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How to Build a Profitable Horror Film with Stephen Follows
Today on the show we have returning champion Stephen Follows. In this Halloween themed episode, we dive into Stephen’s opus, The Horror Report. The report was created by using data on every horror film ever made, a data-driven dive into everything from development, production, and distribution to recoupment and profitability.
Stephen Follows is an established data researcher in the film industry whose work has been featured in the New York Times, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Evening Standard, Newsweek, The News Statesman, AV Club, and Indiewire.
He acted as an industry consultant and guest on the BBC Radio 4 series The Business of Film, which was topped the iTunes podcast chart, and has consulted for a wide variety of clients, including the Smithsonian in Washington. He has been commissioned to write reports for key film industry bodies and his most recent study, looking at gender inequity in the UK film industry and was launched on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ program.
Stephen has taught at major film schools, normal business schools, and minor primary schools. His lessons range established topics from Producing at MA and BA level, online video and the business of film producing to more adventurous topics such as measuring the unmeasurable, advanced creative thinking and the psychology of film producing. He has taught at the National Film and Television School (NFTS), Met Film School, NYU, Filmbase, and on behalf of the BFI, the BBC, and the British Council.
Stephen has produced over 100 short films and two features. Past clients range from computer game giants, technology giants, and sporting giants but sadly no actual giants. He’s shot people in love, in the air, on the beach, and on fire (although not at the same time) across over a dozen different countries in locations ranging from the Circle Line to the Arctic Circle.
Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Stephen Follows.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- BlackBox – Make Passive Income From Your Footage
- $1 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
Alex Ferrari 1:22
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Stephen Follows How you doing, brother?
Steven Follows 3:01
I'm good. Thank you. I didn't realize I'd won. So
Alex Ferrari 3:03
Steven Follows 3:04
I'm the champion.
Alex Ferrari 3:05
You are a returning champion, because you were on the show once before a very popular episode about what was the best? It was like the report on independent filmmaking basically correct.
Steven Follows 3:18
Yeah, that particular one was about we had access to 12,000 unproduced scripts, mostly unproduced scripts, and we were analyzing them for because we also had the scores from readers as well. So what do readers think a good script looks like? And we went through in lots of different different areas of detail.
Alex Ferrari 3:33
It was insane. And like I was saying, before we got on the show is even I mean, I'm such a fan of what you do, because I just can't do it and, and it's just an insane amount of research that you put into these reports. That is, it is awe inspiring, honestly, it really is. So that's why I had to have you back on the show because you know, when I first discovered you I've known about you for a long time but when you jumped on the show we were going to talk about the independent film screenwriting and report but then I when I went back to your site I noticed like wait a minute, what is this and there was a horror report on every horror movie ever made. And I'm like, What is this and when I had you I'm like listen you're coming back on the show cuz we need to talk about this whole report because this is such a valuable information on arguably one of the most popular genres in all of independent filmmaking without question and it's so much good information there's I wanted to dig deep into what you discovered in that horror report but again, thank you for the work you do man because you what you do nobody else on the planet does.
Steven Follows 4:40
Yeah, well that that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing. It just means it's a unique thing. Exactly. The fact that you didn't find the report till he went back there for another reason just goes to show how poor I am at Marv. Yes, yeah, I can do the research and put it out there. But that's that's about it. But one thing I did want to say before we kick off properly is just to thank you as well because you're Your community are awesome. I had so many great questions and comments and notes and stuff people sent me they can contact me via my contact page, you go straight on my website go straight to me. And a lot of people said, Hey, I heard you on the podcast. And there was some really intelligent questions. There was some really useful ideas and thoughts and just a lovely group of people. So yeah, keep that up. And thanks so much for having me on.
Alex Ferrari 5:23
Oh, I appreciate that. The tribe is awesome, without question, and that that specific episode, which I will link in the show notes was exploded, people went crazy for it, it really kind of went a little viral. And it was downloaded, I think, easily 10s of 1000s of times. So it was it was done. It reached a lot of a lot of people because people are curious. And it's such a unique angle on what makes an independent film. Good. Well, let's, let's look at the numbers.
Steven Follows 5:54
Yeah, yeah, it's so it's so weird. It's unusual in the sense that I have friends who either successful in other businesses as investors or, or just run other businesses and other walks of life. And every now and then they hear something about the film industry. And they're like, what, how is that possible? How is that sustainable? And I'm like, it's not, but we just keep doing it. And it's kind of like the wily coyote running off the cliff, no one looked down, nobody, an independent film looked down. If one of you does, we're all screwed
Alex Ferrari 6:23
It's you know, and it's very true that and that's one of the reasons why I launched filmtrepreneur is because I wanted to give people some sort of blueprint on actually how to build a sustainable business around it and to think differently about independent films. And I really hope today's episode helps in that way, by looking at the horror genre, as you know, not only as a genre, but as a product, and then how you can kind of position yourself to kind of be in the best place to to actually be profitable.
Steven Follows 6:55
Absolutely. And it's one of those things that a lot of independent filmmakers see horror, as a good way in and for a few reasons, you know, a lot of filmmakers enjoy watching horror films. But also horror films can be made on quite low budgets, and also in the audience are much more willing to go with lower budgets, in fact, arguably, lower budgets can be really beneficial, because horror is about what you don't see. Whereas some of these really expensive genres. It's much more about what you do see, and so you can't do Lord of the Rings in your back garden. But you can do a horror film you can do in your shed, you know,
Alex Ferrari 7:30
Actually, I would love to see Lord of the Rings in the back garden. I mean, I think that anyone listening out there, if you can do that, and in a miniature standpoint, I think it'd be genius.
Steven Follows 7:39
Given where we are with YouTube nowadays, I'm sure it's been done and people are already linking in the show notes.
Alex Ferrari 7:45
Exactly. So for anybody who doesn't know you and your work, sir, can you tell the audience a little bit about you and what you do?
Steven Follows 7:54
Yeah, I'm a film, data stats person. It's not really a job. That's why it's hard to describe.
Alex Ferrari 8:00
You're the only one if you're the only one I love.
Steven Follows 8:03
Yeah. Yeah. So my name is my job title. And no. So I, I actually run a production company in London. And we make we videos and do sort of various bits of marketing stuff for charities in the in London. And that's my day job. And then kind of part time hobby thing that goes out control has been, I've always been really keen on teaching and sharing knowledge and understanding how things work, and sort of slightly a quirk of fate and then keeping going. I have a blog that's been running now for about six years, that looks each week, I look at a different topic within the film industry. And I try and find the data that could reveal what's going on. And sometimes it's data that we all know, but it's a different spin on it. And sometimes, and the most interesting ones are when I'm doing my own primary research, or there's new areas that we haven't thought about. So, for example, I just published an article looking at weather first time directors are a financial risk compared to more experienced directors.
Alex Ferrari 8:57
Yeah, I actually saw that I saw that fly through my feed. So and what's the what's the answer, sir?
Steven Follows 9:04
Yeah, they're slightly more risky, but only not by very much, and certainly not by the amount the industry says. And I think that a lot of what I find, actually reflects that truth, which is, most stereotypes most cliches most urban myths have. Industry myths have some germ or idea or seed of not of truth in them, but they're blown all our proportion and to the detriment of many people. And what that causes is that you end up with disenfranchising all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. So I think what I like is to is to go back and have a look at the data and say, well, Is this true? And so to what extent and if so, why, you know, what is it about that, that makes first time directors more experience, more of a risk or less of a risk and, and where as well because we talk about the film industry, if it's what is if it's one thing, but you can't lump in a small film in a, you know, Hobbs insure type movie, you can't lump in different genres, different audiences, and also different platforms. So there's so many different ways of cutting up what we do. And we call it one industry that you always have to get under the surface. There's no one truth that's going to work for all films in all places.
Alex Ferrari 10:13
Yeah, that's the one thing I find. So I've in my tenure over 20 odd years in the business that I've found, so just irritating. Is that hole, that kind of those the industry myths, like, I remember a time where I was out there pitching a female lead action movie. And all I heard was, oh, they don't make money. They don't make money. They don't make money. And now they're making money. You know, it's like, it's like, ridiculous, or there was no Latino, you know, Latino, or people of color, don't direct it. They just get their movies don't do well, like how ridiculous is that? And yet, the last five out of six best Oscar winners were were Latinos.
Steven Follows 10:57
Yeah. Directors. Yeah, something something could have been true. And absolutely. might be true for good reason. No, it might be true. Just because the enough you measure enough things, you're going to get some bizarre correlations, you know, you flip a coin enough, you're going to get 20 heads in a row. That doesn't mean it's a biased coin. And so for example, pirate movies didn't work. Everyone knew pirate movies failed, until they were the biggest thing ever. And
Alex Ferrari 11:20
Swords and sandals, swords and sandals movies as well.
Steven Follows 11:23
Exactly. It's all cyclical like that. And so yeah, it's one of those things that I'm really interested in trying to understand why these industry, myths and systems are the way they are so that we can all work out what to learn from them, because we can't just follow the facts, because first of all, the facts aren't clear, in all cases. And then second of all, we're in this because we love it. And I often say I often talk about this, because I think anyone who succeeds in film could have a far better career and far easier time and better working hours more certainty, if they weren't in almost any other field. And yeah, we all love this, we're all slightly mad, and that's great. But given that you're being mad doesn't mean you have to be crazy about it. You know, like, if you're gonna go off and make a film and put far too much time and energy into it. That doesn't mean you just do it any way you want, do the smart way. Because you're much more likely to achieve the goals that you set out for yourself and say are important. And I think that's what data can do. He can't tell you what to do. But it can say given that you want to do X, what's the smart way of doing x?
Alex Ferrari 12:24
Right. And again, and that's what I that's what I love about your work is that you're able to look at your you're basically having filmmakers look at the film industry differently, you're out, you're thinking outside the box a little bit, and you're going at it through data like this, like, Look, there's no argument here. This is the data. And this is what the data says, I don't care what anybody else says, I don't care what the myths are. This is what the data says, and this kind of movies doing this money in this how much is done over the last 500 years, or excuse me for a few hours, or so on. And, and, and you're thinking about it differently. And that's what I hope filmstrip runners do is they start thinking about filmmaking, as a completely different beast than what they were taught in school, or what the industry even tells them is the reality.
Steven Follows 13:10
And and also, the thing is two things to say about that as well, which I totally agree. One is that even if someone says to you, this isn't going to make money, or these things don't normally work or it's a bigger risk than something else, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. You know, what you do with that information is up to you. Like all I'm doing is saying this has been the case and you should follow your heart, you should do what you know is right. And the second thing to say is that if we only did what worked before we'd never have any innovation would never have anything different. And God knows in the creative fields, you can reinvent anything, you know, you can have films that are hugely derivative that are very successful, you can have original films that are very bad. There's nothing to say that because it hasn't happened. It won't happen in the future. The key is to understand why the trends are the way they are, and then feed that into your own machine in your head about what here's what I care about. This is what I know, this is what I can do differently and then make informed choices for yourself.
Alex Ferrari 14:03
Right I mean, horror films that I've been extremely successful like paranormal activity, or Blair Witch, which are the two that everyone uses constantly. As a reference point, I like look all horror movies make this money? No, they don't. But, but on paper, both those films sound horrific. And I don't mean that in a good way. They sound like absolute failures on paper. Like if you would have come to me and told me Hey, I'm going to make a movie about you know, shot really low budge this this or this back then everybody traditional thinking would have said absolutely not, that's never going to work and it's never gonna make any money. You're never gonna see this in the theater. But yet, it's there. They're two of the most successful films of all time in the genre for a reason
Steven Follows 14:49
Totally, totally. And this is a survivorship bias there as well. You know, found footage films, so there's quite a lot of the made because they're so cheap to make. So it's not surprising that one of the most successful films will be found footage film doesn't mean it's not an important part of it, it just means if you have 10,000 of any type of film made, one or two of them are going to be wildly successful. Whereas if you're setting out to make the 10 1000s and first film, do you have a better chance than if you made a different type of film? And maybe this other type of film doesn't have any of these outliers that give you really sexy numbers, but you know, three quarters of the make money? What's, what's your risk profile? What do you want to do? Do you want to shoot for the moon? and buy a lottery ticket? Or do you want to do something consistently and safely? And they're all valid answers? As I said, everything we're doing is stupid. So there's no such thing as like, Oh, you shouldn't have done that. It's like, No, no, no, no, no, we've all run away to join the circus is just you know, what, how we live in that circus. And what we do is totally up to our own passion and interest.
