IFH 394: Using Filmmaking for Change in the World with Jon Fitzgerald



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Today on the show we have filmmaker and author Jon Fitzgerald. Jon has twenty-five years of experience in the independent film, internet, and film festival communities, a rare leader with a unique combination of skills.  As a filmmaker, he has produced a number of award-winning documentaries; and as a consultant, he has guided many independent film projects through the maze of festivals and hybrid distribution models.

As a co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival (1995), he led the event the next two seasons before being named the Festival Director for the prestigious AFI Film Festival in 1997.  After running AFI Fest for three years (1997-1999), he created a consulting business, guiding the launch of numerous film festivals (Bahamas, Lone Star, Orlando), directing several others (Santa Barbara, Topanga, and Abu Dhabi), and consulting to dozens more.

Jon authored his first book, entitled Filmmaking for Change: Make Films That Transform the Worldwhich was ground-breaking in the space.

Again, based on the premise that powerful stories can create change, Jon founded Cause Cinema, connecting social impact films to related causes. The Company acts as a filter to the best of social impact cinema, integrating numerous film programs, social action campaigns, and unique exhibition models, giving audiences the tools to take action.

Enjoy my conversation with Jon Fitzgerald.

Alex Ferrari 2:09
Now guys, today on the show, we have John Fitzgerald. Now John is a very interesting filmmaker, because not only is he an award winning filmmaker, he's also the co founder of the slamdance Film Festival, and the author of the book filmmaking for change. Now this episode was recorded prior to COVID. And prior to the protest movement and Black Lives Matter, and everything that's going on in the world. But, man, when I went back to listen to it to get it ready for this episode, I could not believe how timely This episode is. So we talk about how to make social change with your filmmaking. And I think it's more important than ever before, that you make a change in the world with your art. And this episode in this conversation will help you get on that path. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with John Fitzgerald. I'd like to welcome the show John Fitzgerald man, thank you so much for being on the show my friend.

Jon Fitzgerald 3:19
Absolutely happy to be here.

Alex Ferrari 3:21
Thank you, man. And like we saying off air. You your book makes a cameo in my film on the corner of ego and desire. When we're in the bookstore we pan across is the first book that scene in it. It's not a quick pan there's it's a moment you read the title. So I wanted to give you a shout out for for the book. I love that. I love that. So before we get started The reason it's here movie. Yeah, exactly. Now, real quick before we get started, how did you get into the business?

Jon Fitzgerald 3:51
Okay, I have a film degree from UCSB and broke into the train program at William Morris. And back then it was actually triad but it was it was acquired and did the development thing a while socking away my per diem, working on a script that I'd started in film school, and eventually raise the funds to shoot it. And like everyone else, really wanted to premiered at Sundance, but it wasn't to be. Fortunately for me, I had met a couple other filmmakers at the I FM in New York that year. And they didn't get in either. And so we all banded together and started slam dance. So I kind of by accident, became a festival director. We all did it together the first year as co founders and then I became the director for year two and three in Brighton. Peter Baxter was one of the producers of a film in the first year he came on as a creative director and then I moved on to take over As a fi fest director, and then Peter took over slam dance. So that's the short version of how I got into this indie film space.

Alex Ferrari 5:08
That's it. And Dan has been on the show, Dan Mirvish has been on the show multiple times, and he's great. He also makes a cameo himself. Oh, man, he hustles man, like, there's no tomorrow. And he actually makes a cameo in the movie, and his book makes a cameo. I tried to bring as many people as I could.

Jon Fitzgerald 5:29
He's great. And he, you know, I have to give him a lot of kudos. He's the one that you know, wrote the first press release that was in variety. And he was he was a big help. And he's, he's a great guy.

Alex Ferrari 5:42
Now, um, you wrote a book called filmmaking for change. Now, I wanted to ask you what the book is about, and why did you write it?

