IFH 187

IFH 187: How to Create an Amazon Prime Series


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This week on the show we have filmmaker Chris Sobchak. Chris co-created an Amazon Prime Series with star Nicole Sobchack, Please Tell Me I’m Adopted! follows free-spirited, wide-eyed, disaster magnet Tiffany who is forced to move in with her newly married sister, roping them into crazy, often culturally-current escapades with outrageous and hilarious consequences. What began as a project for a sketch comedy class is now an original short-form comedy series, which premiered exclusively on Amazon on March 6, 2017.

The entire production was crowdfunded by friends, family and even strangers, so it was important for Executive Producer Chris Sobchak to keep costs down as much as possible. This led to him and Nicole doing the entire post process through Davinci Resolve, including CGI, sound design, VFX, color and editing, themselves (read this for more info on my experience editing my feature This is Meg on Davinci Resolve).

Check out the trailer below.

The project took about two years to complete, with Chris needing to do some of the work on the road while working as the Drum and Percussion Technician for Elton John.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris Sobchak.

Alex Ferrari 0:32
Now today on the show we have filmmaker Chris Sobchak. Now Chris is a filmmaker who created a streaming Amazon series called Please tell me, I'm adopted. It's a Comedy Series. And it took him almost two years to put together he was done on a very low budget. And they did the entire post production process by themselves because they just had no money to do the CGI, the sound design that VFX color editing, just everything. And by the way, he also was doing this while working as a drum and percussion technician for elton john, who has been working with for years. So a lot of the stuff that he was doing as far as finishing his series he was doing on the road. So I wanted to get Chris on the show to kind of talk about his techniques, his tricks, how he put this all together, and what his experience was like working with Amazon and putting it all up on their platform, and how he's marketing it, how he's getting it out there, how much attention he's getting for his series. Everything, guys. So without any further ado, here is my interview with Chris Sobchak. I like to welcome to the show Chris Sobchak, man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Chris Sobchak 2:58
Absolutely. Thank you Alex. It's a it's actually a real honor and privilege. I love I love your your product, man. It's great to actually communicate with other filmmakers and and people that are searching for the right answers, you know, and actually trying to push the envelope with gear and pursue envelope with what's possible and interview any filmmakers. It's really cool.

Alex Ferrari 3:18
Thank you, brother. I appreciate it, man. So first and foremost, why the god's green earth did you get into this business? And how did you get into this business?

Chris Sobchak 3:26
Well, that's actually a very long and convoluted story. The short version of when I was yet when I was growing up, both of my parents as it turned out, were college professors, PhD college professors, and strangely the area of expertise that they ended up landing in, at least initially. And my mother has gone and done a variety of other things as well, but was in the critical study side of filmmaking. And so my father taught at the University of Utah still teaches there. He's retired in the out of the English department, but nonetheless taught critical studies film courses. My mother did the same thing, both that in Utah at different moments across the US as she was getting her own degrees, Santa Cruz and eventually ended up as the associate dean of the film and television at UCLA, under Gil Cates who did the Oscars for many, many years. So I sort of came out of that growing up in movie theaters first, first breast diverso I was in Fellini's and record things and things that scared me when I was growing up where were things like psycho and and not Freddy, and the most terrifying thing I ever saw was at way too young age was David Lynch's Eraserhead Jesus and I still actually have nightmares about that film, but nonetheless, I I sort of tried to you know, you either do what your parents do or you run screaming the other direction and I ended up in the music industry as a drummer and now at this point, drum technician which basically means I take care of other musicians equipment on the road or in the studio, and my current employed wonderfully is working as the drum and percussion technician with the elton john band.

Alex Ferrari 5:09
Who's this elton john, you speak

Chris Sobchak 5:12
English piano player. look them up. And terrifyingly, I've actually been doing that on and off. This is the I'm in the midst of my 17th year working with Elton. Wow, touring the globe working in the studios and we average she averages almost 100 shows a year if not more. But john solo Yeah, he loves to play. He's amazing boss. I couldn't be happier or luckier. And so as I was trying not to end up in the film business. I met a wonderful lady and made her my wife. Thankfully the the stupid fool said yes. Her name is Nicole Sobczak. And she actually obviously is a New York trained actress stage. She comes out of the Esper school there and has basically, you know, gone through second CDs conservatory here. She's just an amazing autour. writer, director, producer, and most importantly for her she's an actress first and foremost. So one of the things that we were very lucky here in Los Angeles is we were champion by the late great Gary Marshall. And Gary at one different moments said to my wife, Nikki, said, you know what you need to do you need to actually push in, you need to make some content. And one of the things he suggested was get some get your people together, everybody wins, you get a dp who wants to something for his real you get good actors together, you get a good writer together, you put together little vignettes, and you can, you can make your own stuff and actually make sure it looks pro make sure it looks good. And basically, the only people to be quite honest on a project like that, that don't need anything for their real are going to be your grips and maybe the person running crafty. So ultimately, it's like those people you know, you end up paying but just like being in a student film program, you you sort of have a lot of leeway, and you get great products. So I started getting pulled in very This is a number of years ago pulled into the produce Oriole side to put all this together, which was not any big deal for me. And over the years, this has ramped up because my wife and I have started our production company called rap tastic productions. And we basically had a little project that was going on, and my wife when she was in second city and this is our show that's now on Amazon, worldwide called Please tell me I'm adopted. My wife basically was in her second city conservatory final class semester, and she was walking down Hollywood Boulevard. There was a young lady walking the other direction past her wearing a burqa, and two girls walking directly in front of her started trash talking this this girl in the burqa that had gone the other way. And they were talking about how the this girl in the burqa had done, you know set women's rights back 30 years and all this really negative stuff. At which point my wife sort of being in this comedic mode said, Hey, wait a minute, what if? What if a person a woman just comedically? What if she didn't want that? What if she wanted to just have no responsibilities? And so out of that came a sketch that was going to go into her second city conservatory class show. As they do, they put a whole show together and they stay together as a troupe. And ultimately, they realistically don't necessarily have you know, some some things make the show some things don't in this particular case, this sketch. Reluctantly, my wife pulled it from the show because she thought there was something more there. Sorry about that phone there. She thought there was something more there something more exciting, something special. And so as a result, after she had graduated conservatory there at second city, she decided, hey, let's get a group of people together. I just need to purge this wonderful idea. I need to just put something up, let's just do something quick down and dirty. Put it on YouTube. It'll be great. And so she basically started putting their writing together. And they had spitballing ideas and things like that. And I remember waking up. My wife woke up next to me in bed, sat bolt upright, the day after they had sort of flushed it out. And she had come up with the concept of the little sketch and she literally sat bolt upright and said, Oh my god, Chris, wake up, wake up. This isn't just a sketch. This is the basis for a series. And of course I sat bolt upright and went Oh God, what's this going to cost me

