On the show today is LA native, music artist, filmtrepreneur, filmmaker and actor, Robert Schwartzman. Robert comes from a long line of musicians and film talents. He’s related to industry names like Nicolas Cage (cousin), Sophia Coppola (cousin), Jason Schwartzman (brother), Francis Ford Coppola (uncle), etc. Growing up with these influencers, he ultimately went the same route – acting, studying film editing, and directing music videos.
His career tipped slightly towards his passion for musicals he became the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist of the band Rooney.
We did a deep dive into Robert’s newest venture, AltaVOD, a self-distribution platform for feature films. It’s a split structure, direct-to-consumer video-on-demand platform that eliminates the middleman (buyer) to support creators directly. I put Robert to the test and asked him hard questions about AltaVOD and he passed with flying colors.
When he is not building tech companies to help filmmakers, Robert has been known to act a bit. He began his acting career in Sophia Coppola’s short film Lick the Star and her directorial debut The Virgin Suicides. Even though these were Robert’s first acting experiences, he had already learned much about behind-the-camera technical skills. He shadowed and learned from Sophia and other relatives as much as he could.
A clique of school girls devises a secret plan that they code-name “Lick the Star”.
The Virgin Suicides is about a group of male friends who become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents in suburban Detroit in the mid-1970s.
In 2001, director Gary Marshell offered Roberts a role on box office success, The Princess Diaries as Michael Moscovitz, Lilly’s older brother, harbors romantic feelings for Mia (Anne Hathaway).
Mia Thermopolis has just found out that she is the heir apparent to the throne of Genovia. With her friends Lilly and Michael Moscovitz in tow, she tries to navigate through the rest of her sixteenth year.
He’s utilized his music career to produce soundtracks for shows like Late Night With Seth Meyers, Pretty Little Liars, Switched At Birthed, Demi Lovato: Live at Wembley Arena, Princess Diaries, and many others.
It was cool chatting with Robert and bringing you guys (tribe) new avenues and resources to share your work cost-effectively.
Enjoy my conversation with Robert Schwartzman.
Alex Ferrari 0:02
Well, guys today on the show, we have Robert Shwartzman, who has launched a new service to help independent filmmakers make money with their films, his websites called ALTAVOD. And after doing some due diligence and making him go through an introductory interview to make sure everything was on the up and up, I was really, really impressed with what altova was doing. It's a new way of self distributing your film. And he really just wanted to put together a platform to help independent artists and independent filmmakers. Because Robert comes from a long line of artists and being a musician, a very well known musician, as well as having his brother Jason Schwartzman, an actor, very famous actor in Hollywood, his cousin, Sofia Coppola, Uncle Francis Ford Coppola and Nicolas Cage, another cousin, and so on. So he comes from a long line of artists, and he saw that there was a problem in the marketplace and wanted to kind of help. So we came on the show to talk about his platform, how he sees distribution moving forward, and what independent filmmakers can do to use what he learned in the music business, and transferred over to the movie business. And that's something I've been talking about for a long time include into my book Rise of the film entrepreneur, as using the the music model and independent artists in the music industry as a model for independent filmmakers in the film business. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Robert Schwartzman. I'd like to welcome the show Robert shwartzman. Man, how you doing, Robert?
Robert Schwartzman 4:05
Good, thank you. I'm great. I'm with you. So I feel better.
Alex Ferrari 4:11
Anytime there's some sort of human contact Rory.
Robert Schwartzman 4:14
Yeah. No, I just wanted to say how Ferrari is the coolest last name. I think anyone could ever have so
Alex Ferrari 4:22
Well, I appreciate that. It is it has been good for the brand. It's been good for the branding. You know, it could have been Alex Pinto, and it wouldn't have nearly had the same ring to it.
Robert Schwartzman 4:34
Have you spent time in Italy by the way?
Alex Ferrari 4:36
I've never I've never been I'm dying. I'm dying to go to I've never been to Europe. I can't go the year.
Robert Schwartzman 4:42
Ah, yeah, I'm not right now.
Alex Ferrari 4:44
Not not good times right now. I'm right now. But maybe in the next five years, six years, hopefully we'll be able to travel over to Europe again, like, like my wife and I just went to like, live in Barcelona. For like, yeah, three or four months. You know?
Robert Schwartzman 4:59
Go Italy and just bend if you're going to go to Italy Just take your time and just go to Italy and just explore the country like it's something people are like let's go to Italy then but just there's so much to see in Italy between the North and the South. But when you go I guarantee you this you'll remember this conversation but you'll check into a hotel, Mr. Ferrari, but it was like it's just clearly you have that name because they're gonna freak out and they see that
Alex Ferrari 5:29
am I gonna Am I gonna be able to open it that doors are gonna open I'm gonna get a get reservations a lot easier
Robert Schwartzman 5:35
everywhere you go.
Alex Ferrari 5:37
So a fun side note before we get started with this interview, I actually sold olive oil and vinegar. I had I had the largest gourmet shop in LA that I was relative. It was just olive oil and vinegar and it was originally called Ferrari olive oil which then I later changed the name but yes so if you need to know about olive oil or 18 year aged balsamic vinegar from from from Adana. Then I will I can I can talk to you for hours about it.
Robert Schwartzman 6:08
Either way, I've been to Modena Medan Oh, by the way.
Alex Ferrari 6:10
Oh, it's it's Yeah, that mean? That's the only that's the only balsamic Yeah, I mean, come on.
Robert Schwartzman 6:15
Yeah. But I will. I will. I might. I'm gonna text you about what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna hit you up about it. By the way. There's a whole world of olive oil out there that no one even thinks about.
Alex Ferrari 6:25
Oh, I know.
Robert Schwartzman 6:26
And it's like a it's a real it's like fine wine. Oh, I never understand it.
Alex Ferrari 6:30
Robert Schwartzman 6:31
Alex Ferrari 6:32
Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. I know some people listening to the podcast. They've heard me mentioned that I used to. I used to have an olive oil company. They're like, what?
Robert Schwartzman 6:41
Alex Ferrari 6:42
What? Yeah, it is. That's a whole other. That's a book. That's a whole those three years of my life. It's a whole it's a whole thing. I was in Studio City. I was right on Ventura Boulevard.
Robert Schwartzman 6:52
Where Yeah, what year what was the Oh God,
Alex Ferrari 6:55
what's the big the big the big one that goes to the other side. Um, the big God. Ventura something. Which one?
Robert Schwartzman 7:02
Oh, like van. or something
Alex Ferrari 7:03
Vanice? Yeah. Yeah. Was on Oh, yeah. It was right by the band eyes. So Ventura van is a big the big crossword. You know where the, the studio fart was? Do you see the farmers market is?
Robert Schwartzman 7:14
Alex Ferrari 7:14
Right there. That corner.
Robert Schwartzman 7:16
Okay. Okay. No. LAUREL. LAUREL.
Alex Ferrari 7:18
Laurel Canyon. Thank you. Laura.
Robert Schwartzman 7:21
That's that's the strip.
Alex Ferrari 7:22
Oh, yeah, I was Oh, yeah.
Robert Schwartzman 7:23
Alex Ferrari 7:24
The rent was very affordable. But anyway. I'm sorry, guys. We went on olive oil side note here, you know, but so first, before we get started, man, how did you get into the business?
Robert Schwartzman 7:37
Um, so I grew up in Los Angeles, and which is which means something right. Because the city you grew up and there's an Indus, we, you know, this world is divided up into industry. And certain locations were where certain things came out of, you know, like, if you go to Pittsburgh, they're called the Steelers because there's steel. And and it changed. But I've been in Pittsburgh, and you see where things were shut down. And it's a bummer because it was incredible industry there. But you know, this city we're in now. Los Angeles was really founded by an industry called Hollywood film industry, where people came to make movies and pursue their dreams in Like Show Business or Chairman, coming from places like New York where people were like, on the stage, people came out here and had a career on the screen. And or radio personalities, things like this. But so my family has been in LA for many years. And they were all a lot of them were filmmakers and musicians. My grandfather was a film composer. And he started off really just as a as a as a flutist for some great composers in New York, great conductors. He traveled as a touring musician and then settled in LA to score movies. And he ended up teaching music like in high school as a way to pay the bills and then eventually got sort of his break eventually, as a musician writing for film. And I'll go back to that in a second. But my mom is an actress. She came out to LA from New York. She's a Long Island. Born in Long Island, and she would travel with her father, the conductor came to LA, saying her she's an actress. Her name is Talia Shire is her stage name.
