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Directing 70+ Feature Films & Making Money with Mike Feifer
I have a treat for the tribe today. In this episode, I speak to prolific film producer/writer/director Mike Feifer. Mike has directed over 70 films and produced over 100 feature films. His approach to filmmaking is a true indie film hustle. He writes/produces and directs 7-10 feature films a year for multiple production companies.
Michael Feifer grew up in a show business family. His father was Head of Television Research for Twentieth Century Fox in the late ’60s and ’70s. In fact, when Michael was born he was announced in the back pages of The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Although Mike’s father worked for Fox, the editor of Variety lived across the street, and his brother shot Super 8 films with J.J. Abrams, surprisingly Mike’s interests were not yet in the film but rather photography, art, and architecture.
Mike went on to earn a degree in Architecture from the University of Colorado at Boulder. It was in Boulder where Mike began to truly understand the use of perspective, color, and composition. Little did he know that his education in architecture would transcend so well to a career in directing movies.
After graduating from college and working as a furniture and graphic designer, Mike decided to take advantage of the fact that his father was producing independent films. And, after working on only three projects, at the age of twenty-four Mike produced his first feature. It was from that point that his career in the film took off. Mike continued to work for his father as Vice-President of Vista Street Entertainment where he went on to oversee all production, run the home video label, and sell films to foreign territories at Cannes, MIFED, AFM, and more. It was this experience with his father that Mike received an extremely well-rounded understanding of the entire business from production to distribution.
Eventually, Mike left the safety of his father’s company and began producing films for others. In fact, Mike has now produced over 100 feature films. He even went on to marry one of his directors, Caia Coley. But, there was always a feeling that Mike should be doing more creatively.
He knew that his background in “the business” and his interest and education in art and architecture were merging together to push him to work behind the camera. And, when a director dropped out of a film that Mike was producing, he finally got his shot to direct. The film was called Lethal Eviction and it starred Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and Judd Nelson (Breakfast Club).
Once he had the first film under his belt, Mike focused almost entirely on directing. Mike then went on to write and direct a variety of smaller horror and true crime features which were great experiences that allowed Mike the opportunity to develop his visual style, master the language of film, and learn to work efficiently. His ability to move his crew quickly and make concise decisions on set allow Mike to get an incredible amount of set-ups shot per day.
Additionally, Mike is considered an actor’s director because of his innate ability to collaborate with his talent yet lead them. But, he’s also considered a producer’s director due to his ability to bring in films on budget, on-time, and with amazing production quality.
Mike has directed stars such as Val Kilmer, Brittany Murphy, Tom Arnold, Mimi Rogers, Tom Skerritt, Jennie Garth, Peter Bogdanovich, Dean Cain and many more. Since directing that first feature, Mike has gone on to direct many more films in a wide variety of genres from horror to thriller to drama to comedy. His films are seen regularly on channels such as ABC Family Channel, Lifetime, Hallmark, The Chiller Channel, and more. And, his films are sold in every territory throughout the world.
We go over his entire method, how he makes money and how the heck he gets so much done. Enjoy my conversation with Mike Feifer.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- BlackBox – Make Passive Income From Your Footage
- $1 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
Alex Ferrari 1:54
Now today on the show, I have a treat for you guys. We have filmmaker, writer, director, producer, Michael Feifer. And Mike, Mike is a beast man. I mean, I you know, you guys know how much I hustle. And you know how much output I have. But this man is in sane. He has directed almost a little bit over 60 feature films, all that have been sold and distributed. And he's produced well over 100 feature films, as well. And I wanted to get Michael on the show because I wanted to know what a secret is man he is. He's not 105 years old. You know, he's a young dude. He's pounding these things out. He gets about I don't think between seven to 10 feature films a year. He writes all of them. He produces all of them. He directs all of them. He has complete creative control. He makes an amazing living doing this. And I mean, he's living the dream, is he not? I just saw him right before this episode aired. We're friends on Facebook, and I saw him Oh, he's in Greece shooting his next feature. You know, like, this is the life I you know, when I grew up, I want to be Mike. No, seriously, it's amazing. And we had this amazing conversation on the show, we break down his method, his history, how he's been able to get to where he is today, tips and tricks on how to shoot films in 13 days, which is average, about 13 days to shoot his films. And like I told you before, he's making about seven to 10 of these a year. And he's been doing it for a long time. He's very happy, non burned out. And he just goes for it man. And he is the absolute definition of indie film hustle. He is living the filmmaking dream. And I needed to get into it deep with Michael, and really find out his secret sauce on how he does this. And he did not disappoint. We'd spoke for over an hour and a half. And we could have easily kept talking. So without any further ado, please enjoy this epic conversation with Mike Feifer. I like to welcome the show Mike Feifer. Brother, thank you so much for being on the show.
Michael Feifer 4:14
Thanks. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Alex Ferrari 4:16
It is not often I get to talk to a filmmaker who's first making a living in the business, let alone has the the I mean, I thought my IMDb was impressive with like 60 things or 70 things that I've worked on, but you've produced and directed almost 100 projects over 100 projects now. So I cannot wait to get into the weeds with you about this. So first and foremost. How did you get into this crazy film business?
Michael Feifer 4:44
Well, it actually should have started when I was very, very young. Actually. My father worked for 20th Century Fox in New York back in 1972. And is actually 20 Century Fox who moved us out to Los Angeles. In fact, I'm actually in the hall reporter variety when I was born. I have a copy of one of them which is kind of cool, but And then when we moved to Los Angeles, we moved to Sherman Oaks and I went to elementary school at Roskam erode elementary school, and I went to school with all these celebrity kids and Peter guber, his daughter, JJ Abrams, the ED Abner's kids oj Simpson's kids. And, and then my parents got divorced in when I was in third grade. And I always look back though that was probably the worst thing ever, ever happened in my career. And right mom and the three of us with three kids moved to Tarzana, which is in the San Fernando Valley and people, which is sort of the suburbs of Los Angeles. And I had no interest in making movies growing up, actually, my dad worked for 20th Century Fox, and he worked for Carol Burnett. And then when that sort of stopped, he started making really, really low budget, films, that really terrible, really crazy video, VHS video store filler kind of stuff. But again, I had no interest in making movies. When I was a kid, I was a photographer and artist and sculptor my brother was into that we drew all the time. And my brother went to Berkeley for architecture. And I went and visited him at Berkeley, I'm like, this is what I should be doing. This makes all the sense in the world, I'm going to be an architect. So I actually went to University of Colorado Boulder for architecture. And when I graduated Boulder, I worked at a design firm for a year. And after year, my dad was making a movie called fraternity demon. And my brother was in between I think, Berkeley and Harvard, we said, you know, let's go work on dad's film and see what this is about. And it was an It was a disaster, it was this the the, you would not believe the stuff that was going down and the things that were falling apart. And, and my brother ended up being the ad and I end up sort of being the coordinator. You know, we never worked on a movie before. And we sort of helped to be the glue to hold it together. My brother went off to Harvard and I stuck around and started working for my father. So So I got into the business making movies with my father. So the next one, I worked as the assistant to the producers, and crazy stuff went on there and they said, Dan, let me be the production coordinator. So if the line producers and pulling his weight I'm there and it just led in one thing after another and, you know, started making movies with my dad.
Alex Ferrari 7:10
Now I want I want you to kind of take everybody back because you know we're both have similar vintages. You're a little bit a little bit ahead of me, if you will. I was born in 1968. Right, I must. I'm an early 70s kid, but we're still similar vintages. So can you please explain to the tribe? what it was like in the 80s and 90s? making movies? For a marketplace that's fairly different than it is today. I just want them people to really understand what it was like back then.
Michael Feifer 7:40
Well, well listen, back then. It was all about the key art on the video.
Alex Ferrari 7:46
And it was so great, weren't they? Oh,
Michael Feifer 7:48
Yes. In fact, my dad made a series of movies that really kind of put him on the map and made him a living called witchcraft. And
Alex Ferrari 7:54
I remember that series quite well.
Michael Feifer 7:56
And actually, that came about because my dad made this movie called fire across or he executive produced a movie, you know, because he would finance these movies and hire young filmmakers to make them. I mean, Lawrence Bender, who made Quentin Tarantino's produce all criteria made his first movie for my dad is this crazy movie with Charlie Sheen? Yeah, poetry, it's called tale of two sisters. Right? But he made this movie called fire cross, and it had this terrible artwork, but on a British company bought it. And they put the star pentagram with a sexy girl at the bottom. And then they sold it as this movie called witchcraft. And then a company called Academy entertainment came to my dad and said, Hey, you know, can you make witchcraft too? And that led to my dad making witchcraft 234567. And on and on and on. In fact, I produced witchcraft, five through nine. witchcraft five is the first movie I produced. But back then, what we would do and I miss it, actually, would we go to the video stores to blockbuster or the local mom and pops and browse the aisles and grab these VHS cassettes and and look at the poster and go, well, that must be a good movie, because the key art looks great. And then you get home Oh, be in and it's crap. But then you enjoy it because it's garbage. You know? A lot of movies back then were shelf filler, you know, it was it was shell filler. In fact, I always thought that my dad, we he heard himself with the witchcraft movies, because it started with a W. And I always say start, I would do my own research. I'm like, you should start your movies with an M or an E or so that it wasn't at the top of the shell, but it wasn't the bottom your movies would end up in the middle and then people would find that, you know, but
Alex Ferrari 9:30
Amazing. I've actually dealt with distributors who have changed the name to a just so it stops starts at the top of the list when buyers are looking at it. It's ridiculous.
Michael Feifer 9:41
Like aardvark people with aardvark companies, it's a on but you know, back then we shot everything on 16 millimeter Actually, I've directed 60 movies, and only the first one I've directed I shot on film, every other movies digital and I'm a huge fan of digital. I'm not a fan of film at all unless you have a lot of money because it's A lot of money in these days, you can make digital look like film and it's fine. But back then we shot everything on film we'd have we'd have somebody dedicated to just a fog machine to keep the fog going, you know, the lights were bigger back then. There were problems with film all the time.
Alex Ferrari 10:14
Oh, the lab the flashing.
Michael Feifer 10:18
The worst thing is, is wake up in the morning get the call from the lab. The worst? Yeah. So back then it was you know, little film chips scratching the film or, or scratches on the film. I remember once we had 1000 foot 35 millimeter loads and the loader was a was a very small, a small girl who had little hands. And what we found out was she was loading the film. And and the film was coning, it was dropping out in the middle because her hands weren't big enough. You're getting these horizontal scratches all across the film. So things like that would happen. And but that was the nature of film. And it was exciting. You know, I don't really want to deal with it ever again in my life. Because excitement,
Alex Ferrari 11:00
Unless you've got millions and millions of dollars. And then you've got teams of people who are high end professionals who will handle that for you.
Michael Feifer 11:07
Yeah, and they still have problems, but they have money for reshoots and pickups and things.
Alex Ferrari 11:10
But so but I want you to so for everyone listening, there was a moment in time where there was a lack of content being created in the film industry. Which was when you said show filler. That means that you needed something to fill those shelves. So
Michael Feifer 11:25
Well. Yeah, I mean, you know, it was a time when, when crazy genre films, no could find a place. You know, the Roger Corman type films these days, it's hard for those films to actually find a place
Alex Ferrari 11:36
Trauma stuff and stuff like that
Michael Feifer 11:38
Trauma stuff. Yeah, in fact, when my dad retired, or court didn't retire, but my dad sold 30 of his films to trauma at one point, you know, but trauma films and all a wide variety of genre films, and they found a home I think in the video stores, which is kind of cool. And people made more of those films. It's hard to make those films now and make money but but back then you can make crazy, crazy films that you know, combine a wolf man and a Transformers something and they fight each other. And, you know, or and it looked horrible. And they looked horrible, but we didn't know back then really. I mean, it was honestly it was probably Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park who sort of changed everything. It changed everything because like, I remember walking the theater and seeing, you know, one of the dinosaurs and going, the world has changed and all that stuff that I thought looked good now looks like crap. I mean,
Alex Ferrari 12:24
I remember corpsman I think corpsman came out right after Jurassic Park with like, Karna sores or something. Yeah, I remember the box. And I was like, wow. And
Michael Feifer 12:35
It looked horrible. But if that came out before Jurassic Park, I would have been Right, right. Right. But But yeah, I mean, I was a big fan of what was it Harry Hamlin and clash of Titans and Harry, Harry Allison.
Alex Ferrari 12:48
Harry, Harry Harryhausen. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. All that kind of. Yeah, it was very cool back then. So then, as far as on a business standpoint is concerned, I always tell people like in the 80s, if you just got a movie finished, it was sold, basically, like almost pretty much if you had, if you had a film shot on 16 millimeter, and had just some bare basic Beginning, middle end and a soundtrack? You could sell it.
Michael Feifer 13:15
Yeah, yeah. Well, not only could you sell it on, if you're with the right video distributor, you know, what was interesting back then. And I think a lot of a lot of your listeners might not know this, and I think it's really crazy is that video stores basically, rather than they looked at their video, VHS cassettes as masters of the movie, meaning, meaning they had an actual movie Master, which retailed for $99. So if you lost one, you had to pay $99 $100 to replace that thing. So what what it means is that the filmmaker, the distributor would then wholesale those VHS cassettes, the video store for 30 $33 $33 is a lot of money to get for one movie. So you didn't really have to sell many copies to start making some good money actually, and, and then, you know, go ahead,
Alex Ferrari 14:02
no, there was like 1000s of video stores at the time. So
Michael Feifer 14:04
There were 1000s of video stores. And then also I would go to the film markets and my father that AFM back then was me fed, which was the Milan film market, the Cannes Film market, and sell licenses for VHS to two countries all over the world. Because they have video stores all over the world. So you could actually sell 1000s of video cassettes in America and then sell licenses to territories all over the world, simply just for VHS to fill up their via their video stores.
Alex Ferrari 14:32
And then that continued with DVD in the 90s. To and the DVD explained that was pretty much an explosion when DVD was.
Michael Feifer 14:40
What happened is the DVD business actually caused it all to fall apart because what happened was one executive at one studio, I think decided that they're not going to retail VHS cassette at $100 anymore, they're going to do and sell them to sell. They're going to sell through it right, which meant that the prices for the copies the movies went down to 90 99 or 1199. And then that means that the filmmaker and the distributors, were only getting wholesale of three, four or five $6. And that really cut into everybody's profits, and now you had, but now, but you also could sell more. But what it meant was the studios were selling because they were promoting, you know, the funny thing about about movies is that a movie studio makes a movie for $200 million, and they spend $100 million to tell you how good it is that you should go see it. Whereas when we make independent films, you know, we might make a film for 300,000. And we don't have any money actually, and spend no money on marketing to tell people to go see it. So studios understand that, you know, so back in the DVD days, the studios were were just, you know, filling the market up. And and, you know, remember the term rack jobbers. Those were, those were people who had racks and they would fill them up with DVDs and then put them by cash registers in our point of purchase displays. And the people who sort of had the marketing monies to do those and the studios that had the marketing monies to get their DVDs and all the stores, you know, they were able to sell a lot of copies. And then what happened was the smaller movies and the smaller distributors, and the genre movies, I think started to fall off because they didn't have the marketing monies to then make up for only getting $3 wholesale or $4 wholesale or something. And it's too bad because a lot of those movies just don't exist anymore.
