Want to hear a crazy story on how one Filmtrepreneur used a hybrid distribution and marketing strategy to sell his film Bomb It. May I introduce Jon Reiss. After hearing his story I had to have him on the show so he can tell his story to the IFH Tribe.
Jon Reiss was named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is a critically acclaimed filmmaker whose experience releasing his documentary feature, Bomb It with a hybrid distribution and marketing strategy.
This strategy inspired him writing Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era, the first step-by-step guide for filmmakers to distribute and market their films. Two years ago he co-wrote Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul and last year co-wrote Selling Your Film Outside the U.S.: Digital Distribution in Europe. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Jon Reiss teaches in the Film Directing Program at California Institute of the Arts. He created the course “Real World Survival Skills: Everything I Wish I Had Been Taught in Film School” which covers the practical/business aspects of filmmaking from fundraising through distribution.
Jon is a very interesting filmmaker. When I spoke to him he brought the heat and shared a ton of film marketing and distribution knowledge.
Enjoy my conversation with Jon Reiss.
Alex Ferrari 0:36
Today, guys, we're in for a treat. We've got a film distribution and marketing expert by the name of John Reiss. John wrote a book called thinking outside the box office the Ultimate Guide to film distribution, and marketing for the digital era. Now john is very well known throughout the industry, for his very unique techniques of doing kind of like a hybrid distribution marketing strategy that helped him sell his movie bomet. Very well, and how he was able to do it, he was written up in daily variety as one of the top 10 Digital directors to watch. He's also a music video director, as well as a documentary and narrative director. And he's co written two other books called selling your film without selling your soul, and selling your film outside the US digital distribution for Europe. So John's a really interesting guy, he has amazing information. So I had to get him on the show to share that with you, the tribe. So sit back and relax and enjoy my interview with John Reiss. Hey, John, thank you so much for jumping on board on the indie film hustle podcast, I really appreciate you taking the time.
John Reiss 1:59
Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to do it.
Alex Ferrari 2:03
Thanks so much. And so can you tell us a little bit about yourself about where you come from and what you're doing?
John Reiss 2:08
Um, I come from Silicon Valley. Okay. And, you know, you know, tried to do a short but ended up a place called target video, which was a punk rock collective in San Francisco in the early 80s. And then kind of got interested in industrial culture in work with these guys who make large remote control robots survivor Research Laboratory started doing documentaries of punk rock and them and then I went to UCLA film school. You know, like so many people do. And at a film school, I did a bunch of music videos, most notoriously was one for Nine Inch Nails. And then just kind of like, you know, did what everyone does, you know, you kind of like do things here do things, they're produced a directed a couple features, produced my produced it feature. And then started even writing scripts that based on my features, I started getting some script writing jobs. And then that kind of that kind of world dried up and is like, I was really dying to make another film. So I ended up making a film about graffiti all over the world. And which actually, then that came out around when the market distribution market collapsed. And
Alex Ferrari 3:25
when you mean the distribution market, you mean like the market, the market or all of this, like distribution market in general,
John Reiss 3:31
pretty much everything in general and collapse, you know, but especially in the independent film world, but it was also the beginning of the shrinkage of you know, even studio feature films. And I think it coincided with the, you know, the financial market collapsing, but it was also, I think there was a bubble burst in the independent film world, especially So, you know, we didn't know and bought the film, we thought someone's gonna buy it, we got a bunch of Lady, we basically, we had the experience that most filmmakers have these days, you know, a lot of low money offers or no money offers and for all rights, and, you know, now there's a lot more opportunities for filmmakers. It's still difficult to kind of pick the right path, I would say. But so I took the film out in a hybrid manner, and then people encouraged me to write about it because it seemed like I was doing something unique. And I also when I started writing about it, it seemed like I had a skill of distilling what appeared really complex and opaque to most people was, you know, I couldn't explain it in a very clear manner. And so because of that, people suggest I read a book that I wrote a book called think outside the box office, which is kind of like a manual on how to release your film, kind of a book I wish I had had when I released my film. And then since then, that kind of you know, since then, I've been working with filmmakers and doing workshops and other writing and
Alex Ferrari 4:58
just taking over the world and just
John Reiss 5:02
One little slice of it,
Alex Ferrari 5:04
a little corner, a little nugget that putting a dent in the indie film world, like Steve Jobs says, put a dent in the universe. So can you break down? I think you went over a little bit. But can you break down the story of what actually happened with bomet? Which was your documentary?
John Reiss 5:18
Right? So basically, you know, we took it to trade back, you know, sold out, we turned away around 200 people per screening, you know, is crazy, you know, I even documented that and, you know, standing ovations, you know, it's like, we were going, Oh, great. We're gonna sell the movie millions, millions, not even millions, like that my investors gonna recoup sure maybe being a little money, you know, some good distributors gonna release it, lots of people will see it, you know, and then crickets, you know, effectively crickets. And you know, that's when everyone started looking around and going What the fuck is going on? He I think every you know, it's just started that that cycle. So I don't know how much depth you want to get into it. Like, we did, like, we did have a DVD distributor and digital aggregator approached us send a dime. So we actually went with them. Because, you know, I had known them for a number of years it was new video at the time. And they were really good to work with and, and then it was a matter of like, it's all filmmakers. Like, what I still want to see my film in theaters and how am I gonna market this film? And, you know, so, you know, someone, some company came along and said they were going to release it theatrically. And I said, Really? And even without any other rights. Yeah, yeah. And then that fell through. And so I ended up booking it myself for a while, but no, no four walls. Very proud to say no, I booked I function, I picked up the phone, and I sold the film.