And that's how Please tell me I'm adopted started so of course at that point we're like, probably like every other producer oriel, you know, first attempt, if you will, from film school, you're kind of falling all over yourself making mistakes and trying to fix them as you go. But what was great is because we brought in some really great people. And we crowdfunded almost all of the Production funding, we, you know, wrote proper scripts, I put it into movie magic, you know, scheduling and budgeting, I got very quickly up to speed, doing all of the executive producer and produce your jobs for everything from funding to obviously, even legitimising our company, tax id bank accounts, every other thing that, you know, you kind of, Okay, we got to ramp this up, because we're kind of really doing this, at which point it really got very, wonderfully real. After the first full day of shooting, when people that we trust in the industry, we're looking at the dailies, and we're going, Wow, you can't just put this on YouTube, you actually have to do something more with this, this is not only is this great the concept, but it looks great shot, great, the actors are great, you've got something here, you can't just film The rest of it in. And because of that, we really sort of overnight morphed into a very serious production, you know, company that really was taking all of this, whether it be the glass, we were using, which, thankfully, Kathy, amazing woman at panna vision, who's good friends with our dp on the project, you know, helped us we shot with pan of vision lenses,

Alex Ferrari 11:42
That must have been nice.

Chris Sobchak 11:44
It was terrifying. I don't think I've ever I don't think I quite ever understood the power of a good piece of glass. And in fact, one of our we had two different DPS or camera ops that were working at the time for us on the project, and one of them was actually almost physically scared to put the you can make $10,000 zoom.

Alex Ferrari 12:10
If you want, you could stop, you could stop and unplug that phone. If you could. That'd be great.

Chris Sobchak 12:15
If you don't mind, hang on one second. Sorry, Alex won't be there in two seconds. Sure. Sorry about that, you'll have to have to throw it into isotope spectral repair.

Alex Ferrari 12:40
Yep. Not a problem. All right.

Chris Sobchak 12:43
So anyway, as I was saying, so, very quickly, we realized, okay, you know, things like, the glass, you have the roof package, you have the, you know, actually even just the knowledge base of the cameras. And, you know, do you know how to set your fans so that between Texas turns on because it's hot where you are, you know, but it's you The minute you go live you? Wait a minute, what's that noise? Where are we picking that up from? stupid stuff like that? Did you stumble over and go, Oh, okay. And one of the things that was most amazing for me on the journey between you know, from my wife and I, is what you start realizing, I don't know, if you've experienced this yourself. At the end of the day, you may have these great people who say I can do that. But if you're the if you're the captain of the ship, it's your money. It's your project. It's your production company and your moniker. It all does come back down to you. And you know, you have to you have to put your team together, you also have to be prepared to realize that sometimes people are overstating their abilities. Sometimes people

Alex Ferrari 13:53
In the film business No, every so often.

Chris Sobchak 13:57
And you know, and they mean well, they don't mean to put you in a situation where your back is against the wall. And at the same time, then you have two choices, fold up your tent and go home, or figure it out. And one of the greatest things that was ever told about producing came from actually a Gary Marshall's co producer and executives, you know, executive at Henderson productions named Heather Hall, who's one of our co producers on please tell me and we've got other projects we're working on. I was literally at a gas station in the San Fernando Valley with picking up steam grip equipment and something I can't even remember at this point what had happened. I was literally standing in 97 degree heat, weeping. And I called her and she calmed me down and she said, Look, Chris, it's okay. She said here's how this is going to go from years of experience on studio movies as well as Indies. She said, being a producer is about putting together a really, really great plan and Really, really great team. And then you're going to expect that absolutely nothing will happen to that plan. And in fact, because you did put a good plan together, your job from that point forward, is to carry a really big fire extinguisher every day, put out one fire at a time, don't lose your head and just prioritize what you need to get done now, not necessarily what has to happen for tomorrow just yet. And that has been the greatest advice that I got, because it saw me through days where things were at different moments, completely impossible and untenable. And yet, we managed to push through, we've managed to, you know, make our deadlines, we managed to get the footage in the can. And in certain circumstances, especially in the post world, which is turned into quite a beautiful challenge for Nikki and I

Alex Ferrari 15:55
Will go, we'll get into the post stuff, but I wanted to ask you, what, what, how did you keep costs low on on Sunday, like, I'm assuming this was semi shoestring budget.

