IFH 011: How to Produce Your First Feature Film – Part 2



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Here’s part two of my interview with Suzanne Lyons. This week on the show I’m excited to have uber independent film producer Suzanne Lyons. She has been living in the indie film space for over twenty years. Working on SAG Ultra Low Budgets to over $15,000,000 budgets she has seen it all.

Suzanne Lyons takes you by the hand and walks you through what it takes to produce your first feature film. She goes over the pitfalls, legal concerns, deliverables, selling to foreign countries and most importantly of all how she gets her financing for her feature films.

She laid out such amazing information that I had to break the episode up into two parts. I spoke at one of her famous indie film producing workshops and learned a ton while I was there. Suzanne Lyons also wrote an amazing book called Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking. I suggest you all pick it up. It’s better than film school!

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
So can you share with us a few pitfalls or any pitfalls that you might have come across producing indie films? I know that's a really broad term question but anything you can share?

Suzanne Lyons 0:58
Pitfalls that have come across producing so as a producer You mean like areas for me? Yeah, um I'd have to say let me just think back think for me some of the time because I so trust people so much of the time I'm somebody who's who has been really trained to kind of fall back in love with people on a daily basis you know, even when you know we kind of have a falling out or something I'm really great I'm really really really great at forgiveness I worked on it for years you know, I really processed it and still do obviously no distinction is ever complete. I mean, we're always processing through life as we hit New plateaus and and peaks and so on. So um, but for me there was there were times when I think I trusted people so much because at those first interviews, you know, let's say you're a production designer or a makeup artist, costume designer or line producer, whatever Am I so trusted that everybody was on the team and people were excited as excited about the project as I was and that I never I never kind of stood in leadership enough because I think my trust level was so high or maybe I just wasn't standing in leadership enough maybe a little bit of both don't know as I'm kind of looking back that at that meeting when you have your cast and when you have your crew together sorry I'm sorry now that I kind of didn't create some stronger parameters like for example one of the things that people had to do in Flash forward turn was sign a contract or you know make a promise that you would not complain to anybody other than the person who could do something about that complaint. And that would be for the whole 30 days of the program right? It was a month long program and you were not allowed to complain to anybody who in your life who was unless they were the person who could solve that like for example you had employees around you you know all your your colleagues at a firm or wherever and learn development somewhere and you had a problem with your boss you were now allowed to sit around and talk about that problem or you know, share those complaints or whatever you had to go directly to the person in charge that is something I wished I had put on every crew deal memo when I think back in time so much time is wasted on sets when I would hear people coming and saying you know so and so was saying that you know, they were not happy with this or so and so is not happy or whatever, I would hear these things from other people and I'm thinking that the time spent wasted was heartbreaking. If I had had people make a commitment on that first day at the table read when the whole crew is together and when I meet with a cast at their table read on that first day that first rehearsal day then you know and say listen you know here's the way we're going to run the set you know let's all get on board together as a team you know what is there anybody who's not feeling that way? Is there any reason you're not you know, I'm making this a safe place for you to tell me Are there issues that you're dealing with Have you worked with that person before and not been happy? Let's get that out now. You know, I found out that on the last movie there were two keys you know who who had hinted who had had a falling out prior to and that kind of led to some issues and that sort of thing. So I said let's let's you know bring everything up now let's clear the air let's get on the same team. And then I would probably say to them, you know, what is your commitment? You know, if you if if we come out with this great movie, and it does well, in your near your names or up on the credits. What can this do to your career? What can it make possible that's not now possible, literally create a space of great power. ability. So people are all in the team together, kind of like a football team or a basketball team or, you know, some sports team, like being in the Olympics together, you know? How can we make this such a win win for everybody? You know, what do we need to get out of the way? How do we need to clear the air to make that happen? And how do we need to get excited and create possibility and opportunity for people to make that happen. And, you know, the other thing is, you know, let's set some parameters like this thing about let's not complain, if we got a complaint, go to the person who can solve it, right? Now, let's go right to the top. Okay, MC, let's, you know, if you're with a costume designer, and you got issues, go to her, you know, let her know, so that she can let me know or whatever. And so, you know, just set set the parameters that you would in a business, if you're in a business business, you know, companies, big businesses, you know, bring in consultants to work with them on how can we have great relationships with each other? How can we be honest with you? How can we communicate, that's the other thing is I notice communication breakdowns happen a lot on set, which leads to problems. And I'm responsible for that everything that I'm telling you comes back to me, I'm the producer, I'm the one setting the stage, the director sets the stage to a degree for the tone, you know, in terms of his vision, or her vision, but as the producer, you said, You're the one sending it early on, and pre production all the way through into post and beyond. Because it's your job as the producer. And so everything I'm saying that, you know, those fallouts that have happened over those films over those years. That's all my fault. Not i'm not i'm not beating myself up here, Alex, I'm just kind of creating a wake up call for other people to know what the pitfalls were that I fell into, you know, that I didn't, you know, maybe when I trusted that person early on, that they were going to get the job done. And I didn't ask them for a timeline. I'm thinking somebody specific on the last movie, when I didn't ask her for a timeline. That was my fault. Because I know with certain people in certain positions, we need their timeline. And people just because I have been studying business for 30 years. And teaching business for all this time, doesn't mean that everybody has those distinctions. She didn't even know what a timeline was, right. And I said, Well, given that your, you know, your job is to do such and such, I need to know over those months, what you're going to be doing, when those milestones are going to be happening when you're going to be setting this up and that up. And people don't have the distinctions of business. And yet making a movie as a business. And just because I'm a business person, like I said, doesn't mean that my cast and crew have that as well. So I'm not saying that you have to hire a management consultant, I'm just saying you as the producer need to know those skills. In my god, you better be trained in those business skills, so then you can start implementing those early on, and be standing in that leadership mode, knowing that you are the person setting the stage, you know, for the next number of months on this film. So I think that's that's the, that's probably the main thing is to set that tone by standing and leadership, and standing in that business arena, putting on that business hat. And knowing what what really needs to happen. It's not that you like that person, you hire them, you they went through the interview process, great, you really like that key, your line producer likes that key, you know, he or she is great, but okay, what needs to happen over those next two months, to ensure that they stay that way, because their fears are going to come up, you know, their their concerns and in tears are going to show their ugly heads when push comes to shove, you know, sort of thing. So what can we do to make sure that we were able to handle that, and that people don't move into reaction and anger and upset, but that we can resolve things before they get to that state. So it's a lot to take on as a producer. But once again, if you were that business hat, and you stand in leadership, you need those business skills on set. Prior to

