IFH 348: Making and Selling a Niche Indie Film with Rob Smat



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Today on the show we have writer/director Rob Smat. His niche film is THE LAST WHISTLE. It is a Football Drama with a budget 125K, the crew was almost entirely film students, shot in 13 days in Texas, distributed worldwide by Vertical Ent. for 10 theater release this past June and originated as a pitch for Rebel Without a Crew TV show and was turned down so I made it myself

Rob formed a cast from high-level B-list stars, fostered relationships with distributors before shooting, and focused on production value without losing sight of the story.  Trying to recoup budget rather than use the festival circuit to find an audience he did not submit the film to any major festivals, we discuss the pros and cons of that strategy.

He was 22 when I started developing the project and wanted THE LAST WHISTLE to lead him to a place where he could build a filmmaking business model that could sustain his filmmaking goals.

Enjoy my conversation with Rob Smat.

Alex Ferrari 0:01
Now today on the show. We have filmmaker Rob Smat. Not Rob is a indie film, hustle tribe member and the podcast. And everything I do with indie film hustle really helped guide him through the process of making his first film called The Last whistle. He started the process when he was 22 years old. And it really is a great example of how to focus on a niche audience how to create a product. And just we just go into a deep dive into his entire process, his distribution strategy, and how he's generating revenue from his film. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Rob Smat. I'd like to welcome the show Rob Smat. Man, how you doing brother?

Rob Smat 3:24
I am super happy to be here. I'm so excited to talk about this movie. And I mean, I'm a huge time longtime fan and you know, just thrilled to be here.

Alex Ferrari 3:33
I appreciate that. Man, I appreciate that you were telling me earlier off air that that indie film hustle had a little bit to do with helping you make the movie

Rob Smat 3:40
A little bit. I mean, it's got everything to do. It's got everything to do with this movie, I started listening to any film hustle a year or two ago, at least if not longer. And and every episode, it's just like, there's something else that I hadn't heard before. There's something else I didn't learn in the film, school track. And just just so specific to the kind of thing that I wanted to do. And this I mean, just everything on this podcast was super, super helpful. So you know, the stuff that I want to, you know, hopefully help everybody with today, I hope it's going to be very specific. This is going to be indie film, hustle, you know, veteran, you know? How do you make your movie, it's like, let me tell you about the deal structure of x, y, and z. So I'll you know, we'll have fun.

Alex Ferrari 4:21
I appreciate that, brother. Sorry. So first question, how did you get into the film business?

Rob Smat 4:26
Good question. I was, you know, I've always been making movies. It's always been something that I've done. And in high school, I got to that point where I was like, Alright, am I gonna go into science go into physics, or am I gonna chase the arts? And I said, Well, let's see where I get into let's see how colleges sort out and I got into USC film program is, as they call it, the Harvard of film schools at Harvard film schools. It's not but you know, it's fun.

Alex Ferrari 4:55
You know, you know, I've been there.

Rob Smat 4:57
Yes, you have you have but You know, at that point, it was sort of that idea where it's like, Okay, if if, if they let me in, then I guess I'm on par, at least, you know, I guess I'm close. And so at that point, I just said, You know what, this is something that I love, and I want to I want to take a shot at it. And so that was that was kind of how I, you know, started. And after four years of film school, and, you know, then spend a few months after and then start on this movie right after that. And it's been about two years since then.

Alex Ferrari 5:26
What was the biggest thing you learned in film school? And was it worth it?

Rob Smat 5:31
But that's two separate questions, two separate questions. What I learned was, it wasn't worth it. So I thought I think I'll answer wasn't worth at first, because I think the most interesting and worthwhile part of of the film school wasn't so much, you know, the classes or the facilities, the things that they kind of like to advertise, it was the most valuable part for me was I grew up in Texas, I, you know, spent 18 years of my life in Texas, I, you know, 15 I, you know, I started there, I grew up there. And especially, you know, 10 years ago, Texas didn't really have a film industry besides Austin. And, you know, I was up in Fort Worth and the Dallas Fort Worth area. So there wasn't a huge film education thing happening there, the internet, you know, I couldn't really stream YouTube in my house. So, you know, it wasn't happening. And so, to be able to go to LA, and just do a total immersion in Hollywood, and the whole shebang was was hugely beneficial for me. And the school did a good job of sort of, you know, conveying that and, you know, not giving it to me all at once and, you know, blowing my head up or whatever. So I think that was the biggest value to film school, at least was that and then the friends I made there, the connections, you know, that half the people on the last whistle, or USC people, and they're all you know, early 20s, you know, that they're not far out of school. They were the people I came up with. And I think I think the biggest thing that I learned at the school was it doesn't matter. When it comes to moviemaking. It doesn't matter how smart you are, doesn't matter how good of a writer you are, what your stats are, it's all about how hard you try. And I think that that's something that indie film hustle is all about. But honestly, you can be in the Harvard of film schools, and the valedictorian is no better than then number 150 out of 150. But it's all who tries is who actually, you know, I've been happy to work with for sure you mean who hustles hustles go back and just edit hustle and everything. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 7:36
Now, tell me about your film last, the last whistle.

Rob Smat 7:40
Okay, so the last whistle is a sports drama, it's very much in the vein of Friday Night Lights, we are doing day in day out release. It's, you know, of course, it's about 90 minutes. It's you know, very, very simple movie, but really tried to make it exciting and really make it up the production value as much as I could. It's basically what happens to a coach after one of his players collapses during practice. And so it's a lot of the stuff that I feel like you hear about in the news from time to time, or a football player or a soccer player or a cross country runner collapses, I mean, and then they don't know why it happened. And everyone's kind of hurt, you know, shattered by this. And it's super tragic. And so just the, you know, I played four years, five years of football, I played on a championship team in Texas. And going through that and seeing that happen at so many schools, there's so many different sports around the area, it was something that affected me. And so when it came to this first movie, I started to think Alright, you know, what, what's something that's scary? what's what's a good hook? And that was what jumped out at me that's like, this used to scare my pants off and still does, you know, so do it all the great filmmakers do and make a movie about it.

Alex Ferrari 8:51
Yeah, it is a pretty scary topic. in general. And I've seen you know, I remember when I was in high school, I had to do with that, you know, they work you and I was in Florida, so they worked you and that the heat and everything. And they think and they think that you know, because they're 18 they're, you know, they could just keep going and going and going but they are human.

Rob Smat 9:08
Yeah, yeah. And there's there's a there's all sorts of different aspects to it. And and that, you know, I won't put the cart before the horse here. But we we did one of our big marketing things that you know, was totally self generated was, let's get in with the Heart Association. Let's let's work with some nonprofits that deal with the smart thing. And so we've really tried to sort of, you know, cross collaborate on those sides of things to you know, raise awareness about it and actually kind of add a social commentary to the to the film.

Alex Ferrari 9:38
Yeah. So what I find fascinating about your movie and the way you made it, we're going to talk a little bit we're gonna get more into detail about it is that you're you were thinking about this as an entrepreneur, you were thinking about this as a holistic project in many different avenues, as opposed to just, Hey, I'm going to make some art. We're going to go do some stuff, and we'll see if we can make some money at the end of it. You were actually you really thought about This, and you actually do a lot of the stuff that I talk about on the podcast, which is like, hey, connect with some people, like, you know, organizations get into a niche, you know, who are the audiences that you can reach out to, you know, what, who is the demographic for this film, you know, this is obviously it can range into faith base, but people who like Friday Night Lights, who people like high school football movies, you know, and then just dramas and things like that. But you really have thought about this. And that's a great, great example.

