Today’s guest is Kia Kiso, co=producer of the hugely successful indie film Mile… Mile & A Half. Kia and her team were case studies in last week’s guest RB Botto’s book Crowdsourcing for Filmmakers: Indie Film and the Power of the Crowd. because of the amazing job they did crowdsourcing.
In an epic snow year, five friends leave their daily lives behind to hike California’s historic John Muir Trail, a 211-mile stretch from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.). Their goal — complete the journey in 25 days while capturing the amazing sights & sounds they encounter along the way. Inspired by their bond, humor, artistry & dedication, the group continues to grow: to include other artists, musicians & adventure seekers. Before they all reach the summit, hikers and viewers alike affirm the old adage — it’s about the journey, not the destination. Mile… Mile & A Half is the feature-length documentary of that journey…
Kia Kiso discusses how they identify, reached out and engage your audience before and after the production of her film. This episode is a PERFECT companion to lasts weeks (listen to that episode here). Get ready to be inspired and take notes! Enjoy my conversation with Kia Kiso.
Alex Ferrari 2:55
Now today's guest is Kia Kiso she is a producer of a wildly successful documentary called a mile, mile and a half. And what I found so amazing about her success is how she was able to use crowdsourcing to be able to generate not only revenue, but interest and sponsorships and money coming in from all over the place attention coming from all over the place. So her and the team behind the movie really did an amazing job. And the more and more I studied about it, the more more impressed I was. So I wanted to bring Kiya onto the show, to just give us all of her secrets on how she was able to engage and identify this audience. And if you listen to last week's episode with RB Bartow about the crowdsourcing for filmmakers. This is a perfect companion episode and if you've not heard that episode, definitely go check that out now that one's an epic episode RBI go at it as we usually do with so much great information but that's a perfect companion to this episode. So get ready to take some notes and get inspired. Enjoy my conversation with Kia Kiso I like to welcome to the show Kia Kiso how you doing my dear?
Kia Kiso 4:11
I'm doing great, Alex. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 4:13
Oh, thank you for doing the show. I we bumped into each other at AFM. And I heard your story of all the amazing things you're doing on the world. And I thought you would be an amazing guest to have on the show. So I really appreciate you taking the time out to talk to the tribe.
Kia Kiso 4:30
I appreciate it. I'm a huge fan of the show. So I'm glad to share what I've learned. Hopefully people can take it and run with it and improve on it and then we can hear their stories.
Alex Ferrari 4:40
Absolutely. So how first of all how did you get into the business?
Kia Kiso 4:45
I actually took a gifted and talented summer course when I was 12 years old at a local community college and it was a three camera TV production class.
Alex Ferrari 4:55
I hate you I hate you already.
Kia Kiso 4:56
I know and I You know the bug, I get bit by the bug. And I immediately realized that because like, Oh my gosh, I can tell stories I can help, you know, entertain the world. I never really realized it was a job before then. So that was the focus went to a really cool film school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We're just actually where I met Rick Sorento from mile, mile and a half. And because we were good college buddies, and then I moved out here after graduation, well, after a brief stint on a on a movie in Colorado, and been out in LA ever since. And I've had an interesting career trajectory. I've changed jobs a couple times and
Alex Ferrari 5:40
You've done everything you've done everything you were you've. You you've your hyphens, a lot of hyphens in your biography. So you were a colorist at one point as well, right?
Kia Kiso 5:51
I was a colorist I was also a camera assistant and the loader for 12 years as well, a loading loading thing called film I hear. I know, I know. It's actually funny. I was pulled out of retirement maybe seven years ago because a friend of mine called and he was like, I know you don't do this anymore. But I can't find anybody to load film for this Carl Jr. Commercial. And will you please come load film? And I was like, Okay, I don't mind. And actually, that's where I met my husband. So it was a good.
Alex Ferrari 6:14
It worked out. Well then. Yeah. So let's talk about mile mile and a half. It's an amazing documentary that you did and the the story and how it came to be, how you funded it, how you market it, how you sold it, how you got it on different platforms, to fascinating story, and is actually a case study in our mutual friend Arby's book. How is it Africa, it's a crowdsource crowdsourcing, what's the exact title of his book? I forgot
Kia Kiso 6:47
Crowdsourcing power the people I'm not it's a it's a long title. It's amazing.
Alex Ferrari 6:51
It is a very amazing book. And we're gonna have him on the show to talk about
Kia Kiso 6:54
I have it right here. Richard Botto crowdsourcing for filmmakers, indie film and the power of the crowd.
Alex Ferrari 6:59
There you go. So you are in that book as well. So tell us a little bit about mile and a half. How did you start? From the beginning to you know, how did you get this crowd? How did you get some fun funding for it in the first place?
Kia Kiso 7:12
Exactly. So it was never funded in the beginning, because you know, the film itself to explain for people that haven't seen it before, it's a feature documentary. It's about a group of filmmaker friends that decided to hike the john Muir Trail and California
Alex Ferrari 7:27
Kia Kiso 7:29
It's over 200 at what, like 219 miles 211 Yeah. And they decided to take their film gear with them along the way there, you know, even Rick carry the slider with him. So they had originally asked if I wanted to be on the trail, I said, Oh, hell no. And I actually went diving in the Great Barrier Reef instead, they had a great time, and I dropped them off on the trail, and how long
Alex Ferrari 7:55
How long was the actual trip?