Alex Ferrari 6:49
Oh, really? And explain it. Can you explain a little bit about how you did that how to get because that's a mystery to a lot of people how to get a theatrical anything. So what did you actually do?
John Reiss 6:57
I just, you know, it's probably a lot harder now. Because I think there's a lot of filmmakers. It's harder and it's easier because there's a lot of filmmakers trying to do it, but then there's a lot of Booker's who will work with independent filmmakers so but you know, then you have to pay a little money but you can still like you know, it's also easier because you can also use kg for instance. But you know, I basically call that you know, we fortunately, we had the, the pedigree of being in Tribeca and I also got a New York Times critics pick out of that, or no actually didn't that was we had a good quote from the New York Times because the critics came out during the theatrical release so we didn't actually have that yet. And you know, I just had a you know, I had a plan of how I was going to get butts in seats, you know, I was able to talk to them about my knowledge of who the audience was how is going to connect with them I basically you know, they don't want to hear how great your film is, they want to hear that there's an audience and that you know, how to get the audience into the theater. That's what they want to do and then that you know, I got a couple theaters and then they connected me to some other theaters and, you know, once you kind of get into a little bit of a circuit, you know, people go Okay, I'll try it. Even I ended up we ended up doing 25 cities, I think, nice time was
Alex Ferrari 8:11
John Reiss 8:12
a documentary. Yeah. for for for real. A document. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 8:17
Like for real? Like a real document with Yeah, with no big stars or anything like that. So it was just based on on the merit of the film itself.
John Reiss 8:24
Yeah. You know, and whatever salesmanship I potentially had, you know, right. And so, you know, what I was fighting against is I had a couple places that said, well, we'll give you one night and it's like, No, I have to have a week and you know, it's like it's you know, that's what's important to me a real theatrical and I was such an idiot, then you know, to be honest, right? You know, I was just like a typical idiot filmmaker who thinks that a theatrical release at conventional theatrical releases what you have to have and unfortunately there's now certain things kind of set in stone about for certain kinds of distribution you need certain kinds of requirements and so you know, for certain kinds of distribution deals you actually do need a theatrical you know, a seven week run but what I discovered while doing bomet is really the power of events and one night screenings because like I just been in Portland where you know, it was raining and you know, like no one was in the theater and it was like and that was the you know, the first night of the theater opening night and here the filmmaker was in town and you know, it just you know, in retrospect it probably wasn't the right theater for the for the film and also the rain and you know, it's a theatrical small film and just like you know, there's fucking five people in the audience now super depressing. But then I go to New Orleans, which was one of the cities that I was fighting, doing a one night screening and finally I just said, fuck it, okay, I'll do it. And I got there and there's lines around the block. They sold out the first screening they added and sold out a second screening and And there was an article in the paper and it was just kind of like, wow, there's something here, like, and that's when I discovered the importance of scarcity that, you know, if people can only go and see it on one night, then, you know, then they makes it that much more special interest, no interest. And I still think that that functions to some degree. I mean, now, you know, years later, later, oh, excuse me. Sorry. I've had a tiny bit of caffeine today I did. Anyway, I'm doing this meditation now where I can't eat or drink beforehand. And so that it, you know, I wasn't able to have breakfast until I wasn't able to do it until like, 11. So I missed all my morning caffeine. So
Alex Ferrari 10:45
at Fair enough, fair enough, no worries.
John Reiss 10:48
This will all be in the podcast, right? Of course, of course. So and so so that's kind of how the theatrical went. And that's where I discovered, you know, events. And, you know, and it really got me thinking about, you know, and now doing events for theatrical screenings is, you know, super sophisticated. Of course, it's really taken off.
Alex Ferrari 11:11
Now, can you talk a little bit about the distribution myth out there, that golden ticket syndrome that so many filmmakers still carry from, like the 90s?
John Reiss 11:20
I just can't fucking believe that people can I swear, I swear I will. Yeah, it's okay. Yeah, I mean, it's just like, okay, here's the deal. This will hopefully, sober some people up. There's around 50,000 films that are made every year. Maybe on a good year, 100 of those on a really good year 100 of those get some kind of deal that makes financial sense in the United States. You know, the golden ticket deal, maybe there's three to five, right, you know, out of 50,000 So, you kind of do the math, okay, on top of that, you have to understand that, you know, there's now about 700 years of video content uploaded to YouTube every month. And that every piece of content, book, music, whatever, that's almost almost every piece of content that's been created by humankind in the history of humankind is available to people so what happens when there's a super glut of supply and demand is constant or slightly increasing? price drops tremendously right? So you have so you have to figure out how your film is going to dent that oversaturated media landscape and you can't rely on someone else to do it for you no more like especially if you have a drama or comedy with if you have a narrative film with no stars done you know, it's so rough make it for a little bit of money you know and then save money for distribution because the chances are that someone's going to come and rescue you and distribution is next to nothing, you know, and so I mean frankly if you're in the business if you're in the film business for a golden ticket, you're in the wrong business. You know, they don't really and the problem is is that the ones the success stories are always hyper publicized and any deal is hyper publicized then partially people want to celebrate and partially people want to show look we're still in a viable business you know, but
Alex Ferrari 13:37
what's like they said it's like they say they always show the lottery winner but they don't show the lottery losers which is millions of them
John Reiss 13:44
the vast majority Yeah, exactly. Look at all the people who bought Willy Wonka chocolate bars and didn't get their ticket you know, right 1000s of dollars of that millions of chocolate bars sold and you know, five golden tickets
Alex Ferrari 13:57
like I come from I come from post I mean I've been a post supervisor for 20 years so I've been doing a lot I know deliverables and I've seen so many films come through my door and anytime I see a doc like a drama come through the door that's no stars involved and and they're like so what do you think I should do them like market to save some money and yeah, marketing should be like your main thing.
