IFH 248

IFH 248: Bomb City – Tapping into Your Audience with Major Dodge


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Today’s guest is producer Major Dodge. His new film Bomb City is quite frankly…da bomb (sorry I couldn’t help myself). Here’s some info on his film.

Bomb City is a crime-drama, about the cultural aversion of a group of punk rockers in a conservative Texas town. Their ongoing battle with a rival, more-affluent clique leads to a controversial hate crime that questions the morality of American justice. Based on the true story of Brian Deneke. Directed by Jameson Brooks.

I wanted Major Dodge on the show so he can share with the IFH Tribe how he raised the money, got the rights to the story, got a theatrical release, tapped into his key audience and created merch to sell to that audience. Bomb City is a great case study.

Enjoy my conversation with Major Dodge.

Alex Ferrari 1:52
Now today's guest is producer Major Dodge, who produced an amazing film called bomb city. If you guys have not seen bomb city or have not even heard of it, go to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/248. And you can see the trailer for the movie. It's available at all, anywhere you want. iTunes, Amazon, so on. It's everywhere. And I it is an amazing story of how the movie got put together, how it got a theatrical release, how major and his other producing co producers were able to really understand the market that they were going after the audience they were going after and how they attack that audience made sure that that audience was very well aware of the project, and is based on a true story, very sad, true story, how they were able to obtain the rights to that story, and produce a very polished high end indie movie that they had complete control over and they got distribution through gravitas, they got a theatrical release. And on top of that, they also sell merge for the movie as well. So I really wanted to dig in with major about how they did everything they did on this movie, how they're producing their merge, how they thought about their marketing plan to distribution plan, how they got the financing for it, and much, much more. This is definitely a indie film hustle kind of film, because they really hustled all the way for it. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Major Dodge. I like to welcome to the show Major Dodge, man. Thanks for coming on the show, man.

Major Dodge 4:05
Hey, thanks for having me, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 4:06
I appreciate it. Man. You guys reached out to me about your movie bomb city. And when I saw it, and I saw the story about the behind the scenes story about it. And just what's happened with it. I'm like, I gotta get these guys on the show. I want to hear the story. Even if it's just a selfish just I want to know how you did it. So before we get into it, how did you get into the film industry in the first place?

Major Dodge 4:27
Yeah, so I started in front of the camera. I've been I've been an actor since I was a kid and then professionally, right after college, I moved to New York City. And I lived in Manhattan for 11 years. And so you know, worked as an actor in the theater and, you know, on TV and film and stuff like that. And then in 2010 as fate would have it. I, you know, had a son and relocated to Dallas to be dad, and you can't really be a full time actor in the Dallas market.

Alex Ferrari 4:55
No. I'm from the Miami market. I know you need

Major Dodge 5:01
While I was at I was at a Christmas party at Mark Colombo's house, who's an offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys. And in addition to getting meat getting to meet Tony Romo and Jason Witten, he introduced me to a couple of his buddies that have just been working on a music video for him. In 2012, the NFL went on strike. And it was funny because ESPN did this big story on what you know, football players were doing. In the wake of the strike and a couple of the Cowboys they formed a rock band called free reign. They needed a music video done. So he met Mark met Jamie and Sheldon. And and I knew Mark from acting class. And, you know, he told them about me and told me about them. And he was for months, he was like, Man, you guys got to work together, you guys got to work together. Like y'all would make such a great team if you if you guys teamed up. And so we've been hearing about each other for a while, and we were at the Christmas party. And Mark just came up and was like, Hey, this is Jamie and Sean, these guys are telling you about the did did our music video. And he's like, this is major this guy was talking about, and we just kind of hit it off. And the first week of January of 2013. Jamie, he had put together a preliminary lookbook you know, a pitch deck where he took some sample images, and, you know, wrote about the story and, and whatnot. And, and he gave it to me like the second week of January. And immediately I was like, Oh my gosh, I remember exactly where I was when this story happened. I remember what I was doing was one of those things that just stuck with me. Like 911 I knew right? Well, at what I was doing, and I couldn't I couldn't believe that no one had, you know, made a movie on it yet. And so, you know, I'm very visual. And so I immediately started seeing you know, like punk rockers in the middle of dusty steer pastures and thinking about how pretty it would look and but you know, all that kind of went out the window. As I mentioned already, I'm a father and when I got to meet Mike Dennehy face to face and talk about it. And you know, 17 years later, and when he talked about his son, it was like, as if it happened yesterday. And I knew in that moment, and that's the reason I got into movies anyway, because I wanted to experience that human connection. And I wanted to tell stories that mattered. And, you know, I mean, we can only make so many movies about big green ogres saving the planet.

Alex Ferrari 7:10
There is their place for the big green ogres to save the planet. But

Major Dodge 7:15
But you know, that's why I love indie film, because, you know, you get to do character driven stories that, you know, that really can affect people, you It's not often that people read a newspaper article or watch a news story and they get moved to tears. But I think that's what's powerful about the cinema, is we really have the opportunity when done right to elicit change in people and to start good conversations. And I think that's what we're really able to do with bomb city.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
Now. Did you know the backup a little bit you were also in an MMA fighter at 1 point?

Major Dodge 7:44
Gosh, man, you must you must have googled me. I did one MMA fight. I I wrestled my entire life. So I was a college wrestler. And actually coach my son's wrestling team right now. But yeah, no, I come from a sports background. And you know, I think that's one of the things that kind of probably gave me a little bit of a competitive edge when I got into producing because, as you know, the first thing you got to do is find the money. And you know, the rest of that out of the compensation.