Kia Kiso 7:58
20 something days for them. Cheese store. And then and then I say I dropped them off at the trail and I picked them up during distribution. So after they came back, then they realized that they had some fun footage and they put together a short music video. The filmmakers were Rick sarena jen serrana, Jason Fitzpatrick grande trench, NZ Hatley, those were the main hikers. Sometimes people would drop in and hike with them for a little bit. And the musicians, for example, would also went into So what they did is they said, Let's take some of this footage, put it together with one of the songs from PB pullback at best and baugher. And, and let's make a video. So they made a video, put it up on Facebook, share it with friends and family, and it kind of had this viral moment people really love the especially the hiking community. It was a fun song. And while they, of course, everybody was surprised how much interest there was, the filmmakers were surprised how much interest there was in the music, video. And very smartly, they took note of all the bloggers and the individuals and the companies that were sharing it, and we use that information later. And so they sent out the music video, really smart way to do it. And to talk about funding briefly. They just paid for the hike out of their own pockets, and they had their own gear anyway. And they were like if something can come out of this great and they looked at the footage and they realize that there's a cool story, almost the story of them doing the hike was the fun story. And they decided to do the feature Doc, but they said if and we put together a budget $78,100 to do the feature and we're like, Okay, if we don't raise the money in that with a crowdfunding campaign that we weren't don't do the film. So it was it was a very compelling call to action to put out in a crowdfunding campaign saying, If you loved the music, music video, then you want to see a film of this support and make it happen. Because if you don't support it, it's not going to happen. That's like a pretty good, pretty good call to action. Like, if you liked the appetizer and you want the meal, then you better pay for it, got it right, and support it and really be behind it. So they spent, the team spent a lot of time putting together a really detailed crowdfunding campaign, I liken it to almost being in pre production. And they scheduled out this is what we're, you know, the campaign's going to be X amount of days long, based on statistics of winning campaigns, you need to do a new post a new video every three days, you need to have regular posts, and whatever. And they built the content ahead of time. Because once a campaign is going, you're going to be nonstop, just running managing the campaign, you don't have time to create new content, make a new blog, make a new video. So do it all ahead of time. And they divided up, they divided up all the tasks amongst them. It's easy to do if you have a team. Sure, it's hard to do. Just you. So then they launched the campaign. And that's when our crowdsourcing really began.
Alex Ferrari 11:16
And now Can you define crowdsourcing for everybody listening?
Kia Kiso 11:19
Yeah, everybody knows the word crowdfunding, right? That's sort of in something from a crowd. And people think the word crowdsourcing is synonymous, and it's not. It's leveraging your crowd leveraging your fan base in order to create more success behind whatever your endeavor is, are they used for stage 32, he crowdsource stage 32, we used it for my mind half. So and that's where I really jumped in. And we, we first of all, identified who our crowd was, because you have to know you can't serve everybody. And I think we gave we came up with a list of over 30 people that could potentially be interested in this film as an audience, and then we selected three, maybe you can't do more than three, you know, we didn't go for like the the active senior.
Alex Ferrari 12:12
Right. Okay, so let's just, let's take it back for a second, the 30 people that you said you like basically creating 30 avatars of people, that would be profiles. Gotcha. That's what Yeah, so everybody in the audience understands what that means. And out of those 30 people that like these people could possibly like the movie, but these are the three that we're going to focus all our energy on.
Kia Kiso 12:32
Yeah, exactly. Like, you know, the cubicle rat, somebody that's, you know, stuck at a desk job, the majority of time they just need to escape, or like I said, the active senior, they could potentially be interested. And we have found that they are, but we went over sort of what we thought was the largest market and one that we understood the most. Right? So we went for people that like documentaries, people that like the arts, people that love high gain.
Alex Ferrari 12:55
Pretty, pretty straightforward. Exactly. The hiking community is is a niche, but it's a fairly large and lucrative niche.
Kia Kiso 13:04
Yes, exactly. And that's what I really love about this kind of filmmaking, a marketing distribution is, instead of going wide for chodron, go down drill deep, right? narrow and deep is could also be extremely lucrative. I wonder if the future of the film business is just gonna be like, I make content for women that love chocolate and have poodles, right? And they pay me, right?
Alex Ferrari 13:27
That's basically YouTube at this point, like, you've got people opening up toys, and they've gotten 10 million followers. Like,
Kia Kiso 13:35
Right! That's right, right? That's right. They're not doing toys for all four quadrants, right? They're doing people that like this.
Alex Ferrari 13:41
Disney Toys exactly in Pokemon, and my little pony and you're sitting there going, when I saw that I was like, is the world coming to an end, or we
Kia Kiso 13:55
No is people identifying their audience and really leveraging them and serving x. And so that's what we wanted to do. And that's part of what crowdsourcing is, right? You find where the apex is the combination of what you're creating, and the people that want to serve it, because you only need a certain sort of number of evangelists, so to speak, that are then going to open you up to their worlds as well. You know, people were hungry for a hiking documentary. Right? So you're providing that need, you're not, you know, some salesmen out there saying buy my stuff, you know, you're providing something that people want, and they just need to know where to find it. And then boom, you show up. So
Alex Ferrari 14:33
I do think, by the way, I do think the future of independent film is going to be much more compartment compartmentalized and more niche. And the riches will be in the niches because we can't as independent filmmakers, just go broad. We can't afford it. We cannot. We can't I think it is going to be the future of but I think in many ways, it's already here. I mean, look at all this what 450 500 scripted shows Sure, now and before there was like, you know, 40
Kia Kiso 15:04
Well, maybe that's the answer to peak TV too is you don't create a TV show for everybody, you create a TV show for your your niche, right? You know, I hear it. And it's it's an urban legend. And I've heard bits and pieces of it being true. But I love to continue to support like and spread the myth is that there's a filmmaker, and he makes films for firefighters. And he goes around the content is about firefighting. They're usually dramatic narrative feature films, excuse me. And he goes around, he travels around, and he shows them at fire houses. Like, you know, he should, because these firemen are just sitting around anyway, right on their long shifts, he sells tickets for them. And he nets a million a year. I want somebody just prove it or prove it. But what I love is that idea of like, you can be very lucrative with going niche and my on my own half, you know, where we're going to hit profits early. That's protection,
Alex Ferrari 15:57
Which is insane, which is insane. But by the way, I am now going to, to spread that myth as well. And just kind of firefighter filmmaker, firefighter filmmaker is such an All right. It's such an amazing idea. And he did, but it's a word, it's work. But this is a full time job. He just goes well.
Kia Kiso 16:17
Yeah. And you know, we can bet in our myth that this guy loves firefighting,
Alex Ferrari 16:22
I would imagine, or he was a firefighter or something.
Kia Kiso 16:25
Right? Exactly. Just like with my hat. These are hikers we love hikers. That's why we pick the psychographic of hikers is because there are people we know where they shop, we know what Insta or what social media platform they are. They're on we know how much money they spend, we know what they like, you know, what swag Do they like? Like we understand them? Because you have to know all of that when you come up with these are my this is my target audience, you have to imagine Who are these people? Where are they shopping? Who do I want to align with? What blogs are they reading? Right? All this matters?
