Today on the show we have an OG in the online filmmaking education space, Griffin Hammond. I’ve followed Griffin for years and was so excited to sit down and talk shop with him. Griffin Hammond is a documentary filmmaker in New York City, known for producing DIY filmmaking tutorials for indie filmmakers, and his award-winning documentary Sriracha. We discuss how he made over $90,000 with a documentary short film.
In 2014, Griffin moved from Bloomington, Illinois to New York City to cover the U.S. presidential election for the Bloomberg Television/MSNBC show With All Due Respect.
The University of Southern California and the U.S. State Department named Griffin a Film Envoy for the 2017 American Film Showcase—a cultural diplomacy program that sends independent filmmakers around the world to teach.
Griffin Hammond studied film at New York University, earned a Masters in Communication from Illinois State University, taught video production at Millikin University, and produced an online course—Shooting Documentary Short Films.
Enjoy my conversation with Griffin Hammond.
Alex Ferrari 0:01
Now today on the show, we have an OG in the DIY filmmaking movement on YouTube. His name is Griffin Hammond. Many of you guys who are listening to me probably already know him. He used to be the host on the YouTube channel Indy Mogul where he was dishing out amazing tutorials and education on about how to make films cheaply and do it yourself. And he just really done a lot for the filmmaking community. And I've followed him for many years, even before I started indie film hustle. And I've always wanted to talk to Griffin and I finally got an opportunity to bring him on the show. And I had the pleasure of being on his show as well, where he asked me a whole bunch of questions about on the corner of ego and desire. So that's also in the show notes if you guys want to listen to our conversation about that. But Griffin is an amazing human being. And he created a cool cool documentary called siracha, which is basically the origin story of the condiment that has a cult following around the world. And he made obscene amounts of money with it. And we talked about how he did it, what kind of revenue streams it did, how he goes about making documentary films, and even has a course on Creative live about how to make documentary films, or documentaries short films. And I'll put a link about that in the show notes. But without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Griffin Hammond. I'd like to welcome to the show Griffin Hammond. Man, thank you so so much for being on the show.
Griffin Hammond 3:26
Of course. I'm happy to be here, Alex. Thank you.
Alex Ferrari 3:29
I was on I had the pleasure of being on your show a few weeks ago. And I said, Well, you have to be on my show. And conference like fine.
Griffin Hammond 3:41
No, I'm sure it was an immediate Yes. Happy to have you on my show. And thank you for returning the favor.
Alex Ferrari 3:47
No, absolutely. I followed your stuff for years. Even before indie film, hustle, I always found you out. I kind of found you on YouTube, which we'll get into in a minute. But first and foremost, how did you get into the film industry in the first place?
Griffin Hammond 4:03
I've been into video production ever since high school. That's when I learned how to edit in Premiere. And then I was lucky enough to get into NYU film school. Nice. And I was immature enough to fail out of NYU film.
Alex Ferrari 4:18
Nice even nicer.
Griffin Hammond 4:20
Even nice like that. Yeah, I mean, turns out you have to go to class to get a degree.
Alex Ferrari 4:25
You literally failed out of NYU. That's That's brilliant, man. Seriously. I'm very proud of you.
Griffin Hammond 4:30
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, part of it was like my own hubris. Like I think I got there in my freshman year. I wasn't I didn't feel very challenged. I felt like I already know how to edit or know how to shoot. Like, I feel like we're kind of going over the things I've already learned how to do and I think I'm sure if I just stuck with it. And gone to all my classes sophomore year, I would have learned all the advanced stuff that I was craving.
Alex Ferrari 4:52
But you would have Martin Scorsese as a teacher and Spike Lee in and you know all those guys right? But no, no, no. I don't want to learn Learn how to edit. I know that right? Well, I mean, you come from your, your, the generation behind my generation. So you kind of grew up with, with this technology and at a much younger age. I mean, by the time I got to the I was already in my 20s. And nonlinear editing system was nonlinear editing was just getting off the crap. Right? Yeah. So I mean, in high school would have killed I was I was cutting between VCRs shooting on my high eight camera. Yeah. Yeah. Back in the day. So yeah, I can imagine how it might be frustrating. First year in film school going. This is a camera. This is editing tech. I can imagine there might be a little bit the vaccine on your on your on your psyche. So then what happened? So after you after you filled out what happened?
Griffin Hammond 5:46
Well, I moved to San Diego for a little bit. That's where my parents were living. And I didn't really like it there. So I ended up going back to the Midwest where I went to high school, I went to the school that all my friends were at Illinois State University, which is not a film school. It's just a regular public, four year university. So I became a television major and I started doing live television news in Bloomington, Illinois. Actually, the town, that's the big town, the small town where the school is called normal Illinois.
Alex Ferrari 6:15
Nice, great name,great name.
Griffin Hammond 6:18
And it turned out that was probably the skill set. I needed more so than the commercial fiction film skills. I was learning at NYU, because I think I hadn't realized that yet. But I probably wasn't into narrative filmmaking so much as nonfiction. And so I met some professors at ISU that were really into documentary, I started learning a lot of news gathering techniques. And that became the skill set that I needed for what I now do,
Alex Ferrari 6:47
Which is documentary films.
Griffin Hammond 6:49
Yeah, yeah. gravitate,
Alex Ferrari 6:51
And you do documentary films, do features as well, or just short form.
Griffin Hammond 6:57
I haven't done a feature, my longest film is Sriracha, which is 33 minutes. And I kind of consider that a feature for myself. Because I'm, I'm a little bit add when it comes to editing. And, like, I mean, that that to me long enough to make anyway took me eight months to make that. And I just wouldn't do stand watching it for much longer than 33 minutes. Like that was kind of the pace, I wanted to create it. So I can't really imagine making a 90 minute film, I think just from my editing style, I would try to cram too much in and I wouldn't let it breathe enough to be a feature.
