Right-click here to download the MP3
Today on the show we have filmmaker Cody Meirick. Cody is the director of the documentary Scary Stories, based on the wildly popular book series Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. We discuss how he leveraged an underserved niche audience, how he piggy-backed off the major studio release of the narrative version and how he was able to get access to the key players in this niche.
This past summer Academy Award®-winner Guillermo del Toro and acclaimed director André Øvredal created the hit movie based on the iconic book series.
It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities in the small town of Mill Valley where for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time—stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home.
Enjoy my “scary” conversation with Cody Meirick.
Alex Ferrari 0:10
Now guys, today we are completing our Halloween week with our guest today Cody Meirick who is the filmmaker behind scary stories, the documentary. Now this documentary is based on the wildly successful, scary stories to tell in the dark. And it is a very, very popular IP or intellectual property that no one really done anything with. And no one had ever really done a deep dive into the, like the history, the war of how these stories came to be and the popularity behind them. And it's only you know, it's one of the most Banned Books series of all time because of the scariness of them honestly. And Cody decided to put a documentary together. And it just so happened that Gizmodo tauros produced narrative version of that also came out this past summer as well. So the timing was perfect, it was absolutely perfect. And in this episode, we talk about how Cody is selling his film, how he's able to create a product for a niche audience, how he was able to reach that niche audience, get them excited about the product, the project, and his strategy on not only how they made it, but how he's really just getting it out into the world and monetizing that audience and providing value to that audience. So without any further ado, please enjoy my scary conversation with Cody Meirick. I'd like to welcome the show, Cody Meirick, man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.
Cody Meirick 3:07
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Alex Ferrari 3:09
So we're going to talk about your documentary, scary stories today. But first and foremost man, how did you get started in the film business?
Cody Meirick 3:19
Sure. So I started. So I, I was always the creative type. And for a long time, I wanted to be a writer, I kind of I guess, I've thought back and realized back in my 20s, I spent my 20s, I spent wanting to be a writer, a novelist, right. And because I always had this creative side, and then around the time I turned 30, right before I moved to Chicago, got a job with an education nonprofit, where I work to this day, running a website. And nowadays, a lot of times running a website often involves creating content. And in this case, creating media creating videos, web content, instructional videos, that sort of thing. Right? And so, so I kind of learned a lot over the course of time working there becoming a halfway decent editor, you know, telling the story in three minute chunks in some respects. And so, so I got a certain amount of experience there. And at a certain point, about five years ago, I decided, you know, what, I have a lot of the tools and the know how and that sort of thing to do a film a low budget film, and and it's going back to this kind of creative side. And so, so I needed in a documentary really made sense. You know, essentially what I do is, you know, make three minute documentaries and web form, you know, putting on on a website and so, to a full length documentary made a lot of sense. I wanted it to be marketable, I wanted it to make sense. I also wanted to make sense for me to do it. You know, having a, from an education nonprofit talking about and also with degrees and literature and that sort of thing. You know, children's literature made a lot of sense it also, first and foremost, I always would recommend, if you're going to spend the years to get off the ground your project, then have it be something you're interested in to have that be something you're passionate about that sort of thing. And so, um, so this idea to do a documentary on this particular title, made a whole lot of sense for me. And so, yeah, I mean, at some point, you just, you commit, and you say, you're done this, it's Yeah, exactly. Like you've done all these plans, and so on and so forth. And you you bet at some point, you're just like, put it out there, guess what my name is Cody Merrick and I'm making this documentary. And, and it you know, it has fits and starts over over years. And documentaries definitely can because you can kind of piece together interviews and other things over time. And so and so that's what I did. So as I've been saying, five years, most of it happened over the course of three ish years. But then you can add on, you take into to some festivals, finally getting distribution, so on and so forth. So the whole process from get go to, you know, beginning was basically five years,
Alex Ferrari 6:21
Five years. So that's a long time to be on a project. So I'm assuming you're not doing this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm assuming you have your this is a side hustle. It's just
Cody Meirick 6:28
No, no, I mean, the job I said, I got about 10 years ago here in Chicago, still there. It's developed the the website has really grown and I've helped it to grow and and we've gone it taken in different directions. But I'm still doing that, to this day. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 6:45
Very cool. Now, you made a documentary based on the very, very popular scary stories franchise, which is almost as like a goosebumps, I think, behind there only behind goosebumps as far as sales are concerned, correct?