Alex Ferrari 16:59
So then how did you so how did the Kickstarter campaign go off? When you when you actually how much did you raise? Your that's story?
Kia Kiso 17:08
Sure, yeah. So it was it was a longer campaign, I believe it was 60 days, because we want to really give ourselves a lot of time to go and reach out. And we had created a list, we had an intern come up with a list of the top bloggers for hiking. And then we reached out created those relationships with those bloggers and continued to serve that relationship over time, we would give them maybe exclusives, hey, do you want to have an exclusive dinner with you with one of our hikers? Or do you want some of this content, we will create a we've created a special, you know, second version of the trailer. And we are going to only release it with this particular blogger. Right. So smart. So trying to be super smart, because we were just trying to build the audience trying to build that and we ended up raising 85,500. That's right. So we definitely got over our goal and it felt touch and go. And you know, I could talk just about crowdfunding. And I know that we don't want to a lot on there. But you know, we had a strategy based on these are the numbers we hit need to hit on this particular day. And we knew that we needed to show movement. So we had people standing by that said, I want to donate but I want to donate at the right time. And so we'd say Okay, can you wait till day 15 if there's not movement, then you can jump in there. And but then if there was movement, then we'd say okay, we want to push you to day 20. You know, so we all smart?
Alex Ferrari 18:27
I'm sorry. It's just so rare to hear smart.
Kia Kiso 18:32
Yeah, I'm sorry. It's not you don't just put it up there and cross your fingers. It's, it's marketing. It's you've got to think as a filmmaker, you've got to think of what is my audience want. Another thing that's important, too, that I want to mention is that in our social media campaign, we did what I called I don't know if the team would call it deposit deposit deposit withdrawal. So we would do three posts that were for the fans, right? Like, what's your favorite meal on the trail, send us your favorite photo of your last hike. Here's an article about the latest hiking boot that's out there. And then the fourth post would be like, hey, something about the film something about the campaign. So our social media feeds felt like they were sponsored by the movie, so to speak. But really, it we want it to be sort of the hub of conversation about hiking. So people felt like it was a place to go, they kept wanting to return and every once in a while, I would say hey, don't forget about the campaign. Okay, or would say hey, can you do something? Right? Can you do something? So we started that conversation really early. So the way I was able to snowball getting my own half on Netflix, because of our crowd started really then after the crowdfunding campaign. reoccurs Yes. So because my goal was to get us destroyed. Bhushan right to start to get us some money back. And I was able then to say, look, we've raised over our goal, and we had 800. backers, we're something for you to pay attention to. So I began sending out the trailer, and just some stats about our fans to potential sales agents and distributors. So we started getting interest in it that way people like yeah, show me the trailer, I would be interested in knowing more. Or I'd simply say, Hey, we're still in the editing phase. What would you recommend here? I love to bring in my distributors and my marketers, even in pre production if I can, because they know what the market wants. And so we had a distributor, say, we see you have something in here, just a little bit about a Japanese hiker, can you make that bigger, because we'll probably be able to engage an Asian audience then. So we, we bumped up that role a little bit in the film. So I was able then to take this interest from distributors, and reach out to other sales agents and distributors and say, hey, look at the people that are looking at the film. Plus, look at how many fans we have. And look, we now have 4000 people on Facebook. Are you interested in watching the trailer? Are you interested on coming aboard? So before we even did our premiere, we already had people sniffing around. We had distributors and sales agents sniffing around. And then we had to think of the premiere. I'm just giving you a snowball, right? I'm showing you how we became Netflix and eventually became profits. So then we knew we wanted to do a premiere, we had started a relationship with the American hiking society, they were our fiscal sponsor. And also they had like a million members. So they were starting to put information about the film in their newsletter. And we knew that we wanted to premiere on June 1, because that's national hiking day. And it would also give the American hiking society, you know, a fun way to also engage with the film. And you know, just instead of saying, Hey, watch this film, say, hey, on American hiking Day, National hiking day, go on a hike them watch the movie. And we because we knew we wanted to premiere that day. And we were going to keep like a tight knit screening, that wouldn't impact our ability to go to film festivals. We just started looking at where can we for Wallace space to just do our own premiere. And we were looking at Golden road brewery here in LA. And because they were a part sponsor as well. But because I had reached out to a couple film festivals in LA, we had submitted there early, I got back to them. And I said, Look, it was dances with films that I really crushed. contacted me, they're like that was brilliant. We really loved it. Well, you teach this to other people. So I said, Look, we're going to premiere on June 1, would love it to do it with you guys. And as a matter of fact, we've had a Kickstarter campaign that we did a year ago, it had been pretty much a year took us a year to get through all of the post for the film. And we were continuing to engage with our fan base. So they were eager to see the movie. And I told him, Look, we know we have X amount of fans in LA, they're going to come to our premiere. We know we're going to have full room, we'd love to premiere with you. But we're happy to do a for wallet gold route brewery. And they were like, but we don't make decisions until you know later on a date. I was like, well, but I need to know now. And so they were able to squeeze things a little bit and let us know that they approved us being in the film festival, I was able to sort of tip their hand in my favor because I already had a audience that I could write. So the minute tickets went on sale, we sold out in four days.
Alex Ferrari 23:56
Kia Kiso 23:56
Our screening and dances with films is like what's going on? I can't believe it. You were not joking. I was like, No, I wasn't joking, because our poor fans, they were so eager to see the film. And they added a second screening. And exactly. I said can we add a second theater and the exact same time so audiences are watching simultaneously and we can bring more people because the Lando a lot of people didn't get tickets, they agreed. So now all of a sudden we have a venue and we have a film festival. So we have some laurels. We had the screening at the film festival of course because our audience was so big guess what we got the Audience Award. Of course and and also as a side note, people loved the film so much they were willing to wait for 45 minutes in the lobby to buy the DVDs that we had made. So then we were able to actually generate that into some income and swag right? We had buffs we had t shirts, we had stickers and stuff like that merge so but at the at the award show where we got the Audience Award Guess who's in the audience gravitas, of course. The VP of acquisitions was there. Hey, I love to film Oh my god, you just got this award. I'm like, Yeah, all of our fans are gonna be so excited. We have so many fans. thick and they were like, We want to see the movie. At least that the movie and guess what they sent over a proposal. They wanted to work with us.
