The film industry had to adjust a lot since the hit of COVID. Thanks to streaming services, the hit wasn’t as volatile as could be. Now that society seems to be reaching the end of the pandemic, the future of the filmmaking and film experience post-COVID has become part of the conversation. To help us explore the subject, I have on the show today, seasoned filmtrepreneur and award-winning producer, Anne Marie Gillen.
Anne Marie is the CEO of Gillen Group— an entertainment consulting firm in Los Angeles. Production-wise, she’s credited for producing commercially and critically successful films and television shows. Coupled with an international network of studios, distributors, and talent, one may call her, The Plug.
During the stages and succession of my career, she’s ranked C-suite executive positions at big entertainment companies like Development & Production at Entertainment Business Group, Electric Shadow Productions, and Revelations Entertainment.
Her comedy-drama film, Fried Green Tomatoes produced in 1991, is an all-time classic and stands to have been a Box office success. It grossed $119.4 million on an $11 million budget and was nominated for two Academy Awards. The film tells the story of a housewife, Evelyn Couch, unhappy with her marriage, befriends an elderly lady in a nursing home, and is enthralled by the tales she tells of people she used to know. Through Idgie’s inspiring life, Evelyn learns to be more assertive and builds a lasting friendship of her own with Ninny.
Anne Marie compiled her business expertise in the industry and her production experience to write The Producer’s Business Handbook (2010, 3rd edition). The book was followed by her next film, Parallel Man: Infinite Pursuit, in 2014.
Chased by commandos, Agent Nick Morgan is on the run in the multiverse! To escape, he jumps between parallel Earths including a polluted industrial hellscape, a planet where dinosaurs evolved into humanoids, and a fungi world with giant mushrooms.
Your corporate minds will definitely enjoy this interview.
I’ve linked Anne Marie’s book, The Business of Show Business for Creatives, in the show notes for you to check out.
Enjoy my conversation with Anne Marie Gillen.
Right-click here to download the MP3
Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome to the show Anne Marie Gillen. How you doing, Anne?
Anne Marie Gillen 0:14
I'm doing great. Thank you so much, Alex. I just have both of my vaccinations and a two week incubation period. So I'm almost normal
Alex Ferrari 0:25
Almost I'm my wife and I are just almost there. We're in the go f yourself category right now. But we're almost We're almost to the edge we're like, and it's so sad for us because we're just right on the border of like now, not yet. Not yet. But as of this recording in about a week or so we should be able to, to, to jump on beautiful. So it's been a crazy. It's been great. It's been a crazy year and change. It is affected not only the world, but it's just thrown our business upside down. And the way we do business as the as the way we consume content is the way we release content. I think the the ripple effects of what has happened in our industry will be felt for years to come from the theatrical experience to streaming. I'd love to hear just really quickly what you think of where we are right now. And how how you think this is all going to kind of shake out because we're in the ripple still. We're not out of the ripples we are in? We're still in the ripples. Yeah, absolutely.
Anne Marie Gillen 1:28
But I think more than anything is, especially with how we consume, I think was because of COVID was just launched very quickly. 510 years ahead of the game plan, but it's where we were always had it. So that didn't surprise me too much. It certainly affected the theatrical way more than we would have if we hadn't have had COVID. But I do believe that we'll come back to a certain level but yeah, that's Yeah, Africa. Well, I don't think you know, I think when it comes to this, the Indies and documentaries, and things like that, I think it will be pretty much staying with the streaming. But the big event movies and visual effects kind of immersive movies, I think will come back very strongly when we can all go back to the theater because we all desperately miss it.
Alex Ferrari 2:22
Oh, I miss I miss going to the theater. But I don't know when I'll feel comfortable in the theater again, it's going to be a really that I call it the hangover, the COVID hangover, of just like being in a room with someone else without a mask on a handshake. You know, I was a hugger. Back in the day, I was a hugger. Like, you know, you like how you say goodbye. You say Hello, I'm Latino. So this is the way it is. So, you know, you know, just like, you give them a hug. And you know, and you say goodbye. So it is a it's gonna be interesting. I think we're gonna still be feeling this for the next few years. I don't think the movie I don't think the theatrical experience will ever come back to its hype prior. And it's been going down steadily. I mean, if it wasn't for if it wasn't for Marvel, take Marvel out of the equation for the last decade.
Anne Marie Gillen 3:08
Take Disney Marvel out. But what we're why the numbers have stayed up is because the cost of the ticket has gone up, right? missions have been slowly kind of steadily just ever so slightly
Alex Ferrari 3:21
going down. So it's going to I think, I don't think you'll ever come back up. I think it'll eventually eventually turn into a Broadway scenario where it's event films only like, right, like, I'm not going to I'm not going to the theater to see a comedy right now. Like it's not really necessary, but I will go see an event movie or big action extravaganza or, or something that's cinematic like Joker, even though Joker wasn't like a huge blockbuster like action packed. It was essentially taxi driver. But it was, but it was cinematic. And right. I wanted to go see it there. So I
Anne Marie Gillen 3:59
right there, sir. I think you're absolutely right. But I don't think those numbers go back up to where they were. Yeah. And that's okay. I don't think we have to bemoan that so much. You know, there's still, you know, the good news is there's so many more outlets for us producers to go to now that weren't there before. And the competition is fierce. And the whole, you know, I got to have a theatrical release mentality, I think is falling by the wayside pretty strongly. Very strong. It's,
Alex Ferrari 4:28
it's not as sexy. I mean, don't get me wrong. Look, it's still a filmmakers of a certain generation will always have a reverence for the theatrical experience. In my generation, maybe the generation behind this but like my kids, or the kids, or like the generation, that teenagers right now, it's not as big of a deal as it is to my generation, your generation generation behind me. It was just like, oh, you're not a real filmmaker unless you're up on the screen.
Anne Marie Gillen 4:57
And I think film festivals will fill that Space even more. So the idea that your film is premiered at a festival in a theater to have that kind of experience will help replace that. And I think film festivals will grow even more so because of that. You remember when when people filmmakers was like, well, you're not a real filmmaker unless you shoot film. Yeah, that's gone now. Right? Right. Exactly.