Jon Fitzgerald 5:50
Sure. Well, having done film festivals for a number of years, again, you know, as a festival director, especially curating movies, I found myself on a panel with Michael Lisi. And we're walking back to the hotel. And I said, Hey, I become more interested in what I call social impact movies and wondering, you know, why they don't have a book on this subject? What would it take to make that happen? And he said, Well, send me an outline and the first chapter and you know, if it makes sense, we'll do it. So that's kind of where it started. And it's true, I had become much more interested in, in documentary, and even narrative that that, you know, were movies with some social relevance. And so I did that book. And, and really was thinking along the lines with with some of the other books that this could be something that was taught in film schools, to really help filmmakers, learn how to take ideas, and make documentary, but not just talking heads documentary, but how do you how you take a core of an idea and sort of break it down into a narrative structure. And I used some other Michael ABC books, the hero's journey, for example, Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, and the 12 stages, I'm sure you're familiar with that. And so that was kind of the anchor for for the book and how to have, you know, development and production, and then distribution and how you could take all these pieces and think of these movies as, as, as more narrative stories, and and then I made a handful of documentaries along the way that I could kind of reference in the book as examples.

Alex Ferrari 7:42
Now, documentaries are an easy, an easy play for social impact. They're kind of you know, if done correctly, they're kind of built to do that. Where I find it a little bit more complicated is in the narrative space. Do you have any tips or suggestions? And also examples of narrative films that have really hit us has created social impact besides coming to America? Of course?

Jon Fitzgerald 8:08
Well, I it's funny, you say that, because I, you know, when I was writing the book, obviously, I had to do a lot of research to give it some context. And what you really learn when you kind of take a deeper dive is that a lot of movies over the years have been social impact movies, you're just not labeled that way. And you think you even think about, you know, Schindler's List. You know, you think of greenbook Yeah, right. If you think I mean, if you look at the Oscars the last few years, it's its spotlight, you think of a lot of big narratives that actually have something to say. And and so I think it's, it's not something that audiences are necessarily looking out for consciously. But I think because there's so much wackiness going on in the world. I think that one of the reasons why we're seeing kind of a spike in documentary and even social impact narrative is that people are more interested in learning now about the world around them in different cultures and, and getting to the crux of some of these big issues.

Alex Ferrari 9:13
Now, how do you dance though, the line between preachy and entertaining because if you start preaching, people tune off even in documentaries to a certain extent. I'm a huge fan of documentary and you know, the whole plant based food movement was started with a documentary basically with four knives. Yeah, I'm sorry. Forks Over Knives is in my book as a case study. Yeah, fork over knives, food matters, all those kind of what the health and cow spear see and all these other ones. So they're very powerful and even back in the day with Roger and me with with Michael Moore and his social impacts with his documentaries. Yeah. But how do you dance the line between preaching and entertaining?

Jon Fitzgerald 9:59
I honestly See think it's, it's it's a combination of different factors that don't necessarily all apply into each project, I think each kind of has their own their own anchor, obviously, with more you've got, you've got a charismatic figure who you kind of want to watch, because he's so crazy. But there's other, there's other documentaries, where the filmmaking style is really interesting, you know, you think about life itself, right? documentary made a few years ago, and they used animation. And this this, this, you know, this guy had grown up with with, you know, a disorder, essentially and connected back to Disney movies. And so I think it's really a question of what your style and your structure is, and, and if you can somehow weave in a narrative? Oh, I mean, there, there is a reason why, you know, there's a beginning, a middle and an end to most of the more popular stories, whether it's, whether it's a book or a movie, so, so I think that's the key. And I think, you know, filmmakers are getting it. And that's why if you look back, and to some extent, you could, we could thank Netflix, they've, they've really, you know, busted open the doors for documentary in the last few years, I think, with such a deep library, and, of course, HBO. So they're out there. And, and there's a, there's a reason why people are paying attention now. And I think it's because these stories are told in such an interesting way.

Alex Ferrari 11:33
The one thing I found interesting about your book, and what you're trying to say with it is that it does really fall into the concept that I've kind of been preaching about, profusely over the last six months, or longer, is this whole concept of being a film shoprunner being a an entrepreneurial filmmaker, and finding a niche, and then feeding that niche providing service to that niche, impact social impact movies are literally that you think, I mean, unless it's a very broad, like, you know, racism, or the Holocaust, or even that those are still niches of the larger society. They're kind of pre built for that, do you have any tips on how, because I know, when you're making a social impact, film money might not be a specific goal. But if you're raising money for a cause, for for a foundation, then generating revenue is as important as if it was going into your own pocket even more so than at that point. So still, revenue generation is still extremely important for, for filmmakers even doing social impact movie. So do you have any recommendations in regards to what you've seen over the years?

