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IFH 218: Using Algorithms to Help Sell Your Indie Film with Sundance’s Liz and Jess

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Sundance is back on the show. I had the pleasure of having returning champion Liz Manashil (listen to her interview here) and Jess Fuselier from the Sundance Institute. We discuss the very cool things they are up to at the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship and how they are using data and algorithms to help indie filmmakers find an audience and sell their films.

Thanks again to Media Circus PR who co-produced these podcasts episodes with me. Enjoy my interview with Liz and Jess.

Alex Ferrari 1:58
So today on the show, we are going to talk about algorithms and data to help you sell your movie with two warriors that are going to war for you guys every day trying to find ways to help you make money with your movies. Liz Manashil and Jess Fuselier from the Sundance creative distribution fellowship are hard at work trying to figure out how to use data to help filmmakers sell their movie. So at Sundance, I sat down with them and talked a little bit about data gathering what they are doing with their fellowship program as well. And what they're learning from filmmakers that are going through the program and hopefully going to be releasing and are releasing this information to the to the public to other indie filmmakers to help them get a better understanding of what it really takes to get their movie out there. And I also want to thank my partner media circus PR for co producing the series of Sundance podcast. So without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Liz and Jess from the Sundance Institute. I'd like to welcome to the show

Liz Manashil 3:11
Liz Manashil

Jess Fuselier 3:12
And Jess Fuselier

Alex Ferrari 3:13
Thank you guys for coming in. Liz is a returning champion to our show three Pete, you actually are one of the first three people to the show. That is and you're the first back to back guest Yeah, ever in history. I'm really great. And her humble. Humble as well. So everyone who's listened to the podcast before knows Liz works for Sundance, and others after the last podcast what kind of reaction I warned you. Yeah, I did warn you just like No, just give my email out. It'll be fine. I'm like, Liz, are you sure not so good. What happened?

Liz Manashil 3:48
I got a lot of emails. So basically, I went on your podcast to publicize our fellowship, the creative distribution fellowship at Sundance. And I think at the time, we had like 30 applications, and now we have 120 I think and those aren't, don't even count the draft. So we probably have around 200. So thank you, you're welcome. I still want people to email me I'm like a glutton for punishment. I really like email. So I'll put

Alex Ferrari 4:10
I'll put your email in the show notes, as well. I just sent a lowly Good, good. So we brought some success and hopefully gonna help something get out. Yeah. And we'll talk a little more about that what you do as well and not just what do you do at the all powerful Sunday.

Jess Fuselier 4:27
Um, so I am with Liz and the creative distribution initiative. And I manage education and research, which is which is kind of a really interesting hybrid right now, especially with where the market is at and the different trends that are going on a distribution. But basically what I do is I work with data, all the data we can get access to and figure out ways we can craft educational resources for filmmakers that help them find more sustainable avenues, specifically within the distribution space.

Alex Ferrari 4:55
And I think that's something that's so under parked about is sustainability as a Career, you know, it's filmmaking and you know, you're a filmmaker, all filmmakers we've all made, you know, films and stuff and, and, you know, you push everything out to that one movie. And that's the thing. And if it doesn't pop and make you a millionaire, then what? And I think that's the model is like this kind of lottery ticket model that's horribly unhealthy. It's extremely unhealthy. And you can't sustain a career doing it. But I think what you guys are trying to do is maintain like, Look, guys, you can't look at this as one project, you know, look at this as a career next 510 15 years. So we talked a little bit about what you were doing in regards to data collection. And then that's really interesting. What are you doing with data collection to help filmmakers?

Jess Fuselier 5:40
Sure. So we're starting with these really robust case studies of our two inaugural fellows that are going through the creative distribution fellowship right now. That's Columbus and unrest. And we've followed them throughout their entire process, right. And part of this stipulations of the fellowship is that our fellows are completely open with us and honest and willing to share their information. And so we've been on weekly calls from with them since day one. And that's very much like that's our first those are going to be the first big pieces coming out of our department that are very data driven. So talking about how much they spent on PMA and how that was divided, was it majority PR was a majority digital marketing, and certain things like that. And then even breaking out within those spaces, where did the money go to? And then also just the returns that they're seeing on the different revenue streams? So theatrical and T VOD, and what was their strategy? What was their windowing strategy. So really breaking it down to all of the granular details. So filmmakers can glean insights from that, and, you know, pick and choose what they want to take from that as far as what helps them the most. And then from there, we're also working on something called the transparency project. So the transparency project started a couple years ago, and it was a very ambitious tool, where we were basically trying to get information on the performance of films to feed this tool, and then filmmakers would be able to use it to get sample projections on their future work. Yes, that would be incredible. That would be that would be fantastic. We're not what I will say this, um, I have a tech background, I was a coder for about four years. Um, and that's a really ambitious thing to do. And there are a lot of companies out there right now who are starting to do that work. And doing it well, you know, and finding the sources. And so, you know, I think as an institute in our department specifically really felt that the best way we could transform the transparency project would be finding ways to craft educational resources that aren't just driven by anecdotal information, but are driven in concrete facts, you know, the data that we have access to you as an institute, we're very fortunate, right? We support a lot of incredible filmmakers. We see a lot of different models come in and out of the Institute. So how can we use that information, to really open the doors up for filmmakers and help them figure out what's going to be the best avenue for their project? So the transparency Project 2.0 is going to be a collection of resources, you know, case studies, you know, kind of like, where the market is that the trends that we're seeing those types of things on a daily basis. So it's going to be like your data feed coming out of Sundance.

Alex Ferrari 8:32
Why is it so difficult to get information about distribution? We have that conversation? Yeah, you know, you were you were so you know, wonderful to basically be an open book and very transparent

Liz Manashil 8:42
Open though, like you wanted more, you wanted to do more, but the same or the distributor would let you do anything they told they let me share as much as I could. But when you signed a distribution deal, normally that there's that confidentiality clause, and

Alex Ferrari 8:56
Like I don't understand like, I guess it's because

Liz Manashil 8:59
Attract them and protect the filmmaker to I'm not gonna say it's completely self serving. Maybe there was something protective about the distributor, we tend to villainize distributors every now and then in our department. And so every now and then I want to be careful, we're just trying to villainize the really shitty ones. So

Alex Ferrari 9:16
I'm glad you're so candid. So and there are distributors might be very nurturing and may want to protect, if there's, there's, you know, and I've been in the game a while as well. And I've seen I've had my day with distributors, I'm gonna say nine out of 10 are that the shitty model and there is that one every once in a while? That is great. And that's sad. But it's also lay over from like, kind of like a legacy legacy distribution model from the 80s in the, you know, distribution and rural distribution where, you know, this whole new aggregator and self distribution and, and having access to this kind of data that they held behind the walls for so long, and now we have access to that kind of stuff. And I think it's where everything is eventually going to go

Liz Manashil 9:59
Still a pretty shaped culture. And what we're trying to do is, you know, if you do our fellowship, which I like to plug, as often as both of you do our fellowship, you're like justice saying you're required to give us information. And because we are not the distributor, the filmmaker and Sundance can be very open and public about all the data. Whereas if we were taking a distribution fee, or we were a distributor, obviously, we couldn't do such things like that, right? We're nonprofit, so we're motivated to support we're mission based are motivated to support the filmmaker. No, so I've heard so much about the Sundance Institute, over the years, you know, as this kind of like, ivory tower thing for, you know, for filmmakers, and I know you guys laugh because you're inside the ivory tower. But it's like that ivory,

Alex Ferrari 10:43
I know, I know, the reality and the reality of what it is, and the end what the myth is, are two different things. Because if you put the word Sundance in front of anything, filmmakers, independent filmmakers, that's why you got so many emails. Can you get me? Can you get me in? Can you get me to look at what can you do? What can you do? By the way, just so everybody knows, they have no power of getting your movie into Sundance. And we don't whatsoever? We're so sorry. They know, no one can get nothing. Okay, so please, if you email me, I'll have to talk about other things. But that is not one of the things that

Jess Fuselier 11:15
We genuinely love getting emails like that is that is something that we, like, we department enjoy that. I know, people find it very weird how much we ask people to email list. So

Alex Ferrari 11:26
I just have because department three, three, yeah, this is two thirds of the departments that you guys just like, I don't want to talk to you more, I want to read emails. So we're talking about like opening up the data of helping filmmakers. And you know, one thing that Facebook has done extremely well is they've created basically the most powerful marketing tool in the history of man. Yeah, with the love them or hate them. And there's, there's, there's feet on both sides on that the information that they have on people is remarkable. And I think it would be wonderful to be able to have even a scope of that information about the filmmaking process about how distributing your distribution and things like that. Is that something you're kind of going after as well?

Jess Fuselier 12:12
Yeah, we're, we're actively getting trying to get data from multiple different sources, right. So we want to be working with distributors, again, we're, you know, sometimes it might sound like we're villainizing distributors, but we really aren't. And I think the way that we see it right now is that something needs to change within the industry, in order for it to become more sustainable, and for more people to be able to have this sustainable living. So it's, it's about everyone at this point. So we're trying to encourage people to be transparent, the sales agents, the distributors, you know, everybody that's in the game, we want to work with them, we want to help them, you know, we want to find these sustainable avenues. So, and we're also collecting all of the information within the Institute, as far as the projects that are coming in and out of there. And then also training filmmakers on how to use data, how to use that Facebook data. How do audience target

Liz Manashil 13:09
Exactly an audience identify an audience? Yeah, ship is a digital marketing spends, you know, like we give, we're giving digital marketing grants for our fellowship, and we want them to use, you know, use that money towards things like Facebook ads, so that they can better target and figure out the efficient way to reach those.

Alex Ferrari 13:25
And you guys can get that data as well. Well, yeah. Would you agree, though, like you were saying that making it the more sustainable and the industry has to change, I feel that a lot of was, you know, it's kind of like the old school film school model, which is the, you know, let's just pop them out as much as they can. Because even if, or even coding, or you know, video or visual effects, for God's sakes, that they beat up visual effects artists, I'm gonna beat you until you're done. And then there's five other guys waiting, and five other girls waiting to take your spot. And I think that's the mentality with filmmakers in general in this industry. Would you agree with that? Because like, oh, like he's gonna make a movie, or she's gonna make a movie. And that's great. But I got three other guys, you know, there's so much content that there's so many people that they don't care about nurturing a sustainable career, because there's just such a gluttony of product. What do you what do you what you're talking about? Because I make my films outside of this system, right, crowdfund,

Liz Manashil 14:16
I use equity. Sure, and I don't rely on a sort of stablished winners to do a funding, and therefore I am in full control of everything. But there are platforms that are actually really kind to artists. And you know, I think a lot of that is in the digital space. It's those old world stuck in the past distributors of production companies, who may be a little bit more assembly line, like the way you're thinking about, but I don't know if that's

Jess Fuselier 14:41
No, no, I think that's absolutely right. And I put it but I also think that it's not just about using data when you're in the throes of already having created your film and finding your audience that way. But I also think, you know, maybe content creators can also start to use that beforehand, right? And test what they're they're looking to make. Right. I think that that's another thing, a lot of filmmakers and this is just a personal opinion of mine. I think sometimes filmmakers jump in headfirst with an idea and then get it done and then realize that stop it. Sorry, I get a favor of that kind of, I know. One area very late and I have like different viewpoints. I agree that does work with a certain extent with a bunch. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
You jumping in $100,000. With that mentality, you're done, we jump in with a $5,000 micro $10,000 microwave, confirm, don't do

Liz Manashil 15:39
Or make it will be so hard that sometimes a delusion is necessary. Like how I feel.

Alex Ferrari 15:48
Yeah, I have to be a little bit delusional in this business. As a general statement, just in faith, maybe faith is a bit of a combination number two, to be able to do anything in this business. I feel that there has to be that Yeah, just to go down the arts and arts in general. Like, you know, I still remember telling my dad like, I'm gonna go be a filmmaker. And he's like, what's that? Well, how are you gonna make money? I'm like, Why can be a PA. And that was that was that was my business plan. I tried to be a PA no one wanted me to be. I was a PA. And I learned quickly that it stunk. So I was like, post, I'm gonna sit in that room. That's where I set my boyfriend. I was like, you like post, I sat in a room. I'm like, I'm going to get carpal tunnel, it's going to be air conditioner. It's going to be great. 20 years later, I'm still hostess with the nice people. Depends, I've been around a lot of posts. Again, you are the client, your client lists. Don't forget, when you walked into books.