Alex Ferrari 9:24
Oh yes. I might have might have. I've might have heard she's been in a few independent films. Yes.
Robert Schwartzman 9:30
Actually, Rocky was considered independent.
Alex Ferrari 9:33
It wasn't. It wasn't No, it wasn't a way it was an independent fair. Fair. Yeah. So she was your grandmother? She's your grandmother?
Robert Schwartzman 9:40
Alex Ferrari 9:41
Oh, that's your mom. Oh, wow.
Robert Schwartzman 9:44
That's amazing. And, and her brother Francis is a director that we know Francis Coppola.
Alex Ferrari 9:50
Robert Schwartzman 9:50
And he came to LA as a screenwriter. And then he's a real theater. They're all like real Thespians. You know, my generation. They were schooled in theater and then ended up taking that skill set and put it on the screen. But, so that was what drew them to LA was to sort of be in this industry. And then I, we, I was born my brother, we were all born within that world of that next gen version of LA. And, you know, I grew up wanting to make movies as a kid, I would shoot movies with my friends that we took very seriously, we thought we were making, like the next real Robin Hood action movie in our backyard. This wasn't like, it wasn't like just a sit, we really we wrote scripts, we cast our friends, we got wardrobe, we picked cameras out, we shot stuff. And then we screened it for people we cared about the opening credit sequence and the scroll ever made it feel more real to us. But I ended up going to film school to study Film Editing, and directing, made some like a music video short film. And then I got swept up into the music industry because I started writing songs. My other part of my life was music. Because as you know, we have a grandfather who was a composer. With a very musical family, I think, I think our film side of our family is very much influenced by the musical part of our family. But as you know, musics is such a big part of those movies. But so anyway, I got swept up in in the music industry for a long time. And then I found my way back to film by sort of stumbling into a couple acting roles, which was pretty cool to kind of be on that side of the camera, but always with the hope of directing and writing and creating projects from the ground up. Because I never really felt like I was getting all of myself out creatively if I was just showing up as an interpretive like artists performing somebody else's work, which I respect that process. But I just felt like I wanted to throw more of myself into the process of creating movies. And also now television, which is now there's a big thing to do. But storytelling, and I think songwriting is very much like storytelling, when you write music. It's these are like short stories, you're creating very much a similar process of communicating emotions to audiences, so that it's all it kind of like tied for me. But and we'll talk about it today. But now my life is like spilled into the world of like, how do we help filmmakers like reach audiences? How do we help create a new distribution world out there to really take care of film. That's where all the VOD was created this platform, and my company utopia is also acquiring and distributing feature films. So, you know, it's like I get to create, and I get to help be a part of other journeys of filmmakers, and just try to throw more opportunity into this world so we can really raise all ships, you know, together. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 12:41
And you you start in your cousin, Sophia. Again, another little known Coppola. This, she asked you to be in her first short film, when she had never directed anything, right.
Robert Schwartzman 12:57
Yeah, she did. She, she was he had like a fashion brand called Milk Fed, which was really cool. If anyone's watching. know, me, it was such a cool brand. She spent a lot time in Japan, like, you know, sort of chasing the world of branding and fashion. And then ended up moving into directing. And, you know, to kick things off, she shot a short film and up in Napa, where that's where she grew up in like wine country. And it was called lick the star for all this sort of film fans out there. And I played just like a kid in high school, just like a snot nosed kid or whatever you'd say. Like he just like a kid in this because she, I think she you could see in her work. She likes to work with young actors. So I was just kind of like at that age at the right time. And she put me in her film. And then she was then adapting Virgin Suicides into a feature her first feature, she envisioned me as this Italian kid I slick my hair back I braces. And I lived on set with one of the most valuable things that not only just being a part of it as an actor, but of the Virgin Suicides, but I just I got to I stayed on set with her pretty much the whole shoot. And I lived with her and I just watched her shoot. And it was more of like, for me just to be a fly on the wall, and just kind of learn and be a part of it. She was finding her way and figuring it out, as I think every director does on any movie at General if you ever stop figuring it, finding it, but I just got to sort of shadow her and also be in a couple scenes and you know, just kind of like just was all these are just growing little moments of inspiration. You know,
Alex Ferrari 14:36
that must have been amazing. And then you get and then you fall into working with Gary Marshall and Princess Diaries. And
Robert Schwartzman 14:43
Yeah, well I Gary was doing Princess Diaries and I was obviously we're all we all love pretty woman and Gary's like a comedic legend.
Alex Ferrari 14:51
Robert Schwartzman 14:53
An icon and he I was a young kid in high school. I was about to go into senior year. My High school, I was also writing songs and playing concerts under my band, Rooney. But Gary had me I got a random request. Like, hey, Gary wants you to come read for this movie called The Virgin, The Princess Diaries. And I was like, oh, like, Cool. Awesome. He's again, he saw you in Virgin Suicides and really liked you. And that was quite a few years after, you know, like, it was many years later. So it was cool to he asked me to come in and read with many other people had been reading, but I just kept going, I went for it. I tried my hardest to get this role. And you know, I went back many times he had me read again and again and again and again and again. And then by the last read, I was walked in and like Anne Hathaway was cast as, as Mia. And I, I got to read as a chemistry read with her, they shot it like a movie actually in his Falcon studio in Burbank. And, and next thing I know, I was like, Oh, you're you got cast in this movie, but it went on to become a very well known movie, because it's part of a book series as well. Sure. But I didn't know really, I again, I was like, Nah, I just wasn't like, prepared for what that world was what that was, you know, even though I grew up around filmmakers, I wasn't like groomed to be like a filmmaker, like you will be a filmmaker son one day, you will act in movies. Like I wasn't. I wasn't thrust upon us. We just went around it. We went to set I move tables and refill the peanut bowl. And like, I got a summer job. Like that was I just was around it. You don't I mean, no one was really pushed into it. You see a lot of young actors today who grew up like fully as a baby, they're bam, they're an actor. And they're just like young adults. They know it. They're like, wizardry, like they know, acting like that. They're on the Disney Channel. They're like, masters. That wasn't my mentality. I was like, Yeah, cool. Like, I want to make music and direct movies. And yeah, I'll be in this movie. And, you know, I mean, just kind of finding it. Anyway, so.
Alex Ferrari 17:08
Yeah, it's, it's Yeah, because I mean, it's kind of like, you know, you you work up, you're, you're born in a logging family and they just log on, they will, chances are, you're gonna understand the logging business, or, you know, the restaurant business or whatever. It just happens to be that you were born into, you know, the movie business and arguably one of the most, you know, prolific families in cinema history. I mean, as a as a family unit, I mean, in between Rome and in Sofia and Francis and Thea, I mean, your mom. I mean, it's just and it just keeps in a Nicolas Nicolas Cage. And there's more. I'm sure there's like this. There's hundreds of you guys.
Robert Schwartzman 17:47
Well, it's interesting because our Well, there's other there's other family members, you know, who work on the other side of the camera who aren't in the spotlight as much. Our brother john Schwartzman is very successful cinematographer. He just shot the New Jurassic World. He came up with Michael van schottel. Michael Bay movies, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor. Yeah, he's like, John's, like a top like dp and he's the he's he's so good. And a lot of like, you know, people who work on cruise don't get as much love sometimes but but you know, we have an incredible family who also span outside of just, you know, walking the red carpet is
Alex Ferrari 18:20
Sure no, yeah, exactly.
Robert Schwartzman 18:22
It's it's cool to be around them for myself, because I get to, I get to pick their brain and I directed a movie called The unicorn and john was nice enough to come lend his cinematography skills of any co shot it with another dp. But he, like, you know, I mean, like, it's cool to have that camaraderie because you can kind of share thoughts and ideas with other fellow filmmakers.