Cody Meirick 7:01
Yes. Yes. And, and the interesting thing, you know, I did our interview, RL Stein, the author of goosebumps, and and he, he's kind of my celebrity, I definitely have some other fairly well known people, but RL Stein's the one where it's like, he's the Stephen King of the children's, you know, children's literature, everyone's heard pretty much heard of him, you know, and so he's a celebrity, right? And so, but anyways, but these are a little bit different than his because RL Stein has been interviewed about a million times. And it's a different interview, when you're interviewing someone who's been interviewed a million times. And these books, the author passed away a long time ago, and the illustrator is, is, at this point, famously known for not doing interviews. And so there was kind of a hole there that like, okay, you know, a documentary that kind of gets under under the hood and learns a bit about these books and how they came to be and how, how they're, it's kind of a fandom, you know, and that's what's great for a documentary is that, you know, there's people that are very passionate about this title, whatever it may be. And then also, you have the censorship piece, it's the, arguably arguably the most banned or challenged children's book of the last 40 years. I say, children's book book, the first year, in first decade that the American Library Association made a list, decade long list was in the 1990s, it was number one on the list, the most challenge book of the 1990s was scary stories to tell in the dark, and it was still in the top 10. The last one wasn't published since 1991. And so, you know, in between 2000 2009, it was still in the top 10. So it was still a very much Challenge book, even though they're, you know, they're always in print. But you know, you didn't, they weren't, you know, they had become more of a having a cult following, and that sort of thing. And so this is very different than, for instance, that goosebumps documentary, because there's there's a number other components that kind of go down and channel your documentary. And
Alex Ferrari 9:06
Now, when you went out when you decided to go down this long and windy road of making this documentary, you had obviously in your mind, you know, you chose a subject matter that is something that you can leverage. So you're leveraging the scary stories brand. You're also you're also leveraging the audience for scary stories was just over 7 million books, if I'm not mistaken, have been sold. And on top of that, how many more I've been read. So you're talking about million. This is a very large niche audience, but an audience that you could arguably target if you wanted to go after them through Facebook through other ways of cultivating that audience. What were some of the ways that you did cultivate an audience or plan to target this audience with your with your film?
Cody Meirick 9:55
Sure. It It takes time. I'm with with I also run this social media for my, the nonprofit I work for. So I've got a lot of experience with, with, you know, growing an audience on social media and that sort of thing and targeting a audience, right? A, you got to stay active. You just got to and you know, each one is different. I remember I have a friend who had his you know, doing a podcast, totally not filmmaking podcast, just a podcast anyways. And he, you know, I talked to him a bit about it and, and, you know, you're, you're still no matter what you're probably you're, you're attaching yourself to a niche audience. And, and so you're, you're you want to have a Avenue and all your, the different platforms you're on to be constantly pumping out fresh stuff that people can like, people can share, so on and so forth. People are gonna notice you because you you're pumping out new information. How do you do that? Well, each one is different, but I can guarantee you any, any, any documentary that has a topic, I can tell you what the niche is, right? You know, you what's the one usually use vegan chefs? Yes, the biggest chef, yes, vegan chefs. Well, there you go. I mean, that's, you wouldn't want a documentary topic. That's just food. It's way too broad. You're competing with, you know, websites and social media that you know, it's in shows and networks. networks, exactly. Now, start to niche down, okay, vegan chef, Okay, you know what you I, you can wrap your head around that there's people sharing things around, you know, being a vegan. There are people who've written books about, you know, being vegan, and I bet they would like to be promoted. So you promote them. And then when your film comes out, they're going about, oh, yeah, this is the person who shared my thing, so on and so forth.
Alex Ferrari 11:55
Did you do that with this? Did you do that with this, this movie,
Cody Meirick 11:59
if someone's been following me on social media for a while, they know I'm just incredibly active. With this particular one. You know, the art, the illustrations from the book are have become incredibly well known. And beloved by many people, people get tattoos of the art, people do adaptations of the art, but then in a different style, or their makes claymation things or I don't know that there's a million things where people are kind of paying homage to the art, I guarantee you in the past five years, if you made something I probably shares, made something related to scary stories to tell. And Doc, I probably shared it. Also, it's all based in folklore and urban legends. So there's a lot of kind of fun, interesting avenues you can go down, you know, just to pick one story, pick one single story from it. And I probably shared some kind of tidbit about that story at some point, so on and so forth on different social, I mean, it's just being really active, constantly pumping out stuff related to your topic, and people will like it, they'll share it, they'll comment on it, so on and so forth. You know, it's it's a hustle, you know, yeah. But I, you know, just leading up to my first crowdfunding campaign, I spent nine months building it, and I've been building ever since. But I told myself, I need nine months to even build a little bit of an audience for that first one, which I did.