Liz Manashil 16:48
I trained as an editor in film school, okay. And my partner is in post and like, I was like, you should work in post production because everyone's like, they're on there. They're more kind and more calm. There's like, let's do even

Alex Ferrari 17:00
Less stress. Yeah, but they can be stressful depending on you

Liz Manashil 17:02
I know, like saying these things. If I know I really yeah, it's probably horrible, just like everything else. Horrible.

Alex Ferrari 17:09
Why does anyone even think? Why does anyone even do this? Because we need art. And we need them. We need it more now than ever. Yeah, without question. And you know what? It's a calling. Yeah. But the thing is, and that's one of the missions I I have with any film hustle is I want to show people how to survive and thrive martial artists, how to survive and thrive. Because I'm so tired of getting filmmakers just getting eaten up and spit out by the system so much. I've seen it throughout my career, I've seen people who've tried to do something like, Oh, it's too hard. And like, you're just not I'm sorry, you're not cut out for this. Not at this level, you're gonna have to try to do something else or be another part of the of the cog in the wheel. Yeah. But it's difficult. It's difficult, even as easy as it is now, to make a movie, as they say, much easier than it was 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, it's still extremely difficult. It's I think the challenge is just change. Yeah. Because before it wasn't the entry level entry point. Problem was the cost of the year. Now you can shoot it on your iPhone. Now distribution and marketing. Hey, hey, what do you guys know about that? So what a little bit and so with? So take me through a standard project. If you can with distribution? How do you how do you approach like, let's say I'm a filmmaker, I have $100,000 movie, which I actually literally no five of them right now that have that. But I'm talking to two, yeah, that had a movie that you know, half a million dollars or more. I have one with half million dollars, God bless we're working with. There's like, Okay, what do we do? And they literally told me that, like, I don't think we were we all know that we're not going to make our money back. We just want to make as much back as always, that's a good, that's a good start. It was a great movie. It's a great movie, but they're like, Okay, what can we do? What's our strategy? What, how can we do this? And, and we're working with them on that. But what would your advice be with like, you know, and I know it's case by case, but like, what's the basic things that you need to know, to get your movie out there?

Liz Manashil 19:04
Um, I mean, we're big proponents of people starting to think about marketing and distribution before the film is done. Amen. Because when you can start wrapping your head around that and starting to put, you know, see your film through those lenses. And then it just makes the process easier down the line. And, unfortunately, a lot of the filmmakers that we speak to it's not the case. But I think that this is a change in mentality. I think it will shift.

Alex Ferrari 19:33
So what what is the cause of that? Why is it? Yeah. Or is it just something that's not taught in film school? Is it just something that's not focused on because it isn't taught?

Jess Fuselier 19:43
Well, sure. And that's, you know, I didn't go to film school and that's when Yeah, that's when that's one thing it lays Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 19:50
Exactly.

Liz Manashil 19:50
It's not done. I'm pumped. I'm trying to like create it. Yeah. So that I can teach it us

Alex Ferrari 19:55
Like marketing, distribution. Yeah, social media.

Jess Fuselier 19:58
But the thing is, is that I think so. Many times in film school, it's about, it's about being creative. It's about being the Creator, it's about being the filmmaker. And there's been this separation for so long, where distribution and marketing is very pragmatic, it's very business minded, and that the filmmaker needs to hand their film off at that point. And, you know, put it into somebody else's hands. What we're Yeah, exactly what we're trying to get people to understand is that distribution and marketing is a creative process. It's, it can be fun. It can be it's not, it's it's not a one size fits all, even though so many times. And you know, we have, we have that preconceived notion, because I think that's the, that's the cycle that we see perpetuated so much in the media, and so on and so forth. But it's starting to become a very creative process, there's a lot of different avenues you can take. We're not trying to evangelize self distribution, we're just trying to answer questions with what we're doing and self distribution is for everyone. Ignore it's not a million dollar movie. It's self distributions of beast, you really have to be on your game. Yeah, to make your money back, you know, at a certain business model, it makes sense. Yeah, you even have the half million dollar mark,

Alex Ferrari 21:12
It's off 100 grand, you know, movie to self distribute, like straight up, like, I'm just gonna put it out myself, market it myself, pitch it to Hulu and Netflix myself, you really have to understand what you're doing.

Jess Fuselier 21:25
It's a lot. And it's a tie. It's a, it's a huge resource investment. It's not just a it's not just budgetarily an investment, but it's a huge investment of time, you know, what's something we're trying to spread is that it's not just self distribution, right? Like we use the word self distribution.

Liz Manashil 21:38
It's a team, right? So we're saying, the films that we work with, we encourage them to hire a publicist and digital marketing specialists. And if they want to do a theatrical, theatrical for that entire team, we don't expect the filmmakers we work with to do it all themselves. And it'd be very hard for any filmmaker to do it on themselves. So we understand that at any level,

Jess Fuselier 21:59
I think but I think if if filmmakers can really sit down, like going into the distribution process, like, even if they didn't start from day one, thinking about it, if they could just, you know, have like a really honest conversation with themselves. And I know this sounds cheesy, but do like a pros and cons list of the different options that you have in front of you, you know, and then from there, you can really see, like, you know, okay, do I want to do I want to take a jump and maybe do this myself, because maybe I feel like I'm the only one who really knows this film. I know how, like, I could reach an audience, I say, See how I could potentially market it. Okay, if that's really the option that you want to take, then let's start with budget, you know, how much do you have to put forward towards this? You know, who are you? Who are you trying to reach? And what are the best avenues to reach those people, you know, and then if you decide that you do want to go through the distributor route, one thing that I have a very simple piece of advice that Liz gives all the time, but I love it so much. And it has to do with sales agents and distributors, is if you get an offer, or you you find that there's a distributor that's interested, just do your research, you know, look at their catalog and quality. Exactly, and call this homemaker see what their relationship was like with this distributor. And, you know, maybe they had a great relationship and then maybe it's like, Yeah, exactly. dish, right.

Alex Ferrari 23:14
Yeah, they will dish You're like a sewing circle. are like, also if there's nothing I mean, honestly, a filmmaker that's been screwed over. Last night, Harry Have no fear, like a filmmaker screwed. And they will just from the top of the mountains say is I mean, it's, I mean, true, right? Absolutely. I mean, it's, it's amazing. And I've had people call me about certain producers, raps or certain things because I was under movies. I'm like, don't don't even do it.

Liz Manashil 23:50
I'm gonna say, crew members, we have our own internal core recommendation system where we say I've worked with this person, or I would never want this person to guess the same thing.

Alex Ferrari 23:58
Right! But the stakes are much higher when you're giving away your $100,000 ad. It's all over. Right. So I especially Don't you love the yellers.

Liz Manashil 24:06
Oh, I do actually like to do what I like whenever you say

Alex Ferrari 24:17
Stop yelling dude. We're all professionals here. I mean, come on. Would you like you like you Okay, now we don't we all

Liz Manashil 24:24
I just was like, that are like really, you know, you have a strong presence, you know,

Alex Ferrari 24:29
You do have a strong ad presence.

Liz Manashil 24:30
I don't want them to let me get away with anything. Like I want like the attention and I want to fight for things and I want

Alex Ferrari 24:36
I see your creative process. Like I see your creative process.

Liz Manashil 24:44
This is not their appeal is alright.

Alex Ferrari 24:48
So when you say as a trial,

Liz Manashil 24:52
I wanna go back to something you said about how filmmakers can just start getting involved in marketing distribution, just the beginning stage and you know We talk in these very grand statements about, you know, general things about marketing distribution, but it could start with a Facebook post or a Twitter post. And just little things, we leverage a pole. Like we encourage, you know, say I, or we, instead of the film's title, like, make it personal, make it human, make it authentic. Make as many jokes as you can make, like, just being robotic, and everyone knows something funny. Yeah, funny. It's really funny. Yeah. I mean, memes, memes, they haven't gone away yet. I've been waiting for them. They're still here. And it's crucial for inspirational quotes. Easy resources just to grow audiences at your fingertips. Just if you could just once you identify your audience, you can feed that audience, the content that they're looking for. And it doesn't have to be your content. It could be other people's content. And you start with your network first, you know, if you're scared, start with your friends and family. Just like because I consult on crowdfunding campaigns. You always start with your friends family first, and then you expand beyond, right. So what I mean, same thing here,

Alex Ferrari 26:04
When I launched indie film, hustle, when I had literally nothing, I just launched the website and the podcast, I had the mentality, like in a year and a half, depending on how big my audience is, I'm going to crap on my future. And that's exactly what I did a year and a half later, I was like, you know, I'm going to crap on my little micro budget. film. This is Magen, and it worked out. Because I was that it was a plan was a year and a half plans and not a lot of filmmakers think like that. Not awesome. But think long term. Like, you know what, I'm in the year I'm going to do this, but it's going to take ballbusting work until that year comes around. And it just kind of worked out that way. But they have to start you agree that

Liz Manashil 26:42
This I don't think they don't think long term because I did the same thing as for my first feature, but I don't think long term because that the data is not there to tell them how long it takes to put a film together how long it takes to convert How long does it take to do all these? These? I can't speak? Yeah. So I mean, again, not to bring it to circular and be too self promotional.

Alex Ferrari 27:06
Dance Institute, what

Liz Manashil 27:09
The whole point of these cases, the whole point of what we're doing is to be like, hey, filmmakers, this information has been hidden from you for ever. So let's just tell you how long it takes how much it takes, what how much what financial resources you need, like, how

Alex Ferrari 27:23
much is a real Facebook buy? Yeah, like, what is it? Yeah, well, that's that's a big like, because a lot of people like go onto social media. I'm gonna do some buys. I'm like, how much do we have? I've got $100

Liz Manashil 27:33
That actually will take you far. I did a 40. I did three ads. And it total $40. Right. Yeah. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 27:40
But I think in the scope of what your trip looks like. For people who can't see this, and listening to it, just looked at it. That's no. No, no, but like, no, with $100, depending on the kind of movie it is, like, you know, if you have a half a million dollar movie, $100 ain't gonna do a whole lot of $5,000 it's not going to do a lot, but it can, if you do it correctly, and you're going to spend 100 to 500 just figuring out what works. Yes, exactly. And and that's something that they they can't understand sometimes it's, it's, it's a different language,

Jess Fuselier 28:18
It's absolutely a different language speak the same language. So you and all of us can have a conversation. Yeah, me, not me. But I will try, I will try to get back on not a lot.

It's a it's tough, I completely understand. And this is an example I like to use. Before I started coding, I knew how to turn my computer on and type on it. And that was it. And I took a boot camp, and it was like a crazy 10 weeks of my life. But that just proved to myself that oh, this is accessible. Once you get over a certain hump. It's accessible, you know. And so I we've really encouraged filmmakers to just take a deep breath. And I articles Yeah, read our articles. We actually one of the first ones that I released was basically just breaking down all of digital marketing terms. So like, what is that book?

Liz Manashil 29:07
So please break down a few. So what is a CP something?