Alex Ferrari 18:45
That's awesome, man. Now, you reached out to me a while ago about your new platform, ALTAVOD. And I'm assuming you did your research on on me and what I've done in the distribution space when you reached out to me, and I was very hesitant to even talk to you about and I'm like, you know, man, I can't form another, another effin platform. You know, so I actually grilled you for an hour a pre interview, before I put you on the show, because I can, I can smell I can smell it when it's like, okay, because I get hit up by platforms, literally, every week now, new streaming platform here knew this there. And it just all so when you reached out to me, I kind of wanted to go into it a little bit. And I was very impressed with just the the aesthetics and what you were trying to do and what you're trying to do with the platform. So uh, once I got the details, I was like, let me have you on the show. And, and I'm going to grill you on the show too. So filmmakers can really get an idea of what you have to offer. So what and what is Ultra Vod
Robert Schwartzman 19:51
so ALTA Vod is a direct to consumer video on demand platform. So it allows somebody who either a filmmaker who shot a film and owns the film and can sell it to people, or a distributor, or a producer that might have a bunch a bunch of fact titles sort of library titles, to onboard movies themselves. So like, you know, you have a direct line to release movies to audiences, without having to go through a middleman like a buyer to aggregate to place like iTunes or Amazon, for example. So it's there are many transactional video on demand platforms, aka t VOD, for all the sorta terminology. T VOD is a non compete type of arrangement where you don't have to have exclusivity over that film. That's why you can see movies the same exact title available on so many platforms like iTunes, Amazon for rent. But as people out there know, if something's new vailable for free. On a subscription platform, it's typically exclusive to that platform, because that's what makes the back that's what gives that platform an edge to bring you the customer in to pay a monthly subscription fee.
Alex Ferrari 21:04
Robert Schwartzman 21:04
So it's about has two entry points. There's the b2b side. So businesses like filmmakers can onboard movies and make them available for rent or purchase at their own price point. And I'll go into the secret sauce of like why we love autobahn. But I'll just boil it down to the simplicity of it, right. It's a place to like watch and discover new movies, typically from from from filmmakers that aren't getting to share those movies across other platforms. And they do they do better as far as the split structure. So you're directly supporting the creators of those movies, you're not having to go through all these different streams to get to that person financially. They take the biggest cut, so filmmakers make the most money on our platform. And then there's the other side of it, which is the consumer. So the film lover, the film watcher. So if you go there, there's no cost to go there and go window shopping. You can just see what's on the shelf like an old Blockbuster Video. And which I missed, by the way, just the experience of like, I want to get this movie tonight. But I don't miss the late fees, because I always pay late. I don't
Alex Ferrari 22:11
I don't miss rewinding late. I don't miss reminding. I don't I don't miss I don't know, an atmosphere winding I do not miss going to getting into the car in the rain driving going inside. And they're out of the new release that you're looking for. I am not. Exactly. And I'm gonna chat and I'm gonna challenge you on the video, sir, because I worked in media for five years. So I think there's a nostalgia in our heads of how awesome it was. And it was, and I think it's awesome. But the practicality of doing that. It's not practical. It's so you know, it's, it's the equivalent of you could download it on iTunes quickly or play a record. And it's not even that because a record is still better, in arguably better quality or different kind of aesthetics. Right, VHS VHS dude, it sucks. You know, comparatively, when you watch a DVD is laser despair. Yeah. So I know there's a nostalgia, especially of guys of our generation, and I'm probably older than you, but it just who remember what a video is. Right, right. But you know, if it was open, I'd go see, I'd go to one just for fun.
Robert Schwartzman 23:19
Yeah, just for fun. Um, well, so you know, as somebody who people watching are here also who just like love movies, discovering new movies, what we all forget, is that there are a lot more movies out there than the ones that are available to us. So and that's because and I'll go into sort of that problem, which is why we started all about ultra bottom, we worked our way back from problems, we didn't work away to solutions, they came from existing problems. And we truly are here to help solve a problem that I think is sucks, and I would love to fix it, you know, or be one of many solutions. But you know, for consumers, it's, you know, it's another place to watch movies. Hopefully you like the movies we have, we're getting filmmakers are uploading movies, directly to Alta VOD, and they're only from what we see on our platform. So that's cool, because you're discovering movies that you might not see everywhere else. And look, if you lease something, I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, I do a lot of online shopping. There are certain products that I know I'm going to get I'm not just looking for whatever, and I'm going to pick whatever's hot on Amazon. You know, I'm somebody who if I know what I want, I'd rather buy it from the people who make the most from it, then pay it pay to a third party like a department store. Sure, of course. So there's a lot of eating of fees on the way back to the office. Right. So also But again, it's like if you know, you want to watch a certain movie and we have it watch it on our platform because you know, it's gonna benefit the people who made it or brought it to so anyway.
Alex Ferrari 24:47
So then, so what's the major difference between Alta VOD and Vimeo?
Robert Schwartzman 24:53
Yeah, so the main difference is, we got to you know, Vimeo has been around for a bit and you know, as a filmmaker myself, like I've been reluctant to put my movie on Vimeo. And I always ask myself like, Vimeo is amazing, like, what they built is great. They have really good technology and it works, you know, 99% of the time or whatever, every everything has bugs and problems. iPhone has bugs and problems. But I was gonna make a bad joke about bugs. My house bugs underneath the video Zinio, the issue is that, you know, as a filmmaker myself, I want my movies to exist in a world in a network that's just all about movies, I don't want to I don't want to be in a place that has so much stuff that's not movie related. Like, for example, you know, I watched like a lot of camera tests on Vimeo, I watch somebody use, you know, shoots like a lens flare with like a lens and a camera to show you what it can do if you shoot this way or that way. And I don't want my movie like next to that video next to music video next to short film, next to random episode of something. I'd rather my movie live within a world and network of other like minded people who are making movies for that's what they do. It's a better way to discover movies, I'm more likely to be discovered on a platform where people are coming here to watch movies. So that's one big thing, we actually have a better split structure than Vimeo we and it's not a competition, by the way, I'm not they have other tools that we don't do. But you make more, you know, per sale than like Vimeo, it's a 91% to the filmmaker, you know, instead of what's really 1% difference, but instead of, instead of 10% to like Vimeo, the other thing with Vimeo is, again, going back to the network effect. You know, your movie, when you put on all of our lives on a platform of lots of movies, it's not like you're going to embed your player on a random website, right. So what we're trying to do is help filmmakers get rid of the need for a website. Because look, you have to go get a GoDaddy or wherever you're going to get your URL, which is a thing you got to pay for that maybe pay for privacy, you're spending money just to get the name.com or dotnet. And then you have to find some kind of hosting platform to build it and someone on your team has to maintain that website and introduce certain tools and update your thing, collect emails, email those people, hey, come to my website, I'm going to put the new indie wire review on there, I'm going to put a link for my movie on iTunes. It just takes more like maintenance, and there's cost to do that. But on our platform, there's no cost to do that. So we've built it to be all the things you would need as a filmmaker. So throw your website away and just create an autobahn page. And the beauty of the ALTAVOD page two is you collect all the data, so you can report back to people who follow you who opt into your your movie. But let's say that you and this is a way I I'm excited for someone to you know, people start playing with it. But let's say you made a movie and it's going to go to South by Southwest, right? There's no guarantee that you're going to sell that movie, if it's not sold yet, right? If it's made truly independently. So we have you have quite a lot of risk now on the table as a filmmaker, right? And your investors are going to be like, Hey, man, did we sell it, you know, you're going to be getting calls already or freaking out. But you're better off just creating an optimized page and starting to push people to the page. So you can start to build an audience early on in the discovery process. Because if you don't sell the movie, for whatever reason, and it's happening more and more today, you can simply upload your movie to that same page and make it available to the audience that you've already established. So it's a way of getting early marketing. It's rare to like start driving customers to your world. And then finishing the thought and making your movie available for for a stream or rental, right if it goes that way. Because we all need we all need like a safety net. Today. It's like a trapeze artist. You don't want to hit the ground, right? You want to know if something's gonna catch you. And I think that like we need tools today as filmmakers to be that safety net. Because if it all goes to sh it not sure if I can say these things.
Alex Ferrari 29:04
Sure you can.
