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

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

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

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

Liz Manashil 3:11
Liz Manashil

Jess Fuselier 3:12
And Jess Fuselier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 19:50
Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 27:06
Dance Institute, what

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jess Fuselier 35:56
Silence,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 44:44
There's no question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jess Fuselier 51:06
Oh, God.

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

Jess Fuselier 51:22
Yeah. Um,

Alex Ferrari 51:26
what we through that work that

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

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

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

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

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

Jess Fuselier 51:57
On the on Juliet,

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 52:44
Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.

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

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

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

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

Liz Manashil 54:10
Almost famous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUTUBE VIDEO

LINKS

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

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IFH 197: Sundance Wants to Help You Distribute Your Indie Film

Right-click here to download the MP3

Sundance Wants to Help You Distribute Your Indie Film…Really!

Yup that’s right the Sundance Institute wants to help you distribute your film. Liz Manashil (listen to her interview here), the manager of the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship reached out to me to get the word out on the fellowship. It turns out that, believe or not, they haven’t been getting a lot of submissions. Crazy I know. My feeling is that when filmmakers see Sundance in the title they feel that their chances are thin.

Well, now is your chance IFH Tribe. SUBMIT NOW! We go over all your questions in the interview. Here’s some info on the program.

The Creative Distribution Fellowship Overview

The Fellowship – inspired by the Institute’s longstanding artist labs and entering its second year – is an immersive, rigorous program for entrepreneurial producers and directors seeking new ways to build and reach audiences with their finished work. We are now accepting applications for films preparing for a 2018 or early 2019 release who are open to a creative release – i.e. without a traditional distributor.

The Fellowship is a curated program that includes grant funds, access to premium pre-negotiated distribution deals, and connections to experienced industry mentors with the Institute’s Creative Distribution team playing a strategic advisory role. We’re currently engaged in the Fellowship’s pilot year, and supporting two films: Columbus, a fiction feature; and Unrest, a documentary. Both films have excelled with the framework provided by the Fellowship and we are thrilled with the results. Case studies will be finalized on each film in early 2018.

We are seeking films at all budget levels featuring distinctive, singular voices. We will select three or four films on a rolling basis, and we will support fellows during their initial release period (6 – 12 months). Films will be selected by a committee comprised of the Creative Distribution team along with key representatives from the Institute’s Feature Film, Documentary, and Festival programs. Our evaluation process will have two stages. We will initially review applications reviewing essay questions and a trailer or clip. After this initial review, we will invite select applicants to submit their feature in its entirety, and notify others that their project has been declined.

Selected Films Receive

  • $25,000 grant for marketing expenses with an emphasis on digital marketing.
  • A mid-five-figure minimum deal from either Amazon, Hulu or Netflix, and preferred access to other Sundance Institute brokered digital distribution opportunities through its relationship with their digital aggregator.
  • Guidance from the Creative Distribution Initiative and leading industry advisors prior to the release.
  • Referral to key marketing and distribution consultants to help execute campaigns.
  • Sundance Institute branding and promotion to support the release of the film.
  • Half-day marketing strategy session with leading industry marketing and distribution executives at Institute offices.
  • Sundance alumni designation and benefits.

What Sundance Needs

  • Fellows participating in the program will be expected to devote significant time and energy to the release of their film.
  • Fellows will be required to be fully transparent about their experience, including audience data and revenue numbers. This information will be turned into detailed case studies that will be publicly released by the Institute.
  • Fellows will be required to participate in weekly calls with Sundance Institute to discuss goals, strategy, and progress.
  • The Creative Distribution team will be available to advise fellows on major marketing and distribution decisions throughout the process.

Eligibility

  • The film has premiered at a 2017 US Film Festival or been accepted to a 2018 US Film Festival. The festival must be continuously operating for five years or longer.
  • Films must be completed and feature-length (minimum 70 minutes).
  • The film’s country of origin is the United States or Canada and the film team lead(s) are based in the United States or Canada.
  • The film has all of its US distribution rights free and clear to exploit. Notable exceptions may be granted in this case – for instance, films that have licensed their educational/non-theatrical rights.
  • The film has not been exploited anywhere in the world (e.g. theatrical, home video, subscription video, broadcast) other than through festival screenings.

Alex Ferrari 1:16
So as promised, I have a special episode completely dedicated to the Sundance distribution fellowship. I'm so excited about this, guys. I wish I would have even known about it before, I don't think they even had it when Meg was being distributed. Because I would have submitted to it because it's such an amazing opportunity to be part of the Sundance tribe, if you will, to be able to get through those ivory doors and, and the manager of the program. Liz Manashil is giving you that opportunity, giving everyday filmmakers the opportunity to get their film out into the world in a big way. So please welcome back Liz Manashil from Sundance. Welcome back to the show. Liz, thanks for coming back. How you doing?