Jess Fuselier 29:11
There you go. That is a cost per metric, right? So you're either basing it off of cost per click, which is how literally how much does it cost when every time somebody clicks on it? It is that that was back in the day? That's one way to do it. But now that's still a thing. Yeah, I mean, it's still a thing. It's still a thing in Facebook, you can go for you can go for links, or you can go for impressions, which is cost per impression is basically like 1000 eyeballs, right? Every time your ads reaches a click on Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you know, we've we've taken some time to break these things down and try to help filmmakers understand that this is accessible to them. These are tools that they all have at their fingertips. And it does take a certain amount of testing, but that and you know in the tech world today steam is like the foundation of it. All right. And that is a very creative process, right? It's trial and error. It's figuring out the little tweaks that you need to make in order to hit the right people. And so I think I think filmmakers are missing out when they don't play with these technologies. Because you can get super creative with some of the stuff that you do, right? You you look at the 32nd spots you have, and you're like, Okay, how can I slice this into a 10 second spot that's going to grab somebody's attention like that, and be like, I have to watch this right? And then you have something in the first frame that is your attention. Exactly. Exactly. So it's like playing around with that. It's like, it's like a game, you know, like, how can you continually optimize to, you know, to reach more points, quote, unquote. And

Alex Ferrari 30:45
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jess Fuselier 30:55
But but it's it's a very creative process, we had a really great example is, you know, one of our fellowship films, the director, got involved in the social media campaign, and made some assets made some quick snippets of behind the scenes footage, and that update investors on their social media campaign on under the phone. But yeah, he knew the phone best and his fans, his fans immediately knew they're like, Oh, yeah, you know, this is like, this is it, you know? And so having those lightbulb moments, I think, are very rewarding. And I think filmmakers need to know that that is, that is very much prevalent in the digital marketing space. You know,

Alex Ferrari 31:33
Did you guys ever hear of a movie called come fury? Yeah. Did Yeah. Short film. Wait. So it was a movie done by I think Swedish film, it was not mistaken. And they made a 80s. Like, almost like such an homage to the 80s. But like, to the nth degree, it was a short film, they raised like, $150,000 for the short. And they knew their audience. That's like, 400, that's four or five features. I mean, for you, it's like, but um, but they made this short, it was visual effects. That was dinosaurs. It was a giant Thor, they went back in time, it was really meant for the audience that they were going after, which was people who really love the 80s, which is a broad stranger thing. Yeah. But and they tapped into that way before Stranger Things into this nostalgia of it. All right. But they were and then they have T shirts, and like leather jacket, that VHS release of it Limited Edition. Yes, it was copied. And pretty much a copy of this, this Swedish theory, yes. LPs. It was amazing. They have they made tons of money, but their social media was just on point. They're just doing constant memes, constant video, stuff like that, but they knew who their audience was. Yeah. And it's a short film.

Liz Manashil 32:54
But also it can reflect your personality. So if you're like a laconic soul, who's just really more poetic, and really sure on to images, and just post a few photos, I mean, like, I think the other thing is that there's a lot of pressure can be built up about, I gotta be clever, I gotta post seven times a day, I have to it gets right, it gets a bit. So you could do it suited to your personality.

Jess Fuselier 33:14
It's about an authentic voice. Yeah, your audience, your audience is going to know when it's not an authentic voice, and you're just trying to fit into a mold. And if you fake it, that they'll smell, they sniff it out a mile away. And

Alex Ferrari 33:28
It may be a 90 something they know now, we're so savvy,

Jess Fuselier 33:33
We're not in a time anymore, where you can just get away with cookie cutter templates. You know, it's not like people have so much content in their face on a daily basis. So what's going to set you apart, it's going to be your voice and you have to make sure that that's your own. You have to be authentic. And I think that's in general with all your marketing.

Alex Ferrari 33:49
If you're 100% what you're trying to be you are, it's gonna do well, at least with the audience that you're trying to reach. Yeah. As opposed to if you're just like, you know, the sleazy madman marketing guy who's just trying to you know, pigeonhole like the people who love Manhattan's and, you know, we made a movie. We made this movie just about how the Manhattan was made. You say, Are you looking for investment? equity? Do we have equity? Yeah, tell us more. But yeah, I think authenticity is such a good and you were saying it's so much fun doing it. I've discovered I mean, I've learned so much about digital marketing with indie film hustle. It's insane. Yeah, how much I've learned doing that all myself. Yeah. And putting all the content out and I think one of the reasons why resonates with people is because I'm, I'm authentic. Yeah, this is my it's in I'm out from I'm not hiding behind a logo, or I'm like, literally screaming with a gun. That looks like a super eight camera.

Liz Manashil 34:49
But also like when I emailed you, you emailed me back within like, two hours, two hours went out. Yes. Really quickly. Yeah. I mean, that's the other thing is like if you're reachable your approach trouble. I mean, that's also part of it, too is like, what I hate about old I level of Hollywood. And I love the old world of distribution to a degree because it's responsible for some of my favorite films. Sure. But what I hate about it is that wall Oh, yeah, between audience and artist. And so all we're trying to do is say, write down that wall as often as possible. So here the one other thing we suggested to like on your website, this is something I learned from my mentor, Peter Broderick is like don't do an info at do Alex at indie film, hustle, you know, whatever it is, so that people know they're reaching you just all of these ways to make yourself at everyone's fingertips. It's a you know, a little bit of pressure, but it's still it's a way that you make new friends, you can make it with your audience directly.

Alex Ferrari 35:44
And you're building community. Now what? What are kind of like some of the, you know, mistakes you see filmmakers make when they come into your arena.

Jess Fuselier 35:56
Silence,

Liz Manashil 35:57
crickets, there's crickets actually, some times being too precious. Oh, yeah. And I know that that is really I just, I just want to I just want to clarify, and I am not a filmmaker. So I don't want people to think that I am. I don't want to be a poser by any means. What? I know, I am so sorry. film has been in my life in many different capacities in my professional career, and I used to work on film side, so I'm very attuned to it. But I'm not if Donald Trump, you're not afraid. But But, you know, I think that I totally understand this is your baby. Right? This is something that you've been working on for, I don't know, months, years, decades, you know? And, yes, I did evolve with some movies. Yeah, I mean, it's a thing I happen. But I think we're in a space right now, that is so rapidly changing that, yeah, that if you're not willing to put yourself out there and try new things, and figure out what works, that's just going to be a detriment to the future of your career. So I think sometimes filmmakers really hold on to their work and say, I don't want to I don't want to work with us, unless it's unless it's like, exactly 100%. What we think we need to do, you know, rather than saying, let's just throw a little bit out there and see what works, you know, especially with these digital marketing campaigns distribution there, yeah, well, don't share anything. Don't show any. keeps a secret sauce. Now you should part of growing your audience is deep enough information over time. Totally, totally. And it goes back to that authentic voice too. Right. It's like, again, but I think directors also need to be more in the forefront, right? They need people need to know who they are, and you know, what they stand for. And not just through their work, but by the way they represent their film. And by the way, they put their film out there in the world. And so I just encourage filmmakers not to be scared, you know, like, Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 37:58
You got to get out there. And yeah, you know, I mean, he was the master at that. He's the one who started the whole promoting the director. Yeah, on it. He was the first superstar director pretty much. And now I think, I think honestly, after I think, Tarantino when he came out in the 90s, here at Sundance, he became the rock and roll. That kind of rock and roll director, that everybody's like, oh, now it's cool to be a director. Not everybody wants to be a director. But you also do agree that it's not only being precious, but also expectation sometimes.

Jess Fuselier 38:29
Oh, 100%. Yeah, what do you mean my movies not gonna make $10 million and open and 5000 seats

Liz Manashil 38:36
inside of that, right? So I call that filmmaker delusion. And I talk about that, because I have felt made make we all have a little bit of, but uh, you need that to make them look

Alex Ferrari 38:46
good, then you need to stop.

Liz Manashil 38:48
After you get your first rejections. You know what I mean? Because you could make $10 million you get into Sundance, you could be an overnight success. But then once the you know, the evidence starts coming in, then you re evaluate and you re jigger your expectations. We're not dream killers here.

Alex Ferrari 39:06
But yeah, we might not be dream killers, but the industry is it's the marketplace will tell you what it is. And that's the that's the brutality of this industry in this business in general. And I like filmmakers, who are these gentle artists sometimes are not preparing their skin is so thin, that the first time someone knocks them down, they're like, Oh, yeah,

Jess Fuselier 39:24
you need to build up your God. Yeah, it also goes back to like, Why are filmmakers disillusioned and a lot of that has to do because they don't have access to information, you know, they just see these like, you know, record deals being made. And you know, but that's not it's not the reality. No, it's not the reality. Well,

Alex Ferrari 39:43
it's also I think, the delusion that you know, call it the mariachi effect. You know, everyone thinks that I love

Liz Manashil 39:48
the mariachi effect that you give everything for your film, which is wonderful. Yeah, it's great. I'm like the romantic and

Alex Ferrari 39:58
I A big fan of mariachi and we found a Robert and what he did, but I think that was not a model to follow in the sense of weightless calm down wave. I just thought my eggs was working No, no, but like, No, no, but like the Kevin Smith, you know, the clerks, the slacker the whole time in the 90s. Where was these lottery tickets literally being handed out, all you have to do is make a movie get into Sundance, and you know, for lack of a better term at the time, Harvey would walk down with a check, you know, and that at the time was a big thing. You know, and life was good. Did you move up at the Hollywood Hills and you start making millions of dollars? And you're good? That is not a business model? That is that's what I'm trying to say? Yes. Give all to your movie, do everything you can to make your movie happen. But also don't mortgage your house? Right. You know, don't you know, you have three kids at home, don't mortgaged your house, be smart about it, build up to something like that, you know, do a few micro budgets. That's why I'm such in favor of micro budget. Just go out here, go make a $5,000 movie, go to the duplass brothers, you know, do something like that. As opposed to, you know, rolling the dice.

Liz Manashil 41:08
Or, you know, what I do is I make films as a as a hobby. You know, they're No, I say it's a hobby doesn't mean it doesn't take my whole heart. And I'm, you know, obsessively thinking about it every single day. It just means that I have a day job. And you know, in the mornings in the evenings,

Alex Ferrari 41:22
I worked on the film. I think one of our one of our people here working with us, Adam said a wonderful statement is like, when you make a movie, like you know, for $500,000 with private equity, or, you know, someone wrote a check or something like that. It's basically gambling, gambling, but hidden with this guise of art. Mm hmm. Which I think is a great analogy. A great a great statement to say because it is you write a $500,000 check. Oh, it's a massive game. It's you're rolling the dice, you know, and you're not a studio that can handle you know, a hit.

Liz Manashil 41:56
Yeah, but still that person. I mean, that's the other thing. It's like I you know, you you feel indebted to your investors and you want to make investors happy. But the investors are, you know, indulgent, you know, intellectual they're, they're capable of making decisions. Yes. And it's their decision to does. I agree with the kid take on the weight of the world.

Alex Ferrari 42:18
No, you can't. But there's also delusions about there's investor delusion, right. So let them have it and then let them give you money to make my movie.

So I'm, finally I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you guys the longest to learn the film industry? Or just if you didn't see this at home, just his eyes just widen. You will run at least another couple hours. Right? We're good. All right. Yeah. So this is really turning into therapy has been really hard. Did you know now if I did, I don't remember? Yes. Okay. If you if you can answer if you can't, we'll move on. But we want to give a right answer. That's the thing we could give an answer, but it's just gonna be online forever. So just please. Yeah, that thing called the internet? Yes. It doesn't forget not joking. Um,

Jess Fuselier 43:34
Gosh, I don't know, there's so many things that I feel like I could say, to the point where I'm like, at a loss for words. And I'm still trying to work through a lot professionally. And I'm probably always will be. But I think a big part is just letting go. It's really hard. I think I very much have this perfectionist mentality to the point where when I feel passionate about something, and somebody doesn't understand that passion, it really gets to me and then like, in an emotional way, like emotional, visceral way. And, and so I think that's been a big thing is that we are all different human beings. And we all have, you know, different philosophies. And if somebody doesn't get why I'm passionate about something, that's okay. You know, it's okay. I don't need to do. I don't need to waste my energy on wondering why they don't understand my passion

Liz Manashil 44:35
For marketing and distribution at Sundance Institute. I like that. I like the back. Great, great, great.

Alex Ferrari 44:44
There's no question.

Liz Manashil 44:44
I mean, I don't think this is the answer, but it's an answer. And it's, as a filmmaker, I think there are a lot of fears and worries that are in our heads and there's expectations and all these things that we talked about today. And I think just saying them out loud or writing them down, as Like banal as that sounds as did I use the word for dollar? I don't know, like my three years.

Jess Fuselier 45:05
We're not convinced. That's right, that's the same

Liz Manashil 45:13
As, as you know, I was gonna say pedestrian this is, you know, as lame as that sounds, it's like just saying out loud reminds you that it's your fears are ridiculous. And that you should just go forth with what you want. I mean, sometimes your paranoia is get like, locked up and start, like creating delusions. And so I'm just saying, like, as a filmmaker, if there's filmmakers out there, like, we were here, we want to support you, email us and all of your fears and anxieties. Just write them all out to us. And we'll see how we can actually either verify, or the entire movie tries

Alex Ferrari 45:50
Or therapy for the so silly, but we love that we'd like to do so. So basically, what you're saying is, life is short go for.

