can people find you find about more about higher love and what your other projects gonna be?

Hasan Oswald 1:06:39
Yeah, sure. So um, I guess the best way to find so for hire love, that's a feature documentary. It's higher love film, Instagram, and then higher love film.com. We post all of our screenings, we have a bunch of festivals coming up. The next six months, at least a bunch of festivals that will be online, which actually makes it more accessible for a lot of viewers around the world. So yeah, higher love film, the website and the Instagram. And then if you just go to the Instagram, you can under the info that you can find me under the director Hassan Oh, that's my Instagram handle. And then for the film I'm working on now, that'll be it's just briefly it follows a certain sect of the Iraqi population is easy. It's an ancient religion. And they're still after. So ISIS was brutal to everyone in the region in 2000, during their their reign of terror, around 2014. But I'm especially brutal to these, this sect of Yeezys. And they took three to 6000 of them as slaves and two to 3000 of those are still missing. And in ISIS, ISIS captivity and no one's really doing anything. So I've been bedded with a group of rescuers and smugglers trying to get those those mostly women and children back. And because of the sensitivity of the material, we cannot as of yet but anything social media wise, but we are we are approaching that that point where we can so we'll definitely if you follow the other page, the higher love page or my personal Instagram, which I'd love. I'd love to I love connecting with fellow filmmakers, especially members of the tribe, I'd love to start dialogues on my personal Instagram page. So yeah, we'll update that with my current project. As well,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:45
Hasan man, it has been an adventure talking to you. It's been a very inspiring story. I love hearing these kind of stories, man, I really really do because anytime I hear someone hustling and hustling without any understanding of what they were doing, it's even better and that you at the end of that it wasn't a disaster and you actually created a fantastic film is a rarity. So what you have done is no small feat my friend seriously so congratulations all your success and and that stay safe in Iraq until you get back here because here in the states were much safer than it is in Iraq. Obviously. We're we're good and COVID there are no riots. That's all fake news. Don't worry.

Hasan Oswald 1:09:31
Right. I'll bide my time to get back. Don't worry. And also Alex, I wanted to thank you not only for having me on but just what you do is incredible. I don't think I don't know. I don't know if I'm here without your podcast and seen in 2015 which is the same time I came onto the scene. And you know, this is great, great resources out there of which you know, you're you're one of the best. So I'm proud to call myself one of the tribe and I don't think this this hustle would have happened without a indie hustle.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:02
Thank you. I truly appreciate that. And I'll pay you later for that. So thank you.

Hasan Oswald 1:10:08
Alright, sounds good Alex.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:10
I want to thank Hasan for coming on the show and just sharing his story on his new film, hire love, and hopefully inspiring a few members of the tribe out there to go out and make their own film. Now if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/421 and there you'll be able to access how to watch and where to watch higher love, I highly, highly recommend you check it out. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 412: The Brutal & Honest Reality of Self-Distributing a Film Today with Jeff MacIntyre

Right-click here to download the MP3

Today on the show we have 18 time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jeff MacIntyre. Jeff is the director of the new film The Great Cookie Comeback. Famous Wally Amos introduced us to his famous cookie in 1975. It was love at first bite! 🍪 Then…he lost it all to a big corporation. For 30 years, Wally’s been hustling to get it back. At 82, facing huge personal and financial challenges, can he make his new cookie as famous as his first? Nobody deserves a Great Cookie Comeback like Wally Amos!

Jeff wanted to be completely transparent on what he did right and wrong on his self-distribution adventures. He decides to create a 45 min+ mini-doc explain the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s some info on the doc.

Today, anyone can make an indie film or documentary. The real challenge is selling/distributing your film! In this brutally honest case study, I reveal my steps and strategies for launching a feature doc.

Real numbers will be shared! It ain’t pretty, but I hope it helps you. Honestly, there’s too much focus on film-making and not enough on film marketing, film-promoting and film-selling. As indie filmmakers, we must wear all these hats for a fighting chance to successfully self-distribute a film/doc.

I just launched a feature-length doc about Wally Amos…THE Amos behind Famous Amos Cookies. This wasn’t my first film. I’ve been cranking out docs for a major network for decades…picked up 17 Emmy Awards along the way. I’m pretty comfortable with “the making” of content. However, brand new was the selling/self-distribution responsibilities with this documentary.

Choosing to self-distribute wasn’t an easy choice. But the alternative of “traditional” film distribution was as appealing as getting a colonoscopy from a dentist. 96% of distributors see you like a juicy fly which they hope to woo to their web. Getting drained dry by a used Porta Potty salesman wasn’t a priority. So, I decided to blaze the self-distribution trail alone.

There are so many moving parts to pull off a successful film launch. Fresh off the trail, I thought it might be helpful to document the entire experience for other indie filmmakers. Rarely, do creatives share exact numbers? From the film’s production budget to ad spend to profits, I peel the curtain back. Warts and all, you’re going to have a front-row seat on what it looks like to self-distribute, market, and sell a doc in this new era of indie film.

Famous Amos even made it on Shark Tank to pitch his new cookie concept.

I reached out to Jeff so he could share his story with the tribe. If you are thinking of self-distributing your film this is an episode you will not want to miss. Enjoy my conversation with Jeff MacIntyre.

Alex Ferrari 2:23
Now guys, today on the show, we have 17 time Emmy Award winning filmmaker Jeff MacIntyre. And Jeff is the director of a new film called The Great cookie comeback, which is basically a documentary about the founder of famous Amos cookies, and how he lost everything and is trying to make a comeback in his 80s. Now Jeff decided to self distribute his film because he was getting such ridiculous offers from traditional film distributors. So he thought that he'd have a chance on going at it alone and seeing what he could actually make. You know, we have, you know, somebody who's, you have a niche of cookie lovers, you've have someone who's a celebrity people who know who famous Amos is, a lot of things are in his favor with self distribution, the cost of the film was low, all of those kinds of good things. But he had, you know, a few mishaps, and a few wins a few, you know, losses during his misadventure self distributing. So he wanted to come on the show to talk about the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly of self distributing a film in today's world. And if you are thinking of self distributing your film, this is an episode you absolutely need to listen to. So without any further ado, please enjoy my eye opening conversation with Jeff MacIntyre. I'd like to welcome to the show Jeff MacIntyre. Man, thank you so much for being on the show. Brother.

Jeff MacIntyre 3:51
Me. Yes. Great to be here, Alex. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 3:54
I appreciate that

Jeff MacIntyre 3:55
Let me just say right to kick things off. I think I have to state the obvious, you know, with everything that's going on in the world right now. I don't think there's any bigger warning sign that the end is near by the fact that Alex booked a failed filmmaker on his show. I mean, come on. If that's not proof, the end is coming to start digging your bunker. These are desperate times.

Alex Ferrari 4:16
Listen, listen, my friend. I hope I'm the host. And I'm a failed filmmaker in many ways, as well. So don't don't worry about it. So we have all failed in one way, shape or form. So it's all good. But I also also Do you believe that you learn much more from failure than you ever do from success? So that's why you're present. And that's why you and I which are I'm assuming similar vintages as far as age is concerned. That we wait we have enough old enough sir Exactly. We have the shrapnel and and you What is it? What's that saying? My wife says it all the time. The devil is more devil because of how long he's been around how old he is. So it's not because he's a devil.

Jeff MacIntyre 5:01
Oh, yeah, Oh, yeah, he's had more practice. perfected devilish. And we have the shrapnel but we've also got the medicine to help soothe the wounds.

Alex Ferrari 5:12
For people listening wrote that film. I think he's holding up a wild turkey is that

Jeff MacIntyre 5:19
This is High, West. High, West. Oh, you like good Bourbons and whiskeys. They are just knocking it out of the park.

Alex Ferrari 5:27
There you go. There you go.

Jeff MacIntyre 5:28
I know. I could see you possibly don't believe in you need a little proof. So what I'll do for the community, I'm taking one for the community here. And this guarantees this show is only going to get better.

Alex Ferrari 5:39
I feel that this is going to be a good episode. Jeff, I'm just have a feeling that this might be a fun episode. So first and foremost, how did you get into this ridiculous business?

Jeff MacIntyre 5:50
That is a key word. I'll take you way back to the ripe young age of 15. I got started in radio at this cheeseball local radio station.

Alex Ferrari 6:00
What is it? What is this? What is this? What is this radio you speak of? I don't understand. Oh, Is it like a podcast.

Jeff MacIntyre 6:06
No, no, this was a real FM radio station back in 1985. It was a true cast. Yes, not a podcast. And they eventually acquired even a cheesier cable access station. So that's kind of where the ball started rolling out 1617 started doing on camera stuff. But the real pivotal moment where things really broke open and I really owe a lot of my career to was ASI. Not not the the film school. Alternative fact interpretation. Asi. I told a couple really big lies to score some really sweet positions with ABC TV. This is back in the 90s and they desperate spot they needed technicians in shooters editors, and the bar was so low anyone with a pulse and one working good. I probably could have gotten a gig. So I come in, I meet with the head honcho this gruff, old grizzled news guy. Yeah. Well, who are you? What do you what can you do for me? Well, I am an editor. Sure I am Why not? I can be anything the guy wanted that day. And granted to that point, I had edited, very prestigious productions, like weddings and bar mitzvahs. So I understood the basics of cutting, but maybe not on the broadcast news level, but the interviews progressing. Can you edit? Sure I can. You can do news? Well, it would be news to me if I couldn't do news. Wow. Oh, this sounds good. So you'll start tomorrow? Oh, just out of curiosity for your news. Business here. What kind of equipment do you use to edit your news? Oh, the Sony arm 450. Old Of course. Great choice. That's what I'd use. Thank you. I'll see you tomorrow. So I get in the parking lot. And I break out my big huge cell phone I call a buddy who owns a production company. Hey, Greg. It's Jeff. I just got this sweet gig at CHANNEL SEVEN. But I have to learn how to edit. Do you have a Sony Rm 350. And he said, Come on over, he got me up to speed. And that's what really started the professional ball rolling. And from there, I told some other sweet lies. And sure I know how to shoot professional stuff and produce in the field. So they sent me to foreign countries. And that's what I tell young filmmakers and professionals don't wait till the door opens for you the moment you see a crack you bust through that door and show up with confidence. And if you know in your heart, you're not going to screw people over and you probably can learn on the job and do so quickly. You do it because those opportunities rarely come twice in that those moments.

Alex Ferrari 8:42
And that is exactly what I did with my fake editing demo reel which I used by grabbing other people's commercial spots, raw footage, re editing them slapping a Nike logo at the end of it. And I would go they were like you know 20 like 10 million $5 million commercials, whatever like, but they were foreign raw footage from like Europe. And I was editing I was working at a production house I grabbed it all put it together, send it out. And I started working as an editor really quick. But you knew you had the skills you had not had to make a make a claim? Correct. That's the thing. That's the thing when you're going to get your fake it till you make it you need to understand that you might have to bend the truth to get in the door. But you've got to produce once you're in the door, or learn on the job and things like that. And I did that multiple times while I was coming up and I think all big you know all all professionals have one point or another extended the truth of what their capabilities or experience was and figure it out along the way just to get the opportunity because you're right. If you see that crack, you gotta bust through that door. Without question.

Jeff MacIntyre 9:48
Definitely. It's not like today where we all own the transmitter. Basically, we all have our own channels, but back in the days you and I were coming up. I mean there were a huge gun. Go To gun guarded gates, they weren't letting you in me. And

Alex Ferrari 10:04
That's for damn sure, sir. Now tell me about your new film The Great cookie comeback. Tell me about it.

Jeff MacIntyre 10:10
I really prefer not to talk about that film. I'd like to talk about interpretive dance. What?

Alex Ferrari 10:19
Oh my god, oh my god, it's gonna be like

Jeff MacIntyre 10:22
Okay fine, we'll talk about that film. So, I don't know, too long to admit about four or five years ago, I producing partner Jason. He lives in Hawaii, Honolulu. And he crosses paths with this guy named Wally Gaines. And this by namesake Yeah, well, Amos. I don't know. I've never heard of them. But then when you learn that he's the Amos behind famous Amos cookies, which we've all enjoyed at a gas station. near you. vending machine. Yes. And these actually have the shelf life of gravel. The package version so this is good bunker. Good material. So you know, back in the day, so Wally aim is the cool thing about walling. I'm sorry, I the booze is kicking in. So sure, the focus here, so my buddy crosses, crosses paths with them. And then the idea is, oh, let's do a reality show with Wally. I'm like, No, no one wants to see reality show with his 80 plus year old guy. Let's do a documentary. His life is so rich. And most people only know him, you know based on his sweet treats, but his life or cookies was just jaw droppingly interesting. He was a music agent, one of the first black talent agents in the US work for William Morris. He discovered people like the temptations he signed Diana Ross Marvin Gaye, he discovered Simon Garfunkel, she says so, but exactly, so that part of Wally's life is really, really interesting. And so that's how his entree to cookies came to be. He was representing an actress Sheri summers, who was in Harold and Maude, which is one of my, one of my more favorite classic films, very quirky. And as they were finishing up a meeting, Sherry busts out this bag of chocolate chip cookies, and was like, where'd you get these? Oh, I made them. I just loved them a cookie. So while he started eating them, and it reminded him of simpler days of his past when his aunt used to make cookies. So he went home that night, and just started making cookies. He was so he fell, so in love with the process of baking cookies, and giving them away, that in Hollywood at that time, that became his trademark. Whenever he take a meeting, he'd bring a small bag of his famous chocolate chip cookies. So he kind of he had this reputation around town as the cookie man. So one night, he's meeting with Quincy Jones, his secretary, they're having dinner on the Sunset Strip, and she says, you know, Wally, you and I should start a cookie store. And he left that meeting. And that idea has stuck in his head ever since decades later. So in 1975, Wally opened the very first chocolate chip cookie store. And I hope by today's standards, or there's, there's candy stores, there's cookie stores, back in the day, that wasn't, he took a big risk to try something brand new. And it took off, he became a pop culture icon. He was on every TV show. And for 10 years, he kind of ruled the roost in cookies until he didn't, and he lost it all. But should we go there do anything?

Alex Ferrari 13:37
I mean, we have to watch the movie, they have to watch the movie. So that's

Jeff MacIntyre 13:42
I don't want to give it all away.

Alex Ferrari 13:43
Exactly. Well, I actually, we were discussing before we got on air that I actually saw while he on Shark Tank, he was pitching his new cookies that he was trying to his new cookie companies trying to launch. But just just just know everyone that watched the movie, but generally speaking that while he lost everything, lost his company. It was pretty it's a pretty brutal story, a pretty brutal entrepreneurial story. And and then this, this documentary is about his comeback. I'm assuming hence the name.

Jeff MacIntyre 14:13
Right. And it digs into some of the pitfalls along his path. And it's a great lessons for anyone in business. You don't sign contracts without really understand what you're signing the big thing that kind of crippled them since the 80s. And what he's been trying to overcome ever since when these companies would take him over, he signed away the rights to use his own God given name and likeness for any future big good company. And that's all he does cookies. So they prohibited him for using what everyone knows him for. And he started like 12 other cookie companies since famous Amos, but nowhere along the way was he able to say hey, you out there cookie lovers. I'm the guy who started that cookie that you remember in love That really hurt him and That's why he didn't get a deal on Shark Tank because he has no access to one on that show said, Yeah, you're just another random cookie on the shelf now, we can't tell the public who you were. So that was really tough. But I think the better takeaway from the film, the inspirational lesson is, despite of setback, after setback, nothing stops this guy. He continues to persevere at 85. And he's trying to start his quote, unquote, final final cookie company. But nothing slows him down. And that's a great lesson for all of us, especially in this space. Really hang on to?

Alex Ferrari 15:35
Absolutely, absolutely, you can never, we filmmakers we have, like I said, we only have a sickness that once you're bitten, you can't get rid of it. And it flares up and it goes dormant, but it's always there. It's always there. Now, you have to be smart in how you manage the symptoms. It's good. I like that. I'm going to use that one. I'd like that. Hashtag, baby. And now, if you don't mind me asking what was the budget of this documentary?

Jeff MacIntyre 16:01
Since I wear all the hats, mainly, because I like the cover of my bald spot. I shot it produced it, edited it. So hard cash, hard costs, were roughly 15,000. And that included everything. It's nothing, I tried to keep my productions low.

Alex Ferrari 16:22
And that's very smart. I've been yelling that for the top of the mountain for a long time, keep your overhead as low as humanly possible. So 15 grand for a documentary with a known entity like famous Amos was, I mean, everybody, you just say famous Amos, every one of those other cookie guy have his documentary about the cookie guy. So so you actually have a winning formula. Here, you've got a known person who's very recognizable around the world, just by the name at least. And then you also have very low cost. So this is a perfect like, if you were coming to me and I was consulting you on this, I'll be like you are a perfect candidate for self distribution, without question. So what made you decide to go down to self distribution route, as opposed to going down the traditional route where you could have easily, I think, gotten a distribution deal off of this. And you might even been able to get some sort of MG because of the topic. And because of the star of the documentary.

Jeff MacIntyre 17:21
One step back before I try to dodge your question. And so another great thing that was in our benefit, and I think it's smart as filmmakers to really zoom out and survey the entire landscape of what's going on and some of your main subjects lives. What is your network like? And this was right at the time, we embarked on this, we knew he was going to be on Shark Tank whenever you can leverage somebody else's Free Press. I mean, this episode is rerun probably eight, nine times. And if you were I were trying to drive by a 10 minute slot on that network, forget it. There's no way we could afford that kind of ad, ad money. So that was great to put him back on the radar of public consciousness on that show met helped in our efforts. And But yeah, I mean, I'm kind of in the same rocky leaky boat as other indie filmmakers thinking, well, it let me Google film distribution. I mean, listen to Alex's show. I know he interviews some distributors now and again, these must be the good guys. So I'll blast them all with emails, links to trailers, get them excited. I did all that. And I was met with 90%. of FSU. We have no interest. Thanks. But no thanks. The one or two who bid on the chocolate chip. You know, the standard crappy offer. I threw they threw the flame in the dumpster to see if I wanted to buy the dumpster before the fire really took off. And it was at this time I was getting really frustrated. And that's when I stumbled upon your buddy Rob hardy had a course film audience blueprint where it taught you how to go find an audience for your film, identify niches and then market directly to them. And that course really was an eye opener. Because at the moment, I knew I couldn't take on Hollywood's marketing machinery there was no way I can compete with their ad spends, match them around spending them we will always lose on that front. So the the shotgun approach Hollywood uses to spray out their message to everyone hoping that everyone is their niche and their audience can't work for indie filmmakers. So I thought the only way I could survive this is do a laser targeted niche focus with my market. Find the niches that I think the story resonates with and market direct. And through taking this course it gave me the confidence to step out on my own after getting a couple crappy offers from distributors and I just felt that I could do better. Maybe not. Maybe I didn't the first round. Didn't back that principle. But I still have hope that when I do launch 2.0, I'll be a better arm to make a much bigger splash the next time.

Alex Ferrari 20:10
So how did you focus I because now I'm, I'm kind of breaking this down and analyzing the film and how I would approach it. It is a niche film, but it's a fairly large niche. Are we talking about? You know, seniors? Because he's older? Are we talking about entrepreneurs because of who he is? Are we talking about cookie enthusiasts? Like, who are your niches and how to hack my Excel talk? How to do all that? So how did you first of all identify those niches and, and the thinking in those three niches I just threw out there. Some of them are obvious. Some of them are not like senior seniors is not an obvious choice. But it is a niche that I think that you could address with this film. How did you first of all, pick your niches? And then how did you plan to target them?

Jeff MacIntyre 21:00
So we just broke down? At its core, what are this film's two or three major messages? What groups of people would make them say hell, yes, I want to get to know Wally, I want to hear his story out and be moved by it. I want to find similarities. So seniors, of course, and that was just kind of a no brainer based on Wally at the time when we started shooting, he was 82. And his story is so inspirational. And it really plants to seed and other seniors, people who are retired, it's never too late to start a fresh chapter. There's always a blank page waiting for you to turn your passion into something profitable to start a business even if it's crocheting toilet seat covers, if you love crocheting, look at Wally, he turned his love for chocolate chips into a viable concern, and it brings him joy. So I think that's a great lesson for seniors. And as you know, today's seniors have never been more active. So thought they get and then of course, there's the entrepreneurial the small business owners. And I think when I do my kind of phase two revenue run, I will reach out to business schools. And I will cut to different versions of this film to sell to the educational space, because his story is so chock full of great business lessons that are timeless, really. And that brings a lot of hope. And I'll also, once again on the phase two revenue scheme reached out to all these assisted living facilities, retirement communities that are in desperate need of programming. There's activity directors in every one of these retirement communities that are dying for fresh content. So instead of just selling them a DVD, I put together a whole activity in a box. So this includes the film a discussion guide, it includes activities, and it includes an opportunity to start a club. And this really eases a lot of their pain, like what should we do with all these retirees? Well, I think if you could solve other people's problems with your art, I mean, those are just checks that will hit your account eventually. So that's really the two main niches I considered bakers and cookie lovers, but it was too broad early on.

Alex Ferrari 23:27
Well, I mean, to be to be fair, though, like seniors and entrepreneurs are two very broad, their niches but they're pretty large. They're pretty large

Jeff MacIntyre 23:37
Incredibly broad. Yes. So maybe I didn't drill down enough. I got lazy, and I did I mean, as you know, is is a grueling process. To make the film to finally get it out. You're pushing it through the creative birthing canal, and it's painful point. That's where a lot of filmmakers have run out of gas, not only physical, psychic, creative gas, monetary gas for for many, and they don't have the juice to take you the next mile. And to me, I know you probably agree the next mile is the most important the marketing mile. Oh, absolutely. We better have our best shoes strapped on for that last leg of the journey.

Alex Ferrari 24:15
Most filmmakers don't understand that before. Like when you and I were coming up, making the movie was the toughest part. It was the most expensive part. There was no access. You know, just doing a color grading session would cost you $300 an hour. You know, it was it was insane. But now making the movie technically is the easiest part of the entire filmmaking process. And we've been trained, and Hollywood has been putting out this message that you put out all the audio, you put out all the art first and then you hand over the business of somebody else to handle where in the new film economy, you've got to know everything from script all the way to how to generate revenue with your film. And if you don't understand that, that last part after that final cut is cut and the deliverables are ready, you're done. You're done. And and most filmmakers don't get that, but they learn the hard way.

Jeff MacIntyre 25:13
They do. And it either drives them away, or it makes them stronger once their wounds heal. And to me this this last leg of the race, the marketing, it's like, it's like climbing a mountain. It's a slog. It's climbing a mountain barefoot through three feet of snow with COVID, positive Puranas nipping at your heels just to get into the summit, right. And for many, the first time they get a blister on their little toe, oh, my feet hurt, I'm going home, and they throw in the towel. But this is where strength and resilience and perseverance for us will carry us to the top and get us to the summit where we pop the cork we celebrate. But not only do I believe is it a win for our own films to make it across the finish line. But it's a win for the whole indie film community because we show it is possible to win. Yeah, absolutely. And the more examples of that, I think the more inspiration will provide other filmmakers who may be too scared to, you know, go through the pain of the climb. So that's the vital I think where we're at today. That's one reason I released that brutally honest case study. Because we have to all be more transparent. If we truly are a community. It's up to us to start sharing our wins and our losses so we can learn from each other.

Alex Ferrari 26:28
So you so now you've just you've identified your niches, and you've identified your audience and you have your film and you've decided to go self distribution, what platform did you decide to use or platforms to decide to use to put the film out online?

Jeff MacIntyre 26:44
I guess let's one step before that I had to start generating buzz in marketing. You want to talk about because I did spend a good amount of time you building the Facebook page?

Alex Ferrari 26:56
Well, let's let's talk about that. Let's talk about the platform real quick. The next question is all about the marketing. So what platform Do you got it? I used gumroad. Okay. And then and you didn't put it on any of the other major platforms, iTunes, Amazon.

Jeff MacIntyre 27:08
Oh, okay. No, thank you. Thank you, Alex. I'm sorry. That also as part of phase two, I kind of got sidetracked I wanted to try this launch by myself to market direct to the fans with to sell and rent stream only. No, yeah, to own or rent that the film through gumroad. Which I control the majority of those profits. And then I'm going to do the whole, you know, svod a VOD tvod. That still is on the list. But to date, no, no, I have not ventured into those waters. So I'm excited to get it up on those platforms, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 27:42
Alright, so we'll come back to the platforms and your ROI in a second. But how did you now start planning on putting the word out on this film?