Alex Ferrari 1:25
That is absolute gold, honestly, that that last whole answer is, is something that they don't teach you in film school, and you learn if you're lucky, after 20 years of making movies, you might not ever you ever may never figure that out until it's until it's towards the end of your career. So that is a huge, huge gold nugget that you gave the audience so thank you for that. So what is the importance of a business plan and when going after when going after financing specifically? And are some tips to actually make it look great and make it

Suzanne Lyons 2:27
Oh my god, that's so good. Holy Lord, I just got because I'm also doing the exact producing right now. Right? So I'm working with some investors. So two different production companies sent me their business plan a couple weeks ago, and I'm I mean, when in the future, I'm going to ask both if I can use both as what not to do, oh my god, the ultimate and what not to do. I mean so so the ultimate and what not to do that it's a poster child for what not to do. Right and the other one is the most brilliant phenomenal, phenomenal business. Just playing I ever saw to the point where they are starting production in two weeks, just so you know, oh, wow, amazing cast, I'm not going to, you know mention who they either are at this point, but sure, um, but anyways, phenomenal difference. Phenomenal difference. And one of them, you could you know, like I like I said to that company and that team is because they couldn't see anything wrong with it. And I'm thinking guys, have you looked at any others I actually said, because when I did our first we looked at 10 I mean, 20 I mean, all I could do was say please send me your business plan, guys. You know, your movies done now just send it to me. I just need more examples and about books on it. I went online, I had mentors for God's sakes to show me what to do. Did everything. I was a new arena. For me, it was a learning curve, but my god learn, you know, go through it. Right. So I said to them, you know, did you look at others? And what is this based on? Oh, no, no, we didn't look at any others. I mean, it's on my computer. Now. I wish I could show it. I mean, there's when I sent it to my in my investment group, my broker, he's like, I can't send this anywhere. Susanna, how can I send this off? There's no operating agreement. I mean, there's no shows what's in it for the investor. There's no real list of comparable films for people to see. There's a wish list of actors that go from Oh, my god cruise, Tom Cruise. Right? All the way down to I mean, you know, to my neighbor, right, right, right. I mean, such a range of three of which, I mean, I've everything not like zeroing in on, here's the three that we're looking to go to. No, I mean, just, I mean, just, it was just like, some of it's not even kind of legible. No one from nodding, going to place the phone number who to call? No, I mean, some of the BIOS were not clear, not all the BIOS were there. Anyways, they're not that not a great synopsis that went along with it either. Just not a lot of care given to it at all sloppy, whereas the other one was one of the most brilliant things you've ever seen. Now did it probably take more time? Yes, but it's a business, every movie you do is a business business, each business launch out there in the world, every launch takes time. So if you're serious about going out in raising money, or sending this off to people who are sending it to brokers for you, or setting up meetings, or going to a sales presentation yourself, or whatever, then sorry, but you've got to put the work into it. If you don't know how to do it, then read other people's get a mentor, you know, bring in an assistant who's done it before and give them a credit. I mean, if you don't have the money, give them whatever, like, but just do something to that you. And I've done very small versions. I'm a big believer in not big business plans. You shouldn't like my God, my book talks about keeping it as simple as possible. You know, my, my investor, does he want to, you know, read an 80 page business plan, you know, you know, on let's say, my dentist on his Friday off, or does he want to go golfing, he wants to go golfing. So I'm not going to give him 70 pages, I'm probably going to give him 10 or 12 pages. But there's a way to make those 10 or 12 pages phenomenal. And giving him all the information he needs.