Jon Fitzgerald 12:46
Yeah, that's a great point. And I love the idea of your book, by the way, and I, I've consulted for a number of years helping filmmakers kind of figure out their marketing and distribution strategy. And one of the things that I've been saying a lot in the last few years is you really have to think of your movie as a brand. And you have to think about it as a product and not just find a distributor, stick it on that show. And, you know, see how many people might find it, I, you do have to do all the things that I'm sure you cover in your book, in terms of, of social impact, what's what's interesting, is, you need to have a call to action. And, and when I talk to filmmakers about this, it kind of all starts with the goal. And then you back into the process from there. And each film kind of has its own goal, right? Because a film about homelessness is not necessarily going to have the same goal as a film about the environment. You look at a movie like racing extinction, you know, they created an amazing campaign. And I don't know if you had a chance to check it out. But the the new book that the second edition, has a whole new section, which is called activation to your point, which is, you know, how can you take this idea that was built with a mission in mind and put it in motion? And I think what racing extinction did, which was brilliant, is that they they took this concept of, of climate change. And and, you know, they put different challenges in there with call to actions. And did you know that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global mission? I mean, and then they talk about the fisheries as you know that 90% of the fisheries are over fish. So they talk about these issues, and then they follow up with with questions and solutions and what you can do as a person to make your contribution and I think part of the problem is that people get overwhelmed with the idea that oh my god, there's so many problems. How can little old me make a difference? You know, and I think it does have to start with us and we have to just know that every little bit counts.

Alex Ferrari 14:58
Yeah, there's um I'm thinking a movie camp like boys don't cry, which obviously touched upon, at the time, really, you know that, you know, LGBTQ rights, which was something that was not even discussed when that movie came out really was kind of like one of those films. And it could have been at the end, like, hey, if you know somebody, put on it, go to this website, sign up, and get help, or whatever that might be or, you know, get assistance or whatever there is, there's always an ability, and I think the filmmaker just really needs to be very clear about what their endgame is. I've even seen big movies who that touched like, I mean, obviously, Schindler's List, you know, with, this was a social or social project that he that Spielberg created, which was, you know, to record every Holocaust survivor in America, you know, and he use Schindler's List as an as a catalyst for that as an educational tool. I think that you're right, that filmmakers really need to be very clear about what their endgame is. And also, I was going to ask you, how can filmmakers, depending on the the social impact of trying to make and the niche that you're trying to do? How could they? Or should they team up with organizations in that niche to get the word out in ways that you can't and also as a, basically free marketing, because if you're making a film about the environment, let's say we are specific, something even more niche than that. And there's an organization about that they have 1000s and 10s, of 1000s, and hundreds of 1000s of people on an email list, and they can market your film for free essentially, do you agree with that?

Jon Fitzgerald 16:39
Absolutely. Just hit it right on the head. I mean, with with virtually all of these, what I call, cause cinema movies, you know, the these are, these are projects that have not for profits, depending on the category, whether it's the oceans, or homelessness or education, veterans, you name it, all of them have organizations to support this effort. And, and it is, in a way, almost a sponsorship or a partnership agreement that that is developed between filmmaking team and, and, you know, company, really, it's going to them and saying, Look, I've got this content, and it supports your mission, how can we help each other? How can you get our message out to your audience base, maybe it's giving you some content for your website, depending on what their forum is, but it really does come down to understanding after you get past, you know, underneath the layer of the goal, it's what's your, what's your distribution plan? Are you are you interested in playing on Netflix or HBO? And what if they don't want you? You know, are you? Are you going to play in schools? Are you going to play in high schools you to play in colleges? What is your What is your action campaign that supports the screening? Are you going to have bumper stickers? Are you going to have T shirts? What is your call to action? And I think once you back into what your distribution model is, I did a movie a few years ago called the Milky Way. And it's about breastfeeding in America nice and restoring the nursing phenomena, right? It'll blow your mind just how bad America is at this. This, really, and kids,

Alex Ferrari 18:28
I trust me, I know, we did sue me. I was psychotic. And my kids were in my wife's belly. I was just like, I did so much research. I watched so many documentaries. It was like, Baby, you're breastfeeding. And she's like, I know, and Don't tell me what to do.