Robert Schwartzman 29:06
If it all goes to shit, you want to know I've got a plan, right? And I think people come to your podcasts and they do their homework on Google and they look for the next way to be independent. And and also there are filmmakers out there that are saying, You know what, I had a movie I sold my VUDU distributor, I'm sick. I don't want to do it again, like screw the distributor. I just want to be my own distributor, right? I want to be the master of that sort of release process. I have my trailer I have my poster. I already paid for it. I made my movie for blah, blah, blah and I have a little bit more extra money in the bank account. I can run my ads online and Instagram. I can do boosting on socials. I can do the same thing a distributor is going to do myself. So why am I just giving giving my my copyright away or whatever for years, if I already have created the tools to go reach an audience and that's the beauty of today's world is Forget autobahn, just everything out there is all about reaching people, right? You can do it yourself, if you want to do it, it just takes a little more elbow grease to want to finish to carry that mentality. autobahn is a way to sort of power the release process and introduce people to a way to rent and consume your content through your own video on demand, you know, process. It's fully customizable. You know, back in the day, when I was putting music out in iTunes, myself, and a lot of musicians were bummed out that iTunes controlled my price point, they were like, you have to sell it. You if you put your album on iTunes, you have to make each song available on a cart. And I was like, Well, what if my albums like an album, and it's a concept record and each song threads to the next one? You and I want you to buy it for X amount of money? No, no, you can't do that. iTunes says what it's going to sell for right how they're gonna buy it. And remember that really rubbed people the wrong way. Because you're like, wait, I slaved over my work. I love my work, I believe for my work. And they get to control my price point. This doesn't feel right. So again, working backwards from that feeling going through it as a musician. We're taking our cues and we're introducing into Autobots. So again, customizable price point, the ability to swap out your movie file overnight. Like why do I have to wait three or four months to onboard my movie to other platforms I wanted out tomorrow. Alright, I just got written up in an article. It's got to be available next week. It's just it's too hard. These big cruise ships can't turn fast enough in this industry that we're living in. And it's true. Everything is just changing every day. The buyers out there the gatekeepers change how they buy when they buy what they buy. It's just it's it's we have to be like flexible today. And I think we built a platform that provides you flexibility and control, transparency, access for you, the filmmaker to run with it and be successful, we're not going to do your homework for you. It's not about our audience, it's about you introducing your audience to your content.
Alex Ferrari 32:00
Now, the very important question is how to filmmakers get paid?
Robert Schwartzman 32:16
Yes, good question. So you, so you go to the platform, you create an account, you it's going to ask you to put a credit card in because eventually there's going to be like a maintenance fee to keep your movies on the platform, which is going to be much less it's cheaper than Vimeo and Squarespace and go and, and gumroad, and all that stuff. So it's just a way to keep your movie on monthly as a filmmaker just to keep your content on there. Right now everything's free. So there's no onboarding cost that is use it. You can log in and see it reports to you how your movies doing like an Airbnb website. So call it monthly reporting. So you can you can access everything, like on the in the minute, you can go see what's selling, you have access to who's opt in. And so you have access to email addresses of your consumers that are watching your movie. And then if you want to release funds, you can release funds, but think about it as like a monthly payout. But with manual login to see what you're selling and when you're selling. And, you know, again, we as a platform take a 9% Commission.
Alex Ferrari 33:24
Yeah, sorry. But so but what is the actual process? Like? Like, is the money going into your account? Are you guys you splitting it out? Or is it going to your throughput? How is it where's the money live? once once I charge a rent
Robert Schwartzman 33:37
Questions, everything. so like, we don't we sell on Autobot, right? We are the store, you sell on our platform $10 all divided uses stripe, which is a third party payment system. It's a secure, trusted system that people have accounts with everyone does. Right. So you can wire funds from the ultimate system to your bank account directly from the platform. So it reports to you your earnings, and then you can take the funds from that platform to yourself.
Alex Ferrari 34:09
So let me talk about so alright, so then basically, money comes in. Does the night so out of a $10 payment does that does 90 cents goes right to you right off the bat. That's it gets split up that way.
Robert Schwartzman 34:22
Yeah, so there's a payment made. We will tally up, you could log in and see how many movies you've rented and sold. And then you would tie your bank to that account, you know, your funds would already be your account will be tied. So just like again, Airbnb, I'm just going to use that usually process. And then it shows you in our reporting statements, what piece has been taken out, you know, against platform fees, and then what goes to the filmmaker so you can see how many you sold sort of gross sales, and then what nets out to you as a filmmaker,
Alex Ferrari 34:55
and that money is sitting in a stripe account. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, the city. So it's not sitting in a ultimate account that you will send out because that's where that's where distribute got into a lot of trouble. That was the problem about it. Well, that was that was a problem, all money coming in would sit in their account, and then they would pay out, which is what most distribution or aggregators do. It's the way the system is set up. It's not set up with any sort of transparency. So it sits in a bank account. And, you know, normal distribution companies who are somewhat honorable, which they know is an oxymoron, is they generally have separate accounts that are dedicated to monies that are not theirs. So it's kind of like separated, and then you would pay out that way. So the stripper did that. But unfortunately, something happened. And a couple million dollars did not make it to the filmmakers.
Robert Schwartzman 35:49
Yeah, I'm guessing what happened was they didn't distribute that fund the funds ultimately, to who they were supposed to go to know from what we understand of the process. They were
Alex Ferrari 36:00
money was coming in, and they were spending that money on advertising and other things. So it was it almost became like a I wouldn't say a pyramid scheme but like they need a new money to come in to keep that the engine flowing as opposed to you we didn't take a percentage so their business model screwed up from the beginning because it didn't take a percentage they only took upfront fees and then after the after for fees, your basis they were basically on the hook for the rest of their lives to do all the all the work of tracking and reporting stuff. It was it was a flawed system to begin with,
Robert Schwartzman 36:30
to also a lot of distributors. And like I there's a there's a foreign sales company that stopped selling and they had screwed a lot of filmmakers because they had sold a lot of movies collected money and never sent the money shocking to them.
Alex Ferrari 36:45
And Astaire it's it's it's I can't believe I'm shocked.
Robert Schwartzman 36:51
So yeah, so to answer your question sales city sit on stripe. They're sent to the filmmaker stripe account. Sure. We take a fee on the way
Alex Ferrari 37:03
on the way on the way out and on the way on the way to the you pull out your
Robert Schwartzman 37:06
holding it in and all devata counters.
Alex Ferrari 37:07
No. Got it. Exactly. Okay. So that was that was the main question I had for you. When we first spoke, I was like, Where's the money? Where's the work? Where's the flow of the money go through because that's where that's where distributors get in trouble. And that's where aggregators get in trouble. That's where filmmakers get in trouble.
Robert Schwartzman 37:20
It's all through stripe is our best friend here with us. It's all you know, I think people can be happy that we're you we've integrated you know, very responsible. Yeah, it's a payment system.
Alex Ferrari 37:33
Yes. Like to PayPal or it's like a bank account essentially is what it is. But it's it's account that everybody I mean, in the in the online e commerce space uses Spotify uses it. That's about Spotify. Shopify uses it and all these kind of places do so. So it's it's something that's very secure. Now, one question I have for you, man, what are the numbers you're seeing in T VOD, because T VOD, you know, is not really the growth area. Unless you could drive traffic unless you can drive traffic.
Robert Schwartzman 38:02
Yeah, um, but it's it's such a great question. And it's such a thing. The, I mean, like, I maybe I'm just like, I'm such a believer, you know, won't go away. I don't think it will. Like I think we always have to have a way to cherry pick the movies we want to watch. You know, like I don't it's and here's, here's maybe a good reason why I think t VOD will always be something that we need to consider but fewer platform, it's it's becoming a new thing that platforms aren't acquiring ready made movies, like their places are starting to cut what they're buying, because they'd rather take all that money there. they've raised through, you know, shareholders and go make their own stuff. And it's it can add in perpetuity. Correct. Right. So, but what that's what that's doing again, going back to the problem is it's making it's it's causing there to be a higher amount of volume of films that need a home or somewhere to be watched. So for that very reason. There are not every platform will take these movies. So there will be what I call orphaned titles out on the market, looking for a foster home or a place to be getting love.
Alex Ferrari 39:19
I gotcha. I gotcha.