Alex Ferrari 25:17
So you got distribution through them?
Kia Kiso 25:19
We did. And I did my due diligence I asked around I talked to other filmmakers who had worked with them too. And I've heard that they weren't like a sweaty guy with the gold chain that was getting hit hard and be like, Hey, baby, I love Yeah, and the medic gone so hard.
Alex Ferrari 25:32
So now Harvey Weinstein Got it?
Kia Kiso 25:36
Oh my god. Yeah, him in his lot. So um, so then we were able to get distribution and the because I was able to get they want to domestic VOD. And then I was able to use that as leverage to then get international VOD with somebody else.
Alex Ferrari 25:50
Who did you go with international VOD with?
Kia Kiso 25:53
We had a sales agent. Oh my god, of course her name just totally point she's gonna kill me. Oh, film option. Okay. Um, and so she handled all the international rights. And then we borrow, we buy for cated our rights. We didn't give everything to one person. So we did DVD through passion river and we gave them sort of a Special Edition DVD. But we kept more. No, we gave them the bare bones DVD. We keep this special edition one so we could sell in person as week we began to for wall around the country. And as we began to do our theatrical on demand through tog,
Alex Ferrari 26:33
Okay, so let's so let's take it back a little bit, because there's a lot of stuff going on. So you got you had your Dances with Wolves dances? Well, if that's the film's premiere, you're selling t shirts and DVDs in the in the lobby? Yes. After that you got a distribution deal through gravatar. So you did not do any self distribution at all?
Kia Kiso 26:54
We did we fought hard to keep the right to sell the film from our website
Alex Ferrari 27:01
Just fine with just fine. So that's
Kia Kiso 27:03
And and that was a hard, hard to do. And I don't know if they would do it anymore. So we use the THX to put it on our website, how
Alex Ferrari 27:11
Was how was your VHS experience?
Kia Kiso 27:13
I love them. I've used them for I also use them for inspired to ride and their gems, they actually were able to rewrite some code for us. So it was able to do what we needed it to do
Alex Ferrari 27:25
With with VHS is what I found is they're a great platform. I've been talking about them since I started the podcast. The problem with the objects I find is that if you don't have an audience, it's useless. Because they don't have a web yet, no one's gonna find you on VHS unless you drive the traffic to them is that fair statement?
Kia Kiso 27:46
Being quite honestly, and I'm gonna be a hard ass about it. It's your job to drive audience to yours. It's like, it's like you build, you build your business and you put it out near Lancaster. Like, okay, you might have a great business, but nobody's gonna know it's there, you have to let people know they have to drive out to Lancaster to see your you know, to come buy something there. Right? Nobody, nobody is going to drive traffic, even if it's on gravitas. Even if it's on Netflix, even if it's in the movie theater down the road, nobody's gonna give a nobody's gonna care driving traffic to you. And and we can talk about that when I talk about the release on iTunes and how I was able to leverage the audience to be on iTunes like, its gravitas was like so surprised that we actually had as big of a launch as we did, they didn't bring anything to the table. So I think filmmakers just be super clear. nobody's doing anything for you. And
Alex Ferrari 28:42
So then again, I'm gonna ask you, I'm going to be the devil's advocate here. Why go with a gravitas when you could have easily self distributed gun on the source platforms yourself? Or something like that, like a distributor or go yet go through it yourself? Because you have the audience. So basically, your you could have made more money because you're driving all the traffic, so to these platforms, so unless they're not really bringing anything table? What was the benefit of using a traditional distributor?
Kia Kiso 29:07
What I'm saying is you should have the mindset that you're supposed to do everything you're supposed to do. Sure. The reason we went with gravatars is because they have a good relationship with iTunes and Netflix, and they will make calls on your behalf. So we would as we continue to get awards or have some great successes, we would call up our rabbit gravitas. We always answered on the second ring. I love it. And we would say look, we've had this wonderful thing happen. And they would call iTunes, they would say, Hey, you know, this has happened, can we get a better placement? Can we get into the Cover Flow? Can we you know, it's the New Years can we maybe do a new year's resolution package and have mile mile and a half being that like, and they were also willing to give us you know, some diagnostics and some you know, sort of dashboard stuff
Alex Ferrari 29:56
That you won't get you wouldn't get anywhere else.
Kia Kiso 29:59
Yeah. I mean, I don't know where things are things change every day. But at that time, no.
Alex Ferrari 30:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So then they basically had a little bit more inside help than you would get with just putting it on the platform. Yes, I felt so. Okay. And that's also sometimes for and to be fair, a lot of times with distributors, they'll do that with certain films that they feel that they're going to be able to make more money with. And they won't do that for all films because they can't, they can't call iTunes with 20 Films go Okay, today's film, I need you to do this. So they are kind of picky and choosey so it is kind of a almost, you know, they have to feel that they're going to be able to get a good ROI for pulling that favor. Does that make sense?
Kia Kiso 30:48
Sure. But also it's a relationship and they you know, issue, I am building a relationship I'm keeping in touch, how are things going just saw you released a latest film, I really loved it I just saw on on Netflix, it was really amazing. By the way, this is what we're up to how things go, you know, like it's a relationship, I get them invested. Right? You have to have a huge why like, why is this important? And I share that why with everybody? You know, this is a really great movie. It's serving a community. It's hungry for hiking documentaries. Look, they're out there, because we're proving we have 1000s and 1000s of fans, you know, so got them excited.
Alex Ferrari 31:22
So can you talk a bit about sponsors? You said you had a couple sponsors? How did you reach out to those sponsors? And how did you leverage that audience again,
Kia Kiso 31:29
Once I get like sponsors wasn't totally my world that was much more on like Rick and Jen and those guys. But I think, you know, golden road, they must have seen the document. I can't really answer that what I can say is, so when we released when we released the video for Kickstarter, the Kickstarter campaign, I think somebody knew it was her first day at Rei. And she is she was doing social media. And I think she put it on the Rei Facebook page, she said, if we can get 5000 likes, in 24 hours, we'll donate $5,000 to this campaign. I don't think she ever thought she'd reach the goal. Well, they got 5000 likes in six hours, like Rei is on board. And then then later on, they let us have some sort of screenings. And we'd have the band play at local Rei locations here in LA, where we would show the trailer and then we would ask for money and support. Usually we would do it in like their parking lot or something or by the front door.
