BPS 375: Directing Al Pacino in an Indie Film with Johnny Martin

Since he was eighteen years old, Johnny Martin has been solely working in the film and television industry. He began his career as a stuntman, and within a relatively short period of time graduated to being a stunt coordinator and second-unit director. In those capacities, Johnny has worked on over 260 films, TV shows, and commercials, and even won the award for Best Stunt Coordinator of the Year for the film “Gone in 60 Seconds” and later receiving two nominations for an Emmy and one Screen Actors Guild award.

In 2003, Johnny launched his own production company, MARTINI FILMS. In just the first year he produced three films under his banner and two of the films received SYFY Channel’s “Premiere of the Year”. In 2012 Martini Films was one of the first US companies to partner with China Film Group (“CFG”) for the feature film “Urban Games”, which was entirely shot in China and Korea. Since, Martini Films has produced 20 films for Lionsgate, Sony, Paramount, and Saban.


In 2014 Johnny began his Directing debut on the horror film “Delirium” after winning three film festivals and receiving a theatrical, he was then hired in 2016 to direct “Vengeance: A Love Story”, starring Nicholas Cage and Don Johnson and then following up with “Hangman”, starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban and Brittany Snow and is now in post-production on “Alone” starring Donald Sutherland and Tyler Posey. On each of these films he has credited the late great Tony Scott for the many years of preparing him for his new venture. 2018 Johnny was invited to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

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Alex Ferrari 1:51
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.

Dave Bullis 1:56
My next guest is a filmmaker and stop man. He began his career in 2014 just directing with his debut of the horror film delirium, which is actually coming out the beginning of next year, by the way, which was January 2018. He went on to direct to other films vengeance, A Love Story starring Nicolas Cage and Don Johnson and Hackman, which is the film want to talk about today. A lot about today, starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban and Brittany snow. We also talk a lot about doing stunts because he was in a really cool movie called killer clowns from outer space with guest Johnny Martin and I really appreciate that too. You know, we have a mutual friend and and Mr. Keough. And, you know, is it just me Johnny? Or does Michael Keough know everybody?

Johnny Martin 2:40
Michael Keough not only knows or he knows people he doesn't even know yet.

Dave Bullis 2:47
Yeah, it's always seems like Mike is always knows somebody else. He's always, you know, I see him talking to somebody else, or just, you know, mentioning somebody else. I'm like, Oh, my God, this man must not sleep. He must just, you must just either either call or go to networking parties are just, you know, he has his finger on the button like he has it all working together.

Johnny Martin 3:06
Oh, well, I've known him for a long, long time, probably over 1820 years. And back then, you know, he always talked about directing and doing all these movies. And I just thought, well, he's craft service, really. And I was always told today's craft service is tomorrow's director. And sure enough, this man pulled it off. He's amazing.

Dave Bullis 3:23
Yeah, I mean, he definitely did. And, you know, and speaking about, you know, today's craft services, tomorrow's director, you know, there's a lot of ways to get into the film industry. I mean, you know, everyone I've had on here as unique story. So I wanted to ask Johnny, how did you break into the film industry?

Johnny Martin 3:38
Well, it's such a great story. And I'm very proud of it. And basically, when I was seven years old, I used to go to car washes all the time, because when I grew up, it was like the 70s. And they always had the hot rods coming into the carwash and as a huge cost. And so one day also in his car pulls up with a trailer behind it with a smashed up car. And this guy steps out. I mean, she looked like Burt Reynolds coming out his car. He just was an amazing man. I had to ride ride my bike up to him and ask him, you know what have you know, when I'm in your car and he goes, this is a car. Her name is Eleanor. He goes, Eleanor meet and he asked me my name. And I told him he goes, Yeah, Eleanor's, a star. My movie called gone in 60 seconds. And I'm the director, producer, stuntman, actor, writer. And I'm out there delivering my movies, all the theaters and self distribute this film. And I said, I don't understand it. So he so we sat for like two hours and he explained everything to me. At the end of the conversation. I said, I want to do what you do. And he says, Well, look, if you go home and study and train, you can come see me when you're 18 and I will help you out. So sure enough, that day I went home and I started training, I started learning how to be a stuntman and an act I took acting classes and when I turned 18 And sure enough, I got in that car went to LA call my mom and tell her I was I was there and she said Honey I got bad news for you he colicky he died today doing movie Gone in 60 seconds part too. And so I went there, I was left alone, not knowing what to do. So I worked my butt off. And 10 years later, I got asked to suck, coordinate, and design all the actions for an upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer movie, we're starting to get out of that part of it my life and started only direct and produced. And I said, Well, what's the name of the movie? And they said, was gone in 60 seconds. And so it was just this amazing turnaround was like he was still taking care of me. And I ended up winning the award for Best coordination of the year. So it was really a thrill.

Dave Bullis 5:31
Yeah, that's absolutely amazing. It's absolutely amazing Johnny, where you got to actually be part of the movie that you started with? And yeah, that's amazing. And so, I mean, you did a lot of different stunts. And I looked at your IMDB. And I there's one movie Johnny, I have to ask about and you did stunts for killer clowns from outer space. Oh, my

Johnny Martin 5:52
God. You don't understand. I did a Titanic. I've done the matrices. I've done the terminators. I've done tons of YouTube. But the number one question everyone asked me. You were in killer clowns. It's so funny. That little cult movie was one of my first films that I acted. And it's done. And I played three of the clowns. And I did everything on that show. And it ended up becoming my most memorable movie. You know, I keep getting gifts from all over and autograph signings for that movie, too. It's just crazy.

Dave Bullis 6:22
You know, one day I was I was at like a big loss. I don't know if big loss is kind of like this big box discount store. And I was there, they had this big these have a movie section. And I found killer clowns there one day, and I said, you know, I remember this movie as a kid. So I take it up to the register, right? And I'm checking out and the girl scanning was, you know, scanning the DVDs and buying and she stops on killer clowns. And she goes, Oh, my God. She was I remember this movie. And she goes, she's telling everyone around us because have you ever seen this movie? She goes, it is freaking awesome. She goes, it's about these clowns are coming from outer space. And they're turning people into these cotton candy cocoons. And everyone now is like getting around her looking at this DVD case of killer clowns. And they're like, Oh my God, dude, is there more copies back there? Oh, my God, there's listening to awesome and it's just, it's just one movie that just came out of nowhere. And I remember seeing as like as a kid growing up. And now I have another copy. You can't see it. Because on a podcast, but I have a copy on my bookshelf.

Johnny Martin 7:24
That's great. Well, I'm in talks with the Chiodo brothers to see if I could produce the part the part two of that. So it's kind of interesting.

Dave Bullis 7:32
And I think like part two would be absolutely awesome. I think movies, especially movies like that, I think now are more prevalent than ever. Because I mean, I know, you know, I'm starting to get the superhero fatigue. And I'm starting to you know what I mean? I and I know, people who work on those movies, and I want to support them. But at the same time, like you know, I am way more interested in seeing like a Coen Brothers movie. You know what I mean? Or something like that, where it's like this, this fun movie, you know, or something even something like you know, something else has come out recently. That just blew me away was three billboards. Have you seen that yet? No, I Oh, yeah. It's fantastic. But I'm sure I'm getting off track. Okay, I love it. But But yeah, it's, you know, that's why I think movies like that, you know, it just it stays in that Zeitgeist because it's such a fun movie. And you mentioned doing stunts for Titanic too. I promised Johnny I was gonna mention that too. Because I saw you did you know I saw Titanic on your IMDB and I I said you know, I'll ask about you know Titanic than that then killer clowns but I so so just uh, you know, as we talked about stunts and everything, you know, there's been like, guys like Jason Statham Hoover has mentioned that you know, stunt guys should get their own category at the Academy Awards because you know, they do a lot of dangerous work they do a lot of different you know, the car flips they break jumping through the glass all that all that stuff you know, all that all that dangerous work, you know, so you know, as a stunt guy yourself, you know, what are your What are your thoughts about stunt stunt guys getting their own category in the Academy Awards?

Johnny Martin 9:08
Well, I agree and disagree with it and the part I agree with is it Yeah, you know, the the number one genre that makes the most money in the film industry is actual movies. So it is it is all of us out there. That least what I was and But the other point of it too is that you know, you have to declare who is a filmmaker and to me to be nominated for Academy Award, you have to be a true filmmaker. And there are a lot of some people that are are not filmmakers. They are just guys it like get hit by cars and like to crash up and wreck things and all that but then there's those great second directors and stuck quarters out there that know how to design amazing action that helps drive not only the story, but the characters as well. I mean, there's nothing better than seeing a great a great action.

Alex Ferrari 9:56
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Johnny Martin 10:05
That helps tell you who this character truly is, and what he's feeling without having to say it. And that's, to me a very rare to see, like The Bourne Identity movies. To me, I'm very impressed by because they, you know, the action is really only 20%. The rest is all the acting of Matt Damon and, and you see what he's reacting to and so believable, where then you jump into Fast and Furious, which I think is, you know, amazing stunt work and all that. But it's and designed very great. But my issue is that it does it. Is there a character in that car? Or is it the car, that's been the hero? And that's, to me the point that if they do do this, they have to make it clear that it should go to a filmmaker, not because someone made 500 million in the box office on a great action.

Dave Bullis 10:51
Yeah, I see what you mean. And go because, you know, sometimes in the in movies like Fast and Furious, you know, the sort of the, the car itself, the muscle cars, the the exotics, they're like the sort of center of attention and a lot of those action set pieces.

Johnny Martin 11:07
Yeah, and that's not what the story is about, not about the car, it's about who's driving the car and where and where they're going.

Dave Bullis 11:13
Yeah, and you know, that'd be funny to actually like, turn into something like Transformers was kind of like the same thing, you know. So as you as you did your career, Johnny, you know, as you got, you know, to do more and more stunts, you started producing. And, you know, again, as we were talking, you know, it's always interesting to see the trajectory of careers. So as you go from stunts to producing, how did you make that, that sort of transition from one to the other?

Johnny Martin 11:39
Well, I mean, the whole reason why I got into science, I happen to be really good at it. So I was fortunate to stay in it for as long as I did, probably longer than I wanted to stay but but I wanted to learn from some of the top directors look better way of getting behind Tony Scott and James Cameron than to get on the set of the statement and stay on for a few weeks and say, just try and sneak on. So that was mainly my main main idea. Then when I started to watch it, I realized how much money is being overspent when people are just trying to spend money. When you look at Studio movies, you look at it, where they're spending $100 million, well, really only 50 million got put in the movie. The rest are executive charges, studio charges, and all that. So movies aren't really 100 million. I'm like, Well, why can't you make? You know, and I started seeing the decline of video, and blockbusters and all that. And I'm like, Well, where is the recoupment gonna come from. But we have to start making movies for less. And sure enough that started happening. And so when I started studying that I wanted to produce, I knew that I knew how to shoot action. I knew how to do it quickly. And that was the most expensive part of making action movies is the action. So I went to Millennium Films, Avi Lerner and I told him, Well, how much do you do your sci fi movies for? And he says 1.8 million. I said, and you shoot it where he goes in Bulgaria. I said, Well, what if I tell you I could choose one of your sci fi movies and same style, same way for 300,000. And I'll shoot it in LA, so it's impossible. And so I had my actors Casper Van Dien and Michael Rooker Kala, Bobby and say, I think he could do it, I really believe in Him. And sure enough, we pulled it off for 310,000. And movies became sci fi film of the year. And then I did another one. And I said, Can I have the 1.5? And he said, No, I'll give you 700 Because he wanted to test me. And sure enough, I did that one for seminar, and that became sci fi movie there the following year. And then it started giving me more and more films to produce after that. So it's more or less knowing. And I through my career, I've always wanted to learn every department, I thought, learning from this man, HBO Lickey that I met, when I was seven years old. The key to becoming a great filmmaker is to learn everyone's job, I learned how to do special effects, I learned how to do visual effects. I learned every single career when I when I had a day off, I'd go spend it with some some of my buddies that did another career than I did. And I try to learn it's like some ultimate filmmaker. And that's where I thought producing would be very, very good for me. And it's paid off very well for me. As far as my career, I got to be the first company to travel to China, and to CO CO produce a movie with China Film Group about five years ago in 2013, called Urban games. And I got to show them how you could pull off a movie where they thought they need 18 million. I did it for seven and a half one. So it worked out really well. They wanted me to stay there and I just couldn't stay in China. I want to come back home and do some real movies.

Dave Bullis 14:26
If you did stay in China just just sort of play like a what if game Johnny, if you did stay in China, do you think that they would have just been coming up to you with like, you know, project after project and just saying Hey, Johnny, could you you know, produce this film and produce this film in Beijing and then go to, to to like, you know, to such want to do this film?

Johnny Martin 14:45
Yeah, I was asked to go to Canada. You know, in my movie, we went to Seoul, Korea and debate Beijing and the problem I had with it. It's similar to TV in China, where the producer isn't the film Aker, it's really the director. And in TV, it's the the writer who is the producer. And so it became something where I'm a creative producer. And I'm not the kind of producer that just needs to push up numbers around and get things done at certain price, I want to be a part of the filmmaking experience and to help scenes get better. And when I went to China, it was more that I had these ideas, but the director got to override me were in my films here as a producer, I got to say what I wanted and felt that you needed to shoot this no matter what, and I got it done. And so that's why I really didn't want to stay in China for very much longer. Because I didn't want to just be a guy that did the numbers. I wasn't that I was built to make movies not to just help create movies by money.

Dave Bullis 15:41
Yeah, and I think that's very virtuous of you, Johnny, because you realize wanna stay true to yourself, you know, you don't want to just sit there and, you know, you want to make your own movies, you want to make other people's movies. Exactly. So, by the way, you know, I don't know if you do you know, Peter Marshall?

Johnny Martin 16:02
Name sounds familiar.

Dave Bullis 16:03
He's like a, he does a lot of first ad work. He's worked a lot with John Woo. But he actually was in China for a while doing different movies and stuff like that. But yeah, I just I just wanted to ask if you knew him and just in case you to ever cross cross paths.

Johnny Martin 16:19
It very well might be that do know, because I've done a few job where movies, so

Dave Bullis 16:23
Yeah, he and he's a real good guy, too. And so, but yeah, if you if you don't, though, if you don't know him, though, Johnny, let me know. And I'll introduce you to.

Johnny Martin 16:30
You got it sounds great.

Dave Bullis 16:32
So so so as you sort of, you know, gotten better at producing, you know, you're able to sort of, you know, do different things with money. You know, was your was your budget sort of rising incrementally? Or did you ever find yourself Johnny? Like, somebody would say, oh, no, Johnny, we're only gonna give you, you know, 500,000 or a million. And then when you make the and when you went to make that your second, third and fourth, they were they, you know, they just kept it at that same point, where was like Johnny willing gonna give you 50 million or 500,000? Or a million? Or do they allow you to? Or did you were able to get it to go up incrementally?

Johnny Martin 17:05
Well, I after I do those two, two sci fi movies, that's when an obvious way to do it third, and I said, No, I want to step up to a budget where I could actually make a film that I believe in not just having to put it together and do whatever I could for the money. So immediately there, I jumped up to the five to $7 million range. And I did three or four, Cuba Gooding Jr, movies that he started, it was just right when Wesley Snipes went to jail, and Cuba was right there to fill in for the next grade action hero where I was hoping to try to get these dramas and rewrite them into, you know, action pieces, but not action movies where, you know, it helps to book so I'm a real big fan of Cuba Gooding, and I just wanted to see him just raise his career up by not being sold out as an action stock, but being an action quality actor. And so that's what I started doing. I found a niche in that spot. And that's where I realized that if you have like to point one to 2.5 below line, that's where most movies today are being made. Everyone gets caught up in numbers. And they think that you know, I got $11 million budget, I guarantee that $11 million budget still has a below the line to make the movie around 2.1 to 2.9. You know, just because it fluctuates. I've done movies for seven millions and 9 million to 12 to 13 million. And yet the below the line is still around 3 million or less. That doesn't change because you know, you know, today's movies, because there is no payoff in in VOD as blockbuster I mean, excuse me, Netflix isn't buying as much as, as we thought they would. And China stopped buying all together. You know, it really makes it hard for anyone to recoup. So I was lucky that I found that niche because right when I started really getting further and further into it, that's when I realized that all the movies have to make that unless they're sequels, or they're a Marvel comic, you know, all the rest of the movies are still being done at this level. And the problem is a lot of the studio guys don't know how to do movies at this price. You know, they don't know about sales. That's what Avi learned taught me. You know, what each country buys films for what every actor is worth and how much you have to make movie his goal all along was always make a movie. For what you can pre sell this movie lower by a million dollars. And then you can make that movie for that and know that you always have a million dollars. And no matter what the movie is, you have as a great producer yet to figure out how to do that movie for the money that's going to make the company money. So that's what I learned. And so now basically, I'm still doing the same I mean, my movies 11 million, but yet still below the lines are still under three.

Dave Bullis 19:38
And that's a great bit of voice. By the way, Johnny, I really liked that. That advice because, you know, just how it ties in, as well. You know, just with with just this podcast, you know, I've had filmmakers on who've done their first movie their second movies or third movies, and some of them have made a comedy as their first movie.

Alex Ferrari 19:57
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Dave Bullis 20:06
And one of the things that we talked about on here, they said, David, when wherever we go to like foreign sales agents, or we go to do VOD, or to any of these, like aggregators, like, you know, you know, there's, there's tons of them out there, but they got any of them. They always say, well, who's in it? And they go, Well, you know, it's nobody, when they say, we can't really saw a comedy as your first movie with a lot of unknown actors, and expect it to get a wide release. So they always said, you know, go out and make a horror movie instead. What do you think about that advice? So just to make a horror movie as your first movie?

Johnny Martin 20:42
Well, I think the advice that that person said is even worse than what we all thought today. And then nowadays, you know, 80% of movies that are being made are being made by independent not studio studios, just by our movies, throw their name on it. And now everyone thinks I gotta Lionsgate movies like no, I did it through Patriot pitchers. And then they just bought it at the end for 2.7 or 2.8. But now it looks like it was a Lionsgate movie. So knowing that, yeah, I mean, we can't even sell movies. And since we're in the independent world, we're not fortunate to do movies. Without cast, I mean, that we can't even sell it and get our domestic out of it. So we have to have a cast. So if you try to make a movie without an actor, and you think you got gold, well guess what's probably gonna end up sitting on a shelf, or it's gonna be sold to a distributor that that will prove that you never made a dime when he made all the money. So you should never ever try to get horror movies. It's very tricky. It's like a good example is what happened to me is that I need to show everyone I could direct everyone knew I could produce everything. I could do action, direct action, but they didn't know if I could direct a film with actors. So I went ahead and wrote a movie about my friends that I grew up with that we used to go to the scary house when we were kids. And we had this, you know, hell gang. And we I created the story around it. And I shot at the original house that we used to sneak in at night. And I made it sound foolish because down footage was dead while I started getting the news from everyone, that sound footage was going to die sooner or later. So I had to rush and get this movie into editing and, and post and clean it up and get it ready. And by time that I was ready to sell it. I missed the window by about a month. Everyone said, bounce, which is too many people did it because it's cheap to do. So you know what we're done with it. So now they're done with it. So what am I going to do with this movie now? Well, I went back, I rewrote it, and I borrowed it another 50,000. And I changed it into a mix of sound footage and real footage of a real film. And now that movies done very well for me, as very, like I did it with kid actors from Disney Channel, and all that where, you know, you could get them at scale. And at least they're there. They're not known names, but at least they have a resume that you can at least put on a poster. And that's what I suggest you doing, you know, if worst comes to worse, and you can't afford an actor or can't get an actor, you know, always turn to a TV star, because at least they got some kind of clout to them.

Dave Bullis 22:59
Yeah, and with with TV being so prevalent nowadays, you know, there's a lot more to TV stars out there. Because, you know, on Netflix alone, there's like, what 300 shows? The episodic shows now? What, you know, yeah, there's, there's a lot of, you know, Amazon, and you have your cable package, and then you have Netflix and and all the other channels. You know, there's a lot of episodic content up there now.

Johnny Martin 23:19
Yet well, and the problem with all this is 10 years ago, Blockbuster would hold on to your movie forever. I mean, you you could go in there and get a movie from 20 years ago, nowadays, where do you go other than the number one distributor in the world and that's Walmart, Walmart, believe it or not, is the number one destroyer because they hold on your movies for years and years, they put in that $5 bucket. And if you can be thrown in that $5 bucket, you're the luckiest producer in the world, because that's where the money is to be added. Because they can keep it in that book bucket for three years where Netflix is lucky, the whole lot. If you get into Netflix could hold on your movie for only three months. Redbox, you're lucky to be in it for months. So there's nowhere that has a lasting way of selling your movie other than Walmart right now.

Dave Bullis 24:05
And that's a very good point, Johnny, you know, I was uh, one time I was actually at a film producer sort of seminar and they also talked about you know, what the cost of shelf space is. So if you walked into a target at Best Buy a Walmart and you start looking around the movie section, you know, each time the cover is horizontally versus vertically you know what I mean that the cover is facing out towards you and you can see it versus if you just see the spine you know, there's a huge cost difference between those two because it's about shelf space and you know they have that we have what I level of one goes to first they have hey we're talking about all that stuff. And you know you now you know with with blockbuster gone and you know now it's just you know Netflix and you know like you said Walmart you giving him that bin now that bins a whole nother you know, almost like another revenue cycle or another opportunity. You know what I mean? And that's sort of, I know what you mean too, but going into that bin, I've seen tons and tons of movies that I Some friends of mine has made movies and I've seen them in there. And they said, you know, that was actually good because people do actually buy from those from those big barrels of of movies.

Johnny Martin 25:09
Oh, yeah, it really is. I mean, that's, that's really that's the only place that people, you know, our film watchers, the real filmmakers go to that buggy because they want to watch something new and they want something that they can buy three of them instead of going to the theater and having to pay for one movie.

Dave Bullis 25:26
Yeah, and, and yeah, then Joseph died just to sort of just to sort of reminisce, you know, we talked about blockbuster, I remember going there to a lot and I wanted to ask, you know, do you think that the blockbuster in any way, shape or form is going to come back? Like where you could actually just go to a store with with your friends and actually just, you know, actually rent physical movies?

Johnny Martin 25:48
You know, what, I wanted to open up one so bad, but every time I do I do the research. And you know, the problem is, you know, like, my daughter's right now, even though I'm in the business, I'll catch him watching a movie that's in theaters here right now. Because everything's being pirated. Everything's online, everything's free now. I mean, you could really watch anything, you want it anytime for free. So why would you need to go out when you could just download it, or get it online. And that's the problem is, is that, you know, I used to love going to the blockbuster with my kids. And that's going through every movie. And that was fun. And now it's that here, that time is gone. And it's really hurting families. And that's what movies are all about. Movies are all about bringing families together and enjoy an experience a dream, you know, and now it's just a matter of do they have time to watch one and that's where it's, I really miss blockbuster. And I think the film industry is really hurting because it's gone.

Dave Bullis 26:45
Yeah, it's, I know, there's a lot of piracy out there. And I also wonder, too, as we talk about net neutrality, you know, how much that will play into it. Because if you're paying more for your internet, if you're paying more for certain features and packages, you know, going to those those torrent sites is not going to be as readily accessible as it is now as if net neutrality goes away.

Johnny Martin 27:10
Yeah, yep. Well, on the other thing, gotta remember is that you own a block, Buster, you got to buy how many DVDs? Were online, you just need a copy of the movie, and you don't have to make anything anymore. Yeah.

Dave Bullis 27:24
Yeah, but it would be fun, though. It just in a best case scenario, to just own a blockbuster or something. Almost like what Tarantino used to work at, you know, what, it was a video archive?

Johnny Martin 27:36
I totally agree. I think it can still work in certain cities. I really do. Because a lot of people don't want to go on the internet, you know, just finding the right the right town like LA is not the right town. But maybe somewhere in in Spokane, Washington, or Boise, Idaho, Idaho, maybe the perfect spot for that.

Dave Bullis 27:55
You know, there's still a few blockbusters left, and they're all in Alaska.

Johnny Martin 28:01
Really, I believe that See, there you go. People don't want to be hibernating in their house, they want to get out. That's great. Love hearing that.

Dave Bullis 28:09
Yeah. And also, because, you know, the, the internet, they're slow as well, but do it? Yeah. And you know, you're right. I do want to get out. But that, you know, they were able to go out and then you know, go to the blockbuster. And you know, they don't have to stream it or anything, they can just, you know, play away from the blu ray or the DVD. And when I when I did read that, you know, I started saying, You know what it makes sense, you know, show your, you know, I don't know how populated Alaska is and you know, but I know it's it's not that populated. You know what I mean? It's you know, when you think of Alaska, you think of igloos and polar bears.

Johnny Martin 28:41
Yeah, absolutely.

Dave Bullis 28:44
So your journey, as we talked about, you know, getting back to this, I'm sorry, now, I started get off topic again. But as we, as we go back to talking about, you know, your career and you and producing and everything, and you said you had to prove that you had direct. And I think that's very, very critical. Because I think that's, that happens to a lot of people. You know, I think that's, that's one of those, you know, it's unique to everybody, but it's also universal at the same time, because people want to see what you're capable of, they want to see what you can do. So So you made the horror movie delirium. And, you know, what, what was your experience, you know, just just getting that made, in terms of, hey, this is the movie where I'm going to show everybody what I can do.

Johnny Martin 29:23
Well, the thing is that, you know, going back to old subject is that, you know, people don't want to be your first try. They just won't do it. And no matter what script you have, you know, that's their career on the line. So that's why you have to be able to show and prove yourself. And that's what's tricky is it you know, unless you have you know, everyone doesn't look at your movie, as $100,000 movie or $200 movie, they look at it as as a movie. So you can't tell someone Well, this was only this. That's why I did this. They don't care. They only care. Did you make a quality movie, not caring about your budget or anything else? So now you're competing against that.

Alex Ferrari 29:59
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Johnny Martin 30:08
Which really makes it hard. So when I did my movie, the background that I had was the most important learning every one's job. Because once I did that, that allowed me to have a six man crew. That's all I shot my movie with. I didn't have any more than that I knew what I needed to do. I prepped it, PrEP is the most important thing where today's movies, they don't give you prepping where they give you four weeks to do a great movie, it needs to be prepped so great. And having every backstop every way I have a problem happens and ready to make change anytime. I don't think I've ever shot a script that we shot to the script itself. There's always a moment where you think, oh my god, what if I did this, and you have to be prepared for that. And you have to have a great team behind you. Remember, when you're directing your number one thing that you should be doing at that moment is finding the right DP for you. Because you're not just making the movie his eyes behind that thing. And he needs to move that camera. No director ever says okay, no, move that camera here there. And that's great. But you got to find moments through the dialogue that gets you to that other character to not cause this delay of a cameras before a hard cut. And that's why it's so important to hire as a finding that perfect soulmate that you could find in a DP that you guys think like imagine to like, and you guys could pick the shot perfectly. And know that he you have, he has free range to do whatever he wants to do to find that as well. It's a partnership. And that's what everyone wants to say, Well, I did this movie with I mean, every movie I've done, I've done with my DPS. I have to DPS I trust wholeheartedly. And I don't want to do a movie without them. Because we'd know each other we know what we both like. And so I would suggest that to everyone and product, know what your product is, I mean know what is going to sell for the next four years don't don't like sound foolish for me when I made the film, which I did the worst mistake because I created something that was hot at the moment. I didn't look into the future. And that's what you need to do. If I could do a found footage, imagine how many other films are gonna be sound footage. So what can I do? What can I do to be different because that $200,000, the only thing is going to make you stand out is if you have something that's different and new and fresh. And so that's what you really have to consider just don't go out shooting mood to show that you have you know how to direct because no one's going to the only time someone's gonna tell you that you're a great director is when they love your movie. Not love your shots. Love your movie.

Dave Bullis 32:32
Yeah, and that's a good point, Johnny, you know, and it's always about that, the whole experience, right? And you mentioned building a team. So you know, just about finding the right director cinematography, so you know how to work together, I couldn't agree more. I've been a part of film sets like that. I've seen film sets like that, where, you know, they want to hire somebody because they got a nice camera, or they want to hire somebody because they can talk the talk. But you know, when it comes time to when it becomes crunch time. It all sort of falls away. Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, and you know, and also, we talked about just standing out from the pack, I think that is, you know, obviously it's more important than ever, you know, because right now, it's a war of eyeballs and ears, right? You know, it's a war of, you know, how can I get my movie seen and by making it you know, as unique as possible, not sounding like something is someone's already has already seen with you, as we talked about found footage. That's why I think proud of my activity really found that niche, even like The Blair Witch Project, as well, The Blair Witch Project, they really were able to capitalize on the fact that the internet was so new, it was in an infancy stages. And, you know, everyone really believed in it. And the marketing was brilliant behind that, because it made it seem like it was a real mystery that and this movie was going to be you know, you're watching a documentary, you know, and then with paranormal activity, it was a, you know, I think they did something similar, but they were able to just capitalize on this, and he made it free, even cheaper than the boiler, which was we, I think, or made it for what 13,000. So it's like, you know, standing out, you know, just finding that niche and standing out is sort of key. And I think, you know, to do that, rather than just, you know, reverse engineer it, I think that the way to do that is, you know, find what movies you like, and write a script that you'd like to see and go from there. And then sort of use your what resources you have, and then see how you can get it to sort of fit in that context. So you're not looking going out and going well, I need to you know, go out and rent a yacht to blow up or something like that, you know, it's stuff you have you it's stuff that you have access to, that you can use to make your movie.

Johnny Martin 34:34
Well, and the most important thing is like when I say find find something new and fresh. You have to be willing to get ready to change your whole thought pattern of that because it could fall on you could fall on your face by but by doing that just as fast as you get successful. And by what I mean by that is that when I made my movie, I knew I had to be different so I wanted to make standby me meats a horror movie. I wanted five characters now made These guys hang out with each other for for three months, I filmed them for three months, just hanging out until I knew they were best friends and wanting to hang out with each other. That's when I made the movie. And that's how I knew it was gonna get that stand by me moment, it was more about character. And so I made this movie, it was head scares in it and had these great moments. And when I made it, I turned around and people you know what, when they got that title horror on there, and you're not delivering, or my idea was great, and it looked great, it won some some festivals. But at the end of the day, when people buy it, they said, Johnny, we don't know how to categorize this movie, we don't really know how to sell it, because it's not really a horror, and it is. So we don't know what to do with it. So that's when I had to go back not only to change it out of sound footage, but I had to put more scares in it and cut out a lot of the dramatic parts, where I built these characters. So a lot of stuff I truly believed in, I had to change because at the end of the day, it's not about what I think is perfect. It's what you know, the audience and what the buyers and distribution companies thinks it's good.

Dave Bullis 35:58
Yeah. And and, you know, again, as we talked about sort of selling, it's sort of like, you know, exactly what is everyone looking for? What is everyone buying? How do I get people to buy this movie? And, you know, as we, as we talked about your your second film that, you know, in the past couple of months, because again, in the pre interview, we were talking about how the past couple of months have been actually, you know, really good for you. You know, not now delirium is coming out soon, which is the movie we're just talking about. And now you have a second film that's coming out Avengers a love story with Nicolas Cage. So how did you go about, you know, getting that film? Johnny, did you put that together? Or was that something that was sort of pitched to you?

Johnny Martin 36:34
Well, no, it was a great movie, they, Patric pitchers asked me to produce it with Nick Cage, who I've been friends with for 20 years. And I met him during God and 16. We did a lot of movies after that together. And so I was producing it, the director, I didn't believe and I didn't think he could pull it off for what I had. So I basically had to fire him. And Nick wanted to direct the movie himself. And I said, Great. So since medium had this great collaboration together, you know, he was so busy with his schedule, and I would, you know, he called me up, he goes, Hey, can you start the shot list? A, you know, show me the locations I'll pick, and all this stuff. So we're working hand in hand, and then, you know, when when when the budgets start getting tighter and tighter and tighter, you know, I had to cut days out of movie and I told him I, you know, you have just moving 21 days. And he said, that's gonna be very hard for me to do plus my schedule. Johnny, I don't know if I could pull it off. Why don't Why don't you do it? And so everyone agree. There's the producers. And everyone said, Yeah, John, Donnie should do it. He knows the movie The best. Then DGA stepped in and said, Nope, Johnny can't do it. Because he's a producer on the film. And by Directors Guild rules. You can't take over a movie for a director if you're the producer. So we didn't have a director. We were supposed to start shooting in 48 hours and eight hours before we started shooting the DJ, my producer, my financier, God, his attorneys after the DGA. And they finally agreed that I could direct the movie. So I didn't have that much warning that this was my movies. And it was about rape. And it was a sensitive story. And it was very hard. So I just worked every every night. And every day I was off to prep this movie, you know, for every day. And it was a really hard, hard movie. But I'm very proud of it. And Nick is very, very proud of it. And I think we pulled off something special.

Dave Bullis 38:20
So when you mentioned prepping even on your days off, Johnny, was that more like you were in your producers hat like you're thinking to yourself, Okay, well, is this location really locked? You know, what could go wrong? What else am I going to need? Was it stuff like that?

Johnny Martin 38:33
No, I already you know, I do that. I mean, like when I direct like when I grew up, my last week hanging out, everyone else might hear my deal in my head is I'll go produce it for the first two weeks, and I'll get everything handled with unions everything else. And and didn't make all the deals, but then I shut off from my producer at take that off, and I go dry it into direct. And when I did this on vengeance, it was about seeing seeing the scenes, I usually have this weird thing that people make fun of me for but I could see things I could see scenes. In my head go around me I could see cars pass by my body when I'm just standing there looking. So I like to close down a street and fit in the middle of the street and and look at it and find the scene. And when I see that then I could really picture where all my cameras could go and all that. And that's why again saying a great DP can visualize your story because as I talk out loud, he's seeing what I'm seeing now too. So I had to make this movie it was next movie and I had tried to find out how to make it mine where I could believe it. You know, shooting a rape scene is very sensitive, and it's very hard to shoot rape scene because people get so disturbed by it that that your movie could be ruined by a bad rape scene by making it too much. And so my rape scene this movie a little girls watching her mom getting raped and I thought the way I could do this and make it violent, that need to be violent because we needed to know why these guys should get what they get by the end of this movie.

Alex Ferrari 40:01
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Johnny Martin 40:10
That I said, what better than to show a rape scene through the eyes of this girl and what her visual is and what her pain is that she's feeling, and very show very little of the rape itself. And that's was different than next version of it. And that's where I brought mine. So that's what I do during prep, to try to prepare what I feel the movie should look like.

Dave Bullis 40:32
Yeah, and I think that's a good point, too. Because, you know, there are movies that have very violent, very violent rape scenes, you know, like I spent on your grave, irreversible Straw Dogs, just to name a few. And you know, and again, you were mentioning, you know, doing things a little bit differently. And I think the way the you did it, it definitely sounds like, you know, obviously, you're taking a very touchy subject very, you know, hard subject. But it's a different way to sort of show this narrative rather than obviously, that the graphic rape like I was just in three movies I just mentioned.

Johnny Martin 41:06
Right! Absolutely. You're right.

Dave Bullis 41:08
So so as you know, and you mentioned, your your third movie, by the way, and I, this is actually the movie that got us talking to Mr. Keigh was, is hanging man. Again, I saw the poster and I said, Wow, that looks awesome. And again, Michael, you know, just introduced us out of sheer luck or law of attraction, whatever you want to call it. But, you know, as we talked about hanging man, I wanted to ask you, what is it like? Well, I wanted to actually, I want to ask what it was like working with Al Pacino. But I also want to ask you, though, to Johnny, you know, how did you go about with this movie and getting this made? With hanging man? Did you know Was this another project that you were able to get made by yourself? Or was this pitch to you?

Johnny Martin 41:50
Well, after I did the vengeance, a love story, hanging man was in the company, a patriot. And so they had a director already attached to it. And when Michael of the financier saw the movie vengeance, he said, I want you to do hanged man. And so I had to talk my way into RL Rifkin, who was the other producer, and he didn't really want me because he already had his director. So it was a struggle. And Michael said, Well, I'm not going to finance it unless Johnny directs it. And he goes, well, well, well, it's not our decision. It's a it's out. It's Alba chinos. So out here Alba Chino, you know, didn't want to set the meeting. He said, Well, let me see what he did before. And he watched my the Benyus, the love story. He stopped after the rape scene and called and said, I'd like to meet him, because he was blown away by how I treated the rape scene. And he didn't watch the rest of the movie, which was funny, he just wanted to see something that really caught his eye. And so the scariest day of my life is knowing I'm gonna go meet the number one filmmaker of all time and the iconic Alba Chino, you know, how can I top this? And how am I going to talk this man who's worked with Scorsese, and Salman and Coppola, and let him think that I'm as good as them, you know. And there's one thing I have, and that's passion. I don't care about the money, I don't care about anything else, but to try to make a film that is emotionally that gets people emotionally involved. And that's what I am almost here. My favorite movies are like miracle and rocky and all those movies, not, you know, great action movies. And so going in there, I guess I gave out a pitch that he just said, Your energy is so big and you believe in it's so much your words. And before we knew it, we were doing lines opposite of each other. And and he would do he was when I say this, and I come back with a line right after that. And, and he would come back to me and we started an improv thing. And before I know it has gone there every day, and we were doing improv and finally he'd call me at two in the morning, go, okay, this person with two lines, Johnny, the carpets in the police actually caught number two, and he was yeah, he was where were they born? I go Minnesota. He was from a single families and know their family is still married, but they're having problems, as it was what we thought of what the characters would be. So when we got to the set, he was able to focus differently on each character, knowing what they went through in their lives, even if it was a one line character. And that's what really made this movie so amazing is because it just became so real. And to work with Al Pacino. Probably any drug any director in the world should be as lucky to have the moment that I had with this man who's probably the most incredible actor and human being I've ever met.

Dave Bullis 44:38
Yeah, I mean, I just want to get that's one of the questions I want to ask about working with Al Pacino was, you know, I mean, obviously there had to be some kind of almost like intimidation because you know, Al Pacino has been in so many freaking movies that have just, you know, skyrocketed like, you know, Serpico and and, you know, which where he played a detective also. And I mean, that's what I was going to ask is, you know, if ever if he ever or just, you know, not not like coming with an ego, but just the fact that, you know, hey, look, it's Al Pacino. I mean, this man has just made so many awesome movies. And it's like, you know, how do you direct somebody like that has worked for Scorsese and stuff like that, you know, it's just like, well, you know, you know what I mean? So, so that's good, Johnny, I'm glad that, you know, you were able to sort of find that, that core and again, you know, you're passionate, you know, what you're doing? And, you know, so I want to ask you to, as you're sort of going back and forth, forth with him. And he asked you to where was this character born? You know, that's just you add, let me I mean, what would have happened just as a whatever, if you would have said, our I don't know.

Johnny Martin 45:40
Well, the thing is that I prepared myself so well, that I, I knew everything that I need, I read that script 18 times before I met without, and I was involved with everyone I knew where they were in the scene. I already picture the set every pitcher, who they were, how they carry their shoulders, how they walked, and everything else. So I mean, great part about hanging man is that every role drove the story. So it was easy to know, what emotions these people felt. It's like the in my opening scene when we find the first thing. You know, everyone say, well, Johnny, this girl's so weak, you know, why isn't she supposed to be a cop? I said, yeah, she's a beat cop work and two in the morning shift. And, and you know, and she works a schoolyard. And so, to me that that character needed to be a little bit weaker. So my lead character, Rooney could come into this movie, and be strong and not be compared to another cop. And so it was stuff like that, that made me realize that when I met out that I really thought this stuff out. And I already pretty much knew I didn't know the backstory so much, which I learned a lot. But I pictured this girl was wounded somehow, and she was weak. And so what would that lead to? And that led to what her family likes would be. And so al brought it more out in me as well. You know, but we did a lot of rewrites from it from from the prep, it was an everyday meeting everyday talk by prep the movie, so it was really quite interesting. And he wouldn't allow stuff that he felt that the audience would stop it, it's very bad. He said in the editing room with me price seven days, didn't say a word just hung out with me to watch see how we were doing this. And you know, at the end of the movie, I told him out, I know, you thought we made seven. But it's a character piece about for for people struggling with their lives to find out how they can help each other. And that's what the movie kind of is, again, I'm all about relationships and movies, and I know that everyone's gonna go see it probably is gonna go into Oh, my God, this is another seven because that's what the trailer looks like. And it is it's like a seven. But it's more about having a relationship with with these actors. More than the normal seven kind of movie.

Dave Bullis 47:43
Yeah, and, you know, I have the I haven't seen the movie yet. But I actually, I actually ordered it on Vudu. And it's out early on night right now. So I'm actually gonna watch it Not tonight. But tomorrow. So I can't wait. And I saw it was up there. And I said, Oh, I said, I actually ordered it. I was like, You know what, I'm gonna have Johnny on the podcast. And I thought it was gonna watch it, but I didn't. But I made sure to order it. And by the way, everyone, I'm going to link to that in the show notes hanging man on Vudu, it's actually out before it's in theaters are the same time it's in theaters yet? And which I think by the way, Johnny, I think that's a really good idea for a lot of films in general. Because it sort of gives you, you know, so a different form of access, you know, in case you know, the movie isn't playing around you, or if you know, there's not a theory like around you. I've always said this is a really good idea that I you know, I mean, as we talked again, about VOD, and everything else, I always think it's a good idea for a lot of films to do that. Is it to come out either at the same time. It's in theaters, or even surely then after you know what I mean.

Johnny Martin 48:49
Right, exactly. I totally agree with you.

Dave Bullis 48:53
And so Johnny, you know, as we, as we sort of, you know, have been talking for about 45 minutes, you know, is there anything in closing that you want to talk about Johnny or anything that we get a chance to discuss?

Johnny Martin 49:05
You know, half the reason why I do these, these interviews at all as because, again, I cared about movies. And the worst thing about this, this business is failure, and how low it can really bring you and how easy it is to quit this business. And there's so many people that are more passionate about films than probably anything in this world. And I just have to tell everyone is that you know, knowledge is everything. And the key thing you got to be as the smartest guy in the room learn more than the guy that you're meeting and learn everything you can about him him as well. I mean, no have the knowledge of knowing his work and how it compares to your work. But people you know, the ego gets really big in this industry, and that is what destroys people unfortunately.

Alex Ferrari 49:52
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Johnny Martin 50:01
So I just sent say, knowledge is everything and learn as much as you can before you are ready to go out there, you get one chance at this. Don't Don't blow it just because you get that opportunity to be ready for your opportunity.

Dave Bullis 50:14
You know, Johnny, that is that is absolutely great advice. You know, always be ready and always learn as much as you possibly can. And Johnny, we will find you out online.