John Reiss 14:18
I mean, I think there's a few of us who feel like they've coined the expression that distribution is easy. Marketing is hard like yeah getting out there is relatively easy getting people to want to see your film is art. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 14:35
No So what do you how do you think a filmmaker should think about marketing their films in today's online world?
John Reiss 14:43
You know it all it all focuses it all goes to audience you know basically like to me whenever I talk to a filmmaker, I mean, this is what I the four basic things I go over Are you know, what are your goals? Like what do you want from the film Like not every, you know, you know, there's a lot of filmmakers who it's not about, you know, making money, you know, some of them need to recoup, some don't, you know, but there's other goals that, you know, the filmmakers have a variety of goals. And so there's a variety of paths that you can it go to achieve those goals? And I know you spoke about marketing, but I'm just kind of go sure no, no, sure. Yeah. Then you have to look at your film, you know, and like, what is unique about your film? What, you know, are there any, like in terms of marketing? Are there marketing hooks? And that's where, you know, like, Is there a cast, you know, what kind of audience what's unique about your film, and what's unique to the audience about your film, you know, and some of that deals with, you know, your title, how good is your film, like the one thing I also want to stress if there's a lot of young filmmakers listening that screen your film repeatedly to audiences, and especially the audience that you think your film is made for. And a, you may find out that that's not the audience that you made your film for the you might also get good feedback from that audience, like, you need to screen your film repeatedly throughout the process, save people fresh eyes, you know, show to a few people at first, then a few more, some people will come back and see it again. But most people won't. So really kind of like Be careful about how many times you screen it, and how many people come especially to the early screenings that you have to save some people for the end. But really make sure your film is as good as possible, because that's in terms of marketing, that's going to be the biggest marketing hook is having a really amazing film that people want to see. And so many filmmakers, I mean, I get a lot of edits, where the first thing I say is like, are you locked, and you know, the first thing you should think about doing is cutting your film, you know, way too long, or doesn't make sense or something. So then his audience, and you know, that involves identifying your audience, finding out where your audience consumes, media finds out about films. So identifying, finding out you'd like so who is your audience? What do they read? Then think about what kind of value you can provide to your audience, besides the film itself? Like, is there are is that what kind of extra content and assets you have? What kind of experience can you provide to them, etc. So there's a whole bunch of things that you can think about in that regard. And then lastly, you know, how does that audience consume media and different audiences consume media in different ways? And so that's how you would you know, kind of develop your strategy of your distribution strategy along those lines? And then lastly, are your resources like, what kind of resources do you have to release the film, and not only in terms of money, but also in time, you know, like sweat equity, or at your just people, like in the in money does help by people? But like, also, what is your time and what kind of, you know, how much time you have to
Alex Ferrari 18:15
write to invest in the marketing and in the word out, and the hustle and all that stuff? Yeah.
John Reiss 18:19
And then more and more these days, I've been, you know, also talking to this in the context of people's filmmakers careers, like, where does this film sit in your, you know, career pipeline is like, your first film that, you know, you know, is good, but knee, you know, there are certain things that you couldn't accomplish with it. And, you know, maybe, but you still want to get it out there. But you want to move on to another project? Or is this your magnum opus that you desperately definitely need? to get people to see? And, you know, etc. So, you know, that will also affect, you know, how you, you know, how forward? No, more of like, what path you choose? Yeah, just moving forward. But it's a matter of, there's a lot of different ways you can release the film, and it's a matter of like, you know, how are you going to, you know, release that.
Alex Ferrari 19:20
So, from what I'm hearing from what you're saying is there and this is something that most filmmakers don't do is a lot of analyzing, and actually thinking about the path, not just the making of the movie, which is what filmmakers generally all do is they just like, I'm just gonna get that camera. I'm gonna make my movie, but when the edits done, yeah, they have no idea and sometimes they'll just throw it out into the marketplace, if they even get it into the marketplace to see what would happen. So they don't think about what part of this is in my career path. What where's my audience? Is this a viable product for an audience that what audience is it all this? All these questions are not answered or even asked. So that's why so many I filmmakers fail. And right, it's wrong,
John Reiss 20:04
you know, and I, in my book, I kind of invented a crew position called the producer of marketing and distribution, you know, because so many, you know, films need kind of like advice and work on these aspects of the film, but the crew is, you know, doesn't have the skill set doesn't have time to deal with this. And so, you know, hoping I'm doing a couple things over the next couple of years that hopefully take place that, you know, will help, you know, kind of foster that crew position and help grow that and make it kind of something that, you know, becomes a part of, you know, hopefully, the crew, every film, yeah, you know, because, you know, I also, you know, kind of feel that he, in this sense, when you're done with your film, you're kind of half done, you know, it's like, I created this concept called the new 5050, where 50% of your time and energy should be spent on creating the film and the other 50% and the other 50% should be on connecting that film to an audience, you know, which is all aspects of distribution and marketing. So that's not a hard and fast rule. But like, if you look at any studio film, you know, it's even probably, you know, you make $100 million film and they spend $200 million marketing it does that is very true. That's like, 3565 You know, we're in favor of marketing and distribution, you know, so But, and there's a lot of indie films that end up that way, especially super low budget ones were much more spent on the marketing and distribution than was ever spent on making the film. Now with,
Alex Ferrari 21:47
with film festivals, so how do you how would you suggest to leverage film festivals in a self distribution strategy?