Alex Ferrari 8:19
You just put them in a sleeper hold and that's it. Like just give me the money, go to sleep, go to sleep.

Major Dodge 8:26
Wrestlers have an uncanny ability to be able to overcome adversity, when everything stacked against them in the face of adversity, to be able to just keep moving forward and keep pressing towards the goal. And I think it's one of the things that wrestling taught me and kind of gives me an edge as a producer because when I set my mind to something, you know, when the trains on the tracks, it's going to get moving and so yeah, but no, I'm not I'm not an MMA fighter. Robbie Lawler ruthless Robbie Lawler who's an MMA fighter. He plays my cop partner in bomb city. You might have noticed that. Yeah, I don't do you watch UFC?

Alex Ferrari 8:59
I haven't in a bit but I'm familiar with the UFC world. Yeah, they know ruthless, Robbie Lawler. he's a he's a he's a bit of a stud. Now Now, talk a little bit about bomb city because for people who don't know the story, what is the story of bomb city?

Major Dodge 9:16
Yeah, so bomb city. It's it's a story that took place in Amarillo, Texas in 1997. It's about a it's basically about a group of high school football jocks that are having a turf war with a group of punk rockers. And it results in a hate crime that kind of questions the morality of the American justice system. So you know, a kid loses his life. And, you know, it was a widely publicized thing. It was on Oprah dateline. 2020 Marilyn Manson spoke out about it. He's in our film, The Dropkick Murphys, they they're a famous punk band. They wrote a song about it, but it's about the Life of Brian Dickey. And so, you know, I'll go and tell you what happened. So basically, you know, a punk rocker loses his life at the hands of a football player. His football jock shows up to the fight and rather Then get out of the car and fight he decides to slam on the gas and run and run over the punk rocker. And so, you know, a lot of times I don't like to tell what happens because there's a whole build up to the to the thing the way we story unravels, you think one thing is going to happen. Basically, we you know, we use the courtroom in the film and so you never see what side the attorneys arguing on. So the whole time you're watching the film until the end, you think that a punk rocker murdered a football player? And so on reality, but you know, hey, you went to see the Titanic, you knew the ship was sinking? It's really about everything.

Alex Ferrari 10:34
Exactly. If it's done, right, exactly. Remember, when Titanic came? I was like, but no one's gonna go see that. We all know how it ends.

Major Dodge 10:41
But I tell you, when we were touring the festivals, man, you know, when somebody would come in completely blind? Yeah, it would be just really see the difference, because it was like a big punch to the gut. Because the whole time they're thinking, and that's the message of the story. It's about not judging a book by its cover. Right. You know, you know, when I was raising money for the film, I don't know, towards the end of an investor meeting. And so when the verdict was read, Marilyn Manson, he gave the speech at a unity and diversity conference, it was called a disinfo conference back in, like the year 2000. And if you've ever heard Marilyn Manson talk, man, the guy's just, you know, he's he's an entertainer. He's a genius. Very, very, he's very profound. And he speaks eloquently. Yeah, eloquently as a very soothing tone to his voice also. And so you know, how's raising money in the Bible about capital the South? And so

Alex Ferrari 11:36
How did you how did you raise money? How did you go about raising the the budget for that? And if you don't mind me asking, do you do want to share the budget? Or at least their budget range?

Major Dodge 11:44
Yeah, yeah, I'll yeah, I'll get I'll get to all that. But, um, what I was saying was that with Manson is that I would, you know, get towards the end of a meeting. And and, and, and if we had a car out in the parking lot, let's say was that like a dinner meeting, or someone say, hey, come sit in my car and play some for you. Or if I didn't have that opportunity, I'd say here, put these earphones in and listen to this. And I'd play the speech for them. And at the end of it, I'd say So who do you Who do you think that was? He just listened to because he was talking about it. And we incorporate this in the film, you'll, you'll hear the speech in the film. But he was talking about Brian and it just basically, you know, the American justice system and whatnot, and, and the event that took place? And they'd say, I'd say So who do you think that was? And they'd say, I'm like a maybe like a lawyer or a politician. You know, somebody super intelligent, and then I'd go, that was Marilyn Manson. And then their jaw hit the floor, and they'd go, no way. That's the movie.

Alex Ferrari 12:40
And they go, just take my money. Just take my money.

Major Dodge 12:45
That was always that was always what I called the nail in the coffin. That's like my secret weapon, I'd say for the end. But to answer your previous question, it's a low budget film, but when you watch the film, it looks amazing. It Yeah, it looks in sounds amazing. And, you know, we always felt the story was the star. You know, we don't have any a listers, no big, big movie stars in it. But we got a bunch of people who I think are gonna be stars. And that's, that's the beauty of, you know, doing films like this is that like, you know, you know, five years from now, when one of these kids you know, they're in the right age range when these kids blow up. Everyone's gonna go want to go watch? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 13:19
Let me let me ask you a question as a producer, though, going into a movie like this. So what was the budget range? If you don't mind me asking?

Major Dodge 13:27
I'm sorry,

Alex Ferrari 13:27
What was the budget range? If you don't mind me asking?

Major Dodge 13:30
Half a million dollars.

Alex Ferrari 13:31
Alright, so half a million dollars for a movie with no stars attached? has some I'm assuming some action but mostly a drama. Yeah, have you have you seen i did i get i didn't get a chance to see the film. I only saw the trailer of it. And the trailer does look pretty intense.