Liz Manashil 2:03
I'm doing all right. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 2:04
No guest in the history of this podcast has been back to back in their releases. The reason why I wanted to bring you back is we skimmed over it. And I know a lot of people listening to the old interview the other interview, we did kind of just skimmed over the fact that you work for Sundance. And, and I purposely did that to torture the tribe. But I just wanted because I wanted to give its own spotlight to what you do at Sundance and how you guys are helping filmmakers. So please talk to me about what you do at Sundance and what you're looking for and how how you can help independent filmmakers.

Liz Manashil 2:42
Cool. Okay, well, thank you. So I'm the manager of the creative distribution fellowship at Sundance. Oh, sorry, crap, crap, Alex, I just said it wrong. Okay. I am the manager of the creative distribution initiative at Sundance. And we're like the marketing and distribution consultants for Sundance filmmakers. We do workshops around the country, and we talk with filmmakers about releasing their work. And we have a partnership, this is where it gets a little nerdy before you have a partnership with an aggregator. So we give discounted rates to Sundance alumni to get their films on like iTunes, Amazon, Google, play all that stuff, you know this very well. So traditionally, our department has been kind of inward facing where we just support alumni. But we're changing that where we're doing a lot more educational and public facing things. And the big one is we're launching this fellowship. It's called the creative distribution fellowship. There's no application fee. It's open. It's free. It's public, we have a few requirements for it. But the point is, we're trying to support filmmakers who may be interested in doing self distribution with Sundance. And we only have 30 applications submitted right now and I get the cry. I'm just like, really upset by it.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
And we were talking OFF AIR about this that like, I feel the reason why is well, one you probably haven't had, you didn't get the word out enough yet. But to when you do, whoever does hear it, you're like, Oh, it's Sundance, why should I submit there's going to be 1000s and 1000s of people going after this? Why should I even take the time out? And this is a perfect example for everyone listening. You never know.

Liz Manashil 4:27
If there's 30 guys, there's there's 30. I manage the fellowship, I can see who submits, I can see who's has applications in progress. I know who's not turning in their applications and who are

Alex Ferrari 4:40
Now what is exactly the fellow so what would you be providing to filmmakers who get this fellowship?

Liz Manashil 4:45
It's really cool and I get really, you know, long winded and I'm going to try not to do that because, okay, so basically, we this is our second year, but our first year was inaugural year. It was very, like private So we picked two films that were Sundance supported films. And we gave them a lot of money and support. And those films were Columbus and unrest. So unrest is a documentary Columbus is a fiction feature. They're doing amazing. Columbus is nearing a million at the box office. unrest is in the top 10 of the iTunes charts right now for a documentary. So what we did is we essentially gave them grant money. These were films that decided not to do an all rights distribution deal. We give them grant money. We have an already teed up, made a five figure subscription VOD deal. And that's minimum, it could grow from there. But that's just sort of lower.

Alex Ferrari 5:45
So say that, say that again. You have a five, five, what did you say? A minimum,

Liz Manashil 5:51
A minimum, that made a five figure subscription VOD deal.

Alex Ferrari 5:55
So that means automatically because it's coming through you guys, you're automatically getting a mid figure deal with either Netflix or Hulu or Hulu or

Liz Manashil 6:05
Amazon Prime? Yeah, one of the top three. And they're part of the fellowship. So they have all they've automatically said, the films that we chose, you know, the four films that we choose, they're they're in to make an offer a blind offer.

Alex Ferrari 6:19
Pure? Because they're using it. Yeah, cuz they're using you as the taste that taste maker. And they're like, if it's coming through you guys, we're gonna believe you.

Liz Manashil 6:28
Yes, yeah, it's me again, like I get. I know, this is my job. But like, I this is really cool. So I like to chalk it up. We have discounted rates for, you know, that aggregator I was talking about, so you would get access to Sundance rates to get your film on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, you get Sundance brandy, and you're part of the Sundance family. And then we're pairing you up with mentors, and help, you know, help you strategize things. And then there's the grant money, which is $25,000 per film. And did I mentioned Sundance takes nothing from you know, money, we don't take a distribution fee. But what we do require is we require filmmakers to be transparent with us, we say, Tell us about your budget. Tell us about your net revenue report, US report the grosses report the nuts, and we're gonna take all the information we learned, we're going to package it into a case study, and we're gonna publish it for everyone to see and learn from your experience. It's, it's all an educational initiative. Wow. It's really flippin cool.