Johnny Martin 50:25
Well, themartinifilm.net themartinifilms.net that is, I have a website that explains my story and my whole career from stunts to acting to producing. I'm going to start the opening up seminars of how to raise money in and help people in Georgia, all my crew members and all that they want to become better filmmakers and even more filmmakers. So I'm going to start putting on seminars, how to go about putting together films and all that hopefully, I'll have that recorded. And I do have an upcoming movie with our friend Michael Key Hill, which I gotta tell you I'm very very proud of and I cannot wait to get started on this thing in the movies called judge not I think that is more like the seven that that everyone wants to see. It's really dark and gritty. And that's kind of like my genre that I want to go with like David David flinch. pincher did.

Dave Bullis 51:17
That's really, really cool. And you're Mr. Keyhole together. That's, that's gonna be interesting. Because, you know, again, because Kiko knows everybody and, you know, yeah. I'm very excited. Yeah. And you're genuinely when you are doing those seminars, let me know. And I will add them to the show notes as well update them. You know, everybody, everything that Johnny and I talked about on the show, in this episode will be on the show notes at Dave bullas.com. Twitter, it's at Dave underscore Bullis. Johnny Martin, I want to say thank you so much for coming on.

Johnny Martin 51:52
Thank you very much, Dave. Very nice meeting you all!

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BPS 374: The Making Of Small Engine Repair with John Pollono

This week I brought on the show, playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor, John Pollono.  I wanted to go down the road a little bit about his remarkable journey in the business which expands across theatre and short films. 

John is one of the founders of the Jabberwocky Theatre Company in 2004 which became the Rogue Machine Theatre in 2008 where he produced his earlier plays. His big break came with his screenplay for the acclaimed biographical drama film, Stronger which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

The screenplay, based on Bauman’s memoir Stronger, was number two on the Black List (most-liked “motion picture screenplays not yet produced) in 2016.

Stronger, starring multiple award-winning actors, Jake Gyllenhaal, is the inspiring real-life story of Jeff Bauman — an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving but losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and must adjust to his new life.

This project came along for John right after signing with Los Angelos – based Creative Artists AgencyProducers, Alex Young and Todd Lieberman were already familiar with Pollono’s work. And they were on the hunt for something. That was when adapting Stronger became a prospect. At the time, the book was not yet published so he had a chance to review the unpublished book. 

Producer Scott Silver was looking to mentor a more junior writer for the Stronger film and fortuitously, John was a good fit having grown up 20 minutes from where the characters take place, he was the best candidate for the job. So, with a follow-up pitch, the book’s film adaptation screenplay was sold to Lionsgate.

Writing Stronger (the film) was a double success for Pollono. Not only was he mentored directly by the incredible Scott Silver and receiving writing directions about theme, structure, etc, but the project brought him some notoriety as well by topping number two on the blacklist a year before production. That script made a big enough splash for his career.

Besides Stronger, Pollono is known for writing Small Engine Repair (the play and its film adaptation), Lost Girls (2013 and 2015) Off-Broadway release, Second Of Rules (the play), Lost and Found (2006), Razorback (play, staged in 2008) and his one-act Illuminati play which won Best Play at the 2010 Network One-Act Festival in New York City.  

In his career in front of the camera, Pollono made appearances on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, recurring roles on Mob City and NBC’s This Is Us TV series, and have worked professionally in entertainment Public Relations

Pollono’s love for stories and movies dates back to being a kid who was also a voracious reader — reading every Stephen King book there is. He picked up short story writing at a pretty young age. Obviously, he had a sort of knack for storytelling and started pursuing that path and passion to become a filmmaker and has been fortunate to shadow so many directors who I really admire in the business.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1994 from the University of New Hampshire and did two semesters of film school at NYU on an exchange. His experience in New York City, being surrounded by such a diverse group of artists was the biggest epiphany of his life that helped him decide his filmmaking career.

He’s guest-starred in the television series, How I Met Your Mother and has had smaller acting credits on film and stage.

In 2021 he wrote and directed the black comedy-drama, Small Engine Repair which will premiere this September. The film is based on Pollono’s play of the same name. I can not recommend this film enough. It is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in 2021. 

Events spin wildly out of control when three lifelong friends agree to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore. It follows lifelong friends Frank (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frank’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Bravo). But when Frank invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control in this exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.

This interview was a pretty cool conversation and I did not hold back getting John to share all the gems of the business he’s learned and fun questions like what it’s like working with Frank Darabont and working on the new Hulk Hogan movie currently in production.

Enjoy my conversation with John Pollono.

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Alex Ferrari 0:20
I'd like to welcome to the show, John Pollono. How you doing, john?

John Pollono 0:23
I'm doing all right. How you doing, man?

Alex Ferrari 0:24
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing great. It's any day above of the ground nowadays?

John Pollono 0:31
I know. Right. With the we've lowered the bar. Pretty much.

Alex Ferrari 0:35
All the bar has been lowered since 2019. that's for damn. that's for damn sure.

John Pollono 0:39

Alex Ferrari 0:40
But thanks for coming on the show, man. We're gonna talk later.

John Pollono 0:43
I'm a big fan of the podcast. Thanks.

Alex Ferrari 0:45
Oh, thanks, man. I appreciate it. You know, we were going to go down the road a little bit about your your remarkable journey in the business. And in your you're an East coaster.

John Pollono 0:56

Alex Ferrari 0:57
So I always love talking to East coasters. Because I mean, being an East Coast. There's a different energy with these coasters. Even though you're even though you're West Coast now as I was. But

John Pollono 1:07
it's where you spent the formative years I think is

Alex Ferrari 1:09
I think it is. And it never leaves you. And never never know. If you can live in LA for the next 50 years. I had a I had a good friend of mine, who was a first ad worked on every big movie you can imagine. 20 years he raised in New York, but until he was seven, he was still talking like, you know, when I go to the door, it had the accent he had the

John Pollono 1:27
It's comfort. It's it's what you're used to you do it? You know, I mean, I've been here about 20 years. And I, you know, it kept me at, you know, the first like five or six. I was like, you know, I'm not, I'm not really here. And then you kind of like I kind of love it. I mean, California is great. But California is like a melting pot. It's like people from all over. And I mean, like most of my friends are from the northeast from New York and Boston. And I mean, it's just happened to gravitate towards that. I mean, like I said, My wife's in Dallas. But you know, when we first were dating and stuff, she'd be like, we stopped yelling, and I'm like, I'm not yelling.

Alex Ferrari 1:59
That's love.

John Pollono 2:01
That's how we Communicate, and then realize when you're from people back home, you're all like that, you know, so it's just that you attract birds of a feather, I guess.

Alex Ferrari 2:08
And then eventually all all East coasters go down to Miami to to retire. So that's Yes, that's it. Isn't that the law? I think that's the law. The law. So, so man, how did you get into the business? How did you get started?

John Pollono 2:24
Like how back do you want to go? I mean, so

Alex Ferrari 2:27
not the womb, but right.

John Pollono 2:30
I mean, look, I always loved stories and movies. And as a kid, I was a voracious reader. And I started writing, you know, short stories a pretty young, I was obsessed with Stephen King. I like read everything he wrote. And I don't know, I just sort of had a knack for it. And then, you know, started doing that kind of thing. And then I wanted to be a director. I wanted to make movies and I, you know, it was a dream of mine. Then I went to university New Hampshire was pretty much all I could afford. But I didn't exchange to NYU. And you do you for a whole summer. It's like two semesters worth of filmmaking classes. And I was just like, it was the biggest epiphany of my life. Being in the city being surrounded by such a diverse group of artists. For the first time in my life, I was around people I could just sit down with and we could talk about movies and stuff for hours, like endlessly. So I was no longer the sort of having to convince my peer group to go watch a movie with me or talk about it. I was just with people and living and breathing. And I was like, This is what I want to do, you know, for the rest of my life. And, you know, I went a very circuitous way. I graduated from college, I lived in Colorado for a couple of years with with a girl we lived in a trailer park and I wrote a bunch of terrible screenplays. And then I moved out to LA with those and you know, in my backpack, and, you know, they sucked, I was writing movies that were derivative of movies, so I didn't quite, you know, like, here's my Indiana Jones, here's my you know, whatever weapon exactly for weapon type stuff. And, and so then I started to take acting classes, and I got more involved in theater and I've been a, you know, in a playwright for, you know, 15, about 1015 years now. And theater was really what, how I discovered my voice, and it's sort of amplified all of that stuff. And, and then in theater and working as a playwright having play after play produced and sort of living in that world. I just, yeah, I've developed my voice as a writer. So then when I started to write screenplays, I had that sort of skill set that wasn't derivative of other movies. It was based on the lessons I'd learned in theater, which were, you know, character and drama and conflict and, you know, provoking an audience and really going to these daring, scary places. And so when I started to use that, in screenwriting, my you know, screenwriting career sort of took off, and then I've just sort of been juggling the two ever since,

Alex Ferrari 4:59
but You but you started but you started acting a little bit before. I mean, you were you your big break wasn't your big break or your first notable role with Frank Darabont and mob city?

John Pollono 5:09
Yeah, that was coincidentally, he saw me in small engine repair of the play in 2011. And I had known Frank, when I first moved to LA, I worked at the mailroom, Castle Rock entertainment. And then, which was really cool. I mean, look, I'm like, in my mid 20s, I'm like, this is great, I made wonderful friends. And then a friend of mine in the mailroom, this guy, filson tanny, who's a great guy, I'm still friends with him, he was taking acting classes at this place. And I, you know, I had acted in NYU and done and I kind of had, like, you know, the bug, but I kind of was too, you know, so much of my life and sort of my upbringing was being sort of closeted about my artistic side, and being afraid to sort of in the culture that I was in, or I was subscribed to the, like, I was too vulnerable. And I just didn't have feel like I had that support system, I had to kind of keep it very down. So that was, I was still in I probably the last 10 years of my career by being too much of a chicken shit to just say, you know what, this is what I am, I am an artist, you know what it is like, you're from Queens, like that tough guy. Like,

Alex Ferrari 6:14
my father was like, you're gonna do what? Like, what's kind of where you gonna make money like they had, he was a factory where

John Pollono 6:21
he just 100% exact same thing, exact same thing. And I had, you know, I've had, you know, 100 jobs in my life, manual labor, construction, irrigate, you know, everything, landscaping, you name it, because that I was afraid to say, hey, look, this is what I want to do. So I took those acting classes. That's sort of how I met it. And then I, but then I became an assistant to the head of PR. And it was like this beautiful family to be part of. I'm still friends with all those people and I so in the PR department, Frank Darabont made a bunch of movies at Castle Rock. So I just got to know him as like, you know, the 27 year old guy who parks his car and talks about movies, he was awesome. He was, you know, one of those filmmakers who you could just talk to, and, you know, I just got to know him through there. So then when I was in this play, and he was obviously new, Jon bernthal, from walking dead, he came and saw it. And he was like, I didn't know you're an actor. And you know, I'm such, you know, I love your that you wrote it. I love it. And yeah, and they brought me in on that pilot. And, yeah, I just got cast in that I think someone else got cast over me, this Irish actor, and he, like, couldn't get his green card. It was like I was pinned for it. And then they let me go, they cast this guy. And then they called and they're like, hey, you're in and I was like, This is amazing. So we shot that pilot, but it kind of sat there for a long time. And then we shot those other episodes. I mean, that was such an amazing experience. And I just adore Frankie. So great.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
So how did you have connections in the Lisa department to get that actor kicked off? Right. Let me say, you know, what, what is it? I have to ask? Because I'm such a huge Frank Darabont fan. I mean, sure. I mean, everyone. This is the show understands my obsession with Shawshank Redemption, considering it's one of the greatest cinematic experiences I've ever had, and continue to have one of the best screenplays ever written. What is it like working with, like, you know, I guess you already knew them a bit, because you'd been working with them. And, you know, as the 27 year old has parked his car, but yeah, it's another thing had been directed by by giant like that,

John Pollono 8:15
well, you know, there's different directors have different ways of doing it. That was one of the things I learned that it's like, what kind of director are you and you know, Frank, he does the work on the page. And he worked, you know, in the case of mob city was written by a bunch of different people, but it was like, his vision, and he was very visual. And so performance wise, you know, he kind of let you do your thing. Like, I feel like I'm a different director than that. I like to get in the weeds with the actors more, but he's not intimidating. He's a super cool guy. He fucking loves film. Like you're saying, he's a student of it. And that really interesting about Frank, which isn't like a lot of directors I've worked with is that if you're like, Hey, you know, my cousin's in from out of town, he wants to see other movies like bring them in. Like I was working as like a freelance PR guy at the time still to pay the bills because I had a child. And you know, we were making shit work I like I said at that was a period of my life where I had like four jobs. One of them was mob city, but you know, and it paid good, but not enough to raise a family in LA. You know, you're always waiting for that bigger break. So but I was I brought all of the PR guys I was working with and gals like these, this another group of friends I had, and he's like, Yeah, he brought them all around the monitor. They're all like, I can't believe this. He completely is disarming. He loves to show you this and ask people questions. Like he loves the process so much. He's very inviting. So you whenever if he has a minute, you can always ask him questions about the camera lenses and this and that, you know, at mob city, he was starting to go more digital, which he didn't think he would and he would talk endlessly about that. I mean, the guy is just like so open about all that and eager to share.

Alex Ferrari 9:53
That's awesome, man. That's all yeah, it

John Pollono 9:56
exceeds your expectations on how cool he is with that particular person. You

Alex Ferrari 10:01
know, I've heard he's been I heard from other people who've worked with him. He's very cool, but it's nice to continuously hear that he is awesome.

John Pollono 10:09
Yeah, now he totally, you know, I think he's very visual and that sort of his lane. You know, I think if you're an actor who likes to be super collaborative in terms of your ideas of the characters, and the performance, and, you know, high of this idea about the scene, and you know, he's not necessarily that director, but he's painting beautiful pictures, and he knows the story, and he knows it. So it's like, you gotta you got to go with the flow. That means all different kinds, you know,

Alex Ferrari 10:35
right. Like, yeah, if you're working with Clint Eastwood, are you working with Tarantino? They're very different flavors of director.

John Pollono 10:40

Alex Ferrari 10:41
Very, very different.

John Pollono 10:42
Yeah, no, totally. And, you know, again, that was sort of I was very intimidated to direct a movie. And one of my things was, like, I was fortunately able to shadow so many directors that I that I really admire. And I saw, well, I had the opportunity of being the actor with them and saying, oh, okay, how can I communicate that and, and additionally, some incredible theater directors as well. So I felt like, you know, it's such a godsend to be able to see someone like, you're saying Frank Darabont work, and sort of cherry pick some of the stuff he does, they'll be like, yeah, I think I want to try that. And some of the stuff you're like, Okay, that's not the director. I am. But, you know, Frank, I think his direction starts on the page. You know, so right. There. Yeah, he's a writer. And I mean, there's so you know, there's so Connect interconnected in many ways, but you know, read his script, you kind of know what he wants from that character.

Alex Ferrari 11:34
Now, when you were, you know, you're hustling as an actor. And then you're writing some screenplays, I'm assuming you haven't written Lethal Weapon seven at this point, you've gone past that. I would write that I was about to say, I would enjoy having you writes. That would be interesting to say the least. But so you start writing. Can you tell me a little bit about how stronger came to be?

John Pollono 11:58
Yeah. So you know, smaller repair at that time as a play was like my writing sample, you know, what they used to get you in the door. And I had just signed with CAA. And they were like, you know, I had written some screenplays. And at that point, I had had some legit screenwriting jobs, but the door wasn't sort of kicked open, so stronger. I had known the Mandeville guys especially this guy, Alex young Todd Lieberman producers over there. They were familiar with my work, I had had enough plays going on that they got to know you, you know, you have a general meeting. And you say, hey, look, you know, I have a play running with you. We want to check it out. So they go see it. So they were like, especially Alex, who was the junior sort of producer at the time, he kind of knew my voice and he was looking for something so stronger came by the book sample they had hadn't been published yet. They were trying to find a writer. It was a it was a really, fortuitous situation. Because just coincidentally, one of my favorite all time screenwriters, Scott silver was a producer on it. And his role was he was going to they were going to hire somebody a little more junior. And Scott was going to kind of, as sometimes happens in these things to kind of oversee it. Like, we like this guy's voice. He's never necessarily written a studio movie of this size, we're going to kind of help mentor him a little bit, which Scott does a lot. And he's amazing at that. So, you know, look, I grew up 20 minutes from where the characters take place. So, you know, I think it was a shoo in and enough of my plays, which had taken place in that sort of those neighborhoods. It was just a really good fit. So I read the book, I had my take on it. And then, you know, I came up with my pitch. And I had never done that quite thing before. But like, these guys were incredible. You know, we sold it to Lionsgate and then, you know, I spent a ton of time with, with Jeff Bowman and his friends and everything. And then you know, and then I wrote it, and then I wrote a first draft that I think really captured, like the rough, scruffy heart of the story that it ends up being and, and then you know, working close with the producers, and more importantly with Scott relief, saying, Okay, well, this is, you know, this seems working, this is not so, structure theme, really nailing down on that writing, writing, writing, and then eventually, you know, it just kind of clicked and it became, you know, that script then being on the blacklist and all that stuff, even before the movie was produced. That script made a big enough splash. I mean, look, sometimes you write a screenplay, and the producer takes it and it's under lock and key. And they they, you know, give it out to a director reading but like, you know, I mean, I have scripts, scripts, I'm certain I've written that maybe, you know, 15 people I've read outside of the company, I wrote it for stronger was one of those that it just went out on the circuit. Interesting. So that's how

Alex Ferrari 14:41
and that's and that's how I got involved with blacklist.

John Pollono 14:44
Yeah, because blacklist is like, you know, Junior execs, assistance, everybody like reading and it was just a caught fire that year. And you know, that he was like I said, before I was made I started to have buzz and people wanted to hire me because they read this script and then like holy shit. And then you know, obviously when you make a movie brings you to a whole nother level. But you know, that's sort of how that that took fire. But just as importantly, from that relationship with Scott, he and I just really clicked and he's from Worcester, Massachusetts. And we've gone on to write a whole bunch of scripts together. And you know, that was as important in terms of my education as being a studio screenwriter is anything is like getting to work with him on all this stuff. And you know, how I like to approach it, how he does, and again, just like working with a director, you kind of cherry pick, I've always tried to be humble and open to that. And, you know, Scott is like, you know, he's one of a kind, and he has his way of doing it. And then when we do it together, so I've really, you know, gotten so much out of that. approach as many of these sort of collaborations as possible.

Alex Ferrari 15:50
Let me ask you, what's the when you were working with Scott, when you were just brought in on stronger? What's the biggest lesson you learned from him as far as either structure or character or approach to the craft? Because you were still, you've been writing for a long time, but this was kind of like you were starting to get into deeper waters here in Hollywood?

John Pollono 16:05
Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, when you write a play, there is, you know, you're, you're in a good way, you're limited by the constraints of theater, right? You know, whereas a movie, you can do anything, you can do exterior, the universe, whatever, there's like too many options. So sometimes, initially, that's intimidating. So theater by nature of it, you're a little bit more contained. I would say the thing that Scott initially, even having written a draft, and knowing like what it's about was the specificity of theme, really being disciplined in being like, he's like, you know, what, what is this about? You know, and using that theme, as sort of a prism to inform the rewrites the structures, what scenes stay, what doesn't like to really be disciplined about about that. And that was something I think I was doing to some extent, subconsciously, some way consciously, but it was always easy to be like, Oh, this is a really cool tangent, which, you know, my whole thing in theater was always like, is it? Is it deepening the character? Is it really funny? Is it thematic? Is it moving the plot? is it doing all those things, but in especially in a film, it's like, really, the economy of making sure it's all cohesive and one vision. And although you may not know, my theme, reading something, or anyone's theme, it's clear when there's sort of an intelligent design behind that, and I felt, maybe that doesn't work for everybody. You know, certainly I grew up listening to, you know, being obsessed with Tarantino and Scorsese and hearing their work process, especially Tarantino saying, like, you know, there's that famous quote he has when he's writing Reservoir Dogs that he's like, Mr. Blonde, took that straight razor out of his thing while I was writing, and he surprised me, I didn't do that. So I still like to create, especially in theater, or I want the characters and situations to surprise me, but it has to be like, let's not go off the reservation. Let's continue saying what we need to say. And that served me very well and continues to,

Alex Ferrari 18:00
I always find it fascinating. And I know, you know, in my own writing over the years, and with with writers I speak to I always, always am fascinated when they say something like Tarantino just said, like, oh, all of a sudden, the, you know, the, and when I was first writing first coming up with stories and things like that, it would be so difficult. I'm like, when when I hear things like that, I'm like, What are you talking about? I don't like they're not talking. These characters aren't? I'm not I'm not just writing down what someone's saying in my head like, and then later, and I don't know what it is that maybe it's being open. Maybe, you know, wherever this magic dust comes in, from our creativity flows through us. I don't know, I opened the door. And all of a sudden, when I did start writing, I was like, oh, oh, I kind of see, I get glimpses of it. I'm not nearly obviously it's as open as Tarantino is, right? I don't think anybody has. But is that kind of the process with you to like, did you? I mean, do you see this actors talk to you?

John Pollono 18:57
Absolutely. I mean, look, I think taking a deep dive in theater, being an actor, being on stage, performing other people's words, my own words, was instrumental in the sort of progression of an artist. So when I write, I know how to write for actors. I know, as an actor, I just know that I know how to, like I'm in the bath water, you know, so you know, there are acceptable characters. And then there are characters that are just servicing the plot. So really sort of interesting analogy when I first started to write plays, for my friends and for you know, my wife, who was a my, my future wife, who was in my acting class, we started a theater company we did this, like theater has brought me pretty much all my core relationships, but you'd be writing something and you know, in the back of your mind, I'm like, Okay, I'm writing this play. Is this character significant enough that I'm going to be able to get my friend to commit to it, work for free, carry equipment around, take work off, do all this shit and If it's not valuable to them as an actor, they're not going to do it. And I found that sort of philosophy works, meaning every character I try to write, you know, sometimes there's like day players, they just got to say a little things, basically extras, but you want them to have some meat, because I know how actors are in terms of give them juicy subtext. And they will bring it to a whole other level. If you don't give them subtext, I don't care how good of an actor there is, they are, they're just gonna invent something or just kind of float. So I do think I specially in my early theatre writing, I would experiment with having characters one way, and then suddenly, yeah, if you write a character who has like, they take a joint out of their pocket, and they start smoking, but they're, you know, but if you set that character up as like a 55 year old, you know, school teacher, whatever, well, that's surprising. But that actor will then stitch that into the entirety of their performance, you know, so you're like, creating these moments that will be organic to it, but it better suit a better damn well suit the story and suit other things, but I like stories in which the characters can continue to surprise me and continue to do things within the reality of what they are. Do you know what I mean? But I like I, I mean, I love how I like my favorite stories have characters where you're a little bit unsure of what are they going to do so so I like building that in and interesting that an actor is going to going to pull it off and have fun pulling it off. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 21:30
right. I mean, Mr. blondes a perfect example of that, like you have no idea where Mr. blondes going. Yeah, it's a great a great, great analogy.

John Pollono 21:37
Well, I mean, look, I I love talentino. But I think Tarantino, I don't necessarily always get the sense, and I'm not shitting on him in any way. But I think his sort of type of movies and it feels like, in a way, only He can do it.

Alex Ferrari 21:52
There's no question. He's just the only thing. Just gonna direct Inglorious Basterds? Like,

John Pollono 21:58
no, I know that. I mean, that's one of my favorite movies. But I don't necessarily get that these his movies have like a theme. In the end along the way of like, where my work is, and where I come from, I don't know if that's dictating him, although I feel deep resonance, and I love his movies and watch them over and over again, because I love the characters and the camerawork, and I get emotionally involved. But whereas if I see like a Scorsese movie, or some other newer directors that I love, like, I really, you know, man, it's, it's so funny. I, I never watched Little Women, the Greta gerwig movie, and my daughter was like, you got to see you got to see it. And I saw it, I was blown away. I was like, I couldn't believe how much I love that movie. I mean, I've watched it multiple times. And, you know, you just never know So, but I watched her movie and I'm like, Oh, she there's clear what she's having to say with this. And it's all cohesive and it all works. And, and again, not that he doesn't do that. But you know, I can I can clearly see a Scorsese movie and say that there's like a dark thematic idea he's working out of it. But you know, whatever, it it's all different. I just think if someone I don't know who else but Tarantino can engage me to that degree without having some sort of more, you know, commentary on the human condition. But but he does,

Alex Ferrari 23:09
but him and he's also just on a whole other level, his own level. And there's just nobody else that that that works the way he does. Like I was, like you were saying like, okay, let's give Nolan Inglorious Basterds, let's give Fincher Django Unchained like that's, I mean, I'd be interested to see those films by the way, I would, surely would be, but they're not. He writes so perfectly. For one I,

John Pollono 23:33
I think, to your point, I think Tarantino's directing starts when he writes, and it's all fluid. So it's not someone taking a script, which, by the way, I mean, I love that process. As a playwright, that's the bread and butter of what playwriting is, is you create something and then you have the the chemical reaction of having a director have their interpretation of that text. That's the beauty of it. Whereas Tarantino, it's like from start to end. It's It's his sort of singular vision, which is really cool. I mean, it's amazing. Everything he does opening night,

Alex Ferrari 24:04
and very few, and very few artists can do it at that level, within a studio system. Like there's not, there's just that there's just not many, that list is very, very short. Now, when you're writing either plays or scripts, do you start with character or plot?

John Pollono 24:21
I mean, or theme? Yeah, no, it depends. I mean, to me, look, honestly, it's different in each situation. Yeah, it's just different in each situation. I think usually, you know, you read that book on writing by Stephen King. Yeah. Such. Yeah, so great. But I think what he said, I think he said, and it's been a while, that clicked so much as he's like, Look, you have this little bubble here, a great idea of a character or a sketch or a scene. And you have this little bubble here and might be a theme and might be this and that and they're kind of all floating around and then suddenly, they click and you're like, holy shit, that's what it is. So to me, it's always been at least two pieces clicking you know, like, first Small Engine Repair it was this I dia of the themes being a father, all that messiness kind of floating there. And then the composites of the character hits all I kind of ragged. And then suddenly they click, and they just stick together. And you're like, Okay, that's it. Now we're off, you know, but all I try to say and try to do is like, if I'm gonna sit there and write about it, it has to be compelling to me, to make it work, to put the time and to really make my work, shine, I have to be compelled by it, I have to be moved deeply by something in it in order to do it. So that's, you know, that's part of that of that whole process. But yeah, sometimes it's Yeah, I think it is like a real interesting character. I mean, certainly with the case of stronger the book was not a great I don't think it was, it was not a deep book. It was he wrote it really quick. It was like an airport book. And in reading that I was like, compelled by what wasn't said, as much as what was said, and knowing the truth of the neighborhoods and talking to him a little bit. I was like, Oh, the story here is like, the subtext of that whole book is what I made that movie about, which is, he feels pressured to be this hero. And we are so much more comfortable when he is in that struggle, that the book is like, hey, rah, rah, everything's good. But then meeting him, you're like, things aren't good. He's really struggling. Let's peel that back. So you know, that was a case of that like an investigative thing. But you know, it's different in every in every situation.

Alex Ferrari 26:33
But now I know a lot of screenwriters listening, dream of being having one of their scripts on blacklist? Can you talk a little bit about what it's like to go down that journey? Because you you kind of skimmed over it a little bit, but like you I think it was number two on the blacklist that year, something like that. Yeah. What is how is the town treat you what was that whole kind of world? And because at that, at that point, you're the belle of the ball. And so many people are,

John Pollono 26:58
you know, look, I when I found out I was in the office with Alex and Todd and and Jake Gyllenhaal and we had Scott silver on the phone, and we were all talking so kind of things were already in motion at that point. And I

Alex Ferrari 27:12
made that project for that project. Yeah,

John Pollono 27:13
just so it was like, I mean, look, I had an early agent. This guy, Ron was the ad Abrams, and he was primarily my theater agent, but he was great. And one thing he said to me a word of advice, which I think is unbelievably difficult to follow. But super healthy. He's like, just be pleasantly surprised when things work out. That's just conduct yourself like, you know, I mean, that's the guy did not I was pleasantly surprised. But look, it didn't change your life. It didn't make things easier. It definitely look I think all of these sort of accolades and stuff. They make things a little easier to do what you want to do but at the end of the day, you're still looking at a blank page, you're still want to create something that you're like you're proud of, and you want to do and those things are nice. I'm always like cautious because if you believe the hype, you also have to believe it when people don't get it and it's a very tricky thing. And you know, I've been doing it long enough to know that things that are trendy or whatever don't that they don't necessarily like you have to believe in a more absolute purpose I think of what is it what is your artistic journey and um, you know, I always go back to punk rock you look at punk rock back then and you're like, you know the shit that you look at and you're like, God Damn, that is like the real deal. Didn't know it's to have those Pat's on the backs then you know what I mean? Like they just didn't mean why was find it funny as I as I started to come and get more serious about film that I would think about, like my favorite movies, my favorite plays, and then you go back and you look and a lot of them got destroyed in either reviews or box office. I mean, look at Shawshank Redemption, it just don't even know. I mean, that's maybe a lot of people's top 10 lists to this day. But to be fair, that

Alex Ferrari 28:57
it's a horrible title. I'd be one of the worst titles of all time, but I don't even know. I don't know what what note Sydney can call that what was it? What was the

John Pollono 29:09
title was Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption? was the name of his like, novella that it was basically Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 29:13
I don't know what I'd call it either. I mean, it's it's a tough thing. But it's like, how do you how do you mark because how do you market that film? Like I didn't even know it's so hard to market it but arguably, what was

John Pollono 29:26
the thing is like, you know, the some of the hardest things to market are that I certainly experienced that a lot with our movie is like, it's tricky. Some things that are super easy to market are not necessarily good. Some things are harder. I mean, that's just the nature of it, and then it comes up and it's there. I mean, you know, this is why, you know, the movies that stand the test of time, they just find their own path, but it doesn't always happen, you know, immediately.

Alex Ferrari 29:49
No, I always love I always love seeing that picture of George Lucas with a T shirt that had a bad review of Star Wars on it. And he just walked out on set with this bad review of Star Wars. Some, I think some guy in variety or something just rip Star Wars apart in 77.

John Pollono 30:04
I mean, you know, I've, it's it's a very complicated thing, the review system may mean, look, I think reviews, reviews exist. I've certainly got some incredible reviews. I've gotten some bad reviews. I've, I've learned from reviews, I've also had been, like, deeply emotionally affected by them. And that's obviously on me. I mean, I think the purpose of reviews is simply like, Hey, this is one person's opinion. Let me see. And by the way, I have reviewers in the theater world that I will read the reviews, and if they love something, I'll be like, I'm not gonna love it, because I know this person's aesthetic. Conversely, if they like shit all over it, I'm like, you know what, there's something going on here. But you know, that's the purpose of it. And you know, God loves people who dedicate their lives to the arts, in any way, shape, or form. But it's just difficult. When you've worked so hard on something to have people. The hardest thing for me is always like, if they don't get it, you don't have to like something. But if they don't get it, you know, I had plays written when I had reviews who were like, they literally didn't get certain plot twists that or machinations to the plot that they didn't get. And that was led to confusion or whatever. And I'm like, I don't know what to do. You know, like, it's there. So those things bother me worse. But you know, what are you gonna do? I don't think I'd ever get a T shirt and wear I mean, maybe if I made Star Wars I would,

Alex Ferrari 31:21
that will again another another person on a very short list.

John Pollono 31:26
Sure enough, my god, did he take a drubbing with those those prequels that he did? I mean that,

Alex Ferrari 31:32
you know, but the funny thing about the prequels is I agree. I don't I don't particularly like them. I enjoy them when I came out. But I was younger. And then I came back and I watched I watched Phantom minutes with my daughter the other day, I'm like, Oh, my God, other than the action sequence with Darth Maul. I mean, it's Yes. It's just not well, I didn't like the way it was written. Forgive me, George. But there's a generation. That's there. Star Wars films.

John Pollono 31:54
No, they love it. I mean, like, the memes are all over the place, they defend it to the end. And, you know, look, man, look, there's a there's a cop, you know, there's a form of art where I don't necessarily subscribe to it. But like, you know, you look at a painting of a stop sign. And people will stare at it for four hours, and it has deep resonance. And it's, that's great. So sometimes the creativity is in is in the reception of it as well as it is in the actual thing. But I just don't think those the prequels were not my favorite Star Wars. And I'm not gonna change my mind on that.

Alex Ferrari 32:27
I mean, we're, we're of similar vintage, sir. So I think we both grew up with the same stuff.

John Pollono 32:34
At so excited, I saw that Ziegfeld theater. I mean, I was so excited to see that I was like, but before the internet really was was going on, like so you read a review in the paper, and the paper was like, Yeah, I don't know about this. And I was like, I don't know what they're talking about. And then you saw it, and you're just like, Huh, okay, this maybe wasn't worth the way but whatever. But like you said, It stood the test of time people thought I have to ask,

Alex Ferrari 32:55
I have to ask you, since you know you enjoy Star Wars, the Mandalorian. I mean, yeah, that's cool, man. They're just they're hitting on all cylinders, man, as well. You know, it

John Pollono 33:04
took me a couple episodes to sort of figure out what it is. And then I was like, Oh, cool. It's kind of like an old 70s spaghetti western, like kung fu type thing. And then I was super, super fun. It's super enjoyable. Yeah, yeah, I really do. I really dig it. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 33:18
Now let's talk about small engine repair, which, you know, tell me how, how, what is it about? And how did it How did it even come to be?

John Pollono 33:26
So small repair started its life as a late night play at a theater company that I was a co founder at, in Los Angeles. And we my wife was a producer of the late night series at that time. And what it was is you have a main stage play. And we had a big like 100 seat theater and then like a 50 seat theater. So in the 50 seat theater, they were doing Sunset Limited with Cormac McCarthy. So to your previous point is how does ideas germinate? So I sat and I watched that play, it was great, it was getting tons of people in there. And the late night plays you just when they walk off, you got to go on, but you need to have a set that can easily function with their set, you need to not reinvent their sort of lighting scheme. Got to make it simple. You know, I mean, I have a lower budget and and you you know, everybody leaves and then you do it. So what that does give you creative licenses to write whatever the hell you want. And to not worry about the pressures of being like a commercial mainstream play. Which theatre especially at that time was always like, the more provocative it was. So we were doing like plays or readings of like Adam Rapp, Sarah Kane, the lebua like really cool, edgy, provocative stuff. So I was looking at the set and I had that like, idea of these characters and sort of the what if scenario for myself was always like, Okay, what if I didn't go to college? What if I stayed and went, you know, became more of the kind of archetypes of some people I knew growing up, you know, in particular, the was like a guy, I had a Harley. And there was a guy who ran a shop at the end of the street on South Willow. And I used to go there and hang out while he do it. And I was just like, oh, that guy's cool. It's like a single set, guy holds chord. He's got his Pitbull on the thing. And he's got the friends keep coming and go, and hey, you want a beer and just doing that. And I was like, Oh, this is a cool set. So then I looked at the current McCarthy's, then I was like, okay, you could turn this into a shot. And, you know, the whole lawn mower kind of thing seemed interesting to me. And then I just started to populate it. And then it was like, thematically what was going on having a daughter, you know, in sort of the environment like you grew up with, to where it's like, you know, what it's like to be like in the tough guy circuit posturing, or whatever, and how you gain status from talking in a certain way. But like how coded that is, but like, I just knew that I've always had a knack for dialogue, and especially that sort of the rhythms of that sort of neighborhood, working class neighborhood. I'm like, I got that. And then well, how do I incorporate what's personal to me, which is like having a foot in both of those worlds, being I consider myself a feminist and having a daughter and being so deeply have the, the, the visceral emotion of that with also knowing I can walk into, you know, the locker room or anything, and I could trade barbs with anybody and talk shit with anybody. And a lot of times, it's about women, and it's misogynistic, sort of the world. So I put those two together and sort of saw the chemicals would go off. And then it was also like, Look, this is the sort of tool set that you have on a play, and again, put up the set, lights come up, do your play, lights go down, like the simpler, the easier it is, so that I knew I was like, I'm going to do a master scene. And I had written other plays that sort of toyed with that formula, I had written a play with a whole second act as one scene and I just really liked that idea of just, you know, drawing the tension out in a one act continuous thing felt that would be very immersive. So that kind of all informed this sort of idea of getting these guys the structure of what it would be, you know, sort of slowly chipping away at an audience's resolve and starting to feel like they're the guys and starting to see through that, you know, the triggering words and start just feeling like you're in a garage, and then have that stuff happen. But and to be you know, the the prerequisite of late night is like, you have to provoke, you have to like, feel something, you don't want to go and sit and watch a play, that just reinforces everything you already believe, like let's emerge from this unsettled or provoked and have a roller coaster. Because it's 1030 people binge drinking, you know, you want to gauge and so all of that stuff was in it. And that sort of birthed the play, which we did very low stakes late night, and it just kind of caught fire. And then it went to mainstage. And it kept moving. You know, Jon bernthal, who was a part of that it was always like, Hey, we're really onto something, sometimes you just have something that in particular, this material. Look, we had a theater lovers there who had seen every play in LA for the past, you know, 20 years, loving it, we had, like, you know, bernthal has a bunch of friends fighters and cops who would sit there never been to a play, and they loved it. So we created this community of you know, gay, straight, you know, working man, you know, working class artists, everything, and it was just great, because everyone was in it and got it, you know, got what the piece was trying to say there. The the the play is in northern movie is written, it's not pandering, it's really like, keep up with us. And you have to use your head to really understand what this is about. At the end of the day. It's like, hit no one's saying the theme. You know, the theme that I was working with, no one sits down and says, Wow, this is a lesson I learned. It's not that, you know, and, and people were getting it and loving it and it kept moving. So john and i were always like, this would be a good movie. Also, as you know, in the independent film world, the more contained your story is, the better it is to keep it at a certain budget. And it was like, Well, shit, that's all it is. And I had to open it up, obviously, to make it a movie. But I tried to be really strategic about that thematic making sure that it's cohesive, but still the majority of the movie, you know, the four weeks we shot three weeks were in the shop, right? And that's where the majority the activity happens. And that keep that kept it, you know, doable. It made it so that we could make the movie for that. So all of the play really informed the movie and that's sort of how it happened. And john and i our relationship and work our careers went and finally having the time and him certainly having the ability to get people really excited to put money into it and you know, make it happen. And then you know, it just kind of clicked we really got lucky until we got incredibly unlucky with the pandemic.

Alex Ferrari 39:46
You're not the only one that's been hit by that, sir.

John Pollono 39:50
People are suffering a lot worse, but I'm just like, and by the way, we were like the pandemic hit and then vertical films bought the film and they're so excited about doing this big theatrical release and we're like awesome because People's masks are off. And then now we're back with a delta. Look, as to what we were saying about before, hey, we made a movie, it's a miracle you put it out, I believe that this movie will find an audience. It just might take longer. And like, I think about myself is like I saw Reservoir Dogs. I didn't see in the movie theater. I caught it on VHS afterwards. And it's like, oh, you know how enjoyable that is? And how many times I watch it. So I mean, I'm hoping for something like that. I just because I mean, I don't know, none of us know, when the movies are gonna come back to normal. Man,

Alex Ferrari 40:31
I don't know, either. I'm looking forward to it. I was able to watch one movie, in that window, where everything is good. And you're like, oh, everyone's back. So everyone could go in. And I watched the movie. I was just like, I'd forgotten. It's been a year since I've been into a movie theater. I was like, oh, man, this is so much fun. And it's the packed house that has everything. And then one.

John Pollono 40:52
Look, man, I'll wear a mask. I'll go to a movie I'll do you know, I'll go see small engine repair in the theater with an audience which is like, you know, that's the hardest thing is like this material is Oh, I've been able to battle tested over and over again with with,

Alex Ferrari 41:05

John Pollono 41:07
You know, man, it's like, it didn't really happen to me until I can have that. So.

Alex Ferrari 41:11
And by the way, john, for my, for my money, one of the best actors working today. He's absolutely remarkable. I mean, I can list off 1000 things that he's done, but I just love his I think that's I think one of the things I liked about both your performance and his in the film is the rawness. there's a there's a, there's a thing about when you have a masculine, like, you know, that and that term, toxic masculinity. But But you know, in the performances, to be a tough guy, but a vulnerable tough guy is not easy. And to pull off both is not easy within within a character and within a performance. And that's what

John Pollono 41:52
No, I mean, that that's him. And I mean, look, I had the advantage of knowing him. And he's one of my closest friends, and really shaping the character in a way that I felt accessed his tool set as an actor in a way, you know, he's played a variety of these characters, but I was like, you can, he can get away with murder, so you could craft his character to be like, his sueno is like, really a study and contradictions in so many things that you say, but uh, beneath at all, john is a human being, but as a performer has a huge heart. And he's tough as hell, and he's got all that stuff. But also, he was fearless in creating this version that sort of subverted a lot of his persona and being, you know, kind of very vulnerable and very sort of submissive in a way that he certainly isn't as a real person, but he has the capacity to do that. I mean, look, that's ultimately, and again, I never want to tell people what the movie is about, I want people to always, you know, come to their own conclusions, but it's certainly a study in I wouldn't even necessarily say toxic masculine, I would say modern masculinity, but in particular, you know, the struggle that we have, like, you can say, coming from a neighborhood where you have your masculine and your feminine, and then you know, and how do those two coexist and really, the movie is looking at the places where they, they bounce up against each other, there's places like I wanted to create, you know, these guys who you wouldn't ordinarily see being so intimate with each other and loving with each other, but then the violence and the undercurrents and just kind of creating a very raw real way now, I love john is one of my favorite actors as well, and but he's like a real guy, like he doesn't have to act or research what that guy is, he has those tool set within him. And it's just effortless. So then you can go a whole other level and start deconstructing it.

Alex Ferrari 43:43
And I don't know if it's the same case in where you came up when you came up from but when I came up in my culture, you know, women, you know, very much East I mean, Latinos are very much east. And you know, and my God, my father was one of the things the first generation that didn't cheat on his on his mom, my grandfather had, like, you know, nomina kids and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. But the women in the side of our, of my family and of all my family throughout my family, close and far, are very strong women, like you didn't disrespect a woman in the family, you might disrespect. You might say some shit about somebody else. And you might say something wrong about the girl around the corner. But you would never disrespect. And so I think that, for me, at least always really guided my path in regards to how I treat women in general because of that, just like you don't do that you were raised not to do that. I was raised by women basically. So I'm yeah, I'm surrounded by women now. Yeah.