Major Dodge 13:50
Yeah, yeah. So um, yeah. We, we always felt like the story was the star. So we didn't feel like, you know, we needed to have a big a list actor in there. And it's funny, because I was listening to one of your podcasts yesterday and the duplass brothers were talking about and you were talking about, you know, don't make a $700,000 movie if you've never made, you know, $70,000 movie, right? Or make 10 $70,000 movies. And that was kind of the thing. You know, we had already made short films. And you know, as an actor, I've worked on all different types of budgets, but as a team, you know, we made we made short films, and, you know, we work together making commercials and music videos. And so we, we, we didn't want to make the first film for you know, $5 million. Sure. So, you know, we felt that that was a budget range where we could pay our investors back because, you know, what's the old saying, Go? Don't don't sell they got one car selling, selling, you know, five cars over 15 years.

Alex Ferrari 14:47
Right. Exactly. Exactly. So, so but but a half a million dollar budget to recoup and today's world is without any major stars in it is pretty intense, but you're right you You were trying to tap into the people who knew the story, or at least you could put the story out there. And that would be the attraction to the property or to the movie, correct? Yeah.

Major Dodge 15:10
I mean, yeah, we knew the audience was there. And I always knew the audience was was bigger than what even, you know, some of the investors that did invest. I mean, I always knew the audience was bigger than what they they may have even originally perceived. But, you know, we knew we had we know, we had the punk rock community, which is a big community in itself. Yeah. And then we also, you know, True Crime enthusiasts. And, you know, the movie has, you know, skateboarding and graffiti. And so we knew there were a lot of built in audiences. But really, to, you know, it's just, you know, the, the story itself, you know, had already been wide and far. I mean, when we announced that we, you know, before we even had day one in principle, you know, when people from all over the country that were sent messages on Facebook, and, you know, Brian's story went far and wide. You know, you know, like I said in America was, you know, it was on dateline was on 2020, MTV did a documentary called MTV, true crime, punks versus pretz. Manson spoke out about it, the Dropkick Murphys wrote a song about it.

Alex Ferrari 16:10
You had a lot of built, you had a fairly large built in audience or awareness of the property. Exactly. I'm saying all this. So everybody who's listening understands why something why the route that you went make sense and was successful. Because if you don't understand that they that the like, you don't have a built in audience or you don't have a property or awareness of a, of a film, this this, this this work. This could be disastrous.

Major Dodge 16:36
Yeah, I mean, the first thing I always ask anybody, when they come to me, and they're thinking about, you know, they want to make a movie, I say, well, who's gonna watch your movie? Right? And if they think if they can't tell me that, I say, Well come back to me when you can tell me who? Who's going to watch your movie? You know?

Alex Ferrari 16:49
Exactly. So so when you were raising the money, you literally was just kind of going around to different investors and doing pitch decks and just trying to just try to scrape the money together.

Major Dodge 16:59
Yeah, well, we had it, we had a pitch deck. But I mean, the first thing I did, I went to, I went to Office Depot, and I bought this big white dry erase board. And I, you know, I wrote bomb city real big at the top of it. And then I started and then once I got into the money raising part, you know, after we had all the life rights, after we had the ppm in place, after basically, you know, all of our ducks were in a row. I went on that board, and I wrote every single person that I thought that I had ever met that had money that I couldn't get direct access to. And I just started hitting people up and it's funny, the first investor because you know, you brought up wrestling before, so there's a big Wrestling Connection by the movie. My first investor, so I had a buddy named Rick cruise, and Rick was working for a guy as his web designer. And this guy's name, Steve silver is one of my best friends now, but he's in the wrestling Hall of Fame. All of his sons wrestled in college. Rick had walked, Steve had walked into Rick's office and he was like, hey, Rick, and Steve's a big furniture, guys, Steve silver furniture, like the only brand of furniture they sell at Costco. And, anyway, so

Alex Ferrari 18:05
Right then.

Major Dodge 18:07
Exactly. So Steve walks into Rick's office, he said, Hey, Rick, look at all my years of being hit up for investments. He's like, no one's ever asked me to invest in a movie before and he throws out a pitch deck for Dixieland. There's a movie with Faith Hill and RJ Dmitri from the kid from breaking bad, huh? A few other people, but they'd already made the movie. But they needed finishing funds. They didn't they didn't have enough money to finish the movie. And it goes Oh, really, because my friend major actually just started raising money for movies like here, watch this. And he pulls up on his on his pulls up on his computer, the short film we did in 2014 called behold the news. And we made that movie for a $400 on our Blackmagic cameras, that movie, the foreigner dollars $200 went to because I'm the only actor and I went to my police uniform and to rent the police cruiser. We made that film and it played in like 19 festivals that one short of the week. It was in the New York Times it's on the 20 scariest shortest films online nice. And we made that for 400 bucks and in 24 hours. And so it's a nine and a half minute movie. You can watch it for free on Vimeo but put it on I put it in the show notes. Here. He plays it for Steve. And they he sits down he watches the whole nine and a half minutes. And he says to Rick, he goes you know that guy? And he's like, yeah, so once you invite him out to Vegas with us this weekend. And so they were going out there Steve also invest in an MMA gym, and one of the fighters were fighting oddly enough for who was fighting Robbie Lawler for the title. Good, just really crazy. And that's a whole nother story in itself. Sure. That's and so I got invited out to Vegas for the weekend, just off the strength of him saying that short film but then when Steve got on the phone with me, it came out that I also was a college wrestler and was coaching my kids wrestling. And he had a connection with and that's what I tell people I'm like, like attracts like. So in addition, I always say in addition to knowing who your audience is, also know Who wants that film? You know, somebody hit me up last week about a golf movie. I hate golf. I like wrestling, where people punch each other in the face should come to me with a golf movie. I'm not I don't want to make a movie about a golfer, I don't care how, how awesome the story is, you know, but um, and the investors are the same way. And so I thought people might find out who in that audience has money, and who would want that film and, and go after them. And that's kind of how, you know, Steve kind of fell in my lap through just through my mutual friend. And so I went to Vegas for the weekend and probably talked about the film once or twice, because it was all about fighting. And it's about building relationships, and me just having a good time. And then, you know, when we got back, I said, Hey, I'd like to take you out to lunch and tell you, you and your wife and tell you about this project I'm working on. He's like, Yeah, sure. And you know, we went out to lunch on a Wednesday, and on Friday, he wrote me a check.