Alex Ferrari 15:48
No, with without great, I love that, like, you know, buy a lottery ticket. I think most independent filmmakers do buy a lottery ticket every time, every single time out there just like, well, this is going to be I'm going to get into Sundance and this is going to make it and boom, boom, boom, and I'm off and running, where you and I both know that that's not the way this business runs. And there is no other business. And I've said this multiple times, there is no other business in the world that I know of that will spend 300,000 $500,000 on a product, and yet, do not have a plan to market and sell that product or recoup its investment. A solid plan is my man.
Steven Follows 16:29
No, you're totally right. And also, each of these films is a prototype, you know, the most derivative film is still somewhat of a prototype, maybe not, maybe maybe the 20th version of something maybe less of a prototype, but fundamentally what business spends all this massive amount of money on prototypes without distribution without marketing plans, distribution plans, and then has to go back to the drawing board. Again, we're almost all businesses, if you look at the opposite, which is drug companies where they spend a fortune to make the first pill, and then they can churn them out for next to nothing and recoup their r&d costs. You know, we have the first half of that and not the second half. Because you have a successful film, especially indie film, well done. What's next? Oh, yeah, I'm gonna rip off all this up, start again.
Alex Ferrari 17:09
Exactly. Now, are you familiar with the blue ocean? Red ocean theory? No, no, no, I'm not. So there's a book called Blue Ocean red ocean. And the concept is in this is for entrepreneurs, but I, as a film intrapreneur, I'm actually applying it to filmmaking. And I think this when you said 10,001, of this kind of genre film, like, let's say, the found footage film, when paranormal activity. And actually, when Blair Witch showed up, they were the first one of the first if not the first, to be in that ocean, that ocean where we would call a blue ocean, which is an ocean that has plenty of fish in it, no competition, because nobody is there. While the red ocean would be, let's say, a slasher film, where there's tons of movies being made or ghost movie, tons of movies in that space are being made. So there's a lot that you know, there's hundreds of those movies bumped out a year. So there's a lot more competition for that audience for that customer. Because they are, you know, that's why there's blood in the water, because it's just like, it's a feeding frenzy. There. So there is a lot of fish, but there's also a lot of competition, and everyone's just killing each other trying to get to that to those customers, where if you go with a blue ocean strategy, you build a product that is going to be a little riskier, possibly. But if you do it more intelligently using data, like we're going to talk about you right, you're you're able to, to, to, to shave off the risk as much. And also, if it hits, you're alone. So that's why like when Paranormal Activity showed up, there was nothing like it before it but also the risk of it was nothing It cost $27,000. So why not try to do something in the blue ocean? Because if it does pop, great. And if it doesn't pop, you still have lost? You know, if you keep keep that overhead low, you're able to still recoup that money faster. Does that make any sense?
Steven Follows 19:04
Yeah, totally. And I think also you have to remember, if you're thinking purely about horror, you need to think about what is it that people want from low budget horror, they want something I've never seen before. And so if you're just iterating on what someone else has done, okay, if you truly made it a little bit better, but fundamentally, if you're just iterating you need to have another edge. You know, you need to have stars, you need to have distribution, you need to have something or maybe the fourth film in a series, okay, fine. But otherwise, if you really want to succeed you need some sort of clever hook that is something that just gets in people's brains and go ha you know, like things like the purge or saw such great simple ideas that can be expressed in a sentence or two, or Blair Witch or paranormal, which is about the the uncomfortable experience of, I don't know what's going to happen. I literally don't know what's going to happen because I have no template for this. Arguably hora is the one that's most open to that. And the least would be sort of family films, anything with children who everybody wants to know what's going to happen. All right, everybody, you need to note that the parent thing to note that the kids aren't gonna be scared at all. So you can't even have tension for very long. Because for kids, that's an age and that's terrifying. So, arguably, in horror, you should be going for the thing that no one else is doing. And you should do it wholly, originally and unusually, because that's likely to insulate you or help you at least in getting to break out from the crowd of horror films.
Alex Ferrari 20:22
Right? And I remember, you know, I always I always tell people to sub niche, you know, the film intrapreneur should sub niche and just niche down. So if you're going to be in horror, that's a niche. Then you go, Okay, what kind of horror movie you're gonna I'm gonna make a slasher film. Okay. Okay, that's, that's a niche. But then there's still a lot of competition in there. So like, why don't you try to make an 80s slasher film? Well, that's a little bit smaller genre, which will open up to a lot of other people, but there's a group of people or of that niche, who want to see ad style horror, and then generate and do a film in that genre. If that's so again, you're just bettering your chances of reaching an audience, especially on a low budget horror movie, and especially if you're going to try to market it and sell it yourself. Does that make sense?
Steven Follows 21:09
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a there's a business concept called category of one, which is this idea that you need to create a new type of thing. So I think the the iconic example everyone gives is light beers, where Miller light created it, you know, you just go it didn't exist, and now it does. And actually, it's better to be number one in a new marketplace than it is to be 20th. Or even say yes, in an existing one. So if you, I mean, that's one of the things that really worked, one of the many things that worked with Shaun of the Dead was the advertise itself as a zom rom com, zombie romantic comedy. And of course, there have been other other films in the past that have used those elements. But it had that unique kind of No, no, honestly, it's all three genres. And it's sold itself very well now. So I'm not saying invented the category, but it's certainly more iconic than its zombie film, or it's a rom com with zombies, you know? So, I think yeah, it's especially important with horror, because I mean, how I got how I got into this, I mean, I don't particularly watch that many horror films. I don't, I don't mind horror films. There's just an eye there are some I really like things like Cabin in the Woods really, really interesting to me. But I'm just in and of itself, being scared or having that tension isn't, isn't my jam. That isn't what I want. But what really got me into it was I was doing research looking at how successful films were based around their critics and audience scores. So what a film critics think of a movie and how likely is it to make money? And what do film audiences as measured? I think, by the IMDb score, the audience score, what does that well, how was the connection between that and profitability, I was using models that actually work out how much money in dollars and cents each movie is likely to have made, which it might be a bit tricky film to film. But overall, it's pretty accurate, and correlating it with these things. And I discovered that most genres, in fact, all but one, there's a pretty strong correlation between how good a movie is and how much money it makes, right? Horror has almost none. Like it has a correlation. But like, I can't remember the numbers, but like the, for most genres, it was sort of its measured on a scale of one to minus two minus one where one would be an exact correlation, but a movie is the more money it makes, minus one would be the reverse. So the more money the more money it makes, the worse tends to be. And anything below about naught point two or and or above naught point minus to naught point minus two tends to be insignificant statistically. And it is about naught point two for horror films. And it's like, point 8.9. For every other genre. It's like a world of difference. And so it's so
Alex Ferrari 23:39
Interesting that I've thought about it. I mean, as you're saying, It's obvious, but yet, I've really never sat down and go, you know, a horror is the only genre that if, if it's a bad movie, it could still make a lot of money. And actually, sometimes the worst the movie, the the more money it makes it hence shark NATO's entire world.
Steven Follows 24:00
Exactly. But the key thing is that on average, across all movies, it doesn't matter. It just of every single genre, it matters to some degree and to a large degree, but the horror, it's kind of irrelevant. And I used to purge a moment ago, right, which is, everybody agrees it's a bad movie. Like, I know, this isn't this isn't my subjective opinion. It's like, you look at the reviews from from critics. And they're like, yeah, it's not very good. Critics don't like horror films generally. But okay, so let's move to audiences. Audiences generally give it middling reviews, like it's, there's some people out there will love it. But when you compare it to movies that get across the board, great scores and things. It's, it's nowhere close.
Alex Ferrari 24:36
How many are there? How many are there? There's like three or four of them?
Steven Follows 24:39
I don't know. I haven't kept up. Okay. Like,
Alex Ferrari 24:42
I know, there's at least three.
Steven Follows 24:44
I think there'll be another one by the time we finished the recording. Like, of course, why not? I don't mean that in any kind of, I'm not being pejorative here, right? Like if that's what people want. So people aren't going to it for quality. But then if you look at I'm sure if you did this analysis With the quality of the food of a restaurant, and how successful it is, you would find certain things like McDonald's, where even if you really like it, no one is saying this is great quality. They're saying, Yeah, I like this. But there are other factors going on. And in that case, it might be the marketing, it might be the convenience, obviously, price plays a big part in that. And so it get when I was doing this analysis between critics ratings and profitability, I was thinking, Okay, well, if, if it doesn't matter if it's any good, if everyone agrees, it doesn't matter, what does matter. And I that just kind of stuck in my brain for a while, and I just couldn't get it out. And I couldn't stop thinking about well, it's not like there'll be one answer, you know, but there's got to be patterns. And arguably, if the horror audience don't care how much your film costs, I mean, obviously, they do to some degree, but of all genres, they care the least. And if they don't care if it's any good, then maybe they're being a bit more. Maybe that what their intentions are easier to read as to what they do want from a horror film. And so that just took me down the path of saying, Okay, well, obviously, you have to start with how many horror films are there? And what type are they and you have to categorize them, and all sorts of things. And then I just sort of kind of grew. And it got to the point where I had completed research on most, if not all parts of the film value chain. So right, from development of films, what types they are adaptations and titles of movies, through to financing. And obviously, the whole production process and post production and also marketing, distribution, and all the different windows of release, and festivals and things. By the end, I sort of hadn't realized, like, I'd sort of done all of that. And yeah, so then in the end, I put it together as a report, that's a couple of 100 pages. And it's available on pay what you want, it's a minimum of a pound, which is about $1. Now, will be about half $1 in a few weeks, a few cents after Brexit. But yeah, to pay what you want model and I just thought, you know what that's especially with horror, like, Can you imagine selling a report per $1,000? And like, the only people that are by it would be studios and the actual people who need this who are going to change what they're doing. independent filmmakers, and yeah, so that's awesome. Yeah, it's been a really interesting journey. And I
Alex Ferrari 27:20
want to know, what is the genre in what is the horror genre that is the most successful you know, as far as box office return, or just return on investment? The sub genre in the horse like parent? Yeah,
Steven Follows 27:32
well, thanks. Well, let's let's you know, let's start by talking about what is horror because, um, you know, I was expecting some subjective complicated questions I wasn't expecting my first question would be what's a horror film? And I think I even went to read it and said, Hey, guys, what's a horror film? And everyone went, Oh, my God, you can't you know, who knows? And everyone argues and, and there's films like Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing, where I looked at maybe 20 different film listing sites on about half said it was a horror half a horror film at all. Well, half of them say it is
Alex Ferrari 28:07
insane. It's a it's a it's a it's an action. It's like a thriller, an action thriller. And even a thriller is kind of like a just a popcorn action film that happens to have some monsters in it. There's nothing really scary in it. If I remember correctly. I remember it being a horrible movie. That I do remember, what about I Am Legend? Oh, that's a rough one may see now that one is a hybrid of an action horror film. I feel so that is a heart.