John Reiss 21:55
You know, first of all, I wouldn't worry about it tremendously. I mean, it's festivals are fickle, and highly competitive. But, you know, I generally, when you're in festivals you're in release. So there's two basic paths. One is you can use festivals to help build up your audience, to then make the film more either attractive to certain distribution entities or, you know, you know, build up some reviews, etc, some notability to help the release later. And then later you do a release, hopefully not too far from the festivals, but from the information you gathered during the release, and whatever accolades etc, you you gain, not through the release, but through the the festivals, and the audience that you develop, you can, you know, get, you know, you know, and then engage distribution the other way, which is a little bit hard because it's requires you to be pretty savvy and knowledgeable and prepare is to actually fold the festivals into the distribution process. So that you know, maybe and even some people are doing this at Sundance these days, like films a year do this at Sundance, where they actually use Sundance or a festival as their theatrical premiere. That's the launch of the film. And then either during the festival or shortly after they offer it on the VOD, Emil, you know, so that people who hear about the festival can then engage with the film, you know,
Alex Ferrari 23:26
and use the end leverage all the press that they got from a big festival, that guy
John Reiss 23:30
Exactly. So you can modify that to where you kind of like have a one or two festivals and then you're kind of ramping up and then, you know, the rest of your festivals are during are kind of like your theatrical release, or your VOD starts, you know, so it's, it's very fluid.
Alex Ferrari 23:45
So let me ask you another question. How crucial is it today you think to package ancillary products, with the films on all films website, like if you're selling it on your website, like posters and hats and T shirts, and you know, along with a DVD or VOD of your film, kind of like, like George Lucas vibe?
John Reiss 24:01
Yeah, I think that depends on the film. You know, I actually don't refer to those as ancillary it's more merchandising got it merchandise, and I'm a big fan of that in general, because, you know, depending on the film, you can make a fair amount of money that way, depending and it really depends on the audience, whether the audience whether there's things that you can make that the audience is going to buy if it's just a kind of conventional film, you know, printing a bunch of posters and T shirts, you know, unless I'm something special about the key art or the graphics or something you know, isn't going to mean a lot you know, but if there's like, you know, Gary who's to it is the, you know, documentary filmmaker who's amazing at this and he creates product his he makes films about, or he's made three films about design. And in his story, you can see this amazing range of range of products that he's created that people just love and eat up. So and you can make a fair amount money doing that
Alex Ferrari 25:01
even more than selling the movie sometimes
John Reiss 25:02
yeah we made more money selling posters of vomit than selling the DVD off of our store now the distributor so more than that but like we made you know we made much more money off of the posters then you know off of off of the DVD sales
Alex Ferrari 25:20
now what um what avenues would you suggest to get the best audience engagement
John Reiss 25:27
wow you know you know it's like there's no you know, there's like eight to 10 avenues of audience engagement and it just depends on the film you know, if I was gonna make a blanket statement I think crowdfunding if you're open to it is a good source is is a good tool for marketing. Digital Media is certainly important. And I don't just mean social media that's a component if you have a documentary especially around certain you know specific audience that's organized outreach is certainly important influencers important there's a lot that you know kind of goes into it and it all just depends on the film.
Alex Ferrari 26:06
Yeah, it's all topic it depending on if it's a documentary if it's an action movie, it's a drama
John Reiss 26:11
or a film like I'm working on a horror film now and that's its own audience and its own you know thing
Alex Ferrari 26:17
and now Do you have any tips on developing relationships with the audience once you have that audience?
John Reiss 26:23
Well just to keep them engaged in defining not certainly not to just talk about your film, but to talk about things that are interesting to them
Alex Ferrari 26:33
create content create content that keeps them keeps them engaged
John Reiss 26:37
and it could be just like how you relate to them on on social media could be photos could be you know, what you create on Instagram could be you know, because you're an artist think about like how you know your fans and that's how you're going to create fans that are gonna stay with you, you know, on multiple projects.
Alex Ferrari 26:57
So that would be that Yeah, that was my next question. How do you develop you know an audience to follow you from project to project and it's the instead of just doing like a one off movie, which a lot of filmmakers will just start and like okay, I'm just going to do all this press on this one movie but then when that movie is gone, that audience is gone unless you're building your name up as a brand or a company up as a brand.
