IFH 271: Going Undercover and Directing for VICE with Natalia Leite

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Today’s guest is writer/director Natalia Leite. This director is one of the bravest filmmakers I’ve ever met. Her work on the VICE documentary Life as a Truck-Stop Stripper was breathtaking. Not only did she direct the piece but one of the subjects in the film as well. Take a look below at her amazing work.

Everyone knows what charming places strip clubs can be, but perhaps there is no club so charming as one in Moriarty, New Mexico—a truck stop with taxidermy and the bras of former employees on the walls, a few poles, a shitload of black light, and plenty of titties. Never mind that The Ultimate Strip Club List website describes it as the place “where strippers go to die.” Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo go Gonzo as they pose as strippers and experience something that can be best described as a Marina Abramovic performance crossed with a bizarro episode of Wife Swap directed by David Lynch’s daughters, set in the type of place where a one-eyed guy who shot himself in the head dispenses meditation advice to two naked women.

Natalia Leiteis a Brazilian writer/director. Her work has been described as having “a bracing, assertive style” (Variety), “emotional intelligence and sensitivity” (LA Times), and as “cementing the reign over highly stylized, sexually progressive dramas” (Slant).

Her feature filmM.F.A.”, a psychological thriller centered around rape crimes in a university, premiered at SXSW 2017 and was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize. The film stars Francesca Eastwood and was released in theaters October 2017. Her feature film debut, “Bare,” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015, starring Dianna Agron.

The film was released by IFC Films and Paramount Pictures. Natalia has created original content for Vice Media, most notably the provocative Vice show “Every Woman” which has garnered over 11 million views. She co-created and starred in the series “Be Here Nowish,” and has directed and shot documentaries internationally.

Natalia is a contributing writer for Talk House and has been a featured speaker for NY Women In Film & Television, Apple Store Talks, IFP Filmmaker Conference, and numerous Universities. She also directs branded content for Vans, The North Face, Nasty Gal, and other companies. She recently signed with bicoastal production company Humble, her first commercial representation, and directs branded content for Vans, The North Face, and other companies.

Enjoy my conversation with Natalia Leite.

Alex Ferrari 1:39
Now Today on the show we have Writer Director Natalia Leite and she is easily one of the bravest filmmakers I've ever run into. She's a documentary filmmaker as well as a narrative filmmaker and has had film's premiere at South by Southwest and Tribeca and was even nominated for Best Picture at the South by Southwest Film Festival for her film, MFA. She has worked with Vice on multiple projects, one being one of the most interesting things I've ever seen a filmmaker do. And this young filmmaker threw herself into this documentary in ways that I have not seen before, that she actually became not only the writer and director of this, but the subject of the piece. And the film is called life as a truck stop stripper. And Natalia did this for vice and it's been downloaded and watched over 11 million times on YouTube. It is a heart wrenching documentary wonderfully done. And I advise everyone listening to definitely check that piece out among all the things that she's done. But I will put links to all of that in the show notes at the end of the episode. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Natalia Leite. I'd like to welcome to the show, Natalia Leite. Thank you so, so much for being on the show.

Natalia Leite 3:06
Thank you, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 3:08
I thank you so much. No, it's it's i was i was shown your work and introduced to you work recently. And I have to say I'm fairly impressed.

Natalia Leite 3:19
Thank you. Yeah, there's a wide range of thing that I've been doing here.

Alex Ferrari 3:23
So before we get into it, how did you actually get started in the business?

Natalia Leite 3:27
So I actually came from a visual arts background, I went to art school, I didn't have proper film education. I thought I wanted to be making visual art and then quickly realized that that maybe wasn't the medium for me. And I started getting into film just just out of my own curiosity and you know, eventually assisting other directors. One thing led to the next started writing my own scripts and just kind of like DIY being scrappy doing it myself and realize that I loved telling stories in this medium. And what was what so you basic that was the the genesis of you wanting to be a director as you just kind of fell into it. Like I really like this, right? Yeah, I fell into it and discovered that I really liked it. Honestly, it wasn't really in my radar. I grew up in Brazil, and I just, I don't know, it just wasn't like presentable a career path that was like presented to me ever that I really thought this could be an option, you know, right. But I knew I wanted to do something creative. And I knew I wanted to tell stories. It was just like taking another form back then. And I it all like one thing led to the next like I was assisting a lot of other directors and producers for a while and I started writing my own work and the the first thing that sort of started to put my work out there was be here now which was wish be here now wish which was a web show that I, you know, started directed row produced did the sound sometimes, like just lab services. Got it? Yeah, craft services did everything with a handful of friends. And that, you know, started to kind of putting the wheels in motion in terms of me doing this as a career,

Alex Ferrari 5:20
Which was fun, because I actually saw a little bit of that show, and it actually looks really good. Like it actually has great production value for being such a scrappy little show. So congratulations on that.

Natalia Leite 5:33
I'll credit that to Del Mar, who was our dp dollarway. For Madsen. She's shooting high maintenance now on HBO, and she is just the queen of just like, let's figure it out and still make it look gorgeous. So yeah, she's really lucky to have her as a friend and DP on that.

Alex Ferrari 5:50
You definitely need people like that on on your crew as a director, yes. Let's figure it out. And like, let's still make it look gorgeous. That's always like,

Natalia Leite 6:00
We're like pulling in, you know, like, whatever we could find just like bringing in lamps and just, you know, attaching things like just trying to be creative of how we're going to get a good image and not make it look super low quality. So she's she's really creative in that way.

Alex Ferrari 6:15
So let me ask you, how did you get that first project got that series up off the ground? I mean, obviously, you need some money. Where did you find money? How did you put this whole thing? How did you put that show together?

Natalia Leite 6:27
Yeah, so the show, we, you know, it really started off as, okay, let's do this on weekends with friends, like I just want to get, I just want to get work out there in the world, right. And then, so everyone was working for free, but then obviously, like, they came points when, okay, we really do need money, we can't just like keep this going for, for nothing. And we ended up doing a Kickstarter, we raised 20,000 on that Kickstarter, which was like, a lot of work. It's like not a lot of money at all for for making a series, you know, that ended up being like an hour and a bit long. But we really stretched it out and made those 20k on Kickstarter and, and through that met like other investors, it was actually a pretty successful campaign for us, because we just met a lot of people that then ended up financing other projects.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
And we're in where's it being shown now.

Natalia Leite 7:25
So be here now, which is still on, we ended up selling the first season to a company called aura. So they have it on their site. And then the second season, we had it with full screen, which is full screen no longer exists. So now it's just up on our Vimeo and we're trying to figure out if we can just like throw it up on YouTube because for us at this point, it's just about you know, why do people watch it? I mean, it's it's, you know, it's older, it's old now. I consider it for

Alex Ferrari 7:54
Yes and ancient, like two three years old. It's like three years old My God then it's like the 80s but I want people to still watch it you know? Alright aged a bit since I was Yes, yes. Oh, yes. Yes, you look haggard lately. I'm sorry. Yeah. It's my you see, you can go back your youth. My youth is fading away in front of you. Yes. Those three years really killed is now what is it certainly ask you. So what is your process when you're creating or selecting a project?

Natalia Leite 8:32
My process so I need to gravitate towards things that I feel a personal connection to, that I feel really passionate about. Because, as you know, it just, you're going to work on this thing for so long. Sometimes you don't even know how long and you got to just like, love it. And I feel like for me, I need to feel it's an instinctual thing. Like I need to feel like there's like a cord from my heart to whatever the script or concept is. That's like pulling me towards it. And there's been a lot of times, you know, now I'm reading other people's scripts, I'm deciding like, what to do next, writing my own stuff as well. But for me, it's always just like, I have to just check in intuitively to Is there a really strong pool like do I feel called to absolutely have to do this? You know, otherwise? I, I might love a story and be like, Oh, this is great, but I'm not feeling so passionate about it's probably not for me like I shouldn't be the one to do it. You know, and I think it's really good to discern that

Alex Ferrari 9:30
Well tell me a little bit about your work with Vice and how that came about. Especially that amazing documentary every woman life as a truck, truck stop stripper, which is when I saw that I was like a half to have her on the show. I need to hear all about this.

Natalia Leite 9:47
Yeah. So I had been writing on my own a script for my first features called bear. And a big part of the script took place in a strip club, but I didn't want but it's sort of like a strip club. In a small town, and I was looking for something that was like, you know, just off the off the highway ideally, right? Like I didn't want like a big nightclub a strip club in

Alex Ferrari 10:10
In the city. Right?

Natalia Leite 10:11
Right. And I had friends at the time, I didn't know where I was going to shoot. But I had friends who were living in Albuquerque, and I went there on like a month, you know, hiatus while I was writing the script to go live in Albuquerque, and ended up like touring all the strip clubs in the area. As I was like doing research and ended up finding out about this club, that is about 45 minutes away from Albuquerque, in the middle of nowhere, like you're driving on highway 40, nothing, nothing, nothing, you pass a Walmart, then there's nothing, nothing, nothing. And then there's like the signs there's like topless. And then there is like club 203. And it just cater to truckers. So the truckers passing by, they can tune into a CB radio, and they'll pick up the signal. And it'll be someone at the club being like, tonight on stages candy, and you know, whatever they say. And they'll like turn off into the side of the road. And I found out about this place. I went there alone for the first time. And I was just like, what is this?

Alex Ferrari 11:13
Sounds? It sounds like it sounds insane. Yeah, it was just like, it was like straight out of a David Lynch movie. And it's expecting people to start talking backwards. And there'll be a little person just walking by.

Natalia Leite 11:27
I was like, wow, this is really fascinating. And it was just, you know, that I'm Ryan, who's the guy who owns it, it was like very much a no rules type of place. And that there was like in terms of the dancing like you could do whatever you want. They had this rocking horse, they would pull on stage sometimes. And there was like, you know, just like mom and dad daughter dance, like it was like, yeah, there was like this survey stuff going on to this. Like, I don't know about this.

Alex Ferrari 11:55
That's just Oh, okay.

Natalia Leite 11:58
A lot of stuff that didn't end up in the piece. But anyway, so I was like, wow, this place. Aside from I wanted to put it in my feature film as a location. It deserves a piece on its own right. So I put I pitch to vice. Well, I went there, you know, I had gone there alone filmed a little bit of just filmed on my own a little bit to show a sample of like, what this really is, and then went back and then went to Vice with my friend Alexandra, who I was working with at the time to pitch as like a standalone piece of advice. This was like Eddie Moretti, who was the the, you know, creative there. He was like, Ah, you know, we get pitched like stripper concepts all the time. Like we're not interested in I was like, No, no, no, what universe sound like, I want to go and work there. He's like, Oh, okay. Like you're that's that sounds crazy.

Alex Ferrari 12:49
It sounds

Natalia Leite 12:51
Right. Yeah. And you went and worked and lived there for about 10 days

Alex Ferrari 12:56
So before we continue that story. How did you get to Vice? Because I know a lot of filmmakers would love to have that conversation with somebody advice. How do you how do you approach a company like that?

Natalia Leite 13:05
Yeah, so Okay. I went to a panel where Eddie Moretti was speaking, it was a Tribeca Film Festival organised panel. And at the end of the panel, I cornered him

To say, you accosted him? Got it? I did. So did like 30 other people, right, right, as you do at panels,

As I as you do at panels, and I was like, I have something that you're gonna be really interested in seeing? And he's like, yeah, okay, great. Reach out, and just gave me his assistance, email, you know, and I reached out and I sent him a link to a piece that I had shot. In Cuba. This was like, before every woman that was very, like, I had, you know, edited, like really fast, very, like, by style, and I just sent him the link and I didn't say much else. And he called me like, right away, was like, get come in come in tomorrow. Yeah. Yeah, and it's just sometimes that stuff works, you know, but you've got to be, like, smart about how you're approaching it. Like, you've people, these people don't have time, right? So it's like, hey, like, what's gonna grab their attention? And what, what do I have that they want? Right? And that was it. Like, I just met him at a panel, there was no, you know, from there, like, it opened up the scope. And then we did every woman and then he called me back to do you know, direct other things and, but that stuff is possible, like the just cold calling, sometimes. Well,

Alex Ferrari 14:34
It does. And I'm actually I'm quite jealous because I am actually Cuban. And I've never been to Cuba yet. So when I saw that piece that you did, I was like, oh, that would have been amazing.

Natalia Leite 14:43
Yeah, he was really special place. I felt really lucky to be there. And at that time, especially and film it.

Alex Ferrari 14:50
So Alright, so So now you're back at Club was a club tool to about two or three because I was just the highway exit, right? So your club 203 and You're there for 10 days.

Natalia Leite 15:01
I'm there for 10 days. And that was me, Alexandra, who, who came in was working with me at the time. And vice sent us with one producer. This was prior to Vice land. So it was a little bit like still, you know, no rules. Like, I mean, we were putting ourselves in dangerous situations like I would fly today. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 15:23
You think I saw? I saw it? Are you? Are you kidding me?

Natalia Leite 15:26
Yeah. really dangerous. And I don't know that I would do it today. Because now I know a little more.

Alex Ferrari 15:31
Obviously, you're much older, obviously.

Natalia Leite 15:34
I have a lot of gray hair. Interview isn't a video? No, I see what I look like.

Alex Ferrari 15:41
Exactly, exactly. No, I mean, I mean, when I saw it, I was like, This can't be I can't believe that these girls did this. Like this is so and the guys you met were? I mean,

Natalia Leite 15:54
It was a intense Yeah, I think what I realized too, but you know, the whole idea about it was I wanted to go in there to try to debunk what are the stereotypes of the stripper and like why women decide to do this, and the stereotypes of the truckers that go into these clubs, right. And I really feel like, it sort of opened my mind to what's possible, and our what kind of, you know, what the, our like own limitations are and who those people are. And, you know, there's like one woman who we interviewed Daisy, who was talking about how she feels like, it's her calling, it's, she loves doing the work, because she feels like she's a therapist to these men. And that's sort of like, Oh, we we never stopped to think about that, you know, maybe. Yeah, like the that's a version of it. And also some of the guys all across the board, but people just wanted someone to talk to and a connection. And I think it was like a less about being naked and more about them feeling like someone was caring, caring for them and wanting to listen to their stories, you know, of course, that's just there's also then like this, the creepy guy who tries to like, grab you. And

Alex Ferrari 17:05
There's these streams, there's the extremes of both ends.

Natalia Leite 17:08
Right, exactly. But it's not all bad, you know. And we definitely saw that and some of the stories from the men were really intense. And it was hard to listen to

Alex Ferrari 17:17
Let me ask you a question when you were in that when you are in that moment, how, I mean, psychologically? How was it for you? Because I mean, I'm watching this, and I'm going, I'm just thinking to myself, this is your young lady who's put herself in this situation with her friend, for God knows what reason. And and I'm thinking how, what's the psychology What's going on? Because this is not a one one night thing you were there for, for 10 days. This was a day in day out. It's not like, I'm going to try this for one night, and I can go back home, you came back and again and again. And like how did that were on you? Not only as the subject of of it, but also, I mean, you were directing that as well. Correct? Yeah. So how did you do that?

Natalia Leite 18:05
I don't know. I think a lot of sometimes I look back and I think about my best work is stuff that I'm terrified to do, or they're terrified to talk about. And it's almost like, I just keep that I just keep the ball rolling. And then you know, and then eventually it hits a moment when there's no turning back. Right? And you're like, Ah, this is happening, like this is now out in the world. And I feel like this project was exactly that. Like, I was terrified to be there. I mean, it was also having fun with it. But it was just like, really intense, emotionally draining and physically draining. And I was terrified of like putting this out in the world, you know? So

Alex Ferrari 18:45
Because you're, you're exposing yourself and not in that way. But you're exposing your your basically your soft underbelly to the entire world.

Natalia Leite 18:52
Yeah, exactly. So it was just a lot of exposure. But you know, eventually you just hit a deadline. And you're like, you just press send and that's it. And then it's out. It's like has a mind of its own and it's going to be whatever it needs to be. But I think it was just Yeah, like every day was a bit of a challenge. But you just kind of keep going because that's there's no way there's no other way around it. You know, push yourself to keep going.

Alex Ferrari 19:15
No, you are it from from what I see in your work. You are extremely raw and vulnerable. Did that? Is that something that comes naturally to you? Or do you have to work at it to be able to kind of expose yourself as an artist?

Natalia Leite 19:28
Yeah, no, I think it comes naturally to me. I think I'm just naturally have a can tap into that sensitivity and being very empathetic. And you know, I do end up just feeling things intensely. And then sometimes I wonder if that's a hindrance, but more so now I feel like that's an advantage that I'm able to, you know, when I'm connecting with actors just like feel what they're feeling deeply and just look at performance and scenes and just be really connected on it. emotional level, I think it's actually really important for my work.

Alex Ferrari 20:03
And I and you agree that that's probably some of your best work is, the more scary it is, the more extreme, it might be more vulnerable and might be, is where you find that your work really shines.

Natalia Leite 20:15
Yeah, I do. And because that's what I want to be, you know, pushing the conversation forward, I want to be just doing stuff that is making us think about things differently and making us feel more connected. And that sometimes goes in and you know, deals deal with things that we're not talking about. So like, for instance, and even be here now, I wish there was I wanted to do a storyline about a guy who was HIV positive. And how do you deal with that in the dating world? Right. So like, there's just a little piece of it in the scene in the series, but it's like, why are we not talking about this? Right? Like, I have a cousin who's HIV positive. And, and the stories are interesting to me. And there's just not enough of these conversations out there. So but it's always scary, because you're like, Oh, this is kind of going into dangerous territory that is it gonna offend someone like, right, like, you just don't know. And, um, I always try to push myself to, to have those conversations, at least open it up,

Alex Ferrari 21:21
I find that, you know, by doing the kind of work that I do, and also just being a filmmaker myself that it's it's extremely difficult to be raw and vulnerable with your work. And I find that so many filmmakers hide behind falsehoods or create these walls that you can smell on their work. You can just smell it like, Oh, they didn't go all the way. Oh, they just they pull back at the last moment. And it's only the ones that go all the way that you go. Oh, there it is. And you see that in performances, you see that in directors, you see that and writers. So that's why I find your work so interesting. Because you are still early on in your career. I know you're ancient, but you're still you're still early on in your career. And I'm really curious to see the kind of work that you'll do in 10 years. Because you only by the way, being someone who's older than you. You only get braver, I feel as you get older because you start giving less of a shit.

Natalia Leite 22:19
Yeah, you know, it's, it's good to remember that. Thank you. I always like yeah, I always feel like I have to push myself. And it's always scary. But I do like feeling sometimes, like you're just standing on the edge of the cliff, you're like, Oh my god, am I gonna do? Am I gonna do it? And you just have to, like, jump into the waterfall or whatever. You just have to do it.

Alex Ferrari 22:36
Yeah, that's why we're here. That's why we're here. Why are you gonna play it safe? That's not boring. I mean, I'm not going to go and be a stripper for 10 days at a truck stop in Albuquerque. Because that's just not my path. And really, I would get no tips. But nobody wants to see that. You know? Nobody wants to see that documentary, I promise you. So, what was it like with your first feature film bear, which was based, not based on but kind of, in the world of every woman when it got accepted to Tribeca? I mean, what was that experience? Like? I always, anytime I have a filmmaker who gets into like Tribeca or Sundance or Cannes or something like that, I always want to hear the story of when they find out.

Natalia Leite 23:24
I mean, so thrilled you just don't know like, you go into it all just hoping for the best and it was the best It was really the best case scenario for me. It was like I wanted so badly to premiere there. And you're just waiting and waiting. And I was so thrilled and I was so impressed because the festival they do such an amazing job. They take such good care of their filmmakers. We weren't you we didn't know what to expect. But you know, they gave us the red carpet they gave us at party like it was it felt incredible. It was really yeah, it was really phenomenal.

Alex Ferrari 23:59
Now I see I see that you like putting yourself in yourself in your work? How do you handle being in front and behind the camera?