Alex Ferrari 20:52
So Wow. And that started the button that started the ball rolling.

Major Dodge 20:55
That puts the train on the tracks. Yeah, that's the first money. And I always say, I call it Emily money.

Alex Ferrari 21:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Major Dodge 21:12
Early money is like yeast. Yeah. Money in, it just starts growing from there. And it makes it real to because right until you get that first money in the bank, you're questioning if you can do it. And you're you're, you know, and that's because you may not necessarily believe in it, and you need to believe in it wholeheartedly, or you got no business doing it. Because I've got friends who make movies just to build IMDb credits, I'm like, No, I want to make movies that I believe in 110%. And that's what bomb city was, for me. I believed in this, the heart and I fell in love with Mike and Betty Dickey. And I wanted to get their son's story out there. So

Alex Ferrari 21:49
Now how did you how did you approach getting life? Right? Because I know that's something that a lot of people listening don't even have a clue on how to do. So you hear this story? And you're like, I gotta go get the rights, the movie rights this? How, what's the process of that?

Major Dodge 22:03
Yeah, so there's a couple things. So if you don't have life rights from the people, you can buy the rights to a book, or you can buy the rights to a news story or a newspaper article. Or, you know, you if you can get to the people, you can you can do it that way. And that's what we were able to do. We were able to get to all the all the real people. And basically, Jamie's Jamie, the director, his mom knew someone who knew the dentist's case, and, and she got us in contact with them. And so

Alex Ferrari 22:33
Just one over on pitch them. I'm like, hey, look, this is what we've done before.

Major Dodge 22:37
Yeah, so what so what had happened was, so they had, they had sold the rights to got him norm green, who's a film professor at NYU. And he made the documentary that MTV bought and released his MTV True Crime back, you know, 17 years ago. And then, and then he renewed it, because you get you get when you get the rights, you get them for a period of five years. And then he renewed them. And then and then in 2007, he didn't renew it. So he either, you know, just figured, hey, I made the documentary, or just, you know, I don't know, if he couldn't, you know, get the money in place or whatever, but he, you know, in, in Oh, seven that the rights, you know, went back to the family, and he and so you had, you know, all these years where, where they thought a movie was gonna be done. And they kind of got their hopes up, you know. And so when we came in, and and that was the other thing, too, is it So Jamie, the director and Sheldon the writer, they're both from Amarillo, where the story takes place. And so that was one of the things I kind of use to my benefit. You know, I talked about in this article I may have shared with you that I wrote you know, the unknown director and know a list actor. That's like your two biggest.

Alex Ferrari 23:45
He done shorts, a lot of shorts, but exactly. So exact, really had a lot going against you guys.

Major Dodge 23:51
Yeah, I did. But um, but but you know, it's about having that belief in the story and the belief in yourself. And you know, I come from a sales background. I've always done sales jobs to support my acting habit. I used to sell coupons on the street with Chris Pratt.

Alex Ferrari 24:03
I like, I like that you call it an acting habit. Like it's like a drug habit or an alcohol app? It really is. Man it really. So I used to sell coupons with Chris Pratt?

Major Dodge 24:15
Well, he had a he had a company like mine, it was like a competing office, basically. But yeah, we sell we sell these gift certificates out on out on the streets to anybody, and we had like these chants and things we would we would say, to get motivated to go out. He talked about it on Conan, and I was cracking up. But so you know, I, you know, I have a I have a sales background. And so I kind of just, you know, one of the things that you learn in sales is that people usually perceive things the way that it's initially pitched to them. And so and if you pitch if you pitch with passion, and you believe in your story, you know, I think you can, a lot of people come in and they pitch on all these other things, tax incentives, for example. And so, in my background, I would call that pitching off failure. So I never go in and lead and talk about numbers, I always save that for last because I feel like people invest in stories and invest in people. Absolutely. You can influence people win them over. And you can show them that you have a vision. That's the thing, even if you even if they disagree with you, if you know you can't, you got to speak up for your vision and you can't be a pushover. And, and I think we're really good at doing so with Jamie, for example, unknown director, when I would come into the meeting, I would say, Hey, listen, we've got a guy who is going to be the next big thing. You know, he's done all these shorts, he hasn't done a feature yet. And he's from Amarillo. So he lives through the story, he's going to be come in and tell the story in a way that, you know, some big director from Hollywood is not going to be able to do because he lived through it. And, and then also with the band, his first feature, we're going to get more bang for our buck. He's going to, you know, direct and edit the film, and he's gonna, and he's going to do it for a lot less than what some you know, big, big, big name director with a huge resume already has

Alex Ferrari 26:02
And he did have some stuff that you could show people as well.