John Reiss 27:17
Well no, I do feel like filmmakers need to develop themselves you know as a brand is where can i a lot of filmmakers object to that you know, but you know your brand you know, a tours or brands Yeah, Woody Allen's a brand Martin Scorsese, he's a brand don't my line. No, I yeah, that's like I say that all the time. Do you? Really I didn't never. Scorsese's a brand. You know, Spielberg's a brand. All these guys are of course, yeah, yeah. So you know, it's like you go to Joburg film, you generally know what you're going to get similar. Like, when you open a can of Coke, you know what you're going to get? So you know, you may not like that, but what you're trying to do is I cultivate audience that's going to pre you know, like and appreciate that. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 28:03
I kind of preach that with Woody Allen is he's one of these rare filmmakers who has been able to he's the only filmmaker I know, that's been able to make a film a year for like, 30 years, right? I mean, it's, it's insane. Like other filmmakers Look at him, like how, and He does it because he has a formula, he makes it really low budget has very great cast. But he's been able to develop, you know, everybody knows,
John Reiss 28:23
he's also a prolific and, of course, a good writer, too.
Alex Ferrari 28:27
And he's Woody Allen, you know, so he's built up that people go to see Woody Allen films, regardless what what they are those who just show up. But if you gave him a budget of $150 million to make a movie, not a good investment, generally, generally. So if you were making a film today, and I know this is gonna, I'm asking in a really broad spectrum, if you were making a film today, what would be broad steps that you can kind of a guide that you can give a filmmaker to get their film marketed and sold? very broad steps? I know, that's a big question. And you could go on for days on that. But just like basic stuff
John Reiss 29:02
is like if you say, if I'm making a film, which means that I haven't started charting, if I'm starting the process, correct. You know, I mean, there's a little bit of a chicken and egg thing is, you know, you want to it depends on what your goal is, you know, I would say that's the first thing like do I just want do I want to make that try to make a lot of money, you know, or do I want to, you know, change the world, you know, and so, that's, you know, I would really kind of like think about what my goals are. I would also look at, I'm just trying to give you know, more general helpful people, you know, I would think about the size of the the potential audience like who the potential audience is, and if the audience potential is small and you really have to be realistic, then you should really try to be conservative in your spend and what you you know, what you spend money on, I would also definitely Mart budget for distribution and marketing. And, you know, try to raise that money and, and set it aside, you know, in the best of all possible worlds.
Alex Ferrari 30:07
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
John Reiss 30:19
You know, if it's a script, I would make sure that the script is really in good shape before, you know, before shooting, or, you know, you could do an improv thing, and, you know, just depends, I don't want to be too restrictive, or about how people work. But if you have a script, just make sure it's tight notes. Yeah, tider police, it's good in some way, something excellent, something that needs to be made, you know, and maybe it needs to be made just because you have to do it. You know, but if you're getting a lot of feedback, that it's not for a lot of people, then just, I'm not going to tell anyone not to do anything, go make your film, but just realize that, you know, the audience might be small, and maybe you're gonna knock it out of the park, but just be cautious about how you, you know, proceed financially, if that's, if that's an issue for you. You know, and, you know, I would think about dipping, I would think about the film in relationship to, you know, in my career in terms of like, how do I want to do I want to develop an audience? Do I want to do how do I how am I going to go about developing an audience for myself, that, you know, I can bring from project to project, not that it, you know, in some cases, it can be sustainable, but it can have many different kinds of value in all different ways throughout this process. So you really want to think about developing some, you know, core fans, if you can, that are really engaged with your work
Alex Ferrari 31:47
like that. 1000 true fans. Yeah, article. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
John Reiss 31:51
And so you know, that I just make a really kick ass film.
Alex Ferrari 32:01
Which is always is always that should be always the bottom line of all of this conversation is just make a good movie. Yeah, and a lot of
John Reiss 32:07
it also, you know, it also think about, like, does it really need to be a movie? Like what other you know, it's like one other form? Like, what is? What is the form of content that's most suited to me as a as a creator, you know, and
Alex Ferrari 32:22
series short film,
John Reiss 32:24
or episodic exotic is then web series. Although that markets, kind of really blooded, but you really have to do something kind of unique, these days to stand out. Not that you always didn't, but you know, you're not going to get anywhere relying on the novelty of that, because it's not novel.
Alex Ferrari 32:45
anymore. Right. Right.
John Reiss 32:46
So you know, so those are some of the things I would say,
Alex Ferrari 32:52
no, what would, what do you think? What are your feelings on the news, self distribution marketplaces like VHS gumroad, Vimeo plus, as part of an online distribution strategy?
John Reiss 33:02
I mean, just, again, it all depends on the film and the path and the goals, you know, so, you know, I think they're all great tools. And, you know, if you are inclined to do the work to, to kind of get people to, you know, buy from you directly, then I think they're great. Some people will do it and not spend that work, and not really have that interest. And then, kind of what's the point, but I think it's wonderful, especially internationally, when it's so hard to release films internationally, especially in, you know, smaller territories, or like the vast majority of countries, you know, it's great to have that ability to have the film out there. You know, so, you know, I'm a big supporter of those always have been, you know, but again, it also always depends on what you're going to do. You know, he can be a fair amount of work. So you have to make sure that you're really committed to that and the reasoning for that and why you want to do that as part of the process.
Alex Ferrari 34:08
Now, you mentioned something earlier, I know the answer, but I want you to kind of explain to the audience at what an aggregator is, in regards to online distribution of VOD.
John Reiss 34:18
Sorry, say that again.
Alex Ferrari 34:19
Can you explain what an aggregator is? In VOD, an online distribution
John Reiss 34:25
to an aggregator is and that's, you know, that term shifting a little bit. I mean, there's certain aggregators that are now what used to be called aggregators, who were pretty much considering themselves distributed a lot of aggregators and become distributors. Let's put it that way. And so they're kind of functioning very similar. Are you hearing my dogs in the background? Does that bother you?
