IFH 105

IFH 105: Secrets of Indie Film Producing with Suzanne Lyons


This week on the show we have a returning guest, Indie Film Producing guru Suzanne Lyons.

Suzanne Lyons is president/producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. and to date has produced or exec produced twelve feature films with budgets that range from $200,000 to $10 million.  Suzanne has worked with talent that including Brenda Blethyn, Christopher Walken, Naomi Watts, Alfred Molina, James Caan, Dean Cain, Ariel Winter, Susan Sarandon, Donald Sutherland, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Tilly, Jon Lovitz, Asia Argento, Winona Ryder, Peter Fonda, Ed Begley, Jr. and more.

Suzanne’s films have won a gamut of awards and festivals from the prestigious BAFTA award, a premiere at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, the best picture at Shockerfest, the UK Horror Fest and acceptance into the Toronto, Berlin. LA and Montreal Film Festivals.

In addition to her work as a film producer, Suzanne designed and ran the film school, Flash Forward Institute, with a focus on marketing oneself in the industry. She has guest lectured at over 60 industry events, guilds, and organizations. In 2012 she published her book through Focal Press (Taylor and Francis) called Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking.” 

The Indie Film Producing Workshop

She is also an amazing educator. Here’s what one of her INDIE FILM PRODUCING ONE DAY INTENSIVE WORKSHOP includes:

  • How to option a screenplay
  • Forming an LLC
  • Preparing a sales presentation for investors
  • Creating your killer pitch
  • Designing your business plan
  • Getting a mentor
  • Hiring a line producer
  • Scheduling your EPK
  • Creating an empowering environment on set
  • Finessing a budget & schedule
  • Hiring a director
  • How to cast your film
  • Developing a detailed timeline
  • Creating a marketing strategy
  • The details of pre-production
  • The secrets of a great Production
  • Learning the ropes of post
  • Choosing the right distributor
  • Getting the best deal from your distributor
  • Preparing for delivery
  • Entering Film Festivals
  • Forming an LLC
  • Taxes (1099s, Accounting and K1s)

and you’ll be getting well over $20,000 worth of contracts, business plans, deal memos and much more. She hasn’t taught one of these workshops in over 6 years but after being hounded by people to offer another one she’ll be teaching her workshop on Saturday, October 29th, 2016 – 9:00 am to 6:00 pm – Encino, CA. 

And as a special gift, she’ll be giving the Indie Film Hustle Tribe a $150 off discount if you sign up by this Sunday. Only four slots left.

Suzanne drops some major knowledge on us in this episode so enjoy my conversation with the return IFH Podcast champion Suzanne Lyons.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 2:29
So guys today on the show, we have a very special returning guest after popular demand. Suzanne Lyons the indie film producing Guru is going to be on the show today she was on the show booth probably about she was I think Episode 11. So we're in Episode 105. Now so I'll tell you how long goes a little bit older. Probably about a year ago or so she was on the show. And it's been easily one of the most popular podcasts in the entire series of indie film hustle. She just drops knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb, and I wanted to bring her back and you know the years passed and and you know, and in the indie film world a year is like, you know, like dog years, there's so much stuff that changes and information needs to be updated. So I wanted to bring her back and ask her some questions about what's going on in the film world today. What she's been up to as far as indie film producing what she's seen out there in the world. And also for a lot of you guys that don't know Suzanne has been teaching for better part of over a decade now. And she's been given these very God these amazing workshops on Independent Film Producing, and she hasn't done one in about six years. But after all her students or old students or new people who want to kind of take this class again, they started the pounder and Hound or till she finally broke down and said sure, I'll finally do one. So she's doing another workshop. So if you guys are in the Los Angeles area, or can make it into the Los Angeles area, there is going to she's going to be giving one of her one of her one day workshops, which she can I'll tell you, we'll go into it in the in the in the interview, but I'm telling you, you guys, if you're in the area, you owe it to yourself if you're gonna make a movie to watch to go and take this course, it is mind blowing, absolutely mind blowing. So if you stay and listen to the entire episode at the end, if you are of course an indie film hustler podcast listener, you will get a special discount, saving you almost 150 bucks on the final cost of the course. And it's very intimate, there's only going to be 12 people. So there's only I think about four spots left. So definitely move quickly if you're interested. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the knowledge bombs that are dropped by the returning champion Suzanne Lyons. I would like to welcome back to the show Miss Suzanne Lyons. Thank you so much for coming back Suzzane.

Suzanne Lyons 5:01
Thank you for having me Alex. It was great coming back

Alex Ferrari 5:05
You are only the second guest in over 100 episodes to be asked back to the show.

Suzanne Lyons 5:11
Oh my god, I feel privileged and it being my birth date right here like this is a lovely Birthday

Alex Ferrari 5:18
Happy Birthday. You look fantastic. You look fantastic for 25 so I wanted so wanted to bring you back cuz you know your last episode which was one of the part of the, I think was Episode 11 of the podcast so many people have talked to me about it. And so many I know people a lot of people have reached out to you about that episode. Because of so like people really really loved it and you had so much amazing information that people were just soaking it all up like a sponge. So I wanted to come back Have you come back a little bit so I can introduce you again to all the new listeners since then. It's grown a little bit since back then. And and then also kind of go over some new stuff that we didn't go over last time. So are you ready?

Suzanne Lyons 6:14
I'm ready. Okay, ready? Just don't ask me any you know, hard questions like calculus or not right?

Alex Ferrari 6:19
No, no, don't

Suzanne Lyons 6:21
Terrible with the time.

Alex Ferrari 6:25
So um, Can you discuss a little bit about how you option a screenplay? Because I know that's a question a lot of people in the filmmakers have when they don't have a screenplay. What do you actually do? What's the process? in general?

Suzanne Lyons 6:37
Yeah, the process is really important to note that we have option a screenplay because so many times just give you a little bit of background. Alex, so many times, people assume that they don't need paperwork. Oh, Suzanne, they say to me, you know, I guess I'm a producer. But you know, I'm the creative type. I'm really not about the paperwork. Alex, honest to God, if I had a nickel for every time somebody said that to me, I'd be a millionaire. I swear to God, It's uncanny. There's no other industry in the world that people would talk like that, you know, it's like, I'd like to sell you some of my land, Alex, but you know, let's not bother with the paperwork, let's just, you know, do a handshake. I mean, there's no place no industry, but in this industry, for some reason? Well, we're the creative types, you know, we don't get into the business part of it. And I've actually had one of my friends who did not do any of my workshops, in the past, call me from France one time, and you know, crying on the phone about a movie that she had done a couple years ago, now, sales agents were interested in it, and I said, Oh, you're crying because you're happy? She said, No, I'm crying because they asked me for the chain of title, you know, you know, based on the option agreement, and then you know, the transfer of the option and the chain of title to the movie, and so on. And she said, I don't have that. And I said, Oh, I said, you didn't do that. And she said, No, I didn't do I didn't even do the option agreement. And I said, Well, did you call the writer and you know, I know it's two years later, and she said, I did. And the writer said that she had had a fight in the interim with the director. And as far as she was concerned, the movie could burn in hell. really badly. So and, and I was, let Please tell me that was your own money, you know that you raised that money on? No, no, I have investors. And I'm thinking, you know, what, if it was her own visa cards, I don't care. If it's investors, that's what this is a business. You know, the word. You know, business is twice as big as the word show show business.

Alex Ferrari 8:33
You know, yeah, by the way, I've stolen that line. I've used it multiple times on the show. So thank you. I always give you credit, but thank you. Oh, thank

Suzanne Lyons 8:40
you. But I mean, it's crazy, isn't it? And, and so, you know, he or she was with this movie, and with investors to pay back and we'll never, ever see the light of day, because she didn't do the first most important thing is the option agreement. You've got to get the paperwork, get the paperwork, get the paperwork, get the paperwork done, and people is that well, Suzanne, you know, she was my best friend. Or, you know, it was it was my it was family, it was my cousin. I don't care if it's your mom, get the paperwork.