Rob Smat 10:27
I'm telling you, brother, this is indie film, hustle, the movie, I mean, every piece of it. I mean, it was it's partly that it's a lot of it has to do to with Jason brew Baker, who you've interviewed three times at this point, who runs distributor. And while we didn't end up going distribution through distributor, Jason's a guy that I admire, and I've met it a couple different things that did AFM for the first time and saw him there. And, you know, all the places that Jason pops up, I've made sure to go and find him. And it there's, it's the calculator thing that he talks about, where it's like, figure out how much you're going to make per sale, figure out how many people need to buy the movie, and go find those people, you know, your if you get 50 people to buy based on a news article, go, you know, get 100 news articles, wherever they are, you know, you have to you got to make these numbers up, because you're only going to get so much from the storefront, you know, and that sort of thing. And so, you know, that's kind of what drove it alongside it was just, you know, I got I want to get people to the door, I want to get a lot of people to see this movie. And then I'd seen a lot of, you know, I think one of the most common film school movies, and it's not a bad thing, but I think one of the most common first features for for a filmmaker, it starts off with three words coming of age. And and whenever I hear those three words, I just think Alright, first feature, you know, that's, that sounds like it to me. And so, and again, there's nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that that it's common that it happens a lot. And so you know, I nothing with making good or bad coming of age movie. But the marketplace for coming of age movies can only handle so many movies. And so I almost look at it as like I'm walking into a casino I'm walking up to the roulette table. And you know what, I rather bet on a color or am I gonna bet on a number? And you know, for anyone who knows roulette, a number is a one in 36 chance a color 5050. And so that's kind of the whole idea with this movie was how do I bet on the colors instead of the numbers? How do I increase our margin for success?

Alex Ferrari 12:30
Yeah, it's kind of like the are you familiar with the blue ocean red ocean strategies? No, I'm not. Alright, so the blue ocean red ocean strategy is based on a book called Blue Ocean red ocean. And it's basically when you went like so perfect example independent film will go a horror movie. So let's say well, it's really affordable. Everyone makes a horror movie, right? Well, that when we consider the horror movie, a red ocean, that means that there's blood in the water and there's a lot of competition. You want to go into a blue ocean where there's less competition or preferably nobody's there. So when you make a faith based or you know, you know, football movie, at a high production value, the competition for that kind of movie is going to be a lot less hence you can raise your rates, you can raise your money, you make another horror movie. There's a million of those out there so they now if you're going to do a horror movie, you got to go niche. So like hatchet, I always love to hatch it because hatch, it was like, oh, we're the American slasher movie. So like, and then there's sub genre, like there's torture porn. It's vegan chef is what it is. It's the biggest. I've never had someone call me back out to that. I appreciate that

Rob Smat 13:39
The second I heard that. I was like, why don't you know why is there not a required reading for every kid in film school about the vegan chef,

Alex Ferrari 13:47
The vegan chef movie, it's I have to make the Vf spoken about.

Rob Smat 13:55
And I think part of it too, is I mean, again, I'm kind of jumping ahead here. But a lot of the last whistle was, oh, what's the word for a teleological teleology, I think is the word for it. And it's all about the study of ends. And so if you're a teleology test, you study the apocalypse you study you know, the end of it, you study the end of the world, you say these things and so on a smaller scale. The Last of Us was totally reverse engineer it was I want a movie that distributors will at least be interested in, you know, it doesn't have to go traditional distribution, but I want something that they would be interested in something that's marketable something like you said that, that feels new, but it's got something old to it, you know, kind of Scott derrickson is 2575 or 5050 is what he what he calls it, and you know, and so, it was really that idea of where do I want to be not so much you know, what do I have you it was a little bit about what to wear, do I want to be in what do I have at my disposal? And so that was the whole thing was it was like you know, the to teleology of of you know, I want to end up With you know, something that really changes what people are expecting

Alex Ferrari 15:04
You built you built the movie you You came at it like a blueprint almost as opposed to just like hey, I'm just going to get a whole bunch of wood and some nails and and let's see what happens you actually constructed like no I'm not only gonna figure out how to build this thing but I'm gonna have a buyer for this day before I get done

Rob Smat 15:23
Right well i'll tell you what what what kicked me into that and I'm sure you know everyone in the in the tribe will know and experience like this it's it was a bad experience and a bad experience it was what showed me Oh a blueprints a really good idea. And you know I can talk about it, you know with with a light heart because it wasn't my project. It was just something I was helping out on. And and it was a project that we really, you know, I if there was a blueprint, I was the one trying to be like, hey, wait, here's we should we should do it

Alex Ferrari 15:51
And what happened to that one?

Rob Smat 15:53
Not much. You know,

Alex Ferrari 15:57
A lot of time and money was wasted e

Rob Smat 15:58
Whatever you think happened is what happened.

Alex Ferrari 16:00
Mistakes. mistakes are made mistakes are made.

Rob Smat 16:02
Yeah, I mean, it's just it was at the end of the day it was it was a half built house and a lot of nails and boards that weren't ever going to fit in that house. And and you can't sell a house to half built house.

Alex Ferrari 16:15
No, not in this market. Right. 20 years ago, South Korea videotape backyard, they could have maybe, but not this market. Alright, so how did you raise the money? The budget for this was about how much? 100,000? About 100,000? Right. So that's not a that's not a mic. It is a micro budget in the grand scheme of things. But for a normal guy like you try pulling 100 extra grand out of our pockets is it's a bit much. So how did you raise the money?

Rob Smat 16:42
A lot of different places. I mean, just really had to start a lot of different places. So I think that's that that's such an important question. It's such a crux of what people ask. And I and I think, before I kind of go into it, I think sort of the mindset and the the helpful part that that you've already kind of hit on was, we had the blueprint, whenever we were going out for financing. And so we had this blueprint of Alright, here's what the independent film landscape looks like, you know, here's where our film is a micro budget film. And then here's where we can lose money if we do it wrong. You know, we were very forthcoming with the investors saying, here's what we're worried about, and here's how we're going to try to mitigate that. So I think the blueprint was, was the biggest piece that the blueprint was, you know, 100,000 is not a little, but it's not so much that we can, you know, get caught off balance, you know, over commit, you know, spend too much. I had researched a couple other films I've been following like Thunder Road is a film I've been following very closely, not in the sense that we're the same as them in any way. I mean, they really did a good job with the festival circuit and knew their audience, and we have very different audiences. But I followed them. And I followed them in terms of Okay, how much money had they been able to get what the resources they had, you know, how did their storefront deliver? And then I just started calling up other directors and I say, hey, how much money have you made? You know, I mean, and, and they, you know, it never in a way where it was like, give me an exact number, but it was always, how did iTunes go for you? How did Amazon go for? You did? Did you get a streaming deal? How much was that worth, and, you know, of course, listening to your guests on the show. And so it's very hard, it's very hard to get those numbers, the creative Institute at Sundance is trying to make that a little more transparent. And they're awesome in that way. I mean, I'm so excited to see all the stuff that they continue to put out. But I kind of was able to go into to investors with those numbers and say, Hey, here's what the numbers look like, here are your odds of success, here's how we're going to try to increase those. We went to production companies, you know, we went to some some B level groups, and a lot of them said that you know, it's you guys don't have any prior work you know, you're you're all just out of film school and even though it's USC, it's it's not enough for us to feel confident in and and that's just the way it goes. And we were expecting that so we went we went to I think we're between eight different private investors very spread out, you know, none of them feeling to like it's you know, No One No One cashed in all of grandma's retirement savings or anything like that which was which was good. And and we each one of them had a different ask and one or two of them just were wanting to be a part of it. And the whole goal was what what can I do for you, you know, this is this is a movie you don't normally invest in movies, but you know, if this excites you, we want to work with you on it. And and that was that was kind of how we we built the financing.