Liz Manashil 45:57
Laughs basically, think of this when it comes to filmmaking. Yes. to other things. I mean, genocide, no, no. Other things. Yes. Wow, this

Alex Ferrari 46:06
interview was quickly. What advice would you give filmmakers just starting out in this lovely form, business, um,

Jess Fuselier 46:18
Explore all options. Like there's, there's so many things out there these days, there's so many different resources at your fingertips, there are so many different ways of putting art out into the world. Don't pigeonhole yourself and to one form of filmmaking, maybe you could find that VR and AR or something that really interests you, if you if you learn the trade, or maybe you find that, you know, you have a skill and photography, or you know, maybe you even love doing branded content, who knows, but I'm just saying, like, as a creator, that is such a rare skill to have. And I think with this as our world becomes more technologically driven, I think that, you know, that is just going to become that much more of an asset. So I think it's important to just explore all options and see what you're good at and figure out what works for you. Just because it works for somebody else doesn't mean that they're going to work for you. Everyone knows about

Liz Manashil 47:23
Yeah, Jess is gonna kill me. Oh, um, okay. So I grew up wanting to make a feature. It was like my number one thing that I wanted to do, and I did, and I genuinely feel like a more complete person after having made it. I know, it sounds absurd, but No, it doesn't. It doesn't I feel do better.

Alex Ferrari 47:40
Did you feel that the feature was a mountain? This monsters? Yeah. You had to climb. And

Liz Manashil 47:45
I climbed it, and it was I got to the summit. And you're good. I yeah, absolutely. And you didn't do

Alex Ferrari 47:52
it? You did it at a fairly high level for a first time feature. You know,I'm very proud of it. Yeah, you did. Because you had, you know, you had recognizable stars. And you had a real budget. You know, so it was very, very cool that you did it that way.

Liz Manashil 48:07
So I think a lot of filmmakers like us have that dream of the future. Sure. And though I want people to diversify, my feeling is a lot of people hide behind other content as a means to avoid making the project they really want to make. So I just want to say, if you want to make the feature, don't hide behind those other projects and just make the feature or vice versa. If you want to be a YouTuber, do episodic see, okay, did

Jess Fuselier 48:32
you want to do episodic, don't hide, don't hide behind the short, you know, it's like shorts, constant shorts. These suits, it's like bread and butter. Like, they really like available now on Hulu. Yeah.

Liz Manashil 48:47
I just did that. Like very often, like all filmmakers come to me, and those have this repertoire of shorts that they make and I'm very pro shorts, filmmaking. Sure, but you know, what they really want to do is the feature sometimes, and I just want to say just, just just just a feature, and I absolutely agree with that. And one thing that you know, Liz, it's just amazing that of encouraging. It's just, you know, the micro budget space is great, right? Because you're you $100,000 that's,

Jess Fuselier 49:16
that's what's incredibly hard to get. Yeah, but, but that's a good amount of money. And you can you can do, you can do a lot. You know,

Alex Ferrari 49:26
it was it was it was a number that I can't say it was a number that I can't say but it was a humble micro budget. It was a it was a humble now, it's a humble micro budget. Yeah. And But yeah, I was able to let's just put it this way with $100,000. I could have done a lot. Yeah, I could have done it. I could probably I could have easily done three or four features that easily comfortably. I don't there's nothing against like some stories take 100,000 some take five. But the duplass brothers are such a great model for that because they literally got 1000 bucks, go make a movie weekend with your friends. Yeah. And it's great. Show it to people. If you don't You learn move on never feel like you have to show everything but they didn't you know, they've made their first feature and then it was horrible. I actually never heard that they went I spent like $100,000 that they had mom give them the money and all this kind of stuff and they raise money and they put it together like this is a piece of crap and they killed it that they were that strong and character of artists to kill their baby because imagine imagine that so and they were so freaked out about that like you know, we're just going to go shoot something and they shot that for a short they got into Sundance oh that the phone the phone message thing leaving the message they shot it and fire like I think they shot him like 30 minutes or something like that in a day on on their their consumer mom's consumer thing and then a Sundance feature Oh yeah.

Liz Manashil 50:47
The first feature write a nonfiction right yeah, I mean, I haven't seen it but like everyone thinks that tiny features are first feature because there was no one there at all. But rare, right? Sherry? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 50:59
Now, this probably the hardest question. So prepare yourself. Maybe favorite films of all time.

Jess Fuselier 51:06
Oh, God.

Alex Ferrari 51:09
For the audience at home, just literally crossed her arms and pounded in the back. Back and out of like, feel like all of your questions are just like just these are. What do we call gotcha questions.

Jess Fuselier 51:22
Yeah. Um,

Alex Ferrari 51:26
what we through that work that

Jess Fuselier 51:28
pop in what we do in the shadows, so is one of my favorite films. Okay. I just think that film is brilliant. Wait, let's talk

Liz Manashil 51:35
to him this okay. And each time I'm Moonstruck because

Alex Ferrari 51:40
because Nicolas Cage and share because it's amazing.

Liz Manashil 51:43
There's nothing else that needs to be said. Sorry, I should take them out. No. I thought I could buy you like 10 seconds. That wasn't enough.

Alex Ferrari 51:50
This is gonna be so this is gonna be a cheesy one. For everything on the show, it's all good.

Jess Fuselier 51:57
On the on Juliet,

Alex Ferrari 52:00
as well. That's amazing.

Jess Fuselier 52:02
I love that it's one of my favorite movies. I love that movie. I think it's a barrier. But you know, we don't have to get into it right now. It's

Alex Ferrari 52:14
okay to be wrong. I've ever been bribed by strictly ballroom Romeo, Juliet, we can have that conversation.

Liz Manashil 52:25
I don't know what I said last time, but I actually love stuck on you by the Farrelly brothers. And it doesn't get enough credit and I tried to bring it up as much as possible because I I really love it. It's a fun movie. And it's like done with love and care and absurdity and other movies that don't sit just go watch this talk on you.

Alex Ferrari 52:44
Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.

Liz Manashil 52:46
Yeah. And Meryl Streep and Cher I should just share the next one real quick. Yes, yes. It's my obscure and Frankie made race, isn't it? Okay, I've seen this movie a lot.

Jess Fuselier 53:03
And your last one? Ah. I'm gonna have to say elite squad. I'm on the director's aim. He did City of God. That was, yeah. That movie hit me like a Mack truck. I remember sitting in the theater after I saw that. And just, I couldn't even talk to my now husband at the time. And he asked me in the car. What did you think of that movie? And I said, I can't talk right now. I need 10 minutes of silence. Those are great. And that was it just hit me really hard. It was a good day that said, You know, I think that's what they were going for.

Alex Ferrari 53:46
I felt that after Justice League.

Jess Fuselier 53:54
That was for you out. I mean, it's very it's very deep. Somebody's just happy running jump. It's very heavy. subject matter, but it's a brilliant film. And you're

Liz Manashil 54:10
Almost famous.

Jess Fuselier 54:11
Oh god that was a great one. Jerry Maguire for me. Both I think both shoes Why choose? I think you're right. Yeah. Jerry Jerry's up there for me. I love Jerry Maguire as Jerry my fucking wife who's gonna take my fish? My fish who's with you? Yes. You do have insurance. We'll figure it out. And of course anything? Yeah, well, I love that one speech he goes, but I don't want to you know, the best.

Alex Ferrari 54:43
Guys. It's been I we could talk for another hour.

Jess Fuselier 54:45
Can I say one more thing? Yeah, absolutely. And there's one more movie. There's one more movie actually, there's five. So you know, sit down, get a drink. Um, no, I just wanted to say, um, you know, in the creative distribution issue. We completely understand how Sometimes it might feel that filmmakers don't have access to us been in that ivory tower. But you don't want to say Sundance son, I meant to say Sundance, I'm sorry. I just Yeah. Well, obviously, email is open. I was patient at Sundance or create a [email protected] Yes, don't worry, no. But um, I just want to say, I think we're trying to be a department that says, yes. And in terms of trying to find information for filmmakers. So if we don't have the answers, we do not claim to be the experts and have all of the answers very often not experts. But 99%, we are willing to go out there and find the answers. We are on a mission to find sustainable sources for filmmakers. So please email us with questions or concerns. Or if you want to have a therapy session, we're completely open. Or if you want us to write a piece. Yeah, but we do. Yeah, we write pieces often out of our out of our department. And we're, if you have a really cool story, or if there's something that you learned, we're totally willing to put it out there. So please contact us. So have you met Robert,

Liz Manashil 56:10
Once you walked by me, you walk, and I pretended to type. Like, I was typing, bla bla bla bla, bla. He's wearing jeans.

Alex Ferrari 56:24
I figured that that makes sense. Yeah, guys, it's been an absolute pleasure.

Jess Fuselier 56:32
Thank you so much for having us

Alex Ferrari 56:33
See you guys soon. I hope you guys learned a little bit about how important understanding your audience is, and figuring out how you can get that data to be able to target your audience, especially if you're doing self distribution. And even if you're going through a traditional distributor you got to be hands on when you're working with a traditional distributor without question, the more you understand about your audience, the better chance you have of getting your film out there to that audience, so they can consume your content. As I've said many times before, the creative process does not end at Final Cut. It ends when you are done selling your movie. And that could be a year or longer after you are done with that final cut. So always keep that in mind. And as always, if you want links to anything we talked about in the show, head over to indie film hustle.com, forward slash to one, eight. And if you guys have a movie and have not signed up for the creative distribution, fellowship, you're crazy. It's a free thing that Sundance picks a few films every year, and they distribute your film for free, and help you and give you money and give you data and helps you get it all out there. And you're now inside the Sundance family. So why not do it? So go to the show notes. There's links there if you have a movie, give it a shot, you never know what's going to happen. So and there's not a lot of people signing up for it. That was one of the reasons why Liz reached out to me in the first place. So please check it out. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

LINKS

  • Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship – Apply Here
  • Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship – Email
  • Liz Manashil – Official Site

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IFH 196: How Much Revenue Can a $100K Indie Film REALLY Generate

Right-click here to download the MP3

Total Transparency: How Much Revenue Can a $100K Indie Film Generate with Liz Manashil

Have you ever wondered how much revenue a real indie film can make in the marketplace? Wouldn’t you like to see the real and raw numbers for a nontheatrical film with no major film festival premieres? Today’s guest has been brave enough to do just that. Filmmaker Liz Manashil decided to open up the accounting books on her debut feature film Bread and Butter, starring SNL’s Bobby Moynihan and Lauren Lapkus. 

Liz Manashil earned her B.A. in Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, and her M.F.A. from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Post-graduation, Liz spent several years as a film critic for the PBS/Hulu series JUST SEEN IT (which she also helped produce and direct). Overlapping this, Liz worked with distribution guru Peter Broderick.

Her debut feature, [easyazon_link identifier=”B0142KKMQU” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]BREAD AND BUTTER[/easyazon_link], was called “an absolute must-watch for women everywhere” by HelloGiggles. It was released by The Orchard and can be seen on VOD nearly everywhere (including Hulu!). Liz is currently in pre-production on her next feature film, SPEED OF LIFE, and lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Laura Palmer, and her partner, Sean Wright. She is the Manager of Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative.

Here’s the breakdown (taken from her amazing article on Moviemaker Magazine:

Our film, Bread and Butter, is a digital success. A digital success you’ve never heard of.

Let’s break it down.

  • Our film cost $100,000 to make
  • We grossed $96,000 a little bit more than a year into our release (and we’re still making deals)
  • Our distributor did have a marketing spend but we invested in no other resources outside of that (other than me running our social media campaigns and newsletter)
  • We got two airline deals, two SVOD deals, and decent promotion of transactional and cable VOD
  • We’re operating in the black with the distributor’s marketing spend and heading toward eventual recoupment in terms of our expenses

In an age where people debate the utility of making independent feature films, there is hope.