Alex Ferrari 7:29
Got it? Got it. Well, so. So after you after your time in the TV world, you you fell into this, this world of YouTube. Can you tell it's because that's kind of where you made your bones and kind of got your name out there if I'm not mistaken, right?
Griffin Hammond 7:47
Yeah, I I'm friends with this guy, Justin Johnson, who has made a bunch of really interesting websites over the years like online video contests.com and film fights.com where I was competing with people and learning. This is what I was doing. When I wasn't going to class. I was making videos on film fights calm, to compete against other young college students around the country. Right. And Justin also created with his friend Eric back, the YouTube channel, Indy Mogul and Indy Mogul have been running for a few years. And then Google decided to buy it. YouTube actually bought next new networks, the company that was running it. And so just America at that point, didn't really like the prospect of working for a bigger company when they've been worked with little tiny companies. So they decided it was time to leave. And they recommended that I take over Indy Mogul and Justin had been looking for ways to collaborate and give me work over the years and I had a stable job at an insurance company producing videos. And finally, I thought if I don't take this job, that Justin's offering me, he's gonna stop offering me jobs. Right. So I decided to be brave enough to leave my 40 hour week. Very stable job, I could have had a whole career there and decided to go work for YouTube.
Alex Ferrari 9:04
And you weren't, were you happy in that other job?
Griffin Hammond 9:08
Yeah, I mean, I'm, I'm a very optimistic person. And I, I've had a lot of great jobs. And I think I could be happy in a lot of kinds of jobs. I was very happy there. I mean, it's, it's a world where I was given a lot of opportunity. I was shooting videos, at major events, like around the President and I worked on with William Shatner on a short film, like the company really let me travel and do some exciting things. But I didn't yet feel like I call myself a filmmaker. I was a videographer. And then indie mobile, you kind of did you were one of the what you was that by the way. I started it. I think any mobile started in 2007. And I started there in 2011. Okay, and then and then you just started putting out how to videos basically on any mobile, educating film, right. A lot of people knew it for its For Eric Beck's show backyard effects, and he's this really talented creator of props, and you know, he has all those artsy skills. And I've never really felt like much of an artist. So I knew I couldn't come in and do that. So I decided I would do, you know, talk about the things that I've learned. But I also started to learn a lot myself and try to share those skills. So it was a lot of camera techniques and information about lenses and microphones and how to build your own lights and things like that.
Alex Ferrari 10:28
And there wasn't a lot of that going on back then if I'm not mistaken, right?
Griffin Hammond 10:33
Yeah, not too much. I mean, yeah, it was kind of a small group of people, or I kind of knew everyone else that was doing that. And, yeah, it was a great, a great community that I was really fortunate to inherit from Indy Mogul. And it grew while I was there, but like, yeah, arguably, none of the audience I have today would exist if it weren't for that kind of incubation period that I had.
Alex Ferrari 10:57
And how long were you there for two years, for two years making YouTube videos that that's insane. That's awesome. It's a great job to get paid to make YouTube videos. That's a really good job if you can get that if you can get it. But your heart is really in documentary filmmaking. Correct.
Griffin Hammond 11:14
I mean, there's a lot of things I love I'm, it's hard for me to focus on one thing. So I kind of like the balance right now that I have in my career of making tutorial videos, doing a podcast doing work for clients doing documentary work for myself. I did a little bit of journalism. I was, uh, I was covering the presidential election or for 2014 until Election Day.
Alex Ferrari 11:36
Oh, that must have been a heck of a run. It was insane. Must have around everyone who was running for president all the time. Oh, my God, that must have been crazy.
Griffin Hammond 11:48
Yeah. So if I were to add Donald Trump's election night victory party, I went because I thought he was going to lose, right. I thought it'd be interesting to be at the losing party. I mean, he thought he was gonna lose. Everybody was early in the night.
Alex Ferrari 12:00
Oh, where are they? Where are they really?
Griffin Hammond 12:02
Yeah, at 7pm. When we arrived, no one was at the party. Like no one had really arrived. Yeah, people were not like excited to get to this party. And most people were there by about 9pm. And around like, 930 10 is when the narrative started to change. But yeah, by 7pm. Like Boris Epstein, one of his campaign advisors was like, kind of laughing with us like, yeah, we're gonna do real Well, tonight.
Alex Ferrari 12:27
What? Are you doing anything with that footage? Or were you on assignment for somebody?
Griffin Hammond 12:35
I was on assignment for Bloomberg Television. So that stuff was being turned around real fast. Everything I shot over two years was going on the air about two days later.
Alex Ferrari 12:45
That must have been awesome. That must have been, that's a pretty good day
Griffin Hammond 12:48
On my workflow. Yeah, that was it. That was an amazing job. And that was what brought me back to New York after failing out of NYU, like 10 years later, I moved back to New York, because Bloomberg hired me to do this. And it's because they'd seen my film Sriracha.
Alex Ferrari 13:05
Well, before we get to Sriracha, because we're gonna go deep down the rabbit hole on Sriracha, in your opinion, what makes a good documentary? What makes a good documentary short or Documentary Feature? In your opinion?
Griffin Hammond 13:16
I mean, I just think I mean, I'm sure it's the same with with narrative. It's just, it's good characters. Because, I mean, the things I like about documentary are the shooting, I like, you know, capturing beautiful shots. And I like conveying facts. I like learning a lot. I mean, that's probably what draws me to documentaries. I'm curious. And I have a lot of questions. And I want to answer those questions. And I'm excited to share the answers to those questions in a film, but ultimately, I can make a film that's full of great shots and really interesting facts. And that would get me about halfway there. But I think unless you have a great character, it's not going to be a compelling story. I mean, to be a character who needs something and we go on that journey to discover if they find it or not.
Alex Ferrari 14:01
Very cool. Now what kind of equipment Do you generally use on your on your shoots?
Griffin Hammond 14:06
I these days, I'm shooting with a Panasonic GH five. And I've been using the GH line of cameras ever since the first one. I had the GH 1234 and five
Alex Ferrari 14:18
And just basically you just go out there with a lens, the GH five and what do you do for audio?