Chris Sobchak 16:05
This is probably more shoestring than you can imagine. Obviously, we, as most indies do, you underestimate what you need. And because you want to you want the green light, you want to do it, you want to go. And we basically crowdfunded a good portion of the the principal photography, budget. The rest was filled in literally out of my own pocket. On AI, at which point we got to that moment of great, we've got everything we need. Now we're in post, what do we do? And it really came down to actually saying, you know what, with the, with the vision that my wife has, and obviously being the showrunner of the show, she really has Final Cut and final cut. And her I would have been completely impossible to do any sort of traditional post production workflow really came down, that would have been too many hours, too many changes, too many adjustments to get it right. And so as a result, we did it all ourselves. We physically did all the posts ourselves. I learned whatever programs we needed to learn. I consulted with some amazing people in Hollywood. And I will say that's one of the greatest lessons that I learned in this particular project that have now moved me forward where I'm, I'm actually getting paid to do coast stuff for people. blessedly, and, and help with product design and things of that nature. Is it real true Hollywood professionals are made me like yourself are willing to give their knowledge base, they're willing to answer questions they love to be involved in solutions, doesn't mean they're going to work for you for free, doesn't mean that they're going to, you know, give you great glass for nothing or anything. But when you have a really good question that excites them, and you find true visionaries or passionate people within the film industry, they want to know the answer to so suddenly, they're on the ride with you. And we had one of those was a gentleman named Michael tronic, who's a big time film editor, Academy board member, and he was sort of my guru of post production. And anytime I needed connection or advice or, like, what what do we color grading to what's our standard, you know, what are they doing on the cards, so that if my show looks good, and House of Cards looks good, that's great. Because if somebody monitors miscalibrated, and they're watching House of Cards, and they look bad, I can look bad. I just can't have it the other way around. And, you know, so those sorts of questions. He always had somebody if he didn't know himself that he could send me to some of whom have become, you know, my greatest proponents and friends I mean, and some of the companies as I said, have seen what I've done as an independent filmmaker with their equipment and with their software and have said Wow, you can't do that. Can you tell us how you did that?

Alex Ferrari 19:06
So yeah, so what so what first of all what camera did you shoot the movie The show on?

Chris Sobchak 19:10
We actually we shot the actual principal photographer for this season was shot on a red epic, okay. We actually now have such a wonderful close relationship and I with black magic, and I've used a lot of their cameras since the red product was really nice, but I actually think I prefer the Blackmagic product overall.

Alex Ferrari 19:32
Looks a little bit different. Yes,

Chris Sobchak 19:34
it is a little bit different. But we did shoot the shoot the first season on red epic. As I said, we were lucky enough to have cinema primes and zooms from panda vision, which I mean, you can't really go wrong with that. You're good, you're good. And we did shoot that you know, intentionally because as we started, we weren't sure where we were going with this. We did shoot it all in 5k on the red, so So basically, we knew we had What we would need to deliver a 4k HD output, which is what we did. And, you know, a lot of the streaming services and distribution networks, that you don't necessarily have to, by law have 4k content, but they actually take you a lot more seriously if you do. And also, obviously, just visually mean, let's be really honest, whether or not anyone's actually got a 4k TV doesn't matter. Down rezzing is always better than trying to oppress. And, and also we had saved or it saved our bacon in the post, you know, post world unbelievably, because there was trash footage and repurposed footage that we were able to do things with, which of course, you could never have done if you were at same resolution as output.

Alex Ferrari 20:44
Right, exactly. And that we've had on this on this podcast, and on the website, I've had multiple conversations about 4k and the ability to and I always say if you can afford 4k, and you can't afford the 4k workflow at a high resolution, I'm not talking about a 4k, compressed mp4. I'm talking about real 4k, then do it. Absolutely. But you don't have to, and it's not a deal breaker, you can definitely not it, you know, if it's an original Netflix, they have to be 4k. But if Netflix is buying for they'll take 10 ATP, and they're comfortable. And you because most people don't have a 4k monitor. That's right. So it's not it's not absolutely necessary. But But I'm sure that working on a 5k workflow was not easy. Now, did you cut it? In Da Vinci? What was the actual what's on the Actually,

Chris Sobchak 21:33
We actually did we initially started if you can believe it, we started the initial piecing it together in Final Cut Pro seven, God help you. And yes, exactly. And obviously, where we really instantly knew we were going to have a problem because again, as I told you, when we started this, we didn't know where this was going to end up. And it it the project appraised really quickly, if you will. And so ultimately, we ran into that before we got too far in and you know, we're just piecing edits together. And we were kind of going, this is a dead end workflow. Because a, we don't really want to go into Final Cut x. Seven certainly don't have access to an avid and obviously, you know, there's Vegas and there's these different platforms, premiere and whatnot. Okay. And as it turned out, I had already done a tutorial with the DaVinci Resolve for color, obviously, prior to it becoming an le. So I felt pretty comfortable in the interface. So when they came out with their first version of the Anneli that was, you know, workable for us, I was like, You know what, let you know, I know we can work in color the way I want to work in here, I know we can deal with the resolution that we want to work at and output most importantly. And we really did, we took the plunge, we actually moved it all across and we said okay, we're, we're burning, burning the ships, we're going to have to we're going this way. And it's a decision that thankfully, I made because black magics DaVinci Resolve now, especially that they've included fairlight, and everything with the new 14 it's really turned into something that I think is very progressive for it, especially for independent filmmakers who really need to do a lot of this on their own. And it's free, it's free, pretty much. Absolutely, I mean, even even the even the full dongle version, now they drop the price, three bucks, and maybe another 300 bucks and nothing. It's I mean, By comparison, it's absolutely nothing. And I will say not to sound like a poster child. But the philosophy because I've even asked some of my colleagues and friends who work at with black magic and said, Why are they giving this away, and the owner and the general culture of the company is, hey, if we give this away, you know, people are going to, they're going to maybe they're going to pay that little bump to get the dongle. And then on top of it, it integrates with all of our, you know, party cameras, it integrates with all the rest of our stuff, the warm and fuzzy feeling of the fact that it's all staying within the family and it's working for them and we're being attentive to what they're asking us to make the product do is going to be how we make our profit, and we don't need to make it on this. And if anything, it's you know, it's the, it's the, it's the carrot they want to dangle and I think, you know, the other thing if a carrot is and also one of the things that they really felt strongly about, which is funny in all things in my mind coming from a company that initially obviously was, you know, I mean, their original color correction machines, and, you know, studio installs are like, you know, hallowed ground, you know, hermetically sealed rooms with perfect lighting and, and, you know, $40,000 calibration, you know, the calibrated monitors and this kind of stuff and they suddenly said, Hey, we you know what we actually think everybody does deserves to have the software technology, you might not be able to afford the room. And you might have to come up with your own way to make sure you've got a, you know, a grading monitor that's going to work for you. But we think everybody deserves access to this because everybody deserves the ability to make their art. Amen. And I love that about black magic.