Alex Ferrari 5:21
Exactly. Now, it's like, I didn't get a theatrical but I premiered on Netflix. And now, you know, 100 million people just watched my movie, sadly, far more than they ever would going to the theater. Oh, absolutely. I had I had a filmmaker on the other day, who directed the amazing documentary called the last blockbuster. And he Taylor, he got a Netflix deal, which is ironic and brutal in so many ways that Netflix is premiering. And it's a huge hit. And he's like, it's outnet. So many people are gonna watch that film, that would have never seen it. I've never seen it before,
Anne Marie Gillen 5:56
especially when it comes to a documentary or I'm real big into social impact entertainment right now. And it's really, if you really believe in those things, it's it's about eyeballs, not about opening in the theater or opening, screaming or opening Film Festival, whatever. You've got to get the eyeballs in order to change the attitude to get the dialogue going to get them from apathy to empathy and into action about whatever the topic is. So absolutely. So we went on a tangent. So let's start actually, how did you hit it?
Alex Ferrari 6:31
How did you get in the business?
Anne Marie Gillen 6:34
Well, I hail from Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I always was a performer. In high school, I did every play, and I majored I was an acting major in college and came back to the Twin Cities and did the whole theater seeing the Guthrie in children's theater. I then focused on my dance side of things. And I was in a dance company and a choreographer. So that was my whole life. And one winner. I just felt like I was hitting the glass ceiling here. And it was about as good as it was going to get. And I really wanted the next and the new challenge. And it was the middle of middle of very cruel, cold winter. And so it was like, okay, it's either probably New York or LA, you know, Chicago felt more like a lateral move. And I thought, well, the middle of winter, I know nothing about LA, let's go check it out. So I got in my car, $500 in my pocket, clothes in the backseat, and I drove up to LA, I didn't have a job, I didn't have a place to live. I didn't know anybody. My mom called her cousin, they let me stay there. And that's kind of started the whole thing. And when I first landed in LA, I, you know, got my agent and tried to do the whole acting thing. But I began to realize very early on, that being a producer was where it's at, because then you have more control over your life. Yeah, at least you can be working on things and making things rather than as an actor. You're always waiting for somebody to hire you give you permission. Yeah, yeah, giving prisoners permission to do my work. And actors in. in Minneapolis, we're very still our unit revered, you know, you have a craft and a talent. And you know, in LA, it's like, you say you're an actor, you know, where do you waitress, etc. So it was, I just didn't like the feel of it. So I thought, Okay, I got to teach myself how to be a producer. How do I do that? So I started producing a workshop on how to produce film. And it was a couple hours a week, and it ran for 10 weeks. And I would start with development, and then go into financing, and then the production side of things, and then the marketing and the distribution. And of course, I didn't teach it, I just produced the event. And so I had to hire, or as asked guest speakers to come in each work who were experts in those area. So I started combing the trades and finding people that were that and I would ask them to come and speak. So I built my Rolodex. I made a little money because I produced it. And I of course, took every course and I did it for like two years, every 10 weeks, do it again, do it again. Do it again. So that basically was my BA in filmmaking. And then it was time to get into the real world. And I wanted to since I was mainly a creative I wanted to work with an assistant to a producer or writer or director and I couldn't get hired. And finally, I was offered a job as the executive assistant to the president of a distribution company. And I didn't know anything about it, but he just needed somebody very organized and talented like me, so I took the job he offered it to me. And it was with a company that no longer exists but they should have been the next another mirror Miramax or new line it was called Emmerdale.
Alex Ferrari 9:58
I remember him Dell, of course. Remember him Dell and the 80s, late 80s Oh my god, they were released, they released a punch of Greek, I worked in a video store in the 80s in the 90s. So I remember the logo very much. And you had, and you had, you didn't have sleeves, you had the plastic boxes on the VHS, I remember, the White Day I remember.
Anne Marie Gillen 10:21
So the three years that I was there, we went, I don't know 12 Academy Awards platoon. So there I am this little piano, you know, with my ears glued to the phones and to the meetings. And I just sucked it in and just taught me as a producer, that 50% is making your movie and 50% is marketing and distribution. And you've got to focus on the marketing and distribution and who your audience is when you're in development or even before you've been optioned anything and put your time and money into it. And another thing that it really taught me began to teach me was film financing, they pioneered or were one of the pioneers of the model where you would put up your own PNA into a rental system. And back then, like you were just saying, You worked in the video store, if you could guarantee a certain level of theatrical release with the PNA commitment, you pretty much got 50 to 75% advance for your home video, because they were desperate for any Oh, anything video stores. So the majority of their money went into the print and advertising and renting a studio system to release their movies. And then if there was a shortfall, they would put some money into the production side of things. So when I left there, and started my first company, that was my business plan, I just pretty much replicated that business plan. And at the time, the money was coming out of Asia. And I found a Japanese investor, very wealthy Japanese investor, he was kind of the bill gates of Japan. And he bought into this concept, which was smart and what was happening there. And, you know, he was my financial business partner. And that's how I made my first movie executive produced my first movie, which was fried green tomatoes. And it was one of those projects that you know, when I read it, you know, you laugh, you cry, you
Alex Ferrari 12:20
remember, it was it was wonderful.
Anne Marie Gillen 12:24
But, you know, it was like a well, it's a female driven project, it really doesn't have major stars. Oh, you've got the race story. It's a period piece. And yes, it's beautifully written, but no, so they weren't able to get it made. So I came on board and I said, I'm gonna roll my company on this. And because we could get weird and then we went to Universal for the theatrical release during the rental system with us me putting up the PMA. And eventually when they started seeing the dailies and everything, they went back and renegotiated bought us out of the PNA position, the rest pretty much as movie history from there.
Alex Ferrari 13:00
Yeah, that was that was released by Universal if I remember universal, yeah, so that was that was a big I remember that was a big release, it did very well on our on our video store. It did very well on our video store, or mom and pop video stores still doing very well. It's it's Yeah, it's amazing that this day, yes, to this day still probably gave you guys residual checks. Again. So that's, that's remarkable. Um, now you also know, you also you wrote a book called The producers handbook. Right?
