Michael Ryan started his career working in the TV industry for Sir Lew Grade’s UK company, ITC. In 1978 he formed J&M Entertainment with a colleague, a distribution sales agent for independent films. As J&M grew, it developed its business model to also take responsibility for financing new films & providing production finance.
In 1980 Ryan and J&M were founder members of the American Film Marketing Association (AFMA) – later to be renamed Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) – which was formed to provide an annual film market based in Los Angeles. Michael served two terms as Chairman of IFTA (2004-2008) and another three terms from 2015-2021.
In 2000, Ryan partnered with Guy Collins. Between them they have financed, sold and produced over 200 films, including The Wild Geese, The English Patient, The General, Whats Eating Gilbert Grape, The Osterman Weekend, the Highlander series, Planet 51 and more recently, at GFM Films with Fred Hedman, Toei Animations Harlock, Absolutely Anything starring Simon Pegg and Simon West-directed action thriller Stratton starring Dominic Cooper. On July 15, 2022, GFM’s Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, an independently financed and produced animated feature is based on Mel Brooks iconic Blazing Saddles that launched as a project by GFM Films at AFM in 2014, was released across 4,500 U.S. screens by Paramount.
Please enjoy my conversation with Michael Ryan.
Michael Ryan 0:00
There was a top 20 or 30 that anybody would kill to get hold of. So you know it, it will all have that huge Gold Rush formed the quality. And those guys benefited from it. I did too.
Alex Ferrari 0:14
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur, How to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Michael Ryan, how you doing, Michael?
Michael Ryan 0:28
I'm good. Thank you. Yeah, very good.
Alex Ferrari 0:31
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm excited to talk to you. You've lived a very interesting life in our business. You've done a bunch of different things. And and my very first question is How and why did you want to get into this business? How did you get into this? This insanity? That is the film industry?
Michael Ryan 0:48
Yeah. That's a very good question. I, I started working for a guy called Colonel David Stirling, who was the man who founded the SHS in the Second World War. So all of that stuff, I didn't have anything to do with that was just working as a little Junior making sales of TV programs and blah, blah, blah. Unbeknown to me, he had all sorts of places in hotspots around the world, which were all based in television stations. So basically, he was supplying private armies. So it was all quite interesting. I didn't I didn't join for that. I just joined because I liked the idea of being in television and radio. And then it kind of went from there. And somebody offered me a job I worked for Lord then served all great, who was a wonderful man and taught me a lot of what I get gathered for my knowledge. And I just loved it. And I went for it. He went from there into making movies and some really big movies. And I got the opportunity to travel the world and you know, do the Cannes Film Festival and all of that stuff, which which, which I loved, I have to say, as you said earlier, it was the golden age of independent film. And some of those independent filmmakers became the big major filmmakers that we have today. And I kind of got into it almost almost by accident, but knowing that I wanted to be in something where I had contact with people around the world and travel and all of that. So it kind of worked out that way. And then that that led to producing and financing movies, that cetera, which is basically the whole of my career, I suppose.
Alex Ferrari 2:30
So you were so when you're talking about the golden age of independent film, you're talking about the 70s 80s. And that kind of world?
Michael Ryan 2:38
Yeah, I mean, there was this period was there was this glorious period, where what if you want to see a film out of the cinema, but that soon became video, the invention of the VCR. And at that point, all of us guys that were packaging and making and selling TV programs and films, realized that there was a secondary and third and fourth value to these things. And that's when it became obvious that you could do anything because the money was enormous in those days. It was a brand new brand new invention and people that big video companies were competing like crazy, much, much bigger hunting area than than what we have today with VOD. And so you our value was in library, the value is in production and sales. And can at that point was just a money making machine. It was ridiculous.
Alex Ferrari 3:39
No, but I have a little bit of experience of the 80s in the sense of the distribution space because I worked in a video store. So I saw the product moving in, I saw what kind of movies were being made to my understanding at the beginning of the VHS revolution, just kind of like streaming as well, and kind of like DVD and everything else. The main major studios stayed away. They were very kind of they were kind of like, oh, no, I don't want to just do it. No, I can't do that. And because of that, it allowed companies like New World trauma, the full moon these kinds of be and of course can and these kinds of be movies, companies to come out and just own the VHS home video market. I mean, Canon was built. I mean, he was making I'm God. Those guys were making scene amounts of money with Ninja ninja movies, for God's sakes.
Michael Ryan 4:33
It would there were those days where it literally in those days, the cannon boys you could literally put a poster on a wall with nothing else. A couple of names a title, literally a poster, and you probably make enough sales during the Cannes Film Festival in less than two weeks to finance the movie. So you sold it on a poster. You ended up with a film
Alex Ferrari 4:57
From what I understood talking to some of those boys who worked with with cannon. During those days, like sometimes they would just put the name of the actors up. And they didn't have the actor.
Michael Ryan 5:11
Oh, no, that was the last thing they did. I mean, it really was cowboy time. But bless them, you know, they, they, they spawned a huge industry, they kept variety screen International, those industry magazines going, you know, you'd have a special issue, which would be 250 pages, and about 180 pages, that was canon advertising, each page, a different movie, most of them not made, probably most of them never got made. But it was a it was an extraordinary time. And out of all of that somehow came some really quality movies that were totally independently financed and would never have got made in a major company, which in those days, was the only way to make a movie. So you're right. They did stay away from it. So consequently, it became Gunfight at the OK Corral. You know, everybody was at it. Mario Kasara, Andy Vanja, making first blood, which made them into multimillionaires in one swoop. With Stallone. I mean, just extraordinary time.
Alex Ferrari 6:17
Yeah, he did. They did Terminator two in the early 90s, as well. And Total Recall, the caracal boys and Mario that yeah, it was it was it was it was really the wild wild west. And of course, we can't speak about the 80s without a Ryan. I mean, they they were pumping out Oscar winning movies. And Robocop
Michael Ryan 6:37
I, we were doing a movie with called the hotel in New Hampshire, which is based on Jones book. And I went had to go to New York to meet Arthur Krim, who was old there. And he wanted the movie for North America. And I sat in a big boardroom, it was what it was, you know, I was a kid. And we were doing that. And he said, you know, have you got all these people you say you've got? And I said yes, I'm crossing my fingers under the table? And he said, Well, if you have, then I'm happy to go into business with you. And I said, Yes, we have. And he said, if you've got a moment, and we walked outside into the corridor instead young man, you're either very brave or very stupid. I hope it's the format.
Alex Ferrari 7:28
And that comment, I have to say, is exactly what the film industry is all about. If you're like a you're either very brave, or very stupid, yeah, to get into this business.
Michael Ryan 7:40
And sometimes you do those two in concert with one another, it works both ways. I sometimes still wonder whether Arthur Krim was right.
Alex Ferrari 7:49
So so so I always, always tell filmmakers about the 80s. Because I mean, I was a young man when the 80s. But it was just so much money flowing around in the 80s. And then in the 90s, when DVD showed up, that exploded in a way that it's hard to comprehend. Today as a filmmaker and independent filmmaker, how much money and how easy it was to make money using those formats internationally. And I always used to tell people, because I remember seeing these movies come into the video store in the 80s and early 90s. And literally in the 80s. And please correct me if I'm wrong. If you finished a film just finished it on 35. Yeah, it got a release of some sort, you made some sort of money with it?