Steven Follows 28:34
Yeah, my, basically when I did the research, so this may be not true for the last couple of years. But my understanding was, that's the most expensive horror film ever made. No, everyone agrees is our But anyway, so working out what a horror film was was wasn't the easiest. But then, as we talked about, that wasn't enough. I had to sub classify I had to work out within that what types of films are out there. So through all sorts of different methods, which I'm happy to talk about, but aren't really that important. I ended up coming up with six different subcategories of horror, which overlap so there are films that do more than one so we had found footage killer, paranormal, gore and disturbing that's one psychological and then monsters and it's interesting because you you see very clear patterns with budget so found footage movies tends to be the most of them are on the lowest budget whereas monster movies and Perhaps unsurprisingly, because you need to pay for the monster tends to be more expensive. And what that does is that also somewhat leads the profitability answer so found footage, movies, I calculate that about four out of five had made made a profit with one very, very important caveat, one important caveat which is about to disappoint every diner independent film I know exactly what it I know exactly what is going to be the got into thesis like it gets into theaters if it's in theaters, then four out of five of those find footage films, and they make a profit of some kind.
Alex Ferrari 30:07
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Well, let me But let me ask you a question. How much does the Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity activity skew those numbers?
Steven Follows 30:27
Well, it's a good question. So I've tried to account for that. And what I'm looking for is is, in some cases, averages, some cases, medians. It's not just those films, but at the same time, and and those films by the way, just as a data analysis thing are really annoying, because they do skew numbers, man,
Alex Ferrari 30:44
because they're they're anomalies. They're both anomalous.
Steven Follows 30:46
Well, see, that's the question, right? So is it it's like saying, What's the return on buying a lottery ticket, if you just exclude all the lottery winners? Because they're the unusual ones, then you haven't got a true summary of the market? So both including and excluding them was complicated. I can't remember how I accounted for this, but I definitely didn't just average all of them. Because that will tell you that's right. I looked at how many them? That's right, I looked at how many of them were likely to have made money. And how many of them were likely to have made a small amount of profit or a small loss, small loss or a lightly a big loss. And so those two would have just counted for two, you know, one each, it wouldn't have been. Okay, so paranormal Paranormal Activity made 20,000% of its budget back. And that just skews the numbers. But we shouldn't necessarily exclude them. You know, if if, if it is a lottery winner, then to some degree, it is out there as a prize. One thing that actually I wanted to say is something that you said earlier on, which I think is what you said was absolutely right. And I think there's one extra note to make on it. You said, If independent filmmakers want to make a buy a lottery ticket, then that's fine. Absolutely. I totally agree with that. And in fact, arguably, that's the essence of being an artist and a filmmaker. But the key is, do they sell it as a lottery ticket?
Alex Ferrari 32:05
No, they don't. They never do. They never do.
Steven Follows 32:08
They never that's the bit where you fool down. It's not making the movie that will make any money. That's fine. That's all, you know, good luck, promising that it will make the paranormal activity that will
Alex Ferrari 32:19
listen every single film business plan you have ever seen that has it's a horror movie, Blair Witch paranormal activity are in the models. Am I wrong? Every single one.
Steven Follows 32:30
I I've seen them a disproportionate number of low budget ones, and ones that weren't made. But and I've seen them in almost all of them. But if I were an investor, or and I do occasionally advise investors, who are people I know friends or friends or whatever. And if there's someone says I'm making a horror film, and I turned to their comps, and they have five comps, and two of them are those ones, I just close the report and say there's no point investing, because they're not being honest. It doesn't mean don't mention them, but put them in a separate box going by, you know, here are the 510 comps that we think are relevant. By the way, there is a secret special lottery also involved in this could be this. Exactly. And it's not untrue. You know, it's just that you can't make that out to be that every day. And the thing is the investors know that. And they actually if you're honest with them, they don't they're not, they're not really investing with you to make money. Because people who want to make money don't invest in film. They're doing it because they want to have a really good ride or they want if they feel like the movie should be made, or they believe in you. And they want to have the best investment that's possible, given those conditions. But if it's purely about profit, I mean, no one in the right mind says, oh, you're only interested in profit. I know film, you know, it's it's not that
Alex Ferrari 33:40
it's there's there. It's such an unknown quantity when you're making a film and actually trying to regenerate revenue to to it because it's such an expensive art form. In general, it's one of the most expensive art forms on the planet. If you have to, you have to generate an ROI on your film. And it is very difficult to quantify it. Because there's too many variables in it. Like if you make a widget, you take the widget to market and you sell the widget for 999. And the widget costs you 250 and you have a marketing plan and you put it out into the marketplace. And there you go. And that that's the widget films aren't widgets, films are massive conglomerations of widgets being moved, and then there's outside forces constantly shaping it. And let's not even talk about egos, and drama, and politics, and distribution. I mean, there's so many variables. Again, that's why I feel that a film entrepreneur method or model is a little bit more stable, because you look at it as multiple revenue streams and multiple things that you can do off of one movie and a lot of times the movie doesn't even have to make money for you to be able to generate money because you're building a business around the movie. But that's a whole other conversation. Yeah, I agree with you.
Steven Follows 35:03
So yeah, it's one of those things where it's, it's rich and poor. So a feast and famine. So if you're, if you're found footage, film makes it into theaters, which, and I don't just mean one theater that your cousin owns. I mean, like, it's got a distributor, it's got a release, it's got marketing, then actually, you're probably onto a good chance of making the original budget back. Obviously, that's heavily skewed by the fact that you probably spent less to make it the most, you know, most of the films but still profits or profit. But the the number of horror films is going through the roof. And actually, the percentage of horror films that actually make it into theaters is declining quite considerably. Expect and that's especially considering the fact that more and more films are being released in theaters every year. We're on sort of seven 800 in the US and eight 900 a year in the UK, which is bonkers, just completely mad. We're coming up to like 2020 a week 20 new movies every week. And really what we're talking about is that the 50 top grossing movies of all of each year account for 75% of the box office, both in America and Britain. So really, that's the top movie each week. So Hobson shore comes out this week plus 19 other movies he never heard of next week, another whole 20 and helps the shore is still out.
Alex Ferrari 36:14
And then the new and the new whatever studio movie that wants to come, you know, the Avengers or something like that comes out. Yeah, exactly. It's insane. Also, what is the most profitable sub genre? Apparently,
Steven Follows 36:28
it was found footage, so found footage was the most profitable, but also that's sort of the type of horror film. There's also you could look at them as sort of genres as well like hybrid genres like horror, comedy, or horror, action. And interestingly, horror, comedy and horror romance where the marginally the most profitable, especially but marginally. But again, if you look at the other end of the spectrum, horror, fantasy and horror action with the least but they're the most expensive, so it's so hard.
Alex Ferrari 36:55
Well, it's a horror romance, which is is very rare. They're rare. They're not a lot of them out there. So that I mean, horror comedies and horror romances are rare, but generally, and there is that myth in the industry that horror comedies make no money. That Yeah,
Steven Follows 37:11
proportionately they do, but I tell you why. And it comes down to one thing, that horror. It's just two letters long. And it's it's something that horror filmmakers almost never think about. And yet, when when you think about it, you're like, actually, that makes complete sense. I'm deliberately trailing it here. Can you guess what it is? I don't see. Let us look. TV, the TV. So if you make some blood splattered, horrific film, and fine, how many TV channels can that be broadcast on? conversely, if you make a horror comedy, that's a bit more comedy than horror. It's going to be on more TV channels, it's going to be on more slots, it's going to be able to travel more. So I'm not saying do that I'm not giving any specific advice. But it's definitely if you're looking for longevity if you're looking for a long tail of income. If you're looking for more territories and things like that television is a big factor and television has a very particular type of horror film at once. And it may not be what horror fans want as well as I go through this may be sort of sacrilegious to horror fans who are like no this is watering stuff down and whatever. And maybe that's right, maybe it is.
Alex Ferrari 38:27
I mean, like you're right, but a horror romance and a horror comedy by its nature is a watered down version of horror movies. Not a straight up slasher you know, it's a little bit funny and stuff. It's it could still be gory, but it's a completely different animal. So it's kind of watering it down and jet like that's why Shaun of the Dead is is probably one of the more successful was I think it's probably the most successful horror comedy of all time, if I'm not mistaken.
Steven Follows 38:52
Yeah, I mean, I can't remember top of my head, but it certainly sounds credible to me. Yeah, absolutely. It could be. It certainly did incredible numbers. And it's also brilliant film is. So yeah, so you look at certain kinds of films do well, on television. So for example, monster movies don't tend to do as well as psychological movies. And that maybe that's because monster movies are slightly more gory, and slightly more scary, and you and you kind of don't want to go. I mean, if you're just thinking about television, you don't want to go too scary when it comes to blood and gore. And crucially, you really don't want to have a lot of sex and nudity. So again, I can't explain the methods but just go with it. For now. I managed to categorize most of the movies to how much sort of sex and nudity they had in them on a scale of one to 10. And once you get to, like, I don't know, six or seven, you're getting far fewer broadcasts on television. You know, the ideal spot was sort of three, four or five, six out of 10. So obviously it needs to deliver something you don't want to make it completely sanitized. But the same time if it's if it's got, you know, Quite hardcore nudity or sex, and it's going to propose certain channels and certain times on other channels. And so if you're thinking this purely from a financial point of view, and you think you know what the actual is unlikely, and also, maybe I'll make much money, and I'll have high costs, but television is where I'm going to get to, then you need to make sure that you're not breaking the rules and making it something that television just can't show.
Alex Ferrari 40:24
What I find what I find so wonderful about this conversation is that we're looking at a horror movie as a product. And at Where can we distribute this widget to as many places as humanly possible to return on to get an ROI, to make money to generate revenue. And by doing this, I mean, look, art is one thing, and business is another thing. But like I say, all the time, the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. So there's a reason for that. And by thinking about your film as like, Okay, well, I want to be able to make as much money as I can with this. So what genre of horror what, where can I go? How much nudity Can I have in it, and it could be like, you know what I want to I want to focus on this super niche audience that I'm going to self distribute, and they want to see a lot of nudity and a lot of Gore. And that's what that's the angle. I'm going to understanding, though, that this blocks out all these other potential revenue streams. Yeah, exactly. You have to walk into it, knowing that and not to be oops, what do you mean, I spent a half a million dollars on a blood fez, and I can't reach her and I can't get any ROI, I can't, I can't get any money back. Because the audience that I focused on, can't generate the kind of revenue that this budget needs to generate in order for it to be a successful film. So there's always that balancing, it's always that Balancing Act
Steven Follows 41:47
Of and I think, you know, an artist amongst the things that artists does is that they deal with compromises, you know, or they deal with what's being presented to them. So here's your location. Here's your line to dialogue, how are you going to turn this into something that's uniquely yours? So why is it Tarantino different from Wes Anderson, it's not just the situations they're in. It's also how they respond to them. And so there is a real opportunity and need for artists and filmmakers to be artists to bring their artists selves to the business side of things and say, okay, exactly as you laid out, here are two things I want to do. I want to have this this level of nudity for this audience over this purpose. But actually, there's this other business reason not to, okay, compromise way, hit up, actually, I'm going to make sure I do one of them really well, because it doesn't matter which but if I water it down, it won't work. Or actually, no, there is a middle ground or I can do both versions, or whatever it will be.
Alex Ferrari 42:38
Or Amber, I didn't interrupt you, but or you could just or you could just drop the budget from 500,000 to 50,000. And do whatever the heck you want. Because that audience that you're focusing on, can generate potentially has that that has the potential to generate the revenue for you to make your money back and actually be a profitable film at half a million dollars. Being a hardcore slasher film. With Dino, it's going to be with a lot of nudity, you're just cutting off a lot of revenue streams. So it's all about what you want to do and what you want the end game to be for your film, you could go you could do whatever you want, you can do a middle ground, like you said, or you can change the game. You know, it's like if I'm going to spend half a million, I'm going to have to do X, XY and Z in order to get that money back. Unless it's daddy's money. And then don't worry about fun.