Alex Ferrari 25:19
Yeah, I'm a huge fan of that as well. And I am very similar to your story. I did the exact same thing when I did my first feature, which was I was on Final Cut seven. I'm like, I don't want to go to X, what I want to go to premiere. And I bet I've been a colorist for 1012 years. And I was like, well, there's that Edit tab. Let me give it a shot. And I literally just burned this burn the ships, as you said, and I was like, okay, we're, we're color grading raw. And we're editing raw in resolve. And it was it was a wonderful experience. Really, yeah,

Chris Sobchak 25:48
Wonderful. I have to agree. And and as I said, it's only gotten better with each, you know, next version. And as I said, some of the stuff that I was able to do now the thing with police tell me I'm adopted that has brought a certain amount of Trade and Industry interest to what Nikki and I did was the fact that obviously, as I said, both you know, Nikki, myself weak, physically did all the posts, we did all the motion graphics, we did all the titles, we did all the animation, all of the color, obviously all the edit the sound design, the Foley the dialogue, mixing the ADR, everything except the actual original composing, we attempt stuff in in our wonderful composer named Keith Allen in Austin did that. And then obviously, all final outputs, all artwork, everything we did physically all of it. And I did it on a MacBook Pro, maxed out with portable, you know, higher speed hard drives, and all over the world while on tour with the album, john band.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
So you're you're posting a full series while you're on the road with elton john. Yep. That's pretty insane.

Chris Sobchak 27:00
It was completely, it was completely nuts, I hope to maybe never quite do it like that ever again. In fact, it would probably kill me. The way I sort of did my math, and I would never want to actually try to add up man hours because then I go, No, jump off a bridge, you know, of course, but but it was one of those things where on a day off on the road, I would probably put in 12 to 14 hours on the show. And then obviously being as I was all the departments today, it might be sound. And then I might be bouncing into color on another episode or I might be you know, doing this or that

Alex Ferrari 27:33
I you know, I think and I'm interrupt you, but I think that what you are doing and part also what I do is being that kind of one man band. Yeah. kind of model is I think truly the future of filmmakers, indie filmmaking, because, yeah, you've got to do more than one job, you've got not you got to do more than five jobs.

Chris Sobchak 27:56
Yeah, you mean, you may, you may choose perhaps, that you want to get it close, and then have somebody tweak because you can afford that. Or you may choose, Hey, I know how to really make color look good. So I'm gonna spend my budget, because I'm not so good at sound on sound. But I totally agree. I think having the ability and even just moving forward and the more traditional vein, I think, as a producer, the mere fact that you put your hands on the software that you've actually done, every one of these jobs means that one, someone from a department comes to you and says I need this, or this is what that's going to take, you're so much better informed to know whether or not this person has any idea what they're talking about, or if what they're asking for is not reasonable that maybe they're patting the bill, but maybe they really don't know how to accomplish the task. So I think every filmmaker should go through one trial by fire of having to do every single thing.

Alex Ferrari 28:52

Chris Sobchak 28:54
Just to know the workflow, and I know you're going on a set and sitting in a production trailer. Yeah, you learn how to make movies and fill out forms and stuff, but it's not the same.

Alex Ferrari 29:03
No, it's not. And only when you kind of start building up, I always call it the toolbox that you build up over the course of your career, you keep throwing new tools in the toolbox, and you and now you can literally grab a camera go out and shoot content and finish it yourself without having to count on anybody else if you can help it you know, I mean, it's right. That model works out on an indie level, you know, and Robert Rodriguez actually showed it they could actually work on a larger scale as well right? That's right. But at a certain point it you know, you have to bring in you know, VFX teams and things like that are off yourself. You just physically can't do it all but I you know, but if you're doing it on a on a low budget, or an indie budget of 100 grand or lower, yeah, you can do this and it's it's absolutely doable. So I'm, I'm so glad it's one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show because I wanted to show the listeners that this is kind of the new way of doing things and and i don't know How much experience you have working with other filmmakers. But, you know, one thing I've seen again and again is a lot of filmmakers want to be successful, be famous, be rich, make their movies, but they don't want to put that work in. And they're like, Oh, I just want to write, or I just want to be the director. I'm like, I can't do that anymore. I'm like, you're not gonna come on the set with a monocle, and a blow horn, you know, and a baray. And say, You're the director, those days are gone. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor.

And now back to the show.

Chris Sobchak 30:39
No, and in fact, it's even true. You know, my wife realized as an actress, and this is an interesting thing you bring up because it's really true. As I told you, my wife's first love is as an actor, she, that's where her passion really ignites on set. But she realized, and again, this was Gary Marshall, who has been nothing, you know, is nothing but an amazing champion of our company of my wife as a force in Hollywood. And one of the things that he pointed out, and we've seen is the fact that even in the major studio system, they would so rather hire an actor, who has written, maybe directed, maybe produced their own things has a company, because they want to know that they don't have a diva in a trailer, who won't come out because the green m&ms didn't show up. They want somebody who knows that there is time is money, that this is how movie set works, that you are one part of it, and how you fit in and why you have to hit your mark, and why you have to nail your lines. And when you have an adjust that if you don't get it right the first time we are burning daylight, and there's three more setups to go.

Alex Ferrari 31:48
Yeah, that's a really good point. Well, first of all, if I don't have my agreement, obviously, I can't work. But yeah, I mean, obviously. But But seriously, though, you're absolutely right. That's a really good point. I've never even thought about that. Because that actually is a really good perspective. Because, you know, when you're dealing with actors that are just actors, and it's so sad to say, but that's a great point. Like, they want a hustler.