Michael Ryan 8:40
Well, there was there was a plethora of, you know, they were video video based or DVD based companies. That's the way they finance themselves. And there were hundreds and hundreds of them. So you could always get a domestic release, you can always get a release in the major countries around the world. And those were the guys who eventually became so good at it. I mean, if they if they weren't very good at it, they went back to selling secondhand cars, which is what they did in the first place. Which is true. And because of that, because of the opportunity, there was some there was some really good companies structured during that period. And it was your right I mean, I, I suppose the reason I sold my company successfully, originally the original company was because we had a very big library, we're making some quite quality movies. And people were falling over themselves. You know, I'd, in the days before cellphones, we have screenings in can of whatever we're screening and people would literally leave the screening early and sprint down the closet to the carton hotel to try and get there before their competitor was ridiculous like the Gold Rush really was extraordinary time. Yeah, it was. We were very lucky to live through it and what I suppose To establish ourselves with it. And it really did work very well. We were, it was a it was a wonderful period. And it did spawn some really good companies, and some really original filmmakers. And you know, you, we all know if you've got a big playing field, there should be a good team coming out of it if you've got picking a few players. And it did, and it worked very well.
Alex Ferrari 10:24
Now, in the 90s, as we come up, I'm kind of going going through the history of from the basically the early 80s. To to where we are today. But in the 90s, there was this movement that happened that wasn't around in the 80s, which was in a big way, which was the the true independent filmmaking movement, which was more the Sundance movement that the Richard Linklater is the clerks, the Robert Rodriguez is of the world those kind of, you know, Spike Lee, those kinds of filmmakers that came out during that time. When I was talking to him, forgive me for dropping a name. When I was talking to Rick Linklater on the show, he was one of the first to come out the gate and the nice thing was 90 or 91. One slacker showed up. Yeah. And he said, when we released it, there was all of a sudden, a business infrastructure to support this kind of filmmaking, which was the VHS, world video store world, they needed product. Because it was there. I know, it's hard to believe now there's we are in a sea of product now. Because it was so cheap to make movies. Now, back then I still I tell people like I used to watch every week, what came out. But like I could literally watch all the releases of the week, which was maybe 345. It was a crazy week. And I would be able to watch every movie that got released in the United States, which was that money. So there was a lack of of that. So there was this infrastructure for that moment. And independent film, how did the markets work with these kinds of films, because they didn't, they weren't genre, some were. But you know, like the John Pearson's of the world, and obviously the Weinstein's and what they were doing. How did the markets work with with this new movement, the 90s kind of Sundance independent movement,
Michael Ryan 12:10
I think it was almost a reaction against the sort of rather crass approach to filmmaking.
Alex Ferrari 12:18
I mean, the Canon boys, the Canon boys, exactly.
Michael Ryan 12:21
And there was that kind of cheapness to it and shabbiness to it. And they were just making films that, as I say, just stick a title on the wall and you make it, there was no real content. And then people I mean, you know, we all talk about Harvey in in derogatory ways, but there was the positive side to him, and the Weinstein Company that Miramax before then, and they began to concentrate on quality, because they realized there was sustainable market out there for more small movies, because very little money with one or two actors, quality actors who weren't necessarily big marquee stars, and it became a business and it really was a business. And those people were able to make movies at a price. And they were sustainable movies that proper proper film buffs, like yourself in those days, would be able to go and see and, and enjoy. Um, so I think it I think it also spawned that it spawned Sundance, you know, I went to the first Sundance, I led to his, you know, place there in the center. Yeah, I did all of that stuff. And that that was spawned by all of all of those days, of course, Sundance concentrated on the quality and the uniqueness and the quirkiness, but it was all there to see. So, as I said earlier, you make enough movies, and some of them are going to be little nuggets. And that's how I started and people like Rodriguez and all of those guys, too, you know, and they all they all came out of that that pool, and establish themselves as a sort of shining example of how to do it, rather than do it in a crass way. And I think, really, it's established what we have today, which is a huge gulf between the big, massive movies that Marvel movies and things like that, that the tentpole movies that the majors make and some other companies, and that the Gulf in the middle is enormous and that that was created in those days, I think by all of the schlock that was being made. And then those little diamonds that came out of it, which people like Harvey Weinstein and others, Bob Shea, people kind of recognize that hang on, there's a bit quality here, this isn't going to disappear down that down the the DVD drain, we can make money out of this and it's sustainable, and it will carry on, and then it becomes worthwhile on the shelf of your company if it's part of your library. And in a way, that's what we did at my company and we had got three or 400 movies, but there was a there was a top 20 or 30 that anybody would kill to get ahold of. So you know it. It All of that huge Gold Rush formed the quality. And those guys benefited from it. I did too.
Alex Ferrari 15:09
Yeah. And then and then they'll and then also the opening of the international market, which was bringing over international films and I know the Weinstein's and Miramax did a fantastic job of feel bringing in like a life is beautiful and, and a lot of these directors that we really never heard of in the States and in the west and spotlighting them and spotlighting them in a way that that didn't exist before.
Michael Ryan 15:32
That's right. I mean, you have, you know, dresses like Chevrolet,
Alex Ferrari 15:35
Michael Ryan 15:37
I guess last year, I mean, that the international marketplace opened up, and people realize it wasn't just to sell American independent movies, it was actually it was actually spurring those people in those France, Germany, wherever they were actually spurring them on to make more internationally acceptable movies, even though they were local stories. And I think that helps enormously the the marketplace that can the AFM the Venice, Toronto, all benefited by that. And you had this huge conglomerate of people turning up desperate to buy rights. And that became a market and that became a proper business. So film markets became not just as a cheap Film Festival, it became a proper sustainable business. And I think that's why the AFM was formed 40 years ago, but it was formed by all of the professionals in the movie industry thinking, we can't just rely on Cannes, and, and and Berlin and Venice, we've got to create something ourselves. And it was that then that made it work. And still does, you know, they all of those people, it's still a traveling circus, and they go to 345. Everyone, it really is a circuit for three, four or five of those events a year. And it still surprises me actually, in the days of doing things like this, that it still works, you know, I I mean, one particular person that likes human contact, and I think I can do a deal, or make a CO production far better if I'm sitting down opposite somebody than I can on a on a on a camera and a screen. And that still works, I think and that human equality, let's face it, we make films so that we can entertain as many people as possible. So in order to do that, you've got to have a team.
Alex Ferrari 17:30
So you and you were one of the cofounders of AFM. If I'm not mistaken.