Alex Ferrari 19:47
Now what you were talking earlier, a little bit about the budget levels, like you know, a $10,000 movie a $50,000 movie $100,000 movie, what is the difference in your eyes on the difference, obviously besides financial,

Rob Smat 19:57
I think that there and making sure You know this, but I think there's a huge difference in the 100,000. And under range that indie filmmakers don't realize. And I see a lot of indie filmmakers who spend $100,000 on a movie that should have cost 10. And that's a lot of indie filmmakers spend 10 on a movie that really needed 100. And then in the end, you've got 50. And then in the middle, you've got 50. And those filmmakers can go both ways. And both, you know, budgets can go towards those filmmakers. And I think that, you know, whatever your budget is, you should really No, I mean, where you're going to spend money where you're not going to spend money, you know, that that's that that can get pretty complicated. But I think that one of the biggest things that I see, and I'm sure you've seen, too, is, at these lower budget levels, filmmakers feel like they have to do everything in one location. They feel like it has to be a bottle episode, it has to take place in one location. And I think you're, I think that you can really shoot yourself in the foot when you do that. That was something I was really excited about with the last whistle was we we have, you know, 15 locations minimum in the film, I mean, it this movie travels, you don't feel like you're in one place the whole time. And the fear always is, well, we've only got this amount of money. So we can't afford a company move. We can't afford the time it takes to go from one place to another. But I think I think you increase the production value of your movies so much if you can add some other locations in there.

Alex Ferrari 21:35
Yeah, without question.

Rob Smat 21:37
Yeah. And I think 10,000 is the only budget level where you can say, you know, what, let's keep it in one place. You know, or, or maybe if you're if you're in the 100,000 50,000 range, but it's an action movie, and you're dealing with stunts, or controlled, you know, explosives or something like that, like, okay, I can see needing to stay in one location or something like that. But the single location movie is, as has been done so frequently, that you can risk losing hundreds of 1000s of dollars, if you feel like that's the way you have to do it. And so that's that's sort of the thing that I've seen is, you know, if you're gonna spend six digits on a movie, try not, you know, don't do it in one place. unless you absolutely it's mandated by the script, I

Alex Ferrari 22:18
think the way that I would put that, yeah, I mean, then with my film, my last film on the corner of victim desire, we did that for about 3000. But it was, it was done at the Sundance Film Festival. But the thing was that there was tremendous amount of production value in every five minutes, we're moving, or somewhere else or moving here. So they actually had probably, like, 20 locations when it was all said and done. Yeah. So it added a tremendous amount of production value to do that.

Rob Smat 22:42
That's how we use so we shot you know, the kind of next question, we know how did you do it? How did you know get keep the productivity low? We shot at my high school, we, you know, I called them up, I said, Hey, listen, I know there's a week where the students aren't in class and it's not a holiday or anything like that. Can we do you mind if we shoot there as long as we got our you know, location insurance, paid security guards, overtime, that sort of thing. And they were super awesome. They were super awesome, inviting, and it was it kind of played into, okay, I know how many families are at this high school who would watch this movie. So here's another audience that we can use. And this this high school was awesome, because it gave us everything from offices to the football field to the locker room. And it kind of turned into this mini, you know, not the soundstage. But it turned like like a studio lot in a way. And so we would have what you know, a quote unquote company move, but we were moving from building a to building be sure, but you still feel like it's a whole new place, as long as you you know, hide it with production design, essentially.

Alex Ferrari 23:39
Yeah, that's the same thing happened with us, we're just constantly moving to different locations throughout the whole piece. And it was literally a block away, or literally, next door, but it seems like boom, it's like this entire new world. And that's the key. I think I've done that with a bunch of my movies where I've, I've been in one location, but I can probably get 20 looks 20 scenes that are completely distinctive, and makes it feel much larger than it is but it really was just like, let's just walk down the hall. And it's like a completely new world. So yeah, that's, that's great. And anytime you can get a location like a high school, once you have complete control over, you can create a ton of production value, because there is a ton of production value there.

Rob Smat 24:20
Well, it's all about you know, just just make the I think the hardest part is you know, don't do it in LA I think that's locations they will you know, they'll ask for your checkbook minute one when you're in LA. But But if you're outside of LA and you've got a personal connection somehow and and you You not only say you're not going to damage anything, but you actually do it. You know, I think that that's another thing too, where it's like you need to really you know, you need to know everyone on your crew and you need to make sure that while Yes, you as the director or producer writer will respect the space that you're getting Respect the space, something with the C stand. And you know, and that was that was, you know, I was the last one on set every day cleaning up, you know, water bottles. And everyone was like, well, we're coming back first thing in the morning and they're not going to be here overnight. So who cares? And I was like I care God forbid the person that you know, let us use this room comes comes to find all these water bottles everywhere like I want them to, I want them to like us when we lease So

Alex Ferrari 25:25
in other words, you weren't wearing your Ascot and your monocle with a blow horn as a director. What? Well, I put the monocle in my front pocket and I clean up the water. And then I put it then you put it back out and then they asked got to there all the time. Generally just because it's Yeah, it won't mean you can clean sweat with it. It's it's the Ascot is it mostly? It was very well with the Hawaiian shirt too. Yes. We never see. I've never seen an ascot with a Hawaiian shirt that I have not seen. Now, how did you get your talents? You have you have a fairly, you know, great, great cast?

Rob Smat 26:00
Sure. So the hardest part with the talent, I thought was going to be the money. I thought the hardest thing was going to be you know, we've got this movie, we're attaching talent we had, you know, I thought the hardest thing to say was going to be we're not done with the investment yet, you know, we're not done getting the money yet. We started casting with probably 40 to 50% of our investment in the bank. And so I thought that was gonna be the hurdle. But no one asks to see your bank account, no one demands, you know, you you put a cashier's check into them, for the most part, I mean, unless you're getting too high for who you should be going after. And what I really realized was the hardest thing was, you know, as long as they liked the script, which is huge, as you know, that if you have what you would call a bulletproof bulletproof screenplay, you have been hustling on that screenplay. They will read it and they'll say this is this is a great thing for me. I love this role, you know, and if they genuinely love the role, they will play ball with you. There are actors who will say I love the role. It's so well written. But you know, they're not they're just saying that you know, you meet No,

Alex Ferrari 27:22
in LA No, stop it. Stop it. You mean they're telling you truth? Tampa? Anywhere, Texas anywhere.

Rob Smat 27:33
So so you have to have that To start off with, if you don't have that, then, you know, that's why you're not getting calls back, I think when it comes to attaching talent. But the second thing is, they want to know your prior work just like the production companies did. And again with this movie, you know, I didn't you know, I didn't have a football movie that I had made before this you know, this this this was going to be the football movie. You know, I I didn't have some award winning short film because you know, to make a really good short film these days, it money helps. And I didn't want to go and spend 10 to 20k on something that I knew couldn't earn its money back. Now there's nothing wrong with doing that especially if you're aware that going into it. But I that's just not my style. You know, I'm not a i'm not i'm not i don't think I'm good at shorts. Honestly, I think features are really where I'm comfortable. So the hard thing was not having prior work to show the talent, the agents, the managers, the gatekeepers. What we did have was so real. I had gone to my brothers little brothers homecoming football game, I filmed some stuff in slow motion through some Friday Night Lights soundtracks over it, and there was our you know, last little sizzle reel.

Alex Ferrari 28:46
And that's awesome.

Rob Smat 28:48
It was enough. It was enough. It wasn't perfect. No one was like, Oh, you guys know how to make movies. But it was I feel something. This makes me feel something. And and so I'm interested It was not shot beautifully. There was this production design was terrible, but they felt something and that was just like a trailer that what you have to do when you want to convert someone on your side. So

Alex Ferrari 29:13
I was gonna ask you to touch on the sizzle reel stuff though. That's something that a lot of filmmakers don't understand about a sizzle reel, just like in creating a sizzle reel. And, and it's, it's it's an inexpensive way to really give a feeling a look a vibe to your project and it really makes people who are generally not very visual, especially financier's. They can't think visually so if you show them something, even if it's a cut up, you use other movies and cut up a fake trailer for your movie with Brad Pitt in it. I mean, you're not saying that Brad Pitt's gonna be in it, but I've seen it done and I've caught it. It's kind of like a feel a vibe like this is just a vibe. We don't have to pay you have you cut sizzle reels for client times, man back in the day back in the day used to cut deals. It was VHS, but back in the day, I would Cut together you know I remember doing scenes from seven and some you know a bunch of you know kind of serial killer dark dingy Fight Club kind of vibes you put together for a project that had that kind of energy to it and they wanted it just it's you know 30 seconds 60 seconds 90 seconds tops so that's one way of doing it then shooting something like what you did, which was kind of like a sizzle reel you actually shot footage but you put in copy written music as a as a demo

Rob Smat 30:28
is almost as good as Brad Pitt. I mean you the fact that you Production Music Library and pull anything. I mean, everyone loves the score to find consumption. I mean, that's on every

Alex Ferrari 30:40
Shawshank Shawshank Redemption as well. That's how shank redemption redemption works soundtrack is on. You can literally insert Shawshank Redemption music on almost any movie, and it will just just take it up to that next level. It's I've used it so many times on so many different reels, and things just like Dan and that's just a good score.