Chris Sobchak 32:11
Yeah, they want, they want to know that you're on their team, and that you get what's happening on the set, and not just your little tiny microcosmic part. And I think that says you're saying even true, the knowledge base in the toolbox, whether or not you end up doing it or whether or not it informs who you're going to hire to do it and suddenly streamlines your workflow and makes sure that you're, you're not hiring idiots. And, obviously, you're doing what you need to do and what you can do, and you're farming out what needs to get done faster, or by a team where you can't but you're also then much more intelligent with what you're going to do with the limited resources you have as an independent.

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Yeah, absolutely. And again, and again, and I'll say it one at one more time. I mean, as a filmmaker, you really need to know as many jobs as you can to be able to be able to do to produce this, like you said, you wouldn't have been able to produce your show, unless you guys did it all yourself. And you learned on the job, which is kind of nutty. But you know what i just i did my first feature. I hadn't ever, I never did paid my feature before. So I was like I learned on the job. And I'd like so I got

Chris Sobchak 33:19
Pulled in. I was executive producing in my office upstairs. And I, we ran into some delays on the first day of shooting that cost us time. And I went to my department heads and I said, Guys, we can't, we can't finish the shoot. If you guys are going to work this slow. You got to read it redesign your shot list and you got to get this up. We have to cover this many pages in a day. I can't help you. Alright, I don't have the funds to go over. So there you go. And they came back to me. They said we've we've worked the shot list, but we have one stipulation. I'm like, okay, they said, and they said, Your we need you to step in as our first ad. And I was like, okay, and I'm not kidding, Alex. This is not one of my prouder moments, although I fooled everybody, which was great. I literally went that night I said, Sure. Alright, now you know, I've managed stages, I've done different things. So I wasn't worried about doing the job at all. I understood that the you know, being a first ad is about keeping all the departments talking the logistics of actually keeping the set moving. You save two minutes here, four minutes there, seven minutes there. You make sure you don't go over on your time, and you basically keep things moving. And when you add that up at the end of a week, you've saved six hours. But at the same time, though I've been on umpteen sets though I've paid attention and absorb like a sponge. I went onto Wikipedia and looked up first ad at which point I jotted down and I'm very good. If I write something down I don't actually have to refer to my notes. I remember I I literally wrote I needed to use the next morning You know, Okay, back to one everybody, you know, first positions, last looks, and fooled everybody. And actually, at the end of the shoot, after all the days we did, I went to one of the more professional members of our team. And I asked him, I said, you know, this was really was my first opportunity to step in as first ad how'd I do? And he said, Wow, I had no idea you hadn't done this. Like, for many times, that was a huge compliment that I had managed to sort of not only do the job, right, but fit into the mold of what you're supposed to do what you're supposed to say, let's just get on with work.

Alex Ferrari 35:39
And I'll tell you what, like, like, going on on Wikipedia to look up the job you're about to do the next day, a lot of times in this is not always going to end well. But a lot of times, you got to fake it till you make it. And but you know, you're also a seasoned pro and many other avenues of not only this business, but the music industry itself. So you have a little bit of depth to fall back on, as opposed to a 20 year old trying to do this. Well,

Chris Sobchak 36:07
I still I do think one of the things you know, you asked what I've been recently strangely put in this role because of what we've done. And I was lucky enough, I got named to the studio daily 52 nav, which I initially thought was a like a scam, you know, one of those things where, hey, for $50, we'll put you in our registry of winners and get an award, or I actually exactly will give you an award, but

Alex Ferrari 36:29
You have to pay for the award, right?

Chris Sobchak 36:31
Yeah. I thought it was a scam. And then I contacted some of the other companies that were up for technical awards from Studio daily. And they were like, no, it's real. And I'm like, What did you nominate me? They were like, no, but it's great. How'd you get that? And I found out later it was because someone had heard about what we had done and the almost impossibility of it. And I actually can now say I won an award for doing this stuff, which makes me giggle. But at the same time, I've had a lot of people now coming to me going, what should we do? How did you do this? How did you learn these programs? What was the knowledge base? And I think maybe the disconnect is that the kids in the film school think it's too hard to learn it. And instead, you know, even as you said, you got to fake it and you know, learn learn while you earn, potentially is the reality, you know, for me is it's like whether it be rippletraining or or lynda.com. You know, you whip through that stuff as fast as you can you retain about 60 to 70% of it, then you go do your own work. And you remember somewhere along the way, Hey, wait a minute. I'm missing a quick key here that I remember the guy talked about, let me run back. Let me find that 10 minute QuickTime movie. And I'll might actually watch it at normal speed. That was one of my tricks, I literally would take the the ripple or lynda.com, you know, elements. And I would actually download them and then play them with VLC at about two and a half times the speed. So it sounded like an auctioneer Hey, da, da, da da, you're gonna need the same damn color. And we're gonna do that. And then I retain 90% of it, and then go on to work on my project. When I hit a roadblock or a wall. I'd be like, hang on. I talked about this. I go find it. And obviously, once you do it yourself, you've internalized it for life and you move on. But yeah, I mean, it was pretty, pretty insane. And I think that's maybe what more indie filmmakers have to realize that, yes, there is a learning curve, but no one says you can't be working while you're doing that. And you know, there's good people out there, as I said, professionals who use this, you know, the stuff even people, even buffoons, like myself, if someone asked me a question, and I had a cinematographer friend who was having trouble with some of the caching features in resolve, saved my project worldwide. And they said, Well, you know, I know you said, you did this, can you walk me through it, I got on the phone and walked walked her through it. And she was like, Oh, my God, I'm editing in native, like, I'm editing in 5k. Without proxies, and when I go to my output room, it's full, maximize the bear, and it, it's working, you know, I'm able to actually see in real time what I'm doing. And I was like, yep, there you go. But there's always someone who's willing to give you that knowledge base and help you. You just can't be afraid of asking, and you certainly can't be afraid of diving into a new program. And forcing yourself, as you say, to put in a little bit of the time to do the work.