Alex Ferrari 32:38
So what I'm hearing again, a lot of want to reiterate this to the audience is that you're building relationships, the through the entire process. Every day, every week, you're reaching out to people and not just reaching out and asking for something you're building.
Kia Kiso 32:54
You're giving something? Yes, you're giving, you're giving and you know, even to think of like, bloggers, right? They need content, right? You're the podcaster you're like, what I gotta feed the hungry monster feed the beast. Yes, exactly. So we're providing them like, hey, we'll write an article for you, we'll write it. If you want to write a blog for us, we'll put it on ours, vice versa, you know, here's an exclusive for you, or gravitas. They need good films, and they need good films, that's easy for them to sell. So I just show them, it's going to be easy for you to sell this, or Rei, they always do no need to be part of something. So how about us?
Alex Ferrari 33:31
It's just like you make yourself shiny, shiny object.
Kia Kiso 33:33
Exactly. And that's how the snowball continued to go as I wanted to get to the point where like, I wanted to make ourselves so attractive that people would not say no, there would be, there would be no reason for anybody to say no to get behind it, right? Because I could say, look, first of all, the film's beautiful the film is fun. Also, we have a huge audience. Plus, we have all this, like, we have this press kit, anything you possibly need. It's right here for you like we needed as easy as possible for people to get on board. So
Alex Ferrari 34:03
So that so you so you got sponsors, you've building relationships, and then you said you did a theatrical run your own theatrical kind of tour. How did you get?
Kia Kiso 34:14
We did. So we were able to identify where our fans were based on zip code. I think even when people signed up for newsletter, we asked for their zip code. And so that was extremely important, what you need to know where people are. So we were able to identify locations, you know, sort of hot spots in the country where people would want to see the film. So one we helped people do tag if they wanted to sort of sponsor a screening in their area. Plus we also for Wald, we did a four wall tour, where we just rented out the theater, and as long as we knew we would be able to cover our costs by selling mirch we would do it if we had The time You know, it had to be breakeven, if it wasn't going to be breakeven it was going to cost us we wouldn't do it.
Alex Ferrari 35:05
So well. So on a business standpoint, again, being devil's advocate, what's the point of breaking even on a on a on a theatrical experience? Other than just kind of like feeding that fan base, but if you're breaking even, what's the point on a business?
Kia Kiso 35:23
Okay. So, you know, something that I didn't talk about, and that I talked with team was very early on, when I first came on the project, I'm like, What is the goal of this movie? Is it money? Is it prestige? Or is it exposure, like pretty much feel like those are the two, you know, the main reasons, we decided it was exposure, because they wanted to make other movies like this. And they have. So it wasn't necessarily they didn't want to go out of pocket, because they were already out of pocket for the hike, and the work that they were putting in. And it wasn't necessarily the procedure, we weren't going to go for, like, you know, an Oscar, or anything like that. You know, so it was it was, it was really, just so people got to know us, as filmmakers, them as filmmakers really supporting that vision. So it was just continuing to engage, get exposure. So as long as it was breakeven, then it was fine.
Alex Ferrari 36:19
That's a very great question that filmmakers need to ask themselves is, what do you want out of this movie? Right? What's your end goal? And that's a question that they don't ask. Of course, if you know that answer, you can plot and market and set up and blueprint your way to that goal, as opposed to just like, I'm just gonna put it out like, well,
Kia Kiso 36:41
Well, and also we would find that once we would, once we would go to a town or a city and do a screening, then people would buy DVDs for their friends, or then they would go on the website and they would you know, they would get it again there or they would be on iTunes, whatever and the theatrical to I'd love to get to the point where how we I want to share the iTunes.
Alex Ferrari 37:05
Yeah, that was my next question was iTunes, how so how did you were in there were there were connecting.
Kia Kiso 37:11
So how was so then at a certain point, gravatar said, Here's your release date for iTunes. Right? At the subscription, VOD is always first, right. It's the people that pay per viewing versus a Netflix, which is another subscription. I'm calling transactional, transactional. And so that was first and they said, Here's your date. We're going to you always are on let that time. I haven't looked at it recently. But at that time, you got to be on iTunes in a pre sale mode for several weeks before you went into sale mode.
Alex Ferrari 37:43
So listen, sure.
Kia Kiso 37:45
Okay. So once we we knew we were on the platform, we asked everybody, this is when we really snowball that we asked everybody that had ever come to a screening, bought a DVD, like the music video, donated to the campaign, go on iTunes, and we're not telling you what to say. But will you just give us a star rating and a review. So by the time the movie launched, we had over 105 star reviews from the gate. Right, so the minute it went live, we immediately shot up to I think our high watermark was number four.
Alex Ferrari 38:27
But did you have you had a lot of pre sales as well?
Kia Kiso 38:31
Um, I'm sure there were some pre sales there as well. But what? It's not sales that shoots you up the ranking? It's the reviews, it's the star reviews at that time it was. Okay, so from day one, it's people's love of the film that made it more popular. Got it makes sense. And gravatars called me up immediately. They're like, you've got to tell us what you did prestigious marketing and PR firm you've hired to do this campaign because it's brilliant. And I laughed, I'm like, it's just us. There's five of us, there's six of us doing this, like we just leveraged our fan base, and they couldn't get their head around it.
Alex Ferrari 39:12
Like I don't think destroy traditional distributors don't they're just they just don't understand it.
Kia Kiso 39:17
No, no, no, no. So then, of course, they were very excited to get us on Netflix. Right? And they were very excited to end You know, they call them Netflix, look at how great this film is doing. Make sure you definitely give us you know, what really good placement when it goes live there. And you know, and what we had to do to as filmmakers, for our fans were like, Look, there's many places you can get this film, if you get it on our website. Great. That helps us but we also want to offer it on iTunes as well for you too. So we tried to give people access to the film how in whatever way works for them.
Alex Ferrari 39:51
And then also you have other revenue streams that you created from the film like merge and other areas. So it's not just one revenue stream like, I'm just gonna do this, you've you've really branched out to a bunch of different things coming in for the film.