Jon Fitzgerald 18:42
But what's what's crazy, though, is is that a lot of people just assume that, you know, formula, the nutrition factor or whatever, but they don't they don't realize it's the skin to skin in a anyway I know about. I know more about that now that my wife did when she was breastfeeding. But But the point is, is that these filmmakers weren't making it to make money. They Yes, they were on Netflix. Yes, they got the exposure. But it was more about how do we do a screening campaign that will give mothers an opportunity to see this movie and who are the right partners to do that. So with that particular film, speaking of tug, unfortunately, we did a campaign with tugg. And frankly, these filmmakers did not set the bar super high in terms of how many people had to see the movie to trigger the screening their thing and look at their 1520 moms in that theater. We're good that we help we're in so they didn't do it for money. And it's it's it's a wonderful thing to see when you see the emails flooding into ladies. They're both they're both essentially nurses in to see the impact they're having and that is a perfect example of a social impact film that we created with a beginning, middle and end. It has a story. There's the good guys and the bad guys There's some animation. And it's an interesting, it's an interesting story. But it does make a difference. And they knew that it wasn't about how much money they were going to make. It was about connecting to these groups, and having their Facebook and their Instagram and all these social media platforms and websites, in that nursing category that could do outreach for them. Because as audiences want to know about this subject,

Alex Ferrari 20:26
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So let's since you've touched upon it, I want to talk a little bit about distribution. And that is, it's a dirty word, in many ways, and has become a dirty word. And at the end of the day, it's always wild, wild west, it's in people think it's, oh, no, everything's so much, you know, easier, or it's more controlled, there are rules, there's absolutely no rules, it's worse than ever. And I've literally, I actually had conversations today, actually with filmmakers, who are going through this whole tug situation if if anyone listening has not listened to Episode 373, where I, you know, break the story in regards to what happened with tug and, and what tug was and everything. But that there was documentaries, who had educational series and educational content that was licensed by tug. And now they're, they're going to lose eight to 10 grand and like, that's, you know, plus all the all the exposure for the cause, and everything. It's brutal out there. So it's brutal out there for filmmakers as a general statement. But it's even I think it's even a little bit more heartbreaking when you're when you're doing this for almost a nonprofit. And there are nonprofit filmmakers out there that just want the cause to get out there. And they still get screwed. And in the in the films get screwed. I mean, you're you're in that you're in this space, you're definitely in the space of distribution as well. So I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas about what can be done, what should you look out for? And we touched a bit a little bit about the entrepreneurial filmmaking model, which I do believe is the future or hybrid version of that. But what's your what's your take on it?

Jon Fitzgerald 22:19
Well, I I think I tend to try and look at things like a little bit more of the silver lining side, I, I do think that it is it is really disturbing when you hear about a stripper and tug. And these these, these companies that were doing so well for filmmakers that, you know, shut down. I will also say, though, that that by having so many new streaming channels, and frankly, channels that that aren't necessarily curating, there isn't as difficult of a barrier as there as there was some time ago. I mean, clearly, if you don't have a relationship with iTunes, you don't have a relationship with Netflix or HBO, it's gonna be hard for you to get good traction there. So I do think it's a challenge. I think, to your earlier point, I do think filmmakers have to be entrepreneurial now. Now more than they used to be. It wasn't just, I'm a visionary, and I'm going to create an idea, then give it to a sales agent who's going to rip me off and try and sell it. You have to, you have to build up, get creative on your own. But I do think there are a lot of opportunities out there, you still have to do your homework, you have to know who the right players are. And you still I believe, you know, some of these content creators are creating channels for themselves. Right. Roku has over 2000 channels now. Right. And there's gonna be some consolidation, of course, but but there's a lot of opportunity out there. You just got to do your homework.