Alex Ferrari 9:10
Now, let me ask you a question. So. So let's say there's a script that's been, you know, written, and then bake when the end it's written together with the director, say the writer, the director, kind of working together on it, but the writer, the writer is going to be the one that gets the copyright on it. They send in the copyright to the Copyright Office, but they copyright it to the LLC. So the LLC that they put together, owns that property? Is that the right way? Is that the right chain of command? That's right.

Suzanne Lyons 9:39
You're saying that the writer has it has an LLC usually a writer does no No,

Alex Ferrari 9:45
no, the movie, so the movie has been produced. The movie has an LLC, the writer has now copy written the screenplay to the LLC because the writer is part of the process that he's a producer.

Suzanne Lyons 9:58
Yeah, the writer hasn't done that. Writers done the initial option, right? I mean, the initial copyright age, right?

Alex Ferrari 10:05
Well, the initial copyright is the only copyright that exists is to the LLC.

Suzanne Lyons 10:11
So no, no, no, no, no, the writer probably did a lot of writers do a copyright, you know, of their screenplay, or they should. Not all of them do. And if they don't, then usually then, you know, once I, like, for example, in one of the cases on one of my projects, the writers had not done that. And I think two different cases in 12 Films where the writer had not done that. And so I just went ahead and put it under directly under the LLC. But most writers know enough to do their own copyright, they should know.

Alex Ferrari 10:43
But what I'm saying is that, in this scenario that I'm telling you, the writer is also a producer on the movie and is part owners of the LLC that made the movie, then when they after the fact after the movie was made, they're like, Oh, we should copyright this screenplay. That screenplay, then he went in and copyrighted underneath that LLC that they jointly own. So that's the only copyright that is available for that screenplay. It's to the LLC, that made the movie is that the proper chain of title is what I'm asking.

Suzanne Lyons 11:12
Yeah, I mean, here's the thing, what's going to happen is you're going to have an option agreement, and the option agreement would give give me or you let's say you are the writer, you know, you got to switch hats. I wouldn't use the word writer again, I would switch it to even if it's you, Alex, you're the writer and the director and the producer. But let's move the word over to producer because the minute song You know, it's the that's why when you that's what's confusing, is when you say then the writer is going to put it under the LLC, no, the writer and the producer it's yours it's months and maybe years later, right? And you've written that script. Even if it's your own script, you still have to have the option agreement cuz you're going to need for delivery for your sales agents when the time comes right. Got it. As part of here's the scary part is part of that option agreement, there's many times inside that option agreement, I promise you. And I had this very problem. years ago, one of the projects there was no page attached to it Exhibit B or or assignment B or assignment day or whatever. That said the transfer could happen honestly, I've read many option agreements that did not have that page in it. So if that is if that paragraph is not there, for the love of God, make sure you attach one eye and it's actually in my book and I teach it in my classes too. I very strongly teach it because I have had made that mistake. And this was when I had an attorney on board this was an early film when I actually had an attorney who gave me this option agreement and there was no transfer page attached to it. So you've got that Trent that transfer page is very important because you also your delivery, it's going to be on your delivery list as well it will have to be stapled to you know to the option agreement and sometimes that delivery pages stapled to the copyright form that you've gotten back from the government so what will happen is when you get that when that is signed early on, you know when now it's a year later you've raised the money you're making your movie and so on then then what will happen is, is you now have the right you've paid the purchase price it's only when you pay the purchase price it's not when you make the option because let's say you spend $10 for 18 months on an option but let's say the writer is going to be making 10,000 you know when you're making the movie so it's only when you pay the full purchase price that you now the LLC I'm talking to you the producer even if you're the writer but let's switch so people aren't confused so now you the producer owner of the LLC whatever the name of the movie is a lot of times you know candies Vipers LLC in my case for example, then you get to use that transfer page and you send it send off the copyright it's not like it used to be it's actually it's actually called a transfer copyright you go online you still go on to the same you know same place and on copyright, but it's actually a little different for him now, I just did it for time toys, the movie I shot in the past year. And and I was surprised to find it is a bit of a different form. Still only you know, 40 or 50 or 60 bucks, it's not a big deal, but it's a different form. And it's what what that prints for page is showing is that you the minute you get your purchase price amount of 5000 or 10,000 or 60,000 or whatever we're paying you as the writer, then that gives me the producer owning the LLC, the right to then send it back in to Washington and but in the author section the author section won't say Alex anymore, right? The author section will now say you know candy stripers comma LLC Got it.

Alex Ferrari 14:56
Got it. Got it. Got it. Okay, perfect. Perfect. So though Can you talk a little bit about business plans? And why? Why do you need a business plan? If you're trying to raise money for a movie?

Suzanne Lyons 15:07
Yes, I will in a second. But let's just finish cut Oh, no, no, there's one more piece. What's going to happen next is right now what's happening on time toys is we're delivering, right. So one of the things on the delivery items, and I spoke with my co partner yesterday, it was his first time producing my co producer on this, and he's also the writer director. And because what's what's due is the copyright report. And what he said to me on the phone yesterday is well, Suzanne, you know, isn't that just the paperwork that we did on the transfer? and so on? And that information, you know, from Washington, you know, that came back? And I said, No, it's not a copyright report is something where you hire an attorney who does that, like I use dentists, angels company in New York, for example. It's only $650 or whatever, unfortunately, that's why you've got to save money, and you're in your budget, because now a year later, right, exactly a year later. And that copyright report is then the attorney going online to make sure that yes, this was all done, this happened, you know that it was a clear copyright. There are no other copyrights under this thing. There's no liens against it, there's no issues with it, and so on, and so on. So I just want to point that out that, you know, a year after the movie, when you're delivering or whatever that happens to be, you know, that you will need a copyright report showing that there is indeed a copyright.

Alex Ferrari 16:31
Interesting, you see, this is all the kind of stuff that they don't teach you in film school. Or, or you don't learn until you go through the process, at least one

Suzanne Lyons 16:40
times the painful way of Oh my god.

Alex Ferrari 16:43
I'm like, I didn't know that. What What do you mean, I can't release my movie that I just spent a year and a half putting together why because of a piece of paper that I didn't get Oh my god. So it's all yeah, definitely, to get all that stuff.

Suzanne Lyons 16:56
Yeah, lots of crazy stuff. So let's talk about the business plan. The reason for the business plan is, is because a lot of the times a couple of reasons one sometimes you start with a business plan that doesn't have any ppm LLC operating agreement, none of that kind of legal stuff. And as saying that, you know, you're you know, that you're 50% owner, as an investor and you're going to be getting, you know, 110% back and they're not they're not at all, it's sometimes just the business plan. You know, I've done one, let's say for omega camel, where it might be some pieces, you know, some some great artwork that we had done, you know, for the animation for that, you know, that Christmas, you know, feature animated feature the BIOS on the people that are involved that, you know, they're impressive, the writer, director and producers, on kind of, you know, maybe a whole page on the demographic and the direction, it's going to go from a marketing point of view, a lot of times it's showing other you know, movies in this crate case, you know, Christmas animated specials and features that have done well compare movie comparisons, kind of your project objective, you know, what the point of doing this is, maybe it's going to be the first of a slate of Christmas projects that you're going to be doing in the animation world you know, things like that. So it's really kind of that marketing plan that people do in other businesses, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:20
you're a business guy or a business whatever, sure,