Alex Ferrari 16:17
Yeah, but before you can make a bet the studio's can make a bad movie, and he's like, what we're good on DVD sales alone just on that, you know, you would recoup right? And then that hoodlum Netflix showed up
Michael Feifer 16:30
for every five? Well, that's a whole nother thing. I mean, there's a whole misnomer with Netflix that people are making money on Netflix studios are making money on Netflix, but I mean, I had a movie that was on Netflix, and we got something like $10,000 it was downloaded like 150 200,000 times, but we just had a flat fee. So I would hope that someday, I mean, I don't know the mystery of Netflix and tell you truth, but it would be nice if they found a way to help indie filmmakers or genre. I'm not a fan by the way of indie filmmaker and more of a fan of the genre, indie filmmaking, you know, I'm not really interested in making, you know, arthouse films, alright, arthouse films. Yeah, I mean, I'd rather go back to the day of making a you know, horror films and interesting, you know, sci fi sci fi films
Alex Ferrari 17:17
My favorite there's my favorite two titles I remembered the video source and I'll never forget these titles because they were so brilliantly done the artwork was great sorority babes in the slammer Rama bola Rama, right and assaulted the killer bimbos. Yes. And you saw three girls like in the air like this, like it's just, and they rented like water like, right? Every day, they would be out all the time. It's,
Michael Feifer 17:43
You don't really see them anymore. I mean, you see the crazy shark, NATO's and sci fi channel movies and things but you don't you don't you don't see. But those are bigger budget movies, too. You know,
Alex Ferrari 17:51
Sharknado is not done for like a, you know, 50 grand, like that's a that's a big budget in the scope, and the scope of what we're doing. Absolutely. So all right. So you you've been able to produce over 100 projects and have directed how many now 6060 Films you've directed yourself. So that alone is fairly impressive. Like I said, I don't get this often on the show. So you've you've you've been able to figure out how to make a living in this business as an independent filmmaker, or genre independent filmmaker if you if you like better for I want to ask you a bunch of questions regards to your business on the business side of this. So first of all, how do you structure the financing to create four to eight films a year, which is your current rate, depending on the year anywhere between four to eight feature films and you're directing? How many of those all so you direct all your films now?
Michael Feifer 18:46
I won't make a movie with another director. I I yeah, I use flying produce movies before I was directing. And, and it's a nightmare. And I like you know, I'm gonna be honest, I like to have total control of everything. actually stay on budget is for me to be the director and producer, honestly. I mean, I could do it and and I have situations where I might do that, but, but I also live for directing. I love directing movies, I highly suggest if you have an inkling of a dream or desire to go out there and do it. Anybody can do it. I mean, you can use an iPhone get the Filmic Pro app for 1499. And your phone turns into a dream right? Exactly. I saw soccer with unsane and high flying bird their shot on the iPhone. So I live for directing and that's what I enjoy most so I'm not interested in giving up the reins to direct because I like it you know
Alex Ferrari 19:35
Now so how do you structure financing for like four to eight films I'm assuming you're not independently wealthy and you just like have a three $400 million hedge fund that you could just dip into whenever you like,
Michael Feifer 19:46
Oh well so it's a different philosophy Okay, so what's happening is a lot of your your listeners might be looking for financing. Okay, I don't look for financing. I look for distributors to make content for. So there's all these distributors out there you guys can all do. On to the American Film market website and look at the exhibitors list are the Cannes Film market or the Berlin Film market, Toronto Film Festival. And there's exhibitors, and those exhibitors are their distributors, and they, they need content. And if they don't have content, then they don't have a business. So they need filmmakers to make the movies. A lot of those companies acquire movies. And some of those companies hire people like me to actually make them films. What happens when they acquire movies is they're trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. And and it doesn't always fit with their buyers want. Someone like me, I make movies specifically for them, we design movies for their marketplace and for their buyers. And so those movies fit with their buyers. One fact sometimes they talk to their buyers ahead of time about what genre what actors and things like that. So rather than looking for financing, I look for companies to make movies for. And now the reason why companies hire me over other people because you can hire anybody make a movie, get out of film school can make a movie that might be better than my movies. But I have a track record and and a professionalism that I bring to it and and a responsibility of fiscal responsibility that I bring to it, that they then entrust me with the money to make the movies. So I so again, rather than finding financing to make movies, I find companies to hire me to make movies. And that's that's my business. Does that make sense? No, it makes it makes perfect sense. But you also have a track record that you can lean on. So with this kind of work for someone who hasn't had a track record, I mean, I'm assuming if if you're able to produce one to feature films, and make a relationship with a distribution company, based off those films go, Hey, hire me to produce the next thing. What are you looking for? Right, right, well, to create a track record. I mean, if you look back at my career, I mean, I was, I don't know I sort of called reverse now because I'm not sure if it's the best thing for my career to start working for my father. But it gave me a very good sort of overall scope of the film business because I was producing low budget movies, I was running his video label, I was going to the film markets with him. So I had to had a very good global and domestic perspective of filmmaking and understanding movies on in a lower budget world, which is the kind of the what I call the AFM world of movies studios don't go to American film market. It's a it's another film art.
Alex Ferrari 22:12
I always always tell people I'm like when they give me a title. I'm like, Oh, that's very AFM me. That's an A. There's a very there's certain AFM titles if you hear they go, Oh, yeah, that star Steven Seagal and Mike Tyson right. Okay. Yeah.
Michael Feifer 22:24
I always say the key art should have. Well, I used to say ag which is explosion girl gun. Yeah. Er for AFM. Yes. So on so so yeah. So I think that what people can do to build a track record is start getting it. You have to start working on movies, you have to be in production. A lot of people they want to skip the whole hard work part of making movies and go on. I'm a director,
Alex Ferrari 22:52
With an Oscar with an Oscar living in the hills run wild parties. Yes, I get you.
Michael Feifer 22:58
Which is sad, because it happens. I mean, this is this is actually people say to me all the time, Mike, how come you don't make bigger movies? Well, that's because I would love to make bigger movies for studios, but studios Look at me as like the schlock guy. Oh, he's he's directed 60 movies, he doesn't know what he's doing. You know? Like
Alex Ferrari 23:13
He's directed 60 movies, he probably knows a little bit about what he's doing.
Michael Feifer 23:17
I always say when you're flying a plane with a pilot has never flown before. But the studios do that. They'll a guy gets lucky. And and, and their movie shows at Sundance, and it sells. And then they think that this person's a genius, and they give them a Marvel movie to make. And the thing falls apart. They have to do reshoots, and, you know, whatever. And I, you know, I'm not a big fan of that. But
Alex Ferrari 23:39
You and Ridley Scott both say the same thing. Scott said the exact same thing is like, how are they're giving these $200 million movies to these young directors with no real track record? Is it because I don't understand. I just don't understand it.
Michael Feifer 23:52
I know, I know, I had a meeting at Sony actually, last month, and the guy looks at my resume. And in the middle of this hour long meeting, he gets a phone call from Bulgaria, with the director and the producer, and he's yelling at them. And, and, and after 15 minutes, he hangs up and he just looks dejected, this poor producer over it at Sony and, and, and he looks worn out and I said you know that when that doesn't happen on my films, he's like, Well, I have it on my films. And I said, Well, if you want me to direct, you won't have that problem. He goes, Well, I can't hire you to direct but I can hire you to produce and I said, Well, I'm a director, sorry. And he goes, Well, I can't hire you to direct because the executives of the company, they're the ones who hire the directors, and they hand me the directors. So all I have is these production problems because I have directors and don't know what they're doing. Because some executive the company fell in love with somebody who, you know, won a film festival somewhere, and then they go, Well, there's your director, they get stuck with them. So anyway, it's interesting. To get back on your question. I think that really you have to put the time and effort into really learning how to make movies you really got to learn production from everywhere from finding locations, to casting actors to lenses to how to open and close the seats. And what an apple box is, versus, you know what a tungsten versus ami light is, I mean, you have to really learn your tools and put in the time. But when you're on set, putting in that time, really start asking each person, each department what they do and why they do it and work in each department. If you get on a set as a production assistant, not only we get paid, and you'll get paid for learning, but it's up to you what you want to learn. And you can really learn how to make an entire movie in three weeks on an indie film. And in an indie film is really just a microcosm of a big budget film, big budget says more people and more money. That's it, but it's still the same film language, it's still the lighting is pretty much the same when a key light a fill light, and you know, it's it's, it's all the same really, it's just that's a you know, it's just magnified. But I think for for people to really build up that track record is you got to, you got to start working on movies. But you also though anybody can be a producer. It's the one business that's why I'm not I'm not a big fan of film school, because you spent four years going to film school, you spent all this money. And and it's the one business you don't need a degree, you don't need a license, you don't need to pass the bar, you know, you can literally get a business card,
Alex Ferrari 26:09
This is all you need.
Michael Feifer 26:10
Exactly. So how do you be a producer? Well, what you do is you either write scripts, or you find funds with scripts, or you know, you can go on the internet, there's websites where you can actually search out and find scripts, find a script that you like, find five scripts you like, and now you have scripts now your projects, you know, then what is a producer, a producer is really someone who who has a project, or know someone with a project, and then they know someone with money or a distribution company with money and then joins them together, you know, or you put your name on it as the director, you're not going to make it unless you know you're not going to you're not going to take your name off it as director, unless the money is big enough for something but at least you're creating your projects, and you never know who you're going to meet. I mean, I I was involved with this movie once where the director had never made a movie before he had worked for a big budget director. I never made a movie before. He sent an email off to family and friends saying I want to make this movie, I want it to be $800,000 just looking for money. a billionaire found the email and contacted and financed this entire movie. I won't tell you what happened that movie, but
Alex Ferrari 27:17
I've worked on those movies. Trust me, let me tell you something, the billionaire got out of the business after that, what a shock. What a shock.
Michael Feifer 27:25
But you know, but he had a script and he had a dream. And he started just working it, you know, at a script and a dream. Right? And he did it. He never directed another movie. But
Alex Ferrari 27:36
yeah, but it's
Michael Feifer 27:38
a little, you know, a lot of people go off and they direct more movies, you know, but it's building a track record. It's looking at yourself as a producer, it's calling yourself a director, it's putting the time in, it's learning. spending time on your website, right and learning how to make films and putting the time in. I mean, I'm 50 years old, on in my, in my 20s, I was learning how to make films. In my 30s, I got married and had a kid. And now I was in a situation where I had to make films and make a living mean, when my wife and I got married, and she was pregnant with my son. And the first year, I made very little money, I didn't have any work. And I'm like, I have got to, I've got to figure this out. I'm either going to be a filmmaker, or go off and go be an architect. And I decided, you know something. I'm a writer, director and producer. And I I started putting myself out there and I was like producing a movie and the director dropped out. And the producer said, Well, why don't we co direct it? And I said, No, no, no, by the way, don't ever co director. It does nothing for your career. And I said no, no, no, no. I said you direct it. He said no, no, I don't know how to direct and he says you direct I said fine. I'll take it. So I directed it. first movie, I directed star Jennifer Carpenter from Exorcism of Emily Rose, and Dexter and all that. And john Nelson and the father from Fresh Prince of Bel Air and, Michael my thing, just sorry about that. It's all good. And, um, and so so, you know, you just got to it. You know, get deep into it. I mean, I was talking to someone recently who was living somewhere else and and I said, Look, if you really want to make movies, you got to come to Los Angeles. This is where this is where it's really happening. I mean, they talk about Georgia, but Georgia has big budget movies, it's hard to get on those movies. There's movies being made Neo New York, but LA is really where you can come you can get on Craigslist, you can find jobs, you can meet people, you can network, everybody that comes here really loves has a joy for making movies, and then start working it but also pay attention to the business, distributors content, how it's made. Everybody needs content. So really kind of, don't just get stuck in the filmmaking world but but go stop at AF and go buy a day pass the FM's might cost you 300 bucks, but it's worth it to go wander those halls and figure it out, you know. So really, really invest time understanding the business of making movies, you know,
Alex Ferrari 29:57
which is not the sexy part of making movies but that's I mean, that's what makes you that's what separates the boys from the men if they as they say is, I mean, I just preach constantly about like, guys learn you're not only learn your craft, like, it's really nice to know what the lens does at the camera with the next case and how to get that really funky shot from Kurosawa and and that Spielberg shot, that's all fantastic. But if you don't know how to sell it, if you don't know how to get it out there, if you don't know how to brand it, you're not going to go anywhere. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Michael Feifer 30:39
Right? Well, there is, listen, there is a sexy side of selling films and Oh, absolutely. My father, that's what he lived for going to France and sitting on the closet and drinking coffee and talking making movies. You know, he was like, um, you know, I just sold 17 films for $500 a piece to Malaysia, you know, you know, then we go to Milan, and we'd stay at a hotel and we walk across the the Piazza where the Duomo is, and, and wait for our bus outside La Scala opera house and take and it was like, it was actually, you know, a very attractive lifestyle. So all these distributors and go to these filled markets, they actually live this lifestyle where they're writing off everything, and they're having dinners with their German buyers and their French buyers and, and they're traveling the world. And that actually is kind of cool. In fact, I, if you can get a job with one of these distributors, selling films with them, or just being an intern or working as the front desk person, you really learn a lot actually about the film
Alex Ferrari 31:36
business, you've actually been the first person I've ever spoken to who's made distribution sexy? I mean, for the first time, that's the first time I've ever like, you know what he's not? He's absolutely right. It is kind of sexy. If you look at it from that point of view. Now, what is a typical? What's the typical budget? If you don't mind me asking, like a range for these kind of films?
Michael Feifer 31:56
Um, well, you know, these kinds of films, I'd say anywhere from 250,000 to $600,000.
Alex Ferrari 32:03
So there's a sweet spot. That's, that's a sweet spot.