Alex Ferrari 2:34
How big was the phenomenal one? How big how many pages was it

Suzanne Lyons 3:42
What you know what I was thinking soon as I said, I was gonna go in and check. It was probably about 15 pages Oh my God, but it was beautifully orchestrated tight, tight, very really tight, really lovely. They had done their homework, they they literally listed the areas of the potential demographics. And when I worked with empower a couple years ago, I was doing my world war one, we were trying to get that one off the ground at the time, when they were doing bigger budget films. And one of the things that's their big philosophy over there, and I got kind of trained a little bit by them when I was was there, you know, in meetings was that look, you know, be really, really good about what are those demographic? And psychographics Okay, so maybe it's a kids movie, you know? And it's a faith based movie, for example that you might be doing in my case let's let's just take mine actually wasn't faith based, but it was like family values. It was World War Two, a children's movie on Boy Scouts. It was about the the Boy Scouts who had served in World War One, you know that, wow, tons of hundreds of 1000s of boys got served in World War One as spies for the allies. So what happened is, so of course my brain went to it's okay you know, my demographic is kids. And maybe another demographic is you know, moms and dads, you know who buy it for the kids or take it and I remember sitting in the meeting with them power and they came up with probably 10 different demos. graphics and psychographics, they said veterans, you know, soldiers, you know, faith based communities because of the amazing family values, the whole teamwork thing, they created demographics that had to do with teamwork. I mean, it was, so they went on and on and on creating psychographic and demographics that my little brain hadn't even thought of. Right? So maybe it means sitting with a group of your friends, you know, and brainstorming, you know, a little bit on as to what, you know, what are some other demographics and psychographics that this could be, you know, what am I not thinking, I've only got my one brain. And even that is, you know, overwhelmed at the moment. So what are some other things, you know, brainstorming sessions are worth their weight in gold, get to get a bunch of friends, take them out to, to breakfast and or get them lunch on the phone on a on a, on a Skype call? And inside guys, my inner all I can come up with with three things, what are others? You know, I mean, that in itself, if I'm an investor reading that it's no accident that they've been able to raise so much money and bring on the, the producing team and the, and the cast that they have, because when you see that you'll go, Oh, my God, um, you know, it's a, of course, you know, I could feel that I would contribute my money, because look at the arena's it's going to be going to in their case, you know, or in my case, if you were an investor, and all I said is, oh, yeah, this world war one movie, you know, is a great movie for kids. And you think, well, that's great, but then if I started listing, you know, veterans and, you know, faith based communities, and that that interface started going on, you go, Oh, my god, there's all that other group that I could be selling, that could sell to, then you as an investor would feel far more confident. So they really did their homework on that. And, and other areas as well that I'm blanking on. I don't have it in front of me at the moment. But they've really kind of looked at what are the areas of importance in a business plan, and they really delved into how could they make it look as appealing as possible.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
Okay, that's that's a Yeah, that's a I know, that's a big kind of black art is business plans. As a general statement, I made a business plan once that and it was not 15 pages. That's good to hear now. Now, do you have any tips on how to raise money for your film, or an indie film,

Suzanne Lyons 4:05
It depends on how much money it is, if you're going out, like Kate and I were doing with this with those Sega ultra lows, you know, if you're raising 100,000 150 200 250, you know, even up to 300, I would say, you know, pretty easy to go in the very independent route. Because if you're keeping those amounts under 10,000, that is something that your friends, your families, your colleagues, your dentist, your chiropractor, I mean, you could literally sell units, and offer the kinds of benefits that I was offering in a great, great back end and great, you know, perks and all kinds of things like that, and make everybody have some fun with it, and that sort of thing. So I think that's something that's very doable, opening the LLC, you know, creating your operating agreement and your ppm, you know, doing a business plan, start going out to people setting a very serious timeline for yourself.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
Now there is paperwork. And a lot of filmmakers understand there is paperwork you have to fill out to be able to go out and ask for money correct? Other than Yes, unless other than crowdfunding, but