Steven Follows 43:26
Yeah, but true. But although you can't make a career out of that, and this dad does that rich. And I think that's the thing is,
Alex Ferrari 43:32
there's only a few daddy's that rich.
Steven Follows 43:35
I think that's I've seen filmmakers who've managed to sort of basically skip the first step, they've been managed to jump in at a higher level. And, okay, on the one hand, they've managed to get further faster, great, but they're not ready for that, you know, let's say that we could skip it so that you could you could be one of the I don't know, 10 people who, however many are on the track for the Olympic gold medal 100 meters, we're not going to win, you're going to look like an idiot, and you're going to pull a muscle. And yes, if you, you practice and you earn your way up there, and you get there through grit. And obviously, you still need money, you still need support, you know, in the in the analogy of training, you know, there are certain sports like rowing or ice skating where you need money and you need support needs to be driven to these things and whatever. But at the end of the day, if you're earning your way forward, then you'll be prepared. When you're in the final, you will have earned it and you'll be able to be there year on year on year. If you've bought your way in. I mean, I'm sure you can pay enough to race Usain Bolt. I'm sure there is a price. But that doesn't mean you're when it doesn't mean you can do it again.
Alex Ferrari 44:32
No, there's no question and I've seen I mean working in post production for as many years as I have. I've seen so many filmmakers who got their first movie was a $5 million movie, but they had never set foot on set on a set before and you like you Why would you do it? Why would you go up to the plate and face down a major league pitcher and try to swing the bat when you have never picked a bat before it's just lunacy, it's more ego than anything else. It's sustainable. It was kinda like doing it. You couldn't you basically you have one jot. So I promise you, if you get a $5 million budget for your first film, and it dies, I promise you, nobody else is going to give you money. And because you didn't hustle your way up there, and you just kind of skipped the line, you don't have anything to, you don't have any foundation to kind of land on. In other words, the armor that you put on from hustling and grinding, year after year in this business, that's what helps you with stay with Stan blows like that. But if you just skip the line, and just go, Hey, guys, I'm here the first brisk when that comes, you're done. Because that makes
Steven Follows 45:54
it totally, and you're going to feel awful that you're going to feel like a cheat, you're going to feel like you don't know what you're doing, like you're a fraud. And the real truth is everyone feels like that constantly. And you're never gonna feel like, Oh, I know what I'm doing. But at least in your case, it will be slightly true. And it feels really, it just sucks. It really sucks. Whereas if you earn your way there and someone and you have a failure, or something's unfair, or just someone's unfair to you, you'll be much stronger to be able to shake it off. Like you said, you have to earn your armor, you know, because then it's yours and it fits you. And it's like a shell rather than just buying someone else's because it won't fit and it won't last.
Alex Ferrari 46:28
I mean, at this point in the game, I have rhinoceros hide. You know, I've got shrapnel left and right. I mean it that but you know, trust me, I wish I would have not had to go through all of this. But it's who I am. And it makes me so resilient to so many. You know poundings that this business gives you day in and day out. And, you know, everyone listening, if you do have an awkward, like I tell people all the time, like if someone gave me a million dollars, right now to make a movie, I would tell them, I'll go look, it was a blanket, it was a blank check, here's a million dollars that you can make whatever movie you want. I wouldn't make 10 movies, I would make 10 $100,000 movies. Because on a business standpoint, and on a creative standpoint, I can I can diversify my portfolio. And the chances of one of those movies hitting or making enough money to cover all of them is better. Or if each one of them makes $125,000, which is a lot less to make a million dollars off of one. Guess what? You're profitable fail? You made money. Does that make sense? Yeah, totally. But
Steven Follows 47:34
let me ask you this. Let's say that someone gave you the million dollars, and they didn't mention movies. Would you as Alex, how much of if any of that money would you actually spend on movies?
Alex Ferrari 47:47
You know, luckily, you know what, but this is my business. So like, even if I yeah, like if I had a million dollars, going to take some of that money and build out other parts of my indie film, hustle, business.
Steven Follows 47:57
That's not movies, that's business investment. That's that's reinvesting in a presumably successful business don't count. Like, often someone gives you just inherit a million dollars, tax free all taxes paid. How much do you as Alex actually put into making a movie yourself?
Alex Ferrari 48:15
I would I would make some I would make a movie or two, there's no question. I would do that. Because I mean, I I make movies all the time. And if I had the money, and the money was not an issue, you know, my first two films were made for under $10,000 each, and they were fairly, and they were fairly successful for at that budget range without question. So if I had $100,000, I would probably make a couple a couple films, I would make a tooth, I would make 250 $1,000 movies? Absolutely. And I'll make it I would do it without question. Would I invest the entire million in the only a million? No, that's stupid. That's that second million, right? Well, that's the second I would, I would slowly I would slowly, I will take 10 or 20% of that money and make movies and see what happens. Why not? But you've got 80% sitting somewhere in in bonds, or gold or whatever else you whatever people do with money. Yeah, film, whatever, whatever. Yeah, whatever rich people do with money. We have no idea what that
Steven Follows 49:14
they don't come to us for obvious reasons. The old saying about the film industry is that a way to make a small fortune in the film industry is to start with a large fortune. And I think that's what you need to do. You know, I think of it as golf money, you know, money that people spend playing golf. No one says, What's my ROI on my ROI on golf? What's my ROI on going to the opera? They go? Yeah, that was fun. And yet you're offering them something fun and they might make some money? Who knows?
Alex Ferrari 49:39
So it's all it's all about how you look at it. Like I like I've said before with, you know, with being a film entrepreneur, there is a way to make money and make multiple revenue streams off of a film or multiple films. Because there's been many many case studies of people doing it. It's just think differently about how if you're looking at the movie to be your main revenue, Gen. Raider, it could be a part of that revenue stream. But it doesn't have to be you don't have to put all the pressure on it if you're smart. I mean, look, it's George Lucas said it very clearly. The money's in the lunchbox, idiots. You know, like, it's true. like they've made much more money licensing Star Wars than any money they made in the box off. Have they made money in the box office? Of course. But do you know, I always always use this example. My friend works at Disney. And I asked them like, how much did frozen? Like what? What's going on with like the back end of frozen? And he's like, dude, do you know the dresses, that that little girls were just the dresses, just the dresses that you buy for like 10 or $15. At the Disney Store or wherever. They've made a billion dollars off of that off of the dresses alone, not the lunchboxes not anything else, that cartoon, just the dresses. And by the way, frozen also made a billion dollars as a revenue stream from the film itself. But they make so much more money. While they gross, the gross 2 billion whether
Steven Follows 51:08
I mean, I'm sure that the margin on those dresses is 99%, once they're in the shop, whereas with movies, it's like,
Alex Ferrari 51:14
but again, using the movie as a marketing strategy to sell other product lines and sell other and create other revenue streams. It's a business. Look, it's the Hollywood's been doing it since Star Wars basically, before Star Wars, you know it, no one really did it. But Star Wars kind of started that genre. And now basically everybody every studio, that is part of their marketing plan. So why can't you use that for independent filmmaking as well? Well, totally. And
Steven Follows 51:40
that also goes back to what you were saying before because hora has amongst the lowest marketing rates. merchandising rates, yes. Also has absolutely the lowest amount of money made from airlines and soundtracks and things like that. And so we were talking before about horror being the most profitable. Well, yeah, but we're not measuring merchandising, we're not measuring soundtracks, you know. And so, yeah, it's amplifying your risk. And then all of these risks are fine to take if you know what you're taking, but is to think about what it would be and what you're putting, you're buying, you're putting even more pressure on this on this lottery ticket, because, okay, sure, if you water it down, or you make it more television friendly, maybe it's got a longer tail. But if it doesn't, the core long term value of a horror film might be its franchise ability, it might be the idea of making 23456 others, or is the opening weekend and the homerun, for the first or the VOD sale that you do for the first five years, something like that. That might be a small number of deals that might be able to be astronomically large for you. But after that, there's less whereas if you invent the next frozen example, I always think of when I think of what frozen is for independent film is once Have you seen once? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 52:54
yeah, that was an independent musician.
Steven Follows 52:56
Yeah, yeah. It's like, I don't know. 15 years ago, Irish film beautiful, really low budget musical. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend
Alex Ferrari 53:03
it. It was Oscar nominated. Yeah.
Steven Follows 53:05
Yeah, it did so well. And it deserves to. It's not the perfect movie. It's just really good. And especially considering the budget. And it's a musical like, who does low budget musical? And I don't have a numbers for it. But I'd certainly remember when I was in New York A few years ago, there was a Broadway show of it. And it was also at least a few soundtracks that were being advertised on the subway. And so that's from an independent movie, like, and they own the songs. And so the song revenue would have been more than the box office should take that they took, I'm sure. And so it's okay. It's easier to make a franchise if you're Disney. But it doesn't mean it's impossible.
Alex Ferrari 53:39
Oh, no, I've got tons of case studies, tons of case studies of filmmakers making more money off of ancillary products than they do off the movie themselves and built and built entire empires around a film a documentary, or a feature or a group of feature films. Oh, god, there's, there is a lot of there are a lot of examples out there. But just people don't think this way. They just it's not taught. It's not taught at all.
Steven Follows 54:06
Well, it's not appreciated, you know, people don't. Because we are all people that run away during the circus, the most sensible among us, is like if I give you an example. So years and years ago, I was I was going out with a lawyer. And I was I was chatting to her about what I'd done that day. And I had actually been running a training course with a filmmaker over here called Chris Jones. And Chris Jones is the gorilla filmmakers handbook and really interesting guy, he runs the London screenwriters festival. And he and I had been running a course together during the day. And the setup of the course was that I was the sort of producer II type giving the sensible answers. And Chris was the more kind of dream big filmmaker, and it's a reflection of our real selves. And Chris, and I've got a nice dynamic and we get on well, so actually, it worked out well. And I was having a date that evening with a lawyer and she said, What have you been up to? And I was like, Oh, well, I'm running this course. And, and I'm, you know, and I described what I just said, and the central one and she almost spat out her food and she was like, What? And she was asked like, what do you? What are you confused by? And she's like, you're the sensible one. And I'm like, Yeah, she's, I mean, you. You're crazy. You're like the wacky one in my world, like, and I was like, no, hold on, we should talk about this. Because in my world, I'm the boring one. I'm the one that you are everyone towards. Like, there aren't many people on the other end of me who are going No, no Stephens not going into enough detail. You know, like, if this isn't making people on the other side, and her I was the craziest, she could imagine, like, not in a kind of interpersonal way, like, Hello, I'm Stephen. But just more like, you just teaching filmmakers and you don't know what you're doing. And they don't know what they're doing. And they're just paying for cause and you're just running a cause. And they're just making things without business plans. And like, it was just like, being the most sensible person in the circus still means it still makes you a circus performer. That's awesome. She couldn't believe it.
Alex Ferrari 55:53
And you're still a carny, sir. You're still a car?
Steven Follows 55:55
Yeah, exactly. And I love that, by the way, I don't, you know, that's where it was good for her as well. Like, you know, the most wacky lawyer is nowhere near the most boring filmmaker, and that's okay. Everyone's chosen the race, they want to run it and where they are in it. And I think that, that we have to remember that because film industry likes to pretend that nothing is knowable. It loves that William Goldman quote that no one knows anything. But they forget the other half of that conversation, which is about no one person in the motion picture industry knows exactly what's going to work out, you know, it's a every time it's a guess, out of the gate, and hopefully an educated guess. And so that it speaks partly to the fact that the team effort, but also to the fact that it's not unknowable, it's just not entirely predictable, there has to be an educated guess. But to have an educated guess, you've got to be educated in some way. You've got to go out and find facts, but then you've got to choose what to do.