Alex Ferrari 13:22
And how did how did the crowdfunding campaign go?
Cody Meirick 13:25
It went, Okay. I mean, I, I have, I definitely have a love hate relationship with crowdfunding at this point, which is to say, you know, I know, it's, it's, it's perfectly valid way to go. And I won't say I won't do it again, for sure. I definitely can't say that, because maybe I just need to that said, you know, so the first time I raised over 7000, and then I, and then the two subsequent times, I raised around 2000 each, so I raised somewhere in the 12,000 range, over the span of three campaigns, it happened, you know, different points of the production, so I could, okay, the first time I didn't, I just had a mostly video pitch, I didn't have a trailer. The second time I had a trailer. Third time, so on so forth, I mean, you know, you try to, you know, give them something new each time you're doing it. That said, each subsequent, Okay, number one, the first one was the most successful because no one had ever thought about doing a documentary about scary stories to tell in the dark. It was the coolest idea ever, and people loved it. I didn't have a very good pitch. The pitch video was actually on the back and I like it, but you know, but I didn't have enough for a trailer or a proper trailer, and, and so on, so forth. But just the very idea. Got me some press I got mentioned on some very major websites, just with the very concept of doing a documentary about these books. And so Then then subsequent ones, it dropped off, you know, a because I was hitting a lot of the same a certain amount on the same audience I was before through social media, you know, I'd been building it, but still, it's, it's hard. And then also, it's not a new idea anymore. So you know, people are still discovering it, so you can get some traction there. But it's, it's definitely hard to get new press if you know, F. Okay, I've heard of that. I don't know if it'll ever get done. So it's hard to it's hard to, you know, to see. That was my experience. That's not to say everyone has that same experience, but that was mine. And so it's, it's, it's tough. That said, could I have done this without crowdfunding? No, probably not. And I mean, it's, this is the end budget, I estimate being around $35,000, you know, and that was paid for, in various ways. And that 12,000 was a was a big chunk. Sure. So, yeah.
Alex Ferrari 15:57
All right. Now, a lot of people think that you'd need permission, or you need the rights to do a documentary on a known subject. I know the answer to be no, for the most part, depending on what you do with it. So can you talk I'm sure. This has come up. Were you contacted by the CBS film people who are the producers of the new Guillermo del Toro produced narrative feature film version of this?
Cody Meirick 16:31
So? Okay, so early on here, here's a, here's my advice right into that, if you can do you absolutely want to do and that is getting access. Now getting access, in a lot of ways is part of what's going to sell the documentary in the long run. But then also getting that access allows you to get out of various legal ramifications, if you're getting that access by access. I mean, okay. You know, for instance, in my case, the family of the author of the books reached out to me after that crowdfunding, first cap crowdfunding campaign, they love the idea of the censorship thing. I mean, I'm sure they'd like the idea of celebrating these books in a documentary form, and that sort of thing. But, but also, you know, the, the fact that I was really putting the censorship component upfront and a big part of what the documentary was going to be about. They liked that they loved it. And so they, they supported it. So so that right, there was a big thing, right? There was like a stamp of approval. Yes. And they were a little bit of a liaison to some degree with the CBS film folks. Yes, they heard about it along the way. Of course, this all happened over years. But they heard about it, you know, main thing, and they didn't have to tell me this, but I was told indirectly was just make sure you're not adapting any of the stories? Well, of course not. You know, I know that. I know, I can't do that. And it's a documentary. So I, you know, now, the illustrations, that's a different thing altogether. Yes. So, um, so again, the illustrator is, has been known for many years, it does not engage, whether it's interviews or anything else now, and I can see all over the internet that people are, you know, not only replicating his art, and they're putting on shirts and selling them, they're making money on his illustrations. And I've, after tons of research in numerous years, I knew he doesn't seem to be lawyering up and that sort of thing. So. So there was that. That said, That said, the tricky part, definitely, with the documentary is okay, you know, let's hope no one even tries to get a lawyer, right? And definitely, because it's so you want to keep every everyone happy you want. And if you're doing a relatively positive spin on it, then then you're you're relatively safe, which is to say, You're safer than not, you know, it's not like I'm attacking these books or attacking an IP, you know, that for some reason, then, then you're going to get into all kinds of, you know, possible ramifications and legal ones, all that stuff. That said, I mean, there's definitely a nuts and bolts part of it as far as, okay, you know, I don't have permission to use these illustrations, but I use them throughout the documentary, but people are talking about the illustration. It's illustrating a point that someone has seen with you so on and so forth. I mean, this is a nuts and bolts way of editing it so you're pretty safe. That said, you're still going to end up giving it to a lawyer at the end and saying, Here, watch the whole thing. How, how much risk Am I taking on right I you know, and you Yeah, I mean, one thing I would recommend is if you can, especially with a documentary, it's a bit easier. Get a fiscal sponsor. And that really helped because I don't know if I how much I could afford the legal fees that I needed sporadically. And I was able to get them for free, because I got a fiscal sponsor and went through channels to get that. And so that was very helpful.