Alex Ferrari 23:48
Yeah, I mean, I even have my own streaming service, you know, so that's dedicated to filmmakers. So I mean, a lot of people have streaming services. And, you know, I think the future is curation. I mean, you can't like I agree, I guess I can't compete with Netflix. Not many people can Amazon can't compete with Netflix, let alone me. So they're the broad spectrum channels, I think will start to just die off because they won't be able to be sustained, their funding will finally crap out and they'll end they'll close. And I've seen that already happening. But I feel that the niche, the niche, or curated channels are going to be able to survive because people will want you know, if you're into documentaries, curiosity stream is a pretty good deal. I just, I just signed up for 12 bucks for the year. I'm like, okay, it's Yeah, it was a quick like, end of the year ever Black Friday sale. I was like, Yeah, sure. I might wait, why Why? Why not? You know, so that that makes sense. And I think you're right, there's just so much more homework. That filming

Jon Fitzgerald 24:52
There's a lot out there. There's a lot out there and I do I do agree there's going to be some consolidation for sure that there won't be 2000 And channels in five years, but but the point is, do your homework and see which of these channels have your niche, you know, and and I do think that there is something to be said for curation, especially if you're focusing on a specific category, I think, you know, throwing as many ideas against the wall and just hoping a channel that has 17 genres is going to promote your title. That's, that's a bit more of a challenge. But I do think, especially for dogs, and some very specific, like sci fi, very hot, right. So I think if you if you if you're in a certain category, and you do your homework, and you can find a home, you have a chance to succeed there. And I still think having a website and, and having fans and creating community, as you know, I mean, those are, those are the audiences that would come and see your next movie. So I still think you don't want to just give it up and wait for the checks to roll in. You gotta you gotta gotta keep hustling

Alex Ferrari 26:03
When you're preaching to the choir on that one, but, but I see it too, that the distributors, you know, when I was at AFM this year, they're they're scared, they don't know what to do. I mean, all their golden calves are gone. So they they're, I asked, I literally asked a distribution company was in a meeting with me, I go, you guys really have no idea how you're gonna make money this year are you they're like, we're just gonna throw up things as many things up against the wall as we can and see what sticks and things are and the wall is moving. And the things you're throwing up against the wall are moving. So it's a constant game of musical chairs, and nobody really knows what's going on. So that's kind of why I always again, talking about entrepreneurial is the exploitation of the movie is one revenue stream. While you should be creating multiple other revenue streams from other products and or services, like food, like I mean, a fork over knives, I mean, those guys, I have them in my book as a as a case study as well, because yeah, they were really food matters. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Even even Kung Fury, Kung Fury, that little short film, remember that? That guy he you know, the niche of 80s action movies? I wouldn't say that's a social impact film, but depending how you look at it, that's okay. That's okay. Um, I worked on a really bad Steven Seagal movie. You mean? So? Um, pretty much almost all of them except for the first maybe three or four?

Jon Fitzgerald 27:28
Yeah, well, I've done the ground I have to say like,

Alex Ferrari 27:32
Oh, wait, is that the one? Is that the oil one?

Jon Fitzgerald 27:36
Yeah, and actually on Deadly Ground is the one that I worked on.

Alex Ferrari 27:41
Okay. Horrible. It's horrible. It's someone with Michael Caine right

Jon Fitzgerald 27:45
Under siege I think was the first one right that he was actually decent at. So under siege way.

Alex Ferrari 27:50
So are arguably, this is my time of life. So I worked in a video store during this time. So this is I there's like I've said before on the show, there's a window of time that I will challenge anybody to a trivia situation. So from 87 to 93. I pretty much watched everything that was put out. So during that time there was above the law hard to kill mark for death out for justice. And then underseas showed up out in the middle of the pack. Yeah, so under siege, I would argue is probably his best and was his biggest hit and it was a warner brothers release. above the law. Not bad. I have a small good place for me in hard to kill. But I did remember he did on Deadly Ground. If that's if I'm not mistaken. That's the oil one in Alaska. Yeah, with Michael Caine. And he directed

Jon Fitzgerald 28:42
McKinley, Billy Bob Thornton. It was a it was an awesome cast. But he directed he directed it. Yeah. And he was

Alex Ferrari 28:48
so drunk on his own power. I could only imagine what that was like.