Jeff MacIntyre 27:51
I think two years. Two years before I released it, you know, I launched the Facebook page, and tried to start building up an audience producing a ton of original content, custom graphics meems clips from the film, so I hustled to just drive engagement and to build the numbers, I boosted posts, I put tons of money in Zuckerberg pocket with varying degrees of return. And so I mean, at the end of the day, right before a launch, maybe I had close to 3000 Facebook fans,

Alex Ferrari 28:30
Yeah, which is it's it's not It sounds like a lot but in the scope of Facebook, it's it's it's nothing. Yeah, it's not a whole lot, not for a film launch. Now, Mike, so you decided to focus all of your your energy towards a Facebook page as opposed to a homepage or blog or something like that?

Jeff MacIntyre 28:48
I know, you Good. Good question. I also had the film's website where I had set up, you know, a squeeze page. So a lot of the campaigns on Facebook would be to drive traffic to the film website where people I could capture their email, get them on a news, again, my email list, I could send them newsletters, because that's what filmmakers have to. The first thing you need to do is start building your list that is so important. And whatever you have to do I, I tried a couple different enticements, to see what would move the needle, I offered some people his recipe for free. For others, it was a discount movie ticket. And then I tracked what gave me the most bang for the buck.

Alex Ferrari 29:30
And those are called lead generators for people listening. So that's basically a lead. So you give away a freebie of some sort to get people on your list. So you can start building a relationship with them. And you provide a tremendous amount of value to them with that lead generation, whatever that might be. Could be video, could be PDF, could be a recipe could be a checklist. It could be 1000 different things as long as it's really irresistible to the audience you're targeting. So that and then if you don't mind asking how big was your list when you launched

Jeff MacIntyre 30:02

Alex Ferrari 30:03
Okay, so the email

Jeff MacIntyre 30:05
Wait, no, dammit, you're driving me to drink it was pathetic. Okay, it was truly pathetic. It was no, it was like 121. Okay, so big fail, big fail there.

Alex Ferrari 30:21
Alright, so, okay, so you brought you brought your UI. So you have a small, very small email list. And you've, you focus a lot of energy on Facebook, and you're getting people into your funnel and things like that. So out of all of that, and you have gumroad as your, your main place that you're going to be selling your film. So, right, the Okay, how much did you spend on Facebook ads on your launch? And how many ads to use?

Jeff MacIntyre 30:50
Um, so I ran 121 ads. Now this Keep in mind, this is probably to you. through February into February right to the launch. 121 ads, I dropped $1,383. Not a penny more in ADS. And not anymore? Hell no. is Zuckerberg got enough of my hard earned money? Yeah, there he is. And this is just to build on your last point why it's absolutely crucial to own your audience's info because with one algorithm change, poof, all your connection to your potential fan, oh, it's gone. You don't want any other social overlord to control your fan base, you must be able to reach out directly and communicate with your people. That's why you have to build a list.

Alex Ferrari 31:42
And well, that's exactly what happened with Facebook originally, if you can remember, like we're talking about eight years ago or something like that. You used to be able to post something on your Facebook page and write 30 40% of people would see it. Yeah, now it's a half a percent for free it unless it goes viral unless it gets shared. And unless something else happens organically, generally speaking, it's a pay to play. So that changed the business model for millions of companies around the world, millions of people around the world overnight. So you always have to play in your own sandbox, you have to control the sandbox, because you play in somebody else's sandbox. You play by their rules, YouTube did the same thing. People were making a lot of money off of their ads, and all of a sudden Facebook just when Amazon their affiliate marketing pack, they turn no more. And people lose their minds, because you are, you're completely dependent on that platform. So 100% agree. The email list is the most powerful thing. Any marketer has more powerful than 1,000,002 million followers on Facebook. It doesn't mean

Jeff MacIntyre 32:46
You're exactly right. And to do it again, I would focus more effort on pointing all my ads to that landing page. But keep in mind and I think a lot of indie filmmakers suffer from this early on. We really we get drunk on the dopamine likes and shares it is intoxicating

They like me they really like me.

Oh my god, I don't have to spend money on those therapist I just have to post something. But listen up You damn indie filmmakers. Yes hustlers. This is really important. never confuse the like button with the buy button. One causes a temporary chemical reaction. The other produces a long lasting financial one. And never get wooed in by a like or share. Because those are meaning their vanity metrics that won't pay your rent. You can't call your landlord and say, Oh, you know what? This month's rent? I'm, I'm a little short. You take likes tonight.

Alex Ferrari 33:47
I can give you I can give you 20,000 followers is that because I pay my right? Well, that may have some value. You're awesome. But though it doesn't, because if you just given followers away, this doesn't mean it doesn't work. You could buy followers, right? You can empty it like tomorrow, you can spend i think i think the number is like 20 or $30,000. And you can have a million followers. It seriously that's literally the cost of buying followers. But it means nothing. It's complete vanity because you their people, their robots, or their fake accounts or their people from God knows where, who have no interest in what you're doing. So it's basically just like, look how cool I am. I remember I was spoke to a filmmaker, that that decided to spend. I think he spent like $7,000 on YouTube views to get his trailer to be viewed over a million times. And the movie cost like you know, it was like a low budget $50,000 like action horror film or something like that with like, you know, I think Michael Madsen was in it, or Eric Roberts or something like that. So and he was using his his mind. And he was a little bit out there as far as ego is concerned. And that's saying a lot because we're We're all crazy. But he then called all the film distributors like, Look, there's a million people who saw our film, you've got to buy it, guess what, it didn't really work and they lost $1,000 because of it, because that's vanity. Total vanity, it's command entity.

Jeff MacIntyre 35:17
And that's the thing, you know, likes can be bought, but sales have to be earned.

Alex Ferrari 35:23
And, and before you commit, the thing is with sales, especially with independent film, you've got to put your value proposition has to be massive. If you're if you're trying to go outside that normal world of like iTunes, Amazon places where people are very comfortable spending their money because their credit cards already on file, they just click a little button. And it's done. When you're going to a platform like gumroad, or Vimeo, Vimeo or something like that. They are announced, they don't know who this is. So now you want me to pull out my credit card, type it into the site that I have no idea about to watch a documentary about cookies or to watch an independent film that I made about filmmakers running around Sundance, like it doesn't, you know, it's it's it's not it's not a good business strategy. And I love gumroad Don't get me wrong, I think they're great. And VA checks before they were bought by Vimeo was great as well. Right? But if you're adding another few layers to the process, which creates less sale, so let me ask you, since you've been so forthcoming with your numbers out of that 1000 level those 11 $100.83 1383 1383 Okay, 1383 1383, what was your ROI was your return on investment.

Jeff MacIntyre 36:39
So these numbers, I think, covered the first two weeks of launch. That was all point in that video to say, Hey, this is what self distribution can do for you if you follow all the steps the gurus give you. So the grand total, that week was $36.94.

Alex Ferrari 37:01
Now that's a toy, that's 36 American.

Jeff MacIntyre 37:06
USD USD. But keep in mind, but then I it was that was already depressing enough. But then I said, Oh, it's not 36. Because to test gumroad, I did a couple of test transactions. So the grand total now let me check my math here. It was $29.96 for a launch of a film that took five years. 1300 83 bucks in advertising.

Alex Ferrari 37:34
Wow. Yeah, exactly. So So do you mind if I can kind of dissect this situation a little bit. Get your chainsaw out. I want I want to, I want to because I want to I think this is really great. And I think why you put the video out originally. And I will put that in the show notes. That video is amazing that it's like 40 kilometres an hour. It's insane Manifesto. It's a manifesto. It's a fantastic video. I think because you want to help filmmakers. So I think this is a great learning moment. So you did a lot of the concepts, right? You You found you have a niche product, which is a niche film that's aimed at certain groups, which you could arguably get to it is a valuable a good value proposition because it really isn't anything like this out there. And then the now that's the good stuff. And you you wanted to self distribute, you put it on a platform so you can control the money also good. There's a lot of that stuff. And then you started doing targeted Facebook ads, and you even started building an email list to a certain extent. So I think you've discussed it already. We said it. The biggest mistake you made is all of these ads that you were spending money on. We're not into a funnel. We're not direct the aimed at that email building list. Now, real quick before you slaughter me, guys, I'm not beating them up guys. Listen, I'm not beating him up. This is why he's not

Jeff MacIntyre 39:08
No, he's being incredibly kind to other things I did, or I attempted to do. But the other party's bailed on but I really believe in and I think this is really key for especially documentary filmmakers. I reached out to influencers, who I felt would gel with this film who have an audience that totally would love Wally's message. And let's say for example, a business blog or one of the top business ball bloggers as a podcast, that decent audience, and I analyze and I think every filmmaker you should come up with is this spreadsheet where you put your list all the influencers, that that could relate to your niche and then you also put all their social numbers, how many followers do they have? That's important. You want to align yourself with big beefy networks. I reached out to him I said, Hey, listen, I want to try something new for marketing a film. I'd like to work with you and create a course, I want to create a course that uses Wally's story, to really drive home some of the principles you teach part of your mission statement, and you you're watching the film, you'll pull out five key business lessons in this film, and then I'll produce it for you, we offer it to your audience as an add on to the film, or if you want to give it away as a value add great. But if you make a course, because as you know, courses are huge, and all these guys are looking for fresh content, I thought it would have been a slam dunk, and I got one or two people on the hook, and then they just they vaporize. But I think that is key because then they they have skin in the game. And they're going to work to promote this course that they can then monetize themselves. So I recommend that

Alex Ferrari 40:49
Yeah, absolutely. Education, online education, especially post COVID. Is, is a huge, huge, huge, huge. And as I'm sure you following what I do, I've added a tremendous amount of education to my business. And that's something that I've because that's what the audience wants. That's what my, my, my tribe wants, what my customers want. And the people that I I'm trying to serve want. So yes, absolutely. In my book, film, Rise of the entrepreneur, I talk about courses as one many of many ways you could do it. So to break it back to you. Yeah, so that was great. So like, if I was gonna, if I was gonna go down this road with this film, I would have, first and foremost, I would have seen if there was this, he couldn't go after another cookie company because he's competing with another cookie company. So that that you can't kind of leverage that you might have to, you can maybe find some sort of entrepreneurial organizations, nonprofits, things like that, that you could have maybe partnered with, to get the word out, get on their email list, start leveraging their emails list. And then why you haven't created a course specifically an entrepreneurial course of your own based off of his, that's something you should be doing, because I think you'll make a lot more money selling that course off of his name and getting caught him into it, by the way, and can you give him? Oh, yeah, I plan to Yeah, absolutely. So you partner with him on a course on entrepreneurial course. And that's a huge that would be a huge, huge moneymaker revenue, it's kind of like really low hanging fruit. In my mind, where I see this personally, as the film is elite, lead generator, it's a it's a loss leader, there is if you can make some money with it great. But if you can't, it's all good, you should be able to generate enough other things that could do it. Like if you could reach out to sort of the top or those kind of like sheffy, bakey kind of companies, and see if you can incorporate that into their world somehow, where you give the movie away look, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead did this so beautifully. I use them as a case study in my book. And he literally gave the movie away. And he partnered with the Breville juicer in the movie, and that when I went to go buy my Breville juicer, because that's the juicer I was going to buy, because that's the movie I saw. So it was great marketing, right, I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond. And when I went to go buy it, guess what was sitting right next to it, a DVD of the movie, if you buy it, you get a copy of the movie for free. And it just was he built an entire business around this concept of juicing. there's potential for that here. In the cookie side of things in the baking side of things you can partner with companies have in regards to how you how you create your baking educational baking packages, there's so many different things that you can do to kind of combine him and and the film and try to generate other revenue sources, obviously, t shirts, hats, aprons, baked goods, things like that. But if you're able to create this, but you're now creating an ecosystem, with your film, and if you can create that ecosystem and I think that's one place where you could you could do probably a bit better now it's actually not focused on so much on the getting the revenue from the movie itself, but from all these other revenue sources, because it is a it's a it's a absolutely film intrapreneurial play like it The movie is a giveaway almost

Jeff MacIntyre 44:30
100% and there's a real evergreen quality to it too. Absolutely. And that's something like I said for phase two, it's institutional sales to it's reaching out, like I said to the senior homes, business schools, right and repackaging it in that form. And I think I forget which hotel chain maybe radition they one of their trademarks is they actually leave out hot chocolate chip cookies for guests. So I've while back you know, I just try to be unconscious. with them, too. Why not put Wally's face on these cookies or use his recipe, and we could put the D we could stream the movie on the hotel video on demand systems for a couple months. Airlines. Oh, there's Midwest Express. It was a Wisconsin based airline years ago used to give out hot chocolate chip cookie. Once again, pivot, give out Wally's new cookie, and you get to watch his the movie free in the in the seat back, or stream it in?

Alex Ferrari 45:28
Is there a package? Do you have a package where you get cookies and the movie? For Sale?

Jeff MacIntyre 45:35
Early on? Yes. But once again, the thing with Wally is when we embarked on this, this journey, he actually had kind of a good thing going he had started a cookie company called cookie Kahuna, which when you watched him on Shark Tank, that was the company he was promoting, but wouldn't you know it? couple months before we release, he splits from that company.

Alex Ferrari 45:58
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Thank you. Moment of silence, moment of silence. And then for all the one one table.

Jeff MacIntyre 46:16
Yeah, I'm not gonna pull the bottle up again. And drink. I already did that when it happened. But yeah, he really threw us for a curve. But then the story only got a little more juicy, because then he had to do so he had to leave his home state to try to start another company. And it was a victim of elder abuse in this other state he went to so the story got really wacky. Um, but yeah, that's just kind of in true Wally form. He's and he'll tell you, he's never been a good businessman. He's a great marketer, but he never truly, you know, understood the whole business thing.

Alex Ferrari 46:50
Well, I mean, like, it might even even that you can go down to Costco and buy cases a famous Amos cookies and package them yourself and sell them. I mean, you could arguably, right? There is Yeah, exactly. You know, like, if he's like, Look, I mean, if you could, you could do something like that. I mean, there's, there's, there's a lot of potential here. I think you said this, you said this in the in your video is like it wasn't lack of plan as much as it was execution. And figuring out under percent, those kind of dialing in those certain things. Because of like, if I was trying, like, it's serious, like if I sat there started thinking about how to market this, I would be creating a bigger value propositions, like crazy like cookie packages, and baking and all these other kind of revenue streams, and seeing what I can leverage as far as audiences through other companies and things like that, as opposed to going down the road of influencers are great. And going down the business side is great. And I love your ideas with the senior living and the cruise lines in airlines and business schools and all that. That's excellent. I know. I know. One documentary filmmaker made over a million dollars with a senior based film with the age of champion. Yeah, those guys yeah. And Chris. Yeah, they killed I based a lot of this on them. They're incredible what they did.

Yeah, and I think you could go to that same Senior Living convention Once COVID is done right and sell and sell licenses. There is just no question. You could do that as well. So there is definitely a bright future for the great cookie comeback. There is definitely a bright future. So we discussed what you've done right in a few things that you did wrong as well. Let me see Hold on a second. Cuz we covered a bunch now that so yeah, we covered a lot of stuff already.

Jeff MacIntyre 48:53
I mean, if you want to if you want to dive into I did get a couple offers from distributors,

Alex Ferrari 48:58
So Okay, so with distributors specifically because let me tell you what, let me see if I can guess. So. Okay, let me see if I can guess these deals. No money upfront. No, one zero. So no. MGS Okay, great. So no money upfront. I'm gonna say it's gonna be an eight to 10 year length, give or take. If I was lucky, but okay. Yeah. All right. A little 15 years. Yeah, I was trying to be nice. It's about it's about 15 years. Right. Thank you. I appreciate that. Um, then there was also called the the marketing expenses of course, which still cap and it's gonna range. I'm gonna say on the less predatory side 50,000 on the more predatory side 100,000 little lower, but yeah, 40,000 30,000 think they Yeah, yeah. Like 20 20,000 Okay, that was actually that's not a bad marketing cap. But then that means you'll never see. No, I'll never see anything. Anything. You'll never see anything. It's basically a loss leader at that point. Um, those were the deals you've gotten. But that's the standard deal. And if you would have been a lesser filmmaker in the sense of your knowledge, you would have just bought bid on one of those and prayed because you're like, oh, it only cost me 15 grand, you know, I'll, I'm sure I'll get at least that back.

Jeff MacIntyre 50:19
Never, which you won't, which you won't. And thanks to guys like you and Rob Hardy. I mean, you've, you're really rattling the cages and shouting this from the mountaintops, and you're keeping us awake. And it's all of our responsibilities to stay sober, and not be wooed. Because once again, just like likes and shares, it's very intoxicating when you get an email or return email from a distributor, oh my god, they like my film. And then you know, the Hollywood red carpet fantasy starts playing in your in your mind. But no, you have to shut that down. You got to pull the plug on that projector. Because it rarely ever works out that way. And it's just it's like waiting. It's high school prom, all over again, where you wait a week before the big dance to ask a girl out. And your options are so limited by them. And you're really nervous and you're desperate. They all smell that on you. And you get a bunch of noes in a day three, two days before the prom and eventually this one girl says yes. And you're so elated and relieved. Despite her reputation. She still said yes. Right. The chances that she'll show up or, or actually be there at midnight or dance with you. lopper comes on time after time.

Alex Ferrari 51:32
Well, obviously, isn't this the beginning of every Blake Edwards film? Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Jeff MacIntyre 51:44
Um, and oh, and then by the end of the evening, absolutely. No. Distributing will be going on.

Alex Ferrari 51:51
No. There'll be no distributing. No distributing, no distributing at all is going to happen. Now, did you think of possibly going with a film aggregator to get your film up on these platforms? Is that something you're thinking about doing?

Jeff MacIntyre 52:05
100% and this is an area that I really haven't dipped my toe in the water enough. I mean, filmhub seems very intriguing. No,

Alex Ferrari 52:14
I'm sorry. That was just a twitch in my neck. I apologize.

Jeff MacIntyre 52:17
Oh, gotcha. I think it was Friday and I'm going to replay the video. But aside from them tell me who should I call or all all of us are on the edge of our futons Alex teetering on the edge

Alex Ferrari 52:34
Well, because because of the the whole distribute debacle and how I heavily promoted them for two years it's one of the reasons why I came out so heavily guns have blaring against them when I found out what happened I try not to recommend any specific company because a company that could be good right now is not a company that's going to be good six months from now and I found that anytime I've released one of these podcasts, they are evergreen and I hear people are like oh I went with this distributor because they were on your show and then I'm like oh but they're not good anymore because they did this or that and their companies this now and I have to delete that episode so I Wow Yeah, I've become ever since distributor have become very militant. So I if I if I hear any negative thing about a past company or guests that I've spoken to that could possibly harm filmmakers, I go back and delete it and I delete it from everywhere.

Jeff MacIntyre 53:33
Well, thank you, but on behalf of all of us, thank you because we do look to you and others in the space for kind of sage advice because we don't have access to these big guys so you're in a really I think a unique position and you know it to be able to bring us people that we cannot connect with so we take that to be almost an endorsement when I get your position. But the the deal I got was from a guest from one of your past podcasts a distributor that I've checked your library to see if they're still on not to say

Alex Ferrari 54:04
Oh, I know they are sharks. I know exactly. You just by the terms. I knew who they were. And they are no they are no longer on the on the podcast.

Jeff MacIntyre 54:13
Right? Yeah, rhymes with crappy toss, but which was the nature of the deal?

Alex Ferrari 54:21
No one will get that I have no idea what you're talking about, sir. But oh, what a world what a world it is. It is it's an insane world and it's getting insane Are you know can 2020 be over with please is a general statement, let alone everything else. If I would have told you in January, that not only will the entire world shut down and the economy would shut down in the United States. But all movie theaters will be closed. There would be no summer blockbuster season whatsoever. Without any real foreseeable future of movie theaters coming back to what they are, and that the only lone film that might hold some sort of theatrical hope. And it's a, it's a, it's a Hail Mary, not because of the film, but because of the circumstance is a film that has very few stars in it. And it's based on based on an original IP created by Christopher Nolan called Tennant. And right that, and don't get me wrong, Robert Patterson and stuff like that. But you know, they're not just not a giant Marvel film. So actually, the Marvel DC and James Bond films were pushed, because they were scared, but they're hoping the tenant might open and they're still talking like, as of this recording, you know, it might, we might, we might hold on to it. I don't know. That's a $200 million. Plus, gamble. theatrically it time. And by the way, you have to watch that film theatrically you that's the way you watch a Christopher Nolan film. You watch it in IMAX, if at all possible. But if I would have told you all that you said, Alex, you're insane. You're insane. Put the bottle down, Alex. Come on. Exactly. But that's the world I live in. And I've been, you know, I've been saying this for a while that Rome is burning. And the Coronavirus, unfortunately has added a lot of gasoline to that fire in our industry. And it's gonna it's never going to die, but it will shift. And as filmmakers need to shift with it need to pivot need to figure out new ways to make this work and use the new technology at our disposal that we can use to empower us level instead of defeating us. So to go back to what you were saying as far as aggregators are concerned, I'm not sure that it makes financial sense to go with an aggregator for your film, and I'll tell you why. Because if you're spending money to get on iTunes for t VOD,

Jeff MacIntyre 57:00
No, never I'd never do iTunes. Okay, so for a film like this, there's so little what I've heard there's so little return on investment. I'm not going to spend granted a half to make $24.

Alex Ferrari 57:12
Correct. Exactly. So it so it ends you're not going to well, first and foremost t VOD, as a general statement is pretty much a dead. It's dead for independent filmmakers unless you could drive. Unless you can drive tremendous amount of traffic to those spaces, then you can make but being found organically yet not not going to happen. So iTunes, Google Play Fandango and those kind of T VOD places not worth it. Amazon, you could upload yourself, it will take a lot longer if you upload it yourself. But other than if you went with, you know, another a distribution company or an aggregator, but you could do it yourself. And they do take a big chunk, but they are the biggest marketplace where everybody's on it. And everybody's comfortable hitting that, that that that rental, if you're gonna put it on TV, I will put it up for 99 cents. Because it's better than the three cents you're going to get per hour screened on amazon prime. So that would be my suggestion. Don't spend three to four or $5,000 with an aggregator to get them on all these platforms, because that's a mistake that a lot of filmmakers make. And you really should try to focus your energies as much as you can on one major platform, if at all possible. And I think Amazon will probably be the best bet for you. If you can find a way to get on a VOD, that's where I think your money is going to be made. And I think a VOD is right now as of this recording, a VOD is where the money is. And I agree LIKE TO BE TV to be Pluto. Peacock is coming out. There's so many of these. These a VOD platforms coming out where that's the only place people are making money right now. It's six months. I have no idea. In a year. I have no idea. But right now. That's where money is made it look like when I released my first feature. I sold it to Hulu. That's not possible. No, not No, not not possible. So I actually sold it to China through foreign distributor. Not possible. Not possible though. So there's moments of time that things are available. Like there was a moment for TiVo in 2010 1112 13 t VOD was killed it was killing it. s VOD was not there and there was no Eva then S five started picking up and so on. You might is a big might, you might want to talk to a good qualified producers Rep. To see if they can pitch it to a Netflix or a streaming platform and see if they would take it take it on. I actually will Glenn Reynolds and Sebastian Torres. Both of them have been on the show. They're both really good producers reps who actually do what they say they do. And they actually care about filmmakers might be a possibility. No, they don't exist. I know they're they're unicorns they're actually unicorns in the space. But that might be a possibility as well. Again, it's a conversation. It's a conversation is not a guarantee there's a conversation.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:00:18
It's, it's worth having. I did speak with a couple of producers reps and they just really turned like in your other job do you sell used cars? Yeah, really slick and slimy?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:29
Yeah, and most producers reps, most sales agents, um, you know, a lot of them are very predatory. And a lot of them are very slow. Yeah, I can get you this or I can get you that. And I could do this. And I could do that. And like, you know, Look, guys, do you believe you can make some money with this from make a frickin phone call submitted to Netflix? If you make it? We're gonna cut we'll cut we'll cut the deal. All right. If not, forget it. Well, yeah, moving on, you know, that's what I need you for, if you can make it happen, great, let's cut a deal. If not, I'm not going to spend a whole lot of money for one platform, you know, or this or that. It's just not that kind of film. But that's those are, those are some the avenues I think you can go down. But listen, man, I appreciate, Jeff, that you've come on and talks so freely about this process. It is a rarity. I do anytime filmmakers want to do this, I generally, if it's a good story, I definitely want to bring them on the show, because I've had a few of these bad distribution, story kind of situations on the show, and they are very popular. People love them. And I think it's a real good service to the community to actually hear people who are in the trenches, going through it, figuring it out. But what I love about you is that that was 1.0 release 1.0 now you're planning release 2.0, which is a whole other world. And please let me know what happens with release 2.0 I'd love to hear what happens, how you're able to generate revenue, I think you have a lot of potential with this film,there's just there's a lot of money that could be made. And it can help a lot of people to watch this and inspirational wise and, and things.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:02:02
And and that's the gold turning a loss into a win. And these are all I think losses are real, they're teachable moments and lean into it because I was kind of part of the struggle. Do I really want to release this to the world and say, Hey, I failed. But the community has been really supportive. And, and I have to give a shout out you know, who kind of inspired this was a guest you had on your show? Naomi?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:27
Yes.Naomi McDougal Jones.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:02:29
Right her bite me film. She did the whole cross country tour. And she's amazing. She cut an incredible YouTube series, which I implore every filmmaker to watch her little tear her road trips, it

Alex Ferrari 1:02:40
Its available. It's available on Indie Film Hustle TV.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:02:44
Oh, wonderful. Watch it, you'll learn a ton. And maybe it'll light a fire under you. Yeah, she was great. Try something new.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:51
And she interviewed a couple filmmakers who then I brought on as well who had a horrible distribution deal as well. And they actually like they were brutal. They just like, Oh, this is the company. And this is what they did to me. And they haven't paid me. So screw them. And this is don't say I'm like, Okay, all right.Let's do this.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:03:12
Yeah, how do you really feel that's so important. And to your audience, I just want to follow up with thank you for posting the manifesto. But to let everyone know if they actually make it through that and they're still standing. We want to continue the educational process and offer a free course. Yeah, that's where I teamed up with Rob Hardy, your buddy. And for people who watch the video they can opt in and we would like delivering over an hour and a half of free content to arm people with the right steps to find a niche and market to them directly. That's totally free.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:45
Yeah, I'll put it up. Put all that in the show notes without question. What's next? What's next for you?