Anne Marie Gillen 13:30
It's called the producers business handbook. Okay. And I think it's an it's, it's fourth or third edition. I forget. But yeah, so it's basically through all this, there, you know, by by putting that course together by being at Hemdale when I was, and by having to do this business plan and all this financing, I had to learn about, nobody taught me that it's really hard to learn that even in school to this day, the financing side of it very much. Oh, throughout the years, I just had to, you know, educate myself to this. And I remember when I was at Hemdale their in house attorney left. And so I said, Well, I'll sit in all the meetings and take the notes. So in all the legal meetings, I was there, and I would just quietly take notes and then I call my dad who was an attorney and I go Damn, pro rata Perry, pursue, how do I spell it? What's it mean? And, you know, just began to learn the lingo language of film financing. And so once I became more of an expert in this arena, I thought, you know, I don't want it, it shouldn't be that hard to get this information. So, you know, put this book together with john Lee. He had written the first edition, and we did the second and third and it's it's, you know, with what's gone on in the last three to five years, we still need to do another additional thing, keep it up to date. But a lot of the stuff still has stayed the same, you know, there's still pre sales and estimates and completion. And
Alex Ferrari 15:15
so yeah, so I get I guess it there is certain things that have stayed in place. But in today's marketplace, you know, from my experience in the business, the sales in the distribution side of things, sales have just really dried up in a in a way that when I say dried up, I mean, it's like, like in the 80s. People were printing money in the 90s. In the early 2000s. You all just like sniper seven, yes, just yeah, put out sniper seven, it's already pre sold, and you got 3 million on DVD. Like it, those days are so gone, and the marketplace is shifting so much. Now, that unless you have really, really bankable like extremely bankable stars, and genres, it's almost impossible to really recoup money. So as a producer, from from what I've seen in the distribution space, there are certain genres, there are certain talent, you know, excluding the anomaly, excluding the Sundance whatever, or the film festival, darling, that really doesn't even happen as much as it used to back in the 90s. So how do you as a producer in today's world, kind of parenting because even pre sales, again, without the proper star, and genre, because you could put Nicolas Cage in a certain kind of genre doesn't sell nearly as much as if you put them in an action, or, or something like that, or Stallone in a drama doesn't really move the needle as much. So I just would love to hear your take on that. Well, you're right. And that's the end of the podcast and seen we're done. And that's the end of it. All right.
Anne Marie Gillen 16:55
You know, it's always something, I've been doing this for 25 plus years, it's always something. So you just got to pivot, you just got to learn the new way, and pivot. And so right now, I would say, you're absolutely right, you need a certain level talent, and that talent has to be right for the genre, you gave a perfect example, you have to have the right budget level, for the reasons you've talking about, you know, you're going to be able to get any pre sales in it, what budget level is that? You know, so all those things come into play. So certainly, as somebody that's more about quality than like, just straight horror or something,
Alex Ferrari 17:36
or your quality versus product. And there's a balance between
Anne Marie Gillen 17:42
the two, right to balance on occurs, balanced producer, okay, so you've got, it's a three legged stool, you got to give equal to the creative and the distribution and the money. And anytime one outweighs the other, it's somehow lopsided. So, you know, how do you creatively answer those problems? So for as an example, when I go for casting, you know, there's, there's me and my directors, wishlist, you know, there's the casting people that come up with interesting ideas. And I kind of combine the two and then I go to my international sales agent, they go and they give me their and they're totally different. And so you got to figure out what's the right balance for that movie, and that marketability,
Alex Ferrari 18:22
and then there's also like a bit of delusion, I found, because I do a lot of consulting and coaching and distribution and there's filmmakers who come out with the like, Look, I've got I want to get an avenue to just use Nick as a as an example. I want to I want to get into cage involve them like, okay, and I I know producers and directors who have have gotten Nick on a $5 million movie $6 million movie, in certain genres, it kind of like a horror ish action genre. And that works at that budget level, but a lot of times they'll like, come up with an idea and they want Nick involved and like it's gonna cost you 40 million. And like, know, that, that star at that budget range, there has to be more than just Nick attached for that to make sense financially, there has to be other casts, the director needs to have some sort of presence, you know, like a Joe Carnahan can can bring out a movie at $40 million, with, you know, a Frank Grillo, and, you know, a in the cage, like that, that that monitor makes sense, because of the pre sales that those guys come up together, and then Joe and his whole thing, that's the that's up and that packages that packages sold before they even start shooting. Like,
Anne Marie Gillen 19:35
yeah, and you saw that with the recent Berlin, you know, there's certain announcements that I had every territory sold out. And whether you know what the movie is about or not, you just see the package. So when somebody says, What is your package? You know, that's what they're asking for, you know, and it's so important that you understand what the finance plan needs to be what the budget level needs to be what level casts It is, you know, where the genre fits in the marketplace. And they all have to meld together in the right. Perfect. Magical combination. And you I and I've been doing this 25 years, I don't even know, I don't rely on my opinion. You know, I get a casting directors opinion, I get the international sales agents opinion I get, you know, I work with them, and what are the estimates? And, you know, cast? And how does that and diversity now is another huge thing, you know, which is wonderful. I mean, one of the most recent conversations I had was with the sales agent, as we're going to have to replace one of our people, and it's all give me diversity, give me diversity. And it doesn't need to be a big name, but it needs to be diversity. And, you know, it's interesting. So I've got Native Americans, I've got, you know, Asian, you know, and it's really wonderful to be able to give, you know, to really pass that way with those opportunities.