Alex Ferrari 56:49
But the thing is this, but you know, many businesses are educated guesses, you know, like, you know, Facebook, Google Apple, like, you know, when you make a product, you don't know what the revenue is going to come back, you might have, you know, ideas, you might have numbers or statistics of what it could be. It's just as a little bit more stable. But you know, when Apple put out the iPod, or the iPhone, they might have had a guess of what it was going to be, but they had no idea. They didn't know exactly the number. So there is always in business in general, you don't know exact numbers every time almost, almost, it's very rare that you do have that kind of information you do, then you can then you're an Oracle.
Steven Follows 57:30
Yeah, well, I think also, the filmmakers forget that. Because we we struggle to get control, we get struggle to get control of the creative parts of the whether it gets funded, whether it gets made where they get seen, we try and win every battle. And we try and see every battle as a reflection of our expression, or our freedom, freedom, our artistic self. And actually, there are some battles that you should be really keen to lose, or at least not care where they go. So a good example for me is the poster, where filmmakers see it as the extension of the film. And actually, it's a piece of marketing materials, like the person that invents the next kick out or mass, but it doesn't get to design the label. And it doesn't matter what the label looks like, as long as it honestly sells the product, and people end up eating your product. And so as long as people go and see your film, and it hasn't been mis sold, you shouldn't be in charge of the poster at all. You should get someone who knows about posters, right? I see. So many filmmakers are like, No, no, I want to put all this on who I want to design it or whatever. Or like no, no, that's to the word they use. But like it's to marketing to commercial, and you're like, you want to lose that battle. You want the trailers without selling the
Alex Ferrari 58:37
same thing. Seen filmmakers try to edit their own trailers. I'm like get a professional trailer editor who knows how to sell your your kind of movie that knows how to do promos who knows how to
Steven Follows 58:51
Sell your movie, they're not trying to secretly destroy your vision. Best they don't care about your vision.
Alex Ferrari 58:56
It's the art is the art and the ego. It's the art in the ego at this point. Totally.
Steven Follows 59:00
And actually, you know, it's there are a few fringe cases where it gets really kind of like almost philosophically complicated, like if the movie is being mis sold. Like if the poster is fundamentally different. Did you mean most?
Alex Ferrari 59:12
Most Hollywood movies Got it?
Steven Follows 59:14
Yeah, exactly. In comparison to most movies, or like the trailer, like I remember, I won't say who but I have a friend who was involved somewhere along this process. And he was telling me about the the process of editing The King's Speech trailer. And the King's speech itself is got a beautiful grade. It's because it's a historic film. It's slightly more muted colors. And I can't do justice to describe it, but it's a very particular kind of color, but it's muted. When they did the trailer, they regretted the film. And the argument from the trailer point of view was, well, it's gonna play amongst loads of other trailers and it's gonna look dull, it's not gonna work in this format. And obviously the director was less than pleased and in the end got it from what I understand locked out of the edit suite for the trailer and there is a fringe case where at Because I can see both sides, I can see the market is saying, we're only trying to sell your movie and the filmmaker going No, no, no, this is misrepresenting it. This is my movie you're messing with. But in all other cases, let the marketeers do their job, because they're only trying to sell your movie. And you just works in a 90 minute, like emotion experience is not what's going to work on a one sheet. It's a different thing.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:24
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You know, and I love people who will always use David Fincher or Stanley Kubrick as examples of directors that have complete control of all the marketing. And I always like to point out like, Oh, you mean, David Fincher, the guy who's been in commercials for 20 odd years? You mean that guy's literally an expert at selling things? Did you mean that you mean the guy that guy the guy who basically reinvented commercial directing, in many ways? That that guy? Yeah, you know what? I'm gonna let him design a punch. I'm gonna let me Fincher could do your poster. Oh, yeah. Oh, you mean? Are you Stanley Kubrick? Oh, you mean one of the greatest geniuses that ever walked the filmmaking landscape? That guy? Oh, him. Yeah, let let him understand that. Yeah.
Steven Follows 1:01:20
He's outliers again, isn't it?
Alex Ferrari 1:01:22
And they point out outliers, but that's the thing and then it's the lottery ticket is either a lottery ticket mentality where people think you know, I'm gonna make a horror movie paranormal made $200 billion. I'm making a horror movie. It's a horror movie, I'm gonna make money. Or it's outliers like that, that they'll point to someone like David Fincher or Steven Spielberg, or James Cameron. I'm like, dude, you're talking about giants. You're talking about one out of 10 million people. Like, you know, I always like to use the example of James Cameron. Because when James Cameron went to go make Avatar The first avatar. I asked people like who else in the world could have done avatar? And, and people are like, What do you mean? Like, oh, Steven Spielberg? Like, no, no, no, no, wait a minute, who else could walk into Fox Studios, say I need $500 million, I'm going to take the first 100 million to develop new technology that does not exist about a franchise that has not, it's not a pre pre existing franchise. So we're going to start something from scratch. And we're going to doesn't really have any major star power in it, we'll have some faces of people we recognize, but it's not star power at all. And we're going to, we're kind of going to just kind of roll with it and see what we come up with.
Steven Follows 1:02:34
But I need to find, so we're gonna release it in a format that most theaters don't.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:38
Exactly, exactly. And we're gonna release it in a format. And we're going to in a format that in most theaters at this point don't have who else on the planet, um, being gone is I want you to answer the question. Who else? What other filmmaker on the planet at that time? Who would you who would have been able to make that film? Who would have done that check? You know, the answer is everyone who's listening to this game? I could have done that. Yeah. Even if it was easy. Cash, I didn't have to live in LA, like, Avengers end game. I could have done that. I'm like, wouldn't have run the damn craft service table. Are you kidding me? Like the guy. Let's not get into this because we'll go drink. Like we are. We are Dreamers. And we have and I talk heavily about ego. We, you know, and how ego is probably the biggest enemy of art, and what we do as filmmakers, because I've dealt with it all of my life. And it's gotten me into lots and lots of trouble over the years. And that is exactly what you just said, like I could have done that. That's complete and total ego. You know, unless it's maybe Chris Nolan sitting in the corner, saying, well, I could have done that. Well, I don't know if Chris Nolan. 10 of 20 years ago, however long 10 years 12 years it doesn't work with Christopher Nolan. Time doesn't apply. That's true. Obviously. We're in we're in Chris Nolan world. You're absolutely yeah. But you know, but there are but there wasn't anybody else in the world like so imagine being James Cameron when you're like, you know what, I'm literally the only human being on the planet who could do this. That seriously like
Steven Follows 1:04:20
the has a whole career together, doesn't it? You know, he's made on every level. He I mean, the Terminator is a movie that was made for nothing and made a fortune and built a franchise. And then the other end of the spectrum, Titanic being the most expensive film of its time, and making the most money like everything between the two.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:37
I mean, look, and look, look right now. Disney had to fudge the numbers of Avengers end game just to barely crack what avatar did 10 years or 11 years ago.
Steven Follows 1:04:50
Alex Ferrari 1:04:50
You know, like, I can't wait to see these three, three or four new avatar films he's gonna have. But anyway, let's get back on let's get back on
Steven Follows 1:04:58
Yeah Let's talk briefly about posters actually because I am bringing it up before I am. I'm posters are really interesting because you know, every movie is got a few maybe, but certainly you got one head headline poster. And they contain so much information like if we were, if we were studying semiotics or whatever we'd be like, Oh my god, there's so much this single image is telling you about the movie titles, star, tone, color, action, all this stuff. And but actually, there are many different types of poster. And so I thought I'd measure this, I thought it'd be really interesting. I didn't do it for all horror films ever. You'll be disappointed to hear 20 years
Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
Well, no, slacking.
Steven Follows 1:05:34
I know. Exactly. You know that there was certainly a day where I'm like, I'm gonna do it. I didn't. Um, the reason I gave him the end to myself, was this that movie posters since Photoshop have changed. And so it was not you're not comparing the same thing? So I know if I believe that, but I
Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
Sure why not. It's very irrational, sir.
Steven Follows 1:05:54
So yeah, I looked at them. And I did it a few different ways I didn't. Because this was three years ago, if I were doing this all over today, I would probably try and do some clever kind of AI based recognizing objects. I'm not quite sure if they're good enough yet to do it when movie posters because movie posters have multiple elements going on. But the way I did this was by showing them to load and other people on the Amazon Mechanical Turk, saying what's in this, you know, and then a lot of them, I checked myself as well. And it took time to build systems. But it came down to about eight different things that tend to seem to be on posters, whether it's a large face or a silhouette of a person or a scared woman, scared man is not on there. By the way, there's a strong leader, but it tends to be men and women, men or women, whereas there's no scare man trope. But one thing I did want to mention, which I just I was just a little tidbit that I really enjoyed. So I was building this system trying to get all this reliable data for these different posters and and learn the various stuff on posters is subjective. And sometimes data can be wrong. So I showed each poster to a number of people and then I could look for, you know, I don't know, I can't remember how many people I showed it to. But let's say five out of six people said that this is school building. On one side, it's a shed? Well, first of all, we know it's a building. And second of all, it's probably a shed, probably a school building. So but there was one question I asked when I knew there was a human on the cover on the poster, I asked them whether they thought it was the hero or the villain, because it doesn't matter if they're right or wrong, because films can have plot twists. It just matters whether you're selling it as this is the victim's experience, or the here is or here is the threat. And there was one film that every time I showed it to people got confusing answers, the data was just all over the place. And when I was doing it, I wasn't looking at the names of the films. I was using the names of the posters, and they had obviously I could look them up, but it wasn't what it was. And I was like, What is this poster that keeps confusing everyone? And it was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And it basically no one knows if it's the hero, the villain? Because it's both right. It was kind of funny, but but almost in every other movie, you could tell whether it's supposed to be the hero or the villain.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:01
Now what kind of what kind of poster? It does the best that did you do some sort of correlation where this kind of poster helped make, you know, in correlation with box office returns? Well, it's
Steven Follows 1:08:12
tricky. There aren't enough films that you could do all of that, because you'd need to do a bit of regression analysis because there aren't that many films out there. I mean, there are lots but they're, you know, we're talking I can't remember 10,000 or so. But then once you take down the ones just to the ones who have reasonable profitability stats, and then you split them by sub genre, and then you split them by poster tropes. You there's not enough there to be reliable really, because you know that some posters I did, I did look at the correlations between the types of tropes that you have and the type of movies. So certain types of horror films are more likely to have, what one type or another because that was relevant in and that was interesting, but I couldn't do it for profitability. So for example, horror comedies are more likely to have the lineup of people
Alex Ferrari 1:08:59
yeah, 345 zombie land,
Steven Follows 1:09:01
right. Exactly. Yeah. Whereas romances have a large face on them. A large face was quite popular. And so yeah, you know, horror action films very rarely have a scared woman on the cover. Whereas it's quite a big thing for like dramas and stuff like that. So they all have different kinds of things. Mostly, it's about faces, it's about eyes, being frightened, you know, that kind of stuff. And you sometimes you can combine tropes, but they tend to look quite busy and quite complicated. Whereas what you really want is to have one simple just like, this is what this poster is about, you know, it's about seeing an eye or a skull, or is a hand or a hat,
Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
or something like
Steven Follows 1:09:44
that. Exactly, yeah. Or a building and largely it comes down to are you telling on the poster? Are you telling the story of the victim or victims, or are you telling the story of the threat and in some cases, it would be like if it's a movie About a cabin in red. It's the cabin,
Alex Ferrari 1:10:03
right? It's Friday. It's Friday. Right?