Alex Ferrari 34:46
It's fine. It's there's never there in the distance.
John Reiss 34:49
Yeah, good. Just because I am actually now in my garden. So my office was getting a little warm and stuffy, no worries. It's much nicer out here to talk out here. And just my dogs are a little annoying. So you know, an aggregator or distributor that functions, you know where VOD specific distributor, kind of like maybe in better hybrid term for certain companies, you know, they are, you know, they're the people you're going to need in some shape or form to get your film up on to online platforms. And such as the standard online platforms, not the direct to fan ones, which you mentioned earlier, those I would classify as direct to fan platforms. So to get up onto the commercial platforms, such as iTunes, Amazon, although Amazon you can do directly as well. You know, net flock, Netflix, Hulu, you know, the A VOD and s VOD platforms, you're going to need someone else which is generally an aggregator or distributor or VOD distributor to to access them. And you know, the thing that you need to think about, like, if you're all about being direct with the audience, creating a relationship with the audience, and you feel like you can sell to them, and they'll buy from you, and you have something so precious to them, that they will buy from you, you know, potentially direct the fan is the way to go, because you're not going to get the email addresses from it, you know, you're not going to get that audience connection. Chances are though Pete, most people like to buy media where they're comfortable buying it. So people are comfortable buying us iTunes, some people use Amazon, so you want to be on E Generally, the general recommendation is to be on as many platforms as possible, so that people have a choice of where to access your content. But there's some cases, as I said earlier, if you know, it makes sense to sell it direct, you know, like Louie ck, already had people who have large audiences, you know, they've done very well by connecting directly to his audience to the audiences, like he's that case is a great example of where he offered his comedy special to his supporters, five bucks each, within the day, I think he had sold a million dollars worth or a couple of days, something like just went crazy. So and he has that connection to the audience. And it's like, he made a lot more money on that than he would have in a lot of other different ways.
Alex Ferrari 37:23
So and I complete creative control to do whatever the heck he
John Reiss 37:27
wanted. Exactly. So but, you know, for others, you know, and maybe later, he then took that same thing and gave it to a distributor and aggregator who put it up on the rest of the platforms. So that, you know, you can sometimes, you know, when do it in such a way that your audience gets it first, you know, personally from you, although a lot of the platforms now for smaller films, we're not happy about that, you know, they want to be, you know, they don't want it sold on the market before they have, you know, before they're able to sell it. But no, I work with aggregators all the time, I generally recommended, you know, and, you know, most people want to be on those platforms. So, you know, that's kind of the way to go in general. So
Alex Ferrari 38:12
now, do you, do you see traditional? Or do you think traditional distribution is just going to tie off in the next five to 10 years? Like, what we know, as a traditional distributor today? Or is it just gonna morph,
John Reiss 38:24
I think it's just gonna constantly change, you know, I don't know what a traditional distributor is anymore. I, you know, there's, they're all changing, too. So, I mean, maybe there's some that are traditional, and some of those are going a little bit away, the ones that won't change, I think are kind of like, you know, shrinking and going away. But a lot of them are pretty savvy and, you know, in are adjusting to the marketplace. So, you know, you know, in a lot of the it's interesting how the, what used to be known as aggregators who are becoming distributors, and they, they are kind of like, a lot of what they do is what you would say, as a traditional distributed distribution model. So they're just becoming that now.
Alex Ferrari 39:10
So it's morphing. It's shifting. Yeah.
John Reiss 39:14
But I think, you know, there's certain aspects about traditional distribution that, you know, there's a look at it this way. The thing is, it used to be one size fits all, yeah, no, release it, you know, people thought it was one size fits all, I think there's a lot of films that suffered from being treated that way. And then now, there's been many, many ways to release films, you know, and so you can, you know, I think it's really important. You know, it's great that people have the opportunity to do this. And it's really important for people to choose, you know, the right path for their film.
Alex Ferrari 39:49
I think in a lot of ways that it's been such a, you know, over the last 100 years film has been done one way it was shot on film, it was distributed one way and it was done and then slowly Things have been changing and it's been now it's becoming so rapid like before was the invention of video cassette and that changed on TV and all that stuff and people started shifting with it but now things have changed they're changing so fast and the technology is moving so quickly that now you know a kid who'd never shot anything has access to a 6k camera you know to go shoot off a movie and I think a lot of people are it's kind of like the wild wild west and people are just like don't know what to do like and I mean everybody the studios the filmmakers are creators no one really has an idea yet and they're all just trying to figure it out and then like oh look over there he he made money let's do what he does and oh look over here that he did it so it's kind of like everyone's looking for a silver bullet but the thing is I think in my opinion there's just hundreds of different kinds of silver bullets depends completely get you been saying all on your film all on the filmmaker to be able to get it out there couldn't one way could work great for one but not work for another but it's just it really is nuts The more I talk to you know gurus like yourself I find it that's like it is really the wild wild west like especially in distribution online distribution is changing daily. Yeah,
John Reiss 41:10
I that's true but a lot of the fundamental principles are still the same, right? Oh, so you know, you know, or at least the same as you know what I was talking about five years ago and but yeah, things change, things are changing drastically. But like for instance, I you know, in my book six years ago, I kind of pointed out how digital you know, traditional digital and, and broadcast we're gonna collapse into each other. And that's a lot of what we're seeing in this last year. Is that actually happening? And where you know people there's television reviews for Netflix shows you know,
Alex Ferrari 41:51
they're nominated for Emmys I mean, they've won Emmys and and you know, all that it's crazy.
