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IFH 171: How to Make Money with Your Indie Film (Crazy Case Studies)

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So you want to make money with your film. Who doesn’t? I’ve always been a hustler, and I used that word in the most positive way I can. Filmmakers need to stop just thinking about art and start thinking about the business of filmmaking. They need to become entrepreneurs. That is the only way filmmakers from this and future generations will survive in the business.

Sure for every Chris Nolan, they’re millions of indie filmmakers that are broke, frustrated, angry or just quit the business altogether but it doesn’t have to be that rough. Sure the world of self-distribution has exploded and there are many revenue avenues for filmmakers today but it doesn’t have to stop there.

In this episode, I break down and analyze a bunch of successful filmmakers that created multiple revenue streams leveraging their feature film, doc, web series or short film. Check out some of the case studies I discuss in the episode.

Film: FoodMatters

  • Books
  • Recipe Books
  • DVDs
  • Streaming Service
  • Coaching Service
  • Wellness Courses

Film: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

  • Books
  • Recipe Books
  • DVDs
  • Apps
  • Food Product Line
  • Coaching Service
  • Guided Cleanse

Film: Kung Fury

  • T-Shirts
  • Hats
  • Limited Edition VHS release
  • LP of the Soundtrack
  • Leather Jacket
  • Posters
  • DVD
  • Blu-Rays

Film: Crazy, Sexy, Cancer

  • Books
  • Recipe Cookbooks
  • DVDs
  • Paid Lectures
  • Stream Lectures 
  • Online Courses

I link to all the case studies below. If I were you I would study each and every one of my examples. See how they did it, how they are doing it and how you can use their blueprint in your project.

Go out there and make your film and make some money too. Enjoy!