Michael Ryan 17:33
I was indeed Yeah, we yeah, there were there. There are a few there are very few left. And it was just literally we realized that at a certain point in the year, which then happened to be February, March, we were thinking there's nothing there in the calendar was a big hole, we can make use of this. And there are about 10 or 15 of us that got together and we put up I think it was 25 $30,000 Each, which in those days was actually quite a lot of money. You got really, that's a lot of money. How do I do that? Anyway, we did it. A lot of us did it, a handful of us did it that created our founder enough money to make it work. And it worked very well. It's, you know, will it will it survive and prosper as it has done with the pandemic in the middle? I don't know. I mean, you know, people have discovered this, and they can use this as a tool very effectively. But I think people will still turn up to do what they do there.
Alex Ferrari 18:34
It's kind of like what happened with the film festivals like yeah, you can watch a movie on your screen. But there's a thing about a film festival that is, is it's very difficult to replicate on in a virtual world, at least at least until my generation dies off. Maybe the generations behind me won't won't understand it. But
Michael Ryan 18:55
I don't know. I mean, I still you're right. I mean it is it is a generational thing. And I still certainly are my friends, kids. Some of them, some of them like you and I are still becoming film buffs. So maybe, maybe there's hope. But there's still that sort of collective sense of seeing something special in a special place. And whether that's your local communal,
Alex Ferrari 19:18
Communal, and a communal, communal experience.
Michael Ryan 19:20
And it works for a lot of movies, especially Thriller Horror, comedy, but that collective experience really works. So I don't think that will disappear. What might disappear is is film festivals in in certain places that aren't going to work. You've got to be very special to have a film festival. People want to travel 1000s of miles to and spend loads of money. But if you're a producer, it's by far the best way to look to launch a movie if you're launching it to launch it to the world and press. That's one thing if you're launching it to sell it, that's a whole other exercise. But all of those things are possible at the right Festival at the right time. And if you get it right, you Got an I've done it hundreds of times you time it right? And that's in the love of the gods most of the time is not because you're so clever. It's Is it ready in time. And if it is ready in time, it's the right festival and you get the right reaction. Then it works and it still does work. And I think that will continue to work as a marketing tool. And it works the other way. I had a movie movie with Timothy Dalton and Valeria galena. It was a historical thing. And a very good director whose name now escapes me. And we got into Ken because it was a French co productions I think strangled, Geagea called to get in. And having voted no, we had a great screening. The I thought the movie played terribly. I was there. The following morning that in the press, the one of the reviewers very clever, he said, I thought it was strange in a strange point in the movie in the middle of the film, there was clapping until I realized that people were leaving the cinema with the sound of the seats doing that as they left. That was it. The film died that very morning, it died. And we there was no way back. So that's the gamble, isn't it? You know, it's a great opportunity. But if you get it wrong, Jesus, you're really screwed.
Alex Ferrari 21:24
And I think what you're saying is there's value in what you're saying in regards to festivals that are five, maybe 10. In the world that matter. Yeah, and the rest.
Michael Ryan 21:35
But what's happening now is, which is kind of encouraging, it kind of works alongside local production. And you know, Netflix, the streamers are getting involved in this, they're making films in, in in strange places where they want to launch their own service. So you're getting Portuguese language movies at the Berber Lucchino fast Oh, Film Festival. So that's that, that can work. And it can work in a in a, in a sales producer type way. And in that you identify if you make a small film, you get go to the right places within a 12 month period. And you can make sales and find distributors in each of those places. So as a kind of local exercise, it's still does work if you've got if you plan it properly, and you're lucky, it does work. And so I think that part of it will carry on, I think that's part of it and exercise MRTS size that that we can still use. And if you use it intelligently, it works.
Alex Ferrari 22:35
Now, I love to talk to you about the Netflix effect, because when streaming showed up, just like everything else that happens in our business, when VHS showed up, everyone's like that's a fad. When DVD shows up as a fad, when streaming showed up, they're like, Oh, this is never really going to take off. I mean, because if I remember logging into Netflix streaming, always horrible. Their movies were horrible. They had nothing there no licenses that nothing was it was atrocious. I'm like, How is this even going to go anywhere? I even did that? It was 2012 I think it was 2011 when it came out. But the impact is it I haven't seen an impact so massive on our industry. In a I mean, you could argue VHS was it was kind of like a VHS was an atomic bomb. Streaming was basically the new killer version of that 20 times Hiroshima kind of size seismic shift. And it has completely changed our business model. It is devalued the movie, because now before that, I always tell filmmakers this, I go look before our movies were worth 2499, then retail, then they were worth 399 for rental. And then when when t VOD showed up, okay, we still can get 999 and maybe 299. If your HD maybe 399. And there was still some value there. But now our movies, generally speaking, and we could talk about the details of it are worth less than a penny, per view. And before it used to be 399. So it's become almost unsustainable as a business in the independent world. Unless you go down bigger stars selling International, you have to become much better at your job where like we were talking in the 80s and 90s, a car salesman could come in and make a fortune and not really know anything about the business. Throw up a couple of ninjas, and we're ready to rock and yeah, it's just your thoughts.
Michael Ryan 24:39
I think you're right, I think but I think what the sort of secret ingredient if you like is is enormous public funding. Very clever people who have structured proper companies and that the car dealers and the VHS traders were as you said originally, you They were from nowhere. And in a way the majors shunned it because it wasn't a business that they understood or wanted to be in, it was rather tacky. Netflix and the others Amazon, whoever have made it into something massive, obviously. I mean, it is so huge. Nobody really understands it. I don't think I'm sure they do. But it's the money is utterly massive, it's mind boggling. And I think that's it, they've got a corporate structure that works. They've got banking and shareholders and investors that work. And it's become a BM off that, that it just carries on working. And I think it's kind of indestructible. It's very difficult, despite what they say, to sell a movie to Netflix. Because they, they, they want to own the world. And if you're doing what I do, which is CO production, etc, you you're you're putting together that jigsaw puzzle all the time. And there's a certain point in time when a Netflix comes in, it doesn't really work for them, because I'm gonna own the world and you say, Hang on, I've got France, Germany, Spain and Italy already in, I'm not going to kick them out because they're part of my structure. So it kind of doesn't work together. Occasionally we do big business with them on a North American deal or a U K deal or a part of Europe. And but generally it's very difficult to do that. And despite they're announcing that they're spending, you know, 25 30 billion on acquisitions, it's more, or buy that and will own it. And we'll take it off your hands guff, you know, and we'll maybe include you for a little share, which they don't. So that that, that'll carry on, I'm sure. And I'll keep making those movies, and some of them. Let's face it a bloody good. You know, we're at a time now where you're looking at the hide No,
Alex Ferrari 26:54
Stranger Stranger Things just that alone.
Michael Ryan 26:57
Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean, look at what's that that's done to the world. What was that what it did for Kate Bush,
Alex Ferrari 27:02
I was about to say, Kate Bush, I'm like, who was Kate by like, I heard of her. But now my kids are like, oh, I need to hear Kate Bush. I'm like, what? The we're in the upside down. Michael, where's the upside?
Michael Ryan 27:15
It is I mean, she, she I used to like her way back. I thought she wrote great, great music. And now she can't believe it. She's like, I don't remember. I'm a bloody grandmother for Christ's sake.
Alex Ferrari 27:27
I'm the hottest song in the world.