Griffin Hammond 14:26
My audio is usually a shotgun mic and in a zoom recorder I used to use a h4 n back when I started with the GH one. Eventually I switched to the h5 because I like it more. But yeah, most of the time, you know when I was doing news, it was as simple as hand holding a camera in my left hand over my shoulder and holding a shotgun mic in front of my interview subjects and just asking them to look at me. And then I'd have a zoom recorder like hanging in a messenger bag off my off my shoulder
Alex Ferrari 15:00
So you mean as opposed to duck? I suppose a narrative documentary is really you can go out with basically a camera lens, a recorder and a mic. And you can go out and make something. Oh, yeah, if you're if you're trying to tell a good story, it's not nearly as complex, technically, to do a documentary as well as to do a narrative.
Griffin Hammond 15:20
Well, I love one things I love about news gathering is sometimes I would go out, and it would just be a mess, you know, everything's handheld. And I'm not getting exactly what I want. Maybe I have an idea that there's a story, but it turns into a completely different story. I like the documentary, you can always save it, you can always tell the story of how it all fell apart. There's always like a behind the scenes story, you can tell too. So you can always take the footage you have and find a way to turn it into a story. Whereas you go out and try to shoot your narrative. I mean, I know you change it up a little bit as you go. But if you fail to get a scene, now you're really in trouble. You got to figure out a way to go reshoot it. Whereas in documentary, I think you kind of kind of fudge it a little bit.
Alex Ferrari 16:06
That makes perfect sense. Now let's get into Sriracha. Man, how did how does Sriracha come about? Tell me all about Sriracha?
Griffin Hammond 16:14
Well, he was at the end of, I guess it was a year into doing indie mogul. And I think I kind of realized I aspired to be a filmmaker, but didn't yet feel like I had earned that title for myself. For me, the way I defined it, I just knew that I needed to go to a film festival and show something on a big screen. And I realized, I had made 1000s of pieces of art, video art over the years, but nothing that was intended for a theater audience. And so I felt like I needed to cross that barrier. And so coming back from a film festival in 2013, I just felt especially inspired like, you know, I think I'm good enough. Now I think I've honed my skills, I have all the equipment, I should just make something. And I thought about the category of that I like in festivals, which is short, the short documentary sections, and then just start thinking about things I love, because everyone says make films for the things you love. And really high on my list of things was Sriracha hot sauce.
Alex Ferrari 17:14
Of course, obviously. Obviously, you want to make a documentary about a hot sauce. It's an obvious topic for
Griffin Hammond 17:24
Well, it's funny cuz like, you know, there's, I mean, I'm a runner. So I thought about, like, you know, is there something in there like a running category? Could I go to Greece and make a film about like the origin of the marathon?
Alex Ferrari 17:34
Yes, yes. Yeah, absolutely. Why don't I do that? I want to go to Greece right now.
Griffin Hammond 17:41
Right? There's a lot of things in my life, I could just look around and say, I'm excited about that. I want to learn more. But Serato started almost as a joke in my mind like, well, that's interesting. That is something that I do interact with every day. I'm kind of excited about it. But the more I thought about it, I realized, I have a lot of questions. And I think the same people that are passionate about this thing is a lot of people that consider themselves fans of this hot sauce, who would probably go out wearing a T shirt that says I love Serato. And yet those same people might not necessarily know even basic facts about it, like what country it comes from, or who makes it. And the more I thought about it, I realized like that's the perfect place for a documentary to live somewhere between passion and that void of information. And that and that is a very cultish audience of four siracha if I'm not mistaken.
Alex Ferrari 18:36
Yeah, I mean, people have merchandise and choose their bad handbags. It's insane.
Griffin Hammond 18:44
And that's kind of what I thought the film was going to be. I thought, I'll make a film about how crazy the fans are. Like, I kind of imagined when I was designing the film, in my mind that I'll find a wedding couple of bride and groom that have like siracha flavored wedding cake or something like that's the kind of thing this film is going to be about. Ultimately, I never found that and David Tran, the guy who makes Raja ended up being a really compelling story. And it's good because I think if I tried to make the film about silly fans, and never really focused on one strong character would have not been as good. So then you actually approached the company, and you approached him and said, Hey, I want to make a documentary about you. And they just said,
Alex Ferrari 19:25
Sure, come right on in.
Griffin Hammond 19:28
They did not say sure. No hit for all right. I mean, I, I started by connecting with like, Python foods didn't even have a very strong Well, they didn't have any social media presence. So it was kind of hard to even connect with them at first.
Alex Ferrari 19:42
That's even crazy like that. That product is built for social media.
Griffin Hammond 19:47
Yeah, this is it's killing it in the I mean, it was probably number two behind Tabasco maybe still is. It's like, you know, dominating the US market of autos. And yeah, they don't have an up to A website that didn't have social media back then. So I went to this guy, Randy Clemens, who's the author of the serata cookbook. And he was kind of my point person for everything. Serato because he had been, ever since he wrote the cookbook, he'd been blogging about everything. Serato. So he was the guy that knew all the characters in this universe. He knew all the things I might want to include in a film. And so I kind of I think I may have even scheduled an interview with him. On the books before I even contacted David Tran. And he then he gave me the contact information for data Tran. Like I said, David said, No.
Alex Ferrari 20:33
And then how did you convince them?