Steven Follows 1:10:05
Exactly, yeah. Or if it's about some unknown thing, then you could have the victim. Like there being the person who's terrified. And sometimes it's about the hero or heroine, you know, like a lot the Resident Evil films or world wars, he has the kind of Hero Pose,
Alex Ferrari 1:10:22
you know, the poster that just comes to mind. I think it's one of the more brilliant horror film posters of all time is Jaws, because it shows the threat and the victim, but the victim doesn't know the threats there. So it's a tense, you have a tension filled poster. So you're actually creating suspense with in the image of the poster, which the entire movie is a masterclass in suspense. So it's, it doesn't take a lot. It's a very simple concept that that one concept alone and talking about posters and marketing, the one thing we haven't talked about, which is something very unique to the horror genre, is star power. It's not needed. It's not a needed thing in horror films. And I'd love to hear what your thoughts are in your data on if you have a movie star of some sort, versus nobodies, or no name actors, and how that how that helps or hurts box office?
Steven Follows 1:11:15
Yeah, that's a good question. So I'd say that you write of all genres, it's one of the ones that matters the least even to something like animation, because you got to get the parents in, if you want to call that genre, but you know, family animated films, you still need some famous, quite often, it certainly helps. Whereas your horror, your hero or your your famous thing is the concept. It is the idea like the purge, or saw or whatever. That said, you might want to put a star in it for almost insurance purposes. And what I mean by that is, it might make you feel more confident. Maybe it motivates behavior a bit. No one's pretending that it is about those stars, but those stars might tip people over the edge and allow people to be more confident. And also, if you look at the way movies are sold nowadays, having somebody who's an eloquent marketeer for the movie, be the star look at the rock does. Our Tom Cruise those Pete they sell their movies like they are selling movies. And so arguably having a star that can go on Late Night? who is an expert at, you know, saying how much they loved the script. And that's why they got involved in their character is particularly interesting, whatever, that might really help. So
Alex Ferrari 1:12:32
are someone with a large following, or someone with a large social media following or
Steven Follows 1:12:35
something like that? Exactly. Although obviously depends what their following is like, I think if they're not fans like Kardashian, I'm not sure. Like, I think that was what they were trying to do with Paris Hilton. Yeah, you read my stuff? Yeah. Yeah. So I don't think it's nearly as important as it used to be. So I don't think it's nearly as important as it is for other genres. But it still can help. And also it might be that that's what gets it greenlit. So maybe that it does a different job.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:02
But But unlike but unlike other genres, I mean, look, anytime you could put a star in a movie, do it. That's just a general general rule of thumb, if you have if you have the potential of putting a movie star or some recognizable face or bankable name in a movie, do it, why wouldn't you but it doesn't, it making of that movie is not necessary, it's not necessary. Like if you make an action movie, to go international, you definitely need some sort of bankable star in it to make to really hedge your bets. Same thing with comedy. Same thing with drama. Family is a little bit different. You can maybe get away with family as but but also if you're trying to sell back to lifetime, some of the old you know some older TV actors, you know, Dean Kane or things like that people who, but they're recognizable faces in that genre. And they've established themselves in that genre. But horror is one of those that you don't need it, obviously, because some of the most successful horror movies of all time, don't have movie stars in them like paranormal activity.
Steven Follows 1:14:01
And because the if you think about I mean, I don't know what the right term for it is. But what's the thing about your movie? So the thing about hobbies, ensure the movie that just come out? Is the rock or state and that's what it's about, well, action. That's the thing. With drama, that's just one loads of awards, its quality, its experience, you know, whatever. For horror films, it's the concept of the film, that will trump almost any star. Yes. I mean, I there I mean, I Am Legend, and what was he maybe they're different. But almost every other horror film with famous names. It's about the concept more than it is the names.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:35
Yeah, but World War Z. But World War Z can't be made without Brad Pitt. Like there's nothing to justify a budget of that size for a zombie horror movie. It's not going to work
Steven Follows 1:14:43
Correctly, but it's doing a different thing, isn't it? So two ends up getting it greenlit it's a kind of insurance. It makes everyone feel confident. And I'm sure it does. Hell if I don't. I mean, obviously, unless you pick the wrong star. I don't think it's putting people off but it's not having the transformative effect that it does in other genres. And it's interesting you talk about Family films because family films are extensively you imagine they don't need any stars because it's kids and no one's famous to a kid. But it's the parents who drive them there and who decide Oh, yeah, that I've heard that name or, you know, think about Mr. Popper's Penguins with Jim Carrey or anything with Steve Martin or Eugene Levy, or Eddie Murphy to some degree. This is not about the audience. This is about the audience chauffeurs
Alex Ferrari 1:15:24
At a certain at a certain budget level, but like if you're dealing in the half a million dollar or below Yeah, world, then it does it. Yeah, of course, when you're when you're talking about 15 2030 $40 million. Yes, absolutely. But at a million dollar or below budget, if you're selling it to lifetime or haulmark, you know, and also selling it overseas, you know, Dean Cain has a lot of juice there, you know, or those kinds of you know, or the million of, you know, x Melrose Place, or Beverly Hills, 90210 stars who are made a career out of making those kind of films, then that makes a lot more sense. And they're much more affordable as well, then a bigger star. I was gonna ask you, we talked about this a little earlier. But I think this is something unique to the horror genre is those ancillary products, those t shirts, and, and hats, and mugs and action figures and things like that. The horror genre is a unique genre, because there, that audience that niche wants those products, they go after those products, they buy those products in larger quantities than people who just consume a drama or a comedy. You know, for you to buy a T shirt about a comedy, it's got to be pretty epic. But a horror fan will buy a horror t shirt if it's got a cool image on it. And it doesn't have to be as big of a deal as the other genres are. So there is a lot of potential for generation of ancillary product lines within the horror genre because they like to buy things and also, arguably, to physical media is a much bigger selling point for horror genre for horror audiences than it is for other for other genres because horror audiences love to collect, they'd love to have the physical blu ray DVDs or even VHS.
Steven Follows 1:17:18
Yeah, I mean, yeah, you're right. And you're definitely right. There are other genres where it's far less successful. But I would say that we're still operating on a very small level now niche making, uh, yeah, exactly. If you're making a very low budget film, actually, that's fine. If you look at how creators on YouTube or musicians how they can survive by a comment what there was some number that was out there, like, if they sell one t shirt, a year and a concert every two years, they'll make money or they have a Patreon with a certain number of
Alex Ferrari 1:17:46
it's 1000. If you have 1000 true fans is that article by a guy who was a co founder of Wired Magazine, if you have 1000. Yeah, if you have 1000 true fans, and they each pay you $10 a month, you you make a living as an artist,
Steven Follows 1:18:04
as elute Lee and I think that that can work on the on the lowest level, that doesn't scale very well. But that's not necessarily a problem. Because what was the point at scale, if you're making content you want to make with an audience who love what you do, and you're paying, giving, giving yourself a good income as a person, it doesn't matter if you're not making $30 million movies, because, you know, you might be able to give you more scale, but it's going to give you other problems. And that's something I always tell people all the time is like if you're able to do what you love, make a living doing it and provide a service or be of service to an audience that wants to consume your content, and you're able to make a living. I mean, isn't that the dream? Like, you don't need to live in the Hollywood Hills, you don't need to buy into the the story that Hollywood sells so beautiful, they're really good at selling the sizzle, but they're not real good at selling that steak. And they know that it's not it's not good, but in the sense that you know, who doesn't want to live in Hollywood, everyone who lives in Hollywood, like everyone, they have to be like, they are not happy. You don't want their dream like this, this fantasy that they're selling you they don't like and they're the ones selling it. Well, going back to what you're saying about licensing and stuff like that. Yeah, I think this is something that bizarrely I think scales better on a smaller level. Yes. So if you are making that tiny little film, relatively speaking, I don't wish to diminish it. But you know, like a small thing for hardcore fans. Actually, all this ancillary income is your business like film is the thing. But on a larger scale, it's the other way around. So I won't I can't say what film this is. But there is a horror. I've spoke to a lot of producers of various different levels for this. And one of them gave me some details about their horror film. So this is a Hollywood horror film that was budgeted between about 25 and 50 million and being deliberately vague so people can't meet overlap last sort of 510 years and the real income that they'd got a Maltese over the 10 years that they thought the film would take the the highest amount of money they got from licensing was some Video Game spent $100,000. And then after that there was a novelization they got about $80,000 clothing was about 60,000 figurines like scale figures about 45,000. And then comic books about 35. Toys. Next, then posters publishing, the calendar brought in under 10, grand, and the collectibles are under 10 grand. So that's not nothing. But that's a big movie. And that's combined, not half a million dollars for the entire movie. And obviously, that's going to be cut up by by all the other people that are involved. And so it's not that that's not money, good money, it's just that it's not good money for that film. Whereas if you can manage to get that same kind of involvement, but your core film is unbelievably cheap, and the 100,000 bucks,
Alex Ferrari 1:20:46
yeah, it's 100,000.
Steven Follows 1:20:47
The number of people you're splitting it by is tiny. And you're doing very nicely.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:53
It's all about how you position and how you set up your project and how you set up the business that you're starting to create as as a film trip earner, you have to think about it as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. So all those numbers sound fantastic, but not for a 25 million to $50 million movie, it sounds like chump change. But Exactly.
Steven Follows 1:21:11
So I did an average I got a load of movies, I can't remember how many It was about 20 odd Hollywood horror horror movies every 10 year period. And the average of them, they got about the grossed about 40 million box office internationally. That's kind of like crossing the movies 47 from home entertainment, which would be a bit less nowadays, because that was DVD and stuff like that. But television was about 35 million, but merchandising was a quarter of a million. So that's what 1% of the box office gross. And that's not nothing. But when you look at $100,000 movie, it's not going to be 1%, it's going to be a lot higher, especially if you build it with that in mind. If you say to your audience, look, I'm going to blog about this, I'm going to share this, everyone who supports me, and we'll get along this journey. Oh, one thing, I just want to remember this, this is something that someone told me a while ago, which I thought was really smart. If you're doing a crowdfunding campaign for a movie. and in this situation you would be because $100,000 for the big, small, committed audience, you don't need to go anywhere else for the money. The one thing you should never give away as a reward is the movie. Everything else but the movie, because what will happen is, as long as you're giving them good stuff that they're happy with, whether it's t shirts or experiences or behind the scenes, whatever it is, if you don't give them the movie, but you say to them a few weeks before it comes out on iTunes, hey, it's coming out in two weeks, it would mean the world to me, if you want to buy it that you buy in the opening weekend. Yeah, see, what happens is if you can get it in the top 10 of the sub genre, whatever, it will do massively more business in the in the coming week. So you're kind of gaming the algorithm, not gaming it because obviously algorithms get clever and clever. But it is it does have a big weekend on iTunes. Whereas if you given it away, you're most committed fans who've proven they'll spend money for you can't buy won't buy.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:01
I mean, it literally just happened to me with this podcast with the film shoprunner podcast. I literally just launched it a few weeks ago. And I focused all of my energies to everybody to come out and like Hey, guys, go check out my my podcast, you know, subscribe, do all you know and leave me reviews and all that stuff. And because I did that I showed up on new and noteworthy which is a top 20 new podcasts of all of my of all of iTunes for TV and film. So that elevates me to a higher level same thing would happen with the film with an with iTunes or Apple, Apple TV or whatever they're calling it now. Where if you're able to generate all those pre sales, even if you do in two months before all those pre sales count on day one. And if you're able to just run up to the top of the of the charts, then all of the people who don't know who the heck you are just looked at the top 10 and like, oh, Who's this guy? Boom, you've got more sales? So absolutely, without question.
Steven Follows 1:24:01
So there's loads more in this horror report. And, you know, it took about a year to do on are not cheap. But how many pages time 200 and something. Also I had it down as well. You know, like, I'm not known for brevity, but certainly there were bits where I was like is getting a bit long. Wow. Wow. You know, what, where's the natural point to stop? Like, once you've gone to the ages, where do you stop?