Natalia Leite 24:09
So it's a little challenging for me, which is honestly why I'm not putting myself in my work as much anymore because I feel like it's hard for me to focus on two things at once. being totally focused on my character and then also like directing the scene, you know, so I still like throw myself a little scene just for fun because I like that. You

Alex Ferrari 24:31
Pop your pop yourself in once in a while. Sure. Yeah, you'll do your Hitchcock Got it?

Natalia Leite 24:35
Yeah. But I just really I'm staying behind the camera right now because I want to craft the story and I think like just staying you know, more connected to the actress and the whole picture is really important. I really don't know how people are managed to do that. And like being the lead of a movie and also like directing. It seems really hard to me

Alex Ferrari 24:56
Like the Clint Eastwood's of the world and to George Clooney is of the world like I'm like how do you how do you do that? Right?

Natalia Leite 25:02
I mean, maybe like there's a point when you have a really solid support system that you can, you can lean on them. I think for me, I'm still building out, like who those people are. And when I find crew that I love, I'm just like, okay, like, We're family. Now you're coming with me everywhere, because it's so you know, being on set is so intensive, you just want to have that rapport with, you just want to assemble the family that you're going to carry around to every project without question. I

Alex Ferrari 25:31
Mean, my last film I the feature, I just direct that I was in it, unfortunately. And it was, it was difficult for the one scene or two scenes that I did, I was just like, oh, how do you do? How does people to

Natalia Leite 25:44
No it's really hard? Because you can't, you can't be in the moment and also be thinking big picture, or at least I can't

Alex Ferrari 25:50
Write or unless you unless you have that trust behind the camera that you like, Okay, my dp is going to cover me while I'm in the scene. Right? And then and then you just after you're cut, you're like, Was it good? I have no idea. Right? That's how I always did i do think good. Is that and is there is that really, and then all of a sudden, you turn to the actor you like you're looking for, like, approval or like, yeah, did I do good? Can I do it again? But then no one wants to tell you no. But that's when you want that dp to go. Dude. did do it again. Just Yeah. But generally, they're going now it's the light was off. And I'm like, I don't care about the light. I care about the performance right. Now, what do you enjoy to create more narrative features series or documentaries?

Natalia Leite 26:40
I love I love narrative features. I love like having an arc like a very clear introductory, beginning, middle and that we're going through and thinking about how like the character is transforming and that I think series like it can just go on forever, right? So there's like, less of that clear hook. I like just even like, as someone who like read so many psychology books and thinks about how we transform as humans in the world. Like I love that beginning to end journey. But yeah, and I but I also think like sometimes on the, like, features is so hard, I would say like, because you have to have a clear end, right? Like you can't just be like, and then maybe in season two, this happens, right? Like it has to stop. And I like crafting that. And the doc stuff for me. It's just fun because I like dealing with real people. So more. So I've been trying to find ways to merge the two, right? Like puts put real people in my scripted work and then also get actors to be in non scripted situations and surgeons create a fusion of that

Alex Ferrari 27:50
Kind of like Shaun Baker does. I love Shaun Baker. Yeah, I'm a big fan of his work. Sean's awesome. I mean, the Florida project I have no idea why that was not didn't get more issued a one more stuff. It was just

Natalia Leite 28:03
So great. He's Uh, yeah, he's lovely. And we've talked a few times. He's just been really supportive, awesome friend as well.

Alex Ferrari 28:10
Now, tell me a little about your film MFA, which I haven't gotten a chance to see the movie, but I saw the trailer and I was I was again blown away by the by the the subject matter and how you twisted something that normally doesn't get shown that way?

Natalia Leite 28:26
Yeah, so MFA. Leah Mackendrick was the writer on it. She wrote it. And she is also an actress. And she had just seen my work and just send me a cold email and was like, Hi, I'm looking for director I'd love for you to consider this. And normally I'm like, Oh, I don't you know, like, normally this stuff is not good. But when I get these emails, but I read her logline, and she sent me the script, and I was like, oh, wow, like this is really, really strong. And it was just surprising to just get an email like that. And so her and I started talking, she already had some financing in place. It was a small movie. So private investors, piecing it together. And, and yeah, and then we were shooting pretty quickly, but it was it worked out really well. It was like also one of those magical collaborations because we didn't know each other at all. I didn't know any other people that she had already assembled, you know, producer wise for the project. But we all got along really well and made something really special. And the story, you know, has I had like a deep personal connection to it. Having gone to art school, I had been sexually assaulted when I was in art school. So it was almost like, Oh, I have to make this project right. And Francesca Eastwood who played the lead was just I was just so blown away by her and her performance and throwing herself into some pretty difficult scenes. Like talking about like things that make you terrified right? Shooting that rape scene with Francesca was terrifying to me. And I was so and we did so many different cuts of it. And I was so worried that it was. It's truly disturbing. Like a lot of people have imagined, of course, that scene up as like it's too raw and real. And but yeah, you got to just push yourself to go there.

Alex Ferrari 30:22
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And again, when you do that is when it starts to shut the work starts to shine, more and more, if you would have held back there, the movie might not have had the same impact. Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, it took you tell. Just tell the audience a little bit about the logline, if you will, of the movie.

Natalia Leite 30:47
Yeah. So MFA is about an art student getting her masters of Fine Arts. And she has a crush on a boy in her class, which was played by Peter vac, and he ends up raping her at a party. And she acts she kind of from then on ends up seeking revenge and hunting down slash killing the rapist on campus. So it's a great revenge story, but in a very different tone than what we've seen before.

Alex Ferrari 31:16
It's not as much I spit on your grave?

Natalia Leite 31:18
Not at all. No, no, it's very raw and emotional. It's very much her point of view.

Alex Ferrari 31:24
And really, yeah, it is it is a kind of a, like you were saying it is a little bit of a combination of the real and the fictional, because of the way you shot it, at least from the trailer. It doesn't look like a Hollywood flashy film. But it also doesn't look like a documentary. It looks a little hybrid, hybrid ish.

Natalia Leite 31:45
Yeah, it does. Yeah. And I wanted it to be accessible to people, right? So I think about that, too. Like, who's the audience for this, and I want, I want it to be fast and fun, too. And there's a version of it, that could have just been a really depressing movie. And I didn't want to be it. You know, I wanted you to be like, cheering for her and excited when she gets her revenge. And there is a part, especially in the second half of the movie, where it really is more like playing off of the fun and excitement of her getting what she wants. Well,

Alex Ferrari 32:17
There's some humor in the trailer without question. So I can only imagine. Yeah, there's humor in it, though. It's kind of like a bridge of different genres here. Which isn't, which is an interesting take on the subject matter. Because you're right. It could have been it could have just gone straight, dark, real quick, and stayed there. And it's hard to get an audience back from that. But

Natalia Leite 32:37
Nobody wants to watch that. You know, we need to also have some levity and fun with it. We need to be able it needs to feel cathartic for people watching it.

Alex Ferrari 32:45
Now, what are some of your greatest challenges about the process of making films? greatest challenges, I mean, onset creative dealing with Hollyweird dealing well on Hollywood, for sure. How Yeah, how does that work? Like I just can't see you in a room with an agent talking about this stuff. Like I love that term, Hollyweird. No, Tom. Yeah, I mean, I'm an East Coast guy. So I've been out here. I've been out here for 10 years. So I have a completely different perspective on on living out here. I wasn't raised out here. So I see it. And I've been around long enough to just go Yeah, this is Hollyweird. But I've just because so many times here in Los Angeles, people just don't get things that are outside the box, where you live outside the box, you know, you're not ever in the box in any of the work that I've seen. So I would just love to be a fly on the wall. If you have a conversation with a Hollywood agent, or Hollywood producer, or studio like so, Natalia, what would you like to do next? Well, you know, there's this stripper thing that Yeah, I've been really into body horror lately. I've been itching body horror idea. Body. What is it body whore?

Natalia Leite 34:06
Body horror. So like Cronenberg? Yeah. Oh, does a lot of that. Right where it's like horror, but it's really like happening to you and to your body.

Alex Ferrari 34:16
Very, very, I think Disney is involved. I think Disney should get involved.

Natalia Leite 34:20
Yeah, exactly. Oh, it's really interesting. And some people you know, I just keep trying to remind myself because you can try to remind myself to like, stick by my integrity stick by my morals. Just do what I feel is right. And dockets persuaded by these the Hollyweird port part of it, which is a lot of people who just, you know, you know, maybe they're even presenting you with like a shiny opportunity, and it looks really good and you want to go there, right? But you're like, wait, this isn't me, I can't do this or it's an opportunity. That means you'd have to like, like, burn bridges on something else or upset or that you No. So it's like, you just have to stay there. It is a crazy industry. And you have to, I just keep always like checking back into myself and be like, does this make me feel good? Is this me? Like, do I really want to do this? Like, does this represent what kind of work I want to put out in the world? And I think that's so important. I mean, I'm lucky right now, because my agents are actually really awesome. My, my managers as well. And the people that I'm in touch with, but I've, I've circled, I've cycled through agencies, you know, already been in that, like, short career that I've had already, like, jumped around to different agencies. So hopefully, this is the one that I stay with, like long term, because I really like these people. And it's all about the relationships, you know, that you're building?

Alex Ferrari 35:43
And do you have any? What's the like, the greatest challenge of you like onset, like, what's the biggest thing you have to deal with on set, that is just a big challenge for you.

Natalia Leite 35:52
Collaboration, I think collaboration and always try to be super clear with your vision, like from day one, because other people might not get it. Making sure you're on the same page. But it's always hard when you want to push, sometimes it's hard to explain things, right? Like in MFA. I like really want to push for a certain thing, but it's not 100% my project, and the more of work you do are, the bigger the work gets, the more that's going to be the scenario, right? Where there's other producers and other people and weighing in on what the final outcome is. And it can only be your way. So. And while all that can be quite amazing to have that collaboration, it is also like a huge challenge sometimes, how to get people to do what you what you really ultimately want out of it.

Alex Ferrari 36:42
Oh, yeah, I agree with you. 110%. That's

Natalia Leite 36:46
Hard. But you know, you have to, like, make some sacrifices to and I felt like, in every project like that, it was like, Alright, you know, you get this, but then I have to keep I have to keep this thing. But you know what? I'm trying to

Alex Ferrari 36:59
Go I'm sorry, to interrupt you.

Natalia Leite 37:01
So that's it just trying to find a compromise? Like, let's let's split up like so we're both happy here.

Alex Ferrari 37:07
I find that, you know, I've been you know, in my career, I've been challenged on set by crew, people, by actors, by egos constantly. How do you deal with it? Because I could only imagine it being even more difficult. You know, being a female director, it's getting easier. And I can't say from my perspective, it seems like it's getting the doors are opening, cracking just a slight bit more nowadays, than they were 20 years ago. But I can only imagine it being a little bit more difficult, especially if you have a rough crew or something like that. I'm just curious on what you do, and how you deal with that.

Natalia Leite 37:44
It's like, yeah, I think it's it's a challenge. I think also I present, you know, I'm small, I'm like five, four, I'm pretty I'm petite in size to you know, like, Latin, small woman, and look, and you know, people like don't it's and I'm also like, I want to be really friendly with the crew, you know, I want everyone to feel good that they're here on set. But that sometimes that gets like misinterpreted, and people think they can just

Alex Ferrari 38:11
Walk all over you.

Natalia Leite 38:12
Yeah. And I've had to, just to, you know, be really firm. Sometimes they're really like called call out the bullsh that like, hey, do you want to be here? You do actually want to do this? Because you don't have to you can walk away like I've literally said that someone

Alex Ferrari 38:28
You know, so if I Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Natalia Leite 38:32
Yeah. And then they you call them out on their bullshit. They'll be like, Oh, no, what, whoa, whoa, like, they'll step out of it, you know, but I think it's always better to be super upfront, and call it out. And even if that means having a super awkward conversation, than to pretend like it's, you know, that to like, go around to other people or pretend like it's not happening or just be giving someone shady look, right.

Alex Ferrari 38:55
Yeah, it's, it's, I feel sometimes it's like a prison yard. Like they're gonna test you to see what they can get away with. And season crew season crew, if they don't respect the director, it's done. Any crew for that matter. But if a season crew, like a seasoned dp, a seasoned, you know, gaffer and, and production designer, if these guys or girls don't respect you, or think that they can pull one over on you, it becomes a very difficult shoot.

Natalia Leite 39:24
Really difficult. I've also had situations where, you know, I was working with like, season, men, particularly who were like, a lot older than me, and who just couldn't even look me in the eye, you know, like they would be addressing my producer, even though the question was to me, and it was so odd, right? And I just felt like I was like, I have to say something because it's so obvious that this person is uncomfortable that I'm in this position with them, right. They came in, look at me in the face, you know, and

Alex Ferrari 39:59
Yeah, you have to I think the best advice is you just got to call him out on your shit on their shit right away. Because if you let it fester, it can actually grow as a cancer on the rest of the set. Right and exactly and all of a sudden, you've got a mutiny on your hands. And if you're not on a 10 day shoot 20 day shoot you it's gonna be hell, and it's going to be tough to get them back. So what

Natalia Leite 40:20
Are you know what the other thing that that makes me think of is just like, I think sometimes, too, because people I've had so many people tell me like, this is the right way to do it. Right? And I'm like, what is the right way to do it? No way to do anything. There's no right way to do it. And just because, like, yeah, I didn't go to film school. I don't know what the right way to do it. But this is the way that I want to do it. Because I think it works, you know, having people let go of like, the ideas of what is how it's supposed to go, you know, I'm not talking about like union rules or anything just like forms of directing or of putting things together. It's just challenging. Well, no, yeah. I

Alex Ferrari 40:55
Had a conversation with the filmmaker the other day that you know, he does all of his films improv, he does the, you know, Mark duplass style, Joe Swanberg style, you know, kind of work. And I gave the example is like, Look, you know, if you give, you know, Jason Paul, Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh and Dolly, a canvas and paint, they're going to paint a picture differently. Right, the only common denominator is the canvas and the paint and the brush. And only common denominator in filmmaking is an actor, a camera and a lens. You know, and how you tell that story is completely up to you. You know, as long as you get that story in that in that camera, somehow, it's, it's all relative.

Natalia Leite 41:39
Yeah, exactly. Anything else you have to like, push for what is your vision and your style, otherwise, everything ends up the same.

Alex Ferrari 41:45
And one, one piece of advice I got from a director and old school director, I've never done this, I haven't had the balls to do it. But I think it would be fantastic to do it, just use it as a gag, the very first day on any set, nobody knows who you are, bring one of your friends on, and fire them. Just bring that they're just there. They're not supposed to be there. Just bring one of your friends tell them that they're like, you know, a part of a department and they do something wrong. And literally fire them as loudly as you can, in front of everybody and let them take off. And that will set the tone for the rest of the shoot. That was totally set the tone that would terrify people, you know, but I'm not sure if that's the vibe you want on set. But I've always wanted to do something I've never done. I've never had the balls to do it. But I think it would be hilarious.

Natalia Leite 42:35
Hilarious. That was so funny. I mean, that's not my style. Right when people just get along and be exactly

Alex Ferrari 42:43
like, you know, Ron Howard's not doing that, you know, James Cameron probably would.

Natalia Leite 42:48
Okay, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 42:49
It all depends on the style of directing that you do. So tell me a little bit about your commercial work. I see that you've gotten gotten into that world a bit.

Natalia Leite 42:58
Yeah. So on the commercial side, I've been working with a production company called humble. And I signed with them earlier this year. And it's been amazing, really good team there. And they've we've crafted, you know, they've sent me like already to different parts of the world for different shoots. So I did adopt style shoot in India, for vans, we did a thing for North Face here. And I actually just got back from Saudi Arabia to do another commercial out there, which was pretty wild. So it's been a really rewarding and fun part of my career to be able to travel deal with real people. And have obviously like the money support behind it as well.

Alex Ferrari 43:40
Yes. When you're writing your scripts, it can be very lonely, and the bank account can be very low. Yes, I agree. I I do commercials and series and stuff every once in a while between my features as well. So I completely understand what you're saying. Yeah. So it's been wonderful working with them. So I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Natalia Leite 44:05
I would say you have to have a lot of grit. And you have to really stick by what is it that you're putting out into the world? I don't think it's enough to just, you know, here's like, oh, here's like an entertaining story. Like we live in a world where there's like, a lot of change happening constantly. And I'm all about like, what are you saying with this? Why does this deserve to be here in the world for people to watch, right? And just like, Don't give up, there's going to be there's so many people that give up along the way, you know, it's like, there is just be patient and persevere. And that's how you get it. You know, it's like not people want a lot of like immediate gratification. And like you have to enjoy the journey to like constantly keep reminding myself of that, like, yeah, I want to do this big thing, but it could take years, I don't know, I just have to keep going. But I know I'm gonna get there.

Alex Ferrari 45:03
No, I always love when actors or film directors or writers come to LA and they go, I have a six month plan, right?

Natalia Leite 45:13
For these things to happen in six months, but if they don't, don't get involved,

Alex Ferrari 45:18
It's a 10 year plan, minimum,

Natalia Leite 45:20
You have to have the five year plan. I have my five year plan, like every, every and I reevaluate it every year. I'm like, okay, here's where I want to be five years, like, what are the steps to getting there? Like, here's this crazy, big budget project that I've been wanting to do already for a few years. And I feel so strongly about it, I'm not gonna give up on it. I'm just gonna keep finding ways to, to get there. You know, having that like long term vision is really important.

Alex Ferrari 45:48
Nothing you told me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Natalia Leite 46:01
Well, I mean, this is a hard question, just one book, but I watch everyone comes to your mind. You know, I think Rebecca solnit comes to my mind right now because I read all of her books, and I love her writing. And I feel so connected to her voice, and how she thinks about the world. And it's just always like, I've really read her books, and it just always, like, opens up possibilities for me.

Alex Ferrari 46:29
Awesome, awesome. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life confidence I'm still learning it, they you need that we need to have some

Natalia Leite 46:46
That that the lesson being just like, you got to believe in yourself, you know, it is the best lesson to believing in yourself. It's just like, so easy to forget that your voice is important.

Alex Ferrari 46:59
Now, what are the three with what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Natalia Leite 47:06
Three favorite films. Okay, we think for a second. I'm gonna say, I love the piano.

Alex Ferrari 47:21
That's a great movie. I love that movie.

Natalia Leite 47:23
It's a great movie. I've watched that film a few times and was just like, so beautiful. And there's so much emotion behind it. And Holly Hunter is incredible. I love this. This is hard. Wait, let me come back to it.

Alex Ferrari 47:45
It could just be like, it's not gonna be on your gravestone, such as three of your faces. Yeah, don't put it on my gravestone. No, no, it's whatever. three movies come to your mind today.

Natalia Leite 47:54
Okay, I loved fish tank. That's been like a film that I referenced a lot that was really loving trailer and old. There's this filmmaker called busua penzo. That did a film called x x y. Have you seen it?

Alex Ferrari 48:08
Yes. Yes. Yes. I know that movie.

Natalia Leite 48:11
Yeah, I really like her work. I thought that film was just so subtle and emotional and just strong subject matter. Very cool. same vein right now. Maybe that's just how I'm feeling in the moment.

Alex Ferrari 48:23
It's it. Listen, tomorrow, I asked you this question. Yeah, something else? Exactly. It's, it's, again, it won't be on your gravestone, so don't worry. And where can people find you? online?

Natalia Leite 48:36
You can find me on Instagram or Twitter, or on my website, which is just my name. NataliaLeite.com. And I'd love to stay in touch with people I love to talk to people. I always write back so unless you're sending me like a creepy comment.

Alex Ferrari 48:54
Natalia, thank you so much for sharing your journey and your process with us and you are an inspiration to I know a lot of filmmakers who are going to be listening to this. Thank you again for taking the time.