Robert Schwartzman 39:21
And I think that, you know, a place like, ultimately what we created was, again, we're seeing that, you know, again, we talked about this in the phone, filmmakers have access to tools to go make movies sit back, like you can go make a movie on you know, your iPhone, or whatever. And if you have a great enough concept and you execute it properly, you could make something pretty magical that like scale is beyond your wildest imagination. And so that's a reality we have tools. And now let's go to distribution. Like what happens when you make that movie? What if it What if there's no buyer for it? What if there's no plan to release it? What are we going to do? So what we're seen as we're seeing more films on the market each year, going to folk trying to get into film festivals, we see more festivals, cutting what they're taking in, you know, it's like harder to get into a festival I think today more than ever, because the other shitty thing is, festivals are also and I'm not dissing them because I respect them. festivals are also taking first dibs from places like Netflix and these really big powerful companies. Yeah. You know, like the most iconic, influential festivals have less slots for really big distributors and big companies that already have a put on or on in their lineup, and it's all still star driven. I'm not knocking again,
Alex Ferrari 40:37
it's about assets, but it's assets and seats. They need assets and seats and stars do that. Yeah,
Robert Schwartzman 40:43
right. So we but we truly want I mean, you me everybody who supports the right you know independent film, we still need a place to take care of independent film independently minded people. But what happens to all these titles, they're not going to go to S VOD companies, subscription companies, because they don't value that content. There's no stars in it. Not enough, the production value is not big enough, right? They're not getting into some flashy Film Festival. So it's already off my list. It's not like an Ivy League college. I'm not going to recruit you to my company, right? So again, going back to T VOD, why is t VOD important because people need to build their own world and sell directly to audiences. And the subscription subscription companies can't take care of this amount of volume of titles. They can't reward those companies with enough advances. It's not financially doable for them. The only return the only solution could be a VOD. And you'd have to again, find third party aggregation companies that can really you can afford to get it to get in the ballgame to pay them a fee.
Alex Ferrari 41:42
And even then, and even then now to be in Pluto and peacock. They're not. They're not accepting. They're very very picky, very picky,
Robert Schwartzman 41:50
right? It's hard to get on those channels, right? slim pickins. Because they're, those channels are selling to advertisers. And they need star driven talent and big name talent at a Sundance. And so again, we have a big chain of event problem here. Any way you slice it, we have the same problem. And it's just the it's human nature. And that's the problem of like, you know, visibility, easy access to audience, like, Look, we're all victim of going online looking for a movie to watch every night and being seduced by like, a movie with a big star in it or a big director, right? But, you know, again, we think that T VOD. And ultra VOD is the best solution to take care of 1000s and 1000s of filmmakers who need direct access to sell their movies tomorrow to an audience. And look, I think that audiences will still pay to rent movies if the price point is right. Like I don't want to pay 20 bucks to read a new movie on Amazon. It's too much money. I just don't want to do it. So but I like the movies that are coming up, but I don't want to pay 1999 for it. So look, if you find the right price point, the right marketing campaign and the right project, you can really sell and make a lot of money transactionally there are movies that are doing very well transactional
Alex Ferrari 43:01
under there's Yeah, it's not it's not a question if they could, because I've had stories here of filmmakers doing two $3 million in transactional but the difference is that they have audiences that they can tap into, or they know how to drive it, or it's a niche film. And I wrote a whole book, specifically about the power of the niche because and I use the vegan, the vegan, like a vegan documentary. You know, when that movie was a game changers came out, which was on Netflix, I did everything it was about vegan athletes, and I wanted to see it, it cut through all the other noise in Netflix world and Amazon world and Apple world. It didn't matter. I was gonna, so I wanted to watch that film. So because of that I rent the second was available for TiVo. I rented it, obviously, three weeks later was on Netflix, and I was upset, but I wanted to see it right away. But get that but that niche was the power. So it's either niche audience that you can tap into our audience you can gather is the only way TV works, you're not going to be found, like organically through TV. It's impossible.
Robert Schwartzman 44:07
Because by the way, that that's what's great is you kind of took the words out of my mouth as far as what gets asked of Autobot as a platform. When we talk to distributors, people say well, how many users how many people watch your movies, and how many users do you have? And I always have to say look, it's not about that's not the question we should be asking. Because even if you're on any other TV platform, you still have to be you sell to people have to know what they want to watch going into find your movie, unless you're guaranteed prime front paid placement, but that's a slim pickins today because there's too overly saturated market with a lot of distributors getting first dibs on front page placement. If you as a filmmaker, like I want to put my movie on iTunes, I want to pay an aggregation fee of close to $2,000 for a couple platforms, right? There's no you're it's most likely you're not going to get on the front page of iTunes, right? So you're still gonna have to just be in a bucket of content, that you're gonna have to get really smart about how to drive people to that place. Right. And again, that's what I'm a big believer that filmmakers are going to become like musicians, and that they're going to become like marketing geniuses have to, that you have to keep up with this right to stay afloat to keep your head above water, you have to have a really smart way of reaching that audience. And again, having been a distributor with utopia and sitting on that side of the fence, through it, the playing field is level, we still have to think about how to reach people, where are we going to spend a little bit of money here and there, but what's our message? What are assets, these are things that any filmmaker could do tomorrow, if they put their mind to it. And it really sounds like, like an after school special to say to put your mind to it. But it really is true, like, just like, make your movie. But hold on to it, don't let go of it. Take it all the way across the finish line. Be brave, be bold, don't just sell short and give it to somebody and say thank you distributor. Like I hope you do something great with it. Like chances are they don't really care about your movie, you're one of like many, they're just going to be another name on a statement that they can't even see because their eyes can't even read that far down the page. And but you don't I mean, so it's like, I feel like in that case, the point is, we need to take more chances we're built, we're in it. We're in an industry now where people need to be bold and take chances. And I believe that technology is fanning the flames of taking chances and taking risks. And again, we are not with all divine claiming to be like this is it, this is the one and got to use it. We are hopefully one of many new tools in the market that could be supportive to you, as a filmmaker to get your movie out there. Can you reach an audience? I believe in you, I think you can.
Alex Ferrari 46:47
It's but it's up to you. But it's up to them. It's up to the filmmaker, it's up to the filmmaker to do it. I mean, I remember when I was working at the video store that I I lived in a time and I know this is so difficult for anyone listening. But I think you can understand. I remember a time where I watched everything that came out every week. Like right, I would watch five or six movies every week. Amazing. And they were brand new. And that was but that was all that was released. That's all your thought. Right? Yeah, that was all that was released that week from the studios from independence. That was the that was the work. That was the flow of contents. I remember, like when Bill and Ted came out, and then there was Bill and Ted assault of the killer bimbos. And like three other like it troma films, and that was, you know, and that was it for that week. And then next week was predator. And you know, like, there was just so little amount of content that you can consume everything. So you had that the video store and you had the ability to find stuff and discovers that he now it's just you, we have a tsunami of content on a daily basis. So without being able to cut through all of that with either niche with either targeting an audience, finding an audience, so you're basically what you're doing is you're just giving people the tools and a platform to be able to monetize it, when they but they have you're meeting them halfway there. Like you're not the platform is like, we're gonna get it and we're also gonna have we have a million people who are watching, you know, horror movies and those horror movies, and then they're gonna, like, it's, you're not that you're the platform. And that's actually great. I mean, VHS before they bought, were bought by Vimeo was a great platform, it kind of started doing a little bit of what you were doing, and they were wonderful. But that kind of went off off the deep end, but, but that that is that's the future. So I do agree with you, I think t VOD will will have a place but it's all about audience and in building that audience and I'm doing that but from what I hear from what it sounds like what you guys are doing, you're giving some nice new tools and and for everyone listening I've seen the the aesthetics of the site and the aesthetics of the site are solid. I'm very much anyone who does anything that anybody watches my work. What looks at my websites, I'm a stickler for design.