Kia Kiso 40:07
Exactly, exactly. So March, you know, of course, from our distribution through gravitas film option. Passion river, who we used for DVD, we got a little bit from them sort of the bricks and mortars and the educational content, how you
Alex Ferrari 40:26
How much did you do? Was it a good? Was it worth doing the DVD sales? The brick and mortar? General DVD sales as far as in the pie of all the revenue coming in? I'm not asking specifics, but just like it was it was it worth it?
Kia Kiso 40:43
For us to sell our DVDs. Yeah, yes, yes. To sign with a distributor, you know, there are people that are still going out there to the bricks and mortar places and getting DVDs, you'd be surprised there's still our sales. But it's hard to find a DVD distributor that's willing to do DVD only they want all rights, everybody's so eager about all rights, right? And I get it because they want to minimize their risk. And, but yet, not everybody's good at everything. So you can't do that as a filmmaker. No, I'm not going to put all my eggs in one basket, unless there's
Alex Ferrari 41:16
A nice big fat check up front.
Kia Kiso 41:19
Yeah, but then you know what, they might just put it on a shelf and do nothing. And you don't have any control over that.
Alex Ferrari 41:24
Right. So there's, there's Yeah, there's a lot of pluses and minuses.
Kia Kiso 41:28
Yeah, I mean, I, I have a hard time with sort of the distribution sales agents model, especially for filmmakers that are just like, I'm done, I'm tired, I'm bored, I want to move on to my next project. You know, because nobody's going to live your baby like your baby. And nobody's going to be able to speak to your audience that way. You can, you know, and while they might have good intentions, is never gonna match up to what your vision is. That's why you have to stay engaged, they'll make you all the way through distribution,
Alex Ferrari 41:58
Or when I wish they would teach that and film schools. I wish they would just stop at post production, the marketing, the social media, the crowdfunding, the crowdsourcing, everything, all of itself, distribution, Facebook, social media, all of that is as important as the lenses that you're using.
Kia Kiso 42:16
And you've got to be thinking about all that day one and pre production. You really do.
Alex Ferrari 42:20
Yeah, if you absolutely,
Kia Kiso 42:22
Yeah. Yeah. And I think some filmmakers, they're just in it for the art, right? Or they don't know. Or they feel like sellings kind of dirty.
Alex Ferrari 42:31
Well, the thing is, if you're in for it for the art, then go make your $500 movies, or make $1,000 movies, or make a movie that you can personally afford for the for the paint brushes to make you exactly. But when you're playing with 50 100 $200,000, that's an expensive paint brush. And you have to you have to have some responsibilities to recoup that money unless you're independently wealthy. And you can do that, of course, which we've met these people.
Kia Kiso 42:58
But even then you're doing a disservice because you're not working your damnedest to try and get it out to the people that would love to know about it.
Alex Ferrari 43:03
Kia Kiso 43:05
Like you're expecting people to drive to Lancaster and just stumble across something that they love.
Alex Ferrari 43:10
And especially when they're so it's not 1985 anymore. So it's so much content and so many options out there. I mean, I remember working in the video store in high school, and I literally watched everything that came out because every week there was like, three to five movies that would come out every week. That was it. And I would just watch those. Are you kidding me? How many are coming out daily? There's Yeah, not enough time. And I watched all the TV shows. And you know, it's like and that is you just can't keep up now.
Kia Kiso 43:43
Oh, I heard poor. He Lori's TV show on Hulu. Hulu just got cancelled because nobody knew it was there.
Alex Ferrari 43:49
I know. I saw some I saw some posters for around LA. I was like, that looks interesting. But I'm like I just don't have the time. There's just too much other stuff to do. And it's it's it's absolutely crazy. So can you tell me what the biggest mistake you see documentarians and for end filmmakers make when they when they do their first film from a crowdsourcing perspective, from any perspective?
Kia Kiso 44:14
Oh, don't get me on that soapbox. That's what we're here for content perspective as I think we really need to get out of the talking hair. Talking Heads. model. You know, I think talking head documentaries are just too. We need to come up with something new. I'm getting tired of seeing and I'm sure I'm not the only one we just need
Alex Ferrari 44:35
Al gore up there with a PowerPoint. We're good. PowerPoint, I know. At least we have al gore who is easily one of the most charismatic people on earth.
Kia Kiso 44:47
So you know, of course you're always gonna have somebody sitting in your chair and talking about something but we have to get sort of better about that. And I think you know, we've hit on a lot of them right now is like you have to think of your game, the end game. At the very beginning, you have to be thinking long term, you have to think of it as a business. What I suggest for most filmmakers to do is do a crowdfunding campaign, even if you don't need the money for two reasons. One, most filmmakers don't do business plans. So doing a crowdfunding campaign makes you think of your project in a business plan mode. Who is my audience? Where do I find them? What do they want? How can I prove to them I'm serving them what they want? How is my content, you know, the quality that they're looking for whatever, so that crowdfunding campaign forces filmmakers to think that way. And secondly, I think it's great marketing. It's really great marketing, because you have a call to action, you have a ticking clock, and you have something fun to talk about, versus my movies out now, versus my movie is going to be out if you you know, give me 50 bucks. Right.
Alex Ferrari 46:02
Kia Kiso 46:04
Exactly. And that's really what we use for inspired to write. I don't know if you want to talk about that at all. But we use crowdfunding in a really unique way.
Alex Ferrari 46:12
You're talking about little bit about inspired to write, which is kind of like taking the model from mile mile and a half a little bit, and put it into a similar kind of story, but different because it's a different, you know, you're riding bikes as opposed to hiking. But you could I could see where the the parallels are.
Kia Kiso 46:30
Sure, yeah, of course, the Inspire derived feature documentary. It's still on Netflix, I believe you can check it out. It's the third in a trilogy of films about bike packing, which is a sport. It's a crazy sport. It's kind of like a Tour de France, but without doctors, without nutritionists, without hotel rooms. without, you know, chefs, and these writers ride across the country inspired to write it was across the United States from Oregon to Virginia. They don't, they're by themselves. And they are basically, they have a tent on their bike, and they're stopping at 711 and McDonald's on the way. And the whole idea is like, How fast can you get there completely unsupported. There's no prize money.
Alex Ferrari 47:23
There's just got it there. Say,
Kia Kiso 47:26
Say like, we are crazy. We're bad ass. And it's for the bragging rights.