Natalia Leite 49:05
Thank you so much, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 49:08
I want to thank Natalia for coming on and dropping those knowledge bombs and sharing her process on how she brings her creativity to life. If you want any links or trailers, or just want to watch some of the amazing work that Natalia does, head over to our show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/271 and enjoy. Now before I go guys, I want to again thank you so much guys for all the support with ifH TV as you kind of probably have noticed I've been a little off on my schedule with the podcasting. It has been absolutely maddening. Crazy, trying to launch a Netflix for filmmakers a a streaming service dedicated to you guys. It is not easy. I'm doing a lot of it on my own. And it's it's a very, very big undertaking and It's been a lot of time in the work. So forgive me if my timing is a little off sometimes getting this workout to begin the podcast episodes out to you guys. But trust me when you guys see IFH TV, I think is gonna, I think you guys are gonna really enjoy it. So again, if you haven't seen the teaser trailer for it, just go to IFHTV.com. And then I will release the final URL to the main site in the coming weeks. November 1 is when we launch, but also, there will be some early access to other filmmakers who sign up. So if you sign up there, you will get early access to IFHTV and get in there before anybody else does. And also on a side note, guys, I have been asked a ton by the tribe about like indie film, hustle hats and T shirts and mirch for indie film hustle. And it's something I've never done, as you guys know, over the course of the last three years that we've been on, but a lot of pressure has been been put on me by the tribe. So I've decided to launch some some merge some some inspirational t shirts, hats, accessories, things like that, that will help inspire you guys to kind of move forward and, and help you guys on your journey on your path. So that is going to be coming out next Tuesday I'm gonna be launching, I have h the IFH merch store. And I will be sending out links and there'll be special deals and all sorts of stuff coming out when we launch. So for all of you out there listening, who really been dying for that indie film hustle hat, or a great t shirt, I got some great designs I've been working on as well. And guys, I don't even know how I do all this, I tell you that you really don't know how I do all of this. But I do. And I think I do it all because I do it all for you guys, man. I mean, I really, I really am killing myself here, but I love doing it. And I want to just give you guys as much as humanly possible. So thank you guys, again, so much for your support. Keep an eye out next week on Tuesday for that announcement and those those deals. And again, thank you for all your support. Guys. I don't I can't do this without you guys. Please continue to spread the word. If you haven't gone already. Go to filmmakingpodcast.com leave a review, give us some good good ratings helps us get the word out on the podcast. I want this information to get out to as many filmmakers, screenwriters, content creators, as humanly possible, spread the word you guys are the best advertising I could ever do. So thank you, again, so much for all your support guys, and I've got so many things coming up before this year is out to talk to you about I still got those two big announcements coming up one about the book that I'm writing, and I'll tell you all about that later on, when I have a release date for it. And the third big thing that's going to be coming out about a week after IFH TV gets released. And this is going to be a huge, huge opportunity for the tribe. And it's, I hope I like just want to tell you, but I can't. It's going to be something really really special and awesome for you guys. And it's going to help you guys get to where you want to be faster. And I'll give you one tip I will give you one hint it is it's going to allow you to get access to the film industry in a way that you haven't been able to get access to it before. You might not have to break down or knock down those doors as hard with this thing that I'm going to announce it's it's a way for me to give back to you guys even more and and help you guys follow your dreams. So that's it I can't see anymore. I can't see anymore. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I got like interior. Yep, I'm tearing up already because I am so excited about all the stuff I got going on for you guys. So thanks again for everything guys. I'm gonna stop talking now. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 270: Changing the World with Your Documentary with Susan Kucera

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Today on the show we have documentarian, Susan Kucera. Her new film Living in the Future’s Past stars Academy Award® winner Jeff Bridges.

We discuss the power of documentaries, how she became the cinematographer and editor on all her films and how she talked Jeff Bridges into being in her film.

Enjoy my conversation with Susan Kucera.

Alex Ferrari 3:02
Today's guest is Susan Kucera and she is a documentarian and the director of living in the futures pass starring the legendary Jeff Bridges. And I wanted to have Susan come on to talk about what the movie is about, but also her process. The importance of documentarians today, how she shoots and edits everything herself, and the kind of work that she's doing as a documentarian and kind of get inside the process of a world class documentary filmmaker. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Susan Kucera. I'd like to welcome the show Susan Kucera. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Susan Kucera 3:47
Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 3:49
So can you first off tell us how you got into the business?

Susan Kucera 3:53
Oh, my goodness. Um, well, it's kind of a long story. I mean, I i've been filming since I was nine. I started on a bolex. You know, by my side of my father's side on Athabaskan glacier, he was a geologist and we did a lot of filming for botanika films. And then fast forward a long, long time I was getting a divorce. And I was thinking okay, what am I going to do now? And the only thing I really knew how to do really well with film and the red one camera had just come out. Actually, it hadn't even come out. I got on the list to get one

Alex Ferrari 4:34
Right! with that box that they showed at.

Susan Kucera 4:37
Okay, I thought I could handle this this takes good old fashioned filmmaking you can actually use cinematic lenses you it's it was a lot like an actual film camera, not a point and shoot camera. And so I got it. I made a documentary called dumb trading on thin air and I thought oh, you know, just see if I can do this. And, and it got picked up by Netflix. And so I thought, Okay, I think I think I can probably do this. And so this film that I just did with Jeff, it's my fifth documentary. One of the ones I did though, was nonprofit. So that that didn't circulate in a lot of places. But it's been it's been a wonderful experience to last, what, 10 1012 years now.

Alex Ferrari 5:27
Now, what made you get interested more into documentary filmmaking as opposed to narrative filmmaking?

Susan Kucera 5:34
Well, I, that's a good question. I have written screenplays and I know how difficult it is to get films made. And when you're making Oh, yeah. I know.

Alex Ferrari 5:49
You have a screenplay, what?!

Susan Kucera 5:54
It's so funny, all these little points that take you in these different areas. So that's why I ended up with an agent because that screenplay had gotten some interest and, and I was still a full time mom then but as I said, divorce kind of forces you to get with the program. And I, she was able to find a home for my first documentary, my my agent, and that I just took off from there, and I really enjoy it. It's, I have one camera, I can move around with one camera and much more easily than, than a giant crew. And I film all the time. I just love I love the act of filming. And it's like kind of thing, right? You you're capturing things that are only exist in a split second, and aren't there again. So like the Grizzlies in the film. You can't cue a grizzly right. So I happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Alex Ferrari 6:58
You could try to work real well for you.

Susan Kucera 7:01
That's right. That's right. And and it's just it's an interesting process. All all of us documentary filmmakers just add to the cultural narrative, the best we can. And so it's very gratifying that way.

Alex Ferrari 7:16
And now what are you shooting? So what are you shooting with? Now you shoot with a red epic, or

Susan Kucera 7:20
It's a Epic W

Alex Ferrari 7:22
I can't keep track of them. There's too many.

Susan Kucera 7:24
I know, I know. Isn't that crazy? All the

Alex Ferrari 7:27
Dragon and monstro? Whatever?

Susan Kucera 7:30
I know, I guess on the upside, we get to recycle our hard drives. So there's no physical film in that sense, correct? Correct. It is. It is difficult. You you end up on a on this sort of treadmill? Absolutely. I'm done. I think I have the camera that I'll just keep for the rest of my life. So

Alex Ferrari 7:53
You say that now?

Susan Kucera 7:55
I'm definitely done.

Alex Ferrari 7:59
As long as it keeps working, you'll be fired.

Susan Kucera 8:01
Yes, exactly. That's right.

Alex Ferrari 8:03
Now, do you also edit your own work?

Susan Kucera 8:05
I do.

Alex Ferrari 8:06
What do you what do you caught on? And how do you feel that helps you as a documentarian because I know a lot of documentarians that don't have that skill, as far as document, shooting or editing. How is it working in the kind of work that you're doing?

Susan Kucera 8:20
Well, my process is very organic. And so I, if I edit myself, which I do, and I'm still on Final Cut 10 Okay. I'm not I'm not in the forward realm of whatever they're using now all the fancy stuff.

Alex Ferrari 8:39
But I'm assuming Final Cut. Will you the latest version of Final Cut? 10? Yeah, the latest version of final? It's a very powerful piece of software. Don't Don't knock it, it's

Susan Kucera 8:48
Ohh no, I'm not knocking it. I'm just laughing because a lot of people's Oh, you know, why are you still using that, and I it works.

Alex Ferrari 8:55
They just don't know, they just don't understand.

Susan Kucera 8:59
And so I become Obviously, I'm very familiar with the imagery that I have that already I have quite a I've been filming for 10 years. So I have a lot of imagery that I that I can get to know at my fingertips. So if I'd handed all of that to somebody else, I think that would be very difficult for them to try to navigate. And the the interviews, I used to transcribe all the interviews and I found that to be a little bit difficult because what people say when you read it, it's different than when it's in person and and how they say it, etc, etc. And so, I kind of gave up doing that and I just become very, very familiar with what all of my subjects are saying. And I do my best trying to weave weave a story together and i and i have i mean living in the futures past it's it is more on the poetic side. Although it certainly has a An impact on people when they see it.

Alex Ferrari 10:02
Now let's talk about that your latest film in the in the living in the future and futures past? How did it come about? And what is it all about? For people who don't know?

Susan Kucera 10:12
Well, it's a film, as Jeff likes to say it's a film that takes a good look under the hood of humanity. And we, we, we had a great executive producer, his name is Jim Swift, and I'd worked with him before. And actually, he's sort of had the thought of, well, you know, why do we do what we do in the face of large environmental issues that we are, you know, have in front of us? And so, we wanted to work with Jeff, and

Alex Ferrari 10:43
And who's this Jeff, you speak of?

Susan Kucera 10:45
Oh, Jeff Bridges.

Alex Ferrari 10:47
Is he a new actor, I haven't heard of him before.

Susan Kucera 10:51
He's one of these fly by night. He is such an amazing human being what a What a great gift. He came on board. And we started from scratch. And we created this beautiful piece of work. And we we did actually watch a lot of other documentaries, Jeff was very involved, we, we didn't want to just contribute another kind of Doomsday or scary thing that gives you a lot of information, but doesn't sort of, you know, you don't know, you just want to crawl into your bed after you hear that. So we start, we decided to look at the whole human meta story where we've been, where we are, where we're going. And we in, we have emergence in there, and entropy, and ecology and evolution, all the ease right energy, we looked at the flows of energy, how that actually works in our society. So it's just a really different and usual film, that you keep you keep thinking about it days later.

Alex Ferrari 12:02
Now, how, how did you get Jeff Bridges? legend like Jeff Bridges to be involved in your movie?

Susan Kucera 12:09
Well, as I said, we wanted to work with someone who had a name. And so my agent, actually was Jim, Jim thought of Jeff actually first, which is kind of cool. And agent did reach out to Jeff and Jeff watched another film that I had done called breath of life. And he liked it. And so I got a call, I was walking up the road, and I got a call. And it said, Oh, hey, just hang tight. I've got jeff bridges on the other line, and I set out totally out of the blue. And we just kind of hit it off on the phone. And we just, we just created this thing. And we we collaborated through FaceTime, we took our time because Jeff was working on a number of films. And so he would kind of disappear for a while and I would do stuff and then he would come back and I would show him stuff. And, and we we just went back and forth like this. And then as the film narrowed down towards the end, he he lends himself to the film too. So he's in it, he's in it as well.

Alex Ferrari 13:24
Yeah, that always helps. It definitely helps. So he's just not a narrator. He's actually on screen kind of taking you through a little bit of the journey.

Susan Kucera 13:33
Right. And I should have given my crew credit, because he actually carried the tripod when I felt

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Jeff's been just been doing this for how many years? I mean, since he was a kid, I mean, he's been around doing this stuff. So I'm sure he didn't mind picking up.

Susan Kucera 13:52
No, no, he really gave his all and it shows and the film I think we're both very proud of

Alex Ferrari 14:01
What do you hope? What are you hoping for with the film? What is your end goal with, with people who watched the film?

Susan Kucera 14:08
Well, we decided to shake things up a bit. As I said, we approach this in a different way. And when you go to see this film, you'll actually learn a lot about yourself, and not in a blaming way or your Why are you a human kind of way, but actually how your brain thinks how interesting things like talking about capitalism in terms of optimal foraging theory, which people often don't think about. Like if you're, if you're a wolf, right, you and you're spending energy, you don't want to spend the same amount of energy getting a mouse if you could spend the same amount of energy getting a deer and so and we look at that in terms of the stock market and just kind of how our whole society functions. Not not whether it's good or bad, just, you know, this is it. And so so, you know, interesting concepts like that we are, we're always looking at ourselves, comparing ourselves to how animals operate. And so you just you just get it interesting idea of humanity this way. And it also allows people who are feeling vulnerable. These are we meet people where they're feeling vulnerable. And we kind of look at why things are the way they are. And as I, as I said, for me, the whole energy aspect of it really opened my eyes. And so now I'm thinking about my decisions differently. I'm, I'm looking at the world differently, a politics everything. So it's just, it's just it's kind of eye opening is, as I mentioned,

Alex Ferrari 15:51
And well, first of all, how important are documentarians in today's world? I mean, there's so much stuff going on. We live in a crazy time. And I think sometimes the news is so busy covering the show, that it's difficult for them to actually do a lot of the journalistic things that they used to do back in the day, which, which aren't as flashy. And I think documentarians have picked up a little bit, if not a lot of that slack. Would you agree?

Susan Kucera 16:26
Oh, I definitely agree. If you can spend an hour and a half, unpacking a thought, right? or different aspects of something, you're certainly obviously gonna learn a lot more. And if you just got 10 or 15 minutes to listen to a soundbite, here or there. And so yeah, I guess documentaries do I mean, it's whatever turns our brain on, right. And people are, unfortunately, we're also busy. Sometimes it's hard to get the bigger picture. But if one can spend the time, put in the time, new ideas emerge. And I think that's the role of documentarians to an art also, I mean, this is an artistic film to art can sometimes shake us up and and make us jolt us out of our sort of typical way of thinking. And so that's another thing that we tried to do.

Alex Ferrari 17:21
Now you you you did um, do you read the cinematographer? On the film as well? Yes, yes, images are gorgeous in this film. They really, really stunning. I mean, how did you learn who taught you? or How did you teach yourself to make these amazing images, which are for most of them for the most part with natural light? I know I well. Money. Money Did you did you pay this on? How did it?

Susan Kucera 17:47
I would have loved to have had a crew, right? Oh, lights, everything. You made everything perfect. But if you're making a documentary, and you're on a budget, you have to get really creative. And so the film, I didn't go to China, and I didn't go to Dubai, there's some shots, a little shots, here and there. And there's obviously a lot of archival footage in there, too. And some stuff from NASA. But the rest is just when, as I said when I see things and they're unusual, and I have my camera with me. And so I've been able to capture things that you would have a hard time putting together with a crew. Right? Because you quickly Yeah, I utilize my daughter. You know, there's I utilize two dancers so we could kind of whenever I was trying to just show humanity and different aspects. I don't know you just get creative and you ended it came out well. But I think just because I've been filming since I was nine, I just I guess I just have an I

Alex Ferrari 18:51
Got it. Got it. Now there's a lot of archival footage in the film. Can you talk a little bit about the process of getting archival footage if like for documentary, a documentary is listening to finding archival footage dealing with the legalities of it buying it the whole the whole process? Because I think it's a little mysterious for a lot of people.

Susan Kucera 19:10
Yeah, it's it's not so bad. If you get to the level where you're actually releasing a film like we did in the theater, it's out in theaters today. Then you have to pay a little extra, and that's for the license license. But a lot of that archival stuff. Oh, I hope they don't mind me plugging them. They're called critical paths. And a lot of their footage is from the US government. It's in the public domain. And you pay them they've done all the work finding all of this stuff and making sure that it's broadcast safe, because a lot of it's obviously very old. And so that's a very good resource.

Alex Ferrari 19:53
And what's the name of it critical past critical past okay.com Yes, I will definitely put that in the show. notes because it's, it's rough. It's rough looking for footage, especially archival stuff for document for documentarians. Did you ever see the movie atomic cafe?

Susan Kucera 20:10
No, I didn't. Have you ever heard of it? I have heard of it.

Alex Ferrari 20:13
It's it's I saw it in my videos or when I was working there. It is a movie completely made of. Billy Oh, my entire movie is made. They told a narrative story with archival footage of the bomb dropping. And it's kind of like a satire.

Susan Kucera 20:31
Oh, interesting. I'll have to check that out. Yeah, I know, I would go on their website. And sometimes I've just get lost watching stuff. Wow, this is fascinating.

Alex Ferrari 20:41
How long by the way? How long? Did it take you to shoot this? I put it all together?

Susan Kucera 20:45
Um, well, let's see from the beginning of working with Jeff. That was about two and a half years ago, maybe a little longer. I mean, the film came out in festivals in February. And it's been in festivals since February. It traveled all over the world. Not me. But the felt.

Alex Ferrari 21:06
I know, it would be nice. If they would, they would let you go.

Susan Kucera 21:09
And the so I get a little fuzzy on the time. So yeah, I would say about two and a half years, it probably took a year to edit. And in doing so as in during the process of editing, obviously, I didn't have all the footage that I needed. So I thought, Okay, I'm gonna have to get other stuff I need, I need something, you know, just just something just right. So I would I would do that. But, but again, I'm just lucky I since I've had this camera, or, you know, this type of game. For some time, just being able to dig into my own library was extremely helpful.

Alex Ferrari 21:49
Right. And, and what I find so fascinating about your story is, you know, to find someone like Jeff, who's obviously a legend, and an Oscar winner, and all this kind of stuff, to be a part of a movie like this. You literally just had your agent call them and call his agent go, Hey, this is a project. And you people never think of just calling up and saying, hey, I've got a project. Maybe they'll be interested.

Susan Kucera 22:13
Right? I yeah, I don't know. We'd have to ask her. I don't know what her secret. But she was great. Yeah. And then he, he again, he watched something that I had done. But he he was really turned on by this subject, obviously. And and the subject that we were interested in telling, which was a little more in depth than just here's all the bad news. You know, what or what crawl into your bed now.

Alex Ferrari 22:38
We've had we have, we've had plenty of those documentaries. I've watched many of them. I'm like Jesus.

Susan Kucera 22:44
No, I yeah, it doesn't feel very well. Of course, information is helpful that we need that. But also, I think there's a quote in the film, it isn't so much what we're thinking about the world we live in, it's how we're thinking about the world we live in. And there's all sorts of interesting philosophy through this film, about how to just see things slightly differently. But then it's that but there's also a hard core here. Here's the reality. And we're obviously stuck with myth. resources the way they are energy. It is. And so it's it's sobering, but it's also exciting.

Alex Ferrari 23:26
Very cool. Now, I want to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Susan Kucera 23:36
Make a film. When I did, I invested in myself, I, I just decided I would. trading on thin air was my first film. And I didn't know if people would like it, but I gave it a try. And it was definitely low budget, but it worked out. Okay. So that's one option. Obviously, hooking up with interning with people who are are working in this field is really helpful. But getting out and doing it.

Alex Ferrari 24:08
Very good. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Susan Kucera 24:14
Oh my gosh. Like I aside from the books that I've been reading lately, who are that are mostly from the people who are in the movie. Right? I don't know if I can even think back that far. Oh, my gosh,

Alex Ferrari 24:32
Any book that comes to mind that really had an impact.

Susan Kucera 24:34
I okay, so there's a there's a book by Timothy Morton that I actually read as I was sculpting this film. Man, I'd have to look up what it was. It's his latest book is called being ecological but there was before this one shoot, I don't have it handy in my mind. But he The reason it was so powerful his prose in there It really made you reach your you really had to think. And it was a challenge to get through and but when you come out the other end you have all these aha moments. So I yeah, I guess I just have to plug Timothy Morton's work. Okay. Very interesting. Yeah, philosophy.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Susan Kucera 25:27
Oh, well, the moment I had my daughter, I realized that I really didn't know diddly squat.

Alex Ferrari 25:34
Kids have that effect on you.

Susan Kucera 25:38
And so, yeah, what she's 24 now she's working on her PhD. And I would say the process of watching another human being develop gives you some pause as to you? Well, gosh, it puts you in a vulnerable situation where you're having to reevaluate everything that you've learned everything in your life. And so I would say that that had a big impact on me.

Alex Ferrari 26:04
Where can people find out about the movie and more about your work?

