IFH 402: Debunking Myths & the Future of Indie Film with Emily Best

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Today on the show we have returning champion Emily Best. Emily is the founder and CEO of the crowdfunding platform Seed&Spark, which she started with a group of independent creators after the challenges and lessons of producing my first feature film, Like the Water

“Storytelling can change the world – when everyone can see themselves reflected in the stories we share, we empower all people to take part in shaping how we see our past, our present and our future.” – Emily Best

I wanted to have her back on the show to talk about the state of indie film and how filmmakers can survive and thrive in the future. I recorded this interview before COVID-19, just around the time TUGG went under (you can read about that here).

We have a spirited conversation about the future and how the mindset of filmmakers needs to change to make it in the future. Enjoy my conversation with Emily Best. 

Alex Ferrari 0:27
Well guys, today on the show, we have returning champion Emily Best from seed and spark. And I want to have Emily back to kind of talk about the state of indie film, how to debunk a bunch of myths that filmmakers have about not only the filmmaking process, the distribution process, how to raise money, all those kinds of things. And I couldn't have a better guest to do that. And I do want to let you know that we recorded this pre COVID so there will be no mention of Coronavirus or anything like that. In this episode. I recorded around the time that the film The film, theatrical film aggregator, I guess you would call it tugg went under. And we kind of talked a little bit about that and future film aggregators and all that kind of stuff as well. But there is some amazing, amazing content in this episode. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Emily Best. I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Emily Best. How are you sweetie?

Emily Best 3:20
Thank you so much for having me? I'm doing all right. It's a Friday.

Alex Ferrari 3:23
It is a Friday. It is a Friday. I'm so glad to have you back. You were one of my original guests. I think you were like in the 20s if I'm not mistaken of the podcast, and now we're getting close to 400. So it's been four years over four years since we've spoken. I mean we spoken but we haven't been on the on the show. So it's it's crazy. It's a lot has happened in your world that in mind thing. I remember you were a great interviewer back then. So I'm super excited to experience x plus 400 hours of practice I am I have the pressure, the pressure. I don't know if I could take the pressure this is this is way too much. So for people who don't know who you are Emily, can you talk a little bit about who you are, and tell us a little bit about yourself?

Emily Best 4:12
Yep. I am the founder and CEO of a company called seed and spark. Think of seed and spark like a Digital Studio. We are built to increase equity and inclusion and entertainment and optimize for the cultural impact of the work our creators make. Fundamentally I believe Equity and Inclusion happens when creators can make a sustainable living from their work wherever they are. Diversity has to be both demographic and geographic and along a lot of dimensions. And building equity is really about building pathways that everyone has a fair chance of using. So our company is sort of divided up into three pieces that all work together to form our version of this Digital Studio and unlike studios that profit off creators our hope eventually is just to profit with creators. We have a national education program, we teach about 120 live workshops a year in more than 50 cities. And we have some online education as well. On our website, we teach creators the tools for creative sustainability, we teach them how to understand connect with audiences learn to monetize them. We teach pitching, we teach distribution, then we have a crowdfunding platform that has the highest campaign success rate in the world. And until this year, we have been entirely focused on motion pictures. We've helped more than 2000 projects raised over $25 million with the highest campaign success rate in the world, which is about 80%. And this year, as I said to you, before we started recording, we're rolling out across other storytelling verticals. So the highest campaign success rate in the world is now not limited just to filmmakers. If you make, you know, podcast, books, games, software, music, theater dance, what am I missing, there's so many ways to tell stories. If you're a storyteller in any medium, you can now take advantage of our suite of tools. And then we work on on distribution with creators. So we do have an online streaming platform. It is highly curated right now because it's it's actually not our core focus, we really see the streaming platform as a tool in the toolkit of creators who are building creative distribution strategies. And that's really where we have focused our attention. So we work with creators on building event ties distribution, sort of rolling their, their content, I have to say content now, because we're not just talking movies and shows anymore, rolling your stories out for live audiences in different places, through various event tie strategies. And then our newest addition is we have found a pathway for right now just film, although we have figured out that it won't be just for film in the future. But our pathway are to bring films into workplaces to help companies build more inclusive workplaces. And so if you think of that education is sort of the pipeline and the creator cultivation. Our online platform is where you can build audiences and make your work. And then we have these distribution strategies. So that's a studio it just built really differently for the things that we care about.

Alex Ferrari 7:32
That's that's man, you're busy lady. We're busy. I mean, I thought I hustled My God, you guys are Stephens bark hustle. tmcs. Exactly. So you, you, you lot how old is seems Mark's been around for how many years now?

Emily Best 7:52
Seven, and a pinch, Sherif. We launched in December of 2012. Okay, and we relaunched the website and what is time, Alex 20. The Fall of 2015, we relaunched the website. And that I would say was really when we kind of started to get off the ground because the first version of the website as any, anybody out there who used us pre 2015, sorry about the technology. We were doing our level best.

Alex Ferrari 8:22
You actually you actually talked to me around that time it was around the fall of 2015 is when I launched the podcast in the summer, so we would have probably been around that time when I interviewed you. Well, I can't I can only tell you from my experience, everyone listening, I crowdfunded my first film, this is Meg, with seed and spark in 2017. I think it was 2017 if I'm not mistaken, and I had a wonderful, wonderful time. And I first of all, I can't stand crowdfunding personally, it's just too brutal. It's, it's really hard. It's hard. It's brutal. It's emotional. It's just it's rough. But the experience with you guys and working with the platform was wonderful. And, and we were able to fund the film completely. And I was able to shoot the movie pretty much in in black and like I was in the black when I was shooting. So that was amazing. Case Study, and we're gonna follow up with you after Yeah, I mean, I was literally I was because I already started shooting because it was such a small budget before we launched the campaign because it was just me a camera and my main actress, I'm like, Okay, before we bring in all the other cast, let's just shoot all the stuff we're gonna shoot at you in your house. And we did that. So as we were shooting, like in my crowdfunding video, there was there was scenes from the movie already, because I was already shooting so I was already shooting the movie. So when I was all said and done, we looked at the numbers. I'm like, I think we can literally be free because we didn't have to worry about money. Yeah, so I looked at the entire experiment and the entire experience is an experiment for me. as a filmmaker is like, you know what, I'm just gonna try this. And if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. It's, you know, it is what it is. But it worked, it did very well. And also got it It also got accepted to. So we sold it to Hulu. So it was great.

Emily Best 10:15
So when when you're already in the black, we like you're not worried about sales price as much. And you're just like, that's the cherry on top. That's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 10:22
No for that film and went to Hulu, I got sold internationally to different territories. And I and I, you know, I sell it on my own streaming platform, and I still make money with it all the time as well. And my partner who's the star of it, Jill, we're very, we were extremely happy and see the spark was just wonderful part of it. So that's why I always promote you guys. Because you're, like I say you personally are kind of like a shining light in the mud. In darkness that is destroying this industry in so many ways.

Emily Best 10:51
We're in it, we're in a weirdly dark time for as much money as there is going into the business. We are in a weirdly dark time. I mean, you and I talked about this. I don't know a couple weeks ago, I came out of this sort of January festival scene. I'm feeling really distressed. Because you know, I go there. And I talked to festivals, and I talked to indie distributors and I talked to platforms and I talked to theaters and I talked to creators, I talked to producers. And none of them are like I'm rolling in cash. They're like, Where the fuck is the money? Money, I'm not making money, he's not making money. They're not making money. She's not making money, like, Where is the money. And I'm scared when when distribuir closes, when tug shuts down. There is an indication that the ecosystem is not super healthy right now. And it doesn't surprise me. So over the last seven years, we've seen the great pivot to streaming, right Netflix 1010 years ago decides we're going to go all streaming, they have this big vision, they're not wrong about it, except that nobody's talking about the fact that they're not a profitable business. Right, they have a ton of income. But it doesn't seem to be coming from a model that nets profit. In fact, they're $26 billion in debt 20 to 26 like that.

Alex Ferrari 12:23
They're using the Amazon, they're using the Amazon model that they're just gonna go into debt and debt and debt. But the main difference between the Amazon model and them is Amazon is extremely diversified where Netflix is not.

Emily Best 12:33
Yeah, that's right. And so we see that happening. And there are a couple of things that that really bothered me about this model. Number one is, as everyone else in the industry has gone, the way of subscription streaming, there are three things that are happening that I think are challenging, and I'm gonna name them up front. So you can remind me because by the time I get to number two, I will already forgotten. That's what small having small children did to my brain, I understand. Number One has to do with personalized recommendation algorithms. Number two, is what it does for creators long term sustainability. And there was a number three, look, I've already forgotten what the third one was, maybe I'll get there. So number one is, if all of these major companies are competing around subscription streaming, what they're competing for is the most of subscriber time they can so that you don't have time to like go to another platform, right? They want to be your sort of soul space. It's by competing for subscriber time, it means they're optimizing for keeping you on the platform. And they're all doing this through personalized recommendation algorithms, personalized recommendation algorithms, those are like math functions that are trying to figure out what you would want to watch. If they are programmed to keep you on the platform. They're programmed to keep you comfortable. They are not programmed to challenge your worldview, or change your mind or make you think differently, or build empathy for your neighbor. Now from the place that I sit in the universe talking to creators all across the country who are trying to tell untold stories, and raise up voices that have not been listened to, for the last century of Motion Picture entertainment. They are trying to build bridges, build empathy, change minds change perspectives. And yet the mechanism for delivering entertainment is literally programmed to thwart its cultural impact. So that's challenge number one. Now, I think that leaves a lane wide open for creators who want to build real community for platforms that want to bridge the online and offline experience and for theatres and festivals to become this meeting place. Because if the platform is programmed to keep you there, and to isolate you inside your own bubble, there's always research now that shows that personalized recommendation algorithms create the same kind of content bubbles on your streaming platforms, you get in opinion bubbles on social media, right? So so that's one challenge that has to do with like audiences are getting isolated. Good and insulated with the way that entertainment has gone even as we have the rise of equity and inclusion in entertainment, and these creators want to do exactly the fucking opposite of that. Since you haven't scolded me, I'm gonna assume I can continue to drop that.

Alex Ferrari 15:15
I mean, I was just gonna let you go, and it's okay, I've dropped an occasional f bomb on the show as well. So you can, you can go, thank you. You're passionate, and I appreciate, you're passionate about it. And listen, I have some episodes that make a sailor blush. So

Emily Best 15:32
I probably won't do that. But I did. I did finally read something that said people who swear more trustworthy. And I was like, that's why I do it. Sure, sure. But that works. The second thing is that we're starting to see these Digital Studios, operating like the pre trust bust studios. So they're signing all these first look deal where they own all your material upfront. And there, they are spending a shit ton of money on a few creators who have no long term upside against the content. So it used to be, you know, you could you could sell off. I mean, what your experience is, is there's like a really long tail monetization strategy. And if you build something that's really good, and it has presence and

Alex Ferrari 16:22
Seinfeld, friends or

Emily Best 16:24
Anything like that, like you could make money on it for the rest of your life. That is going away. Yep, it is right. And creators across the board are beat or being turned into work for hire against their own IP.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
See, even down, it's an emergency, they're coming.

Emily Best 16:45
But this part is crazy to me. And I see creators like lining up to give away their IP into 99 year contracts with Netflix, who could cancel you after two seasons, because it's financially beneficial for them to do so. And then they own your content forever. Yep, your baby your stuff. Right, they can decide where you go, somebody who is not talking to you is writing a recommendation algorithm that may never surface your content to the appropriate audience because they, you know, the math function hasn't really figured it out. So that's the second piece that I think is, is a huge challenge and is is really disrupting the marketplace. And the final piece is that with the exception of Disney, Apple and Amazon, Disney makes content to drive to their live events. And Apple drives you to buy devices, and Amazon is selling you content. So you buy toilet paper from them, right? But the other the at&t, right, which is now Time Warner, right? They own the pipes, they own the devices, they own your internet into your house, and they own the content on those pipes. Like these are massively consolidated conglomerates. These are not ethical business models. And they are driving the price of creativity down as they're competing for one another. It's sort of like Uber and Lyft. Like in order to compete, they have to drive the price that they are paying drivers down, down, down, down, down. So you're commoditizing creative labor, yes. You're not giving people an opportunity to build long term equity. And they're sucking up a ton of capital. But these are not profitable business.

Alex Ferrari 18:30
It's not sustainable. It's not sustainable at all. But I wanted to ask you, because I've wrote I've written about this a lot as well. I believe that there is a devaluation of media in general of visual media because it happened with books in the book. And in the in the publishing industry. First, it happened then in the music industry. And now it's happening to us. So if you want to see a model of what we're going to be just look at the music industry, there used to be 10, student 10 labels. Now there's like four. And before you used to have to pay $18 for a song now it's essentially free. Beyonce is making Beyonce, one of the biggest stars in the world is making a 10th of a cent every time it's played on Spotify. And that's considered good. So there's no sustainability into and that's where we're all going in the in the in the film industry. Would you agree?

Emily Best 19:18
Yes. And the way that musicians get around it is they tour and they build a direct relationship with their audience. And that's what creators across industries have to learn to do. Yep. So that's what that's really what we're building on the distribution side. I'm seeing spark is like the infrastructure for creators to be able to tour things like movies. And there are lots of examples of it in in is, you know, 10 years ago was 10 years ago or eight years ago with a film called good Dick was one of the first sort of, you know, widely lauded self theatrical releases, but people had been doing events is releasing I mean, don't sis dolomite? Yeah, exactly dolomite you have Tyler Perry, Cheryl Bedford did this with dark girls. I mean, there are people who have been doing versions of this because they've been left out of the mainstream in the first place. Um, I actually think dolomite is one of the best examples or a creator of any kind to follow. Most especially because like he wasn't discouraged while he was bad at it.

Alex Ferrari 20:28
He was he was like, he was like a successful ad would.

Emily Best 20:32
But yeah, but he was, but he was basically like, while I'm bad at it, I'm just going to work until I get better at it

Alex Ferrari 20:38

Emily Best 20:40
Perfect, and therefore I quit. It was such an incredible story in that way.

Alex Ferrari 20:44
And he also what he also understood his audience, he understood his niche audience, and he made a product for that niche audience. And I watched that movie. And as I'm watching that movie, I was just like, this is amazing, like roadmap. It's a roadmap on how to do it. And he liked he took risks. He put all his royalties up from his music, his comedy albums, to the and he did like 10 movies or something like that. And he owned them.

Emily Best 21:07
It's also a lesson to make stuff that's important to your audience, right, like, seen at the end, where his co star stops him and says, Nobody puts people like me, I've still been like, Nobody puts people like me on the screen, like, it does. It does matter, right. And so I think all of this is an opportunity. What it means is, filmmakers have to stop subscribing to the myth of getting picked. They really have to stop stop subscribing to the like, I'll just go away and make the perfect thing. And then I will get noticed. Like, it just doesn't work like that anymore. Not if you want to build long term career equity, like, could you maybe write a really great script and get it picked up by netflix? Sure. It's a lottery ticket. Is that but is that also not only is it a lottery ticket? Like is it the best way to build long term career equity? I mean, I don't know like go ask people who've had their shows that they worked on for years and that they loved and nurtured, canceled after a season or two with no information or data about how that decision was made. And see what they say.

Alex Ferrari 22:15
Exactly, it's because I feel that not only screenwriters but I think filmmakers are living in the past and they're making movies like it was 1990 and then all of a sudden, you know, for lack of a better term Miramax who was the the company I know, but that was the company in the 90s who did what they did they you know, if it's not Miramax, Fox Searchlight or Sony classics those guys, they came in and and and built up, you know, built up these careers area, you know, remember in the 90s in every every month, mariachi clerks reservoir, you know, Linkletter like there was so many, and so many filmmakers are still living in that amazing stretch of launching white male filmmakers careers. Exactly. There was the occasional john Singleton and Spike Lee, but that's, you know, a rarity, and none and then Robert, the only Latino in the bunch. I think, being a Latino myself. So that's why I love Robert so much. But yeah, but that's basically what it was. And people are still thinking that and I think now this is the first time I've actually even thought about this. But you're absolutely right, is screenwriters are still living in the world that you're going to write a spec script or either get a job on on a show or sell it or something like that. But that's not sustainable anymore, because you're not going to get the back end and the residuals that the industry has, has lived on. I was talking to an actor the other day, who was a very, he was a very successful character actor. He's been in 1000 things. And he was telling me He's like, Alex, that the residuals are gone. Like I used to do one or two national spots a year commercial spots, and he was good. He was good, those are all going away. And now 80% of films are being done with non union. So the unions are starting to lose their their power. You know, it's it's a very scary time. And I keep telling people, this is a good economic time. We're not in we're not in a downturn, we're not in a crash per se. It right 2008 happens again, or worse. What do you think's gonna happen to the tugs and distributors of the world, even Netflix's of the world for that matter? Yeah, I mean, I

Emily Best 24:21
think I think that's a really interesting question to ask because there are some companies like seed and spark like gum road, who we built ourselves to be around for a while.

Alex Ferrari 24:34
You have a solid foundation.

Emily Best 24:36
Yeah. And a business model that I mean, crowdfunding emerged from the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis, right? That's, that's what crowdfunding was built to overcome. At the time, it was like people who had rich uncle's, their rich uncle's weren't investing and so they had to turn to a thing and now crowdfunding has gotten A lot more sophisticated. And also we don't have like, there was also built on the like Facebook, open social graph, which doesn't exist anymore. A lot more sophisticated, but it's also available to a lot more people. And, you know, we've certainly spent all of our time making it a tool that anybody from any kind of background can actually use successfully. But it means, you know, it means coming to work differently. In terms of the the financial time, I think there are more tools available to creators to monetize their work than ever before. But it's not. You don't make your work the same way that you would, if you were aiming for a Netflix and you don't, you know, you don't raise two and a half million dollars for a movie and make it and then figure out who's going to buy it Oh, like, I just don't think you should do that anymore.

Alex Ferrari 26:00
You can do that with $100,000, let alone two and a half million new lessons 100,000 you can lose.

Emily Best 26:06
I was gonna say it's actually more important not to do it with $100,000 movie. And that's, that's why we started teaching workshops on distribution is to really give creators the tools, they needed one like, Okay, so we've been teaching these crowdfunding workshops for half a decade now. And we started teaching them in Atlanta, and we did a creative marketplace survey there and a few other cities where we were teaching where there's like big, solid, creator communities, and like a lot of talk about like creating a sustainable, independent ecosystem. And so we surveyed creators on what what are your challenges and funding and team building and distribution? And in funding? everybody's like, Where are the investors? Right? Which is like, just a question you have for the rest of your life.

Alex Ferrari 26:50
Where's the money? Where's the money? Yeah.

Emily Best 26:51
The second question is like, what are the challenges of building team and those are like, you know, finding the core team, making sure it's diverse enough, being able to pay them like these sorts of things. By the way, what we have seen from economic surveys of our crowdfunders is that 80% of money raised in crowdfunding goes to pay cast and crew, which I find really exciting. That's awesome. Because it's a job creator. And the final section we asked about was distribution. And we laugh, we have a laugh in the office, because most of the answers to the questions that we asked about distribution, were just literally question marks.

Alex Ferrari 27:30
Nobody knows. Nobody knows.

Emily Best 27:31
People didn't know what they didn't know. And we're like, Okay, let's do this. So we created sort of a distribution one to one about like, what what is it really, really to distribute in this marketplace? Like, what are the steps? What are the capabilities, what are the possibilities, we interviewed a bunch of like key players in independent distribution and TV, etc. And then we built we, we pulled together a bunch of case studies of creators who took the time to really get to know their audience, built up the important organizational partnerships and influencer partnerships and festival partnerships, and, and really always had their larger career in mind. And similar to your story, managed to really well monetize their films, and make sure those films reached the audiences that they really cared to reach with them, which we have myriad examples of where distributors fail to do it. And something I often do in the room. Because, you know, we're in cities across the country. And so some cities who are like, you know, basically never featured in movies that we all see on the big screen, right, like cities that are kind of absent from our national imagination. So I go in, and we're in a, we're in a room of 200 people. And I'll be like, okay, Who here is working on a project, that's like, really not like anything that's been made before. And like, half the hands might go up. And I'm like, cool. I just want you to know that that means no sales agent has ever sold a movie like yours before. And no distributor has ever distributed a movie like yours before. They are not the experts. They know things based on their past experience. But you've just told me they've never had an experience like working with a creator like you on a movie like this. So if you don't show up, being able to talk to them about who your audience is, how they like to be reached, how they like to be talked to everything that dolomite knew about his audience that got the the record label to call him and the studio to call him. It wasn't until he knew all those things, that distributors were literally lining up to work with him. Right? And because he knew all that the popular critical opinion didn't mean shit doesn't matter. Right. So I feel like there's just this mentality that like, I'm just the creator and I all I'm supposed to know is the creative thing. If you don't know at least enough to be dangerous. You're done. Yeah, and there's so many examples. movies. Like there was there's some really terrible statistics actually of like movies made by black directors, who would go to Sundance and get a nice looking distribution deal. And the distributors really didn't know what to do with black films Besides, like, put them out on DVD during Black History Month. I'm not joking. It's just ridiculous. I have specific examples to point to, and they don't make their money back. And then that is a mark on the Creator, not the distributor. Correct. And that is a mark on an entire quote, unquote, niche audience, even though it's like 13% of our population, plus everybody else who doesn't need to look like the protagonist in the movie to enjoy it. There's a lot of us, by the way, right, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 30:46
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Emily Best 30:57
So it's, I think it's, it's just a time for us to deeply reevaluate the myths of success, our system and start elevating different stories about what's successful.

Alex Ferrari 31:10
So I, you know, I went to, I wanted to ask you this, because, I mean, I've been I've been neck deep in the distribution side of stuff now for a while. And then once I got involved with the distributor, you know, debacle and became kind of like the spearhead of that situation, which by the way has not finished, we're still going through stuff with that that scenario. I was invited to go speak at AFM, and I know your feelings about AFM. But I've read your feelings on AFM. And that's fine. I completely understand. By the way, AFM dropped two days off their schedule for this year, because na went from a place anymore because it went if we went from 800 distributors down to 351, this year, and then next year is probably going to be less. And but the one thing I did notice, because I went this year and I went last year was the that I just realized that nobody understands what's going on. None of the distributors are really at this at that level, the mid and low level distributors, which are where a lot of these indie movies would get picked up by you know that the big, not the big studios, not the Fox Searchlight, or even God forbid any of the major studios, there's only a handful up there that will even look at them. So we're talking about mid level and below. They were clueless, like I literally was in meetings with with distributors, and they were trying to pitch themselves to the distributor, you know, people, filmmakers, like hey, we want to help this, you know, we want to pick up all those distributor movies. I'm like, haha, okay, so I would do the meetings. And I would just sit there and I would listen to them. And I just asked them about their business model. And they would just lay out this old rehash crap kind of system. Yep. And then I just turned to one of them. I said, you, you guys really don't know what, what's going on? Do you have no idea how to make any money with these? Do you? There's no guarantee.