Michael Ryan 27:31
And by the way, it's a bloody good song.
Alex Ferrari 27:33
I just listened to it almost every day. The kids haven't played
Michael Ryan 27:37
In the background yet. I think Netflix will carry on it will change it. And only the biggest will survive because we're at a point now. I mean, early days, I suppose. But right now where people's own home economies are really struggling when you see what's happening in the UK and where people can't afford to heat their bloody homes. So the last thing in the world they're going to do is to have more subscriptions to more streaming platforms. So it's going to slim down to one or two, or three. That's all it's going to be everybody's going to have Disney as they've proved. Yeah, probably everybody's going to have Amazon and Netflix, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure about the rest. The rest will be specialized. I guess there's always that room.
Alex Ferrari 28:24
Yeah, like, I mean, HBO Max, now they bought the brand, and they're gonna combine it with Disney Channel and that discovery channel. So that's going to be a much bigger beast. Maybe like HBO might be in that mix. But everyone has prime. I mean, subprime is already there. Netflix is like Netflix. Netflix is Netflix. And you're right, Disney plus came out like a like a juggernaut. And if you have kids, disney plus is I mean, if you want Marvel, if you'd like Marvel, Star Wars, any of those other ways.
Michael Ryan 28:56
Like, imagine, if you said to your kids, you know, okay, I can't afford to go out and buy dinner. So it's either dinner, or Disney plus they
Alex Ferrari 29:07
Disney Disney plus now there's no question.
Michael Ryan 29:11
It's kind of sad, but I get it. I think that will carry on. But it's going to be interesting how I mean, we've seen how many people Netflix are laying off. You know, so if there is going to be a slimming down, I don't know how that works or how they then trim their production acquisitions budgets, or maybe they boost them? I don't know. I mean, it's my way of thinking if we are making a movie, and we're financing it, and they can buy the rights. That's a hell of a lot cheaper for them than spending they, you know, I find make a movie for 25 They're making a movie for 55. And that's just the way it is with the overhead they've got. So it makes sense to me that to carry on acquiring, I suppose I would say that, wouldn't I but it still does make business sense to me. And we still do do it. He's just that you can't rely on that. So what you can rely on is selling a few major territories with the talent, you've got the director, you've got the scripts, you've got whatever, it's always a story. And then at that point, you have the basis to go to a financier or bank and say, here's the collateral, we want to borrow a gap from you. here's the, here's the way we do it. Here's the jigsaw puzzle, that's still possible, thank God. And that's how most of the independent movies get made now. So that'll carry on, but I don't, I don't know which way we go. We, we still, why even today, we were talking to Netflix about a movie that they've just bought from us. And about, about changes in cost and all of that. So they're a good partner to have, let's face it, they got deep pockets. But it's very difficult. At the end of the day, I suppose what I've always lectured to people. And what I've always the thing I've drilled, tried to drill into people is it's all about quality, it's about the story. And if you make a good film, you make a good story, people are going to come and see it, aren't they? So I think I don't think that'll ever change. I think that this financing financing structures will change. And, you know, banks come in and out of the movie industry, like they go in and out of a supermarket. It's it's a strange business being a bank or a financial entity within the film industry, because you have to be you have to be a real expert. I mean, you know, I've, I've worked with banks, who, when they, when I've either sold my company, or they're out of the business, that you look at the bottom line that they've made, it's huge. And that's my movies. You know, they've made much more than me, but in a way they deserved it, because they've been financing it. So it still works. I mean, there are banks that are still wanting to be in it. Thank God.
Alex Ferrari 31:53
Well, let me ask you this, so and the elephant in the room in regards to what we're talking about, which is distribution in general. And I've talked heavily about, you know, distribution and protecting yourself from bad deals and all that stuff. I'm assuming in your day, you might have signed a bad deal here or there. You might have been taken advantage of I'm just guessing along your journey as a film producer and financier. So what I just love to ask you because you have this history in the business. And you know, you were there at the beginning of AFM and everything. The concept of Hollywood accounting, which is been talked about forever. And as before AFM I mean, they were doing Hollywood accounting back in the 30s. I think the second Chaplin showed up, they were doing
Michael Ryan 32:44
Off Charlie Chaplin,
Alex Ferrari 32:46
Right! Yes, why they started United Artists. That's why they started United Artists, because they got they got. So in your opinion, I mean, you're at a different level, you're dealing with, you're on a professional level, at a higher level you you have the context of different territories, you can sell and get paid. But for independent producers coming up in today's world, how are they expected to build a business that is sustainable, if they're constantly being taken advantage of, or just opportunities aren't as, as relevant as or open as they used to be?
Michael Ryan 33:17
It's very tough. I mean, reputation is one thing. Because if you're supplying product, and somebody tries to screw you, that you're not going to go back to that person, so that that's but that you have to build that that's a reputation you have to build. There's belonging to IFTA, which is the organization that organizes the American Film Market, they have a structure where they'll go out for you, and write letters to people and say, you don't do this, you're not going to be go, you'll be barred from the next American film, market, whatever, there are certain procedures that you can make. i It's very difficult, they're there. If you go through a bank, to finance your movie, they'll have a certain amount of power to because they will be borrowing against the contract that you've made with this particular person. I think it's all about background and knowledge, it research. It's very important to know who you're doing, who you're doing business with, and how they're doing. You know, if they're doing badly, are you going to go in and do a million dollar deal with them, because they're probably not going to pay you. So you've got it's all about knowledge and knowledge is that is the thing that takes you through the bad times. And I think it I think that really matters a lot. At the end of the day, if you're a little independent and you go out and making a film, you know nothing about anything and you don't use a sales agent, who then will do that job for you. It's really, really difficult. You might have some sound interference because there's a huge rainstorm going on there. Fair enough.
Alex Ferrari 34:50
No one here in England. I expect that sir.
Michael Ryan 34:52
Went from Sunday afternoon to pouring with rain and hail stones very nice. So I think it is Because I think there are certain procedures that you processes you can go through, and protections that you can give yourself. And a lot of that is choosing the right sales agent to work with. Because they'll have, you're a one time filmmaker, each film is made on its own, and you're not going to be churning them out or selling them, you know, five, six, every film market. So I think that's probably important. Just talking to the people that know how to do it, it will always happen, they'll always be a candidate that goes bankrupt without you knowing that it was never going to happen, it will be surprised to everybody, you know, city world, I mean, hello. Oh, yeah, it's it's a difficult business. But there are things that you can do, and most of it is talking to the right people. And I think if you're a first time, second time independent filmmaker, you have to go through a sales agent with a
Alex Ferrari 35:57
A good, a good a good reputation with the sales agents, because they can take you to,
Michael Ryan 36:02
Yeah, I mean, you get into trouble with, you're going to save that sales agent that just won't give you the money. And I know, lots of those occasions, you know, it's, it's a shame, and it's something that stains that our industry, but let's face it, every industry has their thieves. I mean, there's there, so you can go to Iftar. And say, I've approached this sales agent, what do you know about them, and they'll tell you, you know, so it's, it's using, all of the checks and balances are out there, you just got to use them. If you just go out there and sell your film, just sort of bits and pieces, it's gonna be a mess. So it's all about organization.