Susan Kucera 26:08
Well, the movie is in theaters today. The next few days we had Trafalgar released it in at theaters. And then we are still in festivals after that. And then I believe it's out VOD, and everywhere you'll be where you see movies, typically in a month and a half or so from now.

Alex Ferrari 26:28
Okay, very cool. And anywhere people can find your work.

Susan Kucera 26:32
Yeah, breath of life is available. I think it's on Amazon and Hulu. I'm not sure all the places that it is, but it's easy to find. And trading on thin air was on Netflix came out in 2008. It was on Netflix for six years. And then I was asked if I wanted to report it out. And I didn't because it was my first work. And I thought the sound was okay, I don't really want people to but it was actually a good, fun, fun. good movie.

Alex Ferrari 27:04
Very good. Susan, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk. And thank you for making such a wonderful film. It's a very important film that needs to be done nowadays without question. But thank you for so much for sharing your your process with us.

Susan Kucera 27:16
Oh, no problem. Sorry for my my lack of memory in the moment here. But a wild ride with this theatrical. We're all just kind of fried.

Alex Ferrari 27:26
Not a problem at all. Thanks again.

Susan Kucera 27:28
All right, thanks.

Alex Ferrari 27:30
I want to thank Susan for coming on and sharing her process with us. Thank you so much again, Susan. And you guys, I've seen the movie if you haven't seen it. Living in the futures past is a wonderful documentary about the world about where we're going or where we've been. And hopefully, it'll do some good out there. And if you want to get access to the movie, check it out. In theaters, it's out today. And and it will be about in VOD in the next month or so. But if you want to go to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/270, you will get all the links to everything we talked about in the episode including thecriticalpath.com which is an amazing archival site if you are doing documentaries as well. So that's it for another one, guys. Thank you so much for listening, and more stuff coming on IFH TV, I promise you, I cannot wait to show you everything I'm working on getting the apps on right now onto Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon. So I'm hoping they're going to be available when we launched November 1. If not, they'll be available right soon after. But of course, you'll have access to it on the web. And then we'll worry about the other apps and stuff later on coming up in the next few weeks after that, so it's going to be crazy. And we have some just insane content. I can't wait to share it with you guys. I'm so so excited. So thanks again for all the support guys. And as always, keep that also going keep the dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




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IFH 258: Making Money with Documentaries & Sriracha with Griffin Hammond

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Today on the show we have an OG in the online filmmaking education space, Griffin Hammond. I’ve followed Griffin for years and was so excited to sit down and talk shop with him. Griffin Hammond is a documentary filmmaker in New York City, known for producing DIY filmmaking tutorials for indie filmmakers, and his award-winning documentary Sriracha. We discuss how he made over $90,000 with a documentary short film.

In 2014, Griffin moved from Bloomington, Illinois to New York City to cover the U.S. presidential election for the Bloomberg Television/MSNBC show With All Due Respect.

The University of Southern California and the U.S. State Department named Griffin a Film Envoy for the 2017 American Film Showcase—a cultural diplomacy program that sends independent filmmakers around the world to teach.

Previously, he worked for YouTube Next Lab, as executive producer of the YouTube channel Indy Mogul, and started his career as a video producer and social media strategist at State Farm Insurance.

Griffin Hammond studied film at New York University, earned a Masters in Communication from Illinois State University, taught video production at Millikin University, and produced an online course—Shooting Documentary Short Films.

Enjoy my conversation with Griffin Hammond.

Alex Ferrari 0:01
Now today on the show, we have an OG in the DIY filmmaking movement on YouTube. His name is Griffin Hammond. Many of you guys who are listening to me probably already know him. He used to be the host on the YouTube channel Indy Mogul where he was dishing out amazing tutorials and education on about how to make films cheaply and do it yourself. And he just really done a lot for the filmmaking community. And I've followed him for many years, even before I started indie film hustle. And I've always wanted to talk to Griffin and I finally got an opportunity to bring him on the show. And I had the pleasure of being on his show as well, where he asked me a whole bunch of questions about on the corner of ego and desire. So that's also in the show notes if you guys want to listen to our conversation about that. But Griffin is an amazing human being. And he created a cool cool documentary called siracha, which is basically the origin story of the condiment that has a cult following around the world. And he made obscene amounts of money with it. And we talked about how he did it, what kind of revenue streams it did, how he goes about making documentary films, and even has a course on Creative live about how to make documentary films, or documentaries short films. And I'll put a link about that in the show notes. But without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Griffin Hammond. I'd like to welcome to the show Griffin Hammond. Man, thank you so so much for being on the show.

Griffin Hammond 3:26
Of course. I'm happy to be here, Alex. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 3:29
I was on I had the pleasure of being on your show a few weeks ago. And I said, Well, you have to be on my show. And conference like fine.

Griffin Hammond 3:41
No, I'm sure it was an immediate Yes. Happy to have you on my show. And thank you for returning the favor.

Alex Ferrari 3:47
No, absolutely. I followed your stuff for years. Even before indie film, hustle, I always found you out. I kind of found you on YouTube, which we'll get into in a minute. But first and foremost, how did you get into the film industry in the first place?

Griffin Hammond 4:03
I've been into video production ever since high school. That's when I learned how to edit in Premiere. And then I was lucky enough to get into NYU film school. Nice. And I was immature enough to fail out of NYU film.

Alex Ferrari 4:18
Nice even nicer.

Griffin Hammond 4:20
Even nice like that. Yeah, I mean, turns out you have to go to class to get a degree.

Alex Ferrari 4:25
You literally failed out of NYU. That's That's brilliant, man. Seriously. I'm very proud of you.

Griffin Hammond 4:30
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, part of it was like my own hubris. Like I think I got there in my freshman year. I wasn't I didn't feel very challenged. I felt like I already know how to edit or know how to shoot. Like, I feel like we're kind of going over the things I've already learned how to do and I think I'm sure if I just stuck with it. And gone to all my classes sophomore year, I would have learned all the advanced stuff that I was craving.

Alex Ferrari 4:52
But you would have Martin Scorsese as a teacher and Spike Lee in and you know all those guys right? But no, no, no. I don't want to learn Learn how to edit. I know that right? Well, I mean, you come from your, your, the generation behind my generation. So you kind of grew up with, with this technology and at a much younger age. I mean, by the time I got to the I was already in my 20s. And nonlinear editing system was nonlinear editing was just getting off the crap. Right? Yeah. So I mean, in high school would have killed I was I was cutting between VCRs shooting on my high eight camera. Yeah. Yeah. Back in the day. So yeah, I can imagine how it might be frustrating. First year in film school going. This is a camera. This is editing tech. I can imagine there might be a little bit the vaccine on your on your on your psyche. So then what happened? So after you after you filled out what happened?

Griffin Hammond 5:46
Well, I moved to San Diego for a little bit. That's where my parents were living. And I didn't really like it there. So I ended up going back to the Midwest where I went to high school, I went to the school that all my friends were at Illinois State University, which is not a film school. It's just a regular public, four year university. So I became a television major and I started doing live television news in Bloomington, Illinois. Actually, the town, that's the big town, the small town where the school is called normal Illinois.

Alex Ferrari 6:15
Nice, great name,great name.

Griffin Hammond 6:18
And it turned out that was probably the skill set. I needed more so than the commercial fiction film skills. I was learning at NYU, because I think I hadn't realized that yet. But I probably wasn't into narrative filmmaking so much as nonfiction. And so I met some professors at ISU that were really into documentary, I started learning a lot of news gathering techniques. And that became the skill set that I needed for what I now do,

Alex Ferrari 6:47
Which is documentary films.

Griffin Hammond 6:49
Yeah, yeah. gravitate,

Alex Ferrari 6:51
And you do documentary films, do features as well, or just short form.

Griffin Hammond 6:57
I haven't done a feature, my longest film is Sriracha, which is 33 minutes. And I kind of consider that a feature for myself. Because I'm, I'm a little bit add when it comes to editing. And, like, I mean, that that to me long enough to make anyway took me eight months to make that. And I just wouldn't do stand watching it for much longer than 33 minutes. Like that was kind of the pace, I wanted to create it. So I can't really imagine making a 90 minute film, I think just from my editing style, I would try to cram too much in and I wouldn't let it breathe enough to be a feature.

Alex Ferrari 7:29
Got it? Got it. Well, so. So after you after your time in the TV world, you you fell into this, this world of YouTube. Can you tell it's because that's kind of where you made your bones and kind of got your name out there if I'm not mistaken, right?

Griffin Hammond 7:47
Yeah, I I'm friends with this guy, Justin Johnson, who has made a bunch of really interesting websites over the years like online video contests.com and film fights.com where I was competing with people and learning. This is what I was doing. When I wasn't going to class. I was making videos on film fights calm, to compete against other young college students around the country. Right. And Justin also created with his friend Eric back, the YouTube channel, Indy Mogul and Indy Mogul have been running for a few years. And then Google decided to buy it. YouTube actually bought next new networks, the company that was running it. And so just America at that point, didn't really like the prospect of working for a bigger company when they've been worked with little tiny companies. So they decided it was time to leave. And they recommended that I take over Indy Mogul and Justin had been looking for ways to collaborate and give me work over the years and I had a stable job at an insurance company producing videos. And finally, I thought if I don't take this job, that Justin's offering me, he's gonna stop offering me jobs. Right. So I decided to be brave enough to leave my 40 hour week. Very stable job, I could have had a whole career there and decided to go work for YouTube.

Alex Ferrari 9:04
And you weren't, were you happy in that other job?

Griffin Hammond 9:08
Yeah, I mean, I'm, I'm a very optimistic person. And I, I've had a lot of great jobs. And I think I could be happy in a lot of kinds of jobs. I was very happy there. I mean, it's, it's a world where I was given a lot of opportunity. I was shooting videos, at major events, like around the President and I worked on with William Shatner on a short film, like the company really let me travel and do some exciting things. But I didn't yet feel like I call myself a filmmaker. I was a videographer. And then indie mobile, you kind of did you were one of the what you was that by the way. I started it. I think any mobile started in 2007. And I started there in 2011. Okay, and then and then you just started putting out how to videos basically on any mobile, educating film, right. A lot of people knew it for its For Eric Beck's show backyard effects, and he's this really talented creator of props, and you know, he has all those artsy skills. And I've never really felt like much of an artist. So I knew I couldn't come in and do that. So I decided I would do, you know, talk about the things that I've learned. But I also started to learn a lot myself and try to share those skills. So it was a lot of camera techniques and information about lenses and microphones and how to build your own lights and things like that.

Alex Ferrari 10:28
And there wasn't a lot of that going on back then if I'm not mistaken, right?

Griffin Hammond 10:33
Yeah, not too much. I mean, yeah, it was kind of a small group of people, or I kind of knew everyone else that was doing that. And, yeah, it was a great, a great community that I was really fortunate to inherit from Indy Mogul. And it grew while I was there, but like, yeah, arguably, none of the audience I have today would exist if it weren't for that kind of incubation period that I had.

Alex Ferrari 10:57
And how long were you there for two years, for two years making YouTube videos that that's insane. That's awesome. It's a great job to get paid to make YouTube videos. That's a really good job if you can get that if you can get it. But your heart is really in documentary filmmaking. Correct.

Griffin Hammond 11:14
I mean, there's a lot of things I love I'm, it's hard for me to focus on one thing. So I kind of like the balance right now that I have in my career of making tutorial videos, doing a podcast doing work for clients doing documentary work for myself. I did a little bit of journalism. I was, uh, I was covering the presidential election or for 2014 until Election Day.

Alex Ferrari 11:36
Oh, that must have been a heck of a run. It was insane. Must have around everyone who was running for president all the time. Oh, my God, that must have been crazy.

Griffin Hammond 11:48
Yeah. So if I were to add Donald Trump's election night victory party, I went because I thought he was going to lose, right. I thought it'd be interesting to be at the losing party. I mean, he thought he was gonna lose. Everybody was early in the night.

Alex Ferrari 12:00
Oh, where are they? Where are they really?

Griffin Hammond 12:02
Yeah, at 7pm. When we arrived, no one was at the party. Like no one had really arrived. Yeah, people were not like excited to get to this party. And most people were there by about 9pm. And around like, 930 10 is when the narrative started to change. But yeah, by 7pm. Like Boris Epstein, one of his campaign advisors was like, kind of laughing with us like, yeah, we're gonna do real Well, tonight.

Alex Ferrari 12:27
What? Are you doing anything with that footage? Or were you on assignment for somebody?

Griffin Hammond 12:35
I was on assignment for Bloomberg Television. So that stuff was being turned around real fast. Everything I shot over two years was going on the air about two days later.

Alex Ferrari 12:45
That must have been awesome. That must have been, that's a pretty good day

Griffin Hammond 12:48
On my workflow. Yeah, that was it. That was an amazing job. And that was what brought me back to New York after failing out of NYU, like 10 years later, I moved back to New York, because Bloomberg hired me to do this. And it's because they'd seen my film Sriracha.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
Well, before we get to Sriracha, because we're gonna go deep down the rabbit hole on Sriracha, in your opinion, what makes a good documentary? What makes a good documentary short or Documentary Feature? In your opinion?

Griffin Hammond 13:16
I mean, I just think I mean, I'm sure it's the same with with narrative. It's just, it's good characters. Because, I mean, the things I like about documentary are the shooting, I like, you know, capturing beautiful shots. And I like conveying facts. I like learning a lot. I mean, that's probably what draws me to documentaries. I'm curious. And I have a lot of questions. And I want to answer those questions. And I'm excited to share the answers to those questions in a film, but ultimately, I can make a film that's full of great shots and really interesting facts. And that would get me about halfway there. But I think unless you have a great character, it's not going to be a compelling story. I mean, to be a character who needs something and we go on that journey to discover if they find it or not.

Alex Ferrari 14:01
Very cool. Now what kind of equipment Do you generally use on your on your shoots?

Griffin Hammond 14:06
I these days, I'm shooting with a Panasonic GH five. And I've been using the GH line of cameras ever since the first one. I had the GH 1234 and five

Alex Ferrari 14:18
And just basically you just go out there with a lens, the GH five and what do you do for audio?

Griffin Hammond 14:26
My audio is usually a shotgun mic and in a zoom recorder I used to use a h4 n back when I started with the GH one. Eventually I switched to the h5 because I like it more. But yeah, most of the time, you know when I was doing news, it was as simple as hand holding a camera in my left hand over my shoulder and holding a shotgun mic in front of my interview subjects and just asking them to look at me. And then I'd have a zoom recorder like hanging in a messenger bag off my off my shoulder

Alex Ferrari 15:00
So you mean as opposed to duck? I suppose a narrative documentary is really you can go out with basically a camera lens, a recorder and a mic. And you can go out and make something. Oh, yeah, if you're if you're trying to tell a good story, it's not nearly as complex, technically, to do a documentary as well as to do a narrative.

Griffin Hammond 15:20
Well, I love one things I love about news gathering is sometimes I would go out, and it would just be a mess, you know, everything's handheld. And I'm not getting exactly what I want. Maybe I have an idea that there's a story, but it turns into a completely different story. I like the documentary, you can always save it, you can always tell the story of how it all fell apart. There's always like a behind the scenes story, you can tell too. So you can always take the footage you have and find a way to turn it into a story. Whereas you go out and try to shoot your narrative. I mean, I know you change it up a little bit as you go. But if you fail to get a scene, now you're really in trouble. You got to figure out a way to go reshoot it. Whereas in documentary, I think you kind of kind of fudge it a little bit.

Alex Ferrari 16:06
That makes perfect sense. Now let's get into Sriracha. Man, how did how does Sriracha come about? Tell me all about Sriracha?

Griffin Hammond 16:14
Well, he was at the end of, I guess it was a year into doing indie mogul. And I think I kind of realized I aspired to be a filmmaker, but didn't yet feel like I had earned that title for myself. For me, the way I defined it, I just knew that I needed to go to a film festival and show something on a big screen. And I realized, I had made 1000s of pieces of art, video art over the years, but nothing that was intended for a theater audience. And so I felt like I needed to cross that barrier. And so coming back from a film festival in 2013, I just felt especially inspired like, you know, I think I'm good enough. Now I think I've honed my skills, I have all the equipment, I should just make something. And I thought about the category of that I like in festivals, which is short, the short documentary sections, and then just start thinking about things I love, because everyone says make films for the things you love. And really high on my list of things was Sriracha hot sauce.

Alex Ferrari 17:14
Of course, obviously. Obviously, you want to make a documentary about a hot sauce. It's an obvious topic for

Griffin Hammond 17:24
Well, it's funny cuz like, you know, there's, I mean, I'm a runner. So I thought about, like, you know, is there something in there like a running category? Could I go to Greece and make a film about like the origin of the marathon?

Alex Ferrari 17:34
Yes, yes. Yeah, absolutely. Why don't I do that? I want to go to Greece right now.

Griffin Hammond 17:41
Right? There's a lot of things in my life, I could just look around and say, I'm excited about that. I want to learn more. But Serato started almost as a joke in my mind like, well, that's interesting. That is something that I do interact with every day. I'm kind of excited about it. But the more I thought about it, I realized, I have a lot of questions. And I think the same people that are passionate about this thing is a lot of people that consider themselves fans of this hot sauce, who would probably go out wearing a T shirt that says I love Serato. And yet those same people might not necessarily know even basic facts about it, like what country it comes from, or who makes it. And the more I thought about it, I realized like that's the perfect place for a documentary to live somewhere between passion and that void of information. And that and that is a very cultish audience of four siracha if I'm not mistaken.

Alex Ferrari 18:36
Yeah, I mean, people have merchandise and choose their bad handbags. It's insane.

Griffin Hammond 18:44
And that's kind of what I thought the film was going to be. I thought, I'll make a film about how crazy the fans are. Like, I kind of imagined when I was designing the film, in my mind that I'll find a wedding couple of bride and groom that have like siracha flavored wedding cake or something like that's the kind of thing this film is going to be about. Ultimately, I never found that and David Tran, the guy who makes Raja ended up being a really compelling story. And it's good because I think if I tried to make the film about silly fans, and never really focused on one strong character would have not been as good. So then you actually approached the company, and you approached him and said, Hey, I want to make a documentary about you. And they just said,

Alex Ferrari 19:25
Sure, come right on in.

Griffin Hammond 19:28
They did not say sure. No hit for all right. I mean, I, I started by connecting with like, Python foods didn't even have a very strong Well, they didn't have any social media presence. So it was kind of hard to even connect with them at first.

Alex Ferrari 19:42
That's even crazy like that. That product is built for social media.

Griffin Hammond 19:47
Yeah, this is it's killing it in the I mean, it was probably number two behind Tabasco maybe still is. It's like, you know, dominating the US market of autos. And yeah, they don't have an up to A website that didn't have social media back then. So I went to this guy, Randy Clemens, who's the author of the serata cookbook. And he was kind of my point person for everything. Serato because he had been, ever since he wrote the cookbook, he'd been blogging about everything. Serato. So he was the guy that knew all the characters in this universe. He knew all the things I might want to include in a film. And so I kind of I think I may have even scheduled an interview with him. On the books before I even contacted David Tran. And he then he gave me the contact information for data Tran. Like I said, David said, No.

Alex Ferrari 20:33
And then how did you convince them?

Griffin Hammond 20:36
Well, I went back to Randy and I said, So David said, No, what do I do. And he helped me kind of understand a little bit more in his limited dealings with David Tran that he had had he, he helped me understand maybe what some of his motivations are, like, you know, go back to him and say that you I mean, it's true, go back and tell him that you really loves his product. And you're doing this because you have a love for his story. You're not doing this for the money or something, you're not trying to exploit him, you're just doing it out of this, like pure place of love. And I also really heavily weighed on the fact that I'm an independent filmmaker, it'll just be me showing up with a small camera, a tripod and a light. And it's not going to be a big production, it's not going to interrupt your business. And I think that was what he wanted to hear. Then he started out a lot of questions for me like, okay, now this sounds possible, and it won't be problematic. So let's figure out if this we can do this. So you basically shot that whole movie by yourself. In the end, I ended up bringing a friend of mine to operate the camera during my interviews, like I would set up the shot on the tripod, set of lighting, and then I would be the one holding a microphone in front of David interviewing him. So I there was, I did have an assistant for much of it. But you know, I think 90% of the role I just shot myself handheld. with anyone else around

Alex Ferrari 21:56
And you traveled as well, you traveled around the world.