Alex Ferrari 21:01
But I think I think before, like, again, in the 80s, and 90s, you could be a sloppy producer, meaning that you could just kind of like you had such a cushion, that money was almost guaranteed if you had just this or that, and you didn't really need to be that good, honestly, because I remember the movies that I saw in the video store in the 80s and 90s. Were garbage. And they were and they were making bank and when DVD showed up, I mean, my God, the money was just flying, right since the print. I mean, it was just literally like I always use sniper seven as an example, because they made so much money with the sniper, the sniper franchise, and they were bad movies. But you know, they brought they brought Todd out, not Tom, Tom Berenger out every, you know, few years. And they're like, yeah, here's, here's a mil, let's go do this. And that's one thing. And another thing is to what makes sense today. So let's say right now, a certain actor is hot. Well, when you started that movie, he might have been hot, but something might have happened in the next 12 months. And a perfect example is I had I had producers, I won't use the actor's name. But a lot of people I've spoken about this actor before, nothing against the actor is an actor who works a lot. And he's not a huge star, but he's a name and a face. And he's bankable to a certain budget. But he made that year 17 movies. So when his movie came out, in the marketplace, he'd go to distributors like I already got three of him, I'm good this year, like I already got it. So he's diluted his value. And the producer was there holding, holding the bag. So there's that that whole thing, because if tomorrow morning, Nick comes out and makes 30 movies next year, which by the way, Nick Cage could possibly do 30 movies, his value in the marketplace might I'm not saying he does, he doesn't have that many
Anne Marie Gillen 22:51
app and all the time, you know, where people just do too much. But there are still sloppy producers, but they are not making the money back for the investors and they're just taken, you know, a lot of innocent investors, you know, and taking their money and running, and knowing they're not going to be able to, you know, get their money back. But you know, it just drives me crazy. It's why investors think this is such a high risk, horrible business to be in, because so many sloppy producers, or not just you know, just kind of pie in the sky, just, I gotta make my movie, and they're not the balanced producer. And then that understanding what the audiences and what the market will allow and trying to keep it all in check. Oh,
Alex Ferrari 23:36
the delusions that are out there with filmmakers and producers. Sometimes it's like, Look, if you want to make an art film, make an art film, you know, and yeah, you know, I made my first film for five grand, I sold it to Hulu. And I sold it to Hulu and licensed it to Hulu sold and sold some foreign territories with it. It was fantastic. It was an art film. It was an experimental film. I didn't really know what it was like, how is it going to turn out? But at that budget level, who cares? But if I would have made that to 300,000 he would I you can't it's there's just a balance of again, there's that word again, balance of what you if you want to make art understand that there's a value attached to that art
Anne Marie Gillen 24:15
right. And there's nothing wrong with that nothing lucky and and may go through the roof and that's great. But you know, you need I mean, another big term for me is risk mitigation. Yes. If you want to talk to investors or finance yours or funders, that's a good term to use. You know, how are you going to mitigate my risk, you know, and
Alex Ferrari 24:37
pre sales tax incentives. There's there's a list of things that you can
Anne Marie Gillen 24:41
mention account. A lot of people don't know about collection accounts and it's just like one of the best things that you can offer an investor to
Alex Ferrari 24:48
hear. Can you explain the collections account for the audience real quick?
Anne Marie Gillen 24:51
Sure. It's, it's it's basically a third party escrow account, where all mainly it's international revenue, but can be revenue for whatever your project is, is then assigned to go into this escrow account. So it's protected. So all the stakeholders, whether they be net profit people, investors, mezzanine, bank, loan funders, whatever, they know that whatever revenue comes, it is protected in this third party escrow account. And everybody signs off on the terms called waterfall who gets paid and what order, what percentage and all of that. So there are two main companies out there that do that vintage house,
Alex Ferrari 25:36
I, I've had them on the show, they're one okay.
Anne Marie Gillen 25:39
And free way entertainment. And free ways probably would do more lower budget movies than vintage my take on so if you're in a lower budget range, I start with them. And they'll take sometimes if it's a really low low budget movie, they might take a fee off, you don't pay them upfront, but the first revenues that come in, they might take a fee, and then it's 1% ish area, or they just start at the 1%. And they The first thing that they put aside is is residuals, the potential residual effect Yes. To pay for? Yeah, yeah. So when you go to become a signatory for sag, if you have a collection account set up, that can help you with putting up those very large residual bonds, etc, because they know that it will be paid because they're holding that money for you. Plus, it protects all the stakeholders. So it's just a win win all the way around to have a collection account.
Alex Ferrari 26:38
It's wonderful here,
Anne Marie Gillen 26:39
word cam collection account manager, you know, etc. It's it's one in the same.
Alex Ferrari 26:45
Yeah, it's, I have to ask you now, like, how do you have I want to ask you first, how do you raise development money? Because that's the hardest money to because there's no guarantee that there's anything even going to get made. So you're just basically rolling the dice as an investor going, Hey, I like this book that you have, we're going to develop it into a screenplay. I'm going to help you develop it into a screenplay, I'm going to get a piece of the action once this movie gets made. But how do you raise that kind of money? Well,
Anne Marie Gillen 27:19
again, it's about being very balanced in your approach, you know, you use the very common term, it's the highest risk of all the money. And I don't know if I would agree with you there, it's the lowest amount of money, it is risk, manage it properly. It's not the highest risk, what you just talked about is making this movie for, you know, 20 million. That's a lot of money. And I think that might even be a higher risk. But to answer your questions, specifically, producers nowadays are totally expected to come with a package, which means you need a powerful screenplay and need to be able to hire legal hire casting director, do budgets and schedules higher up in line producer, if you don't do that, yourself, you know, all these, you know, beautiful look, books, and sometimes sizzle reel or rip, thematics. And, you know, and it all takes money, pay the writer and totally on the producers not whereas before you could go, oh, I've got this great IP this book, and, you know, companies would jump not so much anymore. So you've got a couple of different options. One is to go to a company that already has development money, or a first look, deal with a network or a streamer, or whatever. So for instance, if it's a great book that you're going after an really powerful lead interesting role for an actress of a certain age, I go through variety insight and find out who's got deals at all these different streamers or networks. And in the actress, that would be actors, that would be right for it, I do my research, make sure that they have a real production company, many just have a name, where you want to be sure there are people there that they have a partner, they have creative executive, and you know, then I tried to pitch the creating of the executive, and then they would bring it to their first step. So that's one model. And you can do that with directors, writers, showrunners, actors, etc. Then, and the toughest model is you do it yourself. And
Alex Ferrari 29:29
you bootstrap, bootstrap
Anne Marie Gillen 29:29