Michael Feifer 32:05
Well, a sweet spot is I mean, yeah, let me say this is that if you make a film, that's like a hallmark type film or a lifetime type film, you know, you're gonna get domestically from them. I don't know the numbers, but let's say anywhere from 100,200 $50,000 for domestic license rights, okay? Then in the foreign markets, you're gonna get if you have a good distributor, now, there's a whole thing with distributors, if you give a distributor film, they're gonna take 20 to 30%, if we're lucky, off the top right. And anyways, let's say they're gonna do two $300,000 sales in the foreign markets. And then there's some other ancillary sales and things. Okay, well, we're talking now, if we're lucky, they're getting five $600,000 plus costs and things. So if you make a film for more than $300,000 $250,000, on this world market for independent television, movies, you're, you're really risking not making money. You know, if you start getting into that million, $2 million level of making movies, the theatrical market is gone for movies that that type, the sales are not very good for movies. So you, you now you've hit a spot that's beyond that sweet spot, and then you better have. So a movie that costs $2 million, you better have a distributor was willing to put a $5 million to tell people to go see the $2 million movie,
Alex Ferrari 33:23
right. And we know how, and we know how often that happens.
Michael Feifer 33:28
Not very often anymore, it's kind of sad, actually. Because those are actually good movies, you know, and some people have found, you know, like, sort of those action movies shot in Asia for that price that sort of sell over the world, they find that niche, but that takes a lot of money to make those. Now, I'm a fan though, of of, you know, you can make anybody can make a movie, this, well, let me just say this, you can actually do production of a movie for very little if the post production that you got to spend a little bit of money and time on. You know, you can have a friend edit, but you might have your friend editing for two months, and they're pretty mad at you afterward. As opposed to friends helping you out for two or three weeks. You got to have good sound. And now onset, you can have bad sound on set as long as you have guy track but now you have to ADR, everything and post which is okay. I mean, when I make a movie and I have 13 days to make a movie and there's a plane going over everybody's like wait on the plane is a no no, no, no, don't wait, I can fix that in post, that's fine. As long as we can hear the actor, I have guide track. So but you got to spend money on sound on your sound designer to make sure that your sound passes QC, which is quality check. You got to make sure you spend some money on your mastering side your color correction and how your masters are made. So you have to go to a proper facility to do that. Because again, your movie has to pass QC which is quality check. If it doesn't pass QC of buyers not gonna buy it. Netflix isn't gonna buy it lifetime is not going to buy it all mark and all the FA TF one in France is not going to buy. So you actually have to spend your money in post to make sure that your film passes. All the quality checks that's expected to and as as good a quality films I do you send it to quality check and these guys pick out little Tommy has Yeah. Have you ever made in all your 100 plus movies?
Alex Ferrari 35:11
Have you ever gotten one without a note back?
Michael Feifer 35:14
No, no, because the guys who do QC they're like the whole monitors at school, you know, like,
Alex Ferrari 35:19
but also but it also is just their job to find something like that, if you I've looked I've posted and I've delivered probably 5060 features in my day. And I always tell the producers I'm like, Look, it's nothing personal man, you're good, no matter how perfect we are, we're going to get something back because that is they have to justify their job. You know, if not the like, yeah, it's good. Moving along. Like that doesn't happen,
Michael Feifer 35:45
right? I mean, they get a little picky on things. I mean, what happens what happens is your your, your listeners might not know but they rate the the the quality of the issue as a three, two or one and three is the worst. And twos. Usually you don't have to worry about threes, though you'll always have to fix but a lot of times they'll they'll pick a three In fact, I had recently a call out of something at a three where the the QC operator decided that the the B roll shot of a car passing by on a highway with I had I had two standards in the car like I had my production designer my grip driving the car or something. And they decided the day it looked like the actual actors even though behind the glass there's like reflection you can't tell who it is. But that's
Alex Ferrari 36:30
not something that can be fixed. Really,
Michael Feifer 36:33
right it's none of their business. I think they match move on but they labeled that a three so I had a fight with my distributor and fight over him like that's none of their business. But there's other things they find like pixelated You know, sometimes you have a dropped out pixel or, or sometimes the brow of your your camera comes down and you get just a little vignette at the top. Fair enough. Fair enough. Push it a little bit. You
Alex Ferrari 36:53
know, fair enough. I'll give I'll give you one. I'll give you one. Because I love I love telling the story. The worst QC film I ever worked on. Okay, okay, you're gonna get kicked out of this, I'm sure. So it's a director who has no BS in directing ever, ever, ever. Right? imagined the most egotistical, crazy first time director who's literally I mean, the only thing he's missing is a monocle and abort. I mean, seriously, a dp who has never deployed a day in his life? Oh my gosh, with? That's right. So they're shooting on an HD camera, but three different brands. Right. Okay, three different brands. And when I get it back, and it's starring, of course, Eric Roberts and Michael Madsen. Of course, of course, why wouldn't it be right? for them? Yes. Okay. This, of course, is where it's just, you know, if it's not with Eric Roberts, or Danny Trejo is not really a movie. So, so I get it back. And I'm editing this and I'm like, first of all, one camera be dead pixel, the whole movie, whole movie, whole movie, dead pixel, whole movie dead pixel. No one ever taught Oh, no, but if that was the worst camera, see cameras See, has crap on the lens. Like correctly, like blurred like someone put Vaseline? Like literally, right? Nobody ever cleaned it, and the whole movie, the whole movie. And I get and I told the producers, they're like, Oh, I can't wait to get this to QC. And they kick it back. And I'm like, there's that whole guys, it's, you know, we're not re editing the movie, we're gonna have to move on that pixel will fix the dead pixel. That's something that's fixable. But I mean, the smashy lens cuts I really can't do a whole lot about I'm sorry.
Michael Feifer 38:40
No, you can't fix it. And that's, and that's where that's where if you do go off and make your own movie, you've got to make sure technically, there are certain things that you take care of technically, because at the end of day, you have to sell it to a business. It's a Exactly. It's a product. It's a product, exactly. It's a product effect. In fact, this is what people sort of miss about movies and movies are products, and, and you're in the commercial business of making commercial films. So you know, as much as I say, yeah, go shooting your iPhone, well, make sure the lens is clean, make sure that you're you're shooting you should shoot at 4k resolution, so that you can you know, the big thing about 4k actually is, is really that, for me, digital pushes are great, but I'm able to rephrase if I if I have a crew member on the left side of the frame, I can I can pop them out, you know, I can I can change things up. I mean, so the bigger resolution, the better and hard drives are cheap. I mean, I tell my crew all the time because I like to keep the camera rolling as long as possible and and I get really mad if someone yells Can I only I yell cut nobody here enough,
Alex Ferrari 39:41
right or enough? Fair enough.
Michael Feifer 39:42
And I because I tell them an eight terabyte hard drive. I just bought an eight terabyte hard drive off Amazon for $130. I mean, do you do have people have no comprehension of what film actually costs? You know, back in the day, my mind would go crazy with the sound of a film going through a mag was like a ching ching to change. Cuz every foot is $1 because the film is 50 cents plus the transfers and everything. It's like it's $1. So you spend on an on an indie film, everywhere from 150,000 $300,000 for filming in a studio film, they're spending millions of dollars. But these days, eight terabyte hard drives 130 bucks.
Alex Ferrari 40:17
So pretty much, pretty much yeah.
Michael Feifer 40:19
So make sure you're shooting in a film, make sure you're shooting 4k, because there's no reason not to now, and make sure you're doing everything technically correct. Make sure you're cleaning your lenses, you know, and, and check your film. And I do highly suggest having somebody I sometimes it's like, sometimes I'll go to Hawaii and film. When I go to Hawaii, I bring a skeleton crew, and I do my own downloading. And I check my work, but I don't check it as good as my di t guy that I have set with me who I call I call him the gatekeeper. And the gatekeeper is really important because he's the one that's going to come running to set and go. Guys, I checked the shot and it's you know, you've got scratches or, you know,
Alex Ferrari 40:58
there's a dead pixel or Yeah, right, things like that. Now, what is it typical schedule, by the way of one of these films, how many days normally 13 or 13 days? So basically two weeks basically looking at three weeks, three weeks, I mean, oh, you're doing five days? You're doing five day weeks?
Michael Feifer 41:13
Yeah, yeah. to five G's. I mean, it depends how it works out. Sometimes it'll be a four. I like starting on a Tuesday. Because Monday gives you that one last day of prep for stuff that you know, so if I do that I might go for days, then five days then three that whatever, you know, I don't like shooting on weekends but don't have to because I like time for my family. Also crew. They like their weekends too. Sure. The last time I did I shot at a high school at the beginning of the shoe, which may be stuck shooting weekends for the three weeks. And when you have Thursday and Friday off your crew, they're not actually taking a break. They're taking other jobs, or those that Thursday, Friday doesn't feel like weekend. So I like to do that. But this last time I did was 14 days plus kind of a half day for this stunt we did where we threw a car in the water and shot a girl in the car in the water. But yeah, generally not more than three weeks. I shot a Western last year. That was 17 days actually. But I've also done tons of films in 10 days. In fact, your listeners might enjoy I made this whole series of film series of films based on true crime stories or serial killers. like Ted Bundy, Richard spag Boston Strangler, Henry Lee Lucas, those are all made in 10 days for about $125,000 each and each Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 42:27
Michael Feifer 42:29
And they're there they're I mean, sure, you can watch those films and you can like one of my films I think they compared it to David Fincher Zodiac and like it's not as good as David Fincher Zodiac. What are you talking about this $100 million dollar movie? You know,
Alex Ferrari 42:43
and it's arguably one of the greatest masters working in cinema today. Right? Like Come on,
Michael Feifer 42:49
like don't compare it's like comparing a Honda to a Ferrari. I mean,
Alex Ferrari 42:53
no pun intended. No pun intended. Thank you sir.
Michael Feifer 42:56
Honda will get you there just as well. In fact, better gas mileage, much like so. So those films though, you know, they were they're a joy to me Those were good times in my life making those movies I really enjoyed making those and we we did a lot for the time and for the money we had and and I was free to do anything I wanted shooting horror films is really a blast because you can really change up the film language. You know, you can really put your camera anywhere you want when I make lifetime movies. I have to actually be careful I can only shoot handheld for instance, in a really frantic situation. I can't I can't shoot handheld and just you know, a family talking at home kind of thing and add a little something but a horror film you can do it all over the place, you know,
Alex Ferrari 43:37
is your favorite genre to shoot in.
Michael Feifer 43:40
Alex Ferrari 43:41
Michael Feifer 43:42
You know, I like any genre. I think if you're a storyteller, every genre genre works. I enjoy making you know, there's there's something about the the rawness of shooting a horror film or like a true crime. You know, it's I like shooting in like dingy, terrible locations. Like we used to shoot a Lincoln Heights jail in LA, which is closed now it's closed in 1964. It's just a great location to film and even though you're inhaling asbestos, it's just a great look and feel I don't like shooting in big beautiful houses, the homeowners are on top all the time. They're looking at their floors to get you scratch them and, and they're there. They're generic looking, you know, I like working in dingy locations. So horror films sort of lend to those sorts of locations. You know, what,
Alex Ferrari 44:26
what is the most profitable genre for you? Well, 100 days
Michael Feifer 44:31
old. Well, so so this is something that I think is really important for your listeners to recognize is that if there's basically only two or three genres that really you can be sure if you make it right, you're gonna you're gonna, I'm not gonna say you're to make money because it's hard to make money making movies, you know, but you have your best chance of making a profit. And that is the female centric thriller genre. Okay, that is a genre unto him. It's a lifetime basically left lifetime movies. Yeah, romantic comedy. hallmark movies, and then romantic comedies with animals.
Alex Ferrari 45:03
Oh no. Anytime you put a dog in a movie it's it's it's easy. So
Michael Feifer 45:07
it is easier sell to do a dog movie. Anything else, you're risking your your investors money, you're it's really gonna be very hard to find a distributor. If you find a distributor like I do to hire you to make movies, they're really going to want those two genres romantic comedy and female centric thriller. Now female centric thriller can fall into like, you know, black market babies or drug addicted mother or whatever it might be, you know. But, sir,
Alex Ferrari 45:34
you just have to say lifetime that's pretty much as I have to do is say lifetime and everybody
Michael Feifer 45:38
I make most of my living right now making lifetime I was the serial killer guy. And then I was the dog Christmas guy I made the dog was Christmas, the dogs had Christmas vacation and Christmas wedding tale to do. And then I was the and then I became, I got more and more orders to make lifetime movies. Now I have 30 movies that rotate on lifetime at any given time. And on top of the eight movies I made in the last 12 months, they were all lifetime movies, except for one of them. You know?
Alex Ferrari 46:05
Would you recommend also throwing Christmas movies? What's your feeling on making Christmas movies, since you've made a handful of them? I mean, I'm assuming that that's, I mean, if you if you it's a good, it's a good mark, it's a good product to sell. Well,
Michael Feifer 46:17
it falls into the romantic comedy genre. So if you make a romantic comedy, it doesn't hurt to throw Christmas in. Um, just know, when you're making Christmas movies, you're really competing with a lot of people and hallmark movies and things. And then you have a higher budget for production design, because you have to throw in Christmas everywhere. Right? I don't know if my son has his little Christmas tree that's like this big with lights on it plugs in. And we have a joke where we try to put it like all of a scene with let's say, I've got four people in a scene, I have to cover all of them. Right? So I'll try to put the Christmas tree to every medium or close up shot behind each person. It's the same tree universe. So so so you do have to fill up Christmas movies with Christmas and actually starts to get a little expensive to tell you true
Alex Ferrari 47:01
unless you're shooting around Christmas time. Well, you still it's it's still yours.
Michael Feifer 47:06
Yeah, no one helps. I mean, actually, of all the Christmas movies I made. I've only made two at Christmas time one, I made a keystone resort in Colorado. Because I said to my producers, I'm like Guys, can we please make a movie in the snow, a Christmas movie in the snow? And they said, Well, if you could figure out how to make it in the snow, we'll do it. I'm like, so I actually got Keystone resort in Colorado and give me the whole resort for free and all the lodging for free and we went up the Keystone we shot and it was it's called the dog was a Christmas vacation on. And then I made another movie called nanny for Christmas that we shot at Christmas time and I use the ice skating rink at Pershing Square in downtown LA and all the lights were up and then we shot in Beverly Hills and all the lights were up. But but there's nothing wrong with a straight romantic comedy with a good twist and a good kind of edge. And then and then. And then you know if you can find yourself to actors who have been on regular television shows, they don't have to be big name actors. They don't have to be household names. You know?