Alex Ferrari 39:32
I think I think that's the one thing that a lot of filmmakers are missing is that they have to understand that this is work and this is not and I've said this a million times. I'm sure everyone listening will will go Okay, Alex, we've heard it before, but it's the truth. This is not a short game. This is a very long game. It's not a one year plan. It's a 10 year plan. Yeah, no, absolutely. You know, and you have to kind of go through everything. You have to go through all the rough stuff to come out. But that's what it takes in this world and this world is changing everything. Every day a little bit more, and it's not going towards the past, it's going towards the future. So you'll need to know more and more and more and to be your own dp, be your own editor, be your own colors, your own producer, your own writer and so on. Now, I wanted to talk to you a little a little bit about the distribution of the show. What was the distribution plan? Was it for money? Or was it for exposure? And why did you choose amazon prime?

Chris Sobchak 40:25
It was a very interesting story initially, ideally, as I told you, the impetus for the whole project was sort of to exercise the demons and just put something up on YouTube, then it turned into, wait a minute, this is a series, this is a great concept for a series, which then turned into Wow, this is starting to look really, really good. You can't just put this up, it needs to be seen. I think initially, it wasn't even so much about like, hey, let's go make a

Are out in a way that people can actually see it, enjoy it and hopefully create, you know, a demand for the product that can lead to being able to do more, and do a second season do a third season. We have guest stars that we want to have come on the show and things of that nature. And so initially, as I said it was all about production and getting it done, which was a mammoth task in itself as obviously, you know, but then it came down to great what's Where's their home, you know, we did not put one up, just put this up on YouTube, so they own it. And we don't have anything except maybe, you know, commercial revenue that they get to pick. And then we started looking at the streaming services, obviously, our first port of call that we looked at was Hulu. At the time, Hulu was doing quite well. And we sort of Netflix wasn't doing anything. Our project is something that Jeffrey Katzenberg was touting and some of the, you know media, we actually have a short form original comedy series. So meaning each episode comes in at anywhere between eight and 12 minutes, depending on the episode. And in some ways, it's akin to, obviously a regular series premise, a through line throughout the season and the series, but each episode is micro compacted, is covering a particular topic that we're we're spoofing. And with the short attention span of kids today, we really wanted to sort of find a niche to to not be the 30 minute episode or the hour long episode, we want it to be that one that if they've got time to watch the crazy cat video on YouTube, they got enough time to watch an episode of Please tell me I'm adopted. And in fact, share it similarly. And we've had so far very good success with that. So we were looking at this and Netflix doesn't really at the time, they didn't really have anything really in that vein. And then we looked at Hulu, and Hulu was doing some short form stuff. And when we contacted and started to submit, you know, and look at Hulu, the problem was Hulu suddenly out of nowhere stopped accepting submission and content. Because they were going to retool their financial model to match Netflix instead of a revenue based they decided, you know, revenue sharing base, they were going to go to a straight licensing as Netflix has Yep. Well, they literally stopped accepting content for over three months. I'm aware. How's it how there can be anything on their, on their service? At that point? I have no idea. I don't know where the content was coming from. But they refuse to even look at anything, let alone make any deals. And so we sort of sat around and we were like, at which point, we really started looking seriously at how hard Amazon was working to, besides conquer the world, but literally how hard they were working to actually start putting really quality programs and make them available. And Amazon's business model is just this whole sidebar for me. Obviously in the US we see it as Hey, I really want stuff shipped to my house. So I'm going to do that and Oh wow, I get some free stuff with it as well. Video audio. Hey, that's cool, man. Well, the rest of the world the way their Amazon is approaching it is they're selling video and audio and book product. And then they're saying hey, for just a small little add on, you can order your stuff from us too. So they're actually starting to get their business model going outside the US and in New Territories by using the video elements, the audio elements and media as a way to get people to start subscribing, which you can then make some of course completely captive to any Amazon advertising for their shipping services

Alex Ferrari 44:55
In their in your in their ecosystem.

Chris Sobchak 44:57
Absolutely. And you're already loving it because you have this great content, you're seeing these great shows like, please tell me I'm adopted. And you're like, wow, for only $2 more I can have, I can order my you know, duct tape and come to my house. Sure, two more euros, I can do that. So I think it's a brilliant idea, you know, as far as how to create that demand for the product. And so for us, we actually been riding the wave, we decided, you know, the heck with Hulu, if you can't get your stuff together, we want, we've got a great show, we want to get it out, we want to start moving. We did use an aggregator which I'm very pleased with a company called Kino nation. We had obviously, I'm sure you're familiar, we had two different options, major online options for aggregators. And since this was our first project, I really wanted to have that knowledge base of an aggregator I wasn't so concerned, whether it be the, you know, flat fee base, or whether it be a percentage base of royalties, I wasn't so concerned with that, I wanted to have that extra bit of help in making sure fulfillment was done properly, making sure that all of the metadata was what it needed to be. And I'm actually forever grateful that the people at Kino nation worked with us to make this happen. Because they obviously have the responsibility of putting everything into the correct format for whatever streaming services and platforms that you pick. And it's interesting to note, I felt very comfortable with keynote, especially because instead of flat fee, they do take a percentage of your profits, but they don't make dime one unless you make money. Okay, Ash made me feel much more warm and fuzzy about Hey, okay, you're going to take my product around and talk to people I can't get access to, I would like you to have a vested interest in why it would be a good idea to represent my product properly. And the fact that you don't make money until I make money, that instantaneously was obviously very attractive, like, Okay, that makes sense to me. You know, why would I pay you 600 bucks, and then you say, you're going to take something around town? Right, right. Okay. I don't exactly see what your incentive is to work very hard. And I didn't like that. And Nikki didn't like it as well. And as I said, we we did intentionally and again, this is a media ploy, we could have put our show up on a variety of different platforms simultaneously, we chose to make ourselves an Amazon exclusive. And that actually seems to carry some weight, you know, people actually see that and go and subscribe, they buy the show, even piecemeal on Amazon. And there's a certain amount of that kind of cachet that comes with that. You know, and I've had on different interviews, I've had to explain to people that obviously, the other thing is within the, whether it be Netflix or anyone else's world. And Netflix is a little bit different, because obviously they do if they're going to license you, they're going to pay up front a certain amount, but it's not much there. They're licensing a two year period. And at which point they have whatever they want to do with it. So they have some incentive to advertise the show. They have some incentive to try to help get the word out, but not much. And well, let

Alex Ferrari 48:23
Me let me ask you a question about amazon prime. So do you you went through an area later to go into Amazon Prime, but what you could have easily just done amazon prime by yourself?