Major Dodge 26:04
Yeah. Yeah. And they can you could see that his style, like even in behold the news, you know, like I said, it's only, you know, a foreigner dollar film, but you could see the visual style. You know, Jamie came from a background of BMX and skateboarding. So he's really good with action. You know, he, that's how he got into the videos, he started picking up the camera and just shooting all of his BMX and skater friends. And so, yeah, so he used to make skate videos and BMX videos, like starting at age 15. And so, you know, I'd come in and I'd lead and that one I'd lead with that they never got to have, they never got to have that go through their head. Oh, hey, this is an unknown director. And, you know, and, and all that. And I think it was because, you know, I would go go in, and I would lead with it, because I knew ahead of time, what my pitfalls were. So there was nothing that they could say in the meeting that would stumped me or throw me off, because I already knew it. And when I lead with it, it would never even be it would never be an issue. They saw it as a positive, believe it or not. Wow. And the crazy thing about bomb city is out of the 11 investors out of the 11 people invested in the movie, only one person read the script.

Alex Ferrari 27:12
Isn't that Hollywood? Even though it's not Hollywood, but it is. I would just go in and out. And you know, I would sell them the story. And I believed you and they just believed you.

Major Dodge 27:22
You know, that's what Steve said, Steve. Steve is the first. Now talk to him on the phone. And I couldn't stop thanking him because he was, you know, he was the first person and he was making a large investment. And I couldn't stop thinking and he said, Hey, he said, he goes, you don't have to say anything else. He said, I'm investing in you. I believe you're going to be successful. He said, and that's why I'm giving you money.

Alex Ferrari 27:44
Wow. That's awesome. Man. That's really awesome. Sorry. So you got the movie done. By the way, what did you shoot on? Did you shoot on Blackmagic?

Major Dodge 27:52
No, no, we shot on the red weapon? 6k. Yeah, with the anamorphic lens. So the music. Film is beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 28:00
Yeah, it looks gorgeous. It looks it looks stunning. It really did. So in the movies done now. It's edited. What was your distribution plan? Or what? Well, first of all, did you go out to film festivals first? And then did that? Did this make your decision on your distribution plan? Or did you have a distribution plan? off the top?

Major Dodge 28:18
No, we were going to go to the festival. You know, we had a plan, which included, you know, the first year, you know, trying to get into the to the festivals. And so we finished filming in August of 2016. And so Sundance deadline was I think October, you have plenty of time. So

Alex Ferrari 28:42
Sorry. We had two months and a time What are you talking about?

Major Dodge 28:48
Well, it is it was plenty of time to send them a rough two hour, 27 minute version of our hour and 35. So we sent them a two hour and 27 minute version. And needless to say, we didn't get into Sundance, but our hopes our hopes weren't crushed by that because we knew we didn't we didn't we hadn't found the film yet. Sure. But the movies not 98 minutes now. And

Alex Ferrari 29:13
Big change.

Major Dodge 29:15
It's a huge change. Yeah. And so it's you know, it's very dark and ominous throughout. And you know, it wasn't that yet. And so. So we held off. We said let's wait till we get it right. And then the president of the Dallas International Film Festival, it was a friend of mine, and he happened to come over to actually to Jamie's apartment building and we had a status of a screening room in there in downtown Dallas and he came over and he was like, Oh my gosh, he's like yeah, we have to we have to show this and so you know, we thought about holding off until we got an you know an answer from somewhere else like you know, Tribeca or something like that. And we just started thinking about it. Like, look, this is our hometown made it here. All the crews from here. I mean, we only flew in, you know, six actors from LA everyone else is a Texas actor. You know, it would just be it just it just started making sense. And we were like, all right. And we'd already found out we're gonna play at Nashville, Tennessee and Nashville. And Nashville didn't need to be world. Yeah, didn't need to be a world premiere. And so we're like, Okay. And so it was really funny because right after we got announced that we were playing in Dallas, we got a message from draya Clark, who's the programmer in LA Film Festival, and she was like, No, I was about to offer you guys a play out here. And she's like, James is my friend. I'm going to call him and tell him off because you're not going to get distribution there. And if you play at La Film Festival, you're going to get distribution and, and all this stuff.

Alex Ferrari 30:37
Oh, no, no, it's vicious, dude. I've been there. They they will cut each other's balls right off. To get it to get a premiere. I've had people call. I had someone call me a week before a world premiere of one of my films, and offered to give me like the world if I would just pull out of that. Yeah, it's insane what they did.

Major Dodge 30:58
Yeah, well, luckily, it didn't get that aggressive because they, they were their friends. And they knew each other. But she was trying everything to get us to play at La Film Festival. And, you know, and then of course, we're like, Well, yeah, we want to come to LA with the film and play there. Is there any way you can just do a California only premiere and I guess a few years ago, they switched and they they only do they only do world premieres now,

Alex Ferrari 31:19
So but so so, so boozy?

Major Dodge 31:22
Yeah. So we played Dallas, we won the Audience Award for Best narrative feature movie sold out in 14 minutes. It says the fastest cell on the history of the Dallas international film. Does that make sense? And, and so then we went to Nashville, and Nashville, we also won the Audience Award for Best narrative feature, and we won Best Actor, lead actor. And then from there, we went to bed and we won Best Director had been film. And then we won. Audience word best narrative feature at tallgrass film.