Alex Ferrari 20:30
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Cody Meirick 20:41
You're always taking on a certain amount of risk. I mean, I don't know every film is risk, right? I mean, you do the consent process as best you can. documentary you're going to, you're definitely lessening your risk all along the way, by doing proper consents, and, you know, so on and so forth, and jumping through hurdles, and getting fit certain things signed from certain people and stuff like that. That said, I was told by another documentary film America or some time ago, I mean, you, legally speaking, you can get away with a certain amount of seconds, and you're probably not going to get any traction. anyone trying to say, you can't show that. I mean, if it's brief enough, and again, you wrap it in, like the fact that people it's it, people are talking about it, and you're showing something, you know, that's illustrating their point and that sort of thing.
Alex Ferrari 21:33
Yeah, there is, there's something called fair use. And there's a certain amount of of that, but there's a film that I always, always come up with, I always bring up is room 237, that documentary about Stanley Kubrick, yes, like you watch that movie. And they're like just shooting, they're just showing full scenes from the shining. Like completely in their action, I was showing full scenes of the shining, the shooting, showing full scenes of Eyes Wide Shut, and they're using it to demonstrate something else. But you know, and that movie didn't get to it. And I know it wasn't in a positive light. I mean, it made it made Stanley into this kind of reckless, crazy conspiracy theorist kind of thing. So it wasn't a positive spin on the film on Stanley on anything. So as you can see, the very first thing to say, this is not sponsored, or, or approved by anybody at Warner Brothers, anybody this or that. But it got made and got released in a large way. But the one thing that they do do in that movie is they never show a clip of a movie without someone talking underneath it. It's never like they just show a scene from the shining. Like they didn't do that they basically always had someone talking under it. So it's all about how much you want to kind of go after it, you know?
Cody Meirick 22:49
And that's, and that's what you learn about fair use, there isn't you? If you're looking for some kind of rule hard and fast, there isn't gonna find it doesn't exist. hard and fast rule is give a lawyer and talk to them along the way along the way. You're definitely you know, when it's finished, and you have your you have an account of it. That's the hard and fast rule is honestly, and I guarantee you they had they talked to a lawyer and they laid out risks, and then probably I get I'm sure they're still what were risks. I mean,
Alex Ferrari 23:18
It's massive. Yeah,
Cody Meirick 23:20
There's still plenty of risks there. I mean, to some degree, you're you're going down the road of what you can do, from the very beginning is choose a topic where, you know, you don't think anyone is going to have a problem with it, right? I mean,
Alex Ferrari 23:36
It all depends, like I mean, if you go, you know, like I did, I went to the Sundance Film Festival and shot a whole film at the Sundance Film Festival without their permission shooting while the festival is going on. And to, you know, a lot of people are like, Are you afraid of Sundance? I'm like, No, I really hope they lawyer up. Because Can you imagine the press on Sundance trying to crack down on an independent filmmaker to make a film about basically was a love letter to Sundance and Park City. On top of wasn't even negative, though I do poke a little fun. It's a it's a, it's a parody almost of what it's like to be a filmmaker, though. I think it's more of a documentary. Because it's ridiculous. But people were like, you know, but that's not even a documentary. But it is parody. And parody is another world that you can get away with. So it's all it's a real gray area, and it's all about the filmmaker and how confident they are that, you know, honestly how ballsy they are, because there's a lot of documentaries about subjects, that the subject matter in the documentary doesn't want the documentary to come out. There's, I mean, that's some of the best documentaries ever, are about, you know, are they you know, it's so it's, it's very interesting. So I was curious about that. And I wanted to get that out there because a lot of people don't, because this is a fairly known brand. It's a fairly known property. And you know, it's I Just kind of like I don't want to make the Harry Potter documentary. I'm sure there is.
