Today on the show we have returning champion Ben Yennie. Been has the honor of being the very first guest I ever recorded for the IFH Podcast. He is a wealth of information so get ready to take some notes. As Founder and CEO of Guerrilla Rep Media, where I’ve gotten distribution deals for more than 8 films, that will soon be appearing on Starz and other major outlets across the globe.
Ben is also the Founder and Executive Director of Producer Foundry, as well as Producer of more than 50 events on film finance and distribution. He’s worked with people like Lew Horowitz, the inventor of Indiefilm Gap Financing, Jeff Dowd, Executive Producer of Blood Simple, Fern Gully, and inspiration for “The Dude” from the Big Lebowski. Ben co-founded Global Film Ventures, screened business plans and advised the Film Angels and is the former chapter leader for the San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver Chapters of the Institute for International Film Financing. And screened business plans for the Film Angels.
Ben has also worked in the tech industry. Co-Founder of ProductionNext, a new set of next-generation tools designed specifically for the Movie industry. Previously, he’s been VP of Sales for Taal, a Mobile video interview platform for the hospitality industry.
He is also the author of The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget, The First ever book on Film Markets and used as a text at about 10 film schools. He has also contributed to Office for One, a Sole Proprietor survival guide, and is the author of the upcoming book “The Entrepreneurial Filmmaker.” He also manages the blogs for ProducerFoundry.com and TheGuerrillaRep.com.
Enjoy my conversation with Ben Yennie.
Alex Ferrari 0:04
Now today on the show, we have one of our original guests, Ben Yennie, who is a producer's rep and also an author, and also the CEO and founder of gorilla brep media, as well as the producers Foundry and the amazing resource production next. I mean, he is a busy, busy dude. He is a hustler to say the least now, today we're going to talk about not only many of the things that Ben is working on, and how the industry is changing, and how movies are being made, and how you're making money making movies. But we're also going to get into what a producer rep does, how he does it, you know, kind of a confessions of what he's gone through over over his career and really give the tribe some insight to how to hire producers rep, and how to deal with markets and selling the movies and making money. It is just plumb filled with a lot of great, great, great information. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Ben Yennie. I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Ben Yennie. Man, thank you so much for coming back on the show, brother.
Ben Yennie 4:11
Thanks for having me, Alex.
Alex Ferrari 4:12
It is been it's been a minute. It has been a minute you were you were one of the very first I think you were my first interview. But you were like the second or third released. And I think you were episode and I think we were talking about 15 or 16. Now we will put it in the show notes but and you still get action from that three, three and a half years ago. Yeah.
Ben Yennie 4:38
Yeah. Now like and I think you've gotten some I I yeah, I think you've gotten some reaction on that indirectly as well from like Josh and Michael.
Alex Ferrari 4:49
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, these guys that the film of parts of the indie film hustle tribe that reached out to you. And actually as of this recording, Josh, his interview is going out today. I'm actually going out today. So I'll make sure to link to Tibet to your original interview that got you that they got you that gig. And thank you for reaching out with that. But I wanted to bring you back on the show because a few things has changed in the last three and a half years. Since last we spoke about about the business in general. So today, well, first I want for everybody who doesn't know who you are, just give us a real quick update about who you are, what you what you do in the business.
Ben Yennie 5:32
Yeah, I am primarily a producer's rep and executive producer, I'm in the Bay Area, I do a lot of kind of low budget stuff now. But there's some stuff I can't quite talk about, that's much bigger. That's should be coming through early next year. Um, and the, but ya know, I help filmmakers with financing, distribution, marketing and bit of packaging to also, in addition to that, I started a company, I helped to start a company called production next, but we'll talk about that later.
Alex Ferrari 6:06
Cool. And you also wrote a book about the American Film market.
Ben Yennie 6:11
I did write a book about the American Film market. I've got a couple of books that I've done on that. One is the gorilla wrap, which is also on audio book, and in its second edition, and then the state of the film industry report, which is a macro economic study of the film industry itself.
Alex Ferrari 6:37
Very, very cool, which is one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about won't have you back on the show because of that amazing book called The state of the film industry. And I wanted to get because you went in with, I mean, three years of research for that book, and you you ask answer a lot of questions. I'm going to ask you a bunch of those questions in a minute. But first, all the all the experience you have in the business, you've met hundreds of 1000s of filmmakers over the course of your career, you've worked closely with them through your being a producers rapper, being an executive producer, or just even hearing stories, like I do every day of filmmakers doing things sometimes, right? Most of the times wrong. What is the biggest mistake you see filmmakers make when distributing their films.
Ben Yennie 7:26
Um, I think the biggest mistake that cost the filmmaker the most is probably signing with the wrong sales agent or distributor. And that happens a lot. I'm still more a fan of traditional distribution for most filmmakers by I do understand that it's much better, much, much, much better to self distribute your film than to end up with the wrong distributor or sales agent. The trick is coming up with the right ones who can open some doors that you probably can't open yourself.
Alex Ferrari 8:09
And that's no good.
Ben Yennie 8:13
Unless you have a huge following on social media, which is probably the other thing is a lot of I've talked to a lot of filmmakers who think social media is just a waste of time and establishing community. And all of that is not worth the time you have to put into it. And that's just flat out wrong.