Alex Ferrari 31:50
You just kept going and going and go. We just kept going. Yeah, we played nine festivals. And we wanted every single one. Now, did you get any offers?

Major Dodge 31:57
We did. So Nashville did have quite a few distributors on hand. And so when we played in Nashville, that's when the conversation started happening. I was I got hit up by voltage and Samuel Goldwyn, and, you know, a few other few other smaller companies, and then broadgreen. And then ultimately, we ended up going with gravitas, because gravitas? They wanted to make it theatrical. And we thought, you know, it was important to us to have the have the film play in theaters and not just be a you know, direct to streaming. Sure. DVD,

Alex Ferrari 32:34
DVD. Now, did you? Um, how many theaters? Did you go out? And

Major Dodge 32:39
We released this on February ninth. We released to 17. Cities. Nice. Yeah. And how to do it did really well, it did really well. We had a we were on Box Office Mojo we had, you know, our, our average was higher than, you know, a lot of studio pictures is and so yeah, and it got extended in several cities. And yeah, it's just been and it's it's still, you know, it's been it's like a slow burn. It's still going on. I mean, we just People Magazine picked up the film, like three weeks ago, we were in people.

Alex Ferrari 33:10
Yeah. How did you get how did you get a lot of this? Cuz I saw some of the news outlets that were covering you guys. And for an indie movie. It's it's all you got some major players. So how did you get that?

Major Dodge 33:20
Yeah, so I was very strategic with it. So we dropped the trailer on December 12 2017, which was the 20 year anniversary of Brian's death. He died December 12 1997. And so we had been hitting up, we hit up some actually, a right a freelance writer from vulture had hit us up. And she had heard about the movie and the story, and knew it was gonna be the 20th anniversary and she wanted to pitch it to vulture. And so she pitched it to voltar and vulture passed, she goes but vise somebody's advice overheard me talking about it, and they want the story. And so yeah, and so vice picked it up and on December 12 20 year to the day of Brian's death vise released a big article, and we dropped the trailer exclusively on December 12. Through vise Of course. We open our pre orders that we so we did a day in date release. So we opened our pre ordered pre orders that day as well with with iTunes.

Alex Ferrari 34:22
And so and it went crazy.

Major Dodge 34:24
Yeah, and then so it just started coming from there and then you know, we were certified fresh and Rotten Tomatoes. We variety Hollywood Reporter all you know, favorable reviews and daily beast and so we get a lot of good, a lot of good reviews. And then this past November, I actually played john Gotti on a TV show called murder made me famous. Okay. And Steve helling, who's the senior crime reporter People Magazine. I met him because he does the commentary for the TV show. And yeah, It was just one day. Exactly. And so he, he started following me on Instagram. And he sent me a message to tell me how good he thought my john Gotti was. And as you know, and I've merely said, Thank you, I'm a big fan of you in the show. And then I just, you know, I told him, you know about the movie. And I said, Hey, you know, I know you're the senior camera for two people is that is something that you might be interested in covering us, you know, and then just, I didn't, I was pretty close to begging, but I don't think I quite begged.

Alex Ferrari 35:28
But for now, it's pretty close. That's fine. I beg.

Major Dodge 35:32
Yeah. So he, uh, he said he was going to do it. And then, you know, it came around and then Parkland happened, then he had to push it back. And then, and then, you know, and there was anything was gonna happen. Then finally, I just I reached out again, I was like, hey, our DVD and Blu Ray Blu ray releases on April 9, is there any way you could do it? And he, he followed he, he made good on his promise. And so yeah, he had big write up. And yeah, we were in People magazine that in the trailer and everything. It's pretty cool. So that's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 36:07
So it's Yeah, it really you guys really were blessed in so many ways. During this whole process. We had a punk Gainesville helping us there's no question. There's absolutely no question because a lot of the things that I preach against you guys did, but which is, which is great. And I love that. But I always that's one of the reasons I wanted you on the show, because I want it to break down like why did it work. And the end of the day, it's a story, though, the National awareness of the story, and the story itself, the power of that story. And that's what was able to break through all of those things. That first time director, you know, half million dollar budget, no major stars, basically coming not out of New York or LA, but coming out of Texas, like there's so many things going against the movie, but you understood that like, No, we got something here. And that happens all the time. I mean, puffy chair for the duplass brothers, I mean, you know, came out of nowhere, as well. And they were in Austin. So it's doable. But it was very interesting. I just one of the reasons I wanted to kind of break down how you did this, because it's a pretty, pretty remarkable story.

Major Dodge 37:17
Yeah, yeah. It's funny. You talk about breaking rules, too. So I actually I cast the film as well.

Alex Ferrari 37:22
Of course you did. Why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't it be more like for hacks? You know? Of course you did? Of course you did. That's the way it's supposed to be an indie. I mean, come on. If you've got a trailer, you got everyone with a job. Like that's just not an indie film anymore.