John Pollono 44:42
You and I are similar in that sense. And I think that was a saving grace for me is like, you know, I have my sisters and how influential they were to me and not having that, you know, it's funny, man. Later in life. I started to have friends and stuff who had trouble with women and I was like, Oh, wait, you don't have a sister. You know what I mean? Like, I've shared my deepest. See grunts with, uh, with my sisters my whole life. So it was it was very easy to have that that relationship. But you know, and again to back to back up a little bit the play was all men, it was the three guys and then the and then the college guy shows up. And all of the women in the movie were referred to, but they weren't ever seen. So the movie did give a great opportunity in terms of, obviously the power of cinema to punch in on someone's face like Sierra, who's the heart of the movie and the heart of the play her character, even though she's not on stage, it just amplifies all of those emotions that you and I are talking about, where it just further complicates it. And it's not, you know, it's not like a simple cinematic cheat. It's like you they're flesh and blood characters, and they're involved in the in the movie thematically and plot wise, you know, the movie doesn't exist without them. It's not, you know, just lip service. Now, I

Alex Ferrari 45:54
have to ask you the question, man. Sure. Did your first film? So you're directing? You wrote it, and you're acting in it? Are you nuts? Well, it's, it's tough to do one of those things, brother, instead of you did all three?

John Pollono 46:11
Well, look, I mean, here's the truth is, it's hard to take a chunk of time out of your life to pursue a passion project. So to some extent, I was like, if I'm going to do that, I'm going to be all in. Now, I knew I was gonna write in directed, I had played that character, for so long, so many different directors with, you know, Andrew block with Giovanni in New York. And it just, I just understood it inside and out. And I felt this is a very unique once in a lifetime opportunity to play a character whose emotional state mirrors that of a first time director, which is terror, stress, trying to keep all that anger in at any given moment, then I'm on camera, but the character is just manipulating it subtly. The whole fucking movie, he's just pushing it slowly. He's the least flashy of all the things, but he's just sitting there, and he has a check. And he's making sure all the chess pieces click. And that's what it just clicked like that. You know, and I mean, I couldn't have done it without john and Shea. And the key in this particular thing was, I mean, look, it's one of those things, they say that you when you're naive, you you don't realize the challenges ahead. But it was it was very much in having, you know, very, very seasoned producers who had my back. You know, Rick Rosenthal, who's a very seasoned director, Peter has done a bunch of movies, Noah, who was my manager, but he also did that everyone had my back, and the DP and I, Matt Mitchell laying out every single shot. So there were no surprises, we all knew everything ahead of time, and it was all there. And look, in theory, I feel, if you do your pre production really, really well, on the day, you can kind of almost just sit back and let everything click into place. It was all pre production, it was table work, it was knowing every little thing so that in the moment when we had those discoveries. And look, you know how this goes to we didn't have a budget that after every take, we like Frank Darabont did, you know pause it do a playback, look at it, make sure okay, move the briefcase a little bit, that way move that you sent out that time, so you trust your dp that it's going to look good. And then like, instead of doing that, let's just roll again, these are, these are, you know, the best actors that you could get, you know, so then create a system around it, where they can really do their thing. And that's, it was all around that apparatus. So I mean, look, I and again, the script was my direction, like, here's what it is. And look, we improvise, we found a lot of new stuff. But we kept going back to that, that roadmap and all those things and discovering stuff. So it's terrifying as it was, I knew I had done so much prep, that it just sort of had a life of its own and it kind of, you know, it was just happening before my eyes and you can feel it when you're there. This is the muscles you learn in theatre. When you're on stage with someone and something is happening. You can't deny that the air changes. So I just kind of looked for that. And if it felt that way, in the moment, even if I'm on camera or whatever, then I'm like okay, we have captured something is the story beat or whatever. Let's just keep going. And then look, the Edit was an embarrassment of riches. We had the performances when there was nothing, you never had to like, edit around the performance. It was like it was all there. Oh, I'm gonna give him

Alex Ferrari 49:35
Oh, no, I've had that. I've had the pleasure of directing newbie actors and Oscar winning actors and in between the two men. I take the the seasoned actors everyday because if they make your life so easy, a good actor, it just like you don't even as a director just makes you look good as a director when you have that kind of talent in front of the lens and you're not forcing and pulling and tugging. Perform? Well, look,

John Pollono 50:00
I think I think just some great advice I got early on, which is like, hire the best and then get out of the way. And I think that's accurate for, you know, I'm here to support and I would talk and you have character, you have actors like Shea whigham, who's brilliant. And, you know, we sat at the table for months really answering questions and working through it. And then you had, you know, actors like Sierra, who I met a couple of times, we worked a lot talked, and then she showed up, and she had it all worked on, and it was just little adjustments, but I'm not a control freak, I like want to create, which again, I learned a lot of working with David Gordon green and sort of shadowing him on stronger. It's like, he sets the table. And then he lets you go. And it's like, it's it's invigorating, making a movie with him. And I wanted to create that. I mean, we worked our asses off, but everyone was empowered. It's like, every single person contributed to that project, everyone who was there, and, and it was just sort of a communal art project.

Alex Ferrari 50:54
You know, now there's, you know, when when someone's on, when a director is on a project, there's always that one day, at least for me, I'm not sure if it's for you. But that day that everything feels like it's falling apart that like, Oh, my God, this, I don't know, if I'm gonna make it over this day or something happened, what was the toughest day in the production for you? And what did you learn? And what did you learn from it? Well,

John Pollono 51:18
great, great question. So I would say there were a couple of dark moments. That you're just like, the hole opens up on the floor, and you're like, holy shit. And I mean, what it taught me was just take a deep breath, and you'll get through. So I'll tell you one example that ended out being a gift. And then I'll tell you one example, which was a massive challenge. And we had to make it work. So the gift was the opening scene of the movie, or you saw the movie? I'm assuming?

Alex Ferrari 51:46
I have not. I've not yet I didn't get a chance to see it yet. I'm dying to see it. I'm dying to see it.

John Pollono 51:50
No worries, you'll, you'll follow up, let me know what you think afterwards. So the opening scene, as it was constructed, was the sort of no dialogue version that we cut out. So it sort of takes place slightly in the past. So most of the movie takes place in the shop. So we dress the shop to be like it's for sale. It's like the first day at the shop. Frank, the character I play comes back. He's served a couple of days in prison for fighting, you know, his daughters. He hasn't seen his daughter in a little video and seen his friends. He shows up in the front, he's kind of cut up, he's gonna cast it's like telling all the story like no dialogue. And we have the dolly shot, and we had to move it in this cinematic and move it around. And it was a very one of the three or four just really complicated cinematic shots that wasn't necessarily about the acting, it was about the shot, the fluidity, like maybe the credits come in, and all that stuff, like really, like storyboarded mapped out, which we did on like, two things. And, you know, we have the dolly tracks, we have the extra crew, we had all that stuff. And again, the art department dressed the outside of the shop on that day. So like, we can't shoot anything else until that stuff is stripped. And it was, you know, john Byrne fall and Shea whigham show up. And the the younger vert, the four year old version of the crystal character who Sierra plays, is played by John's daughter, Addie, who I know. But, you know, I know we're pretty well known her through the years, but she's there with her dad, and they want to come up, put her down, she runs up to my character, we hug. Look at everybody, and we're like we're going to do and it's like setting up the story. So it's supposed to snow, but not till about one o'clock. So they shot my coverage with the dolly or whatever, coming out of the truck and doing all that stuff. And then they turn it around and it starts to snow. And it's like early, but you're like okay, we can make it work. Dude, it started to snow is strong. As you can imagine, to the point that you can't go in a dolly, they're covered. You can't keep sweeping it. So we lost the dolly. And then the equipment started effect and you're like, holy shit, what are we going to do? And then we did one reverse take with with Addy. And she's freezing when she comes to me because she knows me but she's like, I don't want to go to this asshole is I'm gonna go with my dad. I'm cold. She's four. And you're like Jesus. So that was a dark moment. Because what are you going to do? So then, in the moment, you know, we the priests gather around? What footage do we have? What do we need to retake? and john was like, working on it. And it became like, what moment are we have like, don't invent it. Don't deny it. Let's see what happens. So we have maybe two more takes as the snow was gathering before the equipment was damaged. She comes up, you know, my character Frank reaches out for her and she's gonna go to me. She's like, I want to stay with my dad. I don't want to do it. So I get her and it's heartbreaking. She's crying. She goes back to that. And then I'm like, just being emotive about like, I'm feeling we're all feeling that stress and the tension of it. And then at the end of the day, it's like, you know, Hey, stay with him. It's okay, honey. We did. So we shot you know, without our sort of choreograph, we shot a whole bunch of angles, and we did it and we had it in the can and I was like, Alright, either we're just gonna start later. And I when we were in the house, I shot some pickup stuff, but it's So we had all that footage and like, what is it, it's not going to be what I thought it was. It's not what it was in the script. But it ended up being a gift because now we created the sequence that opens it where my character gets out of jail, he sees his daughter, he reaches out for her, and she hasn't seen him in a little bit. So she's like, Who is this guy, she's upset. And she goes to john, who's the, you know, the surrogate uncle and the other one and into Shay. And then my characters dis distraught by it, and then we go into the shop, and we used like, 90% of the footage that we shot, the editors put together a beautiful, heartbreaking sequence that was darker, and and less fun, but it was so much more deeply resonant thematically, that it informed the whole movie and it it made the movie darker and more beautiful and tougher and way harder. And like I said that was a gift because all of everything feeling on that in the in Addy field she's like, fortunate what's going on all of that tension,

Alex Ferrari 56:01
right on the screen.

John Pollono 56:02
And when you think about that, when you see it, and and how again, that was a you know, it's tough to find every little make sure we had coverage and everything. And we had to digitally add snow on like one shot or whatever, to make it all match. But it's like, I'm like, I can't believe we had that gift.

Alex Ferrari 56:18
Yeah, so that was the that was the gift. What was the Oh my god.

John Pollono 56:22
Well, the the the hardest day without a doubt was the day we shot at a big bar fight. And the our fight choreographers were the coordinator was Eric Linden, who did the Punisher all the fights. The Mark is a big Marvel guy, like he's doubles as Captain American shit, like he is the man. And obviously he knows john. And you know, John's, that kind of guy that everything he works on people, like I'll do anything you work for, because he is that guy. He's so real and amazing. I mean, that's how I, you know, got to know. And so share the script with Eric was like, hey, you're gonna do this, but he was like, hell yeah. And you know, a lot of the Marvel choreography, which is super fun to watch, it's like it. It's not porn, but it's like, pause the story. Let's do this kick ass, exciting fight sequence. Sometimes it moves the plot, sometimes it doesn't. It's thrilling. And it's its own specific thing. This was like, the fights and the violence have to fit thematically and in the tone, and in the world of it. And he was really eager about that challenge. But we had a lot to shoot in that bar. And then this fight, and it was chaotic. And, you know, the DP hadn't really shot a fight scene to that extent. And then we ended up having to reinvent a lot of stuff. And it was, you know, but the guys, we were beating up, I mean, you have john who was an expert at that, I mean, I'd done some of that stuff, but not to that extent, Shea was really comfortable with it. But the, the the the stuff, man, we had were like, you know, just hit me like pretty much just like just really do it. They're all padded up. So we just beat the shit out of each other quite a bit. And it was like, shooting from this angle from this angle. And it was the terror of I don't know, like, unlike other things, you have to get enough coverage on those physical things. Otherwise, they're just not going to cut. Right. Right. So it was chaotic. We shot which I think Eric Linden was like, Alright, here's the solution. Let's shoot one master tracking, that's all the right angles. And and then once you have that, and it took a lot, we're eating time getting that one. But once you have that you can always cut back and forth to it. So this was all like new information and like my plan and with the DP, like all that stuff. It was like, What are you going to do? Like, you can't This is the only day we have on this set. And so we just shot it. And you know, I was terrified the whole time. And having to be physical and doing all that stuff. And I mean, the fight is incredible on I mean, like, I'm blown away about how good it looks, because it has all that shit. But on that day, I mean, I was like, why do I make this movie? What am I doing?

Alex Ferrari 58:59
What am I playing here? I was.

John Pollono 59:03
I literally was like, there's a hole opened up behind me and I'm like sinking and I like what am I doing? I'm sweating in the back of it. Like, this is a disaster. Yeah, but that was the that was the most sort of terrifying moment of me just because it was all of the things clicking together. You had all the extras you had all this stuff. And then I forgot what happened. Like there was a big bus of extras that weren't there on time or something. I mean, it was just like all the problems happening at once.

Alex Ferrari 59:27
Hey, no, no, that's in Martin Martin Scorsese says it very best because if you look at your film, and you don't think it's an absolute disaster, you're not doing something right. There's always a moment there's always a moment that you're like this is a fiasco I'll never work in this I'll never work again. This is the last time you get you get that you get that feeling I had a fight sequence a fight sequences are I mean, unless you're Michael Bay, or or Tony Scott, cameras and money to shoot over 100 cameras in a giant transforming robot. That's a whole other conversation. Yeah, but we I was shooting a fight sequence one day and I had the greatest stunt team and from Kill Bill in the matrix and this insane stunt coordinator from 24. And they they've been working on this fight sequence. And I just but the team I had a couldn't catch up on the day on the on the I was just I was getting my pages. So when we finally got to the fight sequence, they had wirework setup. They had wire work setup, they had rigging setup, and they're like, I'm like, we got to rework this man, we got sorry, we can't, we don't have time for the rigging. So and they, they rework the entire fight sequence just from like, we got two hours, what can we do in two hours?

John Pollono 1:00:36
And did you lose your mind? Or do you just take a deep breath? Or do you Kevin?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:40
No, I know that whole shoot that whole shoot, I lost my mind because the weirdness about that film was that I had some amazing talent, probably some of the best time I've ever worked with. And it was like, the first thing I'd done in Hollywood really, with like, some amazing technicians, some really accomplished actors. And then the support team was not accomplished. And that was the thing so the support team did not stay up at the same level as the rest of them. So the head was great, but the rest of the team wasn't

John Pollono 1:01:13
I mean, isn't it remarkable how it's like you know, it's that analogy they say it's like a it's like a stereo equipment your your stereo is only as good as its weakest component. And I mean, I feel beyond blast at everybody I had but you're like, in retrospect, you're like, wow, with that one? Oh, he's, oh, you're screwed. Meryl Streep there but if your ad sucks, like you're screwed,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:35
I did a whole movie where my audio guy saved me my location audio guys. He was like, it was a completely on location all the time actors running around. In public we were doing kind of like this, you know, let's just running around and kept you know, capturing stuff. And everyone's like, I don't know how the sounds gonna be on like, I here's a here it's fine. I got into post my post sound guys like Who the hell was your location sound guy? Like, Oh, no, you were in the snow. You had 50,000 people running around and all this stuff and it sounds crystal clear man.

John Pollono 1:02:08
And meanwhile on the day everyone's furious at the sound guy cuz he's like way do all this like there's always Oh, it's we had an incredible Wow, just like you but so often people like would be like, waiting on waiting on sound playing like fuck it. You can't make it you know? I mean, and it's waiting on sound. Oh, you're like, Dear God, you say big.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:28
Thank God. He did what he did because it just without it. There's no movie. So it's

John Pollono 1:02:32

Alex Ferrari 1:02:33
it's it's fascinating, man. Um, now I have to ask you. You're working on the new Hulk Hogan movie. Right? Yes. With with Todd Phillips. Is there any spot? Silver's right. Is there anything you can say about it? Cuz I'm a huge fan. And I can't wait to see it.

John Pollono 1:02:49
I definitely can't say stuff on the air. I'm like terrified to I've never I've never worked on anything that was so under lock and key.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:57
How's it how's it off? Okay. All right. Sorry, guys off off air. But, but how's it working with Todd and these great, you know,

John Pollono 1:03:05
I had met him you know, as like a general meeting years ago. And I was like, Oh my god, like we talked. We talked for like an hour. And then his next meeting didn't show up. We just hung out twice. And I was just like, He's such a cool guy. Like, he's so easy to talk to. Very disarming. Just like a cool dude. Like, I mean, you'd love that guy. And then you know, working with him on this now Tom Scott had made the Joker with him Joker movie with him. Obviously, so you can see the kind of people I get to work with, which is so awesome. Yeah. So the guys are obviously have a great you know, shorthand a working relationship. So when, when I'm in the room with the two of them, first of all, it's funny watching them bust each other's balls, but like, you know, because Scott and I have a certain dynamic and then when Todd comes in, it's like, all different. It's really fun. But he's great man. He's a fearless. He's like an artist. He's like, got really, really smart notes. And, you know, Scott's super smart. It's just, it's, you know, this is what I always wanted was to work with people who like really lift you up in your game and help you do things, you know, bring out the best in you. And, you know, I can't speak highly enough about those two guys. And you know, I'm really excited to make that movie and I think it's gonna be awesome.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:17
And it's someone Chris Wright.

John Pollono 1:04:20
really hung out with him. I only hear him through the through the grapevine of every you know, everybody else but I'm a huge fan of Chris Hemsworth. I mean, he's like, just having him in my head as you write called Cogan dialogue is just really fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:31
I cannot I'm just I'm a huge help. I mean, I was a wrestling fan and all that stuff. And as you will love the movie, I can't wait. I cannot wait. I'm gonna ask the last two questions. I asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

John Pollono 1:04:50
Well, I think, Wow, that's a deep question. I think the thing that that took me the longest to learn was to because of the way I was raised And where I came from, I think it was having enough confidence to say and do what I wanted. And to not look too outward permission to do what I wanted to do. And as an artist, primarily, I mean, I've, I, like you were talking about is like, I'm really blessed that I've had some really caring people in my life, whether it was the teacher when you needed it. And I mean, quite profoundly, was when I met my wife in that acting class. And I, she's such an incredible actress, she's actually in the movie. And she was just like, sitting down with her. And having her breakdown my early plays in doing it, it was like, do you should do this, like, you're really good at this, it was like I am, you know what I mean? And then have that at that moment in my life, you know, when when you're you don't and then like I said, my biggest regret was always not figuring out earlier to be like, this is, this is what I want to do. And I don't care if you get it or not, I get it, you know what I mean? And then and then do it and, and being comfortable with being vulnerable like that. And, look, it's still not completely easy. I'm putting out this movie, it's the first thing I made. It's, it's, it's latching into all of those things I've worked so hard to get past and you just got to be healthy about it. But you have to find that, that strength to just, you know, be confident enough in who you are.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:19
Very cool. Time, it's still a work in progress. We are all a work in progress. And this is for you. I would like to ask what are three screenplays that every screenwriter and filmmaker should read?

John Pollono 1:06:32
Wow. That's a good really good question. I think one of my favorite screenplays is Chinatown. I think just in terms of being a classically structured, incredible thing. That's so resonant. I love that. I would say the fighter, the original draft, Scotts original draft, which is different than the movie has an entirely different first act. It's such a joy to read. And it's really interesting to read that and then see the movie and see what they kept in and what they change. What what how much that would have changed. It's like a masterclass and that I mean, I think his script would have been equally as brilliant, if not, maybe better, but the movie they had and seeing that I think that that's, that's phenomenal. And then the third, you know, one, look, it sounds corny, but I took that Robert McKee class when I was in my 20s I just had him

Alex Ferrari 1:07:22
on, I just had him on the show. No, I

John Pollono 1:07:24
mean, I picked up at the airport and drove him I like got to because I was there for some Film Festival and we chatted and I was like, fuck is this guy. And, you know, so much of his stuff was like so resonant, but when he really broke down Casa Blanca, you know, I mean, I was like, Oh my god, I had no idea. And reading that screenplay and seeing that movie in also having the Robert McKee sort of book to follow through. That was like a masterclass for me to do that. So I would say those three in terms of my personal like growth as a writer, or were very, very influential scripts,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:00
and when and where can people see small engine repair?

John Pollono 1:08:04
So it comes out in theaters in September 10 and then it's on video on demand and I think early October

Alex Ferrari 1:08:14
Okay, cool. So it'll be it'll be available everywhere

John Pollono 1:08:18
the video on demand Yes, like you know, I guess you know, Apple and all that stuff. I've never really gone through this process but it's like you know, Amazon whatever wherever you get video on demand. Got it there really will be everywhere, which is I mean, I watch a lot more video on demand now obviously. Yeah, but uh and I would just say with the movie to people who your listeners and stuff which sounds like you have a really cool film fans is like you know, try to see it with a group of people that's how it was intended to be it'd be really fun to see it with that and everyone's different reactions and stuff like that. It's definitely a roller coaster I think the movie is more in line of like we're talking about you know, those films that like a Reservoir Dogs or Goodfellas or something you saw and it had that tension that humor but you really enjoyed seeing it with with

Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
people. Gentlemen, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you brother. I wish you continued success on your on your Hollywood journey and storytelling journey, man. So thank you again for making this film and for doing what you do, brother Thank you.

John Pollono 1:09:15
Alright, thanks man you to keep at it and I look forward to the next time.

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BPS 373: Cinematography for Directors with Jacqueline B. Frost

Cinematographers are really the directors of images while directors are the authors of the performances. Evidently, the collaboration between these two important persons on set with a shared vision and respect influences the work environment and (the ultimate result) the film, a great deal. 

We’re inspired this week by cinematographer, and author, Jacqueline B. Frost’s book, Cinematography For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration.

She compiled her 30+ expertise in cinematography and production into this book. Its 2nd edition was published in March 2020. The book is a handbook for directors and aspiring filmmakers who want to get the best visuals for their films while establishing a collaborative relationship with their cinematographer. Through interviews with current ASC cinematographers, and a balance between technical, aesthetic, and historical context, this book guides the director into a powerful collaboration with their closest on-set ally. Topics include selecting a cinematographer, collectively discussing the script, choosing an appropriate visual style for a film, color palette, film, and digital formats, lenses, camera movement, genres, and postproduction processes―including the digital intermediate (DI). Interwoven are quotes from working ASC cinematographers.

From my own experience directing and working cinematography a few times, it is no secret that the relationship between a director and his cinematographer must be intuitive and non-contradicting. A quick sit down to break down the script, vision and general approach makes the work way easier for every party. 

Frost’s background in fine arts, photography, and cinematography— merged, has made it easier for her to spot the crevices in approaches or the lack thereof pertaining to DP, and head of images that have been the detriment of many projects.

Cinematography for her is a long-time love of the image and the endless learning process that was ignited when she pursued her graduate degree. To date, she’s taught cinematography, film, and documentary production at UCLA and through shorter courses and produced over 20 feature films and documentaries. 

We cover several themes from Frost’s book including what directors need to know about aesthetics of lenses, focal length, and its depth of field. 

Our conversation was definitely like a mini masterclass on cinematography and Jacqueline was a goldmine of knowledge.

Enjoy my conversation with Jacqueline B. Frost.

Right-click here to download the MP3


  • Jacqueline B. Frost – IMDB
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  • Cinematography For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration – Amazon


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Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show Jackie Frost. How are you doing, Jackie?

Jacqueline B. Frost 0:18
I'm good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:19
I'm very good. Thank you so much for being on the show. We're going to talk about today, I wanted to have you on the show because of your book cinematography, for directors and I, as I was saying to you, before we started recording, I've been as a cinematographer, which I do not consider myself a cinematographer, but I have a little feature film. So arguably, I've you know, not well, but apparently made, made it, I sold it. So apparently I did something, okay. Yeah, there was an image, it looked clean, all that kind of good stuff. And I've been a director for most of my career. So I've worked with good cinematographers, or with bad cinematographers. And I really think that a lot of especially young up and coming directors, don't understand the relationship don't understand the, the nuance of that religious, how important it is, how to collaborate, all these kind of things. But we're going to get into the weeds about all of this. But before we get started, how did you get started in the business?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:13
Um, well, it goes back quite a ways right now. But I mean, when I was an undergrad studying, photography, Fine Arts, I was really into, you know, art history, I was into photography. And then I took a film history course. And that just opened up a whole nother chapter of my life. My professor actually said, You are really good at this. And you have a knack for it as Okay, so I pursued studies in film production after that. And because I already had a background in photography, when I did get to grad school, I could shoot better than most of the people there. So suddenly, I'm shooting like everybody's film. So I realized I really liked the creation of the image, um, cut back CUT TO 30 years later, I still love the creation of the image, I realized that cinematography is an endless learning process is because I, of course, learned in 16 millimeter film of black and white reversal. Then I went to color reversal, I was so excited, I finally got to color negative, I thought I'd hit the big time, you know, going from 16, to Super 16 to 35 was like, wow, you know, but then everything changed, of course. So I've also been an educator in the field of cinematography, and film production and documentary production, and you name it as some studies courses as well, for a good portion of my career. So I shoot I teach. And basically, my background from the fine arts and photography, and cinematography, all merged into something that was highly relatable to many other cinematographers. And something that it seemed filled a void between the director and the cinematographer. So that in a nutshell, that's 30 years or so.

Alex Ferrari 2:58
So, in a nutshell, I gotcha. So yeah, that's and again, that relationship is so so so so important. Especially when you're when you're because like I said, I've worked with good, good DPS. I've worked with horrible DPS. Isn't it true, though? Isn't it true that all you need to be to be a dp is you just need to buy a camera, right? That's just the way it works. Right? If you buy a red camera, you're automatically cinematographer? Isn't that the way it works?

Jacqueline B. Frost 3:22
Oh, yeah, sure.

Alex Ferrari 3:26
No, that was my, that was my biggest frustration coming up. Because you know, you would, when I didn't know any better, you'd hire people because of their gear. And not because of their talent. And that is one of the biggest mistakes as a director, well, they have a grip truck, and they've got to read or they got an Alexa, they must know what they're doing. No. What's your experience,

Jacqueline B. Frost 3:47
Not thoroughly the case. And you know, obviously, not all cinematographers. And I learned this a long way to own their own gear, because, you know, it's what they do with the gear, not having the stuff. Well, I got a whole bunch of stuff. I don't know how to use it. You know, it's not like that. It's like, what do I do with this? Okay, you can give me any camera. Just give me a little manual. I'll figure it out. Okay. It's about what you do with that camera. You know, so

Alex Ferrari 4:15
yeah, no, there's no question. And I think that in the in the olden days, back in the day when I was coming up in the 90s 80s, early 2000s, even you could buy a film camera, and that film camera will hold you for a decade. comfortably like you. You had an S r three. Yes, if you had an S or three s or two. As our three just had a couple of bells and whistles, that's all it was. Is it for everyone listening that's a an airy six Super 16 millimeter camera. That's the one I that did my film project in college with. I got the SRP, by the way never saw an sRGB again, in the field was only a start because it was expensive to have another three, but you could own that camera and it would hold nowadays. Every week there's a new camera every week there's a new K, there's new technology constantly constantly coming out. So it doesn't make sense for some photographers to own their own gear unless they can, they can turn it over pretty quickly or it's a per project like this project gonna pay for this camera, something along those lines,

Jacqueline B. Frost 5:17
or they rent out there gear as a side gig. But I mean for independent filmmakers or students coming out of film school or whatever. I mean, there's so many really good prosumer cameras now that can make nice films with and you know, way that we never there you go.

Alex Ferrari 5:34
See I'm holding up my iPhone 12 Max, whatever, I just, I did exactly. This, this blend these lenses. I mean, look, it's not professional, but even if you had some adapt, if you could just adapt it a little bit, put an adapter on it. I mean, Steven Soderbergh doing some insane stuff with the iPhone. I mean, it's pretty remarkable. Again, it's not about the gear, it's about the person behind the lens.

Jacqueline B. Frost 5:55
Yes, yes. And in No, during the COVID times that we've teaching, cinematography and stuff. I was doing it online, but they were still doing projects, and we'd meet and screen them. But, you know, sometimes they were like, Can I use my phone? I'm like, Well, okay, let's see how it goes. You know, some had DSLRs. And they could work with that, you know, the differences, though, you don't really have the lens variants that you have a real camera, you know, which make a difference. And you can buy, you know, a variety of 5000 $10,000 prosumer gear, that's pretty awesome.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
And even, I mean, you could buy a Blackmagic 6k for 20 $500. Get yourself a nice sigma lens and 18 to 35 photo lens. I shot a feature, I've shot two features with that lens. Yeah, it's fine. It's prosumer it's definitely not, you know, the high end glass of cinematography, you know, you know, like, I've shot with Zeiss. I've shot with cooks and things. And you feel the difference when you have like an engine. You

Jacqueline B. Frost 6:56
know, the difference when you start, I recently did a workshop for an MFA cinematography thesis project. And it was we had cook lenses on through and we had an the cook guy came in to do the demo. I was like, Oh my God. I mean, it's just like Richard kura said to me many years ago, he goes, You shoot anamorphic the camera could fall off the truck, and you got a beautiful image. So that's so true. Because I could see it. I can see it in the macro. The glass, the macro was unbelievable. I could see it in the anamorphic widescreen it was just so beautiful. Even on the Zeiss is a beautiful two. Oh, no. Camera, it's about the lens.

Alex Ferrari 7:32
Yeah, and that's the thing. If you are if you're a director or cinematographer listening, the only thing you should invest in is class because class doesn't go away. I mean, as long as it's a night, you know, glasses, glass, the gear the camera is going to change is changing as we speak. And all of that stuff, but the glasses where the investment lies because I love vintage. I love vintage glass. I'd love old glasses that cuts down the it cuts down the sharpness of like a red. You know, you get a nice 5060 year old piece of glass. What was the not the the one the Oh God, the one that Oh, the I can't remember better French glass set. And then there was an ASC cinematographer who pulled it out of obscurity shot him about but I can't remember that boo, belay boo, boo boo, something it bolts bolts. Well, it's ours. Yes, the bolts are set. Yes, the bolt the super bolts, the Super Bowl tires. I've shot with Super Bowl tires. Oh, stonor red, stunning. And they're old, old glass. But anyway, we can start geeking out we got to stop this. Let's actually talk about what what? Because this is what happens when I start talking lenses. I start geeking out a bit. But for the director and the cinematographer, how do you how would you recommend that collaboration? begin? How How should a draw an ideal scenario between a director and cinematographer?

Jacqueline B. Frost 8:52
Well, there's a lot of different ways that people come together but from the 30. So interviews I've conducted over the years, the consistent theme seems to be you need to have somebody that you intuitively connect with somebody who you feel comfortable with somebody who you trust understands your vision. You may have similar tastes, you may have a similar background. I'll use an example of Matthew leba, teak. And he talked about working with Darren Aronofsky. And he said, We come from the same place. We like the same music. We like the sameness and so we could work together instantly. That's a shortcut that really makes a big difference. And when you really trust your dp, you like your dp, they're the person that you know, you lean on when you start to flake out as a director and you're like all over the place. Wait a minute, look, your dp and they'll be like, remember we talked about? Oh, yeah, you know, so it's somebody who shares your vision and doesn't contradict you, especially if so, the first comes with an intuitive meaning. It comes also for looking at each other's work and respecting each other again, Using MADI as a reference, he admires and respects the directors he's worked with. He really likes that sense of collaboration and many DPS Rodrigo as well. They like to share that vision what they have and feel like I have something that I can share with your vision and bring to this project to make it even better. You know, and that's really where it comes down to just you know, that meeting, you don't come in and, and geek out. That's that's the meeting you don't have with a director, you know, what I was carrying when I got this lens, and I got it was cool stuff. And then enough, first of all, it's like, Okay, well, what what do you What's your vision? How do you see your film? You know, what is the theme? You know, how, what does it look like in your mind? You know, because that color palette is part of the conversation. Well, and then the next step might be okay, read the script, what do you feel about the script, and still, it's thematic, you know, they talk about thematic things, then, okay, let's talk about visual references. You bring the years, I'll bring you mind, let's see whether we're on the same page in terms of what this film looks like, feels like, you know, as a director, you can say, Well, look at these three films, I'm thinking about something like this coffee table book, or this particular artist. And the DP will say, oh, okay, I see where you're going. Also, Hey, how about their golden photography? And how about this? And how about that, you know, and you start to share a vision. And that also would come in the discussion of color palette, depending on the genre of the film. And then from there, it's like, okay, we know where we're going now. And now the cinematographer will visually interpret the script where the director will go ahead and focus on shots, angles, composition, framing, as well as working with their actors, you know, and that's really the coming together.

Alex Ferrari 11:40
So, and I know a lot of directors, young directors, full of vigor. As I was, when I was a younger, younger man, I had all these illusions of shooting, you know, getting all my storyboards out getting my shots down. And you do and you could do create that. But as I've gotten older and gone through this, leaning on the eye of a cinematographer, especially when you respect them, like, Look, I'm thinking about shooting it this way. What do you think? and the like, you know what, this would be a great wonder, okay, how do we, okay, that's gonna cut off about an hour and a half of setup times. Let's see how we can do that. And how interesting it is. Leaning on that cinematographer. I found to be, especially one that I trust is invaluable, because I have ideas. And of course, I'm going to come in with shot ideas. And because I'm a cinephile, and and he or she will as well. But, but I think a lot of times filmmakers feel younger filmmakers feel that it's my way or the highway, and they block off that collaboration, because it's ego or its insecurity, or, you know, their fear of like, you know, oh, he's gonna take it away from me, or she's gonna take the movie away from me, because they're running the camera, and there's so much of that stuff going on. Have you found that as well?

Jacqueline B. Frost 12:56
Well, I definitely advise against that. And, and I mean, I've taught directing, and I've taught cinematography, and I taught cinematography, for directors at UCLA extension. And, you know, I definitely say it is best for director not to be a tyrant, and to open their mind, you know, to not say this is just mine, but I'm open to collaboration. And the cinematographer and the production designer, those people, they're there to really serve your vision and to help pull it out of your head and put it on the screen. So to not use them as a resource is, as I think, really problematic for a director because they can make your film so much better.

Alex Ferrari 13:37
No, without question. Now, one thing I always love. Asking a cinematographer is how they want to break down the script. How should a director and as a photographer, sit down and break down a script, approach the script in general?

Jacqueline B. Frost 13:52
Well, there's different ways people like to work. I was fortunate enough to speak with Roger Deakins, a few years ago. And you know, he works with the Coen Brothers a lot, of course, you know, they storyboard and sometimes he'll work with them, and sometimes not, you know, it's not like you have to sit down with them. For him. He trusts in what they do, but he'll glance at what they have. Okay, I see what you want. They'll bring his perspective as well. Rodrigo preeto talked about working with Ang Lee and he was a little bit more precise about the way he wanted things, what lens he wanted. metaleptic loves to sit down and get in and work with, you know, help storyboard or shot list or break down the script, Ellen chorus, she'd like to just take the director sequester them for a week and really pull out of their head what it is they want. So she's really clear on cymatics. And she definitely has a more theoretical perspective to it as well. So you know, some people they just what a cinematographer wants is to be a collaborator. They want to be a collaborator. They don't want to be just Is the technician creating an want to help put their take into it as well. And so being pulled in in the beginning is important.

Alex Ferrari 15:10
Yeah. And I think a lot of times I, the way I always like to collaborate with cinematographers is the shots and the ideas, we work it out together, we work the shot list out together, but the lighting is all them, you know, it should be all them. And that's where this Can't you said this word a few times already in our composition theme. theme is extremely powerful, because you look at a movie like the last emperor, which is just stunning, stunningly shot, anything, Deakins is ever shot, you start looking and you start seeing the theme, through light, through composition to a certain extent, but there's definitely there. But the light and the lens choices are really what create the aesthetic of that theme is that your feeling as well.

Jacqueline B. Frost 15:56
That definitely helps to create it. Because I mean, if your theme is isolation, you're going to use a different focal length than if it's somebody feeling really with all the people around them. So it's a difference between a wide angle and a normal lens, it's going to give you a different perspective and depth of field as if it's a person who's just, you know, falling in love. Maybe we just want to see their eyes movies, you just want to see their face in the background doesn't matter. So yes, lens definitely helps to underscore the theme. Color does as well. You know, whether it's muted, warm, saturated, D saturated, that's part of the tone that's being conveyed, thematically, and will tell tell volumes beyond the words in the exposition itself.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
I mean, you look at it from like the matrix. I mean, which is so the theme of the of I think it was Bill Pope who shot that the theme of the matrix lighting and color palette versus the real world color palette, it's so distinctive, and you get that vibrant, kind of greenish, because of the code vibe, and the aesthetics and then in the real world is all just muted, grays dark. And then you're also collaborating with your wardrobe. And in your production designer, that's another conversation how you could collaborate with all your heads to create the image because it's not just the DP and the director,

Jacqueline B. Frost 17:14
oh, never know, it's the production designer creates the environment that the DP is photographing. So you kind of have to be in concert and coming up with what the overall look is going to be. And the other thing too is once that has been decided the color palette, and you know whether it's going to be saturated, essentially, there's they're shooting that way intentionally. So you can't sort of as a director, go and post and say, Yeah, I don't want to desaturate anymore, let's pump up the color. It's really not the whole design hasn't been created for that. So once you make the decision, you know that you really want to go a certain way, you kind of have to stay with it and not change because the DP has been shooting the film the whole way thinking what you discussed, and you can't all of a sudden change your mind at the end. And you know, the DI

Alex Ferrari 17:58
and the one and we'll talk about the AI in a bit. But the one one example of horrible example of that exact thing happening at probably one of the largest scales ever was the Justice League movie, where the one that was released originally by Joss Whedon was orange that last bout it was just horribly orange. And people were like, what's going on? And then when Zach finally got a chance that release is like, Okay, this makes more sense, because that's the way it was originally shot. So that we'd like jamming something in that wasn't there. And that happens a lot. And especially Yeah, because the power of the is just, it's it's like, it's like Stanley says, With great power comes great responsibility. Yes, it's true. It's true. Because the whole the whole thing can change. Oh, it's, I mean, I've been a colorist for I was at colors for 20 years. So I've colored 50 6070 features plus 1000s of other little projects. So I I would be in a room with a dp and the director. And sometimes the DP would want to go one way when the DP would leave, then the director be like, Hey, can we go, can we go back this way, again, that happens all the time as a colorist, you'd like I who's paying my bills, I have to serve a Master, I can't serve everybody. And so it's like this weird place to be. But, you know, with a couple of strokes, you know, the whole thing now has become D saturated. But but the colors are so vibrant, because the wardrobe is so vibrant. So now I gotta go do more work to fight what you guys originally planned. And I try to explain this to directors like, Look, this is not the way this was designed. I can do it. It's not going to look as good as if we just go with what was designed originally.

Jacqueline B. Frost 19:34
Yeah, well, that's what that happened when the eyes were first coming about in the early 2000s. That was problematic. And so that's why it's kind of written in a lot of ASC and union contracts now that they come back to do the color correction so that it is their vision. The cinematographer vision on that actually is released unless of course the studio head and producer gets in and changes the whole thing but that is supposed to be in contrast Now that you know the caller, is that what they decided on?

Alex Ferrari 20:03
But at the end of the day, but at the end of the day, though it is the director and and or producers final call, isn't it?

Jacqueline B. Frost 20:10
Well, it ultimately could be the studio's final call, you know, but it is the direction, the cinematographer is really the director of the images, they offer the images, right. And the director is the author of the performances. So, you know, it gets a little bit gray, but I think that the best collaborations and if you want to keep working with your dp, I would say, you know, work together like, okay, we we talked about the sector, remember, okay, let's keep going with that. And how D saturated then we then we can negotiate?

Alex Ferrari 20:42
Yeah, I mean, you're not going to go recover chivo or deacons. I mean, that's just not you know, that's not a conference, that's not a conversation.

Jacqueline B. Frost 20:49
But you know, they do their own anyway. I mean, they want to be there, they want to be creating what they really intended the image to be. So that's why they come back. And that's why they're now paid to come back and sit in the DI.

Alex Ferrari 21:03
Yeah, because it's their it's, it's their responsibility. You're absolutely right. And we're also talking about a very high level, I mean, we're talking at the highest, the highest level of, of cinematography and filmmaking as the names that we're throwing around. But when we're talking in the indie world, this is where it becomes a lot grayer egos start flaring up. You know, I've been in rooms where the DP got a little too fancy on set, and I had to save them because they're like, you know what, we're gonna filter this. I'm like, we could do this without, like, hard filters. Don't get married to the image. But the DP wanted to show off for the director and the producer. I'm like, Okay, and then when they came up, like, why is everything yellow? Like, I like it was literally just yellow there. And I knew what they were trying to achieve. And under the look, they were trying, they were trying to Amelie kind of vibe. Oh, yeah. Which the input? But yeah, they, they put too strong of a hard yellow fill filter on it a color gel, not color jumper. Yeah. And it just polluted all the images. And it took me I mean, it was in, there's two big stars in the shot that they were talking about. And it took me about eight hours to kind of literally get in there and like, window things out and follow it took it took forever to get that scene done to save it to literally save it. So you know, that's a scary scenario to be in, and it was in the DP just let things go. But when the producers got involved, they're like, wait a minute, that's not what we discussed. So there's there's that and there's also the politics of it all. Which it's something that a lot of people don't talk about is the politics of, you know, the DP, the director, the producer, then eventually, maybe a distributor studio. But what's your experience? I mean, you've been you've been in those that di suite a lot, I'm sure over the course of your career, and I've interviewed people who've been in it as well. What's your feeling, as far as the politics are concerned?

Jacqueline B. Frost 22:59
Well, the indie world is very different. Very. So of course, issues here, completely different worlds completely different worlds, you know, and I haven't been as high end as the people that I talked to. So their experiences sometimes are mixed as well. I mean, not everything has been, you know, hunky dory for them. And I'm talking about like major people, you know, in the ASC. But in the indie world, you that's where I think the trust between a director and cinematographer is even more important. And personally, I never would have slapped a yellow filter on without saying something to the director, arm, but I don't think I would have even done it. Because I know that it's better these days. Something like that in house, you don't need to do it. The only time I put a black and white a yellow filter on is if I was shooting black and white, of course, pick up the contrast. And then I would say, you know what, I'm going to kick up, you know, that's when I would do

Alex Ferrari 23:51
but that makes sense. And and we could do color tests. You know, like, it's not hard to do a quick camera test. It's a red camera, you own the camera, let's go out and shoot something. And let's test it out. Yes, it's not what I was more ego than anything else, you know, and that's it good. I get it is a problem. And of course, that dp never worked with that director again. And she's gonna say that you ever worked directly never worked with that dp again, and there's just so many I mean, being in this suite for so many years. I just, I just saw everything I've seen. I've seen the best of the scenarios. I've seen the worst of scenarios I've seen a dp who shot a movie when an award at a major festival and wasn't even in the color suite with me. And it was just mean that mean the director call it timing the entire thing. And then they when the cinematography award didn't even mention us things like they were like, you know, like, I know you shot it, man. But, hey, a shout out to the director. Because we are, you know, when I when I decided to dp my first film, I've been coloring for 20 years. So I was like, You know what, if I could just get this thing down the middle? I can save it. And that's exactly what it was. And I showed a few of my friends in the AC about it. And I showed them the film. They're like, what do you think they're like, one of my, one of my good friends in the sec, he's a, he's a very Eastern European, he's like my friend stick to directing. Because it's fine. There's an image there, but please let it leave us to professionals. So I never I didn't even call myself I said lit by I even just, I didn't even want to give myself a dp credit, because I just don't think of it. But But I knew if I could just shoot it down the middle, and I did and shot raw.