Suzanne Lyons 4:05
You have to and you could also do crowdfunding at the same time because that's not that's a donation that doesn't interfere with your private placement memorandum. But you know, go online and read operating agreements and plate private placement, memorandums. And you know, you don't have to hire an attorney, it's going to be 20 25,000 to have them do it for you. There's lots of templates out there, got in my course, you know, that I teach privately. Now, the binder includes all that stuff, probably 20 to $25,000 worth of stuff and in contracts, of course, but what I always recommend to people, even in my book, I always say I'm not an attorney, even if you're using a template from somebody else or online. You know, if you can't afford to have the attorney to do it from scratch, which most of us in the low low budget world can't then at least go to them and pay them an hourly rate to read it over for you. And you know, better to pay $300 then, you know, 5000 or 20,000 for something, but at least have them read it over because they may say oh you know what? This part's outdated it needs to be updated here they'll circle I did that on the last movie actually where he found four little things for me that were off. Oh, that was great. Yeah, and and i in for $200 i got i got i mean for I'm sorry for two hours for $400 I got this attorney. It was fantastic. So anyway, so that's a possibility is to really do it yourself. And I think that part's fun. And it's a bit challenging. You know, you go through that learning curve, you open your own LLC, which is $70 you go online just takes a few minutes. You pay the $70 so when sad done then you've got that ability to then you know start putting your ppm together your operating agreement and then of course your business plan and that whole thing took Kate and I about double two or three months our first time around to put all that together on our first film when we were doing that little low budget candy stripers and and then we were ready to then start going out and talking about it and that sort of thing. And then we held a few business, a few sales presentations and we also brought on a lot of people as kind of associate producers to help us and introduce us to other investment others investors and things like that. If it's more money if all of a sudden you're starting to ask for 25 or 50,000 I did try that on Omar the camel on my Christmas or the Christmas camel, my animated special feature I ran into a lot of problems because that one was asking for more money. And what happened is even though people would be excited like let's say if your dentist actually saying he's excited about it, when you start hitting people up for big amounts like that those people are at such a high scale of income and net worth that they don't make the decisions anymore a lot of the time on their own movie on their own. Sorry, on their own, you know funding they have a team who makes those decisions for them. I remember once on one of my projects um I think I can't remember which one it was um, it was I think there was two guys from the Lakers it was it was I think was a faith based movie god I'm blanking on which one it was anyways it might have been over the Christmas camel or maybe the scouts honor they were did they definitely wanted to put it was over the camel okay. They wanted to put money in fact they wanted to fund the whole the whole thing I think the budget was 3.2 million and they were determined to do the whole thing I mean these guys were like there was so many this happened in a couple of times with that Christmas movie I have to tell you where people were like oh my god I love this I had at one point there was almost a competition and all of it fell apart all of it because once it got to their team, their accountant it's like no no no no we don't put money on film here you know we're putting your money in I don't know stocks bonds real estate you know whatever I don't know whatever investment teams do for their clients so but these guys as much as they want to do the movie they they did not end up putting their million and a half each into the movie so that's I found that was interesting now is that always the case no i'm not saying don't don't not do it you know certainly go for it and give it a try. Especially if you're in a state or a country where you know you're going to be getting you know 35% back tax credits where you know you actually have a possibility of bringing on a star where you can do some potential pre sales in advance even if they're not as big at least you know you've got that maybe you've got you know you've got a friend who is a good star or you're able to bring that person on because of the type of project it is or the book that it's based on or whatever then or the fact that it's a true story or whatever I mean if you've got that going for you where you can say to the investor yes I know it's 3 million but you know what, the chances of getting the money back are good because we know we're getting at least 30% of that tax incentive back and that 30% is going directly to you the investor that you have a guarantee on you know and then we're going to bring the cost down because we've done some pre sales and or whatever or by the way we've got so and so on the movie Donald Sutherland is on the movie now. So that helps you know with that you know then I'm not saying don't do it I just saying that I found it harder because a lot of times those people didn't necessarily have to say it was their investment team who had more either accountants who more ran their lives than they did. Yeah and then the next thing of course is then you know obviously looking at the bigger budgets which I'm helping some people with now where you're going to actual brokers you know where you you meet up what you you know, you make it a point to find out who are some of those investment groups around you start asking questions, you start you know, talking to it, you know, exact producers and, and, and brokers and, you know, and start finding out what are ways that you can maybe, you know, get into that world a little bit more and see what's going on in that world and what's needed in that world. And that's when you start to maybe then have to get into those fancier you know, presentations and business plans and so on. And then the other thing is co productions, you know, obviously if you've got possibility of doing co productions, that will be excluding the US but you know, if you've got a great project, you know, by an Irish writer or Canadian writer, and you've got, you know, a director on board, some countries, they're getting more open where you're allowed to maybe have an American director or whatever, but for the most part, it would probably mean director and writer outside the country just because those are worth a lot of points. So director and the writer, then you can do co productions, you know, where you do a Canadian British co production where that gives you do two sets of incentives and and that sort of thing and then potential for maybe a telefilm funding I know that one of the projects I've been helping out with recently they got a tremendous amount of money from telephone and they even got a fair amount of money from their their distributor what is telephone what is cell telephone is the Canadian company that supports like like most countries in the US in the UK they do the same thing where if it's a really if it's really supporting that country or in some way it's like promoting a good family feeling or good quality film are based on a Canadian book which is like the one we did you know a couple years ago on a very big Canadian book then there's you know that possibility of them putting in some funding early on and and that sort of helps to also hit up your sales agents early on because sometimes now the sales agent I must say I'm one of the ones I've been hearing about recently they got a I'm not gonna say how much but I was shocked at how much money they got in advance to make the movie I can't even tell you how much it was I was so surprised it was like the old days yeah so I mean there's you know, there's always kinds of different ways you just need to be smart about you know, go go to the American Film market and sit in on those seminars and get some mentors You know, I think you know me Alex that the main thing I always tell people to do is get a mentor you know, obviously do the right protocol for getting mentors, go on my YouTube channel and watch my 10 tips on the protocol for getting a mentor please before you will get a mentor and that's at youtube.com slash Suzanne Lyons and then click on the one about mentors but get a mentor who's been there done that who knows the investment world that's what I did that's one of the first things I did when Kate and I were looking at doing some bigger budget films as we talked to one to know took some mentors out to coffee so you know I will say there's a lot of different ways nowadays and there's a lot of money in the world now a lot of money going and people have done the real estate thing they've done the stocks they've done that I mean you'll be shocked at how much money is going into film these days so there's no shortage there's no scarcity there is a tremendous abundance you know and think outside the box and think outside your country i mean you know I'm literally I've been reading projects that are based in China Of course right now yeah, I'm working on a phenomenal project that's based in China and dealing with two Chinese Chinese companies that have offices here in LA and and made a point to get to know those companies you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:05
You mean you made a relationship with them first?