Jeff MacIntyre 1:03:50
So two days after the lockdown orders came? And you're in LA you remember those texts? The the mayor sent out?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:00
I'm still getting I'm still getting texts about the riots, sir. So

Jeff MacIntyre 1:04:03
Oh, right. The curfew. Oh, we're cutting to close. But we better wrap this up and shut the shades. But I had met a guy at a party in a couple months earlier. And this party I only found out the next day on Facebook. It was a who's who a former child stars like every child actor was at this party. It was a birthday party for a guy used to go to junior high with and he actually was a pretty big child star Keith Coogan. his grandpa was Jackie Coogan. He was in class and he was in my million. Okay. He was in adventures in babysitting. Don't tell mom the babysitter's dead. Every 80s TV show. So I contact this guy who hosted the party who happened to be a screenwriter and said Hey, Ryan. We're not doing anything. Now. Let's do something wacky and creative. Let's come up with a show that we could, you know, put child actors in and shoot it on zoom. So we came up with the first kind of scripted zoom comedy. It's called the quarantined bunch, and we've got like six former child stars on here. Even Ted lanes from Love Boat Isaac, he makes an appearance. Guess ours. And it's a hoot the premises all these child stars, you know, the reputation they're all little. Yeah. It's called fall Thank you said it. So they used to have a support group where they met in person. But since the quarantine now they have all their meetings on zoom, or everyone could tune into their drama. So the quarantine bunch was born. And it's a fun little show, but it just shows the necessity of being able to pivot, when you can no longer produce content in a way you're used to. We have to quickly turn on a dime, and then channel our creativity in another format.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
And well, you first of all, you had me at support group now, but like and this is something that filmmakers today don't understand is that you know, when you and I were coming up it everything was pretty well established. Like things really hadn't changed in I mean occasional little things here VHS showed up it kind of threw a little monkey wrench in right then. Then DVDs showed up cable Remo cable was gonna knock out your channel, select TV, yeah, all this. So there's things and then you know, but then once it once Netflix showed up, and in a way, in the in the streaming space, not in the other space in the DVD rental space, but in the streaming space. Everything's accelerated so quickly that the marketplace, the technology, everything has changed so much prior to the 90s. Really, I mean, when I went to when I went to college, I learned on a flatbed. But I also learned on that Sony and the CMS 3600. Let's let's start data and the Grass Valley as well. But then I use the this is for the for the folks listening, the montage as my editing. Yes, the mind size. The montage was the the nonlinear editing system I learned on which was on Windows 311. And then I would take the floppy and walk it over to the CMS 3600 plug it in and try to get that EDL to work which it never did. Good luck and never did. But then by the time I graduated, dV mini DV starts showing up and then he started showing and then avid showed up and then every so it was kind of like it was weird. I was right in the middle of the shift. So a lot of the stuff I learned in school was pretty much useless like I I know what timecode is, I know a drop frame is you know all this kind of stuff that I needed back then betas, SPS and Digi betas and all that stuff. I mean, all that kind of crazy title safe. Oh titles, I can remember

Jeff MacIntyre 1:07:51
My wife working on movie trailers, marketing and the young bucks who come in there. When they kick back a spot because it wasn't QC properly and they come to my website. What's this thing called? titles? title safe already, because they're on a screen. Nothing's threatening them. Oh, my God. Yeah, it's these little things.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:13
But but then but now? Yeah, no, no, but that but then you have to pivot because things started changing so rapidly. You know, I went from an avid editor to a final cut editor because I couldn't find any work as an avid editor in my market. Because there everybody started using Final Cut. Because everyone started all these in house agencies in house production company started buying Final Cut because it was more affordable. So I learned that then I jumped into color. Then I jumped at the post supervising then I was directing, you know, not just commercials, but other things. So it was just this constant pivoting and shifting, where if you do like, I'm only going to make my movie this way. And I'm going to get it out this way you're done. You've got to pivot, you've got to be able to change.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:08:53
And you have to continue to evolve. If you don't keep evolving, you start evolving. And then you do a circular spiral back into the earth from where you came. And I think a lot a lot of filmmakers, the seed is planted. If you're a movie guy, the seed is planted early on when we went into this year, we were mesmerized by the flicker the 24 frames per second flicker of dreams on the screen. And we love these icons are film heroes. And a lot of filmmakers still think that's the only way they can produce their their craft their art is through the template that their icons used.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:27
Correct. And that doesn't I remember I was I remember I was coming up. And I just in 2005 I released the DVD that I sold to to filmmakers about how I made a movie a short film back then. And in 2005, there was no online education. There was no educational products for independent filmmakers. I know it's hard to believe but there was none. And I decided at that point I made $100,000 off of a short film and we sold 5000 units and we did a lot of great stuff back then. But I was if you go Back to YouTube. I actually have the first tutorials filmmaking tutorials up on YouTube. It's still there. Oh, that's awesome. And I but I do enjoy when you watch it. No, it's actually really fun. They're gonna find me there an SD in there. Yeah, look, I look so much better than I did now. But But the problem The point is that I decided not to keep going down that educational route one because no one knew what YouTube was going to be in no one knew what the whole I didn't see that much ahead. But secondly, I said, well, Spielberg never did this. Why should I Scorsese never did this, I, I'm not gonna, like I don't I'm not gonna be an educator, I'm not gonna go down this road or do something else that my icons my, my idols didn't do. And you can't think that way. You've got to think about what's new. What's the space? What's the technology? What are the platforms? How can I get my message out? How can I move my career Ford, when I jumped into podcasting five years ago, there was a lot of podcasts out there. But not nearly as many as there are now in the filmmaking space. Now, it's everybody has a filmmaking podcast. But I'm one of the few that have stayed. I'm one of the few that survived these last five years, where a lot of my contemporaries decided to just, you know, leave. But it's because I found that niche, I was like, Oh, well, there's not, there's somewhere here, I can make some noise here, as opposed to jumping onto YouTube and trying to do it there. So it's always about pivoting. It's always about shifting and adjusting and putting more tools in that toolbox.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:11:29
And staying persistent. And I think that's really the foundation of your success is you remain vigilant and persistent. And we're most don't, once again, we come back to the views. conundrum where it's tough to create content these days is a lot of competition. There's so much noise out there signal to noise, oh my god, how do you pierce through it. And it is only through consistent, creative output. And that's a lot of work to feed the beast. But then when you don't get the views the social proof. I mean, it's easy to to turn tail and say, You know what, I put eight videos up. They didn't hit I'm going home. I'm trying something new. So to stick with it. Oh, and get over the hump like like you did with your podcast. That's really the formula for success sees they'll just show up, it's digging down.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:15
Showing up is half the battle 100% and you don't have to be perfect. Don't wait to your habit all. You just got to learn as you go. But keep producing. Absolutely building your library. Absolutely no question. No, I'm gonna ask you if you get a question to ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Jeff MacIntyre 1:12:36
I'd say really explore a good trade school. I mean, refrigerators always need repairing. plumbers are in demand. During this time about

Alex Ferrari 1:12:43
Boat engine lock toilets, boat engines

Jeff MacIntyre 1:12:45
Boat to get the hell out out of the country. But what if you have to? Yes, if you're so moved by your inner child to pick up a camera. I mean, really stay sober about this big career choice and make really smart decisions. Don't give all your money to a school with the promise that they're going to arm you with the tools and the career possibilities because they won't you don't need anyone but yourself and an internet connection to be a self taught success story. So don't spend money on a film school. I'm sorry, I that pisses off a lot of people who are still in debt to their film schools. But you don't need that static anymore. Because you've got the only tool you need to start creating.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:32
Oh, no, there. Yeah, there's so much it's so much education out there either free or even paid at a much, much more affordable rate than it is to to go to a film school, which, honestly, when you start film school, if you go in there for four years, do you think everything you're learning is going to be even up to date by the time you're out? Like it doesn't make any sense.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:13:52
I mean, journalism schools up to three years ago, they still were focusing heavily on print. me Hello. This is a sign of the times calling it's 2020. Maybe you've heard Yeah, it's it's a really I mean, it's such a disservice because then you put some money in a vise grip and economic vise grips. Oh, and so write your relevant information and you get them on the hook for the next 20 years to pay you for information that won't produce a dime in their pocket and pisses me off. It does. It's, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:22
I mean, it's all about ROI.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:14:24
Yeah. And you have to stay focused on that. And suddenly, some, the purists will say, Oh, no, but uh, I'm an artist. I fixed my baray I can't focus on the money. But if you don't focus on the money, you'll never have the backing to create your art and buy your braids.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:40
So there's a balance and your monocle Don't forget the monocle. Oh, the monocle, sir. And let me ask you. I went to film school I went to a trade school went to full sail and Mike my education was fairly affordable. At the time, asked me how many times I've shown my degree or have been asked for my degree Like, how many times have you shown never once? Has anyone asked me? Where did you go to school? Let me see your degree. What are your qualification? Where do they just go? Can you do the job I'm going to hired to do? Do you have a real Do you have a resume? Do you have references? That's all I care about. We are carnies. And the sooner people understand that we're Tech High Tech carnies, that's what the film industry is built on. High Tech carnies, who either are in post in a closet like I was for many years, or onset, directing or onset, you know, doing other jobs. You are a carny in one way shape, or high tech carny. And in the carny world, they don't care about credentials.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:15:42
No, but in the corner word, it's all about your game. Yes, just stop someone for a second, catch an eye, hook a heart, grab someone, and then your patter. And you have to bring something very different than someone else in that marketplace can't bring. So once again, it's really getting in touch with your unique sorry for the cliche, unique value offering to the world. And you can't be scared off by maybe going down a different path. It's so important to stand out these days and have the courage to be your unique self, as the market wants that mean, we're in this era of you know, Authenticity, and authentic storytelling as a currency. So lean into that. I think that's what the market really wants more of these days. It's the only value one more tip, this episode's going on three hours, but I thank you Skype for not shutting the server's down. Another tip for young filmmakers. And this really helped me, especially if you're thinking about going into documentary, I learned so much of every facet of the process by working in TV news, because you have to be a one man band. And it may not it may because an IRA Oh, I don't want to tell those kinds of stories, you know, you're not there for that you eventually will tell the stories you want to tell. But you learn every facet of the technical process, and you become very quick. And that is really key. I don't want filmmakers laboring for five years, there's zero ROI. If you spent five years on a project, you need to turn your your your productions around much quicker and spend less money on them.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:10
Yeah, yeah, like you made your your major film for $15,000. And that's not that's doable, because of your tools and the toolbox you've put over the years 100% if you don't have to pay people to do your job, and you just be the artist, don't forget, if you were just the artists, you had your baray that's 150 200,200 $50,000 job, film. And same thing goes with me with my last film, I spent around $3,000 making my feature, but it was, but it was a you know, it was a different ballgame. But it was I just did a lot of it myself and hired key people that I do. And when I say key, there's three, um, you know, other than the actors, and you but I did that because I have 20 odd years under my belt that I have a lot of tools in my toolbox, and I carried a lot of that way to my own shoulders. If not that movie costs, you know, 100,000 bucks. You know, if we do it right,

Jeff MacIntyre 1:18:01
There's no way to get that back as indie filmmakers where a lot of us are, really have to, to learn the craft, so you can perform at all levels of it, not rely on others. And we know people, older filmmakers who still bring on a dp a sound version, and they have to hire a crew of five, which maybe you and I can single handedly do.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:22
Correct. Correct. And it's all just different, but and I think the generation coming up behind us, and behind them. They're very self sufficient. And they're handling

Jeff MacIntyre 1:18:32
And that's exciting. That is exciting.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:34
Yes. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jeff MacIntyre 1:18:44
This sounds really crappy. It's it's multifaceted. Nobody gives a damn absolutely about your film. They don't are you. And that is, it's liberating once you can lean into that zero expectations from the world or your audience. And it's on us to help people care about something that is important to us. And you can find a common ground to where people will lean in a little if you're offering them something of value. But also, you're not a slave to what the the market thinks of your work. If this if this project causes you joy while you're creating it, Wow, that is 100% ROI. Your happiness during the creation process is huge that can never be discounted. And we forget that once we labor for a year or two, we put it online, and it just flops. And we think because we got 12 153 views, it's a failure. But we forget how much you know, fun we had and how much we learned during the process of making it.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:49
Yes, without question, great answer, and three of your favorite films of all time.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:19:56
I knew you're gonna ask that. It honestly, I'm not a real Guy

Alex Ferrari 1:20:01
three of your favorite documentaries, documentaries. Okay. I do have some favorite my favorite film is airplane. Oh, I don't know if anyone's ever given you that. Oh has it's been on the show. It's a really, you could turn on airplane right now. And piss yourself. It's so funny. I picked the wrong day to start sniffing glue. I mean, it's just so good

Jeff MacIntyre 1:20:23
You ever been in a cockpit ever seen a grown man naked?

Alex Ferrari 1:20:27
Anytime you like watching, watching barbarian films Johnny I've ever spent any time in a Turkish prison and a Turkish prison. Like

Jeff MacIntyre 1:20:37
There's easter eggs throughout that you could watch it like 10 times and you'll find something laughs So good. So again, it's I actually I sat on the plane. Next to we were going to Beijing for a project. Next to one of the I'm blanking on who are the two guys. J is J. Abrams, Abrams, Abrams and sucker, sucker. Tucker. Zuckerman. I sat next to Tucker chairs. Hilarious guy, but I mean, I love quirky. I mean, there's a guy wrote this guy's name down because I love Steven Conrad. He on the TVs, perpetual grace the Patriot on Amazon. He did Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Have you

Alex Ferrari 1:21:20
I love secret level? Well, to me, it's a great film.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:21:23
I love quirky. Just different.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:26
Fair enough. Now where can people find you and your work?

Jeff MacIntyre 1:21:31
As if they want to after this

Alex Ferrari 1:21:36
If anyone's still listening?

Jeff MacIntyre 1:21:38
I don't know good. Go to moviemarketingmakeover.com . That's how you can get this free course you could find me there. I mean, I don't know you can. Oh, I have a company. By the way. I've only had it for like 25 years. But I have a production company called Content Media Group here in Los Angeles. So you could find me there too. I love you know, opening an ear to the the up and coming generation of filmmakers. So feel free to reach out with any questions. But we're all here to support each other and to keep indie filmmaking alive into the future.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:11
Amen. Brother preach their preach, preach. Yeah. Amen. Amen. Amen. Pass the plate. Jeff, thank you so much for being on the show, man, I really appreciate it. And thank you for being so honest and raw about your experience. Thank you for allowing me to beat it up a little bit. And for the scope of education of our audience, I do truly appreciate it. Because I think we do learn much more from our mistakes than we do from our victories, as I have put my mistakes out there in many, many ways, many times in my books everywhere else. But I think it's really great of you. So thank you again, for everything you've done. And good luck to you with launch 2.0.

Jeff MacIntyre 1:22:53
And thank you for keeping us all awake to the possibilities of what we can become as indie filmmakers, Alex, thank you for building this great community.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:02
I want to thank Jeff for coming on the show not only dropping major, major knowledge bombs on the tribe, but for being so transparent and open about his successes and his failures. Going through this journey of self distributing his film, self distribution, guys is no joke, if you are going to self distribute your film, you really have to be on your A game, the higher the budget of your film, the tougher it's going to be to recoup your money in today's world. So try to keep those budgets as low as possible. But the higher that budget goes, the better you have to execute your plan. And you have to have a plan in the first place. Before you try to self distributed. If you plan on just putting your movie out there on iTunes and Amazon and Google Play and YouTube and you expect, you know people to find your movie. And that's how you're going to make your money back in self distribution, I promise you, you will more than likely fail, because that is not an option anymore in today's world. So I talk all about distribution and a lot of the pitfalls of distribution, what you can do to actually generate revenue with your film in my best selling book, Rise of the film entrepreneur, which of course you can get at film bi z book.com. Now if you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/412 for the show notes, and before I finished today, guys, I want to let you know that I've got some insane stuff cooking for the tribe. We will be having a bunch of amazing things happening for the last two months of this insanely crazy upside down year. That is 2020. I have a bunch of new courses, webinars, things like that that are coming out for the tribe through ifH Academy. We're adding a bunch of new content over at indie film, hustle TV, as well. And of course, I'm going to be announcing my new book towards the end of the year, which I am feverishly working on as we speak. Thank you again. So, so much. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 360: Selling Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark with Cody Meirick

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Today on the show we have filmmaker Cody Meirick. Cody is the director of the documentary Scary Stories, based on the wildly popular book series Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. We discuss how he leveraged an underserved niche audience, how he piggy-backed off the major studio release of the narrative version and how he was able to get access to the key players in this niche.

This past summer Academy Award®-winner Guillermo del Toro and acclaimed director André Øvredal created the hit movie based on the iconic book series.
It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities in the small town of Mill Valley where for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time—stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home.

Enjoy my “scary” conversation with Cody Meirick.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
Now guys, today we are completing our Halloween week with our guest today Cody Meirick who is the filmmaker behind scary stories, the documentary. Now this documentary is based on the wildly successful, scary stories to tell in the dark. And it is a very, very popular IP or intellectual property that no one really done anything with. And no one had ever really done a deep dive into the, like the history, the war of how these stories came to be and the popularity behind them. And it's only you know, it's one of the most Banned Books series of all time because of the scariness of them honestly. And Cody decided to put a documentary together. And it just so happened that Gizmodo tauros produced narrative version of that also came out this past summer as well. So the timing was perfect, it was absolutely perfect. And in this episode, we talk about how Cody is selling his film, how he's able to create a product for a niche audience, how he was able to reach that niche audience, get them excited about the product, the project, and his strategy on not only how they made it, but how he's really just getting it out into the world and monetizing that audience and providing value to that audience. So without any further ado, please enjoy my scary conversation with Cody Meirick. I'd like to welcome the show, Cody Meirick, man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Cody Meirick 3:07
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 3:09
So we're going to talk about your documentary, scary stories today. But first and foremost man, how did you get started in the film business?

Cody Meirick 3:19
Sure. So I started. So I, I was always the creative type. And for a long time, I wanted to be a writer, I kind of I guess, I've thought back and realized back in my 20s, I spent my 20s, I spent wanting to be a writer, a novelist, right. And because I always had this creative side, and then around the time I turned 30, right before I moved to Chicago, got a job with an education nonprofit, where I work to this day, running a website. And nowadays, a lot of times running a website often involves creating content. And in this case, creating media creating videos, web content, instructional videos, that sort of thing. Right? And so, so I kind of learned a lot over the course of time working there becoming a halfway decent editor, you know, telling the story in three minute chunks in some respects. And so, so I got a certain amount of experience there. And at a certain point, about five years ago, I decided, you know, what, I have a lot of the tools and the know how and that sort of thing to do a film a low budget film, and and it's going back to this kind of creative side. And so, so I needed in a documentary really made sense. You know, essentially what I do is, you know, make three minute documentaries and web form, you know, putting on on a website and so, to a full length documentary made a lot of sense. I wanted it to be marketable, I wanted it to make sense. I also wanted to make sense for me to do it. You know, having a, from an education nonprofit talking about and also with degrees and literature and that sort of thing. You know, children's literature made a lot of sense it also, first and foremost, I always would recommend, if you're going to spend the years to get off the ground your project, then have it be something you're interested in to have that be something you're passionate about that sort of thing. And so, um, so this idea to do a documentary on this particular title, made a whole lot of sense for me. And so, yeah, I mean, at some point, you just, you commit, and you say, you're done this, it's Yeah, exactly. Like you've done all these plans, and so on and so forth. And you you bet at some point, you're just like, put it out there, guess what my name is Cody Merrick and I'm making this documentary. And, and it you know, it has fits and starts over over years. And documentaries definitely can because you can kind of piece together interviews and other things over time. And so and so that's what I did. So as I've been saying, five years, most of it happened over the course of three ish years. But then you can add on, you take into to some festivals, finally getting distribution, so on and so forth. So the whole process from get go to, you know, beginning was basically five years,

Alex Ferrari 6:21
Five years. So that's a long time to be on a project. So I'm assuming you're not doing this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm assuming you have your this is a side hustle. It's just

Cody Meirick 6:28
No, no, I mean, the job I said, I got about 10 years ago here in Chicago, still there. It's developed the the website has really grown and I've helped it to grow and and we've gone it taken in different directions. But I'm still doing that, to this day. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 6:45
Very cool. Now, you made a documentary based on the very, very popular scary stories franchise, which is almost as like a goosebumps, I think, behind there only behind goosebumps as far as sales are concerned, correct?

Cody Meirick 7:01
Yes. Yes. And, and the interesting thing, you know, I did our interview, RL Stein, the author of goosebumps, and and he, he's kind of my celebrity, I definitely have some other fairly well known people, but RL Stein's the one where it's like, he's the Stephen King of the children's, you know, children's literature, everyone's heard pretty much heard of him, you know, and so he's a celebrity, right? And so, but anyways, but these are a little bit different than his because RL Stein has been interviewed about a million times. And it's a different interview, when you're interviewing someone who's been interviewed a million times. And these books, the author passed away a long time ago, and the illustrator is, is, at this point, famously known for not doing interviews. And so there was kind of a hole there that like, okay, you know, a documentary that kind of gets under under the hood and learns a bit about these books and how they came to be and how, how they're, it's kind of a fandom, you know, and that's what's great for a documentary is that, you know, there's people that are very passionate about this title, whatever it may be. And then also, you have the censorship piece, it's the, arguably arguably the most banned or challenged children's book of the last 40 years. I say, children's book book, the first year, in first decade that the American Library Association made a list, decade long list was in the 1990s, it was number one on the list, the most challenge book of the 1990s was scary stories to tell in the dark, and it was still in the top 10. The last one wasn't published since 1991. And so, you know, in between 2000 2009, it was still in the top 10. So it was still a very much Challenge book, even though they're, you know, they're always in print. But you know, you didn't, they weren't, you know, they had become more of a having a cult following, and that sort of thing. And so this is very different than, for instance, that goosebumps documentary, because there's there's a number other components that kind of go down and channel your documentary. And

Alex Ferrari 9:06
Now, when you went out when you decided to go down this long and windy road of making this documentary, you had obviously in your mind, you know, you chose a subject matter that is something that you can leverage. So you're leveraging the scary stories brand. You're also you're also leveraging the audience for scary stories was just over 7 million books, if I'm not mistaken, have been sold. And on top of that, how many more I've been read. So you're talking about million. This is a very large niche audience, but an audience that you could arguably target if you wanted to go after them through Facebook through other ways of cultivating that audience. What were some of the ways that you did cultivate an audience or plan to target this audience with your with your film?