Rob Smat 31:01
Yeah. And so I think all of this is circumventing the the obvious answer which is you should get a casting director to do all this for you, you know you Where's your casting director? And and I have the budget going into this project? I yeah, I didn't realize how expensive a really good casting girl was brutal. And and they earned every penny of it. I mean, because because they do amazing work and they can they can they can they deal with the agents and the managers, they can get the talent to feel comfortable with you. So it was in the absence of that, that we were and we did end up having a casting director who was awesome and and brought in Brad Leland at the end and brought in Dan Levine at the end. But they were they they worked more locally and then they helped us go for our for our lead, which we still didn't have at that point. So So and I'm talking more about when we started by attaching Jim O'Hare who we all know is Jerry from Parks and Rec. And and I had been keeping up with Jim and his career since Parks and Rec because like him like Aubrey Plaza, like a lot of the actors in the office too. You know, I'd watched those ensemble shows for so long and had really been able to figure out which members of the ensemble had this amazing like star studded talent. And I'm almost bummed that Aubrey Plaza is blown up in the way that she has because I knew she was there. But luckily, you know, Jim wasn't you know, his schedule wasn't full like hers was and so we still we started with Jim and we we sort of packaged it like you would at an agency we started with I started with my friends who I knew were kind of on the cusp of, you know, TV stardom, then they talk to their friends, we brought in some of our executive producers, Eric in St. Louis are fantastic. And they have hit that TV stardom, and then movie stardom in there. So they had friends that they were able to go to and so it was those personal connections and then showing who we had cast already laid a really nice groundwork when it came to casting folks without a casting director and without prior work.

Alex Ferrari 32:49
You know, it's funny, just to go back in the sizzle reel. Do you know what Robert Rodriguez did for mariachi? No. Alright, so when right when he was when he was pimping out a mariachi around town he had his short film bedhead on a VHS. Then he had cut a trailer for mariachi. But what he did was he took the soundtrack of another trailer because at that in those days, it didn't. It wasn't they didn't do a lot of dialogue. It was just all music. And Roger Ebert gives it 542 thumbs up that kind of stuff. action packed all the way says throw, you know, Peter Travers from Rolling Stone over get the zooms you have zoom the face, right? Yeah. So he just took that soundtrack and edited his movie off the soundtrack. So when someone saw it, they were like, well, this looks like a real movie. It was it was pretty, it was pretty genius is things that I used to do back in the day when I was doing my demo reels, but he took it to another place as a feature. But yet sizzle reels are very powerful.

Rob Smat 33:44
The funny the funny thing that you mentioned double are Robert Rodriguez did the Rebel Without a crew competition on El Rey.

Alex Ferrari 33:53
Yes. Yes. Had you had to I've had I've had one. Alejandro and then I met with Josh. I was on his podcast and now I'm gonna have him on my podcast in the next few months. So I love that show. I watched every episode I did to see the best one the best one all of those shows.

Rob Smat 34:11
It's it uh Yeah, it definitely gets because greenlight is just you know that green lights got its own. Amen. I

Alex Ferrari 34:16
wasn't I was in season two. I was in season two Project Greenlight. Five seconds opening credits.

Rob Smat 34:23
Very nice. I so when it came to So anyway, Rebel Without a crew the TV show was you know, most people say their first feature was a genocide was genocide by Dubrovnik. But, you know, the rebels had accrued the TV show was what made me go and write the last whistle. And so I initially wrote this as a $7,000 feature about do this

Alex Ferrari 34:44
for seven grand that must have been

Rob Smat 34:46
impossible. I would go and shoot during the hunk I would make the sizzle reel all the football that was in the movie, and then I would shoot the coach at his home getting phone calls from people and getting visited by people.

Alex Ferrari 34:57
It'd be a different movie a bit different.

Rob Smat 34:59
Yeah, it's it's It's it's similar but it cuts out all the other characters essentially. It's it's total art house instead of, you know, sports with like a twinge of art house, which is I think what lots was crappy. But anyway that was the genesis of this project and that's kind of what they told me was how would you do this for $7,000? And I was like, You don't know me like just give me a shot just give me a shot. And they picked you they did and I thought Alexandra specially killed it on today's show. He did it was I found it so funny how on this third or fourth episode, he was telling the other filmmakers what gear to go grab from the cart. You know, they had like the card or whatever. He's like, No, no, you don't need to see Stan like, like get get the light stand get the light, you know. And so I thought that was hilarious.

Alex Ferrari 35:39
Yeah. And his new movie coming out Millennium bugs is coming out soon. It's I saw his trailer dude, it looks awesome, dude. And he made it for like underground 100. And it looks great. Looks really really great.

Rob Smat 35:50
Anyway, that was the genesis of the last whistle. And they turned it down. And when they did, I said, Let's go make it ourselves.

Alex Ferrari 35:56
Fantastic, man. Now you also reached out to distributors before shooting?

Rob Smat 36:01
I did. Wow. Amazing. That was another one of your episodes. I don't know which one was but but I'm sure it was. I don't remember who that was. But uh, yeah, you know where I got that idea. So

Alex Ferrari 36:12
you went out to a distributor, you talk to them? And like, Look, I'm making a football movie. What do you need in here? Well, how did you how did that process go?

Rob Smat 36:19
I'm just just like casting more difficult than than I expected. It was kind of crazy. how few distributors would email me back? And who how few of them would actually reply to someone who's essentially a future customer, you know, someone who's going to go and do all the legwork for them. You know, I mean, I was I was kind of shocked that these very middle level distribution companies were not paying me the time of day to just pick up the phone for 10. Shots shocking. shy. Yeah, shocking. Shocking. So here, right? Yeah, here. My lofty ideals for humanity. And maybe

Alex Ferrari 36:59
you're in the wrong business for that, my friend. I hate to tell you guys.

Rob Smat 37:04
But you got a few to call you back. Eventually. Yeah. So So eventually, Josh Spector, at gravitas at the time, said, I'll give you 10 minutes, you know, as long as you're not trying to sell me the movie, you know, I go through the usual channels for that. And I was like, No, no, it's not like we don't, we don't need pre sales. You don't need this stuff. Just you know, 10 minutes is perfect. And Josh was nice enough to pick up the phone and tell me you know, what, just you're doing football, make sure it's got a ton of football, especially in the first five minutes. Make sure that your key art and your onset photography is excellent. We need a lot of options when it comes to art. He said you know, make sure that you've got very high production value enough to where you can cut a really good trailer with and and he just talked about, you know, the the make sure that if you have a lot of football, the footballs for front if you end up getting a big actor that they are front and center. But I think the main question I went into Josh with was I said, here's our budget, and we and we're not sure if we're going to get a big actor, can we make it work, and he said, if it's football, you can make it work. If it's not, it won't, you know, a drama that's made 400k I don't think we'll make its money back. And I'm paraphrasing that those aren't his, you know, his opinions or beliefs or anything that has to do with where he is now, which is vertical entertainment. But that was that was the gist of kind of what he told me and it's publicly available knowledge. And and eventually he phoned me back, he emailed me back about five or six months later and said, Hey, did you guys finish the movie, you know, I'd we vertical would love to take a look at it. And at that point, that's where the ball started rolling. And he ended up being our acquisitions. He acquired us.