Chris Sobchak 48:31
That is correct. That is correct. On this particular one, I chose to use the use the connection that we had with our aggregator just to facilitate how everything goes up to make sure everything was lined up. And then potentially obviously, as we move forward, we may open up the first season to other platforms as well. And obviously, it's all already in the pipeline. It's already I can just press a button and off it goes.

Alex Ferrari 48:58
No, no. Did you? Did you release it at an Amazon for sale first? Or was it always prime,

Chris Sobchak 49:05
And it actually was prime and sale simultaneous. We basically did our premiere on March 6, and we basically just did the across the board. Obviously, if you're not a prime user, you can just pay for it. If you're a prime user, it's we get a flat per per minute, you know viewing or per second viewing. And we just for us as you said a good portion of this is and again, as you said the 10 year plan. It's not a one year plan. We put this together. We wanted to you know use this as partially as but even proof of concept. We've got a great show people are watching it, people reviewing it well and with X amount of dollars for PR versus x amount of dollars for production. Here's what is possible with an increase in you know, funding And investment in both areas, we can have exponential growth, you know, and see much larger profitability. Now, let

Alex Ferrari 50:10
Me ask you on the Amazon Prime when you're being paid per minute, how, how are you doing with that?

Chris Sobchak 50:16
Because I haven't gone down that path yet with my film, it's available on Amazon, but I haven't released it on prime yet. It's only for sale at the moment. So or, at the moment, we actually are doing very well with that, obviously, one of the things that is interesting with the Amazon platform that I think is maybe a little bit different with say, Netflix, because Netflix, of course, is a buyout, or it's a buyout, and it's in it's obviously, you either have Netflix or you don't. And because of the cost of it, I don't know necessarily that many people. Yeah, you know, obviously, the nice thing with being on either, you know, it was sort of the business model of Amazon is if someone wants to see your show, they can just go buy it. If they have prime, however, and one of your sort of goals is to go viral to actually have a larger audience, start talking about your product and start moving it around. They don't have to pay anything, you they just become a fan, they become part of your army. So you for whatever you lose in dollar value. I think you gain in mass marketing that you didn't technically have to PR and pay for. And that's sort of what we've noticed. I mean, we had a wonderful occurrence. And as I said, we've been pounding the pavement like crazy on our own doing things like speaking to you, which is fantastic for the show. I got a phone call out of nowhere, I was out on the road. I think it was in El Paso, Texas, and a nice lady from Time Inc, called me up and said, Are you the person involved with that? Please tell me I'm adopted show and I said why? Yes, I am. And she said, Oh, well, you know, could you send? You know, we think we're gonna do a little something on your show in the UK. You know, you could just send us some information. I said, Well, as a matter of fact, I can and I whipped out our EP k faster than you can by still on my iPhone. I was like, still on the phone with her. Okay, you should have that now with photos and you know, our BIOS and all the information about the show and the release and everything. And she was like, Oh, that's brilliant. Oh, wow. That's fantastic. She even emailed me back. So that's one of the best little packages I've ever seen. Everything we need is in there. Thank you that I never heard anything back. And I was like, okay, man. And she told me she was with something called the TV times in the UK, which of course, in retrospect, having done the research is the equivalent of like their TV Guide.

Alex Ferrari 52:37
Got it.

Chris Sobchak 52:38
So what the, you know, out of nowhere, I'm watching our numbers, and you're getting your UK numbers, and you're German and you're Japanese. And suddenly I see this huge bump in our UK numbers. And I'm like, okay, I mean, I know we've done ads, we've done interviews, we've done this, that the other thing, trying to find where did that come from? Well, of course it came from the fact and I finally got a copy of it. In in the TV times they say what else is on and other than the regular standard BBC listings and things the ITV and all that. They say, Hey, here's some other great content you don't want to miss. And they literally had three little little sections. And the top one was Better Call Saul. The middle one was us. And the bottom was Adam Sandler's Sandy Wexler movie, not a bad Not a bad group of not bad group to be in, I will certainly be wedged between Better Call Saul and Adam Sandler's movie any day. And of course, people went. So and again, part of that is, if they've got amazon prime, and they've never heard of you, there's no sweat off their back to check it out. And obviously, as you move forward, whether it be being able to show that you've got a viable project, to be able to show that you have a successful project, obviously, as you well know. And then even on top of it, and this is something I think filmmakers don't understand as the you'll get this because you've done it. But the idea that you've done your own feature film, and you did it yourself, you know, well, why should I Why should I talk to Alex about this project I'm going to be doing Why should Why does Why should I interview him to be the are the DP? Well, he's got these six projects he did. Oh, and I know that one. I like that one. Yeah, yeah, I'll meet with him. Otherwise, what's their incentive to take a chance on you or me? But when they're like, yeah, they've got a successful show on Amazon. They're doing bright they're working on the second season. Yeah, I'll take that up. And suddenly it does legitimize and open doors.

Alex Ferrari 54:49
Yeah, without question I mean, once you create a once you start creating content and creating product that's good. Even respectable, not even like out like if you know award winning monster thing, people start taking you seriously because now you're you've just jumped from the 99%, up into the 1% to actually does something.

Chris Sobchak 55:10
That's correct. And in fact, that just starts cracking open more doors. And also, it opens the possibility and brings you into a group of people that are, again, as I said earlier, want to help you succeed, they want to help you with the knowledge base, if they don't know they'll help you find somebody who does to answer your question or help you. And that's been, as I said, that's been the most awesome thing, you really are suddenly in the club. And it for a filmmaker coming out of film school or something like that, or somebody who's never completed a project and put it up on a on an actual site, other than, and I do think there's nothing wrong with YouTube. There's nothing wrong with any of that. There's nothing wrong with just, you know, printing your own book, but at the same time, it doesn't carry the weight. No, it doesn't.