Cody Meirick 9:55
Sure. It It takes time. I'm with with I also run this social media for my, the nonprofit I work for. So I've got a lot of experience with, with, you know, growing an audience on social media and that sort of thing and targeting a audience, right? A, you got to stay active. You just got to and you know, each one is different. I remember I have a friend who had his you know, doing a podcast, totally not filmmaking podcast, just a podcast anyways. And he, you know, I talked to him a bit about it and, and, you know, you're, you're still no matter what you're probably you're, you're attaching yourself to a niche audience. And, and so you're, you're you want to have a Avenue and all your, the different platforms you're on to be constantly pumping out fresh stuff that people can like, people can share, so on and so forth. People are gonna notice you because you you're pumping out new information. How do you do that? Well, each one is different, but I can guarantee you any, any, any documentary that has a topic, I can tell you what the niche is, right? You know, you what's the one usually use vegan chefs? Yes, the biggest chef, yes, vegan chefs. Well, there you go. I mean, that's, you wouldn't want a documentary topic. That's just food. It's way too broad. You're competing with, you know, websites and social media that you know, it's in shows and networks. networks, exactly. Now, start to niche down, okay, vegan chef, Okay, you know what you I, you can wrap your head around that there's people sharing things around, you know, being a vegan. There are people who've written books about, you know, being vegan, and I bet they would like to be promoted. So you promote them. And then when your film comes out, they're going about, oh, yeah, this is the person who shared my thing, so on and so forth.

Alex Ferrari 11:55
Did you do that with this? Did you do that with this, this movie,

Cody Meirick 11:59
if someone's been following me on social media for a while, they know I'm just incredibly active. With this particular one. You know, the art, the illustrations from the book are have become incredibly well known. And beloved by many people, people get tattoos of the art, people do adaptations of the art, but then in a different style, or their makes claymation things or I don't know that there's a million things where people are kind of paying homage to the art, I guarantee you in the past five years, if you made something I probably shares, made something related to scary stories to tell. And Doc, I probably shared it. Also, it's all based in folklore and urban legends. So there's a lot of kind of fun, interesting avenues you can go down, you know, just to pick one story, pick one single story from it. And I probably shared some kind of tidbit about that story at some point, so on and so forth on different social, I mean, it's just being really active, constantly pumping out stuff related to your topic, and people will like it, they'll share it, they'll comment on it, so on and so forth. You know, it's it's a hustle, you know, yeah. But I, you know, just leading up to my first crowdfunding campaign, I spent nine months building it, and I've been building ever since. But I told myself, I need nine months to even build a little bit of an audience for that first one, which I did.

Alex Ferrari 13:22
And how did how did the crowdfunding campaign go?

Cody Meirick 13:25
It went, Okay. I mean, I, I have, I definitely have a love hate relationship with crowdfunding at this point, which is to say, you know, I know, it's, it's, it's perfectly valid way to go. And I won't say I won't do it again, for sure. I definitely can't say that, because maybe I just need to that said, you know, so the first time I raised over 7000, and then I, and then the two subsequent times, I raised around 2000 each, so I raised somewhere in the 12,000 range, over the span of three campaigns, it happened, you know, different points of the production, so I could, okay, the first time I didn't, I just had a mostly video pitch, I didn't have a trailer. The second time I had a trailer. Third time, so on so forth, I mean, you know, you try to, you know, give them something new each time you're doing it. That said, each subsequent, Okay, number one, the first one was the most successful because no one had ever thought about doing a documentary about scary stories to tell in the dark. It was the coolest idea ever, and people loved it. I didn't have a very good pitch. The pitch video was actually on the back and I like it, but you know, but I didn't have enough for a trailer or a proper trailer, and, and so on, so forth. But just the very idea. Got me some press I got mentioned on some very major websites, just with the very concept of doing a documentary about these books. And so Then then subsequent ones, it dropped off, you know, a because I was hitting a lot of the same a certain amount on the same audience I was before through social media, you know, I'd been building it, but still, it's, it's hard. And then also, it's not a new idea anymore. So you know, people are still discovering it, so you can get some traction there. But it's, it's definitely hard to get new press if you know, F. Okay, I've heard of that. I don't know if it'll ever get done. So it's hard to it's hard to, you know, to see. That was my experience. That's not to say everyone has that same experience, but that was mine. And so it's, it's, it's tough. That said, could I have done this without crowdfunding? No, probably not. And I mean, it's, this is the end budget, I estimate being around $35,000, you know, and that was paid for, in various ways. And that 12,000 was a was a big chunk. Sure. So, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 15:57
All right. Now, a lot of people think that you'd need permission, or you need the rights to do a documentary on a known subject. I know the answer to be no, for the most part, depending on what you do with it. So can you talk I'm sure. This has come up. Were you contacted by the CBS film people who are the producers of the new Guillermo del Toro produced narrative feature film version of this?

Cody Meirick 16:31
So? Okay, so early on here, here's a, here's my advice right into that, if you can do you absolutely want to do and that is getting access. Now getting access, in a lot of ways is part of what's going to sell the documentary in the long run. But then also getting that access allows you to get out of various legal ramifications, if you're getting that access by access. I mean, okay. You know, for instance, in my case, the family of the author of the books reached out to me after that crowdfunding, first cap crowdfunding campaign, they love the idea of the censorship thing. I mean, I'm sure they'd like the idea of celebrating these books in a documentary form, and that sort of thing. But, but also, you know, the, the fact that I was really putting the censorship component upfront and a big part of what the documentary was going to be about. They liked that they loved it. And so they, they supported it. So so that right, there was a big thing, right? There was like a stamp of approval. Yes. And they were a little bit of a liaison to some degree with the CBS film folks. Yes, they heard about it along the way. Of course, this all happened over years. But they heard about it, you know, main thing, and they didn't have to tell me this, but I was told indirectly was just make sure you're not adapting any of the stories? Well, of course not. You know, I know that. I know, I can't do that. And it's a documentary. So I, you know, now, the illustrations, that's a different thing altogether. Yes. So, um, so again, the illustrator is, has been known for many years, it does not engage, whether it's interviews or anything else now, and I can see all over the internet that people are, you know, not only replicating his art, and they're putting on shirts and selling them, they're making money on his illustrations. And I've, after tons of research in numerous years, I knew he doesn't seem to be lawyering up and that sort of thing. So. So there was that. That said, That said, the tricky part, definitely, with the documentary is okay, you know, let's hope no one even tries to get a lawyer, right? And definitely, because it's so you want to keep every everyone happy you want. And if you're doing a relatively positive spin on it, then then you're you're relatively safe, which is to say, You're safer than not, you know, it's not like I'm attacking these books or attacking an IP, you know, that for some reason, then, then you're going to get into all kinds of, you know, possible ramifications and legal ones, all that stuff. That said, I mean, there's definitely a nuts and bolts part of it as far as, okay, you know, I don't have permission to use these illustrations, but I use them throughout the documentary, but people are talking about the illustration. It's illustrating a point that someone has seen with you so on and so forth. I mean, this is a nuts and bolts way of editing it so you're pretty safe. That said, you're still going to end up giving it to a lawyer at the end and saying, Here, watch the whole thing. How, how much risk Am I taking on right I you know, and you Yeah, I mean, one thing I would recommend is if you can, especially with a documentary, it's a bit easier. Get a fiscal sponsor. And that really helped because I don't know if I how much I could afford the legal fees that I needed sporadically. And I was able to get them for free, because I got a fiscal sponsor and went through channels to get that. And so that was very helpful.

Alex Ferrari 20:30
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Cody Meirick 20:41
You're always taking on a certain amount of risk. I mean, I don't know every film is risk, right? I mean, you do the consent process as best you can. documentary you're going to, you're definitely lessening your risk all along the way, by doing proper consents, and, you know, so on and so forth, and jumping through hurdles, and getting fit certain things signed from certain people and stuff like that. That said, I was told by another documentary film America or some time ago, I mean, you, legally speaking, you can get away with a certain amount of seconds, and you're probably not going to get any traction. anyone trying to say, you can't show that. I mean, if it's brief enough, and again, you wrap it in, like the fact that people it's it, people are talking about it, and you're showing something, you know, that's illustrating their point and that sort of thing.

Alex Ferrari 21:33
Yeah, there is, there's something called fair use. And there's a certain amount of of that, but there's a film that I always, always come up with, I always bring up is room 237, that documentary about Stanley Kubrick, yes, like you watch that movie. And they're like just shooting, they're just showing full scenes from the shining. Like completely in their action, I was showing full scenes of the shining, the shooting, showing full scenes of Eyes Wide Shut, and they're using it to demonstrate something else. But you know, and that movie didn't get to it. And I know it wasn't in a positive light. I mean, it made it made Stanley into this kind of reckless, crazy conspiracy theorist kind of thing. So it wasn't a positive spin on the film on Stanley on anything. So as you can see, the very first thing to say, this is not sponsored, or, or approved by anybody at Warner Brothers, anybody this or that. But it got made and got released in a large way. But the one thing that they do do in that movie is they never show a clip of a movie without someone talking underneath it. It's never like they just show a scene from the shining. Like they didn't do that they basically always had someone talking under it. So it's all about how much you want to kind of go after it, you know?

Cody Meirick 22:49
And that's, and that's what you learn about fair use, there isn't you? If you're looking for some kind of rule hard and fast, there isn't gonna find it doesn't exist. hard and fast rule is give a lawyer and talk to them along the way along the way. You're definitely you know, when it's finished, and you have your you have an account of it. That's the hard and fast rule is honestly, and I guarantee you they had they talked to a lawyer and they laid out risks, and then probably I get I'm sure they're still what were risks. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 23:18
It's massive. Yeah,

Cody Meirick 23:20
There's still plenty of risks there. I mean, to some degree, you're you're going down the road of what you can do, from the very beginning is choose a topic where, you know, you don't think anyone is going to have a problem with it, right? I mean,

Alex Ferrari 23:36
It all depends, like I mean, if you go, you know, like I did, I went to the Sundance Film Festival and shot a whole film at the Sundance Film Festival without their permission shooting while the festival is going on. And to, you know, a lot of people are like, Are you afraid of Sundance? I'm like, No, I really hope they lawyer up. Because Can you imagine the press on Sundance trying to crack down on an independent filmmaker to make a film about basically was a love letter to Sundance and Park City. On top of wasn't even negative, though I do poke a little fun. It's a it's a, it's a parody almost of what it's like to be a filmmaker, though. I think it's more of a documentary. Because it's ridiculous. But people were like, you know, but that's not even a documentary. But it is parody. And parody is another world that you can get away with. So it's all it's a real gray area, and it's all about the filmmaker and how confident they are that, you know, honestly how ballsy they are, because there's a lot of documentaries about subjects, that the subject matter in the documentary doesn't want the documentary to come out. There's, I mean, that's some of the best documentaries ever, are about, you know, are they you know, it's so it's, it's very interesting. So I was curious about that. And I wanted to get that out there because a lot of people don't, because this is a fairly known brand. It's a fairly known property. And you know, it's I Just kind of like I don't want to make the Harry Potter documentary. I'm sure there is.

Cody Meirick 25:05
What I've talked about a little bit is this idea of early on having a plan for taking your documentary out of the realm of being a fan film. Okay. And and, you know, Harry Potter is a good example, I can turn around and make a Harry Potter movie tomorrow. But how is that different? How did I add value? How did I make it any different than anyone posting anything on YouTube and just throwing up there of people random people talking about Harry Potter? Okay. And I really, you know, I, there's a, there's a, there's a glut of movies in general. But there's a glut of documentaries that nowadays everyone, and their brother has a documentary about every topic out there, right? virtually everyone. And, and that's kind of the running joke is now they're doing a documentary about this, you know, or that and so on and so forth. So you need to find ways to rise above that and say, Okay, this is more than a fan film, this is more I'm adding value. You know, I mean, a celebrities, that's the go to, if you can get some celebrities, great. interview them. That's, that's value because people like to hear celebrities talk about, you know, whatever it is be access, like I was saying earlier, you know, if you have access to the story, documentary there was making the festivals around the same time I was going around is a documentary about Monster Squad. Yeah. Great. Oh, favorite right of the 80s. And, you know, but there's a lot of cult favorites. What set that apart. It was one of the kids in the movie, doing the documentary. So he immediately had access to the quote unquote, official story of that movie. So that that, you know, I'm not going to turn around and make a movie about Texas Chainsaw Massacre tomorrow, because I have no access. And how, you know, how do I?

Alex Ferrari 27:05
It wasn't like that other movie The worst movie ever made? Or it was about troll two. Yeah, exactly. which one it was one of the the people that were in it, you know. So that, by the way, was not seen with that documentary. It's so much better than the movie. I can't even tell. Yeah, yes. Yeah. I actually felt when I saw troll two. After I because I saw the documentary. I'm like, Well, I gotta go see, watch. Then I watched role too. I felt a little bit of myself die inside. That bad of a movie. Like I love the room. I can watch the room all day. Yeah, and especially with a group of other filmmakers. It's even better. But yeah. Okay, so what was the the distribution plan for the film? And what kind of Windows strategy Did you have with it?

Cody Meirick 27:54
So I had, I definitely I did what you probably preach not doing what is to some degree, you know, you know, hope for the best sort of thing, go take it every step of the way. Take it to a few festivals. I didn't go to a ton of festivals because I do think, you know, unless you're getting in the top five or six, then you can definitely spend way too much money touring around trying to go to festivals, but I did a few and and and then that resulted in several distributors being interested right around the same time. Three in all, and they're all smaller distributors. I mean, there's a lot of them. Right. And so that was very interesting. And also very helpful because I you know, not that I'm going to go into detail here but I did get to see kind of the quote unquote, deal for several different of the smaller distributors. And that was an experience in and of itself, just so I can kind of see, you know, as much as you read here and there about it, it's still hard. Because even what you read sometimes are, you know, examples of, Oh, I made a small movie, it was a million dollars. Well, it's that that's not that's a different level, right? I want I want to read about the people who've made their you know, film for, you know, in the 4050 100 grand Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And and so you're, you didn't make it for 5000. So you do need to make money and you're actually you have a little bit of debt or you maybe you're paying people on the back end a little bit here and there and so on so so you need to make a certain amount of money. That said, you don't need to make a million dollars or $500,000 or anything like that. So So anyways, so that was a useful experience, for sure. Kind of seeing these different distributors interested in and seen a few deals and I went with one of them for for various reasons and Yeah, as far as and if I kind of knew what it would mean, inevitably, distributor reach contacts you, okay, let's look at their library. Let's do some research to figure out okay, here are the other titles is how different and similar are mine compared to others? You know, this was a, you know, a distributor that was known for horror movies lower budget horror movies that not a big surprise, it's a documentary I wanted I was mostly asking Okay, you know, they have done some documentaries previously but you know, the bread and butter is is more on the lower budget horror movies and so okay, you know, with documentaries, a big thing is is, you know, education distributors and that sort of thing. So I asked him a lot of questions regarding that. And but as far as the release and windowing, you know, I was surprised what we did, which is, you know, t VOD over the summer, and for about four months, and then and DVD as well in the middle of that. And then. And then amazon prime, which it's on amazon prime video.

Alex Ferrari 31:11
But you wind it out with the release of the the narrative film by by CBS Films. Yes, yes. Left to leverage that a bit.

Cody Meirick 31:18
Yeah, sure. Yep. I mean, wouldn't you? Yeah, why wouldn't we? And and, you know, how much that does? I don't know, it's all, it's really hard to parse things. Because, because I also hustled the heck out of it the entire time, in all kinds of other ways. And I've been building all kinds of things, so on so forth, and, you know, and they hired a PR company, how much, you know, they're, you know, a little bit late, you know, how a smaller distributor works, you know, they're going to put some, if you're lucky, they put some money into, you know, pushing it for a period of time, and they definitely did. So, it's, it's a little bit of, Okay, how, whatever success comes, it's, it can be difficult to parse, you know, how much is it? Was it me hustling? How much is it was a distributor actually putting some effort? And how much of it was just okay, you know, it was good timing. And so it was gonna happen no matter what.

Alex Ferrari 32:20
Yeah, I mean, I'm not sure how good I'm not sure what kind of response to you would have had five years ago? If this film would have come out?

Cody Meirick 32:27
Sure. Sure. I mean, but from the get go as far as the adaptation goes, you know, so I had the idea for this documentary five years ago. And I started to make a few spreadsheets, a couple lists and that sort of thing. And then boom, announced CBS Films, purchase the adaptation rights.

Alex Ferrari 32:44
Which means nothing, which means nothing

Cody Meirick 32:46
Which means nothing. Absolutely, absolutely. So five years ago, they put a couple writers that are long since gone. It's been in development for many years. And then so it could have never happened, which, you know, my my thing even back then was like, if it never happens, then my documentary all anyone has about this, about this. And so so even if it never happens, then there's there's a benefit there. Because it was obvious that people were excited, you could see you know, it was making news and people on social media and so on so forth, we're talking about who wouldn't have great be great to have a scary stories to tell him dark movie. So those same people in theory will, you know, get something out of a documentary that does something very different. And then, you know, look at the censorship piece, which really sets it apart from any kind of adaptation,

Alex Ferrari 33:38
Right. But I think also moving forward in the future people who anybody who searches for scary stories, you are the second, the or the second result for the year until eternity, or as long as those, those those films are up on those platforms. So that's not a bad place to do. Like if you do a back to the future, or a big trouble Little China as a call out to the two posters behind you. documentaries. Anytime someone searches for those movies, the documentary pops up right next to it, that's a good thing. That's a really good thing and easy marketing. It is. Anytime you could attach yourself to a a popular brand, and or franchise in one way shape, or form. documentary being the easiest way to do it without getting sued. Is, is a really good way of going about it. Now, you also talked a little bit.

Cody Meirick 34:27
I was just gonna say I mean, one thing I'd also recommend, I mean, if you can, and not all documentaries do this, but if you can attach some kind of cause behind it, you know, I have, you know, these are the most banned books of the last four years that sort of anytime, like if there's a f it's a movie, okay? You know, was it a black filmmaker? Was it a woman filmmaker wasn't what back when? There were many of those or was it this? I mean, I don't know this each one of

Alex Ferrari 35:01
1000 things. Yeah,

Cody Meirick 35:02
Yeah, it could be 1000 things. But if you can, if you can add some kind of emotion to it in some way, some kind of cause in some way, shape or form, I think that package is it's so much better and says, okay, there's a reason for this documentary to exist. Because I think from the get go, you have to make that argument, you have to say, Why make a doc this documentary. And so you have to, you know, it's, you know, punch people in the face with the fact that there's a very important reason for this documentary to exist. And so attaching that cause is,

Alex Ferrari 35:37
is how it's very helpful. And it also expands your audience, social people listening, you have a niche audience of people who like scare stories, but then all of a sudden, you've got a whole brand new spill off audience, which is just people who are interested in the concept of banning books, or the subject of banning of banned books and censorship and all that. That's a whole other group that you can target, which is arguably fairly niche, and arguably something that you could focus on whether they're going to want to watch a movie about scary stories, who knows. But there is a potential a potential audience there that just by tweaking the documentary a bit, it opens yourself up to it. So why wouldn't it make sense documentary more interesting?

Cody Meirick 36:18
Yes. And there's, there's Banned Books month is banned books week, which is September, which leads into October and Halloween time. So it's like September, October is like Bye, bye. You know, hopefully, people will watch it anytime of the year, but I feel like that time, time of year, people are talking about banned books, and then they're, then they're talking about scary movies and books and that sort of thing. So it's but you, but yeah, any cause you have, yeah, you're and you're totally right. You're kind of, you know, adding an audience and but you and you can focus in focus your efforts towards Okay, do they have a day or a week or something, an event that is all about that the invention is something you can read? Yeah, convention, whatever it is. and American Library Association is here in Chicago, and, you know, I've made been, you know, made friends with them and interviewed people with them, and that sort of thing. So there's various, you know, institutions around that cause that you can really, you know, you know, leverage. And in your, you're totally right, you're hitting a slightly different audience than you were before.

Alex Ferrari 37:25
Now, I always propose, you know, being a film entrepreneur, you always think about other product lines, other ancillary products that you can sell other things you can do, or services you can do, you're fairly limited in this scenario, because you don't have the rights. So you can't get you can't make a T shirt, you can't make a hat. You can't make a you know, a mug or, you know, anything that has the term scary stories on because you don't own that brand. But and I'm not sure if you've have done this, but this is my unsolicited advice to you. Since you have built up this audience that likes scary stories. Why wouldn't you create an affiliate program with Amazon, and sell scary story books, there's very merchandise, scary. So all that stuff. And you could easily put that up on your social media platforms, on your website, put a store together. So anyone who happens to find you, or finds out more about scary stories of documentary, if they go there, chances are that they might want to buy the book or buy a T shirt or but and that's something that you could just be an affiliate for. Does that make sense?

Cody Meirick 38:27
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I it's, it's opening those doors. But I think that's an app. Hey, you got no argument here? I don't know. I'll have to look into it. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 38:37
It's fairly easy to open up an Amazon affiliate account. And it's just an easy passive revenue stream that is 100%. Yours, you don't have to sell it, you know, if this is, you know, there's no deal with a distributor about it, nothing else. And when you have a brand as popular as this, you can create an online store, being an affiliate that sells not only scary story stuff, but then you start thinking like, well, if I'm RL Stein books, goosebumps stuff, you can start creating all these product lines, and little categories of things that that audience might buy. And if they click on I don't know if you know how affiliate programs work, but I'll tell the audience is if they click on your link for the stereo stories book, and like, I really don't want that scary stories book right now. But I do need that inflatable mattress. They click and they buy the inflatable mattress within 24 hours. If you click on that link, and you get I think it's 5% whatever the percentage is of that sale, depending on the product, and they could spend 1000 I you know, I make a ton every month specifically like they just click into like, I'd really want to buy that book. But while I'm here, I'll buy my groceries, I'll buy that shirt that I wanted, I'll buy that camera package I've been looking for or that lens and you get a piece of that action. So it's a really great way to make a passive revenue stream off this documentary. Moving forward. Yeah. Absolutely, I will absolutely. Look, look into that. That's good advice. Okay, so I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests, sir. What advice? Would you give a filmtrepreneur starting a project today?

Cody Meirick 40:18
I'll go back to the message of my documentary, which is read, read a lot. Yeah, I mean, you know, I never went to film school, but I've read a whole lot of books about how to put together a movie, how did you know, modern distribution, so on and so forth. So I yeah, I would say a lot of research and a lot of reading, I mean, just just make it a priority to, you know, I went through a period. And I'm not doing it now. But I went through a period where I was, oh, I was watching at least one film making documentary, a month, and reading at least one book, A filmmaking book a month, for a long period of time. And I mean, I'm, I'm, I know a lot more, and I'm a lot better at what I do. Because Because I made it a point to say, I'm going to consume as much information as now you get to ingest it, and then decide on your own, okay, how much of that am I going to take and how much, you know, doesn't apply to me, so on and so forth. But just just reading a ton. makes a difference.

Alex Ferrari 41:29
Educate yourself as much as humanly possible, put those tools in that toolbox. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Cody Meirick 41:39
Um, I would say that, that is a hustle. And it's an ongoing hustle. And so I've gotten a certain mentality sometimes, and I think we're all guilty of it, of planning, like crazy and getting everything prepared. It's like, you know, building the plane, because you're about to go off a cliff and you think, Okay, I'm gonna go off that cliff, it's just gonna fly and sail and the job is done. And voila, you know, I mean, I, I feel a little bit like I did that my first crowdfunding campaign where it's like, I put so much into that, and I just, I read, so many people say, it's just, you know, it's, it's like a second job for an entire six weeks or a month or whatever you do it, you are going to hustle, you know, incredibly hard for that period. But if you do, you will hit your goal. Well, I didn't hit my goal, I but I, I accomplished a certain amount and that sort of thing. But anyways, you know, you put all this information, all this planning into something, and you think it's just going to coast along after that. And that's not how that's not how life works. And that's not how filmmaking works. It's, it's a constant hustle, you know, the film's never done. But the nice thing, I think, so it took, I definitely took some time to learn that, but also, on top of that, the positive thing, the nice thing about being an independent filmmaker is that, at least for me, if you're in the producing, directing, writing type situation, your movie can define you more than then, you know, all the other things that you might you put energy towards, like, you know, you will always be attached to that piece of art, whatever it is. And so, I mean, I really liked that I like, you know, at one point, I wanted to be a novelist and but it was a similar thing where it's like, you put it out there in the world. And that's, that's part of what defines you. And if you you know, hopefully you really liked it, then then it's always out there, you know, and I, but like I said, it's never done. And you're always looking towards the next project where and you're also always looking at the last project to see okay, you know, got it. How is it doing, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:05
And now three of your favorite films of all time?