Alex Ferrari 1:54
Today guys, I want to talk about a question I get asked about all the time. And also I've been recently getting a lot of emails and messages about this specific topic is how to create revenue streams for your film. Now I did another episode about specific places where you can go and make different revenue streams for your movie in Episode 44 is going back a bit. But today's episode, I wanted to talk about more of the entrepreneurial side of filmmaking and what other filmmakers have done, and what empires have been built by following the principles I'm going to lay out in this podcast. So if you're a filmmaker out there, who wants to actually turn your filmmaking passion into a business, or real business, then take a listen. So I've said this before, many, many times on the podcast and on the blog constantly is you have to not only create an audience, but better than creating an audience for yourself. Bind an existing audience that's already there. And I've said this before, but I'm gonna go over it as a refresher for everybody who has not heard this before. Finding an audience of a specific topic that you're going to try to make a movie about whether that'd be a documentary, or whether that be a narrative is imperative. So a quick case study is this is Meg, this is Meg, is been made specifically for you guys, for filmmakers who want to know the process of how to make films. But it also has a few other audiences that we are marketing to like struggling actors, which is a lot, who wants to see a funny true story of what it takes, and also show them how we made the movie, what we could do. You know, with very little money and just a bunch of actors getting together and making a movie. Another audience that we'd never thought about was Iosco we have an iosa scene in the movie. If you guys don't know what iosa is, I'll leave a definition in the show notes. It's complicated, but very funny in the movie. So these are a couple of other areas that we didn't really focus on with Meg. But now after the movie was made, we started marketing to it and it's been very successful. So finding that existing audience and marketing to them is key. Now once you find this audience, you can make films for them. You can make content for them, you can make products for them, because they are very receptive. They want what they want. When you've got smart filmmakers do this, whether that be narrative and I'll give you a narrative example. Let's say we're going to go make a horror movie. Oh my god, are there plenty of horror movies out there? But why don't you like go to a niche of a niche of a horror movie? Let's look like a movie like hatchet. hatchet was an American based old school slasher movie, which is a sub genre of the horror movie. And they went really bloody really heavy. And they market it to horror lovers people who love horror movies, but I think one of the places that they fell short on or did not fall short on but they did not take full advantage of is their market. Watch. They could have been marketing to is also independent filmmakers who make horror movies? How about showing how they did it actually showing courses and creating courses, which I'm gonna talk about later about how they made the movie how you do blood work, how do you do makeup work, and market that with piggybacking on the success of a big horror movie like hatchet, but again, you have to think about it more, organically more entrepreneurially as opposed to just the standard, I'm gonna make my movie and sell it. Another thing that you have to understand in creating extra revenue streams is you have to understand social media in social media, you will be able to find those audiences, you will be able to go to those Facebook groups, or those Twitter followers or those Instagram trendsetters that you can tap into Same goes for you too. I mean, which is the second largest search engine in the world. I mean, what kind of research can you do just by typing in YouTube and finding out what's out there for your specific genre or what you're trying to do? Again, understanding your market, understanding your audience is so imperative when you're a low budget filmmaker, once you understand that, and so you have to get these two things really clear. And I know I'm glossing over like finding the audience, creating an audience. I've actually been asked to create a course specifically about how to create revenue streams, and doing a real detailed course about it, which is something I'm thinking about. And if you guys think it's a good idea, please email me at ifH [email protected] And let me know your thoughts. Now I'm going to give you some case studies that a couple of you might have heard before, but a bunch of you never heard before. I'm going to tell you what these guys are doing both in the narrative space in the YouTube space. And also in the dock space, not just food docks, but also other docks as well. So first up, one of my favorite movies, favorite short films of all time, Kung Fury. This is an amazing story of a crowdfunded film from Europe. I forget where he's from, I think he's in the Netherlands somewhere. And they made this 80s romping kind of homage to just cheesy, wonderful 80s movies, and they threw literally everything in the kitchen sink. In this storyline. It's about 30 minutes long. That little short film has spawned its own industry, which is remarkable for a short film, not a narrative feature or a dark feature, but a short film. They really understand their audience and they knew how to market to the audience. They were going after they even got David Hasselhoff, the Hoff himself to do a music video and score a song specifically for the short now they didn't have the money to pay him because they crowdfunded it. But then again, they knew their audience. And that's where they got the money to do this. So what are the revenue streams are Kung Fury created? Well, they created LPs, they created VHS, limited edition copies of it. Obviously, they sold blu rays and DVDs. They streamed it everywhere. They actually posted they actually got it sold to El Rey network, which I saw on. It's on Netflix, for God's sakes. It's just short film, it was on Netflix. And the reason why Netflix picked it up, by the way is because Netflix wants audiences. So if you've got a property that has a big audience, Bill, buy it because they want your audience to come over, click and subscribe on Netflix. That's