Jacqueline B. Frost 25:44

Alex Ferrari 25:44
Definitely shoot RAW. Now, I wanted to ask you about lenses. Now, and I don't want to go down the rabbit hole on this because we can spend five hours on just looking at 30? No, yeah, we already started. But it's what do you think directors need to understand in regards to the aesthetic of lenses? Like the basics of it, because we can go into the weeds about, you know, coatings and lens flares? And I mean, we could go on for hours about this stuff. Because it's 100 it's literally 100 years of different kinds of class.

Jacqueline B. Frost 26:14
Okay, the thing about directors, some not you necessarily, obviously, because you do have a technical background, but there are directors, if you start talking like that, their eyes will just Yes, over Yes. Check out they don't get they just want to know, okay, so but what directors should know, they should understand focal length. And what that gives you in terms of depth of field, for sure, a wide angle is going to give you the whole environment and beyond, you know, a normal is going to reduce that. So you know, know the basics. And know what you're doing with that, know that if you have a zoom on that, yes, you could do a rack and you could do that, you know, the vertigo shot that

Alex Ferrari 26:54
the the jaws,

Jacqueline B. Frost 26:57
right, do that and watch the depth of field come closing in, you know, know that if you're shooting a beauty shot close up, if you have a longer lens on like an 85 a factory, it'd be soft, and your subjects look really good. But if you take a wide angle lens, you put it in your actor space, it's going to distort. And maybe you want to do that because it's a horror film, or they're psychotic or something, right. So if you understand the basic principles, and also the basics of depth of field in terms of focus, because if you are having an 85 and you're in the low light, and you're wide open, you have no movement in there, you know, and you can understand you're focused on the left eye or the right eye if they blink itself. So you know, I think that that's as far as a director needs to go understanding the basics of depth of field, the basics of focal length, and difference between a high speed and low speed. And maybe you know, if you want to add a little more what anamorphic will give you versus a spherical lens

Alex Ferrari 27:51
pro and prime versus zoom and get those kinds of things. But I

Jacqueline B. Frost 27:56
But I outlined in the chapter of the book, I went to coatings and and all of that major company. I had a conversation just last week with the guy from cook. Oh my God, we went way down a rabbit hole. So it was really, you know, but I wouldn't put that I wouldn't put that in for a director to necessarily wrap their head around.

Alex Ferrari 28:16
No, absolutely not. I mean, I'll geek out just a little bit because I have to, but one of my favorite lenses is the Synoptic. Are you familiar with optics panoptics. So canoptek is a French lens that Kubrick shot, the end scene. In shining in the air inside the inside the maze with the snow. He shot that scene with a panoptic which is a 9.8 y non fisheye. So it doesn't fisheye. If you remember this scene in Clockwork Orange when he's walking around the out the record shop, that's a synoptic it's all super wide, but it doesn't fisheye that's the optic the shot right before the the the unfortunate scene in the beginning of Clockwork Orange, let's say when they pan that as door rings that's a panoptic. So I love that lens. So I found it sister, or the baby brother of it in 16, which is the 5.8 good optic, which you can attach to a a Blackmagic 1080 p pocket. So it has a super 16 lens. And it's I shot my shot my feet I shot one of my features. A lot of my shots were with that. It needs light, it works best outside, if you're inside you need it, you really need to, you know, if you shoot it wide open, it's going to be soft on the edges. But you can pop in a little bit, especially if you shoot a little bit higher rez and I was blown away at how beautiful the images it's just Oh, it's just, it's just wide. It's great. So that's it and I got it off of ebay and they're available. Still And the nine points are still rentable. They're rare, but they're rentable. But these are kind of little vintage things that you just like oh, what a Kubrick shoot. Oh Okay, there you go. Yeah, I want to I want to shoot with that so I mean, I go down that rabbit hole, but vintage I mean, look what I'm Zack Snyder just did with with army of the dead. That was all was it? We it was it What was he? What did he realize? He rehoused? Is it still lenses or just old vintage glass?

Jacqueline B. Frost 30:28
I'm not sure I there's probably an article on American cinematographer magazine about it. Yeah, I mean, because he because if you are working with vintage glass, still camera lenses and rehousing them,

Alex Ferrari 30:39
well, he rehoused all of all his lenses, and he shot and you can tell like, it's a very, like, there's barely any, like everything's out of focus. Like he moves 100 it was a really unique for such a big budget, visual effects film, a pretty pretty ballsy and he shot the whole thing himself because he's he grew up as a cameraman, and director cameraman in the commercial world. So it's fascinating to watch. But that's what's happening now. And knowing something as simple as this, this idea, if you're shooting with a red if you have a female actress or any actor, if you want to see the pores, shoot with new lenses, if you want to soften things up a little bit, shoot with a little bit older, size, cook better, because it's going to be a softer image.

Jacqueline B. Frost 31:26
I mean, old cooks, because the old cooks are getting sharper and crisper, although they were saying the Zeiss is, you know, their, their lines are just perfect. So that from end to end, the lens will be crisp and sharp, whereas cook allows the fall off. And so I think, you know, bring it back to a director again, if you have the opportunity to test some glass with your dp Yeah, and then together and then you know, you write let's notes, this is the 25, cook, this is 25 sites, this is this this is that, then you can really get a sense and the director can respond to what they really like.

Alex Ferrari 32:02
And that's and if you can do that, and in today's world, you know, you probably could do that. I mean, you probably could have the DP like rent, rent a couple packages for the day, go out and shoot some tests, come back to the DI suite and take a look at it and see what even if you know nothing as a director about lenses, you could just go I like the way that looks.

Jacqueline B. Frost 32:20
I don't like that that's too sharp that you know, definitely. Yeah. And I mean, that's something that isn't hard to do. And I it would be a bite nice bonding thing for a director, oh, yeah, they don't know each other that well. And then you can start to see where you're going. And I think more of those kind of testy experiences watching films together, getting a sense of where this person's coming from, you know, understanding each other I that will make it so much easier on those 12 to 15 hour days.

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Oh, especially on that 15th hour, is where you really, you know, those last those last few hours of those days is when you start leaning on each other, and especially the director is leaning on the on the DP a lot. I've been on shoots, where I'm just like, I'm either exhausted, flustered, I'm dealing with other things on set, and I can't, I can't even think of the next shot. And I'm like, we're working where do we need to put the camera? And the DP is there. Remember, we spoke about this, let's Why don't we shoot this here? Or the location changes? Or we can't shoot it that location. So we have to run to another location and steal something? And we're like, okay, on the fly, what are we going to do? And yes, that's when you you want that, that, you know, brother or sister in arms on the day in that relationship. So, so important.

Jacqueline B. Frost 33:38
It is it is and it can make and break a film too. Because if it isn't a good relationship, and you're hating each other and, and like I always used to say don't fight in front of the children, like, you know, you're arguing in front of the actors, because you got to throw off you know, you know, go are you behind the trailer somewhere, if you punch each other back then but don't you know, it's it can really ruin a film. So I think finding that person and I think that's why directors who really like a certain dp will keep working with them. And you know, and then unfortunately, if somebody passes away, it's harder to find another way to keep working with again, and you know, but it's a shorthand that's so essential. And doing these books, I, you know, I was able to really focus on the first one came out in 2009. So I was still talking about film stuff. You know, that's when I decided I had to redo this completely and redo the whole thing from beginning to end. But so I got to talk to more people because of that, you know, and I really found that it was an important conversation. And that DPS feel very, very strong about it. They don't want to be dictated to they don't want to be handed a shot list or a storyboard say it has to be just like this because they say nothing looks like a storyboard. No lens look exactly like storyboards, right, you know, as a reference. Cool,

Alex Ferrari 34:58
you know? And then That's the other thing is like sometimes you work with DPS, excuse me with directors who are arguably could be easily could be lighting this themselves like a Fincher or a Cameron and and like like I have a wonderful story with Russell carpenter who you know the Titanic won the Oscar for Titanic but any the True Lies as well with and now he's doing avatar with with with James and his stories of Jeff's are are hilarious because of I won't tell it here but I'll tell you off here but it wasn't I don't want to get into that the whole story but but you know when you have somebody like a director like a James Cameron or David Fincher who arguably could like the damn thing themselves could they're that technically inclined. You need a special dp for that you don't like Deakins is not going to work with Fincher, there's just no way. No way. No, no way. You know, but chivo will work with Alejandro because that works perfectly fine. You know, or Terrence Malick and chivo will work together because the company always in it. Oh my god, isn't it amazing? Oh my god, Shiva. Oh, God. He says just like, you know, when you're with these kind of cinematographers, and that's the thing when you when you have two Titans, like if you have a deacons, and you have a Michael man, how does that, like, you know, how do you how does that work out? We're off subject now network is geeking out and, and playing around. But in seriousness, like when you have two Titans like that, that are some of the best at what they do in their own fields, and they can't agree with one image or the one way of looking at things. It must be hard. And that's those stories have been out there. And therapies. Sure. Yeah.

Jacqueline B. Frost 36:52
You know, and that's also depending on if they continue to work with each other. If you look at a DPS credit, you see they work 10 films with this one, one with somebody else, and then five more with the same people. That one was not a good experience.

Alex Ferrari 37:05
Generally, generally, generally speaking, yeah. And you could see like, you know, Spielberg would work with Who's he worked Africa, who he was, was he working with, like, up until 80? Until then, Janis came in? And then who and Yes, yeah, yeah. And he worked with him for a certain point. And then that was it. Going Hey, john Jonas, and then, ya know, it's been he's basically shot everything right? since then. Yeah. Yes. Yes. He's, because he's, that works. It works. And I go back to the I go back to the well all the time with people I've worked with, because I just like, I don't wanna have to deal with a new relationship, especially at such a high level, you want to just build that relationship and Okay, know what I'm gonna get with this, you know, as opposed to try and dating someone new. This is this is a relationship. I don't want to date someone new. And I have to look, I have to like pretend I'm somebody I'm not. And I can only hold that up for so long. Like, it's like I know you we know each other. Let's just keep going down this road.

Jacqueline B. Frost 38:07
Like, got Martin Scorsese, right. He worked with Michael Bauhaus for many years, many years from you know, they did like from that film, after hours in the shorter Wait, then Michael ball has passed. So he had to find somebody new. So he tests the waters lib found Rodrigo creato. And now that's been working since, you know, he had Robert Richardson shoot a couple films for him. But it's been creative since. So it's like when you find somebody you're comfortable with working with you go with you've got Robert riches, and he's used to work with Oliver Stone all the time. Yeah, he's trying to try to divorce. You know, and now he's a Tarantino, because he found his new love. And, you know, they connected. Oh, they

Alex Ferrari 38:53
connected in a big way. And, you know, I just wish I just with quitting a little shoot more often. So we could see their work together. But yeah, The Hateful Eight. It's been stunning. And they're doing insane stuff, what they were doing and all that kind of stuff. You know, now that you spoke about visual reference, what should a director bring as visual reference for their vision to a dp?

Jacqueline B. Frost 39:16
Well, it's anything from previous films, of course, some, you know, you could say this film, this film, this film. I think Spike Lee would be notorious for actually screening and, you know, saying something like this, not, you know, knocking on the shoulder or whatever. If they don't have time, they would just share shot list streaming things, you know, check out this, check out that. So photography, of course, is a very strong reference. You know, you've got photography of William Eggleston for a certain time period with the Alang Grapes of Wrath time period. Nan golden, contemporary 70s. You've got a variety of photography, sometimes. It could be graphic novels, depending on the kind of, you know, film it is it could be old magazines Life magazine look magazine for a certain vintage time period. The force there are a handful of painters that are filmic painters you got Edward Hopper, you know Caravaggio, for chiaroscuro Rembrandt for chiaroscuro. Vermeer for directional light. You've got Andrew Wyatt for a certain look. He misery they're very filmic and their their paintings alone seem like stills from a film

Alex Ferrari 40:29
in a way you watch it you watch Barry Barry. Lyndon Lyndon B Barry Lyndon right yeah, yeah very very Linden oh my god like those frames are literally paintings they looked a tour of the candlelight from below I mean, it's literally like he just zooms out and then you just like still frame that looks identical to a masterwork I mean, all and it's shot, shot after shot after shot after shot in that movie like that.

Jacqueline B. Frost 40:58
And I was pulling and I was talking about Sam Mendez talked about using Edward Hopper as their as a reference to Conrad hall for Road to Perdition. So as frame grabs, I mean, there is a frame in repetition that looks like an Edward Hopper painting. I mean, it's seen where it's kind of split in half the boys sitting on the bed in a long shot. The Tom Hanks character comes in, but he's not there yet. So it's an empty frame. And it's so painterly, it's beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 41:25
No, Conrad, I mean, Bobby Fischer. I mean everyone always goes back to Bobby Fischer and what he was doing and Bobby Fischer Alright guys, I apologize we're geeking out again. This I knew this was I knew this was gonna happen. This isn't gonna happen. One thing one thing I think directors should understand is the power of color and the color palette. Absolutely. Because color is so informative at its at a subconscious level green gives you this energy of feeling red gives you that and I think one of the best uses of that was the loud user the last emperor. It is it's a masterclass in color palette. And what from like when the instruct when the teacher comes on a green bike, you know things little

Jacqueline B. Frost 42:11
it's Vittorio has a whole philosophy on color. But you don't have to get as in depth as that except if you understand that their color even just using color as complimentary colors if you understand the color theory a little bit

Alex Ferrari 42:25
what do we have? What the color wheel there?

Jacqueline B. Frost 42:28
Yeah, the color wheel what's you know, what's warm, what's cool, what's complimentary, you know, and integrating those if something is the past the period piece you know, it's warmer perhaps in the present day maybe schooler I mean, there's been so many films where they've touched on this the color palette for specific reasons saturated liquid, Todd Haynes and Ed Lockman. duty to recreate the 50s it has this feeling of a technical or Kodachrome film, film, but that's add light lighting it like Kodachrome film, you know. So, the references will give you that to base yourself on but you have to understand as a director, if you're saying well let's everything have cool palette, what you're saying is this is a somber tone, right use for a rom com.

Alex Ferrari 43:12
It's not gonna work.

Jacqueline B. Frost 43:15
Nor if you have a rom com and it's all you know, if it's saturated warm, okay, we want to see the but if it's dark, and chiaroscuro, that doesn't work as a rom com either. So your lighting and doing color for genre.

Alex Ferrari 43:26
Yeah, exactly. So you look at that's why most comedies are shot essentially flat, almost, it's like, you know, Dumb and Dumber, or the more slapstick it gets the flatter it is there's no in depth lighting. Rom coms have a little bit more shape to the light, but again, very specific. But then you look at, you know, a Michael Bay film, and then or Tony Scott film, and the colors are vibrant and saturated and dark blacks because it's an action film. And then you look at seven or fightclub A Fincher film. And the contrast is dark and like you look at seven is just a masterclass in life. That's

Jacqueline B. Frost 44:05
Yeah, because the whole look visually, is a visual exposition of how sick and twisted and sad story is. Yeah. It's telling it's telling the audience how to feel without telling them how to feel.

Alex Ferrari 44:18
Right, you see a frame you see a frame of seven, and you see a frame of Dumb and Dumber and there's a different energy regardless of what's happening in the frame. So understanding those basics as a director, you have a better yet these are things that I think all directors need to understand at a rudimentary level, to be able to be a, an effective storyteller in this medium colors, basic color theory, basic lens choices, basic lighting, but you know, these kinds of things are basics that you can't I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about like, if you don't as a director, you're relinquishing that power to someone Else good. Could be you could take all the credit for a Roger Deakins. Or you could have a dp who has no understanding of what they're doing and make you look horrible. But you need to understand just the basics to go, Oh, wait a minute, that's not what I want. That's not the tone I want. We need to switch that basic basic stuff. Do you agree?

Jacqueline B. Frost 45:19
Yes, absolutely. And it will if you can get on the same page and really truly collaborate together that's gonna make the film so much better.

Alex Ferrari 45:27
Know what I mean. And again, Malik and chivo I mean, you watch you watch tree of life and you're just like, just you just sit there like you just said, you just sit there and go. Oh, yeah, this is like this. Like it's it's it's when they when those two get together. It's like you're in a dream. It is really dream like in a way that I can't really explain it and that's the beauty of it is that the visuals of it are so dreamlike. And it's not that they just like you know, foggy put some Vaseline on the lens is nothing like that. It's reality ethereal quality. Yeah. I mean, one of my favorite Kubrick films is his eyes wide shot. And I absolutely adore eyes wide shot. Intel. I love eyes wide shot, but the thing is with eyes wide shot. It's a dream. It's it's completely unrealistic thing and the way they did the sets and all that stuff. But the lighting I mean, especially the beginning, just the the the Christmas lights in the background. Yeah. And that's how they lit they lit the whole damn scene with Christmas lights. And I think China ball. Right, right, which are good things to keep as a reference. Right? Yeah, I mean, China balls, the indie filmmakers best friend is a china ball. cheap, cheap lighting,

Jacqueline B. Frost 46:53
get it get a little bit and they travel? Well they flatten out, just don't crush the bolts keep them separate. Exactly. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 47:00
Now, one thing with all the confusion of cameras and resolution, this is a one one area that, you know, it's a pet peeve of mine with the 8k 12k 6k 5k, all this kind of stuff. So many directors get caught up in the case like, Oh, I'm shooting 8k, I'm like, good for you. It means nothing. I shot my last film 10 ADP looks great. blew it up to 2k on a DCP projected at the Chinese theatre. And I was shocked at how good it looked. I was scared. I'm like, this is not gonna look good. And all that oh my god, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever been a part of. So it doesn't it again, it's always about what's behind the lines, who's who's behind the lens and Who's shooting the shooting it. But what's your take on this whole 8k and the resolution wars, if you will, and directors getting caught up in that. And also then the power that that gives the director with with composition in post?

Jacqueline B. Frost 48:00
Well, in terms of First of all, I want to say there's a quote that john Seale said to me, he said, of course, with a really good Australian accent that I won't do right now. First Five minutes into watching a film, they're not going to know your audience is going to not be aware of whether it's 8k 2k 5k they're not gonna think about that they're gonna be in the story. The story is any good. All right, so that first of all, isn't going to make your film better shooting 8k? And how are you projecting it 8k because you can shoot it 8k but then it's being projected to K at best, at best it's on on a monitor, it's 1080. So what does it really matter? You know, if you are shooting something that is isn't the right now 4k is kind of averaged out. You know, cinematographers said that super 35 is the equivalent of a 6k k anamorphic is is beyond you know, supers six 630 65 millimeter is beyond 10. It's like eight to 10k whatever. But unless you're seeing it like that, you're not getting the impact of it. If you're watching it on your on your phone, or on a computer, it really doesn't matter what you could be shot with your phone. No, it doesn't matter. So to get hung up on that I think is a really trivial and marketing kind of issue. That right now the manufacturers of the cameras keep saying well we can do this and this how many cases are we going to go? Do you really need to see somebody scores Okay, then your di guy you know, you go into post now you got to slap 100 filters on it to soften things up again. You know, you're it doesn't you put it back that's now taken away from film in the making.

Alex Ferrari 49:39
The only thing I would say ever to shoot that at the higher resolution is that is a wildlife. Shoot it at 12k you need that resolution. You're out in the in the savanna somewhere you want to zoom in on a lion eating a gazelle, and you're cute, then yes, absolutely shoot as many cases as you can, because you're more likely going to project that animal iMac scenario or something like that, but the one thing that I've talked to so many VPS about, especially when I'm in my in the in the DI suite was the repositioning You reek recomposing shots, where the DP very, you know, with with with mission, shot it and compose it one way, but the director comes in and goes, Oh, well, let's get all our coverage from the shots. And let's pop into extreme close up. Let's pop out over here. Let's do this and that. Can you do that? Especially in the indie world? Can you do that? Yes. If you shot 6k, could you get away with it? Yes, but the lighting is not correct. The lighting was lit for a wider a wider shot. It's not, it's not lit for your eyes. Yes, you can jump into the eyes. But then it's my job then as a DI that I'm doing basically digital lighting and I'm sculpting light in the DI which takes longer, all this kind of stuff. So but and I know that the PS, every dp ever talked to hating,

Jacqueline B. Frost 51:00
because you lighting you every time you do a different setup, you're you're tweaking the light. And if it's a close up, now that's going to cut into the coverage, of course, you're going to tweak the lights off in the light do this. And so that's that actor looks the way you want them to look. So to just take a slice out of something else is not ideal at all. No,

Alex Ferrari 51:18
no. I mean, look, if you get in trouble, maybe if you get in trouble one shot, but not like, because we all do that. I mean, I've seen $200 million movies who shoot it or whatever. Yeah, I mean, I was I was talking to a dp who worked with bei and he literally was in the DI went outside, shot a closeup of a tire with his iPhone and brought it back in, inserted it and made the movie. Oh, that's awesome. Because it's because it was like, yeah, I'll be right back. Let me go get another shot. He shot some sort of tie or something with his iPhone. It was an insert it was like a you know, 15 frame insert, but he wanted that shot, edited it in, no one ever knew. So it happens it happens. But as a as a thing that is a constant is definitely

Jacqueline B. Frost 52:06
not ideal. But the thing is, like, you know, and resolute things have shifted so radically quickly, like john Beit Bailey told me he shot a film a few years back, this was when the eyes were early, they shot it anamorphically you know, so it was widescreen. anamorphic. And they only did to do a to K di. So it was released. Okay, so what was the point of shooting? widescreen anamorphically. You know, it was there was no point it was reduced. So, you know, if you shoot something 1k 2k 4k, you're great. If you have the opportunity to do something, or if it's a special feck thing, or if it's it is going to be IMAX or huge. Okay, then the higher case matter. But to get have a little tiny camera get hung up on

Alex Ferrari 52:48
this is 15k

Jacqueline B. Frost 52:50
who gives a crap really, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because you don't need to see that much detail.

Alex Ferrari 52:56
Right? You want to know you do not trust me. I've been in that I've been in the AI suite and I'm like, oh, that actor did not Oh, they didn't shave today. Okay, that's I see every hair, okay? Look at that way,

Jacqueline B. Frost 53:10
you don't need to see it. I mean, remember with film, remember the music, the magical transformation that would take place you're shooting on set. Okay, you got your Zeiss lenses at all. But you're shooting film, you see it transferred. And it looks just beautiful. Because the ice is different than film reads. You know, that's what made it so nice and soft and magical. Whereas you have a really harsh lighting, and you have a really sharp lens in a four to 6k image quality. You don't really want that sharpness.

Alex Ferrari 53:43
And that's why Alexa hasn't really jumped up to 8k 10k cuz they're like, we don't need that. And and arguably, Alexa has the soft one of the softer images. I mean, when I say softer, I mean a pleasantly soft edges. And the red, the red is sharp, as its surgical, how the red sensor picks up the image. And I don't know about you, but I'm a big black magic fan. I love Blackmagic cameras, I think they're the best bang for the buck for an independent film. And I've done tests where I've shot and this is for everyone listening, because everyone thinks Oh Alexa, Alexa, let's if you can afford it. God bless you. God bless you. But if you can't, I've shot with and I've spoken to AC cinematographers who have had black magics on the set with as B or C cameras on every set. And they're like we can't publicize this because you know, we can't do that because that's just it. That's not the cool thing I guess or whatever. But they literally had they should be roll on it and you can't. Can't tell and I actually did like it let's actually put this to the test. So I shot Blackmagic Alexa, same lenses, same setup, shot it down the middle. I mean I throw it up there. I challenge anybody to tell me which is which but where The Alexa starts showing its glory is where you start pulling it. You start going under, under or over. The black magic falls apart. But the Alexa hold and hold and but if you're doing your job as a dp, you shouldn't really be under five steps. Step five stops or not. Yeah, I'm hoping not but, but just for people listening. I mean, Blackmagic cameras are best bang for your buck. Without question. You can get a beautiful image of you shot with those or have you any experience with those cameras? Yeah, yeah. I have one right here. Yeah, they're great. They're they're fantastic. Little cameras. They're fantastic cameras. Especially. That's the original 1080 p that's super 16. sensor. Oh, what I have. Oh, so also, you definitely get to look up that synoptic you got to put that an optic up. Look up that panoptic it's good. And that's been booster. Isn't that speed booster amazing on that thing. You get an extra stop stop and a half. Yes, yeah. Sweet. It's, it's it's happening here. So I have, yeah, different things that yeah, it depends on the budget depends on the price of the project. Of course. One other thing I wanted to talk, so we kind of touched upon this the entire time, but in a DI suite. How should a director work with a cinematographer in the DI suite? In your opinion, and I will tell you mine because I see so often, but I'd love to hear your point of view. I think the DI suite really is the DPS domain, because it's their image, that they're tweaking and polishing based on a discussion that's already been had with the director. So I don't think it's a time to do radical different things. Or to go off of that I think that the DI suite is really for the DP to finish their film, to finish being the author of their image. So but where do you balance that with the vision of the director in the safe, it's a little bit different. And we're talking subtleties, not we're not talking like black and white to color or set massive saturation differences or anything like that. But aesthetically, where I've been in the room with a director is like, I don't like that. But the DP is like, well, I want it this way. At a certain point that dp has to like, Look, if it's within five or 10%, of where I originally had the idea, I disagree with you, but you're the director. It is your final vision. This is where that politics situation comes in. And then God forbid, if the producer shows up off, forget it. You do not want the producer involved in the situation.

Jacqueline B. Frost 57:22
But you know, then at the end of the day, I mean, you're working for the director, the director is not working for you. So if it was me, in that situation, I would have to relent, if the director really feels that it should be a little brighter than I intended it to be, you know, it is there felt, I may be annoyed every time I see that shot. But isn't it

Alex Ferrari 57:46
right, as long as it's within a preset, like if it's if it's like, if we're literally just, you know, pixel adjusted pixels. It's a five or 10% difference. That's aesthetics. That's like my taste versus your taste. But if it's like 50% off, and like, you know, wait a minute, this is not what we talked about your we went in shooting the matrix, but now you want Amelie, or you want or you want Dumb and Dumber, this is not what we talked about. Now, can you tell people about your book in cinematography, for directors a guide for the Creator, calibration, collaboration? tell everybody about the book and why you wrote the book?

Jacqueline B. Frost 58:24
Yes, well, the first book came out in 2009. And the second book came out in March of 2020. Right on time of COVID. Of course, obviously,

Alex Ferrari 58:33
for for everyone to go out shooting in production. So great book,

Jacqueline B. Frost 58:37
I haven't done any promotion for it. It's sort of like disappeared for a year. So I'm just pretending that it just came out now. So that the second edition is new, completely updated. The reason I wrote the book is because it is sort of the thread between the director and cinematographer to kind of put them on the same page. This is it's written for directors more than cinematographers. But I've given it to cinematographers, and then given it to directors like

Alex Ferrari 59:05
please, please do this, for God's sakes with this,

Jacqueline B. Frost 59:08
please read this book. So it gives them It gives directors producers screenwriters, people who are not super tech savvy, it gives them an understanding of what his cinematographer does. And I use a variety of quotes from ASC members to kind of validate what I'm saying. So I talked about lenses. I talked about formats. I talked about visual effort references color palette, working with the script formats. touch on color theory. I even talked about film versus digital, talk about certain types of cameras, where we are today, and a whole list of collaborators, directors and cinematographers historically.

Alex Ferrari 59:46
So it is a book that every director should read, especially directors coming up who have not had the experience of being on set with many DPS. It is invaluable because if you had a good collaborator as a dp You're, it's so hard to make a good movie period. Yes, it's so difficult to tell a good story, it's so difficult to just produce a film and get it over the finish line. If you're fighting your dp, it's so much harder.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:00:14
It's not, that's, that's hard, you should be in celebrating the fact that you're making the film, celebrating the fact that you've finished the film, because you're going to be in festivals together, you know, you're going to be sharing it together. And, and hopefully, you're both proud of what you've achieved. So that's, you know, and so I'm all about advocating for collaboration, on all parts, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:35
in life in general, we should all get together, have a coke and a smile. No, Freeman's, then, you know, just work them out calmly, what you know what, and that's, and that's something that's very important to say, you will not all agree on things. And as a dp, I'm like, I want to go left, you want to go right, that's fine. As long as the DP understands that the end of the day, the director is, you know, and I'm taking it as a director, I'm taking advice or input from the production designer, the costume designer, the actors that all this, oh, this location, that location, all these kind of things, but, but if you could, at least respect I think respect is the big word here, is refers back. If you respect your cinematographer, and the cinematographer respects the director, you can work things out, as long as there's respect there. But you will get angry, there's no question, you're gonna get angry with each other, because it's production. It's crazy. It's insane.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:01:29
And you're creatives, and sometimes you're not gonna see things exactly the same way. Right? But it's it, you know, I have to trust that if I'm shooting for a director, that it's their vision, and they see it in their head, they know what they're doing. So I may see it this way, but they're like, no, I really want it. I don't need that. Okay. I'm not gonna argue you're fine. If that my shot? No, you know, okay, you see it this way, you know how you're cutting it together. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
All right. And let's, let's move and let's move it along. Let's move on. And that in that attitude is of one of an experience of photographer because I've seen both the inexperienced cinematographer and the expert and the experience cinematographers just like the experience directed so so like, that's fine. Just Just get along. Let's I got to go get some coffee. Let's move on. It's really not worth fighting about it's pick your battles pick, isn't that you, the young dp the young directors, they fight all the battles all the time, and they're exhausted by the end of the shoot, where the it's like an every in every feels like the the guy was that story, when there was a story of a young boy who wanted to finally fight his dad, like, you know, that coming of thing and like, I'm gonna take you out Oh, man. And the and the dads like, Alright, you want to fight, let's walk outside and go, is it so that the kids like walks out the door, walks, he's walking out the door to go fight them in the front yard. And that clocks him in the back of the head and knocks him out? And when the kid wakes up, he's like, lesson number one never turned you back on. So that's age. I mean, I should. That's abuse. But but you get the story, you get the Let's hope it doesn't happen. But you get the idea.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:03:09
What a dp and experienced dp in particular, but even you want to director be prepared, yes. there and go, Oh, gee, where do we put the care of like, you should know that already. So if you if a director comes on set, and they're prepared, and they know what they're doing, and they know what they want, they have a vision that will make everybody's life so much better. It'll make the shoot so much smoother. And that's what you want to go for. You don't want to be completely unprepared of what you're doing.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:36
Amen, amen. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions as well. My guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Don't piss anybody off? No. That's obviously not possible. Especially in today's world, you're gonna piss somebody off by doing something?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:03:55
Well, the thing is, today, there is so many more open doors than there were before. Because you can make so many films digitally that look good, that you can submit to so many festivals, there's so many outlets now. If you're a woman, and you'd like to be a dp is so much easier for you now, with the doors being open for unions for the ASC. There's an openness and rather than, you know, a discrimination against women shooting so it, go for it, but do your best work and be strong and don't let anybody deter you on the path. And I say that for guys, as well. You know, you have to just be determined, follow what you want to do. And stay your course. You know, I think eventually you'll make it.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Wow, that's a hard that's a good question. You know, I appreciate

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:04:52
I mean, I think everything is an endless learning process. Don't ever assume you know, everything remain open. And be friendly and fun to work with. You know, don't take yourself so seriously

Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
as I don't know who I think forgot who it was, but it was either a famous director, someone's like the best advice I ever got as a to make it in this business Just don't be a dick. Good, there's still working in the business. So I don't know, there's there there is there is and they do get to a certain place. But generally speaking, if you want, if you want to be on set with, you want to be on set for 15 hours a day with someone you get along with. And if you're a prick, you're not going to work as much.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:05:36
People aren't going to want to work with you, and you're not going to work with them. So and that has happened, you know, it's like it's a hard job. And I've talked to DPS about this too, you know, and they say they want to enjoy the experience, you know, life's too short not to.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Of all time,

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:05:56
I'd have to put the graduate in there for sure. So Apocalypse Now because that's the one that made me fall in love with cinematography, because of victorio. And the third one that could be tough. I really love the work of Douglas Sirk and the cinematography of Russell Mehdi, so good to look at like, all that haven't allows or written on the wind. I love the saturation of the 1950s cinematography, I love the work of wrestling money. So I guess I could say those.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:28
And where can people buy the book?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:06:30
They can buy the book through Michael ABC productions. They go buy it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. It's pretty much everywhere now.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:37
That's awesome. Jackie, thank you so much for being on the show. It's been a pleasure. And I know we can geek out for at least another hour or two. But I do appreciate you writing the book and helping directors collaborate with send a tog refers in a positive way. So I appreciate you.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:06:53
Yes, thank you so much for having me and it's been a pleasure speaking again.

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BPS 372: How NOT to Lose Money Producing Indie Films with Anne Marie Gillen

The film industry had to adjust a lot since the hit of COVID. Thanks to streaming services, the hit wasn’t as volatile as could be. Now that society seems to be reaching the end of the pandemic, the future of the filmmaking and film experience post-COVID has become part of the conversation. To help us explore the subject, I have on the show today, seasoned filmtrepreneur and award-winning producer, Anne Marie Gillen.

Anne Marie is the CEO of Gillen Group— an entertainment consulting firm in Los Angeles. Production-wise, she’s credited for producing commercially and critically successful films and television shows. Coupled with an international network of studios, distributors, and talent, one may call her, The Plug.

During the stages and succession of my career, she’s ranked C-suite executive positions at big entertainment companies like Development & Production at Entertainment Business Group, Electric Shadow Productions, and Revelations Entertainment.

Her comedy-drama film, Fried Green Tomatoes produced in 1991, is an all-time classic and stands to have been a Box office success. It grossed $119.4 million on an $11 million budget and was nominated for two Academy Awards. The film tells the story of a housewife, Evelyn Couch, unhappy with her marriage, befriends an elderly lady in a nursing home, and is enthralled by the tales she tells of people she used to know. Through Idgie’s inspiring life, Evelyn learns to be more assertive and builds a lasting friendship of her own with Ninny.

Anne Marie compiled her business expertise in the industry and her production experience to write The Producer’s Business Handbook (2010, 3rd edition). The book was followed by her next film, Parallel Man: Infinite Pursuit, in 2014. 

Chased by commandos, Agent Nick Morgan is on the run in the multiverse! To escape, he jumps between parallel Earths including a polluted industrial hellscape, a planet where dinosaurs evolved into humanoids, and a fungi world with giant mushrooms.

Your corporate minds will definitely enjoy this interview.

I’ve linked Anne Marie’s book, The Business of Show Business for Creatives, in the show notes for you to check out. 

Enjoy my conversation with Anne Marie Gillen.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome to the show Anne Marie Gillen. How you doing, Anne?

Anne Marie Gillen 0:14
I'm doing great. Thank you so much, Alex. I just have both of my vaccinations and a two week incubation period. So I'm almost normal

Alex Ferrari 0:25
Almost I'm my wife and I are just almost there. We're in the go f yourself category right now. But we're almost We're almost to the edge we're like, and it's so sad for us because we're just right on the border of like now, not yet. Not yet. But as of this recording in about a week or so we should be able to, to, to jump on beautiful. So it's been a crazy. It's been great. It's been a crazy year and change. It is affected not only the world, but it's just thrown our business upside down. And the way we do business as the as the way we consume content is the way we release content. I think the the ripple effects of what has happened in our industry will be felt for years to come from the theatrical experience to streaming. I'd love to hear just really quickly what you think of where we are right now. And how how you think this is all going to kind of shake out because we're in the ripple still. We're not out of the ripples we are in? We're still in the ripples. Yeah, absolutely.

Anne Marie Gillen 1:28
But I think more than anything is, especially with how we consume, I think was because of COVID was just launched very quickly. 510 years ahead of the game plan, but it's where we were always had it. So that didn't surprise me too much. It certainly affected the theatrical way more than we would have if we hadn't have had COVID. But I do believe that we'll come back to a certain level but yeah, that's Yeah, Africa. Well, I don't think you know, I think when it comes to this, the Indies and documentaries, and things like that, I think it will be pretty much staying with the streaming. But the big event movies and visual effects kind of immersive movies, I think will come back very strongly when we can all go back to the theater because we all desperately miss it.

Alex Ferrari 2:22
Oh, I miss I miss going to the theater. But I don't know when I'll feel comfortable in the theater again, it's going to be a really that I call it the hangover, the COVID hangover, of just like being in a room with someone else without a mask on a handshake. You know, I was a hugger. Back in the day, I was a hugger. Like, you know, you like how you say goodbye. You say Hello, I'm Latino. So this is the way it is. So, you know, you know, just like, you give them a hug. And you know, and you say goodbye. So it is a it's gonna be interesting. I think we're gonna still be feeling this for the next few years. I don't think the movie I don't think the theatrical experience will ever come back to its hype prior. And it's been going down steadily. I mean, if it wasn't for if it wasn't for Marvel, take Marvel out of the equation for the last decade.

Anne Marie Gillen 3:08
Take Disney Marvel out. But what we're why the numbers have stayed up is because the cost of the ticket has gone up, right? missions have been slowly kind of steadily just ever so slightly

Alex Ferrari 3:21
going down. So it's going to I think, I don't think you'll ever come back up. I think it'll eventually eventually turn into a Broadway scenario where it's event films only like, right, like, I'm not going to I'm not going to the theater to see a comedy right now. Like it's not really necessary, but I will go see an event movie or big action extravaganza or, or something that's cinematic like Joker, even though Joker wasn't like a huge blockbuster like action packed. It was essentially taxi driver. But it was, but it was cinematic. And right. I wanted to go see it there. So I

Anne Marie Gillen 3:59
right there, sir. I think you're absolutely right. But I don't think those numbers go back up to where they were. Yeah. And that's okay. I don't think we have to bemoan that so much. You know, there's still, you know, the good news is there's so many more outlets for us producers to go to now that weren't there before. And the competition is fierce. And the whole, you know, I got to have a theatrical release mentality, I think is falling by the wayside pretty strongly. Very strong. It's,

Alex Ferrari 4:28
it's not as sexy. I mean, don't get me wrong. Look, it's still a filmmakers of a certain generation will always have a reverence for the theatrical experience. In my generation, maybe the generation behind this but like my kids, or the kids, or like the generation, that teenagers right now, it's not as big of a deal as it is to my generation, your generation generation behind me. It was just like, oh, you're not a real filmmaker unless you're up on the screen.

Anne Marie Gillen 4:57
And I think film festivals will fill that Space even more. So the idea that your film is premiered at a festival in a theater to have that kind of experience will help replace that. And I think film festivals will grow even more so because of that. You remember when when people filmmakers was like, well, you're not a real filmmaker unless you shoot film. Yeah, that's gone now. Right? Right. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 5:21
Exactly. Now, it's like, I didn't get a theatrical but I premiered on Netflix. And now, you know, 100 million people just watched my movie, sadly, far more than they ever would going to the theater. Oh, absolutely. I had I had a filmmaker on the other day, who directed the amazing documentary called the last blockbuster. And he Taylor, he got a Netflix deal, which is ironic and brutal in so many ways that Netflix is premiering. And it's a huge hit. And he's like, it's outnet. So many people are gonna watch that film, that would have never seen it. I've never seen it before,

Anne Marie Gillen 5:56
especially when it comes to a documentary or I'm real big into social impact entertainment right now. And it's really, if you really believe in those things, it's it's about eyeballs, not about opening in the theater or opening, screaming or opening Film Festival, whatever. You've got to get the eyeballs in order to change the attitude to get the dialogue going to get them from apathy to empathy and into action about whatever the topic is. So absolutely. So we went on a tangent. So let's start actually, how did you hit it?

Alex Ferrari 6:31
How did you get in the business?

Anne Marie Gillen 6:34
Well, I hail from Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I always was a performer. In high school, I did every play, and I majored I was an acting major in college and came back to the Twin Cities and did the whole theater seeing the Guthrie in children's theater. I then focused on my dance side of things. And I was in a dance company and a choreographer. So that was my whole life. And one winner. I just felt like I was hitting the glass ceiling here. And it was about as good as it was going to get. And I really wanted the next and the new challenge. And it was the middle of middle of very cruel, cold winter. And so it was like, okay, it's either probably New York or LA, you know, Chicago felt more like a lateral move. And I thought, well, the middle of winter, I know nothing about LA, let's go check it out. So I got in my car, $500 in my pocket, clothes in the backseat, and I drove up to LA, I didn't have a job, I didn't have a place to live. I didn't know anybody. My mom called her cousin, they let me stay there. And that's kind of started the whole thing. And when I first landed in LA, I, you know, got my agent and tried to do the whole acting thing. But I began to realize very early on, that being a producer was where it's at, because then you have more control over your life. Yeah, at least you can be working on things and making things rather than as an actor. You're always waiting for somebody to hire you give you permission. Yeah, yeah, giving prisoners permission to do my work. And actors in. in Minneapolis, we're very still our unit revered, you know, you have a craft and a talent. And you know, in LA, it's like, you say you're an actor, you know, where do you waitress, etc. So it was, I just didn't like the feel of it. So I thought, Okay, I got to teach myself how to be a producer. How do I do that? So I started producing a workshop on how to produce film. And it was a couple hours a week, and it ran for 10 weeks. And I would start with development, and then go into financing, and then the production side of things, and then the marketing and the distribution. And of course, I didn't teach it, I just produced the event. And so I had to hire, or as asked guest speakers to come in each work who were experts in those area. So I started combing the trades and finding people that were that and I would ask them to come and speak. So I built my Rolodex. I made a little money because I produced it. And I of course, took every course and I did it for like two years, every 10 weeks, do it again, do it again. Do it again. So that basically was my BA in filmmaking. And then it was time to get into the real world. And I wanted to since I was mainly a creative I wanted to work with an assistant to a producer or writer or director and I couldn't get hired. And finally, I was offered a job as the executive assistant to the president of a distribution company. And I didn't know anything about it, but he just needed somebody very organized and talented like me, so I took the job he offered it to me. And it was with a company that no longer exists but they should have been the next another mirror Miramax or new line it was called Emmerdale.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
I remember him Dell, of course. Remember him Dell and the 80s, late 80s Oh my god, they were released, they released a punch of Greek, I worked in a video store in the 80s in the 90s. So I remember the logo very much. And you had, and you had, you didn't have sleeves, you had the plastic boxes on the VHS, I remember, the White Day I remember.