Alex Ferrari 8:28
There very much without question, and I actually been speaking a lot lately about self distribution versus traditional distribution. And there are pluses and minuses on both ends. But self distribution is not for everybody. I think you would agree with that. It's not for every film, it's not for every filmmaker, you got a filmmaker who made a half a million dollar movie has no stars in it has no online presence, and yet says I'm going to self distribute this and I'm gonna put it up on iTunes and Amazon and let the money roll in there done. Would you agree? I would totally agree. Um, yeah. Now what, what are the dangers filmmakers should look out for when signing with a with a distributor? Like what are those kinds of things that you just go Hmm, every time I read this in a contract, that's not a good sign.
Ben Yennie 9:21
Okay, there are a couple of key points on there, which are really good to look for, um, the biggest ones are the percentage the distributor takes, if it's anything or the excuse me, I shouldn't say the sales agent takes not the distributor. It's a bit of a different game when you're talking about distributors. But for sales agents, if they're taking more than 30 or 35%. It's probably already to the point that you don't really want to be doing that contract with them. Because you can never negotiate that down. And if they're starting at that level, It's generally indicative that a lot of the other things in the contract are going to be bad as well. It's not the only thing to pay attention to. And it's not necessarily a deal breaker, it just means that it's likely there's going to be at least one other deal breaker along the way.
Alex Ferrari 10:15
And then as far as, as far as you just explained to a lot of people who don't know what the difference between a sales agent and a distributor is, can you just tell quickly what that is?
Ben Yennie 10:24
Yeah, sales agent deals with distributors and generally works with local distributors to sell the entire world. And the local distributor will actually distribute generally within a specific territory, or sometimes only specific rights within a territory, depending on what sort you're dealing with, like, stars or Showtime, or HBO would technically be a distributor who are primarily dealing with us pay TV and svod. rights. So got it. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 10:57
And then, so then, so 3040, so if someone's asked if your sales if you're a filmmaker and a sales agents asking for 30 35%, which is insane, for for rate, then that's probably a telltale sign each party should not be doing that deal. How about if you're a filmmaker going straight to a distributor, which a lot of filmmakers most filmmakers go straight to a distributor, go sales agents that sometimes are great for certain films, but sometimes, you know, if the movie costs 15, grand, right, don't need a sales agent. If a film, you know depends on the kind of film it is, but on a on going straight to a distributor, what are those kind of telltale signs that you're like, hmm, these guys are not going to do anything for me.
Ben Yennie 11:39
So yeah, the going straight to a distributor is tricky, because as much as you really like to go to good distributors straight off, it's actually a lot of times very difficult for a filmmaker to do that directly. A lot of times, they you will need to go through a sales agent or a producer's rep to get to them. Um, but in the instances where you don't, that deal often looks more like 30 to 40%, if it's a revenue share deal. And it's not necessarily bad right there. But one thing you definitely need to look at is what the size of the minimum guarantee is, if they're not offering you a minimum guarantee, you need to understand what their marketing and distribution plan is. And you also if they're off, and sometimes people will offer you screens without a minimum guarantee. If you can get the screen the theatrical screens, that can be worth giving up the minimum guarantee, because you can actually end up making significantly more than you might be able to, if you just get the minimum guarantee, however, if somebody is if you made a 15 to $20,000 film, and somebody is offering you a $25,000 minimum guarantee, more than likely just take the $25,000 minimum guarantee.
Alex Ferrari 12:58
Amen, amen. Amen. If someone's giving you $10,000 more than you may get paid for the movie. I mean, I mean, just man that's that, you know, as well as I do, that does not happen.
Ben Yennie 13:11
Ray actually relates to film, because somebody else offered that I'm doing a bit of us, direct us myself now. Okay, so the I actually may have lost the film, because that happened to them. And then as soon as they said they had that, I'm like, Yeah, I can't be that offered.
Alex Ferrari 13:26
They'll go Yeah, take that. Run.
Ben Yennie 13:28
Yeah, yeah, just go. But the even though I was offering to do a limited theatrical for them, but that was just like, no one in hand is worth at least two in the bush.
Alex Ferrari 13:41
At least, at least without question. Now you and I saw each other again at AFM this year, which is always always fun to see each other. We see each other think maybe once a year for lucky. But, but AFM even the few years that I've been going, I've noticed the change in the shift. Everybody was talking about Oh, is it ot Ott and Ott s VOD t VOD, a VOD. And of course there was still the traditional stuff as well which is you know, selling overseas and, and selling you know, that kind of stuff but is changing in your opinion, how is AFM changing? And how is it kind of moving in the future.