Emily Best 32:56
It's every time I talk to somebody who's launching a new new streaming platform. And I asked them what their customer acquisition strategy is. And they're like, Oh, you know, like Facebook ads, whatever. I'm like, cool. You're gonna compete with Netflix and Apple, and like they're buying all the keywords that might matter to you. And and frankly, if your differentiator is like diverse content, for example,

Alex Ferrari 33:17
Or indie groups that Oh, yeah. And there's a lot of indie distributors, like indie streaming, no one cares. No, this is not 2019. India is a budget level, it is not a genre. Not anymore. Like in the 90s. That's when indie kind of started, that was the whole indie genre, which there were and there were a lot less films and all that kind of stuff. But when you launched your streaming service you had an audience built in from your email was perfect, was really smart.

Emily Best 33:42
And even then we fundamentally don't believe that that's the right path forward. Like, it is a tool in the toolkit of creators who are building these larger connective strategies. I'm like, for me, if you're going around and doing amazing events around your movie, let's say or your podcast launch, or you're doing like live book tour, or whatever, that stuff should be available online, so that after the event when all those people had a great time, go home to their friends and are like, I just watched this amazing movie and their friends, like where Can I see it? The answer can't be nowhere. Which is often the case, right? So to us, there are some versions of what was formerly known as day and date that we think when built around events can we've actually seen can really work Naomi mcdougald Jones's shuffle vampire tour is an incredible example.

Alex Ferrari 34:34
Friend of the show, friend of the show.

Emily Best 34:36
Yes. out everybody go by the wrong kind of women.

Alex Ferrari 34:41
Yes. She's great. She's what she was, well, she was wonderful. And I had her when I heard about her story. I had her on the show and, and she's very frank about the whole situation. She's, how depressing it is. And you know, like, you know, when she went to like her day in and day and she's like, but iTunes, the numbers weren't there. I'm like, Well, that was the one thing I was gonna say about FM. I realized that See VOD is essentially almost gone for independent film. It's dead unless you can personally give a very rabid audience. And you could drive that for maybe a week or two. But the days of what the Polish brothers did with four lovers only half a million dollars on TV that's gone.

Emily Best 35:15
You drive it to your own website at this point, or you drive it to like what Naomi did is drive it to seed and spark. We're getting paid between 20 and 50 cents a minute stream, then it's valuable,

Alex Ferrari 35:25
Right? So then, so it's a TiVo has gone. s VOD is kind of like if you if you're lucky enough to even get an S VOD deal, meaning like a Netflix or Hulu deal, which those deals are very far, few far between now because they're just focusing on their own content. Yeah. Then you got amazon prime, which now rakes from a penny to an hour to 12 cents an hour, depending if your algorithm likes you. So that's not really the greatest thing. So now the big keyword is Avon. So Avon is where a lot of money is being made. And I saw it, I saw I see the numbers from A to B, I see the numbers from Pluto. Now, peacock is gonna come out as an A VOD platform as well. So a VOD is that we're all going back to television is hilarious. But that's where the that's where the money is for independent films next year, it could be something else with the landscape changing so rapidly, because you and I both basically win since 2015, you know, basically been coming up together. And we've been, you know, we're in different sides of the battlefield. I feel like you see us you're at some point, I'm over here. I'm in this trench, you're in that trench. But we're both seeing what's happening. And as it's just insane, that the whole landscape is changing so rapidly, that these quote unquote, professionals have no idea what's going on. And I think the the, the casualties are the creators and the filmmakers.

Emily Best 36:41
Yeah, I would argue that it's not necessarily they don't know what's going on, as it doesn't behoove them to pay attention to it. There's not too scary, right?

Alex Ferrari 36:51
To have ostrich syndrome,they have an ostrich,

Emily Best 36:53
They're disappearing really rapidly. There's some of them who have, you know, one of the indie distributors out there who I won't name, still occasionally picks up movies out of the festival circuit does kind of mostly service deals, they do like 30 movies a month,

Alex Ferrari 37:12
Will not be named but we all know who it is actually backed up by a softcore porn business. When it's like, you know, you know, like, skinemax?

Emily Best 37:26
Like zombie sluts to or whatever. Yeah, like, yeah, that's, um, and that's fine. They're not upfront about it. But like, that's fine, like, do that business.

Alex Ferrari 37:37
But that's not what they said. That's not that's Oh, my God, it's so.

Emily Best 37:47
So I feel like, um, you know, nobody is going to solve the problem of distribution for creators. And something that we just keep saying over and over again, is distribution is not something you get distribution is something you do great part of your job to build your career. I don't as the CEO of my company get to be like, Yeah, but actually selling shit to customers is not my problem. Like that's insane. Only problem is business, that business. There is like, there is no content without a consumer, unless you are super rich, and are just making things for fun. It's a hobby, like a hobby. Yeah, if you if you want to make a sustainable business, you have to care about your unit economics, and you have to care about your customer. And you have to know about your customer, and you have to know how to find your customer. And like creators. I've seen creators sort of shudder at all this stuff. And I'm like, sorry, but like, What makes you so special, that you shouldn't have to think about the person who's going to spend their hard earned dollar on the thing that you made, when in fact, your audience is probably just as smart as you think you are. Preach, preach and preach. And the reason that I love and invest in crowdfunding so much is like, you cannot find a person who has run a successful crowdfunding campaign who doesn't have five at least audible stories of this person found out about my crowdfunding campaign. Who either you know, knew me from way back then or I've never met them before in my life. And they were so inspired. They did XYZ for my film, and it changed the game. Like everybody has that story. Like we have a I shot my first movie in Maine. And so if you're going to shoot a movie in Maine, like there has to be a lobster vaccine or what are you doing?

Alex Ferrari 39:44
I mean, seriously, why why would you not?

Emily Best 39:46
And this guy showed up on time in the morning with a giant baki bought us 25 lobsters which was 5x the number we actually needed and dropped them off and was like you kids, have fun. left.And that happened because of our funding campaign.

Alex Ferrari 40:07
That's amazing.

Emily Best 40:08
I don't honestly know, we would have kept the lobster vaccines specifically, if somebody hadn't been like, y'all bring your lobster because like, it's expensive. So so I feel like the thing that you discover when you start to really meaningfully engage with your audience or your customer, if I'm allowed to call them that, is they will love you and support you and do things for you. You haven't imagined, like we three of the filmmakers who have used our website throughout the years just became investors in seed and spark. That's awesome, right? thumb at very, very small amounts who were just like I just you what you did on the platform, change things for me, I want to get involved in your next. So your audience may be the next group of people who support your film. And cultivating that audience is about making everything that happens after this film easier for the next one, and the one after that.

Alex Ferrari 41:00
So Emily, what you're telling me, let me get this straight here. You're telling me that as a filmmaker, you have to think about your audience, you've got to think about the business, you also have to create your art, and you're not just going to get picked out of the crowd or someone from out Hollywood's gonna come down and tap you on the shoulder and say you will now have a career for the rest of your life. Is that what you're saying? What is that? You want to hear it clearly, please?

Emily Best 41:23
Yeah, finding a river if you don't like it. I didn't pick capitalism. Not my like, favorite version of economics. Okay, but like, this is the one we live in. And the landscape we live in is there is a ton of opportunity. Finally, we the chip, you can literally go online and with free tools, you can make your movie available behind the paywall tomorrow, right? That was not true. 50 years ago, right, or what I don't know what his time anyway,

Alex Ferrari 41:51
10 years ago was very difficult.

Emily Best 41:53
Um, so there is tremendous opportunity. But we live in an incredibly fragmented marketplace, across independent creators, that is incredibly consolidated at the top. And the reason that we go out and educate filmmakers is because the more consolidated it gets the top, the steeper that mount Hollywood becomes, and the harder it is to ever get picked at all.

Alex Ferrari 42:22
If that's what your goal is,

Emily Best 42:24
Well, the thing is, if you super invest it, look at dolomit. He's super invested in building a direct audience relationship, no matter after he got told no. And then they called him. And that's what happens. You build a really great audience, they come fucking calling you.

Alex Ferrari 42:41
I can only tell you that since you started you were one of my first guests from the moment that I interviewed you to the moment I have now. I've been trying to get into the Hollywood I look, I drank that kool aid that mariachi Kool Aid A long time ago. And it took me until I was 40 to make my first feature film, because I was waiting to get picked or playing the game. And I changed the rules. Because I said, You know what, I'm not gonna wait any more that tools are here, I'm gonna go out and do my own thing. And the second I changed the rules, and I said, You know what, I'm not gonna play by your rules. I'm gonna play by my own rules. I'm gonna create my own little sandbox. Yeah, and I'm gonna do my own thing. And the second I did that, in these last four and a half, almost five years, you I can't even tell you how much how many people have come. You've contacted me purely because I'm doing my thing. I'm doing it my way. And I don't need them. It's kind of like a bank loan.

Emily Best 43:28
Here is like a credit doing more than that, though. Well, you are you are amplifying the voices in the community who are making more opportunities available for creators, you're sharing your experience incredibly openly. You're making it easier for somebody else to make that switch that you made earlier on in their career, and you're providing them the tools and information to do that. And that's some that's the superpower I think we have. The challenge with the notion of independent film is independent sounds like it means a lone wolf, doesn't it? No. We will not create an infrastructure for ourselves that can compete with any individual Hollywood studio unless we are unified. And it's what people like Naomi did when she went on the road for the joyful vampire tour. They were literally filming and cutting episodes at like Kiwi is a genius like I don't know how she did it on camera, cutting the thing putting the story together. And it was amazing. It was amazing. You know, and and probably driving the van sometimes. Anyway, like I think there's the, the sharing it back and building the expertise and kicking the door open and pulling the people up behind you. That's actually the most powerful tool we have for manifesting a really healthy ecosystem. And I do think it's on the businesses to be super transparent about their own unit economics and their own, you know, capacity to stick around because There are some platforms that that creators are relying on that are super, super leveraged. You know, and it makes it hard for them to stick around that makes them really vulnerable. So I just think it's like, you know, it's a time where we do have to be, we do have to be experts in our industry, because it's on us to remake it in the, you know, in the, with the values that we really actually want to, we care about

Alex Ferrari 45:30
No, no question and and it's, it's tough enough. Everything we're talking about is tough enough as independent films like this is, like, remember before the tough part was to make the movie now that that's not the toughest part anymore, the technology has made it so affordable, now that you can make an affordable, good looking independent film, the problem now is getting it sold, getting it out there doing all that stuff. And then it's tough enough without companies like distributor going under and and you know, doing what they did. And and the situation with tug is another scenario, which is still developing story. But

Emily Best 46:04
Yeah, we don't know what we don't we don't we don't know. But with with, with companies like distributor, I think it's so important for filmmakers to ask really key questions about how they make money and how they distribute money. Now, look, there's not a lot you can do if a company is like literally not being forthcoming about what's actually happening,

Alex Ferrari 46:23
or mismanaged or just look, companies don't wonder all the time.

Emily Best 46:26
Totally. It's an especially in our business, it's like it's distribution companies have been going out of business since the dawn of time. It's not anything new. I think that we talked about this with distributor, the aggregation platform is not a distributor, those are two very different,

Alex Ferrari 46:46
They should be just a pass through, they should just be a service, their post house, essentially,

Emily Best 46:50
it's it's very often that some of these technology solutions are sold as sort of distribution, you know, deals or solutions. And they're not. They're just technology solutions. And I think it's important to be forthcoming about what it takes on behalf of filmmakers to really leverage the tools. So like, we weren't just going to build a crowdfunding platform and be like, this is the best one why cuz it is a crowdfunding platform is what the fuck you make of it. But that's not also fair to say to people, like, here's a great tool, get good at using it Good luck. Like, the reason that we invest so much in education is like if we want to be the quote unquote best in the world, it's only because our creators are the most prepared, they're the most prepared to succeed. That like our secret sauce really isn't more than that, is that we we prepare creators probably better than anyone else. And we're, we're sticklers about it a little bit

Alex Ferrari 47:54
As you should look, come on. This is a such a brutal business. I mean, I'd rather you be a stickler than, you know, getting your hand your ass handed to you

Emily Best 48:03
Be a stickler and have you have a good first successful crowdfunding experience, then, you know, burn you on credit, like, these are the platforms that have like 10 11% success rate, like people come to us all the time. from other platforms being like I had a terrible experience, I never thought I was going to crowdfund again. And they come to one of our workshops, and they start to feel like a glimmer of hope and possibility or on crowdfunding, we've converted a lot of people who've had unsuccessful campaigns into successful ones, by simply preparing them, and we can't do it all for all facets of the business, we're not here to prepare you to produce like for production, we're not here to prepare you for every single element. And we certainly can't conceivably prepare everyone, because you know, every film, in this case, every film is, could have a totally unique distribution plan that's actually appropriate for it. So what we can do is equip creators with enough knowledge to prepare themselves. But like, that's as far as we can take it, and you're doing a lot. Sure, but I just think like, you know, there is a big personal responsibility piece here. And I totally, I get the like, why should I have to do at all and I'm like, because capitalism, frankly, and like, I don't like it either. But, but I would rather do it all. And I say this to people all the time. Probably 70 to 80% of my job is shit I don't particularly love to do. Right. And I do it because the 20 to 30% is so rewarding. I wouldn't have it any other way. And PS, I get to choose who I work with. And I don't have to work with assholes and that I will choose to sleep over for the rest of my life. Like if I have to lose sleep over other parts of the business so that I never have to work with an asshole happy as a clam. But that's I mean, I think that's part of it is like, you know, there we also sell creators this myth that like When you're really successful, all you have to do is the is the cool part. No. And that's just never true. There's always like, I'm pretty sure that a lot of those really successful actors don't love going on 20 City press junkets Oh,

Alex Ferrari 50:17
yeah. But they know the business. They understand the business.

Emily Best 50:20
You know, and we all have a version like it's what is it? Like everybody has to eat a shit sandwich. It's what ships in to tolerate eating?

Alex Ferrari 50:27
No, it's no it's a gamble though. Tourists I heard him speak once. And he said, being in Hollywood, like eating a shit sandwich, you could change the bread, you could put some lettuce on it, you can put a little nice vegan mayo on it whatever you want. But at the end of the day, you're still eating shit. That's exactly it. Now, the one thing I've been pushing a lot in, in the last year or so. And I've been talking about it loosely over the course of all the time I've been doing this, but is the concept of being a film intrapreneur being an entrepreneurial filmmaker. And I do truly believe that the only six The only way for moving forward is to become an entrepreneurial understanding every business creating multiple revenue streams, that includes touring, that includes ancillary product lines include services, you could build all these things around films and or companies and or filmmakers and creators. And you're not just handing it over to a third party company and praying that they're going to give you a check. That could be one revenue stream, but not all of them. Is that is that Do you agree with that concept?

Emily Best 51:34
Yeah, you know, there's a, there's a term that a friend of mine introduced to me recently, which is that of a portfolio career. Yes. And I think when you talk about creative entrepreneurship, it's often not built around a single vertical of storytelling, or a single monetization stream, right? Like, I don't think anybody is really just making money making even the big directors are all directing commercials on. Like, Scorsese directed a lineup like yeah, cuz they probably were like,

Alex Ferrari 52:08
He was making a commercial the hiring an actor.

Emily Best 52:11
Yeah, exactly. Like whatever it is, like, like there are you have to diversify your revenue stream over time. And I think for freelancers, it can feel super hectic to think about, well, I have to do a little of this, and a little of that, and some brand work and some whatever. And then I do my own stuff. But the concept of a portfolio career is like, you know, my experiences that some of the most multi talented, multi capable people I've ever met, happened to end up an independent filmmaking for whatever reason that is. And so these are people who it's not just that they have multiple talents, but they have multiple interests. And I do think there is a way to synthesize that if you think about all of these interests, laddering up to a portfolio career, it's a career that actually is built up out of all the things I'm interested in and talented at. And I don't have to feel like I'm just a jack of all trades, master of none. like to be a CEO. It's a portfolio job. Oh, God. Yeah. Right. Like you have to have leadership and management skills and some HR skills and some like, a little bit of technical understanding and a little bit of it. It's a it's a portfolio job. Being a film director is a portfolio job, you have to know so many things about so many things, just to make a set really go the way that you want it to go beyond the

Alex Ferrari 53:31
Politics and all of that stuff.

Emily Best 53:33
Yeah, being a producer, one of the most portfolio jobs in the universe, like you have to be able to, like organize all the coffees and entice and dazzle investors like it's a crazy fucking job. So I think like it's in line with the full skill set. And if I think about the creators who have built incredible long term IP value, the duplass brothers work with a lot among them, like Mark talks all the time about going up the Hollywood Hill, like coming out of their first like big Sundance premiere studio thing. And realizing that was not what they wanted to do, then making everything for super cheap, owning all of the IP and now having a giant library to license long term wealth that they have built, right?

Alex Ferrari 54:23
Yeah, exactly. Like what Tyler what Tyler Perry did, he's built an entire Empire. Dude,

Emily Best 54:28
and has anybody made a more baller move than Tyler Perry recently, teaching a former Confederate army base and converting it into a big deal.

Alex Ferrari 54:39
One of the biggest studios in the world, honestly, and yeah, and Hollywood still adores them. And Hollywood still ignores him. He's kind of like the the most ignored mogul ever. Like you don't need them. He doesn't know he doesn't and he knows it. You know, he used them for what he was good for. But now he easily now he's got what a Netflix deal going on. And also have other stuff that he's got going on. It's it's, it's insane. And I love that, like the duplass brothers are amazing. There's, they're, they're one of the they one of the inspirations for me making this as mag, because I did it with a scriptment and, and I did all that stuff. And I was lucky enough to, to meet not meet. But I saw mark and Jay speak one on one of their book tours for that great book that they wrote like brothers. And I had one of the winners of the of your of your thing. The heroes. Yeah, yeah. Oh God, to their two young girls, that Megan and Hannah. Yes, they were out filmmakers. They were on the show. And they were just so excited to be filmmakers. It was just like, so happy.

Emily Best 55:45
I wish I could bottle their energy and distribute it to everybody because I just, they're having a like, you know, it's hard. But like, they managed to have fun in ways that I just really admire. They said, the silliest, most wonderful birthday message I've ever received in my entire life came from those two. And actually, Megan has become an instructor for seed and spark. So she's teaching our workshops. I'm just about to go to Winston Salem, and do a creative sustainability summit with her. Yeah, so they're, yeah, they're remarkable.

Alex Ferrari 56:18
I mean, what you guys what you're doing Emily, and what you've done for me, you are honestly one of the few good people doing what? I don't think that's true. I really appreciate No, no, no, listen, listen. Before you before you stop me, I'm gonna say something. Okay, cuz I know you're gonna do that. No, no, no, no, no, look, there are many good people. And there are many good people, you know, taking the taking up arms, and there are many. But you're one of those shining lights and have been since I started, I've started 20 years ago, 25 years ago in the business, but during this time, though, you know, we've been coming up coming up there, I've seen people come and go, I've been I've seen people, companies come and go, people rip people off all this kind of stuff, you've been very constant. And only you've only had the, the the best intentions in mind, at least from what I can see from what I have known of you is you're truly trying to help creators, you're truly trying to help filmmakers with your platform and the way you're doing it, and doing it on your own. And by the way, by dancing to your own song, you know, there's no question about it, you definitely are dancing to your own song. And you created a platform that you're like, you know what, screw the big boys, I'm going to do it my way. And I'm going to help filmmakers, and I'm gonna help great now you're helping all creators with your platform. And, you know, that's what I try to promote with indie film, hustle, and with my other companies as well, is to try to help educate and push filmmakers forward. And also give them a nice nice spoonful of reality. Because I'd rather them get a spoonful than a punch in the face from somebody else. And and I think you do the exact same thing. So I do appreciate you doing what you do.

Emily Best 57:55
That's so kind of you. I does. On our door, the door between our conference room in our kitchen and the office.

Alex Ferrari 58:04
Yeah. Can you see what that says? This is we are truth tellers. That's awesome.

Emily Best 58:09
That's a really important key thing. So when you talk about the dose of reality, yes. I think the most important thing we can do in this business to help ourselves and our peers is to tell the truth. Yes. To be honest about the experience of good, bad and indifferent to, it seems inspark we feel like it's our responsibility to like really research things and understand the real dynamics of what's going on and like make whatever phone calls we can make behind the scenes to like, find out what's really going on to talk to creators who've had distribution deals that like look favorable and like, unpack, well, how did it actually go, you know? We are truth tellers, I feel like really defines what we're trying to do. Because I think we're in the business of telling fantastic stories. We can't do that about the business of telling the stories. Because we've really shot ourselves in the foot buying a myth that doesn't exist. Oh, yeah. dispelling those myths in favor of giving people something they can do every day that they own, that they control. That's so much more exciting to me than like, I mean, I love making it like that. filmmakers like Meghan, Hannah got to work with the duplass brothers. Like, that's so delightful. It's so wonderful. But like, Mark and I joke like the the whole point of a crowdfunding rally is when you get to the end of it, you've already raised money and built your audience like you don't need us anymore. You know what I mean? getting picked would be the icing on the cake, but you've proven to yourself You don't need to get picked. You can pick yourself

Alex Ferrari 59:59
that's Amazing, absolutely true. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions I ask all of my guests. Okay, what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Emily Best 1:00:10
Sorry, to break into the business today. Start talking to your audience, get to know them, get to love them get to understand them. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life, I think my actual, it's not a lesson. It's like constant maintenance is how to be responsive and not reactive. So in leadership in team building and decision making, when you're working with lots of people collaboratively in this age of like instant digital communication, text messages, text message, and emails and all of that, it can be very tempting to just react and, you know, right back right away. And I think being responsive and building a little thoughtfulness into how you react when people say things to you that you have strong reactions to where people write things to you that you have strong reactions to. And that is a that is a forever challenge. And so I have to be in it like a good space in order to be there. So whatever care it takes me to maintain this sense of responsiveness and not reactiveness I think is really important.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
Emily, I can't thank you enough for being a champion of filmmakers and creators out there and in for doing fighting the good battle that you are fighting every day. So thank you so much for everything you guys do at Seton Spark.