Griffin Hammond 22:00
Yeah, it started with a trip to California, that's where the factory is. And that's where much of it shot. But then I also went to Chicago because that's near where I was living and picked up a few things there went to some restaurants there. We did a Kickstarter, eventually, that was successful, and I earned a little bit more money than I thought I would. So then I added a trip to New York and a trip to Thailand, where really The story begins. I could have probably figured out a way to tell it without going to Thailand.

Alex Ferrari 22:27
But why? Why would you do something? But why would you? Not? I mean, seriously, because even even from what I've seen of the trailer, I haven't seen that I haven't gotten a chance to see the movie yet. But from the trailer, you're you're on the boat, you're driving in the little boat and like you can't get B roll of that.

Griffin Hammond 22:43
That's that's probably there's literally a town in Thailand called Sriracha and the name comes from?

Alex Ferrari 22:50
Of course it is of course it is. Yeah. So you you work eight months putting this beast together. Now, what was your marketing plan for the film? How did you How were you going to get the word out on this movie? I had zero marketing plan going nastic. Fantastic. Thank you. It was a fantastic interview. Thank you so much for being on the show. Griffin, it's been fantastic. Thank you. Well, don't call me.

Griffin Hammond 23:16
The original goal for this was to get into film festivals. And maybe the auxilary goal was to have a film. At the end of it, you know, I just I thought I I was I was confident that I could make something I'd be proud of. And this would be a good investment in myself, just having something that shows what I can do. And along the way, the goals changed a little bit. I eventually realized that there was an audience for this I made the film festivals didn't need to be my primary goal. Just getting this in front of people on the internet was the primary goal. But I got really lucky. early on. I told you that I interviewed Randy Clemens early on in the film. And he is a cookbook author and a freelance writer in Los Angeles. Now he lives in New Hampshire. But at the time, he was so excited to be in the documentary that he just you know, he took a selfie of himself and posted on Facebook and said, hey, look, I'm going to be in a documentary about Saracen and a lot of his friends where LA area freelance writers. And so someone wrote an article in a small publication called OC weekly, just based on the fact that they had seen this Facebook post from Randy. And that got noticed by I think the LA Times and they wrote an article. And the Huffington Post noticed it in LA Times. And then they wrote an article. And once Huffington Post wrote an article then everyone wrote an article, I think it was in the Associated Press. And I mean, it was all over the country. Wow. And it was insane because the narrative, it was all because of Serato it was because Serato was attached that that name was attached

Alex Ferrari 24:56
You leveraging the brand name Absolutely.

Griffin Hammond 24:58
Right. I mean, I didn't have to do anything. It was just the excitement of there's going to be a Sriracha movie like that was literally half the headlines. And I just thought it's insane because you would never write the article, independent documentary filmmaker from Illinois begins production on his short doc.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
Yeah, generally, that's not the way these things are written. Right?

Griffin Hammond 25:27
It was all because I picked a topic that people were excited about. And maybe I mean, I, I did it because that's what I was passionate about. But I also got lucky and happened to do it, right. It's probably its peak moment in pop culture.

Alex Ferrari 25:40
And also, I mean, and I don't want to kind of fly by this. But that was a, you weren't being strategic about it. But it was a strategic move, because you were leveraging a brand that so many people know that the marketing will be done for you almost purely because of the subject matter is the same if I would make a Trader Joe's documentary on the inside workings of Trader Joe's, right, which is people are super passionate about Trader Joe's in California, but also around the country, or other companies like Lego or whatever. You know, and if there hasn't been anything about that topic, or about that company or about that product, people are starving, because there's a there's a fan base waiting for it. So you have an audience waiting to spend money on this. So it is strategic, what you did. And I think good advice for other filmmakers is if you could find a topic, or product or company that you want to kind of go into that no one's really touched yet. Because there is no other Serato. Doc right. You are it?

Griffin Hammond 26:45
Right. Yeah, my only real competition these days. And most of it came years later is like other news stories that people you know, like CBS News eventually went into the factory and ABC News one factory.

Alex Ferrari 26:57
Right. But that's not to say, it says this right, Griffin in the I'm still the only documentary official documentary that's been felled,

Griffin Hammond 27:05
Or someone's come along and make a feature. And that would, you know, knock out a feature. So you can kind of compete differently.

Alex Ferrari 27:11
But you've already Yeah, this is this is this was released in 2013. Yeah, well, alright, so the movie has been released now. So now you went to festivals, you won some awards? How did you? I'm assuming you own it. You didn't sell it to a distributor or anything like that. You own all the rights, though?

Griffin Hammond 27:26
I do. Yeah, I worked with a couple distributors. One of them is completely shady and didn't pay me.

Alex Ferrari 27:33
No, that's that. That doesn't sound like distributors at all.

Griffin Hammond 27:40
And the other one is a distributor in the New York area called Janssen. But again, I didn't sell it to them, I worked with two different distributors, and I let them assign non exclusive deals. I kind of just wanted to see if they could do anything for me. And they did a little bit, but I think the majority of the revenue I generated was self distribution. And then what are the revenue streams that you were able to create for the film? The first one, and still the biggest one, I think is Vimeo. Okay. Vimeo on demand had just started when I when I came out Serato. I think I'd only been out for a couple months.

Alex Ferrari 28:19
So you jumped in at the right time.

Griffin Hammond 28:21
Yeah. And it was great, because not only I picked it, because I like Vimeo I was uploading my film to a couple different platforms and just found that I liked the quality at that point in time. And I like the feature set. I was a little bit worried that people would have to create Vimeo accounts, you know, it's just like more steps to stop people from purchasing. But it seemed like a good platform. And they were also willing to do a lot to help me because it was such a new platform they were willing to. They did a little bit of promotion. They put it they they translated it into a few different languages. We get subtitles in other languages. They did some nice things like that. They even like put it in a trailer during South by Southwest. I didn't get into South Bay, which was the whole point of making film and played part of my film for another book.

Alex Ferrari 29:10
Oh, yeah, I know the feeling of not getting into big festivals, man. It's I think we've all gone through that everyone listening has gone through that at one point or another. I'm assuming you submitted to Sundance as well.

Griffin Hammond 29:22
I I only finished the film in November. Oh, so I think I only hit like the late south by deadline. I definitely flew past the Sundance Sundance deadline.

Alex Ferrari 29:34
Yeah. Okay, so with Vimeo. You also mentioned in one of your articles, you wrote that Vimeo has the best profit margin in the business in regards to like sharing revenues with with with the platform. Can you can you explain that a little bit?

Griffin Hammond 29:49
Yeah, I mean, that was really one of the primary drivers for why I chose it in the first place is that I think they only take 10% as their commission whereas think iTunes, isn't that Like 15, or no, iTunes is like 30%. Right?

Alex Ferrari 30:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Amazon's like, almost 50.

Griffin Hammond 30:18
Right? Yeah. I mean, that's pretty common for these rev shares to be almost, you know, close to 50%. Right. And so Vimeo, they take 10%. And then there's also a little transaction fee in there. So in the end, it works out to I currently sell it for 299. And when someone buys it, I get $2.30.

Alex Ferrari 30:35
Okay, which is awesome. Yeah. And oh, and how many did you how many views did you sell on that?

Griffin Hammond 30:43
on that? Last time I counted it, which was at the end of 2017. Right? Or no end of 2016? I think actually, is I had sold 7200. Sales on Vimeo. Okay, so that worked out to be a profit of $23,000.

Alex Ferrari 31:03
That's not bad. Now, I'll take it. I'll take it.

Griffin Hammond 31:09
Now, did you that was where I really focused my sales at the beginning. Like, I had done a Kickstarter campaign, there were 1300 people who backed it. So I also made revenue that way, as well. But those people saw it first about two weeks before I released it to the public. And so I kind of did a big launch, you know, I let these 1300 people know, it's going to come out to the public in two weeks on Vimeo, go tell all your friends, I went back to all the reporters that had ever written about it. And I, you know, I made them be responsible by writing about it again, it's kind of like, if you cared about, hey, there's gonna be a Serato movie so many months ago, surely you want to write the article that now it's available? Right? Like, most of them did? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 31:51
That's awesome. That's awesome. And then so you focused all your so all your marketing efforts, was focused on one platform at the beginning.

Griffin Hammond 31:59
Right, yeah, it was just having a big premiere. And I think in that first, the first two months, I did maybe $15,000 worth of sales. I think most of the money that I've made on Vimeo happened pretty early on,

Alex Ferrari 32:12
It's generally the way it works with with those kind of platforms. And then you then ventured out into iTunes and other places, as far as transactional.

Griffin Hammond 32:22
Yeah, I just when I got around to it after I was done, it was like a full time job during the Kickstarter campaign, full time job releasing on Vimeo and then a full time job just doing kind of customer service for a few months and answering people's questions and doing press. I mean, that was lucky for me, I was getting a lot of press afterward to for a while I just became like the go to Saroja. expert, and they were in the news a little bit here and there. So like NPR would call me up and interview me.

Alex Ferrari 32:49
That's not that's not a bad place to be. Right? That's not a bad place to be. So then Alright, so then, but you did eventually go out to iTunes and other places like that. And you made some revenue out of those?

Griffin Hammond 33:00
Yeah, eventually, I realized I could go to an aggregator I went to premiere digital. Sure. And I paid them. I think it was $250 for each platform to put my short film on there. So it was 250. To get it on iTunes. It was 250 to get on Amazon. And so we did both at once. I didn't do prime at first, I just did Amazon Video on Demand thinking I don't want to cannibalize all my Vimeo sales, give it away for free.

Alex Ferrari 33:26
Was that a foolish thing? To think? It was? Explain logically, it makes why Yeah, there's a lot of people who listen to this podcast that I've heard them tell me that like, Oh, I'm afraid of putting it on prime or or free, subscription based model based on an advertiser or you get an A VOD model. Because you're like, it's gonna cannibalize your transactional, will you make more money? Right. But in the in the lifestyle in the life cycle of a movie? Don't do that on the month one. You could do that a month three or four? Because a lot of your money transactionally has already been made. Correct? Yeah, exactly. So then, so then what did so how did it do the second you put it up on Amazon Prime?

Griffin Hammond 34:14
Before I put on prime it was, you know, just getting a few sales. It wasn't very many. I think in total, let's see, what do I have? In total ever? It sold 1300 copies on Amazon. Actually, that sounds pretty good. But actually, compared to some of my other platforms. And it wasn't very quick at first either. In fact, my Amazon Instant Video has probably gone up since I opened it up on prime. But I just I thought about how I I'm a prime user, and I don't ever buy movies when there's all these free movies on there. And so it just made me realize, you know, I always had to put myself in my audience's shoes like how could Why? Why would I expect anyone to buy it there? So I asked premier digital to flip the switch for Prime I mean, it's already on Amazon, we need to make it available for Prime And as soon as they did it, it's just like the floodgates opened. And I told you I had 1300 sales on Amazon Instant Video. Since I opened it up on prime. I've had 230,000 views on amazon prime. That's a lot of views. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 35:18
And how much downside is Yeah.

Griffin Hammond 35:22
Yeah, they don't give you as much. But you get like 10 cents per view, I imagine is just the share of the, the Amazon Prime subscription cost. Which sounds terrible compared to Vimeo where I'm making 230 per purchase, but the audience size is just huge on Amazon in a way that Vimeo isn't. And so 20 you know, 230,000 people watching, it translates $23,000. That's not bad.

Alex Ferrari 35:47
That's not bad at all. That's insane. And that's a little bit more than you get on on YouTube.

Griffin Hammond 35:54
Oh, yeah, a ton more. I think the funny thing is, when I first came out with the film, I think my Kickstarter campaign, I charged $5 for it. And I think a few months later, I dropped the price to three. But when I first launched it on Vimeo, it was a $5 film because I didn't want to, I felt like it'd be really unfair to have people pre ordered for five and then lower the price right away. Release it, right. So I charged $5 for it. And a lot of people on Reddit, I remember there was some some article that someone had written about my film, and people in the Reddit comments, were saying, like, $5 That's ridiculous. Why would you ever spend that much on a film? Short Film especially and I agreed, in some sense, like, you're gonna go to the movie theater and spend $10 on a big budget feature. I understand why you don't want to spend $5 on my short film. But it's weird how on Kickstarter, $5 was really cheap, because other people are charging like ridiculous, like $30 for their short film. And on, you know, on Vimeo, maybe that's too much for some people are the same people were saying, like, once you just put on YouTube, you'll make a ton of revenue. That's like, were you kidding me? Like, I think I did put it on YouTube. I put my director's commentary version on YouTube. And I think I make a fifth of a penny every time someone watches it. so ridiculous.

Alex Ferrari 37:16
It's ridiculous. And then you also got it on Hulu. Tell me the story about that.

Griffin Hammond 37:22
Yeah, I think at the time, in retrospect, I realized I could have just also asked premier digital that aggregator to put it on Hulu as well. And I could have it would have been smarter because I could have paid them a one time fee. And I would have made all of the revenue from Hulu. But I think Hulu is a similar model to Amazon. It's like 10 cents per view. It's ad based for was at the time at the time and yeah, yeah. Now it's more subscriber base. And so but I didn't put it on Hulu. It was actually Janssens idea. One of my distributors to put on Hulu, and their fee, Jensen's fee is 30%. Of course. So I made a fair amount of revenue on Hulu. It looks like it earned 21,000 on Hulu, and then I got 15,000. That

Alex Ferrari 38:11
Still not bad, man. Still not bad. Yeah. So. So then overall, oh, by the way, how about DVDs and blu rays? Because I know you did that.

Griffin Hammond 38:22
Yeah, I did a lot of those because I let's see it started as I think blu rays were a were a Kickstarter reward. So I must have started with like, 400 of those and sold a bunch of those for the Kickstarter. And then I think I bought another 200. I think in total, I sold about 200 or 600 blu rays. And I can't remember how many TVs were

Alex Ferrari 38:43
Actually in people who are actually buying those at like 15 bucks a pop?

Griffin Hammond 38:48
Yeah, let's see, I think it was like $10 for the DVDs and something like 15 or 20 for the blu rays. And yeah, there are people that want physical media, I was not one of them. At the time, I was kind of like, I'm only doing this because people are asking me for them.

Alex Ferrari 39:01
Because it's a pain in the butt.

Griffin Hammond 39:03
Yeah, it's a total pain in the butt. I mean, in a way, it's kind of fun to have this physical object that represents your film, it's kind of a nice souvenir by the profit margin is really low. I think I calculate in the end, after all my you know, the shipping costs, I'm printing the

Alex Ferrari 39:21
Covers and these

Griffin Hammond 39:22
Discs, and then eventually, one of my big fees was once I put my film on amazon prime, there was kind of an incentive to sell my film on Amazon, the physical media, because it all is this one unified page. People can watch it digitally or they can buy it. And I wanted it to be available as a prime purchase you get in two days, and that requires that you actually send your inventory. Right, but they charge you like I mean,

Alex Ferrari 39:53
Storage fees.

Griffin Hammond 39:54
Yeah, storage fees, and then sales fees and all that. So in the end, I'm barely making $1 on These things, but

Alex Ferrari 40:01
And we'll end with a lot of headache as opposed to the digital release, which is a lot easier.

Griffin Hammond 40:06
Yeah, I mean, digital, you can sell 1000 or 5000. And there's really no difference.

Alex Ferrari 40:12
Now, did film festivals actually help or hurt your film in any way? Like that? Yeah, cuz it's expensive to go to these things.

Griffin Hammond 40:21
Yeah, super expensive just enter even. And then I went to a lot of film festivals early on because again, that was kind of a goal of making the film. And that was really rewarding to see it on screens and hear people react to it. I mean, I wouldn't undo that. But it's definitely expensive. And it's hard to quantify what that did, if anything for the film. I mean, it won a couple of awards. And you know, I could put all the laurels on my DVD cover, and maybe some more people buy it because they see the laurels next to it on Vimeo. But it's hard to say maybe, maybe it doesn't matter at all.

Alex Ferrari 40:57
Now, overall, are you happy with your final experience of making the documentary releasing the documentary? Was it financially rewarding? I'm sure you didn't retire off of it. But overall, you know, was it a positive experience?

Griffin Hammond 41:12
Yeah, I've been teaching a lot of filmmaking workshops around the world the last couple years. And I keep telling people that this was the smartest career decision I've ever made. I didn't know it at the time. I mean, I knew I had competence that it would lead to good things and would show people what I was capable of. But almost everything that's happened to me since is has a direct line back to Serato. I mean, the film made a profit. You know, in the end, it's it's made around $85,000. In profit.

Alex Ferrari 41:44
It's a short film. Let's remind everybody, it's a short film.

Griffin Hammond 41:49
Which in one way sounds like a really awesome number. I mean, because you don't expect, especially a short film, especially independent documentary to make any money to be profitable at all. But then you have to ask yourself, is that money really worth the eight months of production, the freelance projects I turned down because I was busy working on the film, that year of marketing and all that?

Alex Ferrari 42:12
Yeah, this is not any 5000. In one year, this is over the course of the last three or four years, right?

Griffin Hammond 42:16
Yeah, yeah. And for years, it made 85,000. I did make most much of that in the first year. But But yeah, it's not necessarily a sustainable model. Like, I couldn't make $85,000 every two years, and live in New York City. But you know, what, if I were to somehow stack a bunch of films, this could potentially be a model that that's lucrative. But if you could turn them around faster? Yeah, exactly. I mean, I wouldn't do this for the money. And I wasn't doing this for the money at the start at. I think the better return on investment has been that. Six months after I made the film, it led to me getting a job in New York, which I made a lot more doing that job covering the election that I did making the film.

Alex Ferrari 43:02
You got that job specifically because of Sriracha.

Griffin Hammond 43:05
Yeah, they called me up because they saw it, and they were like, We like this film. Would you like to do this kind of thing for us? Would you like to cover the presidential election the same way? have you covered hot sauce for two years? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 43:17
That's insane.

Griffin Hammond 43:19
And then, you know, it helped Panasonic notice me, I'm now a brand ambassador, Panasonic because I've been using their cameras, and they liked that I use their camera on my film, the State Department found me and now sends me around the world to teach filmmaking in different countries. Because they like, they like the, the moral of the, of the film they liked. It's a self distributed film. They like my story. And they also like, it's a film about an entrepreneur succeeding in America.

Alex Ferrari 43:47
Genius. I mean, it's, it's, it's remarkable. I mean, one. And I think that's a message that we all have to kind of put out there is that, you know, you could talk about doing stuff, but when you actually get off your ass and do something, you never know who's gonna see it, what it's going to lead to what opportunities are going to come what doors are gonna open. Because it happened to me with indie film hustle to happen with me with my first film. It's even happening with my second film, and that hasn't even been released yet. Just the Yeah, just people knowing about it has opened up doors in you never know, but you just have to get up and go do it.

Griffin Hammond 44:26
Yeah, I keep telling people that are just getting into this, you just have to make a lot of work. Because one, you'll get a lot better with each project. But two I found that I don't. It's not even always the things that I'm proud of stuff that have an impact on people like you kind of need to have a diverse set of work out there because one of your projects is going to inspire someone or get someone to hire you. And it may not be the thing that you're proud of stuff.

Alex Ferrari 44:54
Now can you tell me a little bit about your creative life course shooting documentaries short films, which sounds like an awesome Course.

Griffin Hammond 45:01
Oh, yeah, that was probably another opportunity that came along because I made you. Thanks, Roger. Yeah, yeah, cuz I don't think I contacted them. I think they saw the film and said, Hey, it'd be cool to have that guy. teach a class. And so yeah, creative live his company in San Francisco, one of many online learning websites. And they helped me develop a seven hour course on producing short documentary films, we tried to get everything that I wanted to share things that I had learned in the class. And it was great, because I think if I had just done on my own, it wouldn't have been as good but they hadn't like, you know, they had a jib stuff like really great, productive. I'd like that, like, audience, they had a jib. They helped me design some. We shot some stuff the day before the class to show during the class, it was kind of this multimedia experience. So yeah, I have this whole like masterclass on shooting short documentary films available.