Ben Yennie 14:25
So, the way in order to understand how it's changing, you kind of have to go back a little bit. Because the way AFM and other similar film markets came to be was actually with the rise of VHS replication back in the 80s. And the way it was so profitable and the way you can afford all these massive market Feess, when it started, you could make a VHS for between 10 and $20 and wholesale it for 100 and move a lot of them and then over time that number dropped and dropped to drop. dropped and then DVD came in and replaced VHS. But because it was so cheap to replicate DVD, you could still make a huge profit on each unit. And also it really opened up the market for smaller content to actually become more profitable. Now people expected blu ray to take over for DVD and it really didn't blu ray did come in and take on okay market share, but it was nowhere near what DVD was and T VOD, Avon and s VOD just don't pay the same way that T VOD, that physical media pays. And, uh, so that is really what happened to that's kind of how the bottom has fallen out. And a lot of the older distributors don't really never really adapted their old systems where you could actually charge these huge recoupable expenses and still make money. Now, you will never hit it. Most small indie films. I hate to say this most small indie films only end up making about 20 to $30,000 over the five year life of their film. There are lots of exceptions, of course, the but the general rule is you've got to kind of figure that it's more like 20 to $30,000 for the film itself over the five year life of the film. And that is a and that's just not really sustainable. Because the Nope, no, I said no. Go ahead. Um, so yeah, the over. So you can't really make a business that actually pays filmmakers on there anymore. And I think that's really coming through. And that's why a lot of sales agents and distributors who go to AFM often get a bad rap, even if some of them are not necessarily bad sales agents or distributors, it's just their models are bad. The that's not to say there aren't people who are bad salespeople distributors,
Alex Ferrari 17:09
There are many.
Ben Yennie 17:14
But the but yeah, so that's kind of what's going on there. And now that everybody's only really looking for Avon s VOD, or T VOD. It's really did it's really become more game of marketing than it has a game of sales agents or distribution because really the direct local distributor, the way you can tell whether or not they're good is if they can actually get your publicity and actually have a list to market to and a brand that they can market the content they acquire to
Alex Ferrari 17:50
How many? How many? Let me ask you how many distributors Do you know that do that? There's very few that I even know of even some of these big boys that say they do it? When you when you look behind the curtain? Even Look, look, if it's the big if it's a big boys, obviously, if it's a major if it's Warner Brothers if it's Fox Searchlight, if you're talking about those kind of guys, it's different. But I'm not gonna I'm not gonna call out the distributors I have in my head right now. But, but there are these guys that promote themselves as like, we're the big indie guys, like, you know, I'm not talking about a 24, or the orchard or any of these kind of guys, I'm talking about some other ones. But that they say they're gonna do a lot. And they have this reputation of saying they're gonna do a lot. But at the end of the day, I've talked to filmmakers, again, and again and again, and they just don't pull up. They just don't do it anymore. So just curious, what is there any any distribution companies that you could call out? There you go, you know what, these guys are pretty good in my experience.
Ben Yennie 18:48
Oh, yeah. So I will actually call a couple of good people out more for distribution man for sales agencies. But the parade deck films, Michael Ingram I've worked with directly and I've worked with pretty extensively directly. And he's, I was a big fan of working with him, and I would work with him again in a heartbeat. I'm another one that I think is really good. And there's something of a hybrid between sales agency and distributor. They do most of the VOD, in the US directly, but they also do some international sales for the right projects. That's Leo Mark studios. I think they're great. And they're recoupable expenses are really, really low, which is great. And their commission. I don't want to say what the commission is, but it's all very low. So So those are a couple of the people that I would deal with and I think they are a little bit better about publicity than some of the other ones. In terms of who actually does well in marketing and developing their brand. I think devil works is great at marketing and building their brand. And they actually do pay. Um, and they are a, Matteo and Samantha are great. And they are very good about publicity. I think they, they have at least one publicist on retainer that is just constant, I think they do bigger market pushes when the time comes. Again, they're more of a sales agent than they are a distributor, but they are very good at what they do. That's
Alex Ferrari 20:39
that sounds that sounds awesome. Because generally, what I hear is, you know, distributors are just like, Oh, yeah, yeah, we're gonna cut we're gonna charge you 30 or $40,000, for recoupable expenses for marketing and going to the markets and all that kind of good stuff. But at the end of the day, all they do is they put it up on their social media, which is pathetic. And, and, and they just put it out on the platforms. And that's the end of it. And then the filmmakers like, why am I not making any money I signed everything over. I've locked up my film for seven years with these guys, and they're not doing anything for me. So that sounds refreshing by these, what you're telling me?
Ben Yennie 21:10
So what Yes, and I'm not trying to paint too rosy a picture here. Those are the people that I've dealt with, personally, I and I follow them closely, because I've worked with them. That's not to say everybody who says they'll do this will not actually, or will actually live up to what they say they'll do. The So having said that. Another thing you should be doing as a filmmaker, and this might have come up in the last podcast. But it's something I almost always negotiate in for my clients is, in a lot of times I structure my acquisition that I'm going to then sell to somebody else in such a way that I can't actually give it to this other person. But always, always, always retain the right to sell the film for your website. No, always. And even if all you have is Vimeo on demand or Vimeo Ott, through your website, always, always, always keep that.
Alex Ferrari 22:10
And generally, distributors don't really fight too much on that.