Jon Fitzgerald 28:53
But it was a cast of what not to do in studio production that that movie would check all the boxes. But that was

Alex Ferrari 29:01
but that was a movie if I remember correctly, that was a social impact movie. He was trying to say something about American Eskimo, was it Eskimos or American Indian and oil and the Alaska. It was Alaska. So it was like the natives of Alaska and all this. So it really was a bit preachy, if I remember correct, it was like a bit preachy. It was bad. It was just bad. nothing good about bad cinema. It it started to it started to do

Jon Fitzgerald 29:29
a lot about it, was it It puts the money in my pocket. Did I say I could get closer to making my independent film that was the kind of helped me get to slam dance. That's the that's the way to look at it.

Alex Ferrari 29:40
That's an absolutely wonderful way to look at it, my friend. Now, um, do you have any tips for finding funding for the social impact films because when you're doing a social impact film, funding opportunities are more relevant than the action movie star. Eric Roberts and Michael Madsen. So you have places you could go to get that work. Do you have any tips for that for

Jon Fitzgerald 30:06
the listener? Well, you know, I do, I do cover that a little bit in the book. And I have a list of, of organizations, and it really just depends kind of on how much you're looking for. There's probably half a dozen or so and I know seeding the spark has has a lot of information about that. fledgling, you can, you can go to the doc, the IDA, website Chertsey a really long list of organizations that support docs, a lot of grants. What, what's also interesting is that is the crowdfunding campaign is kind of shifted to equity crowdfunding, yep. And so now you can get a you can get a piece of the movie instead of just, you know, a T shirt. So, so I do think there are a lot of opportunities. And as we both know, you can you can make these movies for next to nothing. So it's just a question of how creative how creative you can be. But the other thing I'll just add is there are companies like creative visions, right, that, that really support as a fiscal partner, and with a lot of tools and outreach, and a lot of examples, and they have talks and they bring filmmakers in and they they really support this social impact space, with a lot of information and resources, that that are hard to find in one in one shop. So that's another organization to know about. And I think moving forward, there has been definitely an uptick in social impact cinema over the last 20 years,

Alex Ferrari 31:42
I mean, just from the moment where I was talking that little magical moment when I worked at a video store that you know, from there, I don't remember seeing many, you know, it was the ad so is a little different. But there wasn't a lot of social impact films, but they have becoming more and more and more and more. That God I can't believe unconvenient Inconvenient Truth. Yeah, that launched an entire conversation.

Jon Fitzgerald 32:05
I talked about that a lot in my book. Oh, that's what that's what triggered me.

Alex Ferrari 32:09
That was such a great, it was such a great. It's such a powerful use of the medium. I mean, what they were able to do, and I actually taught trailer editing in colleges and classes, and I bring out the Inconvenient Truth trailer. That trailer was so well edited. It was so powerful, and it's al gore in doing a slideshow slideshow, like incredible what they did. They made the movie he made al gore kinda cool. It was kind of weird watching that. And then you watch a movie like supersize me which completely started a conversation a global conversation about obesity and about food and about so much so that the multi billion dollar company stopped supersize. Exactly it was it It was amazing. So these films do do hit and in the in the just hypersensitive times that we live in where any little thing offends the corporation's are so sensitive to this. So if Can you imagine if supersize me showed up today? Oh, my. Oh, my Could you imagine? Because that was like, that was that pre that wasn't pre internet, but it was like early. It was early. He was really whenever that come out? Like That was the 90s it wasn't Yeah, it's more than it was more than 10 years ago. No, it's definitely the 90s if I'm not mistaken, but late 90s when when that came out so late 90s or early 2000s but it was like pre Facebook free pre insane social media. I know you're looking it up go ahead go look it up to try and find it while you're talking. But yeah, but so the I think that there is an uptick and I think it's a very powerful way for a filmmaker to make a difference in the world and also change minds and and help people with with this because we have we work in arguably the most powerful media in the world as far as cinema television content like the video content. You know, you can watch a movie and your life changes like yeah, make a difference you know, yeah, and and and it Yeah, so 2004 By the way, okay, good. I was I wasn't too far off.