Alex Ferrari 47:30
So I want to go off topic for a second. I've talked about Did you ever see a series of television series called the long way around? No. the long way around is follows the documentary series, it was a limited series, following Ewan McGregor and oh, and his best friend. Around, they get on motorbikes. And drive Just the two of them. And the DP, which is a third camera, you know, documenting this insane trip from Europe, all the way to Los Angeles. Wow, I drove Oh, fun through end of the day. It's so amazing. I'll leave a link for it in the description for everyone want to watch it? I saw it. And I just sat there watching it in awe. Because these guys were crazy. They just got a couple bikes from BMW. They got a sponsor, of course, because no one's in it. And they just drove and then did that stuff got stolen. They're in like Mongolia, they ran out of road. That's awesome. Like, once you get back to Mongolia. There's no roads, like do you like a little bit of paved road, and then you're out. And you're like the country. So like, and they're going through Russia and they go all the way up to the top? They they fly over to Alaska, and then they drive that. So they're dealing with snow? I mean, it was out saying but it just reminded me of that right away. For sure. Awesome. Very cool. So how you doing? So now was inspired right? You're doing the same thing with VHX?
Kia Kiso 49:00
Yes, exactly. So what's interesting is to come up with a game plan for my ama and a half. I actually copied the prior campaign for Dr. The divide, which is Mike Dion's first movie of this trilogy. And you know, while I was doing mile and a half, I called him up. I'm like, would you talk to me and we did we chatted, I basically took what he did for ride the divide, because I had found out about him in a book called selling your film without selling your soul by john Reese, and Sherry handler. And I was like, Mike, I'm gonna put steroids on what you did. He was like, go for it. And then he kept contacting me. He's like, I'm really impressed. I'm really impressed. Do you want to jump on spire to ride, which I did. And he's just he's a he's a documentary filmmaker. He but he's also got this marketing brain. That's genius. And I think he's actually coming up with a service right now to help filmmakers. Which is is amazing. Yeah, you should probably talk to him as a matter of fact, but he came up with this really great plan. He was like, he goes As my projects are turnkey now I have my audience I know all their email addresses By the way, you want email addresses for everyone. That's why you go through tog and not gather Sorry, I love gather, they're really great people, their email addresses are gold, and they're your audience, you need to keep them anyway. Yes, side rant over. So my car, he was like, I know what my audience is. But let's come up with a fun way to sell tickets for the premiere. Because I just don't want to sell tickets. Let's make it look like it's a crowdfunding campaign. So we did a Kickstarter campaign, we knew we only wanted to raise $10,000. But if you have a ticking clock and a call to action, people get a lot more engaged. So that's what he did. It was
Alex Ferrari 50:40
So intimate. He had the movies done already. The movie was done. The movie had been finished, and it was ready to be released. So then he opened up a Kickstarter campaign to sell the movie to sell the tickets to the premiere. That's ridiculous, right? That's ridiculous.
Kia Kiso 50:56
I know. That's why I love him. He's like a god. So but but what made it fun is, hey, we It was kind of the call to action was like, we have an idea to do a fun premiere. Wouldn't it be great if it looks like this. And if you like that idea, then support this. And the idea was like, we're going to do panel discussions all day long about bike packing, we're going to show you the bikes, we're going to show you the gear, we're going to do interviews with all of the bike Packers, the guys that actually did the race guys and gals that did the race, we are going to stream it live or you can come in person, if you get a ticket, buy your ticket. Now, do you just want a ticket? Do you want a ticket in a T shirt? Do you want a ticket a T shirt? A DVD? Do you want to take it into t shirt and poster? Do you want to take it into your T shirt and a poster and all the prior movies helped make us make this the coolest premiere all, you know of all time. But if you don't believe in this kind of Premier, don't worry, we'll just offer it eventually. People like so it's like a badass. And so we actually I think we raised over 10 grand for sure.
Alex Ferrari 52:02
Sure. And that's actually brilliant. Now, the one thing I've noticed, and I've spoken to a lot of filmmakers about this is documentaries are a little bit of an easier sell because their audience is so specific. Something to identify, it's so easy to identify well, narrative is a lot more difficult. A couple of guys that have done it right was Kung Fury. I don't know if you ever heard of that. That's short. No, it was like a like the most imagined the most ridiculous 80s action, all the ad stuff thrown into one movie, like the most ridiculous stuff. And in the 80s. And they throw it all with some Swedish filmmaker, they raised $125,000 or something like that. Wow. Because they had dinosaurs and for and you know, they were trying to kill Hitler. And they went back in time. And it was it was just brilliant. It was a short film. It's 30 minutes, 30 minutes. They sold the kitchen sink, and they sold albums like old school albums. You know, LPs, they sold VHS, special edition versions, like, because it was so like slick and cool. They've got like,
Kia Kiso 53:14
I mean, you still you're able to identify who the audience is. That's when you can go. I know the people that would watch that. I know where to find them. I know what they like, I know what blogs they're listening to. or reading I know where they are. I know who they are. So that's where it's like if you did a feature about like Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Who's Who's your nonprofit you're partnering with that's gonna put you in their newsletter. Who's the sponsors? What like that's,
Alex Ferrari 53:40
I don't know. That's my butterball? Yeah. So that's my that's my point where as that the young furious as a as a case study makes perfect sense, because that's a very small niche audience. And they can identify him. But when when filmmakers go, I'm like, I'm gonna make a movie about, you know, you know, friends getting together at college, like, how do you identify an audience for that so difficult. So then that's when you get into more analytics with Facebook. And you can go after similar movies and people who like those similar movies, but it's not nearly as powerful.
Kia Kiso 54:14
It's not the same. It's like Deanna, and I have conversations about this. We're like, how can we translate this to narrative? How can we take this really great system and make it work to the narrative story structure, and we haven't cracked the code, I'd love for somebody to figure it out. But once again, I think it's that it's what content are you creating for your niche market? Like, are you gonna do your narrative feature about a woman, a woman that loves poodles and chocolate, right, like and then you just go after those people? Right? Is
Alex Ferrari 54:47
It also a lot of times that the product is not a feature, maybe is a series maybe is a YouTube channel that you can monetize somehow, and there's many different ways to hit that market, but you never know what If the audience wants,
Kia Kiso 55:01
Right, maybe you put the story inside a wrapper of chocolate, and I have to keep buying more chocolate to get more story.