Ben Yennie 22:15
Now they don't, I've never had somebody really fight me on it. And the most they might say is okay, we're okay with you doing that, but keep us but let's keep an open dialogue about timing with it. Sure. Like,
Alex Ferrari 22:29
yeah, right. Yeah, that makes perfect. So
Ben Yennie 22:35
um, but that is the big thing there. And that's, I think that's fine. But if you don't do that, you shouldn't be doing that. And I think it's just my my distribution contract has gone through a couple iterations. But I believe the current draft actually has that as an automatic exclusion for you as a filmmaker for us, so I'm
Alex Ferrari 22:59
very cool. Now I wanted to just talk a little bit about the the 5000 pound gorilla in the room, who's big his first name begins with net and ends with flicks. Literally have changed. I mean, I've never seen a company come in and completely disrupt the entire film industry in a way that is so I mean, they have now become the big studio in town. I mean, they are making Netflix I just read are making 90 feature films in 20 1990 released films, and a lot of them are ranging from 20 million to 200 million, including like Scorsese and SATA Berg and these monster Ben Affleck's new movies covered like, it's like the Will Smith and all these big stars are going there. And also this big behind the scenes talent. I mean, Roma might get an Oscar nomination this year, and it's going to be a Netflix film by affonso. So I'm curious from your perspective, because you you were here before Netflix showed up. You were working in the business a bit before Netflix showed up and how it's completely up. Just changed everything. What's your opinion on where they what they've done, what they're doing and what they're going to continue to do? moving forward.
Ben Yennie 24:26
Okay, um, this this is going to be I don't think this is the answer. You're expecting good, at least the end of it, but the first bit is, I think they definitely have changed it. I really don't like their acquisitions, strategy. Um, they pay far too little. Um, I have a number that they paid, but I really don't want to say that.
Alex Ferrari 24:53
I know that number two. It's not a not very good.
Ben Yennie 24:57
No, it's not And they also tend to acquire all rights world rights for that even though the most even though most of the time, they just use domestic domestic svod for the area they acquire from not even like us. But I've heard the same coming out of like Brazil. So I don't think that that's really a good strategy that helps the industry as a whole. And it doesn't help filmmakers actually make money with their projects. Now, that is only talking about their acquisitions model. And I think just the ubiquity of Netflix has made it desirable for a lot of filmmakers. But I do think it needs to be later a later distribution window when you work with them. If you work with them at all, even though it's likely to be an even smaller distribution, an even smaller deal, then you won't be able to get otherwise, if you can even get it at all, because lately, they've only been acquiring things that have had a theatrical release of at least a quarter million dollars. That's what I heard last. But the other one, but now that's their acquisitions process, their original process is very interesting, and that it looked for a long time, like they were basically going to become the next studio. Now, the issue with that is that they haven't really diversified their income streams, all comes, all of it comes from their subscription payments, and they have been taking on a significant portion of debt. Um, I haven't looked at this number in a couple weeks, so it might be off. Um, but I believe the amount of debt they're holding right now is between eight and $9 billion. And that is something that I would be worried about, especially with other 50,000 pound gorillas entering the market like Disney. Yes. And a lot of other people, I don't know if Netflix is going to be able to maintain their first in advantage, because that's a lot of what they've built. So far, they were the first people really successfully doing this sort of streaming. And I that advantage doesn't last forever, which is why they're trying to innovate with new content. But a lot of the other people who are entering in have have a much more diversified business, where they can lose money on this product line as they're getting it out, which is a lot of what Amazon Prime did, when it was really trying to establish a foothold here. Now, I think the now this is the part that I'm not sure will be a popular opinion. But I would not be surprised to see a Netflix acquisition in the next in 2019 or early 2020.
Alex Ferrari 28:07
I've heard of that. And
Ben Yennie 28:08
yeah, and I'd be guessing that it would be by Apple, Microsoft or Facebook. And I also wouldn't rule out Disney as a possible one, because Disney has acquired similar technology, even in the past, even when they take a loss from what they've developed so far, but I don't necessarily think that this sort of acquisition is outside the realm of possibility for Disney.
Alex Ferrari 28:39
I would Disney I mean, because what we'll do, it will be the cost of buying something like Netflix, it's not going to be a few like it's not going to be under $10 billion. It's gonna probably be in the 60 5060 $70 billion world if not more, and there are few companies. The ones you just said all pretty much almost quit. I'm not sure Disney could right now. Especially with what they're doing. But Apple could write a check and not even blink tomorrow if they wanted cash reserves. Yeah. Oh, man, they have cash reserves. So they could I mean, they could they could buy Netflix tomorrow and not even think twice about it. Microsoft would be interesting. I'd be curious to see how how they would do they would really be making a big jump, but I'm not sure they're personally I don't think they're that innovative. I'm an apple guy. Sorry. I agree. Also, I really hope it's not Microsoft because I can guarantee you they'll destroy putting on Netflix. Yeah, it'll just be Yeah, they'll destroy they'll destroy but I agree with you. And this is a very interesting conversation because you're right with their business model isn't diversified. I mean, sure they have some some IP stuff that they you know, they license out for like Stranger Things and Narcos and other thing like t shirts and hats and gray that's all nice and dandy, but that's not a huge revenue stream for them. They if they're going to survive the long term. They are going to Need some sort of other diversification in their business model because Disney, if Disney plus doesn't go Disney doesn't go down. If amazon prime video doesn't go, Amazon can give two craps. You know, they're, you know, all these other company Hulu is Hulu, they I think they fall in that same kind of world of, but they're such a weird, they're owned by like three or four studios. It's just a different beast. But Disney plus will be an interesting thing. Apple, Apple is just waiting. Because when Apple wants to go, they are the they are the big. They're the big guys. And they could crush it. They could crush all of them in a heartbeat like Apple could buy Disney. like Apple could buy Disney. You know, yeah, they literally could buy Disney if they wanted to. That's how big apple is. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. It's just they haven't decided to go down that road. They keep putting their toe in with you know, Apple Music and Apple, this apple video. They're just trying to put their toes in right now. But when they come they're gonna come hard. I'm curious. I'm curious to see how Netflix agree. But I've heard about the from distributors actually, that they're taking forever to pay because they are had they have so much debt. And you know, even if someone if even if they give you 100,000 bucks for your movie, they're gonna pay it off over the course of the next two or three years. So it's only a handful of 1000s every month every quarter. Which is horrible for the filmmaker. I had to deal with that with Hulu. But their debt is something substantial. But you know what? So is Amazon's for a long time.