John Reiss 41:56
So it's all you know, they're they're all competing with each other, they're essentially the same, which is why in the book I basically classified all that is digital. That broadcast is digital, just like, you know, it's just a it's a different version of a VOD, or s. VOD, essentially, is what broadcast is and, you know, cable, your cable channels are essentially s VOD and subscription video on demand. Now, you don't in generally have are able to demand them like that. But you know, you can if you set the timer, or if you have access to the show, a lot of the shows are on video on demand. So, you know, it's like, all that's kind of blended. But, you know, to me, it's not so much of a surprise, it's just a matter of how you, you know, react to that to those changes, you know,
Alex Ferrari 42:44
do you see a future basically where an indie filmmaker is basically like and I think that futures here but that there are their own studio, they're basically little mini Disney's they, you know, this create a YouTube channel or, or website and just start pumping out content and connecting to the audience.
John Reiss 43:01
Definitely people doing that already. Yeah. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 43:04
Right now, so yeah. And in the future, even more so and might be the might be the standard, as opposed to what? What's going on now?
John Reiss 43:12
I don't know. I mean, there is like, I think, you know, talking to be you know, there's certain I mean, I think certain Lee, I think there's going to be certain things that kind of rise to the top in the sense and, you know, and will be released in ways that feel familiar to you, you know, you know,
Alex Ferrari 43:33
like an example of God, like, I'm like, obviously, a big studio movie, that cost $250 million is not going to be released, I like to
John Reiss 43:42
look at look at, you know, tangerine, for example, rather than an iPhone, you know, it's at Sundance, and then gets picked up and then gets traditional distribution, you know, and, you know, I think, you know, and then that's another thing that causes everyone to think of the golden ticket.
Alex Ferrari 44:02
I know, not everybody with an iPhone now thinks like, I'm not gonna make tangerine and get right.
John Reiss 44:06
But the reason tangerine was, you know, successful, not because of being shot on an iPhone, not because it was made for whatever money not because of a good story well told, you know, with compelling actors, and, you know, it caught people's imagination, and it spoke to people, you know, so I think that that's, you know, I think, again, you can talk about distribution all you want, but you still have to make something that people want to watch, you know, and engage with. And that's either you're connecting to an audience that wants content specific kind of content, or you're making something that just, you know, speaks to whatever sides of audience you know, and and connects with them, you know, and so yeah, I think Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 45:03
so I asked so I asked this question of all this, this is gonna be the toughest question of the interview. So prepare your save that you save
John Reiss 45:10
that for last.
Alex Ferrari 45:11
I always ask this. Yeah, this is a last last question. So what are your top three favorite films of all time?
John Reiss 45:21
I have a list of like 25 It doesn't have to be in any specific order. I guess you know, the top three favorites that my top favorite films of all time, that are going to come out of my mouth now or just the ones I'm actually thinking about,
Alex Ferrari 45:33
right? Yeah, that's that's what I always ask. I know there's no definitive I'm not going to hold you to
John Reiss 45:38
A Touch of Evil. Just because I always like to kiss people off by not picking Citizen Kane. Oh, when
Alex Ferrari 45:45
I went off course. Yeah, no, no, no, look, I had I had like I was I was I had a friend of mine who's a dp an ASC dp and I had him on the show and I asked him the question, I was expecting some really obscure European, you know, Arty, farty stuff, and he's like, oh, Enter the Dragon was one of my favorite and I'm like, Wow, so it just all depends on what, what movie did for you at that, at that point, though, Touch of Evil.
John Reiss 46:09
Oh, and say, Enter the Dragon. Let's see, you know, there's also I often pick the director, you know, it's like, Who are my three favorite directors and then pick a film that's most meaningful at that time. So, you know, I'd have to do you know, 2001 or the shining, you know, for Kubrick, so, and then Wow, it's gonna be hard to pick number three out of all this, like, Do I go with Fritz Lang? Like, go with Scorsese? Do I go, you know, even Tarantino even though I hate to, you know, like hope fictions pretty amazing show. You know, I'd probably go with Scorsese, just because of Raging Bull and taxi driver, right? are two of the most amazing films ever made. And so if I had to pick one, I'd pick Raging Bull. You know, if I was forced to Sure. In a darker mode, I maybe would have picked taxi driver.
Alex Ferrari 47:05
It depends on the mood. You're in that day. Yeah. You'll notice there's no comedies. Yeah, generally I've never I have yet to hear a comedy in a top three. Generally people take film seriously. Oh, you
John Reiss 47:16
maybe see me to talk to some more comedians? Yeah, in Sakai because they'll probably a lot of them will say Caddyshack. crazyfly no
Alex Ferrari 47:25
Blazing Saddles. Yeah.
John Reiss 47:28
That hasn't really stood the test of time for me, I have to say although I still remember the been eating since you seem you know? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 47:42
there's a lot now being a Kubrick fan. I always like asking this because since you mentioned Kubrick, you know, what's one of my favorite Kubrick films? It happens to be eyes wide shot.