when they pay the big money when they feel that there's a big audience that can they can actually monetize. Gabriel Glen has a good buddy of mine fluffy has done just that. He has a huge audience on YouTube and on social media, and he has tons of specials and if you go on Netflix right now, you'll see a ton of Gabriel Iglesias specials and new specials coming out. Why did they pay him? I don't know how much they paid him, but they paid him a good amount of money for these. Why did they do because he has an audience that they brought into Netflix. But that was a side note. So Kung Fury. They also have leather jackets with all of the, you know different characters from the movie. They they have so many different swag items. That is insane. And they made more money. I guarantee you off of all the swag than they ever did off of selling the movie. The movie became a marketing tool for the merchandise that they were selling and that is where you hope to be the Star Wars model. They make a lot of money on Star Wars, but they make more money on T shirts. Let me tell you the story of real quick on a side note. Do you know why? Marvel and Sony finally got together and let Spider Man join the Marvel Universe. I'm gonna tell you really frankly and straight up. This is a story I heard. What I heard was that off that spider man homecoming movie that just got released a little while ago. Marvel gets not one dime of it. Not one dime. All they had was creative control and incorporate Their own characters in it. So they basically ran the show, Sony wrote the check, and Sony gets all the money but Spider Man has now Marvel has the right to put Spider Man in, I think six movies of theirs. And they paid Sony another 170 $5 million for all the merchandising rights. And because Disney has a massive merchandising just arm that could just pump out product left and right. He was the sweetest deal for both Sony and marvel. They understand that the movie is just a marketing ploy to sell t shirts, hats, lunchboxes and so on. That's where you want to get on a smaller level, obviously, than Disney with your independent film. Now another amazing case study is turbo kid, turbo kid kind of taps in a little bit to that Kung Fury crowd, which is that 80s nostalgia, where now they created such an endearing, endearing movie that was really very, very graphic, very raw, very at style. And they did the same thing sold t shirts, streamed it everywhere had public screenings, and they're still making money. Chuck had who was the producer of turbo kid was on the show a while ago. And he's the licensed out turbo kid to different manufacturers to start selling t shirts, and different clothing lines. And he gets a cut of all of it and never, never even has to pay to make it. It's remarkable. So he's making money, hand over fist off have a little independent movie. So another another amazing story. And I just did an interview just did a podcast about this was range 15. And to review range 15 real quick. They had they crowdfunded $1.2 million, and $1.3 million, something like that. made their movie, sold it directly to their audience, which was all military police, firemen, that kind of community. And they sold t shirts, and hats, and posters and product. And they've made a ton of cash because they understood their audience made a product for their audience and sold it to their audience. their audience is happy, they're happy. And they move on to the next project. Now let's go over to YouTube, I found an amazing story. guy named Christopher sharp, who invited me onto his podcast and I'm hoping going to have him on our podcast soon because I want to talk to him a little bit about how he did what he did. He's the co founder, co founder of yoga with Adrian. So he basically took a friend of his was an actress, they got together, teamed up and started making YouTube videos. And the first year they made no money, barely any money, but they kept pounding it. And slowly but surely, because of the amount of content they were creating on YouTube, they started to rank and rank and rank. And right now they have over 2.5 million followers on YouTube. And as you can imagine, yoga is a fairly competitive niche on YouTube, just type in yoga, and yoga with Adrian will come up first, or close to the top. But there's a lot of yoga videos out there. So it is amazing how they were able to crack the top 10 and just really own that space and own that niche on YouTube. So what did they do, they started creating courses, they actually created an online streaming service of all her videos and exclusive videos, for a monthly fee, they created a clothing line that they could sell directly to two people, they actually went after a market it was a niche of a niche. They went after a niche of people who did not feel comfortable going to a yoga class because of body images or whatever. And then they went after that. So they could start their own home practice, to the point where a lot of people who weren't comfortable, became comfortable and went to do yoga in classes, and a lot of them trained to become their own yoga teachers. And they started teaching, training and all sorts of stuff. It's remarkable how much money these guys have been able to make. This is his full time job. So that's a great way because you don't have to just make movies and feature films to start a business online or being a filmmaker. This is another way they make 30 minutes Chris makes 30 minute or hour long videos is a production company now. And they're doing this on their own. They have no bosses they do whatever they want, whenever they want, and they make money doing it. Is that the dream or not? If you enjoy doing what you're doing as an artist, and as a businessman, then why not do it. Another amazing story. And this is a legendary stories, rocket jump, rocket jump, obviously it was on the show does one of the co founders on the show. And they those guys created this empire of I think now almost 7 million or over 7 million 8 million subscribers on YouTube and they leverage that subscriber base to create a production company and now they're making huge shows on Hulu and doing feature D And all sorts of stuff that they're doing. And they it took them years to do, but they were able to do it. And now off of that, every time they did an episode or season of video game High School, which was their first series that did three seasons of that, they sold so much merge so