Alex Ferrari 56:01
It doesn't I mean, YouTube, you know, where you can go see the cat video doesn't have the same cachet that if you have your feature on it, like Oh, your features on YouTube, you must have failed. And I hate to say that, but if that's true, you know, there's like, oh, you're another YouTube series, there's 1000 of them. But being on Amazon, and not the Amazon's doing the same thing. It's opening itself up to a lot of different, you know, videos and things as well. But Amazon still has that cache, while Netflix and Hulu, those have much larger caches, purely because they're harder to get into. So it's fascinating man, your story has been very fascinating. Christen, I wanted to thank you so much for sharing it. And I've got a few questions. I asked all my guests. So first question is What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to make their first feature or the first series?

Chris Sobchak 56:50
Realistically, I always say this technology or no technology, absolutely. Realize that you're a storyteller. Don't lose sight of the fact that you're trying to tell a story, figure out what that story is. And then use the technology as best you can to tell your story, because at the end of the day, pretty colors are really great. And CGI stuff is really nifty. But if you're not telling me a story, it doesn't work on a studio level. And it doesn't work on an independent level, make sure your story is great, and be passionate about telling it, then use the tools to do it.

Alex Ferrari 57:23
Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Chris Sobchak 57:29
Interestingly, it's a series of kids books, and has nothing to do with filmmaking. There was a author named Arthur ransom. And he wrote these English books about these kids. That one was made a new movie called swallows, and Amazons. And it's about these kids who go away for the summer in the Lake District. And they get on little sailboats. And they basically just imagine and dream and they, they have their own little battles, and they create their own world. And in some ways, as quite a few of my good producer friends have told me, the end of the day, your job as a filmmaker, your job as a storyteller is to create the world make me believe every bit of it and immerse me in it. And that's what I felt from those books. And that's what I learned from those books was to dream and imagine and come out the other side with this whole world that you've constructed. And that's what being a storyteller and a filmmaker ends up being. So when Nicky comes up with a script for our company, or we option something, then it's about let's all create this world and invite people to come into it.

Alex Ferrari 58:35
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Chris Sobchak 58:42
Probably to admit when you're wrong, probably to admit when you're wrong, and in fact, try to do something about it. Um, you know, try to actually use that as a life lesson of like, okay, yeah, I overstepped my bounds on this, or I did something about that. Try to change your behavior for the better, and it's going to make everything smooth, or you're going to actually, you're not going to run into the same roadblocks again, and people will appreciate when you actually make that effort.

Alex Ferrari 59:11
Very cool. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time? Well, you

Chris Sobchak 59:16
You mentioned one, it's a strange obviously, you know, everybody says they love it. And the shining, I love it just purely because of a lot of the cinematography and the imagery is, for whatever reason, just sticks in my brain. It is unbelievable the way that imagery stays with you. One of the most seminal movies, and I'm very excited for the newest one. The the not exactly reboot, but the sequel, I guess it would be is Blade Runner, Blade Runner, and that movie more than any other movie for a variety of reasons, both when I was very young, and now that I'm a little bit older, has really been a very, very powerful impact emotionally to me. And then I think, oddly, I would say my last choice would probably be going back to more of a genre of films that were so stunning that they sort of let me know what was possible. And that was if you go back to all of the silent films, silent comedies, the physical comedy, so Chaplin, and Buster Keaton, and all of those guys that did these incredibly elaborate physical stunts, and of course, had to do it all in one take and make it all absolutely seamless, and try not to get killed in the process. Amazing, isn't it? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:45
It was something really special. Now, where? Where can people find you and find your work? You know, the

Chris Sobchak 1:00:51
Easiest thing to do is obviously, we're all over IMDb. We will be on your podcast here, obviously, which is spectacular. But please tell me I'm adopted, which is our original short form comedy series. is on Amazon Prime Amazon anywhere in the world.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:07
Cool. And And how about your company or what?

Chris Sobchak 1:01:10
Our company is wrapped tastic productions like you wrap to the shoot. And it was fantastic. So rap tastic productions. And if someone does want to get in touch with us, you know, obviously they can go to IMDb and find out all the details there. And yeah, especially with all the press for Please tell me I'm adopted. We're kind of like a rash on the web, which is great.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:28
That's a great serve. I like that. Chris, thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I really appreciate your time. No, no, absolutely. And,

Chris Sobchak 1:01:33
You know, I think what you're doing with the podcast, and the fact that you're taking time out of your own production, to help educate, you know, independent filmmakers as to what's possible. I think it's brilliant that you're there.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:45
Thank you so much, man. I appreciate it.

Chris Sobchak 1:01:47
Absolutely. My pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:49
So you guys getting ready to go make your own streaming series. I know we're trying to you know, Jill and I are actually pitching this as Meg as a streaming series as well, to a few studios. And we're gonna see if we get any bites, but it's just a new world, man, you guys can go out there and not just make a feature film. But make a series you can make an eight episode series, they can be 10 15 minutes each. There's no reason why you guys don't have it. And if you're an actor, listening to this show right now, there is absolutely no reason why you and a bunch of your acting friends. Don't get a couple cameras. Get a few filmmakers together. And guys, go make us just write something and go make a series. put yourselves out there stop waiting for people to give you permission to do what you love. Not only actors, but of course all the filmmakers listening. Don't wait for permission. Just go out and do it. There is no excuses anymore. So I hope you got a lot out of that interview with Chris ob check and definitely check out his series. Please tell me I'm adopted. It will be in the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/187. And if you guys haven't checked that out yet, definitely head over to our YouTube channel at indiefilmhustle.com/YouTube, and check out our new show, the director series where we go deep down the rabbit hole on some of your favorite filmmakers of all time current and classic, currently where we have David Fincher and Chris Nolan is up next. So definitely check it out. And as always keep that hustle going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




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