Anne Marie Gillen 10:21
So the three years that I was there, we went, I don't know 12 Academy Awards platoon. So there I am this little piano, you know, with my ears glued to the phones and to the meetings. And I just sucked it in and just taught me as a producer, that 50% is making your movie and 50% is marketing and distribution. And you've got to focus on the marketing and distribution and who your audience is when you're in development or even before you've been optioned anything and put your time and money into it. And another thing that it really taught me began to teach me was film financing, they pioneered or were one of the pioneers of the model where you would put up your own PNA into a rental system. And back then, like you were just saying, You worked in the video store, if you could guarantee a certain level of theatrical release with the PNA commitment, you pretty much got 50 to 75% advance for your home video, because they were desperate for any Oh, anything video stores. So the majority of their money went into the print and advertising and renting a studio system to release their movies. And then if there was a shortfall, they would put some money into the production side of things. So when I left there, and started my first company, that was my business plan, I just pretty much replicated that business plan. And at the time, the money was coming out of Asia. And I found a Japanese investor, very wealthy Japanese investor, he was kind of the bill gates of Japan. And he bought into this concept, which was smart and what was happening there. And, you know, he was my financial business partner. And that's how I made my first movie executive produced my first movie, which was fried green tomatoes. And it was one of those projects that you know, when I read it, you know, you laugh, you cry, you

Alex Ferrari 12:20
remember, it was it was wonderful.

Anne Marie Gillen 12:24
But, you know, it was like a well, it's a female driven project, it really doesn't have major stars. Oh, you've got the race story. It's a period piece. And yes, it's beautifully written, but no, so they weren't able to get it made. So I came on board and I said, I'm gonna roll my company on this. And because we could get weird and then we went to Universal for the theatrical release during the rental system with us me putting up the PMA. And eventually when they started seeing the dailies and everything, they went back and renegotiated bought us out of the PNA position, the rest pretty much as movie history from there.

Alex Ferrari 13:00
Yeah, that was that was released by Universal if I remember universal, yeah, so that was that was a big I remember that was a big release, it did very well on our on our video store. It did very well on our video store, or mom and pop video stores still doing very well. It's it's Yeah, it's amazing that this day, yes, to this day still probably gave you guys residual checks. Again. So that's, that's remarkable. Um, now you also know, you also you wrote a book called The producers handbook. Right?

Anne Marie Gillen 13:30
It's called the producers business handbook. Okay. And I think it's an it's, it's fourth or third edition. I forget. But yeah, so it's basically through all this, there, you know, by by putting that course together by being at Hemdale when I was, and by having to do this business plan and all this financing, I had to learn about, nobody taught me that it's really hard to learn that even in school to this day, the financing side of it very much. Oh, throughout the years, I just had to, you know, educate myself to this. And I remember when I was at Hemdale their in house attorney left. And so I said, Well, I'll sit in all the meetings and take the notes. So in all the legal meetings, I was there, and I would just quietly take notes and then I call my dad who was an attorney and I go Damn, pro rata Perry, pursue, how do I spell it? What's it mean? And, you know, just began to learn the lingo language of film financing. And so once I became more of an expert in this arena, I thought, you know, I don't want it, it shouldn't be that hard to get this information. So, you know, put this book together with john Lee. He had written the first edition, and we did the second and third and it's it's, you know, with what's gone on in the last three to five years, we still need to do another additional thing, keep it up to date. But a lot of the stuff still has stayed the same, you know, there's still pre sales and estimates and completion. And

Alex Ferrari 15:15
so yeah, so I get I guess it there is certain things that have stayed in place. But in today's marketplace, you know, from my experience in the business, the sales in the distribution side of things, sales have just really dried up in a in a way that when I say dried up, I mean, it's like, like in the 80s. People were printing money in the 90s. In the early 2000s. You all just like sniper seven, yes, just yeah, put out sniper seven, it's already pre sold, and you got 3 million on DVD. Like it, those days are so gone, and the marketplace is shifting so much. Now, that unless you have really, really bankable like extremely bankable stars, and genres, it's almost impossible to really recoup money. So as a producer, from from what I've seen in the distribution space, there are certain genres, there are certain talent, you know, excluding the anomaly, excluding the Sundance whatever, or the film festival, darling, that really doesn't even happen as much as it used to back in the 90s. So how do you as a producer in today's world, kind of parenting because even pre sales, again, without the proper star, and genre, because you could put Nicolas Cage in a certain kind of genre doesn't sell nearly as much as if you put them in an action, or, or something like that, or Stallone in a drama doesn't really move the needle as much. So I just would love to hear your take on that. Well, you're right. And that's the end of the podcast and seen we're done. And that's the end of it. All right.

Anne Marie Gillen 16:55
You know, it's always something, I've been doing this for 25 plus years, it's always something. So you just got to pivot, you just got to learn the new way, and pivot. And so right now, I would say, you're absolutely right, you need a certain level talent, and that talent has to be right for the genre, you gave a perfect example, you have to have the right budget level, for the reasons you've talking about, you know, you're going to be able to get any pre sales in it, what budget level is that? You know, so all those things come into play. So certainly, as somebody that's more about quality than like, just straight horror or something,

Alex Ferrari 17:36
or your quality versus product. And there's a balance between

Anne Marie Gillen 17:42
the two, right to balance on occurs, balanced producer, okay, so you've got, it's a three legged stool, you got to give equal to the creative and the distribution and the money. And anytime one outweighs the other, it's somehow lopsided. So, you know, how do you creatively answer those problems? So for as an example, when I go for casting, you know, there's, there's me and my directors, wishlist, you know, there's the casting people that come up with interesting ideas. And I kind of combine the two and then I go to my international sales agent, they go and they give me their and they're totally different. And so you got to figure out what's the right balance for that movie, and that marketability,

Alex Ferrari 18:22
and then there's also like a bit of delusion, I found, because I do a lot of consulting and coaching and distribution and there's filmmakers who come out with the like, Look, I've got I want to get an avenue to just use Nick as a as an example. I want to I want to get into cage involve them like, okay, and I I know producers and directors who have have gotten Nick on a $5 million movie $6 million movie, in certain genres, it kind of like a horror ish action genre. And that works at that budget level, but a lot of times they'll like, come up with an idea and they want Nick involved and like it's gonna cost you 40 million. And like, know, that, that star at that budget range, there has to be more than just Nick attached for that to make sense financially, there has to be other casts, the director needs to have some sort of presence, you know, like a Joe Carnahan can can bring out a movie at $40 million, with, you know, a Frank Grillo, and, you know, a in the cage, like that, that that monitor makes sense, because of the pre sales that those guys come up together, and then Joe and his whole thing, that's the that's up and that packages that packages sold before they even start shooting. Like,

Anne Marie Gillen 19:35
yeah, and you saw that with the recent Berlin, you know, there's certain announcements that I had every territory sold out. And whether you know what the movie is about or not, you just see the package. So when somebody says, What is your package? You know, that's what they're asking for, you know, and it's so important that you understand what the finance plan needs to be what the budget level needs to be what level casts It is, you know, where the genre fits in the marketplace. And they all have to meld together in the right. Perfect. Magical combination. And you I and I've been doing this 25 years, I don't even know, I don't rely on my opinion. You know, I get a casting directors opinion, I get the international sales agents opinion I get, you know, I work with them, and what are the estimates? And, you know, cast? And how does that and diversity now is another huge thing, you know, which is wonderful. I mean, one of the most recent conversations I had was with the sales agent, as we're going to have to replace one of our people, and it's all give me diversity, give me diversity. And it doesn't need to be a big name, but it needs to be diversity. And, you know, it's interesting. So I've got Native Americans, I've got, you know, Asian, you know, and it's really wonderful to be able to give, you know, to really pass that way with those opportunities.

Alex Ferrari 21:01
But I think I think before, like, again, in the 80s, and 90s, you could be a sloppy producer, meaning that you could just kind of like you had such a cushion, that money was almost guaranteed if you had just this or that, and you didn't really need to be that good, honestly, because I remember the movies that I saw in the video store in the 80s and 90s. Were garbage. And they were and they were making bank and when DVD showed up, I mean, my God, the money was just flying, right since the print. I mean, it was just literally like I always use sniper seven as an example, because they made so much money with the sniper, the sniper franchise, and they were bad movies. But you know, they brought they brought Todd out, not Tom, Tom Berenger out every, you know, few years. And they're like, yeah, here's, here's a mil, let's go do this. And that's one thing. And another thing is to what makes sense today. So let's say right now, a certain actor is hot. Well, when you started that movie, he might have been hot, but something might have happened in the next 12 months. And a perfect example is I had I had producers, I won't use the actor's name. But a lot of people I've spoken about this actor before, nothing against the actor is an actor who works a lot. And he's not a huge star, but he's a name and a face. And he's bankable to a certain budget. But he made that year 17 movies. So when his movie came out, in the marketplace, he'd go to distributors like I already got three of him, I'm good this year, like I already got it. So he's diluted his value. And the producer was there holding, holding the bag. So there's that that whole thing, because if tomorrow morning, Nick comes out and makes 30 movies next year, which by the way, Nick Cage could possibly do 30 movies, his value in the marketplace might I'm not saying he does, he doesn't have that many

Anne Marie Gillen 22:51
app and all the time, you know, where people just do too much. But there are still sloppy producers, but they are not making the money back for the investors and they're just taken, you know, a lot of innocent investors, you know, and taking their money and running, and knowing they're not going to be able to, you know, get their money back. But you know, it just drives me crazy. It's why investors think this is such a high risk, horrible business to be in, because so many sloppy producers, or not just you know, just kind of pie in the sky, just, I gotta make my movie, and they're not the balanced producer. And then that understanding what the audiences and what the market will allow and trying to keep it all in check. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 23:36
the delusions that are out there with filmmakers and producers. Sometimes it's like, Look, if you want to make an art film, make an art film, you know, and yeah, you know, I made my first film for five grand, I sold it to Hulu. And I sold it to Hulu and licensed it to Hulu sold and sold some foreign territories with it. It was fantastic. It was an art film. It was an experimental film. I didn't really know what it was like, how is it going to turn out? But at that budget level, who cares? But if I would have made that to 300,000 he would I you can't it's there's just a balance of again, there's that word again, balance of what you if you want to make art understand that there's a value attached to that art

Anne Marie Gillen 24:15
right. And there's nothing wrong with that nothing lucky and and may go through the roof and that's great. But you know, you need I mean, another big term for me is risk mitigation. Yes. If you want to talk to investors or finance yours or funders, that's a good term to use. You know, how are you going to mitigate my risk, you know, and

Alex Ferrari 24:37
pre sales tax incentives. There's there's a list of things that you can

Anne Marie Gillen 24:41
mention account. A lot of people don't know about collection accounts and it's just like one of the best things that you can offer an investor to

Alex Ferrari 24:48
hear. Can you explain the collections account for the audience real quick?

Anne Marie Gillen 24:51
Sure. It's, it's it's basically a third party escrow account, where all mainly it's international revenue, but can be revenue for whatever your project is, is then assigned to go into this escrow account. So it's protected. So all the stakeholders, whether they be net profit people, investors, mezzanine, bank, loan funders, whatever, they know that whatever revenue comes, it is protected in this third party escrow account. And everybody signs off on the terms called waterfall who gets paid and what order, what percentage and all of that. So there are two main companies out there that do that vintage house,

Alex Ferrari 25:36
I, I've had them on the show, they're one okay.

Anne Marie Gillen 25:39
And free way entertainment. And free ways probably would do more lower budget movies than vintage my take on so if you're in a lower budget range, I start with them. And they'll take sometimes if it's a really low low budget movie, they might take a fee off, you don't pay them upfront, but the first revenues that come in, they might take a fee, and then it's 1% ish area, or they just start at the 1%. And they The first thing that they put aside is is residuals, the potential residual effect Yes. To pay for? Yeah, yeah. So when you go to become a signatory for sag, if you have a collection account set up, that can help you with putting up those very large residual bonds, etc, because they know that it will be paid because they're holding that money for you. Plus, it protects all the stakeholders. So it's just a win win all the way around to have a collection account.

Alex Ferrari 26:38
It's wonderful here,

Anne Marie Gillen 26:39
word cam collection account manager, you know, etc. It's it's one in the same.

Alex Ferrari 26:45
Yeah, it's, I have to ask you now, like, how do you have I want to ask you first, how do you raise development money? Because that's the hardest money to because there's no guarantee that there's anything even going to get made. So you're just basically rolling the dice as an investor going, Hey, I like this book that you have, we're going to develop it into a screenplay. I'm going to help you develop it into a screenplay, I'm going to get a piece of the action once this movie gets made. But how do you raise that kind of money? Well,

Anne Marie Gillen 27:19
again, it's about being very balanced in your approach, you know, you use the very common term, it's the highest risk of all the money. And I don't know if I would agree with you there, it's the lowest amount of money, it is risk, manage it properly. It's not the highest risk, what you just talked about is making this movie for, you know, 20 million. That's a lot of money. And I think that might even be a higher risk. But to answer your questions, specifically, producers nowadays are totally expected to come with a package, which means you need a powerful screenplay and need to be able to hire legal hire casting director, do budgets and schedules higher up in line producer, if you don't do that, yourself, you know, all these, you know, beautiful look, books, and sometimes sizzle reel or rip, thematics. And, you know, and it all takes money, pay the writer and totally on the producers not whereas before you could go, oh, I've got this great IP this book, and, you know, companies would jump not so much anymore. So you've got a couple of different options. One is to go to a company that already has development money, or a first look, deal with a network or a streamer, or whatever. So for instance, if it's a great book that you're going after an really powerful lead interesting role for an actress of a certain age, I go through variety insight and find out who's got deals at all these different streamers or networks. And in the actress, that would be actors, that would be right for it, I do my research, make sure that they have a real production company, many just have a name, where you want to be sure there are people there that they have a partner, they have creative executive, and you know, then I tried to pitch the creating of the executive, and then they would bring it to their first step. So that's one model. And you can do that with directors, writers, showrunners, actors, etc. Then, and the toughest model is you do it yourself. And

Alex Ferrari 29:29
you bootstrap, bootstrap

Anne Marie Gillen 29:29
it. And I'm sure we've all done that on some level. And then there's the put the proper business plan together and get a development fund together. And you really have to, you know, again, risk mitigate the approach. So the way that it's really spelled out pretty a whole chapter of it is in the book about development financing, and you want to do it in steps. Okay. So you put together a finance plan. Costs of what you think you're going to need. So there's legal there's the writing of the screenplays, there's casting director, there's the UPM, there's visual materials, there's all that line item stuff, I don't like to put too often money for myself, because that's my skin in the game. And so, uh, you know, if I wouldn't approach that, Oh, great, I'll be able to live off this money. While I know I'm a real producer as I develop. That's a little difficult, but you can put something in there for that. And then you make sure that each step of the way your test marketing, it's so the first thing that I do is I run comparables from the last five to seven years, to see what else out there in this genre in this level, but that I'm thinking of director that I'm thinking of level, the type of casting that what has worked, what hasn't worked? More importantly, and why hasn't it worked. And I want to be sure that the way I'm planning all of this, you know, is fitting into the specificity of what the marketplace might allow for. Once I've done that, that I call that greenlight, okay, and I run the numbers,

Alex Ferrari 31:13
you know, for the internal, that's the concept, the internal green light,

Anne Marie Gillen 31:16
the internal green light. That's right. So I track, you know, what, what the budget level was for that movie, how wide a screen it opened on what was the widest screen and finally open AI because that tells you the the spread of the PMA, so did it open on five screens, and then it went to 300. That's a whole different level than if it opens on 3200. And then that's the most I've ever opened up, because you're spending 25 35 million right out of the gate just to opening weekend. So I track that what the genre is, what the level of talent is director and lead cast, and I got to go to the year that it was released, not who they are now. So I've got to go back five, seven years to to contemplate who they are now, what the rating was. Because, you know, if I'm thinking I'm going to deliver a PG movie, and all the comps I have are our it throws everything off. So I and I look for the trailers that they use, I look for the visuals, the posters and all of that, the tag lines. So I have this massive spreadsheet where I'm tracking like 30 comps, with all this information, really educating myself to what this material where this material might fall. And if I come up with numbers that look like I think I'm onto something really strong here, then I don't just rely on me, I go and vet it with a distributor with an international sales agents etc. and said, This is what I think I'm going to do.

Alex Ferrari 32:45
This is the level cast and they go Yeah, that that I can sell, you know, if you can deliver on this that I can sell then I start spending money. But if I get nose in any one of those places, I stop and I find a different property that's going to get me yeses. And Kim, can you just tell everybody really quickly with these plans in these packages? A lot of times they use comparables to other films. So I've seen this way too many times and please tell people to stop doing this and disagree with me if you'd like if you're making a horror movie. If you're making a horror movie, and you are putting together a package do not use Blair Witch Project and paranormal activity as this is what horror movies do to investors. Any smart money will just look at you and go get out of my office dumb money or dumb money

Anne Marie Gillen 33:33
down money might not but it just shows me You're a peon. You don't know the business. And yeah, if I would never use it as a comparable in my narrative part of my business plan. I might mention something like that if it's perfect, perfect. But I would never never use it in my financial comparables because it's just it's wrong anomalies. It's right it is it's like winning the lottery. So and the same with movies that win Academy Awards. It's like oh, yeah, but my movie will win the Best Picture Academy Award. So I'm going to do the same as this movie.

Alex Ferrari 34:10
Oh, yeah. Like moonlight. Like my movie was shot in Miami and their movie was shot in Miami. So it's moonlight and they won the Oscar and I can't wait the Oscars. Well, yeah, that or or Napoleon Dynamite? Oh my god. Yeah.

Anne Marie Gillen 34:24
Awards and things like that as well. And so I I tried to get it down to the most realistic 10 to 15 that really fall there.

Alex Ferrari 34:33
Yeah, exactly. Now, one of the biggest problems producers and filmmakers have is that chicken and egg thing which is attaching name talent to a project something that's going to give you the money, but then the name talent doesn't want to come on board until you have the money. So there's that chicken and egg thing. How do you approach How do you attach potential name talent to your project?

Anne Marie Gillen 34:59
Well Sometimes named talent won't regardless, that's just a fact. No, or they're their agents won't let them. Especially hot up and comers, sometimes they take a little too much advice maybe from or let the handlers handle them a little too much. So that that there are, there's nothing you can do about that. But what you can some things you can do, it helps to have a casting director. You know, it helps to have a very good attorney, a recognizable firm, you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:37
recognizable and recognizable casting director helps to,

Anne Marie Gillen 35:40
yeah, that's what I'm saying. Yes. And, and the material is, first and foremost, it's about the material. You've got to have a great piece of material, great screenplay for a role that they want, not a role, they've done it over and over and over again. I mean, they they wanted real actors want to, you know, express themselves take on something that they haven't done before. So a lot of times I really, if if I'm going to have to go out for actors at a very early stage and use them. I want to think outside the box a little bit more. So if they're known for comedy, but you know, they've got the chops off, or like Robin Williams, you know, yep, Jim Carrey, you know, give them the opportunity in a role that's very dramatic, when you know, they can do it, they just haven't been given that opportunity. So they would come on board and for a much lower, much lower. Absolutely, because you can't pay him for you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:44
can't pay him, you can't pay Jim Carrey 20 million in the height of Dumb and Dumber To do that. But if you want to do men on the moon, you could probably get them sometimes for scale, if they really, really wanted. It happens.

Anne Marie Gillen 36:57
And and if the actor has a production company, it's a little easier because you're not necessarily going through the agent, you're going to the creative executive there. And you know, and they're going to come on board as a producer, and they'll have much more creative input and hands on. If I'm going that route. Well, I do this regardless. But, you know, I really, you know, are they on any boards? Do they support any bass adores anything? What nonprofits do they cook again, I like to focus on a lot of social impact projects, so that you can do what's called a double bottom line, that only is a role really great, but it's an issue that's important to them. So those are some of the key things that I tried to do. What do you have?

Alex Ferrari 37:48
Right. And then there's also the, you know, the the harsh realities of like, well, who's the director, who's the producer, you know, just because you might have the next Pulp Fiction. But if you have a producer who's never done a thing in their life, and a director who's done one short film and won an award at the Moose Jaw Film Festival, which I don't even know if that's a real festival or not, but I want to go, I want to go to the Moose Jaw International Film Festival. But then there's that whole uphill battle, and I've been there as well. And I've seen that as well, where you got good material, but the team, there's no confidence that the team will ever can execute this. So there's that too.

Anne Marie Gillen 38:27
Yeah, so you got to take, you know, I'm working with a couple of first time directors. And I believe in them 250%. And they're great in a room in a pitch, they can speak their passion and vision. And you just, you're on board, you know, you really, and they've spent the time to put together the right materials to visually showcase what they can do. So if you're going to take on something with the first time director, as a producer, you know, you they need to be of that caliber because it is it you do have a bit of an uphill battle. And you've got to be sure that once they get in the room, or the zoom or whatever, with potential talent that they're they're able to close them and and they're they're going to say I'm going to feel confident and you're at you know what you're doing right now,

Alex Ferrari 39:25
and a lot of times they are Writer Director, so you know, the material they can speak to the material better than anybody. And that's also if you can be a writer director, that's honestly the only real control you have as a director, especially if your first time you know, unless you own the property all out. They can, they can throw you under the bus so quickly. And I've seen it happen where the writer gets on to the producer and the producer is like, I got Nick Cage, but Nick can't work with with Bob is Bob Bob's never directed anything but Nick's got a director who is worked with a bunch of times, and he wants to do the project. This is the reality of the business.

Anne Marie Gillen 40:04
So it's really important that as a producer, you have those tough conversations, before you go out technically legally get into business with this writer, director, director or writer, it's, you know, you've got to understand I mean, where do you stand? Is this your rocky that if you're offered a million, you're not going to walk away? And I need to know, you know, because?

Alex Ferrari 40:30
Because I want to take that million?

Anne Marie Gillen 40:33
Or is this something that if you were bumped to a producer, and you've got credit, and you've got your piece produced, but you couldn't direct it? Would you accept that? And sometimes they're yeses, and sometimes there's no, and I will move in either case, you know, depending on how I feel about that situation, or that particular person. But you need to know that going in, you don't want to be surprised later or get stuck later at the mercy of Yeah, no. choice and you knew that going in.

Alex Ferrari 41:05
And that's only something you learn as a producer with time, because when you first starting out, you you fall into all the traps, we just you just laid out right there. Every little scenario, I've already hit that those walls a ton of times, I'm sure you hit them when you were starting out. And only with time, do you understand, you know what, I really need to have this conversation. This is it's the come to Jesus conversation. Like it's, it's like, Look, this is the reality of what is happening. And my whole world of indie film, also, my whole universe is all about giving you the hard facts and truth. Because I rather you hear it from me than when you're sitting in a room and someone just pulled the wool right under right from underneath your feet, the rug underneath your feet, I'm would you would you say I always say this, I'd love to hear if you agree, I believe that my philosophy of this business is that every single person, no matter if you're Steven Spielberg, Scoob, Rick Hitchcock, or the lowest film student, all of us are going to get punched in the face, period. And we're going to get punched in the face multiple times in our careers. And they're going to come fast, they're going to come hard. Sometimes you won't see them coming. And it's only with time and hopefully some knowledge that it's not the question of if you'll get hit, it's a question when you'll get hit and how you'll get hit. And you have to start learning how to take the hit especially early on and keep going forward. And then as you get older, you might get a little bit wildly and you can start getting it to slip off you. And then occasionally, you can get them to miss altogether or not even get into that conversation as you go down the road. But even even pros who've been in this 2030 years, they still get surprised. And my job and my my calling is to try to let everybody know, you're going to get punched. Here's how to take the punch. Is that fair?

Anne Marie Gillen 42:52
Oh, absolutely. You know, everybody thinks that Oh, once I get my first movie made, you know, it's all golden from that. I forget the statistic I have in one of my notes when it when I teach my finance class, but I think 98% of first time. filmmakers never make a second movie.

Alex Ferrari 43:11
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah,

Anne Marie Gillen 43:12
something something horrific. Like I was like, whoa. And for all those reasons you just stated, it's just like, you know, you're gonna be punched. And the question is, how quickly can you come back from it? Don't let it it's gonna knock you down. And you got to bounce right back up, and come back at it. And later when you look in your words, but okay, what just happened? How can I avoid that next time?

Alex Ferrari 43:37
Exactly, in the most. But so many filmmakers have the stars in their eyes that they just don't even know that the punch is coming. And when they get hit, once they're out, there are pulled and they're out of the game. I mean, when I was talking to Oliver Stone, on the on the show a while ago, I was I wasn't shocked. But he's like, I'm still hustling my Monday, I'm still trying to get my movie made. I'm gonna say that you're Oliver Stone. He's like, I'm Oliver Stone, but I'm still trying to matter doesn't matter,

Anne Marie Gillen 44:05
movie and he killed you to get it together, you did your 17th and it kills you. When you're in there, which is kind of falls in your lap and things happen. And those are golden. But it's a constant, constant battle, to put it together. And, and five years from now, the whole finance plan is going to be different. And five years from there, it's going to change and there's gonna be something else and and you've got to constantly pivot and constantly re learn. And you've got, I mean, I remember initially just having to tweak because I was a creative. I didn't I didn't go I didn't know, economics and legal and all that. But you read my book and you think I was, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:41
PhD, a PhD of some sort.

Anne Marie Gillen 44:43
I have no, you know, and I hated it when I was in it, trying to figure it out and learn. I just hated it. And then I just, I just kind of went, No, it's creative. Putting a finance plan of doing this is creative, and just with that little shift and over time, it gets better. rubber. So all day, every day, I am still being creative because every time I get on the phone with somebody I use my acting is like, Who is that person? What is their tone? Like? Okay, I got to match their rhythm. And it could be okay, what's going on? What do you need? Then I got to talk like this. Okay, this would or like with Alex, when we first started so how are you doing and what's going on and you get oh and, or whatever it is and or they throw something at you, even though your agenda and your plan and your bullet points are right in front of you and they throw something after you got to, okay, improv. It's all those years of improv class, you know, you never know what's going to come back. So. So to me, that's all just wonderfully creative. And when you used to go to meetings, it's like, how do I need to dress for that meeting? If it's a banker, financier, I gotta look like I don't need the money. If it's a creative, I gotta wear my creative clothes. You know, and so

Alex Ferrari 45:51
you can't walk it. You can't walk into creative with this with a suit and you can't walk into a bank, with your your khakis on and flip flops, right? It's not gonna, it's not gonna work. Now. So you've been in the business for many years, I'm assuming that there was never been a negative experience with a distributor in your entire career, that everything is going smoothly, all the money is coming. 110% everyone's been completely open with the reporting. And you've never had any issues whatsoever. Is this a fair statement? Or am I completely off base? You're completely off? I think I knew I would

Anne Marie Gillen 46:33
a point where the whole team just finally gave up. It's, it's, you know, it's a lot David and Goliath is just like, you know, if they just throw another legal thing at you, and you run out of money, your investors safe enough already. I'm not spending any more legal money to try to track this down or get this just enough how but I gotta ask you,

Alex Ferrari 46:54
it's what it look in my my audience is very well aware of my feelings on distribution. And what I've, what I've been able to do for them, and getting the information out about distribution and predatory distributors, and things like that. But I have to ask you, like, the whole concept of the Hollywood accounting, which is what it mean, which is basically started in the days of Chaplin. I mean, this started early, I mean, United Artists was created by Pickford, Chaplin and fair banks, because they were getting screwed by the studios. So this whole Hollywood accounting thing and how distributors do not, and I'm guessing all, but a lot of distributors, unscrupulous distributors, will do things in their numbers to make sure that you the producer, do the filmmaker, never see a dime? How is this a functioning business? Like, is it just purely because there's fresh meat that constantly is coming in to replenish the old meat that's just exhausted of just getting ripped off? Or investors? Is that how the system works? Because in any other business, you know, if you were in the cookie business, and I, you know, you all of a sudden, I sell 5000 cookies, and I'm like, sorry, I really didn't sell 5000 cookies, because the chocolate chips, you know, they got more expensive and, and all these, like, that doesn't happen in other businesses. And not, I mean, sure that does, but not at that level, so blatant, that there's a name for it. And there's, and really quickly, you know, the whole thing with the me to movement, which was basically which was dinner, the casting couch, it was a punchline, it was a joke, it was part of this, this fabric of the industry, like, you know, if you want to get it, you got to go on the casting couch. That whole thing was business as usual, for way too long. I feel that what's going on with distributors, is the financial version of that kind of abuse, because you're just being abused financially. You just said, we just gave up. So I'm sorry, through 1000 things that you would use? I went on a rant, I apologize.

Anne Marie Gillen 48:52
No, that's fine. That's fine. And it's I mean, that's as old as the hills. And, you know, there's, if you need a really good attorney, yeah. And the net profit definitions of the net profit definitions of studios distributors sometimes can be 30 pages long, it just gets ridiculous, you know, for that reason. So that's where a really really smart attorney can at least be helpful. It's why a lot of people pay so much money up front or try to get as much money upfront as possible

Alex Ferrari 49:27
because you'll never get anything else. Hi,

Anne Marie Gillen 49:29
they asked for gross position. It's why they asked for box office bonuses. You know, so you know, they can see what what you know, which is a little difficult now, because it's there's a crash and burn. It's why you see the streamers paying these big hefty amounts, because that's all that ever to be fair, because there is no other window or back end or whatever. It's just the way it has been.

Alex Ferrari 49:58
But but we're due for Change, we're due for something something has to change. I don't know what that technology will be, what that system will be, but something has to come kratt this system is already stressed like the distribution system COVID has put it was already look when I went to AFM in 2019 I was like what I was walking around, I was like, she it's just a bunch of dinosaurs. Like, I mean, I'm walking over corpses. I mean, it was it was really, it was really bad. And it just kept getting going down, down, down. So nothing against AFM, but just the marketplace has changed so much in that space. So I feel like there's so much stress on the the apparatus of distribution. And now COVID just put it more it will pop I feel something's gonna come crashing down. I think the next economic downturn something Yeah, you gotta watch the word distribution is such a large all encompassing entity. Correct? I think you're more talking like theatrical. And then it leads into something else. No, I'm talking about I'm talking about the whole like the apparatus. But if you go to a Netflix getting killed with a Netflix or Hulu or Amazon, they sold it for whatever it's different. You're done in non studio, non studio I'm talking about non studio distributor is what i'm talking Yeah,

Anne Marie Gillen 51:13
I just wanted to be clear, because very encompassing word. And, and that's another reason that I like having a collection account. And it doesn't help so much on the domestic side. But certainly on all the international because your sales agent in your agreement with your sales agent, it says that any monies you know that are collected will not go to them. But they'll all the distribution agreements with all the different distributors in France and Germany and UK. When they do the agreements with them. It says that all monies do minimum guarantees overages will go into this account, so never goes to the sales agent. It goes right there. And we talk that through in the waterfall and how it's all protected. So that's another reason that how you can risk mitigate some of those issues. But then if the distributor in Germany doesn't want, Hey, what are you gonna do?

Alex Ferrari 52:03
You're gonna go super,

Anne Marie Gillen 52:04
you know, yeah, then that's pretty tough. But again, the collection account people, they know, all those distributors, you know, they can help track that and deal with that for you,

Alex Ferrari 52:17
etc. So it's there's ways around it, but it is a very slippery, shark infested situation where you really need to understand the navigation of it. I remember I was I was talking to a filmmaker at AFM, they came up to me and they're like, Hey, I got a deal. I'm like, great, like, we just got a $30,000 mg. I'm like, well, that's fantastic. What was your budget? Like? 150? I'm like, Okay, what was that? For? He goes, it was all rights for five years. I'm like, so you're happy about that? Yeah, we got 30,000. I'm like, in what business? Ever? Yeah, that you spent 150,000 you're happy, happy about 30. Like, that's, there's something systemically wrong with that well,

Anne Marie Gillen 52:56
right. And, again, where we started with being that balance producer, it probably was not his money. Probably. He got to make the movie he wanted to make.

Alex Ferrari 53:08
And it's going out into the world

Anne Marie Gillen 53:10
ending, you know, got a little bit back and can at least give a check back, you know, so I'm happy. You know, but that's not a sustainable business. And it's not a sustainable career.

Alex Ferrari 53:19
And I honestly, it's not a moral. There's moral issues. Well, that's a whole other conversation. So what projects are you working on now?

Anne Marie Gillen 53:29
I'm, I'm working on a project. And this is the first time feature film director, although he's done music videos and shorts, sure fallen,

Alex Ferrari 53:38
accomplished filmmaker, but not feature filmmaker. Right.

Anne Marie Gillen 53:40
Right. Exactly. And it's a it's a sci fi trilogy. In the PR, Stephanie, and we're doing we have an international sales agent, we have really creative, wonderful deals with the visual effects house and the virtual virtuals. I do. I hope you have somebody coming on board to talk about virtual and what's going on there like already. I already did, yeah. Okay. Cuz that's, that's the way to go. That's the future filmmaking. And that, again, will get those budgets done will keep us safe, because we don't have to go to all these locations. And just a myriad of

Alex Ferrari 54:21
what I mean. Yeah, you just watched the Mandalorian and you just go wow, yeah. In God's green earth. Yeah, it's so fascinating. It's so one and it's cheap to and honestly, it's not that expensive. I mean, Mandalorians it's expensive but if you if you're doing it at a much into your level, you can get the company that I had on call on I think it was unreal. I think there are I forgot their name, but the real engine, I'm not sure if it was unreal engine but it was it was another company that was using that engine. But bottom line is that the smaller the smaller, the smaller version of it for a wall. Just a what like a full wall. Yeah. Then 1000 bucks for the actual engine and then whatever the screens cost. So under 20, Grand 30 grand, you've got a whole virtual set that you can use and build sets in front of and move. And it's it was fascinating. It's fast. Yeah,

Anne Marie Gillen 55:14
yeah. For it all in camera, and you can say on the soundstage and oh, it's great. It's great. Yeah, well, that sounds exciting. G is being shot that way.

Alex Ferrari 55:23
That's amazing. That's gonna be that's gonna be a

Anne Marie Gillen 55:25
lot of very excited about that. And to use that, that technology.

Alex Ferrari 55:28
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Um, mmm, material, material material. Um,

Anne Marie Gillen 55:46
if you spend any of your own money makes you? Well, even the most important thing is to have a good attorney. Yes. So when you have anybody developing money, your money, whatever, have a good attorney, and make sure that whatever agreements you're doing are locked, solid chain of title, option agreements, whatever, you know, work for hire writer agreements, you know, make sure you have an attorney dealing with that so many times I see people, oh, they get a template from a friend. And they just kind of change a few things and get in trouble getting a lot of trouble later down the road. And you can't give up. I mean, what we were talking about you just, it's just keep moving. And bring partners in to like you said, first time produce I've never done that we'll find a partner who has that believes in the material like you and that you legally moral compass wiser on the same page and can go down that road together? You know, I've done that a lot in my career.

Alex Ferrari 56:46
Sounds good.

Anne Marie Gillen 56:48

Alex Ferrari 56:48
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? It's not about me. Wow, that was a quick answer. Hey, get over yourself. It's not about me.

Anne Marie Gillen 57:01
You know, what? Anger is when they're upset is a few you're never gonna work in this. It's, it's, it's not about me. It's that. That's a tough one. That's a tough one.

Alex Ferrari 57:12
You know, what, and have you had that statement said, You'll never work in this town again. Have someone said that to you? You know, I've had that I've had that said to me like you when someone says that to you. They are in a place of such massive ego. It's It's so they're so far gone in so much pain, if someone said, and of course, the more infamous, you do know who I am. If someone ever says Do you know who I am? Just walk away. Just walk away. I've had that experience. I'm like, wow, wow. And do you know who I am? You'll never work in this town again. I By the way, anytime I'm on set, I yell out you'll never work in this town again, at least 20 times a day. And everyone pitches themselves. I do it constantly. Anytime a grip doesn't. Anytime a grip says something wrong. I'll just walk by I'm like, dude, you'll never work in this town again. And then they just are so I make it a joke because it's so ridiculous. And then I think someone called me out once and I said something on set. They're like, my phone rang. My phone rang. I said, my phone rang. I'm like, whose phone? Is that? Like? It's your sir. You'll never work. When I'm on set in my next book, yes. Never work in this town again. And three of your favorite films of all time. Fried Green Tomatoes, obviously. Um, oh,

Anne Marie Gillen 58:44
I'm such a singing in the rain person. Because because I wasn't used directed musicals. And you know, and actually, that was my first goal coming out here was to do musicals. And I haven't done one yet.

Alex Ferrari 58:58
Well, the market the markets, it's a little rougher, the musicals not as much as it used to be in the 40s in the 30s, and 40s. Yeah,

Anne Marie Gillen 59:08
and, and in something I just saw this year that I watched it like three times, just because I was so enthralled with it. And it was the trial of the Chicago seven.

Alex Ferrari 59:18
No, look at what I was hearing

Anne Marie Gillen 59:19
sarkin and the writing and the acting and the history and how it spoke on so many levels, and it was just able to do something like that and leave that kind of legacy and help the dialogue. Right now for for the whole United States. I thought was just

Alex Ferrari 59:38
timing was brilliant time it was and he said that he goes, you know, five years ago, this wouldn't have worked. But you know, in today's environment, I got greenlit. Yes. Right. And where can people and where can people reach out to you if they if they find you online?

Anne Marie Gillen 59:56
Well, they can go to my website Gillan group llc.com And there's a form to fill out. I think it probably even has my email, etc. I'm pretty easy to find. Open that anywhere.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
You know what?

Anne Marie Gillen 1:00:11
I'm really nice about talking to a lot of people or helping people. Yeah, I really take that pretty easy. I mean, I can't do it all day every day, obviously. But, you know, people that know me know that they can always pick up the phone and pick my brain and sit in on a call with them that is difficult for them and translated for them later, what it meant and all of that. So I tried it, because it was such a hard, hard journey for me and nobody should have to struggle that hard to learn it and get it.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:40
Amen, sister. Amen. Amen. And it's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

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BPS 371: Selling Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark with Cody Meirick

Today on the show we have filmmaker Cody Meirick. Cody is the director of the documentary Scary Stories, based on the wildly popular book series Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. We discuss how he leveraged an underserved niche audience, how he piggy-backed off the major studio release of the narrative version and how he was able to get access to the key players in this niche.

This past summer Academy Award®-winner Guillermo del Toro and acclaimed director André Øvredal created the hit movie based on the iconic book series.

It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities in the small town of Mill Valley where for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time—stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home.

Enjoy my “scary” conversation with Cody Meirick.

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Alex Ferrari 0:10
I'd like to welcome the show, Cody Meirick, man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Cody Meirick 3:07
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 3:09
So we're going to talk about your documentary, scary stories today. But first and foremost man, how did you get started in the film business?

Cody Meirick 3:19
Sure. So I started. So I, I was always the creative type. And for a long time, I wanted to be a writer, I kind of I guess, I've thought back and realized back in my 20s, I spent my 20s, I spent wanting to be a writer, a novelist, right. And because I always had this creative side, and then around the time I turned 30, right before I moved to Chicago, got a job with an education nonprofit, where I work to this day, running a website. And nowadays, a lot of times running a website often involves creating content. And in this case, creating media creating videos, web content, instructional videos, that sort of thing. Right? And so, so I kind of learned a lot over the course of time working there becoming a halfway decent editor, you know, telling the story in three minute chunks in some respects. And so, so I got a certain amount of experience there. And at a certain point, about five years ago, I decided, you know, what, I have a lot of the tools and the know how and that sort of thing to do a film a low budget film, and and it's going back to this kind of creative side. And so, so I needed in a documentary really made sense. You know, essentially what I do is, you know, make three minute documentaries and web form, you know, putting on on a website and so, to a full length documentary made a lot of sense. I wanted it to be marketable, I wanted it to make sense. I also wanted to make sense for me to do it. You know, having a, from an education nonprofit talking about and also with degrees and literature and that sort of thing. You know, children's literature made a lot of sense it also, first and foremost, I always would recommend, if you're going to spend the years to get off the ground your project, then have it be something you're interested in to have that be something you're passionate about that sort of thing. And so, um, so this idea to do a documentary on this particular title, made a whole lot of sense for me. And so, yeah, I mean, at some point, you just, you commit, and you say, you're done this, it's Yeah, exactly. Like you've done all these plans, and so on and so forth. And you you bet at some point, you're just like, put it out there, guess what my name is Cody Merrick and I'm making this documentary. And, and it you know, it has fits and starts over over years. And documentaries definitely can because you can kind of piece together interviews and other things over time. And so and so that's what I did. So as I've been saying, five years, most of it happened over the course of three ish years. But then you can add on, you take into to some festivals, finally getting distribution, so on and so forth. So the whole process from get go to, you know, beginning was basically five years,

Alex Ferrari 6:21
Five years. So that's a long time to be on a project. So I'm assuming you're not doing this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm assuming you have your this is a side hustle. It's just

Cody Meirick 6:28
No, no, I mean, the job I said, I got about 10 years ago here in Chicago, still there. It's developed the the website has really grown and I've helped it to grow and and we've gone it taken in different directions. But I'm still doing that, to this day. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 6:45
Very cool. Now, you made a documentary based on the very, very popular scary stories franchise, which is almost as like a goosebumps, I think, behind there only behind goosebumps as far as sales are concerned, correct?

Cody Meirick 7:01
Yes. Yes. And, and the interesting thing, you know, I did our interview, RL Stein, the author of goosebumps, and and he, he's kind of my celebrity, I definitely have some other fairly well known people, but RL Stein's the one where it's like, he's the Stephen King of the children's, you know, children's literature, everyone's heard pretty much heard of him, you know, and so he's a celebrity, right? And so, but anyways, but these are a little bit different than his because RL Stein has been interviewed about a million times. And it's a different interview, when you're interviewing someone who's been interviewed a million times. And these books, the author passed away a long time ago, and the illustrator is, is, at this point, famously known for not doing interviews. And so there was kind of a hole there that like, okay, you know, a documentary that kind of gets under under the hood and learns a bit about these books and how they came to be and how, how they're, it's kind of a fandom, you know, and that's what's great for a documentary is that, you know, there's people that are very passionate about this title, whatever it may be. And then also, you have the censorship piece, it's the, arguably arguably the most banned or challenged children's book of the last 40 years. I say, children's book book, the first year, in first decade that the American Library Association made a list, decade long list was in the 1990s, it was number one on the list, the most challenge book of the 1990s was scary stories to tell in the dark, and it was still in the top 10. The last one wasn't published since 1991. And so, you know, in between 2000 2009, it was still in the top 10. So it was still a very much Challenge book, even though they're, you know, they're always in print. But you know, you didn't, they weren't, you know, they had become more of a having a cult following, and that sort of thing. And so this is very different than, for instance, that goosebumps documentary, because there's there's a number other components that kind of go down and channel your documentary. And

Alex Ferrari 9:06
Now, when you went out when you decided to go down this long and windy road of making this documentary, you had obviously in your mind, you know, you chose a subject matter that is something that you can leverage. So you're leveraging the scary stories brand. You're also you're also leveraging the audience for scary stories was just over 7 million books, if I'm not mistaken, have been sold. And on top of that, how many more I've been read. So you're talking about million. This is a very large niche audience, but an audience that you could arguably target if you wanted to go after them through Facebook through other ways of cultivating that audience. What were some of the ways that you did cultivate an audience or plan to target this audience with your with your film?