Alex Ferrari 47:58
Yeah, I was gonna ask you, I was gonna ask in regards to talent, because that's something that filmmakers get all crazed about that just you know, they're like, you know, this would be perfect for Will Smith. I'm like, I sure it will be right. But that's not going to happen. Because Will Smith's not making $100,000 movie. I'm just sorry, he's just not. He doesn't get out of his bed for less than 10 million. Like it's just not gonna happen. So I think there's a delusion a lot of filmmakers minds. And generally speaking, we all have delusions of grandeur and our own on our own and our filmmaking minds. But the business of filmmaking when you hire certain actors that have certain caches, and some actors are very big overseas. And you know, john Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal still make a living overseas, but they don't do a whole lot here in the States. Nick's making a lot of movies lately about Nick. Well, he has dads he has to pay apparently. But But no, I mean, yeah, but he but he's one of those weird anomalies that he can jump from major studio movie to like Sam Jackson, Sam Jackson can go do Avengers, but then he'll go do and then he will go to an indie you know, arsons unika unicorn store. Yeah, exactly. Well, yeah, but you know, that was a favorite brewery, I'm sure. Right. But yeah, but there are those like Danny Trejo does that as well. He just jumps back when he's he is arguably in every film, I think, other than your, your 70 or 80. But, but so can you give us a little bit advice on how you approach these actors? I don't want to be as crass as to ask what the you know, what they're asking rates are what you pay them for. Because you know, you can say that but I know for a fact from working with some of these actors, it is fairly affordable, arguably is crazy.
Michael Feifer 49:36
Well, well, not only is it fairly affordable, but if you have some budget, you really do need to spend you're better off putting some money in your budget for to lead actors with some TV series cachet behind them. They don't have to be household names, because it's worth it because they're gonna help help sell your film later. Your film as good as you think it is. Will not I mean? I like to use The film totally, that's Charlize Theron. Okay, if that didn't star Charlie's there, nobody would see that movie. No, but there's a star search for it. So even in your film, you might get a lifetime to buy your film or Hallmark to buy your film or, or, or, or, or a Netflix or, or get the foreign markets if you just have some actors with some television series cache. And that doesn't have to be a big television series. But it just adds a little bit to it. So what your your listeners might not understand about what's cool about making movies, first of all, is that you can actually, if I want to work with Bill Gates, I can't just call his agent say, hey, I want to work delegate. Okay, but you can actually do that in Hollywood, you can actually work with anybody if you have the money. And but on a lower level, there's a company called the breakdown services, okay. And the breakdown services is actually how everybody really cast their movies. And what happens is the breakdown services, you you send them your script, they will break down your script, all the characters, a synopsis, everything in like a day, it's the most amazing service, I don't know what they they have, like, people enslaved in little cubicles, somewhere packed away in that place. That's brilliant. I mean, they're really brilliant people, I can't believe I couldn't do that on my scripts. But in a day, they'll come up with a whole breakdown everything. And then you will prove that breakdown. And then that breakdown gets sent out to everything, every single agent subscribes to the breakdown services. And every single agent, they subscribe to it. And usually the lower agents, they'll look through it, and then they they kick their actors in their system, who would fit certain parts on. And so they'll do that on the internet, then you access the breakdown Service website. And then you'll have all of these actors submitted for your movie. And you'll go through and you'll actually, shockingly, find accurate Now what happens is, a lot of times agents will, you know, you'll see Nicolas Cage's picture, of course, he's never going to do it for your price. But sometimes they do that. But you'll get a kind of a good array of actors to consider for your movie. And if you start searching it out, you'll find that actually, they have a lot of a lot of resume and a lot of experience. And it's a really great way to start if you're going to make a movie now, that works really well, when you make a movie in Los Angeles, because those actors live in Los Angeles, if you're not a Los Angeles, you have to take them out. And by the way, this is all assuming you're being going to be sag signatory is the whole nother thing. But it's not a big deal to be sag signatory, they do charge you a security deposit, which is kind of good. It's a pain, it takes a very long time to get it back. But you do get it back. I've never not gotten a secure deposit back as long as you pay people and you're on the up and up and you're you're you're a good producer and you play by the rules, it's fine. But the breakdown services gives you access through every single agency to every actor in the business. So you can cast your movie that way. Now what you can do is just try to cast your first two leads and anybody else, give your friends jobs. I'm a big fan of getting your friends jobs. It's really hard to get jobs in this business. So you know, if you have to audition your friends do it, they should audition for you. But try to give to your friends first.
Alex Ferrari 52:58
And do you put the do you put the the the rate in the breakdown service?
Michael Feifer 53:03
Well, what happens is on for instance, my make my movies under the modified low budget agreement, which is 335 a day 1166 a week. And it'll say modified low budget so the the agents then know that that budget that movie is from say $225,000 to $650,000. But
Alex Ferrari 53:20
you're not going to get someone like a Dean Cain or someone like that for that price.
Michael Feifer 53:24
Well, Dean Cain will be submitted who by the way, I've made five movies, but I know I know.
Alex Ferrari 53:28
That's why I brought him up.
Michael Feifer 53:30
And but Dean doesn't work for that price. Right? Well, above and beyond that, Shawn. So Dean, by the way, is a great guy and one of my favorite people to work with. And he's, he's he's just he's the best. In fact, what I like to do with Dean sometimes is sometimes like we did the dog was a Christmas vacation in Colorado together. And his two characters he played these he play kind of the Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci characters in home alone. And when you're making a movie in a short amount of time, sometimes I'll literally give Dean a camera operator with a camera and a sound guy and take him and the other guy, I just go off and shoot stuff. I'm like, I need you guys ducking behind trees. I need this. This isn't like Mike, you got it. I'm going to go direct. And then Dean goes off and direct. And he's happy as hell. He's just, he's just the best. He's just the best guy to work with. He's just such a super nice guy. But anyways, yeah, Dean's not gonna work for only 1166 a week. So you've decided you're gonna go with the dean K, and you gotta have money set aside for him because you know, but there's also lots of other actors who will jump out of starring role maybe they've only played supporting roles on or guest spots on Grey's Anatomy and law and order, and they've never actually carried a movie, you know? And so they might do it for 1166 or they might do it for 1166 plus a little extra money to make them feel like okay, you're not just doing it for scale. There's a little more money there and address need work, and then we know what happens sometimes as agents. You know, agents get 10% they don't really want 10% of your measly 1166 a week they want 10 Have a bigger payday. So 2030 4050
Alex Ferrari 55:02
Michael Feifer 55:04
Well, they want they want their actors to be on television series for the next 10 years and then making billions you know. So sometimes it's hard to get the agents to agree. But other actors take a little more control of their career and tell their agents Look, I want to see anything that passes by, by the way, by law, they're supposed to tell their their actors about everything that they're offered. But that's an offer, not something that goes in the breakdown services. Anyways, um, you know, you can cast your movie that way and the breakdown services on, you know, it's free, I think, if your movies already signatory to sag, it's free. If it's not, it's like $100 It's nothing. It's nothing, because it's a service for the agents, the agents pay for the service. So they need movies, you know,
Alex Ferrari 55:45
that's the same thing. Yeah.
Michael Feifer 55:47
So that's an amazing thing about this business, though, is that you actually have access to every actor in the business. And the submissions Come on the internet, you get their picture, you get their resume, you get video, you can, there's a, you can click one, two, or three for the ones you like, you know, let's say you have three producers on your movie, you know, you say, Okay, I'm going to pick, I'm going to take the one and you take the two and you take the three, and then you can see who likes who and, and start, you know, and then you could call up the agent, have them come in audition if you want. Now, I highly suggest if someone's been on a lot of television shows, you can watch their reels, you don't really need to call them into audition. You can just have lunch with them, you know, and get to know them and see if you liked each other. It's amazing.
Alex Ferrari 56:23
The one the one thing I find fascinating about just talking to someone like you with a with a wealth of experience that you have, because you are one of the more experienced I mean, he because you might only be 50 years old, but you have probably 100 years of experience underneath your belt, purely because making so many movies. You know, I talk a lot about mindset for and filmmakers mindsets and breaking through their own fears. And it doesn't seem like you have any of that I'm sure you have your own fears and your own issues that we all have to deal with. But I want to just point this out, because talking to you in your world, in the construct that you've created in your own head. making movies is like building a table. It's like building a house. It's just it's just another thing is there is doesn't seem to be any roadblocks to create this whole like, oh, I've got to do this. And I have to do that. Like, I've done eight movies this year. Like, you're beyond that, I want you to tell the audience, you know what happened. I mean, I'm assuming and this is just my own cycle analysis of user, if you if I may be so bold, is that you're at a very young age. You're like, I just worked with my dad, and he was making movies. So I guess if he's making movies, this is the thing you can go do. And now it's just kind of grown into this because there doesn't seem to be any limitations to your beliefs of making movies.
Michael Feifer 57:41
Right? Well, listen, first of all, there were limitations in my 20s I didn't think I could direct a film. In fact, I would walk I would be on set and I wouldn't understand screen direction. That scared me like crazy. I didn't understand crossing the line. Those are very critical things as a director to understand. Yeah, I'm, I put in the time. First of all, I love what I do. I love making movies. And I know every filmmaker out there really does want to be on set and they live for it. And everybody. There's just there's just, you know, if I click a baseball player, what's it
Alex Ferrari 58:09
it's a magic? It's a magic,
Michael Feifer 58:10
there's something magical about it. Yeah, I'm like, you have to put in the time on set to really know your craft. So when I directed my first movie, I had actually produced 30 movies, I had to add 1213 movies, I had gotten myself very very deeply involved. Now I know I had an easier path because my father and I sort of you know, I actually ended up having to be there to help him sort of stabilize things because his business was a bit of a mess people were you know stealing money here and making movies here that fell apart whatever and I sort of helped to stabilize that but there's no reason why your listeners and viewers can't get on a movie set and start understand their craft in fact you don't have to actually be on a movie set you can create your own movie set there's no reason why you can't be at home and and start shooting scenes with your with your with your best friends. And there you want to movie so what is a movie set? Really it's people with a script performing that script and you're filming that that's all it is. Um, but putting the time in so I put in so much time before I directed a movie that I felt that the first movie I directed I knew not more than anybody but close to everything about every job and when I was when I was when I was producing movies and you know started off paying my dad and then producing movies for him and then producing movies for other companies actually because other companies started asking me to produce movies for them because I knew them I met them through networking by the way networking huge it's huge have lunches with people call people up ask them you know networking is big, but you know really put the time in on set learn everything know that no, no what f stops are know what focal lengths are no learn what what what the different life to these days. These days. LED lights are huge and we shoot so much within lights so much with LED lights understand the difference between resolutions of cameras and things. But one job that you can really do if you want to direct really understand production is Ed movies.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:04
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Michael Feifer 1:00:15
So let's say you're a PA on a movie, get to know the director, and then say the director. Hey, do you mind if I if I stand next to you? And maybe? Or do you mind if the next movie if I add it or teach me how I say to the ad? Can you teach me can I shadow you and learn how to AD because assistant directing, if you're good at it, you're actually running the set. If you're good at it, you're setting up shots for your director. If you're good at it, you can tell the director you know, or if you're trying to learn it, hey, do me a favor, just sit there and tell me what you want. And I'm going to go convey those messages, the DP and the gaffer and everything just to challenge yourself. So what I did when I was producing movies, as I started add my movies for two reasons. One is because I didn't understand the pace of the movie, why we were slowing down. Why we were going fast. Why some delay happened. And you really only understand that if you're in the game, you know, the way I look at movie sets is concentric circles. There's the the middle circle, which is the actual filmmaking, which is the director, the DP, the gaffer, the grips everybody together, the outside circle is the honey wagon, the production office, whatever it might be, where the actors are getting dressed, and made up costumes, everything, and then they're brought to the, to the middle circle. And the outer circle is whether it's executive producers, or the neighborhood's driving you crazy, whatever it might be, but really work in that inner circle, and really pay attention. So you can learn that. And so I started, add my movies, so I can control the pace, I can understand what's going on. But also, I started to hone my skills as a director, I realized that having gone to architecture school, having been a graphic designer, being a photographer, since the seventh grade, that actually my skill set was perfect for making movies. My biggest fear actually, was not just screen direction, but with actors. I was afraid like, I'm not an actor, I didn't go to acting school, what do I know about acting. But actually, it turns out that this is sort of the trick that I mean, other directors are not going to agree, maybe, but my feeling with actors is, it's not my job to tell you how to act, it's my job to tell you where to go. It's my job to direct the crew. Actors know how to act, they're actually the most experienced ones on set, and they know what to do once you set them in motion. They want to be free, actually. So you can have talked with your actors beforehand about the character and kind of, you know, but the script is a guide. And if you you know, your job as a director is to say, Well, okay, I need you coming through the door, I need you to stop and drop your bags and be really upset, whatever it might be, and then your, your husband's gonna come up, and you're gonna get in a fight with your husband. And, and then the two of you are gonna go off in separate directions. Okay, okay, well, Let's rehearse that. And then you watch the actors kind of walk through it. And then they're like, well, what if I drop the bag here? And what if I get and find my husband, but I go that way. Okay, that's good. Let's work that out. Once you work that out the blocking, then we can light it, and then it's locked in, and then we can start shooting it. And then once you shoot the master, then you can go in and shoot all the coverage. So your job as a director actually is to command the set is to be a leader, and direct your crew because now I got to go tell my, my dp, well, I want to start with a tracking shot on a 35. And then I want to come in and I want to shoot, I want to shoot a 135 and an 85 over the shoulder, then we're gonna come over in this shoulder. And and, and so you have to understand the process of how to capture that scene. And the way to capture that scene is with your crew, your actors already know what they're doing within that. So my biggest fear was working with actors. And the first movie director was Jennifer Carpenter, who's a freaking genius actor. And I realized very quickly, just stay away from her let her go. Because she's amazing. I don't know if you ever saw exorcism and we rose. She's insane. And here, I got to direct her first that was her first real part. And and it's this kind of genre movie called lethal eviction. And real genre movie, actually,
Alex Ferrari 1:03:54
it's very FME. It's a very fancy title. So
Michael Feifer 1:03:59
it's obviously it's actually like AFM meets a little on the trauma side actually.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:05
No, there's there's a, there's a little bit of an ad stank to that there's a very little image of Oh, I didn't name it. Trust me. It's a great ad stank on that. I could just see that on the shelf with a great cover art.