Alex Ferrari 7:41
And there's 30. And there's, there's only 30 applicants. And there's four slots, there's four slots,

Liz Manashil 7:47
There's four slots, it's probably gonna end up being two fiction features into nonfiction features. But you know, that's not written in stone. And the only thing we require, it needs to be a recently completed feature with either recent or upcoming festival premiere. So we're saying 2017 or 2018 festival premiere, the festival needs to be it, you know, one that's been around for five years, but we're not saying you have to be at Cannes or Toronto or TIFF.

Alex Ferrari 8:18
There's a lot. There's a lot of festivals. I've been around for five years

Liz Manashil 8:22
And then, you know, we asked for a US or Canada, Canada based crew just so we can like talk to you once a week and help you. And it's just like for time zones. And so we I think originally we were really worried that we would get an influx of applications and we're like, let's just keep this North America.

Alex Ferrari 8:41
Because that's how many how many submissions are there to the festival itself every year?

Liz Manashil 8:46
Yeah, like 1000 30,000. There's some insane amount. So we thought we were treading in that territory. But I'm like the one woman marketer for the fellowship. Like we have an amazing marketing department at Sundance, who has definitely tried to spread the word. But beyond that, it's just me writing emails to people.

Alex Ferrari 9:04
I just think I just think people don't believe you. I think that's honestly, I honestly think because if you've got the the marketing might have Sundance and and obviously the credibility of Sundance behind you, you're giving money away, you're giving distribution away. Right. And and yet people just like now that this is a scam. This is this is absolutely no way this is true.

Liz Manashil 9:24
You're right. I'm really trying to figure it out. I don't understand. It's very bizarre to me, because I think I think the real uphill battle for us, is explaining distribution within the context of what we're offering. So like, I think a lot of filmmakers don't really understand what what they could be getting with a distributor and what they most likely will be getting with a distributor. I don't know if that makes sense. Makes perfect sense. Yeah. So it's like with us, a lot of the filmmakers we talked to who have already made one film, they look at our deal and they're like, Oh, that's a that's a really awesome deal. That's pretty amazing. But the filmmakers who have not experienced distribution yet, they don't really know that this is just like,

Alex Ferrari 10:09
This is like the most amazing thing ever. That's the thing. And that's it. For everyone listening, I want I want to be very clear about this, because I've gone through this process now with my film, the deal that, that Sundance is offering is pretty remarkable and pretty amazing, if you can get involved with that, even just to be in the Sundance family is, is you've gone past the pearly gates. At that point, a lot of people who have their movie and they haven't gone out to the distributors yet or haven't gotten gone through this process yet. Until like, Oh, it's only like mid five figures. I'm like, dude, like, dude, if you get minifies license fee, yeah, are you kidding me? Like, unless you have a million dollar movie, that's a different conversation. But you're talking about 100,000 200,000 or below, you know, low budget, micro budget films, this is insane. Like, this is an insane deal.

Liz Manashil 11:03
And there's different parts to it. So like, I'm a micro budget feature filmmaker, as you know. So I'm really trying to get the word out to my people, because I know that we're hustlers. And I know that we could really do a lot with $25,000.

Alex Ferrari 11:21
But like, make another movie? No. Don't tell us that. No, that's for the marketing.

Liz Manashil 11:29
Encouraging people to do with filmmakers to do is take the $25,000. And just make that your digital marketing budget. Pick this, it's like we're all about I think what we're really we're interested in is like what a 24 is doing right now, or what these major distributors are doing, where they're testing trailers and testing ad spots, they're growing audiences, they're targeting and hyper targeting who the audience is for each film. And then they're going all at that specific audience with those marketing opportunities. So that you can make the most amount of money and maximize your return. Those are a lot of like really annoying distribution marketing terms. But basically, we're just saying, We want to help people grow their audience and make the most amount of money possible.

Alex Ferrari 12:15
And that's such a thing, because now with, with the technology that we have with Facebook and Google, you can target ads to the audience that you're trying to hit, and do test marketing with 50 bucks, 100 bucks, you can test a trailer. Yeah, you can see exactly what we're talking about. Yeah, and like, and then as soon as you see something that hits, boom, just pump, pump the gasoline on the fire and then go, and that's but a lot of times filmmakers just don't have that money to go and 25 grand is a lot of money for digital art, digital marketing, I mean, it is in a micro in a micro budget, small niche way, it is a lot of money.

Liz Manashil 12:52
Yeah. And if you wanted to do with theatrical run, and you were $25,000 shy of doing a theatrical run, you could maybe talk with us about using that money to do that. I mean, we're fairly flexible, because the whole thing is that we want you to get your film out into the world and the way you feel is appropriate. We don't make the decisions. We just offer the opportunities, and then maybe some guidance. So ultimately, it still remains the filmmakers film. It's their strategy. We're just there for support.

Alex Ferrari 13:24
That's amazing. And once the deadline of this, this,

Liz Manashil 13:27
There's no deadline.