Griffin Hammond 20:36
Well, I went back to Randy and I said, So David said, No, what do I do. And he helped me kind of understand a little bit more in his limited dealings with David Tran that he had had he, he helped me understand maybe what some of his motivations are, like, you know, go back to him and say that you I mean, it's true, go back and tell him that you really loves his product. And you're doing this because you have a love for his story. You're not doing this for the money or something, you're not trying to exploit him, you're just doing it out of this, like pure place of love. And I also really heavily weighed on the fact that I'm an independent filmmaker, it'll just be me showing up with a small camera, a tripod and a light. And it's not going to be a big production, it's not going to interrupt your business. And I think that was what he wanted to hear. Then he started out a lot of questions for me like, okay, now this sounds possible, and it won't be problematic. So let's figure out if this we can do this. So you basically shot that whole movie by yourself. In the end, I ended up bringing a friend of mine to operate the camera during my interviews, like I would set up the shot on the tripod, set of lighting, and then I would be the one holding a microphone in front of David interviewing him. So I there was, I did have an assistant for much of it. But you know, I think 90% of the role I just shot myself handheld. with anyone else around
Alex Ferrari 21:56
And you traveled as well, you traveled around the world.
Griffin Hammond 22:00
Yeah, it started with a trip to California, that's where the factory is. And that's where much of it shot. But then I also went to Chicago because that's near where I was living and picked up a few things there went to some restaurants there. We did a Kickstarter, eventually, that was successful, and I earned a little bit more money than I thought I would. So then I added a trip to New York and a trip to Thailand, where really The story begins. I could have probably figured out a way to tell it without going to Thailand.
Alex Ferrari 22:27
But why? Why would you do something? But why would you? Not? I mean, seriously, because even even from what I've seen of the trailer, I haven't seen that I haven't gotten a chance to see the movie yet. But from the trailer, you're you're on the boat, you're driving in the little boat and like you can't get B roll of that.
Griffin Hammond 22:43
That's that's probably there's literally a town in Thailand called Sriracha and the name comes from?
Alex Ferrari 22:50
Of course it is of course it is. Yeah. So you you work eight months putting this beast together. Now, what was your marketing plan for the film? How did you How were you going to get the word out on this movie? I had zero marketing plan going nastic. Fantastic. Thank you. It was a fantastic interview. Thank you so much for being on the show. Griffin, it's been fantastic. Thank you. Well, don't call me.
Griffin Hammond 23:16
The original goal for this was to get into film festivals. And maybe the auxilary goal was to have a film. At the end of it, you know, I just I thought I I was I was confident that I could make something I'd be proud of. And this would be a good investment in myself, just having something that shows what I can do. And along the way, the goals changed a little bit. I eventually realized that there was an audience for this I made the film festivals didn't need to be my primary goal. Just getting this in front of people on the internet was the primary goal. But I got really lucky. early on. I told you that I interviewed Randy Clemens early on in the film. And he is a cookbook author and a freelance writer in Los Angeles. Now he lives in New Hampshire. But at the time, he was so excited to be in the documentary that he just you know, he took a selfie of himself and posted on Facebook and said, hey, look, I'm going to be in a documentary about Saracen and a lot of his friends where LA area freelance writers. And so someone wrote an article in a small publication called OC weekly, just based on the fact that they had seen this Facebook post from Randy. And that got noticed by I think the LA Times and they wrote an article. And the Huffington Post noticed it in LA Times. And then they wrote an article. And once Huffington Post wrote an article then everyone wrote an article, I think it was in the Associated Press. And I mean, it was all over the country. Wow. And it was insane because the narrative, it was all because of Serato it was because Serato was attached that that name was attached
Alex Ferrari 24:56
You leveraging the brand name Absolutely.
Griffin Hammond 24:58
Right. I mean, I didn't have to do anything. It was just the excitement of there's going to be a Sriracha movie like that was literally half the headlines. And I just thought it's insane because you would never write the article, independent documentary filmmaker from Illinois begins production on his short doc.
Alex Ferrari 25:21
Yeah, generally, that's not the way these things are written. Right?
Griffin Hammond 25:27
It was all because I picked a topic that people were excited about. And maybe I mean, I, I did it because that's what I was passionate about. But I also got lucky and happened to do it, right. It's probably its peak moment in pop culture.
Alex Ferrari 25:40
And also, I mean, and I don't want to kind of fly by this. But that was a, you weren't being strategic about it. But it was a strategic move, because you were leveraging a brand that so many people know that the marketing will be done for you almost purely because of the subject matter is the same if I would make a Trader Joe's documentary on the inside workings of Trader Joe's, right, which is people are super passionate about Trader Joe's in California, but also around the country, or other companies like Lego or whatever. You know, and if there hasn't been anything about that topic, or about that company or about that product, people are starving, because there's a there's a fan base waiting for it. So you have an audience waiting to spend money on this. So it is strategic, what you did. And I think good advice for other filmmakers is if you could find a topic, or product or company that you want to kind of go into that no one's really touched yet. Because there is no other Serato. Doc right. You are it?
Griffin Hammond 26:45
Right. Yeah, my only real competition these days. And most of it came years later is like other news stories that people you know, like CBS News eventually went into the factory and ABC News one factory.
Alex Ferrari 26:57
Right. But that's not to say, it says this right, Griffin in the I'm still the only documentary official documentary that's been felled,
Griffin Hammond 27:05
Or someone's come along and make a feature. And that would, you know, knock out a feature. So you can kind of compete differently.
Alex Ferrari 27:11
But you've already Yeah, this is this is this was released in 2013. Yeah, well, alright, so the movie has been released now. So now you went to festivals, you won some awards? How did you? I'm assuming you own it. You didn't sell it to a distributor or anything like that. You own all the rights, though?
Griffin Hammond 27:26
I do. Yeah, I worked with a couple distributors. One of them is completely shady and didn't pay me.
Alex Ferrari 27:33
No, that's that. That doesn't sound like distributors at all.
Griffin Hammond 27:40
And the other one is a distributor in the New York area called Janssen. But again, I didn't sell it to them, I worked with two different distributors, and I let them assign non exclusive deals. I kind of just wanted to see if they could do anything for me. And they did a little bit, but I think the majority of the revenue I generated was self distribution. And then what are the revenue streams that you were able to create for the film? The first one, and still the biggest one, I think is Vimeo. Okay. Vimeo on demand had just started when I when I came out Serato. I think I'd only been out for a couple months.
Alex Ferrari 28:19
So you jumped in at the right time.