Jon Fitzgerald 34:26
Not too far. But the the thing is, these movies are movies that you you start a dialogue with somebody that may not know anything about it, right? You see something it's like hearing a new song, you want to tell your friend about that new song, you see one of these movies in it and it strikes you somehow makes you want to talk about it and share the information and one of the things that I think is is the next wave. I started this bit with cause cinema and then I got sidetracked with these other ideas but is, I believe There needs to be a more concentrated approach at connecting the cause to the movie. And so that if you see the movie, when you finish the movie, you're actually on a landing page that tells you more about the causes, if you want to get involved or make a donation or read more about it, that's something that hasn't really happened yet. And I think, you know, participant media was, was the was the likely candidate to assume that role, and they did a lot with with their digital, and then they shut it down. So somebody needs to do that in a big way. Because what you don't want to do is see one of these movies that can really make a difference, and then kind of go out to dinner and forget about it, right? You want to be able to make a difference. And that's why calls to action are so important.

Alex Ferrari 35:51
Yeah, I just saw the film game changers, which was I just read that was the biggest documentary in iTunes history within two weeks, which about vegan athletes. And I've had so many people publicly now come out like Dolph Lundgren and iron, Robert Downey, Jr. and all these people that watch the documentary that just like, yeah, I'm changing. I'm not trying to preach here, guys eat your meat, it's up to you. But I'm just I'm just using it as an example of a film that's had immense impact. I mean, I haven't seen an impact in that space as much probably since either what the health or fork over knives wasn't fork over knives, the first that I

Jon Fitzgerald 36:36
think Forks Over Knives, well, I think food matters might have come around first, but I think Forks Over Knives is the one that really busted it open. And they were smart talking about your entrepreneurs. You know, they they had, they had a companion piece. They had a magazine, they had a website. I mean, they've created a whole franchise around this, but but i think i think that, you know, Louis, who also did the cove, right, yes. And extinction. So he knows what he's doing. He's got an Oscar and he knows how to make a difference. And I think with with that movie came out of Sundance last year, right, I didn't see it, they're game changers. So yeah, it's gonna have an impact for sure. And more importantly, back to your other comment about distribution. It doesn't really help if you have a message and nobody sees it. Right. So you got it. You got to find your audience and and not everybody's going to have the luck of, of an acquisition at a Sundance and and an iTunes,

Alex Ferrari 37:33
iTunes deal. And also having James Cameron or Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan as your executive producers. That doesn't, doesn't didn't hurt in the least. It's a man I wanted. I wanted to thank you again, for being on the show. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Jon Fitzgerald 37:54
I think I think mentorship is key. Find people that are doing what you want to be doing, and reach out to them because most of them are willing to help. And and if you know what genre you want to be in, try and find somebody that's making projects in that genre. I think one of the other one of the other challenges is some people think they want to make movies, but it turns out, they don't want to make movies, they just want to be connected to the movie business. So I think, you know, part of the challenge is to figure out which part of the business you want to be in right? And and then figure out who can mentor you and give you advice on on on the best path to reach that goal.

Alex Ferrari 38:35
So I see you mean to tell me there's people in the business who just want to be famous and don't really care about the work stop at Johnston. Yeah. And next you're going to tell me distributors are you know, a lot of distributors are predatory. Like what do you what do you say? What is it's up is down, down is up cats and dogs living together? mass hysteria?

Jon Fitzgerald 38:54
I think the key is get into a train program and and be willing to do internships because a lot of those internships lead to full time gigs.