Michael Feifer 1:04:16
Yeah, Jennifer Carpenter and Judd Nelson. By the way, that's another thing about titles is that you make a movie, like I made a movie called where fate meets for a lifetime and didn't make it for lifetime where people have to understand too as we make movies, and we sold them lifetime, lifetime change the name to deadly daycare. You know, I made another move called snatched lifetime change name to the nightmare nanny. So they have their sort of naming they know what they know what works. Yeah, I did a movie called maternal instincts to change the cradles for cash, but on and as babies for cash, not cradles. Anyway, so. So really putting the time in on making the effort to really learn yourselves. For instance, a lot of PhDs they'll come work for me or crew members, and they won't ask To me a question like I've had, I've had PhDs, I had a friend's daughter work for me once, and she wanted to work on a movie. And she actually, she lived about 20 miles further west, from me. So she would drive to my house, and then ride with me in my car to set. And we'd sit in the car for a half hour, 45 minutes an hour. And she would ask me one question. And I finally said, Why, why are you doing this? You're sitting with the director, the producer and the writer, and you haven't asked me one question. She's like, I don't know, like, I'm like, this isn't right for you. If you're not asking questions, then you shouldn't be working on movies. If you're not curious about what other people doing, are doing, then you should be working movies, then you don't really have the, the the gene inside you that makes you want to make movies, you know. And so putting in the time understanding the process, really learning craft takes away the fear of making movies, and makes it be something that is just as simple as going in your kitchen and pulling out food and cooking, you know, when I say dressed in the morning, and that's how it is for me, setting up shop, I don't make shot lists, I don't need to make shot lists. I know, if I have a scene and I read it, or I wrote it or a script I didn't write and and we and I come up with a concept for the scene, the blocking, I set my actors, we kind of make adjustments I know every shot we need. And I know how to convey that to my crew. And also sometimes you also have to know your constraints. Meaning you might have a time constraint you might have a lighting constraint. So you know you might be it's a it's a day scene, but now it's turned to night. How am I going to shoot that? Well, I know Okay, now I'm gonna have to block the scene. So I'm not shooting towards that really big window. But I know those smaller windows, we can test those and make them look like night, you know? So it's understanding if the more you understand your craft, then the better you'll be on set and then on set, an important thing to know too, when it comes to fear, insecurity. Never, never admit you're wrong. You're so freakin wrong. It doesn't matter. It's such a subjective thing. There is no such thing as wrong except for eyelines. If you have eyelines, wrong,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:57
and the line the line is wrong.
Michael Feifer 1:06:59
Yeah, the line the screen direction, which is actually if someone teaches to you, it's actually very easy to learn. But yeah, I teach it Well, I think a lot of people don't understand it, because they don't quite come. They're not taught well. But those things are wrong. If you have two people speaking to each other, and then you cut your movie together in the boat speaking this way. It's wrong will never work. Although you could flop the shot, as long as there's not some some words in the background that are now backwards, you know?
Alex Ferrari 1:07:24
Yeah. And the logo, the logo on the T shirts in the reverse or something. Right?
Michael Feifer 1:07:29
Exactly. Right. Right. But that takes away the fear is knowing it's just like a pilot. I mean, you have to put in 1000s of hours. And once you put that in, flying is not hard. Actually, the learning to fly was hard. The Flying is not hard to say they will make movies and learning to make the movies is harder than actually making the movies once you have the experience.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:46
So what you're saying is taking small steps on a daily basis to educate yourself and become better at your craft is really the key of breaking through fear.
Michael Feifer 1:07:56
Yeah, yeah, I'd say so. And it's also to building a track record. Yeah, making movies and a career and, and like I said, anybody can be at home, you know, you know, if you want to practice write a three page scene, you know, get your get your two best friends together. And and write the scene for the woods go to the closest place where you can find woods near your house, take take an iPhone, or, or a camera, I mean, I have a camera called a Sony A 6300, which you can buy off of, you know, Craigslist or something for 600 bucks, and it's 4k shoots raw, and has focus peaking, which is really important for lenses where you can't, you can't that the screens really small but focus peaking, you can actually tell what's in focus. Because focus is critical because your movies not capacity. You see if you can't,
Alex Ferrari 1:08:41
can't fix that in post,
Michael Feifer 1:08:43
right people's eyes have to be in focus on and go off and shoot the movie, but use film language and then you can get a you know, a DJI Osmo and you can shoot steadycam. And
Alex Ferrari 1:08:53
yeah, there's so much but learn the language of film, which is which is over the shoulders, which is medium shots, which is close ups, which it's the same language of film that Steven Spielberg uses on $200 million movies that you're going to use in the woods with your three page script. It's the same language. And I just think so much time is wasted with filmmakers, especially young filmmakers or filmmakers starting out that they and I had this I did this for so many years that you make this you make making a movie into this giant monster of a thing that you've got to climb and then you add all this pressure on it like it has to do this for my career that for my career. And when you do that you Why would you move your parent you're just petrified, paralyzed, right? paralyzed by the fear of what you've created, which is all in your head, rather than you. I love your approach is just like, well, I'm just gonna go cook a meal. Let's go. Like I've been in the kitchen a million times. Let's do this. Right? Right. My
Michael Feifer 1:09:49
crew makes fun of me because I'm always saying gotta go, gotta go. Gotta go. We gotta go. Let's go. Well, what are we doing sitting around? Let's go Let's go make a movie. I
Alex Ferrari 1:09:55
can make another five, six movies in the next hour. Come on, guys.
Michael Feifer 1:09:58
Let's move it every minute counts. Every minute counts. But, you know, you just got it like, you know, so when you're on set, you know, get move in and start making your movie, you know, and then I have, I do have sayings that are that I like to convey when people listen to me on these podcasts, I can start hearing a lot. But on set, I say for instance, and this is ties in what you're saying, I'm never going from perfect, I'm going for very good, okay, very important. Do not try to be perfectionist, a collection of very good is a perfect movie. But a collection of perfect is an unfinished film, don't try. It relates to writing, you know, I don't have writer's block, because I'm not trying to be perfect. I'm just trying to vomit on the freakin page and get something down and then I can change it later. And when you're on set, don't get so caught up in like, you know, is Yoda back there turn this way or that way, you know, like, it just be very good. And a collection of very good your editors job is to make it perfect, you know. And then the other one is the saying that I use all the time. Because I when people are on my sets, and they're working on movies, first time we call the fight for Film Academy for first time filmmakers. And they have to learn FC w TP and that is flexible compromising with the program, the way to make movies good fast and cheap. Okay, because they say you can only pick two or three is to be FC ATP that's flexible, compromising with the program, you have to make compromises all day long, every day flexible, although that's okay. In fact, sometimes the compromises make for better situations. Or sometimes, you know, sometimes a, you know a homeowner's, like you can't shoot my living room anymore, you've destroyed my living room, then you're like crap, I gotta find something else. And then you're like, well, let's shoot at the backyard. And suddenly the scene is better. And then you're like, why didn't I think of this before? You know? So you have to be with the program. If it's raining, are you gonna you're either going to shoot in the rain, or you're going to cover yourself and then the rains not gonna be seen? Are you just gonna go with it, you know, and then rewrite the script a little bit. And the characters like it's raining, you know, and whatever. You have to go with it and just go with the flow. I see that a lot of I'm not on other film sets, I'm on my film sets. And so a lot of people I talked to when they're on other film sets, I'm like, what's the biggest delay? Like what why? Why did that film not get done on time? Why did you go over because I never shoot overtime, we always shoot 12 hour days plus lunch. So it's 12 and a half hour day or 12? You know, lunch is 42 minutes, because so you know, it's 12 hours plus whatever lunch was very, very seldomly shoot overtime. But I'll talk to people get on set for like 16 hours. What was the delay in decisiveness, the director, the DP, they're just sitting around and can't decide what lens to use, they can't decide where to put the camera. The director wants have long talks with the actor, and you can see the actor just like come on. I'm an actor, I know what I'm doing. You don't need to be talking to me, you know? And in decisiveness is is just a killer of time. I mean, I'm always talking about did the earth just keep spinning? It just keeps spinning? You can't stop it. And, and you need that time, you know, and every time someone's being indecisive, it just take like, my head is just like, tick tock tick tock, tick tock, you know, so you have to make quick decisions, quick snap judgments, don't worry, it's okay, if you went with an 85, when maybe you should have gone with a 100 millimeter. Who cares? Who cares? You know, you so shoot it, and put on the next lens or something, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:13:08
now you're out your output is obviously quite insane. What is your creative process, like when you're because you write all of these as well, most most I
Michael Feifer 1:13:15
write most, sometimes I just get given scripts, and then I have to polish them. Like, I write a lot of them. So what's my creative process? Like? Well, listen, I love making movies. So I don't want to sleep. When we're on vacation, I write I mean, there's a picture of me in Mexico and Cabo San Lucas, and I have my laptop on the bar. It's one of the swim up bars, you know, so I swim up with my laptop, I put my laptop there, and I tell my wife, you go sit by the pool, and I'm going to work, you know, and, or, you know, if we're on vacation, my son, they'll go to sleep at nine or 10 o'clock, and I'm literally up till three in the morning. And I'll work because my work is not only writing, but I have to do accounting, I have to do contracts, I have to get the next movie prepped, I have to network all of these things together. So I'm trying to get everything happening at one time. And so I sit with my laptop and work, you know, so we have Wi Fi something that people should know a lot of people it's weird, don't know this, but your phone has a Personal Hotspot. So you can always get the internet if you have your phone. I was just talking to an agent recently. And he's like, Damn, I don't have Wi Fi and what's you know, and I said, you have a phone? Well, you have Wi Fi, you know, so
Alex Ferrari 1:14:24
it's gonna be expensive and don't you know, don't download film, a lot of big
Michael Feifer 1:14:28
stuff, but you can get something done. If you're watching movies on your phone, you can you can you can have your hotspot going on your on your computer, on on. So there's nothing to stop you from. So but you have to enjoy what you're doing. So I enjoy working. So I highly suggest people that that are like, Okay, well this guy's doing all this stuff. How do I do it? Well, you could be writing scripts, anybody can be writing scripts, it's easier to start writing treatments. You have to write a script, write a story and hire a friend to write the script, you know, or just write stories. You could sell stories. A lot of times to you go to a meeting. And you have a you have a script or a treatment or like, well, I don't really like that What else you got your like, don't have anything else? Well, you just screwed yourself. You should have other other things, you know, because they might be like, well, we want a romantic comedy, but we want a Christmas romantic comedy, you're like, well, I can change it to Christmas. And while you have a Christmas movie, no, well, if you had one, I would have bought it from you. So you could be writing. If you've written something you could be figuring out the blocking and breaking it down. You could be going off to grip and light houses and learning how a grip and lighthouse will let you in, or somebody who has grip and light equipment and and you don't teach you how to open close assist and open a combo, Stan, you know how to put an HDMI on top and you know, understand electricity, you know, that's valuable. If you're on a set working, go to the costume designer and ask them how they break down the script. Actually, it's really interesting, you know, you might not be I mean, I didn't know about costumes. In fact, I tell my actors in my costume designers I don't, I don't care unless something's really bad, then I'll I'll change it but but how they break it down is interesting, you know. So there's lots you could be doing, even if you're not actually being hired to make a movie now, but you can make a movie without anybody. Or you can at least prep a film that that that you know, maybe you're waiting for somebody to give you $50,000 for but it's all prepped, you've broken it down. You can do a shot list you can I'm actually more of a fan of, of doing floor plans instead of shot lists right floorplan of where the characters are going in the scene. And then from that, you know, use little graphics to make shot lists. If you know storyboards are totally unnecessary. If people are talking all the time, storyboards are good for effects. And Stein said you need to have that information other people but this, I've seen people make storyboards, it's like one person talking another person on medium shot close up and full shot like that's, that's not necessary. If you can't.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:51
If you can't tell that to the DP and the DP can understand medium shot, you're, you probably hired the wrong dp,
Michael Feifer 1:16:57
right? Well, you don't have to tell him you just block the scene, the actor, scene, everybody watches. And you're like, Okay, well, let's start here. And then we're gonna come in here, and then you might have a special shot, and maybe it's a dolly pushing. Maybe it's a jaw shot where you're, you know, you're you're pulling back in and zooming air back and forth, whatever, whatever it might be. Maybe those are your special moments that you're gonna put into that scene. But everything else is pretty obvious, you know, right. If you don't really know screen direction, the line, if you have a script supervisor, they're gonna help you or your dp is going to help you. And and you'll see it on on the monitor, you know, because now since we make movies digitally, it's it's it's wiziwig. It's what you see is what you get. And people ask me all the time if I watch dailies, well, why would I watch dailies? If I'm seeing everything shot, we used to watch dailies, we shot a film, but we didn't know what we're getting. We're just looking through a really bad video, right? Oh, yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:43
Right. But and then if you were really fancy, you would have played back on VHS, right? Who has time for that? You know, not on your sets, obvious No,
Michael Feifer 1:17:53
I don't have time to say I got to shoot more. Because this is something also for your listeners to understand is production is all about collecting data for post production. So everybody on your crew is all together, working their butts off for 234 weeks, whatever it might be. So that basically one guy can sit in a room in the dark to edit your movie. And, and, and so the expensive part is those is the whole crew and the bathrooms and the food and the location, all that. So you got to really hustle as your head says, and, and work your butt off to be shooting as a Don't be indecisive or if you're indecisive. You don't know, just make a decision and go might be wrong. But at least you made a decision now you're shooting and after you made that decision might be okay. Well now, because I made the decision, I can move on to the next decision because I just figured something out in that, you know, it's it's just get to work, you know, they don't sit there and stare at the set and wonder what your where you're going next. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:18:45
now, what advice you have for dealing with distributors, because if you've dealt with a couple over the over the course of your career, and they have a let's say checkered past or checkered present it depending on who you're dealing with.
Michael Feifer 1:18:57
They do. And there's a lot of tricks that distributors use years, a lot of tricks. I mean, the you know, let's say you have the best movie in their in their package of 10 films. And your movie would have gotten, say $100,000 from France and the other movies would have gotten $1. Well, they'll they'll say I sold all 10 movies to France for $100,000. So here's your $10,000 you don't know, you'd even know that your film actually would have sold for 100,000. They were being honest, you know? Or they charge you for a trailer so they don't
Alex Ferrari 1:19:28
give up by the way. They don't give the other the other nine films $10,000 each. Oh, well. That's all yeah, that's another thing. Yeah, they wouldn't, they wouldn't even give them that they would just give you 10,000 and I would random it Right, right. They told them they got 50 bucks, or they wouldn't you know, I
Michael Feifer 1:19:42
mean, there's a lot of shady things are going on distributors. So first of all, I think the best thing you do a distributor is tell them you want a list of other filmmakers that they've sold for. And if they're not going to get the list and you can call them up and get references then they're not worth talking to
Alex Ferrari 1:19:59
but IMDb has all that information outside of dB Pro, can you get that information as well? A lot of times, if they will.