Emily Best 1:01:35
Thank you. Thanks for this great podcast and great interview Alex.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:40
I want to thank Emily for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/402 and I'll also have links to the first episode Episode 23 that we do with Emily which is really an masterclass in crowdfunding for filmmakers. Thank you guys for listening. I hope this episode was of value to you on your journey. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 217: Insider Tips on Crowdfunding Your Film on Kickstarter with Elise McCave

Right-click here to download the MP3

On the show today is Elise McCaveDirector of Narrative Film at Kickstarter. Elise drops some major knowledge bombs on this episode. She goes over what it takes to have a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, what makes a good pitch video and we discuss some success stories as well.

Thanks again to Media Circus PR who co-produced these podcasts episodes with me. Enjoy my interview with Elise McCave.

Alex Ferrari 0:27
Today's guest is Elise Mccave, and she is the head Yoda at Kickstarter for filmmakers. She is the one that is helping filmmakers get their films crowdfunded on the Kickstarter platform, so I wanted to bring her in. So she could tell us a little bit about not only how Kickstarter can help filmmakers get their word out on their films. But generally what makes a good crowdfunding campaign for independent films, shorts, features, Docs, and so on. And she dropped some major knowledge bombs in this episode. So without any further ado, here is my interview with Elise Mccave from Kickstarter. Today we have Elise Mccave, thank you so much from Kickstarter. Thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.

Elise Mccave 2:12
Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 2:13
I wanted to bring you in because you are the Yoda of filmmaking, kickstarting crowdfunding? Is this is true,

Elise Mccave 2:19
I'm gonna take that as 100% or complimentary. Yes!

Alex Ferrari 2:25
Absolutely. So umm, from your perspective, I want to get a little bit into the weeds about what makes a good crowdfunding campaign and where filmmakers make their mistakes. So what is the the what, what makes a good crowdfunding campaign in general for film?

Elise Mccave 2:39
Yeah, totally. I think for film, the best crowdfunding campaigns are the ones where a filmmaker is kind of connecting themselves, with their audience through their film. So I think sometimes people might make the mistake that they don't want to, they don't want to appear too much in their video, or maybe they're going to try and write their page in the third person. And actually, the best, you know, the best campaigns are the ones where you really align yourself with your project. Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, these projects are really personal. And when you are appealing to a large number of people to, you know, support you to create that vision, like you need to go personal.

Alex Ferrari 3:22
Now in the way the world works, that people do not, you know, give money to corporations as easily, or to entities, they will give it to somebody an artist, and be more personal will help that.

Elise Mccave 3:33
Yeah, totally. And, and so also, those great campaigns are the ones where you also kind of draw that relationship, also between the kind of the material in the in the film as well, you can do that through the way you talk about it. Also, through the kinds of rewards you're offering as well, when you really kind of are giving people a kind of insight into the creative process, insight and access to kind of the folks in the film, whether whether it's a documentary or narrative.

Alex Ferrari 3:59
Now, what happens is when I know this is like a pet peeve of mine, campaign videos, they are very unique and can vary from interesting to really well done. What are some tips that

Elise Mccave 4:14
You missed out terrible in that

Alex Ferrari 4:15
I was trying to be? I'm trying to be nice. There's some very bad ones. What are some tips that you would give filmmakers on how to actually make a campaign video that will actually convert

Elise Mccave 4:25
Totally, my first tip is just like, keep it short. Like imagine it's an elevator pitch. If it's five minutes long, and you really think that there's no fat to cut off it, you're so wrong. So you need to really for me, just like if there are a minute and a half. That's the kind of kind of second Oh, please. That's the sweet spot. Yeah. I mean, if you can't kind of wrap it up in that amount of time. I'm not saying you're going to cover everything. But if you can't make a compelling pitch in 90 seconds, then you're not doing a great job. So

Alex Ferrari 4:53
Do you suggest putting in clips from the movie if you've shot some stuff is an important

Elise Mccave 4:58
Yeah, I think the thing is that people have fun A very different times in the, you know, in the timeline of their film, some people are going to show, they're going to need to raise some money, you know, on Kickstarter, before they do anything before they can, you know, I don't know, higher, you know, higher sound person or whatever it is, that's the first thing, some people are gonna, are gonna raise money as for post production, right, so you're somewhat constrained by where you're at in the process, I definitely think that the more that you can, the more that you can offer an audience to give them a flavor of what they are, what they're supporting, whether that is, you know, shots, you know, from your, from your dailies, or from your documentary, or if it's just like test footage, that gives an idea of the kind of look and feel of the film, we

Alex Ferrari 5:46
Can also suggest possibly using footage from past projects just to prove that you are a filmmaker, and you can actually deliver what you're promising.

Elise Mccave 5:54
I think I think it does help. And in the same way that one of my pet peeves is when the audio on a project video is bad. I'm like, how can we believe you're gonna make a decent film for $2? million? Yeah, if you can't even make a 92nd thing? That sounds okay. So I think you know, it doesn't have to be incredibly high production value, but I think it does have to, like, give a suggestion of what you're capable of, and what you're kind of also what your personal aesthetic is. And people will forgive bad video before they forget that audio. I think so right?

Alex Ferrari 6:24
Something that even an independent film, you can have a beautifully shot thing or horribly shot thing. Look at Blair Witch. Yeah, I know, just Yeah, the letter, which are those things that was just horribly shot. And, you know, in the way it was, it was very badly done in that in the style, but the audio was good. If the audio was like, No, you just don't want to put $200 million in bad audio. And that's a much now which which, which brings within the next question. When filmmakers sometimes are a little, it's kind of like going into the Shark Tank, they overestimate their value of what they're trying to get and what they're trying to do. So, you know, when they go into, like, I need a million dollars for my first feature film that starring my best friend from high school, and it's a it's a drama, we're going to shoot it in black and white. And I've never really shot anything. Is that have you seen this I'm sure.

Elise Mccave 7:17
No, we see this kind of stuff all the time. But I think, you know, a lot of what my job is just to kind of just to just encourage people help people to be really just to be really realistic about what, what they're able to raise. And it's not a reflection of the quality of a project, it's usually more of a reflection of like, what are your pre existing networks? Like? Do you have an email list that you you know, that you're already regularly updating people on? You know, are you kind of active and really interesting, on on Twitter, or, you know, some other social media platform? So I think it's it's much less about, you know, your projects, good, your projects bad. It's more like, what have you got that you can that you can leverage,

Alex Ferrari 7:59
Right, because there was a, there was a project a while ago, that I saw on Kickstarter that they raised, I think, 1.2 million or something like that. But they had a massive online presence, a massive email list that they had been building up in their audience was just like this. And they were going for 250,000.

Elise Mccave 8:18
Yeah, I mean, a project like, you know, Mystery Science Theater already has all of those Chicagoland and those you know, those projects, which come out of, you know, a project that was beloved, of people in the past, people who maybe work kids are now at their peak earning capacity. You know, it's like, you know, you know, exactly, and so that, again, it's not a reflection necessarily of the quality of the projects, but one was great. But, but much more about, yeah. What is there already to leverage, you know, whose hearts and minds are already, like, deeply, you know, deeply committed to this thing.

Alex Ferrari 8:54
And you and you got your start in documentary, right?

Elise Mccave 8:57
Yeah, that's right. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 8:58
So yeah. So I think one thing that documentary does so well, is are, they're able to identify their audience, really crystal clear, they're, like, just laser focused on their audience. Much more than narrative, it's much harder with narrative and documentary, because, you know, if you have a documentary about, you know, dog fighting, that's an audience, you can target that audience. I always use the vegan chef, you know, movie to movies about vegan chefs or about, you know, getting healthier yoga. Those are things that you can pinpoint. And I feel that narrative filmmakers don't do it as well. Do you agree?

Elise Mccave 9:32
I think it's some You're right. There's some there's some kind of competitive advantage kind of baked into dogs. I think, in addition to the fact that a documentary filmmaker is often not making the film until they're making the film, I mean, they didn't know they were making the film and they were just like, yeah, I'm gonna go shoot some stuff, then I kind of follow their nose. So actually, by the time they're raising money, they may actually have quite a lot of the footage in the footage in the cam. And and often if they feel that there's a film there And that means that I've actually got some really compelling stuff in the can. So I think there is there's that is like a, it's easier to kind of draw people in, because you're drawing them in with really, you know, what is going to be in the film and in the end, and I think you're right that like, I probably it's probably more often that I speak to a narrative filmmakers and they say, I want to make a film for everyone, I really think this film could, you know, could could reach to everyone. Yeah, you know, to which I say, you know, if you're making a film for everyone, the risk is you make a film for no one. And so it is a kind of a process of Yes, exactly. Getting them to be incredibly specific. Like what two three communities are we talking about

Alex Ferrari 10:38
It's like they say niches are in the riches are in the niches. Yeah, because it's true. Like you got to niche down and I think in, in the independent world, I think it's so important to niche down, because I've had so many filmmakers I've talked to they're like, yeah, I'm gonna make this wide audience might, you don't have $100 million in marketing to get it to, you know, males from 18 to 35? It's right. That's not a demographic you can hit. Yeah, but you could hit people who are against dogfighting or people who are against GMOs or something.

Elise Mccave 11:05
Yeah. 20 to 25 year old men who love MMA, I don't know. Yeah, exactly. That's a group of people we can we can figure out where they are. We can find them.

Alex Ferrari 11:13
Yeah, right. Exactly.

Elise Mccave 11:14
Of course, the niches thing doesn't work for me, because I pronounced it niche. And there's a niche, then I'd be saying the riches are in the niches and the rich,

Alex Ferrari 11:20
The reaches or it doesn't, doesn't work for you as much

Elise Mccave 11:25
Well find something else. So find something else.

Alex Ferrari 11:28
Now with. With you, we're talking about leveraging, when you leverage and this is something I think filmmakers especially when they're crowdfunding don't understand the what they have to do as far as marketing it, and leveraging whatever networks they have, and doing all this before they'd spend their time putting together a Kickstarter campaign, or crowdfunding campaign, because they're just basically sending out the links to their mom and their friends. So I'm like, well, that's just friend crowding. Or don't even go through the crowdfunding campaign. At that point, just call your friends call your money and get money to write check, write, just write them a check, as opposed to trying to reach people who are not in your inner circle, understanding social media understanding email, which is so powerful. Can you elaborate a little bit about that?

Elise Mccave 12:11
Yeah, sure. I mean, you're you're kind of spot on there. I think one of the things I'm encouraging people to do is not just think of thinking of this kind of this big kind of time commitment, you know, which running a campaign like this is, as just being, you know, you're putting in this time to raise this money, but actually thinking of it in a much grander sense, which is this work that you're going to do, preparing for and running this campaign is going to pay dividends throughout the life of this film, and probably throughout the life of your career, people, relationships that you build now, through your outreach, may well be relationships that come back around again, and again, again, this project future projects. So that's one thing, you know, because what I'm then going on to say is to give them a kind of a kind of to do list, which is incredibly long and can be quite overwhelming. So it doesn't do like encourage them. But this is like an investment in the you know, in the in the long term. Right. But yeah, you're right, that basically, the key is in the preparation, like,

Alex Ferrari 13:11
How long should you prep for 90 days, right? Yeah, yeah, it's 90,

Elise Mccave 13:15
I think, well, it doesn't have to Yeah, I think three, I think three months is a good is a really good kind of benchmark. And spending that time doing this work of identifying, identifying those communities, figuring out what all the different ways I can get to that community, like where are they Where do they live online, you know, simultaneously building up your database of contacts, just really kind of going through it or building content to feed that audience. And it doesn't have to be specifically your content, it could be just content that they want content that they want. I think we kind of figure on a sort of like a 7030 ratio, which is like, once you've got that, you know, you've got your Facebook page up and running or your Twitter account, or however it is you think you're going to best communicate your kind of vision to your to your audience, your potential audience, like 70% of the time, you need to be feeding them stuff that they want, and you can 30% of the time you can you can pair that with another sock. Yeah, yeah, exactly. But once he once you kind of, you know, once that balance falls out a little bit. You know, people start rolling.

Alex Ferrari 14:21
It's kind of the Gary Vee thing Gary Vaynerchuk, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. is he's right on social media. Yeah, bring him in, bring him in them. Give him give him give something give, give, give, give give us something.

Elise Mccave 14:33
Let's just not make it too much of a violent analogy about people. Maybe it's like, tickle, tickle, tickle, hug, tickle.

Alex Ferrari 14:45
Just like you know what? I'm gonna use tickle. Come on. I'm gonna call Gary up. I'm gonna say you know, you need to change the name but

Elise Mccave 14:50
It's my fault. I introduced MMA to this conversation. You did bring the MMA into the situation. It's my fault.

Alex Ferrari 14:56
So tell me a little bit about what Kickstarter is doing for filmmakers because I know back in the day when Kickstarter first started, you know, it's very much in the DNA, as we were saying, in the company, the arts and everything. So what is Kickstarter doing now for filmmakers? Because now for a lot of times, as far as the branding is concerned, at least in my eyes, like, it's the latest pen that makes coffee as opposed to race, you know what? I'm saying? Yeah, there are, there's and so kitchen has just become this monster thing. What is what is Pixar doing specifically for filmmakers? Sure.

Elise Mccave 15:28
I mean, you know, we're obviously very active in all areas of creative life, including the pen that makes the Manhattan but and I would do anything. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, um, we have this great, we have a really wonderful community outreach team. And that is people like me and the rest of my film team, which are really just kind of working one on one with filmmakers, we tend to meet them like after, you know, at festivals, in markets when their projects are in production. And they're looking for funding. And we're working one on one with those filmmakers to make sure that their campaigns are the best that they can be. And that they have this Intel, which is like, Whoa, don't launch your campaign yet, you've got so much to do.

Alex Ferrari 16:08
So you actually hold you hold their hand a little

Elise Mccave 16:10
I'm doing Yeah, I don't know, maybe how much of my time maybe 30, or 40% is working with filmmakers. More broadly, we have kind of other initiatives, like our artist residency. So we've had over the last two artists residences, which we piloted earlier, in 2017. Three, three sets of filmmakers who've come in, they've come in three months use the office, maybe edited their film there, maybe run their campaign campaign from there. So we've kind of we're doing again, we do, obviously, we have this platform, which reaches millions. And then we're also doing this kind of much more tailored one on one work with particular focus on female filmmakers, filmmakers from the queer community and filmmakers of color. We also run a sort of rough cut screening series, we have a theater in our office in in New York. So every week or two, we've got a filmmaker coming in and screening a rough cut for me and maybe their funders, maybe their execs, maybe their creative team. So that stuff is you know, it's not enormously scalable. But it's very important for us to kind of have our sort of hands on a very hands on relationship with our kind of immediate film community. And then I guess the other kind of sort of big news from the last two or three months, is a new product that we just launched called drip, which is about filmmakers, and not just filmmakers, but artists, being able to secure funding that is not kind of, you know, one specific project or campaign base, but actually ongoing funding, which is going to allow them to, you know, to be more sustainable to to, you know, receive funding every month to keep them and their practice kind of sustained. And as is something that they give for that is like they given exclusive to some of their our or some of their Yeah, that's the kind of exactly what would what we've tried to do is to encourage people, like if you're a filmmaker, don't feel that you only have to offer, you know, your supporters. You know, films, like if you're a filmmaker who's also like, you know, has a has a, I don't know, a sideline in photography, or is a wonderful poet. We're encouraging people to explore their kind of Yeah, their creative practice in its broadest sense. And offer an offer that up to their backers, as well. Yeah, so sort of an opportunity for them to, you know, not just sustained but also built.

Alex Ferrari 18:39
Now, what is the, like, one of the biggest mistakes you see first time filmmakers do in crowdfunding?

Elise Mccave 18:46
I mean, we kind of touched it like not prepare. Okay, make a video that is eight minutes long. Yeah. And then the audio Yan has bad audio, I think that's probably you know, offer 30 different rewards, that involves them making a lot of stuff that isn't making their film. But you know, I'm mostly like, encouraging people to keep it like, simple like, please simplify, you know, just a few rewards.

Alex Ferrari 19:11
Yeah. Can we talk a little bit about rewards what what should because that's a big kind of gray area and a lot of misinformation about rewards, like how much stuff should you do? Because you know, when you do you could go crazy. I've seen 40 rewards and I've seen five Yeah, what do you suggest and then what out of the number but then what you suggest you get, I guess it gets case by case.

Elise Mccave 19:34
It's really it really depends on what kind of film it is, you know, and what you're kind of what your hook is, if it is a you know, if it's like the Joan Didion documentary, well then your hooks going to be Joan Didion. But if it's a kind of a narrative short about something, you know, a kind of, I don't know characters that we don't know anything about, and it's played by actors we don't know. Then it's, you know, you're not going to you're not going to tie your reward. So much to those lead actors or right yeah, so it Yeah, it's varies, but I tend to say, look, keep it like seven levels or lower. Try not to produce too many opportunities, too many physical things because you're not a T shirt factory, you're a filmmaker. When this completes, I want you to go and make a wonderful film, not a great t shirt. Right? Um, sometimes, you know, that's gonna work, offering some kind of physical reward, but I try and like, you know,

Alex Ferrari 20:28
Executive producer. Yeah. And you know, if you're smart about it, those things don't feel like a consolation. They're like, that's meaningful kind of access and insight. But does the world need another? You know, another mug? Probably not. But I mean, if you offer off like a co producer credit, yeah, executive producer credit that they get on IMDB and they get they get either, you know, have access to the premiere and all that stuff adds big, totally, very big. I know a couple guys that you know, they just want to have an IMDb IMDb credits. Yeah, for a co producer. And they would just throw a grand out

Elise Mccave 21:03
Yeah, on people. And people want to be part of something they want to say. I also was part of Yeah, yeah. And they don't just want to be able to say it, but they like a lot of people want to join something, you know, not everyone has the privilege to work in a creative field, right. But but most people value the creative fields. So to be kind to feel that you have catalyzed someone else's vision, and to then be included in their family as a result of that is gratifying. And so yes, I want to come to, you know, I want to come to a screening with my fellow backers, like that's, that's community. So I'm, you know, I'm definitely always encouraging that kind of, you know, think think that you are creating a community. And how do you do that?

Alex Ferrari 21:45
And never underestimate the power of wanting to belong? Yeah. and wanting to join? Yeah, even a small rebellion. But just join a group of people to do something. And you're right. There's a lot of dentists and doctors and other people out there that like, I've kind of always wanted to be in films, but I can't, but I least I can go to three grand and be a part of it. Yeah.

Elise Mccave 22:08
Or I don't really have an idea for film. But if I did, I wish it had been that idea. And I, you know, and I want to help this person, you know, I want to help this person realize that dream. So I think that's very powerful. And it's good not to underestimate the power of that. Now, what should be on the actual crowdfunding page? it because there's a there's a design, design? How do you lay it out? In your opinion? Yeah, really be the Convert, to convert? I think, you know, I think that personal connection, you know, the, the sort of like, why, you know, why this film? Why? Why you why you making this film, why should you be the one and why now, so like to give that kind of a, like a sense of urgency, this film is is, you know, is a film for now, because, and I'm not saying that it has to be kind of sort of deeply focused on some kind of current issue. But I think some sense of, you know, why we should, why we should care right now. So like really routing routing the project in in, you know, in the wine, and the now is going to kind of serve you. I don't think there's a structure, you know, a kind of structure, it would be very boring to browse the same thing except browse projects. Yeah, exactly. on the site, if you were like me, now, those

Alex Ferrari 23:24
Do also recommend, like, just leveraging whatever you have. So if you have actors, leverage those actors, if you have a location, yeah, leverage that if you have something else, leverage it.

Elise Mccave 23:33
Yeah, yeah, if you have a composer, but it's kind of worked on a bunch of great stuff, you know, or a band that's like locally known, that's going to do the theme tune at the end of it, what I think exactly recognize it's about kind of building a map of your project, and, and recognizing what are the assets, and they might not, they might be things that you didn't realize were assets, like, it just take some times is part of that kind of strategy work of like, what have we got here? What are the access points into this project. And, and then, and then building out from there, we had a project that was, was set and shot in Big Sur. And, you know, so actually, those filmmakers offered like, kind of inspiration guide, how they had, you know, how they had been inspired to set it in Big Sur, they offered one of their rewards was kind of like a digital list of, of all of the places and the hikes that places they'd been and loved the hikes that they'd been on while they researched and shot the film, you know that that was super valuable. Yeah, it became a resource that people didn't have to give very much to get that but it kind of felt and it felt very personal specific to the film. So um, so I think Yeah, exactly. Figuring out what are the hidden assets here, and then putting them to work.

Alex Ferrari 24:48
Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker just starting out in the business?

Elise Mccave 24:52

Alex Ferrari 24:55
That's a heavy question. I asked that question of all my guests,

Elise Mccave 24:58
I think, I don't know. I think it's something About hustling. You got to hustle

Alex Ferrari 25:03
No pun intended?

Elise Mccave 25:06
Yes, you do, like you do. And like you see an opening, you kind of go for it. You see someone walking down the street, you know, hear you, you got to go for I mean, you know, don't be an irritant. Yes, there's ways to do it. And there's ways to do it. Yes. Don't don't bug someone while they clearly eating. You know what they're saying. They're off duty. But like, yeah, you gotta you gotta hustle

Alex Ferrari 25:30
And you have to hustle. 24? Seven for years. Yeah. For years. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life? These are deep, these are deep, I told you.

Elise Mccave 25:47
Give me a heads up. Sorry, I suspect that I suspect the biggest lessons of my life I haven't learned yet.

Alex Ferrari 25:54
That's a good answer. I've had that a couple of times on the show. Very good. And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Elise Mccave 26:00
Oh, my days

Alex Ferrari 26:02
Just today what comes to your head? I'm not gonna hold you to this is not gonna be on your gravestone.

Elise Mccave 26:06
I know. I know. This is this May I still love. Truly, madly, deeply.

Alex Ferrari 26:12
That's a great one. I still love it. Yeah. And I'll let people know about that movie with. It was great, great. Great movie.

Elise Mccave 26:19
I can't wait for that one. Yeah, I'm, I'm in the car. from Salt Lake City to here. As you know, maybe it was the car to the airport. My colleague yabo and I literally listed all of our favorite Whoopi Goldberg movies. Okay. Yeah, of which I would say, I'm going to put forward jumping jack flash. Our entry point to that was the point in ghost when she can't let go the checks I made

Alex Ferrari 26:45

Elise Mccave 26:50
And for my last film, I'll say I'm the devil and Daniel Johnston.

Alex Ferrari 26:54
Oh, that's great very cool. At least thank you so much for being on the show and dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe.

Elise Mccave 27:02
Thank you for this Manhattan.

Alex Ferrari 27:05
And it's a great Sundance so far, it's quiet right now we just started out but hopefully we'll drop some snow.