much t shirts, so many hats, blu rays, DVDs, all sorts of different swag to their audience, their rabid audience base, because they loved what they were doing. And they knew what they were doing when they created video game High School, and they knew what they were going to do and sell afterwards. But they probably made more money selling merch than they did off of advertising revenue they'd got on Google for search for all the views that they got. Now, those are some examples of feature films that have done an insane job of creating businesses and creating multiple revenue streams, or their features. Now I'm going to go into the docs. Now these guys are killing it. The guys I'm about to talk about are just inspiration on top of inspiration. The one I always use is Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It's an amazing documentary about how an overweight man, very overweight, changed his life by juicing for 60 days, lost weight, got healthy, and basically started a revolution. The whole juicing craze, kinda was launched off of this documentary, because it was so potent and the message it was going for. So Joe Krause, who is the director, the subject of that documentary, and also a businessman, prior to being a he was not a filmmaker, he just started to make a film because he just wanted to make a film. But when he saw the reaction as a business man, he's like, oh, wait a minute, I can I can make a business out of this, I could do this. So what he did is create he will he created a site called reboot, reboot with Joe, which is like rebooting your your body and everything, and then reboot with Joe calm. Joe sells books, recipe books, actually product lines. For plant based proteins. He has a guided reboot, where a nutritionist will come in and work with you for 15 days or 30 days. And you can buy that so they can kind of guide you through a juicing cleanse. He also has coaching services, certifications, apps, he actually sells apps on juicing recipes, we transfer a lot of his books into apps. So he's making multiple revenue streams off of one little documentary. Now, that documentary originally was sold and sold and sold. But now he gives it away, you can watch it on the site for free. You can watch it on Amazon for free. You can watch it everywhere for free, because he knows that that that movie is now just a big piece of advertising for him. So what did he do? He made a sequel, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead part two. Then he also made another documentary about food for kids the food, the food kids menu, which is all about how to help kids eat right. He's built an entire little Empire on this one documentary. Another amazing story is food matters is another food based documentary, where they did they there's been a lot of food based documentaries have come out many of them. But food matters and another one called Forks Over Knives that created little empires and businesses around their documentaries. Food matters actually made a documentary years ago, they haven't made another one that I know of. But what they did is they they sold books, recipe books, books, again, coaching services, but what they did is they actually created a streaming service. So they actually create a kind of like their own Netflix, but with exclusive documentaries and movies that they license from other filmmakers that are all in the wellness arena, whether that'd be food and yoga and meditation and all sorts of stuff that people who are going after the audience that's going after understanding more about where their food comes from, and things like that will probably be interested in maybe meditation or maybe in yoga, or maybe into working out or other things. Do you see the business mind what I'm trying to impress upon you is where the business mind has gone to. They also have courses that they sell on how to clean how to eat properly, and cleansing and all sorts of things like that. it's mind blowing, that this little family of two, this little family this cup, this couple in Australia both by the way, Australian that did this insane business plan. Now another one and forecourt and fork over knives did the exact same thing. fork over knives is probably a bigger documentary, and made a lot more waves in the world in regards to what they were trying to do as far as eating more plant protein and all that kind of good stuff. And they have similar revenue streams from cooking books, books, apps, as well as courses on how to take care of yourself all sorts of stuff as well. And another story about another doc that is not food based specifically called Crazy Sexy cancer. Now you must be thinking How in god's green earth can you build an empire about cancer? Well, Chris Carr has done just that. She was an actress who was diagnosed with cancer in her 20s, I think. And she and it was a stage four cancer that could not be treated, it was 100% mortality. So what she decided to do is change the way she did everything, she did the entire kind of reverse her cancer and documented it by doing a whole play a whole food, plant based diet, as well as meditations and yoga, and all sorts of other alternative ways of going about it. And she, she did she, she beat cancer, a very strong cancer and rare cancer. And she was able to write multiple books about like, just supportive information about people with cancer, how to juice lecture series, where she puts, you know, nine hours of her lectures around the world, digital meditation albums, cookbooks, obviously, cleanses, she actually teaches a course, on how to do a 21 day cleanse, all sorts of product lines, while she's still being paid around the world to speak off of her documentary of ever film, and she was not a filmmaker. Prior to that, she just grabbed the camera. And that film is from 2003. So she's been doing this for 15 years, almost. And she's still going strong. So one documentary built her entire career. And a lot of these guys did that one film, essentially set them up for life with a lot of hustle, and a lot of entrepreneurship. So revenue streams, I want to talk about those specifically, and what things ideas that you can do, and I kind of toss a bunch of those ideas out already explaining the case studies, but I'm just going to review them right now. Obviously, books, you can write a book about your the making of your movie, you can write a book about certain processes inside of your movie, whether that be like