Alex Ferrari 39:01
Yeah, and if not a start punch. And if not, you start building that rhinoceros skin that you need that you need to build up in this business without question. Right. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jon Fitzgerald 39:17
I think the lesson that I learned over time in the film business was I kind of believe that if you did something and you did it really, really well, that you, you'd be able to make a lot of money. I love that. That's awesome. And then I realized, okay, if I want to be a really good curator at a really good festival director, or I want to teach film classes, or write or write books, unfortunately, most of those don't generally pay. making documentaries is not going to make you rich. Now, I'm not saying I got in this to get rich. I'm just saying I think I kept saying I'm not going to think about The financial picture of what I have to do to get my kids through school. Sure, I'm gonna work really hard and, and so I think the lesson was, you know what you got to go the other way you got to you got to love what you do. And fortunately for me, I've loved every minute of this journey. I've got to make movies, I've got to meet and discover tons of filmmakers. I love what I do. But But you, the lesson I learned was you can't think about where the money is going to come from. And think that just if I do this really well, I work really hard. And I'm good at that the money will come because the truth is some of these, some of these categories in the film space don't pay as well as you know, producing a movie for 20 Century Fox. And even those films sometimes are Disney.

Alex Ferrari 40:43
Exactly. There's no more 20 Century Fox or Come on, come on, it's gone now. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Jon Fitzgerald 40:54
I have to say Citizen Kane. I saw it in film school. And no, that's kind of an easy answer. Life is beautiful. I had the pleasure of showing with Panini and everyone there at the Chinese when I was running a FF I love that movie. And Gosh, my third one. I think one of the most impactful movies for me kind of coming out of film, school. Sex lies and videotape.

Alex Ferrari 41:22
Yeah, Soderbergh's first film and actually what put Sundance in the mouth?

Jon Fitzgerald 41:27
Yeah, very influential. Well, he generalists are three, those are three, three big ones.

Alex Ferrari 41:34
Yes, even is, in general, very influential. What he does, and what he's doing now with iPhones is pretty insane. So I'm glad there's someone like him out there doing what he's doing. And for that, and for that same back and forth. And also, I'm glad that you're out there doing what you're doing, and fighting the good fight and helping filmmakers. Find not only, you know, meaning sometimes in using this medium to actually help other people, which is very important, but also helping them find their path in this business and in life. And if you once you get a taste of this, of doing something social and something that helps other people, it's fairly addictive. And very rewarding. Yeah, yeah, it might you might not live in the Hollywood Hills, but you're happy, you're happier, I feel but you know, you live in the Hollywood Hills and have social impact. I mean, look, Arnold did it.

Jon Fitzgerald 42:26
One of the taglines I use for cars cinema was she good? Do good, feel good? Hey, that kind of sums it up, right? You get to see good social impact movies. You want to do good, right? With the call to action, and you'll feel good for doing so.

Alex Ferrari 42:43
That's a that's an amazing,

Jon Fitzgerald 42:45
Thanks for having me. Man. I it's it's an honor to be here. I've been I've been listening to your show and huge fan.

Alex Ferrari 42:51
I appreciate that. But thanks so much. And real quick, where can people find you and you and your work?

Jon Fitzgerald 42:56
causepictures.com is is is kind of my my anchor organization. And then for the book, filmmaking for change, obviously.

Alex Ferrari 43:06
Thank you so much, brother, I appreciate you coming on the show and keep fighting the good fight my friend.

Jon Fitzgerald 43:11
Thank you, you too.

Alex Ferrari 43:13
I want to thank john so much for being on the show and being an inspiration to the tribe on how to use your filmmaking to change the world to change society. And again, guys, you know, you don't have to put all the pressure of the world and the world's problems on your art and on your films and on your writing. But you can make a slight change, use a theme you something that can can change somebody's mind to, to really help the world as a whole. It is, I think really, really important that you use this very powerful medium that we call filmmaking, to make a change in the world in any small way we can. Now if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including links to his book, filmmaking for change, head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/394. And if you haven't already checked out the new indie film hustle Academy where we have awesome assortment of film education, courses, and workshops and seminars. Really high end stuff for the tribe. Just head over to eye f h academy.com. Thank you for listening guys. I hope you're all staying safe out there. It is crazy and getting crazier. Please stay home. Please protect yourselves and protect your neighbors wear a mask if at all possible. When you go out and and try to do whatever you can to make this world a little bit better than it was before you got here. Thank you again so much. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe, and I'll talk to you soon.




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