Alex Ferrari 1:24:25
There's, there's no question. And you could just keep going, like I just asked him like, Well, how about if you made posters? And what what posters are for box office and like, you could just go Yeah, you can go forever, because they're very interesting info. Very, very informative, interesting. information without question. And then also did you find that because I kind of I saw this in the report, I want you to touch on it. Did you find that horror films are consumed more on physical media than there are on s VOD, or theatrical, theatrical and physical media versus just s VOD.
Steven Follows 1:24:59
Yeah, so this is something that Bruce Nash and I found in a project we did for the American Film market. So Bruce Nash is the genius behind the numbers, which is like a rival to Box Office Mojo. And it's really good, really accurate. And Bruce is a really nice guy. And he does a lot of work in this area, he does a lot of comp analysis and stuff. So he's really switched on to the financial side of the industry. And he and I have been working together for the last three or four years doing articles every summer for the American Film market. And that's where the first time directors article came from. And we did this week, he's got all sorts of data on sales across different platforms. Obviously, he's got box office for theatrical but he's also got home At home entertainment on different formats, rental, and also iTunes and other like VUDU and things like that. So we, we thought, okay, let's, let's see what's going on there. And the every way we looked at it, every way that we crunched the numbers, we discovered that horror is doing unbelievably poorly on iTunes, and on sort of s word. And I. It's tricky, because as as always, VOD is such a black box that we just don't know. And it's so frustrating in so many different ways. But I wonder whether because it used to do so well on on VHS, but it was also a time where it was kind of forbidden, slightly, not literally banned. Obviously. There was some but you know, fundamentally, it was something that you were kind of ashamed of watching. And nowadays, it's absolutely not. And people are quite proud of horror and happy with horror and things. And I wonder how the medium is changing the audience patterns, and an example I'd give you is in a different field. But the rise of the Kindle, and the success of 50 Shades of Grey are not unconnected, because it's the WHO THE who's going to sit on a train, or a bus reading what everyone knows is a pornographic novel about a woman being slowly beaten up by a rich man. like no one's going to read that. They shouldn't read it for other reasons. It's it's a
Alex Ferrari 1:27:03
horribly poorly written and don't get me started on the Twilight,
Steven Follows 1:27:06
you know, the bad thing to the nice lady, anyway? Well, I've just bought the plot for many of you. But the thing is, if you read it on your Kindle, no one knows what you're reading, other than constantly licking your lips or whatever. But like it's, and I think that had 50 Shades of Grey come out 10 years prior to that, it wouldn't have done nearly as well. And so those things have come together, that's your forbidden thing. And I think the reverse is happening, or for horror, in the sense that getting the VHS and renting it or buying it was actually sort of a badge of honor. And it was sort of slightly under the not quite under the counter, but it was private, it was personal. And it was for you and your friends or whatever. Whereas nowadays, the way people are around horror and the way the formats have changed, and things like that horror doesn't seem to do nearly as well. I don't think people have lost their ability to be scared. I don't think people don't want to watch horror. It's just it's difficult to measure how the medium changes the message.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:03
Well, yeah, I mean, it's kind of like with porn. I mean, you know, porn was in a theater before and a lot of people didn't consume porn because they didn't want to go into a theater. And then the second it came out on VHS and home movies, and all of a sudden an explosion happened in the pornographic industry. And I think you're right, it is a reverse for horror films, and s VOD, at this point.
Steven Follows 1:28:22
Yeah, the box office figures for porn through the floor. Yeah, like, Yeah, I don't think anyone's interest in porn has waned as a society. And I think that's kind of important to remember. So I mean, but it's, it's staggering me small horror on on iTunes. And it's, it's actually if you look at it, I don't think iTunes doesn't have sort of a big horror section. It doesn't really do horror.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:46
And Amazon either Amazon doesn't. Emma has has a lot of horror films, too. But it's different. It's just yeah. And also,
Steven Follows 1:28:53
we don't know how much it is down to Apple, you know, I'm sure Apple have quite restrictive about what kinds of apps you can create. And you can't, you know, you can't legally get an app that is pornographic or too horrific, or whatever, on your iPhone, whereas I'm sure you can on Android. And also you can via a browser. And so I don't know how much of this is a subjective decision that is being influenced by sort of being pushing them down or not promoting them. I don't know how much the medium is changing it. And I don't know whether people are actually getting their horror elsewhere. And certainly, watching a horror film on a VHS was probably quite scary. Whereas now with 4k tallies, and all this sort of, I wonder whether that changes, it actually makes the theater a scarier place to watch it. I don't know I all Bruce and I could come to was the sort of we're absolutely confident that horror is doing far poorer on video on demand than it was doing on VHS and DVD. And as to why and what that means and things I don't know. And also, I don't know. I don't know how much Netflix is paying for horror, but I would imagine it's low. Because it's, it feels niche and the sense that so I'm not a massive fan of romantic comedies, I don't mind them, but I'm not a massive fan, but I'm not actively against them. Whereas there are a lot of people who are actively against horror, whether it's because they've got children or because they're nervous, or whatever it will be. So when you're buying content for Netflix, or Amazon Prime or whatever, maybe you're not thinking what do people love? You may be thinking, what do people not, hey,
Alex Ferrari 1:30:27
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Right and, and that's in but also now there's like shutter and a couple of other s VOD platforms that are completely dedicated to horror films because it is such a niche kind of thing. And, and why not show every single kind of horror film that you like, is gross and net gross, but as gory as you want, or as much nudity as you want. And this is what we do. So shutter is kind of like the Netflix for horror films. At this point, I've talked to so many filmmakers who are trying to get deals with with with shutter just trying to get their film on as far because they're they actually paying and they actually make money with their with their horror film. So the whole the whole landscape of s VOD is is so champion now we got Disney plus coming Apple TVs throwing their hat in the ring. You know, it's getting it's getting out of hand. There's I even have a streaming service for God's sakes. Oh, I haven't got one yet. I have to pick one up. You got to pick one. I mean, it's the coolest thing. Everyone's got one. You know, maybe
Steven Follows 1:31:38
I have got one. Maybe I didn't realize it. I should just do. But yeah, I think on the landscape, you're right, it was it was easier when there was only one or two platforms, and you could get all your movies there. But as a consumer, that's not good in the long term. You know, we want to have competing services that we that evolve and compete for our dollars, you know, that's in the big picture, that's good. Whether it will work out that way, I don't know. And certainly I don't look forward to rather than paying 999 for Netflix, I now paying 999 to 10 different companies, that doesn't interest me. But you know, cable was a lot more expensive, you know, that
Alex Ferrari 1:32:16
we're getting to that. But we are getting to that point where it's now getting almost equal because Disney plus is coming out. So I have kids I'm getting Disney plus and also they have Marvel and Star Wars and, and in all the other brands that they own everything. So that's a good, it seems like a good ROI for the money because you're gonna have access to and also they have Fox two for cut six, they own everything. So they have all of these things. Netflix is a good value. And then if you're a horror fan, you know, shutters a great value for them. But it's starting to get to the point where like, you know, I think they just closed down DC Universe. So that was a whole streaming service dedicated to just the DC Universe, which I had no idea that I
Steven Follows 1:32:55
didn't even know existed, I would have actively avoided it. But it turns out I passively avoid
Alex Ferrari 1:33:00
you passively avoided it. But the point is that that just closed down. And I'm like I don't know what that that and now Warner Brothers is coming out with their own streaming service at Paramount, I think is thinking about doing something as well universal. It's got one universals component in the in the work. So like, at a certain point, you're like, I'm not gonna pay for all this guys. You know, like, I'm just not well,
Steven Follows 1:33:20
are you though? Because the thing is that what what the interesting thing is one of the reasons that Netflix had such a poor when their earnings statement came out a week or two ago, and there was a big drop in their stock price. One of the reasons was that it looks like they're evolving from being what was effectively an essential service for many people like it was okay, you need to have this because there are movies, and they're now becoming hit driven. They need a stranger things. And that's the the HBO model, HBO needs Game of Thrones. And if you look at the unsubscribe rates, actually, someone did this. If you look at Google Trends, for the phrase, unsubscribe HBO, and correlate it with when Game of Thrones finished, we have massive, of course. So that's a more risky mission, because you're going from just needing to have content No, we're not content to needing to have particularly good content. But as a consumer, I kind of want that I want them to chase after my dollars and Amazon just announced that as well. They're going to try and be more focused and it may produce you know, lowest common denominator big movies, but it might also produce stuff that people actually want to watch.
Alex Ferrari 1:34:24
I mean, look at the movie Irishmen. Stacy's new film just came out. It's coming out soon on Netflix. I mean, it's I think Netflix is here to stay until Apple buys them. But it's it's an interesting landscape. It's gonna be very interesting moving forward as an independent filmmaker and, and getting your movies out there. And horror for sure. is going to be interesting to see how this landscape continues but it is Hoare unlike any other genre is very, very unique in the sense that it like you say it they're willing to give chances to to film More than other genres it doesn't matter about budget doesn't matter about stars they want to buy product they want to consume they want to consume the in view these things on physical media. You know, they're they're very in a small microcosm their own little world horror films and horror fans. And I mean I've been Have you ever been to a horror convention?
Steven Follows 1:35:24
No, I don't think I don't like horror films. I can't imagine I
Alex Ferrari 1:35:26
was the my first my first short film I did. A lot of people thought it was a horror film, but it was just an action film in a really creepy place. And but a lot of horror fans loved it, because it was such a creepy, you know, vibe. So I just went along with it. I'm like, Okay, cool. It's a horror film. Why not? So I would go to horror conventions, where I would, and I was introduced, and I would sell my DVD there, I would sell my wares there, I would sell my other ancillary products. And I did that a handful of times when I first starting out, and I saw what horror conventions were like, and it's, it's, they're very passionate. It's kind of like, you know, hardcore comic book fans. They're very affectionate.
Steven Follows 1:36:08
That's so funny. That's such an Alec story. Because I thought you're gonna go Yeah, I went to this convention. And the interesting being a consumer, and I'm wandering around out and you're like, yeah, I went to this convention, and I was selling things. And I had a stand and I made a course you did? Yeah, of course, I
Alex Ferrari 1:36:21
did. So I have to stay on brand, sir, I have to. So I want to ask you, I want to ask you, what's the biggest thing you learned by putting this whole report together?
Steven Follows 1:36:32
That's a good question. I think I learned that there's a lot more under the surface than people give credit for. So I think there were so many topics where I was like, Wow, there are patterns, but there are complexities to it. And I hadn't heard other people talking about them. And I'm not willing to I'm not suggesting I you know, found things no one else has. But certainly I you would have thought it would this many films being made with the internet being what it is, a lot of this stuff would already be well known, discussed and incorporated into the work. And it's absolutely not. And so I was kind of the big picture was just how filmmakers aren't really paying attention in this sort of rational, smart way to achieving what they define as their goals. And so I was kind of surprised. It almost looks to me, like, given the amount of data we already have horror film should have been figured out a lot more than they are the way that Disney seems to have figured out how to make money. They horror filmmakers don't seem to be they either don't notice or they're not caring, I can't tell.
Alex Ferrari 1:37:31
I think Well, I think filmmaker, independent filmmakers in general don't, a lot of times don't care. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I just think that's just something that's not in their mind. It's so difficult in their mind to get a movie made, let alone thinking about how to market sell it or make money with it is almost something afterthought. And they think of the art and they don't think of the business. And I think horror has a it's a it's a law, it's still a little bit of a wild, wild west, you know, out of all the genres, which is nice, because like, yeah,
Steven Follows 1:38:03
it's it's for the fans. And yeah, it's something where your interpretation is really important. It's not like Disney, where you just need your avatar, you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right money and the right history. Actually, it's a lot more open than almost any other genre.