Cody Meirick 44:09
I'm one of them. I probably have to choose a Charlie Kaufman movie. Eternal Sunshine.

Alex Ferrari 44:18
Oh, cool. I love adaptation. adaptation is one of my favorite.

Cody Meirick 44:21
That's my number two. If you caught me a different day, I might say adaptation but today I'll say Eternal Sunshine. I'm probably go with it's a little cliche, but I'll say Shawshank Redemption.

Alex Ferrari 44:35
I mean, if you've listened to the show you you know, that's obviously the greatest movie of all time. Was cliche because, I mean, if you don't, if you don't love that movie, you're dead inside and I can't speak to you. I mean, it's obviously obviously, yes, yes. So and then the third I will go with what dreams may come. I love The pressing is all hacked. But nowadays nowadays even more so? Yes, it's. Yeah, that's, yeah. For people who haven't seen that one. That's the one with Robin Williams about suicide and death. And it's it's rough. It's a rough. In hindsight, it's a rough movie to watch now, but yeah, it is beautiful dawning, it won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. It was it was basically like a Renaissance painting. The whole thing was like a Renaissance painting. It was just gorgeous, beautiful. If he'd done good choices are good choices. Now, where can people find you and find the documentary and find out more about everything.

Cody Meirick 45:43
So you can definitely find me website. And social media is mostly scary stories, Doc. And so you can definitely find me there. Giant thumb studios, you can find the website, that separate website. And as far as the documentary, it's on Amazon Prime right now. And it's on all the major VOD. It's on DVD. So you can definitely Google scary stories to tell him dark documentary, it's all over, you'll find reviews, you'll find all kinds of stuff. So it'll be the first thing you find

Alex Ferrari 46:14
Little competition when there's no other one. So that's a good thing, too. You are in as what I like to call it the blue ocean where there is not a lot of blood in the water. So very good, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show, brother. I really appreciate it.

Cody Meirick 46:27
Thanks for having me. It's fun.

Alex Ferrari 46:30
I want to thank Cody for coming on the show and sharing his experience with the tribe today. Thank you so much, Cody, you want to see this documentary, or get links to anything else we talked about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/360. And if you guys are listening to this on Halloween, please have a safe and fun Halloween, go out there and get some candy. Don't get too crazy. If you have kids enjoy it, the time goes very, very fast. My girls are growing up way too fast, but I'm enjoying every Halloween while they're still excited to go out. So thank you guys for listening. And I have a lot of stuff coming out the book is going to be hopefully out I don't think it's going to be out in November 7, because we just got into the graphic designer, you know, to put the book together as far as the, you know, the cover and you know, designing the interior of the book and all that kind of good stuff. So we might be a few weeks late, but it's going to be either by the end of this month for sure of November or early December because I want to get it out for the holidays. There's no question I want to get it off for the holidays. Because this is going to be the indie film hustle tribe gift to give to your favorite filmmaker or aspiring filmmaker without question. So if you do want to preorder head over to www dot film biz book.com. And on a side note, guys, if you are interested in reading amazing screenplays, well, I have very good news for you because I have access to the 2020 Oscar contending screenplays that the studios are putting out. So as they keep coming out, I will be updating this link. You can go to indiefilmhustle.com/joker. Now the reason I put Joker in is because Joker is one of the screenplays that we have on there right now. So if you want to read Joker, definitely go to indiefilmhustle.com/joker and download it and read it and learn from it as much as you possibly can. Have a Happy Halloween guys, as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 283: Building an Audience for Your Indie Film with Paola di Florio & Peter Rader

Today’s guests are Oscar® Nominated writer/director Paola di Florio & and producer Peter Rader. They worked on one of my favorite documentaries in recent years called AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda.

The film is an unconventional biography about the Hindu Swami who brought yoga and meditation to the West in the 1920s. Paramahansa Yogananda authored the spiritual classic “Autobiography of a Yogi,” which has sold millions of copies worldwide and is a go-to book for seekers, philosophers, and yoga enthusiasts today. (Apparently, it was the only book that Steve Jobs had on his iPad.) By personalizing his own quest for enlightenment and sharing his struggles along the path, Yogananda made ancient Vedic teachings accessible to a modern audience, attracting many followers and inspiring the millions who practice yoga today.

Filmed over three years with the participation of 30 countries around the world, the documentary examines the world of yoga, modern and ancient, east and west and explores why millions today have turned their attention inwards, bucking the limitations of the material world in pursuit of self-realization.

Archival material from the life of Yogananda (who died in 1952) creates a spine for the narrative, but the film stretches the dimensions of a standard biography. The footage includes stylized interviews, metaphoric imagery and recreations, taking us from holy pilgrimages in India to Harvard’s Divinity School and its cutting-edge physics labs, from the Center for Science and Spirituality at the University of Pennsylvania to the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. By evoking the journey of the soul as it pushes its way through the oppression of the human ego and delusion of the material world, the film creates an experiential immersion into the unseen realms. AWAKE is ultimately the story of humanity itself: the universal struggle of all beings to free themselves from suffering and to seek lasting happiness.

The story of how they self-distributed the film from booking theaters to SVOD is remarkable. They did it all on their own and the film has been viewed by millions. I wanted to bring them on the show to discuss their methods for audience building, social media marketing, release strategy and much more. If you want to the IFH Video Podcast version of this interview go to IFHTV Video Podcast – Building an Audience for Your Indie Film with Paola di Florio & Peter Rader


Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Now guys, today on the show, we have filmmakers Paola Di Florio and Peter Rader. And they are the producer and director or co director of one of my favorite documentaries of all time awake the life of Yogananda and many of you guys have been listening to me for a while I have heard me talk about a paramahansa Yogananda who is a spiritual leader and I brought over meditation and yoga from the west from the east to the west. So without him, there would be no yoga, there would be no meditation, he introduced it to the US into the Western world in general. And this documentary goes deep into Yogananda and what he was doing, but on a filmmaking business side, I wanted to bring these guys on because they self distributed their film. And what they were able to do was extraordinary, with the way they were able to do theatrical releases, to do community screenings, to do their own DVDs to do i mean getting booked, traditionally, in movie theaters by themselves, it was absolutely remarkable. So when I heard the story of how they actually were able to distribute this film, and made money and continue to make money, sold it to Netflix, and sold it to Gaia, and and all sorts of different things. We go deep into the weeds on how they were able to, to do everything. And they give us a blueprint on how they did it. So I really wanted them to come on and drop knowledge bombs, and boy, did they ever. So if you guys are even even slightly interested in self distribution, which this film was a perfect, perfect candidate for, then definitely get ready to take some notes. And like I've said before, self distribution is not for every film, it has to be a certain kind of film and certain kind of filmmakers for that to work properly. But if it does, and it's in and it's a good mix, and there's a good match, my God, you could do really, really, really well as I've given multiple examples on the podcast before. And also guys, if you are interested in seeing this interview, you could of course watch it on indie film, hustle TV on the indie film, hustle video podcast, and it is a great one. It just says I love this interview. This is a great interview. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Peter and Paola. I'd like to welcome the show Peter and Paola documentary filmmakers extraordinaire. Thanks for being on the show, guys.

Paola Di Florio 4:23
Thanks for having us Alex.

Alex Ferrari 4:25
I am a huge fan of of your work specifically the movie awake, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to have on the show, not only because of the topic of the of the movie, and it being one of my favorite documentaries, but also the the process of how you made it how you get it out there and we're gonna go into all that kind of stuff. But before we get into that first, how did you just get into the film business in the first place?

Peter Rader 4:51
I got the bug in college, I took this I was searching for what I wanted to do. I started like in physics and math. Then I went into the Economics I thought that was gonna be practical. And then I just took this one filmmaking class and the light bulb went off was like, Oh my god, this is it. This is what I want to do my whole life. So then I just had it for Hollywood and, and then I met Bella.

Alex Ferrari 5:13
Now how long you guys have been you guys work together? Correct?

Paola Di Florio 5:16
We do. And my background was really in the news with Italian television. And, and you know, it was I just before that when I was a kid, I was an actress. And so the whole idea of slipping into other people's shoes and seeing the world through other points of view is been like, I think a part of just who I am. And so the natural progression from short form to long form and then really wanting to have a voice and tell the narrative, to really, you know, storytelling. In nonfiction, having a stronger narrative was what I was attracted to. That's what brought me to documentary films.

Alex Ferrari 5:55
Now, how is it challenging working together as a couple because I had a business with my wife. And it was, and it was, it was wonderful. But it's challenging. So how, and we weren't creative. So I could only imagine the discussions. So how is it working together as how do you work together as a couple,

Paola Di Florio 6:16
Divorce is not an option.

Peter Rader 6:20
What's what's fun about our story is that our we made a film during our courtship, we actually met, and we actually connected on on the level of sort of union archetypes within our first 30 minutes of talking to each other. We're talking about union archetypes. And I was like, Okay, this girl is cool. And she had this burning desire to tell a story about expression, the need to find your voice as an artist and to express and she had a perfect vehicle for this for this story, which is this violin virtuoso that Ella, you grew up with.

Paola Di Florio 6:58
I grew up with not just learning. Sonnenberg was a world class violinist. And her mother was my piano teacher. And I just, you know, it was always far more interested in her than it wasn't my piano lessons. So that's kind of what spawned the idea of making my first independent film speaking and strings, and I had just met Peter. Um, and, you know, Peter was a huge impetus for me actually diving into that. So I was working on it. I was trying to do it, but I was waiting for everything to be perfect. The funding to come in and all of that. And he's the one who just said, let me shoot this. I know how to shoot. I was like, clapper loader. Do you live? Do you know, dilaurentis? You know, let me do this. And I think we started out with just like nachos coming to town I needed to do I needed to take him up on his offer. And that's how we started first working together. But during the course of making that film, you know, we were dating and then we were traveling together then he popped the question. And then we had all during

Alex Ferrari 8:00
All during that movie?

Peter Rader 8:01
Yeah. All during the movie

Paola Di Florio 8:02
All during the making of speaking in strings. And then we went to Sundance.

Peter Rader 8:05
You left out the marriage before having a baby. There was a wedding, there was a wedding. Then there was a baby. And we're like, you know, we got the baby in the Baby Bjorn. at Sundance, at the q&a

Paola Di Florio 8:18
I was pregnant at Sundance, we brought Matteo our first son we brought around with us to you know, festivals because he was you know, sleeping in a drawer and, you know, just that kind of effect

Alex Ferrari 8:30

Peter Rader 8:32
Because I was a big believer, you know, if you just dive in, you just start you start, you know, you don't you can't wait, nothing's perfect. It's never perfect. It began that film on literally a little you know, you know, consumer high eight camera, it ended up you know, being nominated for an Academy Award.

Alex Ferrari 8:50
It's amazing.

Paola Di Florio 8:51
Peters, a hugely inspirational coach and teacher, like I have to say he's taught at Harvard and some other places, and he's just really very inspirational. And so part of why I think it works for us to work together is that, um, you know, it's, it's just that keeping helping to keep the inspiration alive in each other. So he loves the process of filmmaking, but he was a writer. I was a filmmaker, and I just, you know, maybe it was more like, not as dive in, you know, we're insecure a little bit trying to find my way and here's this guy, he's just like, guidance, let's do this. And, you know, I'm gonna do it with you, you know, that kind of thing. And, and I really did find my voice in the making of that film. So

Alex Ferrari 9:43
That's awesome. Now, Peter, when you when you said you took a film class early on, what made you go to documentary as opposed to narrative?

Peter Rader 9:51
Um, so I went to Harvard, which is the opposite of a film school.

Alex Ferrari 9:56
I was about to say I have not seen many Harvard film school grads, that It's

Peter Rader 10:01
What they all they have this total bias towards documentaries and not just documentaries, highly personal documentaries. We the joke was at Harvard, you have to make a film at Harvard, you have to grow a beard, do a personal documentary that involves the birth of one of your children. And make sure that you pan across a mirror as often as possible to show your beer. That is a Harvard documentary. And many people at Harvard were making those in fact, Ross McElwee, Sherman's March, you know, created that form with the movie, you know, the diary cam, this was a movie that really transformed mentary filmmaking he still teaches at Harvard, but there was a whole generation of us that really were kind of wanting to go to Hollywood and go to fiction, you know, and we really wanted to make commercial movies, not these really, you know, esoteric, artsy documentaries. So, I started out on a fiction track and, you know, I made some low budget features. As a director, I did some music videos first and then kind of fell into writing. It was sort of a dead end, this genre, low budget, you know, sort of AFM features, were kinda like, do I really want to put my name on that? You know, so I, and I had Beginner's luck, I saw my first script, and it became a big studio movie. And then I was kind of on that studio writing track, sort of the development hell writing track, until I met her, you know, I basically got far away from what I fall in love with, which is actual hands on filmmaking, you know, that's what I love is the actual you know, we I started out with Bill cutting on you know, on a steamer. So, so when when Valentine that she was like, you know, let's let's, let's go to Sundance, let's, let's see real filmmaking. I'm like, Yeah, let's do that. Yeah, so that was a breath of fresh air.

Alex Ferrari 11:45
You guys seem to be very young and gang for each other. Just Just by the small amount of time that I spent with you already. And just this conversation, you guys seem to balance each other quite well. Your question is, who's the Yang? And who's the Yeah, well, that's a whole other question I will not get into right now. On Wednesday, you know, it's just depends on the day. Now, you guys did an amazing documentary called awake, which is arguably one of my favorite documentaries of all time, and I watch it all the time. I told you this when I met you guys a while ago. And it's such a powerful film for me, because I'm such a lover of Yogananda. paramahansa Yogananda his work? Can you talk a little bit about what how this film came into the world? why you decided to go down this path? And honestly, there hasn't been another documentary if I'm not mistaken, correct. about his life?

Paola Di Florio 12:37
No, but there have been many people that have gone to the SRF, and to the organization to try to get the movie made. I think that, you know, what happened was that the direct disciples had been slowly passing away. And that first hand information, you know, from those who actually lived with Yogananda, while he was here in the flesh, was it was very important, and I think it was important historically, as well as to his, to his deputies. And, you know, we made the film with Lisa Lehman, who co directed and co wrote with me, and, and co produced with us. And, you know, initially it wasn't, I mean, you know, you when you make a film, you dive in, and you're living, especially documentary, you're living with the film for years. So it's not something that I certainly take lightly. And I wasn't really sure that this was something that I wanted to do until we were sitting in a room with the monastics. And I was very impressed with the people that we were sitting with. And there was just something that happened in the room. I don't know, I don't really know how else to say it, except for it was exploratory for us, but I'm impressed with them and impressed with something about the timing of Yogananda. He know he brought Kriya Yoga.

Alex Ferrari 14:06
Can you can you real quick before we continue, can you explain a little bit to the audience who Yogananda was because I know you probably all know who he is, but the audience might not know his work. Sure.

Peter Rader 14:18
Sure. So Yogananda is a Bengali Swami who was born in Calcutta in the 1890s and was the first sort of Hindu Swami to sort of moved to America permanently. He lived here for 30 years, he arrived in 1920. And he brought basically yoga and meditation. He introduced it into America. There had been some other Swamis. But Yogananda was the guy who stayed here the longest and really was going town to town, you know, concert hall to concert hall, basically giving these free lectures on yoga. And this was the era before radio before television, so there was not a lot you know, it was actually kind of a thrilling thing to do to go see the long haired Swami with a turban. You know, talk about these exotic practices in the east. And, you know, he was so magnetic and so charismatic that he would just like trance, you know, electrify a room. There's a famous incident at Carnegie Hall where, you know, he actually got, you know, 1000, whatever, 1500 New Yorkers to chant with him for an hour, it's getting in Sanskrit. And he just, you know, was doing his thing. And

Paola Di Florio 15:25
He brought the teeth, these ancient teachings, he brought them and made them, you know, practical in day to day life, he really gave how to live teachings, you know, how to be the best businessman that you could be how to how to live with maximum amounts of energy, you know, that he would take sort of daily, every day, challenges of being human, and he would apply the Sanatana Dharma teachings to that. And I think that that's what really hit home. But more importantly, he was teaching Kriya Yoga, which, you know, is a type of yoga, it's that works with energies and spine. And, you know, the idea of, he would say this, that this the altar of God is, is, is the brain, essentially, the spine and brain is the altar of God. And what an interesting concept that we as human beings, can, you No, actually activate energies within the body that connect us to a higher power. And that is really true, true freedom and true independence. So the notion of that it was easier to understand these concepts of energy being accessed like that, and worked with because of what was happening in science at the time. And so quantum physics was coming into play. And this was a new idea. And so people were connecting what Yogananda his message was and what he had to say about Kriya Yoga, and it was making a little bit more sense, they were able to access it a little bit better, because of what was really unfolding in science at the time. And this and for everyone listening, you have to understand that this was what the 20s

Alex Ferrari 17:20
Yeah, I mean, because now, everything you just said, We completely would fall right into a lot of the conversations that are happening there. But he was the way he looked back in the 20s. Can you imagine no one had ever seen. It made heads? It was head spinning, exactly. You're talking about.

Peter Rader 17:37
Even the notion of you know, he took Christ and Krishna and put them side by side on his altar and said there this basically the same dude, there are two sides of the same coin, you know, and he would he worshiped the divine in the form of the feminine Divine Mother, that was also a radical concept. You know, we were Christians, and we were, you know, basically indoctrinated with this idea of the sort of bearded God with the lightning bolts, you know, and that was your only access point in it. You know, in Vedanta, there's this very expansive notion of divinity. You know, divinity can just be a feeling, it can be the feeling of peace, you know, that could be your God, you know, you can cultivate devotion to, to whatever your point of entry is, it's a very attractive philosophy. And, you know, Yogananda went on later in his life. And in the 40s, he wrote this sort of seminal book Autobiography of a Yogi, in which he talked about his own quest for his guru, and as a boy and running around Calcutta and looking and searching and wanting to connect with this feeling that he, you know, was longing for. And it's, it's such a popular book. I mean, it's been translated into over 30 languages, I think 30 million people may have read it. And you know, one of the most famous is Steve Jobs. And he wrote, read that book all the time. And apparently, it was the only book on his iPad at the time of his death. He also gave out 800 copies at his memorial service. So it's one of these gateway books that many, many people read. So

Alex Ferrari 19:05
And it also changed the Beatles life as well, if I'm not mistaken. We wouldn't have had Sergeant Pepper, I think without his visit to India, right. Or was it before after surgery papers before? We wouldn't have had the put the gurus on the cover of note that Yogananda is on the cover of surgery.

Peter Rader 19:24
Yeah. But it was before they went to India. For 67 they went to Indian 68. But we wouldn't have you know, across the universe and let it be all you need is love and you know, Exalted songs. Yes, we're part of the

Alex Ferrari 19:39
So so you taking this undertaking of of telling the story of this immense figure in history. There's a lot of I would imagine a lot of pressure on you to do it, right. I mean, there's people like and you like you said, many filmmakers and many other people have tried to do this and gone to the center of self awareness. Where, where's basically the hub of all things? Yogananda and they've been rejected. So when you guys got the keys, the lunatics run the asylum in a way. How did that feel? And and, and again, why did you want to tell the story as a documentarian?

Paola Di Florio 20:19
Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I would say, you know, funny, ignorance is bliss, in this case, you know, because I think and to the credit of the organization who opened up their archives, I mean, they had to be a part of this, because they had to open up their archives. And there were outside, you know, devotees that had wanted to see the film made, right. And, but they wanted, they stipulated that it had to be outside filmmakers. So I thought that that was really interesting. That was that was an entryway that was certainly of interest to us. The fact that they were seeking outside filmmakers made it really attractive to us so that there was an interest in in sort of beginner's mind. And beginner's mind is a beautiful thing. And, you know, we don't have that anymore. We've been like, you know, deeply entrenched in his teachings now, and so it's a whole different thing. And, and I think they're, that that's, that's what we were looking at. So we were filmmakers, we knew how to tell the story, we had a certain openness to this, we had been yoga practitioners, meditators, Lisa, as well, um, you know, so we were all coming from a place of meditation and yoga being a part of our lives. But I think, for me that this the sort of yoga as a science, which is the way it's often seen, you know, in the east, I mean, that that was very interesting to me that there was this methodical approach to self realization that you could actually take a, you know, these techniques, and apply them to your life and do them and just kind of see what happened, that you the human being was, you know, you were your own scientist, and your body was your laboratory, to take these things and try them. And like an experiment, just notice and observe and see what was unfolding before you. So that was very attractive to me, especially given the times that we're living in right now. You know, I would say, it's so obvious that we are living out of balance on this planet. And it doesn't really matter what side of the aisle you're on. You know, it's um, it's almost like, you know, science and technology, we've advanced so much in that regard. But we haven't really balanced it out with our spiritual acumen. So, yoga is really the, it's the science of balance, it's the sun and the moon, it's the energy of opposites, it's bringing balance into our lives. And harnessing, you know, the, the these energies brings us brings the self to the highest self, right? It trends, it trends, what's the word I'm looking for it, it's transcends, it transcends exactly, it's a way it's transcendence, we can transcend the limitations of the body, and of the mind, in that process.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
Now, when you guys got Peter?

Peter Rader 23:25
I was just gonna say that, you know, one of Uganda's quotes, great quotes is that, you know, the ideal future would be a combination of the ancient wisdom of the East and the modern advancements and technological material progress of the West, you know, this idea of synthesis that we're so skewed towards the material paradigm now, I mean, in terms of the message that was blasting across all the media channels, and everything is by by by Me, me me more and more, acquire, acquire, you know, that's your, that's your, that's where you can get your contentment. And yet, there are these ancient teachings that are so much more profound, and ultimately lead to a much more content state of being. And if we can balance the two, you know, then then we really have hope here in the future. So that that was a really attractive aspect of his message. And, you know, one of the things that he wanted to bring in to the film,

Alex Ferrari 24:17
And I think that nowadays, there is definitely something changing. I mean, from the time that where he was around to the point now, where meditation is now, not a weird thing. You know, yoga is not a weird thing. It is in some parts of the country, but in a lot of places, it's still something that's spoken of, and that's basically from his Genesis from the work that he put in. So, again, I think the undertaking of what you guys were going after was pretty massive, pressure wise, as

Paola Di Florio 24:44
It was a huge challenge. And I think that not knowing or understanding quite the pressure that we were under there was I think that that's the only way you get through these things, right. They say it's like childbirth. You shouldn't know what that's like. Because you won't do it,

Alex Ferrari 25:02
You wouldn't ever have children if you actually knew what was gonna happen.

Paola Di Florio 25:06
And I think that the challenge was also I mean, the three of us very often sat in the editing room really grappling with, you know, some of the biggest questions in life, you know, about the human condition. And just, it was great to have different points of view, we're all bringing different things into that as our entry point. Now, what is your process when

Alex Ferrari 25:26
You do a pre production on a documentary? Since I know the narrative pre production process? I have no clue of the documentary process? How do you prove how long is pre production? What do you do? What's the process?

Paola Di Florio 25:38
It really depends on the film I look at each film as its own, has its own identity has its own needs, you know, and you really look at the needs of the film. But in general, there's, you know, a pretty hefty research process, you really, you really need to go into understanding the subject that you're researching, and to read and to take in information to organize that information. But at the same time, you're really coming, what you're doing while you're doing all of that is you're just dating this process of what is that? What is the narrative that's trying to be told, I look at it as, for me, projects often are choosing me, even if I think I'm choosing them, you know, like with speaking in strings, my first film, but really, it was choosing me because it was trying to draw out from me, something that I had to experience and go through it, I'm saying and I really believe that that's, you know, so much with the creative process is really all about. So, you know, um, you end up just bowing to it, you know, you do your research, and you're trying to at the same time, put your antennas up and listen and receive what the messages are, what is that narrative that's trying to unfold here. And in this case, we, you know, we put together a treatment, it was a massive, you know, thing to try this together. And so, you know, we did about six months of r&d phase,

Peter Rader 27:09
We literally call it an r&d phase. And we've done that on several projects. Now, it's such a sort of a healthy way of jumping in, which is, okay, for the next three to six months, we're just exploring, we're gonna do some exploratory shooting, we'll do a couple of interviews, maybe some shoot some, you know, sequences, we're also going to do, you know, hire a team and start getting in there, and, you know, doing research and archival research, and then we're going to start creating a palette of what this film could be. And, you know, start to, as Pamela says, What is the film that is wanting to emerge? And one of the things you know, Pamela has been a great teacher to me, in all of this. You know, since I started in the narrative form, where you begin with the script, here's the script, now, we're going to go make the movie. And here's the template, here's the blueprint for the movie. Well, in documentaries, it's the exact reverse, which is the script is the lap, you write on the timeline as you edit. And, you know, the organization kept asking us for a script. In fact, I think we even have a contractual obligation to produce a script, and we're like, we're not writing a script, you know, well, the script will be the transcript of the Final Cut, when when we have locked cut, we can transcribe it. And that will be your script, because the film needs to be discovered, you know, it to prove to be authentic, you know, it needs to be found.