Elise Mccave 27:11
It will

Alex Ferrari 27:11
Thank you so much for being on the show.

Elise Mccave 27:13
Thank's for having me.

Alex Ferrari 27:14
At least dropped some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Elise, for coming in and sharing all of your insider tips on how to make a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. If you guys want to links to anything we talked about in this episode, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/217 I'm going to be out quick today guys because I am working on that top secret project that I will be announcing very soon. But February is going to be a busy busy month for me so bear with me, but I will keep popping out this content as fast as I possibly can. Keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




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IFH 093: How to Brand and Build an Audience Using Social Media

Right-click here to download the MP3

So I had the pleasure of speaking at the HollyShorts! Film Festival at a “fireside chat” with my brotha from another mutha RB Blotto from Stage32.comWe sat down and discussed How to Brand, Market and Build an Audience Using Social Media & Marketing Hustle. 

I had a ball and as promised I recorded the evening for those of you who couldn’t make it. Check it out below:

You’ve got an amazing script, now what? The first step is to identify your audience and create a brand for yourself that you can leverage when crowdfunding or selling your film. Once your film is done, the next step is marketing and promotion. Join us for a fireside chat with Filmtrepreneur and Filmmaker and Indie Film Hustle founder, Alex Ferrari, and RB Botto, Stage32.com founder, as they offer best practices on building an audience, creating a brand, marketing yourself and your film, and finally, getting the word out via social media, which is crucial to your success.

Sit back and enjoy this knowledge bomb filled episode.


IFH 081: Top 10 Tips to Launch a Film Crowdfunding Campaign

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So today is the day. The THIS IS MEG Film Crowdfunding Campaign is LIVE! Click here to check it out: Down the Filmmaking Rabbit Hole.

I’ve been working for months on this campaign and am very proud of what I and the team have done. So below I wanted to share the Top Ten Tips I have learned from the many experts, guests and successful campaigns I’ve reviewed in prepping for my launch.

Before we get into the tips, here is the final trailer for the film This is Meg, the project we crowdfunded and used as a case study.

I’ll go in greater detail on all these topics in the podcast so definitely take a listen: Top 10 Tips to Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign Podcast

Top 10 Tips to Launch a Film Crowdfunding Campaign

Assemble a Team Ahead of Time: You are not an island! You need a group of amazing people who are willing to help you on this journey. Check out our Launch Team for THIS IS MEG – Click here

30-day campaigns work best: Of all the film campaigns that met their goals, 32.71% of them ran their campaigns for 30-39 days, while only 13.87% of successful campaigns ran for 60 days.

Keep your campaign page updated: On average, successful film campaigns post 5 updates. Updates can include anything from press mentions, new incentives, celebrity endorsements, events, – anything that you think your community would be interested in. After all, your contributors are giving their money to help bring your film to the screen, so naturally, they’ll be interested in any updates you provide. Continually updating your campaign page is one of the best ways to keep your community and fans involved in the process.

Estimate Costs Carefully: So many filmmakers just pull a budget out of their butts. Breakdown what you really need for your entire filmmaking journey.

Study Successes and Failures: I studied sooooooo many campaigns before we launched. I took courses (see the free crowdfunding campaign below) and analyzed both successes and failures.

Give Fans An Inside Look: People want to be part of the process. Bring them into your process, your filmmaking craftsmanship.

Add New Perks through the Campaign: One unique aspect of film campaigns is that filmmakers have a huge range of creativity for your incentives. From signed memorabilia to meet-and-greets to set visits, you have lots of ways to incentivize your backers to help you reach your goal.

Include affordable perks: Don’t make the incentives for the private skyboxes, create incentives for the bleachers too. Make the journey accessible to all who want to join the trip.

Include a pitch video: For God’s sake make a good pitch video. I go into a ton of detail on this in the podcast. Check out our pitch video and let us know what you think:

Build an Audience & Networking: I can not stress the importance of building an audience before you launch. Not only that but also know where the audience for your film hangs out online so you can reach them.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I wanted to today's topic, which I think was is very appropriate is the top 10 tips on how to launch a crowdfunding campaign for your film project. And like I said, I've been doing a lot of studying and I've been taking a lot of courses and analyzing a lot of different campaigns. So these are top 10 tips of things that I found to be useful and pretty much agreed upon by all the experts as well. So let's get right to it. So tip number one is assemble a team ahead of time, I've actually been putting together a small launch team to help me launch today to get the word out and they're kind of like the army they're the this is Meg army, the indie film, hustle tribe army going out there and hopefully posting, announcing to all of their fans all of their communities to to get the word out. So it's really helpful to build that team ahead of time now that's part of the launch team, then you have to have a core team of people behind you, whether that be a group of friends, who are taking different areas of the launch, whether like okay, you're going to handle social media, you're going to handle graphics, you're going to handle videos, you're going to handle all this kind of stuff. So you should have team members organize with that and that and that should be hopefully people in your film crew, whether that be your producers, your writer, whoever can do the job properly. But you have to do this with a launch with a team It's very, very difficult to do this by myself by yourself. And trust me, I do a lot of things by myself. But when it came to this campaign, I am bringing in the the big guns, if you will. So definitely assemble a team way before, I would say at least 30 to 60 days before you launch would be helpful. Second tip is that 30 day campaigns work the best they are historically the most successful in campaign a film campaign. So don't go to a 45 or 60 day or 90 day for God's sakes, it's too long to maintain that campaigns too long to keep that that flow going. 30 days is free, it takes forever. So Believe me, I would definitely stick to a 30 day campaign. All the statistics say that that works the best. So definitely do that. Tip number three, keep your campaign page updated. So definitely update your your page as often as you can with what's going on what's happening with your movie, what's happening with the the crowdfund campaign and all that kind of stuff, as well as prepare ahead of time for stretch goals, because a lot of filmmakers underestimate what they think they can get and get that stretch goal ready because let's say you put out I only need $40,000 for to make my movie. And all of a sudden you get 40,000 in a week, well, what are you going to do for the next three weeks, you've got to create stretch goals. And then you have to understand what those stretch goals are going to do. You have to tell your your community what those stretch goals are for. So you can hopefully get more money and make a better movie. God, I hope all of you have this problem that you've made too much money and have no idea what to do with it. So let's all pray and hope that that is the problem. Now Tip number four, estimate your costs very carefully. A lot of times, filmmakers will just throw out a number kind of like pulling it out of there. But like is $40,000. Well, what is that $40,000 for and is that going to be enough to get you through the gambit get you through the journey of making your film, and is it going to be just for pre production, production, post production, marketing expenses, deliverables, distribution, expenses, all that kind of stuff has money attached to it. So if you're only going to do one campaign, which I suggest you don't do just one campaign, that's why you see the spark, because you can actually do it per category. So let's say you start off at pre production, production and post production, deliverables, and so on. But if you are only going to do one campaign to raise all of your money, make sure you estimate your costs very, very, very carefully. Tip number five study successes and failures. So I have been, I'm the kind of guy I think you guys know by now that I go deep down that rabbit hole, and anything I do or attempt to do. So I been watching so many pitch videos, so many analyzing so many different campaigns over the course of the last 30 to 60 days, to see what works, what doesn't work, how they lay their, their, their campaign page out how they put their videos together, what worked for certain genres, what worked for didn't work for certain genres and what failed miserably. And what was great successes. So definitely study people that have done this before, so you can learn from them. One campaign I loved was Kung furious campaign. If you haven't looked it up. If you ever know about Kung Fury, just type in Kung Fury, and you'll see it it's a pretty cool campaign. And what that guy has been able to do with that project, since the campaign is pretty pretty crazy. So definitely check that one out. Tip number six, give your fans an inside look. Now by giving your fans an inside look I mean like shooting behind the scenes videos. With you can Snapchat you can use Facebook Live or periscope to give them a real inside look to your projects. I've taken it to to the extreme by creating an entire membership site that will be giving them the entire educational journey of what we're doing with this is Max, I've taken that concept and really just put it on steroids and just gone full blown with it. But you don't have to go that big. I would say I would suggest that just you know, uploading videos showing people who you are what you're doing, really connect with them on an emotional human level. You're an artist, and you should be connecting with your fans in that way. So showing them how you're crafting a scene what you're doing, how you're doing it is very, very fun for a lot of people. And what might seem boring to you, because you've might have done it a bunch of times is super exciting to someone who's never seen it before. So definitely give them an inside look now seven Tip Number seven, add new perks throughout your campaign. So as we go forward through our campaign, we're going to be adding new perks based on what we kind of feedback we get from our community. from you, the tribe and and also Julie's fans and all the other people that we're going to hopefully gather and get the word out on the on the campaign. So we have a bunch of other perks kind of lined up, but also a lot of other people like, Hey, we really would like to get tickets to the, to the, to the premiere of the movie, or something along those lines. So we'll create those perks as we get forward and also up by updating and putting new perks in it. It keeps things a little fresh, and people get more excited about certain things. And believe me a 30 day campaign is a it's a marathon. So you have to do things to keep things going. After also doing my my research, I found that the most successful campaigns on all platforms added at least between 10 to 15 new perks throughout their campaign, as other perks fill up are gone, they keep adding new things to keep things really exciting and fresh. Now, tip number eight include affordable perks. So you know, a lot of people can't throw down 100 bucks, 200 bucks, 500 bucks or 1000 bucks or higher. But they might be able to throw in 1015 bucks, 15 bucks, 20 bucks, five bucks. And you should make things available up to like between a $5 and $30 range. Another little side tip on incentives or perks is at $25, you've got to give them access to the movie. Like that's kind of shady if you don't. So whether that be a DVD, whether that be a digital download now when it when they get access to it, it's a whole other story because you have to wait for distributions and so on and so forth. But you will, you will have to give them access to your movie at one way shape or form, whether that'd be private links through Vimeo or through your own distribution platform, whatever it might be, have to give them access to your movie at the $25 or above, incentive or perk. And also guys, when you're doing these incentives, make sure you do your math man because a lot of people will you know we'll spend say all we're going to give you a DVD, and I'm going to give you a T shirt at 25 bucks. And I'm like with T shirts costing you 10 bucks to make and your DVDs cost you another five bucks to make five or 10 bucks to make, let's say let's say let's say that you're not doing a big run of DVDs, and you're going to spend six bucks to make seven bucks to make a DVD and 10 bucks to make a T shirt because you're not making 1000 of them. Well that's 17 bucks, don't forget the commission that the the form the platform is going to take which can be anywhere between three to 7% off the top. And then and then on top of that you've got to ship this stuff. So then you have to take care of shipping as well. So all of a sudden that $25 donation turns into either $1 donation or actually you lose money in the donation so please do your math on on your perks and incentives. Because if you don't just gonna just shoot you're gonna shoot yourself in the foot and it's not gonna make a lot of sense. Now, I know this next tip This is Tip Number nine is it's going to seem very, very rudimentary or obvious, but I'm gonna say it anyway, include a pitch video, you got to include a pitch video guys don't, don't launch a campaign without a pitch video and send it consider that you guys are not making that transforming pen that makes your coffee kind of product you're making a film. So that stuff your pitch video better look good, better sound good, because the quality of your pitch video will tell your fans or potential donators or contributors, the quality of the movie. So if you make a really crappy pitch video, they're gonna go well if they made a really crappy video, they're probably gonna make a really good movie. So why am I going to send you know, donate any money or contribute any money to this campaign. So you really got to make it look good sound is super huge, guys. It's not a big deal to get good sound. You could either borrow a good decent mic, you know, on Amazon. I know a lot of filmmakers out there are like a bare budget but the mic you're listening to right now is an audio technica mic that I bought on Amazon for like 79 bucks. And it's amazing. It's a USB or, or XLR mic, and it's 79 bucks. And it sounds just like you're hearing right now it sounds awesome. So you could either put it right above you with a boom pole that cost you another 3040 bucks a really cheap one and have someone hold it or you can you know, you know, rig it somehow. So it's just above you and get it really close to your to your mouth as close as you can while being out of frame. And you've got good audio now you can record that directly into your camera, but I would record it into something like a little Tascam or a little zoom or something like that. That will that will give you good audio and I can give you a whole we're going to talk all about audio inside the syndicate about that but those are just quick tips on a really good audio. And I say that because audio is the one thing that people tend not to forgive, they'll forgive bad picture but they will not forgive bad audio. So and I've seen so many pitch videos that the Audio was just bad. And they might have good images. But the audio was bad. I'm like, Guys, can you get a frickin mic for God's sakes? So sorry, I'm going off on a tangent. Make sure you you make it look as good as possible. Don't make it so polished that you're like, Well, why the hell do we need money. If these guys can do all this crazy stuff, just make it, make it real, make it good, make it fun and interactive. Watch a ton of videos. I'm also going to put a link in the show to show notes, this amazing course that Emily best. And the good folks over at Seton spark put together, it's a free course, on YouTube, I put them all up on indie film, hustle, there's about 11 classes of five minutes each or something like that, that takes you through the entire gambit of how to actually put together a really successful crowdfunding campaign. And I would advise everybody who's going to do a crowdfunding campaign, whether you're going to do with seed and spark, or Indiegogo or Kickstarter, watch that video, watch that course. It's really, really, really, really good. So the last tip, tip number 10. build an audience. I can't tell you how much I have to impress upon you. You need an audience guys. I always say it. But when you're going to try to crowdfund you better have an audience are understand where the audience for your movie is. So if you're making a horror movie, go to all the horror, Facebook groups, go to all the four horror forums, do all of that and just see where they hang out and then ask them during the process. Hey, guys, I'm making a horror movie, what would you guys like to see in it, and start building that community up, start building up that excitement of people like oh, wow, this would be great, I'll do this or do that. And all of a sudden, they're they're invested in your project, before you've ever they've ever even donated a dime. So that's a good way. And this takes time guys just takes, if you're just doing it for a specific movie, it could take, it could take three, four or five months, I would suggest at least six months to a year prior to start building it up. And then as you get closer and closer start doing it, you could do it probably within a six month time period. Anything shorter than that, as far as building it to a big point is going to be harder. But even if you have 30 days to 60 days, at least understand where everybody is. And at least that way you can target them very specifically when you're going after the your your core audience. But ideally, is to build an audience. It's taken me about nine months or so now, to build an amazing audience with almost 10 months now to build an amazing, amazing audience with the tribe with you guys in the film hustle tribe. And you know, I hope that it all works out. And you guys helped me out with this project with all the great stuff that I've given you over the past almost year. But that's the goal is you provide hopefully you can provide valuable content value to your audience in one way, shape, or form. And again, like I've said before, it doesn't have to be tutorials or podcast talking about the making of or something like that. It could be humor, look at Kung Fury, their their campaign was amazing. their social media is amazing. And they're just showing you they're basically providing value in entertainment, and making you laugh and making you smile and making you nostalgic for wonderful 80s cheese, if you will. So that definitely guys build that audience up. So you can hopefully tap that audience to help you make your movie and sustain you through many other projects that come and I did study many filmmakers who have done not one, not two, but five or 10 different crowdfunding campaigns that have crowdfunded multiple projects for them, whether they be TV series, or web series, short films, feature films, Doc's all all just they people continue to follow them because they love what they're doing. So that is a very big, big, big tip. Tip number 10. And then as a bonus one guys, network. I know that sounds weird, but just network network with other sites network with other people who can help you in your genre or what you're trying to do with your crowdfunding campaign. So if you are doing like, I always use a horror because it's easy. But if you're doing a horror movie, it would be beneficial for you to kind of build relationships with horror film, websites, you know, or horror sites, sites that will love what you're doing. And that's what I've been doing with. With indie film hustle. I've actually networked with a ton of different filmmaking websites. I'm going to be launching I think today with at least two if not three, podcast, talking about the indie film syndicate, this is mag the crowdfunding campaign, the whole ball of wax, because I've been able to build up those relationships over the course of the last almost year or so. So it's been, it's something that you should definitely look into. If you're trying to do a crowdfunding campaign. Definitely network with people or websites organizations within the genre, or kind of project you're trying to do. So that's it. Guys, those are the top 10 plus a little bit more tips on how to launch a crowdfunding campaign. And we will be going through, as I said, in the film's indie film syndicate, and also in podcast and other things like that articles over the course of the next 30 days talking about how the crowdfunding campaign is doing what I'm doing to promote it. If you guys really want to see some cool and innovative, I think innovative marketing techniques on how to push a crowdfunding campaign out there. definitely keep a close eye on our social media, and our on our Facebook page, our Twitter page, specifically, but also on our Facebook page, our Pinterest, Instagram, and so on. Because I'm going to be doing some stuff I've never seen before. And I'm really curious to see if it's gonna work. But I'm gonna do some cool stuff and just keep an eye out. And I'll tell after the campaign is over, I will release all of my secrets. I will talk I'll do a podcast about it. And just kind of tell you guys, some of the highlights of what happened with the with the crowdfunding campaign and what marketing techniques worked, and what marketing techniques did not work. But I hope that this episode, and my whole experience going through this, this whole crowdfunding campaign is that it's not this mountain, this massive mountain that you can't climb yourself to create your own projects, guys, I mean, even if you're trying to raise $2,000, for a short film $1,000 for a short film, you can do it, it's not out I mean, you you believe it or not, there you have, you have a community already, it's your friends and family. And then from there, you start building off that as your foundation, and then you start building up a lot farther and farther and farther. And you provide more and more value out there for other people. Again, don't forget that value is so important, provide value provide an outlet for them, I can't tell you how much help I've gotten purely because of having a you know, a very big filmmaking podcast, or having indie film, hustle calm, you know, because I've been able to build up this audience. It is super, super important, guys. So provide that value, and doors will open for you. I guarantee it, trust me, I guarantee it. So this is doable, guys, you can do it, there's no question about it. I'm talking a lot of smack now because I haven't even you know, we don't even know how much money we're gonna make with this in my fall flat on its face. And that's the exciting part about this whole journey for me, man, you know, I am putting myself out there in a big, big way, I can fail miserably, I can make a hike it, I cannot raise the money for the campaign, I can, I can make a horrible, horrible movie, I can, you know, that's not going to do well, I there's a lot of things that I can just fall flat on my face, but you know what, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to be brave, and whatever, I'm going to let the chips fall where they may and I have a confidence in myself, and what I'm able to do to hopefully make a really, really amazing film, and hopefully raise enough money to make that film in the way that I want to make it and we're not asking for a lot of money, it's really a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things a 10 to $15,000 feature film, with the kind of cast that we have is is very, very small. So I'm hoping that that somebody else sees the value of what we're trying to do. So thank you guys so much for for all your support. And again, anything you can do to help with the making of this mag whether that'd be promoting it through your social media, or, or donating even as small as five bucks or as big as I think 20 $500 is our biggest incentive right now. Please do so it really would help a lot and it would mean personally a tremendous amount to me. So thank you, thank you so much. Again, those websites are this is mag comm to go and check out our crowdfunding campaign. See how I lay it all out by the way watch it look at it, because trust me, what I did was studying a lot of different successful campaign so whatever you see there is a combination of all of these elements from all these other really successful campaigns. So definitely take a look at how I laid everything out. Take a look at our pitch video. See how we created that pitch video. I'm going to do in the syndicate, we're actually going to do a whole breakdown on how and why we created the how we edited the video how we shot the video, how we went back and did reshoots for the video, how we did different edits so you can kind of see the progression of from the original take edit one to the final version so you can see what we cut out how we tightened it, how we grew it and so on. So take a look at our pitch video and learn from what we did again in my fall flat on our face. But again, this is based off of a lot, a lot of research. So definitely take a look Got it. This is mag comm if you want the show notes for all those links I was talking about, as well as the link to this amazing mic that I'm talking on. Go to indie film hustle comm Ford slash 081. And of course if you want to check out the indie film syndicate, go to indie film syndicate calm, that's indie film, syndicate s YNDICA t.com. Thank you guys so so, so much. I really, really humbly appreciate everything you guys have done, and hopefully we'll be doing in the next 30 days for for indie film hustle for the tribe. And for for this humble filmmaker just trying to make his first feature film. Keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive, and I'll talk to you soon.


IFH 080: FREE Crowdfunding Course & Why I Choose Seed & Spark.com

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With all the choices out there to crowdfund your film, it can get kinda crazy! Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the two Goliaths in the arena with Seed&Spark.com playing David. If you know the story the two Goliaths don’t fear David but this David has a hella of a punch.

I choose Seed and Spark to crowdfund my new feature film THIS IS MEG, because of a few reasons:

  • They have a 75% Success Rate (2 times any other platform)
  • The average raise is $17K (2.5 times any other platform)
  • Their average fee is only 3% (40% Less than anyone else)
  • They guarantee distribution if you hit a certain benchmark

How is this possible you ask, well it’s because they focus on one thing…FILMMAKERS. They don’t crowdfund for the next transforming coffeemaking pen. Seed and Spark are all about indie filmmakers and creating independence for film artists. Take a listen to this episode and find out how we are putting our crowdfunding campaign together for THIS IS MEG using this awesome platform.