Liz Manashil, Bread and Butter, Bobby Moynihan, Lauren Lapkus, Saturday Night Live, SNL, The Orchid

I had a ball speaking to Liz and we get into the weeds on traditional distribution and self-distribution. If you want to sell you film in the marketplace perk up your ears and take some notes. Enjoy my conversation with Liz Manashil.

Alex Ferrari 0:43
So today on the show, we have Liz Manashil, she is a director of the movie bread and butter. And I wanted to have her on the show, because it loves her story about how she was able to get the financing for the movie, how she put it together, how she was able to attract name talent, people that you actually recognize, to her project, her tips or techniques on how she was able to, to reach out to this cast her experiences through distribution. she happens to be the manager of the creative distribution initiative at Sundance. And she's going to talk passionately about that and a little bit. And at the end of this episode, we have a little surprise that we're going to be sharing with you that you guys might be interested in. But I really wanted to get into the into the weeds with Liz and really just see her perspective on the state of independent film today. Oh, and also did I mention that Liz is going to be completely transparent on how much she made. Distributing her film, she's going to go into detail breakdown of what the distributors doing, how much she made, where she's making her money, where she's not making her money, and really give you guys an idea of of what a movie of her budget actually will make in the marketplace. So you guys will get a sneak peek into what the distribution world is like for independent films. Without any further ado, here is my conversation with Liz Manashil. I like to welcome to the show, Liz Manashil, how you doing?

Liz Manashil 2:48
Hey, I'm great. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 2:50
Thank you for being on the show. I really appreciate it.

Liz Manashil 2:53
Oh my gosh, thank you. This is a pretty cool opportunity for me. So I'm psyched.

Alex Ferrari 2:57
Awesome. Awesome. So let's let's start off with how did you get in this crazy business? And why don't we have a real job?

Liz Manashil 3:05
Well, Oh, God. Okay, so I tell this story, who to anyone who wants to listen and whether you want to listen or not. I'll tell it really quickly. I saw this movie when I was 16. It's a really pretentious French film called stolen kisses and

Alex Ferrari 3:23
It sounds pretentious.

Liz Manashil 3:24
Yeah, it's super, super pretentious. And I had this moment or the character looks at the lens. And I thought, you know, 16 like the world revolves around you. I thought he was looking at me. And I felt like a lightning bolt hit me and I had to make movies. And that's why it's all everything that I do is based off of this one RIDICULOUS MOMENT where I felt like I had to be in this crazy business. And so I went to film school and I work at Sundance and everything I do is film film related.

Alex Ferrari 3:55
And you went to USC, right? I went to USC. Yeah, that's a great I've spoken there a couple times. It's it's like it's like Wonderland when I went for the first time I'm like, and there's the Lucas building and there's the Spielberg building and here's where here's where john Carpenter you know, grab some stuff to go make Halloween I'm like Jesus.

Liz Manashil 4:13
Well, I call it the Las Vegas hotel now because it like transformed to this like ridiculous plastic looking place.

Alex Ferrari 4:19
It actually is you absolutely right with the big fountain and everything.

Liz Manashil 4:22
Yeah, I was there like we had one year in Las Vegas hotel all the other years. We had an old building. We called it the old building. And I loved that building. That was a beautiful building. Because just you you had everything you needed, even if it didn't look flashy.

Alex Ferrari 4:38
Yeah. And before these ruffins Lucas and Spielberg came and get buildings,

Liz Manashil 4:42
Right well, it's kind of like use that money for something else. Like I get really frustrated when people waste money. I mean, you and I both know we're we're micro budget filmmakers. I want every dollar to go to something really useful.

Alex Ferrari 4:53
Yeah, exactly. And buildings, but hey, you know what, who are we to talk about their, their USC for God's sakes. So how did you get your your awesome little film up bread and butter off the ground?

Liz Manashil 5:07
Well, I graduated from film school and I had a moment where I was like, hey, what am I going to do with my life? I really want to make a feature. I'm just I'm just gonna do it. I'm going to make a movie. I crowdfunded, I crowdfunded. While I didn't even really know what the budget of the film would be. I just crowdfunded. I made about $36,000 through crowdfunding, awesome. I'm really proud of that. It was in 2012, though, when it was a little easier.

Alex Ferrari 5:36
Yes. I was gonna say, that's, that's a lot for nifty.

Liz Manashil 5:39
Yeah, yeah. And I found an investor through crowdfunding, who was a colleague of mine, who, for some reason, just wanted to get involved with investing in films. And she brought on her her boss at the time to breathe to be a second investor who just wanted to help out a female director, actually. And then, you know, we started cutting pages and studying cutting characters to fit the budget that we had access to.

Alex Ferrari 6:08
And, and that's the answer you got.

Liz Manashil 6:11
So you start a crowdfunding, then you had an investor come in for the rest of the money. And the budget of the film was, it ended up being about 7070 for production, and the 30 was for post. So as 100 all in, and if you cut in distribution expenses, there's about 120.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
Wow that's a pretty that's a pretty big micro budget. I mean, in the in the grants, I mean, in the grand scope of your first feature film, and I'm assuming you had directed a shorter to before.

Liz Manashil 6:42
Yeah, well, I went to film school, but actually, I studied documentary. So this was my first real fiction project that I put time and care into, like, at USC, you do little short projects, but nothing for more than a few weeks. So this was like, actually my first real fiction, and it was terrifying.

Alex Ferrari 7:03
So I just got to ask on your first day, well, first of all, how did you get your cast? Because that will, that will lead into that next question I had, how did you get this? The cast is awesome, really awesome cast? How did you get them?

Liz Manashil 7:14
I could not afford a casting director. And so I cast it myself. And when you don't have money, sometimes you have time. So we took like a year and a half to cast our film, The the name actors that that I think people are, you know, kind of excited about when when they find out the budget of the film. And that's the first filmmaker is Bobby Moynihan and Lauren lapkus. Sure. And we had many other actors who were incredibly talented and just as valuable, you know, but in terms of Bobby and Lauren, they share a manager and I reached out to Bobby directly and just wrote an offer letter to his team. And I met him and I, you know, basically I wrote him a letter that involved like, lots of pictures of, you know, me and films that I liked. And I tried to make it really warm and friendly. But it takes months right, it takes months to break through those gates. And that's and that's what we did. But not to get too long winded, but the lead actress in my film, we got her through essentially, I wrote an article about how I was having trouble casting her role because it was a part that was really close to me. And she wrote a comment on that article like I think she actually wrote me a direct email just saying like I read your article I really like it by the way if you ever want to bring me in, here's my reel and we did and she was perfect. So it was just one of those situations of Kismet to find our lead actress she just directly appealed to us and she was perfect.

Alex Ferrari 8:46
So a tip to filmmakers listening if you're going to try to go after some sort of main talent or recognizable time like Bobby and Lauren and by the way guys, Bobby Moynihan is from Saturday Night Live he was on the for God I don't know how many years he was hilarious. And and Lauren lip This is she just did Jurassic World, little small indie movies. And if you see her face, she's one of those recognizable faces that she's been in 1000 things. So when you're trying to go after those kind of that kind of caliber of talent, you have no money you have no casting director. So you you literally hit the heartstrings. It was your was your marketing plan.

Liz Manashil 9:24
What's the combination of offer letters and heartstrings. So what I advise other filmmakers to do is to be a human and talk like a human all the time. So when you write letters to agents, you know, don't sound like a robot or a machine who's trying to like name drop and you know, impress them and every opportunity, really talk about how important that film is to make you know how it's your top priority and baby drop a few things that makes them makes you sound a little bit more legitimate and you're in their eyes. And then ultimately, if you send it offer letter they have to consider it. So it's a combination of I think warmth, I hope, hopeful warmth. And then, you know, playing the system, which is drafting an offer letter with a lawyer and making them consider that offer.

Alex Ferrari 10:12
So this was not like a letter, an offer letter that you kind of just kind of threw together. This was an actual letter that was put together with an attorney. And it was it was a real offer.

Liz Manashil 10:22
Yeah, it was a real offer was a deal memo. And one of my producers, my lead producer is an entertainment lawyer. So that was invaluable. Also, that's, if you're trying to put together a crew for micro budget, see if if you know any entertainment lawyers who really want to get into producing, because you'll get a deal on on all your contracts. And it's awesome. That's incredibly helpful. She's a huge asset to our film.

Alex Ferrari 10:47
Now, what was it like? You're arguably a first time director doing the feature film, and you're working with this caliber of talent? And it's your first day on set? How are you doing?

Liz Manashil 11:00
I'm already a really anxious person. I don't know if you could tell from my fast talking and my like, breathiness. But like, yeah, I'm super on edge all the time. So when I was on set, I was very nervous. What, what's interesting, though, which, you know, you know, very well is, there's not actually a lot of directing that's involved in directing a feature, which I was super surprised by. People say this all the time, everything's casting, right. If you pass the right actor, you really can take a step back. And every now and then when you feel something's off from your vision, you adjust things. But for the most part, I did not give a lot of notes. And so I got to have a little break in anxiety, especially but I didn't learn that until like after the first few days.

Alex Ferrari 11:47
Yeah, I when I worked when I shot mag, and I had this insane cast. I it was honestly one of the first times I'd worked with an ensemble like that the head that was just one person that was good, they were all good. And it's so true. Like, you just sit back and just capture the magic. I said, I was just there to capture the lightning, because it gave very little direction here and there. Because they just know who they just know. It's amazing when you have a good actor, and you know, trying to pull a performance out, you just kind of, hey, let's let's let's just go It was so it was so nice. So I'm assuming the same hat thing happened to you?

Liz Manashil 12:24
Absolutely. And I had a conversation with an actress who's going to be in my second feature. And she said something. And I was, I was taken aback by at the time, but now I completely understand. And she was saying like when she was working with a director, she needs to be very forceful, and ask for that for another take when she feels it's not right. Because in her eyes, she feels she Her job is to replicate human behavior. And that the director's Job had nothing to do with guiding her. It's like she took on that onus. And I think as directors, we often feel like it's our responsibility to get the actor there. But it was interesting to hear that the actor thought it was only it was her whole, her sole responsibility, and she needed the space to get there herself. So there's different ways of approaching it.

Alex Ferrari 13:12
Every actor is different. It's so you know, when you're working with the actors, some actors want hand holding. Actors want the space to do it. And I interviewed a director who worked with john malkovich on his first feature film would tell me what he said, or she said, and he basically, which was, I think, an amazing piece of a direction, if you will, he walked because it's john malkovich. I mean, like, it's john, F and milkovich. Like, what are you gonna do? And he's like, you know, he came from the Kevin Smith camp. So, you know, it's all dick and fart jokes, you know? And it was a comedy, and it was, you know, all this kind of stuff. But he walked up first day. And Mr. Malcolm, john, how do you want me to direct you? Huh? And I thought that was such a brilliant way. Because I asked Mike, how do you direct john malkovich? And he's like, I don't know. I just walked up to him. And I said, How do you want me to direct you? Because that's such a wonderful way of who's showing? You're being humble in front of Obviously, I'm like, Look, you know, I hired you as an actor, but you're at john malkovich. But we're here to do a job, how do you want to work and I will adjust to you. And I thought that was such a one because every actor is different. You know, like, imagine if you had Malkovich, Daniel de and Meryl Streep, like all three of them have very different ways of performing. And how do you you know that I would actually watch that movie.

Liz Manashil 14:41
I think there's a fear that if you're not saying enough things to an actor, then you're not directing. And it's actually the confidence and not not say anything that that you need to have as a director to have confidence in your vision and let other people do their jobs which is hard, but excited. At the same time

Alex Ferrari 15:01
Without question, and that is something that you just get with experience and age, because you just feel that confidence just like and professionals and seasoned pros, they can sense it. They can smell it very quickly on you. If you're just barking because you're insecure and then that creates all sorts of havoc. Or, and everyone especially the crew, oh my god, the crew can smell it like a mile away. If you know what you're doing or not. They smell blood in the water and you're done. I've seen it happen. I've been on once you'd I had I had a poor kid. They threw as a first ad. And I was like, Oh my God in the crew Am I live a them? Because they were all seasoned guys like from TV like TV guys, which are really seasoned. And yeah, and they just taught and then at day two the guys yelling I'm like, dude, you gotta stop yelling, man. It's not good, because he was trying to do something. Oh, God. But yes, back to what we were talking. This is just like two filmmakers. just telling more stories. I love it. Yeah, been. Yes, exactly. Now, how many days did you shoot, by the way? 16. But I always say that I could have done it in 15. That's awesome. And it was? I'm assuming 15. So you had What? Two days? Just two weeks? Basically? Do you do Wednesday off?