Paola Di Florio 28:25
There are different ways to do it. I mean, you know, you're if you're cranking out documentaries for TV and stuff, you know, you just script and you're using B roll, you know, but I think that this was more of an exploratory process. And we went from, you know, treatment to outline to discovering the language of the film on the timeline, and then actually starting to create cuts.

Alex Ferrari 28:47
Now, one of the things I love about the movie too, is the, the reenactments are so beautifully done, and they're so wonderfully placed throughout the story. How important do you think that is? In your process, and it's something that more documentaries should have, because I always love reenactments, when they're done well, when they're shot. Well, I've seen some that haven't been shot. But if you shoot a

Paola Di Florio 29:12
Thing that that is, so that is so awesome that you appreciated them. I mean, it was it was actually a big battle to get the reenactments done.

Alex Ferrari 29:20
In what way?

Paola Di Florio 29:22
Well, you know, I'm, in other words, we weren't really in agreement, as a team on on, you know, whether to go down that route. So it was a little bit of like trial and error convincing. And I think that I, you know, here's the here's the deal. You have to feel we were trying to make an unconventional biography, right. That's why there are two things that felt to me like the the language of the film that would help us really feel the presence of Yogananda and that was to really feel the presence. sense of him as a boy, that one that the seeker that the one that hadn't been realized the one that was just still going into, you know, saints homes in Calcutta and trying to get the wisdom and trying to find like, you know, he's so hungry for the wisdom.

Alex Ferrari 30:16
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Paola Di Florio 30:28
The seeking part of him, we really wanted to be able to show that to express that to manifest that in some way on the screen. And then his voice, you know, it was trying to really harness his voice, I couldn't believe that, you know, how many people do you know that remember, when they were born, they remember, into the womb, they remember. They remember how, you know, they actually felt coming out of the womb, and we're cognizant of the be feeling torn between two worlds, but spirit and like being material in the material world. So those two things, finding his voice, and using recreations to me were two tools that we could use to help the audience really feel that they were in the presence of of yogananda.

Alex Ferrari 31:18
And that's something that really, I felt I reacted to that when I watched it, because I did feel that, and I've seen the movie a bunch of times now. And every time when I hear that voice, and I see those images, it really does, it just brings the whole thing together in a way that just that interviews and B roll would have done.

Peter Rader 31:35
And we didn't really have a choice in the matter, you know, there's only like, what is it a dozen photographs at most of him in his youth and his family or whatever, and, you know, visual medium, so we needed some method to tell the story. And, you know, we talked about metaphors and visual metaphors, you know, we talked about all sorts of ways, how do you convey a feeling? How do you convey a feeling of longing, you know, and ultimately, you know, you do need actors and, you know, you need to look into people's eyes and have, you know, convey that feeling. But, you know, as you said, Alex, when recreations are good, they're fantastic. And when they're bad, they're so

Paola Di Florio 32:14
There was the risk of it being bad, you know, so that was the thing, you just had to have a lot of, you know, to see it, and then just really try to reel and Arlene Nelson our dp, I mean, I have to say, I just hand it to her, because it was just she, she really got that. And, and then, of course, we treated them and did all these things in post as well. And, you know, we just had a really great team of people that helped us realize them in the way that that, you know, we really envisioned it.

Peter Rader 32:43
We study a lot of films, you know, one of the films that inspired us was man on wire, like the great movie. I mean, it really makes the film. So it was, it was really well done. recreations was our point of, you know, that's what was our aspiration.

Paola Di Florio 33:00
And the magical realism, I think came from a Spanish film that Lisa had found the beehive the something that would be the title of that spirit of the beard of the beehive. Yeah, beautiful film, and, and it kind of had a language of very, very subtle magical realism. And so, you know, that was a really great resource that that we used as well.

Alex Ferrari 33:25
Yeah, very cool. Now, now that you got the movie done. Now, I'm assuming you guys were thinking about marketing and distribution, and how to sell this movie during the process, or I have to believe you were doing it during the process, as opposed to at the end going, Okay, now, what, what was the marketing plan? What was the distribution plan to get this out there into the world?

Peter Rader 33:47
So, we were blessed with making a product in which we had a very clearly identifiable core audience, you know, have Yogananda devotees, and there are, you know, by some estimates, around 300,000 people worldwide who consider Yogananda to be there who are very, very devoted to his teachings and his message. And then there's another number that we sometimes reference, which is, you know, the number of people who read the book, which is around 30 million. So we have a target, we want to speak slot was between the 30 300,000 and the 30 million somewhere in there was going to be our audience, and we had to figure out, you know, how to reach them. And we consider,

Paola Di Florio 34:30
You know, the goal was to go beyond that job. So, in all in all fairness, it was really our mission was to make a film that went beyond that crowd, not to alienate that crowd but to go beyond that. And so we were really looking at the number of people practicing yoga. And and you know, we had the statistics of how many people were practicing yoga just in the us a couple 20 million and now we have the you know, we have these Statistics worldwide, which, you know, are above 350 million. So, you know, there were, there were those numbers that we knew if we could just tap into even just like 1% of that, you know, we

Peter Rader 35:12
Would have an audience. And, you know, while we considered very briefly, actually, you know, going with a traditional distributor and sort of handing the film over palla, you know, on a previous film, we had consulted with this gentleman named Peter Broderick, who coined the hybrid distribution. And, you know, he's been talking about it for 20 odd years now. And we realized that this was kind of the perfect villain to do that. So So we, we decided pretty early on to self distribute, that we would, you know, um, carve out rights, you know, separate out all our rights and kind of window them out in a sequence that made sense for us assemble a team, we had around 20 people on our distribution team that we were basically managing, you know, on a standing weekly call, and we created a distribution plan, a strategy of how we were going to roll out these various windows and and take advantage of, you know, what Paolo was saying before is okay, so you identify your core, but then there are these concentric circles or a Venn diagram of overlapping circles. So you've got your Yogananda devotees, you've got your meditators, you've got your, you know, wellness community, you've got this, how are we going to get to them all? And how, you know, are we going to go, you know, from town to town, and, and roll out. And so in other words, it was something where it was kind of a yogic distribution plan, because we were learning about it as we were doing it, you know, it was really amazing.

Alex Ferrari 36:39
And how did you guys do? Because I remember you, when we spoke before you were talking about your theatrical, which I thought was in a very interesting way that you guys released your theatrical? Can you talk a little bit about that process?

Paola Di Florio 36:49
Yeah, I mean, I just want to also say that we were realistic about the fact that it would probably be challenging to get this film distributed through a traditional distributor

Alex Ferrari 37:00
You would have no idea what to do with it.

Paola Di Florio 37:01
Exactly. So you know, I think it's important to kind of just start with that. And because they think that when you make a film, you kind of need to know already, you know, number one, who your audience is, you're working backwards in a way, you know, just strategically if you really want to get it seen, and then you know, you have to know what you have in your hands. And we were playing with something that really hadn't been done before. And so, you know, we were prepared to take this route, we had talked about taking this route of, you know, doing the hybrid distribution model. And the advice, you know, that we were getting from Peter is, you know, so I really love the strategy that he has, which is dipping your toe into, you know, a market. So starting with New York, we, you know, we and we've actually for walled in New York, and LA,

Alex Ferrari 37:53
Can you can you explain to the audience for walling is?

Peter Rader 37:56
Sure. So what we did was, the first thing we did was we identified which dozen cities have the most concentration of our core audience, you know, in America, and that's where we're going to start. And so New York was one of them. Los Angeles, obviously Encinitas, where, you know, Yogananda had an ashram, there was a couple of other places Northern California. And for walling is where you basically, book that you rent the theater for a week, you rent the right to show your film for for four showings a day for an entire week's run. And for in a place like New York, that will cost you around $10,000. But if you know you can fill those seats, you can actually make a lot of money doing that. And we did you know, in New York, I believe we made $34,000 in that first week. So we had a $24,000 profit just from that one engagement. And then the theater held us over, they said, Oh, my God, this film is really performing. I want to book this film. So we ended up staying another six weeks beyond that in New York

Alex Ferrari 38:55
Without having to pay for it. They actually have traditionally

Peter Rader 38:58
Exactly turned into a traditional booking, same thing happened in LA and a couple of other markets. In fact, unbelievably, we played 23 weeks at the level is in Pasadena in La 23 weeks.

Paola Di Florio 39:11
On Sunday afternoon. It was just some people just kept coming. So they just kept it going. And on a Sunday afternoon. It was great.

Alex Ferrari 39:18
Yeah, that was ended. So you did all of that without thinking well, you weren't you decided to spend the time to do the theatrical run first, and then you were going to roll it out. So what was the next rollouts? Because you didn't do everything at the same time? Obviously,

Peter Rader 39:33
Actually, can I back up? Before theatrical which is even before theatrical? We we started to create buzz and awareness. We attended a couple of conferences, for instance, wisdom 2.0 in the Bay Area, where like high tech meets higher consciousness, and we figured this is ground zero for us, especially with the whole Steve Jobs connection, right. So we convince the organization to give us 500 copies of the autobiography for free Which we just gave out at that conference, we had a big display, you know, stacking the books with our postcard in the book. And you know, our film postcard in the book and it says, This is the, you know, the book that Steve Jobs had on his iPad all the time at the time he died and it's yours for free. And they like just went like gangbusters. Do the same thing at the yoga journal conference in San Diego. And we were basically getting to, you know, sort of celebrity, you know, yoga teachers and trying to get them interested in the film. And then they started telling their classes about it.

Paola Di Florio 40:31
So it's kind of considered grassroots in a way we were doing like, you know, pre screenings to kind of create buzz.

Peter Rader 40:39
We also did Bhakti fest and Joshua Tree in September. And coincidentally, the Smithsonian was having a museum, a traveling exhibition on yoga and the ancient teachings, and we just pigtail on to that

Paola Di Florio 40:52
The timing was amazing. You know, I do have to say Timing is everything. And we this movie took a long time to make and we kept asking ourselves, like, Why is it taking so long? Why is it taking so long? And, you know, just the kinds of things that happened in that time that it got, were the things that helped mobilize the film when it went into distribution, but go back to like the, because he's asking what we were doing

Peter Rader 41:18
Magical on demand, along with, right, so So in addition to traditional theatrical, some of it for walling, some of it you know, booking the numbers in New York, made everyone suddenly look at us and want to book us so we started to get incoming calls, which was fantastic. And we had Richard Abramowitz of Rama Rama was our theatrical Booker and did a fantastic job. concurrent with this, we were also doing what's called theatrical on demand, which is how it's like Uber meets, you know, indie film distribution, which is, you can actually get an AMC to show your movie on a Tuesday, because they're going to make more money, if you guarantee them 700 bucks for that eight o'clock screening, then if they show you know, the rerun ups or whatever, the remake of some blockbuster that's only gonna have 20 people in the audience. So you can actually get your film into practically any theater in America, if you get enough people to pre reserve tickets, and they have an algorithm and a widget that fits right on your web website, we use a company called gather. And there's another company called tug, allow you to you know, really get your film. It's all these cool disruptive distribution techniques that where you can get straight to your audience, cut out the middleman, and you get your data, you get the email addresses of all those people who showed up. And then you can market your ancillaries and your other, you know, components to that list. And that becomes a very useful list. So we have the article, we have theatrical on demand, and community screenings. We were also selling DVDs to show in your churches or your yoga studios. And we were just pushing them out on a grassroots level. But this is before the for a massive release on DVD or on an SBS spot right? This is before way before almost one year of this okay. Optical theatrical on demand and community screen ratings. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 43:15
So and then I'm assuming during that process alone, the movie became got into the black. Are you still in the red when you win that final movie before you even got to SVOD?

Peter Rader 43:26
Um, well, it did very well. We're under sort of an NDA. We can't really disclose fair enough. It did. It did very well. It exceeded everyone's expectations. We had 65 markets theatrically 65 markets in North America. We had 350 theatrical on demand screenings. And also overseas was crazy. In seven countries. We were in 50 plus theaters for an indie doc.

Paola Di Florio 43:55
Yeah. So it was an IT mean, we did, it definitely exceeded our expectation, because most documentaries don't really do this kind of numbers in theaters. So you know, we we figured that TV was not going to be probably one of our windows. So we really melt the theatrical and because of the magical work, it really helped with the DVD sales as well, of course.

Peter Rader 44:20
So then, you know, Netflix came around and kick the tires.

Alex Ferrari 44:24
As they do as they do.

Peter Rader 44:27
We it's there's a love hate thing with Netflix and indie filmmakers. I mean, but back then it was it was thrilling to be, you know, in acquisition talks with Netflix licensing talks. What was great though, is that we delayed that deal. We said, you know, we're in no hurry to make that deal. Let's keep showing them the legs that this movie has and between their first offer, and you know, whatever it was a few months later, when we finally closed the deal, they have quadrupled their offer. Netflix had, and what was more important is that they agreed to the following windowing. We said we're gonna do DVDs first, digital second, and Netflix third, and, and even in the DVD deal that we made, we had to deal with Kino lorber. To You know, do brick and mortar DVDs, but we had a co exclusive deal, which is we were allowed to sell our own DVDs to, and self realization fellowship. Yogananda his organization has a whole publishing arm where they sell books and DVDs. So we created a companion book, we created our own DVDs. And we basically began with our exclusive window for one month it was if you wanted to buy the film, you could only buy it from us. Then Kino lorber kicked in, then digital, then Netflix, super smart guys.

Paola Di Florio 45:51
Had help from people like Peter Broderick, you know, we have consultants that we were working for you

Alex Ferrari 45:56
Because you had you because you had a product that was in demand. So yeah, I mean, this doesn't work for every movie, like, this works for films that have an audience that really want that material. Because like when I heard about it, it was already on I saw, I think the first time I saw it was on Netflix. The first time I ever heard of it, but I could only imagine if I would have known about it prior, I would have probably been like when Can I see it? When can I see it? Where can I see it? Where can I see it when I see? So that kind of want and need by the audience is what makes this kind of platform? Yeah, yeah. Without question now, as far as marketing, did you market on digital? Did you go social media? Did you do big? billboards out? Did you market this to those audiences? That would have been cool, right? Wouldn't that be amazing? Just like driving on like, that we wanted to see Yogananda you know, up on Billboard on Sunset Boulevard just right. Yeah. You went up on our marketing?

Peter Rader 46:54
Well, yeah, I mean, we quickly quickly realized that, you know, this was not a traditional film. And we were going to be connecting with our audience in the sort of disruptive, direct way. So obviously, social media was our main friend here, we did, you know, do a few print ads here and there, but they were mostly strategic partnerships. So for instance, yoga journal, and La yoga was was one of our partners where we said, okay, we had these really good marketing consultants who said, Let's make a creative deal with la yoga. One, let's get them to review the film to let's get in your bio, you know, one page ad in the magazine, same issue that they're reviewing, and three, let's get them to host one of the evenings in LA. So in the cities where we were for while in the film, we would get partner hosts to say, you get the eight o'clock screening, you can do whatever you want with it, you can do a little presentation afterwards. As long as you broadcast your list and fill that house, it's yours. And, you know, by doing that, we basically just guaranteed a bunch of sellouts and got really robust numbers. Yeah. So

Paola Di Florio 48:04
And that's something that has worked also with with some of our clients, our consulting clients, because we, you know, that is something that's kind of your grassroots build, you know, I think if you mobilize, it takes a lot of work to do this kind of stuff. And we don't recommend to people that they do it on their own, it will totally wipe you out and exhaust you, you need a team. And so you have to actually build this into your budget, you know, you need, you know, a few assistants, you need a social media team, you need publicist, you need marketing people, you really need to create, what a distributor would create. And you'd be the difference is that your hand picking it, and you this is your baby, so you're gonna really go the extra mile that your distributor may or may not do if they don't get immediate results. Right. So it's the consistency with which you will shepherd and nurture, you know, your film into the world. That's the idea behind the hybrid distribution model.

Alex Ferrari 49:03
And I think what you mean with this kind of film, it is it is a poster child for self distribution. I mean, it has everything that a self distributed film needs to have in order to succeed because I consult all the time. And a lot of times, they just don't have an audience or know how to get to that audience or have a strategy, you know, and they're just like, well, I'm gonna sell, I'm gonna put up on iTunes, and that's enough. I'm like, No, everybody should have Yogananda in their film. That's, that that is the key. That's the key to every successful film, obviously.

Peter Rader 49:34
I know another thing, Alex is that we had two Facebook pages. One was sort of public facing open page, you know, which started you know, really to mushroom and get a lot of traction. And, you know, our social media team was was really good at sort of organically building a really robust group NACA media, yeah, aka media when and Angela Alston. And the other thing, though, is that we had a private page that was only by invitation and That was for movie captains or anyone who was willing to spearhead a community screening or a gather theatrical on demand screening. And you were only invited into that group after you had, you know, initiated a screening request in your community. And then in that group, we gave you all the kind of secret sauce stuff, you know, like the playbook and the flyers and the templates. And you would also be able to engage with other captains and share secrets and share lists, and hey, you help me promote in this city and I'll help people in that city.

Alex Ferrari 50:29
Do they? Do they get a cut of that? Or is this just pure love?

Peter Rader 50:32
Not not in the gang together, not in the gather, model and tug and tug? in tug, they are given 5%. But in the gather model, it's really just for the love and the bragging rights. You know, having pulled off the screening and stuff in your neighborhood or in your in your town.

Paola Di Florio 50:50
Yeah, I mean, it is a pretty cool thing. If there's a film that isn't going to ever come to your town, and you get to actually host a big party. You know, you just have to get people there. But it's your it's your, you could do what you want. Like they come you can speak to your audience, you can it kind of is your own little personal party.

Alex Ferrari 51:08
Did you guys go on tour with this? No. Because like in the movie in general, did you go to different cities and talk about

Paola Di Florio 51:16
A couple of things here and there. But mostly, we were pretty much delegating it to we did a lot of Actually, you know what, we did do a lot of Skype and zoom calls. With we that we did do but we didn't actually go on tour with all the you know, we just couldn't we were so tired from having done all of this. We will zoom in you know,

Alex Ferrari 51:38
We'll we'll Skype it in guys. That's fine. It's perfectly fine. Now with your so when you release it, you release t VOD first, right? transactional first, then you had your Netflix deal. And that Netflix deal lasted a couple years if I'm not mistaken, the two year deal.

Peter Rader 51:54
And now we're in our second SVOD, which is Gaia as bought it, you know, for a second run of subscription VOD.

Alex Ferrari 52:03
So, and then that's locked up for a few years. And then after and you're still selling DVDs.

Peter Rader 52:07
Yeah. And we're still having theatrical screenings. When, like, two weeks ago, someone said, I want to do theatricals. greevey Lee,

Alex Ferrari 52:16
That's one of those movies that that makes like you want to community you want that that communal experience to watch that kind of movie.

Paola Di Florio 52:22
That's right. And I think that one of the things this is the lesson for, you know, our business because, you know, distribution, you can't distributors, we end we tend to put blinders on and say this is the only thing that will sell, right. But if you do find your own audience, like what we found is that this audience that came to see awake is actually a vast audience all around the world. They are hungry for a certain kind of product that isn't really being produced and isn't being distributed, which is part of the reason why we really wanted to help other films get off the ground in this arena. Because you know, there's there's a there is room for this not only is there room for it, there's a demand for it. So, you know, you just have to find your way into that distribution model and then it all then the rest come.

Alex Ferrari 53:16
No, and you guys that create ancillary products, which I purchased the book goes on, I definitely purchase the book. I love the companion book. I haven't bought a companion book, and God knows how many. I think the matrix was. wasn't cheap. That was nice of you know, yeah, no, is it because I just loved the movie so much. And I was like, I want something else. I my daughter's got it for me for Christmas last year. And how did you guys go about that? It was because of through Self Realization company that they had their arm and they had their marketing to do it.

Peter Rader 53:48
I think also it was actually inspired by you, I believe, you know, the Washington Post gave us this really juicy quotable little line which it said that Pamela and Lisa were masters of atmospherics that they were masters of atmospherics, and we realized that there was sort of a quality, this magical realism thing. You know, that was in the movie. And there was a monastic and self realization fellowship, who was kind of a Photoshop whiz. And he just started doing these page layouts, which was capturing the feeling of the film, you know, in this in this other form. And we realized, boy, there's a making of a book here, we can basically have the transcript of the film. Then we wrote some, you know, introductory essays and some sort of epilogue, epilogue essays, you know, to sort of bookend it, and it became this kind of beautiful product.

Alex Ferrari 54:40
He did an amazing I mean, yeah, it's a beautiful book. It's a stunning, stunning good coffee table book. It was really well done and did it do well? Did you guys sell a lot of books very well? Oh, that's amazing. Could you like you said it's not cheap. It's not a cheap gift. And then one other thing I want to talk about, about the sound a soundtrack of the movie because you actually sold this soundtrack. But when I'm listening towards the end, I'm like, is that Alanis Morissette? Like, how did they get a lot more set for this? How did you get a lot of stuff to do to get the rights of that movie?

Paola Di Florio 55:12
Oh, amazing, thank you, alumnus. She, I mean, she just, she had given me a song of hers, and in one of my prior films, and I'd written to her and, you know, she was like, I'm not really sure how you see that being used. But you know, she gave it to me anyway. And I used it. And I think in the end, it just was just worked so perfectly. And with this, I just remember I was going on walks, going on walks, and listening to all kinds of music that would spark something for the movie. And that that song still is so

Alex Ferrari 55:48
beautiful. I remember when it came out, it was

Paola Di Florio 55:50
So beautiful, and she is so you know, deeply attuned to these teachings. And, um, you know, it's in, it's in all of her music. I mean, she is like, a teacher of her in her own right. And I think she's actually teaching, you know, spiritual giving, giving conferences and, and, and she's a spiritual teacher, right. So I think that she understood the connection with the film she gave, she was just generous.

Alex Ferrari 56:20
And yes, but you just wrote a letter originally, you just wrote a letter to her and said, Hey, wrote a letter. And you know, a little persistence, we also got, we also got it number one, tap in like that.

Peter Rader 56:33
I mean, and then we also got, you know, a number one hit single from George Harrison, Olivia Harrison, you know, was generous enough to give us the use of Georgia song and, you know, that's kind of a one two punch at the end of the film, which is, you know, in still, she's kind of singing from the point of view of God's singing down to humanity, which is I love you still no matter what you do, no matter all these things, you mess up. I love you still. So here's that singing down to humans. And then you know, we go our end credits we have this exalted give me love give me peace on earth man singing up to God, you know, so beautiful. Those those two songs back to back.

Paola Di Florio 57:10
Yeah. And still also has the just the metaphor of stillness, you know, in all of it, too. So it's still it's the persistence and the perseverance of that sort of self realization, but it's also just, you know, you find it in stillness, you know, so, and it's funny now that you mentioned it, I realized that I actually kind of stopped her I went to a new she was, ya know, I'm remembering now that wisdom 2.0 at the conference, we were giving away those autobiographies. She was on the she was one of the speakers. And so I six degrees of separation had a connection through my friend Nell to allow this and, you know, no, it was like giving her giving her the, the, you know, it was like a little connective tissue to her at wisdom. 2.0 where, you know, she texted me and said, Come say, Hi, I'm, I'm leaving. Now she left from her thing. I had to catch her, like in her limo on her way out just to say hello. Nice. Since the deal.

Alex Ferrari 58:09
That's awesome. That's awesome.

Peter Rader 58:11
That's the thing about still is that, you know, one of the monastics who was part of the film team is actually you know, cureton singer, and he just loves music. And it's very steeped in traditional classical Indian music. And he pointed out the fact that that song is actually in a traditional rock form, that it is in Iraq. I forgot the name of the rod. But, you know, he she used she was clearly influenced by India. Yeah, no, that's

Alex Ferrari 58:38
Amazing. No, so what's up, Next, what's next for you? Guys?

Peter Rader 58:42
This is a good one.

Paola Di Florio 58:42
Well, we that, that I mean, the movie was made and released in 2014. We've worked on anything since then. And we are working on a big project right now. That's a piece and and music festival in India in Rishikesh, India, and it will have documentary component to it, and a live stream and it will hopefully, be another uplifting focal point.

Peter Rader 59:13
That's awesome. It's called come together. It's in honor of commemorating the Beatles going to India 50 years ago, and how they move the needle and shifted the paradigm for so many of us, you know, just open those doors to kind of a new way of thinking.