Cody Meirick 9:55
Sure. It It takes time. I'm with with I also run this social media for my, the nonprofit I work for. So I've got a lot of experience with, with, you know, growing an audience on social media and that sort of thing and targeting a audience, right? A, you got to stay active. You just got to and you know, each one is different. I remember I have a friend who had his you know, doing a podcast, totally not filmmaking podcast, just a podcast anyways. And he, you know, I talked to him a bit about it and, and, you know, you're, you're still no matter what you're probably you're, you're attaching yourself to a niche audience. And, and so you're, you're you want to have a Avenue and all your, the different platforms you're on to be constantly pumping out fresh stuff that people can like, people can share, so on and so forth. People are gonna notice you because you you're pumping out new information. How do you do that? Well, each one is different, but I can guarantee you any, any, any documentary that has a topic, I can tell you what the niche is, right? You know, you what's the one usually use vegan chefs? Yes, the biggest chef, yes, vegan chefs. Well, there you go. I mean, that's, you wouldn't want a documentary topic. That's just food. It's way too broad. You're competing with, you know, websites and social media that you know, it's in shows and networks. networks, exactly. Now, start to niche down, okay, vegan chef, Okay, you know what you I, you can wrap your head around that there's people sharing things around, you know, being a vegan. There are people who've written books about, you know, being vegan, and I bet they would like to be promoted. So you promote them. And then when your film comes out, they're going about, oh, yeah, this is the person who shared my thing, so on and so forth.

Alex Ferrari 11:55
Did you do that with this? Did you do that with this, this movie,

Cody Meirick 11:59
if someone's been following me on social media for a while, they know I'm just incredibly active. With this particular one. You know, the art, the illustrations from the book are have become incredibly well known. And beloved by many people, people get tattoos of the art, people do adaptations of the art, but then in a different style, or their makes claymation things or I don't know that there's a million things where people are kind of paying homage to the art, I guarantee you in the past five years, if you made something I probably shares, made something related to scary stories to tell. And Doc, I probably shared it. Also, it's all based in folklore and urban legends. So there's a lot of kind of fun, interesting avenues you can go down, you know, just to pick one story, pick one single story from it. And I probably shared some kind of tidbit about that story at some point, so on and so forth on different social, I mean, it's just being really active, constantly pumping out stuff related to your topic, and people will like it, they'll share it, they'll comment on it, so on and so forth. You know, it's it's a hustle, you know, yeah. But I, you know, just leading up to my first crowdfunding campaign, I spent nine months building it, and I've been building ever since. But I told myself, I need nine months to even build a little bit of an audience for that first one, which I did.

Alex Ferrari 13:22
And how did how did the crowdfunding campaign go?

Cody Meirick 13:25
It went, Okay. I mean, I, I have, I definitely have a love hate relationship with crowdfunding at this point, which is to say, you know, I know, it's, it's, it's perfectly valid way to go. And I won't say I won't do it again, for sure. I definitely can't say that, because maybe I just need to that said, you know, so the first time I raised over 7000, and then I, and then the two subsequent times, I raised around 2000 each, so I raised somewhere in the 12,000 range, over the span of three campaigns, it happened, you know, different points of the production, so I could, okay, the first time I didn't, I just had a mostly video pitch, I didn't have a trailer. The second time I had a trailer. Third time, so on so forth, I mean, you know, you try to, you know, give them something new each time you're doing it. That said, each subsequent, Okay, number one, the first one was the most successful because no one had ever thought about doing a documentary about scary stories to tell in the dark. It was the coolest idea ever, and people loved it. I didn't have a very good pitch. The pitch video was actually on the back and I like it, but you know, but I didn't have enough for a trailer or a proper trailer, and, and so on, so forth. But just the very idea. Got me some press I got mentioned on some very major websites, just with the very concept of doing a documentary about these books. And so Then then subsequent ones, it dropped off, you know, a because I was hitting a lot of the same a certain amount on the same audience I was before through social media, you know, I'd been building it, but still, it's, it's hard. And then also, it's not a new idea anymore. So you know, people are still discovering it, so you can get some traction there. But it's, it's definitely hard to get new press if you know, F. Okay, I've heard of that. I don't know if it'll ever get done. So it's hard to it's hard to, you know, to see. That was my experience. That's not to say everyone has that same experience, but that was mine. And so it's, it's, it's tough. That said, could I have done this without crowdfunding? No, probably not. And I mean, it's, this is the end budget, I estimate being around $35,000, you know, and that was paid for, in various ways. And that 12,000 was a was a big chunk. Sure. So, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 15:57
All right. Now, a lot of people think that you'd need permission, or you need the rights to do a documentary on a known subject. I know the answer to be no, for the most part, depending on what you do with it. So can you talk I'm sure. This has come up. Were you contacted by the CBS film people who are the producers of the new Guillermo del Toro produced narrative feature film version of this?

Cody Meirick 16:31
So? Okay, so early on here, here's a, here's my advice right into that, if you can do you absolutely want to do and that is getting access. Now getting access, in a lot of ways is part of what's going to sell the documentary in the long run. But then also getting that access allows you to get out of various legal ramifications, if you're getting that access by access. I mean, okay. You know, for instance, in my case, the family of the author of the books reached out to me after that crowdfunding, first cap crowdfunding campaign, they love the idea of the censorship thing. I mean, I'm sure they'd like the idea of celebrating these books in a documentary form, and that sort of thing. But, but also, you know, the, the fact that I was really putting the censorship component upfront and a big part of what the documentary was going to be about. They liked that they loved it. And so they, they supported it. So so that right, there was a big thing, right? There was like a stamp of approval. Yes. And they were a little bit of a liaison to some degree with the CBS film folks. Yes, they heard about it along the way. Of course, this all happened over years. But they heard about it, you know, main thing, and they didn't have to tell me this, but I was told indirectly was just make sure you're not adapting any of the stories? Well, of course not. You know, I know that. I know, I can't do that. And it's a documentary. So I, you know, now, the illustrations, that's a different thing altogether. Yes. So, um, so again, the illustrator is, has been known for many years, it does not engage, whether it's interviews or anything else now, and I can see all over the internet that people are, you know, not only replicating his art, and they're putting on shirts and selling them, they're making money on his illustrations. And I've, after tons of research in numerous years, I knew he doesn't seem to be lawyering up and that sort of thing. So. So there was that. That said, That said, the tricky part, definitely, with the documentary is okay, you know, let's hope no one even tries to get a lawyer, right? And definitely, because it's so you want to keep every everyone happy you want. And if you're doing a relatively positive spin on it, then then you're you're relatively safe, which is to say, You're safer than not, you know, it's not like I'm attacking these books or attacking an IP, you know, that for some reason, then, then you're going to get into all kinds of, you know, possible ramifications and legal ones, all that stuff. That said, I mean, there's definitely a nuts and bolts part of it as far as, okay, you know, I don't have permission to use these illustrations, but I use them throughout the documentary, but people are talking about the illustration. It's illustrating a point that someone has seen with you so on and so forth. I mean, this is a nuts and bolts way of editing it so you're pretty safe. That said, you're still going to end up giving it to a lawyer at the end and saying, Here, watch the whole thing. How, how much risk Am I taking on right I you know, and you Yeah, I mean, one thing I would recommend is if you can, especially with a documentary, it's a bit easier. Get a fiscal sponsor. And that really helped because I don't know if I how much I could afford the legal fees that I needed sporadically. And I was able to get them for free, because I got a fiscal sponsor and went through channels to get that. And so that was very helpful.

Alex Ferrari 20:30
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Cody Meirick 20:41
You're always taking on a certain amount of risk. I mean, I don't know every film is risk, right? I mean, you do the consent process as best you can. documentary you're going to, you're definitely lessening your risk all along the way, by doing proper consents, and, you know, so on and so forth, and jumping through hurdles, and getting fit certain things signed from certain people and stuff like that. That said, I was told by another documentary film America or some time ago, I mean, you, legally speaking, you can get away with a certain amount of seconds, and you're probably not going to get any traction. anyone trying to say, you can't show that. I mean, if it's brief enough, and again, you wrap it in, like the fact that people it's it, people are talking about it, and you're showing something, you know, that's illustrating their point and that sort of thing.

Alex Ferrari 21:33
Yeah, there is, there's something called fair use. And there's a certain amount of of that, but there's a film that I always, always come up with, I always bring up is room 237, that documentary about Stanley Kubrick, yes, like you watch that movie. And they're like just shooting, they're just showing full scenes from the shining. Like completely in their action, I was showing full scenes of the shining, the shooting, showing full scenes of Eyes Wide Shut, and they're using it to demonstrate something else. But you know, and that movie didn't get to it. And I know it wasn't in a positive light. I mean, it made it made Stanley into this kind of reckless, crazy conspiracy theorist kind of thing. So it wasn't a positive spin on the film on Stanley on anything. So as you can see, the very first thing to say, this is not sponsored, or, or approved by anybody at Warner Brothers, anybody this or that. But it got made and got released in a large way. But the one thing that they do do in that movie is they never show a clip of a movie without someone talking underneath it. It's never like they just show a scene from the shining. Like they didn't do that they basically always had someone talking under it. So it's all about how much you want to kind of go after it, you know?

Cody Meirick 22:49
And that's, and that's what you learn about fair use, there isn't you? If you're looking for some kind of rule hard and fast, there isn't gonna find it doesn't exist. hard and fast rule is give a lawyer and talk to them along the way along the way. You're definitely you know, when it's finished, and you have your you have an account of it. That's the hard and fast rule is honestly, and I guarantee you they had they talked to a lawyer and they laid out risks, and then probably I get I'm sure they're still what were risks. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 23:18
It's massive. Yeah,

Cody Meirick 23:20
There's still plenty of risks there. I mean, to some degree, you're you're going down the road of what you can do, from the very beginning is choose a topic where, you know, you don't think anyone is going to have a problem with it, right? I mean,

Alex Ferrari 23:36
It all depends, like I mean, if you go, you know, like I did, I went to the Sundance Film Festival and shot a whole film at the Sundance Film Festival without their permission shooting while the festival is going on. And to, you know, a lot of people are like, Are you afraid of Sundance? I'm like, No, I really hope they lawyer up. Because Can you imagine the press on Sundance trying to crack down on an independent filmmaker to make a film about basically was a love letter to Sundance and Park City. On top of wasn't even negative, though I do poke a little fun. It's a it's a, it's a parody almost of what it's like to be a filmmaker, though. I think it's more of a documentary. Because it's ridiculous. But people were like, you know, but that's not even a documentary. But it is parody. And parody is another world that you can get away with. So it's all it's a real gray area, and it's all about the filmmaker and how confident they are that, you know, honestly how ballsy they are, because there's a lot of documentaries about subjects, that the subject matter in the documentary doesn't want the documentary to come out. There's, I mean, that's some of the best documentaries ever, are about, you know, are they you know, it's so it's, it's very interesting. So I was curious about that. And I wanted to get that out there because a lot of people don't, because this is a fairly known brand. It's a fairly known property. And you know, it's I Just kind of like I don't want to make the Harry Potter documentary. I'm sure there is.

Cody Meirick 25:05
What I've talked about a little bit is this idea of early on having a plan for taking your documentary out of the realm of being a fan film. Okay. And and, you know, Harry Potter is a good example, I can turn around and make a Harry Potter movie tomorrow. But how is that different? How did I add value? How did I make it any different than anyone posting anything on YouTube and just throwing up there of people random people talking about Harry Potter? Okay. And I really, you know, I, there's a, there's a, there's a glut of movies in general. But there's a glut of documentaries that nowadays everyone, and their brother has a documentary about every topic out there, right? virtually everyone. And, and that's kind of the running joke is now they're doing a documentary about this, you know, or that and so on and so forth. So you need to find ways to rise above that and say, Okay, this is more than a fan film, this is more I'm adding value. You know, I mean, a celebrities, that's the go to, if you can get some celebrities, great. interview them. That's, that's value because people like to hear celebrities talk about, you know, whatever it is be access, like I was saying earlier, you know, if you have access to the story, documentary there was making the festivals around the same time I was going around is a documentary about Monster Squad. Yeah. Great. Oh, favorite right of the 80s. And, you know, but there's a lot of cult favorites. What set that apart. It was one of the kids in the movie, doing the documentary. So he immediately had access to the quote unquote, official story of that movie. So that that, you know, I'm not going to turn around and make a movie about Texas Chainsaw Massacre tomorrow, because I have no access. And how, you know, how do I?

Alex Ferrari 27:05
It wasn't like that other movie The worst movie ever made? Or it was about troll two. Yeah, exactly. which one it was one of the the people that were in it, you know. So that, by the way, was not seen with that documentary. It's so much better than the movie. I can't even tell. Yeah, yes. Yeah. I actually felt when I saw troll two. After I because I saw the documentary. I'm like, Well, I gotta go see, watch. Then I watched role too. I felt a little bit of myself die inside. That bad of a movie. Like I love the room. I can watch the room all day. Yeah, and especially with a group of other filmmakers. It's even better. But yeah. Okay, so what was the the distribution plan for the film? And what kind of Windows strategy Did you have with it?

Cody Meirick 27:54
So I had, I definitely I did what you probably preach not doing what is to some degree, you know, you know, hope for the best sort of thing, go take it every step of the way. Take it to a few festivals. I didn't go to a ton of festivals because I do think, you know, unless you're getting in the top five or six, then you can definitely spend way too much money touring around trying to go to festivals, but I did a few and and and then that resulted in several distributors being interested right around the same time. Three in all, and they're all smaller distributors. I mean, there's a lot of them. Right. And so that was very interesting. And also very helpful because I you know, not that I'm going to go into detail here but I did get to see kind of the quote unquote, deal for several different of the smaller distributors. And that was an experience in and of itself, just so I can kind of see, you know, as much as you read here and there about it, it's still hard. Because even what you read sometimes are, you know, examples of, Oh, I made a small movie, it was a million dollars. Well, it's that that's not that's a different level, right? I want I want to read about the people who've made their you know, film for, you know, in the 4050 100 grand Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And and so you're, you didn't make it for 5000. So you do need to make money and you're actually you have a little bit of debt or you maybe you're paying people on the back end a little bit here and there and so on so so you need to make a certain amount of money. That said, you don't need to make a million dollars or $500,000 or anything like that. So So anyways, so that was a useful experience, for sure. Kind of seeing these different distributors interested in and seen a few deals and I went with one of them for for various reasons and Yeah, as far as and if I kind of knew what it would mean, inevitably, distributor reach contacts you, okay, let's look at their library. Let's do some research to figure out okay, here are the other titles is how different and similar are mine compared to others? You know, this was a, you know, a distributor that was known for horror movies lower budget horror movies that not a big surprise, it's a documentary I wanted I was mostly asking Okay, you know, they have done some documentaries previously but you know, the bread and butter is is more on the lower budget horror movies and so okay, you know, with documentaries, a big thing is is, you know, education distributors and that sort of thing. So I asked him a lot of questions regarding that. And but as far as the release and windowing, you know, I was surprised what we did, which is, you know, t VOD over the summer, and for about four months, and then and DVD as well in the middle of that. And then. And then amazon prime, which it's on amazon prime video.

Alex Ferrari 31:11
But you wind it out with the release of the the narrative film by by CBS Films. Yes, yes. Left to leverage that a bit.

Cody Meirick 31:18
Yeah, sure. Yep. I mean, wouldn't you? Yeah, why wouldn't we? And and, you know, how much that does? I don't know, it's all, it's really hard to parse things. Because, because I also hustled the heck out of it the entire time, in all kinds of other ways. And I've been building all kinds of things, so on so forth, and, you know, and they hired a PR company, how much, you know, they're, you know, a little bit late, you know, how a smaller distributor works, you know, they're going to put some, if you're lucky, they put some money into, you know, pushing it for a period of time, and they definitely did. So, it's, it's a little bit of, Okay, how, whatever success comes, it's, it can be difficult to parse, you know, how much is it? Was it me hustling? How much is it was a distributor actually putting some effort? And how much of it was just okay, you know, it was good timing. And so it was gonna happen no matter what.

Alex Ferrari 32:20
Yeah, I mean, I'm not sure how good I'm not sure what kind of response to you would have had five years ago? If this film would have come out?

Cody Meirick 32:27
Sure. Sure. I mean, but from the get go as far as the adaptation goes, you know, so I had the idea for this documentary five years ago. And I started to make a few spreadsheets, a couple lists and that sort of thing. And then boom, announced CBS Films, purchase the adaptation rights.

Alex Ferrari 32:44
Which means nothing, which means nothing

Cody Meirick 32:46
Which means nothing. Absolutely, absolutely. So five years ago, they put a couple writers that are long since gone. It's been in development for many years. And then so it could have never happened, which, you know, my my thing even back then was like, if it never happens, then my documentary all anyone has about this, about this. And so so even if it never happens, then there's there's a benefit there. Because it was obvious that people were excited, you could see you know, it was making news and people on social media and so on so forth, we're talking about who wouldn't have great be great to have a scary stories to tell him dark movie. So those same people in theory will, you know, get something out of a documentary that does something very different. And then, you know, look at the censorship piece, which really sets it apart from any kind of adaptation,

Alex Ferrari 33:38
Right. But I think also moving forward in the future people who anybody who searches for scary stories, you are the second, the or the second result for the year until eternity, or as long as those, those those films are up on those platforms. So that's not a bad place to do. Like if you do a back to the future, or a big trouble Little China as a call out to the two posters behind you. documentaries. Anytime someone searches for those movies, the documentary pops up right next to it, that's a good thing. That's a really good thing and easy marketing. It is. Anytime you could attach yourself to a a popular brand, and or franchise in one way shape, or form. documentary being the easiest way to do it without getting sued. Is, is a really good way of going about it. Now, you also talked a little bit.

Cody Meirick 34:27
I was just gonna say I mean, one thing I'd also recommend, I mean, if you can, and not all documentaries do this, but if you can attach some kind of cause behind it, you know, I have, you know, these are the most banned books of the last four years that sort of anytime, like if there's a f it's a movie, okay? You know, was it a black filmmaker? Was it a woman filmmaker wasn't what back when? There were many of those or was it this? I mean, I don't know this each one of

Alex Ferrari 35:01
1000 things. Yeah,

Cody Meirick 35:02
Yeah, it could be 1000 things. But if you can, if you can add some kind of emotion to it in some way, some kind of cause in some way, shape or form, I think that package is it's so much better and says, okay, there's a reason for this documentary to exist. Because I think from the get go, you have to make that argument, you have to say, Why make a doc this documentary. And so you have to, you know, it's, you know, punch people in the face with the fact that there's a very important reason for this documentary to exist. And so attaching that cause is,

Alex Ferrari 35:37
is how it's very helpful. And it also expands your audience, social people listening, you have a niche audience of people who like scare stories, but then all of a sudden, you've got a whole brand new spill off audience, which is just people who are interested in the concept of banning books, or the subject of banning of banned books and censorship and all that. That's a whole other group that you can target, which is arguably fairly niche, and arguably something that you could focus on whether they're going to want to watch a movie about scary stories, who knows. But there is a potential a potential audience there that just by tweaking the documentary a bit, it opens yourself up to it. So why wouldn't it make sense documentary more interesting?

Cody Meirick 36:18
Yes. And there's, there's Banned Books month is banned books week, which is September, which leads into October and Halloween time. So it's like September, October is like Bye, bye. You know, hopefully, people will watch it anytime of the year, but I feel like that time, time of year, people are talking about banned books, and then they're, then they're talking about scary movies and books and that sort of thing. So it's but you, but yeah, any cause you have, yeah, you're and you're totally right. You're kind of, you know, adding an audience and but you and you can focus in focus your efforts towards Okay, do they have a day or a week or something, an event that is all about that the invention is something you can read? Yeah, convention, whatever it is. and American Library Association is here in Chicago, and, you know, I've made been, you know, made friends with them and interviewed people with them, and that sort of thing. So there's various, you know, institutions around that cause that you can really, you know, you know, leverage. And in your, you're totally right, you're hitting a slightly different audience than you were before.

Alex Ferrari 37:25
Now, I always propose, you know, being a film entrepreneur, you always think about other product lines, other ancillary products that you can sell other things you can do, or services you can do, you're fairly limited in this scenario, because you don't have the rights. So you can't get you can't make a T shirt, you can't make a hat. You can't make a you know, a mug or, you know, anything that has the term scary stories on because you don't own that brand. But and I'm not sure if you've have done this, but this is my unsolicited advice to you. Since you have built up this audience that likes scary stories. Why wouldn't you create an affiliate program with Amazon, and sell scary story books, there's very merchandise, scary. So all that stuff. And you could easily put that up on your social media platforms, on your website, put a store together. So anyone who happens to find you, or finds out more about scary stories of documentary, if they go there, chances are that they might want to buy the book or buy a T shirt or but and that's something that you could just be an affiliate for. Does that make sense?

Cody Meirick 38:27
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I it's, it's opening those doors. But I think that's an app. Hey, you got no argument here? I don't know. I'll have to look into it. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 38:37
It's fairly easy to open up an Amazon affiliate account. And it's just an easy passive revenue stream that is 100%. Yours, you don't have to sell it, you know, if this is, you know, there's no deal with a distributor about it, nothing else. And when you have a brand as popular as this, you can create an online store, being an affiliate that sells not only scary story stuff, but then you start thinking like, well, if I'm RL Stein books, goosebumps stuff, you can start creating all these product lines, and little categories of things that that audience might buy. And if they click on I don't know if you know how affiliate programs work, but I'll tell the audience is if they click on your link for the stereo stories book, and like, I really don't want that scary stories book right now. But I do need that inflatable mattress. They click and they buy the inflatable mattress within 24 hours. If you click on that link, and you get I think it's 5% whatever the percentage is of that sale, depending on the product, and they could spend 1000 I you know, I make a ton every month specifically like they just click into like, I'd really want to buy that book. But while I'm here, I'll buy my groceries, I'll buy that shirt that I wanted, I'll buy that camera package I've been looking for or that lens and you get a piece of that action. So it's a really great way to make a passive revenue stream off this documentary. Moving forward. Yeah. Absolutely, I will absolutely. Look, look into that. That's good advice. Okay, so I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests, sir. What advice? Would you give a filmtrepreneur starting a project today?

Cody Meirick 40:18
I'll go back to the message of my documentary, which is read, read a lot. Yeah, I mean, you know, I never went to film school, but I've read a whole lot of books about how to put together a movie, how did you know, modern distribution, so on and so forth. So I yeah, I would say a lot of research and a lot of reading, I mean, just just make it a priority to, you know, I went through a period. And I'm not doing it now. But I went through a period where I was, oh, I was watching at least one film making documentary, a month, and reading at least one book, A filmmaking book a month, for a long period of time. And I mean, I'm, I'm, I know a lot more, and I'm a lot better at what I do. Because Because I made it a point to say, I'm going to consume as much information as now you get to ingest it, and then decide on your own, okay, how much of that am I going to take and how much, you know, doesn't apply to me, so on and so forth. But just just reading a ton. makes a difference.

Alex Ferrari 41:29
Educate yourself as much as humanly possible, put those tools in that toolbox. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Cody Meirick 41:39
Um, I would say that, that is a hustle. And it's an ongoing hustle. And so I've gotten a certain mentality sometimes, and I think we're all guilty of it, of planning, like crazy and getting everything prepared. It's like, you know, building the plane, because you're about to go off a cliff and you think, Okay, I'm gonna go off that cliff, it's just gonna fly and sail and the job is done. And voila, you know, I mean, I, I feel a little bit like I did that my first crowdfunding campaign where it's like, I put so much into that, and I just, I read, so many people say, it's just, you know, it's, it's like a second job for an entire six weeks or a month or whatever you do it, you are going to hustle, you know, incredibly hard for that period. But if you do, you will hit your goal. Well, I didn't hit my goal, I but I, I accomplished a certain amount and that sort of thing. But anyways, you know, you put all this information, all this planning into something, and you think it's just going to coast along after that. And that's not how that's not how life works. And that's not how filmmaking works. It's, it's a constant hustle, you know, the film's never done. But the nice thing, I think, so it took, I definitely took some time to learn that, but also, on top of that, the positive thing, the nice thing about being an independent filmmaker is that, at least for me, if you're in the producing, directing, writing type situation, your movie can define you more than then, you know, all the other things that you might you put energy towards, like, you know, you will always be attached to that piece of art, whatever it is. And so, I mean, I really liked that I like, you know, at one point, I wanted to be a novelist and but it was a similar thing where it's like, you put it out there in the world. And that's, that's part of what defines you. And if you you know, hopefully you really liked it, then then it's always out there, you know, and I, but like I said, it's never done. And you're always looking towards the next project where and you're also always looking at the last project to see okay, you know, got it. How is it doing, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:05
And now three of your favorite films of all time?

Cody Meirick 44:09
I'm one of them. I probably have to choose a Charlie Kaufman movie. Eternal Sunshine.

Alex Ferrari 44:18
Oh, cool. I love adaptation. adaptation is one of my favorite.

Cody Meirick 44:21
That's my number two. If you caught me a different day, I might say adaptation but today I'll say Eternal Sunshine. I'm probably go with it's a little cliche, but I'll say Shawshank Redemption.

Alex Ferrari 44:35
I mean, if you've listened to the show you you know, that's obviously the greatest movie of all time. Was cliche because, I mean, if you don't, if you don't love that movie, you're dead inside and I can't speak to you. I mean, it's obviously obviously, yes, yes. So and then the third I will go with what dreams may come. I love The pressing is all hacked. But nowadays nowadays even more so? Yes, it's. Yeah, that's, yeah. For people who haven't seen that one. That's the one with Robin Williams about suicide and death. And it's it's rough. It's a rough. In hindsight, it's a rough movie to watch now, but yeah, it is beautiful dawning, it won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. It was it was basically like a Renaissance painting. The whole thing was like a Renaissance painting. It was just gorgeous, beautiful. If he'd done good choices are good choices. Now, where can people find you and find the documentary and find out more about everything.

Cody Meirick 45:43
So you can definitely find me website. And social media is mostly scary stories, Doc. And so you can definitely find me there. Giant thumb studios, you can find the website, that separate website. And as far as the documentary, it's on Amazon Prime right now. And it's on all the major VOD. It's on DVD. So you can definitely Google scary stories to tell him dark documentary, it's all over, you'll find reviews, you'll find all kinds of stuff. So it'll be the first thing you find

Alex Ferrari 46:14
Little competition when there's no other one. So that's a good thing, too. You are in as what I like to call it the blue ocean where there is not a lot of blood in the water. So very good, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show, brother. I really appreciate it.

Cody Meirick 46:27
Thanks for having me. It's fun.

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BPS 370: Changing the World with Your Documentary with Susan Kucera

In the stillness of a serene morning, the light of inspiration dawns upon us as we venture into the depths of human creativity and perseverance. On today’s episode, we welcome the visionary documentarian Susan Kucera, whose lens captures the intricate dance of life and the profound undercurrents of our existence.

Susan Kucera, a remarkable filmmaker, began her journey at a tender age, filming alongside her geologist father. From her early experiments with a Bolex camera on the Athabaskan glacier to her latest cinematic endeavors, Susan’s path has been one of relentless curiosity and artistic passion. In our conversation, she reveals the essence of her craft, the challenges she faced, and the evolution of her storytelling.

Susan’s latest documentary, “Living in the Future’s Past,” starring the legendary Jeff Bridges, is a masterful exploration of humanity’s journey through the lens of ecology, energy, and evolution. As Susan describes, “We wanted to look at the whole human meta-story where we’ve been, where we are, where we’re going.” This film transcends traditional narratives, weaving together science, philosophy, and poetry to offer a holistic view of our place in the world.

In the making of this film, Susan collaborated closely with Jeff Bridges, who not only narrated but also appeared on screen, adding depth and authenticity to the narrative. Their partnership was serendipitous, sparked by a mutual interest in exploring the deeper questions of existence. “Jeff watched another film that I had done called ‘Breath of Life,’ and he liked it,” Susan recalls. This connection set the stage for a fruitful collaboration that would culminate in a thought-provoking documentary.

Susan’s approach to filmmaking is deeply organic, a testament to her years of experience and intuitive understanding of her subjects. She often works alone, capturing spontaneous moments that a large crew might miss. This method allows her to infuse her films with a sense of immediacy and authenticity. “It’s like capturing things that only exist in a split second and aren’t there again,” she says, reflecting on the fleeting beauty of her subjects.

One of the most compelling aspects of Susan’s work is her ability to intertwine art and science. Her films are not just documentaries; they are cinematic poems that challenge viewers to see the world through a different lens. As she puts it, “It’s not so much what we’re thinking about the world we live in; it’s how we’re thinking about the world we live in.” This shift in perspective is at the heart of her storytelling, encouraging audiences to question, reflect, and ultimately, understand their own roles in the grand tapestry of life.

In our discussion, Susan also delves into the practical aspects of documentary filmmaking, from the technical challenges of shooting with a RED Epic W camera to the intricate process of editing. Her insights are invaluable for aspiring filmmakers, offering a glimpse into the meticulous and often arduous journey of bringing a documentary to life. She emphasizes the importance of being hands-on, of knowing one’s material intimately, and of being open to the unexpected twists and turns of the creative process.

Enjoy my conversation with Susan Kucera.

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Alex Ferrari 3:02
Today's guest is Susan Kucera and she is a documentarian and the director of living in the futures pass starring the legendary Jeff Bridges. And I wanted to have Susan come on to talk about what the movie is about, but also her process. The importance of documentarians today, how she shoots and edits everything herself, and the kind of work that she's doing as a documentarian and kind of get inside the process of a world class documentary filmmaker. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Susan Kucera. I'd like to welcome the show Susan Kucera. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Susan Kucera 3:47
Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 3:49
So can you first off tell us how you got into the business?

Susan Kucera 3:53
Oh, my goodness. Um, well, it's kind of a long story. I mean, I i've been filming since I was nine. I started on a bolex. You know, by my side of my father's side on Athabaskan glacier, he was a geologist and we did a lot of filming for botanika films. And then fast forward a long, long time I was getting a divorce. And I was thinking okay, what am I going to do now? And the only thing I really knew how to do really well with film and the red one camera had just come out. Actually, it hadn't even come out. I got on the list to get one

Alex Ferrari 4:34
Right! with that box that they showed at.

Susan Kucera 4:37
Okay, I thought I could handle this this takes good old fashioned filmmaking you can actually use cinematic lenses you it's it was a lot like an actual film camera, not a point and shoot camera. And so I got it. I made a documentary called dumb trading on thin air and I thought oh, you know, just see if I can do this. And, and it got picked up by Netflix. And so I thought, Okay, I think I think I can probably do this. And so this film that I just did with Jeff, it's my fifth documentary. One of the ones I did though, was nonprofit. So that that didn't circulate in a lot of places. But it's been it's been a wonderful experience to last, what, 10 1012 years now.

Alex Ferrari 5:27
Now, what made you get interested more into documentary filmmaking as opposed to narrative filmmaking?

Susan Kucera 5:34
Well, I, that's a good question. I have written screenplays and I know how difficult it is to get films made. And when you're making Oh, yeah. I know.

Alex Ferrari 5:49
You have a screenplay, what?!

Susan Kucera 5:54
It's so funny, all these little points that take you in these different areas. So that's why I ended up with an agent because that screenplay had gotten some interest and, and I was still a full time mom then but as I said, divorce kind of forces you to get with the program. And I, she was able to find a home for my first documentary, my my agent, and that I just took off from there, and I really enjoy it. It's, I have one camera, I can move around with one camera and much more easily than, than a giant crew. And I film all the time. I just love I love the act of filming. And it's like kind of thing, right? You you're capturing things that are only exist in a split second, and aren't there again. So like the Grizzlies in the film. You can't cue a grizzly right. So I happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Alex Ferrari 6:58
You could try to work real well for you.

Susan Kucera 7:01
That's right. That's right. And and it's just it's an interesting process. All all of us documentary filmmakers just add to the cultural narrative, the best we can. And so it's very gratifying that way.

Alex Ferrari 7:16
And now what are you shooting? So what are you shooting with? Now you shoot with a red epic, or

Susan Kucera 7:20
It's a Epic W

Alex Ferrari 7:22
I can't keep track of them. There's too many.

Susan Kucera 7:24
I know, I know. Isn't that crazy? All the

Alex Ferrari 7:27
Dragon and monstro? Whatever?

Susan Kucera 7:30
I know, I guess on the upside, we get to recycle our hard drives. So there's no physical film in that sense, correct? Correct. It is. It is difficult. You you end up on a on this sort of treadmill? Absolutely. I'm done. I think I have the camera that I'll just keep for the rest of my life. So

Alex Ferrari 7:53
You say that now?

Susan Kucera 7:55
I'm definitely done.

Alex Ferrari 7:59
As long as it keeps working, you'll be fired.

Susan Kucera 8:01
Yes, exactly. That's right.

Alex Ferrari 8:03
Now, do you also edit your own work?

Susan Kucera 8:05
I do.

Alex Ferrari 8:06
What do you what do you caught on? And how do you feel that helps you as a documentarian because I know a lot of documentarians that don't have that skill, as far as document, shooting or editing. How is it working in the kind of work that you're doing?

Susan Kucera 8:20
Well, my process is very organic. And so I, if I edit myself, which I do, and I'm still on Final Cut 10 Okay. I'm not I'm not in the forward realm of whatever they're using now all the fancy stuff.

Alex Ferrari 8:39
But I'm assuming Final Cut. Will you the latest version of Final Cut? 10? Yeah, the latest version of final? It's a very powerful piece of software. Don't Don't knock it, it's

Susan Kucera 8:48
Ohh no, I'm not knocking it. I'm just laughing because a lot of people's Oh, you know, why are you still using that, and I it works.

Alex Ferrari 8:55
They just don't know, they just don't understand.

Susan Kucera 8:59
And so I become Obviously, I'm very familiar with the imagery that I have that already I have quite a I've been filming for 10 years. So I have a lot of imagery that I that I can get to know at my fingertips. So if I'd handed all of that to somebody else, I think that would be very difficult for them to try to navigate. And the the interviews, I used to transcribe all the interviews and I found that to be a little bit difficult because what people say when you read it, it's different than when it's in person and and how they say it, etc, etc. And so, I kind of gave up doing that and I just become very, very familiar with what all of my subjects are saying. And I do my best trying to weave weave a story together and i and i have i mean living in the futures past it's it is more on the poetic side. Although it certainly has a An impact on people when they see it.

Alex Ferrari 10:02
Now let's talk about that your latest film in the in the living in the future and futures past? How did it come about? And what is it all about? For people who don't know?

Susan Kucera 10:12
Well, it's a film, as Jeff likes to say it's a film that takes a good look under the hood of humanity. And we, we, we had a great executive producer, his name is Jim Swift, and I'd worked with him before. And actually, he's sort of had the thought of, well, you know, why do we do what we do in the face of large environmental issues that we are, you know, have in front of us? And so, we wanted to work with Jeff, and

Alex Ferrari 10:43
And who's this Jeff, you speak of?

Susan Kucera 10:45
Oh, Jeff Bridges.

Alex Ferrari 10:47
Is he a new actor, I haven't heard of him before.

Susan Kucera 10:51
He's one of these fly by night. He is such an amazing human being what a What a great gift. He came on board. And we started from scratch. And we created this beautiful piece of work. And we we did actually watch a lot of other documentaries, Jeff was very involved, we, we didn't want to just contribute another kind of Doomsday or scary thing that gives you a lot of information, but doesn't sort of, you know, you don't know, you just want to crawl into your bed after you hear that. So we start, we decided to look at the whole human meta story where we've been, where we are, where we're going. And we in, we have emergence in there, and entropy, and ecology and evolution, all the ease right energy, we looked at the flows of energy, how that actually works in our society. So it's just a really different and usual film, that you keep you keep thinking about it days later.

Alex Ferrari 12:02
Now, how, how did you get Jeff Bridges? legend like Jeff Bridges to be involved in your movie?

Susan Kucera 12:09
Well, as I said, we wanted to work with someone who had a name. And so my agent, actually was Jim, Jim thought of Jeff actually first, which is kind of cool. And agent did reach out to Jeff and Jeff watched another film that I had done called breath of life. And he liked it. And so I got a call, I was walking up the road, and I got a call. And it said, Oh, hey, just hang tight. I've got jeff bridges on the other line, and I set out totally out of the blue. And we just kind of hit it off on the phone. And we just, we just created this thing. And we we collaborated through FaceTime, we took our time because Jeff was working on a number of films. And so he would kind of disappear for a while and I would do stuff and then he would come back and I would show him stuff. And, and we we just went back and forth like this. And then as the film narrowed down towards the end, he he lends himself to the film too. So he's in it, he's in it as well.

Alex Ferrari 13:24
Yeah, that always helps. It definitely helps. So he's just not a narrator. He's actually on screen kind of taking you through a little bit of the journey.

Susan Kucera 13:33
Right. And I should have given my crew credit, because he actually carried the tripod when I felt

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Jeff's been just been doing this for how many years? I mean, since he was a kid, I mean, he's been around doing this stuff. So I'm sure he didn't mind picking up.

Susan Kucera 13:52
No, no, he really gave his all and it shows and the film I think we're both very proud of

Alex Ferrari 14:01
What do you hope? What are you hoping for with the film? What is your end goal with, with people who watched the film?

Susan Kucera 14:08
Well, we decided to shake things up a bit. As I said, we approach this in a different way. And when you go to see this film, you'll actually learn a lot about yourself, and not in a blaming way or your Why are you a human kind of way, but actually how your brain thinks how interesting things like talking about capitalism in terms of optimal foraging theory, which people often don't think about. Like if you're, if you're a wolf, right, you and you're spending energy, you don't want to spend the same amount of energy getting a mouse if you could spend the same amount of energy getting a deer and so and we look at that in terms of the stock market and just kind of how our whole society functions. Not not whether it's good or bad, just, you know, this is it. And so so, you know, interesting concepts like that we are, we're always looking at ourselves, comparing ourselves to how animals operate. And so you just you just get it interesting idea of humanity this way. And it also allows people who are feeling vulnerable. These are we meet people where they're feeling vulnerable. And we kind of look at why things are the way they are. And as I, as I said, for me, the whole energy aspect of it really opened my eyes. And so now I'm thinking about my decisions differently. I'm, I'm looking at the world differently, a politics everything. So it's just, it's just it's kind of eye opening is, as I mentioned,

Alex Ferrari 15:51
And well, first of all, how important are documentarians in today's world? I mean, there's so much stuff going on. We live in a crazy time. And I think sometimes the news is so busy covering the show, that it's difficult for them to actually do a lot of the journalistic things that they used to do back in the day, which, which aren't as flashy. And I think documentarians have picked up a little bit, if not a lot of that slack. Would you agree?

Susan Kucera 16:26
Oh, I definitely agree. If you can spend an hour and a half, unpacking a thought, right? or different aspects of something, you're certainly obviously gonna learn a lot more. And if you just got 10 or 15 minutes to listen to a soundbite, here or there. And so yeah, I guess documentaries do I mean, it's whatever turns our brain on, right. And people are, unfortunately, we're also busy. Sometimes it's hard to get the bigger picture. But if one can spend the time, put in the time, new ideas emerge. And I think that's the role of documentarians to an art also, I mean, this is an artistic film to art can sometimes shake us up and and make us jolt us out of our sort of typical way of thinking. And so that's another thing that we tried to do.

Alex Ferrari 17:21
Now you you you did um, do you read the cinematographer? On the film as well? Yes, yes, images are gorgeous in this film. They really, really stunning. I mean, how did you learn who taught you? or How did you teach yourself to make these amazing images, which are for most of them for the most part with natural light? I know I well. Money. Money Did you did you pay this on? How did it?

Susan Kucera 17:47
I would have loved to have had a crew, right? Oh, lights, everything. You made everything perfect. But if you're making a documentary, and you're on a budget, you have to get really creative. And so the film, I didn't go to China, and I didn't go to Dubai, there's some shots, a little shots, here and there. And there's obviously a lot of archival footage in there, too. And some stuff from NASA. But the rest is just when, as I said when I see things and they're unusual, and I have my camera with me. And so I've been able to capture things that you would have a hard time putting together with a crew. Right? Because you quickly Yeah, I utilize my daughter. You know, there's I utilize two dancers so we could kind of whenever I was trying to just show humanity and different aspects. I don't know you just get creative and you ended it came out well. But I think just because I've been filming since I was nine, I just I guess I just have an I

Alex Ferrari 18:51
Got it. Got it. Now there's a lot of archival footage in the film. Can you talk a little bit about the process of getting archival footage if like for documentary, a documentary is listening to finding archival footage dealing with the legalities of it buying it the whole the whole process? Because I think it's a little mysterious for a lot of people.

Susan Kucera 19:10
Yeah, it's it's not so bad. If you get to the level where you're actually releasing a film like we did in the theater, it's out in theaters today. Then you have to pay a little extra, and that's for the license license. But a lot of that archival stuff. Oh, I hope they don't mind me plugging them. They're called critical paths. And a lot of their footage is from the US government. It's in the public domain. And you pay them they've done all the work finding all of this stuff and making sure that it's broadcast safe, because a lot of it's obviously very old. And so that's a very good resource.

Alex Ferrari 19:53
And what's the name of it critical past critical past okay.com Yes, I will definitely put that in the show. notes because it's, it's rough. It's rough looking for footage, especially archival stuff for document for documentarians. Did you ever see the movie atomic cafe?

Susan Kucera 20:10
No, I didn't. Have you ever heard of it? I have heard of it.

Alex Ferrari 20:13
It's it's I saw it in my videos or when I was working there. It is a movie completely made of. Billy Oh, my entire movie is made. They told a narrative story with archival footage of the bomb dropping. And it's kind of like a satire.

Susan Kucera 20:31
Oh, interesting. I'll have to check that out. Yeah, I know, I would go on their website. And sometimes I've just get lost watching stuff. Wow, this is fascinating.