Griffin Hammond 28:21
Yeah. And it was great, because not only I picked it, because I like Vimeo I was uploading my film to a couple different platforms and just found that I liked the quality at that point in time. And I like the feature set. I was a little bit worried that people would have to create Vimeo accounts, you know, it's just like more steps to stop people from purchasing. But it seemed like a good platform. And they were also willing to do a lot to help me because it was such a new platform they were willing to. They did a little bit of promotion. They put it they they translated it into a few different languages. We get subtitles in other languages. They did some nice things like that. They even like put it in a trailer during South by Southwest. I didn't get into South Bay, which was the whole point of making film and played part of my film for another book.
Alex Ferrari 29:10
Oh, yeah, I know the feeling of not getting into big festivals, man. It's I think we've all gone through that everyone listening has gone through that at one point or another. I'm assuming you submitted to Sundance as well.
Griffin Hammond 29:22
I I only finished the film in November. Oh, so I think I only hit like the late south by deadline. I definitely flew past the Sundance Sundance deadline.
Alex Ferrari 29:34
Yeah. Okay, so with Vimeo. You also mentioned in one of your articles, you wrote that Vimeo has the best profit margin in the business in regards to like sharing revenues with with with the platform. Can you can you explain that a little bit?
Griffin Hammond 29:49
Yeah, I mean, that was really one of the primary drivers for why I chose it in the first place is that I think they only take 10% as their commission whereas think iTunes, isn't that Like 15, or no, iTunes is like 30%. Right?
Alex Ferrari 30:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Amazon's like, almost 50.
Griffin Hammond 30:18
Right? Yeah. I mean, that's pretty common for these rev shares to be almost, you know, close to 50%. Right. And so Vimeo, they take 10%. And then there's also a little transaction fee in there. So in the end, it works out to I currently sell it for 299. And when someone buys it, I get $2.30.
Alex Ferrari 30:35
Okay, which is awesome. Yeah. And oh, and how many did you how many views did you sell on that?
Griffin Hammond 30:43
on that? Last time I counted it, which was at the end of 2017. Right? Or no end of 2016? I think actually, is I had sold 7200. Sales on Vimeo. Okay, so that worked out to be a profit of $23,000.
Alex Ferrari 31:03
That's not bad. Now, I'll take it. I'll take it.
Griffin Hammond 31:09
Now, did you that was where I really focused my sales at the beginning. Like, I had done a Kickstarter campaign, there were 1300 people who backed it. So I also made revenue that way, as well. But those people saw it first about two weeks before I released it to the public. And so I kind of did a big launch, you know, I let these 1300 people know, it's going to come out to the public in two weeks on Vimeo, go tell all your friends, I went back to all the reporters that had ever written about it. And I, you know, I made them be responsible by writing about it again, it's kind of like, if you cared about, hey, there's gonna be a Serato movie so many months ago, surely you want to write the article that now it's available? Right? Like, most of them did? Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 31:51
That's awesome. That's awesome. And then so you focused all your so all your marketing efforts, was focused on one platform at the beginning.
Griffin Hammond 31:59
Right, yeah, it was just having a big premiere. And I think in that first, the first two months, I did maybe $15,000 worth of sales. I think most of the money that I've made on Vimeo happened pretty early on,
Alex Ferrari 32:12
It's generally the way it works with with those kind of platforms. And then you then ventured out into iTunes and other places, as far as transactional.
Griffin Hammond 32:22
Yeah, I just when I got around to it after I was done, it was like a full time job during the Kickstarter campaign, full time job releasing on Vimeo and then a full time job just doing kind of customer service for a few months and answering people's questions and doing press. I mean, that was lucky for me, I was getting a lot of press afterward to for a while I just became like the go to Saroja. expert, and they were in the news a little bit here and there. So like NPR would call me up and interview me.
Alex Ferrari 32:49
That's not that's not a bad place to be. Right? That's not a bad place to be. So then Alright, so then, but you did eventually go out to iTunes and other places like that. And you made some revenue out of those?
Griffin Hammond 33:00
Yeah, eventually, I realized I could go to an aggregator I went to premiere digital. Sure. And I paid them. I think it was $250 for each platform to put my short film on there. So it was 250. To get it on iTunes. It was 250 to get on Amazon. And so we did both at once. I didn't do prime at first, I just did Amazon Video on Demand thinking I don't want to cannibalize all my Vimeo sales, give it away for free.
Alex Ferrari 33:26
Was that a foolish thing? To think? It was? Explain logically, it makes why Yeah, there's a lot of people who listen to this podcast that I've heard them tell me that like, Oh, I'm afraid of putting it on prime or or free, subscription based model based on an advertiser or you get an A VOD model. Because you're like, it's gonna cannibalize your transactional, will you make more money? Right. But in the in the lifestyle in the life cycle of a movie? Don't do that on the month one. You could do that a month three or four? Because a lot of your money transactionally has already been made. Correct? Yeah, exactly. So then, so then what did so how did it do the second you put it up on Amazon Prime?
Griffin Hammond 34:14
Before I put on prime it was, you know, just getting a few sales. It wasn't very many. I think in total, let's see, what do I have? In total ever? It sold 1300 copies on Amazon. Actually, that sounds pretty good. But actually, compared to some of my other platforms. And it wasn't very quick at first either. In fact, my Amazon Instant Video has probably gone up since I opened it up on prime. But I just I thought about how I I'm a prime user, and I don't ever buy movies when there's all these free movies on there. And so it just made me realize, you know, I always had to put myself in my audience's shoes like how could Why? Why would I expect anyone to buy it there? So I asked premier digital to flip the switch for Prime I mean, it's already on Amazon, we need to make it available for Prime And as soon as they did it, it's just like the floodgates opened. And I told you I had 1300 sales on Amazon Instant Video. Since I opened it up on prime. I've had 230,000 views on amazon prime. That's a lot of views. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 35:18
And how much downside is Yeah.