Michael Feifer 1:20:05
But it's a good test of a distributor? Sure, well, I'll go with you. But I want to, I want a list of everybody's names and numbers. So I can call them up and ask how their relationship is with you. And then you call up those producers. Have you been paid? Do you feel that what you were paid was the proper amount, you know? Where they charging you to go to shows and charging you? I mean, we all know that we can hire an editor for very little to make a trailer, well, did they charge you $10,000 for a trailer, when your editor will do it for 1000 bucks, I mean, you know, start getting a picture of reality, and you can figure it out pretty much on your own. You know, and and, and you have to be tentative with, with with with producers. And what's interesting, I mean, with distributors. What's interesting about distributors is that I find interesting is that you might find a financier to finance a movie for a million dollars, that financier is not going to get make any money until that movie makes all of its money back. And all the marketing costs, all the distributor costs and everything. And so at the end of the day, you know, that distributor that I'm sorry, the financier is going to get some net profit. The distributor, though, that now they built up their business through the years, they have the relationships, so they deserve to get serious money and your movies not going to sell without them. But they're going to get a commission, which is anywhere from 15% to 30%. And that commission is going to be first monies out on top, it's gross monies, that's a lot of money, that distributor might make more money than your financier put up a million dollars easily. Your financier put up a million dollars is probably not gonna make any money actually. And they just have a nice big write off, where's the distributor is to be sitting on the cost set in France drinking their little tea, you know, and making money off of your financier is million dollar loss.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:43
And let's And let's not forget capping expenses, because I've seen open ended expenses, and you're like, Well, that's it, you just given them your money that you'll never make a dime ever. Yeah.
Michael Feifer 1:21:53
Right? It's like that we're gonna give them expenses, you want my movie, you pay the expenses. If you want my movie, then I'm gonna do the key art for you, you can approve it, I'm going to give you know, we'll take care of the key art, we'll take care of the trailer and things like that, like and deliverables and all that stuff. Right. can take control of the deliverables? I mean, I do know, I and I will say names. But But what happens with some distributors in the past? I don't know if they're still doing it. But you'll have a master that maybe you'll say, Well, you can't sell my movie without the master. So I'll retain the master. Well, little Do you know, they actually have the master of their own sitting in. And they're selling the film places. And you didn't know they're selling the film. Oh, right. So that is very frustrating. And it's criminal, they should go to jail for it. But they get a lot of them get away with it. So but there are good distributors out there. There's good people out there, it's just very easy to get into the distribution business, and be a crook. It's hard to stay in the business and be a good guy. So when you find the good guys, you really stick with them. Um, but you can also sell your movies yourself mostly, mostly domestically. You know, I'm a big fan actually, of trying to start your own distribution company. I mean, there's no reason why. I mean, what is a company these days with the internet, you make a website, you know, you call it Alex Ferrari distribution. And, and and you have a website that shows your movie. And maybe you maybe you have some other friends who've made movies. So you ask them if their movies on your website, and then you go to the
Alex Ferrari 1:23:19
Michael Feifer 1:23:20
While the aggregators are the buyers list at AFM where you just go to the film markets, I mean, you're not going to get the same money as a distributor. But then again, you might actually make more money at the end of the day. But there's different ways to go about it. And it's not easy. And it's a tough road. That's why I actually make movies for distributors who I trust to make movies for and and they trust me to make the movies for them going down the road of finding financing and then finding a sales rep. Or distributors. It's tough. It's a tough road.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:53
It's tough part of it. Yeah. And you're just basically taking it off the top so like you You get a fee to make the movie a production fee, all that stuff and you're done. Right done, and they can go off and make $100 million with it.
Michael Feifer 1:24:04
Right? I don't even have back end on my movies unless the movies wildly successful. So if you do do a deal where you where you don't have back end, make something where you're not the guy in the belly or not the what it was called Blair Witch Project. Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:24:17
I know. I had him on the show. Eduardo. Yeah. Did he make money? Uh, no. Right? No, they made that he barely made the he made money on the on the the second film which was they weren't involved with but they were paid to do the right writing of it and it's up but he has a career off of it. And he directs TV. He does a lot of TV directing. But yeah, they made that movie made like three 400 million.
Michael Feifer 1:24:43
But if he had something in his contract that was like, Look, I'm not sure how to make Well, what it is like, I'll make money if you make double your money back or something. You know, something that
Alex Ferrari 1:24:53
They didn't get, but by the way, he wasn't completely ripped off. There was some money he didn't make. He made a ton have 1000s of dollars if not close to low six figures when he should have been making millions. Right? Right. But he did away he did. Okay, right.
Michael Feifer 1:25:07
But I suggest that don't ask for back then because you're not going to see it. But at least have a little clause in there. If the movie is wildly successful, then you're going to be okay. That's your, you know, so you're not scaring away your, your, your distributor, you're making movie for your producer, but you know, and you're not, you know, but yes, that's how I make money is that I get hired to make the movie, I get paid to produce it and direct it and write it. And, and then and actually the deal I make with these companies, so they feel totally completely, like they can rely on me and my movies not gonna go over budget. If I go over budget I pay. If I go under, I get the money back. Yeah, nobody else does that nobody else does that. But I do it because I you know, I know, I feel like I shouldn't I shouldn't be able to go back then and go well, sorry, guys, I screwed up and rain today. And now I was over budget. If you you know, that's a way to get a company. And again, this is about a track record. This is a way to get companies to feel that they can trust you simply straight straight up, I will pay for them over budget. And and they will see you in a whole nother light, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:26:08
so you have the track experience, you know, and also you will have I'm sure crew that you work with all the time. So you feel extremely comfortable or series of crew people that you work with all the time.
Michael Feifer 1:26:16
I do but but you know, it rotates it rotates. always finding new crew in Los Angeles. There's great people out here, great people, I mean, my director photography Jordy, who's now done my last 15 movies, he was an assistant camera on one of my movies, and I just like Jordy I said, Jordy How to Make Your dp. And he's now done 15 movies for me in three years. And he's just a great guy. And he's got a great attitude. And he's a joy to work with. And we have a good time together. And he also knows, you know, it's important for dp to know that that, you know, listen, I tell all my crew and this is important for for your listeners to know, when you make a movie that a movie set is a dictatorship. Okay? Now it's a it's a dictatorship and on the dick, and I'm sorry, but that's the way it is. And if you don't like it, go get another job. But I have a movie I have to make on time and on budget. And it's got to be my way or the highway. So everybody's got to listen to me. And I'm not going to listen to other outside boy, I'll listen to my dp I'll listen to some people. But if I make a decision, I'm going with it. Surely that's very important in movies. We don't have time to sit here and question people and everything. So it's a dictatorship. And that's just the way it is Jordy I love because God understands our relationship. God knows how to work within within those parameters. And, and he's free because he just he knows me and he knows how we work and we have a great time together. And he knows if I say God, listen, I'm out of time. We have to get this shot done. We have to get it set up in 15 minutes and we got to be out here also, I'm going overtime, Tory's like, Okay, let's do it. You know, because he's a he's become a partner, you know, so, but there's crew members, mostly in Los Angeles, there's really great, great young people. There's really great crew members. I mean, my friend, Stacy is my sound mixer, my last phone, he's, he's the sound mixer, I'm Fresh Off the Boat. He works on major network television shows. But he comes back and works for me because we have a great relationship. We're good friends. We've known each other for 20 years. But he enjoys working on my movies because he enjoys the process. But at the same time, he might not be able to work a day. And then I get a sound mixer I've never met before. And that sound mixer sees the way I work and sees that I enjoy the process. And we're quick and we're decisive. And that guy just falls right in line, he does a great job. So a lot of it is how you treat people. But at the same time, they know that if you're if you're committed to getting that day done on time, they know they're gonna go home on time, they know that you care about safety, safety is very important. They know that you care about them care about making sure their food calling lunch exactly in six hours so that you know, you're not you know, then everybody's happy. And and so you don't have to have a team of people that worked with you before. Basically, people can tell what kind of person you are within 15 minutes of that movie set of being on that movie set. And if you set a good tone, it doesn't matter if you've worked with them before they'll they'll fall in place and they'll and they'll enjoy the process.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:56
Would you agree that a professional crew will will smell out a director who's indecisive and doesn't know what they're doing within 15 minutes? Oh, yeah,
Michael Feifer 1:29:03
yeah. 100% 100% Yes. And that's why I say never admit that you don't know something like just don't know. Don't be you know, like a prey like, you know, like praise been injured. So the other animals can smell them out.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:14
They smell the blood. No, no, it's especially when you got some of these you know, I've worked with DPS Who are you know, 20 years you know, my elder and they've been there a My God, they've been down. They've been in the in the rabbit hole many times. And if you if I've seen him, I've seen him on set with other directors, young directors, and if they smell blood, man, same thing with production designers. I've seen it with all these like, they're seasoned guys. They will railroad that
Michael Feifer 1:29:41
they will and it's unfortunate instead of wanting to help them, but they know that because there's a lot of insecurity that comes into film. So that person actually, if they behave that way, they're actually really insecure. They're like they are in their career. They're a dp but they always want to be a director or, or you know, they don't like the producer showing up on in their Mercedes when they're driving something you know, and like, it's insecure. Here's what it really comes down to.
Alex Ferrari 1:30:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Because really somebody who's been in their career a long time, and they see a director does know what they're doing, it'd be nice if they just stepped over and said, you know, let me help you out, I can help you out, you know, I do that I like to help people out. I like to give people opportunities that they never had before. I've started a lot of careers and and, and everybody, I think all of your listeners should really do that. And and just like I said, hire your friends to ask if they can do the job. If they're not up to the par, then they shouldn't be on set. But if they should do the job, just as well as somebody you don't know, give them the job. Or if you have somebody who, who wants to be a script supervisor and never done it before. I mean, I had someone come to me and say, I want to be a PA on your movies. I said, you're you're a mom, you have kids, you can't be a PA, you're not gonna work. Me, too. It's too much running around whatever I said, I'll tell you what, I've got a script supervisor, job open, open an opening. I said, the movies in two weeks, if you can spend a week learning how to be a script supervisor, call me back and let me know that you think you can do it. I'll give you the job, if you think you can do it. And I gave her. She's now a professional script supervisor, She now works steadily in the business. But because she just said I'm going to learn it. I'm I'm not saying that script supervising is easy that anybody can do it. No, it's not. But it is a job that you can just jump into. And if you ask for help from the director, and from your editor, and from the end. And you can always fix script, you can't Well, if you have a director like me, who knows screen direction, continuity is is not as big of an issue, you can always fix your script notes later. But I'm just saying there's certain jobs where you can just jump in. And, and and, or you can give your friend the job. If your friend is committed, if they're not committed, get rid of them. I mean, I've had plenty of crew members where I fire him right off the bat, like right off the bat, if I see that they're not, they're not coming to the process or not enjoying the process. They're out of there. Because I also, I also I like my sets to be fun. So I can be creative. The moment I feel tension, I lose my creativity. Or if I have an actor, sometimes I'll have a name actor show up on set who's I've had a name actor show up on set who's literally on drugs. And that really stifles your creativity. You call up your ad agent and the actor yells at you and whatever. You know, like that's, that's happened. And it does happen periodically, not very often. But that really activity. So it stops a lot of things. It also burns time, so you can see me looking at my watch or my iPhone. So I'm gonna ask a few questions. First of all, this has been epic. So thank you so much. I'm going to ask you now, a few questions. I ask all my guests. Because I can keep talking to you for another three or four hours. I could talk for three or four hours. I know, I know. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?
Michael Feifer 1:32:50
Um, well, I think I mean, we've gone over to bid but but one is on breaking into the business. It's a funny little the definition of great. What does that mean breaking into the business? It's larceny. It's larceny? Well, but but here's the thing is that this is this is the business that's like, it's if you can go get your iPhone or go get a Sony a 6300, or a Canon T two, or whatever, and go start shooting, you're in the business actually, now when you talk about in the business of selling movies, or you're talking about in the being paid a living being paid. Now, I suggest, first of all, I really highly suggest coming to a place like Los Angeles, there's a lot of film going on. So getting into the business, on a on a level is actually getting on sets and being paid now in California. And in actually, United States. Federal law says you actually can't work for free, you actually have to be paid. So my my production assistants make 1325 an hour. So on a 12 hour day, that's 185 50 a day.
Alex Ferrari 1:33:50
That's pretty that's a that's a pretty good, that's a pretty good salary for a PA I've never I mean, generally there. I've seen them for 50 bucks a day. Well, it's actually completely illegal.
Michael Feifer 1:34:01
Now Now listen, if somebody offered you $50 a day to work, go work, go work, don't go to the Labor Board and complain that somebody would pay you 50 bucks just go work and get the most out of it. You know if you can afford to do it. But if you get on Craigslist and find jobs if you network with people on you'll you'll start getting work and if you get on one movie, you now have 30 new friends or whatever amount of people that you have to network with you have Instagram and Facebook you can stay in touch with them. And then you can say what movie Are you on next? Where are you going? Hey, do you know anybody and start networking and you're in the business like that? Right now it might be as a production assistant. But now the way to get in the business at the next level is that your production assistant on up go to the camera department say Hey, can I can I can I just slate for you? Can I can I just bring you lenses? Can I help open up your tripod? Just a basic you know, or go to the grips? You know? Hey, can I can I carry some sandbags for you while you teach me how to what to see standards versus a combo Stan. Go to the costume department go the costume designer. Hey, do you mind if I assist you whenever I'm down? I don't I'm not doing anything, can I come assist you in the costume department? More than makeup girls, whatever
Alex Ferrari 1:35:04
Arts department chair, anyone
Michael Feifer 1:35:06
Art departments great way to get into it because they always need help, you know? Yes, they do. And, and it's easy for a producer to say to a PA will go help the art department or you can say I'm helping the art department, they go great, keep helping them, you know. So you're in the business like that. Now, getting, what I always tell people is the only people who actually make money in this business are producers and directors, that's it. I mean, you can make good money as a as a union, AC or a union dp. But if you want to be rich, okay, because a lot of people are watching your show, and they have dreams of being rich, okay, the way to get rich is be a producer, director. But that means you have to put yourself out there, that means you have to develop scripts, that means you have to connect with people, that means you have to say I can do it, you know, that means you have to take on an entire movie on your own, it means that you have to take a higher level of responsibility. I work with a lot of people, they don't really want that they're just perfectly happy. And there's nothing wrong with it just being a camera system and being camera system for life. And they love being around the camera, they love being on set, but they don't want the responsibility. Sure, but, but if you want to make big bucks in this business, a lot of it is taking on responsibility. And and and and if you really know your craft, and you really learning it and you care, and then you're willing to take on responsibility on and put yourself out there and network with people. And then things can happen for you make that business card that says I'm a producer, you know, start writing scripts, or just write stories, stories, stories are harder to come by than scripts, scripts are easy the story with the right twist, everything is actually harder than writing the script. Once you have the story and the outline, the script is actually easy for me actually takes me longer to write an outline than it does to write the script. Because once I know the story, I can pump out the script in three days. You know, sometimes I'll sit down with an outline for months, sometimes they'll come to me in six hours. You know, stories are easy, though I can I can literally pop out 30 story ideas in 10 minutes, you know. But so that's my advice to getting in the business. Does that make sense? Makes perfect sense. Makes perfect sense.