it. And I'm sure we've all done that on some level. And then there's the put the proper business plan together and get a development fund together. And you really have to, you know, again, risk mitigate the approach. So the way that it's really spelled out pretty a whole chapter of it is in the book about development financing, and you want to do it in steps. Okay. So you put together a finance plan. Costs of what you think you're going to need. So there's legal there's the writing of the screenplays, there's casting director, there's the UPM, there's visual materials, there's all that line item stuff, I don't like to put too often money for myself, because that's my skin in the game. And so, uh, you know, if I wouldn't approach that, Oh, great, I'll be able to live off this money. While I know I'm a real producer as I develop. That's a little difficult, but you can put something in there for that. And then you make sure that each step of the way your test marketing, it's so the first thing that I do is I run comparables from the last five to seven years, to see what else out there in this genre in this level, but that I'm thinking of director that I'm thinking of level, the type of casting that what has worked, what hasn't worked? More importantly, and why hasn't it worked. And I want to be sure that the way I'm planning all of this, you know, is fitting into the specificity of what the marketplace might allow for. Once I've done that, that I call that greenlight, okay, and I run the numbers,
Alex Ferrari 31:13
you know, for the internal, that's the concept, the internal green light,
Anne Marie Gillen 31:16
the internal green light. That's right. So I track, you know, what, what the budget level was for that movie, how wide a screen it opened on what was the widest screen and finally open AI because that tells you the the spread of the PMA, so did it open on five screens, and then it went to 300. That's a whole different level than if it opens on 3200. And then that's the most I've ever opened up, because you're spending 25 35 million right out of the gate just to opening weekend. So I track that what the genre is, what the level of talent is director and lead cast, and I got to go to the year that it was released, not who they are now. So I've got to go back five, seven years to to contemplate who they are now, what the rating was. Because, you know, if I'm thinking I'm going to deliver a PG movie, and all the comps I have are our it throws everything off. So I and I look for the trailers that they use, I look for the visuals, the posters and all of that, the tag lines. So I have this massive spreadsheet where I'm tracking like 30 comps, with all this information, really educating myself to what this material where this material might fall. And if I come up with numbers that look like I think I'm onto something really strong here, then I don't just rely on me, I go and vet it with a distributor with an international sales agents etc. and said, This is what I think I'm going to do.
Alex Ferrari 32:45
This is the level cast and they go Yeah, that that I can sell, you know, if you can deliver on this that I can sell then I start spending money. But if I get nose in any one of those places, I stop and I find a different property that's going to get me yeses. And Kim, can you just tell everybody really quickly with these plans in these packages? A lot of times they use comparables to other films. So I've seen this way too many times and please tell people to stop doing this and disagree with me if you'd like if you're making a horror movie. If you're making a horror movie, and you are putting together a package do not use Blair Witch Project and paranormal activity as this is what horror movies do to investors. Any smart money will just look at you and go get out of my office dumb money or dumb money
Anne Marie Gillen 33:33
down money might not but it just shows me You're a peon. You don't know the business. And yeah, if I would never use it as a comparable in my narrative part of my business plan. I might mention something like that if it's perfect, perfect. But I would never never use it in my financial comparables because it's just it's wrong anomalies. It's right it is it's like winning the lottery. So and the same with movies that win Academy Awards. It's like oh, yeah, but my movie will win the Best Picture Academy Award. So I'm going to do the same as this movie.
Alex Ferrari 34:10
Oh, yeah. Like moonlight. Like my movie was shot in Miami and their movie was shot in Miami. So it's moonlight and they won the Oscar and I can't wait the Oscars. Well, yeah, that or or Napoleon Dynamite? Oh my god. Yeah.
Anne Marie Gillen 34:24
Awards and things like that as well. And so I I tried to get it down to the most realistic 10 to 15 that really fall there.
Alex Ferrari 34:33
Yeah, exactly. Now, one of the biggest problems producers and filmmakers have is that chicken and egg thing which is attaching name talent to a project something that's going to give you the money, but then the name talent doesn't want to come on board until you have the money. So there's that chicken and egg thing. How do you approach How do you attach potential name talent to your project?
Anne Marie Gillen 34:59
Well Sometimes named talent won't regardless, that's just a fact. No, or they're their agents won't let them. Especially hot up and comers, sometimes they take a little too much advice maybe from or let the handlers handle them a little too much. So that that there are, there's nothing you can do about that. But what you can some things you can do, it helps to have a casting director. You know, it helps to have a very good attorney, a recognizable firm, you know,
Alex Ferrari 35:37
recognizable and recognizable casting director helps to,
Anne Marie Gillen 35:40
yeah, that's what I'm saying. Yes. And, and the material is, first and foremost, it's about the material. You've got to have a great piece of material, great screenplay for a role that they want, not a role, they've done it over and over and over again. I mean, they they wanted real actors want to, you know, express themselves take on something that they haven't done before. So a lot of times I really, if if I'm going to have to go out for actors at a very early stage and use them. I want to think outside the box a little bit more. So if they're known for comedy, but you know, they've got the chops off, or like Robin Williams, you know, yep, Jim Carrey, you know, give them the opportunity in a role that's very dramatic, when you know, they can do it, they just haven't been given that opportunity. So they would come on board and for a much lower, much lower. Absolutely, because you can't pay him for you know,
Alex Ferrari 36:44
can't pay him, you can't pay Jim Carrey 20 million in the height of Dumb and Dumber To do that. But if you want to do men on the moon, you could probably get them sometimes for scale, if they really, really wanted. It happens.
Anne Marie Gillen 36:57
And and if the actor has a production company, it's a little easier because you're not necessarily going through the agent, you're going to the creative executive there. And you know, and they're going to come on board as a producer, and they'll have much more creative input and hands on. If I'm going that route. Well, I do this regardless. But, you know, I really, you know, are they on any boards? Do they support any bass adores anything? What nonprofits do they cook again, I like to focus on a lot of social impact projects, so that you can do what's called a double bottom line, that only is a role really great, but it's an issue that's important to them. So those are some of the key things that I tried to do. What do you have?
Alex Ferrari 37:48
Right. And then there's also the, you know, the the harsh realities of like, well, who's the director, who's the producer, you know, just because you might have the next Pulp Fiction. But if you have a producer who's never done a thing in their life, and a director who's done one short film and won an award at the Moose Jaw Film Festival, which I don't even know if that's a real festival or not, but I want to go, I want to go to the Moose Jaw International Film Festival. But then there's that whole uphill battle, and I've been there as well. And I've seen that as well, where you got good material, but the team, there's no confidence that the team will ever can execute this. So there's that too.