Alex Ferrari 20:41
How long by the way? How long? Did it take you to shoot this? I put it all together?

Susan Kucera 20:45
Um, well, let's see from the beginning of working with Jeff. That was about two and a half years ago, maybe a little longer. I mean, the film came out in festivals in February. And it's been in festivals since February. It traveled all over the world. Not me. But the felt.

Alex Ferrari 21:06
I know, it would be nice. If they would, they would let you go.

Susan Kucera 21:09
And the so I get a little fuzzy on the time. So yeah, I would say about two and a half years, it probably took a year to edit. And in doing so as in during the process of editing, obviously, I didn't have all the footage that I needed. So I thought, Okay, I'm gonna have to get other stuff I need, I need something, you know, just just something just right. So I would I would do that. But, but again, I'm just lucky I since I've had this camera, or, you know, this type of game. For some time, just being able to dig into my own library was extremely helpful.

Alex Ferrari 21:49
Right. And, and what I find so fascinating about your story is, you know, to find someone like Jeff, who's obviously a legend, and an Oscar winner, and all this kind of stuff, to be a part of a movie like this. You literally just had your agent call them and call his agent go, Hey, this is a project. And you people never think of just calling up and saying, hey, I've got a project. Maybe they'll be interested.

Susan Kucera 22:13
Right? I yeah, I don't know. We'd have to ask her. I don't know what her secret. But she was great. Yeah. And then he, he again, he watched something that I had done. But he he was really turned on by this subject, obviously. And and the subject that we were interested in telling, which was a little more in depth than just here's all the bad news. You know, what or what crawl into your bed now.

Alex Ferrari 22:38
We've had we have, we've had plenty of those documentaries. I've watched many of them. I'm like Jesus.

Susan Kucera 22:44
No, I yeah, it doesn't feel very well. Of course, information is helpful that we need that. But also, I think there's a quote in the film, it isn't so much what we're thinking about the world we live in, it's how we're thinking about the world we live in. And there's all sorts of interesting philosophy through this film, about how to just see things slightly differently. But then it's that but there's also a hard core here. Here's the reality. And we're obviously stuck with myth. resources the way they are energy. It is. And so it's it's sobering, but it's also exciting.

Alex Ferrari 23:26
Very cool. Now, I want to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Susan Kucera 23:36
Make a film. When I did, I invested in myself, I, I just decided I would. trading on thin air was my first film. And I didn't know if people would like it, but I gave it a try. And it was definitely low budget, but it worked out. Okay. So that's one option. Obviously, hooking up with interning with people who are are working in this field is really helpful. But getting out and doing it.

Alex Ferrari 24:08
Very good. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Susan Kucera 24:14
Oh my gosh. Like I aside from the books that I've been reading lately, who are that are mostly from the people who are in the movie. Right? I don't know if I can even think back that far. Oh, my gosh,

Alex Ferrari 24:32
Any book that comes to mind that really had an impact.

Susan Kucera 24:34
I okay, so there's a there's a book by Timothy Morton that I actually read as I was sculpting this film. Man, I'd have to look up what it was. It's his latest book is called being ecological but there was before this one shoot, I don't have it handy in my mind. But he The reason it was so powerful his prose in there It really made you reach your you really had to think. And it was a challenge to get through and but when you come out the other end you have all these aha moments. So I yeah, I guess I just have to plug Timothy Morton's work. Okay. Very interesting. Yeah, philosophy.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Susan Kucera 25:27
Oh, well, the moment I had my daughter, I realized that I really didn't know diddly squat.

Alex Ferrari 25:34
Kids have that effect on you.

Susan Kucera 25:38
And so, yeah, what she's 24 now she's working on her PhD. And I would say the process of watching another human being develop gives you some pause as to you? Well, gosh, it puts you in a vulnerable situation where you're having to reevaluate everything that you've learned everything in your life. And so I would say that that had a big impact on me.

Alex Ferrari 26:04
Where can people find out about the movie and more about your work?

Susan Kucera 26:08
Well, the movie is in theaters today. The next few days we had Trafalgar released it in at theaters. And then we are still in festivals after that. And then I believe it's out VOD, and everywhere you'll be where you see movies, typically in a month and a half or so from now.

Alex Ferrari 26:28
Okay, very cool. And anywhere people can find your work.

Susan Kucera 26:32
Yeah, breath of life is available. I think it's on Amazon and Hulu. I'm not sure all the places that it is, but it's easy to find. And trading on thin air was on Netflix came out in 2008. It was on Netflix for six years. And then I was asked if I wanted to report it out. And I didn't because it was my first work. And I thought the sound was okay, I don't really want people to but it was actually a good, fun, fun. good movie.

Alex Ferrari 27:04
Very good. Susan, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk. And thank you for making such a wonderful film. It's a very important film that needs to be done nowadays without question. But thank you for so much for sharing your your process with us.

Susan Kucera 27:16
Oh, no problem. Sorry for my my lack of memory in the moment here. But a wild ride with this theatrical. We're all just kind of fried.

Alex Ferrari 27:26
Not a problem at all. Thanks again.

Susan Kucera 27:28
All right, thanks.

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BPS 369: Music Licensing for Film Demystified with Chris Small

We have all wanted to have a killer song we love in one of our films or projects, that perfect song that makes the scene pop off the screen. When you begin to investigate how to get permission for the song you soon discover the maze of red tape and crap you need to deal with in order to have the song in your film.

From getting film festival rights to broadcast rights to VOD rights, Music Licensing is a headache and a half. Today on the show with have Chris Small, a music licensing professional here to demystified the ridiculous and antiquated process of licensing music for film. Chris breaks down the way to properly license music without falling into legal pitfalls.

Chris also works for Soundstripe, a music licensing company that is disrupting the way filmmakers get music for their films and projects. Take a look at how they are doing it below.

As part of the #IFHTribe, you get an exclusive DISCOUNT CODE: IFH (10% OFF MEMBERSHIP)Click here to check Soundstripe out.

I love this service and am using Soundstripe music in all of my videos, podcasts and IFHTV Original Productions. Music licensing is a nightmare but it doesn’t have to be.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris Small from Soundstripe.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:06
I'd like to welcome the show Chris Small man, how are you doing, brother?

Chris Small 3:38
Hey, I'm doing great, Alex. Thanks so much for for having me. I've been looking forward to this for for a while.

Alex Ferrari 3:43

Chris Small 3:43
How's things on the on the west coast?

Alex Ferrari 3:46
The cold but not cold. Like you're cold. The cold like aour cold. So like we're like,

Chris Small 3:51
What's that like?

Alex Ferrari 3:52
Like a 40 with Sun is like, Oh, you know, it's Yeah, it's rough. Yeah. 40s and 50s. It's not it's actually been a really cold winter for us. But again, everybody and then in the north are going to shut up Alex just shut

Chris Small 4:08
Right. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 4:10
So we're gonna talk today a bunch about the wonderful world of music licensing and how interesting of a process that is. But before we get into it, you you come to us from more of the music side as opposed to the film side. So how did you even start going down the road of being in the music side of the business?

Chris Small 4:32
Yeah, yes. So I actually I've been a musician pretty much my entire life. I started playing guitar when I was eight years old and grew up playing in bands, you know, doing the, the the rock thing and and I you know, I think probably was around 10th grade really started thinking Alright, somehow I have to turn this in this passion into Like a career, so I kind of knew that that was the direction I wanted to head down. So I ended up going to school here in Nashville, there was a, there's a school called Belmont University and I studied music business there. And as as are probably like, 99% of the hopeful artists that go to school at Belmont to get involved in the music industry, you know, you come in pretty naive and have no idea what you're doing. But I was fortunate enough after school to get a job at a record label. And it was one of the one of the record labels in town is actually a Christian subsidiary of Warner Music Group called Word entertainment. And I kind of cut my teeth there for the three years doing really not sexy things in business, like making sales, phone calls, and work in spreadsheets, and doing really not fun things. But I learned a lot and, and that was kind of my first, you know, my first foray into the business of music. And, you know, one thing led to another through my own personal music pursuits, and through connections that I had got involved in the music licensing space, and, and eventually, through my own music actually wound up at sound stripe. So that was an that was in 2016. And, and I was originally a composer on the site. And and that eventually led to an opportunity for me to exercise the the other part of my brain and and work on the business at soundstripe. So that's what I've been doing since 2016.

Alex Ferrari 6:41
Yeah, a lot of a lot of even artists in general, they always look at the the sexy part of the business and they never really look at, there's a lot more unsexy stuff in the film business in the music industry in whatever artistic endeavor you have. There's always a business side to it. There's always grunt work, there's always stuff that is just not what they show on TV.

Chris Small 7:03
Oh, 100%. Man, that's exactly right. That's exactly right.

Alex Ferrari 7:07
Get that artists on the stage singing. There's an army of people doing unsexy stuff.

Chris Small 7:13
Oh, yeah. And months of work and failures upon failures upon failures that just add up to the that moment, you know, yeah, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
No question. So yeah, so let's talk about the sexy world of music licensing.

Chris Small 7:27
All right.

Alex Ferrari 7:28
Can you discuss how a filmmaker normally has to license music for film or video because I know, me being a filmmaker. I've tried to license film, music for films. And, you know, even if I go after an obscure song, where it's, it was like, it was a hit back in the 50s. And nobody really knows about it. And my last name is in Tarantino. So it's a it's just a convoluted process. So please explain to the audience what that process is.

Chris Small 8:01
Oh, man, that is a that's an art. So this is a very complex answer. Or it's a really difficult thing. And I think that's why they're, there's so much like, disruption happening in that space right now. But usually, they're traditionally there are a few different ways that a filmmaker would go about licensing a song. And, you know, you may do it by connecting directly with a composer. And this is still I think, like a really viable solid way, especially for those kind of like a narrative base. People that are creating films that are, you know, maybe more dramatic or documentary or you know, anything like that, we are working directly with a composer to kind of score your piece. And that that usually, I think, would be everybody's choice, right? Like, they have an awesome friend who's an amazing musician, who understands the story and is super talented, all self contained, sits down next to them and just writes for the piece. But very few people know that friend, or have that connection, or have the budget to hire a composer or a team to sit down and do it. So that would be that would be step one. But outside of that, you know, you if you're trying to license a song that's like a top 40 track, like a Katy Perry tune or something. The challenge is that not only is that like, just super expensive, but it's very come complicated to acquire the license for that you got to contact a publisher, negotiate a deal, half the time that publisher does not care who you are. And if you're, you know, if you're an independent, or somebody that's like, just now working on your craft, like, forget it, that's gonna be that's gonna be a tough game. So what most filmmakers do that have any type of budget is they hire a music supervisor. And this is somebody who kind of already has those connections. This is somebody who can tap into their network of publishers or their Network of Libraries and actually negotiate those fees, negotiate the licenses It's a very arduous, and frankly not sexy job. And these music supervisors are really difficult to find. And, and, and kind of expensive. So there's that that's the, that's the way it's operated traditionally, and I think, up until recently, maybe 2010 2012, we started seeing really high quality music, being licensed online for the first time. And, you know, stock music or music libraries kind of have this, this reputation of just being terrible quality music,

Alex Ferrari 10:36

Chris Small 10:37
It's just so and, and rightly so, because most of them were, and most of them still are, unfortunately, because it's very difficult to kind of curate a library of music that is that actually has heart. It's actually real, that's made by artists who are like, passionate about what they're doing, and not just trying to make money. So there were a couple of companies that kind of that kind of jumped into that, you know, you can you can music online, and the highly curated for intentional, you know, quality control, but also it's accessible to filmmakers. And, you know, I think what happened in that time period was the model, what that looked like, and how relationship between the company and the artist and the company and the filmmaker was still getting ironed out and soundstripe enter the picture in 2016, and really said, you know, with, with a lot of this content that's being produced, people need access to high quality music, and they need access to it in volume. And so that's really kind of where I think things are headed now is the paradigm shifted to be able to provide fordable quality music for film?

Alex Ferrari 11:53
Yeah, it's, I've noticed that myself just trying to get songs and I have that I have that relationship with a composer who I do call and every time I call him, he's just like, Oh, god, it's Alex. Again, he's gonna want me to do something for like, next to nothing. But he is a friend that I do call. And, and I do have occasionally been able to license a song by calling the artists directly. Like for my latest film, I called an artist directly because it was a very, very specific kind of song. But it's, you know, it's still a process. And it took me weeks to hunt people down and get it, it is a complex process. Can you also talk a little bit about the different rights that filmmakers need? Because a lot of filmmakers just think, oh, I'll just get the rights, you know, just license something, and I'm good forever. And whatever I want to do with it. Like, no, it doesn't technically work that way. Correct?

Chris Small 12:43
This is it? Yeah. So it's a complex scenario. But you know, when you need a piece of music, what you actually what you need is a synchronization license, and that allows you to take that piece of music and associate it with film with video. And that license, you know, grants you the right to, to marry that piece of music, that, that composition to picture and, and that's that's really, you know,the the most important license that you need, and it's, it's required for every piece of music that you want to put in your film. That's not in public domain.

Alex Ferrari 13:21
And then the public domain is a whole other bag of tricks that we don't want to get into at the moment. That's a whole other world of crap. Don't want to jump into but yeah, but the synchronized license for a film, it works, I completely understand what you're saying. But there's also different styles, like different levels of licenses. So like, you can get the film festival rights. You can get theatrical rights, you can get VOD rights, you can get trailer rights to use it for the trailer. And and then how long are those rights associated with it? Sometimes, you know, I'm actually talking, I'm actually trying to license something for ifH. tv. And it's an old show. And the guys were like, Look, when we did this back in the 90s, we didn't think about VOD, so we technically don't have the music rights for that. I'm like, we'll pull the damn music off, man. But yeah, so it is a complex thing. But that's something that a filmmaker shouldn't need to really look after. Like, don't just get the film festival rights, I think, do you agree? Like that's kind of foolish, if you're going to get up get them for the whole thing, at least. Yeah.

Chris Small 14:28
And this is where it's so complicated. Because you know, as a filmmaker, sometimes you don't even know what the end user is going to be. So basing the rights of that, of that license on on its end use is becoming more and more complicated as distribution channels continue to scale. So you have Facebook and you may create something that you you know, you think, Okay, this is going to be just distributed online to some friends, but then later on down the road, you know, you want to go to a film festival or you want to do broadcast and having to get different licenses. But rights for each one of those end users is extremely complicated it.

Alex Ferrari 15:05
Without without question. And then sometimes, you know, filmmakers are like you said, we'll just put something up on Facebook or on YouTube. And all of a sudden, it's got 20 billion downloads. And all of a sudden, you're like, I can't monetize this, because now the right holders of the music is coming after me. And oh, if you would have just license it, you would have had, you know, I'm saying amount of money. Yeah, so true. Now, what are some other pitfalls that you can think of the filmmakers fall into when licensing music? You know, I think we talked a little bit about not just getting one license for one kind of like Film Festival rights with theatrical rights, but trying to get as broad of a license as possible for the music. But what are some other things you should look out for?

Chris Small 15:48
Well, I, you mentioned one, that's, that's still I think, a huge, it's still getting worked out. But YouTube content ID is another thing that's like, incredibly complex, and it's honestly broken. YouTube's Content ID situation, you know, we've been in constant communication with YouTube, talking to them, trying to give them ideas, and also, you know, trying to work out deals for our members and you know, in our, our artists muted and then it's just a really just, it's based on an algorithm, sometimes a piece of music that's 100%, cleared, 100% legally licensed, will get flagged based on a sample that somebody used, and that sample was registered with some other, you know, third party content ID code was just a just an absolute mess right now. And so that's something to keep in mind. You know, sometimes pert, like I said, if you you could do everything, right, and then you go to YouTube, and it just, it's just terrible.

Alex Ferrari 16:46
Oh, no, don't trust me. I deal with it on a daily basis. I put movie trailers up are all you know, I'll put up a all the best is the the commentary, like videos that have a clip of a music or a clip of a movie in it? Yeah. And if the clip is five seconds, in an hour long piece, and I get flagged, and I'm like you sunset it, this is fair use rules. Let's talk about fair use for a second. Yeah, um, what is fair use? And is it a myth.

Chris Small 17:21
Um, I don't think it's a myth. But I do think that people misuse it. So that technically any type of music that's put into a piece of film, that's not for educational purposes, is, is is, you know, is requires a license. And fair use, you know, one thing to just keep in mind about fair uses, it's really kind of a defense, you know, I would be, I'll put it this way, I would be worried or nervous, or, I would make sure to really, really do before putting a piece of music, film that's going to be distributed and not having a license, because you're putting yourself in a position of liability. And if you're having to exercise a fair use argument in a situation where you're getting a takedown notice, or you are getting confronted by a rights holder, I mean, like, obviously, you don't want something like that to get in the way of you pursuing your your art and releasing your product. So So, you know, fair use, in my opinion, is really not a good, not a good argument to, to just use even just a couple seconds of a piece of music in your film, you know, without actually securing those those rights in that license.

Alex Ferrari 18:45
Now, there's something that's always been very interesting, I've always found very interesting in the music business, because, believe it or not, I actually dabbled in the music business. Early, early, early in my career. We will discuss my singing career. But no, absolutely not. I am a horrible,

Chris Small 19:08
We were just singing we were saying puddle of mud before you jumped on here. For some reason that song blurry just came into our brain.

Alex Ferrari 19:14
And we just started. But I actually played around in the music business and hung out and recorded and all that stuff when I was younger. And the concept of publishing versus performance of a song is a mystery. And people don't understand how important publishing is, first of all, because, you know, like the Beatles didn't own their publishing rights. You know, that's right. And Michael Jackson bought it out from Paul McCartney when it went up for people, but that's the Beatles music like how can they not own it? Please explain that a little bit. Oh, man.

Chris Small 19:58
Okay, so I'm gonna try and simplify I think it often actually is confusing. And actually even even trying to delineate or differentiate like, you know, a performance royalty, because technically a performance royalty falls under, right the publishing realm. So in publishing, there are a few different types of royalties that can be collected. And kind of like managed by the publishing side of, of the deal.

Alex Ferrari 20:30
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Chris Small 20:40
And whenever a piece of music is, is, is written and recorded, there are really two different types of intellectual property that are created. It's the, it's the composition, right, like the actual notes that make up the the song. And then it's the recording of that song. And so because you have the composition, and then the recording, there are all these different royalties and organizations and, you know, publishers and record labels and people that kind of like, manage royalty collection, and distribution back to rights holders for each of these type of these type of things. So when it comes to performance, it's really interesting, because there are a few organizations that, that actually monitor the venues and monitor, you know, even like, theaters and bars and restaurants and in track every single time a song is played in a public arena. And a royalty is generated than paid out to the rights holders publisher at that at that game. And so, yeah, then, of course, like, like we mentioned, synchronization licensing that's kind of handled on a publishing print is another thing, too, that's handled under publishing. And that's really like the traditional publishing, if you think about what publishing was in the day was print. So. So that exists as well. And then there's the mechanical royalties that are generated from that, which actually has to do with the amount of times a song is downloaded or streamed online or anything like that. There's a there's a royalty of mechanical royalty that's generated. In that case,

Alex Ferrari 22:16
If I remember hearing the story of I think it was Bruce Springsteen, who like early on, did not own his own publishing. Yeah, like, and he finally said, he talked to his manager. He's like, Well, why don't I just open up a publishing company of my own, and I'll just publish my own stuff. And now he owns and now he owns it all?

Chris Small 22:35
Yeah, you're right. And it's such a weird game in the music industry. And most, most artists actually do that they create their own publishing companies, so that they can actually collect that piece of the pie as well,

Alex Ferrari 22:47
Because it's a fairly big piece if you go like if you're licensing? Well, like a perfect example, was that Beatle song revolution, which Nike licensed when I think Michael Jackson owned and Paul McCartney and the Beatles were Oh, yeah, they were pissed. But man, Mike, Mike pulled in a few few mil off that at least, just because you own the rights to it. It's always fascinating, but I wanted to, I want filmmakers to kind of understand a little bit of the back drop of how film musicians get paid and what the world is. And can you also tell me the average cost in your, in your experience of what like a film festival writes for a song is, because a lot of times filmmakers won't get the whole, you know, thing, and they're like, Look, we just want the film festival rights for it, just to get it into Sundance. Let us just let us watch it there. You know, what's the average cost? I mean, cuz I know, I have a number in my head, I want to hear what you thought.

Chris Small 23:48
So I feel like every single answer that I'm giving here is so ambiguous, I want to try and be clear. But I will say I will say, I am not an expert when it comes to when it comes to this. Like, there are and I think one of the things that that soundstripe kind of aim to do is take all of these what we would consider to be very non universal, or even take it as far as sometimes arbitrary fees on some of these licenses based on end use, and make it as simple as possible. So the simple answer to your is, it's a wide spectrum. So depending on the amount of people that attend the film festival, the amount I mean, like there's several different factors that kind of play into these fees. And, and there's not really a one solid, you know, answer to the question, unfortunately.

Alex Ferrari 24:46
Yeah. For my, for my experience, and from what I've seen, you know, again, it's so varies and by the way, everything we're talking about is not a Katy Perry song. It is not a very popular song. The songs are from independence are just songs that are not as well known. But it ranges from 500 to 1000 bucks, I've seen it all go all the way up to 10,000. Right. But it all depends on the kind of song and who you're who you're talking to. And it also is true, though, and please confirm this or not, it doesn't matter if you use five seconds, or the full song, it's still the same amount of money. Is that correct?

Chris Small 25:22
Yeah, absolutely don't and don't, you know, put, and I will say on on broadcast, there are certain, you know, if you're talking about a broadcast situation, there are actually different fees that will be negotiated based on the length of the amount or if it's a feature film, I know that that's definitely always a good point. So there's all these all these arbitrary little like, you know, things that have been placed on to kind of really, really control I guess, the amount that publishers and, and companies are able to, to charge for a particular use. And that I think was a really solid way to kind of do it for a while. But now we have so much content being produced and the distribution channels have changed to where broadcast is no longer really King. You know, and so, so it doesn't really make sense now. So now you try to put that on the distribution system now. And you have situations where, okay, if your YouTube channel has 1000 subscribers, it's this amount. But if you have 10,000 subscribers, it's this amount. And it just doesn't make sense, in my opinion.

Alex Ferrari 26:32
And no, it doesn't make sense in the least. So I mean, we've just talked for a little while about the horrors of music licensing and and how complicated and ridiculous it is to even get. So basically, now I'm telling everybody listening, just don't use music, just don't use music at all in any of your projects. It is just just shoot yourself. Just shoot yourself. Now. I'm joking. But so we've mentioned we've mentioned sound stripe a little bit, and I want to talk a little bit about sound stripe. Because when I first discovered sound stripe, I was I was like, oh, finally, finally, something that makes sense. Can you explain what soundstripe is? And how your model differs from everything we've just been talking about?

Chris Small 27:17
Yeah, well, I appreciate the compliment. And, you know, thankfully, soundstripe, so we're advocates of the creatives, like our mission is to keep creatives creating, and, you know, what we, as musicians, you know, most of like I said, the leadership team, and the founders all come from the music world. And so we have a heart for musicians, and keeping them creating and providing a consistent stable income for music producers. And then on the flip side of that, we noticed this, what we've been talking about for the past, I don't even know how long 30 minutes or so the complexities in the content and licensing space. And so soundstripe you know, what we what we decided to do was it started honestly, with a with a group of probably 15 or so of our friends here in Music City in Nashville, who were all producers and composers and writers and, and just kind of doing the traditional licensing game pitching songs to brands like Coke, and Kellogg, and you know, landing maybe 1% of those pitches. And we decided to take all of these songs that were just collecting dust on hard drives and heart Blood, Soul sweat, tears went into these things, and provide a no frills, simple, easy solution for content creators to use the songs in their films. And what we didn't realize at the time is that was something that people really wanted. Yes. So so all of a sudden, I mean, within a year, it was very clear, okay, this is this is, you know, not just a side project thing, like we need to really figure this out and create a resource that actually, you know, is valuable, and helps carry out this mission both for filmmakers and for, for musicians. And, and so sound stripe offers unlimited music for video for any use for $15 a month or 135 a year,

Alex Ferrari 29:22
Stop it just stop it.

Chris Small 29:25
Yeah, and we just introduced sound effects to so a lot of our independent filmmaking community is very happy with that. So in fact, I could probably tell you at the time of this video releasing we're adding 10,000 additional sound effects and now our total library would be about 20,000 sound effects as a part of our premium plan to that's 245 a year,

Alex Ferrari 29:45
But that's nothing though. I mean for 220 like less than 20 bucks a month or something like that. Whatever the math is. The amount of stuff that you get is pretty, pretty insane. I actually have experience With filmmakers who found sound stripe and decided to score their film based on the music, because you arguably could score your film, with the music that you find on the service, I mean, you got to work around it, it's not scored for the actual image. But if the images match the music, you could find a composer on there and grab certain themes and literally score your music not only with just music, but actual songs with lyrics. And people singing, you know, for that funny scene, that romantic comedy scene or that, that that love scene, or that action sequence, it is pretty remarkable what you guys were able to do. And that is one of the reasons why I wanted to partner with you guys. So and I'm so proud to be a partner with soundstripe. And to, to spread to know it's serious, because I look at indie film hustle is all about providing value to my tribe, and to any filmmaker, or screenwriter or any content creator that happens to come across my little world, in the on the internet, or on a podcast or wherever they decide to find or wherever they find us. So that's my my mission that is my mission in in what I'm doing with any film, hustle, and you go right into that, because it's a value. I mean, look for 135 bucks a year, you can score whatever, you can use Music for Youtube videos, movies, music, you know, you know, promos, commercials, whatever you want. So if you have a small production company, in wherever, in the middle of Kansas somewhere, you can now provide high end quality music for your projects to your clients. And now you look like your daddy warbucks that's a really rough reference, an old reference, but hopefully some people understand what I mean. You'd like Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos, in the sense that you they feel like you have Oh, wow, look at this guy. They look at the kind of production it is. And I and I can never tell Never underestimate the power of good music matched with good visuals. It adds so much value and so much production value. They're so good.

Chris Small 32:17
No, I was gonna say Alex like I, I super appreciate you saying that. And one thing I just I would I just feel compelled to kind of address and this is something that often comes up when you juxtapose sound stripes model against what we've been talking about earlier. And that is, well what what about the musician, what about the the money that's coming, that they're used to getting so and I just want to reiterate that sound stripes mission, our purpose is to keep them creating too. So, you know, we just, we feel that, in order to do that, what we have to do is actually placed the value of what we're doing on on the serving our members well and answering a really significant market need. And then finding really talented artists and really talented musicians who actually want to be a part of sound stripes culture and creating a community for them and paying them salaries consistent w two on payroll salary, but in order to write music for sound stripe, so that's that's the model and kind of the the mode that we've taken in order to kind of really put our money where our mouth is, so to speak, and invest in the artist in the musician community, allow them to go get mortgages and pay their bills, and not have to worry about when they're going to land the next coat commercial. So that's that's kind of the way that we've decided we're going to do it and I know that that's controversial sometimes but but it's the it's honestly, the fruit of that and what we've been able to kind of see happen out of the artists community that have kind of surrounded you know, sound stripe and its mission has been amazing.

Alex Ferrari 34:02
You know, it is it is fascinating to think about, you know, artists actually making a living isn't that that it's just like a wonderful idea of artists getting paid to do what they love to do. And I do love the model. I love what you guys are doing in regards to how you're taking care of your your musicians and also taking care of your members. And it's a win win for everybody. You know, it really is a win win for everybody. And again, I'm very proud to be a partner with you guys. And you know, everybody listening, there's going to be a lot more content on ifH TV about music and sound effects and all other kind of stuff that we're going to be doing together with sound stripe, and all sorts of cool stuff. And things that we're going to be bringing to the tribe as well. So I'm very happy to be a part of be in partnership with you guys. I really am and likewise and I really hope that like you know my next like all the videos I create Oh The content I create will be using your music. Any films or anything else that I do from this point on will have some music I do have my composer friend. But other than that, he will probably will he'll probably just say do tissue soundstripe and stuff calling me. But, but, but again, thanks for thanks for shining a light a little bit on the ridiculousness of music licensing and how complex it is. And and hopefully we could do some good out there with with sound stripe and what we're doing at indie film hustle. Now I'm going to ask you for a few questions to ask all of my guests. Okay, and I'm going to change it a little bit because you're not a filmmaker. But what advice would you give an artist trying to break in whatever business they're trying to get in? Whether that'd be a musician, whether it be a writer would be a filmmaker?

Chris Small 35:50
Yeah, this is a good one. So I would say, it's really about I think, like, there's this really amazing thing happening with, with telling compelling stories. And I think in the artists community, it's, it's predominantly through content. And so I have lots of friends who are doing the hustle. Let's see your hat. By the way, hustle, hustle, I see lots of lots of friends that are doing that thing, trying to make ends meet as an artist. And really, you know, the best piece of advice I can give them is to keep building your tribe by producing content doesn't have to be super high production value, even if you just went live on Facebook every once a while and showed them your writing process, something like that. Just keep them engaged. And don't let months go by before you say, Oh, I'm here and I have a I have a song a single I'd like done out like done, you're done. You're done. You can't do that. You got to build that community.

Alex Ferrari 36:45
Isn't? Isn't that true? Like with filmmakers, and with musicians and with writers? They're Quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet. Hey, guys, I just made this movie that cost me $250,000. Can you buy it as opposed to like putting out content just non stop? Yeah, and getting people's faces and people understanding like, hey, oh, Alex is doing something or Chris is all Chris's writing, you know? Wouldn't it be cool for musicians with that just to like, be like, just get a video camera and show the process of, Hey, I'm making this new song, here's a little behind the scenes, boom, and just keep, keep pounding it like that. And all of a sudden, people want to hear about, about what you're doing. It's kind of like almost a little reality show, in a sense using social media instead? Absolutely. It's hard work, but it's well worth it. Absolutely. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Chris Small 37:35
Oh, man. So there's several but the one I've read most recently that that I can't stop thinking about is there's a there's a author, her name is Kim Scott. And she is a business author. She worked at Google and also Facebook now Facebook apple and and she wrote a book called radical candor. And it's been kind of floating around in the in the the software as a service and like a tech entrepreneur space, but it's really relevant I feel for life in general, it's a relationship advice book, honestly,

Alex Ferrari 38:13
The relationship with your customer or relationship with like a significant other?

Chris Small 38:17
These would be things like people that you interface with on a daily basis, that you want to establish meaningful connection to. So it could be an employee, it could be an employer, it could be a peer, it could be somebody you're working with on set, it could be a spouse, it could be a brother or sister anybody that you have a meaningful relationship or want a meaningful relationship with a teaches you how to be honest with them, and how to how to have a have a framework of communication and trust and transparency that that builds relational value.

Alex Ferrari 38:51
I am putting it on my audible list as we speak. It's called radical radical candor.

Chris Small 38:57
Radical candor by Kim Scott.

Alex Ferrari 38:59
Radical Candor. Okay, sorry, guys. I just you know, when I hear a good book, I have to, I have to write it down. Next, what is the lesson that took the longest to learn whether in the film business or in the music business or in life?

Chris Small 39:15
Oh, man.

Alex Ferrari 39:18
That's like my Oprah question. Like, what if you were a tree? What kind of tree would you be?

Chris Small 39:24
Well, I don't know if this is necessarily a lesson or revelation. But you know, I think I think what what's been beautiful about soundstripe and its culture is that we really kind of have that we have one of our core values is keep it light. And, and it took us It took me anyway a while to understand what the hell that meant. But, but I think like, what it what it actually means is just being real, being authentic. And so there was a couple of and we actually practice that in our culture tremendously with one another but also to our culture. Like, we don't take ourselves too super seriously. But, but you know, there's a, this is probably like a really specific answer. Okay, but I took a personality test called the enneagram test show, I don't know if you're familiar

Alex Ferrari 40:15
Never heard of it

Chris Small 40:17
Okay. Well, it's just based on certain personality types. And that, that test actually, like when I took it, and my wife took it, and we, and then you can read kind of the relationship dynamic, and what things to look out for and things to, you know, you know, you know, celebrate about each other. It was one of the most life changing, and kind of one of the most revealing things about myself, that I had ever experienced. And I think we so we take it collectively, we took it collectively as a company. And, and that was something that I think from a self awareness side was super, super empowering. And, and really, really interesting.

Alex Ferrari 40:58
Very cool. Very, very specific. Very good answer, sir. Now three of your favorite films of all time?

Chris Small 41:08
Well, definitely, I'm a huge I love No Country for Old Men.

Alex Ferrari 41:12
It's made the list a few times on the show,

Chris Small 41:14
Which by the way, is has like very little music like and that is one of the creepiest things about the film is that this is like hardly any score. This thing is just like,

Alex Ferrari 41:26
It's barely it's all sound design and him just walking around. Hey, friend do

Chris Small 41:33
Yes, exactly. This one may be controversial, but I love Lord of the Rings.

Alex Ferrari 41:40
The whole the whole first trilogy.

Chris Small 41:41
Honestly, I love the first film the best. I think most people would say that. Well, I don't know if most

Alex Ferrari 41:45
I like the third. I like the third film the best I like

Chris Small 41:47
Okay, all right. Yeah. And I mean, I think people either love or hate that.

Alex Ferrari 41:52
Oh, no. Yeah, yeah. There's no gray in the Lord. Yes, you either love it or hate it. And what's the third one.

Chris Small 41:59
Probably Jurassic Park.

Alex Ferrari 42:01
Yeah. Another one that makes the list quite often. Of course,

Chris Small 42:05
That one does. The score and just the whole thing is just classic

Alex Ferrari 42:09
With Jurassic Park's like what it's like when you first saw Indiana Jones when you first saw it when you first saw jaws? Mind you all those films are directed by the same man. So there's something to be said about that, Mr. Spielberg. Thank you. But no, it's one of those movies as yours just like holy cow. Like how is that a dinosaur? People forget now they take it for granted. But back in 93 I think you're right. Yeah. 93 seeing a T rex runner. Man, that was just so killer. And you went on an insight on the insight if you notice in Jurassic Park, there's never aerials of any dinosaurs ever staying You know why? Because ILM did not have the technology to do so. Wow, they couldn't there with the camera couldn't go up and they couldn't do it. So that's why everything's always from ground level looking up or looking over, but you never see it from the air. So stylistically, it panned out, I guess. I mean, it worked out awesome. It did okay in the box office. And then where can people find you if they want to connect with you? And of course in soundstripe.

Chris Small 43:21
Oh, man. Yeah. So I will I'll give sound stripes I am terrible at keeping up with like Twitter and Instagram. Although you can find me I think Small Chris's my handle. Small like the pizza.

Alex Ferrari 43:34
Yeah, that you use that quite often. Don't you? Sir.

Chris Small 43:37
You know, I have to I have to give my wife credit because she's the one who always uses it. And now I just have to use it because it's so funny. And she's also like really short to

Alex Ferrari 43:45
You know,how many people call me like hey, Alex, Portia. How are you doing? I'm like, Dude, seriously, just come up with something original.

Chris Small 43:54
Yeah, you can find soundstripe our, our Instagram is soundstripe music and our Twitter's soundstripe app. And you can find us on soundstripe.com and browse our library totally free.

Alex Ferrari 44:06
Awesome. And we will have I'll put links to that in the show notes as well. Thank you Chris. Again, for dropping some music licensing knowledge bombs on the on the tribe today, my friend I really appreciate you taking the time.

Chris Small 44:20
Alex, you're too kind. Thanks for having me, man. This is a blast.

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Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/SponsorsBPS 368: To Film and Die in L.A – Micro-Budget Misadventures with Adam William Ward

BPS 368: The Brutal Art of Guerilla-Style Indie Filmmaking with Adam William Ward

Today on the show we have writer/director, Adam William Ward. His new film is called Wally Got Wasted. I brought him on the show to discuss the crazy misadventures he had shooting guerilla-style in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. L.A. is probably the toughest city in the world to shoot a guerilla-style film.  His stories are not on filled with knowledge bombs but are entertaining as hell. Here’s a bit about the film.

“Wally Got Wasted” is like “The Hangover” meets “Weekend at Bernie’s.” It follows the adventures of 3 friends who accidentally kill a scumbag, then screws up getting rid of the body, so they are forced to pretend he is alive as they are chased through downtown LA in one crazy night.

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Adam William Ward.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:02
I'd like to welcome to the show Adam William Ward, brother. How you doing?

Adam William Ward 4:00
I'm good, man. Good to be on here.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
Yeah, man. We hooked up actually. I think it was this. We were at Holly shorts. And I was I screening This is Meg there that night or not?

Adam William Ward 4:12
I'm not sure to be honest with you. Because I did not catch you in your screening. I caught you in the lobby.

Alex Ferrari 4:18
I might have been afterwards or something like that. Yeah.

Adam William Ward 4:21
Daniel and the other guys who run Hollyshorts introduce me to you. And then yeah,

Alex Ferrari 4:26
Yeah, yeah. And then we run into each other at AFM and in other places. So it's a small it's a small small town. So before we get into your movie in the ridiculous story, and how you made it, how did you get into the business in the first place?

Adam William Ward 4:44
Um, well, I mean, I was doing theater in high school and I like they named an award after me the a ward award. I was successful in high school theater. And so that builds

Alex Ferrari 4:55
You're huge in Japan like you're huge in Japan. You can't even walk the streets in Japan.

Adam William Ward 5:01
It was important because it builds confidence.

Alex Ferrari 5:03
Of course, of course

Adam William Ward 5:04
Like, and then I went to film school and hpu Hawaii Pacific University wasn't really film school. It was like a visual calm degree. And then eventually I made it to LA and I was like, What the heck do I do? And I was on a session on a plane ride and accidentally sat next to Jimmy Schmitz and Jimmy Schmidt,

Alex Ferrari 5:22
Jimmy, Jimmy the Schmitz, really?

Adam William Ward 5:25
The actor Yes. And he told me, he convinced me to go to an acting school, on Meisner acting school. And so I went to that acting school and then I just really dived in acting 100% from there, and I acted in was 11, short films, and oh nine. And I was a lead in three indie features in 2010. And two of the indie features never saw the light of day, I mean, they never even finished, you know, they had, I mean, one of them, I played Jesus in the head, like a whole boat on the ocean, and like waves and wind and rain and the movie never gonna finish, it's still never seen the light of day.

Alex Ferrari 6:05
Anytime I hear stories like that, just just it makes me so sad. So much work so much money, so much resources, and I've seen them I've seen those movies myself.

Adam William Ward 6:13
Yeah. And so after that experience of being in those features, and none of them turn, some of them not coming out, and some coming out not being the best. I was like, I gotta, I can't keep running out this just as an actor I have to take, I got to wear some other hats. And so I raised the money to shoot a TV pilot. And then everything fell apart. And then I was like, hold on, I'll write something. And I wrote it. And I ended up directing. It's called three guys in a couch. It's on amazon prime. For now, it's a TV pilot. And that was like my introduction back into filmmaking. You know, I had like, I had, I had a short film I made in college, which was horrible. And I had a god so I like I was showing it to people in the industry. It's horrible. And, of course, I was met with the Hank. Because I worked at DreamWorks the first day I moved here Actually, my brotherhood.

Alex Ferrari 7:08
Not a bad Not a bad gig is that when you land,

Adam William Ward 7:11
I got like, I got very lucky. I met with Mark Graziano. He's the head of post production there. And he basically just it was just a meeting and he was like, You seem really cool. We need some help around here. You know, we got Transformers Indiana Jones, like disturb you. Like, why don't you stick around and help? I was like, Okay, and so I worked there for like three months just running dailies of like, heartbreak kid, and like all these other movies, and I was in the editing bays on Disturbia. And watching Steven Spielberg like walk by it's like, my first month in town. You know, it's like, it's so cool. And they get free lunch, they get free lunch at DreamWorks. It was it was a big deal for me at 23 solid. And then from there, I went and worked at Warner Brothers. For Todd Phillips got directed hangover. I didn't know it's on hangover. Um, and I just was so excited about that script. They were really excited about another movie called man which which never came out. But hangover. I was like, hangover, hangover, hangover, and you read the script, you read the script before the movie came out. I read the script before the movie came out. I gave notes on the movie, I ended up in my notes. I heavily like cut a scene that ended up getting cut in the movie, which is great. But um, yeah, it was it was a great experience. But at the same time, it was like what am I doing? I need to go act and and then I met Jimmy Schmitz on the plane actually before after those jobs. Oh, yeah, it was that was that and if so, oh, fast forward to three guys in the couch. I made that and then from three guys in a couch someone at Fox all three guys and characters as a TV pilot I did and totally independent. And they brought me in and I was like, so excited. I was on Fox lot and they were like, Listen, we'd love to develop a new show with you. And I was like, Okay, sounds this is this is great news. You know, so I came in every week you know, I didn't sign anything I just went in and they they were developing ideas with me and like saying you know you should I like that idea. Go with that.

Alex Ferrari 9:13
So hold on a second but you had no representation at this time you did representation? I don't know. So you literally based on some dudes word at Fox. You're walking in and pitching ideas and developing something with no paperwork. No money. No nothing. You were just so excited to be on this lot. You would do anything

Adam William Ward 9:34
like kid absolutely excited. Yeah, like 2524 years old. I'm like dude on Fox. They want to develop a show with me I'm telling all my friends you know like this is a done deal in my head. You know? Nine months I drive No. No. given them idea after idea. The guys probably count as boss on my ideas every day like I came up with this idea.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
Nine months. She did this?

Adam William Ward 10:00
Nine months, nine months old, a couple different scripts for them. And one of them the one I was most excited about was parole officers and they were excited about it too. And so they he's telling me, we I think you're gonna get a million dollar budget for the pilot episode and let's set up a table read for all the exams,

Alex Ferrari 10:20
No contract, or nothing, do nothing have any data they bought you coffee? Have they ever done anything for you?

Adam William Ward 10:28
That that I remember. So anyway, but they did not know was I was taking all these scripts, and I was copywriting at home. So I owned everything. So at least I was covering my ass and he was somewhat smart. Like, nowadays, I'd be like, well, let's get a contract.

Alex Ferrari 10:46
You know, that's a napkin, a napkin, something, anything.