Alex Ferrari 13:28
Oh, you gotta be kidding.

Liz Manashil 13:31
What we're trying to I'm trying to encourage applications to really file in now because the applications open until we pick for films. Oh, and it's a dance. So like, they're going to be films who are applying to Sundance are applying to try back are south by and they may be interested in our fellowship, but they may be like, well, I want to see if a 24 wants me or whatever it is just gonna like always reference a 24.

Alex Ferrari 13:58
Because, again, they're the cheerleader that the job of the high school everybody wants to view. It's

Liz Manashil 14:05
Like, I guess our theories or our practice is you can you can apply to us and then just say we're holding now, as well, for other opportunities. You don't have to sit you don't have to go all in and be like I'm doing self distribution or bust. But when you get too far enough in your application where I need to schedule a screening with Michelle sadder and Carrie Putnam and Tabitha Jackson and all these fancy people. That's where we want that commitment. So it's, it's always a conversation and I'm basically giving out our email address for our department, which is creative [email protected] so that I could feel some of these questions where if you feel like you may not be right for the fellowship, I can tell you I can say whether you should apply or not.

Alex Ferrari 14:53
Well, I will put that in the show notes. So is there a website that people can go to? Well, it's just the email

Liz Manashil 15:00
If you go to applicationsfive.sundance.org, that's the location. We have a Department website. But it's like not the easiest route to get there. It's sundance.org slash programs slash creative dash distribution dash initiative, which I can send to you. But I'll put,

Alex Ferrari 15:23
I'll put the link in the show notes, guys, thank you. Don't worry,

Liz Manashil 15:27
There's so many routes to get to us. Our big thing is that we know how Sundance may be perceived sometimes. At least our department, we want to, we want to open those gates a little bit. We want people we want to collaborate with filmmakers outside of the Sundance bubble. We want to be a service to filmmakers, we want to help educate other filmmakers. And it's hard to do that when when the walls and the doors are locked shut, right. So we're trying to open up communication as best as we can. And, and the first thing to that is becoming available to chat with people. So chat with us,

Alex Ferrari 16:07
Liz, thank you so much. And thank you for what you're doing for filmmakers. And guys, I will put all of this information in the show notes. So if I if it was me, and I at that point in time with Meg, I would have so submitted would have so submitted back, you know, before our premiere, and all that stuff, but if I would have known about it, but is now my job, I'm taking the I'm taking the mantle, and I'm going to the torch and I will market this from the top of the the mountain to all filmmakers, as many as that will listen to me. So I will do my part, I will do my part Liz. Thank you so much again, for everything you're doing for filmmakers. I really appreciate it.

Liz Manashil 16:47
Yeah, thank you very much.

Alex Ferrari 16:50
I hope somebody in the tribe submit right now and get that fellowship. If you guys do have anybody in the tribe, submits their application and get the fellowship at Sundance, you have an obligation to call me and let me know. And I want you to tell me all about it and share it with the rest of the tribe. I hope one of us gets it, it would be amazing, an amazing experience for anybody, any filmmaker, but more so for the tribe, anybody in the tribe, I really would just make me feel so, so happy. So go to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/197, to get all the links and all the information about the fellowship and how you can submit. And I really want to thank Liz so so much for being such a champion for independent filmmakers, and helping artists to get their work out into the world. So thank you, Liz, from the bottom of my indie film heart, I truly, truly appreciate it. So you heard, go to indie film hustle.com for slash one night seven, and apply if you've got a movie, do it. And speaking of Sundance, I will be at Sundance this year. Again, I'm going to be talking over at slam dance again this year for Blackmagic Design, talking about my my adventures with the DaVinci Resolve with my Blackmagic Ursa cameras and how I used it to shoot my Legendary Pictures, digital series, the space program, as we'll talk about a little bit of mag, also talking a little bit about dimension 404 and how I worked with that. So I'll be at slam dance. I'll give you more information about that. Once it's all settled in. And but I will be at Sundance, I'm going to be doing a ton of stuff at Sundance this year, it's going to be epic, epic. So I cannot wait to give you guys all the lowdown on all the cool stuff. We're going to be shooting, content events, all sorts of cool stuff. So if you guys are going to Sundance, please reach out to me, I'm going to be there probably the first part, the first half of Sundance generally when I go, I don't go to the second half because I can't do it. It's just too much. But I do have the first half. And please reach out to me. I'd love to catch a coffee with you guys. You know party with you guys do whatever, Jane, I'd love to meet up with a bunch of the tribe at Sundance, that would be absolutely epic. So please reach out to me guys. You can always email me at [email protected] And also don't forget, I'm still looking for more questions for the Ask Alex show. So please email me those questions, so I can answer them live in the show and just help some more filmmakers and get some more great content out there to you guys. So as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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