When you’re done listening to the episode take a look at the remarkable FREE Crowdfunding Course created by Seed & Spark to entertain, educate and make you a truly “independent” filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about this because as filmmakers I want to ns as part of what I do with indie film, hustle, I want to give you guys as much information and as much advice and help as I can in your filmmaking journey so you guys can achieve the goals that you're setting out for yourself. And a lot of times, there's a lot of misinformation out there a lot of mixed messages out there. And I just want to give you my point of view of why I'm using seed and spark as opposed to the other two big boys. Now, before I start this episode, I want to let you guys know, seed and spark has not paid me a dime, and is not giving me anything. For me doing this podcast, I don't even know if they're even aware that I'm doing this podcast right now. I just want to do this from the heart because I love what they're doing, and how they're doing it. And I will show you hopefully a successful campaign at the end of this 30 day journey with this is mag, but a few reasons why I wanted to jump on seed and spark as opposed to the other guys their success rate, they have a 75% success rate, which is two times better than any other platform out there. Because they focus on filmmakers seed and spark is focused on filmmakers not the next fountain pen that transforms into a transformer or a robot that you know boils a cup of coffee for you. They focus specifically on filmmakers, and helping filmmakers get their stories funded. And also distributed which I'll get to in a minute, the average raise on the site is $17,000. So the average average raise of money is 17 grand, which is two and a half times more than any other platform out there. And they average the average fee that they take is 3% which is 40% less than any other platform out there. So those three are huge reasons. One of the three of the big reasons I chose them. But one of the other things I love about what Emily and Sina spark is doing is they are the first platform where a successful crowdfunding campaign means that you'll get distribution. So if you launch your campaign with them, and you get at least 500 followers, on your seed and spark page, you're guaranteed distribution through Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Google Play Amazon, Instant Video Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, Verizon, FiOS, and VUDU all because you use their platform, Kickstarter and Indiegogo do not offer anything like that, you know, it is insane. They also provide a filmmaker gift box that contains over $8,000 in product services and festival waivers to help you on your filmmaking journey, I mean, and again, you have to get up to 500 followers to get that but it's pretty damn cool that there that's accessible to you where the other guys don't do it. Now, unlike Kickstarter, you don't need to reach your entire goal to get the money, you need to get at least 80% of your goal. And Indiegogo, you don't have to reach your goal, you get whatever you get. But I think the 80% rule is really, really cool. And there's no hard way of getting that and I'll explain to the explain to you in a minute why. The other really cool part of the platform is that unlike the other guys, you get to not only ask for money, but you can ask for wishlist items, kind of like a wedding registry or baby registry, where you ask for items that have a value associated with them. So if you want to, if you need a lens for your camera, well, if you're gonna go rent that lens or buy that lens, let's say it, let's say you're going to buy the lens and it's going to cost you 20 $500, or you're going to rent it, it's going to cost you 250 bucks to rent for the week. But you can ask to borrow that lens for the week from somebody who has it. And when somebody wants to support you, and they'll let you borrow it, that's $250 worth of value there. If you want to ask for someone to help you cook meals for the crew, get an offer. And also wish list crew members like a boom operator or a cinematographer, or a colorist or anything like that. They can offer their services for you if they really liked the project. So these are really quick ways to achieve your final goal. As opposed to just hard earned cash. The wishlist does have a value to it, as well. So I think that is so so cool. And so innovative for for filmmakers, because a lot of times filmmakers might not be able to give you cash, but they might have a house for a location that they'll let you use and that's also extremely valuable. So again, that's one of the other reasons and really fun reason why I wanted to use seed and spark as well as the crowdfunding platform for this is Meg. I have not crowdfunded before I have crowdfunded. Well, let me rephrase that. I did crowdfunding once before, and I used Indiegogo at that time, and this is going back probably about five years. And I put up an ad and I was asking for 2500 bucks to finish one of my short films. That was the animated short film read princess blues Genesis. And a day later, I got an email from somebody Who said, Hey, I'll just pay you everything. I just want to be a project associated with the project. And I was like, wow, okay, great. This is how crowdfunding works. And that was the only experience I ever had with crowdfunding. So ever since then it's there's a lot more information out here about crowdfunding, and it's an art, and there's a lot more noise out there. So I'm hoping that I provide I'm providing enough value for helping, you know, helping us to make this movie. And in turn by you helping us make this movie, you're able to see how we make this movie and learn from our mistakes, and from our victories on how we make this movie, how to make a micro budget movie in today's world, with today's technology, all the way through distribution. So those are a few short reasons why I absolutely love Emily and seed and spark and what they're doing. And they also have a free crowdfunding course that they have on their YouTube page that they just released a few weeks ago. And I told them, I wanted to promote the hell out of it, because it's something that everybody who's ever even thinking about crowdfunding. Regardless if you're going to go on seed and spark or not, I would say you should. But regardless of that, they are remarkable. It's a remarkable course it tells you everything from the very beginning, all the way to the very end. They also provide you a crowdfunding to build your independence Handbook, and education deck, which helps you build independence again, they're really about build you building your own independence as an artist and as a filmmaker and to make a living doing so. And that is a message that rings so true to my core principles and beliefs at indie film, hustle, and I think it was just a synergetic combination working with seed and spark on this is Meg. So if you want to go on the journey with me, and with that this is make family and see how we actually go through this whole crazy process of crowdfunding a micro budget film, head over to this is mag comm which will be live next week on June 21. And and if you want to check out the indie film syndicate, just head over to indie film syndicate Comm. And check that out as well. And you can kind of see what we go through with this whole process. And it is going to be a process without question. So and also on a side note, guys, I might be a little late like I am with this podcast. I know I usually release on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I might be a little late during this, this crowdfunding campaign. I'm running a lot of heads, I'm shooting a little bit of the movie, I'm putting the crowdfunding campaign together, I'm creating marketing elements. I'm also creating content for indie film, hustle, as well as doing podcasts, living a life having a family and so on. So bear with me, if the podcasts are a day or two late, they I'm hoping and I'm still aiming for two a week, at least for the next month. And then when the crowdfunding campaign is over, I might drop down to one a week, purely so I can focus on getting this as make done and also feeding the indie films and syndicate to make sure you guys are getting all the value that I can give you guys as well. But don't worry, I will continue to do two episodes a week. I know a lot of you guys need me on your long commutes to work and back or on your jog. And I really from the bottom of my heart guys thank you for all the outpouring of love and and support for this is Meg and the project and everything you guys are the reason I keep going sometimes, you know, I'm here killing myself trying to get this crowdfunding campaign going but I stopped for an hour so I can do this podcast and get it out for you guys because I know it's something you guys want and need. And I'm here for you guys. So thank you again so much. As always head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us an honest review guys, it really helps us out a lot. And moving forward head to this is mag comm for at least the next four to five weeks. And please help us out with the crowdfunding campaign and check out all the insane incentives one incentive that you guys might be interested in? Well, there's a few but then we're going to be doing incentives like an executive producer credit and associate producer credit with IMDb credits, accordingly, a post production workflow consulting phone call so I can kind of help you work through any of your workflow issues or actually help you create a workflow for your Feature or Short Film dinner with myself and Julie in LA. We do not pay for flight or our lodging sir, but we will pay for the meal and and a really cool one is I'm offering a few guest spots on the indie film hustle podcast. So if you want to come on board, and be a guest on the show and talk about yourself, your projects your company, promote your stuff as well as just talk shop talk filmmaking stuff. Questions whatever, you'd be a guest on the show and you'll be broadcast out to everybody. So it'd be a really great way for me to to talk with you guys and have you guys on the show and hopefully help out the campaign as well so it's a win win for everybody so I thought that would be a nice little incentive I kick out to everybody as well. And as you know, we have autographed this and you know, we've got tons of, you know, rare memorabilia from movies that the cast have done and so on and so forth. So really, really, really cool stuff so definitely check it out. This is mag.com and that'll be live again June 21. And you can check out everything I discussed in the show notes at indie film hustle.com forward slash 080 or zero 80 and you can check out the links to see the spark the campaigns and everything else we spoke about and seed and spark AC to spark calm guys, definitely check them out and I will be putting links to all of the videos in the online course because it is in sane really, really definitely check it out. As always guys keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive, and I will talk to you soon.




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IFH 043: Jon Reiss – The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution & Marketing

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Want to hear a crazy story on how one Filmtrepreneur used a hybrid distribution and marketing strategy to sell his film Bomb ItMay I introduce Jon Reiss.  After hearing his story I had to have him on the show so he can tell his story to the IFH Tribe.

Jon Reiss was named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is a critically acclaimed filmmaker whose experience releasing his documentary feature, Bomb It with a hybrid distribution and marketing strategy.

This strategy inspired him writing Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era, the first step-by-step guide for filmmakers to distribute and market their films. Two years ago he co-wrote Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul and last year co-wrote Selling Your Film Outside the U.S.: Digital Distribution in Europe. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

Jon Reiss teaches in the Film Directing Program at California Institute of the Arts. He created the course “Real World Survival Skills: Everything I Wish I Had Been Taught in Film School” which covers the practical/business aspects of filmmaking from fundraising through distribution.

Jon is a very interesting filmmaker. When I spoke to him he brought the heat and shared a ton of film marketing and distribution knowledge.
Enjoy my conversation with Jon Reiss.

Alex Ferrari 0:36
Today, guys, we're in for a treat. We've got a film distribution and marketing expert by the name of John Reiss. John wrote a book called thinking outside the box office the Ultimate Guide to film distribution, and marketing for the digital era. Now john is very well known throughout the industry, for his very unique techniques of doing kind of like a hybrid distribution marketing strategy that helped him sell his movie bomet. Very well, and how he was able to do it, he was written up in daily variety as one of the top 10 Digital directors to watch. He's also a music video director, as well as a documentary and narrative director. And he's co written two other books called selling your film without selling your soul, and selling your film outside the US digital distribution for Europe. So John's a really interesting guy, he has amazing information. So I had to get him on the show to share that with you, the tribe. So sit back and relax and enjoy my interview with John Reiss. Hey, John, thank you so much for jumping on board on the indie film hustle podcast, I really appreciate you taking the time.

John Reiss 1:59
Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to do it.

Alex Ferrari 2:03
Thanks so much. And so can you tell us a little bit about yourself about where you come from and what you're doing?

John Reiss 2:08
Um, I come from Silicon Valley. Okay. And, you know, you know, tried to do a short but ended up a place called target video, which was a punk rock collective in San Francisco in the early 80s. And then kind of got interested in industrial culture in work with these guys who make large remote control robots survivor Research Laboratory started doing documentaries of punk rock and them and then I went to UCLA film school. You know, like so many people do. And at a film school, I did a bunch of music videos, most notoriously was one for Nine Inch Nails. And then just kind of like, you know, did what everyone does, you know, you kind of like do things here do things, they're produced a directed a couple features, produced my produced it feature. And then started even writing scripts that based on my features, I started getting some script writing jobs. And then that kind of that kind of world dried up and is like, I was really dying to make another film. So I ended up making a film about graffiti all over the world. And which actually, then that came out around when the market distribution market collapsed. And

Alex Ferrari 3:25
when you mean the distribution market, you mean like the market, the market or all of this, like distribution market in general,

John Reiss 3:31
pretty much everything in general and collapse, you know, but especially in the independent film world, but it was also the beginning of the shrinkage of you know, even studio feature films. And I think it coincided with the, you know, the financial market collapsing, but it was also, I think there was a bubble burst in the independent film world, especially So, you know, we didn't know and bought the film, we thought someone's gonna buy it, we got a bunch of Lady, we basically, we had the experience that most filmmakers have these days, you know, a lot of low money offers or no money offers and for all rights, and, you know, now there's a lot more opportunities for filmmakers. It's still difficult to kind of pick the right path, I would say. But so I took the film out in a hybrid manner, and then people encouraged me to write about it because it seemed like I was doing something unique. And I also when I started writing about it, it seemed like I had a skill of distilling what appeared really complex and opaque to most people was, you know, I couldn't explain it in a very clear manner. And so because of that, people suggest I read a book that I wrote a book called think outside the box office, which is kind of like a manual on how to release your film, kind of a book I wish I had had when I released my film. And then since then, that kind of you know, since then, I've been working with filmmakers and doing workshops and other writing and

Alex Ferrari 4:58
just taking over the world and just

John Reiss 5:02
One little slice of it,

Alex Ferrari 5:04
a little corner, a little nugget that putting a dent in the indie film world, like Steve Jobs says, put a dent in the universe. So can you break down? I think you went over a little bit. But can you break down the story of what actually happened with bomet? Which was your documentary?

John Reiss 5:18
Right? So basically, you know, we took it to trade back, you know, sold out, we turned away around 200 people per screening, you know, is crazy, you know, I even documented that and, you know, standing ovations, you know, it's like, we were going, Oh, great. We're gonna sell the movie millions, millions, not even millions, like that my investors gonna recoup sure maybe being a little money, you know, some good distributors gonna release it, lots of people will see it, you know, and then crickets, you know, effectively crickets. And you know, that's when everyone started looking around and going What the fuck is going on? He I think every you know, it's just started that that cycle. So I don't know how much depth you want to get into it. Like, we did, like, we did have a DVD distributor and digital aggregator approached us send a dime. So we actually went with them. Because, you know, I had known them for a number of years it was new video at the time. And they were really good to work with and, and then it was a matter of like, it's all filmmakers. Like, what I still want to see my film in theaters and how am I gonna market this film? And, you know, so, you know, someone, some company came along and said they were going to release it theatrically. And I said, Really? And even without any other rights. Yeah, yeah. And then that fell through. And so I ended up booking it myself for a while, but no, no four walls. Very proud to say no, I booked I function, I picked up the phone, and I sold the film.

Alex Ferrari 6:49
Oh, really? And explain it. Can you explain a little bit about how you did that how to get because that's a mystery to a lot of people how to get a theatrical anything. So what did you actually do?

John Reiss 6:57
I just, you know, it's probably a lot harder now. Because I think there's a lot of filmmakers. It's harder and it's easier because there's a lot of filmmakers trying to do it, but then there's a lot of Booker's who will work with independent filmmakers so but you know, then you have to pay a little money but you can still like you know, it's also easier because you can also use kg for instance. But you know, I basically call that you know, we fortunately, we had the, the pedigree of being in Tribeca and I also got a New York Times critics pick out of that, or no actually didn't that was we had a good quote from the New York Times because the critics came out during the theatrical release so we didn't actually have that yet. And you know, I just had a you know, I had a plan of how I was going to get butts in seats, you know, I was able to talk to them about my knowledge of who the audience was how is going to connect with them I basically you know, they don't want to hear how great your film is, they want to hear that there's an audience and that you know, how to get the audience into the theater. That's what they want to do and then that you know, I got a couple theaters and then they connected me to some other theaters and, you know, once you kind of get into a little bit of a circuit, you know, people go Okay, I'll try it. Even I ended up we ended up doing 25 cities, I think, nice time was

Alex Ferrari 8:11
for basically

John Reiss 8:12
a documentary. Yeah. for for for real. A document. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 8:17
Like for real? Like a real document with Yeah, with no big stars or anything like that. So it was just based on on the merit of the film itself.

John Reiss 8:24
Yeah. You know, and whatever salesmanship I potentially had, you know, right. And so, you know, what I was fighting against is I had a couple places that said, well, we'll give you one night and it's like, No, I have to have a week and you know, it's like it's you know, that's what's important to me a real theatrical and I was such an idiot, then you know, to be honest, right? You know, I was just like a typical idiot filmmaker who thinks that a theatrical release at conventional theatrical releases what you have to have and unfortunately there's now certain things kind of set in stone about for certain kinds of distribution you need certain kinds of requirements and so you know, for certain kinds of distribution deals you actually do need a theatrical you know, a seven week run but what I discovered while doing bomet is really the power of events and one night screenings because like I just been in Portland where you know, it was raining and you know, like no one was in the theater and it was like and that was the you know, the first night of the theater opening night and here the filmmaker was in town and you know, it just you know, in retrospect it probably wasn't the right theater for the for the film and also the rain and you know, it's a theatrical small film and just like you know, there's fucking five people in the audience now super depressing. But then I go to New Orleans, which was one of the cities that I was fighting, doing a one night screening and finally I just said, fuck it, okay, I'll do it. And I got there and there's lines around the block. They sold out the first screening they added and sold out a second screening and And there was an article in the paper and it was just kind of like, wow, there's something here, like, and that's when I discovered the importance of scarcity that, you know, if people can only go and see it on one night, then, you know, then they makes it that much more special interest, no interest. And I still think that that functions to some degree. I mean, now, you know, years later, later, oh, excuse me. Sorry. I've had a tiny bit of caffeine today I did. Anyway, I'm doing this meditation now where I can't eat or drink beforehand. And so that it, you know, I wasn't able to have breakfast until I wasn't able to do it until like, 11. So I missed all my morning caffeine. So

Alex Ferrari 10:45
at Fair enough, fair enough, no worries.

John Reiss 10:48
This will all be in the podcast, right? Of course, of course. So and so so that's kind of how the theatrical went. And that's where I discovered, you know, events. And, you know, and it really got me thinking about, you know, and now doing events for theatrical screenings is, you know, super sophisticated. Of course, it's really taken off.

Alex Ferrari 11:11
Now, can you talk a little bit about the distribution myth out there, that golden ticket syndrome that so many filmmakers still carry from, like the 90s?

John Reiss 11:20
I just can't fucking believe that people can I swear, I swear I will. Yeah, it's okay. Yeah, I mean, it's just like, okay, here's the deal. This will hopefully, sober some people up. There's around 50,000 films that are made every year. Maybe on a good year, 100 of those on a really good year 100 of those get some kind of deal that makes financial sense in the United States. You know, the golden ticket deal, maybe there's three to five, right, you know, out of 50,000 So, you kind of do the math, okay, on top of that, you have to understand that, you know, there's now about 700 years of video content uploaded to YouTube every month. And that every piece of content, book, music, whatever, that's almost almost every piece of content that's been created by humankind in the history of humankind is available to people so what happens when there's a super glut of supply and demand is constant or slightly increasing? price drops tremendously right? So you have so you have to figure out how your film is going to dent that oversaturated media landscape and you can't rely on someone else to do it for you no more like especially if you have a drama or comedy with if you have a narrative film with no stars done you know, it's so rough make it for a little bit of money you know and then save money for distribution because the chances are that someone's going to come and rescue you and distribution is next to nothing, you know, and so I mean frankly if you're in the business if you're in the film business for a golden ticket, you're in the wrong business. You know, they don't really and the problem is is that the ones the success stories are always hyper publicized and any deal is hyper publicized then partially people want to celebrate and partially people want to show look we're still in a viable business you know, but

Alex Ferrari 13:37
what's like they said it's like they say they always show the lottery winner but they don't show the lottery losers which is millions of them

John Reiss 13:44
the vast majority Yeah, exactly. Look at all the people who bought Willy Wonka chocolate bars and didn't get their ticket you know, right 1000s of dollars of that millions of chocolate bars sold and you know, five golden tickets

Alex Ferrari 13:57
like I come from I come from post I mean I've been a post supervisor for 20 years so I've been doing a lot I know deliverables and I've seen so many films come through my door and anytime I see a doc like a drama come through the door that's no stars involved and and they're like so what do you think I should do them like market to save some money and yeah, marketing should be like your main thing.

John Reiss 14:18
I mean, I think there's a few of us who feel like they've coined the expression that distribution is easy. Marketing is hard like yeah getting out there is relatively easy getting people to want to see your film is art. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 14:35
No So what do you how do you think a filmmaker should think about marketing their films in today's online world?

John Reiss 14:43
You know it all it all focuses it all goes to audience you know basically like to me whenever I talk to a filmmaker, I mean, this is what I the four basic things I go over Are you know, what are your goals? Like what do you want from the film Like not every, you know, you know, there's a lot of filmmakers who it's not about, you know, making money, you know, some of them need to recoup, some don't, you know, but there's other goals that, you know, the filmmakers have a variety of goals. And so there's a variety of paths that you can it go to achieve those goals? And I know you spoke about marketing, but I'm just kind of go sure no, no, sure. Yeah. Then you have to look at your film, you know, and like, what is unique about your film? What, you know, are there any, like in terms of marketing? Are there marketing hooks? And that's where, you know, like, Is there a cast, you know, what kind of audience what's unique about your film, and what's unique to the audience about your film, you know, and some of that deals with, you know, your title, how good is your film, like the one thing I also want to stress if there's a lot of young filmmakers listening that screen your film repeatedly to audiences, and especially the audience that you think your film is made for. And a, you may find out that that's not the audience that you made your film for the you might also get good feedback from that audience, like, you need to screen your film repeatedly throughout the process, save people fresh eyes, you know, show to a few people at first, then a few more, some people will come back and see it again. But most people won't. So really kind of like Be careful about how many times you screen it, and how many people come especially to the early screenings that you have to save some people for the end. But really make sure your film is as good as possible, because that's in terms of marketing, that's going to be the biggest marketing hook is having a really amazing film that people want to see. And so many filmmakers, I mean, I get a lot of edits, where the first thing I say is like, are you locked, and you know, the first thing you should think about doing is cutting your film, you know, way too long, or doesn't make sense or something. So then his audience, and you know, that involves identifying your audience, finding out where your audience consumes, media finds out about films. So identifying, finding out you'd like so who is your audience? What do they read? Then think about what kind of value you can provide to your audience, besides the film itself? Like, is there are is that what kind of extra content and assets you have? What kind of experience can you provide to them, etc. So there's a whole bunch of things that you can think about in that regard. And then lastly, you know, how does that audience consume media and different audiences consume media in different ways? And so that's how you would you know, kind of develop your strategy of your distribution strategy along those lines? And then lastly, are your resources like, what kind of resources do you have to release the film, and not only in terms of money, but also in time, you know, like sweat equity, or at your just people, like in the in money does help by people? But like, also, what is your time and what kind of, you know, how much time you have to

Alex Ferrari 18:15
write to invest in the marketing and in the word out, and the hustle and all that stuff? Yeah.

John Reiss 18:19
And then more and more these days, I've been, you know, also talking to this in the context of people's filmmakers careers, like, where does this film sit in your, you know, career pipeline is like, your first film that, you know, you know, is good, but knee, you know, there are certain things that you couldn't accomplish with it. And, you know, maybe, but you still want to get it out there. But you want to move on to another project? Or is this your magnum opus that you desperately definitely need? to get people to see? And, you know, etc. So, you know, that will also affect, you know, how you, you know, how forward? No, more of like, what path you choose? Yeah, just moving forward. But it's a matter of, there's a lot of different ways you can release the film, and it's a matter of like, you know, how are you going to, you know, release that.

Alex Ferrari 19:20
So, from what I'm hearing from what you're saying is there and this is something that most filmmakers don't do is a lot of analyzing, and actually thinking about the path, not just the making of the movie, which is what filmmakers generally all do is they just like, I'm just gonna get that camera. I'm gonna make my movie, but when the edits done, yeah, they have no idea and sometimes they'll just throw it out into the marketplace, if they even get it into the marketplace to see what would happen. So they don't think about what part of this is in my career path. What where's my audience? Is this a viable product for an audience that what audience is it all this? All these questions are not answered or even asked. So that's why so many I filmmakers fail. And right, it's wrong,

John Reiss 20:04
you know, and I, in my book, I kind of invented a crew position called the producer of marketing and distribution, you know, because so many, you know, films need kind of like advice and work on these aspects of the film, but the crew is, you know, doesn't have the skill set doesn't have time to deal with this. And so, you know, hoping I'm doing a couple things over the next couple of years that hopefully take place that, you know, will help, you know, kind of foster that crew position and help grow that and make it kind of something that, you know, becomes a part of, you know, hopefully, the crew, every film, yeah, you know, because, you know, I also, you know, kind of feel that he, in this sense, when you're done with your film, you're kind of half done, you know, it's like, I created this concept called the new 5050, where 50% of your time and energy should be spent on creating the film and the other 50% and the other 50% should be on connecting that film to an audience, you know, which is all aspects of distribution and marketing. So that's not a hard and fast rule. But like, if you look at any studio film, you know, it's even probably, you know, you make $100 million film and they spend $200 million marketing it does that is very true. That's like, 3565 You know, we're in favor of marketing and distribution, you know, so But, and there's a lot of indie films that end up that way, especially super low budget ones were much more spent on the marketing and distribution than was ever spent on making the film. Now with,

Alex Ferrari 21:47
with film festivals, so how do you how would you suggest to leverage film festivals in a self distribution strategy?