Suzanne Lyons 27:39
You bet I did yeah Honest to God I went to coffee with with one of the guys and be you know, we became good friends and then I met another one and invited him to come and even speak at one of my classes so you know and then I talked to some people who are already in China doing productions and kind of finding out the pitfalls you know what to watch for and so on and that was literally one of the top probably one of I would say one of the top three producers I had coffee I'd say a good two and a half hour coffee meeting with her last year during when she was over here for one of the one of the markets so yeah created those relationships now we enter net and not we didn't end up working together but we I learned a lot about about what they're looking for and so on and you know was able to create more relationships based on my relationships with her so I'm in Korea too that's the other one is working obviously with with Korea is another gigantic market at the moment. So that's and I've been forming you know, those relationships you know, and I'm open to you know, to just kind of finding out what's going on around the world I've got very good relationships in Germany which is one of the big markets of the world and and recently you know, and I have a really good relationship with one of the top companies there and I had a script recently that I thought might be a fit and sent it turned out it wasn't a fit but I create the I've kept that relationship going and I've been friends with them now for probably about 10 years as they've gotten bigger and bigger in the UK where I started I still have lots and lots and lots of relationships in the UK Of course and you know, it's a small world I mean, you know, me I mean you just you know, you've got to be and I go to I went to strategic partners one year as a producer, it's 150 people that they put together and they it's no cost you know, to you as the producer other than your flight to Halifax and it's rainfalls, Tiff it's fall as the Toronto Film Festival overlaps by a couple of days and they set up all the meetings for you and you all meet with each other it's kind of like the dating thing where you have like 10 minutes together and it's right yeah speed dating at you where you pitch your projects to each other and phenomenal companies from all around the world. I think the year I was there, South Africa and India I think were our two sponsors. But um, everybody was there from around the world anyway, but they were the main sponsors and and, you know, I made a point that cost a little bit of money but hey, I have a business so I have to invest in every year I have to look at investing in some sort of training or relationship building or things like strategic partner or going to TIFF or going to the American Film market or whatever. Yeah, it's part of my business. I've got to keep getting trained and creating those relationships. I mean, I got a call from Singapore media Academy a couple years ago to come and teach a course over there and my first instinct was oh my god all the way to Singapore. And then my second instinct was Don't be ridiculous. I met every producer in Singapore for drinks after at six o'clock when I finished teaching every night I met with him I went to the studio I met everybody that was in India Indonesia. So I've got my relationships in Indonesia now. I mean, you know, it's all because I took made that effort and and I had, I had a ball teaching, I'm still friends with all the students for God's sakes, you know.

Alex Ferrari 30:57
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So let me ask you a question. Do you need a name actor nowadays in your in your indie films?

Suzanne Lyons 31:13
Yes, you do. I don't even even not even a giant spider would be good right now. I mean, I think even if you've got your giant spider like when the old days with our horror films, I think you still need that, that actor to go along with him or her. And here's the thing as a producer, what I would say is, is be really smart about putting together phenomenal combinations of people. It's not just who is high on the Richter scale of IMDb anymore. It's all about, you know, what is what? In addition to that, what are some social media? phenomenal people, you know, like in the movie, I did not the last one, obviously, in the one before, you know, we looked at some great great actors obviously, there's people from the TV world in there. From from Glee, actually, and then from the feature world who got Jake Busey, Heather Morris, then then we looked at who's big, really big, it was a horror film. So who's big in the, in the, in the YouTube world in the in the social media world, and Perez Hilton had 10 million fans 10 million. So he's, of course in our movie,

Alex Ferrari 32:16
And then he promoted it. And of course,

Suzanne Lyons 32:19
He's gonna be promoting it like crazy when the time comes. So we really looked around for what's a great, and then there's another person in there, she's a phenomenal singer and model. And she's really great in terms of her number of fans. Yes, I'm not going to say you don't sacrifice by having people who can act, they still have to be actors, of course, and there's still something that you know, that they want to do and that they're, that they're good at. But looking make sure that you're also handling all those bases. so that by the time you get to the distributor, if you decide to go to the distribution and sales agent route, that you've got that that ammunition, you can say Listen, you know that, I mean, in the last movie, I use this amazing singer songwriter, he's just adorable, this young young guy, just the most sweetest guy, it was these boys that you know, who find these chest of toys for the future. You know, he's got 2 million hits 2 million hits on his YouTube, you know, so for me going to, and not to mention everybody else in the movie. I mean, we were really smart about it, I also would have this wonderful guy from the WWE to some used to now, you know, I've got phenomenal, obviously bass hits as well and in great social media. So I mean, it's, it's all stuff you've got to keep in mind, it's a business, you've got to be smart about how you're putting that whole thing together.