Suzanne Lyons 18:24
every business you do a marketing plan, what you see mine are for is I usually do mine in addition to the you know, that that little packet that I do for with my ppm and my operating agreement and my subscription agreement in it for the investor. So it's usually I don't usually bother doing two separate ones, I usually make it all one pack at the minute I have my LLC, you know, from the state of California, you know, with the name of the movie or whatever I've decided to call the LLC, you know, candy, stripers, you know, comma LLC, that I'm legally able to go out and start you know, raising the money you know, the call shares or units or whatever you want to call them. And, and then I've kind of sorted out in advance then I got I do my ppm my operating agreement, my subscription agreement, and then I can go to you and say Alex, you know, I'm raising these units of 7500 You know, my budgets going to be 225,000 It's a galter low or whatever it happens to be and are my units are 3000 and my budget is 50,000 and whatever. So usually, I'll include my business plan, I'll put that page in there as well showing you what you're getting Alex for doing that, you know, you're going to be getting as an investor, you know, 120% you know, with a corridor of 9010 you know, so there's the money comes in you the investors will get 90% you know, I'll be getting as the producer 10% until you reach your full 120 and then we become 5050 partners, you know, for the next five years or 10 years or whatever. The budget is sometimes I don't keep it open to awfully long if I'm not raising a lot of money from each person because I don't want to be there's cost involved especially in California it's $800 a year to have an LLC and there's off your obviously your accountant you know your accountants four or $500 even if you do your own accounting he still has to do your K one so if I've got 30k ones because I've got you know $7,500 from 30 people you know, those k ones are gonna cost me money to do I can't do those on my own that's definitely got to be an accountant. So I'm going to be putting out money if it's an ongoing open LLC, so I close it after a certain amount of time most of the money for a film comes in in the first two years anyway Believe me your sales agent has lost interest by then right? If he's gone to six markets usually they only bother with three and then you're on a back burner somewhere forever so most of the money's coming in in that first you know one or two years but I used to leave the LLC open for five years you know depending on the budget

Alex Ferrari 21:02
now after so after you closed the LLC let's say obviously money will still hopefully come in or some new distribution revenue stream would come up like you know all of a sudden, Netflix allows you to upload directly and a paying 5000 a picture or something like that whatever the new revenue stream might be. What happens then do you just transfer everything over to your core production company?

Suzanne Lyons 21:25
idea that's exactly what I would do I haven't yet been so lucky as to do what you just mentioned that I wish Yeah, really. But nowadays things are a little different you know with self distribution there could be ongoing money coming in and so on and so on. And like you mentioned Netflix and all of those so yes, I would turn that over to the core because that that bank account is open constantly that you know my snowfall films accounts is been around for you know, since 98 or whatever. And that corporation is every year you know, so I would I would do that for sure.

Alex Ferrari 22:00
Now, can you talk a little bit about what's the importance of opening up we keep talking about LLC? What is the importance of opening up an LLC for your film specifically not a production company LLC? What's the difference? And why would you open up an LLC per film?

Suzanne Lyons 22:14
I would open LLC per film just because you don't want your umbrella company you don't want to know films just like Disney and all of those companies you think oh well that's a Disney film not really because even Disney will have taken out every single film under a different entity you know because you do if there is a lawsuit against let's say candy stripers for example then you know you don't want that affecting your overall company of snowfall films and shutting things down and having liens against your overall company and then you're you know paralyzed for the next five years in terms of making any films whatsoever what it does is it just affects candy stripers LLC period

Alex Ferrari 22:55
so it's a safety net it's a safety net to protect you the filmmaker slash producer against anything that might happen to so if someone slips and falls on the set, they're not suing the mother company they're gonna only be able to sue the LLC because that's the company creating the movie.

Suzanne Lyons 23:09
Exactly and I believe and we can check in with an attorney because laws are changing all the time. I can't go out and raise money under my corporation for those individual movies either as far as I know that might have changed but I remember at the time asking that question to my attorney when Kate and I were doing those those early movies and he was saying no no as a corporation you know, you can't be raising money for those individual entities that has to be a separate entity and they had to be called an LLC You know, it depends on which country you're in you know sometimes like in Canada I believe you do both you know, you still want to have a separate one for your movie. But you can still raise money as far as I know under a corporation you there is no LLC in Canada in the UK it's a different entity to I remember we did movies in the UK It was called an LTV or whatever so you know and you were able to have that as an umbrella and still open entities to raise money so you could do both but in the states I believe you can't raise money under the corporation I think it's under an LLC but that's I'm not positive with that because like I said we do you need to ask question to the attorney because laws change so much and no

Alex Ferrari 24:17
Have you ever crowdfunded

Suzanne Lyons 24:19
but no I never did I tried one time for Omar the camel I was going to do that just to kind of raise that initial money to help get things more off the ground because it's weird that one was costly when you're doing you know animation a feature animation and I mean just again just getting the developer element alone was costing a fortune just in a lot of those pictures done because it's a different kind of business plan you know you want it's much more visual for the investors and but I found it was so time consuming. It was so early on that was back when crowdfunding and literally was just starting right that I found it just very difficult. If I were I could probably go back and try it again. Because people have been, you know, successful, there's ways to do it now, I mean, absolutely about it. But no, I've never done that. But it's nice because it doesn't conflict with your investors, because it's a, it's called a donation, it's not called an investment. So it doesn't affect, if you're still wanting to go to investors to raise the majority of your of your money, then that's great. You know, I think I think we have to be very, very, very smart these days, about all of that, because it's no longer just about the demographic, that's the only word we used years ago, I used to work in promotions for TV network for years, in my early years, and the only word used was demographic, and that's what you would promote to that demographic, in a way 18 to 24 men or whatever it happened to be right, or children, you know, six to 10, or something. Now, it's all about the psychographics as well, you know, when we were doing time toys, we started early on, I went to the writer who was also the writer and the director and the producer, and I said to mark, let's look at the script now and see what we can do to make sure that the graphics are there that we can reach out and I had learned this, you know, from another I'm with vocal press, and there was another writer with vocal press where his book was about this very thing. You know, it's not just about the crowdfunding, but how do you do the crowdsourcing? You know, crowdfunding means nothing if you're not the, you know, very, very intelligent about crowdsourcing. And that's where this whole psychographic comes in. And what what, you know, I was learning from reading parts of his book, because I had to, you know, which we do for each other at, you know, at local press, is, is that people were literally being very smart about the script early on, not waiting until it was, you know, being shot or afterwards going, Oh, shit, why didn't I do that? Like, for example, and one of the chapters, he talked about this script, that was, you know, that they were looking at seriously in terms of making sure that they had enough different arms have kind of the octopus, let's say, to go to when the movie was done right online, because it's all about online. And they made one of their characters a vegan. And they started the whole thing online, that whole discussion about how this script was going to have a robin character, and they ended up getting a couple of 100,000 you know, people, you know, blogging about this script that was not even in production yet. This was months prior than that from the vegan community, for God's sakes, right. So can you imagine if you had like, you know, 10 different arms, you know, reaching out to all the different online entities. We're, cuz I remember when I was working at a, on a world war one movie that I have, about, you know, the spies and they were children, actually, that had served as spies because all the men were on the front lines back then I was doing the movie with Empire pictures at the time. We were working on it together and development anyways, and ended up going off into a different direction. But I remember sitting with them. And this is before I even read this section of that book, years later, this was like back in 2012 with him power. And their attorney was sitting there going, Okay, now what, you know, what, you know, where does it reach? What's the demographics, what are the psychographics? And I said, well, it's kind of like, stand by me, it'll be for for, you know, for for young people. Obviously, it's teenagers. It's about teenagers, and there'll be teenagers in the movie, but it's also kind of a family film. So I was very limited in my thinking. And he said, No, Suzanne, yes, yes, yes. But no, it's what are the other, you know, areas? And I said, Well, I don't understand in honest God, I really didn't understand. And he was a word about veterans. This is one word, you know, it's a world it's a war movie, right? It's actually takes place in the world. Okay, so there's the veterans. Okay, what else? And he kept pushing us in that boardroom that day for all of us to brainstorm Who are those other end

Alex Ferrari 28:59
niche niches, little niches of people subcultures? Yeah.