Alex Ferrari 36:47
Now, the other thing that I love about the way you're presenting your this conversation is that you look at movies as a business person, first, you're looking at it as a product, you it doesn't seem like you have emotion attached to your project, I'm sure you enjoy them, especially some of the the higher, you know, the bigger, acclaimed ones that you have as emotional. But at the end of the day, you still it's this product, and you're approaching it that way, where so many filmmakers walk into AFM or a Cannes or Venice, with emotion leading with a motion of their move, this is my baby. And nobody wants my baby. And then when the first shark shows up and go, Oh, I love you, oh, like someone likes me. And all of a sudden I'll sign whatever you want, and your movie is gone for 25 years.
Michael Ryan 37:32
That's exactly right. It's exactly you're exactly right. And when we're supposed to be there to look after those movies, we, if we foster those movies and take care of them, we hopefully will do the next one, the next one, the next one that I what I love to do. And we need people to be passionate about their product, I'm passionate about certain things that we do. At the end of the day, it has to be a sustainable business, if we're going to keep carrying on. And they've those people have to understand. If you're spending 500 $600 million on making your passion project, you aren't just going to make it for your mom and dad, you're going to make it tough for people to see it. And in order to get people to see it, you've got to get people to get it out there and give them the ability to see it. And that means selling it and selling your baby. And there might be things that you don't like, but they somebody like me might know better than them about how to market it. And you know, a lot of the time we do you know, it's like don't say that that's ridiculous. You know, here's, here's the way it should be sold. And no, I don't like that image. As I shut up.
Alex Ferrari 38:42
Let me put the poster that's going to sell this depth, which is which leads me to a great I was I was consulting a filmmaker the other day. And they had a film that was under 100,000. beautifully produced. Nice genre, not not nit not a very genre. So it was an action wasn't Zero has a little music in it. And it's kind of you know, did a little bit different, a little bit different. And they said, What do I do? How much do you think I can get for this in the marketplace? And I said, You're not gonna make any money. I had straight like straight I'm like, Look, you will not, you'll barely make if you make $1,000 I'll be impressed. And he's like, What do I do? And I go, okay, so this is what you need to do, because I got it since it's such a low budget. I think a VOD is a really great place for him to make some money, but he has no stars. So I said go out, find a star. Pay them 10,000 for the day, shoot them out in the day, get permission to put them on the thumbnail dabble them throughout the movie. So it doesn't look like he just shot him for two minutes and put them on the on the poster. Really make a part of the movie and do that and that's exactly what we're doing right now. We just locked in the actor. We're talking to the distributor who I know And we're packaging this whole thing. And that like if you have this guy in your chances of making money, there's no guarantees, but the chances of you actually see because now you have a face on that thumbnail. Yeah, that's passing through that you go, Oh, I love that guy. And, you know, unless you're Brad Pitt, and this is Brad Pitt, you know, because at the end of the day, unfortunately, where we are in today's world, it's all about the 16 by nine thumbnail flowing by in either TVOD, AVOD SVOD. It is so, so important. And filmmakers don't understand that. Would you agree with me?
Michael Ryan 40:37
Yeah, I would. Especially at that level. And remember, we have a small division called evolution pictures, and we concentrate on pictures around that level. And there always has to be a recognizable actor, otherwise it will not sell. The only way for you to sell it, if it's good is to go to film festivals and to spend money promoting it. That's going to cost you more than getting an Actor in for a few days. Right? It does pay it if you can do it. Well do it professionally. And with those sorts of movies, I think I understand the sort of maybe you're talking about it's fairly easy to do if you can get the right guy and it just gives a face to the campaign. And it works. I mean, you you can't do that. No, you know, I've got it. I've spent 7 million What do I do now? It's like, well, you're on your time?
Alex Ferrari 41:27
No, have you spent $7 million
Michael Ryan 41:31
Budget movies it gives you it gives you scope to be able to do that you can you can say to everybody, okay, stop, you know, we're gonna get this guy in. And we're going to fit him in here, here, here, here. And here. You know, your, your $7 million filmmaker was in early can't do that to my movie. But you can with this. And I think you're right, it does work. The only other way is to spend huge amounts of money on publicity.
Alex Ferrari 41:55
And even then you it's it's such an echo chamber right now that the studios are having problems show up getting awareness for their $200 million tentpole films. Yeah, that's why they that's why they buy pre IP that everybody knows, shows you like, you know, when Thor's coming out, because everybody knows Marvel, you know, the next Star Wars or the next Star Trek or the next Harry Potter? Because these are all IPs that we all know. So it becomes easier to market that. That's why something like Avatar that was done over a decade ago, was an anomaly, you know? Sure. Sure. A brand new $500 million brand new IP with no major, major stars in it. I mean, I mean, obviously Sigourney Weaver. And and Yeah, but that doesn't justify a $500 million dollar movie.
Michael Ryan 42:43
No, it's fine. It was still a pumped because the the actual techniques they were using were groundbreaking and nobody had ever thought. So would they do that? Again? Probably not. I mean, it, I can't see them spending that sort of money. Today, it just won't work on a new on a new IP.
Alex Ferrari 42:58
But like talking about the marketing, a lot of filmmakers are like, Oh, I have 30,000. I'm like, take that 30,000 Hire an actor that we all recognize. And that's your marketing budget, you've already invested in your marketing budget by hiring an actor that people recognize, because that's going to do more than $30,000 and Facebook ads, when you really don't know how to do Facebook ads?
Michael Ryan 43:20
No, you're absolutely right. And it will it will appeal to those distributors that distribute those sorts of movies. And the first question will be well, who's in it? And you know, if you ain't got the one person that they might be looking at, then you're dead. So you're right, is the ideal way to structure it. And if only they thought about it in the first week, they have, they've thought about it in time now,
Alex Ferrari 43:40
I knew there was this one movie I worked on when I was doing post production supervision where I was posting on a movie. And I was fascinated to see this that they had one what the main star who was not the star of the movie, but the face that we all know, right? And they shot him out in one day. And he they were in they were in a parking lot. So it was the way that he was like the informant or something and that the cops had to keep coming back to, to this to the garage to meet with them. So he was a beautiful structure. He was dabbled throughout the entire movie, so you don't feel gypped and then the rest of the movie, which was very well produced and very well shot with actors that we just don't know, go worked out great. And because his face is on the cover, sold. So like that easily. And that's what filmmakers don't understand. When I try to guess yell from the top of the top of the hill, please hire somebody that we recognize even my short films that I did as a director 10 years ago at Robert Forster in it. They had Lance Hendrickson in it. I had, you know other faces that people recognize that it gave something. And by the way, if you're trying to get into film festivals, film festivals, love having faces and stars. It is They're movies because they're in the asses and seats business.
Michael Ryan 45:03
Yeah, you got you got last last Fredrickson who said, who says, you know? Sure I'll come you know, and you say to say to the festival director, I can get him to come for three or four days. Great. You're in.