John Reiss 21:55
You know, first of all, I wouldn't worry about it tremendously. I mean, it's festivals are fickle, and highly competitive. But, you know, I generally, when you're in festivals you're in release. So there's two basic paths. One is you can use festivals to help build up your audience, to then make the film more either attractive to certain distribution entities or, you know, you know, build up some reviews, etc, some notability to help the release later. And then later you do a release, hopefully not too far from the festivals, but from the information you gathered during the release, and whatever accolades etc, you you gain, not through the release, but through the the festivals, and the audience that you develop, you can, you know, get, you know, you know, and then engage distribution the other way, which is a little bit hard because it's requires you to be pretty savvy and knowledgeable and prepare is to actually fold the festivals into the distribution process. So that you know, maybe and even some people are doing this at Sundance these days, like films a year do this at Sundance, where they actually use Sundance or a festival as their theatrical premiere. That's the launch of the film. And then either during the festival or shortly after they offer it on the VOD, Emil, you know, so that people who hear about the festival can then engage with the film, you know,

Alex Ferrari 23:26
and use the end leverage all the press that they got from a big festival, that guy

John Reiss 23:30
Exactly. So you can modify that to where you kind of like have a one or two festivals and then you're kind of ramping up and then, you know, the rest of your festivals are during are kind of like your theatrical release, or your VOD starts, you know, so it's, it's very fluid.

Alex Ferrari 23:45
So let me ask you another question. How crucial is it today you think to package ancillary products, with the films on all films website, like if you're selling it on your website, like posters and hats and T shirts, and you know, along with a DVD or VOD of your film, kind of like, like George Lucas vibe?

John Reiss 24:01
Yeah, I think that depends on the film. You know, I actually don't refer to those as ancillary it's more merchandising got it merchandise, and I'm a big fan of that in general, because, you know, depending on the film, you can make a fair amount of money that way, depending and it really depends on the audience, whether the audience whether there's things that you can make that the audience is going to buy if it's just a kind of conventional film, you know, printing a bunch of posters and T shirts, you know, unless I'm something special about the key art or the graphics or something you know, isn't going to mean a lot you know, but if there's like, you know, Gary who's to it is the, you know, documentary filmmaker who's amazing at this and he creates product his he makes films about, or he's made three films about design. And in his story, you can see this amazing range of range of products that he's created that people just love and eat up. So and you can make a fair amount money doing that

Alex Ferrari 25:01
even more than selling the movie sometimes

John Reiss 25:02
yeah we made more money selling posters of vomit than selling the DVD off of our store now the distributor so more than that but like we made you know we made much more money off of the posters then you know off of off of the DVD sales

Alex Ferrari 25:20
now what um what avenues would you suggest to get the best audience engagement

John Reiss 25:27
wow you know you know it's like there's no you know, there's like eight to 10 avenues of audience engagement and it just depends on the film you know, if I was gonna make a blanket statement I think crowdfunding if you're open to it is a good source is is a good tool for marketing. Digital Media is certainly important. And I don't just mean social media that's a component if you have a documentary especially around certain you know specific audience that's organized outreach is certainly important influencers important there's a lot that you know kind of goes into it and it all just depends on the film.

Alex Ferrari 26:06
Yeah, it's all topic it depending on if it's a documentary if it's an action movie, it's a drama

John Reiss 26:11
or a film like I'm working on a horror film now and that's its own audience and its own you know thing

Alex Ferrari 26:17
and now Do you have any tips on developing relationships with the audience once you have that audience?

John Reiss 26:23
Well just to keep them engaged in defining not certainly not to just talk about your film, but to talk about things that are interesting to them

Alex Ferrari 26:33
create content create content that keeps them keeps them engaged

John Reiss 26:37
and it could be just like how you relate to them on on social media could be photos could be you know, what you create on Instagram could be you know, because you're an artist think about like how you know your fans and that's how you're going to create fans that are gonna stay with you, you know, on multiple projects.

Alex Ferrari 26:57
So that would be that Yeah, that was my next question. How do you develop you know an audience to follow you from project to project and it's the instead of just doing like a one off movie, which a lot of filmmakers will just start and like okay, I'm just going to do all this press on this one movie but then when that movie is gone, that audience is gone unless you're building your name up as a brand or a company up as a brand.

John Reiss 27:17
Well no, I do feel like filmmakers need to develop themselves you know as a brand is where can i a lot of filmmakers object to that you know, but you know your brand you know, a tours or brands Yeah, Woody Allen's a brand Martin Scorsese, he's a brand don't my line. No, I yeah, that's like I say that all the time. Do you? Really I didn't never. Scorsese's a brand. You know, Spielberg's a brand. All these guys are of course, yeah, yeah. So you know, it's like you go to Joburg film, you generally know what you're going to get similar. Like, when you open a can of Coke, you know what you're going to get? So you know, you may not like that, but what you're trying to do is I cultivate audience that's going to pre you know, like and appreciate that. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 28:03
I kind of preach that with Woody Allen is he's one of these rare filmmakers who has been able to he's the only filmmaker I know, that's been able to make a film a year for like, 30 years, right? I mean, it's, it's insane. Like other filmmakers Look at him, like how, and He does it because he has a formula, he makes it really low budget has very great cast. But he's been able to develop, you know, everybody knows,

John Reiss 28:23
he's also a prolific and, of course, a good writer, too.

Alex Ferrari 28:27
And he's Woody Allen, you know, so he's built up that people go to see Woody Allen films, regardless what what they are those who just show up. But if you gave him a budget of $150 million to make a movie, not a good investment, generally, generally. So if you were making a film today, and I know this is gonna, I'm asking in a really broad spectrum, if you were making a film today, what would be broad steps that you can kind of a guide that you can give a filmmaker to get their film marketed and sold? very broad steps? I know, that's a big question. And you could go on for days on that. But just like basic stuff

John Reiss 29:02
is like if you say, if I'm making a film, which means that I haven't started charting, if I'm starting the process, correct. You know, I mean, there's a little bit of a chicken and egg thing is, you know, you want to it depends on what your goal is, you know, I would say that's the first thing like do I just want do I want to make that try to make a lot of money, you know, or do I want to, you know, change the world, you know, and so, that's, you know, I would really kind of like think about what my goals are. I would also look at, I'm just trying to give you know, more general helpful people, you know, I would think about the size of the the potential audience like who the potential audience is, and if the audience potential is small and you really have to be realistic, then you should really try to be conservative in your spend and what you you know, what you spend money on, I would also definitely Mart budget for distribution and marketing. And, you know, try to raise that money and, and set it aside, you know, in the best of all possible worlds.

Alex Ferrari 30:07
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

John Reiss 30:19
You know, if it's a script, I would make sure that the script is really in good shape before, you know, before shooting, or, you know, you could do an improv thing, and, you know, just depends, I don't want to be too restrictive, or about how people work. But if you have a script, just make sure it's tight notes. Yeah, tider police, it's good in some way, something excellent, something that needs to be made, you know, and maybe it needs to be made just because you have to do it. You know, but if you're getting a lot of feedback, that it's not for a lot of people, then just, I'm not going to tell anyone not to do anything, go make your film, but just realize that, you know, the audience might be small, and maybe you're gonna knock it out of the park, but just be cautious about how you, you know, proceed financially, if that's, if that's an issue for you. You know, and, you know, I would think about dipping, I would think about the film in relationship to, you know, in my career in terms of like, how do I want to do I want to develop an audience? Do I want to do how do I how am I going to go about developing an audience for myself, that, you know, I can bring from project to project, not that it, you know, in some cases, it can be sustainable, but it can have many different kinds of value in all different ways throughout this process. So you really want to think about developing some, you know, core fans, if you can, that are really engaged with your work

Alex Ferrari 31:47
like that. 1000 true fans. Yeah, article. Yeah, yeah, exactly.

John Reiss 31:51
And so you know, that I just make a really kick ass film.

Alex Ferrari 32:01
Which is always is always that should be always the bottom line of all of this conversation is just make a good movie. Yeah, and a lot of

John Reiss 32:07
it also, you know, it also think about, like, does it really need to be a movie? Like what other you know, it's like one other form? Like, what is? What is the form of content that's most suited to me as a as a creator, you know, and

Alex Ferrari 32:22
series short film,

John Reiss 32:24
or episodic exotic is then web series. Although that markets, kind of really blooded, but you really have to do something kind of unique, these days to stand out. Not that you always didn't, but you know, you're not going to get anywhere relying on the novelty of that, because it's not novel.

Alex Ferrari 32:45
anymore. Right. Right.

John Reiss 32:46
So you know, so those are some of the things I would say,

Alex Ferrari 32:52
no, what would, what do you think? What are your feelings on the news, self distribution marketplaces like VHS gumroad, Vimeo plus, as part of an online distribution strategy?

John Reiss 33:02
I mean, just, again, it all depends on the film and the path and the goals, you know, so, you know, I think they're all great tools. And, you know, if you are inclined to do the work to, to kind of get people to, you know, buy from you directly, then I think they're great. Some people will do it and not spend that work, and not really have that interest. And then, kind of what's the point, but I think it's wonderful, especially internationally, when it's so hard to release films internationally, especially in, you know, smaller territories, or like the vast majority of countries, you know, it's great to have that ability to have the film out there. You know, so, you know, I'm a big supporter of those always have been, you know, but again, it also always depends on what you're going to do. You know, he can be a fair amount of work. So you have to make sure that you're really committed to that and the reasoning for that and why you want to do that as part of the process.

Alex Ferrari 34:08
Now, you mentioned something earlier, I know the answer, but I want you to kind of explain to the audience at what an aggregator is, in regards to online distribution of VOD.

John Reiss 34:18
Sorry, say that again.

Alex Ferrari 34:19
Can you explain what an aggregator is? In VOD, an online distribution

John Reiss 34:25
to an aggregator is and that's, you know, that term shifting a little bit. I mean, there's certain aggregators that are now what used to be called aggregators, who were pretty much considering themselves distributed a lot of aggregators and become distributors. Let's put it that way. And so they're kind of functioning very similar. Are you hearing my dogs in the background? Does that bother you?

Alex Ferrari 34:46
It's fine. It's there's never there in the distance.

John Reiss 34:49
Yeah, good. Just because I am actually now in my garden. So my office was getting a little warm and stuffy, no worries. It's much nicer out here to talk out here. And just my dogs are a little annoying. So you know, an aggregator or distributor that functions, you know where VOD specific distributor, kind of like maybe in better hybrid term for certain companies, you know, they are, you know, they're the people you're going to need in some shape or form to get your film up on to online platforms. And such as the standard online platforms, not the direct to fan ones, which you mentioned earlier, those I would classify as direct to fan platforms. So to get up onto the commercial platforms, such as iTunes, Amazon, although Amazon you can do directly as well. You know, net flock, Netflix, Hulu, you know, the A VOD and s VOD platforms, you're going to need someone else which is generally an aggregator or distributor or VOD distributor to to access them. And you know, the thing that you need to think about, like, if you're all about being direct with the audience, creating a relationship with the audience, and you feel like you can sell to them, and they'll buy from you, and you have something so precious to them, that they will buy from you, you know, potentially direct the fan is the way to go, because you're not going to get the email addresses from it, you know, you're not going to get that audience connection. Chances are though Pete, most people like to buy media where they're comfortable buying it. So people are comfortable buying us iTunes, some people use Amazon, so you want to be on E Generally, the general recommendation is to be on as many platforms as possible, so that people have a choice of where to access your content. But there's some cases, as I said earlier, if you know, it makes sense to sell it direct, you know, like Louie ck, already had people who have large audiences, you know, they've done very well by connecting directly to his audience to the audiences, like he's that case is a great example of where he offered his comedy special to his supporters, five bucks each, within the day, I think he had sold a million dollars worth or a couple of days, something like just went crazy. So and he has that connection to the audience. And it's like, he made a lot more money on that than he would have in a lot of other different ways.

Alex Ferrari 37:23
So and I complete creative control to do whatever the heck he

John Reiss 37:27
wanted. Exactly. So but, you know, for others, you know, and maybe later, he then took that same thing and gave it to a distributor and aggregator who put it up on the rest of the platforms. So that, you know, you can sometimes, you know, when do it in such a way that your audience gets it first, you know, personally from you, although a lot of the platforms now for smaller films, we're not happy about that, you know, they want to be, you know, they don't want it sold on the market before they have, you know, before they're able to sell it. But no, I work with aggregators all the time, I generally recommended, you know, and, you know, most people want to be on those platforms. So, you know, that's kind of the way to go in general. So

Alex Ferrari 38:12
now, do you, do you see traditional? Or do you think traditional distribution is just going to tie off in the next five to 10 years? Like, what we know, as a traditional distributor today? Or is it just gonna morph,

John Reiss 38:24
I think it's just gonna constantly change, you know, I don't know what a traditional distributor is anymore. I, you know, there's, they're all changing, too. So, I mean, maybe there's some that are traditional, and some of those are going a little bit away, the ones that won't change, I think are kind of like, you know, shrinking and going away. But a lot of them are pretty savvy and, you know, in are adjusting to the marketplace. So, you know, you know, in a lot of the it's interesting how the, what used to be known as aggregators who are becoming distributors, and they, they are kind of like, a lot of what they do is what you would say, as a traditional distributed distribution model. So they're just becoming that now.

Alex Ferrari 39:10
So it's morphing. It's shifting. Yeah.

John Reiss 39:14
But I think, you know, there's certain aspects about traditional distribution that, you know, there's a look at it this way. The thing is, it used to be one size fits all, yeah, no, release it, you know, people thought it was one size fits all, I think there's a lot of films that suffered from being treated that way. And then now, there's been many, many ways to release films, you know, and so you can, you know, I think it's really important. You know, it's great that people have the opportunity to do this. And it's really important for people to choose, you know, the right path for their film.

Alex Ferrari 39:49
I think in a lot of ways that it's been such a, you know, over the last 100 years film has been done one way it was shot on film, it was distributed one way and it was done and then slowly Things have been changing and it's been now it's becoming so rapid like before was the invention of video cassette and that changed on TV and all that stuff and people started shifting with it but now things have changed they're changing so fast and the technology is moving so quickly that now you know a kid who'd never shot anything has access to a 6k camera you know to go shoot off a movie and I think a lot of people are it's kind of like the wild wild west and people are just like don't know what to do like and I mean everybody the studios the filmmakers are creators no one really has an idea yet and they're all just trying to figure it out and then like oh look over there he he made money let's do what he does and oh look over here that he did it so it's kind of like everyone's looking for a silver bullet but the thing is I think in my opinion there's just hundreds of different kinds of silver bullets depends completely get you been saying all on your film all on the filmmaker to be able to get it out there couldn't one way could work great for one but not work for another but it's just it really is nuts The more I talk to you know gurus like yourself I find it that's like it is really the wild wild west like especially in distribution online distribution is changing daily. Yeah,

John Reiss 41:10
I that's true but a lot of the fundamental principles are still the same, right? Oh, so you know, you know, or at least the same as you know what I was talking about five years ago and but yeah, things change, things are changing drastically. But like for instance, I you know, in my book six years ago, I kind of pointed out how digital you know, traditional digital and, and broadcast we're gonna collapse into each other. And that's a lot of what we're seeing in this last year. Is that actually happening? And where you know people there's television reviews for Netflix shows you know,

Alex Ferrari 41:51
they're nominated for Emmys I mean, they've won Emmys and and you know, all that it's crazy.

John Reiss 41:56
So it's all you know, they're they're all competing with each other, they're essentially the same, which is why in the book I basically classified all that is digital. That broadcast is digital, just like, you know, it's just a it's a different version of a VOD, or s. VOD, essentially, is what broadcast is and, you know, cable, your cable channels are essentially s VOD and subscription video on demand. Now, you don't in generally have are able to demand them like that. But you know, you can if you set the timer, or if you have access to the show, a lot of the shows are on video on demand. So, you know, it's like, all that's kind of blended. But, you know, to me, it's not so much of a surprise, it's just a matter of how you, you know, react to that to those changes, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:44
do you see a future basically where an indie filmmaker is basically like and I think that futures here but that there are their own studio, they're basically little mini Disney's they, you know, this create a YouTube channel or, or website and just start pumping out content and connecting to the audience.

John Reiss 43:01
Definitely people doing that already. Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 43:04
Right now, so yeah. And in the future, even more so and might be the might be the standard, as opposed to what? What's going on now?

John Reiss 43:12
I don't know. I mean, there is like, I think, you know, talking to be you know, there's certain I mean, I think certain Lee, I think there's going to be certain things that kind of rise to the top in the sense and, you know, and will be released in ways that feel familiar to you, you know, you know,

Alex Ferrari 43:33
like an example of God, like, I'm like, obviously, a big studio movie, that cost $250 million is not going to be released, I like to

John Reiss 43:42
look at look at, you know, tangerine, for example, rather than an iPhone, you know, it's at Sundance, and then gets picked up and then gets traditional distribution, you know, and, you know, I think, you know, and then that's another thing that causes everyone to think of the golden ticket.

Alex Ferrari 44:02
I know, not everybody with an iPhone now thinks like, I'm not gonna make tangerine and get right.

John Reiss 44:06
But the reason tangerine was, you know, successful, not because of being shot on an iPhone, not because it was made for whatever money not because of a good story well told, you know, with compelling actors, and, you know, it caught people's imagination, and it spoke to people, you know, so I think that that's, you know, I think, again, you can talk about distribution all you want, but you still have to make something that people want to watch, you know, and engage with. And that's either you're connecting to an audience that wants content specific kind of content, or you're making something that just, you know, speaks to whatever sides of audience you know, and and connects with them, you know, and so yeah, I think Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 45:03
so I asked so I asked this question of all this, this is gonna be the toughest question of the interview. So prepare your save that you save

John Reiss 45:10
that for last.

Alex Ferrari 45:11
I always ask this. Yeah, this is a last last question. So what are your top three favorite films of all time?

John Reiss 45:21
I have a list of like 25 It doesn't have to be in any specific order. I guess you know, the top three favorites that my top favorite films of all time, that are going to come out of my mouth now or just the ones I'm actually thinking about,

Alex Ferrari 45:33
right? Yeah, that's that's what I always ask. I know there's no definitive I'm not going to hold you to

John Reiss 45:38
A Touch of Evil. Just because I always like to kiss people off by not picking Citizen Kane. Oh, when

Alex Ferrari 45:45
I went off course. Yeah, no, no, no, look, I had I had like I was I was I had a friend of mine who's a dp an ASC dp and I had him on the show and I asked him the question, I was expecting some really obscure European, you know, Arty, farty stuff, and he's like, oh, Enter the Dragon was one of my favorite and I'm like, Wow, so it just all depends on what, what movie did for you at that, at that point, though, Touch of Evil.

John Reiss 46:09
Oh, and say, Enter the Dragon. Let's see, you know, there's also I often pick the director, you know, it's like, Who are my three favorite directors and then pick a film that's most meaningful at that time. So, you know, I'd have to do you know, 2001 or the shining, you know, for Kubrick, so, and then Wow, it's gonna be hard to pick number three out of all this, like, Do I go with Fritz Lang? Like, go with Scorsese? Do I go, you know, even Tarantino even though I hate to, you know, like hope fictions pretty amazing show. You know, I'd probably go with Scorsese, just because of Raging Bull and taxi driver, right? are two of the most amazing films ever made. And so if I had to pick one, I'd pick Raging Bull. You know, if I was forced to Sure. In a darker mode, I maybe would have picked taxi driver.

Alex Ferrari 47:05
It depends on the mood. You're in that day. Yeah. You'll notice there's no comedies. Yeah, generally I've never I have yet to hear a comedy in a top three. Generally people take film seriously. Oh, you

John Reiss 47:16
maybe see me to talk to some more comedians? Yeah, in Sakai because they'll probably a lot of them will say Caddyshack. crazyfly no

Alex Ferrari 47:25
Blazing Saddles. Yeah.

John Reiss 47:28
That hasn't really stood the test of time for me, I have to say although I still remember the been eating since you seem you know? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:42
there's a lot now being a Kubrick fan. I always like asking this because since you mentioned Kubrick, you know, what's one of my favorite Kubrick films? It happens to be eyes wide shot.

John Reiss 47:52
Oh my god. I was glad when you said that. The I knew this was a setup because first of all, when you said Kubrick I'm talking about Kubrick I say it's gonna be something about I always chat so and then in then anyway, it I can't believe that's one of your favorite films what

Alex Ferrari 48:05
it is one of my it's not not it's not in my top three. But it's one of my favorite Kubrick films. And I do like and you don't like Kubrick didn't like that one.

John Reiss 48:12
Oh my god, it was just like, I just ignore that film. Okay, so hey, from Kubrick is just kind of like, Okay, that was a little misstep at the end. To think about it, you know, and that's why I don't know what happened here.

Alex Ferrari 48:28
It was a colossal, colossal mistake. We don't know what happened he was senile at the end.

John Reiss 48:35
On that I blame it on Tom Cruise before I blamed it on Kubrick's senility, although I thought he did okay for what he was supposed to do. I just think it was like a bit of a misfire and flawed and his story and concept way And

Alex Ferrari 48:49
like I said, like, That's the beautiful thing about film. Everyone's has every film hits the arc hits a person. Two different Tuesday for people hit art two different ways. Yeah. So regardless of it, so. So what can we pick? Where can people find you and find out what you're doing?

John Reiss 49:05
People can find me like if they're interested in you know, me consulting with them. I have a site called hybrid cinema that's going to be revamped soon. But you know, kind of shows some of the films I've worked on and has a link to have a consultation with me like a short consultation, see if it makes sense working together. You can also get that through john Reese comm which either the strategy or consulting link will link to that and you can find out something about me there and there's also contact and then you can also you know, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Facebook. And

Alex Ferrari 49:44
you do workshops as well, don't you?

John Reiss 49:45
Yeah, not as you know, not as much anymore for right now. There's something that might be happening soon, which will change that by you know, I mainly now participate in the ISP filmmaker labs. I'll go to events I'll do panels and stuff like that, but I haven't done I'll do the I've started doing more of these short kind of master classes. So those I still do occasionally. But I do, you know, I do those do those occasionally, but I'm just generally so busy, kind of like, you know, consulting with filmmakers these days that, you know, doing a workshop kind of takes a lot of time out and you know it just like then I'm backlogged with client work. And so I don't really, you know, I really try to just focus on going to certain festivals and events that, you know, I should be at and, you know, and you know, beyond some of the, do some things there, but occasionally I'll do some, you know, I'll probably do something I did a master class with the IDA last year, I think, you know, that was pretty well received. So I might do something with that them again in the spring, you know, just like a three hour morning class.