Alex Ferrari 1:38:16
Yeah. And, and you can have a lot of fun with it. I mean, Spielberg started off his career, making horror movies, you know, with from Jaws, and then working on Poltergeist and those kinds of films, those kind of seminal films. You know, you have a lot of fun scaring people. I mean, you can really have a lot of fun. It doesn't have to be super gory, or a lot of nudity. That's one genre, but paranormal, like, you know, paranormal ghost stories, Jesus, that's scary as hell. You know, there's so many different kinds of sub genres within the Horde that you as an independent filmmaker can just have a lot a lot of fun with. And now I have to ask you this, what the heck's next for you, man? What's the next big Opus you're working on? Well, I can't, I can't talk about it, I can't talk about it. And then
Steven Follows 1:39:05
I can't, I don't know. And now I'm trying to, I'm trying to work out how it's gonna I can be useful to the film community, because I've been writing these articles every week. And I intend to keep doing it, I really enjoy it. But I feel like there's another thing that I should be doing to be helpful in some way, and I can't work out what it is. So this report when I was doing it, I thought, this might be a really interesting way I can help where it's a pay what you want model, meaning that most people won't pay or pay the minimum, which is a pound, some will pay more. And if that makes sense, economically, then I can keep doing that for different genres and things like that. It has done well but not well enough for that to be the obvious thing to do. So it's not going to be in this sort of long form. And I also wonder whether a 200 page report as a PDF is the way people want to engage with this. So I'm thinking of running some live courses and doing some other ways to allow people to engage with The information and if anyone has any suggestions or anything, please let me know. I've got an event in New York, in on the 20 somethings of October, when I find the date, it's a Saturday. It's a team, I'm teaming up with NYU and their production lab to do a one day event around independent film and stuff like that. By the time this comes out, I will know a lot more like the exact date just can't remember. And I will tell Alex, and I'm sure he'll put it in the show notes or push it out there. And if you're, if you're interested, want to hear about hearing more go onto my site, which is Steven follows comm and sign up for the mailing list or drop me a line and say, Hey, what's the latest? And yeah, if you've got any ideas for what I should do next, or whether it's a study for the blog, or whether it's a format thing, you know, do more reports, or do more live courses, talk to me about it, because I'm thinking out, I'm going to keep doing the blog, but I haven't figured out what the next big thing is. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:40:58
I think Core i think coursework and workshops would be a really good way to to interact with this information, because a 200 page report is a lot to digest, but sitting down for two or three hours. And and listening to a workshop or taking a course about this kind of stuff makes a lot more sense, I think, as to why I would want to consume this stuff. Because for me to sit down and read a 200 page report is is rough for me. But I still love it.
Steven Follows 1:41:27
Yeah, no, I totally understand. I mean, as I was saying, I do a lot of stuff with we have done a lot of stuff with Chris Jones. And he wrote the gorilla filmmakers Handbook, which is this huge, like the second edition sort of Bible size. And then the third edition was Bible width, Bible depth, a bit wider and taller. And he also runs gorilla filmmakers master classes. And I said to him, once, who these different people who are reading the book, or they're the same people or what and he said, Yeah, people want to, it's a mix. People want to engage with information differently. And I totally understand that. And I thought about that. And I thought about how I've gone on courses where I could have just read about something or I bought a book or I could have googled it because I want it in a different way. And I want a different level of depth. So if you as as a as a listener listening to this thinking, you know what, that's that's exactly right. I don't want it in this form. Drop me, drop me a mail, tell me how you do want it. Because ultimately, what I'm trying to do is help filmmakers, and I'm trying to help people make their film by whatever, whatever they decide is important. You know, this, this story, this genre, this way of doing it, I don't mind, but I want to support that. But I, I'm still working out how to get it out of my head into theirs. And
Alex Ferrari 1:42:40
Now I have a few questions. I asked all of my film entrepreneur guests, what advice would you give a film to produce starting a project?
Steven Follows 1:42:50
I think know why you're doing it. So you can make films for all sorts of different reasons. And I think, amongst the top reasons to be making it for fun, you're making it for experience, you're making it for exposure, you're making it for money. Or there's something else that you just you know, there's you making it for the art, let's say, of those five reasons, each of them have different next steps, and they have wildly different endpoints. And I think you have to know why you're making it. Because then if you're offered a load of money to do something you don't want to do, you'll know whether to take the money or not. Or you know, what your expectation should be and how you should pitch it to collaborators and investors and whoever. So I think know why you're doing it really sit down and think about it and work out what the number one priority is. Because I think you can probably achieve that. But only if you know what it is and you're willing to put it ahead of other goals.
Alex Ferrari 1:43:42
Now, what is the biggest lesson you've learned from building your company, your own company, your own businesses?
Steven Follows 1:43:49
You can't do anything by yourself, or you can but it's exhausting and hard to do. Tell me about anything? Yeah, I know you need a team. And, and I am very, very lucky that my I used to have a company that I ran by myself and I now co run it with a business partner. And honestly, we wish there were three of us as a trio, because it would be that, you know, they had in particular that third person had experiences we don't that would be great. And I think that learning, learning to delegate, learning to be vulnerable and open it up and also to attract interesting people who you think can add something new. It's, it's not a natural skill, because you presumably have started to do everything yourself because you can't find somebody else, which means you end up producing your own movies, even though you want to direct star, right, whatever. And you've got to learn to let go of some of that control and allow other people do it badly, maybe but badly, but not as well as you would, because that allows you to focus on other things. And I think that's a really hard lesson to learn. And if you can do it, you can achieve so much more, have more fun and also it's nice to be with other people. And especially when the world doesn't understand what you're doing, and your parents don't understand what you're doing. Your partners have a business plan. It goes, Yeah, no, I know. I know, that failed. But it was still very good, wasn't it? And you're like, God, thank you.
Alex Ferrari 1:45:05
You get me. Yes. cellmates. I love it. That's a great, that's great. Now, what did you learn from your biggest business failure?
Steven Follows 1:45:22
What worries me is I haven't learned it, whatever it is. I think that in our industry, there is a massive amount of delusion that needs to go on. And in a good way, I mean, maybe I should find a different word other than delusion, but you know, self belief or, or not listening to the facts. And that is great. And that should carry on. However, there are some realities that you know, are going to happen, you know, you know, you've got that invoice and to pay in three weeks is and you've got no income, face up to it now, you know, talk to people go to that person and say, Look, I know it's not due yet, but I don't have the money. What can we do? How can I figure it out? rather than waiting and putting your head in the sand? And I think those two things, believing in yourself and also facing up to reality, feel like they run completely counter, but I don't think they actually do if you managed to get them done, right. And I think about being honest, and trying to face up to this inevitable thing. Or at least, maybe it's not inevitable, but it's likely actually dealing with it now is usually much better than dealing with it later. If you go to someone who's expecting, I mean, like, if you're expect if you're owed some money, and way before it's overdue, the person comes to you and says, Look, I know you're going to hate me for this, but I'm struggling. Can you give me a bit of leeway? Or can I pay you in installments? You're not gonna like it, but you're going to be much more up for it. Whereas if you're expecting a big payment on Thursday, and Thursday comes and nothing happens. And then Friday hams, nothing happens Monday, nothing happens. You're already angry. And then they go oh, yeah, by the way, I don't have the money. You've your expectations has completely changed. So I think, acknowledging when these bad things, which sometimes happen are inevitable and facing up to them sooner rather than just ignoring them. They never go away.
Alex Ferrari 1:47:03
Never, never, never. Now, in your opinion, what is the definition of a film? shoprunner? Well, I mean, if we're being pedantic about this, it's not a real world. It is. It is a real word, sir. I i've trademarked and coined it, sir. So yes,
Steven Follows 1:47:20
Yes. You can't trademark a word. That's not how words work you can verify? proves you.
Alex Ferrari 1:47:31
Okay, an entrepreneurial filmmaker, sir. What is the definition of an archer video filmmaker, you son of
Steven Follows 1:47:41
Okay, all jokes aside, I genuinely think that there's real value in realizing that you're an artist in a business world, or at least that there's compromises to be made between them. And producers of all the jobs are the ones that have to sit with one foot in art and one foot in commerce. And if you as a independent filmmaker, or as someone who is producing your own film content, if you don't have a producer that will do all that for you, and let you be a sheltered artist, which by the way no one has, then you've got to fess up to some of it in the same way that you know how to pay taxes or know how to pay your rent, or you know how the washing machine works. Because not because you want to but because the alternative is pretty crappy, and you're not protecting yourself. So I think even if you feel like business isn't what you choose to do, you are stepping up and saying, Yeah, I get that this is something that's necessary. So I think it's about maturity. I think it's about seriousness. And I think it's about protecting the artist inside you to actually live in continue to make a long term career in something you love, rather than trying to ignore things and do it once and burn it. So yeah, I think it's, it's a real admirable place for an artist and filmmaker to be to realize, you know what, this is something that's important to the world and important to the longevity of what I want to do.
Alex Ferrari 1:48:57
That's awesome. Now, Steven, this has been an epic, epic conversation as we both knew it would be. We're an hour and 45 minutes in already, I think. I can't believe it's so short. I know. I know. We keep talking forever. You're one of those guests that I could just sit down and we just like, honestly, like the first 30 minutes, I didn't ask one question. It was all just literally like, I have a list of questions. I was gonna ask that one question was asked I think in the first 30 minutes of our conversation, because we were just riffing so we should do a podcast together like you know, the Steven and Alec show.
Steven Follows 1:49:31
What you if you want to if you want that write in email, Alex, not me. The one that would do all the marketing anyway. Yeah, right in let's let's get that going.
Alex Ferrari 1:49:43
Stephen, man, thank you, again, so much for being so straightforward. And for all the great work you're doing for the film community, man, I really appreciate it. And thanks for dropping the knowledge bombs on the tribe today.
Steven Follows 1:49:53
Oh, it's my pleasure. And thank you so much for all the work you do and also inviting me on because this is something that I'm really passionate about talking about, and it's really Nice to know that through you, I can reach all sorts of other filmmakers who be able to use these insights and findings for on their own films. That's really exciting. That's why I do what I do.
Alex Ferrari 1:50:09
Thank you, brother.
Steven Follows 1:50:10
All the best. Bye! Bye!
Alex Ferrari 1:50:12
I want to thank Stephen for being on the show. And just all the knowledge that he was able to give us with this report and his independent film report and all the work that he does. Over at his website, stevenfollows.com is remarkable. Steven, thank you so much for the hard work you're doing for all of us, the independent filmmakers out here. So thank you, again, so much, Steven, if you want to get a link to the horror report and download it for free, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/359. For the show notes, I'll have links to his website, the report, and anything else we spoke about in this episode. Now, before we go, I have an announcement. And this is the single biggest question I've been asked over the course of the last year. Alex, when is your feature film on the corner of ego and desire going to be released, we want to watch this movie that you keep talking about. And I've been talking about it so long. And it's also in the book that's coming out Rise of the filmtrepreneur, I talk a lot about it in that book as well. Well, guys, we have a release date, January 21 2020. And it's about three days away or three days before Sunday, something like that, which is coincidental. I didn't plan that of course, but it will be available on Amazon, iTunes, and on indie film, hustle TV. And if you decide to watch it on indie film, hustle TV, you will also get some bonus stuff that you can't get anywhere else, which is a behind the scenes footage about how we were making it, as well as the director commentary track where I will go into scene by scene and explain to you how I was doing, what I was doing in the scene, and how we were able to get certain shots and performance things and a little bit a little bit of trivia about how we were able to put together a entire feature film at the Sundance Film Festival, shooting it at the Sundance Film Festival while the Sundance Film Festival is going on in four days or total about 36 hours of actual production time by guerilla filmmaking the entire thing with a three man crew. So January 21 2020, Amazon iTunes and indie film hustle TV. Thank you guys for listening. And you will have another Halloween themed episode later this week, either Thursday or Friday, depending on when I can release it. And we're going to get into the nuts and bolts of a of a scary film but also how we're selling that scary film. But we'll get into that later. Thank you guys so much. As always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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