Alex Ferrari 45:15
Can you fly him out? Can you fly out? Put them up and last like, yeah, sure, I'll come out.
Michael Ryan 45:20
That's the way that's the way the business works. A lot of people don't understand that. It's that's a fairly simple structure. You get him to agree to go to the festival. He'll probably have a great time.
Alex Ferrari 45:30
Treat them like they'll treat them. Oh, like, royalty.
Michael Ryan 45:33
Yeah, he'll be he'll be treated like Brad Pitt, Brad Pitt, which doesn't always happen as we know it's it still works. And it's still it's still that tub thumping thing is back to the cannon boys. You know, they they did it all the time. And it worked every single time.
Alex Ferrari 45:47
You know, Michael Dukakis just showed up, and Chuck Norris just showed up.
Michael Ryan 45:53
There you go. I mean, we did it. Way back. Oh, God longterm. The first Highlander which we did, yeah. Yeah. Turned out to be a classic movie. But we, we what was so strange to me, because it was, you know, we had a Frenchman playing a Scotsman. And we and we had Sean Connery, a Scotsman playing a Spanish nobleman. But we we, we
Alex Ferrari 46:20
Michael, Michael, there could only be one. There's only could be one.
Michael Ryan 46:25
You see, you see how well that campaign worked. That we needed Connery and he was going on. Anyway, we agreed, and it was half a million dollars a day for five days for contouring. Yeah. Any any any days after that was a further half million. So we said, Okay, fine. And we did it. Obviously pre sold. The movie did very well. And during the shooting of the movie, there was a technical problem. And we needed him for two extra days. It was another million dollars.
Alex Ferrari 46:57
I mean, it's good money if you could get it.
Michael Ryan 46:59
But it, it worked. And you know, if we hadn't had him, it wouldn't have been half the film. It was, you know, and he's really worthwhile. And you know, the guy was great. And then he Sean Connery. She was Sean Connery. Exactly. And the out of that. I got a call from a Japanese advertising agency for some Suntory whisky. And they said, We want him as you know, in His Highness the costume, which had magnificent ties whiskey. So I went to him and said, you know, what do you think he said, I don't do adverts. Okay. So I went back and they said, Tell him it's a million dollars. And he said, No, no, no, don't get out of bed for that million dollars. Anyway, we this went on over a week. In the end, they in the end, they paid $5 million and and the the stipulation was they wouldn't speak. He wouldn't have to drink the whiskey. And the only place it could play was in Japan and Southeast Asia. And they said yes. And it must have worked because it's still playing the bloody ad every time. Every time I go to Japan. So kind of a guy like that. And he doesn't drink the whiskey. I guess for him, it was quite a nice experiment.
Alex Ferrari 48:23
Do you remember the remember? I don't know if you know this. This is just a side note. Do you remember the 80s Madonna was hired by Pepsi to promote? You remember that whole story where she she went on the set? And they're like, Okay, not drink the Pepsi and like, I'm not drinking with ABS. But we need you to drink the Pepsi. We hired you like, you hired me. But no one told me I had to drink it. And she they scrapped the whole thing and they still paid her like $10 million or five whatever it was. They didn't do it because they didn't do it because she wouldn't drink it. She was so we I mean, she I don't know why she did that. But she knew that she had that power and she just wielded it. And she just got paid. And they never because contractually it never said that she had to drink that Pepsi.
Michael Ryan 49:07
I'll hold on to how many lawyers got fired over that.
Alex Ferrari 49:11
Oh, lawyers and executives. Oh my god, are you kidding me? That whole thing was
Michael Ryan 49:16
I knew about the Pepsi thing. I didn't know that they canceled the whole thing because of that.
Alex Ferrari 49:20
I don't think I mean, they might have done something else later. But I know that spot was changed like you know, because I started off in commercials and that was legendary is one of those legendary stories. You're like,
Michael Ryan 49:30
She's probably she probably said I only drink Coca Cola.
Alex Ferrari 49:35
I only drink Coke. Now if you want to put the coke in the Pepsi can I'll do that for me. Imagine you imagine. So with the with AFM. I wanted I wanted to ask you now as you obviously one of the cofounders of and you've seen a change over the years, I mean in the in the glorious golden ages of the 80s when how many days was it was like 10 days or something like
Michael Ryan 49:58
That was like, was ridiculous. It was far too long.
Alex Ferrari 50:00
It was long and yeah, the money was flowing. Yeah, yeah,
Michael Ryan 50:04
You could do what you like. And you know, you'd stay in fancy hotels in Santa Monica or, you know, I'd stay in the Bel Air hotel, we ridiculous things to do. And now we've cut it down to I think it's, By five plus a building day or something like that, right? Exactly. Same dry down, is the right length, people will go home at the weekend, you know, it's just in the mid week period, it's much more much more doable. I think. Now, I've looked at the numbers. And there's a lot of people surprise me actually be thinking about the economic world at the moment. But it's building quite nicely. All the bigger companies have signed up for attending. So it might be, I think it would be a nice surprise, I think, you know, the Cannes Film Film Festival this year was wonderful, because it was like, going back to those those hay days of can, even though the money wasn't falling all over the place. But people were there and people were doing visits and people enjoying themselves. I think that's the thing. This is a hard business. to somewhere like Santa Monica, you'd quite like to get out and go and have a nice meal somewhere. And that's on the beach. Yeah, it's part of what we do. Otherwise, we'd do it in a boring exhibition center somewhere,
Alex Ferrari 51:24
All right, you'd be in Vegas somewhere or you'd be in some way,
Michael Ryan 51:27
And you'd lose all of the Hollywood niche about it, you know, just wouldn't, it just wouldn't be the same. And we find that a lot of the international clients will say, don't take it downtown. Don't Don't take it anywhere else. We go to Hollywood once, maybe twice a year. And if we want to go when we go to Hollywood, we you know, we want to go and see the people that we normally see plus go to the FM so that's where it's going to stay provided that,
Alex Ferrari 51:53
You know, the first year I went to AFM. It was so fascinating. I was I was there covering it for for the show. And it was before I did I started doing talks there and things and I just remember walking into the hotel, and I looked up and I saw a giant banner that was Mike Tyson versus Steven Seagal. And I said, oh, oh, I understand where I am now. And I'm like, Okay, this is and that's and then filmmakers come in expecting to see art and like, this is not art. You are not in an art place anymore. This is business 100% Business. Don't bring your art film here. Don't bring your backyard. You know, you know, personal film here. That's not where this is, you know, unless you've got Steven Seagal fighting Mike Tyson, in your personal drama. No one cares. No one cares.
Michael Ryan 52:51
Like I remember.
Alex Ferrari 52:52
Oh, yeah, they made it. Oh, no, that movie came out. Oh, yeah. I mean, it's even if it's yeah, I will talk about some stuff that he's that has enough stuff talking about him. And I thought, let's not, let's not let's just leave that as is. But look, but look at Mike Tyson, which is it's such an interesting guy. He's an actor, but he's one of the most famous human beings on the planet. And now he's like, I'm gonna do action movies.