Alex Ferrari 38:48
So Isn't it funny? So you need to tell me, I just I had to lay this out for everybody listening. So you mean to tell me that you call up a distributor, and go, Hey, I just want 10 minutes of your time. I'm thinking about making sure we're gonna go make this movie, I would love to hear your thoughts on what we need to make this movie sellable and marketable for you and with your wealth of experience and years of experience. And then use he stated he was impressed enough with you that he called you back or emailed you back five or six months later and said, Hey, whatever happened to that football movie? I'm over at this new place. And why don't you come over here? And then that turns into a distribution deal? Yeah, pretty. Pretty much it shocking. Shocking. shock. It's amazing what happens when you actually just do this kind of stuff. And like, it's one thing. I preach about this stuff every day all the time, but it's it's very few people want to do the legwork. And because if not, this is what would have happened you would have made your movie and what you would have then tried to make a movie then you would start calling everybody and then you would have gotten all sorts of horrible deals, if anyone will call you back and it's and you would just like you would be rolling the dice you'd be betting on the number not on the color. Basically, you're trying to stack the odds against a for you as much as you can. against the house. And I think there's an interesting thing when it comes to film festivals. I think this is a good point. That was my next question.

Rob Smat 40:07
The so my thesis going into this movie, you know, I did have some, some theses going into this movie. I said, I think, you know, I think this will work. I think this will work. I think this will work. Here's the evidence, and then let's test it out. Let's do the scientific, you know, the scientific process with it. And so my thesis going into this was, film festivals have way too much. bearing on on the scalability of a film, people put way too much weight on a festival, because of because of the 90s. Because of the 90s because of the 90s that's when they did they actually did have power. You know, Sunday you won Sundance, you

Alex Ferrari 40:44
got a you got that check from Harvey. We I know he's not a cool name to say right now. But you got that name, you got my Air Max to show up and

Rob Smat 40:51
If you don't want i would i would cash that check. If you if you get a check from Harvey now I would make sure that that's about

Alex Ferrari 40:58
Exactly but back then it was a probably around a six or seven year period that that's that festivals were powerful. You know, and some still are, of course, if you went to Toronto, you When can you when you know, maybe Tribeca or you went south by that does bring in certain amounts, but that's such a small, small amount.

Rob Smat 41:17
Well, and so my thing was okay, we're a Texas film Should we try it should we wait as well? To go south by right and, and in the end we didn't apply to south by we didn't apply to Sundance, I wanted to keep it grassroots I wanted to go where I knew the numbers were where I knew that we had the 5050 odds instead of the one and 36 and so we debuted at the Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth, where we filmed it. And we had huge opening night crowd lots of local press. And and what we did there was we started our audience, I mean, you know, we started building our audience there and and we got to do that in November instead of March. Whereas if we had if we had gotten into South by and done March, we would have had to wait until football season 2021 to get the movie out there because you can release this movie and you know, the winter time it's it's got to be football season. Sure. And so that was that was again that teleological thinking about the end you know, really trying to land the plane 100 miles away and set a you know, just slam it down on the runway essentially. And so that was my thesis going into it now, I think an interesting thing that I will be the first to admit is what I was wrong about was the same thesis that I had about have a name for a movie. You know, my thesis when it comes to names is a name does not guarantee you a good movie in any way. And on top of that, and name does not guarantee you money as we as we saw with not Manchester by the Sea, but was it by the sea, the Brad Pitt, Joe Joe Lee.

Alex Ferrari 42:44
Yeah, though, of course. Yeah. The one that Angelina, I think she wrote and directed that one. Yeah, she did. Yeah. And and the movie did not do well. And I mean, had Brad Pitt and had the the brad pitt and angelina jolie

Rob Smat 42:54
and Julian Julian. And and so I think, you know, seeing movies like that it's like names. But what I realized is that names and festivals are very similar in the way that it that is how distributors know best how to sell a film. And so if you come to a distributor with, hey, we don't have a name or or festival laurels, but we've got these other marketable things. While they might agree with you that those things are marketable. It doesn't fit their system of here's where we put, you know, here's where we insert the name into our trailer, here's where we put the name on our poster, you know, they have to put a lot more legwork into, okay, how do we put these marketable aspects into our framework of how we distribute films? And so I think that was my that was the one difficulty when it came to festivals was, people were surprised when they watch the movie. And I can't tell you how many times I've heard this, I'm getting hurt 100 times again, but people go Oh, that was a lot better than I thought it would be. and and you know, whether they're giving it a six out of 10, or an eight out of 10, or a nine out of 10. They came into it expecting three or three or four out of 10 because it didn't have a laurel on it. And and I kind of have to be like, Oh, no, no, we didn't we didn't want to forefront, the laurels because that's not our audience and that boggle people's minds. They were like, What do you mean, you didn't do foot? What do you mean, you didn't do the festival circuit you know, yada yada, yada. And, and it's just it's just a new way of thinking and it's a much more difficult one to pull off. But you know, where does anybody

Alex Ferrari 44:22
No, no? unnecessary agreed and festivals aren't necessary and they're nice and if you've never done the experience is a great experience. You meet a lot of cool people you meet a lot of filmmakers, you know, you might get a little press you might get an award or to your ego might get stroke you might get a red carpet, some pictures, but that's essentially it even if you get into one of these big ones. It's no guarantee. I know many filmmakers who won Sundance and did nothing for their careers. You know, it all depends on the current project.

Rob Smat 44:48
When I saw like Jim Cummings and had vanishing angle and Thunder Road I saw Thunder Road you know, get grand jury at South by and and play at Sundance and all these things. Then not take the deal with a 24 or with any of these you know distributors that came calling and decide to self distribute that's when I was kind of like wait a second if if you know grand jury itself by and huge grassroots in the audience doesn't get you the deal you want you know i i there's no way that they're going to come calling for a for a football faith film you know like that that's just not on the radar whatsoever.

Alex Ferrari 45:27
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. But it's also like there's there's a lot of people who drink drank this Kool Aid a lot of filmmakers drink this kool aid of this kind of myth of expectations of what winning a festival does or how things should be. And I do believe and correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe that a lot of these preconceived notions are myths of of a long gone air, which are those 90s indie movies that we know that's kind of the beginning of the independent film movement, really the independent film movie that we know today kind of started in the 90s you know started with if you want to go way back Hollywood shuffle 1987 Robert Townsend and then you go and then you and then sex lies and videotape with Steven Soderbergh. And then that launched Sundance and and so on and so forth, and people still think that that's the way things are made it is not it is not that world anymore, and the world has changed so dramatically and I'd love to have you on the show for this specific reason to that you are a different model and a new model of what's happening and you know what this model might not work in a year or two and we might have to switch again you know, it could be another thing so it but people got to get that out of their head man we're not living in 2019 I'm gonna inflate your ego here oh no please dangerous thing to do. back alley in Hollywood might have back alley

Rob Smat 47:01
the that's what I that's what I really liked about any film hustle and the other podcasts that are in the spaces it's it's it is to the day current when it comes to what does our industry look like? How is the best way to succeed today versus what worked five years ago because I mean it maybe in terms of the styles of movies five years ago can maybe similar to now but in the styles that distribution is just changing so fast that if you're not staying like you know if you're not listening to any film hustle every week you you've lost track of what is happening in distribution and indie film hustle and creative Institute and all these other sources I mean it's so that that's what because like you know books take time and you know books used to teach you how to distribute a movie because the information stayed the same for longer than then 12 months right and that was the same way with our camera gear too we we shot on the the Canon c 300 mark two we had the option to shoot red it was the same price just about and and and I caught in the DP Brian Tang and I went into it I said you know what Brian, like we're making a football movie. Our audience does not know the difference between read or Canon they don't know the difference between anamorphic 's and and spherical. I want to shoot this on the camera that is going to run for the longest amount of time without charging that's going to take up you know a super low card space and that isn't going to heat up if we take it outside and the Texas heat in May and and die on us and that's not going to kill my MacBook Pro when I go and you know do the first director's assembly and then hand it off to our editor who's on it. And this is and as I say this I realize you said this on an earlier episode of the podcast you were talking about shooting on something that doesn't crash your computer.