Robert Schwartzman 49:05
I'm so with you,
Alex Ferrari 49:07
I am too I mean design. It's like you could do good design good titles on a movie, good color correction. Like you know, nice trailer cut. I mean, it's like putting lipstick on a pig. It could be a bad movie, but at least you faked it enough to get you through the door. And that's what a good website does regardless of the content and that's what Alibaba does kind of out of the box which I think is Yeah,
Robert Schwartzman 49:33
I mean, it's you know, again, I have some other things we share with when we talk about Autobot like DVDs i like i like I really enjoyed dv I like the physical like I was my my generation I liked it and the generation before me was vinyl. But you know ever since DVDs have become not like the go to for everybody what you know what happened, all the special features, all the content,
Alex Ferrari 49:56
Robert Schwartzman 49:58
So all of that now can be a place to celebrate all that additional content as well. Because look, well, I had a long talk this morning with a producer about onboarding his movies and what we talked about he's he's like a he does genre film. So he's got a lot of great content and director's cuts and other versions. But you know, that movie you make just go everywhere. All these TV. Fandango now, iTunes, Amazon, Ben Google Play. It's typically the same experience when you go there. It's like my, the the argument, I can rent it, watch the trailer who's in it? Oh, Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, cool. Like it's the same thing. But we wanted it to be a different experience. We wanted to give you a different type of experience with that film. So what we're asking filmmakers and producers to start doing is to think about using ultimate in a different way compared to other platforms, meaning put it version of your movie, put it a director's cut, put special features, at the end of the movie, make it a different experience for your audience, as a reason to go there to watch it. Because these other platforms don't really embrace all that other stuff to the story. And also, when you sell them to the true distributor, they asked for BTS they want behind the scenes, photos, they want deleted scenes, they want all this stuff, but they never really use it anywhere. Right? So it's kind of funny to me, it's like we built the platform to also embrace all of that extra stuff. Because that's part of your that's part of your journey. You need to share that with an audience for people to be more emotionally engaged. Right? So again, these are that's why we kind of did it but if you go to the platform, it each paid is almost like your movie website, where you can watch the movie rent the movie, read about the movie, see who's involved, deleted scenes, you could upload extra video content trailers, bonus footage, you can upload BTS images, you can link out to press you can put your your laurels from your Festival on there, so we can see what movies been, you know, it's just it aggregates your experience your journey to give people more of an interesting piece of your life.
Alex Ferrari 52:05
Now, I'm gonna ask you a question. That is, it's a tough question.
Why? Why do physical out?
Robert Schwartzman 52:18
Take the physical challenge.
Alex Ferrari 52:20
Take the it's about that you can take that it's a Pepsi challenge. It's a Pepsi challenge. So no, this is a general question. And I'd love to hear your thoughts. Why do most films fail to make any money? Because they do know majority of all independent films lose money even the majority of big films sometimes lose money. And you know,
Robert Schwartzman 52:41
yeah, so you Your question is more about just film in general, not just independent movies.
Alex Ferrari 52:45
Well, I'm gonna say independent film, which is that's who listens to this, this this thing but but movies in general? You know, I mean, the studio's Look, they they're all right. I'm not worried about Warner's and Disney and universal. I'm more worried about independence. And even not only like the guy who's making a $50,000 film, but I'm talking about a guy who made a million dollar film million and a half on a $2 million film, your film The argument? What was the what's the budget, you might be asking secret budget, it was a secret under 25 million Got it? It was under 25 million. It's what I always like to say it's under 25. So but so yeah, so these these kind of budgets like how, why do most of them just fail as far as financially, not artistically financially?
Robert Schwartzman 53:26
I'm going to answer your question. And I'm not when I answer your question. I'm not trying to be like a politician right now. like dancing around it. I will answer the question. So, but I'm going to work my way in So okay, the word fail. I think it's subjective. Because I would I will, I'm a true believer that just making your movie is purely success. Like I agree. If you made your movie. Absolutely. should sleep at night going. I did it. I made my movie. Yes. Your movie is lucky enough to come out. Yes. And rent it or watch it luck. Yeah, way to go. You just entered a whole new class of somebody you got your movie out, right? Someone rented it. Oh my god.
Alex Ferrari 54:06
Robert Schwartzman 54:07
Thank you know you Omar from a failure and
Alex Ferrari 54:10
someone who's not your mom or your friends?
Robert Schwartzman 54:12
Yeah, whoever someone like you, you're at the end of the day, you different people have different reasons why they get into this stuff. If it's about making money and buying like an Alex Ferrari, or eating sashimi every night or whatever your goal is then maybe success and what it means to have made it is a whole other different interpretation of what that journeys heavy. If you just want to make your movie the way you want to make it and see your vision, live and shine through and not be compromised along the way. That's a wonderful other goal that people have and just to get that movie made and out there is a what is a great success. If you're talking strictly financially, strictly financial. Now we're thinking more as a producer as an investor. Sure. I mean, because arguably a director really the job is to stay They focused on the movie and make a great movie. Whether it sells or not, was, ultimately we shouldn't make you feel bad about it. If the movie doesn't work, and it doesn't achieve what you set out to achieve creatively, maybe there was something you missed along the way that could have been better. But I think that the issues can be so many. It's such a hard, it's such a great question. And I, again will answer it. But the answer it has many threads of answers here. It can fail because people overpaid for it like a distributor, again, again, in the eyes of who, the distributor or the producers or the
Alex Ferrari 55:38
so I'll make it very clear. Why do I'll make it clear. So there it is very broad, so I'll make it clear. So if Why do filmmakers who invest money in their film, generally, most of the time, do not recoup their initial investment in the quote unquote, product?
Robert Schwartzman 55:57
Alex Ferrari 55:58
whatever. If it's self funded, or investor funded, if you make a million dollars, and you had someone spend a million dollars, the chant, you know, you know, this as well as I do, the chances of generating a million dollars with the film, that's not star driven. That's not niche driven. There's not genre driven. I mean, you start knocking off chances of that movie ever making $1 back because of because of the general distribution model that's out there right now. And also just the world that we live in, right? I mean, Warner Brothers is having problems trying to make money off with their slate this year. So
Robert Schwartzman 56:32
that's Yeah, no to but even mentioned, Warner Brothers is actually a good thing, because it shows you that at many levels of this work, there's a lot of the same problems we're finding. So you're not alone. You know what I mean? Right? Right. So that's a comforting to know, like, even if you make your movie on your laptop, you know, in your bathroom, you still have the same problems as Warner Brothers.
Alex Ferrari 56:56
But they are they arrived, but they but they arrive at their problems and much more style than I do, sir.