Alex Ferrari 46:01
Well, I will put that in the show notes for everybody to go check out if they're interested in learning about more about shooting documentary short films. Now I'm going to ask you, of course, of course, man. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Griffin Hammond 46:20
Definitely make a lot of work. Like I said, and, you know, I think we even talked about this on my podcast that this industry is really forgiving for friendly people. I mean, you could be the best cinematographer. But if you're terrible to work with, you're gonna eventually stop getting calls to, to work on projects. So I think just do your best work and do a lot of work, make sure people see it and just be really nice to everyone, and people will be excited to work with.

Alex Ferrari 46:51
You And by the way, I've had over 250 episodes now on this on the show, and you are one of by far the nicest human beings I've ever met. I don't know if it's all bs or not. But from what you put out from our interactions, me being on your show, and you being on mine, and the talking that we've done, off air, you're very, very nice guy. I could only imagine working with you, you'd be just Hey, man. Let's go. Let's go shoot some men. So be cool. It'd be fun. Is that good impression of you?

Griffin Hammond 47:24
Yeah. I mean, it's a weakness too, because I'm not a very adamant, strong willed, passionate person. I don't always know exactly what I want in my films. But hopefully I make up for it. Because people feel pretty good about it.

Alex Ferrari 47:41
I know the movie sucks, but I'm really nice. So Exactly. Don't underestimate how important that is that no, no, and that is a very serious message I want to put out there like being nice, far outweighs talent. In this business, you know, if you're a hustler, you work and you're willing, you're humble, and you're willing to learn, and you're nice to work with people will give you a shot as opposed to the talented prick. Yeah, that we've all worked with at one point or another.

Griffin Hammond 48:12
And the connection to that is that I keep finding that, you know, especially when you're younger, you assume that like HR departments, and the hiring methods of comp, big companies, are these really well oiled machines, they're gonna go out and find all the best candidates. And they really don't I mean, people just hire the people they know, that are conveniently available. So if you happen to be you know, it's it's about who you know, and if you're a nice person to work with, but not necessarily going to find you just because you're the best out there. You need to do the work of networking and meeting people and being on the radar

Alex Ferrari 48:43
Or make a project that puts put you on their radar. Yeah. Now, can you tell me a book, what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Griffin Hammond 48:53
Probably, Robert mckees. Story.

Alex Ferrari 48:57
Interesting, interesting, which is interesting coming from a documentarian,

Griffin Hammond 49:02
Right. Well, probably the reason that book Well, one isn't Robert McKee, portrayed by Brian Cox. Yes, brilliantly adaptation.

Alex Ferrari 49:12
Oh, that's so real. I had not heard of him. I must. I must have heard of them. But that was he he came to life in that movie is one of my favorite movies and love adaptation. But yes, Brian Cox played him really ugly.

Griffin Hammond 49:27
Right. And it's funny because it was only after I left NYU, and I was getting my finishing my bachelor's degree at Illinois State University. But it took a media writing class. It's kind of the intro course for all the journalism and TV and public relations majors. And the textbook for that class was actually story by Robert McKee. And I mean, it's important that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 49:50
It's a great book, it's your story needs to have a solid narrative. It is it is the book that I think every screenwriter reads and his course is one of the His workshops or lectures, there's one of those lectures that everybody goes through at one point or another in Hollywood. Yeah, it's just it's one of those pieces. But yes, it's an amazing book. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life? See, probably still learning? That is the most common answer, by the way, is the most common answer. When I asked that question, I think I'm still learning it. I feel like I still know less like, I know less now than I did yesterday.

Griffin Hammond 50:36
There's still so many things I need to learn about this industry. Something that took me a long time to learn. I mean, maybe, I think it was, especially after failing out of NYU, I think it was kind of understanding that there are definitely things that I'm bad at. And I just have to accept those things and kind of recognize them and move past them. Like, I shouldn't try to be a screenwriter. Because I think over the years, I've thought, I'm a good writer. I'm a good journalistic writer. But I can only write for really one voice, I can write from my own from my own perspective, and I'm not great at creating characters and stepping into someone else's mind. I feel like I'm an empathetic person, but I just can't really talk in a way that's not my own voice. And so yeah, I I gravitate towards documentaries, because I don't want to write a script.

Alex Ferrari 51:28
But you want to, you want to tell a story.

Griffin Hammond 51:31
I like telling other people's stories, but I kind of need to just have a real person in front of me doing that. On camera, I can't really create a person. Fair nothing. Just recognizing what you're bad at and exploiting the things you're good at.

Alex Ferrari 51:44
That's a great lesson to learn. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Griffin Hammond 51:50
Let's see. I should throw back to the future 2 in there.

Alex Ferrari 51:54
it is. So straight so you say you made a specific choice of Back to the future 2

Griffin Hammond 52:00

Alex Ferrari 52:00
Which is arguably and now we're going to geek out a bit arguably Many people believe it to be the lesser of the three. I don't but because it's the connective tissue. So why did you pick that movie? I have to find out why.

Griffin Hammond 52:15
I think I've loved it ever since I was kid. Because it I mean, I think it has, you know, they go back to 1955 it has the future as well. I especially love the ending where you're playing on top of the climax of the previous movie. So I love all the different worlds it travels to maybe even teases the third movie. Yes. And from a technical standpoint, I love that that was the movie where they invented that technique of the computerized Dolly with repeatable movements.

Alex Ferrari 52:46
Oh yeah, motion capture.

Griffin Hammond 52:48
Yeah, so they could have 45 Fox Yeah. 45 Michael Jackson, different performances in the same moving shot.

Alex Ferrari 52:55
It's pretty insane. It was pretty insane. They definitely did use it very well. I want one or two of the other favorite films.

Griffin Hammond 53:03
Well, the other two documentaries I really like Grizzly man by Verner Hertzog oh god have such an amazing film. Oh, yeah. I mean, I love it because it's not even a film. Same in the kind of film I like making. It's like a found footage film. But I just love

Alex Ferrari 53:19
It kind of is it's a kindness with a voiceover mostly someone else's put it Yeah. And what's the end? What's the last one?

Griffin Hammond 53:26
And then I'm also a big fan of Errol Morris and the thin blue line.

Alex Ferrari 53:31
That's a good movie. Very, very, very

Griffin Hammond 53:33
Also a style of documentary that I don't really do. It's very stylized kind of Errol Morris seems to do a lot of like mixing narrative style with documentary storytelling. And I don't do that. But I appreciate how he does that.

Alex Ferrari 53:47
And where can people find you online?

Griffin Hammond 53:50
At GriffinHammond.com to see videos and tutorials and my podcasts.

Alex Ferrari 53:56
And what's what's the name of your podcast?

Griffin Hammond 53:59
It's called Hey indie filmmakers

Alex Ferrari 54:01
Fit like writing your face. right in your face.

Griffin Hammond 54:04
It's very similar to your title. I realized even like the almost the same acronym. Mine is HIF yours is IFH.

Alex Ferrari 54:18
It's a great podcast, a lot of great information on it as well. So I'll put I'll put links to all of your stuff in the show notes, Griffin. Thank you, again, so much for being on the show, man. It was an absolute pleasure having you.

Griffin Hammond 54:30
Yeah, it's great to talk to you again. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 54:34
I really want to thank Griffin for being on the show and dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe. We've never had a documentarian filmmaker on the show. So I really am very grateful for him, giving us all that great information. And if you guys have not seen Serato and want to take a look at it, it's a great little film and it really, really is well done. And it's not that expensive. It's only a few bucks. So if you want to check it out, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/258 to get access to the short as well as links to anything we talked about in this episode, and also links on how to contact Griffin see all the things he has to offer, and a link to his creative live online course about how to shoot documentary short films. So guys, I know this summer has been a little weird. We've been doing a lot of throwbacks instead of two episodes is one, I've been really working hard on this special project that I'm working on for you guys. And again, it is not a feature film, but I will be announcing it sometime in late August, early September, which I'll be announcing this major project which will hopefully change the world No, but hopefully we'll we'll find you guys will find some value in and and you'll understand why I've been so so busy. So thanks again for listening, guys. I hope you got something out of it. And as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




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IFH 212: OUTATIME & the Back to the Future DeLorean Documentary with Steve Concotelli

Right-click here to download the MP3

Today on the show we have documentary filmmaker Steve Concotelli, the director of OUTATIME: Saving the DeLorean Time Machine. Out of Time is the documentary about the restoration of the screen used Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine.

We discuss how the film came to be, his Kickstarter campaign, getting the rights from Universal, working with Back to the Future co-creator, producer and overall Godfather Bob Gale and how he distributed his little indie doc.

Here’s some more info on Steve. Steve has been a creative force in the entertainment industry for over 10 years.  He began his career as an Editor on G4’s “Attack of the Show”.  Since then, Steve has worked nearly every job in production including Writer, Producer, Videographer, and ultimately, Executive Producer.  His clients span the creative landscape and include Disney, Crackle, Paramount, Science Channel, Discovery, TruTV, Spike and more.

In 2015, Steve partnered with Universal Pictures to create [easyazon_link identifier=”B01FCBO5EI” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]OUTATIME: Saving the Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine[/easyazon_link], a feature-length documentary about Back to the Future.  Steve wrote, produced, directed, and edited the film.  Since its release, OUTATIME has received critical praise, winning the “Best Documentary” Award at the 2016 Gen Con Film Festival. Currently, Steve is the Senior Creative Producer at Cricket Pictures in Los Angeles.

Enjoy my “time-bending” interview with Steve Concotelli

Alex Ferrari 1:18
So guys, today we have on the show a very cool filmmaker by the name of Steve conch, italie he directed a documentary on one of my favorite movies of all time, of course called Back to the Future. And he made a movie about the restoration of the DeLorean, anyone who's ever watched Back to the Future knows how important that DeLorean is, it is a one of the seminal parts of pop culture. And it was dying in the backlog of universal I saw there when I did my tours back in the day. And I was like, Wow, it seems so sad. And it's just been tore up by the elements. And he was able to get together with the producer Bob Gale, of Back to the Future, as well as some amazing talented artists that work and mechanics who are going to be able to put together and put back together the DeLorean. And the movie is called out of time saving the DeLorean Time Machine now wanted to have Steve on the show, because he wanted to kind of talk about we haven't had a lot of documentary filmmakers on first of all, so I wanted to get a few more of those on this year, as well as to discuss the process of dealing with a big studio with a huge IP, huge intellectual property for universal and how he was able to get this whole thing going, you know, he was starting doing the documentary without permission, and then finally got permission and how he got it onto a blu ray, special edition anniversary and all this kind of stuff and how he was able to make money with the film, how he's able to tour with the movie, and different kind of distribution. ideas that he was able to implement, because of the rabid fan base of the film of the original trilogy. There's a lot of knowledge bombs in this episode. So if you are a fan of Back to the Future, it's going to even be more so and I think most people listening have seen has seen Back to the Future. If you have not seen Back to the Future, for God's sakes, what's wrong with you stop listening to this podcast right now and go watch it on Netflix or Amazon or rent it or do whatever, but you need to watch the Back to the Future trilogy. But without any further ado, here is my conversation with Steve Concotelli. How are you doing, sir?

Steve Concotelli 3:30
I'm doing just fine. How are you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 3:32
Thank you, brother. Thank you, man, thanks so much for being on the show. I'm a huge fan of your movie out of time. And you know, I'm obviously a huge fan of Back to the Future. And I thought this would be a beautiful melding of, of not only geeking out because we are going to geek out in this episode a bit, but also discovering how you made the movie and went down the road and your Kickstarter your distribution plan and get to the nuts and bolts of actually making the movie but while we geek out a bit. So what gave you the idea of making out of time? Like how did you even wake up one morning go? I'm going to make a movie about restoring the DeLorean?

Steve Concotelli 4:11
Well, it's interesting. It started back in 2011 when Universal Studios first announced that they were going to restore the screen use Time Machine. And at the time to give a brief history at the time the screen just car had really started falling apart. You know it had been out at the Universal Studios backlog for 30 years. It was not in great shape. And so universal and Bob Gale made the announcement they were going to restore it. And I was fortunate enough to be very close friends with Joe Walzer who was the superfan in charge of the restoration. And so here you had this phenomenal year long restoration project that was going to kick off. And you know, I said well, is anybody filming this is you know, is anybody going to turn this into a movie because fans would love to see the nuts and bolts of this restoration and it turned out nobody had any plans. Do it. And so, you know, I kept asking who's doing this? Who's doing this? And finally just kind of dawned on me like, Oh, crap, I guess it's gonna be me then. Right? And and so I took it upon myself to just start documenting the entire restoration in the hopes of possibly turning it into a film, which we then did.

Alex Ferrari 5:19
And now How did you get Bob Gill and universal involved and actually get them to say, Hey, you, you're official, we give you the stamp of approval.

Steve Concotelli 5:30
That was a very, very long and nerve wracking process and beyond. Well, yeah, because I didn't work for Universal Studios. And so, you know, when I started shooting it, it wasn't exactly, you know, done with official authorization, I'll say that much. It was done. I was part of the restoration team, I was documenting it. And that was fine. But you know, turning it into a film is something that was entirely next level, like when you work with a studio, there's approvals and IP and licensing, and there's a lot of things that back then I had no concept of

Alex Ferrari 6:01
And they are not. And Back to the Future in the DeLorean. It's fairly popular IP.

Steve Concotelli 6:07
Yeah, that's the among their most popular intellectual property. And so we did it very slowly, and very methodically. And essentially, what it boiled down to is Bob Gale. Now, now Bob, is the CO creator of the Back to the Future trilogy, you know, he wrote them produce them, and he is the Godfather, even to this day of all things back to the future. So if any product, anything back to the future, gets approved, it goes through him, he's the authority. And luckily, Bob was spearheading the restoration, he was directly in charge of it. So as the restoration progressed, I got a chance to meet Bob and know Bob, and we put together halfway through the restoration, we did like a little five minute, here's what's going on with the restoration update that Bob hosted. So I shot footage of him. And we got to know each other and kind of test the waters to see what kind of reaction you know, the restoration footage would get. And, and, but yeah, and then, as we progressed and got further and further into filming, you know, it became clear like, Look, I really need to get some official endorsement from Universal. Because, you know, by the time a year long restoration was done, and then say a year of an interview, as I was two years into a project, I wasn't even sure I could produce legal. And like, oh, boy, what are we going to do? So Bob, sat me down with universals licensing team, their marketing teams, to to essentially essentially make a pitch for me to say, Look, he knows what he's doing. He's been doing this a long time. And, you know, basically, Bob gave me his official endorsement. But even then, I don't think universal was quite on board until 2015. I mean, that's three, three years that I wasn't sure. And then that's when they asked me to possibly put together something for the 30th anniversary blu ray that came out, you know, and they said, Can you do you have enough footage that you can cut together? Maybe a 15 minute feature out? I said, Sure. No problem. And I'm sure Universal Studios was afraid that, you know, I was just going to make them look terrible, because the shape of the car. And then I sent them a quick cut. And they saw it and as soon as they saw my movie, as soon as they saw they, they're like, okay, we totally get it. We're totally on board. Because it's it's not about blame. It's not about you know, oh, criticizing this party. It's not about fans being you know, sniping at each other. It's about celebrating this great car and everybody coming together to get it restored. And yeah, once they saw all their fears were gone. This Yep, will license this. You can have access to everything you need. I got all the proper permissions and all that stuff. And we were off like a shot but but it was I want understated, it was three years of very nervous, is this going to happen? Because all it would have taken was one phone call from universals legal department and boom, the whole film would have been shut down. And this is you know, after two and a half years of my time. So it was it was a it was a tough long road that I'm sure a couple other any filmmakers out there understand

Alex Ferrari 9:01
Oh, yeah, i know a few.

Steve Concotelli 9:03
Yeah, you know, and it, it could have easily broken the other way. And yeah, I had more than a few sleepless nights, sleepless months about that, to be honest.

Alex Ferrari 9:12
So Bob Gale was basically you were Donnie Brasco, and Bob Gale was alpa Chino. Yeah. And he's just he's the He's fine. He's with me. Work. Yeah. So he got you in the door, but it was your work that kept you in the door.

Steve Concotelli 9:25
Correct. I mean, Bob. Yeah, that's exactly what it was he he opened the door and he wouldn't have gone to bat for me if by then I hadn't already proven myself as a professional. You know, and the story I was trying to tell and yeah, you know, once universal saw it, they they embraced it. So definitely, but it took a lot of convincing and a lot of baby steps. And, and boy, you could do a whole episode just on the difficulty of trying to license intellectual property from a studio because, like, like, I'm a fan. Like when I started this movie, I truly had no idea of what it took to make a movie like this because I'm sure a lot of your listeners are thinking, Oh, you make a movie with the time machine, you go and shoot your footage, and you own it. So you just go and go and make a movie. But it turns out not to be the case. Because the car is owned by DreamWorks, or, you know, a subset of universal for it, the intellectual property, and then Universal Studios owns the film rights, and then you have to get approvals from you know, the producers and any actors that appear in the footage. And, and I had no concept of how to do any of that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 10:26
Let me ask you a question, though. And this is just a this now we're getting into a little bit of the weeds as far as legal and documentary is concerned. But documentaries do have a lot more leeway than narrative do in the sense that like, you know, I can remember Fahrenheit 911 where, you know, Michael Moore was basically ripping apart the the president of the time, George Bush, and he was using him in his documentary, and he was he didn't get any obviously didn't get any permission for that. How does it work? Why can't you just document something and release it to a certain extent or not?

Steve Concotelli 11:00
Well, I bet if I wanted to put it on YouTube, I probably could have gotten away with it, but I wanted to release it and try to make money off of it. And that's, that's an entirely different ballpark. Because if you're trying to monetize somebody else's intellectual property, that's, that's the line you you have to have legal permission for. And, and to be honest, you know, like, I was getting to know, Bob and I have tremendous respect for universal. I wanted to do it the right way. You know, I, I wanted Universal Studios to endorse the film and, and, and be a part of it and not fight against it. And, you know, I did, I didn't want to just try to release it as like a fan documentary, I wanted their stamp of approval so that the world would know, like, Look, universal, has declared this the official time machine documentary, and, you know, it's, it's quality content. And, and thankfully, that's what happened. And yeah, and the blu ray in 2015 really kind of jump started that because once once I had a little 15 minute feature at on the official blu ray, I was an official part of the franchise and that right, and that helped that but I, you know, it's still involved, you know, licensing and paperwork and attorneys and title clearances. You know, I mean, even even the title of my film, which is out of time, like the Time Machine license plate, even that was like, when I started Can I use that? Is that owned by somebody does universal own that does the DMV on that? Who do I have to ask? And you know, all these questions had to go down this infinite rabbit hole of minutia and felt like okay, you somebody universal said it was okay, I use this, you know, and it's just, it's, it's so far out in the weeds when you're producing these indie Doc's that it just it boggles the mind. You spend like 75 or 80% of your time dealing with things that have nothing to do with making your movie, as I'm sure you can attest.

Alex Ferrari 12:44
Yes, absolutely. No, I was, I was working on a show for Hulu, and the characters that the ads director and the producers wanted to get some universal characters on some t shirts, like yeah, like that they live. And the Brian Frank glasses. Yeah, exact because the whole show was about the whole episode of that series was about guys putting eyeglasses so it was kind of like a wink, wink, nudge nudge. And they got it. You know, they it was, it was fairly simple, honestly, to get a right to get the they live logo or whatever. Put on a T shirt. And you have to make it yourself. It has to be custom. You can't sell the T shirt. But it was but it did. There was some paperwork. And then there was a back and forth and they wanted some other people that like, yeah, we kind of own that one. But it's also a quarter owned by somebody else. Exactly. So you might have to go somewhere else. So exactly like you're talking about, like the DeLorean his own partly by DreamWorks or Spielberg at that point, right?