Cody Meirick 25:05
What I've talked about a little bit is this idea of early on having a plan for taking your documentary out of the realm of being a fan film. Okay. And and, you know, Harry Potter is a good example, I can turn around and make a Harry Potter movie tomorrow. But how is that different? How did I add value? How did I make it any different than anyone posting anything on YouTube and just throwing up there of people random people talking about Harry Potter? Okay. And I really, you know, I, there's a, there's a, there's a glut of movies in general. But there's a glut of documentaries that nowadays everyone, and their brother has a documentary about every topic out there, right? virtually everyone. And, and that's kind of the running joke is now they're doing a documentary about this, you know, or that and so on and so forth. So you need to find ways to rise above that and say, Okay, this is more than a fan film, this is more I'm adding value. You know, I mean, a celebrities, that's the go to, if you can get some celebrities, great. interview them. That's, that's value because people like to hear celebrities talk about, you know, whatever it is be access, like I was saying earlier, you know, if you have access to the story, documentary there was making the festivals around the same time I was going around is a documentary about Monster Squad. Yeah. Great. Oh, favorite right of the 80s. And, you know, but there's a lot of cult favorites. What set that apart. It was one of the kids in the movie, doing the documentary. So he immediately had access to the quote unquote, official story of that movie. So that that, you know, I'm not going to turn around and make a movie about Texas Chainsaw Massacre tomorrow, because I have no access. And how, you know, how do I?
Alex Ferrari 27:05
It wasn't like that other movie The worst movie ever made? Or it was about troll two. Yeah, exactly. which one it was one of the the people that were in it, you know. So that, by the way, was not seen with that documentary. It's so much better than the movie. I can't even tell. Yeah, yes. Yeah. I actually felt when I saw troll two. After I because I saw the documentary. I'm like, Well, I gotta go see, watch. Then I watched role too. I felt a little bit of myself die inside. That bad of a movie. Like I love the room. I can watch the room all day. Yeah, and especially with a group of other filmmakers. It's even better. But yeah. Okay, so what was the the distribution plan for the film? And what kind of Windows strategy Did you have with it?
Cody Meirick 27:54
So I had, I definitely I did what you probably preach not doing what is to some degree, you know, you know, hope for the best sort of thing, go take it every step of the way. Take it to a few festivals. I didn't go to a ton of festivals because I do think, you know, unless you're getting in the top five or six, then you can definitely spend way too much money touring around trying to go to festivals, but I did a few and and and then that resulted in several distributors being interested right around the same time. Three in all, and they're all smaller distributors. I mean, there's a lot of them. Right. And so that was very interesting. And also very helpful because I you know, not that I'm going to go into detail here but I did get to see kind of the quote unquote, deal for several different of the smaller distributors. And that was an experience in and of itself, just so I can kind of see, you know, as much as you read here and there about it, it's still hard. Because even what you read sometimes are, you know, examples of, Oh, I made a small movie, it was a million dollars. Well, it's that that's not that's a different level, right? I want I want to read about the people who've made their you know, film for, you know, in the 4050 100 grand Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And and so you're, you didn't make it for 5000. So you do need to make money and you're actually you have a little bit of debt or you maybe you're paying people on the back end a little bit here and there and so on so so you need to make a certain amount of money. That said, you don't need to make a million dollars or $500,000 or anything like that. So So anyways, so that was a useful experience, for sure. Kind of seeing these different distributors interested in and seen a few deals and I went with one of them for for various reasons and Yeah, as far as and if I kind of knew what it would mean, inevitably, distributor reach contacts you, okay, let's look at their library. Let's do some research to figure out okay, here are the other titles is how different and similar are mine compared to others? You know, this was a, you know, a distributor that was known for horror movies lower budget horror movies that not a big surprise, it's a documentary I wanted I was mostly asking Okay, you know, they have done some documentaries previously but you know, the bread and butter is is more on the lower budget horror movies and so okay, you know, with documentaries, a big thing is is, you know, education distributors and that sort of thing. So I asked him a lot of questions regarding that. And but as far as the release and windowing, you know, I was surprised what we did, which is, you know, t VOD over the summer, and for about four months, and then and DVD as well in the middle of that. And then. And then amazon prime, which it's on amazon prime video.
Alex Ferrari 31:11
But you wind it out with the release of the the narrative film by by CBS Films. Yes, yes. Left to leverage that a bit.