Alex Ferrari 1:37:01
Now, can you tell me a book that had the biggest impact in your life or career?
Michael Feifer 1:37:06
Well, I'm glad I have a book because my son gives me a hard time because my son is like just as a voracious reader and reads everything in anything. But my might. My favorite book is Christopher Vogler is the writers journey.
Alex Ferrari 1:37:23
Sure. And so he's great.
Michael Feifer 1:37:27
Amazing. I mean, because what I love about that book, and it's not really about the book, in fact, you can literally google it right now and look at a diagram that diagrams out the writers mythology, every movie breaks down to the writers mythology, and I'm sure when you had him on he, you know, a broken line, right? It's somebody in the ordinary world and something happens, they break down. Now they're in the extraordinary world. If you understand that structure, you can write your scripts so much easier, you can tell your story so much easier, stop trying to like break the mold. Because the Godfather is that Apocalypse Now is that Citizen Kane is that Star Wars is that it's all the same story. And it's unfortunately, we all wanted to see the same damn story. And it just is. But if you want to make a living making movies, you might want to, you know, stick to what works. And what works is, is I mean, stories go for 1000s and 1000s years, people have been, you know, telling stories, and they're the same they really are, I mean, the journey like when I write a script, I The hardest part is the journey in the middle. I know how it's going to begin, I know how it's going to end, there's just a million different pathways, you can go on someone like CRISPR his book probably can help you with that, because you have to meet the sage the Obi Wan Kenobi along the way, you know, you have to get to that point. And then it all falls apart, you have to go back again, you know, and we calls returned with the elixir, you know, things like that, like, if you if you understand like that, understand that stuff. It'll help you tell your stories better write your outlines better write your treatments, or write entire scripts better.
Alex Ferrari 1:38:55
Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Michael Feifer 1:39:00
Ah, what lesson took me the longest to learn? Well, it's good question. Um, well, I don't know. It's a good question. You've stumped me. Well, I don't know, maybe, maybe maybe one lesson that's important to learn and I probably still haven't learned is that, um, it's all right where I am. In my career. A lot of people say to me, I had somebody worked for me as a production. Somebody, somebody said, somebody called me up a friend of mine and said, my wife wants to work for you. Because because we want to start making our own movies and we see that you do it. And she's wonder if she can work for you learn how you make your movies. I said well, you know, she's pretty she's pretty smart woman actually. I said why don't we make her my production coordinator. And so she calls me up and I say, you know, this is what you have to do and she's like, she's kind of done it before. So she said would you on your on my way to set because we were shooting About an hour east of LA. She said, would you pick me up? On the way and we'll try it together. Mr. Why is that she goes because I want to, I want to ask questions. I want to ask you questions. I'm like, great. I'm paying you. So you could sit in my car and ask me questions the entire trip. But you know that I told you another story about the PA didn't ask me a question. So I'm like, that's fine. So what's the first question she asked me? So here she is working for minimum wage? She's She's She's working for me because she's trying to learn how to make movies. And the first question she asked me is, how come you're not making bigger movies? Oh, son of them. And I'm like, what your What do you mean, what's wrong with the movies? I'm making? What's wrong with my career? Now? You're working for me? You know? And yet
Alex Ferrari 1:40:40
Wow, man, what a What a horrible like, well, it's like, yeah, like you eat you just, I'm just gonna give you a meal. I'm a chef. I mean, you know, what are you doing in this restaurant? Why aren't you? Well, you know, I, you know, at Spa goes, like, why aren't you like, right? When you say something like that,
Michael Feifer 1:40:57
Right? Well, Right? Right. You're working for me for 12-14 hours a day.
Alex Ferrari 1:41:06
You're criticizing me,
Michael Feifer 1:41:07
and you're criticizing me.
Alex Ferrari 1:41:08
Now? How did that go? How did that go?
Michael Feifer 1:41:10
Well, listen, I explained to her because I learned through the years that I make movies. There's nothing wrong with making movies. What now whether I'm making $200 million movies, or, or $300,000 movies, I'm happy. And actually, I have a lot more freedom making my movies and the guys making $200 million movies salutely. And I would like to make $200 million movies. I wish that a studio would watch this podcast and go Damn, why don't we hire Mike Pfeiffer to make our movies rather than this kid who just destroyed our movie and now we gotta hire you know? And, and so something I did recognize and now that I'm 50 years old, because that's something that your listeners, right? Nice. Is that time really freaking like, it's crazy. I can't believe I used to be the young guy on sets.
Alex Ferrari 1:41:50
Oh, I know. I used to be the youngest guy in the room too
Michael Feifer 1:41:53
Right! now on the old guy. It's crazy. But I still feel young at heart. I still play ice hockey, I still making more movie, I still have more energy. People come to me all the time. How do you have so much energy?
Alex Ferrari 1:42:04
Because I love what I do, then it'll just say cooking just cooking. uppers, you know, it's just for straight up.
Michael Feifer 1:42:12
It's really, it's really loving what you do. It's what gives you energy. You know, also Time Time is money. So when you're on set, I'm like, I gotta go, I gotta go. Because I need time. The more time I have, the better movie I can make, the more shots I can do, the more coverage I get, the more next time I could spend on the next scene, you know. So anyways, I think that's something is, is recognizing that that that that it took me a while to recognize that it's okay. I don't have to be the guy who's making the the next Star Wars movie. But I'm making movies. I'm enjoying myself. My wife's an actress. And she she's in my movies a lot. And we're a filmmaking family. And we love what we do. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:42:49
It's I always try to tell people that because everyone was like, Oh, no, you don't want to be the next Chris Nolan. Or the next Fincher the next Spielberg or Scorsese. I'm like, Guys, first of all, you're not going to be those guys, because they're already here. We don't need another Christopher Nolan, because we got another and you can never out Chris Nolan, Chris Nolan. That's just not the way it is. I came to and I came to this conclusion as well. I'm happy making the movies that I'm making. I'm making small little indie films that are important to me that I have complete creative control over. Right. And, you know, I don't need to go off and make a $200 million movie. I'm okay with that. If I if that call comes in. I'll take the meeting like you would. Right. Right. But I'm happy and that is such an important thing. What would you rather be miserable making? Avengers endgame? Or would you rather be happy making your the lat the last eight movies you've just did? Like,
Michael Feifer 1:43:40
Imagine the guys that run solo, you know, and, and, you know, Kathleen, who was it was a Kathleen Kennedy comes to them and says sorry, guys, we're firing you. And we're hiring Ron Howard. I mean, I mean, imagine the pain of that. You're drinking a Star Wars movie, and you just lost your job. I mean, it's paying
Alex Ferrari 1:43:56
And then they and then they go on to win the Oscar for spider man into the spider.
Michael Feifer 1:44:02
Which was which was brilliant, by the way,
Alex Ferrari 1:44:04
Which is one of the best animated films I've seen in a long, long time. It's just really,
Michael Feifer 1:44:08
I mean, they really broke the mold, you know?
Alex Ferrari 1:44:11
And maybe they could have done that with solo, but who knows. But that's just another person sandbox. And you just right when you walk into a Star Wars movie, you understand like that is, it's like a Marvel movie. Like, it's got to be right. It's got to fit in a box
Michael Feifer 1:44:24
Well, that's, that's, that's exactly what what, you know, by the way, something that I think is important to convey that I was one of my mantras is is is move movies are not? Well, there's movies are art, but to me, it's actually the greatest form of art, which is commercial design. So commercial design to me is more for so for instance, Jackson Pollock, you know, Jackson Pollock didn't get famous till after he died. I mean, he made these crazy designs, these crazy paintings or things everywhere to use marbles to make that you know, and that was just for himself. I mean, it was it was almost it was therapeutic. But he wasn't making it for an audience when you're making a product for Audience To me, that's the greatest form of art. So an iPhone is freaking brilliant, because, yeah, commercial art. Everyone has, you know, a Porsche 911. They've been making the same design since the 50s, you know, or 40s or 30s. You know, and, and it's commercial design. And the greatest commercial designer movies has got to be Spielberg. I mean, you know, who makes Jurassic Park in Indiana Jones and all that, you know, and et, and, you know, so. So there's nothing wrong with being a commercial designer. And what I like to say is that if I had gone to a car design school, which I wanted to as a kid, and graduate car design school, and, and I don't get a job at Ferrari, I get a job at Honda and I'm doing dashboards or something like, but I'm gonna make the best damn Honda dashboard, I can, or I'm gonna design the best damn Honda, and that Honda's gonna sell and make way more money than at Ferrari, you know, there's a lot of pride to be taken in that. So, when movies, I think it's important to look at your movies as products, who are the audience that you try what audiences widest, you know, and, and that's why that's why I make these lifetime movies, because that's what makes me a living right now. That's what people ask when they order, so I'm gonna make the best damn Lifetime movie I can. Or if I'm gonna make the Dog Who Saved Christmas, I mean, I made the dog who said Christmas, and that led to the Dog Who Saved Christmas, the dog received Christmas Eve, and there were three more dogs and Christmas movies, I didn't interact, you know, and I only had 11 days to make that movie, you know, the dogs have Christmas. So, um, you know, within the timeframes, and within the constraints of the parameters, make the best damn movie cat and make something that's a product that could sell. So look at the marketplace, go walk around filmer AFM, go to the website, go to you know, it's just like we used to do the video stores, you used to be able to walk around the video stores and see what was what was out there. And and recognize that you're making a product. And also, when you're making a product, we talked about QC and post production, everything, it's got to have good finish, or else it's not going to sell, it's got to be finished correctly. You know, when you're on set to I call myself quality control when I'm looking at my monitor, okay, it's all about what's on my monitor, it's not about what's 10 feet that way in five feet that way, if if, if someone's eyes are not in focus, I can't use the shot, I have to turn to my AC. And sometimes I have to turn on my dp and go, he's got to come off, he can't he's not pulling, I don't know what's wrong, but he's not pulling focus correctly, you got to we got to put somebody else in there, you know, because at the end of the day on quality control, and so you're making a product, so you got to make sure everything's in focus, you got to make sure that that it looks best to your eye. If you're shooting in a set that just doesn't look good. Use longer lenses, compress the image and throw the background out of focus. Now you've actually turned your crappy set into a $200 million shot shot with a long lens and you've compressed everything and now now it looks great. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:47:39
It's it's, I love your analogy, which I'm going to steal by the way of the of the car of the car factory going to car school and not getting a Ferrari Ferrari would be Avengers, where Honda's would be lifetime movies, and there's nothing wrong with that. Right? Nothing wrong with that. But that's okay. Like and that's what I try to tell filmmakers so much that they get so caught up in the Ferrari I kid. I'm sorry, it's my last name. So it's a weird thing that is a Porsche. You know, you're so caught up in designing for Porsche or Lamborghini, which is like the echelon of design and it's great and everything. But you know what? Your you got to make Honda look as best as can be, why wouldn't you? Like, what's the problem with that? And it's just mindset, it's an ego. It's all this kind of stuff. And if you're happy just being an artist that dammit man, isn't that why we're here?
Michael Feifer 1:48:26
And and, and what's cool about it, too, is that, like I talked about is that it's the film language no matter why. So if you're watching the Avengers, they're still using close up, shoulders and close ups and wide shots and tracking shots. It's still the same, they now they have a lot more money to play with. But surely, it's still the same film language. So if you're on set at home, creating your own set, filming, you're actually using the same film language, so you can make something as dramatic and what's cool about movies too, is like, my wife doesn't want to watch Marvel movies. She'd rather watch you know, some interesting indie film, let's say, you know, and so that's a cool thing too, about making movies, which, you know, if I wanted to start a car company, I would need billions and billions of dollars maybe be Ilan Musk, you know, right? Maybe start a car company so you can make a product to compete with BMW or Ford or Toyota, right? But the cool thing about movies is that you can actually make a product in your house that actually can compete with Marvel your you can make a product that that we talked about, you know, paranormal, paranormal, or El Mariachi. I mean, Robert Rodriguez made a product that actually competed with 100 million dollar films it played in the theaters at the same time in the same cineplexes right next door,
Alex Ferrari 1:49:42
He made millions of bucks with it, and it's launched an insane career.
Michael Feifer 1:49:45
Right. And there's people who actually would rather watch El Mariachi then watch a Marvel movie, you know? And because that's the cool thing about movies I think is is that you can you you're making a product that that you don't have to be billions and billions of dollars to compete. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:50:01
Yeah, at the end of the day, it's an hour and a half of time.
Michael Feifer 1:50:04
Right on your license. You don't need a degree you just need to get out there and just work hard and learn learn your craft learn the craft and everybody's craft
Alex Ferrari 1:50:12
And and that was the thing I said before is like the studio's I think in many ways are scared of this new generation of YouTube content and streaming content that because now literally an hour and a half. I'm fighting for an hour and a half of your time. Whether that's this podcast, right? Or, or watching Avengers. It's the same. It's an hour and a half. You know, well,
Michael Feifer 1:50:35
Look at video, look at video games have done. I mean, you're talking about half the kids will spend 10 hours and a video game will come out and they'll make $500 million. Literally the moment it comes out. You know?
Alex Ferrari 1:50:44
No, no, they'll watch other people play the video games, which is still bonkers to me, but I get it.
Michael Feifer 1:50:50
I know. I mean PewDiePie the guy die and he's making millions and it just started because kids were watching him play Minecraft
Alex Ferrari 1:50:57
30 I think he's making about 30 40 million a year now. Just thought it's ridiculous. And last question, the toughest question of the day, sir. Three of your favorite films of all time.
Michael Feifer 1:51:08
Oh, gosh. Okay, well, I my favorite film that's more of your standard classic film history. favorite film? Is it Citizen Kane? Okay. Citizen Kane, I think is the greatest movie of all time, for various reasons. One is because Orson Welles was 25 years old.
Alex Ferrari 1:51:25
23 was 23 years. 25 was 2320. Yeah, he's 23. He's 23. If I remember correctly, he wrote. He directed.
Michael Feifer 1:51:34
He produced it, and he starred in it. And that movie, if you will talk about the film language, if you watch Citizen Kane, it uses montage. It uses transitions that are that we still use today. It uses every bit of film language, you could imagine. flashbacks, I mean, the the range of film language that he has a musical number in that movie. I mean, I really highly suggest people see cityscape. And really just think about back then when it was made, oh, look before that, right? And look at the movies after every film convention that he used. Now, he might have you know, you know, he watched Sergei Eisenstein movies or whatever, you know, but every film convention after that, like, can go right back to Citizen Kane.