Steve Concotelli 13:45
Yeah, it's, it's a subset of one of the conglomerates and somebody, you know, the appropriate person at the appropriate subset company had to have an email that says, you know, yes, we authorize this, you know, and again, they don't know who I am. I'm just a fan trying to make a film and, and studios, and rightfully so are very leery about, you know, fans saying, hey, I want to make a movie about your movie. Let me use your IP or your footage. Sure. And And so yeah, it's uh, I'll say this. If you're making a unique documentary about something like unrelated, go for it. But to make a feature Doc, about a very famous feature film is among the most difficult and dumbest things you can try to do. Well, there was a movie. The the shark, the shark.

Alex Ferrari 14:28
Shark is still working. Yeah, you're still working, which was legendary, because it took forever for it to come out. Like they had interviews with Roy Scheider before he died and, and they had Spielberg they had Dreyfus they had everybody and universal was like, I don't know and this is where everybody was like, when is this coming out? I remember that. And finally, it got released like on the 30th anniversary or whatever. 40th anniversary Yeah, release on a DVD somewhere and we finally get to see it, which was a great doc but What a one thing saving, but you were better?

Steve Concotelli 15:04
Well, I appreciate it. But I think they had the same thing to where, when the anniversary of jaws came around the studio was looking for content that tied into that. And here, you know, these fans had essentially made this entire film for them, like, oh, why don't we just give them the okay to release that, you know, and, and my situation on out of time was kind of similar. Were back in 2011, when the restoration started, and I started shooting footage, I was already thinking, look, in three years, they're probably going to do a 30th anniversary release. And then they're gonna want some of this content, right. And sure enough, you know, in 2015, universal called, hey, we're thinking about a blu ray, do you have something? I'm like, I got you covered. Believe me.

Alex Ferrari 15:48
I've got so I'm looking at your blu ray as we speak, sir. Yeah, I've got that. 30 that aversary.

Steve Concotelli 15:55
Yeah. And I have a nice little out of time feature right on there, which, you know, is a fan is no, I think that's something that I did completely by myself, like my own time. With my own crappy camera editing it on my own crappy home edit system is on the official back the future blu ray, like behind Doc Brown is mind boggling. I still can't believe it. But it happened.

Alex Ferrari 16:17
Now you you also started a Kickstarter campaign. And you knew you'd launch the Kickstarter game, which was fairly successful. It was very successful, actually. Yeah. Now, how did you prep and launch the Kickstarter campaign? Because I've had, I mean, I did my own crowdfunding campaign for my feature film. And but you know, this is it could be a beast, but you also have you also had a, a wonderful audience to tap into. So how did you prep it and launch it?

Steve Concotelli 16:47
Well, Kickstarter is its own separate nightmare. I'll just start by that. All right, Kickstarter, for all the people who think Look at all that free money. Now, if I had simply gone to work every day, and work a regular job, I would have made far more money. That's a simple true, amen. And Kickstarter is a nightmare. And even like, your worst fear with Kickstarter is that you won't succeed. Your second worst fear is that you do succeed. Now, why is that? Why is that? Well, because if you're wildly successful, suddenly, you know, like, I found myself with 600, bosses, all demanding, like, when is this going to be done? We know when, when or what are you doing what's going on. And it was like having 6600 managers emailing me all the time, asking questions, and vast majority were great, but you do get some squeaky wheels. And I was very, very sensitive, because first, I wanted to have a good Kickstarter. But second is that I didn't want anybody bad mouthing me to Universal Studios. Because whether whether I accepted it or not, by having this film, and Bob Gale was in my Kickstarter video, so by having by having his endorsement, I, whether I like it or not represent Back to the Future. I represent the franchise and I represent the studio. And I took all that very seriously. So every time I would answer a question or deal with the public, I did it professionally straightforward in the most kind of corporate appeasing way that I could, because the last thing I wanted to do was to have you know, Bob, get some angry email from a family who is this? Who's the Steve guy? And what's he doing? And he's running Back to the Future like that would have been the death of my film. Right. But but to backtrack, and in terms of what we did, we, we set the bar, our goal for the film was $25,000, which I thought was pretty reasonable. And I didn't think we'd hit it. And Joe Walzer, who is the head of the restoration, and he's the main guy in the film, he was very involved in one thing Joe does aside from making time machines is he's a master at marketing. And he said, Steve, we're gonna blow the doors off it. And I didn't believe him. And he goes, trust me, within 24 hours, we hit our $25,000 like one. And then I think we ended around 75,000, which was three times our goal, which is great. But nervous and, and the way we prepped for it was I would say, not enough. That's not exactly true. I I benefited because during the entire restoration, Joe had set up a Facebook page for the time machine restoration team. And it was for fans to kind of track the progress and Joe was very tied into all the Back to the Future online Facebook pages, the big ones, all of them. So he already had access to a very large very rabid Back to the Future audience. And that was the reason my Kickstarter was successful. I if I had tried building it from scratch, it would have taken a year you know, just to try to get up to speed and building word of mouth. But Joe had been cultivating this because of the restoration for two years and we had been putting videos online you know, so his own Facebook page had but 75,000 people and then the other back of the user pages had millions, right so once we decided to launch our Kickstarter he posted everywhere on all the Facebook pages for back feature. Check this out. It's official. And then when people clicked on our Kickstarter, there was Bob Gale sitting right next to me in my Kickstarter video. And Bob is essentially saying you can trust this guy, he's going to finish this project, you can trust your money with him. And that and that. Put a lot of people over the top because you know, fan docs are a dime a dozen. It's easy for anybody to do it. But to have the creator sitting there next to me endorsing me gave my huge Yeah, it gave me a lot of credibility. And then the other thing we did that was excellent is we had fantastic Kickstarter giveaways, like, like, tears, tears that nobody else had. And the most popular one was, we made small five by 7000 desktop display shadow boxes, with pieces that were taken out of the time machine that were too damaged to put back in. So we turn them into collectible display cases that were with a CFA signed by Bob Gale and Joe Walzer. So essentially, you could own legally a piece of the time machine for real.

Alex Ferrari 21:00
And what was the cost of that? Just curious, way too low.

Steve Concotelli 21:03
We priced them, we priced them at like 200 bucks, I would have thought that they sold out in like 15 minutes. And then we did a second round of them. Like I think I could have charged $400 for those suckers. I had no idea.

Alex Ferrari 21:15
No, you would have probably you could have easy, depending on what it is you could apart 500 or 1000 a pop and

Steve Concotelli 21:21
Yeah, all day. Yeah, that we could have been you know, in retrospect, hindsight is 2020. But we, you know, again, it wasn't about trying to, you know, rake them over the coals that was just to get those out and stuff and, and they were wildly popular. We had a really cool poster, I had some artwork that I'd taken over the finished car. But we had stuff that wasn't just like just the movie, it was real. Back to the Future, like official type stuff. And it just just blew the doors off. So it was, you know, and then at the end of the Kickstarter, I'm sitting there thinking, Oh, God, now I have to fulfill all this nightmare stuff, which that's, and I filled everything myself, right. Like I didn't have a fulfillment company, I boxed and shipped, you know, 600 individual items to our back guard backers across the world. That's an education in itself. Hmm. And believe me while you're sitting there boxing up, like, out of time license plates at two in the morning, you're thinking to yourself, man, I should, I should have just gone to work. I should have just gone to work.

Leading it's just and I know we all go through that every indie filmmaker has that same story about just like how much of a nightmare it is. And it's like a bootcamp Brotherhood in that regard.

Alex Ferrari 22:34
No, there's no question it is it is fairly brutal. And at your level, I could only imagine and again, you had such a responsibility, because you were representing Back to the Future. So that it's not like another little indie movie that no one ever heard of, like, You're, you're doing an official doc.

Steve Concotelli 22:50
And not just that, but I couldn't pull the plug like, you know, I wanted to quit the film about a dozen times over, you know, the years just because it was exhausting and too much work and just a drain. But you can't you know, because I am representing this giant franchise, and I have to represent the best of what it is. How long did it take you from start to finish? Oh, for a little over four years, which, at the time, I thought that was forever. And then I and then as I met other indie filmmakers, I realized that's on the short end of indie filmmaking.

Alex Ferrari 23:23
Taya, Doc Doc's can go for a while.

Steve Concotelli 23:25
Yeah, I've got friends who've been making Doc's for 789 years, and they're still not done. So I, for years felt like a long time. But um, you know, it was actually bought right on par with most. And considering how much I did by myself. That was, you know, I think that was a pretty decent schedule.

Alex Ferrari 23:43
And you do come from an editing and post production background. Now, you couldn't you wouldn't have been able to make this movie unless you were the editor.

Steve Concotelli 23:50
Yeah, I don't think so. I, I've been a professional, like, television editor in Los Angeles for about 12 years now. So, you know, I knew that I needed to edit it, not just for myself, but because I had over what, 120 hours of footage. And it would have been too hard for anybody else to get up to speed on where this stuff was, you were shooting it as well. Yeah, because I shot it. And so I knew kind of where stuff was I knew how the how the restoration progressed. And then I shot all the interviews. And then I went through and logged all the interviews, so I knew where all the sound bites were. And I know several other friends who are top notch professional editors, but it would have taken them weeks just to try to get up to speed to find anything. And then you know, after working 12 hours of their day job, the last thing they want to do is come home and try to cut my film, you know, and and I couldn't have afforded any of them even if they wanted to. So it just it fell on me.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
Now can you explain to the audience and this is something I preach about a lot about tapping into an existing fan base when you're making a project because it's so invaluable? I mean, you I know. Yes. And a lot of people like Oh, he's making something for Back to the Future. That's monsters fan base. I'm like yes. But the concept is still the same is if you went out to create a product that was going to be sold to a audience, and you knew what that audience wants, and you gave that audience what they want it. And it's that that concept can go from narrative to documentary. But can you explain the power of that?

Steve Concotelli 25:20
Well, I think it would be hard to make a documentary, if you didn't already have, identify your fan base and who you're trying to appeal to. I mean, you're right back to the future. It has a gigantic fan base. And not just that, but sci fi fans tend to be very tactically adapt. You know, they're they're online, they consume digital media, they like blu rays, over DVDs, they are digital download and streaming so that they're very active online. And that's definitely the Back to the Future fan base. And, you know, trying to tap into that is is essential. I don't know if I could have made the movie without it. But even then, even with the gigantic fan base that they have, it's still difficult because my film from the outside is it's a niche film. It's a film about a car, where the car and or even a restoration.

Alex Ferrari 26:07
Yeah, is arguably it's the car.

Steve Concotelli 26:09
Yeah. And you know, a lot of people you hear that you're like, Oh, it's a, you know, it's like an episode of monster garage where they're, they're wrenching on a car for an hour. It's just like, Well, no, you know, and to try to explain what it isn't like, Oh, is it? You know, is it a documentary about, you know, behind the scenes of the filmmaking? No, that's, that's, that's not what this is. This is about the history and restoration of this screen use Time Machine. And so you know, like it, you know, every even that cuts back on the potential audience within back the feature that you can apply to? And yeah, you want to make your audience as big as possible. And, you know, thankfully, they had a very big fan base, but trying to build it from scratch. I I don't know if I could have done it.

Alex Ferrari 26:50
Well, then also, I mean, you're right, because, you know, like, perfect example. I always use this example. The Vegan vegan chef movie. Yeah. You know, you. Yeah, exactly. It's like you're like these people are interested in cooking like, Well, no, it's it's cooking. And people are interested in cooking, but it's vegan cooking. And now with vegan cooking, there's raw vegan cooking, correct. There's vegetarian, there's paleo. There's all sorts of other sub genres of the larger cooking. So same thing goes with here, there's a Back to the Future fan. And then there are fans of like, of the DeLorean. and would like to see that so that it is big, but it's still a smaller sub subset of that.

Steve Concotelli 27:29
Exactly, exactly. Yeah. And that's, you know, when you're making this film, you have no idea how big or how small that subset is going to be. And that's, that's one of the biggest risks of any filmmaking is when you take on a passion project, you know, you're you're in it to the end and, and it could fly and it could flop and you just kind of have to write it out. And whatever happens happens.

Alex Ferrari 27:49
Now when you when you finish the movie, so the movies done now, how did you mark thank goodness, thank God, it's over. It's over. I've gave I've given birth, I'm done. Yeah. Did you distribute the film yourself? Did you market the film yourself? Or did you have universal help you How did that whole process go?

Steve Concotelli 28:07
Universal, didn't help market the film itself, because, and this is, again, is the legality of a major studio. My I had licensed footage, but my film wasn't an official Universal Studios film, The featurette on the 30th anniversary, Blu Ray was but when it came time, and I made my feature length standalone version of the film, you know, they were hesitant to promote it, because oh, it's not one of our films, and blah, blah, blah. They did give me some shout outs on their Facebook page, which was great. But in terms of marketing, actually, a lot of that was once again, Joe Walzer was him, motivating and kind of, you know, gathering the troops on the Facebook pages and other social media platforms to get the word out to all the big Back to the Future. Facebook pages and user groups, and I did some discussion on the prop replica forum. You know, those guys, they love props.

Alex Ferrari 29:02
So that's, that's a whole other sub genre to like, yeah, price is the ultimate This is the ultimate prop.

Steve Concotelli 29:07
Yeah, but but in terms of distribution, I actually have a domestic distribution company for North America. And so I handed over the actual, you know, creation and distribution and getting on all the streaming services, they handled that, okay. And again, that's a whole other subject is, you know, distribution distributor versus going with an actual domestic distributor, let's, if you don't, I'm still walking through that for international.

Alex Ferrari 29:37
So let me let me ask you a question that and you can say, I don't want to talk about it, or you can answer it. Do you think that because if you would have come to me and I would have been consulting you on this project, and you would have come to me like Alex, I have this movie, it's it's about Back to the Future about the machine Time Machine. What do you think I should do? Should I try to self distribute this or should I go through a distributor for domestic We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And I would have sold you 110% that goes self distribution purely because you had such a fan base that would have turned up for Yes. Because for internationals different International, absolutely, but for self distribute for domestic, which is what I did, you know, and I had no nowhere near the fan base of Baghdad. And we have been fairly successful with it. I think you could have done gangbusters so I'm curious on why you chose that route? Because it was what year was it? When you finally released this?

Steve Concotelli 30:44
The feature came out last year 2016.

Alex Ferrari 30:46
So distribute was around self distribution is the thing. Yeah, all that thing. I looked into it. So what was the reasoning behind you choosing a traditional distributor versus a self distribution outlet? And also do you know, Mr. If you want to answer this, are you happy with your choice?

Steve Concotelli 31:02
Fair enough! Well, I won't mention my distributor by name. But you know, at the time of my thinking was this is that because of the the subject matter. It was, you know, car car based and it was kind of the way I produced it was kind of modular, I have a TV background. I was really hoping to also get it on television. And to and to do that the distributor I went with had a very solid reputation for indie Doc's high profile indie Doc's, I vetted them, because I've heard horror stories about, but yeah, terrible. So Believe me, I did my work. I vetted them against several people and in industry, people, I trusted to make sure that they had an actual reputation. And then, but I was wanted to try to get them on television rights, because I felt it was a great property for like, you know, the Back to the Future trilogy, screenings on TBS. Okay, here's an extra hour of awesome content that ties in Sure. And, and I didn't really have the method to do that myself. That was the next level up of distribution beyond me. Sure. And I needed help for that. And, and to be honest, I had done so much of this film by myself that I was ready to ask for some help. Yeah, like, you know, like, I didn't so much, I dropped the ball on so much because I was doing it by myself and details missed that I didn't want to screw up my distribution. So I was like, I want to hand it off to a group of professionals who know how to get the marketing out there the messaging who know the easiest way to get these produced for the cheapest way and and it was just, you know, it, it had everything I was looking for at the time. And so that's what I went with I mean, you know, now what I choose different Yeah, it's it's been about a wash I distributor, I have friends who have done distributor, I hear decent things. And I would certainly consider them next time around. But for this one, it just seemed like the best way to go for the situation I was in and then you're now doing an A you went through somebody else for international Actually, I just went around and around I had a company in LA that wanted to distribute internationally and then a my domestic distributors like great, you know, go sign up, it'll be awesome. And then they gave me their what they were looking for and what they wanted was out rageous expenses just outrageous as for

Alex Ferrari 33:11
Oh, you mean as far as like, you know how much it goes? There can and

Steve Concotelli 33:14
Yeah, yeah, like their their caps were just were like, more than I would ever make ever. And she's like, no, right. So now, you know, now I'm actually looking at you know, I was on the phone with the stripper just like a couple of weeks ago in terms of, do I want to do that or, or for international? Can I just put it on Vimeo, which I could do by myself. And I'm going around around with all that stuff right now.

Alex Ferrari 33:37
Still, right! Well, when we get off when we get off this interview, I'll talk to you a bit about that. So yeah. So can you did you tour at all with this film? Did you like go to conventions? Did you do anything like that?

Steve Concotelli 33:49
Yeah, I did. Actually, I went to a couple of the comic conventions where we screened the film and then I gave a couple of Q and A's. I went to San Jose Comic Con Philly Comic Con, I went to Salt Lake Comic Con a couple weeks ago. And then I actually I went to DeLorean DCs, which is the DeLorean convention that they have every two years, I went and spoke there and showed the film. So not like a full fledged tour. But but enough that I'm tired of flying all over talking about it. But yeah. And that was great. Like the convention stuff is, is fun, and especially when Back to the Future, had a large representation at all those conventions I went to, like, I went to the ones that Chris Lloyd was at that Michael J. Fox was at so there was already just a huge back of the future fan base there. And that's why I selected those.

Alex Ferrari 34:40
Now, did you sell anything there while you were there? Or I guess, okay,

Steve Concotelli 34:44
No, I whenever I went, I always had a table and I would sell some copies. And, you know, some days were more successful than others. You know, most of the time you sit there like, you know, the guy at the table with 20 copies of his movie he's trying to peddle you know, like I've been there

Alex Ferrari 34:59
A bit that night. It's Yeah, it's brutal.

Steve Concotelli 35:01
You know, you're that guy. But I always tried to at least hedge my bets, you know, so Terry and Oliver holler, they, they drive around the country, and they're, they're back to the time machine raising money for the Michael J. Fox foundation. And they're very well known, and they're at all the conventions. So if I was at a convention with them, I would try to get a table close to them, because there would be all the fans around the car, you know, and I tried to parlay as much as I could. But even then, you know, it's, it's still hard and, and breaking through and letting people know what my film was, was always the biggest hurdle. Just like, what what is this film? What is it about? You know, and that's, you know, I could I could list 1000 things that I did wrong on this film. And you know, and cutting through the clutter and having, you know, a clear title and, and letting fans clearly know what your film is about. It got a little muddy in there, and I'm even now I'm still trying to what is what's your movie about? I've never heard of it. What is it? Right, right.

Alex Ferrari 36:02
Now, did you? Did you get to meet? Meet Bob Zemeckis at all? I don't remember he was in the dock or not.

Steve Concotelli 36:08
No, no. Bob Zemeckis was not in the dock. I met Bob, very briefly once a few months ago and on it back to the future, an unrelated thing. But the only people I've met, I know Bob Gale, very well. I met Claudia wells, who was Jennifer Parker. I know her pretty well. Okay. I met Chris Lloyd. I met him a few times Tom Wilson. Never met Michael J. Fox, though because he was he was never at the same conventions that I was at. But, you know, like, it's if there's ever a Back to the Future thing in Los Angeles, and they're all there. I'm sure I will be there and get a chance to meet them. No, I mean, it's, it's it's cool. But again, like, you're in it for so long. After a while you're like, yeah, it's cool. But I'm okay. Sitting this one out. No, no,

Alex Ferrari 36:51
I did. Yeah. After you're on the same project for years and years and years. Because for you, it's not just a year that the movies been out. You've been on this? half a decade. Yeah.