Major Dodge 37:38
Well, here's, here's a little tidbit for any actors that are listening about an actor that broke a rule so so the actor that plays Jason denecke in the film, his name is Dominic Ryan, Gabriel. And we put the the casting breakdown out for the for the roles that, you know, we didn't do offers on and one of them was for Jason finnicky, Brian's brother, and I get an email and a phone call from this actor, he somehow got my information in pitching himself for an audition, he didn't live in LA, he moved back to Detroit and didn't have an agent. But he knew the story and he was just so passionate about it, and how much it's it's spoke to him. And, you know, you never do that as an actor. I'm gonna call up the casting director and ask for an audition. But there was that part of me, you know, who comes from a, you know, a commission co call solicitation sales background, as already mentioned, and I'm like, you know, what, freakin like to kick out. I like I like the balls it took to do that. And I'm like, sure, you know what, hey, I'm gonna email you the sides. So there's, here's the moral of the story. If you're going to break the rules, you better be ready to deliver. And I sent Dominic the audition. Two hours later, I had his audition back. He was completely off book. And he had two very contrasting auditions, two sets asides. Sure, yeah, two sets of sides. And he did the emotional scene, the first the first scene, it's the emotional scene, where, you know, the death happens, and his brothers and his brothers dying in his arms. And he did that scene. And he popped right up after that scene, and he had to the tears go on and everything and he popped right up. And he wasn't in a studio. He was right in his apartment. And he looked in he looked department and his head was already shaved, and he's got the tattoos and he gets right up, any and he grabs a beer something counter, he pops open the beer takes a drink. And he's in the other scene without a break without a cut and nothing. He rolls right into it. And it was so effortless. Wow. I thought oh my god, this is gonna be one of those stories that I tell forever because he did everything you're not supposed to do and he's getting the part like and we didn't watch another audition for that role after that. I called Jamie and the I was like, come here, come here, you have to see this. I found the guy. And everyone agreed Emilia that's that was the dude.

Alex Ferrari 40:06
It's a it's a mate. Well, that makes perfect sense for this kind of film for this film specifically, which everything was you're breaking all the rules. Why wouldn't you break the rules when you're casting? You just got to know the rules. I think the break. And you know what, look, and he also did his homework. And he also knew how to connect with whoever he was aiming at. Like, I know the story. It really connects with me. It's not just like a cold call. Hi, I'm an actor. I heard you were doing a movie. I'd love to hear about it. He did his homework before he started. It was perfect. And he's a lead singer in a metal band of his own. And it was just Sure, it just made sense. It just made sense. So now How did you come up with the idea for selling limited edition merchandise, which is something I preach so much about? Trying to find other revenue streams that the movie can help sell and generate for the property in general?

Major Dodge 40:55
We wish we'd have done that when we're on our festival tour because I mean, people you know, it's just the type of film that has that kind of, you know, a punk rock you name it.

Alex Ferrari 41:04
The imagery is amazing. The posters amazing Of course.

Major Dodge 41:09
Well, the way we got so our merge is is his license. It's being sold by killer March. Okay, who is the killer merge is a division of Sumerian records. They're one of the top metal rock labels they've got like Jonathan Davis and But anyway, the guy that started Sumerian records His name's ash, Evanson. His dad is john Adelson the director of Rocky and Karate Kid but ash just released American Satan which is a an indie film about a metal band who makes a deal with the devil yeah to become famous it's kind of like a like a twist on the Jordan that George Burns movie, right? Yeah, exactly. So ash was when you buy his movie it says viewers also bought and bomb city kept popping up as the first movie as that people also bought our movie in his movie and he looked any any any any any bought it and he watched it any any was any loved it. And he tracked me down and was like, how can we team up? How can we What can I do to help you? is this? Are you Do you already have you know, DVD distribution? Can I get this help you get this in fyp. And you know, and he's like if you got merchant and so he really just took the hold of the movie. And so ash has become a good friend of mine. And so we're doing all of our merge through killer merge and his record label Sumerian is getting ready to release our soundtrack. Nice. Well, and yeah, and he's getting, he's getting you know, hard. With, there's not a lot, a lot of stores left like that. But he's getting the hard, you know, DVDs and blu rays into like, fit and stuff like that. So he's helping with that. And then he's getting, he's getting our T shirt in the hot topic as well.

Alex Ferrari 42:53
That's awesome, man. It's just all that's all you know. And that's extra money. That's x, basically extra revenue that has nothing to do with distribution, anything like that, that goes directly to you guys. Correct? Yeah, that's, that's the dream. That's the dream. I mean, seriously, it is if you can make a little money with the movie. And that's great. But then, as George Lucas says, The money's in the lunchboxes.

Major Dodge 43:15
And we had all this laid out, this isn't like, Oh, we just, you know, even though that kind of was like fortuitous, like hitting hitting stuff and everything. But we laid all this out, we had a plan to do this stuff. You know, if it hadn't been with him, it'd been somewhere else. But we, we utilize a lot of forward thinking. And that was all, you know, in that pitch deck. And that's another reason why I don't think a lot of people will even read the script, just because everything was so spelled out, and they could see it. And, you know, they could see that, you know, with the images that Jamie picked out, and the way that he you know, he designed the lookbook and the website and everything they could just could see, they could see the movie with the story I told and then with the assets that that that Jamie and Sheldon were able to give me

Alex Ferrari 43:57
Man, congratulations, man. Seriously, you guys have done an amazing thing. You first of all, you're a successful independent film. So that alone is applause worthy. But you guys are killing it and how you did it, you know, coming out of nowhere, you know, is pretty inspiring. So thank you for sharing your story, man. I really appreciate it. Thanks, Alex. Man, it's been a pleasure. So and I'm gonna ask you a few questions that I asked all of my guests. It's kind of like a speed round. So what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Major Dodge 44:31
My advice would be if you know 100%, that you can be happy doing anything else, then to go for it. But you have to be all in. You can't just be it's not. It's not one of those things that you can just do. And, you know, maybe if it happens and wait on the phone to ring, you've got to have a vision, pinpoint laser focus. And you've got to be able to say no to distractions because it's not about what you want. It's about what you want most. And things are going to come along and try to knock you Focus. And that's why, you know, that's why you need a lookbook. That's why you need a vision board in your bedroom. That's why you need notes on your mirror when you wake up every morning. So you're reminded of what it is you're going after.