Anne Marie Gillen 38:27
Yeah, so you got to take, you know, I'm working with a couple of first time directors. And I believe in them 250%. And they're great in a room in a pitch, they can speak their passion and vision. And you just, you're on board, you know, you really, and they've spent the time to put together the right materials to visually showcase what they can do. So if you're going to take on something with the first time director, as a producer, you know, you they need to be of that caliber because it is it you do have a bit of an uphill battle. And you've got to be sure that once they get in the room, or the zoom or whatever, with potential talent that they're they're able to close them and and they're they're going to say I'm going to feel confident and you're at you know what you're doing right now,
Alex Ferrari 39:25
and a lot of times they are Writer Director, so you know, the material they can speak to the material better than anybody. And that's also if you can be a writer director, that's honestly the only real control you have as a director, especially if your first time you know, unless you own the property all out. They can, they can throw you under the bus so quickly. And I've seen it happen where the writer gets on to the producer and the producer is like, I got Nick Cage, but Nick can't work with with Bob is Bob Bob's never directed anything but Nick's got a director who is worked with a bunch of times, and he wants to do the project. This is the reality of the business.
Anne Marie Gillen 40:04
So it's really important that as a producer, you have those tough conversations, before you go out technically legally get into business with this writer, director, director or writer, it's, you know, you've got to understand I mean, where do you stand? Is this your rocky that if you're offered a million, you're not going to walk away? And I need to know, you know, because?
Alex Ferrari 40:30
Because I want to take that million?
Anne Marie Gillen 40:33
Or is this something that if you were bumped to a producer, and you've got credit, and you've got your piece produced, but you couldn't direct it? Would you accept that? And sometimes they're yeses, and sometimes there's no, and I will move in either case, you know, depending on how I feel about that situation, or that particular person. But you need to know that going in, you don't want to be surprised later or get stuck later at the mercy of Yeah, no. choice and you knew that going in.
Alex Ferrari 41:05
And that's only something you learn as a producer with time, because when you first starting out, you you fall into all the traps, we just you just laid out right there. Every little scenario, I've already hit that those walls a ton of times, I'm sure you hit them when you were starting out. And only with time, do you understand, you know what, I really need to have this conversation. This is it's the come to Jesus conversation. Like it's, it's like, Look, this is the reality of what is happening. And my whole world of indie film, also, my whole universe is all about giving you the hard facts and truth. Because I rather you hear it from me than when you're sitting in a room and someone just pulled the wool right under right from underneath your feet, the rug underneath your feet, I'm would you would you say I always say this, I'd love to hear if you agree, I believe that my philosophy of this business is that every single person, no matter if you're Steven Spielberg, Scoob, Rick Hitchcock, or the lowest film student, all of us are going to get punched in the face, period. And we're going to get punched in the face multiple times in our careers. And they're going to come fast, they're going to come hard. Sometimes you won't see them coming. And it's only with time and hopefully some knowledge that it's not the question of if you'll get hit, it's a question when you'll get hit and how you'll get hit. And you have to start learning how to take the hit especially early on and keep going forward. And then as you get older, you might get a little bit wildly and you can start getting it to slip off you. And then occasionally, you can get them to miss altogether or not even get into that conversation as you go down the road. But even even pros who've been in this 2030 years, they still get surprised. And my job and my my calling is to try to let everybody know, you're going to get punched. Here's how to take the punch. Is that fair?
Anne Marie Gillen 42:52
Oh, absolutely. You know, everybody thinks that Oh, once I get my first movie made, you know, it's all golden from that. I forget the statistic I have in one of my notes when it when I teach my finance class, but I think 98% of first time. filmmakers never make a second movie.
Alex Ferrari 43:11
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah,
Anne Marie Gillen 43:12
something something horrific. Like I was like, whoa. And for all those reasons you just stated, it's just like, you know, you're gonna be punched. And the question is, how quickly can you come back from it? Don't let it it's gonna knock you down. And you got to bounce right back up, and come back at it. And later when you look in your words, but okay, what just happened? How can I avoid that next time?
Alex Ferrari 43:37
Exactly, in the most. But so many filmmakers have the stars in their eyes that they just don't even know that the punch is coming. And when they get hit, once they're out, there are pulled and they're out of the game. I mean, when I was talking to Oliver Stone, on the on the show a while ago, I was I wasn't shocked. But he's like, I'm still hustling my Monday, I'm still trying to get my movie made. I'm gonna say that you're Oliver Stone. He's like, I'm Oliver Stone, but I'm still trying to matter doesn't matter,
Anne Marie Gillen 44:05
movie and he killed you to get it together, you did your 17th and it kills you. When you're in there, which is kind of falls in your lap and things happen. And those are golden. But it's a constant, constant battle, to put it together. And, and five years from now, the whole finance plan is going to be different. And five years from there, it's going to change and there's gonna be something else and and you've got to constantly pivot and constantly re learn. And you've got, I mean, I remember initially just having to tweak because I was a creative. I didn't I didn't go I didn't know, economics and legal and all that. But you read my book and you think I was, you know,
Alex Ferrari 44:41
PhD, a PhD of some sort.