the example of the the horror movie that teaches you how to actually become, you know, a horror expert and making fake horror, you know, makeup and blood squirts and all that stuff. And don't forget, guys, a lot of this information is out there, a lot of the stuff I talk about is out there. If you do the research and want to spend days and days and days, going out there looking and hunting, you can, but a lot of times you could packages all together, and people will pay for because it's convenient, they don't have the time to go out there and hunt for everything. That's why, you know, a lot of these books that you buy, a lot of that information is out there, and it's been out there for years. But they packaged it in a new way. They add value to it, and people buy it, because it helps them in whatever they're trying to do in their lives. The next thing, obviously, swag t shirts, hats, stickers, depending on the kind of movie you've got in the Cabo audience you have that you're trying to sell to, you can be very creative than this and become very, very popular. I mean, range 15 they had a T shirt business prior to this. So they were easily able to just pump out more content. And excuse me, not more content, but more product lines with range 15. But their audience was already primed for it. A lot of these audiences already primed for it. I mean, I'll go again back to the horror, the horror genre. Horror, horror fans generally love t shirts, they love cool graphic t shirts, why wouldn't you be making cool graphic t shirts with either characters, or just basic sayings or whatever, create a business around it. Another thing could be streaming services, you can create a streaming service around your dock like food matters did or around your movies, like if you're doing movies on and again, I'll use this I've used this example a million times. And I think I'm just gonna have to make this movie, the vegan chef movie. Imagine making a narrative vegan chef movie, and creating more, I could just count off 20 different revenue streams that you can make off of that narrative, film, and continue to do so forever. You can create streaming services, just like food matters, and move on and on. Don't try to reinvent the wheel guys, there are blueprints out there, go study everything that I'm talking about. study these people study what they're doing. Use those blueprints in your own movies, in your own films, in your own projects. And what you're trying to do, whether it be making a feature film, a documentary, or going to YouTube or making a web series, whatever it is, a lot of this, these blueprints will work for you. You just have to figure out how it works with your audience. I mean, for God's sakes, I was in like Whole Foods the other day, or in the supermarket the other day, and I saw a fork over knives, you know, frozen foods. It's a documentary, but because of their audience, they were able to now leverage that into making other product lines. So guys, I've kind of spewed out so much information here. So many ideas. I just want to impress upon you that to make money as a filmmaker, you can't just think about one thing. You can't just think about, Hey, I'm just going to make my movie self distributed which is great. And also Maybe go out to a distributor. And that's the end of the world. It's not. If you're creative, you do your research, you understand who your audience is, and how to get to that audience and how to market to that audience. You can make a business around your feature film, your short film, your documentary, your web series, or even your YouTube channel. I mean, look, I and I hate to bring this movie up, because I'm tired of talking about it. But I use it as an example, because it was a hell of a great example, at the time. My little short film broken that I did back in 2005, I understood who my my audience was, and I sold the product to my audience that they wanted to hear that audience was filmmakers back in 2005. And I saw that there was a something missing in the marketplace, there was no DVDs on how to make an independent short or independent feature using just regular, you know, Panasonic dv x 100, a and Final Cut kind of products that level, not the million dollar level. But the 5000 $10,000 level, there was nothing back then. So I saw an opportunity. And then I'm marketed the hell out of it to the point where people still ask me about it still talk to me about it over 12 years later. And after that, I was able to sell almost $100,000 worth of DVDs, and I'm still making money off of that project. I'm still I still make money all the time, I still sell DVDs every once in a while, I incorporated a lot of those elements in my my online course filmmaking hacks. I did, I did all of that. And I'm still making revenue from it. It's remarkable. So there are blueprints, there are other people who have walked the path before you watch what they did. learn from their mistakes and learn from their successes, and kind of model what they do, you know, and see how it affects your project, and see what you can do to make money with your film. Because I want you guys to succeed, I want you guys to be able to make a living doing what you love to do. Now, I'm not saying that this is not going to be without work, it's you're going to have ballbusting work, but you're going to be busting your balls for yourself. As the saying goes, if you don't follow your dreams, someone else will hire you to make their dreams come true. Now to get links that everything I talked about on this episode, which is fairly a lot, go to indie film hustle.com forward slash 171. And I'll have all the links to all of these amazing stories in the show notes. And guys, also, when you get a chance head over to my YouTube channel, which there's going to be some exciting stuff happening there in the coming weeks. So head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash YouTube, it'll take you directly to my YouTube page, subscribe, and there's gonna be a lot of exciting content coming to the YouTube page. I have a lot of stuff I'm working on. I'm going to be battle planning a bunch of stuff for the rest of the summer and the fall. I got a lot of cool stuff coming for you guys. So I really hope I hope you like what I have in store. So definitely check it out. And as always keep that hustle going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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