IFH 016: Getting Attention from Influencers – Roger Ebert Story

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I always get asked by indie filmmakers:

“How do I get attention for my indie film?”

This is one of the major challenges facing indie filmmakers/entrepreneurs in today’s noisy independent film landscape. One fast way is to get an “influencer” to focus a little light on you or your project.

Now, this is much easier said than done. When I promote my projects I approach every online indie film influencer I can.

This includes indie film sites, niche sites (around your subject matter), industry news outlets, film magazines, movie fan websites, film festivals, podcasters, conventions, and movie reviewers.

This is how my films have been covered by over 300 international film websites, magazines, and news outlets. I was even featured in the best selling indie filmmaking book “Making Short Films: The Complete Guide from Script to Screen.”

I put my films and myself out there to be seen and consumed. I had many offers, meetings with Hollywood “players” and opportunities purely because I shouted from the top of the mountain about my projects.

BROKEN is essentially a demonstration of the mastery of horror imagery and techniques. Effective and professional.” – Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

The number one question I get asked is:

“How the hell did you get Roger Ebert to review your little short film?”

In this podcast, I tell the story of how the legendary film critic Roger Ebert was so amazingly kind to a young filmmaker and my short film BROKEN (Watch it on Indie Film Hustle TV).

For those of you who are not familiar with Roger Ebert’s work, he was arguably the most famous and powerful American film critic during his lifetime. For decades filmmakers prayed for his famous “thumbs up” and feared his “thumbs down.”

He recently passed away but if you want to learn who this remarkable man was I would suggest you watch this amazing documentary on his life “Life Itself.” Check out the trailer below.

As the above trailer states:

“Roger Ebert gave life to new voices and gave life to new visions that reflected all the diversity of this nation”.

There will truly never be another Roger Ebert.

I want to use this story as a way to teach independent filmmakers two things:

  1. Put yourself in a place or arena that better your odds of accessing influencers and gatekeepers.
  2. Be ready when the opportunity presents itself.