Alex Ferrari 50:58
So and can you list off the the books you wrote, so people know which books

John Reiss 51:02
I wrote? Well, so I've only co wrote think outside the box office, which is either available from my site or from Amazon. If you get it from my site, you'll be on my email list. And generally, I do kind of like case studies or, you know, kind of try to do extensive blog posts, you know, updates, you know, in my email list. And then, I co wrote, selling your film without selling your soul and selling your film selling your film outside the US. And I co wrote that with the folks from the film collaborative, Sherry Candler, you know, Jeff, Jeff winter, Orly revealed and then oh, my God, I'm forgetting the name of the fourth author of the second, Wendy Bernfeld. Okay. Yes. So and that's those are so in a sense, it's like, think outside the box office is a little bit of a roadmap kind of in then the other books are kind of case studies, kind of illustrating the, that's in my mind, they might, my co authors would probably scream at me right now. But, you know, there certainly weren't enough case studies in think outside the box office. And partially because not enough people had done anything by then. And, you know, and then and then the two other books are chock full of case studies. But also, you know, there's also some a, there's, you know, not everything's a case study, there's like analysis of certain, you know, kinds of, you know, distribution, like shared Candler in the first book, this is amazing thing on, you know, kind of, not peer to peer sharing your film online, and how that can potentially benefit your audience development and, you know, kind of like, counter intuitively, you know, increase your monetization, then a number of different examples, but all within, you know, a paradigm that she's exploring. So that's also quite interesting.

Alex Ferrari 53:02
It's like it's the wild, wild west, we're all just trying to figure it out. Yeah, a certain point. JOHN, thank you so, so much for being on the show, we really appreciate you taking the time.

John Reiss 53:11
It's good to be in the wild west. I mean, a, you know, we're in this time period where we're not like in the, in the Old West, you know, and we can't, we're not homesteaders, and the food's better and we're not going to get shot, and there's doctors to cure any diseases. So it's like, it's a much kinder, gentler, Wild Wild West than what used to what used to be like being in the film business in the 30s is a Far Far Cry than being in the film business in the 90s even or even today.

Alex Ferrari 53:41
Yeah, so definitely, yeah. So thanks again for being on the show. We really appreciate you taking the time, right? Man, I really appreciate john taking the time to come on the show and dump all of those gold nuggets on us the indie film hustle tribe, he has a really unique way of doing things as far as film distribution, we could all learn a lot from him. So if you want to get links to his work, his books, and his website, head over to indie film, hustle, calm, forward slash zero 43 for the show notes. And guys, don't forget, if you love the show, please head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us a honest review of the show. It helps our rankings so much on iTunes and really helps the show get to more and more people that need to hear it. So I really appreciate you taking the time to do that. So keep that dream alive. Keep the hustle going. And I'll talk to you guys soon.


IFH 023: Crowdfunding Your Indie Film Like a Pro with Emily Best

Right-click here to download the MP3

Crowdfunding has always been a mystery to me. I never really understood how Filmtrepreneurs could raise $50,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000 to make their films. I tried once with the “if I built they will come” idea but they never came.

When I discovered this week’s guest, Emily Best CEO and founder of the indie film crowdfunding website Seed & Spark, I had to get her on the show. I attempted to squeeze out of her every bit of crowdfunding knowledge I could. We discuss:

  • How to create a successful crowdfunding campaign?
  • What are the biggest mistakes indie filmmakers make when crowdfunding their film?
  • How should indie filmmakers crowdsource (building an audience for you or your film)?
  • How do indie filmmakers determine how much to ask for when crowdfunding?
  • How do you build a killer crowdfunding page and video?
  • What incentives should you give when crowdfunding?
  • How do you determine if your film has an audience?

All of these questions on crowdfunding are answered and more. Seriously this podcast is a condensed master class on crowdfunding. I was selflessly asking the questions I wanted the answers to and now you guys benefit as well. Enjoy!

Alex Ferrari 1:10
So today, guys, we have a indie film Crusader. On the show, her name is Emily Best she is the CEO and founder of seed and spark the crowdfunding platform for independent film. She's going against the big boys going against Kickstarter and Indiegogo and she's kicking their butts in my opinion, her passion for filmmakers and her passion for getting films funded is amazing. And I when I heard her on another show, I it's like I have to get her on. I gotta get her on the show. So sit back and get ready to be inspired by Emily Best of seed and spark. Thank you so much Emily for taking the time out to talk to the indie film hustle tribe. I really appreciate it.

Emily Best 1:56
You bet I have to warn you that my dog might make himself known at some point during this podcast.

Alex Ferrari 2:02
His name is Alan Alan Allister. Yes, I've heard of him. And he's very famous throughout the indie film world.

Emily Best 2:10

Alex Ferrari 2:10
Yes. We would be honored if he would be here we do a guest a guest spot on the show. Great. So let me ask you. So you're obviously the CEO of seed and spark. So I wanted to ask you first and foremost, how and why did you start Seton spark?

Emily Best 2:28
Well, when I realized that what I wanted to do was make independent films forever. Um, I spent a lot of time researching what that would take. And my so I went to Sundance, I went to American film market, I talked to a ton of filmmakers, I talked to distributors, I talked to finance ears, I talked to sales agents. And I determined that the current climate is far too unfriendly for independent filmmakers. Because granted, this was happening, essentially, at the so we had this sort of conflagration of events in independent filmmaking. Digital technology advanced to a place where you could get really good video footage on your cell phone, but DSLR cameras were starting to make production really cheap. The next thing that happened was DVDs tanked. And there was the rise of digital distribution, except all of the businesses had built up their infrastructure as if DVDs were going to be the way that people consumed things forever, which I might say is rather short sighted. So when you when you thought you would be able to get 1499 for something that now people only thought was worth maybe $1.99 if you're lucky. Yeah, that messed up a lot of stuff really fast, right? And, and so in 2011, after I produced my first feature film called like the water. I thought, well, I really like to do this, but it looks to me like the environment for women and for people of color. And for people who want to tell diverse different stories is particularly messy. But what was interesting is that if you looked at what was getting funded on crowdfunding platforms, consumers were saying I want the weird I want the different I want the diverse I want the boundary pushing, I want the life changing. They weren't saying I want another romantic comedy. That's what they were definitely not saying. Okay, so it was just a really interesting time to come into filmmaking and seed and spark rose out of my experiences making like the water but also my desire for there to be a sustainable filmmaking career in the future.

Alex Ferrari 4:56
Very interesting. So and then when you made like a water, I heard that you had an experience with Ed burns during that process and that it was kind of like, he lied to you in many ways.

Emily Best 5:08
That's okay.

Alex Ferrari 5:10
I don't wanna I'm not setting you up, but I do.

Emily Best 5:12
My best friend Caitlin lied to me. Yes. Edie only sort of partially supported it. So I was making I was in a play. I was co producing a play in in New York called Hedda gobbler. So Norwegian classic. And Caitlin Fitzgerald was playing Hedda. And also, at that time, co starring opposite Ed burns in a movie that he was making. One of the first that he made with the five D, called newlyweds. And he was shooting newlyweds nights and weekends with his friends in their houses on a DSLR camera. And so when the group of women collaborators who made had a gambler decided we wanted to make another piece of work together. We had been thinking about theater because that's what we had been doing. And Caitlin got us all a little tipsy one night and said, Guys, we should just make a movie. It's so easy. And to be fair, Eddie made it look easy.

Alex Ferrari 6:11
No, no, Edward Edward Burns at this point is Edward Burns. He's not like, you know, right off of brothers mcmullin or anything like that. I mean, he's,

Emily Best 6:17
This is 2011. It's three years ago. He's young.

Alex Ferrari 6:21
He's He's, he's Ed burns at this point.

Emily Best 6:23
He's a big deal. Yeah. And so. And of course, because I was the producer in the room, they turned to me, and they're like, you'll produce this feature film. And I was like, Oh, sure, no problem. If it's, there you go. There he is. Yes. If it's easy, sure. I'll do it. And so she invited me to set and I got there and I rang the doorbell of like a cool Tribeca apartment, and the door opens and then, you know, devastatingly handsome man says, Hey, I'm Eddie, come on in. And I get to watch them shoot a film The crew up for which is Ed burns behind the camera directing and like rewriting as he goes, his cameraman who he or his cinematographer, who he's worked with for years, and their sound guy, and that's it three people,

Alex Ferrari 7:16
Three very high, highly experienced and skilled people.

Emily Best 7:21
Correct! Yeah, um, but three people on the left, sure. Zero crew, zero equipment, zero. And I thought, Oh, my gosh, I can totally do this. I just need to find an experienced cinematographer and a sound person. And we'll be fine, right?

Alex Ferrari 7:36
Of course.

Emily Best 7:38
So I did that I went and found an experienced cinematographer, by the name of Eve Cohen. And we told he, what we do, I brought her to New York, I'd met her on a movie in Philadelphia, I brought her to New York, to meet with Caitlin to talk about the movie we wanted to make. And it was a a, an independent drama set in Maine in the summer. And Ede Cohen immediately said, there's no way you will be able to shoot this film on the five D. And we were like, What do you mean, but we don't understand what movie making would be if we don't shoot it on the five D. And all of a sudden, I was off on a very different adventure, right, which is to say, I wasn't shooting a running gun mockumentary in New York City that I might have been able to do on, you know, with a stripped down crew, the kind of movie we were making took a lot more resources and a lot of learning. So in the journey to, you know, learning how to produce a film while producing a film, which is a journey I actually recommend to everyone. It was a great film school. As long as you hire people in the key positions, who already know what they're doing. That was really where I started to see the role of community and audience as essential to the health of the independent film business model, right? There's so much stuff we didn't have to spend money on, because the community was like I'm in, let's do this. Here's a coffee, here, your picture cars from a local car dealership, here are all your locations that were way more spectacular than anything you had imagined. And the reason that we were able to engage a community that way is because we told them specifically what we needed. So we didn't ask for funding, we gave them a list of everything we needed. And we said, support us in whatever way you can. Based on these things, like a wish, like a wish list. It was exactly like a wish list, or a wedding registry. And we sent it to everyone we knew. And we needed to raise $20,000, we raised 23,000 in cash and hundreds of 1000s of dollars in loans and gifts of locations and goods and services. So that was when I started to see Oh, there's a there's a real community organizing aspect around these ideas. I wouldn't know until we went on to the festival circuit, how meaningful that would be what a beautiful audience building tool and audience sort of evangelist tool. The wish list would be and it was only then that people In the industry, who I was meeting and talking to about our journey started to say, well, that's really interesting. Have you thought about offering that to other filmmakers? Which is tantamount to them saying, you know, have you considered a tech startup? And I was like, easy everyone, I only just decided I was gonna be a filmmaker. But as I as I started to really explore it as a possibility. I really, I really understood that. We have a responsibility all of us as independent film creators to change our business in a way that makes it easier for us to build sustainable livings. But we can't expect someone else to do it for us, we have to do it together.

Alex Ferrari 10:45

Emily Best 10:46
That's really I mean, that's really the foundational kind of principle of seed and spark is we're looking for something that is about sustainability for artists and diversity of content for audiences. Those two things are a very powerful economic engine.

Alex Ferrari 10:59
And I've I guess, in recent years is the term like sustainable career or making a living at your art, these concepts are fairly kind of new. I haven't heard them I've been I've been in the business for 20 years. And I, I never heard of that before. Everyone was always looking for the golden ticket. You know, everyone was looking for the lottery ticket, you go to Sundance, and you win. And, you know, you get Harvey Harvey gives you a million dollars. And

Emily Best 11:25
yeah, somebody let's talk about that golden ticket for a second. Yes. Here's the actual economics of that golden ticket, please. You are, there are 15,000 independent feature films made in the US alone, every year 12,000 films from around the world are submitted to Sundance 17 of them make it into competition. So just do that math really quickly, right? 17 divided by 12,000. That's point. Oh, 1%.

Alex Ferrari 11:56
I love that you have a calculator right there.

Emily Best 12:01
4.01%. Now of those films that go into competition, some of them sell for amounts greater than their budget. And those are the ones that get a ton of publicity. And often ones that were earmarked for those deals before they walked into the festival, right. Most of those films end up doing some service deal or DIY distribution, which is not what people think happens to most of the films at Sundance, but that is what happens to most of the films at Sundance. The few films that when the golden ticket, let's say sell to The Weinstein Company, or I mean, that might be one film a year, sell to Focus Features, they so they have independently financed and produced this film. And now they are going to utterly dependently distributed, and they will never get back any data about who watched their films or where or what their email addresses are, they will never get back. Or they certainly won't get back control of the IP. And most importantly, they almost never make any money. So I have a friend who was an executive producer on two of the most lottery ticket like films that went one went through Sundance got picked up by a major distributor hadn't had an Oscar campaign, the other one got picked up out of Sundance was made on a super low budget, bought for a couple million bucks and then did like $15 million at the box office. Beyond the the sale price out of the festival, those investors never saw $1 back from this $50 million box office. Right now. That's because the entire system is set up to preference the distributor, they have to recoup the costs of marketing and the cost of delivery and a lot of other costs. That they won't tell you what

Alex Ferrari 14:01
the hell they are creative accounting, right?

Emily Best 14:04
Yeah. So there's all sorts of creative accounting to make sure that the filmmaker never sees $1. Now, if you are very lucky, that deal might get you an agent and a studio deal, which is cool.

Alex Ferrari 14:21
But the percentages are so I mean,

Emily Best 14:24
we're now talking about point, point, point point, we're not talking about 1% of the point oh 1% in the first place.

Alex Ferrari 14:31
Exactly. It's like so miniscule, it's it's just like lottery tickets. It literally is lottery ticket odds.

Emily Best 14:35
It's almost worse. So so one of the things that I am fond of saying is like I'm perfectly happy saying I'm the 99% that I'm not so special, that my film is going to be the point oh 1% of the point oh 1% and I'm okay with that because actually, I don't like to sit around and wait to be picked. And frankly, I don't think any artists particularly like to sit around and wait To be picky, we're making stuff because it matters to us. And we want to communicate with the people to whom it also matters. That's the whole point. So that we would rely on a system that keeps us as far away from the people who are as aligned with our values because they want to watch our stuff as possible. has never made sense to me. I'm not making films for distributors and making films for audiences, right? And so there's, there's a real this notion that you can go off into a hole and make these marvelous things and then once you emerge, they will just see the merit and pick you a narrative that has kept us small and poor for long enough.

Alex Ferrari 15:46
That's I'm I'm about to like join the revolution with you wherever you go, let's let's go cuz, I mean, it's almost like chegar era. I mean, seriously, it's, it's, I love it. I love listening to you talk about it, because you're so passionate about what you're saying. And it's so true. And like I said, I've been doing this for 20 years, I've been in post and I've seen a lot of feature films come and go Sundance winners and other independent films. And it's so true, like the system is built to kind of keep the artist poor and broke because like you just said there's 15,000 movies made a year. So if nothing comes out this year with others, that's another 15,000 movies coming out next year. And they keep building into this this machine of and never, never allowing they just basically spitting up and chewing out the artists. And God knows what kind of artists or you know, writers or directors or any kind of artists have been just chewed up and never we we made him never, we might have already lost another Martin Scorsese of this generation or another Tarantino because they just couldn't get through, or they just gave up because of this, this machine. And now the technology i think is so like things like seed and spark and you know, the the cost to start making movies is gone down so much that it's now about not as much about making the movie. Do you agree? It is about making good art. But now it's about building your audience, which is my next question. Like how important is understanding your film's audience before you even begin to crowdfund

Emily Best 17:17
it's incredibly important. It's in fact essential. If you don't spend that time before you crowdfund, you won't crowdfund you will friend, fund. And friend, a family friend, right? Yeah, which is what most people end up doing. And then they're like, I don't understand why I couldn't raise more money. And it's like, well, do you know who the people are? Who want to see your movie? Did you spend time finding out where they were on social media? And how they like to be spoken to? Did you do any research into the organism in organizations that service these people? Or did you think that if you build it, they will come, which is the same Pick me Pick me mentality as before, it is really hard work to build a sustainable business, which is what an independent, sustainable film career is. It's a business, right? It's hard to build a business. But it's incredibly rewarding. And you get to go to work every day with the people you care about. And you get to control the creative decisions. And you get to interact with the people personally, who say, Oh, my God, this thing you're doing changed my life. Right? So I feel like part of the reckoning is also to say what is enough? Right? Like,

Alex Ferrari 18:25
yeah, like, do you have to have billions and millions of dollars to be happier? Can you make a sustainable income,

Emily Best 18:31
like if you could make $65,000 a year making the content that you care about, and living in? I don't know, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I recently learned it cost $500 for a really nice two bedroom apartment is beautiful. Oh, my goodness. Like, I actually think the real examples of sustainability are going to come first, as sustainability through these new technology platforms are going to come first and foremost, in places outside of Los Angeles in New York, where access has has been granted in a in a new way to audiences and distribution through technology. And people are not quite so caught up in the pygmy mentality that has driven this city to you know, Botox and lip injections for whatever, nearly a year. Exactly. No, it's I mean, it's, it's true, because I actually think it the so I hear filmmakers get sort of anxious about, well, if I have to get good at marketing, too. Won't that take away from my filmmaking? And I think what about the detriment to the filmmaking or the acting or the writing that comes from being desperate to be picked, doesn't seem desperate to be picked, make you revert to the mean doesn't being desperate to be picked make you want to look as much as possible, like the other people who are being picked doesn't desperate To be picked, make you want to write the thing that looks like other things that have been picked, desperation to be picked does not make you more creative, it makes you more

Alex Ferrari 20:09
desperate and desperate. It makes you

Emily Best 20:12
more similar to other things. And that's not. That's not creative to me, if you look at what gets funded through crowdfunding, like I said before, it's the super creative, daring, interesting stuff. So audiences are demonstrating to us that they're smart, they're hungry, and they're supportive of your creativity. Right? The important thing to remember is it's not audiences, like this big faceless mass, it's your audience. It's the group of individual humans with their own interesting lives, who respond to similar things in the world that you respond to, these are this is your tribe, right? Which is actually the name of the company that we use to make like the water. So it's really about finding your people. And, and I think that gives you much more creative freedom than working in a system where you're desperate to be picked.

Alex Ferrari 21:09
Absolutely. And if you ever heard of a film called Kung Fury, yes, it was brilliant, the way that guy would package that movie. And he crowdfunded. And he did very well, crowdfunding, but but my god, he found his audience he completely sold to his audience, whether you like the audience or not, like the movie or not, but the guy's super successful by you know, it was a short film on top of it wasn't even a feature. Yeah. But so let me ask you a question. What? When should a filmmaker begin creating their audience or following?

Emily Best 21:42
As soon as you have ideas, I mean, here's the thing. We're all on social media anyway, right? Audience obviously starts with the people who like you, as a human, those are your friends and family. It's not like you like or not considering them. So probably, you're on a couple of social media platforms, and you're already starting this. But you have also this world of inspiration that defines your creative art that you're probably, you know, looking at online, and I'm reading articles about and writing things about and making little short vignettes about and cutting things together. These are all ways to see the conversations with people who might be interested in the same things. Probably, if you're a huge fan of kung fu movies, you're aware of where kung fu fans hang out, right? And you can go interact with them, because that's the beauty of online, everybody's participating now. It's really a matter of, you know, being involved in the community of interest that's inspiring you, that's where it starts, it should actually ultimately be kind of natural. Right? Right.

Alex Ferrari 22:47
Not forced,

Emily Best 22:48
yeah, you're already you're already doing it anyway.

Alex Ferrari 22:51
So then, with with the whole building an audience, there's one like kind of, I want to say it's like a dirty secret, but things that people don't like to talk about, which is an email list. It can you talk about how important that email list is in building this, this audience.

Emily Best 23:05
So, you know, I think one place that we can get confused is we can get obsessed with the notion of building the audience. And we'll look at any metrics that indicate to us that people like what we're doing, it'll be things like Twitter followers, and Facebook fans. And the problem is, the ultimate goal is not Twitter followers, and Facebook fans, the ultimate goal is getting people to pay money to watch your movie. That's the goal. That's how are getting them to watch your stuff. I don't know if you want them to pay. Your ultimate goal could be starting a movement, it could be getting as many people to watch your film as possible. It could be getting as many people to pay to watch your film as possible. You have to set your own goals. But I'm pretty sure nobody, no filmmakers out there being like, I want to be big on Twitter, right? Like, my goal, like Twitter is a means to an end, which is I want to be big on Twitter, so I can get a lot of people to watch my movie. Here's the thing. On average, you can expect a conversion rate. That means people who see something on your social media to taking the action you want them to take, like funding your crowdfunding campaign are or signing up to see your movie have about 1%. Right? So if you have 10,000 followers, you can only expect 100 of them to show up and do anything, right. That's not like, that's sort of a jarring idea, right? It doesn't mean the 10,000 people might not be aware of it. But what you really want them to do is take action. With email lists that are appropriately managed, you can see a conversion rate of 20 to 30%. Right? The number of people on your email list is way more important. Well, why is that? Well, it's super easy to follow someone on Twitter, you quickly click one button. What's a little bit harder is to get them to sign up for your mailing list because you either have to interact with them personally and like exchange business cards or hand them a sign up. She did your screening, or you end up, you know, doing something online that's so compelling that they're like, hey, I want to sign up for more updates from this person, you have to create that call to action. And then people have to take that step with you, it means that they want to get more deeply engaged with you. And frankly, you should test your ability to get people to take that action before you ever launch a crowdfunding campaign or distribution campaign, because you need to know how good you are at messaging your audience and getting them to really understand why they should do anything with you.

Alex Ferrari 25:35
That's a great, great, that's great information. What, um, let me ask you another question. What do you think is the state? What are your thoughts on the current state of film distribution as a general statement, oh, this is a whole other podcast.