Alex Ferrari 48:45
It warms my heart it really does where my heart man I said having deja vu right now of course because it's basically everything I've ever preached I'm like guys, like who cares? No one cared like I shot my movie on a on a Blackmagic Pocket camera 10 ADP, you know and it looks fantastic. projected you know, it's like, God, Jesus. You mean I don't know this. It's too much I can't take this. I can't take it it's too much. It's too much running. It's happening. It's exploding literally exploding because I'm like I it bring it warms the cockles of my heart to hear to hear this from a filmmaker that I'm like Oh good. Someone's listening out there to me. And it's not all about ego and it's not all about I need to shoot this on a red or an Alexa I'm like nah man what my audience can't tell the difference they're both really damn good and what's going to what's going to run the longest what's not going to crash my laptop when I'm working on it? What's going to give me best bang for your buck man it's not always like I Toby was like Could I have shot? ego and desire on an Alexa? Sure. Did I have access to them? Yeah, I could have probably gotten one if I wanted to. And I could have probably gotten away with shooting it all there if I if I truly wanted to. is the Blackmagic Pocket camera the best camera in the world? No. But does it work and it doesn't do exactly what I needed. To do for that specific project apps frequently.

Rob Smat 50:03
And that's, that's something that I that I, you know, really, I, I've even got an image for it. And it's sort of the audience's threshold of quality. And it's Don't think about what your cinephile friends know about film that they're, they're gonna see the lens flare, they're gonna see the the piece of action designs messed up, think about mom and pop, think about Uncle Joe, what are what will they notice and not notice and I'll tell you what they notice is bad directing bad writing sound, and, and bad sound. That's and so and and so I think the you know, the the, the hard thing to accept here is, if if you as a filmmaker are focusing too much on red versus Alexa. And this is something I see on that Facebook group movies, that means all the time, if you're focusing so much on red versus Alexa, maybe it's because you don't know enough about what you should be focusing on to to focus on that instead. And so it's go take a class get be be a better director be a better writer to the point where you don't feel like because I had this I had this face, I mean, so so strongly for such a long time it was I don't know how to make this any better. So maybe I can make it look better. And yes, the director, that's not what you're there to do. You were there to make what's on screen better your cinematographer will make it look amazing.

Alex Ferrari 51:22
If you hire a good one. That's why I did Brian. King. No, it looks great. It looks great. I have to say it looks great. Now what was the distribution deal structure that you set up here, because I'm really curious to see what kind of deal you got. And you said you would be more than willing to share this with the tribe.

Rob Smat 51:37
So So yeah, I'll share all the publicly available, you know, info just so I'm not, you know, stepping on a toes, we're doing, we've done a day and date release. So we blast it in 10 theaters, at cost us some money up front or the distributor, at least put some money up front for that. And what it allowed us to do was to debut in the in theaters now folder to debut it at a slightly higher premium price than elsewhere. It helps us with airlines, and with later windowing and international sales and things like that, to show that, you know, the distributor had enough confidence in the film to invest early in it. And that's kind of in you know, it's kind of in a similar way where it's like, Oh, you didn't have a star, but they put it in theater. So so it must be worth something, you know, they money on it. So it must be worth it something. So the date release is kind of the way that the distribution was structured. We're working on a very standard distribution deal. There's there's a there's a distribution cut up front. And then there's a there's a recoupment of expenses. And then there's the our take after that

Alex Ferrari 52:44
the expenses have been kept.

Rob Smat 52:47
Yes, thank you. Yes, you're welcome. And that actually came from a friend who had who had gone through a very sad, very unfortunate distribution scenario, I'm sure you've never heard of bad hand having

Alex Ferrari 53:01
never a shocking,

Rob Smat 53:02
shocking shot. And, and they and as he kind of told me, he's like, you know, when it comes to deals that sometimes, and usually the cap will be what, what they're going to spend, you know, and and source. And and so I kind of went into it, knowing that and and and, you know, we're still waiting for and I mean, I I do I've been very pleased with how they've distributed and I think they've done a great job. And so I'm actually not in the school where I'm like, oh, they're totally going to screw us over. And I'm and I and I'm thrilled to be there. I'm thrilled that we though I think we found a good one, you know, I think we we did, we definitely didn't find a bad one. And when I get all the numbers, I'll be sure to come back to or, you know, go to the creative Institute and share as much as the distributor is comfortable with me sharing because I think enrolled with so many bad distributors, it's worth, you know, really praising the good ones and praising the ones that do do good work. Because Because you want them to be in high demand. And and and I definitely want that for ours, if that's the way that it turns out.

Alex Ferrari 54:00
But awesome. And then and then also you've gotten a streaming service deal as well, you got one of the big streaming service deals got got picked up by one of them as well.

Rob Smat 54:11
Yeah, and so I you know, can't obviously can't talk much about who it is or what it is one of the big boys. What is it what what we what we noticed was or what I want another one of the blueprint aspects that I that I looked at with this movie is I was on an airplane, as many of us are from time to time. And I started to look at what was in their content library. And they had the film festival winners, they had the you know, the big Hollywood movies, they had this and that and then I go blink, blink, blink, blink, blink, blink, blink, blink all the way down to the bottom and they've got sports, and there's one sports movie and it's the only category it's it's the blue ocean. And it's like oh my god, they have you know, like Name a sports movie that came out this year. Free solo, you know, it's kind of like that's pretty much it. I

Alex Ferrari 55:04
mean, I don't there's not. Yeah,

Rob Smat 55:06
that's all it's on iTunes right now, you know, and well rip rip iTunes. But, uh, yeah. And so and so I just I saw that blue ocean. And I said, and so then I went to the streaming sites after that I started to look up, okay, who's been selling to these streaming sites? who's buying What? And then the most important thing for me was, is there a big, you know, sports property that's recently left or taken a better deal with a different streaming site? Because what they like to do is if they can't have James Bond, they'll put The Man from UNCLE front and center that way, if you if they have a customer that says, I love spy movies, I want to go I want to go see James Bond, they can be like, No, no, wait, stay with us watch Man from UNCLE you know, and and I'm not even sure if that's on a streaming site. But if I was running one, that that would be what I would put up to get to keep people to stay

Alex Ferrari 55:57
on Netflix. That's what Netflix does. When you like search, a specific like Marvel movie, they'll put all the other Marvel movies that they might have access to, but it might not be the one that you're looking for.

Rob Smat 56:05
Right? And so yeah, whether it's Netflix, whether it's Hulu, whether it's crackle, whether it's any of them, it's it's, they, they they yearn it's sort of that that industry that used to exist of the mock busters of you know, the ones where it was it was the

Alex Ferrari 56:20
apples and I was I just saw I just saw now like, the adventures of the Aladdin mysteries or something like that, like it literally just came out like a week ago. I'm like, Oh, yeah, there's that company. I forgot what they do but they just all they do is just whatever the big Hollywood movie it's a pop it up. It used to be very easy because you go

Rob Smat 56:39
to blockbuster, and maybe blockbuster didn't have the sleeve for Avengers and they didn't have a sleeve for Avengers of Aladdin. You send Uncle Joe to blockbuster he brings home events to the Latin and you don't watch it but they've already made their money and and so that used to be that's where it started. And then of course now it's in full effect because you can design a poster it looks exactly like I mean, to be fair, the there's that meme the Aladdin poster looks just like the Force Awakens poster I mean, you know the blue and the red it

Alex Ferrari 57:07
was I thought for like when Avengers like Thor Ragnarok came out they just came out with a Thor movie and it says Thor adventures or something like that. And it's Yeah, because Thor you can say, Thor's Thor it's Yes. You know, trademark on Thor.