Suzanne Lyons 29:03
mums, you know, because it's, you know, it's about the mums worrying about their sons being at the war too and in this case, the children being at war you know, on the front lines. So how do we reach those moms and I'm like, all of a sudden, we had like 10 different entities in addition to my limited thinking of you know, kids six to 10 or whatever, right? Right, right. Or you know, kids 12 to 18 like all of a sudden it became all these different areas that we could then start tapping into now for example, if we had continued on with with that particular project that you could have started tapping into online you know, start you know, talking to the veterans talking to you or whatever about this was going to be you know, bringing being brought out and, and I could have been anyways, it was a fascinating thing, but I realized how, you know, when we stay in that kind of creative box for ourselves, and don't think inside the business world You know, we become limited, and then all of a sudden, it's time to, you know, to start selling it to your sales agents and distributors. And it's like you've boxed yourself in, you know, to, to, you know, to, to, to, to a smaller area for them to sell to, when you could have had them banging on your door, because guess what, you know, I've got, you know, you know, 40,000 fans already in Japan, because we've done such and such, or we've added, or the vegan character 200,000 in America that are already itching to see the movie, you know, you'll have distributors and sales agents banging on your door, as opposed to you having to go to them. Or if you're just distributing like God, all the better because then you've got a whole, you know, entity to, to sell to. So just kind of those types of things that I think we have to be so much more privy to. It's not just about having the name, although that is still a major importance, which nobody gets, nobody gets that still. mockingly you still have to have the name and your movie, you still have to talk to sales agents at the beginning, the minute you option your screenplay, and start development, you start talking to sales agents, go to AFM, go to markets, get on the phone with sales agents, become friends with them now find out, you know, I'm looking to put in, you know, this particular actor in my mood, because it's got a sci fi bent to it. And I'd like to put in, you know, this sci fi kind of actor, is that enough? You know, given my budgets 900,000, right, you know, and they'll say, No, you know, what, his name at a 200,000, you know, on a Sega ultra low 250 would be fine. But at the same modified, you know, what you got at 900,000, you know, with all these minorities you're putting in there, and this is great, but you still need that other name, you know that he's great for the feature name, but you still need the TV name. You know, somebody from the TV sci fi world, because, you know, we sell mostly foreign, it's mostly television, right? for domestic, we kind of think more.

Alex Ferrari 32:00
So that was, that was a thing when we were having coffee the other day, it was it was interesting for you to say that that TV actors are a lot of times much bigger deals overseas than movie stars here in the States purely because those TV shows are in constant rotation throughout throughout these other territories. So that's it. Case in point David Hasselhoff. We laugh he's laughing all the way to the bank. But but I mean him and Pamela Anderson, and those people from Baywatch. They had overseas because it was the biggest television show of all time. They could sell all day. I know. I know actors like Michael perrey who's really great actor, he did a few movies. He's over there all the time. Richard Tyson, anyone who has had these, these TV shows and of course, like in the sci fi world, anyone who's ever been on a Star Trek show, or Stargate or any of these things that are just constantly rotating have have a lot of value and you can affordably get them here in the States

Suzanne Lyons 33:07
yeah yeah, exactly so so you know that's that's the thing is you've got to be thinking business all the time. You know, so you can't I talked to people say well you know, I finished my movie now I'm going to start talking to sales agents and I'm thinking you're just now talking to a sales agent you didn't talk to them a year ago, like a year ago you didn't start forming relationships then and finding out if those stars are big enough for that budget size like come on guys I once again I say to my students and you know because I I teach the class having the chance to teach in almost six years, but you know, I've been busy I did four movies in the past five years but um, you know, what I say is if it's your visa, I don't give a shit Honest to God, you blow whatever you want. If it's your own money, do whatever you want, I don't care nobody cares, you know, but if you are even investing you know have one investor if it's your dad, you know what you owe that person the the everything to be a business person you know, you are a business person and you therefore start thinking like a brick what I tell people even when I spoke at house class recently, screenwriting you saw writers in the room and I have the very same conversation with them. As I do with somebody like you Alex who's a producer, it's kind of like you don't get the right to not think like a business person. Everyone on here the makeup artists, you are the president and CEO of your company. And take that on when you take that on. All of a sudden you start thinking differently, you see differently, your posture is different, your language is different, your speaking is different, how you dress is different, you know, this is a business, you know, it would be as insane and I think I talked about this on the last podcast I did with you as me saying to you know, Alex, always wanted to be a heart surgeon. You know, now I've never done any courses, Alex, but I have a really good nice, okay, I've got a chance to get a sharpened jet, but it's really comfortable. I feel good with it. And Alex said, I don't I hope you don't mind. But I'd like to practice on you a little bit. If that's okay. I don't have any fantasies, or whatever. But you know, I'm just learning as I'm going along. Hope that's all right with you. I mean, you're laughing because

Alex Ferrari 35:22
it's saying it's absolute. It's absolutely insane. But you know what, and me being imposed for 20 odd years. Oh, I've seen I've seen so many of those. I think I lost you. Alright,

Suzanne Lyons 35:33
are you there? I'm here. Yeah, yeah. Anyways,

Alex Ferrari 35:36
so no, no, no, no, I see so many of those through my course of work in post production, that it's insane. Like all these people, like you just kind of like, yeah, oh my god. It's the only industry that people do that.

Suzanne Lyons 35:50
It's crazy. And like, I've talked to somebody who comes in, I finished my movie. I'm really proud of it, you know, it was only 75,000 and you know, the units were 5000 each. So I had some lots of friends and family and some neighbors and everybody contributed it's great. It looks really great. But Suzanne, I'm having a really hard time getting sales agents, you know, and I'm going and they said so I know you know, everybody you know, I'd love some advice from you and who should I go to given you know, it's here's the genre of it. And I'll go first of all, you know who's in it, you know, who's the name because sometimes, you know, value if there's no name, you know, and, and they go, Oh, no, nobody, you know, nobody but but it's really good.

Alex Ferrari 36:29
You know, and look, unfortunately, unfortunately, the reality I know, that's hilarious. But I've heard that many times. Unfortunately, the realities of the industry as they as you know, as well as I do, is that there's so much product out there, that there's a few ways that you can stand out that you have to one is insane quality, which is basically maybe five or 10 movies a year that are so good with nobody no names in it, that it just just just transcends and completely blows out of the water, there's maybe five or 10 movies, all period throughout the period. And those are the movies that do get picked up by festivals that do get a lot of spotlight and all of that kind of there's that way there's the other way of casting someone who is an actor of name have some sort of name that has some sort of market value that because their name is on or their faces on the cover of the poster. People go Oh, I know him Let me go over there because there's just so much dilution. Or another way is genre which is becoming less and less but still genre genre. horror movie doesn't need as much names anymore though that has changed a little bit because there's so many horror movies, action movies, travel very well they will need specific names but of course you throw in a Michael Madsen that helps

Suzanne Lyons 37:51
that's what they'll tell you you still need somebody for the you know for that poster you know or whatever. And even years ago they'd say if it's a giant spider for a horror movie then giant spiders enough now what they're saying is Yeah, the giant spider is great, but I still need another name. I still need a picture on that poster shark on

Alex Ferrari 38:07
Shark NATO is not going to do it all by itself.