Michael Ryan 53:17
You're gonna turn up for that? I mean, of course they will. They're fascinated by
Alex Ferrari 53:22
There was the movie. He was a bad guy fighting. Oh, God, I forgot the kung fu master from China. But he's a legendary actor. He's up there with Jackie Chan. And he fought Mike Tyson in a beautiful each choreographed fight sequence and I was just like, see, that's just it, just you know, there. That's the kind of movies you're going to find at AFM. You're not going to find these arthouse films, you may find some depending on the distributor that might be interested in that. But generally speaking, it's all about money, selling territories, making deals.
Michael Ryan 53:54
You're exactly right. And it's the deal making that people like me go for because I don't do you know, shark movies or whatever. I just don't do that. Not sure it made us for you, sir. I know Paul who pulls Paul who makes those movies and he makes a lot of money and he does a brilliant job and they're really funny. I can't do that. It's not me. So and you'll find and that's the problem with publicizing the AFM you know variety will go in and see all this stuff sharks and Mike Tyson's and Steven to girls. But it shouldn't be because there's a business there. And if you look around some if you look around the attendee companies, the people who are who are exhibiting their this have serious bloody companies they're so they're so so what what happens is that people will turn up and they'll buy those little bits and pieces, you know, the Sharknado is and everything but at the same time that they're they're there to do business with a 24 They're there to do business with the bigger companies that make quality movies. And that's still going on because when it when we formed it is the the the sort of 12 1314 companies that were the original investors and the original creators of it, were very classy companies, there was no schlock them. But the slot came in because they saw an opportunity. And it's still part of our business. And it's a legitimate part of the business. And I, I kind of cherish it, because I love those short movies that man, it's a great idea. And they've made, I don't know, six or seven or eight,
Alex Ferrari 55:29
I really was I saw like the priest, that was a velociraptor, the alligator that turned into like, I mean, it's just, it's, it's fun. Sharknado spawned an entire genre. It's these these films. And then there's the asylum boys who are are basically the the the children of the cannon boys there that
Michael Ryan 55:52
It's a good company. It's not it, but they're doing it really well. And nothing wrong with that. And as we said much earlier on, you've got enough of that stuff bubbling away. And there's bound to be the quality filmmakers coming out of it. Or you cherry pick those, you've got another business. So it does. I'm glad that the bigger GM and GM are coming, you know, they're all signing up now. And I'm really pleased because it means that it'll carry on and I, you know, we didn't build it to just have a little, you know, a little market that runs for a few years. There's a 40 odd years, and I think it will survive, and I think it will carry on. And I'm just pleased to see that quality companies are supporting it.
Alex Ferrari 56:33
So you'll get everything from asylum to a 24. And everything in between. And that's because that's filmmaking. I mean, there was Roger Roger Corman was around for quite some time. And he was making very interesting films, to say the least.
Michael Ryan 56:48
When I was first chairman of the ERV Iftar. Roger was on my board. And I'm thinking, hang on a minute. Roger Corman is on the board that I'm chairman. Oh, that's ridiculous. But he he was, I tell you, I could sit there and listen to those stories forever. The man
Alex Ferrari 57:05
Oh, my. Oh, my. And you want to talk about filmmakers?
Michael Ryan 57:08
Yes, spawned all of the guy that I know he really is the godfather. All of it is extraordinary man. Softly spoken really classy. You know, I found there was it was a big board at that point. It was about 20 people and they hang on his every word because he very quietly spoken. They sit and listen. rather different from Lloyd Kaufman.
Alex Ferrari 57:29
Or you read my mind. I was about to say Lloyd a little bit different approach, Lloyd. But you know, I've spoken to Lloyd on the show. And, and man, I tell you like he's an interesting guy, because he makes those kinds of trauma esque films. Yeah. But when you go back and watch like, Toxic Avenger, the first one that was shot on 35 released theatrically and had a social commentary to it.
Michael Ryan 57:54
Toxic Avenger was really, you know, it was a socially aware picture. Not Not that I really appreciated it because I had an office at the Carlton Hotel at that point. Now, during Ken Oh, God, he organized these bloody great big parades of all these monsters. And it was awful every day twice or three times a day. They'd stand in front of my
Alex Ferrari 58:22
But he made but he was able to do what it I mean, I love him. God bless him and he is able to do what he's able to do and, and you can't take anything away from from him.
Michael Ryan 58:35
He speaks God knows how many languages he speaks Cantonese.
Alex Ferrari 58:37
I mean, he's so smart. He's He's fascinating is an intellect. Yeah. That's what's so fascinating about someone like Lloyd it and like when I talked to him, I was like, yeah, he's like ivy league. You know, he has an Ivy League education. Oh, yeah. He's extremely intelligent. But yet, he's like, Lloyd. He plays this part. It's just fascinating to me.
Michael Ryan 59:00
It was in the same year. I think it was Yale. But same year as George Bush, right.
Alex Ferrari 59:07
He told me that yeah,
Michael Ryan 59:09
We kind of said don't tell anybody that.
Alex Ferrari 59:13
He was. He was he shot behind the scenes of Rocky. I didn't know that. He actually was there during the step scene, because there was the first time they were using the steadicam. And I'm in a big movie right before shining. And he was there shooting it. And then he's like, oh, yeah, MGM just called me up and they're doing some new release. And they were asking for my footage. So I had to go into the archives, and find all this footage I shot of, of that stuff. I was like, wow, I mean, like, what is going on? He kills me. No, he's fantastic. But Michael, listen, I'm going to ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests. Well, first of all, before we get to that, when is the AFM how can people sign up? Where do they go?
Michael Ryan 59:59
By can go to the AFM website. I think it's American film market.com. They can sign up there. It starts on the first of November for I think five days first and sixth. That's right. And it's very simple. And we've kept the price down it for individuals registering. If you're a producer, and you've got something interesting and you want to package it, that's a reason to go. You'll find people like me sitting there. And you know, why not come and say, Oh, by the way, I've got this thing. I might say not now. Thanks. But there's everybody you will want to see, from filmmakers, to bankers to equity investors that everybody's there. So it's up to you to take that opportunity. It's really not very expensive. If you join, if you pay your full entry price, you'll get access to over 100 panels and speeches and stuff like that. So you're, and that's really worth it just for that. I mean,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:02
I know I'm doing I'm doing some of the panels, it's so valuable. The stuff that
Michael Ryan 1:01:07
I think for anybody who wants to make a film has made a film is in the middle of making a film. Just go. And even if you're just soaking up the atmosphere of it there. It's just worth it. And yeah, I mean, there's so many people that you can see in in five or six days. So I think it's worth it and easy to buy a ticket.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:28
And it's so educational. Just even if you walk the halls and see what people are doing and selling and how they're marketing. It is such I always tell filmmakers who haven't gone to AFM, go to FM just take the day pass and walk around. And that alone will show you what the marketplace looks like before independent film in the world that we live in.