Liz Manashil 16:16
Six on? One off? Five? on two off? Five on two off, I think or I guess, you know, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 16:26
Got it. Now. Whatever. Did you come? Did you encounter any problems? I know this? No, the answer is yes. Did you encounter any problems while shooting your project? And if any of them What? What came out? Like what sticks out to you and your memory?

Liz Manashil 16:41
I mean, I've been asked this before and I gave an answer that I don't even know is true. Like, I feel like I heard that a crew member who I didn't really hire died at some point during the course of the production, but not on our set. And now that I've told the story, like I don't even know if it's true, I think it's turned into an old wives tale within the space of like, six months in my head. So, I mean, that stands out.

Alex Ferrari 17:13
When a crew member dies on set or off, generally as a standout of the film,

Liz Manashil 17:18
Yeah, like totally like, of course, of course. But I'm still not sure if it happened or not. And we had a camera problem one day, but again, like I was really protected. And I would say the major problems that I experienced or internal problems where I felt doubtful or I was worried that we even had a movie in the first place or you're an artist decision. Yeah, just all the personal emotional problems that we all are battling.

Alex Ferrari 17:44
We all we all have that I was I was just I just saw the Martin Scorsese masterclass. And, and he's like, if you don't fit if you don't physically feel ill after the first cut, you're not a filmmaker. And he's like, he's, it's Martin Scorsese, and he's talking about it, like, Hey, you know, I don't even know if we got a movie here like your Martin Scorsese, you'll be fine. But in his mind, he didn't even know if he had cuts like when he shoots like, you know, Raging Bull. He's like, I don't know. I don't know, maybe we got something I don't know.

Liz Manashil 18:13
I'm plagued by doubt. But it's like, you know, when you write the film, and you have a feeling for what the films about, like, you feel the character you feel the whether you write it or you read it, you have a like a some sort of abstract sense of what you know, the film will be and how it will be received. Like, I didn't get that until a year ago on our film has been out for, you know, two, almost three years. Like you still don't know if you have a film. Like you're just down the line. I think sometimes, right now is the only time I feel confident where I was like, Oh, no, that was a thing. And it happened, and I'm really proud of it.

Alex Ferrari 18:50
Exactly. Now, what camera did you shoot on? By the way?

Liz Manashil 18:54
It was one of the it was a read. I think it was it was a scarlet, but I'm not positive.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
Okay. Okay, Scarlet. And now, did you run into any issues in post production?

Liz Manashil 19:07
Well, we my editors are saying so I had two editors who each cut half the film and then swapped so that each could get their hands on the other other's work. And then essentially, our cutting style became a combination of the two of them. So we didn't have problems other than the fact that we had two very different editing styles come together. So there'd be moments where I would want, you know, a really long take, and my editor who has a short attention span would cut it in half. And then my second editor would split the difference, and we had to kind of negotiate the pace a little bit. But like no technical problems, we had an amazing colorist amazing editors. Wonderful sound team. I mean, we really, we lucked out, but it takes a lot of patience, right? Like I wish you know, I wish we could have taken Three weeks and edited this whole film that it took it took several months. And that's super normal. In your, your micro budget, like you don't have any control over when your editors want to edit, because they're essentially doing you a favor, and we were lucky that they were willing to do us that favor.

Alex Ferrari 20:17
That's awesome. Now let's let's talk a little bit about distribution. Okay. Yes. Distribution. And, and you are a big, you're a big advocate for transparency and distribution and the horrors of distribution. Can you talk a little bit about First of all, who was your distributor on the film?

Liz Manashil 20:40
We worked with the orchard. So I have quite a history in distribution. I worked for a distribution consultant for three and a half years. His name is Peter Broderick.

Alex Ferrari 20:50
And I know Peter, I don't know him personally, but I know the name.

Liz Manashil 20:53
Yeah, yeah. He's kind of fancy. He's kind of he was very cool. Yeah. So he helped me he negotiated my distribution deal with the orchard but the orchard found us because they were looking at Lauren lapkus his IMDB page. Like they were just looking at recent projects that she was involved in. And they reached out to us. So that's like, one of the major things I talked about when I talked to emerging filmmakers is like even if you make micro budget, you have access to talent and that talent will change the the future of your film like we would not have had this fabulous distributor reach out to us. Had it not been for our cast. Like we played Cleveland and Woodstock and Phoenix Film Festival. We played about 13 to 14 film festivals. But none of them were tried back our can or Sundance or south by. So it's not as if a 24 was chomping at the bit to to distribute our film. Everybody wants a 24 Well, there were so cool.

Alex Ferrari 21:56
They are the cool kid on the block, aren't they? They're the jacket High School, aren't they? They really? They're the cheerleader.

Liz Manashil 22:03
The portraits like cash, who would it compare? I feel like the orchards like the one who's like the lead at all the plays. So they're like popular too.

Alex Ferrari 22:12
Yes. Creative? Yes, exactly. Friends. Yeah. By the way, for people who don't, for the audience that doesn't know who the orchard is. They do a lot of the duplass brothers work and they've done a they're a really good distribution house. And they're a good distributor for my experience. Yeah,

Liz Manashil 22:29
I've been very happy with them. And they wanted a digital deal. So I was like, immediately insulted because I think every filmmaker thinks

Alex Ferrari 22:37
Yeah, you know, 5000 theaters,

Liz Manashil 22:38
Theatrical Exactly. Or give me an advance or that, you know, there's all these terms that you're expecting. And they were like, No, no, no, no advance, you know, you're just going to be get a digital deal with us. And they were the best option we had. And they turned out to be a really good option. Because, as I'm pretty open about we have grossed, you know, in our gross revenue, we have recouped our production budget, we will probably never recoup in net revenue. And I'm getting really nerdy here.

Alex Ferrari 23:14
We'll get into all of that we'll get

Liz Manashil 23:15
Yeah, but but like, we're, we're doing well, which is you know, what you need to do if you're making a first film if you want to make a second one. So

Alex Ferrari 23:24
Right now, can you talk a little bit about deliverables? Oh, God, and we'll get back into distribution, but deliverables the evil of the deliverables, because it's something that literally always sneaks up on filmmakers. And they, they just like, Oh, I just need a quick time, right?

Liz Manashil 23:40
I'm like, Wow, well, I didn't even think about it. I don't think filmmakers really think about it, they don't even know that you need to pry from my experience. I didn't know I needed to prep deliverables. I didn't understand how the distributor would get the film from me and then put it on various platforms, because it's my first feature. So they sent me like, Oh, they sent me a list. And then they sent me to an FTP that they had, you know, there's like an aspera or something like that. And, and I had to kind of figure it out on my own. And my amazing editors, you know, they created you know, the master and the digital Master, and they helped me get all the deliverables. But ultimately, the upload was what was the most terrifying, hardest thing of everything was just finding internet connection, that could have done an upload for like a six hour upload. That's what they need. They need you to like, take this massive 100 to 500 gig file or whatever it is and get it to them. So

Alex Ferrari 24:42
Flash, your flash drive flash drive in the mail.

Liz Manashil 24:44
Ultimately, that's what I did. And I should have just started with that, like crazy.

Alex Ferrari 24:49
They said do not upload them. Like I've got an experience in this field. I said, No, no, I'll just I'll just send you a flash drive and it just works so much nicer because you're super smart. By you That Yep. Now as far as other deliverables are concerned, you know, Music cue sheets, to chain of title, all that kind of stuff you have to put together as well are you had your your producer help you with all that?

Liz Manashil 25:11
Well, my producers are lovely and they worked really hard. But it was me pretty much overseeing a lot of distribution myself, because it's micro budget, they moved on to other projects, I really didn't want to bother them. They were helpful when I felt like they, you know, they could do things that I couldn't do. But again, when you're doing a micro budget project, you don't know what those delivery deliverables are going to be. So I went to my sound team, I went to my music team. And I approached them only once we had distribution with what we needed. And so they all had to work backwards. That Music cue sheet we had to put together last minute. You know all the files with like, all the files from the sound team. And all that kind of good stuff. Yeah, I had to like pay separately, stipends that I wasn't expecting in order just to even get those files. So that was fun.

Alex Ferrari 26:04
That's that shouldn't have been the way it goes that's usually negotiated at the beginning of that deal. So yeah, next time.

Liz Manashil 26:11
Next time, there are lots of things that I've learned that you go, when you talk to your crew members, make sure you figure out what you're going to need from them at the end of the production and make sure they are prepared to give it to you. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 26:24
Without question. Now, can you discuss the deals that you got through orchard and good you're being fully transparent, so I'm being very rude and asking all of these numbers. So like I never asked filmmakers? It's like asking your weight like you like you don't say it like you don't ask someone there that that situation. So for everybody who who's listening, I'm not being rude. Needless spoke about this earlier. So can you talk a little bit about the deals you got what what kind of money you got for those deals, so people can kind of really get an idea of what they can expect in the marketplace with a cast like this. And also the genre This is which is a comedy drama, if I'm not mistaken, right?

Liz Manashil 27:04
Yeah, I call it a dramedy, I actually caught an anti romantic comedy. But that's a little specific.

Alex Ferrari 27:09
That's a little harder to sell, as far as genre is concerned.

Liz Manashil 27:13
Well, yeah. back to what you were saying, though, I think it's really funny that, that you were worried about being rude because like our department, a Sundance, which I won't get into too much, because I could go on forever. But like, we're all about data transparency. And we really want to decriminalize filmmakers talking about all these details, because it feels like we're not supposed to. And and actually, to segue to my answer for you, I'm not allowed to share a lot of information still. So what I did is I went to the orchard and I said, Hey, can you break down all the revenue for me? Can you tell me exactly why we've been successful? I'd like to write a story about it. And even then, the only numbers I'm allowed to talk about are my gross gross revenue. So that's just all the money that we made without the distributor taking a card or the platform's taking a cut. So that's, as of several months ago, was $96,000. And we made the film for 100 100 120. Yeah, so now that's gross. And that's before anyone takes a cut. Yes. And it's actually several months ago, and we've we landed another deal since then. So it would be higher than that now.

Alex Ferrari 28:29
No, what No. Can you talk about what? What's sales you got? Like? Did you sell? What do you do? Do all that kind of stuff without the numbers?

Liz Manashil 28:37
Yeah, I can talk about that. I mean, we're on all of the transactional platforms that are open. So that would be like the iTunes Xbox Google Play VUDU. Yeah, Amazon Video, amazon video, I put my I retain the right to sell DVDs and streams from my website. Like that's something I negotiated. So I'm doing physical between me and my editor. We're doing physical sales. But I also do VA checks links on my website, so you can buy directly from me.

Alex Ferrari 29:07
Now, how and how did you have you sold DVDs?

Liz Manashil 29:11
Yes, I've sold. I have a spreadsheet I probably sold around 50. I mean, it's really not that many Sure.

Alex Ferrari 29:16
Are you making them as you go? Or did you have them pre built

Liz Manashil 29:19
We made we've done like two manufacturing stents. And then I'm actually just about assign ideal with allied Vaughn for manufacturing on demand for DVD. Okay. So I mean, it's been two years since our release, and they reached out to us, because I wrote this article about being transparent about how much money we made. And they were like, hey, do you want to do physical? And what was really phrase

Alex Ferrari 29:43
And what was the name of that company?

Liz Manashil 29:45
Allied Vaughn,

Alex Ferrari 29:46
Allied. I'll get that information because I want to put that in the show notes.

Liz Manashil 29:50
Yeah. So they do manufacturing on demand. So it's not like doing 1000s of DVDs that you're not going to sell. It's based off of you know how much you actually are going to sell. So the overhead is much Less.