Cody Meirick 31:18
Yeah, sure. Yep. I mean, wouldn't you? Yeah, why wouldn't we? And and, you know, how much that does? I don't know, it's all, it's really hard to parse things. Because, because I also hustled the heck out of it the entire time, in all kinds of other ways. And I've been building all kinds of things, so on so forth, and, you know, and they hired a PR company, how much, you know, they're, you know, a little bit late, you know, how a smaller distributor works, you know, they're going to put some, if you're lucky, they put some money into, you know, pushing it for a period of time, and they definitely did. So, it's, it's a little bit of, Okay, how, whatever success comes, it's, it can be difficult to parse, you know, how much is it? Was it me hustling? How much is it was a distributor actually putting some effort? And how much of it was just okay, you know, it was good timing. And so it was gonna happen no matter what.
Alex Ferrari 32:20
Yeah, I mean, I'm not sure how good I'm not sure what kind of response to you would have had five years ago? If this film would have come out?
Cody Meirick 32:27
Sure. Sure. I mean, but from the get go as far as the adaptation goes, you know, so I had the idea for this documentary five years ago. And I started to make a few spreadsheets, a couple lists and that sort of thing. And then boom, announced CBS Films, purchase the adaptation rights.
Alex Ferrari 32:44
Which means nothing, which means nothing
Cody Meirick 32:46
Which means nothing. Absolutely, absolutely. So five years ago, they put a couple writers that are long since gone. It's been in development for many years. And then so it could have never happened, which, you know, my my thing even back then was like, if it never happens, then my documentary all anyone has about this, about this. And so so even if it never happens, then there's there's a benefit there. Because it was obvious that people were excited, you could see you know, it was making news and people on social media and so on so forth, we're talking about who wouldn't have great be great to have a scary stories to tell him dark movie. So those same people in theory will, you know, get something out of a documentary that does something very different. And then, you know, look at the censorship piece, which really sets it apart from any kind of adaptation,
Alex Ferrari 33:38
Right. But I think also moving forward in the future people who anybody who searches for scary stories, you are the second, the or the second result for the year until eternity, or as long as those, those those films are up on those platforms. So that's not a bad place to do. Like if you do a back to the future, or a big trouble Little China as a call out to the two posters behind you. documentaries. Anytime someone searches for those movies, the documentary pops up right next to it, that's a good thing. That's a really good thing and easy marketing. It is. Anytime you could attach yourself to a a popular brand, and or franchise in one way shape, or form. documentary being the easiest way to do it without getting sued. Is, is a really good way of going about it. Now, you also talked a little bit.
Cody Meirick 34:27
I was just gonna say I mean, one thing I'd also recommend, I mean, if you can, and not all documentaries do this, but if you can attach some kind of cause behind it, you know, I have, you know, these are the most banned books of the last four years that sort of anytime, like if there's a f it's a movie, okay? You know, was it a black filmmaker? Was it a woman filmmaker wasn't what back when? There were many of those or was it this? I mean, I don't know this each one of
Alex Ferrari 35:01
1000 things. Yeah,
Cody Meirick 35:02
Yeah, it could be 1000 things. But if you can, if you can add some kind of emotion to it in some way, some kind of cause in some way, shape or form, I think that package is it's so much better and says, okay, there's a reason for this documentary to exist. Because I think from the get go, you have to make that argument, you have to say, Why make a doc this documentary. And so you have to, you know, it's, you know, punch people in the face with the fact that there's a very important reason for this documentary to exist. And so attaching that cause is,
Alex Ferrari 35:37
is how it's very helpful. And it also expands your audience, social people listening, you have a niche audience of people who like scare stories, but then all of a sudden, you've got a whole brand new spill off audience, which is just people who are interested in the concept of banning books, or the subject of banning of banned books and censorship and all that. That's a whole other group that you can target, which is arguably fairly niche, and arguably something that you could focus on whether they're going to want to watch a movie about scary stories, who knows. But there is a potential a potential audience there that just by tweaking the documentary a bit, it opens yourself up to it. So why wouldn't it make sense documentary more interesting?