Emily Best 25:48
It's really messy right now. Um, it's very hard to make money on small films right now. Because most of us have still produced things. I'm kind of in the old model of raising as much money as we can, you know, making it making it for as much money as we can. And then thinking about distribution, or even folks who are crowdfunding are still not leveraging crowdfunding. With distribution in mind. They're only leveraging crowdfunding with fundraising in mind. And again, just like twit, the end game of Twitter is not to get Twitter followers. But to get people to watch your movies. The endgame of crowdfunding is not just to raise money, but to get people to watch your movies, right? crowdfunding is just another slightly more involved social media and storytelling tool. The your crowdfunding page is as much of a storytelling tool as your Twitter profile or your Facebook page. And so I think we're still behind in some senses really strategizing and thinking about our distribution before we make films. And, and part of the reason I think the economics are so tricky is we let the script utterly dictate how much a film should be made for, right, which in some cases is fine, because there's a lot of resources to put to it. But sometimes there are scripts that really have a, you know, a smaller audience, demonstrable audience reach, and if you've demonstrated, you can get, you know, 10,000 people to spend $5 a piece on your film, right? And that's as far as you think it can go? That's $50,000. Right? Right. If you if you want to crowdfund $100,000, and then make $50,000 back, that's not a bad deal. Right? Right. That's a pretty good universe. But if we're, I mean, we just have to also get really honest about like, the capacity and what it takes to really make money on stuff. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't make things that can't make a profit, I'm saying that there are models that are actually built so that you are doing it for reasons other than making profit, and crowdfunding is one of those is if it's really meaningful to people, and it's meaningful to enough people, they will fund you to make this thing that maybe doesn't have huge commercial reach, but is meaningful to a small subset of people and you can still make some money on that because the community has brought it into being um, I just think the longer that we sort of continue to do things the same way the Messier it's gonna be the other thing is like, we just haven't caught up to the fact that most of us carry a device in our pockets every day that can allow us anyone to shoot, edit, distribute and consume a movie. Right? That is a fundamentally like industry shifting technology. And we have not caught up and part of it is because the you know, there are a lot of distribution middlemen who stand to lose a lot of money if we get to what these devices can do for us.

Alex Ferrari 29:04
as as as basically as as, you know, things like VHS and gumroad, and YouTube and Vimeo pro and all these other, kind of like killing the middleman thing out and just going directly to your customer. The technology is changing so rapidly, like, you know, how long How long is he to spark been around?

Emily Best 29:25
Three years,

Alex Ferrari 29:26
three years. So, you know, three years in the indie film world, three years is massive. Things are changing so rapidly. It's nice to find like I just heard of, I've just heard the other day of tug, which I I never heard of before. I just had never come through. I'd never, never came through my ears.

Emily Best 29:47
Yet someone from Ted on this podcast. They're fantastic. And they're incredible. And we work with them.

Alex Ferrari 29:51
Yeah, I know. Can you tell them real quick, can you just just say a couple things about tug.

Emily Best 29:55
Sure, tug is a way to crowdsource your theatrical release. So they have relationships. With 90% of the theaters in the country, and it works on a promoter basis, so anyone in any if you put your film on tugg, anyone in any city can say, I would like a screening of that film in my city. And they can go about pre selling tickets. And if they hit the minimum threshold, and that threshold is determined by how much the filmmaker wants to make, how much the theater wants to make, and how much the promoter wants to make, they sell the minimum number of tickets, that screening is guaranteed, and you have a theatrical screening in the city you didn't even think of, because somebody who liked your movie decided they wanted to do it there.

Alex Ferrari 30:32
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. That's absolutely brilliant. And that's a game changer. Absolutely, in many, many ways. Now, I'm sure you've seen a ton of pitch videos, can you give us an example of a bad one? and what not to do?

Emily Best 30:58
Sure. So um, it is very common. And I don't know why I think it's because we just get nervous about asking for support that filmmakers making pitch videos, forget to apply their filmmaking techniques to the pitch videos, and they end up making pitch videos that like their, their aunt would like but wouldn't care about. So it's not uncommon to see a filmmaker you've never heard of or seen before. Sit down in front of a camera in lousy light with bad sound and say, Hi, I'm Emily, I'm making a terrifying thriller, and I really want you to join me on this journey. And you're like, What? Who are you? Why should I expect that you're going to make a terrifying thriller, and prove it, and then I'll go, um, you know, making movies is really hard, which is why I put together a really killer team, and I can't wait for you to hear from them. And then another person you've never heard of whose opinion you don't know how to trust in His work, you don't recognize like the cinematographer will come on screen and another badly lit interview situation. And they'll be like, yeah, so like, I'm really excited to work on this movie, because like, I've been really inspired by like Eli rock films for a while. And I worked a lot on a lot of those kind of films, like in my thesis in college, and, um, I just like, really, I just think it's gonna be really fun and like, really dark. So I had no script, and they go on forever. Right? Now, I still don't know what the movie is about. I know two people who are involved with it, who've given me zero confidence in their capacity to execute. And then maybe they're going to send me to talk to an actress or an actor who's like, really excited and engaging and probably like nice looking, and they're going to tell you how excited they are to work on the project. But you're like, what is the project? What are we even talking about? Most people except for the parents of the aforementioned like filmmakers, and actors and cinematographer. I shut the video off by this point, because those people are trying to talk to audiences for horror films. And let me tell you what audiences for horror films want horror films, interview pieces, right? So you actually have to start to build up your credibility by demonstrating to people what you can do. So you know now that tangerine has thankfully proven you can make brilliant films on your iPhone. I don't like I don't have to bat down the excuses anymore from filmmakers will look but it costs money to make a good pitch video. No, it does not. No, it does absolutely does not. Because you're a filmmaker, and indie filmmakers are the most creative, ingenious people I've ever met. That's why I like decided to go headfirst for the rest of my life into this business. You can take your iPhone, and shoot something really creepy in a dark alley in the middle of the night with all the same people that we're talking to. And demonsaw make us feel something about your capacity to execute on the thing that you're proposing. And then once you've done that, once you've scared me a little bit, then you can pop your face up on the screen, so that I have a relationship to Ooh, you made me feel something now I see your face. No, I'm interested in you. Right right to give the audience for your film, a reason to trust that you're a person to deliver them what they want. That's super super important and the pitch video

Alex Ferrari 34:33
and it seems after you've explained it it seems quite elementary but most I would imagine most people don't

Emily Best 34:41
Yeah, I don't know what happens I so here's the thing. I wonder if it's not you know, sort of partially our fault and an out by our I mean sort of all the crowdfunding platforms who are like, you know, you have to make a personal appeal. And so they're like, okay, I'll start with the personal appeal and beg Yeah. film, it's a little bit different, right? Because the messaging is not necessarily just to pre sell the film, but to get involved in this experience with me that I'm going to take you on not just for this film, but for a lifetime if you like it enough, right? And so the messaging can't be, we want to make this thing but we're broke, please help,

Alex Ferrari 35:21
which is 95% of

Emily Best 35:25
the pitch video has to be, we are about to basically take a spaceship to the moon, do you want to be the fuel,

Alex Ferrari 35:33
that's a great way of looking at it,

Emily Best 35:35
I offer something that is so exciting that I want to get involved in the journey. Right, where the delivery of the finished product of the film is almost ancillary to what I'm excited about at this point, like, I just want to be so stoked to be involved with you. Now, there's also a whole set of subset of people who will fund things because they're excited about the finished product, you have to keep in mind that, you know, unlike a tech widget, I can just go watch another film next week. So if you're offering for me to get involved in a film that's not coming out for eight or 12 months, you better give me stuff along the way to remind me that I care about this thing. Hmm. So the other thing is like the pitch video is only really the beginning of the deeper relationship, right? So you go from the first date. No, no, no, the Twitter follow is the first date. Okay, gotcha, that the email address is like the fourth date of crowdfunding should be like the engagement. Really, you know, that's when like you, you're really deepening your relationship. And that means you're gonna have you're committing to having a relationship with those people forever.

Alex Ferrari 36:49
Artists, artists and consumer of art, correct? That's, that's a great analogy as well. And I as what would you consider is realist? Oh, can you talk a little bit about realistic crowdfunding goals? Because I know, sometimes I've seen, you know, $1 million dollars. I'm like, really, and they've they've never shot anything in their life. So can you talk a little bit about realistic crowdfunding goals?

Emily Best 37:12
Sure. The first and most important thing is, your crowdfunding goal has to be directly related to what you're promising in your pitch. So if you're promising, we're going to shoot, edit and distribute this entire this movie based on the money that we're gathering right now, you have to have budgeted for all of that, and know that the amount of money minus the fees you're gonna pay is enough to do everything that you're promising. If you if you if you get there, and you're like, holy shit, that's $150,000. That's a lot. Think about breaking it up into stages, and setting goals for yourself that are related to the size audience you've grown. First of all, you shouldn't launch a campaign unless you know for sure where the first 30% of your funds are coming from. Why? Because strangers, people who've never heard of you before your crowdfunding campaign whose first encounter with you is in the crowdfunding campaign, tend not to be interested in getting involved until you've hit about 30%. And that's because momentum shows inevitability of success, and people like to pick winners. So part of the reason you want to spend so much time cultivating the crowd in advance, so that it's easy for you to determine where that first 30% is coming from. And then those people act as your evangelists for the next 30%. And those people act as evangelists for the following 30%.

Alex Ferrari 38:31
Interesting, interesting, so and then when you say the first 30% you're saying like, where it? Can you explain that a little bit? Like, how would How would I know where the first 30% of my funds would come from?

Emily Best 38:42
Is you've been out there talking to people about your campaign products, writing to the people who are most enthusiastic saying, Can I count on you on day one? What kinds of incentives would make you the most excited? How much would you be willing to contribute? If I could promise you, you know, tickets to the premiere? Um,

Alex Ferrari 39:01
well, let me ask you what is some of the most ingenious incentives you've seen in your day?

Emily Best 39:06
Well, I really like incentives that inspire evangelism during the campaign. So my most favorite example is filmmaker named Sean Mannion did a time travel short, called time signature. And I contributed $25 to his campaign, and I'm not kidding, like 20 minutes later, I got a an email that said, Emily, thank you from his campaign page. Emily, thank you so much for your contribution. It means a lot to us. If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go? And I was in. I don't know what I was doing that day that made me so boring, but I shot back to go to the signing of the Magna Carta. Okay, thinking that that was also like, I didn't know what he wanted it for, but I was like, this is a hard one. Like it was kind of a dick move on my part. Right? Like Half an hour later, I get a tweet that says, we found at Emily best at the signing of the Magna Carta, where will we find you. And it was a some sort of 13th century scroll image of these friars sitting around signing the Magna Carta. And he had found a picture of mine off of Facebook, and photoshopped it in so expertly, it took me a second to find myself because I just looked like I was there, Wow, really excited to be there. And it was, it was so brilliant, because it made me love him instantly, it filled the incentive that he owed me outside of the delivery of his film. And I shared it everywhere. And I know that I am personally responsible for no fewer than seven other contributions to that

Alex Ferrari 40:57
campaign. Right? That's brilliant.

Emily Best 41:01
$25 into $200.

Alex Ferrari 41:04
That's no way but that but also that takes a little bit of sweat equity, elbow grease, which a lot of filmmakers, you know, they have to ask themselves that that deep question, am I willing to do the work? Absolutely. You know, and that's why I think all this the whole crowd for crowdfunding and building up your audience and everything it has to do about the work and, you know, it's sometimes I've dealing with so many filmmakers in my in my life that a lot of them just want to make a movie one, you know, be famous. And you know what I mean? It's not as much about

Emily Best 41:35
movies, no work at all, I'm sorry. Because making no making a movie, that's no work at all.

Alex Ferrari 41:40
Exactly. Like you've killed yourself, you know, for two years, three years, sometimes I'm making a movie and you're not gonna take it to the finish line, you know, you're so close. You know, I always look at marketing and, and, you know, building this audience and stuff like that, as part of the creative process have always said that, it's like, you have you put your creative energy that you would into your art, but make the marketing on art like that guy. That's a perfect example with the scroll. That's brilliant. Yeah, a really brilliant idea. So what is one of the main reasons somebody would invest in a movie in a crowdfunding platform? Like what's what's, what's the main reason they would?

Emily Best 42:24
Ah, you mean into a crowdfunding campaign?

Alex Ferrari 42:26
Yeah. Like, like, I'm Joe Schmo. I just came on to seed and spark, why would someone like throw down 25 bucks to somebody I don't even know, like, what's the main reason?

Emily Best 42:37
Usually, because, um, there's like a really well articulated Why, why do we need to make this thing that speaks to the person's heart? It's emotional. Of course, why does this need to get made. And it could be, because the pitch video made me laugh my ass off. And it could be because the filmmakers are working on a social justice issue that really matters. Or it could be both in the case of a film called quality problems. It could be that I just really liked the filmmakers approach, it could be that I've been following the filmmaker for a very long time. And I'm really excited to finally get a chance to interact with them in this way. So I it's, I think it's above all, that there is a y. Right? That I that I understand and believe in

Alex Ferrari 43:35
now, can I want you to see if you can set a little light on something that a lot of people don't get in regards to, you know, getting the distribution deal, like, you know, if your film is on iTunes, or Netflix or VOD, those platforms, keep all the customer information and doesn't allow you to connect with that audience. Can you said shed a little light on why self distribution and audience building in many ways is even a better situation? In sometimes for filmmakers in the long term for building a sustainable living as an artist?

Emily Best 44:06
Um, say that one more time?

Alex Ferrari 44:10
Can you shed a little light on why self distribution and audience building is a little bit in many ways is better of a situation than getting that big, that big, you know, golden ticket thing, because you are building for the long term because you're building that audience up and have connection with that audience as opposed to, if someone gives you a million dollars at if you're lucky enough to get that deal? You know, that doesn't mean out of out of out of all those out of all those people that do get that golden ticket, like you're saying that point point one of point 1% how many of those actually have a career in the next 10 years? Is and that's the other thing as opposed if they're

Emily Best 44:46
women. Yeah. Right. If there are people of color, very few, um, and I think that's, I think first Well look, the important message here is How hard Do you want to try to be the point? Oh, 1% of the point Oh, 1%. Right? Why try to participate in a system that clearly doesn't want you? You know, what, what piece of validation is so important that you wouldn't just want to do things? You're way sooner? Right? I think I think for me, it's about what can I do that I control?

Alex Ferrari 45:28
Right, exactly. And building your audience and, and your following and things like that, and distributing it yourself. And keeping the majority of the bounty is something you can control. Look,

Emily Best 45:41
I wanted to make a film about with my friends about female friendships that I recognized. And I knew there was an audience for this movie, because I am a woman of a certain age, who was really tired of all of the women my age being portrayed as, like, you know, sort of batshit jealous, need a man to solve our problems. And not the version of the least, like really successful, creative, amazing, interesting women who I was friends with all the time, I needed that narrative. I didn't see it anywhere. And when we took like, the water to the festivals, this was the reaction we were getting were women in their 60s saying, I've been waiting my whole life for a movie like this. Oh, cool, you know, like incredible things. When I took this to American film market, I had more than one sales agent say, Well, you know, if you could sort of bump up like a lesbian erotica element that would really

Alex Ferrari 46:44
surprise me the least,

Emily Best 46:45
this is the point at which I thought I do not want to be picked by these people anyway, because we fundamentally disagree about what is needed in the marketplace.

Alex Ferrari 46:55
It's like, it's like Groucho Marx said I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member,

Emily Best 47:00
I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that they're members of. Yeah, exactly. Like, it's just, it is just that this is, again, it's it goes back to sure, you could try to knock on doors that are built not to open for you. That's great, you can see the creative control to people whose opinions you might not agree with. Or you could in the hopes that you will get the golden ticket and become the duplass brothers. Right? Right. Um, or you could build it yourself, one audience member at a time, and make what really matters to you in economically sustainable ways. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 47:47
That's perfect. That's, that's actually a perfect, that's a perfect statement. It's a perfect statement. I think it's, I hope this conversation from our listeners understand that it's, it's about breaking the dogma that we've been sold this, this Wizard of Oz kind of, you know, don't look behind the curtain kind of dogma of go to, you know, spend 120 grand to go to film school, and in like, you know, you're not going to get a job and then go make your movie and then you're in debt for the rest of your life and, and then the movie you make is you got to go down this road and gotta go down to the festival route, and then maybe get, you know, put some a little lesbian erotica in just to be able to sell it in Germany, and you have to kind of kowtow constantly, but it's just as dogma that invoices like you. And I hopefully voices like mine, from what we're doing an indie film hustle is to try to break that, like, Guys wake up, like, get out of the matrix, you know, it's in, and that's what I'm hoping. That's why I want to do on the show so bad, I really wanted to shine a light on what you're doing, and the concept that you're trying to preach out there. So where do you see seed and spark in 10 years?

Emily Best 48:59
Um, wow. In spark in 10 years.

Alex Ferrari 49:05
Cuz everything's like dog years here. Because like, every year is like seven. Like, everything's changing so rapidly. So

Emily Best 49:11
yeah, I would hope in 10 years, there are 10,000 filmmakers on the platform reaching 10 to 20,000 audiences each, who are, you know, paying between 60 and $100 a year to spend on those filmmakers and the stuff that they love.

Alex Ferrari 49:36
Right, that would be a wonderful, wonderful world. Yeah,

Emily Best 49:40
it would be a really, it would be a really, really cool world. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 49:46
Now on CD and spark, you actually can distribute your film as well. Correct? Correct. Can you explain a little bit about that? Because that's one part I found really interesting about what Seton spark is doing. Yeah.

Emily Best 49:57
So um, If you crowdfund with us, and reach 500 followers, those are not necessarily people who contribute monetarily. But essentially just high five your campaign. They've joined your email list is what it is. you qualify to take advantage of all of our platform partnerships. So streaming on seed and spark, Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, Google Play all the cable, VOD providers, and we can even connect you to theatrical partners.

Alex Ferrari 50:36
So wait a minute, you actually have a partnership with all the those iTunes and Netflix and Hulu and all that stuff as well? Yeah. Oh, I didn't know that. Now. what's the what's the what's the split? If you want me asking?

Emily Best 50:48
Well, so the splits on all the platforms are different, I got it for 20 minutes for me to list them. Sure. Of course, we only take 10% on the pass through. Okay. So that's, that's about half of what most other platforms will take on the pastor. But what we can provide is placement, right, you get if you go there by yourself,

Alex Ferrari 51:07
you're basically you have a door opening, you open doors for filmmakers, I would have had to go through an aggregator or sign some sort of distribution deal.

Emily Best 51:15
And over the next couple of weeks, the crowdfunding tool will get better and better at gathering the data that will help you understand where your audience is watching stuff. So that you can see that I don't know 60% of your identified audience watches everything on iTunes, right? So you can preference the iTunes distribution and you don't have to spend the money trying to market it also on a bunch of other platforms, or, you know, or you find out that it's on, you know, most of your audience is concentrated in these areas. And these are the cable companies that service those areas, you just put it out on those cable VOD platforms, right? Because it's easy right now to just pay money and put stuff on all the platforms, getting anybody to know that it's there way harder. And that's still rides on the backs of filmmakers.

Alex Ferrari 52:06
Which is something that they don't teach you in film school.

Emily Best 52:09
Don't that's, that's our next undertaking. How do we get this information? There are some really really smart people working on the problem of how to how to sort of bring this into film school as well.

Alex Ferrari 52:23
Because it's it's so I mean, that stuff that they're that kids that I see coming out are just like, they're still in a in a haze. They're still you know, they all think they're gonna be Robert Rodriguez or Steven Soderbergh. Or, you know, Spike Lee and the you know, it's not the 90s anymore, unfortunately. A lot of ways. So, um, I have that this is the toughest question of the interview. So prepare yourself. Okay. What are your top three favorite films of all time?

Emily Best 52:52
West Side Story, okay. Some Like It Hot,

Alex Ferrari 52:56

Emily Best 53:00
And the third one is a tie, which is a really weird, like shitty way to shirk the top three, that's fine. Um, there's an Iranian film that came out in 1997. That changed my life called gubbay. It was the first arthouse film I had ever seen, by which I mean, it was the first time I went to an art house, and a much cooler friend of mine was like, let's go see this film. Like, whatever. I'll do it because it sounds cool. And I couldn't leave my seat. I saw it. I just didn't know that film. Could be like that. Um, and then actually, there's a film by filmmaker named Mike odd called Pear Blossom highway that we released through seasons bark. That was a film that I saw at a festival that reminded me why we have to have lots of different kinds of festivals. Because it was it a difficult film, a narrative doc hybrid. That was seamless, that had utterly stunning performances and really disturbing, weird, interesting situations. And I thought about it for weeks afterwards.

Alex Ferrari 54:19
Which is what good art does,

Emily Best 54:21
which is what good art does? Yeah. And Mike art and Nathan silver have just made a new film together, which I cannot wait to.

Alex Ferrari 54:31
It's awesome. And finally, can you give some steps that you can suggestions, some tips, final tips to filmmakers who want to have a successful crowdfunding campaign?

Emily Best 54:44
Oh, sure. Start by going to seed and spark.com and downloading our crowdfunding to build independence handbook. This is very, very important. And you know what? is embarrassing on the brand new site if you go to four films, makers and how it works. It'll walk you through and it'll give you the handbook right there. Read this Handbook, because it will give you the step by step of how to start engaging your audience, how to think about building your incentives, how to make sure that your crowdfunding video is awesome. All of these things will be built in there. But you have to start by doing your research and forming a game plan. crowdfunding follows this sort of the same steps as production, you need pre production, which is planning and scheduling and team building, you need production, which has its own set of planning and scheduling, and team building, building and kind of daily maintenance. And then you have post production, which is all the communication that you're doing all the incentive, fulfillment, all of that, right. So really making sure that you think through all of that strategically, and how it will help your distribution in the end.

Alex Ferrari 55:57
That's awesome. And obviously, people can find you at seedandspark.com,

Emily Best 56:01
seedandspark.com. I'm Emily Best on Twitter or @seedandspark.

Alex Ferrari 56:06
Emily, thank you so much for doing this. I know you're very, very busy, lady. So I really, really appreciate you taking the time talking to thanks for the tribe.

Emily Best 56:14
Thanks for the great question.

Alex Ferrari 56:15
Okay, thank you. I appreciate that. Well, if you didn't know how to crowdfund before, you definitely know how to crowdfund out, I was I've honestly never really crowdfunded a film of mine. So I really wanted to do this interview, because I just want to learn as much as I can about crowdfunding, my next my next project, which will hopefully be coming out next year. And you guys will all hear about it as I do it, trust me. But um, Emily laid out some amazing advice, some real amazing gold nuggets of information there. I think you guys are armed now and ready to do a crowdfunding campaign for your next project. It does take a lot of work. And that's something that a lot of people don't really understand that this is as as intense as actually making your movie is getting it funded and marketed and so on, which is something I constantly preach about on the show, and on indie film, hustle. So I hope this was entertaining for you guys. I hope it was very informative for you. It was for me, so don't forget to head over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips calm, where you can download my free ebook on my secrets on getting into film festivals for cheap or free. So keep that hustle going. Don't let go of that dream. Make it happen. I'll talk to you guys soon.




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