Griffin Hammond 35:22
Yeah, they don't give you as much. But you get like 10 cents per view, I imagine is just the share of the, the Amazon Prime subscription cost. Which sounds terrible compared to Vimeo where I'm making 230 per purchase, but the audience size is just huge on Amazon in a way that Vimeo isn't. And so 20 you know, 230,000 people watching, it translates $23,000. That's not bad.
Alex Ferrari 35:47
That's not bad at all. That's insane. And that's a little bit more than you get on on YouTube.
Griffin Hammond 35:54
Oh, yeah, a ton more. I think the funny thing is, when I first came out with the film, I think my Kickstarter campaign, I charged $5 for it. And I think a few months later, I dropped the price to three. But when I first launched it on Vimeo, it was a $5 film because I didn't want to, I felt like it'd be really unfair to have people pre ordered for five and then lower the price right away. Release it, right. So I charged $5 for it. And a lot of people on Reddit, I remember there was some some article that someone had written about my film, and people in the Reddit comments, were saying, like, $5 That's ridiculous. Why would you ever spend that much on a film? Short Film especially and I agreed, in some sense, like, you're gonna go to the movie theater and spend $10 on a big budget feature. I understand why you don't want to spend $5 on my short film. But it's weird how on Kickstarter, $5 was really cheap, because other people are charging like ridiculous, like $30 for their short film. And on, you know, on Vimeo, maybe that's too much for some people are the same people were saying, like, once you just put on YouTube, you'll make a ton of revenue. That's like, were you kidding me? Like, I think I did put it on YouTube. I put my director's commentary version on YouTube. And I think I make a fifth of a penny every time someone watches it. so ridiculous.
Alex Ferrari 37:16
It's ridiculous. And then you also got it on Hulu. Tell me the story about that.
Griffin Hammond 37:22
Yeah, I think at the time, in retrospect, I realized I could have just also asked premier digital that aggregator to put it on Hulu as well. And I could have it would have been smarter because I could have paid them a one time fee. And I would have made all of the revenue from Hulu. But I think Hulu is a similar model to Amazon. It's like 10 cents per view. It's ad based for was at the time at the time and yeah, yeah. Now it's more subscriber base. And so but I didn't put it on Hulu. It was actually Janssens idea. One of my distributors to put on Hulu, and their fee, Jensen's fee is 30%. Of course. So I made a fair amount of revenue on Hulu. It looks like it earned 21,000 on Hulu, and then I got 15,000. That
Alex Ferrari 38:11
Still not bad, man. Still not bad. Yeah. So. So then overall, oh, by the way, how about DVDs and blu rays? Because I know you did that.
Griffin Hammond 38:22
Yeah, I did a lot of those because I let's see it started as I think blu rays were a were a Kickstarter reward. So I must have started with like, 400 of those and sold a bunch of those for the Kickstarter. And then I think I bought another 200. I think in total, I sold about 200 or 600 blu rays. And I can't remember how many TVs were
Alex Ferrari 38:43
Actually in people who are actually buying those at like 15 bucks a pop?
Griffin Hammond 38:48
Yeah, let's see, I think it was like $10 for the DVDs and something like 15 or 20 for the blu rays. And yeah, there are people that want physical media, I was not one of them. At the time, I was kind of like, I'm only doing this because people are asking me for them.
Alex Ferrari 39:01
Because it's a pain in the butt.
Griffin Hammond 39:03
Yeah, it's a total pain in the butt. I mean, in a way, it's kind of fun to have this physical object that represents your film, it's kind of a nice souvenir by the profit margin is really low. I think I calculate in the end, after all my you know, the shipping costs, I'm printing the
Alex Ferrari 39:21
Covers and these
Griffin Hammond 39:22
Discs, and then eventually, one of my big fees was once I put my film on amazon prime, there was kind of an incentive to sell my film on Amazon, the physical media, because it all is this one unified page. People can watch it digitally or they can buy it. And I wanted it to be available as a prime purchase you get in two days, and that requires that you actually send your inventory. Right, but they charge you like I mean,
Alex Ferrari 39:53
Griffin Hammond 39:54
Yeah, storage fees, and then sales fees and all that. So in the end, I'm barely making $1 on These things, but
Alex Ferrari 40:01
And we'll end with a lot of headache as opposed to the digital release, which is a lot easier.
Griffin Hammond 40:06
Yeah, I mean, digital, you can sell 1000 or 5000. And there's really no difference.
Alex Ferrari 40:12
Now, did film festivals actually help or hurt your film in any way? Like that? Yeah, cuz it's expensive to go to these things.
Griffin Hammond 40:21
Yeah, super expensive just enter even. And then I went to a lot of film festivals early on because again, that was kind of a goal of making the film. And that was really rewarding to see it on screens and hear people react to it. I mean, I wouldn't undo that. But it's definitely expensive. And it's hard to quantify what that did, if anything for the film. I mean, it won a couple of awards. And you know, I could put all the laurels on my DVD cover, and maybe some more people buy it because they see the laurels next to it on Vimeo. But it's hard to say maybe, maybe it doesn't matter at all.
Alex Ferrari 40:57
Now, overall, are you happy with your final experience of making the documentary releasing the documentary? Was it financially rewarding? I'm sure you didn't retire off of it. But overall, you know, was it a positive experience?
Griffin Hammond 41:12
Yeah, I've been teaching a lot of filmmaking workshops around the world the last couple years. And I keep telling people that this was the smartest career decision I've ever made. I didn't know it at the time. I mean, I knew I had competence that it would lead to good things and would show people what I was capable of. But almost everything that's happened to me since is has a direct line back to Serato. I mean, the film made a profit. You know, in the end, it's it's made around $85,000. In profit.
Alex Ferrari 41:44
It's a short film. Let's remind everybody, it's a short film.
Griffin Hammond 41:49
Which in one way sounds like a really awesome number. I mean, because you don't expect, especially a short film, especially independent documentary to make any money to be profitable at all. But then you have to ask yourself, is that money really worth the eight months of production, the freelance projects I turned down because I was busy working on the film, that year of marketing and all that?