My story is as much to do with luck as it does with being prepared. Luck and preparation are bedfellows on your journey as an indie filmmaker, as many successful filmmakers will tell you.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Today, we have a fun show. It's a show that I get a question I get asked a ton about. But before we talk, head on over to free film book.com that's free film book calm, and get your free audio book, choose from over 40,000 different books and download it for free. So today's topic is in the question I get asked a ton. And I've been asked this question ever since it happened. How in god's green earth did you get Roger Ebert to review your short film broken. And it is a fun story. And I wanted to give you a story. So you understand it. Also, there's a lesson involved with this story. So all of you are probably aware of my film broken that we shot for 1000 bucks. And you know, it was 20 minutes long had 100 visual effects shots on and so forth. And we got a lot of attention for it. And one of the we actually garnered some attention by a film producer slash distributor, international distributor, who wanted to talk to us about my partner and I at the time, about broken the feature and so on. So they flew us up to the Toronto Film Festival. And at that point, we already have the DVD in the DVD was selling and we'd probably had it out well, we launched it in June. So November sometime, I think is when we were November, September, I think is when Toronto was in September, October sometime. Anyway, so we went to the festival. And the distributor gave us a couple tickets to one of the screening movies that were screening that day. So we went in to watch the movie and my partner at the time looked up and said, Hey, man, there's there's Roger Ebert. And I'm like, well, let's let's go meet him. And this is before the movie starts. So Roger was sitting in the back, and God rest his soul. We do miss Roger and his voice. And I'll talk more about Roger at the end of this thing. So Roger, we went up to Roger, and, you know, we were like two little girls at a Justin Bieber concert. It was just like, oh my god, Roger. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. And Roger was so just gracious. And you know, and he's like, Look, man, I love you. I'm glad you got to talking to me and everything, but I can't watch your movie. And we're like, I mean, I told them like, of course, you know, like, that was the last thing on my mind. I was never even conceiving the idea that Roger Ebert would watch my little movie that I shot in Florida with no actors, and no one wasn't even in the in, in the theater for guy wasn't even in the festival, for God's sake. Like, why would he take the time out to do anything like that. But the one thing I did do is I kept talking, I kept talking to him and explaining everything about my movie. And like, you know, we shout out for 1000 bucks a shout out on a digital camera. I mean, a shout out on mini DV, and we've been selling on DVD. And I just kept talking to talking. And as that conversation kept going, Rogers head tilted. And he said, Do you mind if I take a picture of you? And then all I said in my mind was, Oh, cool. Now I can finally ask to take a picture with him because I wasn't going to be that guy. So he took a picture. You know, he took a picture of me and I'm like, Roger, can you know? Can I take a picture with you? Yes, sure. No problem. And then he just starts writing down everything. We're saying he's like $1,000 movie mini DV law broken or named everything and then he's, he's like, you know, this will make a nice little blurb for my, my blog. And we're like, I told them, like, what would you like to see, you know, would you like a copy of the DVD, he's like, sure. And I had a copy of the DVD in my back pocket. Now this is a lesson that I want everyone to take with this story. It's a fun story. It's a great little story, and I'll tell you how it ends in a second. But if I wouldn't have had the DVD in my pocket, a full blown you know, full full release DVD in my pocket. I would have never gotten any kind of review or anything from Roger Ebert. The lesson to take away from this is always be prepared. I mean, be the boy scout if you will. If you're being put in a scenario I mean, you can't be walking around all of life with you know, your demo reel with you at all times, though that would be nice. And nowadays, you can can do that with your iPhone. But if you didn't have the movie at the time to hand him not to watch there because he wasn't going to sit there for 20 minutes and watch our movie. He, I would have lost that opportunity. So if you're put in a place like a film festival, Like a mixer, like a place where these these kind of influencers are at, then you always should be prepared. Always have something not a business card. Not enough. If you have a movie, if a situation presents itself, don't be pushy, don't try to jam it in their face. We had built a relationship up within those few minutes that we talked to the point where he wanted something from us once he wanted something from us. Then we reciprocated like, Hey, would you like this to help your blog? And he said, Yes. So anyway, so we gave him the DVD, we sat down, watch the rest of the movie, rest of the rest of the, the the movie, the rest of the trip was fine. And we flew back home by the time we flew back home the next day, when we landed, we had had people emailing us and calling us and oh my god, Roger Ebert just reviewed your movie on his blog. And I was like, What? So I ran in there, I ran to a computer. Because there were no smartphones at the time. And I looked it up, I'm like, Oh my god, he watched the movie. And there was a picture of us, me and my partner. And we were like, Oh, my God. And he basically made it a story about independent film makers using new digital technology to tell their stories. And we were the focus of that article. And then he said, and I happen to watch the movie. And he gave us two lines that I will never forget. It is a broken is essentially he said broken is essentially a mastery of horror imagery and technique, effective and professional looking forward to seeing broken the feature. And I could not be more over the over the moon over this review. I mean, this is a God, you know, he's a film God. But you know, Roger Ebert was one of those guys, he was the film critic in all of the United States, arguably the world, but his influence in the United States was massive, he was the guy, you know. So for him to come down, first of all, to take the time to watch our movie, then to give us a critique about it. That's how much he loved filmmakers and loved movies. He didn't have to be nice, he didn't even have to talk to us, let alone write us a little review, and make us a focus of one of his little articles on his blog. But by doing that, it changed the course of my life. Because when I had Roger Ebert's endorsement, many doors opened up for for the movie. For myself, to this point, to this day, I'm talking about this story right now. And it's been 10 years since that happened. People still ask me how it happened, because it's something that he never did. It was just a moment in time that happened. And it was my lottery ticket, my small lottery ticket wasn't the you know, I didn't win I didn't went to the Super Bowl jackpot. But I, I definitely won something when he did that for me. So moving forward, the the exposure that that got was massive. I put Rogers quote on every bit of material we can, because it has so much weight behind it. So it helped me promote myself as a director helped me promote myself, my movies, it just added a level of credibility to me as a filmmaker that the other filmmakers would kill for myself included. So it was one of those moments in time, but I had, I was prepared. And that's what I want you guys to take away from this story is you have to be prepared for when lightning strike, when that opportunity that door opens, you have to be ready. Because once it's gone, it's gone. If I wouldn't have had that DVD with me that day, with all this behind the scenes stuff, and all this stuff that things that I've packaged the DVD it looked professional, if I wouldn't have had that that day, that opportunity would have been lost for ever. It would have never come back, I would have never been able to get that opportunity back. It was that moment in time that you just have to be ready. And that's, that's what I want you guys to take away. Always be ready to take advantage of that opportunity when it comes. So I hope that helps you guys a little bit. I hope it was an entertaining story. It was a it's been life altering to me. And another thing about Roger is, once Roger passed, he a lot of stories came out about him being so nice and generous to filmmakers. And I was one of those stories that got pushed around Facebook a bit when he passed. And he was he was such a gracious man that I will never ever forget the kindness that he gave me. And it's one of the reasons why I do indie film hustle today is I want to give back want to help the next generation coming up behind me To be better filmmakers to survive as artists, and Roger was an artist, as a writer. He wasn't a filmmaker. But he respected and loved filmmakers. And his art was his criticism of film, and how he wrote it. That he got a Pulitzer Prize, the only film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. And he is, he will always be in my heart. I'm getting a little choked up. He will always be in my heart. And I will always be thankful to that man for being so generous with me in my little movie. So enough of this happiness. I hope you guys got a lot out of that. Please don't ever forget, don't give up on your dream. Keep that hustle going. And it just the business is gonna beat you and beat you and beat you. But you have to keep going. The guys and the girls who make it never stop. And I'm trying to help you guys get there as well. So good

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