Suzanne Lyons 38:12
And you're right certain you know, certain there are certain movies where you know they go more the festival route because they were done more of an art house. And it's not about the name it was about the phenomenal story in the phenomenal writing in the phenomenal directing. And there's a few of those pop up like you said every year but I would not count on it you know but you think you've got those and you want to spend your next year going to festivals and praying that's great and hoping but I don't know to me hope is is not the word that I use frequently in this

Alex Ferrari 38:41
business in a business you can't use the word hope that's nice,

Suzanne Lyons 38:44
but the nice and I don't want to take it away from anybody but I used to even flash forward that month long course that I did for years, Heidi and I we you were not allowed to use the word hope for the entire month of that course by the way.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
Well like and there's another one with other way of making a movie that I didn't mention before is what we did with this is mag is keep the budget so you know to a level that is so affordable that one you could self distribute it yourself and make your money back or be profitable. or two, you can kind of just ride the wave a little bit and see what happens there's no pressure there's no stress, there's no investors, but you have to be able to achieve a high high enough quality product to make for that to make sense as opposed to just grabbing your iPhone and going out make a movie but there are but though that's another route of going about it and if by and we were lucky enough to have wonderful names involved as well which helps but but you could but it could easily been done with a bunch of just really talented actors and we could have gone down that path as well.

Suzanne Lyons 39:48
That's right and then you can do that now see you know because the technology is so available nowadays you can shoot with your iPhone you know that even few years ago

Alex Ferrari 39:57
that Andre Nadia tangerine Sean Sean Baker shot but He's I mean, he that was his fourth film. And he knew what he was doing. And it was, you know, he basically pushed that photo. And the image quality to the nth degree. wasn't like he just literally pulled it out of his pocket to start shooting. Yeah, lens adapters and everything. But that's what people don't understand. But you can do and he did it specifically for look for feeling for the texture that he wanted as an artist. So it's definitely able you can definitely do it. And I want to just share one No, you were talking about stars. I posted a movie A while ago, it was a sci fi movie sci fi bend on it. And no stars. They finished it went out to the marketplace. Everyone said exactly what you just said, who's in it. No one's in it. Don't want it. So basically, and they already spent it was probably like a $300,000 movie, let's say 250 300. So what they did is they went back got one sci fi TV show name. Yeah, for five grand. Got one movie star name? Yeah, for about eight grand. And they both worked for a day each. Oh, my God, they re edited it. I had to recalibrate and refinish the movie for them. They went back out and guess what happens? Is that what they sold it? Because they basically said, Oh my god, we're screwed. So they literally recast the parts that were already filmed by another actor, and replace them with the with the name actor, because they have to. Yeah,

Suzanne Lyons 41:27
but I hear you. But But here's the thing. We don't want to do that. You know, I mean, it could

Alex Ferrari 41:31
have been so much waste of time and money. Yeah,

Suzanne Lyons 41:33
exactly. And that's why if you start if you put the business hat on now, at the early stage, you know, then even when you're reading, here's the other thing is I'm, I, I've been I've read, I don't know, about, let's say hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of scripts, right? Here's the thing, I get emotionally involved in the scripts. And I know I'm not a coverage person. And I'm certainly not an international coverage person. So even though I'm a producer, and I think I'm pretty good at reading scripts, I still hire. Every single time you were to talk to people, when I do more for film and the other for television series. I'm saying to gals I use all the time I swear by them, I still have somebody do the carpet. Because, you know, once again, I get involved creatively, and I'm thinking Whoa, slow, down, girl, step back, you're a business person as well. I'm not saying don't worry, the business, the creative hat, I still do, I still read the script and do my notes. But I also send it to the coverage person. They're they're an international coverage person they work for, you know, a lot of companies around the world. So they're reading in a different way, without any attachment without any emotion without any involvement without any agenda at all, other than to do coverage or right. So even in that case, I kind of stick take a step back and stand in my business shoes. So in every aspect, Alex, you know, I really, look I've got to be careful because we're here because we're creative. We're all in this industry, because we're creative. So we can get so caught up in that, like your friends did early on, you know, with their movie, you know, and it was a great movie, great movie, great script, and it just didn't have names. So it's like, oh, shit, you know what we need to do?

Alex Ferrari 43:19
I need to sell this. So whatever. What do I need to do to sell this? We'll get some actors that will hopefully put it on the cover, and I can make some money now.

Suzanne Lyons 43:26
Yeah, yeah. So I think early, you know,

Alex Ferrari 43:28
so let's talk about casting and actors a little bit. Now. How do you cast an independent film? Do you use casting directors? Do you go direct? How do you do it?

Suzanne Lyons 43:39
It depends on the project and on the budget size, but even in the early days, when our budgets were between five and 10 million, right?

Alex Ferrari 43:46
Which is beyond most people listening to this podcast.

Suzanne Lyons 43:49
My firt my my first film was one of those right? I mean, that that's that's what films were really it was a different time, it was a different time. And I took you know, a lot of them were 1.8 you know, ours was it started at about 1.8 but then it ended up you know, getting some great actors and that sort of thing. So it kind of took on its own life in a sense. And it ended up being around around 400 you know about 4,000,500 or I mean close to the five so um, so but still here's the thing, we didn't Kate and I didn't have any money for those early films. So we did the casting ourselves of the main roles, you know, all the main roles. And, you know, and back then those were baby that was, you know, Naomi Watts and Chris Walken and Brenda Blethyn and Alfred Molina. We didn't really know what we were doing. But we were business women. I've been VP of Marketing for TV network. Kate was a stockbroker for many years. And, you know, it's I mean, we weren't, you know, what's called a guy in a diner, you know what I mean? You know,

Alex Ferrari 44:52
a guy guy in a Starbucks, Starbucks now.

Suzanne Lyons 44:56
So we kind of had that our business that we were, you know, Certainly, you know, wearing our business hats very well when we were on the phone because that was CAA and ICM, we're talking you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:07
those actors are they're still big but the back then they were even bigger. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show you know,

Suzanne Lyons 45:24
yeah, and I started and I was very honest with them and back then see Don't forget different time though don't forget, those were called co productions back then. So the UK used to get about 40% of your budget from the UK and and if you were doing Canadian, UK, you'd get probably 30% from Canada and then everyone used lower loo Horowitz you get 10% what was called gap back then. I don't even know people do that anymore. And then don't forget to reprise sales. So everybody including the agents and managers understood that world back in the 90s in the early 2000s, where there were this thing this wonderful thing called pre sales, big period sales you know, we'd sold Germany for 500,000 in advance based on those couple of names those early to two names, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:07
no, so just to go back for a little bit so for people to understand what a pre sale is, is basically a country saying hey, we're going to give you 500,000 because we trust you that you're going to deliver a movie to us with these stars in x time

Suzanne Lyons 46:25
that's right yes and it was with those stars and see that's the thing is that's not the way it's done anymore right so back then the you know the the the big guys that ICM and William Morris and you know endeavor and so on back then they would say either they understood that we needed their name to sell the pre sell the movie you know we did 1.8 million in pre sales on my first movie right? Then what you do is then you match it you know then you go to your investors and say I've got 1.8 million you know we're getting 80% of that because the pre sales or whatever you know from the bank and so on and there will be countries actually it was the us it was the I believe it was Australia was the Germany I mean they were all good solid countries and good solid distributors at the time and so on. And the first one being Miramax you know so they were it was all very solid that's when you can then go back to your investors who you're also you know you're also you know trying to get those investors in the interim while you're out there selling but then you can come back with some solid you know, here's what we need to do now is we need to match it plus whatever plus the bank gap you know pretend percent and so on and so on. But um that was the way it was done so they so you literally used those names and they knew it Chris Walken knew what for example that we had to use that name to help with the pre sales his agent knew it it was it was not like it was not an offensive thing it was the way that business was done you know that's that's the way that it was done because you you everybody raised a good portion of their funding in advance based on the names in the indie world will probably even in the studio world I would guess too

Alex Ferrari 48:07
but those days Those days are gone aren't they?