Rob Smat 57:20
There's there's no trademark Yeah, they didn't trademark there. So so I think that was what I was looking for. I was trying to look for a blue ocean in a in a streaming site so smart. And and, and I think they i think that that was definitely the major one of the major reasons behind why the one that picked us did. And, and, you know, I'll take this time to say to please go find the last whistle on iTunes, please go find us on, you know, Amazon or Xbox or, you know, wherever you are now. Because because we really need the tribe, we desperately need the tribe, because we got to get those numbers up. It's, it's all about the algorithm. It's all about, you know, getting the word out about the movie and that that helps us so we you know, I don't know when that the whole streaming thing is going to come to fruition. So please don't don't hold out for that, please go check the movie out, just rent it for you know, whether it's three bucks or five bucks or whatever it is, you know, rent it, I will, I will send you $1 $2 whatever, you need to feel better about your purchase. But, but we but we really need the tribe to help us out right now. It's that's that's huge. You know, how

Alex Ferrari 58:23
did you get the word out on the film? Oh, how are you getting the word out on the film?

Rob Smat 58:28
sort of going back to that blueprint. The Blueprint has a bunch of different things that that allow, sort of give us an in so we started with Fort Worth where we filmed it, we were working with all the people that helped us film there, we're sending them posters and trying to say hey, you know, get people to like this. You know, it's very much a Facebook based campaign because our audience demographic is older. Not you know, Snapchat, but but they're not as young as Snapchat or Instagram. Which is better for us because I think while Facebook pages has its drawback it's made a very nice platform for the generation that we're trying to reach. And because they are very active on and I know they're active because I Facebook is my favorite You know, I'm an old soul at heart You know, I don't the newfangled things are not a new fangled things, saying they're just saying, Yeah, the new fangled

Alex Ferrari 59:28
things listen to you. You're talking like you're my age. What are you what are you 29? Yeah, God bless you. God bless you, sir. God bless you.

Rob Smat 59:37
And then boom, the head explodes

Alex Ferrari 59:39
Then the head explodes. Yeah. God bless you think I'm 29 Oh, my God. You know what? I know how old you are. Oh my god. Can you imagine the damage I could do if I was in my 20s Oh, my God with my mind today. Oh, my God, the damage. The mob would be the movie for you. Yes, exactly. The mob would shoot a movie for me. Corbett now another thing I wanted to ask you real quickly is the business model you're trying to build here you're trying to build, this is not a one off. You're trying to do multiple films like this. And you're actually through your production company through what you're trying to do. You're trying to build a business model that you can replicate on film after film after film. So you could actually got it for sake make a living in this business. You mean you're going to survive and thrive in this business? Please explain to people what are you trying to do?

Rob Smat 1:00:27
Yeah, I mean, that's I make a living. That's real interesting. That's very interesting. That's, that's, that's a great that's a great idea. Isn't it? very admirable idea. Yeah, that, that that's the I mean, the whole goal with this movie is, it's not about this movie. It's about the next one. Because while making that first movies hard, once you do it, the hardest thing becomes the next one. And that's what I've heard from everyone that's, that's gone and done their first feature, you know, I like I said, I'd like I told you, I called up all the directors who had just done their first feature, who, you know, were super helpful and and one of them was Morgan Dameron, who you recognize that name because it's Poe Dameron, his last name from Star Wars and she was assistant to JJ Abrams for a number of years and and she left Bad Robot and when did our first teacher and she was hugely helpful to us and making that last whistle because she she caught she was she stay on the phone for hour, hour and a half just given me all the things she was like, Listen, you're gonna have to do a dialogue continuity and spotting list and it's hell but but it but it's gonna be worth it. And and she was very happy with Jason and disturber. And they went and disturber and they self distributed and their movies called different flowers. So they're, they're awesome. That's one definitely worth checking out. And she was one of those people who's very transparent with me gave me a lot of info. And as we ended the call, this was this is about, you know, a year, year and a half ago, she was she was I was like, what's what's going on now? And she's like, well, the hardest thing is that second feature, and so that almost planted a seed for me back then where it's like, oh, that's, that's crazy that, you know, it's it's, they did such a good job with this movie. And it's still so hard to get that second feature. And, and I know that she will and I at this point, she's doing TV and commercials and she's she's doing fine. She's doing great. But but that that's been my mindset this whole time is okay, how do you get that second feature? And, and so that's that's the whole idea is let's, let's figure out a business model where we're not overextending anybody, where we're not going to burn any bridges, where we're never going to lose everyone's money. And where we really give the opportunity to really blow up. And if it's not the last whistle that blows up, say the last whistle goes and does our medium range expectations, then, you know, we're still kind of ahead of the pack there, we're still kind of like, oh, wait a second, we, we can take this to someone that wants to make a 5% return on investment or wants to lose 10% of an investment and, and be an executive producer on a movie and say, Hey, here are the numbers, here's what we can and can't do. And so, so, this movie is almost there. So I can just have numbers, so I can just, you know, take number concept. So perfect. Yeah. Yeah, very much so and so. So you know, as, as we go into our next movie, I think I'm gonna, I think I'm gonna go, I wasn't sure if I was going to do this. I don't know if it's where I'll be, you know, three months from now. But I think for the next film, I want to do what we deal with the last whistle in the faith room. I think that last whistle is very much a football movie with a very heavy art house structure to it. Even though you wouldn't really know that, you know, you wouldn't think about that going into it, basically. But it's a really tried to bring some very classic filmmaking style into this movie. And and I think it's totally all under the surface. I don't think anyone really notices that. But I think that just like Kubrick did with 2001, A Space Odyssey, where he brought sci fi from this sort of like B movie realm into Oh, adults can watch science fiction. I think I'd like to add, I think it's been done before a few times, but I think I'd like to bring that to the faith film perspective, because it's, it's a realm where I feel comfortable telling an investor, we've got a an audience here, a worldwide audience that is worth this amount of money every year. And if we carve out this niche, then I think we can spend this much on the movie, you know, and just totally reverse engineer it that way. And just work my way up in terms of budget level sizes, until you know, I've either had one do a great job or I've worked my way up enough to where you know, maybe I don't have to produce my own stuff anymore. And I can kind of you know, go be a director somewhere go be a writer somewhere and you know, produce whatever I want to do. That's that's kind of the game plan. The dream, the dream, dream, the dream.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:44
Now, you wrote a book, as well.

Rob Smat 1:04:48
I did I you know, I knew I had gotten so many questions that were so similar so many times while making the movie. And and, you know, one of the most common of course, which is how do you He raised the money and that sort of thing. And I got to the point where I had, like, forgot I started to say different answers every time. And then I would I would say like the worst possible answer when I had definitely said the best possible answer in the past. And so at that point, I was like, You know what, I'm just gonna write down all my answers. I want to have this in like a place where I can go up, like literally flip to it and figure out Wait, what is my answer to this? What is the best answer I've ever answered for this? Because I didn't want to answer the bad answer anymore. And so I did a book it is I got it right here rebel with a crew. I call it rebel with a crew instead of Rebel Without a crew. Because the thesis of the book is that the Robert Rodriguez movie, the El Mariachi doesn't really exist anymore. In a way that builds a career.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:56
His model, his model was very specific to him.

Rob Smat 1:05:59
Very much so. And and it's, it's what you talked about where it's like, yeah, they're the primary you know, Kevin Smith, and for every rubber Rodriguez, there's, you know, X number of people that did the same thing and you know, didn't have that person show up at their screening and yada yada yada. But but the thesis with rebel with a crew is that if you've got a group of people around you, a bunch of you know, if 10 rubber Rodriguez is getting a room that they can do, they can achieve that, you know, whether it's 10 whether it's five whether it's to my thesis is is the idea that the quality of films has gotten so good that you need help if you want to compete at the at the minimal level. And and whether that's you know, it actors or or sound person or whatever it is. That's that's the idea of having that crew. And that was the whole idea with just upping the production value with last whistle. You know, Alaska wouldn't have been possible if we didn't have amazing cinematography, amazing sound, amazing acting, location. vocations, my brother's helping me wrangle extras, a whole city of people coming out for one night to be a crowded at a football game, you know, killer scheduling, killer composition, and I'm forgetting and 15 other people there, but it's all about the book is all about that crew. And it's all about just going through every step of the process from writing to directing to casting to, you know, all the the state the pieces that that you that you normally would ask about. And then I've got chapters on distribution and marketing too. But there those aren't done yet. Because Because I don't I don't have the numbers yet. And so it's it's out on Amazon, it's called rebel with the crew. And check it out. It's it's like half a book right now. And so I'm selling it for like a half a book price, because it is definitely not finished yet. But it's got enough information to at least you know, do everything we've talked about about going to the distributor beforehand, and budgeting and keeping your friends.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:03
Oh, that's awesome. That's awesome. Did. Now I am going to ask you the questions I asked all of my guests. So you know what? You got someone that's prepared for it? Maybe there's one maybe a new one in there. There might be a new one in there? I don't know. We'll see. We'll see. We'll see. All right. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanted to break into the business today?