Alex Ferrari 55:07
That's a genius idea. And you see, but they don't know.
Kia Kiso 55:09
Or maybe it's an augmented reality. And when you take your dog for a walk, you get Lego. You figure out what is your Where's your audience? What are they liking? How do I serve them there and how they like to engage, you know, what are their stories? So
Alex Ferrari 55:21
No, do you have any new projects coming up?
Kia Kiso 55:24
I do have some fun projects coming up. One big one is, it's actually an event that's focused around the entertainment industry. And it's the conscious media Think Tank. I believe that as filmmakers, we have a responsibility to make the world a better place while entertaining it. And to me, that's conscious media, which is entertainment and media that creates awareness, but also has a positive impact. And there's a whole bunch of media psychology around why it's important how our bodies and minds and emotions are affected by what we watch. And so I'm bringing together 64 of the top thinkers in the industry for a three day summit to figure out how do we increase the quality quantity and accessibility of conscious media? That's awesome.
Alex Ferrari 56:07
That's awesome. I can't I can't wait. I'll put any information about that on the post as well. When is, when is it?
Kia Kiso 56:14
It's slated for March 2018. Funding raised dependent. We're currently in our fundraising
Alex Ferrari 56:22
I have no doubt that you'll be I'll be you'll be fine.
Kia Kiso 56:24
Thank you. We met an AFM because I was actually selling a sci fi project. It's either a trilogy or a TV show, depending on what buyers want. We're still figuring that out now. So really excited about that. Awesome. I have a TV show about the frontier. So
Alex Ferrari 56:40
You're just a busy busy gal. Mm hmm. Gotcha. got many plates spinning. gotta hustle. You gotta hustle. So I'm going to ask you a few questions. Ask all of my my guests. Can you tell? Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Kia Kiso 57:01
Oh my gosh, it doesn't have to be a filmmaking book.
Alex Ferrari 57:04
No, of course not any book.
Kia Kiso 57:06
Oh my gosh, the power of decision by Raymond Charles berker. It was about getting your brain in the right place to put you to empower yourself.
Alex Ferrari 57:15
Kia Kiso 57:16
All right. It's a it's a bit more on the spiritual bent for you know, I, we don't we're not doing video here. But I have a huge library of every kind of, you know, book about film management or negotiating or, you know, law. So I encourage people to continue to educate themselves. But I guess people that listen to podcasts already know that.
Alex Ferrari 57:38
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Kia Kiso 57:46
Probably still learning it? It's probably this blind a blind spot. It's just, it's where to focus your energy, because there's a million great things to be interested in. And you have to figure out what's your thing? Almost like what is your niche? Right, and just make sure that you're putting a little bit towards that every day. Great, you know, nice. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 58:07
Now what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Kia Kiso 58:10
Ooh, Judo by Johnny Mo.
Alex Ferrari 58:13
Kia Kiso 58:14
What are my favorites? Steel Magnolias when you need a good ugly cry?
Alex Ferrari 58:18
Oh my god is an ugly cry with that movie. I haven't seen that movie since I was in the video store. But I remember it that and that and beaches came out the same time.
Kia Kiso 58:25
Oh, sure. You know, I have so many favorites. I think always sort of a go to be like maybe Moulin Rouge.
Alex Ferrari 58:35
I love Moulin Rouge. I'm a big fan of Moulin Rouge and and Romeo and Juliet.
Kia Kiso 58:41
I meant to say inspired to ride mile mile and a half. Liberation's are my favorite.
Alex Ferrari 58:47
Of course. It's just that besides your own obvious, yeah, besides your own, and then where can people find you online?
Kia Kiso 58:55
Oh my gosh. Well, my production company website is Zazaproductions.com. That's zaza, the conscious media visionaries about the think tank, excuse me as consciousmediavisionaries.com. And I'm mainly in Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I'm too busy. How do we how do we do all these social media platforms? I don't even know. So
Alex Ferrari 59:17
It's not easy. Trust me. to it every day. It's a job. It's a job like everything else. It's like you got to clone ourselves of what the clone Can you take over the world? If there's like three or four of me, my God, what I would do? Awesome. I can't thank you so much for this very inspiring conversation. And I hope it inspires filmmakers listening to it, because it's, it's proof. It's a blueprint to say, look, it's been done. It's been done multiple times. And you took somebody else's blueprint and just weld on it. And that's what art is, and honestly what you do in the marketing and distribution of a film and creating a film is an art as much as the film is itself
Kia Kiso 1:00:00
Don't reinvent the wheel, use somebody else's wheel and make it better. So and and like you had mentioned too, and I just want to let people know that the case study for my line has and all the details of what we did is an Arby's book.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:12
Yes, absolutely. I'll put a link to all that in the show notes. Thanks again, I appreciate it.
Kia Kiso 1:00:16
Thanks, Alex, I had a best time.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:19
I want to thank her for coming on. And just literally giving us the secret sauce on how she was able to be so successful with her film, mile mile and a half, I learned a ton as I always do, by doing these episodes, you know, I do these guys, these this show so much for you guys and get the information out for you. But I learned a ton from these episodes, interviewing these amazing people that come on the show. So I'm very humbled and blessed that I have that opportunity. And also that I can share all of this knowledge with you guys. If you want to go to the show notes and get all the links to everything we discussed in the episode, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/231. And by the way, guys, if any of you are going to be out of na be tomorrow, or the next day, I will be there I'm going to be there. From the 10th to 11th. I'm going to be speaking at 1145. On Wednesday at the black magic booth, we're going to be discussing all the things that I've done with black magic with the da Vinci shooting with the Ursa Mini, and also to talk a little bit about on the corner of ego and desire and how I shot that with the pocket camera as well. So if you guys are out there, please come out I love to talk to the tribe. I always like you know actually talking to the tribe in real life and not a virtual conversation. So it's always great to meet you guys. So and if you see me walking around, just stop me because I love to talk to you guys. Now I got to get ready for my flight tomorrow. So as always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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- Kia Kiso – IMDB
- Kia Kiso – Production Company
- Mile… Mile & a Half
- [easyazon_link identifier=”B00FJVB1UI” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Mile… Mile & a Half[/easyazon_link]
- Indie Film Producing Masterclass with Suzanne Lyons