Alex Ferrari 30:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Liz Manashil 30:13
Okay, so we did all of those open transactional and ESP platforms. And then we did a Hulu deal, which is like, like, I'm sure for you. Pride of my life. Really, it's

Alex Ferrari 30:26
It's a badge that I wear with great honor. When I got that one, I got that call. And they're like, Hey, we sold you a hula deal. I'm like, What? Yeah, it's like, it's like getting a Netflix deal. Like, what? Yeah, for like a little indie movie. Like,

Liz Manashil 30:37
It's magical. I think it is in right. Well, it's funny. My distributor didn't didn't call me up like they called you like and said they have the sale. They were like, Liz, we have some news. We're really surprised. We weren't expecting this. We're really like, they were like, shocked that Hulu even wanted the film. And I just think that's so funny. It's like, we all have low self esteem about my film.

Alex Ferrari 31:03
I'm so glad and I, my distributor has low self esteem about my film. It's great. Like, it was kind of a shock to me, too.

Liz Manashil 31:11
So Hulu, and then we got two airline deals. So that was a total that's crap.

Alex Ferrari 31:16
Like international International Airlines. Right.

Liz Manashil 31:19
One was Royal Jordanian. Yeah, both international Royal Jordanian airlines, which I think is hilarious. Because like, Who would have thought that you sold Jordan? Yeah, like Who'd have thought that they really thought Who would have thought they would have seen value. I'm really, I love them now. And then Aer Lingus. So we were in Ireland, and you know, wherever, air Lingus flies, and then flying over the Middle East, but they censored a few scenes from the film because we get a little sassy. So that was something I was willing to abide by in order to get on planes. Sure. Of course, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 31:59
You can't make it a little. You gotta gotta do a little an airline cut. Yeah, yeah. And that was, but that was a good, those are made if you can get airline deals. Those are nice. That's it.

Liz Manashil 32:08
Yeah, that's something that like I, we always talk about self distribution, and filmmakers working with aggregators, and all that fun, nerdy distribution stuff. But aggregation is still not figured out airlines. So that's something that I really look forward to a time where we have more of a direct channel to airlines other than through distributor,

Alex Ferrari 32:28
No. And same here. I mean, I've self distributed digitally here in the States. But I am using a traditional distributor for international. And it's been, it's been great, because I get to have the power to do whatever I want here. And, you know, for my film, but yet, I'm getting opportunities, like, you know, it's selling in a different in different territories and stuff that I would have never gotten done by myself. So I think I agree with you, there is a balance to be made. And it also depends on your movie, also your audience, and we can get into we could talk for hours about that, about how to actually self distribute a film. But But yeah, I think it's a it's a it's very interesting. That's why I wanted to kind of have you on the show today to talk about your path and your journey through distribution. And what else did you sell it?

Liz Manashil 33:15
Um, we got a few paid tv deals mostly in the Middle East. Again, again, I'm like

Alex Ferrari 33:20
Jerry's, you're huge. And Jordan, you're huge in

Liz Manashil 33:24
The Middle East, North Africa region, the MENA region, like there was actually a there's a squad company, a smaller company called, it's called Sundance international or something. It's called like something with the word Sundance in it. It's not Sundance now. But it's something completely it's like, run by AMC or something. And that was so weird to me that I worked at Sundance and Sundance is also the name of this company that the Middle East. So that was a sign. But yeah, so we got like, a lot of little deal, little pay TV deals, little little airline deals, that really contributed to us feeling like we made a dent. It was really exciting.

Alex Ferrari 34:09
That's amazing. And I'm sure you attribute a lot of these sales to your cast.

Liz Manashil 34:14
Yeah, I mean, will the orchard and they're pitching, you know, everything that they did to pitch the film, of course, but yeah, I think comedians, I think comedy people, sometimes you when you're on your plane, maybe you just want a comedy to escape into. I've been trying to figure it out exactly why we got the deals that we did, but it's got to be the the recognizability of our cast, and that it was just such a good movie.

Alex Ferrari 34:39
That obviously Yeah, obviously, obviously, obviously. No, no, I feel like I feel you I since having faces in my movie. I don't think I would have gotten Hulu without the faces.

Liz Manashil 34:49
I mean, I just, I just don't think so. So the recognizability of those faces, really, and they're not bankable stars, and they're the first ones to tell you. They're not monster, bankable stars. They're just recognized. Visible faces. And at a certain budget level that makes sense at 200, at a 234 $5 million movie, you know, you can't even need to have some something else going on. I like to use a mix, because I feel like as filmmakers, we're really there still that romantic notion of putting in what you think is this great talent who hasn't been recognized yet. And like, developing a relationship where you guys grow together as director and actor. And then of course, the bankable actors who are willing to do your project and collaborate with you. For me, it's like great to see if you can find a way to do a hybrid casting. Like, my boyfriend's an actor. And so I kind of like try to fit him in roles. But then I also am super honest with him where I'm saying, like, Sean, you're not good for this role, because I need x in this role in order to get distribution. So it becomes like a way to honest conversation sometimes about what you know, what our relationship means, and what's possible for him. And when whatnot.

Alex Ferrari 36:03
You are married, you're married, but your boyfriend is an actor. So God bless you. I dated actresses when I was younger, and no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I'm good. My partner. Yeah. It's a lot. Maybe it's different with actors, but with actresses. It was rough when I was in my 20s. I know what you're talking about. I'm not gonna say anything. But I know you're on your feet. You're feeling you feel me? I gotcha. Yeah. I love my actresses. I mean, Jill is one of my best friends in the world. But I told her like, You're crazy. She's like, Oh, I know this. Never. She's like, Oh, I understand.

Liz Manashil 36:38
You have to be a little crazy to have the brilliance to perform. Like, there's,

Alex Ferrari 36:42
There's a she's a comic, and she's a stand up comic as well. So there's that whole other world. But yes, you have to be a little bit nuts to be in front of the camera. But I do believe you know, it's a special human being. And it's why I love my I love actors so much. Because what they do is, is so magical to me. It's something I just can't do. Yeah, we get to witness it. And it's very cool. God, it's it's your front row, your front row, if you do it, right. Meaning that you're not like sitting in village, you know, a village 15 miles away. And you're there actually, with the performance, you know, I'd like to do a case of Eddie Stiles, you know, kind of right in there with them. I'm usually behind the camera, so I'm literally right there with them. That's, that's kind of the way I like to work. But my back doesn't like it. So my back does it, but I love it. Um, so what is the biggest lesson you've you learned making this film?

Liz Manashil 37:42
Okay, I think the biggest lesson for me is that making a feature is not impossible. It's not mystical. There's no I don't know, I I've never read Moby Dick. But I always compare it to like the white whale, right? You know, like, you think about making a feature until you made a feature and it becomes elusive, and it becomes scary. And all you want to do is complete this one thing. Once you complete it, you realize, Oh, it's just a long short, it's a long shore with, you know, more money invested. And some, for some reason, people want to talk to me more and take me a little bit more seriously. Right. But ultimately, I thought that I had to have this like, unknown quality or this specific, mysterious talent in order to make a feature and I didn't you just have to really, really want to do it. And, and you can

Alex Ferrari 38:35
Without question, I felt the same way. I thought I was like a dragon. Who's this monster dragon that I slay. And you know, and if it's my first feature your has to be, you know, Reservoir Dogs or mariachi or slacker or something cute pressure

Liz Manashil 38:49
You put on yourself is so unfortunate because it's not necessary at all.

Alex Ferrari 38:54
Because it's not you can't do that. It is what it is. And some people that pops like those guys just talked about. And and others. It's just like, Look, I mean, look at Nolan, Christopher Nolan's first feature, got rejected from Sundance, it barely got into slam dad's, you know, we're finding and he and he's

Liz Manashil 39:12
Doing okay now, but also just like looking at me, like, I get to talk to you. Like, that's genuinely how I feel. I'm like, this is really cool. It's open this door for me where I get to talk to other people who I respect and who I it allows me to share something with the world. In any filmmaker who reaches out to me via email, I set a time to talk with them about making their first feature. And I mean, I why, you know, I don't doubt that you probably do the exact same thing.

Alex Ferrari 39:40
I try. I get a little diluted with emails. I get I'm not that fancy. But I but I try to I try to answer questions through the podcast so it reaches a multitude of people but I do the best I can to respond to everything everybody that emails me, and it's really remarkable. I don't know if you got this or not. But I get emails about, you know, hope that, you know, I give them hope. And the work that I'm doing is giving them hope. And because of what of the podcast they, they want, they made their first feature because it gave him the courage and I'm like, wow, that's massive. And even that little bit of help that you give an artist like Kevin Smith says, it costs effing nothing. Yeah, to be encouraged encouraged an artist.

Liz Manashil 40:25
It's true. Wonderful. That's really cool that you get those messages. I'm I I'm running a right currently right now on micro budget mentorship, where I checked for film, well, I picked three films, and I'm basically just trying my best with the time that I have just to like, push them to get things done so that they can make their first feature. And, you know, maybe in a few months, we'll open it up again, if anyone listening wants to do this with me, be careful what you wish for. Basically, yeah, went before I made the feature, it's, there's, as you know, there's so much that you have to do. And it's terrifying, and it's overwhelming. But I guarantee like it is absolutely worth all the pain and frustration. It is the thing I am most proud of is making this movie. And even though I have the like amnesia of all the pain, it's coming back to me bit by bit on getting ready with this second film. And I still think it's going to be worth it to make a second one. It's like It's like giving birth.

Alex Ferrari 41:27
And I didn't give birth, but I forgot all of those first two or three years of my daughter's life, that it's so painful. You don't sleep the views. And now all of a sudden, like they're turning like for something like my wife, and I'm like, Hey, you know, it wasn't that bad. Was it more like it was? And I turned to her. I'm like, it was absolutely horrible. Are you kidding? I love my daughters. But are you? Are you serious? She's like, Yeah, no, it was pretty rough. Worth it now. Well, you know, worth it. It's a good investment. There are annuities. I hope they pay off soon. So not 10 years. Yeah, 18 years, hopefully kind of get a job. I mean, seriously, they're just a financial drain on this family. But anyway. Now what is in your opinion, what is the biggest challenge you see filmmakers facing today?

Liz Manashil 42:13
distribution and marketing, mainly marketing. You know, this is a big thing, what we do every day. But with the overflow of content and the market being saturated, it's really hard to set yourself apart. I know I sound like a suit when I say that. But I really mean it. Because it's so hard to get attention. As a filmmaker these days, it's just so like, my big thing is when you make a film, from my vantage point, filmmakers are not making a lot of money making movies like really not making any money at all in movies. So I encourage filmmakers to make the movie for themselves to do it as like some sort of emotional experience because they feel like they have to do it. And then to try their best to get as much attention as possible when they do finish it but to not hold out hope that they will get anything in return.

Alex Ferrari 43:08
And it's, Hey, I know I teach I did something slightly different, I kind of preach something a little different was like you got to build your audience up, provide value to that audience and let them grow with you slowly but surely, and it takes years. It's not something that happens overnight.

Liz Manashil 43:23
That's the that's the gospel, what you just said is the exact thing that we say and they and what I truly believe in. But when you talk to a filmmaker who doesn't want to write a newsletter, or doesn't want to write on Facebook, it's done. Yeah, it's really hard. So I say, you know, I can't change everyone to become like a little annoying self promoter like I am. So at least I can say, Well, here your expectations, you know, bring your expectations lower. And then if you really want to make a difference with this film, like you were talking about, you have to hustle. And you have to bring people in you have to be really inclusive,

Alex Ferrari 43:57
Without question without question. Now, can you talk a little bit about why it's so important to produce micro budget films, and why it's so important to independent cinema in general? And this kind of see of, quote, unquote, independent films, the importance of doing micro budget films for filmmakers, especially when they're starting out?

Liz Manashil 44:19
Yeah, there's so many reasons. I mean, the first reason that I thought I was, you know, I've never experienced, you know, major institutional sexism. But that's because I've always controlled the budget for my film. And the way I control the budget for my film is keeping the budget low and being the person who holds the purse strings. So I mean, that's something I could be wrong. Maybe I just have been really lucky. And I'm going to be, you know, go through something really horrific in five minutes. But I think part of it has to do with having having the control of the money. Be I think there's a lot of financial waste in This world where people are spending money that they don't need to. And I'm not saying like, I know, we're gonna get into this because it's like, crew members deserve to be paid actors deserve to be paid. But when you're making a labor of love, it's a different situation where everyone is volunteering to make those sacrifices. So I hope that I'm clear in saying that when people are being wasteful financially, I'm not talking about you know, regular salary,

Alex Ferrari 45:29
Like food, like, What a waste, they can bring their own food, dammit.