Alex Ferrari 42:12
Yeah, this is not any 5000. In one year, this is over the course of the last three or four years, right?
Griffin Hammond 42:16
Yeah, yeah. And for years, it made 85,000. I did make most much of that in the first year. But But yeah, it's not necessarily a sustainable model. Like, I couldn't make $85,000 every two years, and live in New York City. But you know, what, if I were to somehow stack a bunch of films, this could potentially be a model that that's lucrative. But if you could turn them around faster? Yeah, exactly. I mean, I wouldn't do this for the money. And I wasn't doing this for the money at the start at. I think the better return on investment has been that. Six months after I made the film, it led to me getting a job in New York, which I made a lot more doing that job covering the election that I did making the film.
Alex Ferrari 43:02
You got that job specifically because of Sriracha.
Griffin Hammond 43:05
Yeah, they called me up because they saw it, and they were like, We like this film. Would you like to do this kind of thing for us? Would you like to cover the presidential election the same way? have you covered hot sauce for two years? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 43:17
Griffin Hammond 43:19
And then, you know, it helped Panasonic notice me, I'm now a brand ambassador, Panasonic because I've been using their cameras, and they liked that I use their camera on my film, the State Department found me and now sends me around the world to teach filmmaking in different countries. Because they like, they like the, the moral of the, of the film they liked. It's a self distributed film. They like my story. And they also like, it's a film about an entrepreneur succeeding in America.
Alex Ferrari 43:47
Genius. I mean, it's, it's, it's remarkable. I mean, one. And I think that's a message that we all have to kind of put out there is that, you know, you could talk about doing stuff, but when you actually get off your ass and do something, you never know who's gonna see it, what it's going to lead to what opportunities are going to come what doors are gonna open. Because it happened to me with indie film hustle to happen with me with my first film. It's even happening with my second film, and that hasn't even been released yet. Just the Yeah, just people knowing about it has opened up doors in you never know, but you just have to get up and go do it.
Griffin Hammond 44:26
Yeah, I keep telling people that are just getting into this, you just have to make a lot of work. Because one, you'll get a lot better with each project. But two I found that I don't. It's not even always the things that I'm proud of stuff that have an impact on people like you kind of need to have a diverse set of work out there because one of your projects is going to inspire someone or get someone to hire you. And it may not be the thing that you're proud of stuff.
Alex Ferrari 44:54
Now can you tell me a little bit about your creative life course shooting documentaries short films, which sounds like an awesome Course.
Griffin Hammond 45:01
Oh, yeah, that was probably another opportunity that came along because I made you. Thanks, Roger. Yeah, yeah, cuz I don't think I contacted them. I think they saw the film and said, Hey, it'd be cool to have that guy. teach a class. And so yeah, creative live his company in San Francisco, one of many online learning websites. And they helped me develop a seven hour course on producing short documentary films, we tried to get everything that I wanted to share things that I had learned in the class. And it was great, because I think if I had just done on my own, it wouldn't have been as good but they hadn't like, you know, they had a jib stuff like really great, productive. I'd like that, like, audience, they had a jib. They helped me design some. We shot some stuff the day before the class to show during the class, it was kind of this multimedia experience. So yeah, I have this whole like masterclass on shooting short documentary films available.
Alex Ferrari 46:01
Well, I will put that in the show notes for everybody to go check out if they're interested in learning about more about shooting documentary short films. Now I'm going to ask you, of course, of course, man. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Griffin Hammond 46:20
Definitely make a lot of work. Like I said, and, you know, I think we even talked about this on my podcast that this industry is really forgiving for friendly people. I mean, you could be the best cinematographer. But if you're terrible to work with, you're gonna eventually stop getting calls to, to work on projects. So I think just do your best work and do a lot of work, make sure people see it and just be really nice to everyone, and people will be excited to work with.
Alex Ferrari 46:51
You And by the way, I've had over 250 episodes now on this on the show, and you are one of by far the nicest human beings I've ever met. I don't know if it's all bs or not. But from what you put out from our interactions, me being on your show, and you being on mine, and the talking that we've done, off air, you're very, very nice guy. I could only imagine working with you, you'd be just Hey, man. Let's go. Let's go shoot some men. So be cool. It'd be fun. Is that good impression of you?
Griffin Hammond 47:24
Yeah. I mean, it's a weakness too, because I'm not a very adamant, strong willed, passionate person. I don't always know exactly what I want in my films. But hopefully I make up for it. Because people feel pretty good about it.
Alex Ferrari 47:41
I know the movie sucks, but I'm really nice. So Exactly. Don't underestimate how important that is that no, no, and that is a very serious message I want to put out there like being nice, far outweighs talent. In this business, you know, if you're a hustler, you work and you're willing, you're humble, and you're willing to learn, and you're nice to work with people will give you a shot as opposed to the talented prick. Yeah, that we've all worked with at one point or another.
Griffin Hammond 48:12
And the connection to that is that I keep finding that, you know, especially when you're younger, you assume that like HR departments, and the hiring methods of comp, big companies, are these really well oiled machines, they're gonna go out and find all the best candidates. And they really don't I mean, people just hire the people they know, that are conveniently available. So if you happen to be you know, it's it's about who you know, and if you're a nice person to work with, but not necessarily going to find you just because you're the best out there. You need to do the work of networking and meeting people and being on the radar
Alex Ferrari 48:43
Or make a project that puts put you on their radar. Yeah. Now, can you tell me a book, what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Griffin Hammond 48:53
Probably, Robert mckees. Story.
Alex Ferrari 48:57
Interesting, interesting, which is interesting coming from a documentarian,
Griffin Hammond 49:02
Right. Well, probably the reason that book Well, one isn't Robert McKee, portrayed by Brian Cox. Yes, brilliantly adaptation.