Ben Yennie 31:45
Yes, it was but Amazon had a much more deserved diversified business model even back then. That was a and a lot higher customer lifetime value than Oh, net. So yeah,
Alex Ferrari 31:59
yeah. And I'm really curious to see what Disney plus does because I want to sign up for Disney Plus, I mean, it has everything I want my kids gonna want to watch stuff on it. It's you know, of course the two Star Wars shows that alone opens the door for me as you can see my Yoda in the background. So there's it's gonna be really interesting to see how, how it all plays out. But and also I mean, and I'll throw I'll throw my hat in the ring indie film, hustle TV obviously, is up there with not joking. But, but no. But in all honesty, though, running indie film, hustle TV, which is an S VOD platform, and a T VOD platform, dealing with distributors dealing with deals, looking at content, how content is treated by distributors? how, you know, from people who have signed with people who have not signed with, how it's running through my system and how revenue is being generated. For those filmmakers. It has been eye opening, you know, being on this side of the fence being a little very mini Netflix, in my world within the film, hustle TV, it's been so educational. It's so eye opening in the business. It's fascinating. Fascinating.
Ben Yennie 33:14
Yeah, no, that sounds good. Um, the, I think in 2019 is going to be in a really I think it's going to be a really eye opening year. And it's going to I think the industry is going to be in for a really interesting set of change. I also am among the people and there are a lot of us, who are almost certain that we're in a recession before the end of 2019. Oh, absolutely.
Alex Ferrari 33:49
There's no question. There's no question at the end of the year, we're gonna we're gonna hit get hit with something so hard. People have no understanding of it. I already I already. Yeah, it's happening. No question.
Ben Yennie 33:59
Yeah. No, I completely agree. And the last time that happened was in 2008, going back to the film market thing a little bit. And that was the last major change for the American Film market and film markets in general. And they still haven't fully recovered. They kind of started to get a little bit close this year. But that but if we have another huge hit to the economy, I don't know what's going to happen to that sector of it. And I think it's going to be really interesting to watch and,
Alex Ferrari 34:33
but wouldn't it be interesting though, like, if you know, when this next recession does hit, Will people drop their Netflix? Because that's going to be the most affordable and the most affordable entertainment they're going to have? You know, are they going to drop their YouTube TV you know, like how much because they're gonna look even in the worst recessions, movie business always stays. TV is people watching TV, all that kind of stuff. But, you know, 1099, or whatever Netflix isn't 1299, whatever it is now, it's not that expensive for a lot of content, and then amazon prime and all that kind of stuff. I'm curious to see how much of those are affected as much as going into movie theaters may or other other kinds of media.
Ben Yennie 35:23
You and I are very much on the same page. I'm thinking that it's that aswad that Avon is going to rise. VOD might rise a little bit, but won't be huge. And I think but I think t VOD theatrical and couple of other things going on. And cable subscriptions are going to take an even bigger hit than they already have.
Alex Ferrari 35:45
Oh, no. My quarter ready to take aeolus? Yeah,
Ben Yennie 35:49
I know. That's I think it's just the last little bit of God, I can't afford this anymore. It's so easy. We're going to get people beyond the age beyond like, currently, it's under 40s don't have much cable at all, I think we're going to be looking at even like under 50s, and possibly even under 60s not cutting, which is that that's or that's pretty substantial, because that age group tends not to change a lot.
Alex Ferrari 36:16
So without question. Now, let's get into the state of the film industry. I know we've talked a little bit about the state of the film industry. But I want to get into a little bit about your book, and what, what insane stats you were able to get. I'm gonna ask you a handful of questions from the book and see how much you can and cannot tell me without people buying the book. But there's so much information in there. I'm sure these questions are not going to hurt people, but people want. So how many active filmmakers are there in the US as as you see it? Because that's a number I always wanted to know, personally. Because my main my main market is filmmakers I want I want to get my information out to filmmakers and my content out to them.
Ben Yennie 37:02
So I believe that numbers between 120 and 130,000, but I don't actually have a copy of the book in my office. Right. Okay. This is one that normally I reference, I actually took my copy home last night, and forgot to bring it back. So normally I
Alex Ferrari 37:21
ask, so it's about really that I thought it would be more than that. I thought it would be a lot more Well, that's just filmmakers. That's not people interested in content creation. That's a whole other number.