Alex Ferrari 45:11
Nice, nice. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Major Dodge 45:19
Gosh, probably probably the first one I read, when I first got into sales, I'd say Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Alex Ferrari 45:26
Amazing book. It's amazing. I've written many times, many, many times. Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Major Dodge 45:37
What lesson took me the longest to learn within the film that you've got to be, you've got to be able to collaborate. You know, because people can take their ball and go home. And you don't want that to happen. So you've got to, you know, you've got to understand that no matter how good you are what you do, you cannot make a movie by yourself. And that's, that's, that's one of the reasons I love the film business, because it is the ultimate collaborative process. You know, you need other people to be with you and to work with you. And you know, to is better than one, three is better than two, you know? And three, and so on and so forth. And yeah, that was probably the hardest because I'm, you know, I'm kind of you know, I'm a Leo, I'm a little bit alpha, you know, come from a wrestling background. So I always, you know, it took me a while to realize that, hey, you know what, other people are probably going to have better ideas than you sometimes.

Alex Ferrari 46:31
Yes, yes. That's only a age age teaches you that. Exactly what you said the longest what took me the longest. And sometimes you're still learning it. It's something that I'm still learning it as well. Now, this is obviously the toughest question, what are the three favorite films of all time? A Fight Club. Amazing. It's on my top three. I'm gonna go here with vision quest. Of course you just can't you just just live just fall into the stereotypes or go ahead just fall into it. What are you gonna say? What's the other one? Oh, God, the

Major Dodge 47:05
No, I'm gonna I'm gonna come out of left field with this because The Goonies.

Alex Ferrari 47:12
What was that movie with? What was that movie with Tom Hardy. About the warrior? Where What a great movie. It was a great movie. Oh, I was bawling. I was bawling at the end of that movie. Oh, I'm developing an MMA drama right now. Nice. Nice. Very nice. And then where can people find you? online and even more about bomb city?

Major Dodge 47:36
So yeah, so my handle is easy. It's my name. It's Major Dodge, Instagram, Facebook. Believe it or not, I don't do Twitter. But bomb city is bomb city film at bomb city film on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and actually run the bomb city social media. So technically, I guess I am on Twitter now but bomb city film. Awesome. Our websites bombcityfilm.com. And the movie is currently available on every platform, streaming and then the DVD and blu rays for sale, you know, through Amazon target, as well as on our merchandise site, which is bomb city merch M E R C H bombcitymerch.com And that's where you can find the T shirts and the vests and the punk rock patches and pins and all that jazz as well.

Alex Ferrari 48:19
That is awesome. Man. Again, thank you so much for sharing your story and inspiration to the tribe. Man, I appreciate it.

Major Dodge 48:26
I appreciate you, man. It's been a pleasure, big fan.

Alex Ferrari 48:29
I want to thank major for coming on the show and dropping some knowledge bombs on the indie film hustle tribe. Thank you again, Major, so much for your time taking the time out. And if again, if you want to get any links to to anything we talked about in this episode, and also links to the movie, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/248. Now a lot of you have been asking me what's going on with ego and desire on the corner of ego desire. My latest feature film that I have not mentioned a whole lot about it is well, because I am now in the festival circuit. We are applying to festivals, we're trying to get into some big festivals and see what happens. You know, I don't know I'm gonna give it the old college try. And I'm hoping that the film gets well received. But that's what's going on right now. And depending on how it goes and the festival run, we'll get it out there. Sooner or later. We'll see what happens with it. But I will take you through the journey. As we go through it. I have a lot of cool stuff coming up in the coming year. And the next half of this year about ego and desire. So do not fret. There will be stories about how I made it. The camera rig that we used what we did everything. There's so much stuff coming I can't even tell you. I'm working also on another top secret project that I can't tell you about right now. But we hopefully will have out by the end of the year and that's going to be one of the biggest things I've ever, ever done. So please stay tuned. For that, and a lot of cool stuff I'm doing with indie film hustle, I promise there's going to be some major developments in the indie film hustle brand in the indie film hustle world, and what I'm going to be bringing to the tribe, I think it's going to be kind of a one of a kind thing, that there isn't anything like it anywhere else on the planet, maybe. So I'm hoping that you know that that will hopefully come out soon as well. But that's also going to probably be at least three, four months, five months away as well. So a lot of good stuff to look forward to for the indie film hustle tribe moving forward. And there might be another podcast launch. I don't know maybe one maybe two more. I don't know. I'm crazy. I'm crazy to give you guys the content that you guys need and deserve. I'm obsessed with helping filmmakers and helping you guys out. So thank you again for all the support and if you haven't done it already, guys, head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave me a good review on iTunes. It really helps us out a lot. Five stars would be fantastic. That's filmmaking, podcast, calm. And as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



  • Bomb City – Official Site
  • Bomb City – [easyazon_link identifier=”B078PCZY51″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link]
  • Major Dodge – Instagram
  • Major Dodge – Facebook
  • Major Dodge – IMDB


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