Robert Schwartzman 57:00
Take a lot longer. Yeah. But um, yeah, I think the problems can be this, if it's strictly money, I made a movie I paid for it, I want to make my money back. Usually, when you sell to the distributor, now your waterfall, now you're behind them in the waterfall. So you sit behind the distributor, now they have to recoup their marketing or their mg. And they have to make their distribution fee off the top of the recoupment of first dollar n. So they're taking it a distribution fee, the rest goes into your recoupment, you know marketing spend, which goes to market your movie. So it's like, I mean, that's great. If distributors take risks and work really hard to support filmmakers. Typically, it's not everyone's bad or something. But the reality of the beast is once you make your movie and finance it, it has to do pretty well financially to get through the distributors collection process to then hit you. It has to have made money somewhere along the way t VOD s five A VOD, some, you know, the article. And don't
Alex Ferrari 58:01
forget that don't forget, there's like if it's on Amazon making money, Amazon gets a piece. So now another another piece
Robert Schwartzman 58:07
exactly, then that hits a distributor, it's just the nature of the beast is that we live in a world where in order to tap into all these tools, you there's got to be some kind of rev share along the way. And then that rev share has to then flow to you the filmmaker. So that can sort of whittle down what you make if people spend incorrectly. Like if you make your movie for too much money, like you've over budgeted or overpaid for something, I can put you at a financial risk of ever making your money back. Hopefully, you made a better movie because of it. But sometimes the product doesn't even get on the screen and you got stuck with all these extra fees. But so it can be a problem from the budgeting. The concept was definitely outside of the League of the budget level, like we did not do it properly. The distributor, we got involved with overspent on the marketing campaign foolishly spent through good money after bad, and we'll never see an ROI on their money, which means I'll never make a penny. And I'll live in recoupment, like,
Alex Ferrari 59:05
like in perpetuity
Robert Schwartzman 59:08
unless your contract has the ability to buy yourself out of it or something. But typically, it's renewing every year until you've recouped your money back. But it could just be everything from the people who you work with or yourself. Maybe didn't take the right steps didn't make the right decisions to the people you're working with. wasn't the best relationship to support your movie where they really tried and it just didn't connect or COVID happened or world took swept out the campaign. Again, there's so many layers to this one, but you know, I mean, but what are the here's the common thread and all this is we've got to be smart. We've got to be tactical, we've got to be aware, we've got to be educated. You've got to think like the other person. We've got to be open minded. We've got to be understanding. We've got to be flexible like in action. Anything I described you, you've got these personality traits are really important. Yeah. Because I think you could do your best to avoid these pitfalls, you know. So you're like, I'm a filmmaker, I love to make movies. I think every night about the next movie, I want to make every movie idea I think about I, I kind of know my budget level already, based on my idea, I know what's going to cost me a lot of money. I know what seems to not even right, because it's going to be way too much money for that budget level. I know that it's a genre that if I get this actor, it'll do really well in certain international markets, of doing my homework along the way. And conceiving these ideas already thinking about the release strategy. You know, I mean, and again, that's not everyone's doing that. But I think that I think we're heading into a world, as I mentioned before, where people are going to start doing this, you got to to really protect their products. before you've even made it, you've put everybody in the best position to do really well. And that's all we could do is give, give ourselves the best shot. Right.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. One other question I wanted to ask you, because I mean, I wrote in my book in regards to the music industry, it what happened in the music industry, is currently happening in our industry. Without without the diva and I call it the devaluation of art of, of content, where before used to cost 20 bucks for an album. Now, it's, it's essentially free. I mean, you're paying, you get a Spotify account, and you're listening to the entire catalog of The Beatles, which used to cost hundreds of dollars, if you want an entire catalog access it. Yeah, to access it even at even at $1 of song, even at 99.9 9999 per album, it was still some revenue. Now I heard somewhere like Beyonce is making like 3.3 cents, a stream or out of 1000 streams or something like that. It's like insane the way the way artists are being paid. So I just modeled what the music industry was doing. I'm like, Guys, look. Musicians figured it out where and I just want to ask you because you are a musician, and you've kind of seen this firsthand, where it used to be the album used to make money, then well, then it was about touring. And really the real money was made around to unless you own the publishing, if you own the publishing, you got radio play, you can get paid off that and residuals you could get paid. I mean, Billy Joel still doing very well. off of his off of his catalogue. We're now newer artists don't have those options. So then it was all about touring. And then now it's not even about touring as much is like merchandise. And it's not even merchandise, it's access. So now after, after, after the after the gig, you sell $150 tickets for fans to come in to take pictures with you and get autographs. And this is things that musicians had to do to survive. And then sponsorship deals if you're big enough to get a sponsorship deal. These are the things that musicians have to do. We're filmmakers, we're still living in the 90s. Thinking that Yeah, in the sun. In the Sundance days, were all lottery ticket, I'm gonna get the lottery ticket. And I kind of brought this model and like as you've got to understand all these other avenues, and you also have to create other revenue streams for your film school. So what so from your point of view in the music industry is everything I just said? pretty accurate?
Robert Schwartzman 1:03:27
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I got signed in 2002. I was one of I was one of those like last record deals at the time, it was becoming streaming mostly. I was signed by Jimmy ivenn. Scope records, he became a mentor. And I sat with him while he vented to me about illegal downloading. Yeah. And he's like, and Rooney is right in that audience that likes to download records for free. What are we going to do? And I was still going to Best Buy city signings, there was still a physical side, we still had CDs, I sold them after the show. Yeah, I mean, I was I was an artist at a label, watching the industry change outside the window. And then when I finally was led out of my deal, and I could go do whatever I wanted to do. I embraced this new world of independent music, and I became an independent musician. I recorded my records myself. I basically did them in my own studio, and they were free to me. And then I put them out through CD Baby or tunecore or an aggregator and I marketed them myself and I luckily, I had enough fan through Rooney that I could keep bringing them new music and they were excited to hear it. But I mean, look, it's really hard music is real another level of hard right now because people forget, because torian By the way, taurine is so expensive. I think the music music industry definitely I call it like stepped on land landmines. And the film industry is now walking down that same path. And hopefully is going to know where not to step. You know, I think that the music industry, everything we do at Ulta, VOD has completely taken our cues from music industry recovered from the sort of uphill battle of people want content right now, how technology is influencing it. And I think the music in the film industry, as you said before, has been really old school and ready to adapt to new times. And actually, I see it every day, because we take calls every day of, you know, promoting our platform to new distributors. And it's really hard to get people to really understand that we need to be thinking differently today. And I think that that problem, by the way, it's like, we kind of we, the industry, actually feed the beast of our own problems. And I think we as an industry need to become more open minded to change and taking chances. And whenever anyone asked me about where what's working out there, what platform where am I seeing success, I always put everybody on what I call the all the above strategy. On a multiple choice test circle, that last little box of the all of the above. Because the truth is, there's not one silver bullet way to have success today. And to make money and to reach an audience, you have to just try everything, you have to be willing to try everything, you have to be willing to say let's take chances and risks of how we take our movies and where we how we market them and put them out. And I think people are sometimes too precious, with their film, kind of sit on the sidelines waiting too long to get a distribution deal or find the right buyer. And sometimes they can really miss a window of opportunity. If they had just sort of been bold and taken a chance and been more open minded. I think distributors are learning the hard way right now that I need to change. And I really, like a long time ago, these big studios had a window years ago to really make more of a competitor to Netflix. And to build an S VOD platform. Oh, it's crazy how long it's been but took 10 years to tell you that 10 years, that money. And all those titles, still were slow to get into the game, just in the same way as the major labels were slow to get into the digital music streaming world. They waited on the sidelines. And then here comes, you know, apple, and they said, Here's iTunes go screw off. And everybody's like, oh, now we got to play nice with you, you know, apple, and Spotify, everybody. I mean, the difference with Spotify, is that labels actually took stock in Spotify. So they had an interest in Spotify success, not in their own artists success. They were making money on the success of the platform over the success of the signing. And that's a conflict of interest if you think about it, because you should really be taken care of the clients you sign not the places the own stock in a whole other conversation. But again, everything we're doing it all divided. And I'm glad that you had me on because you felt like there was something I was doing that was worth sharing with your audience, which I really appreciate you know, first goal for me ultimately become successful and that were helping filmmakers reach audiences and had had a distribution alt alternative to their to what they wanted to do with their movie. I think there's way too many movies out there. And I say that anyone watching if you made a movie, and it's sitting on a hard drive, and it has never seen the light of day, I don't know what you're waiting for. Put your movie out like tomorrow, there's really no point in waiting, like what is the point? Pretend your movie blows up on ultra VOD distributors are going to be coming hit you up to try to sign you after the fact to try to flip you to an Escalade or an international deal, because they're gonna see natural traction, organic traction on autobahn. And by the way, if you talk to any a&r guy, right now at a major label, the way that they find artists is by seeing what's blowing up organically on Spotify, and then they assign you or YouTube or social media, they look for artists that are already proven success, so that you're less risk, right? So films are like the same thing. Put your movie out, show audience show growth show traction, because that's hard to do. And P and then go shop yourself to people and say we just sold 10,000 rentals on auto VOD. And we just got three offers from eight from the UK for like a streaming platform on there. Like and now people are gonna want to sign you are you another offer? Yeah
Alex Ferrari 1:09:26
Are labels I don't know enough about labels. I I dabbled in the music industry very, very early on in my career. And I was in the studios and I okay, that's a whole other conversation I don't want to get people don't even know that. I used to that. I used to write songs and stuff back in the day. That never mentioned that on the on the show before but I did. I did. I've done a lot of the olive oil songwriting. It's just
Robert Schwartzman 1:09:53
you got to share it. Why don't you do a bundle where you sell some songs.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:58
My songs my songs do not deserve vinyl that I could promise you. But But I did. I played around with the label with labels and stuff. But are they as notorious as distributors for not paying artists for reading? You know, all of that kind of I don't know enough about that is it similar is like, Oh, I'm owed so much money, but but the label screwed. I've heard of the label screwing artists, that's not a new thing. But on the financial standpoint, is it is it that is a general statement, you know, like, because you can say, generally, there's a lot of distributors out there who screw over filmmakers, period. I mean, that are that are predatory. But are labels in that, you know, a portion of them as well. Yeah, I
Robert Schwartzman 1:10:48
mean, I think, again, I think that you I see or hear of terrible stories, like in many industries. I mean, there's stories of contractors not getting paid for the work they did, you know, this story of in, you know, building homes or wherever, like, there are stories in many industries where people somehow got stiffed, or like prom, and and keep them I mean, again, I think that's human nature. It's a it's a problem. I think it's like a human problem. Not just an industry specific problem. But you know, look, we're the good thing about technology is technology is also getting so getting better about reporting earnings to you. Yeah, so there are better ways to account to account, right. It's not just like someone sitting in an office with a bunch of stack of papers going like you made, blah, blah, blah, today, like probably in the old days, it's pretty easy to log in and see like what you made and be like, Hey, I can point to something and you should pay me this. It's kind of hard to dispute that, you know. So that's good. That's a layer of protection. I've heard of more problems in the music industry with money based on what you mentioned earlier, which is the royalties structure, where people aren't really getting their fair share of like earnings from like a success of a song. But the tricky thing is with bigger companies, and I hear this with filmmakers that are doing like studio level movies, the stories, the horror stories that I've heard about not getting paid, are more with the bigger scale projects, because there's higher levels of PNA marketing spend. So it's harder to track how much they really spent, versus how much really came in, and how much they're getting, because you could they could keep you in recruitment night for like, they could keep you in a hole for Yeah, like you'll never make money unless you truly know your movies, such a hit, that something's amiss here. Like with what I'm getting, then you can really audit and becomes a whole thing. But those are the stories you hear about in the music industry. It's really like mega mega success stories. But it's it's hard to really challenge accounting, if a movie, you know, your movie, or your music didn't really make much money. Like I released an independent record, I put a couple songs out through a third party aggregator, and I swear I got a check for 20 cents. One time in the mail. I swear. And I By the way, and I'm not even like contesting it, because I know that that song no one even heard it. So I just thought it was funny that I just got my 20 cent check in the Senate.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:21
Yeah I was going to say, about the same cost with the stamp costs more than the actual it's like a bad side fault. It's like a bad Seinfeld episode. Like do you remember that one? What do you got the penny residuals and he had like, 5000 any residual checks?