Ben Yennie 37:32
That is a different number. I considered active filmmakers who make at least one short film every year, or have at least in the past year. I think the other number was, that was the easiest way to quantify it. And the way we came to that number was, we took the number of one question we asked was how many film school grads? or How did you graduate from film school as opposed to our entire sample. And it was about 37% or so that a group did graduate. And then I was able to find a total number of film school graduates from the National Education Association, and then do algebra to make an estimate based on how many active film new active filmmakers there were per year. And then I was able to do more algebra based on a different question to figure out the average career life of a filmmaker which turned out to be around 8.3 years, and then figured that out. And we ended up with that number, which I believe is 120 to 130,000.
Alex Ferrari 38:39
And then from there, there's also people who are screenwriters who are interested in screenwriting, who are interested. So there these are active people, not people who are interested or are actively trying to get into the business. These are people who are actually doing things.
Ben Yennie 38:54
Yes, they are self identified as a filmmaker, not an interested person, not a content creator. Got it specific as a filmmaker. Got it. Got it. Now,
Alex Ferrari 39:05
how many films are made a year? How many independent films are made a year give or take? feature? Around 10 to 12,000? pets? Yeah, that's just us. That's it. Yeah. By the way, everyone listening this is just us numbers. We're not in worldwide, these numbers will balloon. I can tell you that from my audience alone that I know. So much interest is overseas, as well. But the 10 to 12,000 this year alone, 14,197 films were submitted to Sundance. That's how many isn't it? That's including shorts. Yes. That's including shorts as well. But total was 14,200 basically. And that's insane. Now how many shorts Did you have a shorts number that has to be in the
Ben Yennie 39:59
Yeah. There was a short number, I didn't commit that one to memory though. The so it is a actually the slide, I'm just going to pull it up on the production next blog real quick, you can find this in a lot of the report for free on the production next blog, by the way, which is where I'm going to go now. Um, but the, uh but yeah, the last, we actually measured web series TV episodes, shorts, and we tried to get an estimate of web content. That's one that I'm not super sure of. Because it's such a variable term, depending on where you draw the line, but the total number is
Oh, I'm sorry, I'm I vastly understated the total number of filmmakers it's actually closer to 200,000. Okay, um, but the. And I also understated the indie feature films, we're actually looking more like 18,000 on 18 to 20,000. Okay. A total project is the total number of corporate and industrial movies is around, or films that are made or is around 130,000. Web new media is around 275,000 shorts is around 120,000 and TV episodes, this one is very high level, the margin of error is much higher on this than other places. It's around 55 to 103,000 TV episodes that are made. That's
Alex Ferrari 41:49
That's a lot of content. But the 18,000 feature films really is kind of like scary, because now you are trying to compete every year with 18,000 other feature films, trying to get attention from eyeballs, and trying to get their movie so and how many I would love to know the number how many of those never see the light of day? Like I'm sure there's many,
Ben Yennie 42:15
too, but the Yeah, that is, um, I would love to do this again. Um, this data was originally collected in 2014. So doing is,
Alex Ferrari 42:30
oh, this is five year old that data so then oh my god. So then the numbers have definitely could even be much, much well, are much, much bigger than they are now. Without question. That's insane. Now, how much do filmmakers make generally a year and I love to know, like, what's the average money that they actually can make a year?
Ben Yennie 42:52
specifically from their content? I I'm on the slide now I haven't gotten to it yet. Oh, what do you know? There it is. filmmaking content most people make less than 10,002 thirds of the market makes less than 10,000. From filmmaking. Yep. Um, and the average is somewhere near 20,000. Total. Um, our data skewed a little, a little a little. Young, just because we how we got it. Most of our results came from indie wire data, and there is a little young, but the squirrel. Um, but yeah, the biggest interesting thing is that filmmakers, household income, as opposed to their filmmaking is actually fairly substantially higher than the national average. Um, whereas filmmaking income from filmmaking is very much lowered. So So. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 44:04
so you're saying that people that work in the business have a higher income than, you know, just in general, like, you know, guys who work in post or guys who work on set or, you know, girls who are writing or doing other or doing cinematography or whatever, those those household incomes are, are making more money as opposed to just revenue from the content they create?
Ben Yennie 44:28
No, this is actually more. I would have loved to be able to estimate that metric, but we didn't ask the right questions for it. We had originally planned this as a two part survey, where we did the wide one, which is when we got out now and then did a smaller one that answers more of the questions that you're asking about right now. But unfortunately, we ran we didn't get quite enough of a sample size. To be able to effectively do that it would have been more of a focus group. And I didn't want to publish anything that wasn't bigger than. Yeah. So that was the big thing there. We did get this is not a tiny sample size, though, I think the total number of completed surveys was around 700 or 675. And the total number of started was around 1100. Okay. So the so it's not, it is a representative sample. Um, but the, that's actually approaching the size of most Gallup polls, just as a reference.
Alex Ferrari 45:43
Now, he, let me ask you a question. Does film school matter? According to your metrics, sir.
Ben Yennie 45:54
Yes, in ways I didn't necessarily expect, you're more likely to actually have filmmaking be your primary source of income. If you graduate from film school. If you drop out, you are less likely to get it than having not gone to film school at all. However, you're more likely to have a higher household income, including money from other sources, if you go to a school, besides film school itself. Even if you primarily identify as a filmmaker,
Alex Ferrari 46:27
So then film school, are filmmakers going to film school? More and more? You said, I remember you saying 37% went to film school.