Suzanne Lyons 48:10
Oh they're gone Yeah, that those ended you know 2004 2005 you know, the UK shut down you know in 2004 as we knew what and that was a very big place for all of us as you know a lot of us anyways as indie producers and I remember the day they shut down we had two movies that were going in Australia, UK Australia and coke co productions and one was in soft crap thank God we weren't in pre or principal many war but 29 movies shut down that day you know in October so I mean the world shut down that day, but I just remember Australia because we had a movie there at all. But um, I can you get if you add up the rest, I can't even imagine Can you?

Alex Ferrari 48:51
Can you talk real quick about soft prep since you just brought that up with just real quickly what's off prep do so people understand what that means?

Suzanne Lyons 48:57
Yeah, okay, good. So soft. Prep is usually in my world, the independent world because my budgets have gone from 200,000 I've done a lot of the StG ultra low lovesick ultra low sag modified and just absolutely think

Alex Ferrari 49:09
it's just we're gonna talk we're gonna talk about sag in a minute because I want to definitely get into that.

Suzanne Lyons 49:13
Love that love it. Um, and it's so doable now with the digital cameras and all of that we can do oh god visual effects. Oh my god, you should see

Alex Ferrari 49:21
we'll get in touch. We'll get into soft prep soft prep.

Suzanne Lyons 49:24
So exciting. Anyways, sorry so soft prep. So here's the thing, you know how they say the lower the budget, the longer the prep right? Well, sorry, we don't get that luxury. So we know all I'm gonna really have time for on a say gold Trello is three weeks of pre production. Maybe it's like modified four weeks of pre production right now these are not in the millions here. These are 700,000 or 250,000. So on thinking, you know, I can't do that I would not be able to sleep I'd have a nervous breakdown. You know, if I had to do my casting, and I'll get back to the casting in a second. If I had to do my locations if I had you know to work on the budget and the schedule with my line producer if my line producer had Hey, you know do all the keys you know 16 keys during that time we all have nervous breakdowns so my soft PrEP is at least four weeks prior to pre production I make a promise in my ppm or operating agreement can't remember which to my investors that no money will be spent on till the first day of solid pre production you know that three weeks when we move into an actual actual production offices three weeks of pre production if it's saying ultra low for example, but prior to that I have my four weeks where everything is done for free you know because if I if on that budget I will definitely be doing the casting all of the casting myself you know, maybe I'd have a casting assistant who wants the title casting and she's doing it for 500 bucks which I'll pay her when the time comes or whatever you know when we start principal or pre but but I have my soft prep and during the self prep Mike you know at the time who was doing those movies with me as the line producer he'd be out you know with my director looking at locations because probably couldn't afford application person at the time and and then I'd be busy with the casting and we'd be getting a lot of those things done you know, he didn't be bringing some of the main keys on board wouldn't be paying them yet but he knew Wouldn't it location for example, you know, we booked the motel for portal now we booked it we didn't give them a deposit we were what was called penciled in we actually did the paperwork we didn't sign it but we said if anything happens you know please call us if somebody comes in if Spielberg's coming in and wants your space you know let us know obviously but we got the hotel we wanted it was penciled in and on that Friday and then come that Monday I sent the deposit over

Alex Ferrari 51:57
because you weren't now you weren't officially in real prep at that point

Suzanne Lyons 52:01
exactly. So So Mike so you know my my director and my line producer were in and my you know, a lot of times the first ad because he was working with a director early on to working on the schedule and none of those people were getting paid and in my dp Of course, you know, was early on so they were all with us a lot of them were with us during soft prep and that was four weeks which four weeks plus three, I was able to breathe, you know then I promised my line producer that the minute we move into the production office which is still my office, right right with his people, you know, his production manager and and their and their assistant that I would be there for him you know that those three weeks worried about him you know, hiring the rest of the keys, if you wanted me to sit in on some of the interviews with some of the keys, obviously, I was there for him, I was there to sign the checks, I was there to you know, do whatever I still had my job to do, I still had to hire my job photographer. And, you know, I was still doing stuff working, you know, with the investors and in terms of getting them involved and who, you know, we're sitting in on all the meetings, in terms of schedules and so on. But my goal was to be finished with the big chunks of stuff, so we can rest easy. And you know, I promised him that I would have all my cast deal memos done before we moved in to pre production that all of it when he promised me that all location would be done in terms of in the same thing so that was kind of what we did during that's what soft prep to me is so very, very important. And I was very honest with people just like I am with with on the bigger movies with with those sales with those agents is like I would call them you know, at ICM saying I don't have any money, but you know, some people would hang up on me. Now what I would do when we moved into principle, and some of those movies on the big movies back then is then I would hire the casting directors to then do everybody else. But I would bring on those initial four to six big names. movies like James Caan and jovia bujo. And Jennifer Tilly. And you know, who else You know, I mean, any of those kinds of names, I would do all of that. And the early ones, Kate Nye. And then we'd share you know, we split it. And then on the smaller ones, then I did it all myself, except on time toys that was a modified which was a little bigger, and that was dealing with mostly children. And that is not my thing. So that's when we literally did hire early on a and we did have some fun. We did have funding early on actually for a longer pre production on this. So we actually hired a phenomenal casting director whose sole purpose was your children. So he did a

Alex Ferrari 54:41
show so let me send you started. You brought up sag. This is a no mystery for a lot of independent filmmakers. Can you talk a little bit about sag contracts? What's the differences between the low budget options that are available now and how you work with them?

Suzanne Lyons 54:57
Yeah, it's pretty much the same. You know if I'm bringing on somebody? Let's say it's the sake altro. All right, I can't remember what the new one is, since July 2, the new amounts came in, it used to be 100 a day, I think now it's, I don't know, 140 500 125, something like that. 125, right. So if I'm going to be used, and if you're doing a SAG ultralow, you can use quite a big percentage of non sag as well. But I would pay my non say the same as I paid my sag. The only difference is with the non sag, you know, if your budget is very low, and you're going to be using let's say, you're allowed 40% non sag, then I wouldn't be as responsible, for example, wouldn't have to feel as obligated to do you know, let's say if there's rehearsal time, not that, you know, we'd have rehearsal time, probably at that budget level, or wardrobe fittings, or what's the other one, or ADR, you know, I wouldn't be I wouldn't be paying for that for them to come in for half an hour video, I wouldn't, with saying you don't really have a choice. What I did on in some cases, when I knew I didn't have the money was say for, say wardrobe fittings. For some of the bigger actors, I would say, Okay, you know what, I can't afford that, for you to come in for that day, because you're going to charge me for a full day and all we need is an hour, I'm going to send my costume designer over to you. And that would help save me sometimes a little bit of money with every little bit would help. But with sag, you know, you really have to honor those agreements where you're paying for ADR they're paying for, you know, for your wardrobe fitting as you're paying for usually, if it's rehearsal, I do the rehearsal on the same day, as you know, they're coming in for the final wardrobe fitting and twice kind of thing. And I tell my director that we're probably only going to get that one day or half day or whatever, at that budget level. So you know, you just and then if he wants to go and work with the with the with them separately, then that's their business and we're not paying for it, you know, in terms of rehearse so

Alex Ferrari 57:00
so so but people so for indie filmmakers, you understand if you've never even worked with sag actors, the minimum of a normal sag movie is I think, what now? 800 and some dollars $900 $1,000 for a normal for a normal contract.