Cody Meirick 36:18
Yes. And there's, there's Banned Books month is banned books week, which is September, which leads into October and Halloween time. So it's like September, October is like Bye, bye. You know, hopefully, people will watch it anytime of the year, but I feel like that time, time of year, people are talking about banned books, and then they're, then they're talking about scary movies and books and that sort of thing. So it's but you, but yeah, any cause you have, yeah, you're and you're totally right. You're kind of, you know, adding an audience and but you and you can focus in focus your efforts towards Okay, do they have a day or a week or something, an event that is all about that the invention is something you can read? Yeah, convention, whatever it is. and American Library Association is here in Chicago, and, you know, I've made been, you know, made friends with them and interviewed people with them, and that sort of thing. So there's various, you know, institutions around that cause that you can really, you know, you know, leverage. And in your, you're totally right, you're hitting a slightly different audience than you were before.
Alex Ferrari 37:25
Now, I always propose, you know, being a film entrepreneur, you always think about other product lines, other ancillary products that you can sell other things you can do, or services you can do, you're fairly limited in this scenario, because you don't have the rights. So you can't get you can't make a T shirt, you can't make a hat. You can't make a you know, a mug or, you know, anything that has the term scary stories on because you don't own that brand. But and I'm not sure if you've have done this, but this is my unsolicited advice to you. Since you have built up this audience that likes scary stories. Why wouldn't you create an affiliate program with Amazon, and sell scary story books, there's very merchandise, scary. So all that stuff. And you could easily put that up on your social media platforms, on your website, put a store together. So anyone who happens to find you, or finds out more about scary stories of documentary, if they go there, chances are that they might want to buy the book or buy a T shirt or but and that's something that you could just be an affiliate for. Does that make sense?
Cody Meirick 38:27
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I it's, it's opening those doors. But I think that's an app. Hey, you got no argument here? I don't know. I'll have to look into it. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 38:37
It's fairly easy to open up an Amazon affiliate account. And it's just an easy passive revenue stream that is 100%. Yours, you don't have to sell it, you know, if this is, you know, there's no deal with a distributor about it, nothing else. And when you have a brand as popular as this, you can create an online store, being an affiliate that sells not only scary story stuff, but then you start thinking like, well, if I'm RL Stein books, goosebumps stuff, you can start creating all these product lines, and little categories of things that that audience might buy. And if they click on I don't know if you know how affiliate programs work, but I'll tell the audience is if they click on your link for the stereo stories book, and like, I really don't want that scary stories book right now. But I do need that inflatable mattress. They click and they buy the inflatable mattress within 24 hours. If you click on that link, and you get I think it's 5% whatever the percentage is of that sale, depending on the product, and they could spend 1000 I you know, I make a ton every month specifically like they just click into like, I'd really want to buy that book. But while I'm here, I'll buy my groceries, I'll buy that shirt that I wanted, I'll buy that camera package I've been looking for or that lens and you get a piece of that action. So it's a really great way to make a passive revenue stream off this documentary. Moving forward. Yeah. Absolutely, I will absolutely. Look, look into that. That's good advice. Okay, so I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests, sir. What advice? Would you give a filmtrepreneur starting a project today?
Cody Meirick 40:18
I'll go back to the message of my documentary, which is read, read a lot. Yeah, I mean, you know, I never went to film school, but I've read a whole lot of books about how to put together a movie, how did you know, modern distribution, so on and so forth. So I yeah, I would say a lot of research and a lot of reading, I mean, just just make it a priority to, you know, I went through a period. And I'm not doing it now. But I went through a period where I was, oh, I was watching at least one film making documentary, a month, and reading at least one book, A filmmaking book a month, for a long period of time. And I mean, I'm, I'm, I know a lot more, and I'm a lot better at what I do. Because Because I made it a point to say, I'm going to consume as much information as now you get to ingest it, and then decide on your own, okay, how much of that am I going to take and how much, you know, doesn't apply to me, so on and so forth. But just just reading a ton. makes a difference.