Anne Marie Gillen 44:43
I have no, you know, and I hated it when I was in it, trying to figure it out and learn. I just hated it. And then I just, I just kind of went, No, it's creative. Putting a finance plan of doing this is creative, and just with that little shift and over time, it gets better. rubber. So all day, every day, I am still being creative because every time I get on the phone with somebody I use my acting is like, Who is that person? What is their tone? Like? Okay, I got to match their rhythm. And it could be okay, what's going on? What do you need? Then I got to talk like this. Okay, this would or like with Alex, when we first started so how are you doing and what's going on and you get oh and, or whatever it is and or they throw something at you, even though your agenda and your plan and your bullet points are right in front of you and they throw something after you got to, okay, improv. It's all those years of improv class, you know, you never know what's going to come back. So. So to me, that's all just wonderfully creative. And when you used to go to meetings, it's like, how do I need to dress for that meeting? If it's a banker, financier, I gotta look like I don't need the money. If it's a creative, I gotta wear my creative clothes. You know, and so
Alex Ferrari 45:51
you can't walk it. You can't walk into creative with this with a suit and you can't walk into a bank, with your your khakis on and flip flops, right? It's not gonna, it's not gonna work. Now. So you've been in the business for many years, I'm assuming that there was never been a negative experience with a distributor in your entire career, that everything is going smoothly, all the money is coming. 110% everyone's been completely open with the reporting. And you've never had any issues whatsoever. Is this a fair statement? Or am I completely off base? You're completely off? I think I knew I would
Anne Marie Gillen 46:33
a point where the whole team just finally gave up. It's, it's, you know, it's a lot David and Goliath is just like, you know, if they just throw another legal thing at you, and you run out of money, your investors safe enough already. I'm not spending any more legal money to try to track this down or get this just enough how but I gotta ask you,
Alex Ferrari 46:54
it's what it look in my my audience is very well aware of my feelings on distribution. And what I've, what I've been able to do for them, and getting the information out about distribution and predatory distributors, and things like that. But I have to ask you, like, the whole concept of the Hollywood accounting, which is what it mean, which is basically started in the days of Chaplin. I mean, this started early, I mean, United Artists was created by Pickford, Chaplin and fair banks, because they were getting screwed by the studios. So this whole Hollywood accounting thing and how distributors do not, and I'm guessing all, but a lot of distributors, unscrupulous distributors, will do things in their numbers to make sure that you the producer, do the filmmaker, never see a dime? How is this a functioning business? Like, is it just purely because there's fresh meat that constantly is coming in to replenish the old meat that's just exhausted of just getting ripped off? Or investors? Is that how the system works? Because in any other business, you know, if you were in the cookie business, and I, you know, you all of a sudden, I sell 5000 cookies, and I'm like, sorry, I really didn't sell 5000 cookies, because the chocolate chips, you know, they got more expensive and, and all these, like, that doesn't happen in other businesses. And not, I mean, sure that does, but not at that level, so blatant, that there's a name for it. And there's, and really quickly, you know, the whole thing with the me to movement, which was basically which was dinner, the casting couch, it was a punchline, it was a joke, it was part of this, this fabric of the industry, like, you know, if you want to get it, you got to go on the casting couch. That whole thing was business as usual, for way too long. I feel that what's going on with distributors, is the financial version of that kind of abuse, because you're just being abused financially. You just said, we just gave up. So I'm sorry, through 1000 things that you would use? I went on a rant, I apologize.
Anne Marie Gillen 48:52
No, that's fine. That's fine. And it's I mean, that's as old as the hills. And, you know, there's, if you need a really good attorney, yeah. And the net profit definitions of the net profit definitions of studios distributors sometimes can be 30 pages long, it just gets ridiculous, you know, for that reason. So that's where a really really smart attorney can at least be helpful. It's why a lot of people pay so much money up front or try to get as much money upfront as possible
Alex Ferrari 49:27
because you'll never get anything else. Hi,
Anne Marie Gillen 49:29
they asked for gross position. It's why they asked for box office bonuses. You know, so you know, they can see what what you know, which is a little difficult now, because it's there's a crash and burn. It's why you see the streamers paying these big hefty amounts, because that's all that ever to be fair, because there is no other window or back end or whatever. It's just the way it has been.
Alex Ferrari 49:58
But but we're due for Change, we're due for something something has to change. I don't know what that technology will be, what that system will be, but something has to come kratt this system is already stressed like the distribution system COVID has put it was already look when I went to AFM in 2019 I was like what I was walking around, I was like, she it's just a bunch of dinosaurs. Like, I mean, I'm walking over corpses. I mean, it was it was really, it was really bad. And it just kept getting going down, down, down. So nothing against AFM, but just the marketplace has changed so much in that space. So I feel like there's so much stress on the the apparatus of distribution. And now COVID just put it more it will pop I feel something's gonna come crashing down. I think the next economic downturn something Yeah, you gotta watch the word distribution is such a large all encompassing entity. Correct? I think you're more talking like theatrical. And then it leads into something else. No, I'm talking about I'm talking about the whole like the apparatus. But if you go to a Netflix getting killed with a Netflix or Hulu or Amazon, they sold it for whatever it's different. You're done in non studio, non studio I'm talking about non studio distributor is what i'm talking Yeah,
Anne Marie Gillen 51:13
I just wanted to be clear, because very encompassing word. And, and that's another reason that I like having a collection account. And it doesn't help so much on the domestic side. But certainly on all the international because your sales agent in your agreement with your sales agent, it says that any monies you know that are collected will not go to them. But they'll all the distribution agreements with all the different distributors in France and Germany and UK. When they do the agreements with them. It says that all monies do minimum guarantees overages will go into this account, so never goes to the sales agent. It goes right there. And we talk that through in the waterfall and how it's all protected. So that's another reason that how you can risk mitigate some of those issues. But then if the distributor in Germany doesn't want, Hey, what are you gonna do?
Alex Ferrari 52:03
You're gonna go super,
Anne Marie Gillen 52:04
you know, yeah, then that's pretty tough. But again, the collection account people, they know, all those distributors, you know, they can help track that and deal with that for you,
Alex Ferrari 52:17
etc. So it's there's ways around it, but it is a very slippery, shark infested situation where you really need to understand the navigation of it. I remember I was I was talking to a filmmaker at AFM, they came up to me and they're like, Hey, I got a deal. I'm like, great, like, we just got a $30,000 mg. I'm like, well, that's fantastic. What was your budget? Like? 150? I'm like, Okay, what was that? For? He goes, it was all rights for five years. I'm like, so you're happy about that? Yeah, we got 30,000. I'm like, in what business? Ever? Yeah, that you spent 150,000 you're happy, happy about 30. Like, that's, there's something systemically wrong with that well,
Anne Marie Gillen 52:56
right. And, again, where we started with being that balance producer, it probably was not his money. Probably. He got to make the movie he wanted to make.
Alex Ferrari 53:08
And it's going out into the world
Anne Marie Gillen 53:10
ending, you know, got a little bit back and can at least give a check back, you know, so I'm happy. You know, but that's not a sustainable business. And it's not a sustainable career.