Alex Ferrari 1:52:14
No, it's before Canon africaine I get
Michael Feifer 1:52:16
there is there is I mean, to me, it's the greatest movie of all time. And, you know, do I turn it on and watch it all the time? Because I get such you know, enjoyment out of it. It's brilliant. And I like watching it periodically. It's on my DVR right now. But no, but the movie that I actually like to watch the most, then I'll actually turn on and I'll just like, like, I don't know, there's something about my favorite. My favorite movie to watch is actually a Spielberg film. Can you guess which Spielberg film would be my favorite film? Ah,
Alex Ferrari 1:52:49
God, there's so many but it's ever guessed because no, okay, all right. So okay, there's or there's one or two of them. So it's in an obscure Spielberg or is it a big Spielberg? It's, it's it's somewhat obscure. Always. Nope. No, that's terrible. I was just as if that was an obscure. Well, I actually I enjoy hook.
Michael Feifer 1:53:07
I'll go. I'll give you a hint. It stars one of our greatest actors right now. But as a young boy, oh, Empire, the sun and part of the Empire the sun. I'm telling you. Yeah. Christian Bale, Christian Bale. That movie is epic. And it got no respect. But if you go back and watch that movie now that movie has so many moments that are just it's it's it's amazing. I mean, Spielberg was on another level when he made that movie. And I think he was on such a high level that people didn't respect because there were so used to eating me and jaws and all that
Alex Ferrari 1:53:38
He made that if I remember correctly, that was 87 when that got released, so that would be after Color Purple because he got no little respect for color purple, but that was 85. Right? Yeah. Which is a great film. But everyone's like, but wait a minute a year, Spielberg here. You make Raiders and et like, what are you doing with color purple? And then Empire was like, Oh, yeah, well, now I'm going all in and he did something so outside the box. But But the funny thing is the Empire The sun is more relevant to his kind of films today. Like he doesn't do he doesn't do the block. But I mean, he did Ready Player One, which I loved. But and there was nobody else who could address that. It was just perfect for him. But he's making Lincoln and he's making you know, spies movie with Tom Hanks and you know the terminal and these and love the terminal. But these kind of films that are not you know, Spielberg, Spielberg, he and I don't like to I mean, he's making films I don't want to watch To tell you the truth. But there's some of them that are hard to watch yet but that's what he wants to do as an artist. Not one right? I mean, what's the one he did with the horse? Oh, warhorse. Yeah, I still haven't seen that.
Michael Feifer 1:54:46
It's It's It's It's a very hard film to watch. I thought British spies is hard. But Empire, the sun, British spies and he has these moments that are just epic. And I think that everybody should watch them because I once watched Charlie Rose interview Robert Zemeckis. Once And what really stuck with me was Robert Zemeckis said, you can have three great shots or moments in a movie. And the audience will walk away remembering those three great moments, and they won't remember anything else about the movie and they'll think the movie was great. That's the weird thing about about audiences. You know, it's kind of like your memories, you know, you remember, you know, a vacation better than you remember what you did, you know, three Saturdays ago or something?
Alex Ferrari 1:55:23
Like what do you remember how to Raiders of Lost Ark? Like, there's, there's a handful of moments in that movie that you remember. I mean, I'm sure I've seen it. 1000 times. And so if you but Right,
Michael Feifer 1:55:32
Right. So part of the Sun though has these moment like literally every three minutes, this is amazing moment where Christian Bale as a young boy, is just you're seeing it through his eyes. And it's just like, one moment after another after another and, and I just think it's an epic story and an epic movie, you know? So, um,
Alex Ferrari 1:55:52
So that's, so that's one of them. That's one one of your favorite movies do other ones. Well, I Citizen Kane Citizen Kane, okay. Yes.
Michael Feifer 1:56:01
And then I don't know, I I'm very influenced to by by, by 70s movies that I grew up that like, scared the crap out of me like jaws and exorcism, or like, The French Connection, or, I don't know, there was a time in the 70s when movies were really, really raw and really never been manageable. Yeah, yeah. Well, it can't happen again. I think. Um, so I don't know. I don't I don't really want to take
Alex Ferrari 1:56:23
Well, so I was like, telling people this like if you put in jaws right now. It holds up. Like it's still hold so well.
Michael Feifer 1:56:33
When you know why it holds up? I think it holds up simply because the shark broke.
Alex Ferrari 1:56:37
Of course. Well, that's every every Of course. Of course, the shark,
Michael Feifer 1:56:41
Which is a good lesson for filmmakers is you don't have to show you know, mostly we're making low budget movie. Let the audience put in the imagery in their head.
Alex Ferrari 1:56:50
You don't have a duck. It's it's Catholic. Do you want to watch the murder happening? Or do you want to hear the murder behind the closed door happening? Yes. What's more terrifying
Michael Feifer 1:56:56
Hitchcock Strangers on a Train. There's these moments in that film. That's one of my favorite films. That's that's just like, it just sets there's this tone to that movie. You know? That's that's really out of the past is another film noir. I like a lot of film noir films to like out of the past or has a glorious Kubrick of that. Oh, well, Hornsea Kubrick film Gauci, Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas. It's got this tone to it that's just this like impending doom morbidity. And the way you use his the way the shot tracking
Alex Ferrari 1:57:25
the tracking shots and the inside. I mean, I can go Kubrick I could go deep goobric on you so Oh, very Oh, I'm a Kubrick. Oh, yeah, I could go deep. What's your favorite Kubrick movie? Um, I know, it's hard. I know. It's hard.
Michael Feifer 1:57:42
I mean, I probably say the shining, you know, I think the shining the shining, the shining, hits something with me because years ago, I bought this VHS cassette of the shining. And from I don't know, it was like, Walmart for like, 299 or something. And there was a making of at the beginning of it. Yeah. So you could find on the internet now. Yeah. And, and just seeing Kubrick just sitting around the Stanley Hotel, and he's got a typewriter. And he says, like New York guy, that would be a cab driver who wasn't director. And I like had this whole new like appreciation for Kubrick because he's just a dude. He's just this loser Is this normal guy who's just brilliant. You know? I don't know. And it's sort of, so every time I see the shining, I harken back to that behind the scenes making of that. I don't know if it's who I don't know who did that is that would be his daughter. His daughter did his daughter director. Yeah, it's kind of like I love Apocalypse Now. volcom Sal is one of the favorite movies and darkness. Right? I mean, there's this there's a shot of Francis Ford Coppola in the jungle with a shirt off at a typewriter typing away, you know? Like, that's just that's so when I watch Apocalypse Now, I think of Francis Ford Coppola and the jungle typing away you know and it's so I don't know sometimes I connect because I'm very big on production You know? And and sometimes I connect the movie with the actual production and making to make it that I saw this great documentary on mortal Arabia and they built this like town out in the middle of nowhere and in Africa and and these people weren't home with their families for months and months and months and months, but they knew they're making something great and it to me it actually makes the movie more enjoyable to see the the the effort that was put in you know.
Alex Ferrari 1:59:20
It's minds by the way his Eyes Wide Shut, I absolutely door as much I think Eyes Wide Shut is it's a masterpiece and so many different levels. And, and he thought it was, by the way, it was Kubrick's favorite to Kubrick's out of all his work. It was his favorite. Yeah, look, I love Full Metal Jacket. I love the shining. I love Clockwork Orange. I love Dr. Strangelove in 2001. Well, love is a whole nother level too. So well. But the thing is, and this is what, I'm sorry, we're now sorry, audience we are now geeking out so I apologize. We'll be over with this interview soon enough. Scorsese said very purple instead of Spielberg they're like for every 10 of our films. Stanley made one All right. And basically because it's that good, like every time Stanley got up to the plate, not only did he hit a homerun hit a Grand Slam, and the ball just went out into a place that no one had ever seen before. And he just every single time. And I remember, like, I could go, I could talk for literally hours about Uber. But like when Full Metal Jacket came, he was doing Full Metal Jacket years. He was in prep years before platoon showed up, and all these. So I think it was his producer, yawns, which is a son in law. That's a brother in law that said, he he's like, let the outlet all the kids go out and make their Vietnam movie, or no, I'll show up and make mine. And he's like, and then he makes a definitive, you know, because I don't know how many, honestly, and I know platoons a fantastic movie. I don't know a lot of people still talk about the tune. But I know a lot of people will talk about Full Metal Jacket, especially the first half. Right, right. Oh, first 10 minutes is just some of the best cinema ever made. And earlier, we just died. Yeah, he just passed. Yeah,
Michael Feifer 2:01:03
Yeah. But yeah, well, you know, when a movie is made about, it's like, the great thing about movies is you can touch on emotions that you really can't understand. So. So for instance, the Full Metal Jacket touches on the craziness of war, the insanity of going to war and all that, where Splatoon was very much was in the war. And it was a very real dramatic movie. But, but I think sometimes a story that hits another higher level, like an apocalypse now, for instance, you know,
Alex Ferrari 2:01:35
I mean, pretty much almost every Kubrick movie has that, like he's always like from Clockwork Orange two Eyes Wide Shut to full metal jacket, even the shining. He's have he's he's making a commentary.
Michael Feifer 2:01:47
Yes, yeah. And I think that's something really to strive for. When you have that freedom. Someone like me, he's trying to make a living making movies, like, you know,
Alex Ferrari 2:01:58
It's unheard of the kind of freedom he had. And I've actually spoken to many people who worked with him over the years. And, and it was, I always told people, I always thought of him as a recluse. But he was not a reckless at all. He was extremely fiscally responsible. He never went over budget. He just kept his crew super small. And he's like, only the people I need. So I could have time. That was his big thing. Time. So it could be three weeks with the two biggest movie stars in the world at the time. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman for three weeks on one scene.
Michael Feifer 2:02:32
Yeah, that would be an interesting movie to make a movie about that moment in time with Nicole with Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, that would be really fast.
Alex Ferrari 2:02:38
Oh my god, that would be a fantastic film. All right. And so
Michael Feifer 2:02:42
By the way, with Kubrick, I think because he made Spartacus
Alex Ferrari 2:02:45
Yes, that was that was but that was a studio film. And he hated it. He hated that process.
Michael Feifer 2:02:50
But But I think that's that probably would put them on the map and then go off and make So again, it's, it's about being responsible, creating a track record for yourself, and then having the freedom to do things. You know, some companies have a track record for where they don't even come to my set. They don't even give me notes on my scripts, I just make movies and I just deliver them. So that's something that's important. I think, for your listeners that that's I think what Cooper gave him freedom is he created a track record for himself. He made some great movies. And that gave him the freedom to do what he wanted to do.
Alex Ferrari 2:03:15
Yeah, and it's, I mean, the only other guy that I know of with the has that kind of freedom is is Eastwood. Like, Clint basically could do whatever he wants whenever he wants at Warner's and yeah, right. You know, he made them that was he made them he made a couple movies recently, just like who else in the world could have made these movies and it's just nobody that's like, no one else is going to get greenlit by Studio to make the one on the train with the actual guys. Like who does that? Like who does that? And just like but it's Clint, and Clint. Clint is Clint is a is a genius that way. So where can people find you your work and all 5000 of the movies you've directed?
Michael Feifer 2:03:52
Well, I mean, IMDb is the best way to keep track and there's a list. I have a website. I don't update, and I should but I just never get around to updating it. So that's
Alex Ferrari 2:04:00
Because you're making movies sir you're too busy.
Michael Feifer 2:04:02
It's true. It's true. I am too busy to be updating websites and because I'm making so many it's every they have to be updated like every two months, you know, the the website. So Instagram is good, because I like to put a lot of pictures up from set on Instagram. So my Instagram is Mike Feifer and just Mike Feifer on on Facebook. That's Mike Feifer. And then, like IMDb. That's a good way. And because IMDb I think can keep track of movie by movie and an Instagram. I'm going to keep trying to put up more behind the scenes on Instagram. I had to do it on Facebook. And, but Instagram sort of, you know, my son gets on me because this Facebook's only for old people. So try to make more up to date.
Alex Ferrari 2:04:44
Like I mean, I can't tell you how much of a joy it's been talking to you. We've now we've closed in under almost two hours in this conversation. So I do appreciate your time. You should be making a movie somewhere so I appreciate your
Michael Feifer 2:04:56
I Am I start one on Monday.
Alex Ferrari 2:04:57
I'm sure you do, sir. I'm surprised you're not walking to set right after this conversation. But no, seriously, you've been an inspiration man. And I really hope that everyone listening gets a little bit of your great story. And that's why I wanted to have you on it because you have an inspirational story, but it's a very realistic story in the sense of, look, this is the nuts and bolts of getting a career off the ground and making movies for a living.
Michael Feifer 2:05:24
Yeah. Listen, don't forget, I didn't go over this, but my wife hired me to make a movie for her or a woman and I ended up marrying her falling in love locations got to marry her. So not only did I get a career, but I have a wife and a son all because the movie business, you know, and something to talk to my father about. I don't ever talk about his movies. You know,
Alex Ferrari 2:05:44
Mike it's been an absolute pleasure. And thanks again for dropping some grazie knowledge bombs on the tribe today.
Michael Feifer 2:05:48
Great meeting you great talking to you and be glad to be back anytime.
Alex Ferrari 2:05:52
I've got to say I really love doing this podcast. I love having the opportunity to talk to filmmakers. And people in this business like Michael and and just inspiring because man, after I talked to Michael, I'm like, man, I gotta go out and shoot some stuff. You know, I'm slacking and you know, if someone's making me feel like I'm slacking, you know, that's a problem. So Mike, man, thank you so much for coming on the show. Dropping knowledge bombs dropping inspiration, I really hope you guys take a lot to heart to what he says he has built an amazing career for himself. And he literally is living the filmmaking dream, writing, directing, producing his own work, complete creative control, live in the life traveling the world. And I mean, I don't know what else to say. Thank you, Mike so much for coming on. If you want to get links to contact Mike or check out his work, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/337. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com subscribe to the podcast and leave a good review wherever you are listening and consuming this podcast on a weekly basis. So really helps to show out a lot. Thank you. So so much, guys for all your support. And also just let you know I'm going to be at Hollyshorts, this Friday at 6pm. At the Chinese theatre, me and my brother from another mother are B bato. From stage 32, we're going to be there talking about how to build an audience, for yourself and for your projects is going to be pretty cool. And I might have another one. Somewhere in the week. We're trying to see if we can figure it squeeze another filmtrepreneur workshop in there somewhere during the week. But stay tuned on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, I will be posting all about any last minute changes and events that will be at this week at Holly shorts. And for all of you that have been asking me what the next big thing I was gonna reveal is, is probably going to be next week. I am working too much this week on Hollyshorts and other stuff I'm doing. But next week, I'm hoping to release this big information, this next big bomb that I'm going to be dropping on the tribe. So please stay tuned. And thank you for all the support. As always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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WATCH A FREE 3 PART LOW-BUDGET FILM PRODUCING VIDEO SERIES
Taught by veteran award-winning film producer and author Suzanne Lyons. The filmmaker behind over a dozen profitable low-budget feature films.