John Reiss 47:52
Oh my god. I was glad when you said that. The I knew this was a setup because first of all, when you said Kubrick I'm talking about Kubrick I say it's gonna be something about I always chat so and then in then anyway, it I can't believe that's one of your favorite films what
Alex Ferrari 48:05
it is one of my it's not not it's not in my top three. But it's one of my favorite Kubrick films. And I do like and you don't like Kubrick didn't like that one.
John Reiss 48:12
Oh my god, it was just like, I just ignore that film. Okay, so hey, from Kubrick is just kind of like, Okay, that was a little misstep at the end. To think about it, you know, and that's why I don't know what happened here.
Alex Ferrari 48:28
It was a colossal, colossal mistake. We don't know what happened he was senile at the end.
John Reiss 48:35
On that I blame it on Tom Cruise before I blamed it on Kubrick's senility, although I thought he did okay for what he was supposed to do. I just think it was like a bit of a misfire and flawed and his story and concept way And
Alex Ferrari 48:49
like I said, like, That's the beautiful thing about film. Everyone's has every film hits the arc hits a person. Two different Tuesday for people hit art two different ways. Yeah. So regardless of it, so. So what can we pick? Where can people find you and find out what you're doing?
John Reiss 49:05
People can find me like if they're interested in you know, me consulting with them. I have a site called hybrid cinema that's going to be revamped soon. But you know, kind of shows some of the films I've worked on and has a link to have a consultation with me like a short consultation, see if it makes sense working together. You can also get that through john Reese comm which either the strategy or consulting link will link to that and you can find out something about me there and there's also contact and then you can also you know, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Facebook. And
Alex Ferrari 49:44
you do workshops as well, don't you?
John Reiss 49:45
Yeah, not as you know, not as much anymore for right now. There's something that might be happening soon, which will change that by you know, I mainly now participate in the ISP filmmaker labs. I'll go to events I'll do panels and stuff like that, but I haven't done I'll do the I've started doing more of these short kind of master classes. So those I still do occasionally. But I do, you know, I do those do those occasionally, but I'm just generally so busy, kind of like, you know, consulting with filmmakers these days that, you know, doing a workshop kind of takes a lot of time out and you know it just like then I'm backlogged with client work. And so I don't really, you know, I really try to just focus on going to certain festivals and events that, you know, I should be at and, you know, and you know, beyond some of the, do some things there, but occasionally I'll do some, you know, I'll probably do something I did a master class with the IDA last year, I think, you know, that was pretty well received. So I might do something with that them again in the spring, you know, just like a three hour morning class.
Alex Ferrari 50:58
So and can you list off the the books you wrote, so people know which books
John Reiss 51:02
I wrote? Well, so I've only co wrote think outside the box office, which is either available from my site or from Amazon. If you get it from my site, you'll be on my email list. And generally, I do kind of like case studies or, you know, kind of try to do extensive blog posts, you know, updates, you know, in my email list. And then, I co wrote, selling your film without selling your soul and selling your film selling your film outside the US. And I co wrote that with the folks from the film collaborative, Sherry Candler, you know, Jeff, Jeff winter, Orly revealed and then oh, my God, I'm forgetting the name of the fourth author of the second, Wendy Bernfeld. Okay. Yes. So and that's those are so in a sense, it's like, think outside the box office is a little bit of a roadmap kind of in then the other books are kind of case studies, kind of illustrating the, that's in my mind, they might, my co authors would probably scream at me right now. But, you know, there certainly weren't enough case studies in think outside the box office. And partially because not enough people had done anything by then. And, you know, and then and then the two other books are chock full of case studies. But also, you know, there's also some a, there's, you know, not everything's a case study, there's like analysis of certain, you know, kinds of, you know, distribution, like shared Candler in the first book, this is amazing thing on, you know, kind of, not peer to peer sharing your film online, and how that can potentially benefit your audience development and, you know, kind of like, counter intuitively, you know, increase your monetization, then a number of different examples, but all within, you know, a paradigm that she's exploring. So that's also quite interesting.
Alex Ferrari 53:02
It's like it's the wild, wild west, we're all just trying to figure it out. Yeah, a certain point. JOHN, thank you so, so much for being on the show, we really appreciate you taking the time.
John Reiss 53:11
It's good to be in the wild west. I mean, a, you know, we're in this time period where we're not like in the, in the Old West, you know, and we can't, we're not homesteaders, and the food's better and we're not going to get shot, and there's doctors to cure any diseases. So it's like, it's a much kinder, gentler, Wild Wild West than what used to what used to be like being in the film business in the 30s is a Far Far Cry than being in the film business in the 90s even or even today.
Alex Ferrari 53:41
Yeah, so definitely, yeah. So thanks again for being on the show. We really appreciate you taking the time, right? Man, I really appreciate john taking the time to come on the show and dump all of those gold nuggets on us the indie film hustle tribe, he has a really unique way of doing things as far as film distribution, we could all learn a lot from him. So if you want to get links to his work, his books, and his website, head over to indie film, hustle, calm, forward slash zero 43 for the show notes. And guys, don't forget, if you love the show, please head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us a honest review of the show. It helps our rankings so much on iTunes and really helps the show get to more and more people that need to hear it. So I really appreciate you taking the time to do that. So keep that dream alive. Keep the hustle going. And I'll talk to you guys soon.
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- Official Site
- Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution & Marketing
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- Selling Your Film Outside the U.S.: Digital Distribution in Europe FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSION
- Bomb It
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Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
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