Robert Schwartzman 1:13:34
Yeah, that's when doors. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It's hard to get angry. If you're like, you know, you know, your thing didn't really meet like a great commercial success. Where something's like you don't really, you're not really upset. You don't think somebody stole money from you. But it's really the stories of like, those indie darling movies that became like a mega like Napoleon. Yeah, you
Alex Ferrari 1:13:57
read my mind. Napoleon? I was gonna say it was a huge lawsuit with the element. Yeah.
Robert Schwartzman 1:14:01
Right. So it's those kinds of movies where I think they end up going to a distributor, I don't know who put it out. But I'm guessing it's a distributor that was able to create scale, meaning it wasn't such a baby company that couldn't keep up with scale. It was probably like a Focus Features, or I think it was virtualized, I
Alex Ferrari 1:14:19
think it was searchlight that did it, I think
Robert Schwartzman 1:14:21
something like that, right? Because that's what that is. It's a company that looks for indies that they can slip to a bigger audience, but they have the means for big distribution, but they can start small and spread the wildfire if they're showing traction. But the but those companies probably are the kinds of ones that can also keep you in recruitment in the hole if they want to, because they can throw money at you magical and those are the days to find diamonds. We're still a bit old school. I think I look today. I think that every distributor there's good and bad out there. I started we I'm a founder in a company called utopia. And we're we are acquiring movies every day. And we're releasing them as a distributor, we're putting them on all the T VOD platforms, we're showing them the places like HBO, we show that we sell them in international markets. We do we do well with those movies internationally, we find homes for them. We do all types of deal structures with filmmakers, sometimes they, they're able to work with us in a way where it's our opinion and not about upfront advances. So they're not in the hole right away. We're really open, open with what we spend. We're gonna work through that at it. Yeah, see if it works. Like we're really open with like, where do we spend? Why are we spending filmmaker? It's more of a like a nice hands on experience with artists. It's a
Alex Ferrari 1:15:38
You mean, you mean? You mean, it's like a partnership, like it should be?
Robert Schwartzman 1:15:42
what you could call it like we care about filmmakers. I think that of course, there are some films like as we scale as a company, we can't not every movie gets as much time is yours, but we're very much worth, we disclose that, then we feel like filmmakers hopefully will feel they sort of got what they signed up for. Because it's all about expectations, right? Like any company out there, if you get in business with them, you might, in your mind have an expectation of what you're what's going to happen with your movie that might not even be on this planet, it might just be from an old book you read or something someone told you. So it's important to check yourself before you wreck yourself in terms of expectations that you set Sure, with these deals you get into and look, you as a filmmaker have the right to ask questions. Or you sign the deal. I mean, it's a collaboration, like everybody in this in this climate right now is trying to stay afloat. like nobody's got it. Like every company is really working hard to make sure they can stay keep their lights on. Yeah, so you're gonna work with a distributor, talk to them. They're humans, they're people, they have a team, get to know get to know them. And we have someone on our team named Brooke, who's our who deals with filmmakers everyday. She's like the the focal point of every campaign, we talked to Brooke, right? We tell Brooke, Brooke, filmmakers work their ass off to make their movie, you are everything to them, you're this you're the person, you're the face, who acquired the movie, you're talking to them, show them respect, get back to them quickly. When you talk to them, like make them feel the love, like make them you care, right? We're a distributor we care about you. Those little things go such a long way. And unfortunately, we've lost our maybe distributors lost themselves along the way, which is why we which is why I founded utopia was to put back the human emotional part of being a distributor, right? The collaborative part of you, you're not just a robot, right? These aren't just like hamburgers, these are movies. So like give a shit. And I think that that's what I can say I stand by that as a company. As you I'm proud of what we build, because I think we've really put some great movies out. And people can again go discover movies, but you know, again, put the heart back in the job kind of thing.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:55
Now, where can people find more about autobahn and utopia and everything else you do?
Robert Schwartzman 1:17:58
Yeah. altaVOD com ALTAVOD comm you can sign up right away. As a filmmaker, there's no cost to get involved. You don't even have to put your movie on. You could just create a page and use it later. You can discover some great movies, tell your friends about it. If there are movies that you want to see that we have buy from us don't go to another place because it goes to the filmmaker. We're getting some wonderful distributors who are trusting our platform and we have some great movies on there from top level distributors. So it mean that says something that we have a good tool set for them. utopia distribution calm. We put out a great documentary called bloody nose empty pockets by the Ross brothers one of the top picks of last year as best documentaries. We have the new Martha Cooper grape street photographer coming out there was a Tribeca Crestone all about SoundCloud rapper is coming out next month 1982 by a great up and coming new filmmaker again what you described like he put his money into his movie. It's a really touching story that went to Toronto Film Festival. We acquired it. It's technically sort of a foreign film. But it just came out in 1982. Highly recommended. Anyway, just keep in touch with us. I mean, you could follow me, Robert shwartzman on on Instagram, and I post all about autobahn and utopia. You could follow the movies on Instagram. But anyway, I really appreciate you trusting like me to come on here. And if anyone has questions about ALTAVOD, like, you know, hit up [email protected] you can we answer your questions. We have humans there. It's not just like these are people from distributors from filmmakers, fellow filmmakers. These are people who care about movies who created a platform for you. And we sort of are working backwards from problems to solve them. And if you want to write us about a problem that we should solve, we will hear you out.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
Brother, I appreciate what you're doing and And you can hear it in your voice, the kind of love that you have for what you do. So I appreciate you trying to help filmmakers out and hopefully we can do a new platform can help some filmmakers get paid. So thank you, my friend.
Robert Schwartzman 1:20:12
Appreciate that. Thank you for having me. Thank you guys for watching.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:16
I want to thank Robert for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Robert. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including how to get access to alt avadh. Just head over to the show notes at indie film hustle.com Ford slash four by four. And if you haven't already, please subscribe. And leave a good review for the show at filmmaking. podcast.com it really helps us out a lot. Now I have been in the lab working on some very big surprises for the indie film hustle tribe. So I need you to keep an eye out for that. Not only are we bringing amazing guests on the show to help you guys on your filmmaking journey, there might be some other surprises I'm working on as well. So keep an eye out for that. Thank you again so much for listening, guys. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
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