Alex Ferrari 53:19
And I honestly, it's not a moral. There's moral issues. Well, that's a whole other conversation. So what projects are you working on now?
Anne Marie Gillen 53:29
I'm, I'm working on a project. And this is the first time feature film director, although he's done music videos and shorts, sure fallen,
Alex Ferrari 53:38
accomplished filmmaker, but not feature filmmaker. Right.
Anne Marie Gillen 53:40
Right. Exactly. And it's a it's a sci fi trilogy. In the PR, Stephanie, and we're doing we have an international sales agent, we have really creative, wonderful deals with the visual effects house and the virtual virtuals. I do. I hope you have somebody coming on board to talk about virtual and what's going on there like already. I already did, yeah. Okay. Cuz that's, that's the way to go. That's the future filmmaking. And that, again, will get those budgets done will keep us safe, because we don't have to go to all these locations. And just a myriad of
Alex Ferrari 54:21
what I mean. Yeah, you just watched the Mandalorian and you just go wow, yeah. In God's green earth. Yeah, it's so fascinating. It's so one and it's cheap to and honestly, it's not that expensive. I mean, Mandalorians it's expensive but if you if you're doing it at a much into your level, you can get the company that I had on call on I think it was unreal. I think there are I forgot their name, but the real engine, I'm not sure if it was unreal engine but it was it was another company that was using that engine. But bottom line is that the smaller the smaller, the smaller version of it for a wall. Just a what like a full wall. Yeah. Then 1000 bucks for the actual engine and then whatever the screens cost. So under 20, Grand 30 grand, you've got a whole virtual set that you can use and build sets in front of and move. And it's it was fascinating. It's fast. Yeah,
Anne Marie Gillen 55:14
yeah. For it all in camera, and you can say on the soundstage and oh, it's great. It's great. Yeah, well, that sounds exciting. G is being shot that way.
Alex Ferrari 55:23
That's amazing. That's gonna be that's gonna be a
Anne Marie Gillen 55:25
lot of very excited about that. And to use that, that technology.
Alex Ferrari 55:28
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Um, mmm, material, material material. Um,
Anne Marie Gillen 55:46
if you spend any of your own money makes you? Well, even the most important thing is to have a good attorney. Yes. So when you have anybody developing money, your money, whatever, have a good attorney, and make sure that whatever agreements you're doing are locked, solid chain of title, option agreements, whatever, you know, work for hire writer agreements, you know, make sure you have an attorney dealing with that so many times I see people, oh, they get a template from a friend. And they just kind of change a few things and get in trouble getting a lot of trouble later down the road. And you can't give up. I mean, what we were talking about you just, it's just keep moving. And bring partners in to like you said, first time produce I've never done that we'll find a partner who has that believes in the material like you and that you legally moral compass wiser on the same page and can go down that road together? You know, I've done that a lot in my career.
Alex Ferrari 56:46
Anne Marie Gillen 56:48
Alex Ferrari 56:48
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? It's not about me. Wow, that was a quick answer. Hey, get over yourself. It's not about me.
Anne Marie Gillen 57:01
You know, what? Anger is when they're upset is a few you're never gonna work in this. It's, it's, it's not about me. It's that. That's a tough one. That's a tough one.
Alex Ferrari 57:12
You know, what, and have you had that statement said, You'll never work in this town again. Have someone said that to you? You know, I've had that I've had that said to me like you when someone says that to you. They are in a place of such massive ego. It's It's so they're so far gone in so much pain, if someone said, and of course, the more infamous, you do know who I am. If someone ever says Do you know who I am? Just walk away. Just walk away. I've had that experience. I'm like, wow, wow. And do you know who I am? You'll never work in this town again. I By the way, anytime I'm on set, I yell out you'll never work in this town again, at least 20 times a day. And everyone pitches themselves. I do it constantly. Anytime a grip doesn't. Anytime a grip says something wrong. I'll just walk by I'm like, dude, you'll never work in this town again. And then they just are so I make it a joke because it's so ridiculous. And then I think someone called me out once and I said something on set. They're like, my phone rang. My phone rang. I said, my phone rang. I'm like, whose phone? Is that? Like? It's your sir. You'll never work. When I'm on set in my next book, yes. Never work in this town again. And three of your favorite films of all time. Fried Green Tomatoes, obviously. Um, oh,
Anne Marie Gillen 58:44
I'm such a singing in the rain person. Because because I wasn't used directed musicals. And you know, and actually, that was my first goal coming out here was to do musicals. And I haven't done one yet.
Alex Ferrari 58:58
Well, the market the markets, it's a little rougher, the musicals not as much as it used to be in the 40s in the 30s, and 40s. Yeah,
Anne Marie Gillen 59:08
and, and in something I just saw this year that I watched it like three times, just because I was so enthralled with it. And it was the trial of the Chicago seven.
Alex Ferrari 59:18
No, look at what I was hearing
Anne Marie Gillen 59:19
sarkin and the writing and the acting and the history and how it spoke on so many levels, and it was just able to do something like that and leave that kind of legacy and help the dialogue. Right now for for the whole United States. I thought was just
Alex Ferrari 59:38
timing was brilliant time it was and he said that he goes, you know, five years ago, this wouldn't have worked. But you know, in today's environment, I got greenlit. Yes. Right. And where can people and where can people reach out to you if they if they find you online?
Anne Marie Gillen 59:56
Well, they can go to my website Gillan group llc.com And there's a form to fill out. I think it probably even has my email, etc. I'm pretty easy to find. Open that anywhere.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
You know what?
Anne Marie Gillen 1:00:11
I'm really nice about talking to a lot of people or helping people. Yeah, I really take that pretty easy. I mean, I can't do it all day every day, obviously. But, you know, people that know me know that they can always pick up the phone and pick my brain and sit in on a call with them that is difficult for them and translated for them later, what it meant and all of that. So I tried it, because it was such a hard, hard journey for me and nobody should have to struggle that hard to learn
Alex Ferrari 1:00:40
it and get it. Amen, sister. Amen. Amen. And it's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
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- Anne Marie Gillen – IMDB
- Gillen Group LLC – Website
- Watch: Fried Green Tomatoes – Amazon
- Book: The Producer’s Business Handbook – Amazon
- Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
- Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)