Alex Ferrari 59:29
I mean, know, when the Beatles went over there, I did absolutely. Like, you know, because you had the biggest band ever introduce you to a whole new world, in many ways, their career, peak of their career.

Paola Di Florio 59:41
And I think that idea is that, you know, if they had everything right, they had reached the pinnacle of success and for them wasn't really enough. And so, it was the idea that, you know, finding another way to explore our purpose. In life and finding balance in life, so it's really putting a focal point on how to live on the planet.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:07
That's awesome. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions I asked all my guests. First one is what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Peter Rader 1:00:18
Jump in your phone, you know, these days, the meet the means the barrier to entry have disappeared, you can edit it on your laptop, you can shoot it on your phone, jump in, start Do it, do it and see if you really want to do it. Because it takes a huge amount of work. So, so figure it out, figure it out by doing it. And the other one is, don't go to film school.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:43
Especially in at Harvard film, school, I mean, seriously,

Peter Rader 1:00:46
Waste all that money on film school, learn about life, study philosophy, join the Merchant Marine, that's what john used to know. He said, join the Merchant Marine, you want to be a filmmaker, go visit, you know, learn learn about the world. And then you can figure anyone can figure out how to make a film.

Paola Di Florio 1:01:00
And I think for me, it's it's, um, you know, there's so much emphasis now, in the result, the result? The result? The result? And I think it's really impacting process. And I just, you know, I just think that, you know, I'm looking to young filmmakers to find a new language to find new stories to, you know, really break the mold here. And I just think that, you know, don't, don't be result oriented. Let the process if you're drawn to filmmaking, it's because you're really needing to have expression and a voice and you have something to say, so have something to say. That's kind of where I put it put the focus and having something to say,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:45
Now can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Paola Di Florio 1:01:49
Hmm. Interesting. I mean, I don't know about if I could say it had an impact on my career, but a book that has always stayed with me as The Grapes of Wrath. I just wow. By Steinbeck. Yeah, of course, the journey, that it talks about a path for a metaphor for the path of life. Um, you know, it just was such a journey of survival, and love, and finding a way forward, finding a way forward with such elegance and grace and depth. So that that movie has always stuck with me. That movie that that book, I actually haven't seen the movie. Right, but the book really stuck with me. And I don't know if it influenced my filmmaking, but it influenced me as a person. So of course, it influenced my filmmaking.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:49
How about you, Peter?

Peter Rader 1:02:51
Um, you know, I'm just going to plug I'm so sorry to do this. But I'm going to plug my book. I have a book out right now, to look at the gods.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:58
What's it called? What's it called?

Peter Rader 1:03:00
It's called playing to the gods. And you know, I spent the last three to five years on it. It actually started as a script. It's got a long story. But anyway, it's a book. Now it's on out from Simon and Schuster. And it's about the birth of modern acting. A great rivalry occurred about 100 years ago, the theater between these two icons. One is Sarah Bernhardt, the great actress of the 19th century, who acted from the outside in, she acted by imitation, there were books, there are manuals that showed you how to pose on any given line. And then there was this sea change, which is we needed to figure out the original way of acting, which is inspiration from inside out, and this other actress Eleanor dusa, kind of rediscovered original acting, and they had this intense rivalry that went on for decades. They stole each other's plays and lovers and all sorts of things that did a great job. It was make a good movie. It's being it's being adapted as we speak.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:56
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Paola Di Florio 1:04:04
Love myself

Alex Ferrari 1:04:06
Oh, that's a good one. We beat ourselves up a little bit too much sometimes.

Paola Di Florio 1:04:11
Yeah, it's just that it's the it's the thing that these teachings have really transformed. in me, which is just to, you know, surrender and to allow, and that has a lot to do with loving yourself.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:31
How bout you, Peter?

Peter Rader 1:04:32
I would say yeah, and well kind of related to that kind of get get out of the way. Get out of the way. You know, let it happen without the ego, you know, like, that's, that's, that's a tricky one. I'm still working on that one.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:49
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time?

Peter Rader 1:04:55
Well, I always begin with the Godfather. It's still It's still on my list. What else do we have? You know, I grew up in Italy. So I'll go to Bethel Lucci, you know, 1900 or certainly some of the Fellini movies that were so influential. You know, I'm record Rama Casanova. I've seen the mall and just amazing filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:22
How about you Paola?

Paola Di Florio 1:05:24
Well, uh, two documentaries that really had an imprint on me where Chrome and

Alex Ferrari 1:05:30
Chrome love Chrome,

Paola Di Florio 1:05:32
And Harlan County, USA.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:34
Oh, yeah, that's a good movie.

Paola Di Florio 1:05:37
And, and, you know, I would say The Princess Bride.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
What a classic movie. Oh, that movie. so wonderful. And then where can people follow your work and follow what you guys are doing?

Peter Rader 1:05:54
Our website is thisiscounterpointfilms.com, okay. Because there's another counterpoint films in Ireland.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:03
This is

Peter Rader 1:06:07
And we got

Paola Di Florio 1:06:08
We have a newsletter. And so you know, that's the that's the best place. If you sign up for my newsletter, we don't send many out. So it won't be annoying. But that's that's the best way to

Alex Ferrari 1:06:20
Guys, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to the tribe today and really share your process, and a little bit of Yogananda, his wisdom with with everyone. So thank you again, so much.

Paola Di Florio 1:06:30
Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Peter Rader 1:06:32
It was a pleasure.

Paola Di Florio 1:06:34
It was a pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:35
They truly are an inspiration. Peter and Paola. Thank you so so much for being on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. If you want to get links to anything we discussed in this episode, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/283. We'll put links to them how to contact them, as well as links to the video podcast on IFH.TV, and of course links to awake the life of Yogananda and if you guys have not watched this film, it is worth your time. It is one of my favorite documentaries I've ever seen. I watch it every few months. That's how much I love this thing. It is really, really great. It does give you a great introduction to who Yogananda was his teachings and what what he did for for the world. It's pretty remarkable, honestly. But it's a great documentary, and not religious or anything like that. Just pretty cool ideas that he talked about. So if you haven't already, please head over to indiefilmhustle.tv check out what we're doing over there. It's amazing stuff that we've got going on this month. releases were about 30 hours and it was crazy amount of stuff that we put out there. And we're going to be putting more and more stuff. I just got some big stuff coming. I got some big announcements come in this month. I just cannot wait wait, wait to tell you what's coming up. So thanks again for all the support guys. And as always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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IFH 279: How to Self Distribute Your Niche Indie Film with Brad Olsen

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Today’s guest is returning champion Brad Olsen, director of the documentary Off the Tracks. This time we discuss his misadventure in distribution. After meeting over 40 traditional distributors Brad decided the best path for his film was self-distribution. I’ve always said that self-distribution is not for everyone but with Off the Tracks it makes perfect sense.

We discuss how he got the word out of his film, got in the press that was in his niche and how he engaged with the audience he was trying to reach. We talk numbers, successes, and failures. It’s a pretty eye-opening interview. So if you are thinking of self-distributing your indie film take a listen to this episode first.

Enjoy my conversation with Brad Olsen.

Alex Ferrari 0:07
So today on the show, we welcome back Brad Olsen, the writer, director of the hit documentary about Final Cut Pro X off the tracks. Now the reason I'm bringing them back is we just had him on last episode to talk about how he made the movie and about Final Cut Pro and all that stuff. But today's episode is strictly about his misadventures in distribution, and how he was able to self distribute this film, and how he was able to focus his very niche movie and reach his niche audience and how he's been able to do it. We talk numbers, we talk marketing strategies, how we got the movie out there, and so much more. So this is a really interesting conversation. And he learned a lot of lessons along the way, including talking to 40 distributors, and why he decided not to go with a traditional distributor. And like I've said before, traditional distribution has its place without question. Self distribution is not for everybody. It's not for every film, but it made sense for this film because of its nature. So sit back and enjoy my conversation with Brad Olsen. I'd like to welcome back to the show. Brad Olsen, man. Thank you for coming back, brother.

Brad Olsen 3:03
Yeah, it's great to be here one week later.

Alex Ferrari 3:07
One week later, for the audience, it might be a little bit different. But yeah, no, I wanted to have you back. Because we we had a deep conversation about Final Cut Pro X and all things editing. Last time we spoke and there was a huge chunk of your story that we just couldn't get to, which was self distribution and how you got it out into the world. So first question is, what kind of distribution plan? Did you even think about when you start off the tracks? Or did you even think about distribution?

Brad Olsen 3:37
That's a great question. So initially, when I had the idea, I actually, you know, I, in my head, I was envisioning everything from a simple just throw, throw something, store some episodes up on Vimeo for free. To what if I, you know, got this up on iTunes and everything else? So I wasn't really sure I wanted, I really wanted to figure out what the quality of the content and the demand of the of what this content would be, before I necessarily locked myself into a plan. In fact, actually, I was having a conversation last week with somebody in New York, who, who was talking about how he's looking at everything I've done to promote my movie, and he's like, wow, you just had it all figured out. And I'm like, actually, I've kind of been feeling my way, step by step. Right. This wasn't, this wasn't something that was like a total masterplan from the front. Although I did imagine a lot of things and I kind of, I kind of thought, okay, if I want to get here, like, let's reverse engineer what I need to do today. So the ultimate pie in the sky dream was Let's get it on iTunes. Let's get it maybe on Netflix, which hasn't happened yet. But let's, let's see where we can get it. And if I'm going to do that, what do I have to do today to get it there? And you know, if it doesn't, if it turns out there isn't the demand or I don't get the Quality I want from it that I think there's some at least some interesting little. Again, throughout the interviews or episodes, little episodes on Vimeo was kind of my fallback plan. Okay, so that was what was in my head at the time when I very, very first started.

Alex Ferrari 5:13
So you just kind of thinking, you actually were you had no idea. Honestly.

Brad Olsen 5:18
I didn't know. I didn't know what it would do. I just knew that I had to start. And I tried to point my ship in the direction that would hopefully land. It's like Columbus trying to discover the New World, you know?

Alex Ferrari 5:31
So then, so after you, obviously have associated itself with Columbus. No. So at what point did you say, Okay, this is going to be a feature film. And I'm going to try to sell it and try to, you know, get it out there in the world as a documentary feature.

Brad Olsen 5:51
So I had already shot interviews at the Final Cut Pro 10 creative summit, which is an annual event that's held in Cupertino, Apple headquarters. And I'd shot like 20 interviews there, I went to LA and shot some more interviews. At that point, I was like, still kind of leaning towards the, I'll make like 615 minute episodes, and they'll go up on Vimeo route. And then, one day as I was posting about it on a Facebook group, a guy named Noah kavner, who runs an organization called FCP works, reached out and said, Hey, have you interviewed anybody from Apple for your documentary? And I'm like, I hadn't met a couple people at the creative summit. But I said, No, I haven't. Like they can't go on record is like, Well, what about Randy, and he was referring to Randy, you, billows. And Randy, you billows is the guy I think I mentioned on the last episode that invented premiere, and Final Cut in the 90s. And then went on to do like aperture and iMovie and Final Cut Pro 10. And Randy had retired in 2015. So actually, he's somebody that could be in the documentary because he wouldn't have to get permission from Apple to be in it. But he's also a guy that travels the world constantly. And I don't know him. And I didn't really know anybody who could put me in contact with him. However, here's the funny part of that story is in this Facebook group. Randy's actually a member of it is like this secret Final Cut group. And he's a member of that group. He's never posted, to my knowledge, anything in this group at all. But I have the option to tag him. And I thought, well, let's just let's just see what happened. So I said, I don't know. I don't know how to get ahold of Randy. And then, and I tagged him I'm like, but I'm would would love to interview him. Well, he messages back, not that like minutes later, he messages back and gives me his email. And I was just blown away. And that's when I went to interview him. And I realized that okay, this is no longer just the final cut communities story about Final Cut Pro 10. We've got the man in the film, this probably has some value. Let's run a Kickstarter and see where that takes us.

Alex Ferrari 8:20
Okay, so yeah. And I'll translate this for the audience. So basically, you were doing market research, when you didn't even know you were doing market research. But pretty much to the point where like, well, now you're very cautious and conservative on the way that you went through this process. No, because most filmmakers are just like, screw it. Let's do it. Let's cash out. Let's get a mortgage on the house. Let's do this. And just roll the dice. But you were very methodical and conservative in the way that you were kind of rolling this out. And you're like, Okay, well, I think we have something. Let's try to do a Kickstarter to see you wanted to test the waters of your of your niche audience. And this is obviously a very niche film. It's a niche of a niche of a niche. And it's not a large audience, but yet it is a large. It's not a large audience compared to the like the rest of the world. But

Brad Olsen 9:12
It's a it's a it's a small audience, but they're spread out globally, which is interesting.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
We'll talk about that in a little bit. All right, so now your Kickstarter campaign.

Brad Olsen 9:22
Yeah. So no Academy who had was the one who suggested I interviewed people at Apple here. He also lives in San Francisco. So does Randy. So he went with me to the interview. And he was actually the one who pitched the Kickstarter and said, I'm willing to help you out with this. So because he's in he'd actually i'd shown Randy the first opening 15 minutes of the film as I had it at that point, which is kind of a hard part of the film, I think for him to watch because it is just all about the lousy rollout rollout of the product, but Randy was gracious and he was, you know, didn't say didn't rip up the release form. There. Noah saw that and he's like, I think you've you've got some quality here I think you got something of value. So let's let's run a Kickstarter and see what where it goes. Again, you talked about being conservative, I was actually even conservative with the Kickstarter, I, I decided to reach out to two people who are like software trainers and plugin developers and podcasters and, and things that were in the final cut community that kind of that made their living based off of people buying Final Cut Pro 10 related stuff. And I committed them, you know, to like, put in $1,000 each. Some of them put in some more, like motion. VFX was a huge supporter of it.

Alex Ferrari 10:47
You were getting sponsors for this, or

Brad Olsen 10:49
I was getting sponsors before saying, Hey, we're thinking about doing a Kickstarter, if we did a Kickstarter, would you be willing to put in 1000 or $2,000. And, and based off of that, we're like, okay, we definitely got nine or 10 people willing to throw in money. Let's ask for $10,000 we know we can make it

Alex Ferrari 11:09
We literally have 10,000 sitting waiting, let's just open up a Kickstarter for 10,000 or

Brad Olsen 11:14
10,000. And, and I also was thinking, you know, I've shot almost everything I'm editing this myself, sure, you know, maybe some money to get a score, pay a lawyer or something. I don't know, like, let's just,

Alex Ferrari 11:28
You were doing it more for market research than you were for the money.

Brad Olsen 11:31
Yeah, and and it's like this was more about raising awareness that there is a Final Cut Pro 10 documentary The other thing that we did previously to launching the Kickstarter, and this was again, kind of know as marketing brain at work, and him kind of guiding me was, let's do a trailer. So, so I put out a trailer. And I like on Facebook got like 30,000 views, and got 200 something shares, and then got like 20,000 views on YouTube. And then and then we got all these like Final Cut and Mack blog sites writing about it. And saying there's gonna be this documentary is gonna be documentary. So that kind of all was the preamble to Okay, now let's do the Kickstarter. So when we did the Kickstarter, the first day now I mentioned that I had some people like lined up. And of course, there's not like written contracts, or, in fact out, but just got that feel. And, and we made the $10,000 in a day. And actually, most of that money did not come from my sponsors, which that surprised me really was like, Wow, so the trailer was effective. And once the Kickstarter, like, Hey, we have a Kickstarter now, you know, I'd already kind of warmed up everyone up and primed them. And then we can add some more sponsors kind of came on board, but we actually doubled that and got the $20,000 by a weekend. And then by the end of it, we were at $26,000. And that was really overwhelming for me, because it kind of showed that hey, this little thing that you've been doing, you know, basically started out with maxing out a business credit card. That's all there was, you know, a couple grand or whatever shirt in the bank. Now Now there's, there's obviously some people that are willing that want to see this. But the other thing that comes along with that is the the terror of Oh my Hell, I have to actually make this movie. Like I have to really do this because now I've got like 200 people that are sitting there saying, hey, when's the movie coming out? Hey, when are we gonna get?

Alex Ferrari 13:46
And how much? How much did you finally raise? $26,000 You know what, man $26,000 for a movie about Final Cut Pro X is not bad at all.

Brad Olsen 13:56
No. And I thought if there's if there's this many people that are willing to put in this much money now, then we you know, we can this is something that we can get out there on platforms and sell. I'm not expecting to make you know, tons of money off of it. But I think the last episode I talked to you when you said Well, I made a movie about this. And I'm like, Well, you know, final cuts, kind of has a message that I'm passionate about and want to get out there and I want to get my own name out there. So there was lots of motivations for me to want to do this not just make a bunch of money. But you know, I The fun thing about self distribution and doing this process is also just seeing can it be done? Can you make a low budget movie? And you know, proving to myself Is it possible to make make this kind of a thing that that I could repeat and do again and maybe do a little bit bigger next time?

Alex Ferrari 14:50
Well, I mean, your story so far is a perfect candidate for for self distribution. Like if you would have reached out to as a consultant, I would have said, Absolutely yes. Because it makes the most sense in the world. And you were in a very similar place than I was with my first feature, this is mag where I was walking in, in the black, like I, the movie, I was, I was already shooting the movie when I started my crowdfunding campaign. And by the time, you know, we didn't, we didn't even make that much money. We made I think, 15 or $16,000. And I was like, Well, great, now we can, you know, get real big sound design done and all this other stuff. But I was in the black. So the moment I released it, I was already in the positive, so you have nothing to lose. And that's, that's the best place to be obviously, if you can't be,

Brad Olsen 15:46
Right, no, with any product, um, houses didn't sell my car, nothing crazy, you know?

Alex Ferrari 15:50
Correct. It's always it's a perfect candidate for the film. And because it's such a niche audience, and it's, it's a niche audience, but you tapped into the larger niche, which is Mac, Mac, the Mac world. Yeah. And the Mac followers, and those because those guys are crazy. And that's a large, I'm one of them. I drank the Kool Aid A long time ago. But, but that or that part, that kind of fan base for Mac is a huge sub genre or subculture. And out of those there was, you know, a smaller culture, they even cared about Final Cut Pro, but that is still a good a good market to tap into now. So now you have the movie, you're going to go out to distribute it. How did you choose the platforms that you did?

Brad Olsen 16:35
Well, actually, I'm going to back up a little bit, because you mentioned like the the plan, from there kind of evolved to Should we try to see, like, I'm still testing the water. You want to believe me? You still don't believe? Yeah, well, I wanted I wanted to self distribute. But I also wanted to, I wanted to see if there was some magical partnership, or distributor out there that got this movie and thought that they could, you know, sell it. And I wasn't I didn't want to take any deals that were definitely no deals that were going to be like you have to pay money up front or stupid things like that. But I was curious, because I'd never been down this road of distribution, if there was somebody so we actually started reaching out to a lot of distributed distribution companies. That should be amazing.

Alex Ferrari 17:25
Tell me, tell me what they tell me. Tell me what they said. Oh, please. Please tell me what they said. When you call up and say, Hey, I have a documentary about Final Cut Pro X. And I want to hear the crickets on the other line. I want to hear what they said, sir.

Brad Olsen 17:41
Well, here's the funny thing. Most people never replied. Not surprising. The ones that did, yes. said, hey, you've got a great documentary. It does not fit our catalog. Okay. It does. We don't know how to sell this. Okay, I got really, in fact, actually, well, well, so that I kind of was going through that for a few months ago. Just trying to figure out if there was but yeah, they definitely didn't get it. And I that did not surprise me. Well, again, feeling my way I just wanted to see. I was curious. Would somebody offer me 10,000 $15,000 or $30,000 for the movie? Would they have one you know then and I felt like mostly I just wanted help with the the legal clearance stuff and the end the whole getting it out on different platforms? I'm not looking for like, definitely no, no, I have no ambition to do any sort of theatrical distribution right broadcasting didn't make any sense to me. But you know I wanted to get it on there I'd never done it and and I didn't approach it's not like all the distributors I approach were like big time distributors. But yeah, they're definitely. I mean, it's funny because actually, one of the distributors I never heard back from these guys, but they distributed a movie about Compaq in the 80s and you know, that's like super niche and no one cares about it. So I watched it and it was similar to mine

Alex Ferrari 19:18
I actually saw that I saw that documentary actually one of those

Brad Olsen 19:21
I like it, but I'm just saying it's kind of it's you know, and then what's funny about the documentary is they have to constantly like compared to Apple, which I'm like if they made this documentary in the 90s they wouldn't even breathe a word about viral but there may be a little bit about Apple but right is mostly because the time it was made. So anyway, I I tried to reach out to a lot of those people. But the crazy thing that happened, actually this year is around namb is right before I will I decided okay, I promised my Kickstarter backers and advanced download of the movie. So I put it up on THX I'd been running pre sales on VHS and as a way to kind of keep the Kickstarter thing going, you know, like generating a little bit more money. And, and then I will, I was going to release it to just them. And according to the documentation, there was a way to kind of release your movie to people before making it available for sale. But then, when I actually went to click those buttons, it didn't work. And I had to make the movie available for sale in order to send it to my Kickstarter backers. Sure. And so I'm like, I'm gonna be real quiet about this, I'm just gonna post a thing on Kickstarter, just a private message, or update and, and I'll just send it to them. Well, they started sharing it with me immediately, hey, it's up, it's for sale. Like I did no publicity and that like, and it was for sale for like, a day or so. And we were like, raking in hundreds of dollars, you know, nothing glamorous, but still, like, I think we ended up there was like, on sale for one week, and we made like, $3,000 in that or maybe was like 20 $500 in that week. Okay. And, and without me like, announcing it officially on Facebook, or sending out a newsletter, or just to my 200 Kickstarter backers that were like, excited about it. And during that time, that's when after, like, a couple months, one distributor distributor in particular, all of a sudden was like, hey, wait, wait, wait. I really want to help you guys sell, like distribute this movie. And I have this plan and whatever. But in order for us to talk, you got to stop sales. No. And I was like, absolutely, you literally have to stop sales. I was like, this is just a talk worse? Well, because he had a relationship with a bigger company. And he and he was so excited. He was a sales rep. He's actually theatrical distributor that works with other distributors to get things out on other platforms and whatnot. So he we told them that we'll we're not interested in theatrical. So he's like, that's cool. I've got a relationship with this company, actually a pretty big company that I was like, he's like, I'm really good friends with this guy there. And I'm like, Okay, um, I spun it a little bit. Because I realized that the thing that worried me the most is, if I stopped sales, are the people who already bought it, are they going to not be able to have access anymore? Well, it turns out on VHS, you can you can stop sales, and they still have access. So that was relief. I was actually I have actually a couple producing partners on this. I'm being very candid with you. By the way.

Alex Ferrari 22:48
If no one else is listening, it's fine.

Brad Olsen 22:51
But we were actually kind of in panic mode at the time, because it was like, how do we say this? Without being like, without this looking like a big disaster? Like, we don't know what the heck we're doing, and which we kind of didn't. And, and it actually worked really well. We did a little blog post we spent it is Hey, good news. We're we have a distribution deal in the works. And but in order to do that, we have to stop sales on this platform. But don't worry, you still have access to this you. We made everybody who bought it. And the Kickstarter, people feel very special. And actually, even in the again, actually going back to this conversation with a guy in New York. He was like, I was one of the guys who got it in March. Like he felt really special.

Alex Ferrari 23:36
No, those are called the super fans. Those are super fans. Yeah, there's there's fans, and then there's like early adopters, and those kind of people, those are the ones you want because they're the ones who are going to spread the word. And that's exactly what happened.

Brad Olsen 23:50
So we kind of we kind of we pulled it, you know, and then and then we waited and I was at nav when we finally heard back that they you know, said what everybody else said they're like, well, now we're gonna pass like, a really good job so ridiculous. And I'm like, Well, thanks a lot for giving me like, heart palpitations and stuff.

Alex Ferrari 24:10
So now Yeah, so back on on Vimeo

Brad Olsen 24:13
So well. At that point. We were talking to my Corton with the Los Angeles creative pro user group, about doing a Los Angeles premiere. So and that was going to be like Originally, I wanted that a little sooner, but he had people lined up, he had my back manager coming and other people lined up for his meetings. So we were going to we were having that set up in June. And I also decided this would be a good time to maybe take care of some clearance stuff that I maybe hadn't done up to that point. One of those things being like I talked to a lawyer and everything has everything had passed the initial kind of science fair use test. Yeah, this sniff tests. But there was one clip in particular, he was like, Ah, you know, why don't I was using the clip from the Conan show? Yeah. And, and arguably, it could be fair use, but I didn't have somebody in the documentary saying, you know, Conan even made fun of it or something if I had somebody who had actually said, like, had set up the clip, Uh huh. And then shown it that can count from my understanding getting not a lawyer, but my understanding was, that could count as fair use. But I didn't have that I just had the quote unquote. So he said, Why don't you just reach out to the people at Conan? And I'm sure they, you know, they won't really care, whatever. I don't know why he said that, but kind of bad advice.