Steve Concotelli 37:01
Yeah. Easy. Yeah. And it's just, and even now, you know, we're still promoting it and and back, the future still continues to be popular. And they're always talking about, you know, putting up fan events in the upcoming years. You know, they did a huge 30th back to the feature fan event in 2015. I don't know if you were a part of that at all, or if you went to it. Not at all. It was put on by Joe Walzer like the same guy who did the restoration. Of course, he's the one who put on this massive like five day back to the teacher, superfan event. And so like, you know, we were out at the pointy Hills Mall where they had a big like, they had a big twin pines mall sign built and put in the same place. And they had Doc's truck and you get pictures in front of it. I mean, it was it was like fan insanity. That's like a man like

Alex Ferrari 37:48
That's like mecca for back oh was like going like that it's going to that mall? Yeah, it's still there.

Steve Concotelli 37:54
Oh, yeah, the mall still there. And not only that, but they they screened the movie in the mall, like in the parking lot there. And then, of course, when they have the scene, you know what the terrorists they did, they reenacted it live in sync. So Marty drives the dorians driving around the crowd, and the VW is chasing around and there's 1000 fans just screaming their heads off. It's just like, like, this is just insanity. You know, like, it's so surreal. You can't even believe it's actually happening.

Alex Ferrari 38:20
That's that that must be insane.

Steve Concotelli 38:22
Yeah, Yeah,it was. It was mind blowing. And yeah, like 10 year old me like growing up in the Midwest and seeing Back to the Future on the screen. Like, if he saw that he'd be like, Well done, old Steve. Well done. Like that. That was a dream come true. Now, did you?

Alex Ferrari 38:37
Did you talk to Bob a lot. And you've been involved with Bob a lot? Did you discover any inside stories about the making of Back to the Future you could share?

Steve Concotelli 38:45
You know, oddly enough? No, I, I really, I really didn't. And actually, at the same time casting Gaines put out a book, which was like, we don't need roads. I think it was called the Back to the Future history, which had all those stories. So I just read his book. Oh, oh, these are the stories I didn't know. But but with Bob, you know, I honestly I tread pretty lightly. I when I when I'm around him. I try to be very cautious of his time. And I try to be very respectful because he's, he's still working. He's still a very busy guy, you know, he's got 1000 things to do. And, you know, I try to be cautious and I try not to, I try not to do the fan stuff. You know him. You know what I mean by that, like,

Alex Ferrari 39:28
I've been around like celebrity fans. And imagine when you're working with a person you idolize, or you're working with someone, you have a tremendous amount of respect, and you just want to kind of geek out to Yeah, it's tough. And trust me, I've been in I've been in a room with huge celebrities and movies that I want to that I grew up with, and I just want to go take a picture of you. Can you sign this for me? Like but you can't because you're professional?

Steve Concotelli 39:55
Yeah, you know, and I crossed over from that fandom into professional You know, back to feature filmmaker Domine. And you know, you don't want to, he gets the fan stuff all the time at the conventions. And that's great. And he loves it, but when I'm around him, I want to be the professional and, and you know, every time I would contact him because I needed help with something, you know, Shabaab, what do I do? You know, universal is not calling back. What should I do about this? And but, you know, it's mostly like, I'm in trouble, Bob, what am I gonna do?

Alex Ferrari 40:25
Right, as opposed to? So Bob, how was it in the first day of shooting?

Steve Concotelli 40:28
Yeah, no, I like every now and then he'd be telling those stories while people were in the room and I would listen, but I, I never really, really went down that road. You know, one thing I did say to him though, is when I was in production on and I was pretty far along I said, you know, Bob, making this film is the hardest thing I've ever done. I had no idea just how insanely hard it would be and he shakes his hand he goes yeah, you know, like nobody nobody understands how hard it is to produce a film and and you know, Back to the Future was a terribly difficult film to produce especially with Eric Stoltz Nadir reshoot a bunch of it. Like, I put myself in his shoes being what, you know, like a 32 year old producer, with this giant film and millions of dollars bleeding out and like, you're never gonna make another movie again. If this bombs, like the pressure, he must have been under you know, I think Bob's the bowels as they call it. Yeah. Yeah. You know, I, I kind of think about that and empathize about that, because, you know, my film is is not even on the same level, but it's still stressful and hard. And, and I think that's why Bob and I kind of got along because he he understands that what being a producer isn't the sacrifice and the troubleshooting and just the misery that that's involved with it because he's done it

Alex Ferrari 41:36
Is the misery It really is. And for people who don't know they're listening. If you watch Back to the Future, that Michael J Fox was not the original Marty McFly. It was Eric stolte. And they'd shot what like, a third of it, I think third of the movie with Eric Stoltz. And you see some of that in the behind the scenes on the blu ray. And you just you that the call had to be made that someone that Robert Zemeckis had to go to Spielberg and go, look, yeah, we got to recast and like, yeah. Oh, can you imagine? No,

Steve Concotelli 42:11
I can't imagine that competition at all. It's just like, you know, the heartache or even like when you're when they're shooting with Eric Stoltz, you know, great actor, but just imagine looking at your dailies just going to yourself, JJ. This movie's gonna be bad. This is like he's just he's great. But he's not good for this. And just just imagine that that that sinking feeling, you know, of like, are we ever going to work in this town again, I I have nothing but tremendous empathy for them as producers now and you know, all of us who have been indie producers, because it's so it's such a hard damn job that you can't even begin to describe how hard it is.

Alex Ferrari 42:46
Yeah, we were in we're indie guys. So it's a bit difference. We do have pressures, but I cannot imagine the pressures of millions of dollars. Yeah, totally. It just on top of you in a studio and, and a concept like Back to the Future, which was, it was a pretty out there concept. Yeah, it was with a question.

Steve Concotelli 43:06
Yeah. But again, what's what's great about Bob is he again, he's very producer, he were, you know, I'm like, Bob, I'm making this film. And his opinion is kind of like, you know what, go for it. Give it a shot, give it a try. And that's such a producer thing to say, No, just throw it up against the wall and see what sticks. You know, don't edit yourself. Don't stop yourself from trying it. Just go and try it and see what happens. Now,

Alex Ferrari 43:27
Why do you think back to the future is such a classic and is touched so many people?

Steve Concotelli 43:34
So you're you're getting into fandom now? I told you I was gonna get I know, I know. But it's, I think everybody listening who's a fan knows at all knows the answer to that already. And it's just because it's, it's a timeless story. It's, it's a sci fi movie. It's a romance. It's an action movie. You know, it's an it's all these different movies combined into one and every, every line of the script is perfect, and it's tight. And it just propels the story forward every single second, you know, not not a second wasted on screen. And, and you know, even when I saw it, I was too young to understand the going back and visiting your parents stuff like that time machine, man, just like still to this day when I see those scenes, like my heart still skips a beat. And I've sat in that car hundreds of times. And like I still like, get you know, I feel my pulse race just because of how cool it is. And my wife teases me. And just like how can you even sit and watch this movie? After all the times? You've seen it making your film I like because it still excites me. It is it is it for me. It's I remember I remember going to see it in 1985 Yeah, me too. I

Alex Ferrari 44:43
Remember going to the theater, seeing it and my mind being absolutely blown. You know, that was that there was that wonderful, wonderful time in the 80s that so many great movies were made like 80 from at Walmart. It's just so many great movies. 85 summer of 85 was amazing. memory

Steve Concotelli 45:00
Or Yeah, you're talking my language now like I was I was 10 when back the video came out so I was just a little on the young side, but I was still in that sweet spot for all those awesome, awesome 80s movies I mean, between Ghostbusters theaters gram backs future Gremlins and that Goonies but here's another one that it's one of my Joe Walzer. It's one of our favorites. And nobody ever talks about an explorer. So it's amazing. I love him waters, like so many people don't know, explorers at all. And yet, that's one of my favorite quintessential 80s teenager. You know, films. I

Alex Ferrari 45:34
Love everything about them. I would also throw flight of the Navigator in there. Yeah. And then I would also throw in Monster Squad. Yeah, Monster Squad. Absolutely. Toss those guys into that because those are also lesser known. Yeah, no, because The Goonies took you know, took over. But now we're geeking out in the 80s movies. And we could I could talk about 80s a whole episode on

Steve Concotelli 45:56
What's funny is actually in a way Goonies kind of kicked off my whole out of time movie in a way I owe it to Goonies. Why? And, and I'll tell that story real quick. In 2010, before I knew anybody, like actually was before that, but I, I had put together a parody trailer, you know, that when the mashups were really popular? Well, I did a mashup I did a mash up of Goonies of The Goonies meets Pirates of the Caribbean, okay. And I'm a professional editor. So what I did was I took both films, professionally, digitize them, and cut together like a professional trailer, not you know, not what and it looked, it looked real. And it was called Goonies of the Caribbean. And when you watch the trailer, it has a plot, like The Goonies discover, you know, the ship, and then the pirates come out. And it was this whole thing, and it was really well done. And it was popular online. And in fact, I got an email from dick Donner one day telling me how much he liked my trailer. And he's just like, and remember, Goonies never say die. And I'm just like, Dick Donner. Just make me a Guney. I'm like, I call on it. I'm on it. Like, yeah, he did. But that story aside, one day, I get an email from a guy who's just like, hey, you'd like Goonies and like, Yeah, because check this out. And he sent me a photo of Corey Feldman is an adult sitting in a time machine. And I said, Who are you? And where is that? He goes, I'm My name is Joe Walter. It's my time machine. And I'm like, I've got to meet you. And then like, two days later, I was at his condo checking out his time machine, and we've been friends ever since. And then

Alex Ferrari 47:25
I've heard that before I was checking out Scott. Okay.

Steve Concotelli 47:28
Yeah. And Joe ended up he is the head of the restoration. But that's how I met is because Joe saw my Goonies pirates trailer online and emailed me about it. Tell me how much he liked it. And that started this whole weird adventure. So The Goonies Goonies are at the core of everything. You got

Alex Ferrari 47:43
an email from dick Donner?

Steve Concotelli 47:45
It did it was, it was amazing. I couldn't believe it. Like, you know, like, oh, you're always afraid that they're gonna say, Thank you take that down. Right now. We will sue you, you know, like, something like that. But he, he said, it just tickled his fancy, and he really liked it. So I'm just like, boy, I'm framing that one. That's awesome. Yeah. I see smile thinking about that one.

Alex Ferrari 48:05
So I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Steve Concotelli 48:14
Boy, I don't know. Because I feel like I'm still trying to break into the business to be honest. Like I don't like you should go ask a successful multimillionaire film producer that question because if I knew the answer, I'd be doing it. You know,

Alex Ferrari 48:25
But you've been doing it. You've been in the business for 10,15 years now. Yeah. You're a little, you're a little ahead of the film students. So

Steve Concotelli 48:33
Yeah, advice for that? I do have an answer. If, if there's one field that you want to do, whether it's writing for scripted TV writing features you're in or whatever you want to do, in college intern at the company you want to intern at in college, if you that will set you on the right foot for everything else that follows. So if you get an internship with, you know, like, say, NBC Universal or on one of your favorite TV shows, as an intern, you get to sit in the writers room, you get to meet the people, you get to know how things work, and then they'll be more inclined to hire you as a PA. And once you're a PA, they'll be more inclined to hire you because you know, all the ropes are ready. If you get you can get into the place. You want to work early as an intern. Do it and that will set you on the right path.

Alex Ferrari 49:20
That's a great advice. That's exactly what I did in college. I worked at Universal in Florida. Oh, there you go. Yes, I was working in the backlog all through all throughout my I actually skipped school to work for free. It was

Steve Concotelli 49:31
Oh, that was awesome. Yeah, I interned out here for a few companies. So I did it, but they were they were feature companies and I just didn't end up doing feature. So but yeah, great experience and that that will help more than anything else.

Alex Ferrari 49:44
Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Steve Concotelli 49:50
I wasn't prepared for these questions.

Alex Ferrari 49:51
I know you weren't. You have anything? On top of your head?

Steve Concotelli 49:58
No I don't you know, I will give a shout out I one book that that pops to mind that I really, really enjoyed is Rebel Without a crew. Yeah, of course, Robert. But um, yeah, I mean, that's just that's such a filmmaker go to, because any any book that details, the horrible struggles of any other filmmaker I want to read. Like, I want to know that every other filmmaker is having just as much of a miserable time as I did you know when that's comforting. I don't say that to be mean, I say that in terms of comfort, because because making films is hard. And it's an even successful people struggle with it. And I like knowing that

Alex Ferrari 50:37
You don't want to hear from somebody, you know, I had a great time. It was easy.

Steve Concotelli 50:41
No, no. Because odds are they're lying, or they just had some kind of CO EP credit where they just show up once a week and walked around the set and home like, No, you weren't involved. You didn't do it? No, now it's just like, yeah, like, I want to know, the real stories. And again, in making this film, one of the great things is that at the conventions, I get to meet a lot of the other indie filmmakers. And we all have the same stories about how hard it is, and the studios and this and that, and it's just, and you realize that when things go wrong, it's not that it's not that you're doing things wrong. It's simply part of the process. Like that's making if you're, if things aren't going wrong, you're not making a film, right.

Alex Ferrari 51:20
Got some great tag. That's a great quote, sir.

Steve Concotelli 51:23
Feel free to use it

Alex Ferrari 51:24
That's a great quote. Now, What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Steve Concotelli 51:32
In this film, it's Don't try to do everything yourself? Okay? battle, that alone was the biggest mistake. And the biggest hurdle that I kind of essentially threw up in front of myself, was I took I took on way too much of this project by myself. And I, like I wrote the film, I produced it, I shot it, I directed it, and I cut it. And I did all the graphics, I ran the Kickstarter, I designed the web page, I designed the DVD sleeve, like I cut the trailers, I cut all the bonus features, like I literally and I say that not as a source of pride, but more of a source of embarrassment, that, that I didn't bring in more people, but you know, at the time, this stuff takes a lot of time, and people people want to be paid. And I didn't have the money to pay people and, and when you and then if they do it on their own time, it would have taken another three years to get done. Because they you know, cut for 20 minutes here an hour here. And I was on a I was on a deadline. So I I ended up doing way too much by myself and details were constantly kind of falling through the cracks, or falling through the cracks and dropping and, and it was just, you know, the nature of trying to do too much as an individual and I yeah, having a team of like two or three people who are all equally dedicated, who will have an equal share in it, that will all support each other and not have anybody bail i think is critical. And makes things a lot easier because you can hand stuff off if you need to.

Alex Ferrari 52:59
Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Steve Concotelli 53:02
Ah, let's see Max, if I would. Well, actually, I would say on the top of the list I put It's a Wonderful Life, okay, which which is not unlike Back to the Future you know, it's it's seeing what happens life without you, you know, when a different path and there's a little bit of time travel and mystery in there. So I would say that and then back to the future. Definitely number two. I would put Ghostbusters at number three, I would put you know, the Star Wars you know, the original trilogy somewhere, you know, for Raiders five, and then you just start getting into all the other you know, awesome 80s movies. It's simply a list of babies and I totally admit it you know, it's Yeah, again, I put explorers up there you know, even though the alien third act is really weird and Goofy and a little a little clownish but I still I still love it. Yeah, I you can definitely tell that I grew up completely within the 80s and that's you know, they're they're my favorite films and

Alex Ferrari 53:59
So that's why you must love Stranger Things.

Steve Concotelli 54:01
You know what I do? I haven't finished second season don't spoil it but yeah, I'm I'm savoring this one. I'm savoring it going slow. Yeah, I love it's funny because when I watch Stranger Things, I think to myself, none of us made proton packs that look that good in the 80s since like, that's my eyes like we get cardboard boxes. None of ours look that good.

Alex Ferrari 54:23
I actually I was I dressed up i think i think it was the six I think it was at five actually. I think it was 85 I dressed up and we did a whole show on my school and I was one of the Ghostbusters and yeah, I did not look that good.

Steve Concotelli 54:37
No, but it's so funny because all of my friends like obviously since I made a movie about the restoration of the time machine. I have come to know a lot of very very good fan prop makers including all the Ghostbuster guys all the Back to the Future guys all the aliens guys. And so like you know their their proton packs and stuff now, our screen accurate and like they have the full sighs Actos like in their yard like that's how big my fans my friends are. But, but like, yeah seeing like all of us have pictures of us in the 80s dressed just like those kids like oh my god I almost have that photo being my friends dress

Alex Ferrari 55:14
Like Ghostbusters the 80s That's insane. And that is the genius of the duffer brothers.

Steve Concotelli 55:18
Yeah, that's Oh my god. Yeah, they they got everything right on that one, you know, but again, I would love to know the story of how hard it was them to try to get the series made anywhere else. Those are the great stories of you know how back to the teacher was rejected by everybody how jaws almost didn't get made because they went you know, over budget over time. The stories behind the your favorite films of how they were disasters are the stories I love the most.

Alex Ferrari 55:43
Absolutely. Now, where can where can people find you and find information about you your work, and also the movie.

Steve Concotelli 55:49
The movie, they can go to my website, it's outatimemovie.com and out of time is spelled like the license plate. It's outatimemovie.com The movie is currently available on iTunes, Hulu, Vimeo, and it's also available on blu ray and DVD. And we ship worldwide. And it's all All the links are available through the website. And if they want to email me if they want to criticize my film, you know, tell me that my filmmaking isn't that hard and that I'm wrong or that explores isn't awesome. They can contact me through the website because as I said before, I run the website because I literally do everything related to the film. It comes straight to me. It's not some big team of people, although I wish it were.

Alex Ferrari 56:35
Steven, thank you so much for taking the time out to do this man. It's been an absolute pleasure. geeking out with you and also talking, talking shop with you, man.

Steve Concotelli 56:42
Absolutely. And hey, I just want to say keep up the good work. I love the podcasts. I love hearing other indie filmmakers stories. And thank you for doing this. We appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 56:51
Oh, brother. Thank you, man. I appreciate that. Man, it was great talking about Back to the Future a lot and having Steve on the show and, and really just discovering his whole journey of how he was able to put this this kind of crazy film together. So Steve, thank you again so much for being on the show. And if you guys want links to anything we discussed in this episode, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/212. And also want to let you guys know that Udemy is having its New Year's Day resolution sale, every single course on Udemy now is 10.99 including all of our Udemy courses. So just head over to indiefilmhustlecom/udemy and download as many of these courses as you can get your new year off started, right? We've got about 13-14 courses up there, as well got a couple of new ones about Facebook, if you want to get anything really understand about Facebook, and also goal setting, how to set up your goals for 2018 and how to achieve those goals. We have those two new courses as well. So any film hustle.com forward slash Udemy. And as always keep that hustle going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




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IFH 134: Chasing Sly and the Family Stone Documentary for 12 years with Michael Rubenstone

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SPECIAL SUNDANCE EDITION of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast

We all hear stories of filmmakers working on films for years and years. Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve never met one until now. In my journeys at Sundance and Slamdance, I met one of these crazy and passionate filmmakers, his name is Michael Rubenstone. Michael the director of the documentary On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone, which premiered at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival. 

When I heard his crazy story I had to have him on the show. Michael has been chasing Sly from Sly and the Family Stones for over 12 years. The stories he told us in the interview were insane. Talk about passion. We can all learn something about dedication, persistence and just plain nuts.

Here’s a bit about the film: Director and super-fan Michael Rubenstone sets out in search of long-time reclusive funk legend, Sly Stone. Along the way, he meets with some success but finds countless more failures in trying to capture a man who refuses to be contained.

Have you ever sat in your parked car for several minutes, just to hear the end of a song on the radio or savor the feeling that such a song gave you? In On the Sly, a music fan’s archival fervor and optimistic investigation take us beyond a sensationalized or simplified history of Sly and the Family Stone and bring us into a world where it is unthinkable to turn off the radio before the song is through.

The elusiveness of frontman Sly prompts both filmmaker and viewer to consider how much we project onto our heroes, and how their continued inaccessibility is, despite our frustration, often vital to continuing the work of discovering ourselves and how we use music and art to bond with one another beyond simply moving our bodies to the beat. – Beth Prouty, Slamdance Programmer

Sit back and enjoy the amazing conversation I and my co-host Teri Gamble had with director Michael Rubenstone.

All of these Sundance Series episodes are co-produced by Sebastian Twardosz from Circus Road Films and Media Circus.



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