Rob Smat 1:08:20
I had to think about this. This is the hardest one for me to answer. I did have to think about this one long and hard. And I actually forgot that you that you asked about this one until recently. And then when I heard you ask it I was like, Oh, wait, I don't know the answer to that one. I think my advice would be very bird's eye bird's eye view. Hollywood cannot ignore someone who's making a profit.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:41
Yes, very true. Very, very true.

Rob Smat 1:08:44
So if you know not, if you have an idea, or something that can that can make money. You are 100% getting into Hollywood, if you're making money

Alex Ferrari 1:08:57
Again and again and again, even more so

Rob Smat 1:08:59
Yes, agents will line out the door to take 10% of that money. You know, it's it's it's it is the you know, it's totally the most foolproof way now. You know, obviously the idea to do that is hard and it might be you know, you might not have that answer yet. But But if you can find that answer, it's gonna it could save you a lot of failure.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:20
Now can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Rob Smat 1:09:24
So it kind of the the brother to red ocean blue ocean, Malcolm Gladwell, outliers. Yeah, great book. I love that book. Great. And and I just I love the way that that book talks about successes failure, you know, which is which is very easy. You know, it's that's very common idea. But you don't you know, you don't see it like he talks about it in very, you know, concrete ways. He talks about really just, you know, the, the people that walked backwards while everybody else was walking forwards and How to really you know, apply those those mantras that you hear on, you know, inspirational quotes where it's like, don't do what everybody else does. Whereas, you know, I really like the way that you know, mg takes it and he's like, No, no, here's where someone didn't do what everybody else did and here's why it doesn't matter. You know, here's why it doesn't sound like it does on those inspirational things. So also David and Goliath David and Goliath is Is that okay?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:24
That's another great book. Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether the film business or in life?

Rob Smat 1:10:30
Okay, so this one for me is that a larger number of people than I expected are not good at their jobs. And it's not because they lacked a skill it's because they lacked the hustle and I and whether it's your job or whether it's you know, someone at the quote unquote Harvard of film schools that's you know, just cruising their way through I think I'm always surprised by anyone in any profession who is just there because they have to be and I think that that the lesson that took me the hardest that took me the longest to learn that was just that that there are lots of there are lots of people that feel that way. And so Okay, good answer my tribe the tribe is motivated.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:18
What is the biggest fear you had to overcome with making this film?

Rob Smat 1:11:23
There's the new one. Okay, all right. I'm gonna have to get Yeah, got a second total financial loss. Okay, that's a good that's a very reasonable fear. You know, what? That and that you know, in the beginning, it took the form of Oh, we only shot half the footage and route money, you know, now it takes the form of Alright, what are the numbers gonna look like or you know, is the cap going to work you know, and think you know, that sort of thing. But my biggest fear was having to go back to the investors and say, we lost all the money because I want to go back and tell them that we made their money back on Tom that we made up made we made them all a penny you know that that would be success. So it was a goose egg

Alex Ferrari 1:12:19
Three of your favorite films of all time sir?

Rob Smat 1:12:23
Star Wars A New Hope as I you know, came up knowing it and A new hope wasn't my favorite Star War. But it became that when I saw the the making of Star Wars documentary, and I saw just what what a trial It was a bird or Gary and for all those people you know, going through that the desert all that so Star Wars became my favorite movie, because it was just such a challenge for them to to make. So I guess number two would be Indiana Jones and Last Crusade.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:55
I see a theme crying Go ahead. Yes. And then the third one would be Back to the Future Part Three. Tip if it's all it's all speed, we're all still work touchy. It's as part three you like the best? Yeah, and I got flack for that in film school. Really is part three interesting because I actually Part Three is part of my second my first that I love number one, I love number three, and then I love number two, the last and number two is just congenital tissue that you need to get to three and it has its own fun parts about it but three is actually really fun. I love I love three

Rob Smat 1:13:27
So I think three so I love westerns. Yeah, I think but as a kid you know growing up and I was the oldest child and so they tried to shelter me the most you know, I got three little brothers they're maniacs shout out to them big help on the movie, but they're three little brothers they're maniacs but I was the shelter one I was the one where they were like you know we need to make sure he's not getting no violence no drugs no you know and to be fair I haven't given into the drugs like I'm you know, I'm drug free right now but but the you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:13:58
But the night but the night is young sir The night is young.

Rob Smat 1:14:03
Mom tune out right now. But the so I think that I've just got this part of me that just loves the Old West. And when it comes to showing, you know, an eight year old a Western, you can't do that. But dad will always want to show an eight year old Back to the Future. Oh, and I think that feature Part Three was my first Western and that's why it's my favorite is because, you know this pastiche of of years of spaghetti westerns was actually my first one. And by the time I saw Clint Eastwood film, you know, in my teens, I was like, Oh, the iron on his chest. I got it. Okay. This is he's making a reference.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:42
Exactly what you are against reverse engineered the western for yourself. The name of the game. And now where can people find you and your work?

Rob Smat 1:14:53
Sure, sure. I'm my handle for all my social media is mad smatter. That was a nickname that some came up for me in high school. So, but if you just Google Rob Smat there's only one of me. I'm not smart. That's that's the tag. There it is. No, no, you'll never forget that. There's only one of me. And then the last whistle is available on all digital platforms. You know, whatever is easiest for you go check it out. Please give us a click. Even if it's just a little rent it a little rental means the world to us and, and, and just yeah, check me out. I'm everywhere. And hopefully I'll keep going after this.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:33
You are a unique snowflake, sir, as all of us are.

Rob Smat 1:15:39
As a millennial,

Alex Ferrari 1:15:40
as a disenfranchised millennial. You are.

Rob Smat 1:15:43
I know.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
Rob, man, it's been an absolute pleasure having you your show, man. Thank you for dropping some serious knowledge bombs on the tribe today, man. Thanks so much.

Rob Smat 1:15:53
You got it.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:55
Thank you, Rob, for coming on the show and paying it forward and sharing what you have learned on your filmmaking journey. I truly, truly appreciate it. If you want links to his movie, the last whistle or want to get in contact with Rob, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/348. And also want to give you guys another update, I have finally finished writing my new book Rise of the filmtrepreneur. It is now in the hands of my book editor. And we hopefully will be releasing it sometime late October if not early November. So right now on Amazon, it says October 8 that will change. But I can't tell you how proud I am of this book. It is a nucular bomb going off in the film business. That's what I really hope it will be. For anybody reading this book, I hope it begins and starts the movement of changing the way filmmakers think about making their movies, how to become more entrepreneurial, and how to create a real business around your art form. So if you do want to get a preorder of the book, head over to www.filmbizbook.com that's filmbizbook.com sign up for early access. And I hope you guys really find some value in it. It is something I'm extremely, extremely proud of. And as I promised before, I will be asking you almost every episode to please share this show with five of your filmmaking friends, five people that you think that will find value in what I do here at the podcast, the websites or any of the other companies filmtrepreneur, bulletproof screenwriting, whichever you think they can find value of share it with five of your friends so we can spread this information and this message to as many filmmakers and screenwriters as humanly possible. Thank you guys again, so much for listening. I hope I've been of value to you today on your filmmaking journey. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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