Alex Ferrari 25:50
Never ask for forgiveness, not for permission.

Brad Olsen 25:53
Right. Right. So but but it's true. I found like some I found the Conan press releases. And I found a PR guy for Conan. And so I emailed them, and I told them a little about what I was doing. And he forwarded it directly to Jordan szalinski, who's the associate producer on the show, and if you ever watched Conan, yeah, you know who he is. He's definitely comes off as a weirdo and a lot of sketches. And I was like, holy crap, this George Lansky, and he's, and he's, like, fill out this form. So I fill it out. And he was pretty cool. But he was like, like he when he got back to me. And this was kind of holding me up a little bit. Just like getting it out on sale and everything. And then he finally got back to me. And he said, Well, it looks like you want, you know, in perpetuity, which is, unfortunately, our most expensive license. But if you think he's the geek broadcast world, I'm like, Dude, this is a documentary that's going to be out there. I can't like cut the segment out later. I mean, I guess it kind of could have but um, so I don't know any other way to do it. He was he said, if you just want to do for festivals, and whatever, we can license the clip for $500. And then with the understanding that once you get your full distribution in place, that, you know, you'll pay the full amount which he quoted me as $12,000 for like 14 or 15 seconds of Conan. Christ. Well, okay. And here's, here's the funny thing. I talked to a buddy of mine who works in documentaries, and he's made documentaries for like, discovery in a&e and things like in and things like that. And he said, and Smithsonian and he's like, okay, Brad, Walter Cronkite costs half that much. Freaking Cronkite data is like, it is not worth it. Not only did I not have the money, but it just was not worth paying that much for the quote unquote, lose the lose the 15 seconds of the film.

Alex Ferrari 27:51
I would agree with you. Yeah. So I would agree with him too. I just that doesn't make a whole lot of financial sense.

Brad Olsen 27:58
And he's like, even if you had $100,000 set aside for just licensing, this clip wouldn't be worth it. Now, of course, I could go the route of trying to do the clearance thing, but it just it seemed easier to just lose 15 seconds. Got it. Got it. So so I had that done. Right. Then I was like, Okay, let's get this thing for sale. Now. We've, this was the last thing in question. We've, you know, we've got everything else cleared. So let's just let's just get this show on the road. So there was about a month, June, I did the LA showing. And actually, we invited Rob ash to that showing, but he couldn't make it. He had to go home and watch some kids or something. I really wish he could have made it because we actually at that point has still had the code and clip in there. And then I and then I just once I heard back, which was after that screen, Rex thing was right before. That's when I started kind of prepping this July 24 release. Yeah. 24th. And that was VHS, and back on VHS. And then I wanted to like show that I had been doing something in this time period. So I also had gotten some, I think had been working on some captions in the meantime, like cheer sharing language such as Amazon, which, if you My understanding is if you go through an aggregator you can release some more territories on Amazon, but if you don't, you can still release through the US, US and UK. That's it right. And actually, Germany isn't on there.

Alex Ferrari 29:31
It was it wasn't sure if it's there anymore. You might have gotten in Germany, but they don't allow it anymore. I don't think I was just talking to those guys think Germany and Japan. Were the other two. Yeah,

Brad Olsen 29:41
Japan was kind of weird because you had to burn in the subtitles from what I was reading. Anyway, this is all this nerdy stuff. But the fact is, I could get it without paying for an aggregator at this point. I could get it on Amazon. I had also at the same time, been waiting to hear back from an aggregator. I'd submitted stuff to an aggregator for iTunes. But they hadn't assigned me a sales rep. And so I finally in July, like after a month of waiting to hear back, I wrote in their support, and I said, Hey, what's the deal? Where's my sales? rep, I want to get this show on the road. So I didn't have the iTunes stuff set up, set up in time. But by that point, people were like, emailing me daily. And messaging. Where's the movie? When can I see the movie? So, got it. I didn't want to lose that momentum. And that excitement.

Alex Ferrari 30:31
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And then you really see you have a theatrical Oh, that you had a screening in LA, you've put it back out on VHS, and then the money starts coming back in. Are you starting to get attention again?

Brad Olsen 30:50
Yeah, so that's like, the that week, the last week of July On va checks I think we made we made about $3,000. Most of it being that kind of the launch day. And of course, I timed that with some articles and things as well coming out on different blogging sites a premium v lb five FCP, co we're just a no film school. We're all sites that were writing about it. To drive sales, and I was trying to get coupon codes out there. It was kind of crazy, because I put a bunch of coupon codes out and hardly anybody, like really shared them. And then even when they were shared, most people weren't using them. But I was like, okay, more money for me. As part of my whole, like, this will be good for, you know, marketing and whatnot. Specifically the bonus feature edition, which was like, which was basically the package I delivered to my Kickstarter backers at a stretch goal, like we'll do extended interviews and stuff and, and so that was because the Kickstarter thing was $25. I left that at $25 $25. But then I had a $5 off coupon for it. So anyway, you

Alex Ferrari 32:07
By the way, you're doing all this by yourself at this point.

Brad Olsen 32:11
Pretty much. I guess I have a couple people that were helping me with like Facebook ads and helping me with some logistical stuff. But you know, when you're seeing most of the posts are written by me and most the, you know, trying to like, in fact, actually the other boring thing I've spent way too much time and I still have to spend more time is like formatting captions and language.

Alex Ferrari 32:31
Fantastic. Which now you could just go to rev calm and do much

Brad Olsen 32:36
I have the transcript and have the translations and stuff. But yeah, Rev. Rev is

Alex Ferrari 32:40
So much easier. Yeah. Dude, dude, it's me for other languages. I think it's three bucks a minute. Just Are you kidding me? That's $20 a minute before?

Brad Olsen 32:52
Well, yeah. And I actually had somebody in Japan, of course, you did reach out to me. And he's like, hey, and he'd gotten the movie back in March. And he's like, I love your movie so much. I've been spending I've been translating it to Japanese. here's the here's the SRT.

Alex Ferrari 33:11
There are, there are there are wonderful human beings on the planet who do things like that? Yeah, fans, man. It's true. It's true. I get stuff like that people do stuff like that. Sometimes for stuff that I do. I was like, wow, God bless, man. That's awesome. Now you were talking a little bit about social media. So how did you? What How did you find where the where your niche audience was? How did you kind of attack and your marketing plans is now you already got the movie out? You already are selling it? And now how did you kind of come up with this marketing plan, a social media marketing plan? And what platforms did you use and so on?

Brad Olsen 33:46
Well, I'm kind of lame in that I'm not an I need to get on other platforms. But I'm not like on Instagram or Twitter. I have fans that are on there that share stuff on there for me, but I don't have an official thing there. Most of what I'm doing is on Facebook. The nice thing though, is because in the years leading up to making this film, I was already part of the Edit communities and the final cut communities and the apple communities on Facebook, and I'm an active member of those I already had.

Alex Ferrari 34:21
You already built in that. Because a lot of times, a lot of people, a lot of times I always tell people when they're going to try to go after an audience you go into where those audiences live. And you'll become part of that audience by hosting and providing value. You've already done that. So you already knew where this audience was living.

Brad Olsen 34:37
Yep. And they were already kind of aware of me and I and and what I was doing, and they've been following the making of process, you know, and I've been updating people on that. And I think that's a good thing, too, is Yeah, sometimes I feel a little guilty of that. I'm sort of just settling, try to sell stuff on there, but at the same time, this is information that they're all interested in writing Now you're providing value. Exactly. And, you know, I'm also always chiming in and helping people out with their editing questions and stuff as well. So it was, you know, it was like you said it was providing some value. And people are definitely always really excited when something when I mentioned some news, or whatever of, Hey, I'm on this podcast, or Hey, and then you got this thing.

Alex Ferrari 35:25
And you were saying that you worked on Facebook ads, the G, did you spend a lot of money? Or did you spend some money on Facebook ads trying to get the word out?

Brad Olsen 35:32
So, um, you know, most of the early stuff has been very viral and shared very well, which was just awesome. I didn't have to spend money. Once we had on sale, we started we've been we've been testing the waters with the Facebook ads stuff, I think in the next month or so. We're going to double down and have more targeted ads. I've got clips lined up, like short video clips from the documentary that I'm gonna start rolling out because video always says better. And I'm paying, obviously for for some ad stuff. So and there's there's a whole back end of building an audience on Facebook, some of it is a little bit creepy To be frank. But that's how Facebook makes its money. And that's how we target people.

Alex Ferrari 36:17
It is kind of creepy. I'll tell you, it's insane how detailed they can get.

Brad Olsen 36:21
Well, you Okay, here's an example of something, again, being very candid. But you can take and I'm not selling anybody's personal information? Of course not that clear. Yes. But you can take an email list. And because those people are on Facebook, you can you can build what they call a look alike audience, it's really easy to do. So I'm not like targeting the people that bought the movie, but it's basically saying, what are their likes and interest for the people that already like your Facebook page? And how do we target people that are like that, that have similar interests, like, and so that's the funny thing, when people think it's cute and fun to like, share their likes and interests on Facebook, or join certain groups or whatever. I'm like, you know, that's fun for you. But this is all data mining for these companies, which is a whole nother rabbit hole benefits. It can it can be working to your advantage. If you're an independent filmmaker, and you're trying to find more people that might be interested in what you're doing. Because you can pay Facebook, to target people in certain regions. Like my case, like, okay, New York, LA, San Francisco, there's probably clusters of people,

Alex Ferrari 37:30
Expensive to market to those people too, isn't it?

Brad Olsen 37:33
Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, but like you said that the nice thing about having a niche niche of just editors is I think it's a lot, you can narrow down a lot of those interests and things

Alex Ferrari 37:47
Very much. Now, how big of a part was the international audience for your film?

Brad Olsen 37:53
So yeah, when you look at when I look at my hits on the website, which is like, actually, the last week has been about 200 views a day. And, and then when you look at purchases of the movie, it's somewhere between 60 to 70%, are not domestic hits and sales. That's amazing. It's It is like, the craziest countries from all over the planet that wow. And you know, I saw a little bit of that when I ran the Kickstarter, and I was having to like mail packages to Israel and Spain and Australia and other places. But, but since the movie has been on sale, it's just been crazy. You know, Europe is obviously a big one. But even Asian countries and other places that I would not have expected hits in the Middle East and in Africa that I'm like, I don't even know how they know about this other than these are people who aren't they have. They're on Facebook, they have Final Cut. And any of the same thing can be said the number one final cut group was actually started by a friend and neighbor of mine, Braden stores, and it's got about 30,000, the final cut pro 10 editors group has over 30,000 people on it. And you can look at that and see is a very international group of people who were using and of course, it is because you know, the the number reported earlier this year, for total installs a Final Cut Pro 10 was 2.5 million. That was I shouldn't say installs. That's actually they they say the term seats, which was explained to me as actual purchases of the app.

Alex Ferrari 39:38
So just probably installed in many more places.

Brad Olsen 39:41
Yes, like you can buy a copy of Final Cut Pro 10. And the license agreement says you can put it on as many Mac's as you own or if you're at a business or school, then you have to have a license per machine because it's a multi user machine, you know, but that being said, there's no actual Physical mechanism to stop you from signing in on your Apple ID and putting it on 100 computers. Sure. So who knows how many people actually use Final Cut, or in what ways they use Final Cut, I'm very interested to know that, because we know they're not using Final Cut Pro 10 very much in Hollywood, per se, but there's this whole global audience of people that are using it for all sorts of things, which I think speaks to the democratization of our craft.

Alex Ferrari 40:27
Without without without question. So yeah, it's it's interesting how it cuz I have listeners from in countries that I'm like, how are you? How did you hear about me? How did you? What do you know, but they don't even speak English there. How are you listening to me, like, I don't understand. But I'm very grateful. And I have, it is interesting that this is a global thing. And you have to look at it as a global thing. Because filmmakers, a lot of times, they just concentrate on the US, they just concentrate on on America as the biggest market. And it is the biggest, but it's not as big as the rest of the world in many ways, specifically, depending on your movie, and, and I think you you unwittingly started seeing that by doing your movie and by using a platform like VHS, which is owned by Vimeo, anybody internationally could buy their, like iTunes, you have to go to territories and Amazon, you have to go to territories.

Brad Olsen 41:27
But with and I was told by the aggregator, you know, it's like to change the, to open up the metadata or whatever is like a $200 base fee. And for each additional language, which I have to do a new poster for. And a description for translated in addition to the subtitles, is another 150 bucks. So if you're trying to get five or six languages, like that adds up really fast. And that's actually the next thing I'm going to be doing on iTunes, but it's like this cost.

Alex Ferrari 41:59
So you are on iTunes, now

Brad Olsen 42:00
I am on iTunes yet. So as bout a month ago, little less than a month ago, we finally once the once I got a sales rep assigned from this aggregator, then the ball really started rolling fast on getting everything prepped for iTunes, there was a lot of learning that I had to do. And honestly, I should have followed your advice. I've gone with distributor. I did not go as distributor distributor initially, and that was only because I was looking at Apple's website, they have under compressor, which is how you make an iTunes Store package. They had like a list of four aggregators that they recommended there. And then and then I also had been, I'd made friends with somebody who was on the iTunes team, but now is moved over, they actually reached out to me at nav and said, hey, let's I work. I work at Apple for iTunes, I want to help you, you know, get your movie up here. Now granted, I probably shouldn't say too much about that, because it wasn't like sponsoring me or whatever. But anyway, he did introduce himself and he he still referred me I went through the regular channels. I want to make that very clear. Yes, he referred me to a list of aggregators. And and on that list of where these, you know, I found some of the same ones. So I ended up picking an aggregator. And anyway, it was just it was the the front end on their website looked very, very clean and upfront, here's the costs. But spray, the back end was kind of a nightmare. And if you'd done it before, now that I've done it, I could go through it easy. But I think this is the interesting thing that speaks to complicated systems is the people who build them. And then the people who use them, just kind of get used to it and don't recognize how bad it is. until somebody who's never done it before it comes in and says oh my gosh, this is like a total nightmare. I just want to get my movie up and compare it to VHS where I'm this is kind of where I was going with all this VHS. I want to add a new language. No problem. I just tack on the subtitles. I can switch them out at any time. Yeah, yeah, it's great. It's great that way, it's gives me full control and I'm not paying anybody to click buttons, I can click myself or is going through an aggregator. Well, they're the ones with the iTunes Connect account account and and I can't, you know have access to any of that. So I have to send them stuff then they have to QC it then they send it back and it's just this whole long joke of a process but I knew I had to get there because I have lots of people writing in and saying well let me know when it's on iTunes.

Alex Ferrari 44:58
Yes, you know, I know look, you made a movie. Got a final cut about an Apple product? for god sakes, you got to be on iTunes. Exactly. It is no, no question about it. No, picking the right aggregator for your needs is extremely important. And it could be as costly as picking the wrong distributor. If you're not careful now has now finally as the as the money is a movie made money is in profit.

Brad Olsen 45:22
Yeah, I mean, I didn't spend very much to make it like so. Are you retiring?

Alex Ferrari 45:27
Are you retiring to the French Riviera off this move?

Brad Olsen 45:29
No, no, no, no, no. So I'm on VH. x. We are close to grossing $10,000. That's awesome. on Amazon, which I haven't done a lot of push to Amazon, mostly because their profit share is not great. And I haven't I haven't unlocked prime yet. I will probably my prime eventually. But yeah, keep it off there till then. Yeah, yeah. But, but it's, I think my half of it is this. So this is kind of the net of it is around like six or $700 is all okay. And then iTunes is actually checked the other day, and it's humming along? Well, it's been up there for about a month, and it's made about two grand.

Alex Ferrari 46:14
Hey, man, that's awesome.

Brad Olsen 46:17
So you know, we're, I, you know, I think the sales keep coming, which is nice. So that and

Alex Ferrari 46:23
It's gonna keep coming in. Because there's I promise you there is not going to be a competition, a competitive film coming out, like the other documentary about, you're not gonna have that problem, like you are the only one in your category. And you are the only person ever to make a movie in that category. So I think you're good for a while. And this movie will probably continue to generate money for you. For for at least the next handful of years. if not longer, depending on how you might have to update it. Eventually, you have to do a sequel to it. Which brings me to my next question. Are you planning a series of documentaries on editing software? Like the avid dock? premiere? DaVinci Resolve doc? Well, and then of course, the Sony Vegas doc. Don't forget that one.

Brad Olsen 47:13
Yeah, we've got we've actually got a great name picked out maybe you and I can co produce this one. It's called back on track. DaVinci Resolve

Alex Ferrari 47:23
Nice. That would be awesome. Back on Track the sequel. Right. That's, that's awesome. That, you know,

Brad Olsen 47:35
I think I think what's interesting, and I kind of wish I'd found an angle. There's so many things to try to pack into dosha into my Doc, but but I actually do think that in a lot of ways, the final cut pro 10 story has a lot of parallels to the avid in the 90s story versus, you know, film based editing because film editors Oh, you said I'm not editing on a computer. That's a toy. And what did they say about Final Cut Pro 10. I'm not editing on that it's a toy. So it's, it's really interesting to to see the parallels there.

Alex Ferrari 48:13
I might be there might be a place for the avid documentary.

Brad Olsen 48:16
There might you know it might be I feel less inspired by avid just because in the last 20 years, I feel like they've just totally stagnated. And yes, the whole film industry has accepted the fact that and they're comfortable with the fact that avid really isn't moving the ball forward in any significant way.

Alex Ferrari 48:33
They just all they do is patch the holes in the ship. No, no, no, no, and I'm not trying to be a dick about it. But it's the truth like I because I've worked with come, you know, worked with avid and I've worked with, you know, studios that work with avid and having to deal with that workflow. And I literally, like I walk into the edit suite, and they're like, they're on Macs that are like 10 years old, because they're the only ones that are completely stable with the software. And that's the only thing so everything is super slow. It can't really run really well. And it's just like annoying as all hell and I know they're more advanced, you know, systems out there, but these are the ones that they were renting. And I feel like every single time there was a problem which was daily, the average guy would come in and like literally just patch a hole in the ship that obviously have leaks and it will drown it will drown eventually it will go under eventually but it there just

Brad Olsen 49:30
Ithat the irony though people like avid it's so stable, so solid. Well, you're paying Yeah, if you're paying hundreds of 1000s of dollars for avid support every year. Yeah, guess you guess it'll be reliable in that sense.

Alex Ferrari 49:43
Or you could download DaVinci Resolve or Final Cut Pro X. I mean,

Brad Olsen 49:46
Yeah, why not do something a little that's that's also reliable but doesn't demand the full attention support, like like you were talking about.

Alex Ferrari 49:56
It's like, it's like buying a really bad car. And then you have have to pay for a mechanic or for a mechanic to live in the back House of your home to make sure the car is running perfectly all the time. And it breaks down daily. So the dude's always working, but the car mechanics fees are another 100,000 plus the car, and they're like, wow, that car is really stable. Sure. You're paying 100 grand for the dude that live in your back? Oh, man, yeah, it this, this whole conversation is gone off off the tracks.

Brad Olsen 50:31
We've got it. We've got off that we've we've we can't help ourselves. We just keep getting back in. I mean, it is something I've been asked like, what about like the Adobe Premiere story and whatnot. And like, it's just for me? I was I'm very passionate about Final Cut Pro 10 Sure, sure. Sure, sure. I'm not so passionate about the other systems. And that's not even about Final Cut Pro 10 per se. I'm just passionate about the idea that a person with no connections with very few resources can go out and make a movie like anything that is gonna empower that and enable that. So you know, you 2003 for me, it was the dv x 100

Alex Ferrari 51:10
No 100 Acer 100. Yeah, the 108 police let's let's keep it straight. Don't forget, there wasn't 100 v. I was about to say there was a B but there was like only weirdos bought the B. Honestly, it was about the A everyone had. I don't want to hear about the B, it was about the A we have gone so off the tracks. everyone listening thought this was a

Brad Olsen 51:34
But it is about like now like I was just shooting 4k 24 frames a second footage of my I just had a kid the other day. We were talking about this before the show. So I had my second daughter earlier this week, and I'm shooting some 4k video on my iPhone that honestly, like is really really good quality

Alex Ferrari 51:57
Just like mom used to do. But definitely Yeah.

Brad Olsen 52:01
So to me, it's like, well, what's You know, there's, there's no more excuses. And that. So I see Final Cut Pro 10 fitting into that, that world. And that's actually when I'm more passionate about Final Cut Pro 10 could be could go away and something else could come about and or in and then there's other tools that could come around, then that's where I'm going to be anywhere that is is going to get rid of the gatekeepers that is going to allow me to connect to my audience or connect to an audience directly. And for us to just have a good time and not be told you can't do it. You know, because that's what I was told when I was a kid growing up. This all goes down to like childhood psychology and drama, which was I wanted to make movies because I saw my heroes George Lucas and Steven Spielberg making movies. And I was told you will never get to do that. So stop dreaming about it. Oh, yeah. Well, I'll show you along that the way you know, we saw all these innovations and things come about so when people react negatively to the message that oh filmmaking has, you know, gotten easier, it's more accessible, it's more powerful. And they're like, No, no, no, no, no, let's keep everything the way it is. And let's keep people out. I'm very, you know,

Alex Ferrari 53:23
That's avid basically is what you're saying?

Brad Olsen 53:24
Yeah, it's 35 millimeter film even though I think 35 million films beautiful. It's a it's a system that requires so much support and resources and resources and money that it represents to me this you know, it's the adult it's the teacher, it's the parent, it's whoever telling 12 year old me Stop dreaming stop, you know at attending

Alex Ferrari 53:49
Bradman I thank you for being raw and honest about your entire distribution process with off the tracks. It was a fascinating story to listen to. You are very candid, and I hope it does help somebody out there listening in whatever country you're listening in. That Hope it helps you guys figure out what's the best path for for you. But Brad, thank you so much for being so honest and forthright with your journey, sir. And of course, thank you for allowing off the tracks to be part of IFH TV.

Brad Olsen 54:24
Yeah, I'm excited. I'm excited to see what the tribe thinks of of my movie, hopefully. Hopefully they're positive.

Alex Ferrari 54:32
I think they'll be I think there'll be okay. But and you know, and the same

Brad Olsen 54:37
Feeling feelings. I know that.

Alex Ferrari 54:39
Well, the bottom line is it same thing that you were saying about the gatekeepers and stuff like that. I mean, I'm a dude that's opening up a streaming service, you know, aimed at the audience that I love the most, which are filmmakers, screenwriters, creators, artists. And, you know, I I'm not spending millions of dollars to do it. And I'm able to go out there and do it because of the tools because of the things that are out there to be able to make these things happen. And and you just did a story about one of those tools that really did help a lot of people tell their story. So thanks again, man for being on the show and no more. You're not allowed on for at least 100 episodes. No more conversations with Brad, this is enough to he's more than now, if you come back with an avid movie. You're you're first in line.

Brad Olsen 55:28
We're back on track.

Alex Ferrari 55:29
We're back are back on track with the victories. Oh, that's such a call back with a whole black magic. I think we can make this happen.

Brad Olsen 55:38
I think so.

Alex Ferrari 55:39
Thanks again, Brad.

Brad Olsen 55:41
Yep, thank you, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 55:43
I want to thank Brad for coming back on the show and revealing and being honest and raw about his distribution misadventures on getting the film out there. But if you guys are interested in seeing the film, don't forget it is on indie film hustle TV, it is a great documentary. If you're into editing, post production, or just want to know how Apple royally screwed up one of their product releases to watch that happen live, it is quite fascinating. So definitely check that out. I will put links to everything we discussed in the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/279. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com. And leave us a good review. It really, really helps to show out a lot and helps us get this information out to more and more filmmakers. So it would be greatly greatly appreciated. And that's it for another episode of the indie film hustle podcast. I hope you guys are doing well. In this holiday season. You got to keep hustling. No matter what guys got to keep pushing, keep writing, keep learning as much as you can. And also, by the way, thank you so much for all the kind remarks of Episode 277, which I revealed my daily routine and has inspired a bunch of you guys out there to wake up at 4:30 in the morning. So do it guys. Keep hustling. And, as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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