Ben Yennie 46:36
A graduated from film school total went is a different number, because we tracked both on the biggest, where is that metric? Um,
Alex Ferrari 46:50
that's an interesting number I was I wouldn't have expected that as much. I thought that film school would be going down attendance would be going down on film schools in general.
Ben Yennie 47:02
Keep in mind that this is from 2014. This is reporting 14. And I think the real emergence and being able to educate yourself as a filmmaker online has come since then. So that is the thing this report was largely on funded, and I did most of the analysis in my limited spare time. That it took years to get it out. But um, the so that is a Yeah, and most of the time filmmakers did. Yeah, the most startling statistic here is that if you graduated from film school, I'm 58% of the of the respondents primary income was from filmmaking. What Let me read that 58% of respondents took their primary income from filmmaking. And if you dropped out that number is about 30%. And if you do other education, it was about 35%.
Alex Ferrari 48:21
What? Well, obviously, this was taking you so long. 2014. So indie film, hustle didn't come in until 2015. So obviously, all that education for free. Has would have skewed numbers of today, obviously.
Ben Yennie 48:36
Hopefully, yeah. No, yes. No, it is a good Go ahead.
Alex Ferrari 48:47
No, no, you go ahead.
Ben Yennie 48:50
Um, another interesting thing about the economics of being a filmmaker as relates as it relates to going to film school, um, filmmakers who went to film school are more likely to be paid across all departments than those who didn't. Interesting Um, but yeah, as are. And actually, the inverse is largely true for people who went to other forms of education, they're even less likely than to be both active and paid than people who dropped out of film school. However, there are some notable exceptions particularly as producers and just other production members
Alex Ferrari 49:47
Got it then we're talking about in these numbers are for filmmakers, these are directors, these are people who are making content, not cinematographers, not other crew members, not post guy Not first ad none of these kinds of people were talking about these numbers are strictly filmmakers content creators within the film business correct.
Ben Yennie 50:11
Actually, there are a mix of them most the by by, by far the most people who responded identified as producers and directors. However, we do have a surprisingly strong showing from people we labeled camera department, which tended to be cinematographers. As well as people who were kind of trying to rise the ranks through other production and post facilities. So yeah,
Alex Ferrari 50:39
Now how much money is actually spent on indie film projects every year? Do you have that number?
Ben Yennie 50:45
I do. But I have to go back to it on the I have a total market spend for this is specifically for the long tail. The overall last I checked, which I think was around 2014 was around 85 billion domestically, specifically for the film industry. But most of the vast majority of that goes to places like Disney chill Netflix, sure show those but but talking about the long tail. It's around a $6 billion industry of independent feature films. Wow. Um, 5.8, of which about 2.46 are indie feature films, the next biggest chunk is on surprisingly corporate and industrials.
Alex Ferrari 51:41
So 2.5 billion are spent a year on independent film projects. Features features. Yes, and that was again in 2014. So I can only imagine where that number is today. As well, it just gives us a good reference, it gives us a good reference on what's being spent, how is it being spent? How is it being recouped? Someone not man, bad, man, thank you, man for, for giving us those numbers and doing all that hard work. Because I've always wanted to know if a bunch of these numbers and even though they might not be completely totally up to date, it gives you a good good reference point to start from. And just add five years to it. And you can see how much it could actually have blown up since then. Um, now, I want you to also tell me about production next. And what you guys are doing is, you know, with with the platform with the blog, and what you're doing with that's very exciting stuff.
Ben Yennie 52:40
Oh, yeah, production. Next is a project management system specifically for independent film, video. And all the sorts of projects we alluded to here. It's meant to be one place for literally everything in the film industry. And it is a, it has three primary components. The first is all inclusive project management. And by that I mean we do break down strip boards, budgets, call sheet generation, actually, we designed our call sheet, I think really in a really cool way inside, in that you can, with about three clicks, generate a call sheet with all of the information, all of the addresses, sign up some downtime, based on your GPS location, as well as weather by the hour based on your GPS location in about three clicks, and send it all to your to your entire crew that's scheduled to be there in about a day, or with another click. And that's that. And that's a lot of the design philosophy on this, we're trying to make a lot of the things that are kind of tedious and can be made simpler. And we're doing as much as we can from that. On a technological level, and it's completely cloud based. So your entire crew stays up to date, you're always looking at the most recent documents and the most recent information. And that's the project management system. The second system is a company management system. That's what we're calling it. It basically lets you keep track of your real world assets. Because as a filmmaker you acquire props, wardrobe equipment, set dressing, access to locations and large contact list. And we let you keep track of all of those real world assets and then plug them directly into your project while the second conflicts so nothing's ever supposed to be in two places at once across multiple projects. And then the other one is a community feature which We are, which is basically to help you find the stuff you need, but don't have including information from our blogs, including a lot of stuff. We also have groups, I believe you have a group. Alex,
Alex Ferrari 55:14
I do that we have an indie film hustle group there.