Suzanne Lyons 57:13
Oh, yeah. I mean, well, I remember when I was starting, I think was 750. And that was years ago. So it's now it's been two to two up since to upgrade since then. So it's got to be around 1000. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 57:22
so So normally switches out of the price range for most indie like really low budget indie filmmakers. So and you want to have access to these really great actors who are a part of sag. So the sag ultra low allows you to basically pay them what you would pay a PA, essentially, about 25 plus insurance and stuff, which is I think, like 17 bucks or something like that extra. So for under 150 bucks, you have access to really great talent, of course, the talent has to agree to it, obviously. But but you have that door opens to you. And as filmmakers making low budget movies, if you can get some of those named talents in there that are willing to work or not even name towns, but just good quality actors at that, at that price range, it opens the whole world up for for you as an independent filmmaker.

Suzanne Lyons 58:12
And Alex, you're right, because, you know, the whole idea was to stop runaway production. The reason that you've got these wonderful things, is you've got to give the Directors Guild, I think, a lot of credit for lobbying in Washington for six years. Ironically, completely, ironically, when the UK kind of shut down as we knew it, in October of 2004, that exact same month, after six years of lobbying in Washington, the Directors Guild was able to get the government to create inside the job creation act, section 181, which allowed investors of a certain you know, amount 100%, tax write off huge percent tax write offs, depending on their there, you know, what they made, and so on. So, it opened up America for the first time in many, many, many years. I think the 70s was probably the last time we had that opportunity. So you know, and what happened is the Writers Guild, not the Writers Guild. That was the last one, the Directors Guild and the sag Guild. Really, we're trying to help in this work in that whole arena of working on American soil, how can we stop runaway production, not stop it, but at least bring it back, you know, and have our actors and, and our makeup artists and all those wonderful, talented people in the film industry work here, you know, because most time if you're going to shoot up in British Columbia, I'm sorry, but you're probably going to hire majority actors from British Columbia, and your, you know, makeup artist is from British Columbia, and all those people because you're getting a tax incentive based on your local spend, right? So, you know, so they were losing for 15 years. They said at one point, there was more movie shooting in Romania than there was anywhere across the whole world, you know, West so so they said gildan and the Directors Guild were really wonderful in creating this opportunity for us, the Writers Guild, it took about another, I think, six years or whatever for them to kind of come on board. But, but it was really great, you know, to be able to have this opportunity. And it was a win win. Like people would say, oh, Suzanne, That's so disgusting. You're only paying your actor $100 a day. I remember on candy stripers going up at the end of the week to give people their paycheck. And the lead actor literally doctor said to me What's this and I said it's your paycheck for the weekend with $600 or whatever right? And he said what for and I get your paycheck for working he said I would have done I thought this was free I would have done this for free I need them I need the real like you don't like you don't I mean these were a lot of new people and everybody wanted to work and he wanted to work to get the next work and the next work and the next one move up and up and up and up and up. So it was when it wasn't anybody being stingy It was like guess what we're all in this together. We're all able for the first time in American history starting in 2004 or whatever to be able to raise money it to the degree that we were able to we had two unions that were really forthcoming in allowing us to be able to to use their incredible talent people in the in the you know, the writer in the Directors Guild in and sake, as well. And it was just a total Win win. And it was fun. I mean, we were all having fun. Now that's changed in the last couple of years. Just because a couple of the other unions have really felt that it that it's not fair, you know that we should use all unions in anything even from 50,000

Alex Ferrari 1:01:44
You know, that's getting a little ridiculous.

Suzanne Lyons 1:01:47
It's so it's very hard now to shoot in California, especially and certainly on in certain many states on American soil. So you know, it's sadly sad, but my next movie, we're actually looking at Canada, which I don't want to trust me. I really want to shoot here. Yeah, but Business

Alex Ferrari 1:02:03
is business is business. And if the union the union pushes you too hard, you're like, Well, you know what, then I have to take my business elsewhere. Yeah, and

Suzanne Lyons 1:02:11
yeah, and if the budget is higher on it, then I'm shooting here, you know, over the million. I want to shoot here, when you're under a it's just too hard. I'm sorry. But if it's too hard, it's too hard on the on the producer on everybody, you know, to use five or six unions but but but anyways, it's um, it's uh, you know, but but in the in from 2004. Till, you know, let's say, two to three years ago, it was phenomenal and so much more. So many more movies, were shooting on American soil and offering these opportunities to everyone in the industry, all the keys, you know, all the crew all the cast, it's been fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:46
So so we're gonna end the show. Thank you so much, by the way, by being on the show you did, of course has fantastic job as you always do. But since since last time, I've I've come up with a little a few things that I always ask all my guests. I don't think I asked this of you last time. So there's two questions. I always ask everybody. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, whether in life or in the film business?

Suzanne Lyons 1:03:10
The lesson that took me the longest to learn? Well, jeez, that's really good. I didn't get that one last time.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:22
It's good. That's my that's my. That's my question.

Suzanne Lyons 1:03:26
I love it. That's harder and calculus, man. Okay, the longest to learn, I think, oh, man, there's now there's couple things first of all, in my mind went blank on I think to ask for help. is the first one that popped into my head. So I'm going to go with that. First. I think there's one other important one does versus to ask for help. Because I think for some reason in this industry, I mean, in life in general, too. We think we're Lone Ranger's. And we have to do it, you know, on our own. God forbid, you know, God should put you know, 7 billion people on the planet, there's a clue that we're not Lone Ranger's. But anyways, we never look at that we always think it's up to us, right? And I think in the entertainment industry is even worse, we really feel that, you know, for some reason, we have to be Lone Ranger's. And and when I said and that's why I think even isn't raising money at first was so hard for films. And then once we realize that doesn't have to be just me and Kate, it's like, there's a whole world out there that we can ask for help. So I think it's that is probably the first thing that comes to mind. And the other thing is that I think knowledge I think, like we talked about before, it's you've got to get really smart about whatever business it is that you're in, and not so much to rely on other people even though you want to ask for help, but you want to get to know what you're doing. You know, I love to read contracts because yes, I have an attorney but that our attorney has 50 other clients and he's busy doing 50 option agreements, you know, so I'm, I want to be smart. I will took a course on how to read contract, you know, and I read Bunch of attorneys you know books for the entertainment industry I want to get I want to be smart about knowing what I'm doing, you know, so I think those are the two things that come to mind is to kind of you know, ask for help, be willing to ask for help you don't have to be a lone ranger and secondly to kind of be smart about what it is that you're doing and you know and that sort of thing like that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:26
And what are three of three of your favorite films of all time?