Michael Ryan 1:01:50
You're absolutely right. It just changes your whole focus. If you think you have your tunnel vision, making your movie don't do that. Go just go and see how this business really works, and how it's financed and how it sustains itself. And it is fascinating. And I the ticket price alone is worth it for the panels and discussions. And you can sit there all day learning stuff. I'd be like you I'm on a few Alex. And it you see the people that turn up something Wow. That's amazing. You know, they've got these panelists, and it's great, great people, the people as an independent filmmaker, you won't have access to as an individual, where you can sit there and listen to what they're saying. And I think it's great. It's, it's really valuable information.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:34
Now, I'm going to ask you those few questions. Ask all my guests. All right, what what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,
Michael Ryan 1:02:44
I suppose it's a film film business centric, it's the time that you should say, Stop, whether it be in the middle of the process or whatever, you've come to a point where you're trying try and try and try and try. And the best thing to do is to say, You know what, let's stop right now. So one of the one of the finances might say, well, but we're going to lose 100,000, we said, well, if we carry on like this, we're going to lose 1.1 million. So is it best to stop here. And that took me a long time. And I've done it only thankfully, on two or maybe three occasions where you get to a point where you're pushing a square peg into a round hole, it's just not gonna work. All of the actors are saying, No, you're compromising in every single place, whether it be the production assistant, or the accountant or the designer, and the actors and you should just stop. Don't do it. That's that. It's a brave thing to do. It took me a long time to be able to do it.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:52
So being able to be brave enough to cut you know, cut the line and go. Yeah, very, very good advice. Now, you see here, three of your favorite films of all time.
Michael Ryan 1:04:06
I knew you're gonna say that. I think Cuckoo's Nest probably is usually in support of my list. Yeah. Second of in the it's probably. I mean, this is really crass. But it's probably Citizen Kane, simply because you can look at it and think that's perfect. And thirdly, I don't know, interesting. Very difficult to choose, isn't it? I think I think the shining is probably
Alex Ferrari 1:04:50
I literally have a cinematographer of the shining up behind me. I'm a huge, huge Goomer Yeah, that's a huge huge Kubrick fan. And that is um, masterpiece to say,
Michael Ryan 1:05:01
I mean, I, I just I think that's probably quite a good three.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
That's that's a solid three, sir. That's a solid three. And lastly, what advice would you give to a filmmaker starting out in the business today?
Michael Ryan 1:05:15
I think story is really the basis of everything that you're going to do. And if it's not, if it doesn't hang together as a good story that anybody you're pitching the story to would sit and listen, if you don't have that you're never gonna have an audience or watch it anyway. So why still? Why put yourself through all that misery? I think story is, is it and also there are two parts to it. One is the story in the first place in the very first place. And almost just behind that, Squeaks in just second is, what's the audience? Who are you making it for? And that's, I find, I mean, I do love film schools and stuff like that. And so many people don't ask themselves that question. Who's gonna see this? Right? And, and how many films have you watched thinking? Why the fuck did they make that? What's the point? Oh, my God, so many. What were they thinking? Who in Earth would want to go and see that I literally the first, the first sort of rounds of you know, when you do those speed dating things at film schools, and you have like 20 meetings in a day and this post I remember, I remember a couple of times when I was pitched. This the most of Picchu the story, but you don't know anything about it. There was one I went to the Galway Film Festival and I had to Swedish director, producer team. And it was basically the pitch was it's a it's a murder story. And it contains, it's about a brother and sister and it's incestuous relationship. Oh, good.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:07
Stuff. very marketable.
Michael Ryan 1:07:08
Okay, fine. Okay. Thanks. Next it. There are some very strange things.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:14
It's Chinatown. And it's not is what you're saying?
Michael Ryan 1:07:17
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you really have to struggle to find out what the hell it's all about, and why you would make it in the first place. So I think those two things are a story because they really have to do with that story. And secondly, what's the audience? I don't know why people don't want anybody wouldn't make something without figuring that out.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
Oh, that's a that's very simple. It's ego thing.
Michael Ryan 1:07:41
You know, it's fascinating to me, so it's gonna be fascinating to everybody.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:45
Yeah, I mean, look, even people like Spielberg, Scorsese. Coppola have fallen into that trap, where they think I can make a movie. And everyone's gonna love it, because I love it. And then you look at something like 1941. And you go, Oh,
Michael Ryan 1:08:02
1941 was the one I would cite as well,
Alex Ferrari 1:08:06
Right! I mean, Spielberg has a pretty flawless filmography, generally speaking, but 9041 was that he's like, I could do anything. I can even do comedy. Let's bring the biggest comedy star we're going to do this is gonna be great. And it's pointed a die on.
Michael Ryan 1:08:23
It was shocking. Did shock.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:25
And then and then then again, something like cats.
Michael Ryan 1:08:29
Oh, Christ, I reminded me it's the worst experience of my life. I and I was one of the my wife at the time was an investor in a Vita. So she got invited into all these different so I went to the very first premiere of cats onstage, not cats. The cats the musical, it was amazing. And then too many years later, get to go and see that movie. It was excruciating.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:04
Just really the best the best quote ever for cats, the best review, it's the worst thing to happen the cats to cats and dogs. And that was like the best. The best. There was a Twitter review and I was like, That is brilliant. And I was like, when something like cats comes along, and it doesn't come it comes once in a generation really? Where you have Oscar winners around all the money in the world. Everyone is just moving forward. And it comes out being so bad with so many good people in it and behind it. Yeah, it's not her. It's really it's the Heaven's Gate of
Michael Ryan 1:09:43
Alex Ferrari 1:09:45
But I actually only saw 20 minutes I couldn't I couldn't pass the roach dancing scene, or the cat anus is flying around. I'm like, what, what is what is what is going on?
Michael Ryan 1:09:58
Have a look at anatomically at a cat, I mean the tails growing out of there ourselves. I mean, it's
Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
Did you see Did you see when the VFX weren't finished on Judi Dench, and like her her digital wristwatch, you could see her watch or something like that, because it didn't finish the V effects.
Michael Ryan 1:10:18
And Judi Dench curled up in a cat basket. I mean, really? Like,
Alex Ferrari 1:10:24
I can't I mean, it's I maybe one day, you know, I'll take some sort of substance and watch the entire thing. But I just can't I could I just like, I can't do this to myself. I'll watch. I'll go back and watch the room, which is arguably one of the worst films ever made. But yet, it's so bad. It's good.
Michael Ryan 1:10:43
Yeah, well, there are those but this was just scruciating the bed and I again, I went to the bloody premiere, so I couldn't leave.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:52
You were stuck there.
Michael Ryan 1:10:54
And it might go worse and worse.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:57
Michael, it has been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show and thank you for all your your your championing of filmmakers and films over the course of your career and trying to help filmmakers make some money.
Michael Ryan 1:11:11
That's what we're all trying to do. You know, it's it's great to be in this business. It's great to have an artistic bent, but Christ you've got to make some money somewhere. I'm trying to I'm trying to help them do that
Alex Ferrari 1:11:23
As am i Sir, as am I thank you my friend.
Michael Ryan 1:11:27
Thanks a lot.
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