Alex Ferrari 33:34
Now, do you? Do you What are your feelings between traditional distribution and now this new self distribution models?

Suzanne Lyons 33:40
Sorry, my phone's ringing, so you'll just have just give me that I apologize. For some reason, I can't hear you as well, when it rings. So there's just It's almost done. I think it's almost Okay, go ahead. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 33:50
I'll edit this out don't worry. What are your feelings on traditional distribution versus the new self distribution models that are available? Yeah,

Suzanne Lyons 33:58
I'm really thrilled that after 120 years, you know, the tables have turned because for all those years, you know, the producer, you know, spends, you know, three or four or five or 10 or whatever years of their life trying to get that movie off the ground and, and getting investors who trust them to get that money back. And then you make this great movie and then what happens it goes to the sales agent, and there's such an expensive a lot of the time they recharged tremendous amount I find for the first you know, money in for their expense, as well as, you know, high percentages for commission. Sometimes now they're going back to the old days, because I think there's a lot of them concerned of the 25%, which you know, it's just astronomical, not to mention the expenses, and then the distributor that they sell it to if you do a domestic distribution, then a lot of times you don't get any split, right. So you know, I mean, maybe a few, but when I was doing candy stripers you know, you sold it for that one amount is same with the whole world actually. It's called a buyout. So whatever that buyout is, if you're getting I don't know 3000 You know, from the UK, that's it, and that's probably it for 10 years or seven years, 10 years or 12 years. Yeah. And then in domestic, you know, you might be getting, you know, 50,000, but that's for probably 15 years. So those are BIOS. So if it all adds up to, you know, 300,000, and your movie was 250,000. But don't forget your sales agents is taking off their commission, and they're also taking off their, you know, all that expense, you know, of 25 to 50,000, or whatever that is, then by the time, you know, and then you pay your residuals and so on to to, to say, you know, your investor, you know, barely gets their money back, which means you as the producer will investor would get what, maybe a third of their money back, and and then you as the producer aren't making that money to make it worthwhile. So, the producers, the directors, I apologize, the distributors, and the sales agents always said, Oh, Suzanne, you know, we want you to be part of our team and, you know, continue to use your movies, you know, but if, if I can't get a success, full amount of money back to then make my investors happy enough to reinvest, then how can I make that next movie, so there is no team, that's all bullshit, you know, if they all they'll be on and they've got 20 or 30 other movies that they're selling at the AFM anyway, or more in a library of 200 or 300 movies, so they care little after two markets, they care very little about your movie, you'll be lucky, if you even see it, by the time you get to the third market in their suite at the American Film market, which is what happened to us on one of ours. So you know, a lot of times it stops after that one year of markets, that's it, and then they've sold as much as they're going to sell for the world, you've barely made your money back if or maybe a portion for the investors if that. So and that's it, then you're done for seven to 15 years. So with a self distribution model, you know, if there's ways that you can, you know, be able to sell directly to a fan bases that you've got through your actors, or whatever, you know, or sell through your own, you know, setting up of whatever channel you can possibly sell, you know, by by creating that, that you know, fan base over the next year for yourself for that niche market for yourself, then there's a chance where you can make the money where you as the producer, so then not only you will actually make some money for change, but you can pay your investors back, they're happy, they want to contribute back and make the next one. So then it becomes a thriving community, for the producers and it's not scrambling to try to get that next one, you know, and then you're exhausted by the end of it. And and, and never want to make another movie again because of what you've gone through. Or you're on or your investors are unhappy because you weren't able to pay them back only a portion of any. So I just think it's so nice that the tables have turned for the first time ever. In these past couple of years. It's brand new, we're not sure quite how to do it yet. There's a book coming out, called crowdsourcing, which is going to be fantastic bifocal press. So that's going to be phenomenal and, and I can't wait for that to come out. because that'll kind of give more ideas on how can you build those nice markets in advance, you know, how can you get people? How can you even look at your script in such a way that you can add things into the script now. Excuse me, where it can then help. Let's just go back to vegan. Okay, if you can add that to your script now that one of your characters is a vegan, or raw vegan, that opens up that whole new community of online promoting that whole group of people, which is now hundreds of 1000s of people, right? Right. So you now have control over that because early, early enough on you're adapting your script to create a way to then increase your potential for self distribution down the road. And even if you want to go the old fashioned route of distribution, even then you can say to your distributor, hey, guess what, I have included five different areas in my script, where I have got a potential for a music video which is what I'm doing right now by the way with my singer in my last movie and our goal is to is to literally have 500,000 fans hit you know hits on that music video by this time next year when the movie comes out, right? I put in there let's say you put in a you know, a vegan or whatever, let's say you put in maybe there's, you know, a faith based arena or in the case of family values very big right now. Let's say there's what you know, another area that you might be hitting on maybe it's veterans, you know, that you put in there now so that opens up another community, you know, so if you're saying to your distributor Can you know eight months from now guess what? I have opened up because I'm thinking early enough in my script. Now my movie is done. And I have now got 1 million hits on those five different arenas that I continued to do. nurture, you know, since these videos came out, and these YouTubes came out, and these chat rooms came out, or whatever I've got, I've got 1 million people ready to buy this movie, you know, and in some cases, you can even break down, I hear anyways, and find out where some of them are from, you know that, you know, 25% of them are Japanese, so your sales, so your distributor, they are, you know, my god, oh my god, that wouldn't create a Japanese sale for us or whatever. So, I mean, it's time for the producers to get really smart about this whole thing. And know that we've got some say, in the matter now, and we're not at the beck and call of the sales agent. And the distributors, you know, that we can actually, you know, do some generating on our own to either self distribute, but you have to be very smart about it, to prepare a year or so in advance, or that we have at least ammunition that if we do go to the distributor, and he offers us 25,000 for our family film, we can say not you know what, I got other distributors knocking on the door, sweetheart, because I've got 3 million fans, you know, who already want to buy this movie. And then you create the competition where all of a sudden, then your numbers up to 500,000 for domestic or whatever. Who knows. You know, it's the early days, obviously,