Alex Ferrari 41:29
Educate yourself as much as humanly possible, put those tools in that toolbox. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Cody Meirick 41:39
Um, I would say that, that is a hustle. And it's an ongoing hustle. And so I've gotten a certain mentality sometimes, and I think we're all guilty of it, of planning, like crazy and getting everything prepared. It's like, you know, building the plane, because you're about to go off a cliff and you think, Okay, I'm gonna go off that cliff, it's just gonna fly and sail and the job is done. And voila, you know, I mean, I, I feel a little bit like I did that my first crowdfunding campaign where it's like, I put so much into that, and I just, I read, so many people say, it's just, you know, it's, it's like a second job for an entire six weeks or a month or whatever you do it, you are going to hustle, you know, incredibly hard for that period. But if you do, you will hit your goal. Well, I didn't hit my goal, I but I, I accomplished a certain amount and that sort of thing. But anyways, you know, you put all this information, all this planning into something, and you think it's just going to coast along after that. And that's not how that's not how life works. And that's not how filmmaking works. It's, it's a constant hustle, you know, the film's never done. But the nice thing, I think, so it took, I definitely took some time to learn that, but also, on top of that, the positive thing, the nice thing about being an independent filmmaker is that, at least for me, if you're in the producing, directing, writing type situation, your movie can define you more than then, you know, all the other things that you might you put energy towards, like, you know, you will always be attached to that piece of art, whatever it is. And so, I mean, I really liked that I like, you know, at one point, I wanted to be a novelist and but it was a similar thing where it's like, you put it out there in the world. And that's, that's part of what defines you. And if you you know, hopefully you really liked it, then then it's always out there, you know, and I, but like I said, it's never done. And you're always looking towards the next project where and you're also always looking at the last project to see okay, you know, got it. How is it doing, you know,
Alex Ferrari 44:05
And now three of your favorite films of all time?
Cody Meirick 44:09
I'm one of them. I probably have to choose a Charlie Kaufman movie. Eternal Sunshine.
Alex Ferrari 44:18
Oh, cool. I love adaptation. adaptation is one of my favorite.
Cody Meirick 44:21
That's my number two. If you caught me a different day, I might say adaptation but today I'll say Eternal Sunshine. I'm probably go with it's a little cliche, but I'll say Shawshank Redemption.
Alex Ferrari 44:35
I mean, if you've listened to the show you you know, that's obviously the greatest movie of all time. Was cliche because, I mean, if you don't, if you don't love that movie, you're dead inside and I can't speak to you. I mean, it's obviously obviously, yes, yes. So and then the third I will go with what dreams may come. I love The pressing is all hacked. But nowadays nowadays even more so? Yes, it's. Yeah, that's, yeah. For people who haven't seen that one. That's the one with Robin Williams about suicide and death. And it's it's rough. It's a rough. In hindsight, it's a rough movie to watch now, but yeah, it is beautiful dawning, it won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. It was it was basically like a Renaissance painting. The whole thing was like a Renaissance painting. It was just gorgeous, beautiful. If he'd done good choices are good choices. Now, where can people find you and find the documentary and find out more about everything.
Cody Meirick 45:43
So you can definitely find me website. And social media is mostly scary stories, Doc. And so you can definitely find me there. Giant thumb studios, you can find the website, that separate website. And as far as the documentary, it's on Amazon Prime right now. And it's on all the major VOD. It's on DVD. So you can definitely Google scary stories to tell him dark documentary, it's all over, you'll find reviews, you'll find all kinds of stuff. So it'll be the first thing you find
Alex Ferrari 46:14
Little competition when there's no other one. So that's a good thing, too. You are in as what I like to call it the blue ocean where there is not a lot of blood in the water. So very good, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show, brother. I really appreciate it.
Cody Meirick 46:27
Thanks for having me. It's fun.
Alex Ferrari 46:30
I want to thank Cody for coming on the show and sharing his experience with the tribe today. Thank you so much, Cody, you want to see this documentary, or get links to anything else we talked about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/360. And if you guys are listening to this on Halloween, please have a safe and fun Halloween, go out there and get some candy. Don't get too crazy. If you have kids enjoy it, the time goes very, very fast. My girls are growing up way too fast, but I'm enjoying every Halloween while they're still excited to go out. So thank you guys for listening. And I have a lot of stuff coming out the book is going to be hopefully out I don't think it's going to be out in November 7, because we just got into the graphic designer, you know, to put the book together as far as the, you know, the cover and you know, designing the interior of the book and all that kind of good stuff. So we might be a few weeks late, but it's going to be either by the end of this month for sure of November or early December because I want to get it out for the holidays. There's no question I want to get it off for the holidays. Because this is going to be the indie film hustle tribe gift to give to your favorite filmmaker or aspiring filmmaker without question. So if you do want to preorder head over to www dot film biz book.com. And on a side note, guys, if you are interested in reading amazing screenplays, well, I have very good news for you because I have access to the 2020 Oscar contending screenplays that the studios are putting out. So as they keep coming out, I will be updating this link. You can go to indiefilmhustle.com/joker. Now the reason I put Joker in is because Joker is one of the screenplays that we have on there right now. So if you want to read Joker, definitely go to indiefilmhustle.com/joker and download it and read it and learn from it as much as you possibly can. Have a Happy Halloween guys, as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
- Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)