Suzanne Lyons 1:05:31
Oh my god, you're 3d my oh my god, that's so hard because I love so many genres. I love horror. I love I love romantic. I'd have to say a little romance that's when I was falling in love you know for the with with my husband. That movie a Diane Lane that's back in oh god the late 70s we were in film school and broadcasting school at the time. Little romance is one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time. Certainly Harold and Maude just because I know it's everybody's favorite. You know, you can watch it what we bought what many times certainly that's the that's a classic. I love all the diehard movies I love all the way the weapons I've seen everything probably 10 times anything sci fi I've seen 10 times. Those would be my to the end and I think you know what I have to say? One of my own own undertaking Betty. Honest to God, I mean Syria as much as I love sci fi and action and all that stuff. I'm the major action in sci fi and to me, it's like I say to my husband, if there's no car chase, it's not a movie, right? And he's always trying to drag me to arthouse movies. Um, I would have to say I love undertaking Betty I've probably seen it 100 times because I had to, you know, during all the different processes, but I would still watch it again. 100 times it's one of the funniest best romantic comedies ever. And, and I also love those the art kind of movies, too. I mean, Erich von loise one of my favorite directors and memory of a killer I think would be another one. Phenomenal artistic thriller. Very I love you know, those kind of arts movies. Panic is another one. We lost that director far too soon. That's another kind of very artistic, I love artistic thrillers. I have to remember I just saw that a couple of months ago, you know, with with Christopher Plummer. That's another artistic throw. I do love the artistic thrillers, too. But I think the first three that I mentioned will remain my first three for now.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:39
So Suzanne, I hear you're going to be teaching a workshop this month. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Suzanne Lyons 1:07:44
Yeah, I will. I mean, I haven't had time to do it. In around six years I've been busy producing one point I did a lot of the classes on indie film producing 2007 after I finished candy stands and portal those early ones and I learned so much from those early ones I thought I have to teach a class because I realized how many mistakes we were all making. So it really the class takes you but I haven't had time like I said for almost six years. And I'm limiting it to a dozen people like I did the last one I did was a dozen people it's a nice oh, it's intimate, it's wonderful. It takes you from the beginning. From optioning everything from opting the screenplay all the way through in tiny little steps just like my book I wrote a book on indie film producing for focal press back Dre in 2011 2012 and it takes you through all the steps along the way because I think when we think of oh my god I got to produce a movie and you know raise 250,000 into a Sega ultra low and get all that done, our head explodes and nothing ever happens right? We hear people talking about it for 10 year words into little bite sized pieces. That's like okay, let's focus on this first you know focus on this piece focus on this piece. So that's what I do in the workshop. It's a one day intensive nine in the morning till six, I'll have a two to three guest speakers there to kind of highlight scenarios that are kind of difficult for people. And and I'll take you through the entire thing. It's you get a copy of the book, you get a binder that's worth around $20,000 Alex because I include a placement memorandum my operating agreements, say contracts, coups, crew contracts, subscription agreements, sag ultra low budget is in their natural one. My say Antoine is actually in there. It's real stuff. It's the real deal memos that we did on those actual movies, on real movies. So it's based on the making of the sag ultra low and the sag modified. I had a person and one of my classes whose budget was 25 million and I said what are you doing here? And she said, I'm just going to map everything on and it never occurred to me so people of all budget sizes have been in there. I've had writers who are tired of waiting, who were coming in saying I'm going to learn how to do it. What I do recommend Alex is to have people in there Only that are serious if you're going to be shooting in the next 18 months, if you're not shooting your movie, five years from now, don't do the class now save the space because it is very limited. There's seven people registered already, only five left, five spaces left. And I've just got a call actually yesterday from somebody else over I'm going to talk to him today, but it's very small. Because I think that's the best way to do it. Because it will be a lot of questions and there's a lot of concerns. It's a big deal, you know, raising money. It's a big deal. Honestly, it's a year and a half year life two years of your life, you know, and then being responsible for that baby for the rest of your life. Right? You know, intense labor pains about to happen so I only want to work with with the people that are very serious. It's expensive. It's the early bird special which just ends tomorrow actually is 495 It's a course itself is 595 which is what I've been offering you know, for quite a few years now. 595. However, for your guys, Alex for anybody from hustle if they say they're from indie, indie film, hustle, then I'm going to study not just what the early bird till next Sunday, which would be you know, October 16. If anyone from your group registers by October 16. Okay. They will not just get the early bird of 495 but I'll knock another 50 off so before 45

Alex Ferrari 1:11:21
Oh, wow, that's so generous of you. Thank you so much. Welcome.

Suzanne Lyons 1:11:24
You're welcome. Well, I mean, you've been just phenomenal with me, Alex, and you're going to be continuing to be phenomenal with me I know because we've got this great friendship now with these podcasts and all this other stuff. So I really appreciate that a lot and I've had a lot of wonderful thank yous from the early podcasts I did. So I want to thank you for that. But the course to me is incredible if you go online and just even check the reviews from my book. I was looking at them yesterday never looked at them before I almost cried. I mean, I really had no idea just how impactful and helpful people said that they've read they've tried to read many indie film books. And this was the only one they actually finished because it really does set it up in a step by step I'll even discuss how to do your accounting so instead of it being $5,000 you can get it down to $500 you know with your accountant I'll talk about taxes I even did I did my own like taxes i did my own I did my all my own 1099 to help save the money on that sort of thing like my own marketing you know I talked about the social media now that we've done that on time toys we had to start a year early because we thought we might be self distributing. So how do you prepare for the self distribution aspect as well? How do you get to know the sales agents I'm going to have a speaker talk about preparing for the American Film market so we'll definitely because there's only three days four days later right after right right yeah. On Wednesday yeah the second of November so we'll talk about how do you best prepare for that you know then I you Alex, you said you're gonna offer to come in your post

Alex Ferrari 1:12:50
Yeah, I'm gonna be I'll be doing a little guest speaking on the post production and delivery and all that kind of stuff as well and I'm gonna

Suzanne Lyons 1:12:56
I can even get a sales agent to come in for half an hour so hopefully you for half an hour Heather, you know for half and Heather Hale for half an hour. And then I'll get a sales agent to come in for half an hour and you know, we'll add some stuff to it. It's going to be if I do say so myself. It's phenomenal.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:10
No middle class. No guys, so you guys know where to go. Just go to indie film, hustle, calm forward slash Suzanne. And that'll take you directly to all the contact paper, all the contact, stuff up all the contact information on how to get ahold of Suzanne and and sign up for the course.

Suzanne Lyons 1:13:29
And just so you know, the course itself will be on October 29. It's on a Saturday here in Los Angeles. Here in Los in Encino, Sherman Oaks. And so you know, it's going to be a business building. So it's free parking which is nice in the business building. A friend of mine owns the spot we're going to use it. It's wonderful. Lots of restaurants close by you'll be with great people. I mean, the seven people already that are registered, I would want to hang out with their their active guys has already produced two movies he did my class years ago. He's done too. But he's teamed up with two new partners that are new. So they're doing it together. So it's and oh, anyways, it's a really good group already. I'm looking forward to it because I'm looking forward to learning from everybody in the class.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:11
Suzanne, thank you so much for being Oh, but thank you again so much for being on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure. And I know we could talk for probably another two or three hours. But But thank you again so so much if you've dropped a lot of knowledge bombs on the indie film hustle tribe, so thanks again.

Suzanne Lyons 1:14:27
Thanks, Alex. Thanks for having me. All right, talk to you later.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:31
I told you she'd be dropping some major knowledge bombs in this episode man I love Suzanne she she has a wealth of information and I am going to be at that course. That workshop that she's going to be teaching later this month because you can never learn too much and my god she is a wealth of information as experience. So I wanted to definitely hear what she has to say. So guys, definitely check it out. There's only four spots left so just head over to indie film, hustle calm for slash Suzanne and they'll give you all the information you need for to call her contact her and sign up. So I'm gonna give you a quick update on this is Meg I am currently working on a trailer for this is make so you guys can at least see a little bit of what I've done with this movie and because it won't be able to be seen in its entirety for at least till next year until we start going through the festival circuit but I at least wanted to give everybody a trailer to kind of get a taste of what the craziness that I shot with. This is Meg so I'm currently working on it. It is a beast to do a good one. So I'm working on it as we speak. So hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I'll have something to show you guys. And as always head over to filmmaking podcast calm, that's filmmaking podcast calm and leave me an honest review of the show. If you really like it, I really appreciate it helps us get the word out on what we're doing here at indie film hustle. And if you want to go to the show notes for this episode, it's indie film, hustle, calm, forward slash 105 and I'll have the links to everything we discussed in the episode. So as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)

Free Training of The Week


How to Produce a Profitable Low Budget Feature Film

By Suzanne Lyons

Join veteran producer Suzanne Lyons as she shows you the three key secrets to produce a successful and profitable independent film.