Alex Ferrari 41:13
Wild Wild West is still the wild wild west out there. .

Suzanne Lyons 41:17
Yes. Yeah. Very much. Yes It very much so. And, you know, and it's like I said, with some of these new books coming out and that sort of thing. It's as another gentleman that I'll give you his name to maybe interview because he's he was he's remarkable. He's the one that's going to be writing the book. He's the owner of stage 32.

Alex Ferrari 41:39
Oh, yeah. What's his? Yeah, I know, stage 32.

Suzanne Lyons 41:40
Yeah, Richard, and he and he's, he's just absolutely brilliant. And he's doing a tremendous amount, probably more research than anybody at the moment on this whole arena. But I interviewed a lot of people for my book, too. There is a whole chapter in my book on different areas of self distribution as well. So there's some great people there who've kind of laid the laid the the road for us. But that was a few years ago, and now even more more has changed. And we have daily. Yeah, daily daily, I know. But anyway, so it's good. That was a good question, though.

Alex Ferrari 42:11
It was fantastic answer. Okay. So I have I have two fun. I have two more questions, and they're fun. Any crazy on set or off set filmmaking stories that you can share with us?

Suzanne Lyons 42:25
Crazy on set filmmaking story or offset?

Alex Ferrari 42:28
Like just just a fun antidote that you would like, this is how crazy our businesses because I know I have 1000 of them, but I'm sure you do, too.

Suzanne Lyons 42:37
And do you mean something where I were where we kind of learned a lesson from You mean,

Alex Ferrari 42:42
It could just be you if you want to if there's a lesson to be learned great. If there isn't, if you're like, this is the crazy stuff to happen on the set this day.

Suzanne Lyons 42:51
You're right now that's a book. Oh, geez.Oh my gosh,

Alex Ferrari 42:56
If you don't remember anything is okay.

Suzanne Lyons 42:59
Because the only the one that that I remember was actually where we had such a breakdown in communication, that I had to make an executive decision. I was the only producer of for a few weeks on that particular set. And we had a lot of different cultures. There are three different languages for different cultures from around the world. And there was major breakdown and upset and anger and everybody was fighting with everybody and I mean it was just I've

Alex Ferrari 43:19
Tower of Babel, it's a tower of Babel.

Suzanne Lyons 43:22
God was unbelievable. On believeable. Unbelievable, unbelievable. And I had to make an executive decision at the end of week one, I decided to throw what we would call a wrap party. And we had a party on that Saturday night where it was the most amazing party ever where I thought I'm not even go I've been said to the other actors when I'm going to walk until midnight. It opened at nine I rented a club and and we had a four in the morning. And I said when I show up at midnight we'll see what happens and then we'll know if we're you know what, what the next number of weeks is gonna be like, and I walked in at midnight and it was hilarious. People were like, who had been fighting we're dancing with each other waltzing with each other drunk Of course I'm trolling everybody love you. I love you man. People who I know we're practically in fistfights the day before right it was so absolutely hilarious and I honestly the rest of that was the most was the best experience on set I have ever had

Alex Ferrari 44:24
Awesome so so let's Yeah, lesson learn is have a drunk out party after week one on all your movies, and you'll have a smooth smooth transition the rest of the shoot. He started trying to get started and last question I asked this question of all my guests it's a tough question but I always like pointing it to everybody's to see what you think. What are your top three films of all time?

Suzanne Lyons 44:52
Oh, not just the ones that I did you mean myself? You mean my top three films? Yeah. Oh my god, that is hard. Oh, I'll just

Alex Ferrari 44:57
Pick three. Just three films that That tickles your fancy at this moment It's okay.

Suzanne Lyons 45:02
I'd have to say little romance is the very first one that came to mind little little romance. Which one's a little romance? Diane Lane? Yeah, she was 12 Yeah, wow. Okay Yeah, it's just one of my favorite I'm a big romantic comedy person and my night and I love it. Okay, um oh my god I could probably name a million of them um probably I mean this is oh my god there's so many probably Harold Harold and Maude I'd have never heard was everybody's top three. And I mean, I could list a whole lot of those ones that like come up just like that. You know, like I can do a wonderful job, but just bubble up second. Yeah. Awesome, great, fun comedies and all that kinds of stuff. But I would say some, because I'm such a big fan of of also, like the action kind of thriller that I have to say also, Die Hard. I just saw so good. I just love it.