Liz Manashil 45:33
The way that the system supports the special treatment of talents, and, you know, just like these multimillion dollar salaries, it's just absurd. So I encourage people to be involved with filmmaking that comes from the heart, and is not wasteful financially, where you have creative and financial control over everything. I mean, and then also, it's, it's sometimes the only way to make any content is to make Mike our budget, because I've never had an investor, you know, just come up to me and say, let me give you money for your work. And it's like, that's not normal. And I think that I thought it would be normal. If I made a feature, I thought people would be like, Oh, I would like to invest in you. If it was 19, if it was 1982, maybe, maybe, maybe happen anymore. So my boss Peter was talking to Shaun Baker A long time ago. Yeah, I don't know him. And that's really cool. But anyway, so I'm gonna paraphrase the story. But basically, you know, by doing micro budget content, he was allowed to produce a lot more work. That friends of his who waited to be anointed or waited to be granted those opportunities. Micro budget allows you to start yesterday.

Alex Ferrari 46:56
Yeah, great. I've spoken to Sean he's a I don't call him a buddy, but I've spoken to him many times. He's, he's an awesome guy. And I'm, I'm hoping to get him on the show because I'm dying to see his new movie that everyone's talking about with William to fall is gonna get nominated. And when I had him on the show last time you think, yeah, I'm doing this movie in, in Florida shooting 35. And I'm like, Oh, great. We're in film because I'm from Florida and all this kind of stuff. And now the trailer comes out. I'm like, Yeah, me Sean. You man, Jesus. Yeah, he's such a talented filmmakers. Such a talented filmmaker. And humble. Such a humble soul. He's a very humble so I went off track what we were talking about just went on the shop Baker carpet and like, yeah, yeah, exactly. And that was what I stopped. That's why I waited myself. I waited so long to be anointed till I finally said, Hey, I'm just gonna go out and do it. And yeah, and next year, I hope to do some more as well. And it and it gives you the power. It's the whole Joe Swanberg Mark do plus roadmap, like, I'm just gonna make movies. And I'm just gonna go and I don't care. And I'm just going to keep going and try to keep keep pounding it. And micro budget is the way to do that. But I think a lot of filmmakers also get a little too grandiose, and they try to make the hobbit on $10,000. And that generally doesn't work. And I'm not trying to be discouraging, but it won't work.

Liz Manashil 48:17
Well, I agree. You're, well, unless you're a visual effects artist who's also a director, and even

Alex Ferrari 48:23
Then $10,000 is not gonna do it. It's gonna take seven years to pull that off. That's a very good point. But yeah, you can be ambitious, depending on your resources. I mean, you know, I have my own resources in post production, so I could do certain things that other filmmakers have to pay for. But still I think ambition in the in the scope of their stories, I think a lot of times what catches filmmakers off guard and and causes them to fail, where if you can do like Robert Rodriguez did who did great action movie, and mariachi but he took the resources he had with him, a Mexican town, a turtle, a some guns and a guitar case. And he made a movie, but that was his set of circumstances.

Liz Manashil 49:05
Well, and my next feature is, is a science fiction feature. Which I'm really excited by because I recently became a nerd. So it's like, really up my alley right now. But all of the things I'm doing are to keep costs low, even though it's it's genre. So it's, it's time travel, but the time is 2016 and then 2040. You know, it's

Alex Ferrari 49:29
God, God bless. Oh, geez. Oh, you're trying to make 2040 Oh, that's gonna be awesome.

Liz Manashil 49:34
One location, it's, you know, the wormhole that we're creating in the film is going to be in an apartment, you know, like, and probably off screen like there's lots of different things that you need to manage creatively and to find different substitutions for if you want to be that like dynamic filmmaker with a really high concept idea or whatever. Like, there are hacks, but you know, obviously literally think through it thoroughly. Because if you're trying to build an entire Middle Earth, that's gonna be real tough.

Alex Ferrari 50:07
It's gonna it's gonna be a tough situation and you can get there eventually, you know, but not at they're not your first time out all these guys. I mean, if you look at Peter Jackson's first movie, which was a micro budget horror movie, which was a slasher gory movie, you know, you look at it look like something like Evil Dead, almost had that Evil Dead vibe to it forgot what the name of it was, I escapes me. But I remember that I remember the story when Bob Shea, who used to renew line said, Yeah, we're going to finance these three, Lord of the Rings movies. And then they saw that movie. They said, Oh, my God, what have we done? Because there's nothing to say that, that movie, that guy is going to be able to pull this off. Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker seeking a distributor for the first time with their first movie?

Liz Manashil 51:01
Well, it's interesting, because I used to really want to advocate for filmmakers reaching out to distributors. But now I'm not so sure I kind of feel like you should build your audience. I believe in film festivals. And I believe in the power of film festivals. I believe in the power of publicists. And I think if you grow your audience, and maybe get an indie wire article about it, and maybe cast it properly, the distributors will come to you. And and our big thing that we talk about is doing your due diligence with distributors, and talking to all the filmmakers who have worked with them before and sussing out like a detective whether these bad partners are not very often a distributor. I've just heard a lot of horror stories of distributors who take advantage of filmmakers they don't provide for shocking, they don't provide reporting, and they don't understand the audience. So like the one question you ask, when a distributor approaches you is like, Who do you think the audience is? And how are you going to market this film? And if they give you a lot of like, vague crap about, you know, your audiences, everybody or versus a digital audience or something that's really General, that kind of tells you they're not targeting anyone and, and targeting specific audiences like exactly what people need to do these days. Right? So doing your research is really important.

Alex Ferrari 52:30
Now, um, what advice would you give a filmmaker who's wanting to break into the business?

Liz Manashil 52:37
Well, film school is really great for me, but I don't recommend it for anyone else, because it's very expensive. And I think you can get the same experience, you can replicate that experience outside of film school, the problem is taking the time, you need to like figure out what stories you want to tell and who your teammates are going to be. So if you can do that, on the weekends, I'd encourage you to do it. But I think the best advice that I never took, but I think the best advice is to make a lot of shorts, and don't show them to anyone, like just make a lot of things with your phone, or you know, with an old, you know, with a DSLR or with an old handycam, or whatever it is, edit it yourself, and don't show them because once you show it, you get deterred, you start feeling bad, it's never gonna be as good as you think it is in the beginning. And then once you feel like you have something good enough to show to start to build that audience in turn to make your name as a filmmaker, but I think it's all about, you know, really making a lot of crap as much as possible and getting that out of your system.

Alex Ferrari 53:51
The Robert Rodriguez method, he made 40 he made 40 shirts before he made it. Oh, that's great. He's like, yeah, just get them all out of the way. Get them out and get all that crap out of the way. So make your mistakes, make your mistakes quietly, and don't make it on your first big feature if you can help it.

Liz Manashil 54:07
Yeah. And I was not an advocate for the short film. Like if you were to ask that question to me, like six months ago, I would have been like, don't make any shorts. Just make your feature because all it takes a lot of time and resources and money. But I just made a short that I really enjoyed doing. And there's, there's a lot to audience building that's really effective in short films, because people will watch short films, if you send it to them. They're not going to sit there for 90 minutes and watch your future unless they're like, that's their Friday night, or that's their favorite actor or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 54:43
So now Can you can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Liz Manashil 54:51
Oh, wow. Jane Eyre Jane Eyre is my favorite book and it's because it's like an awkward ugly girl and I was like I understand this character leg. There's not a lot of stories of like the awkward girl that are done with like true respect for her, where she's not the comedic foil. And so Jane Eyre was pretty and she's a feminist archetype. She's super cool. She didn't. So that was really important to me. It's it's movies like that, where it's army, sorry, it's books like that, where you read it and you're, like, just shaken out of your comfort zone. And you realize there's a lot more potential for you as an individual that you don't get to see on a regular basis. Very cool.

Alex Ferrari 55:35
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Liz Manashil 55:46
Longest lesson to learn, I've probably still haven't learned it. I think too, very often I stray into my movie, or this is mine, or I did this. Yeah, I forgot to give the credit where it deserves. And I still think that I have stock answers when I talked to other people about bread and butter that aren't fully attributing credit to the people who made the film with me. So in you know, like, especially my lead actress Chrissy who was like just a major part of that, that film. I always like will talk about Bobby and Lauren and I don't talk about Christy enough. So just these things where I feel like I forget to to give credit where credit is due.

Alex Ferrari 56:29
Good and three of your favorite films of all time?

Liz Manashil 56:34
This is fun. Okay, broadcast news. My favorite film of all time,

Alex Ferrari 56:41
Albert Brooks is a genius.

Liz Manashil 56:44
Fox is amazing in that. Silence of the Lambs because he you know, whatever, it's on TV. Can't not watch it. It's just stupendous. And Sherman's March. I've only seen it once. But I just remember just being like, I can't believe this as a movie. This is really magical and vulnerable and exciting. So those are three good movies. Probably. I don't know if I'd give the same answer twice.

Alex Ferrari 57:11
Ofcourse, no, it always changes depending on the day, but as of today, at this moment in time, those movies now where can people find you online? Your Twitter and WhatsApp?

Liz Manashil 57:22
I really like to encourage people to email me it sounds silly.

Alex Ferrari 57:26
Do you seriously I'll put I'll put your email in the show notes.

Liz Manashil 57:31
Please do i do it everywhere I go everywhere I go. I gave my email at freely it's just my name [email protected] Okay. And or you could do womanashil. I mean, I have like five different email addresses. And the reason I do that a you know, it's selfish reasons I run a newsletter and I want people to read what I have to say. It's not me talking about distribution and marketing and my film and other people's films. It's just, you know, me spewing my thoughts. But also, if people hear something or they want to talk about anything, I want them to be able to reach me. So it's so my emails like number one priority B is LizManashil.com or AtlasManashil on Twitter or friend me on Facebook, or I mean, really any way you want to get in touch, I'm open to it.

Alex Ferrari 58:22
I'll put it all in the show notes. Liz, thank you so much for for being so honest and transparent with your, your, your distribution, journey, and the making of your, your awesome little film. I appreciate it.

Liz Manashil 58:34
Aww your lovely, thank you so much.

Alex Ferrari 58:37
It was such a pleasure speaking to Liz and speaking to a filmmaker who can you could just tell he's so passionate about filmmaking, and so passionate about telling good stories, and passionate about only not only about the art of it, but the business of it, the distribution aspect of it, and how we're going to get our films our stories out into the world. So I really want to thank Liz for taking the time out to talk to the tribe. And hope you guys got something out of it. I know I did. I learned a bunch of stuff by talking to her and she was an absolute pleasure. Now, as promised, I was going to give you a little something special at the end of this. And I want to ask you guys a question. What would you do if I gave you an opportunity to be able to have access to a distribution fellowship from Sundance? That's right. Now, Liz wanted me to kind of give a shout out to you guys about this, but I'm going to do something even better. tomorrow's episode is going to be Liz back on the show. First time ever that I have a back to back day after day. guests on the show. I don't think it'll ever happen again. This is a special thing and I wanted her to come back and just talk about that. And how, how amazing that there's barely anyone submitting to it. It's insane. She's like, Are you kidding me? No one when submitting to this fellowship, that competition he would think would be in the hundreds of 1000s. I think that's what a big problem is. He's like, it's Sundance, everyone just thinks that no one's gonna submit to this thing. Well, we're gonna give you all the information in tomorrow's episode, so please take a listen to have it tomorrow. And if you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/196. And I have Episode 200. coming up very soon. It's kind of scaring I gotta look too much pressure on me. I'm putting too much pressure on myself. I don't know what I'm going to do for Episode 200. I really wanted to do something big and, and have a really cool guest on or it might be just me talking. So we're gonna see, I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm gonna try and do something really cool for Episode 200. Again, it might just be a normal episode. I don't know. But anyway, thank you as always for listening. And as always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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