Alex Ferrari 49:12
Oh, that's so real. I had not heard of him. I must. I must have heard of them. But that was he he came to life in that movie is one of my favorite movies and love adaptation. But yes, Brian Cox played him really ugly.
Griffin Hammond 49:27
Right. And it's funny because it was only after I left NYU, and I was getting my finishing my bachelor's degree at Illinois State University. But it took a media writing class. It's kind of the intro course for all the journalism and TV and public relations majors. And the textbook for that class was actually story by Robert McKee. And I mean, it's important that, you know,
Alex Ferrari 49:50
It's a great book, it's your story needs to have a solid narrative. It is it is the book that I think every screenwriter reads and his course is one of the His workshops or lectures, there's one of those lectures that everybody goes through at one point or another in Hollywood. Yeah, it's just it's one of those pieces. But yes, it's an amazing book. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life? See, probably still learning? That is the most common answer, by the way, is the most common answer. When I asked that question, I think I'm still learning it. I feel like I still know less like, I know less now than I did yesterday.
Griffin Hammond 50:36
There's still so many things I need to learn about this industry. Something that took me a long time to learn. I mean, maybe, I think it was, especially after failing out of NYU, I think it was kind of understanding that there are definitely things that I'm bad at. And I just have to accept those things and kind of recognize them and move past them. Like, I shouldn't try to be a screenwriter. Because I think over the years, I've thought, I'm a good writer. I'm a good journalistic writer. But I can only write for really one voice, I can write from my own from my own perspective, and I'm not great at creating characters and stepping into someone else's mind. I feel like I'm an empathetic person, but I just can't really talk in a way that's not my own voice. And so yeah, I I gravitate towards documentaries, because I don't want to write a script.
Alex Ferrari 51:28
But you want to, you want to tell a story.
Griffin Hammond 51:31
I like telling other people's stories, but I kind of need to just have a real person in front of me doing that. On camera, I can't really create a person. Fair nothing. Just recognizing what you're bad at and exploiting the things you're good at.
Alex Ferrari 51:44
That's a great lesson to learn. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Griffin Hammond 51:50
Let's see. I should throw back to the future 2 in there.
Alex Ferrari 51:54
it is. So straight so you say you made a specific choice of Back to the future 2
Griffin Hammond 52:00
Alex Ferrari 52:00
Which is arguably and now we're going to geek out a bit arguably Many people believe it to be the lesser of the three. I don't but because it's the connective tissue. So why did you pick that movie? I have to find out why.
Griffin Hammond 52:15
I think I've loved it ever since I was kid. Because it I mean, I think it has, you know, they go back to 1955 it has the future as well. I especially love the ending where you're playing on top of the climax of the previous movie. So I love all the different worlds it travels to maybe even teases the third movie. Yes. And from a technical standpoint, I love that that was the movie where they invented that technique of the computerized Dolly with repeatable movements.
Alex Ferrari 52:46
Oh yeah, motion capture.
Griffin Hammond 52:48
Yeah, so they could have 45 Fox Yeah. 45 Michael Jackson, different performances in the same moving shot.
Alex Ferrari 52:55
It's pretty insane. It was pretty insane. They definitely did use it very well. I want one or two of the other favorite films.
Griffin Hammond 53:03
Well, the other two documentaries I really like Grizzly man by Verner Hertzog oh god have such an amazing film. Oh, yeah. I mean, I love it because it's not even a film. Same in the kind of film I like making. It's like a found footage film. But I just love
Alex Ferrari 53:19
It kind of is it's a kindness with a voiceover mostly someone else's put it Yeah. And what's the end? What's the last one?
Griffin Hammond 53:26
And then I'm also a big fan of Errol Morris and the thin blue line.
Alex Ferrari 53:31
That's a good movie. Very, very, very
Griffin Hammond 53:33
Also a style of documentary that I don't really do. It's very stylized kind of Errol Morris seems to do a lot of like mixing narrative style with documentary storytelling. And I don't do that. But I appreciate how he does that.
Alex Ferrari 53:47
And where can people find you online?
Griffin Hammond 53:50
At GriffinHammond.com to see videos and tutorials and my podcasts.
Alex Ferrari 53:56
And what's what's the name of your podcast?
Griffin Hammond 53:59
It's called Hey indie filmmakers
Alex Ferrari 54:01
Fit like writing your face. right in your face.
Griffin Hammond 54:04
It's very similar to your title. I realized even like the almost the same acronym. Mine is HIF yours is IFH.
Alex Ferrari 54:18
It's a great podcast, a lot of great information on it as well. So I'll put I'll put links to all of your stuff in the show notes, Griffin. Thank you, again, so much for being on the show, man. It was an absolute pleasure having you.
Griffin Hammond 54:30
Yeah, it's great to talk to you again. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 54:34
I really want to thank Griffin for being on the show and dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe. We've never had a documentarian filmmaker on the show. So I really am very grateful for him, giving us all that great information. And if you guys have not seen Serato and want to take a look at it, it's a great little film and it really, really is well done. And it's not that expensive. It's only a few bucks. So if you want to check it out, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/258 to get access to the short as well as links to anything we talked about in this episode, and also links on how to contact Griffin see all the things he has to offer, and a link to his creative live online course about how to shoot documentary short films. So guys, I know this summer has been a little weird. We've been doing a lot of throwbacks instead of two episodes is one, I've been really working hard on this special project that I'm working on for you guys. And again, it is not a feature film, but I will be announcing it sometime in late August, early September, which I'll be announcing this major project which will hopefully change the world No, but hopefully we'll we'll find you guys will find some value in and and you'll understand why I've been so so busy. So thanks again for listening, guys. I hope you got something out of it. And as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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- Watch Sriracha on IFHTV
- Griffin Hammond – Official Site
- Griffin Hammond – Youtube
- Griffin Hammond – Facebook
- Griffin Hammond – Vimeo
- Griffin Hammond – Twitter
- Shooting Documentary Short Films – Online Course
- Ken Burns Masterclass: Learn Documentary Filmmaking from the Legend