Alex Ferrari 45:58
Isn't that like one of the most perfect action movies ever made?

Suzanne Lyons 46:01
Oh my god. I probably seen the first I've seen them all a million times. But I think the first one probably 10 times. Honestly. And I mean, yeah, I could go on and on so many different movies. And then of my own, I'd have to say my first which was undertaking Betty a romantic comedy shows her associates. It's so funny. It is so funny. And it's so adorable. And oh, Chris Walken. Hilarious. Brenda Blethyn is amazing. Alfred Molina is amazing. I mean, Naomi is hilarious. I mean, it's just one of my favorites.

Alex Ferrari 46:28
Now to go back to diehard for a second. There's a group of action movies in the 80s I'm a big 80s guy I love 80s action movies and I the bad ones from Canon and the good ones and all of them but the three that always stuck out to me as three of the some of the best action movies ever made diehards on that list. Lethal Weapon

Suzanne Lyons 46:48
Lethal weapons my next one yeah.

Alex Ferrari 46:49
And predator.

Suzanne Lyons 46:51
Oh yes, that was

Alex Ferrari 46:52
Preditor is one of the best action Yeah, and john McTiernan direct the two of those diehard

Suzanne Lyons 46:58
That's right, I've seen them all multiple times so you know, there's multiple

Alex Ferrari 47:01
Oh, and I must have seen Lethal Weapon and die hard but probably 50 I work in a video store when I was growing up so I watched so many movies so many times

Suzanne Lyons 47:11
Ohh my God me too and for sci fi now that you may I think if I were to do the show five and you threw a sci fi in there as much as I love all the sci fi like weapons, Rog and all those things, I have to say fifth Fifth Element I think was the fifth element my top sci fi of all time. I think, my god, there's so damn many good ones. But I had I think I might have to go

Alex Ferrari 47:30
I'm in fifth element is it is one of the most unique sci fi films ever made by and Luke and Luke bussan at probably the height of his powers, anything with Luke Bussan, anything was at the height of his powers.

Suzanne Lyons 47:44
I'd watch anything. And I think for foreign for foreign for me, I would think memory of a killer is probably one of my favorite foreign good records. That would be Erich von Loy. Okay, okay, Erich von Loy. If you haven't seen it, rent that memory of a killer. I think one of the best in terms of Yeah, for you as a director. And I know Eric, personally, and I stay in touch all the time,

Alex Ferrari 48:11
Is that the one where the heat is that the one where he's a an assassin, and he starts losing his memory. Yeah, yes. I saw the trailer. I think I've even seen the movie years ago.

Suzanne Lyons 48:22
Yeah, that was Yeah, I had to call his agent to get it was hard to it was hard to get.

Alex Ferrari 48:26
It's a different world now. And I was like, with Netflix and and yeah, everything. It's so accessible. So Suzanne, thank you so so, so much for being on the show. You've you've it's such a great show on breaking it up into two parts.

Suzanne Lyons 48:41
Sorry for talking so much.

Alex Ferrari 48:43
No, it's wonderful. You laid out some amazing gems for my audience. And like I said, what we do at indie film hustle is I'm trying to create a world a community where they get the truth of how it really is not the stuff that teaches school, not the stuff in a lot of books, like people who actually have done it have been there and show them like, exactly what you've, you know, taught what you just teach and what you've said in this one. We just did an interview with Doug Simmons. I know I'm sure yeah, of course, for years and years. Yeah, and did a great, a great interview as well. And he's like, I took his course 15 years ago as well.

Suzanne Lyons 49:20
22 years ago for me. Exactly the first thing you do first thing everybody everyone's gonna get to LA take down score

Alex Ferrari 49:27
Take down scores, and then and then go read a Robert McKee story.

Suzanne Lyons 49:31
You do that one? Actually, I did both. You write the first year here. Those are the two that you have to do.

Alex Ferrari 49:35
You got it. It's just it's a prerequisite. You have to do both of those. And then you're ready. And then you should win an Oscar any day after that. Yeah, exactly. Thanks again, I won't keep you anymore. So thanks again for being on the show. And we really appreciate it.

Suzanne Lyons 49:49
Great. Thanks so much, Alex. That was fun.

Alex Ferrari 49:51
Well, I don't know about you, but I got a ton out of that interview. Suzanne was remarkable and I learned a ton from her. This interview so I hope you guys picked up some gems as well. So before we go head on over to freefilmbook.com that's freefilmbook.com to get your free audio book download from over 40,000 different audio books you can download for free. So thank you guys so much for all the love all the reviews. The show is growing so, so fast so I'm very very grateful. Please keep sharing the links please keep sharing our posts on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And if you can, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/iTunes. And leave us a good review or leave us a review an honest review of what you think of the show. It really does help us out a lot. With the rankings on iTunes, you have no idea how much that helps us out. So thank you again so much and keep that hustle going. Keep fighting for your dream. Don't ever stop. We'll talk to you guys soon. Thanks.




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