Ben Yennie 55:17
Yeah, and we will be and we can put a link to join that in here, I believe, um, and the, so you can just join there. And it's a good way to keep in touch with other people, other filmmakers who have similar interests, as well as post classifieds. Ask questions of people who actually would know the answer, like, if you're asking a financing question you can ask it of executive producers. And if I'm in that group, or that area, there's a good chance to get an answer from me. Um, and the. And you can also do other things like just hold threaded discussions, and even keep up to date with information with basic profile information of other people in the group and other projects in the group. Of course, you don't see the budget or anything like or anything sensitive like that. It's a it's very similar to what you'd find on a project website, or Facebook page.
Alex Ferrari 56:16
Got it. So you got a lot of stuff going on to production next.
Ben Yennie 56:20
Alex Ferrari 56:24
Now, congratulations, I know you've been working on it for years now. And trying to get it up and running. And it's, it's, it's doing well now. So definitely anyone listening or watching, definitely check it out. It is it will help you with your projects and, and, and help you make life a little easier for you as a filmmaker using the service without question. Now, I have a few questions I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?
Ben Yennie 56:57
Learn how to produce, even if you want to be a director, even if you want to be a dp, learn how to produce, there is people even people who identify as multiple things, you're much more likely to be successful if you identify as a producer. And I do actually have data to back that up. The so that's the first thing. Second, build your social media presence. Any sort of content driven career these days requires you actually have a community and a social media following if you're going to do it successfully. And finally, learn as much as you can and get your network as big as you can get it you never know how one you never know what contact might pay off. later on down the line. Amen. surprised by it.
Alex Ferrari 57:55
Amen. I mean, look, you did a little podcast. That was an episode 15 three and a half years ago and it's it's still paying off. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Ben Yennie 58:16
I I feel like it's not cool to say my own book because it's actually did it but it actually really helped grow my career a lot. So aside from that, I'm probably Freakonomics
Alex Ferrari 58:33
A great book, a great documentary to love. Yeah, Doc. I love that Doc, too. Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Ben Yennie 58:54
While there's always stuff to be done, I'm working 6070 hours a week consistently is not generally the way to do it. And my wife still has to remind me of that one sometimes
Alex Ferrari 59:10
As good as good wives do, sir, as good wives. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Ben Yennie 59:20
I'd say a Knight's Tale.
Alex Ferrari 59:28
I love that movie.
Ben Yennie 59:39
Gattaca is also up there
Alex Ferrari 59:41
Another good one
Ben Yennie 59:42
And may be The Princess Bride
Alex Ferrari 59:56
Of course. Great movie. Great movie. Rest in peace William Goldman It was such a great book I'm gonna go no they're great book but a great movie I know where can people find you sir?
Ben Yennie 1:00:10
Ah, easiest is probably through my Facebook page which is either facebook.com/thegorillarap or facebook.com/productionnext and then there's probably also thegorillarep.com and I give away a free film market resource pack through there and you can join production next for free and we can show much away for free there at the at productionnext.com/ifh
Alex Ferrari 1:00:49
Very, very cool brother thanks again man for jumping back on and dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe today. I truly truly appreciate it and hopefully we won't wait another three and a half years to have you back. Want to thank Ben for coming on and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you. Thank you so so much Ben. If you guys are looking for a good producers rep who's honest and does what he says he's gonna do, definitely check Ben out his information is at the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/318. And guys, thank you for all the tribe members that came out to the sigma workshop that I was on a panel at and kind of came up to me and talk to me about their experiences with indie film hustle with bulletproof screenplay. Thank you guys so much. It was really a joy to meet parts of the tribe. I love talking to the tribe members out in the real world. So thanks for coming out and I really do hope you guys come out to the new filmmakers la screening of on the corner of ego and desire. It will be the last Los Angeles screening for for the foreseeable future. The next time we'll be screening will be a week later at brave maker Film Fest up in the San Fran area and you'll be able to get tickets at the same link at indiefilmhustle.com/screening after the 25th and I'll be going up they're going to be doing panels I'm going to be doing a full blown talk at the courtroom. The courtroom that they actually shot Mrs. Doubtfire in where Robin Williams the late great Robin Williams shot that scene in so I'm going to be there talking about shooting for the mob about how to break through your fears about making your first movie there'll be a book signing as well. And of course a screening of on the corner of ego and desire and that will be the final public screening of on the corner of the ego and desire before I release it on ifH TV on Amazon and all other cool places that it will be available and I cannot wait for the tribe to see this movie. It is so so part of my being and I just want you guys to see it so so bad. And if you haven't already and you haven't heard then you haven't been listening to this podcast but if you haven't heard about my new book shooting for the mob how I almost made a $20 million feature film for the mob. please head over to shootingforthemob.com it takes you straight to the Amazon police take a look at it buy it it is a great companion piece to Robert Rodriguez Rebel Without a crew. And if you have a read it please please please leave a good review on Amazon it means the world to me. So thanks again guys, so much for all your help and support. As always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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- IFH 015: American Film Market: Selling Your Independent Film with Ben Yennie
- Ben Yennie – Production Next
- Ben Yennie – Twitter
- Official Site – The Guerilla Rep
- Producers Foundary
- The Guerilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
- The Entrepreneurial Producer: A Series of Articles on Growing your Filmmaking Career
- Producer’s Foundry Film Marketing Workshops
- American Film Market
- On the Corner of Ego and Desire May 25, 2019 – Newfilmmakers LA
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Story) Book- Buy It on Amazon
- Indie Film Distribution Course: Secrets to Selling Your Film