Adam William Ward 10:52
But when you're green, and you're young, and you're excited, you just go in a box every day it was was such a big deal to me. And so, you know, so from there, the table read was cancelled the day before the table. And he was like, I'm sorry. You know, we actually have an idea now that similar to that were shocking. That's what he says,

Alex Ferrari 11:15

Adam William Ward 11:16
So I decided well, okay, screw that. I'm gonna go and I'm gonna make it myself. Because first I'm heartbroken for a couple months and then I'm like, I'm gonna go my girl upstairs on my own. So I ended up finding it some independent money and shooting for like five grand, but it's a TV pilot. That's also on Amazon Prime for free for all. Okay, and when we did a lot with a little I mean for that little amount of money it looks pretty legit and pretty exciting. I'm you can just type in Google parole officers trailer and the trailer pops right up, it looks great. Um, and it was kind of my playground. You know, it was really well, I learned a lot about how to make film. And I mean, I had film school, but it doesn't really compare because film school you have a bunch of people that don't really want to do it. You know, with these at least I had enough to hire a crew up I had a first AC I had a grip, a gaffer, I had all that stuff. And so you can really lead people down in direction. So three guys in the three guys in account and parole officers I both got to do on my own. I directed to other short films that somebody brought me on to direct so that was nice, just for experience. And, and I was still acting in a lot of stuff and auditioning for stuff. But yeah, eventually, I think it was 2014 we started writing the rough draft for gorilla or for while he got wasted, which is the feature. And while he got wasted if nobody knows, it's about three regular guys, they're gonna have a night out on the town to cheer, the heartbroken guy up. And they accidentally kill somebody. And they have to get rid of the body all in one night in LA. So that is the premise of the movie while he got wasted. It's like hangover meets Weekend at Bernie's. Got it. So we wrote it in 2014. It took about a year to write it. And then and we want to we actually won in Pittsburgh Film Festival best script in 2013, I think or 2015. And then, with the script, again, you have these heartbroken things where you go to studios and you try to get it made legit. And you know that fairy tale kind of a fairy tale, this old fairy tale. And we actually had Sony really, really interested in it. The head of post production there, she was like, Oh my god, I'm looking for a script to jump into producing for years. This is the script I love. This script is phenomenal. I'm going to bring it to all the executives at Sony and we're gonna make this movie. I said, Well, I want to direct it to when she was

Alex Ferrari 13:46
Have you not seen parole officers? I mean, have you not seen? So it's on Amazon.

Adam William Ward 13:53
She was so excited. It wasn't at the time. She was so excited, calling me two three times a day for a month. And then eventually, nothing. Just total cut off. And she was going to meet the executives the next day. I don't know what happened there. You know, it just got cut off. I kind of know what happened, but I won't get into too much. But needless to say they didn't come through. So we were like what are we going to do? So we decided to raise the money on our own and shoot and shoot while we got wasted. So we sold units to the movie and and raised some money not as nearly as much as we wanted to. And we I we shot the whole movie for 70 grand. So I mean it's we only had 40 grand in the bank. And we had 30 grand we were supposed to get from my partner, my business partner and writer partner Seth. He had somebody in a bad business to rob him of like a lot of money and so the 30 grand that he was going to put in was gone. So literally I was like I can shoot it for 70 grand. And he found out he lost that money the first day of shooting while he got wasted And so he found out the very first day. And so he like, it's funny the photos, the videos of him everything. He's, you can tell he's having a nervous breakdown, like, like, take a photo on like half an eyes open, you know, like, he's literally like the wheels are turning because he thinks he has to talk to me that night and tell me we shut the movie down. So he eventually comes to me after you know, the day of shooting is over for 1213 hour day. And he says, Listen, man, we have to shut the movie down. I don't have the money. And we still have 40 grand in the bank. And I said that nothing in the world could shut us down. I said, I've already done all the work, everything's done. I said, we just have to stay true to the course now. I said, we'll put it all on credit cards. We're not gonna shut down. Nothing's gonna stop us. So that's what we did. And we ended up we shot 38 in 22 days.

Alex Ferrari 15:53
So that was like an Alexis well, right.

Adam William Ward 15:57
Yeah, I mean, I pulled up a million dollars to $750,000 worth of papers. Really. I mean, we had Arri Alexa, we had cranes. We had jib arms. We had good 310 grip truck. We had the whole crew from the TV show Teen Wolf came over on our movie. I mean, the movie looks like a studio movie. Everybody who sees the trailer everybody sees the movie, they assume it's a studio movie. They don't think it's an independent movie.

Alex Ferrari 16:26
I know the trailer looks insane. I mean, it looks really really good. When I saw it. I was like, Wow, this looks the production value is there. You can tell it's it was done by professionals. But one thing I want to I don't want you to skim over is that you said you pull favors, but you pull those favors, because you built those relationships over the years, right?

Adam William Ward 16:44
I've been here. I've been in LA since Oh, six. And you know, everybody sells this dream of like making it overnight. But no, I've built a lot of relationships, a lot of goodwill. There's a lot of people that support me and know that I'm never going to give up. And so all those people come to the table when you really I mean, it's my first feature while you're wasted is my first feature. So they they come to the table and they really support you they know, you know, the grip truck guy. I was one of the guys who didn't even know me. And he's like, it's your first feature. Don't worry, I got it. Like the deal he gave me was insane on the grip truck. And it was just like, he didn't know me and he was like, it's your first week. I get it. Like, people want to help. People are supportive. And you know, people really do want to help. Especially I mean, LA I got lucky I met a lot of great people, but especially in small bunkie towns. I mean, you say you're making a movie. I mean, if you're listening to this and you're in like Nebraska, like everybody around you is ready to help you. You know,

Alex Ferrari 17:42
I've had people on the show like that one one that did it in Africa, I think it was Kansas. goodland tans Kansas, the whole movie was about the town. goodland. And but it was like this kind of like, you know, no country for all men style movie. But all in, in this town. And it was like and he got the production value. He got a red box deal. He got a theatrical for it. It was like it's, and it cost him I think like 100 grand, but everybody like, his mom was catering it. And the whole town knew it. It was insane.

Adam William Ward 18:18
It's amazing how people they want to support you. They want to help you but I mean, the truth is the movies only as good as your talent. How much you make sure the scripts right? Make sure yes. Like, the more I do this, the more I realized, if you don't make magic on the day, the days used, you know, like literally, I mean, we had a few days when we made magic A while ago wasted a lot of people love the movie. Don't get me wrong, but and that's why movies shoot one page a day, three pages a day, it takes that much time to make something magical. You know, you go home and go Wow, that was amazing footage we got today that needs to be every single day. Because you need to make magic every single day. You know, when you're entertaining people if you if you want to be on the bar that I want to be on.

Alex Ferrari 19:06
Right exactly on that Spielberg bar and that Nolan and Fincher bar

Adam William Ward 19:12
That and it's a lot easier to do when you have a lot of money. Because you have more money and you win. Money equals time. And so if you don't get good footage in six hours, you just keep shooting this, you know, because you have enough money or you plan it, you know, so they're already planning so they have so much time to shoot the scene

Alex Ferrari 19:33
And also support crew.

Adam William Ward 19:35
Yeah, exactly. My movie, somebody is wearing three hats. You know, I'm wearing six that's alone, you know, but like my you know, one person might be doing costume and props and makeup and something else, you know, like, and they're not getting paid what they deserve. You know, no one's getting paid what they deserve. So if you have any problems, you know if you feel your worth is not being met. You know, you're not gonna work as hard as you can. So really, it's it's a labor of love. It's you know, everybody involved, it has to be a labor of love.

Alex Ferrari 20:06
And you also acted in the film.

Adam William Ward 20:09
I do act in the film. I'm one of the three leads. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 20:11
So you're not only a cameo, but a lead, and you're directing and producing and you wrote it and few other hyphen, it's, I'm sure. Yeah, cast it everybody. About by the locations? Mostly? Yeah, I mean, a lot of stuff. So how do you I mean, on a budget like that, on the speed, that turnaround that you did, how do you direct and act because I look, I was in my movie for five minutes, at literally a screen time in my last movie, where I had to play myself, unfortunately. And it was like, I'm trying to direct them, like, Do I look good? Am I okay, it was brutal. So I can't even imagine what you did. So how do you do that man?

Adam William Ward 20:54
I think, you know, for a long time, I was just acting. So I mean, that's the thing, I have enough experience with acting that I'm pretty good at it at everything that I like 300 cats or parole officers, I'm also leads to nose. So I have experience acting and directing. I kind of worked my way up into a feature acting and directing. But I mean, it's not an easy hat. I mean, you're sitting there acting with somebody, and behind the camera might be a cop or security guard, like asking, where's your permit? Like, you don't have, you know, and I'm still like, acting lines, as I like, I'm thinking in the back of my head, like, I have to go deal with this problem. Right, is take, you know, but at the same time, and that's the thing, too, is I, I can't give myself as much time as I give other people I usually take the last take, and I go, I'll do it in one take, you know, because it saves time, you know? And so I mean, I'm lucky, you know, people love like my acting in the movie, there was an England review that like, compared me to Jason Segal and praise my acting a lot. I'm so thankful for it. But to me, my opinion is it's it's not really my fullest acting ability at all I would, I would have been way better of an actor if I could just focus on acting in the film, but my life is what it is. And you know, you get a deal with what you got. So I feel your brother, I

Alex Ferrari 22:13
feel Yeah. Now, what is the biggest lesson you took away from making while I got wasted?

Adam William Ward 22:20
I mean, kind of knew it going in the biggest lesson, which is like, you just got to do it. You can't, you know, don't take no for an answer. It's so many people said you can't do that. What you're what you're trying to do, you know, clubs, fast food, restaurants, trains, cars, bars, every location imaginable. So many people said, Listen, you need to slow down and you can't do this for the amount of money you have, you know, you can't. And I I've always just press my luck. And always, I'm one of the luckiest people you ever meet. I tell people that all the time because I am positive thinking as positive results. I mean, that is kind of the outlook of it. And that's the thing that I learned it was it was proof in the pudding. I mean, we made it.

Alex Ferrari 23:04
So now what is the biggest fear you had to overcome when directing this film?

Adam William Ward 23:12
Oh, I don't know that I look at it. I have time for fear. Day. I mean, you know, there's no fear. I mean, that's the thing is that I'm the captain of the ship, you know. And we eventually had all together probably 100 people work on the movie. I have no time for fear. I have no time for doubt. I have no time for any of that stuff. I'm sleeping two hours a day, on average. Because after 12 hours of shooting, and then straightening up, where we're shooting, helping what everything I everyone I can working 15 hours a day. And then when I get home, I have to try to go over the next day and make sure there's no problems and really start trying to take care of those problems. And I mean, we had all kinds of crazy problems. I mean, emergencies every day, you know, then if the producers that come on board can't fix it comes back to me. You know, I've been like the cave location. We shooting this gigantic cave up north in California. They called us the day before and said you can't shoot. Okay. I'm like, we have a whole crew and a drivetrain. Like I'm coming tomorrow, like we're shooting. They're like, well, the cave didn't get finished. Sorry. The women didn't get finished. It was was it a real cave or set? It was it was so they dug in the ground. So half the cave is real. Dealing. It's fake. So half the breaking cave of Styrofoam. So we couldn't shoot in one direction. We're not painted. It's white, you know? So they basically go You can't come You can't shoot, I go, we're shooting and we're coming. And I had to figure it out. I went there and I was like, okay, we're going to shoot the whole scene in one direction. The whole scene so, you know, we cheated and no one knows when they watch the movie. No one's mentioned at once, but they're facing same direction, we just lighted it a little different, you know, so there's different because there's texture to the cave. So if you light a little different, looks different. So people that are talking to each other, the backgrounds the same, but it's different, you know, and no one's ever noticed, you know, so we got lucky with that. But there were so many other emergencies, too, we had, I think the the hardest stuff was shooting. I think the biggest thing I did learn is I need more support, but I need a good producer that can try to shield me from problems. So I focus more. And we had a lot of emergencies, we unfortunately had a crew member had a son overdose, man. So you're dealing with that upsetness, with the family dog guide. There's all this external stuff that makes things really hard on you. Because I have people calling and crying to me all day, every day. And I'm usually the people that come to people that they come to when they're upset. And I can't be that I can't take on any more hats. So I can't be there for my actor whose son died, you know, I can't I can't even take that in mentally, or emotionally. Because the time I spent thinking about that, or even taking that in, I will not be thinking about problems that we have on set that I need to solve. So it's just such a focus, you know, you really need such a focus, and but you really just need proactive people that can spot problems before they come. And if you had like two or three around you, you're you're really better off and don't get overwhelmed.

Alex Ferrari 26:32
Now, what's the craziest thing that happened on set?

Adam William Ward 26:36
To crazy? There's so many crazy stories. Um, I was I mean, almost every day, I was convincing security guards and cops to let us shoot. Because we have permits in some places and some places we didn't. So I mean, there was one day we were at a casino. We had no business at a casino.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
We didn't have a permit at the casino. No. Oh, Jesus. You are nuts, man. Like I've I've shot crazy places. But I don't walk into a casino and shoot that with an Alexa no less. It wasn't

Adam William Ward 27:05
in the casino was outside of casino. Here's the thing I got going for me. I got a grip Trump and I got a grip truck. 310 grip truck, I got a crew with 30 people. And everything looks legit. So everybody assumes I'm supposed to be there. It takes a while. For security to get up call the higher ups and higher ups. You got a good 30 minutes at least before they really realize you're not supposed to be there. Because you look so legit. Right? And I took full advantage of that. And we're at the casino and the security guards come up. We've only been there 3040 minutes. We're already shooting I'm shooting. I'm actually shooting my shot. I remember and behind the camera. The security guard goes up somebody goes Hey, what are you guys doing here? We need to see your permit you know and David Lee while writer dye guy drew drove the grip truck shot the behind the scenes was shot off still photography, he will normal numerous ads. He goes to the copy goes, Oh, we have a permit. I'll find it for you if you want like and they both the security guys go. If you don't have bro, we don't even give a shit. And they left. And I was like they're like of course you guys belong here. I'm sure we'll keep an eye out for you make sure nobody bothers you guys. I'm like, is really it's is a union crew. So you have cops security guards coming up to you every day asking if you belong here. Now my crew is a deer in headlights. They'll stop the freeze oh my god as a cop. So usually I'd run up talk to the security guard. And what I would normally say is Hey, how's it going, man? How long you been on shift today? Right on man? You gotta look like you had a good lunch, man. That's awesome. Well, you have a wonderful day, man. I'm going back shoot. Alright, see you enjoy watching us make a movie. I go back to the crew, the crew

Alex Ferrari 28:57
This is before they come in. Now this is a different day. No, no, but this is like before they would approach you or you see them coming and you just hit them first

Adam William Ward 29:05
nice bottle. I usually if I spot them before we started, I'll go up to them. Because the crews like oh my god. security's looking at it. Go up to the security, I'd say something like that to the security. I come back to the group. Oh, we're all agree like guys, we're good. They think we have permission. We don't have permission. The security assumes we have permission because I was so friendly and upfront with them.

Alex Ferrari 29:28
Right? You're not trying to hide or steal anything.

Adam William Ward 29:30
I go and say hi. Good to see you guys are like man, we must not get the memo. You know, we shoot for hours that one particular day. hours before anything happened. They ended up calling the higher ups who call the higher up Kevin was trying to figure out who the hell we are. We shot for like three hours before they even noticed weren't supposed to be there. Right. Then the head of security comes I can't say the location but the head of security comes to this place. It's very big company. And he's like Whoa, he happens to come right at the worst possible time. Because someone in my crew is running next to a moving object that's extremely dangerous and not safe. And I would not have had them do it. I didn't want them to do it. But I was distracted looking at a shot. And the DP got excited with the first ad. And they were like, go run, run and bang on the window, you know? And no, no, don't do that. But unfortunately, he did it right when the head of security walks up. So literally had a security walks up as we're doing something that's unsafe, not we're supposed to do. And he's like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, like you need, you need to shut this down. Like, what I don't know what you're doing here, where's your permit, you know, you need a permit to be here. And I literally took 30 minutes to convince him, like, I saved up all my money, that my whole life is in this. I'm shooting a YouTube video that's going to change my life. I can't stay movie, you know, wherever you'd really need a permit for a movie. I'm

Alex Ferrari 30:59
shooting a YouTube video with Alexis and a three ton group chat,

Adam William Ward 31:02
because he actually said that he said to me said, looks like a lot of equipment for YouTube.

Alex Ferrari 31:09
And then you should have to just like, have you seen YouTube lately. I mean, the production quality has gone up.

Adam William Ward 31:15
Eventually, after like throwing myself at the jury, like, Oh, my God, you have to let me shoot here. He said, Listen, you can shoot. But don't go back near that moving object other than go shoot on the statute in the parking lot, shoot whatever. Well, I arrange my shooting schedule fully knowing that we have to do the most dangerous most, you know, not deemed risky, risky, risky shooting first. Because if we get shut down, we could then maybe shoot farther away from the most important location. So I already had shot everything I needed to shoot in that location when he showed up, I want to do one more shot. So we ended up shooting on the steps like it's safe for us to shoot on steps. Okay, we're carrying a dead body. I'm steps like, why would you let us do that. But he had to leave, he had to like another emergency. So it didn't matter. So we shot in the parking lot, we shot on the steps. And then by the end of the night, we were like, okay, we need that one more shot, let's go up and shoot it and then just get the hell out of here. So we went up and shot it. And then by the time he showed up, we were packing up, because they'd call them and said, Hey, they're up here again. But by the time he got there, we were done. We left we were about to leave here in the parking lot lever. So I saw him up there talking to them. And I was like, Oh, they call them for sure. And then just like, we're out by I didn't wave. I didn't wave I just left. But yeah, it was risky business. And there's all that kind of stuff. You know, I mean, like, it was, I'm very good at convincing people are especially on this one, too, to do something maybe they don't even want to do because it really is my whole life at that moment. You know, I put 1000 of my own money in there. And I'm not a rich guy. You know, and just my whole life is on the line. You know, I mean, in the future don't get made. I don't want to try to make another one. So, you know, I, I make my case,

Alex Ferrari 33:06
what I thought what I find fascinating is that you actually stole locations, and got into guerilla filmmaking in Los Angeles, with a large footprint of a grip truck 30 crew members, Alexa, like you did the opposite of what I did, which I shot at Park City, with a small camera to people in my actors running around when there's 1000 other 10 1000s of other people to take the attention away from me, you did the opposite. Like, if you would have came to me and said, Hey, we're gonna steal all these locations Los Angeles, and I was I would have told you straight up as a as a consultant, I would have said, you know, chances are, you're gonna get shut down or I probably wouldn't do that. Well, let me see the list of locations just like it's like it but you only could do it with like one camera and a guy like you can't just have like, roll up there, you know, 30 deep, but you did and it and it seemed to work out for you. I want to go down this road a little bit with the guerilla filmmaking because it's not something I've talked about a lot on here on how to do illegal stuff. And it's definitely that's great. It's great. It's gray area, it's you know, you're not doing anything illegal. It's just

Adam William Ward 34:18
you're allowed to shoot anywhere we're looking. Yes, you are. anywhere if you don't put a beanbag if you don't set things on a sidewalk or somewhere. So if you have someone holding a line or holding a camera, everyone's moving, you're allowed to shoot there, you're allowed to shoot, there's nothing they can do about it. You know, we'll have cameras everywhere they have their phones, you know you can start making rules that people can't have cameras or no one could take their phone anywhere. So really, it's legal what's on what's not legal is when safety comes in. That's

Alex Ferrari 34:50
all private is how private property are they does even matter anymore.

Adam William Ward 34:53
Um, if it's private property, yeah, probably Matters, I'm sure But no, not at the place that we work. Private. Well, I guess other companies. But yeah, so yeah, we're but whatever

Alex Ferrari 35:07
you didn't put you didn't so you only busted out the cranes and stuff when you had permits?

Adam William Ward 35:13
Um I mean, we use the steadycam a lot.

Alex Ferrari 35:18
That's not touching the floor. So you're good.

Adam William Ward 35:20
Yeah, I can't think of any time No, no, we we had Jabbar. Yeah, we grill at some places with jib arms and stuff like that.

Alex Ferrari 35:30
But your your strategy is brilliant, because you're just you're like, literally like, these guys can't be this stupid not to have a permit. And that's your strategy. Like, you were just rolling so deep that everyone's like, these guys have to be legit. They have to be legit. There has to be legit. I mean, if not, they would be insane.

Adam William Ward 35:48
Yeah. Yeah, that's pretty. That was our strategy. I wouldn't suggest anybody.

Alex Ferrari 35:53
I wouldn't either. But it works. In Los Angeles. No less.

Adam William Ward 35:57
It worked because of me. Because I'm, I'm that guy that just says it's gonna work. I believe I'm like, I believe in my luck. And I pressed my luck. Like, as hard as I could press it. I literally like my Lucky Charms box was empty. By the end of the movie, I can feel I had nothing left of luck, all your lives, all

Alex Ferrari 36:15
your lives have been taken out all your nine lives.

Adam William Ward 36:18
They've built up again, you know, but at the end of the movie, I was stuck. We got shut down one day out of all the days one day, you know, we got shut down in my apartment. We got shut down at my heart. All these days grilling these crazy locations. And we're shooting in front of my apartment. It just so happened that we were shooting at rush hour. I was getting laughed at the same time I was getting. I was looking for something I was getting dressed for the next scene. I was very distracted in my apartment. What? We have to try to go under the radar a little bit. I go outside, they're directing traffic on my street. I know they got spotlights on the road, the whole roads laptop lit up like a like who's doing this? My first ad might.

Alex Ferrari 37:09
That's Yeah,

Adam William Ward 37:10
I didn't talk to everyone about trying to go under the radar a little bit. Now we could have got away with all of that not directing traffic per se. But on top of it. Everyone's yelling. So then the head of the neighborhood rot watches called in my neighborhood. And she's not taking no for an answer. She wants to see a permit. So we're shooting actually we're shooting the most iconic scene in the movie where we walk out in slow motion with Wally, for the first time in public the dead body. And it's just this the slow motion scene with the music. Well, that was shot with literally a woman to my left screaming. I don't want to see your permit. I want to see your permit. So I think at one point, Patrick, actually Mitch, our lead one of our lead guys looks left. He's looking at the lady in the shop. screaming at us. I want to see your permit. If you watch the movie, you might be able to see him glance left. That's what he's looking at. Luckily, the shot has no sound we wouldn't have been able to use the shot. Yelling. We got to take seven I wanted a third take but we couldn't get it there take she was like I went up to her. I talked her I was like oh my god, are you okay? Did we bother you? I tried to get to the root of the problem. So first thing I want to do because if we offend somebody, we bother somebody, I want to make sure that we're not going to do it again. She was not having that. She was like, I want to see your permit. I was like I have somebody go get the permit. She's like if I don't see the permit in two minutes. I'm gonna call the cops. And so I literally had to be like, I guys were shutting down because I know for a fact, we only have two more shots here tonight. Okay, we're coming back here in three days. And not only are we coming back here in three days, we come back here and three days, and I'm shooting people in the movie. I have people dressed as cops. We're not allowed to dress the cops. And I have people getting shot. Like I'm coming back here in three days. The last thing I want is the cops show up tonight and be aware of this whole frickin debacle. So I'm like saying, sorry, we're gonna shut down. I tell the whole crew guys, we're done. Alright, we're back out we'll go next location because they have another location that night to shoot. And the crews like totally salty and pests, everyone's super pest at this point. But I'm like, don't talk to her leave her alone. You know. And of course that my business partner actually was we went out to dinner with his parents. He didn't leave set very often. But he decided he deserved a break or something. He went to dinner. And when he came back, we were shut down. And he had a frickin mouth down. He followed the lady home like yelling at her and like I was like, Oh my god, but it was hilarious because my crew everybody wants to yell at the lady when they walk past her because she's literally on the other between my apartment building and where we were shooting. And like don't talk to her. Don't talk to her and James Babs and the guy who played while you did a phenomenal job. He goes to our way to destroy our thing ever. I'm making this silly goofy comedy, destroy our and he's wearing the full on American flag. He's in the outfit. He's a droid Are you say What did you say? She didn't say anything. What did she say? She felt bad I think after shutting us down saying how disappointed everybody was. But anyway, went to the next location. So when we came back here the next day and we shot the scene where the guy gets shot with a gun and and how, like, did

Alex Ferrari 40:30
you have blanks? Please don't tell me you shot with blanks?

Adam William Ward 40:32
No, we did not. We ended up special effects. We had the same special effects guys that did better actually worked on our movie I pulled favorites.

Alex Ferrari 40:40
Of course you did. Why was it you pull favorites. That was the set favorites. So then but so so then you just had but you still had guns and you had cops guys dressed as cops with guns. Not a good thing in LA.

Adam William Ward 40:53
So the cops eventually did get called that day. But luckily they got called after the cops was over, I got lucky. And that's why I shot it first. And by that time the cops and the guns were put away. So the cop posted up on my street down at the cul de sac. Just you know, like, I don't know, 50 yards, 40 yards from my house, my apartment. And the only thing we had left was all the cars. So we have the SUV we have all these lights pointing in the window. We have the camera strapped to the hood, all things you're not allowed to have without putting it on a tow truck. Right? And how are we going to get out of the driveway and pass this cop. So luckily, there's no lights on my street. So what we did is, we turned out all week, we set up all the lights, they're all pointing in the window, the cameras on the road, we turn out all the lights of the car, okay. And we drive down the street pull out of my drive, when we pull down the street and go around the corner, I get out of the car, I turn on the camera, I turn on all the lights. And then we proceed to go and we shoot we shoot for 40 minutes or whatever we come back to the apartment, a block or two away, I turn out all the lights, I turn off the camera and we pull in and he never saw the camera. He never saw any other than he was supposed to down there for hours watching.

Alex Ferrari 42:09
Just to make sure that you guys didn't shoot.

Adam William Ward 42:13
Well, he was waiting probably for us to light up the street again. Because she told him he was shooting in the street when we never shot in the street. We never went out there. So he's not going to come up to my apartment. He can't do that. So and he never was in a position to see my driveway. So we will go there. You know we we

Alex Ferrari 42:30
hear what you're saying. You're insane. Did you say actually and believe it or not, I had another filmmaker I'm not sure if he was on the show or not. But they were shooting in their house and a neighbor. And they had it was all everything was in their house. Everything was in their house. They had nothing outside it was all lit from the inside everything right? The neighbor calls because they're making too much noise. The cops come and knock on their door, Nick, do you have a permit to shoot? And you la you need a permit to shoot in the house. And they they and they they gave him a ticket. And they had to go to court and it was like $1,000 ticket. And it's like it's LA is no joke man they've made they know knuckleheads like you and me. They know we're going to go do stuff like this. And they're gonna get their piece. That's just the way it is. But so I'm assuming you had production insurance. You had production insurance for all of this, right? Yeah, you had to grip and all that kind of stuff. Did you do sag?

Adam William Ward 43:31
Yeah, we did. I do want to say though, I talked to every single one of my neighbors that are close. Yeah, what we're doing right? Number instead of you have a problem, let me know. Like, you know, and just kind of prepare them mentally. It was like, Please bear it. We're only here two days, you know, and only your one day, one more day. And, you know, they all like kind of knew what was going on. They didn't really like it. But they were like, okay,

Alex Ferrari 43:56
yeah. Because, because that you're guilting your neighbors because if they call the cops, they're like, dude, you got to see me every day. Like, why are you being that way?

Adam William Ward 44:06
I prepped them ahead of time. You know,

Alex Ferrari 44:07
that's a smart way of doing it.

Adam William Ward 44:09
Yeah. And I basically I begged and pleaded before knowing full well, that if somebody gets pissed, I'm screwed. So it was kind of like, Listen, I'm so sorry, we're doing this. But it's just the one day and I promise we'll be done before this hour, you know, so they just had to bear and take it because I mean, 3040 people running around my apartment. Were loud. Louder than than not being loud. We're definitely not a normal night, you know? But they were you know, they were nice enough. They were all

Alex Ferrari 44:38
they were set for that lady except for that lady.

Adam William Ward 44:40
That lady down the street. Yeah. As ever that lady down the street, and nothing else

Alex Ferrari 44:45
to do with her life.

Adam William Ward 44:47
everybody else's do busy with their life. Exactly. But, you know, I mean, you learn a lot, you know, and I also know I'm pretty positive. I was in a different city. I mean, I was golden. Really golden They're gonna say what's going on are your tools, you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:04
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Adam William Ward 45:15
So, I, you know, again, like I press my luck 100%.

Alex Ferrari 45:20
So I actually when I was at Park City shooting my movie, the cops made a U turn behind me as I shot that it was like, it's one of my favorite shots in the whole movie because they literally are in my movie. They make a U turn. I don't even shift they looked over at us and not because it's Park City. There's 1000 people with cameras running around, like you could do whatever you want during that festival. It's, it was brilliant, but, but I was nervous as hell. But after like day one, I was like, Oh, hell with this. As when we went to we went to Sundance headquarters and shots. Mind you, I did not get accepted to Sundance. So they might be a little perturbed I'm not sure.

Adam William Ward 46:04
By getting accepted Sundance, because you're, you know, they they're so about minorities right now, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:10
hey, I'm Latino, man. Come on. Now, but you're not a gala. No, I'm not a gay one legged Latino. I need to be a gay, let one legged Latino, who, who really wants to dance, and used to be a woman, and robot all that. But he said, Listen, I put down if you're transgender, and you used to be a woman to get into it, you know what, and and all joking aside, oh, we're joking. For everyone listening. We're just joking. But it is true. If you look at that. I mean, they are all about diversity and getting as many different kinds of people in but I always thought, This is what I always said, like, if you want to get into Sundance, here's a recipe. It's make a woman about a one legged hooker. Who lives who lives in, who's Puerto Rican who lives in the Bronx, she she's a ballet dancer, she's a stripper by day, but she really just wants to dance, you know, and he like that, that gets in. That's a good thing that that

Adam William Ward 47:08
gets in, that'll get it. I'm not knocking it. They're supporting those people. And those people need to be supported. I just knew that while he got

Alex Ferrari 47:17
so much the Sundance movie,

Adam William Ward 47:19
you know, they're not going to a movie about some dead guy running around town. It's not their style, and everyone has their own style. It's all good. You know, you're gonna have to see it on amazon prime.

Alex Ferrari 47:30
So let's talk a little bit about your distribution, man. So what is your distribution model and your plan? And how are you planning to get it out there? Because it is a little bit more unique than usual.

Adam William Ward 47:40
Um, right now we're on Amazon. You don't need amazon prime to watch. You can just watch on Amazon. A lot of people like oh, I don't have prime, you don't need prime just while ago wasted. It's right there on Amazon. Ah, yeah, it's been successful so far on there. But we're not nearly as successful as we need to be eventually. But in about 30 days, we're going to be using aggregator we're going to be on all the platforms will be on video on demand on on Cox on spectrum on direct tv, iTunes, iTunes, Google Play on all the platforms. We're going to be on all the platforms soon. And we're slowly taking over a country by country right now we're in America, and we're in England, and we just got in Germany. And it's all independent grassroots. We did not go with a distributor distributors gave us some offers a few different ones. But ultimately, my business partner Seth Himes is a online marketer, like he's a huge online marketer, and he was excited to do the marketing for this and excited to see the numbers every day and, and analyze what's working and what's not working. And we have a product that looks like a studio movie. So we thought that people would purchase it like they purchase studio movies. And so far, it's been great. I mean, I just told you before this meaning, you know, Sunday alone 60 people rented the movie and and 10 bought it, you know, so just got to keep plugging away and honestly, we need to start trending on platforms and stuff and I'm excited to be on the video on demand because I think when you're new on video demand you're like top 10 on new releases and some edited about that that's just free advertising. Um, and yeah, it's very much a college movie so very nippy in that way. And it's a comedy there's not a whole lot of companies that are good out there. Oh, we have our little niche market and we know it and we're just going for it and it's been great so far. It's been really great. podcast or radio interview like every three four days. Be interviews is what

Alex Ferrari 49:44
But obviously you've been waiting for. For my podcast as a special one. Obviously,

Adam William Ward 49:48
Yours is a big one. loyal fans, you know,

Alex Ferrari 49:54
I have to I'm stroking my own ego. I appreciate that, sir.

Adam William Ward 49:57
You're a great interviewer.

Alex Ferrari 49:59
Okay, stop. Stop, just stop. It's not it's not genuine. I can I can sense it. I can sense it on this show. I know you are. No, no, dude, I know I don't when I heard the story and I saw the video This has been we've been trying to do this for months. God's like six Gods almost he got it's like August. I'll bet you in August of last year when we met. Yeah. And the movie was it was done. But you were just going through all the, hey, maybe this guy will pick it up. Or maybe I could get there. You were still trying to figure it out.

Adam William Ward 50:31
You know, that's the crazy part. And it's like, every step of this way. I'll say this. For all the filmmakers out there every step of this way. There's that dream of like, someone's going to come on board and make. And it just never happened. Every step of the way down making the movie casting the movie. You know, distributing the movie, every single time. It's like somebody comes along and they kind of offer you a deal, but it's not really a deal. And in the end, that is the thing I've learned the most is betting yourself. Like, if you know you're the hardest working person in the room there bet on yourself. I'm not gonna stop until while he got wasted. It's a classic is as a hometown is a classic. People talk about that indie movie while they got wasted. I won't stop until that's the case. And I can bet in myself, you know what I mean? And it's going to be a pure effort of like, I see the numbers every day, people run it every day, and I'm going to get it until it's millions of people. And I won't stop until this. It's it's the hustle, baby. It's the hustle. As Mark duplass says the Calvary is not coming. And then oh, it'll get easier. I mean, like, I got really lucky on this with a certain amount of people. We got the same dp is teamwork. Like I said, we got some great actors. We ketamine nominated, actually, she won a Golden Globe, Sally Kirkland. Larry Hankins in it. He was like, Oh,

Alex Ferrari 51:47
I know, Larry.

Adam William Ward 51:48
I did a movie with Larry. So many things. I mean, he's great. Alec soul came out of retirement. Alex holes in the back room. We did the Russian Roulette scene. I'm not sure if you know, he was phenomenal at it came out of retirement for it was just so great. And I wrote that rule actually for JK Simmons, which is really funny. And I thought JK was going to be in the movie. So I used to have this job. I used to inspect Tesla's right. And I'll tell the story. So I go to JK Simmons house. I'm supposed to inspect his Tesla. They're like, Hey, we I'm like the best guy to inspect the Tesla's at the time. So they're like, we have a job for you. We know you do show business on the side. So we have this Jeff, you say go to Jake Kay's house, right? I'm like, I have to have to talk to JK like I want to try to get him in the movie. And I want to try to talk.

Alex Ferrari 52:39
So how LA is that? That the Tesla guy that's coming over to check the Tesla's gonna pitch JK? Is pre Oscar or after Oscar. It's literally a month after the Oscars. There's just one actor and he's doing and he and he's doing the Allstate commercials Got it?

Adam William Ward 52:58
Exactly. Like go to his house, right. I'm like, okay, I just got to get them. I'm fine with them. I was holding my head up vacates, like, um, here's the keys of Tesla. Here's the car in the driveway. If you need anything, let me know when he walks back.

Alex Ferrari 53:13
As as he should, as he should. There's no other reason to have a conversation with I mean, unless you want to with the Tesla

Adam William Ward 53:21
tech. So I'm sitting there inspecting the Tesla and like, literally, my mind is racing or what the hell am I gonna do? Like, I have to have to talk to this guy. And I can't be weird about it. So what can I do? He's like, y'all done. I'm like, I actually I have to take a drive and we have to take a drive. We don't have to take driving. We don't we're not. We don't take pride. I made this shit up. So I did. Like, do you want to take a driving test? I'm like, I don't really feel safe driving. I think you should drive. I'll ride and just kind of feel how it is. We drove for 15 minutes. We drove 50 you

Alex Ferrari 54:03
had JK in a car for 15 minutes. Okay, everyone listening. You see, this is the personification of hustle. This is like he's just figuring it out. As he goes, Oh, brilliant.

Adam William Ward 54:18
I was so depressed when he went back and said, Oh, my God, like this opportunity is gonna go by me. I cannot let this go by. I'm so brilliant. So I got him in the car. We drove around. He's like, Is that good? I'm like, no. car drives on the freeway. We got on the freeway. so ridiculous. Like, you know, I'm talking to him about how it started. I'm talking to him about music. I'm talking. I'm trying to befriend him as much as possible.

Alex Ferrari 54:47
I'm assuming I hear he's a cool dude.

Adam William Ward 54:49
He's a very cool, dude. Very nice guy. very down to earth. Dude, I got the car with him. I said I have to admit to yourself. I said I watched whiplash last week. I'm a little intimidated. little little scary right now. And he was like he laughed. He was like, Nah, man, you got nothing to worry about. I was like, Well, if I was a way to disarm

Alex Ferrari 55:09
them, way to disarm them right there, look at that.

Adam William Ward 55:12
Like, if I was driving, one of the reasons I didn't want to drive, I figured you might be coaching like in whiplash. And I think I couldn't handle the pressure. And I couldn't laugh again, you know, and it was on there. We were just, we were vibing and talking and stuff. And by the end of it, I mean, we did a video together. I was like, it's my nose. Like when I wanted to do a video with him. We had a ton, you know,

Alex Ferrari 55:31
No, no, you did not do a video with Jake. Is it on video? Yes, I did. Yeah. Okay. So if it's on YouTube, everyone listening and watching, I will put a link or I will, I will embed that video in the show notes. Because that's gonna be genius.

Adam William Ward 55:44
Yeah, I did a video with them. Um, I lied because my sister's birthday was like, five months from that four months. I'm like my sister's a famous singer. I don't know if anybody knows that. zz words. My sister. She's, she's a great singer. But I was like, Listen, I have this idea for a video for my sister. It's a birthday. I don't know if you'd help me. Do he know who she was? You did not know. But um, like, he was just a nice guy. I'm like, I have an idea to do this video for where I sing or Happy birthday. And then all sudden, you interrupt me and start doing the whiplash thing. And like, No, no, do it again. And he was like, he loved the idea. And so we did the video together.

Alex Ferrari 56:24
What like with your phone, like right there?

Adam William Ward 56:27
Yeah, with my phone right there. Yeah, yeah, we did it in his driveway. phone number, and I got him to watch the parole officers trailer. At the time. He laughed out loud when you watch the trailer, which is golden. And I said, I'm about to make my first feature. And he said, you know, well, maybe, you know, maybe we work out maybe I could. Maybe we could do something together in the future. So I literally wrote the scene, the Russian Roulette scene in the movie for JK Simmons. I had a cell phone number at that point. And it just didn't work out for him to be in the movie. He had too many ways so much work, but he was gone. The whole summary was like in Europe for other movies.

Alex Ferrari 57:04
Yeah, I was gonna say I was gonna say the agents would have kibosh that,

Adam William Ward 57:08
oh, agents or were extremely against that he did. But then we almost had Bradley Cooper do the part two, but he was shooting stars born so we can get that either. Jake J. Bradley Cooper is really good friends with James Babson plays Wally. And so they were like college friends and everything. But he's like, dude, Bradley would probably do it for one day, but he can't he's shooting this movie A Star Is Born, which I didn't know how big it was gonna be at the time. It's his first time directing and he's having a baby with his wife. So it was like, there's no way he has the time to do it. But I was I get I've actually got Alex and Alex killed it. I'm super happy that Alex killed it, though. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 57:48
that is a great, that's just such an LA story that said, like, you can't do that anywhere else in the world. Like you can't, hey, I'm just gonna go pick because I've heard so many stories of people like trying to meet celebrities or like you saw that movie living in Oblivion, right that old like 90s, that movies about making an independent film. And the D i think it's the grip or the gaffer has a script in his back pocket the entire movie, or it's either the scripted gaffer, the DP, and he keeps trying to pitch it to the lead actress who's like that one actress who one time was famous as she's now doing into movies back then. It was brilliant.

Adam William Ward 58:24
Oh, absolutely. And the truth is, this is good advice for anybody. Listen, when you meet a celebrity, you can go for the photo. I mean, go for the photo if you want whatever works. But the truth is, this industry is so small, that don't pitch them. Don't try to get them any try to be friendly. That's the number one thing is trying to befriend them. Try to get them to remember your name. Try to make them laugh. Try to make them laugh. I always try to make them laugh. And I wish I knew that when I saw Steven Spielberg, I see Steven Spielberg every day when I went to DreamWorks, he'd walk in with his dog. I was terrified to talk to him because my brother got me the job and it's like, don't get fired. So it's like I can't you know, I can't talk to Steven Spielberg. Well, other than Hello, but I seem like every day, but why are you not like trying to make this guy laugh, like you have a tool, you good at making people laugh? make him laugh, you know? Now I know nowadays, it's like literally befriend these people. And that's what you need to do. Even if you can get them remember your name. You'll see him again. You'll see him again. You know, you see these people again. But befriend them. That's the number one thing if you try to pitch him, everybody tries a pitcher. I mean, shit. People try to pitch me now movie ideas all the time. I can only imagine if somebody else said the movie idea. And they're telling me I'm like, I have 15 movie ideas. I don't know how I'm gonna make all the ideas I have let alone an idea you have. And you don't realize like, any idea I have. I have to be completely in love with it, because it is a labor of love. Oh, you're going to be in it for a couple years. Yeah. So these movie stars. I mean, can you imagine how many people pitch them like they do? not want to be pitched, make them laugh, entertain them, get them to remember your name. And then leave it alone and see him next time or get a photo at the end, you know, if you want, but don't try to pitch them. It's the worst thing you can do. Because they're not everything that's business. They don't want to talk business, their agent talks business. You know, that's

Alex Ferrari 1:00:20
great. But anyway, but yeah, exactly. Like, you know, if you know, they play golf, or you know that they like a certain kind of movie or kind of music. That's how you connect with them in one way, shape, or form. You have to connect with people on a human level, not on a business level.

Adam William Ward 1:00:34
Not on it's like you going up to the CEO of Apple being like, I got an idea for Apple, like, you think he wants to hear that from the link.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:42
It's like the I it's like the iPhone, but it's like an iPad, but then it's on your wrist? Like we're good. Thanks,

Adam William Ward 1:00:51
Buddy. You know, it's funny. But you know, I know a lot of filmmakers watch this. And so that would be my advice to them, you know. And if any filmmakers are watching this, I'm Adam William Ward on Instagram, if you want to connect with me, oh, and you watch while he got wasted, and you want to talk to me at all about the movie, I try to keep up with all the messages that I get from people that watch the movie, and I really enjoy people that love the movie. So if you do want to connect way more on Instagram,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:17
And obviously if they want to pitch ideas to you, where do they go? To? And should I just tweet my idea to you, Adam, is that? Can I just tweet it?

Adam William Ward 1:01:29
I don't usually use Twitter, so you can tweet me all you want. I'm on I think I have like 150 followers, but I don't really use it. So

Alex Ferrari 1:01:38
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests, sir. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Adam William Ward 1:01:45
Do it, do it, don't break into the business, make the business trying to stop trying to put your hand out to somebody else and start doing it yourself. There's every all the tools in the world are there for you. Now, we have high def cameras we didn't have 10 years ago, you don't need 35 millimeter anymore. You can self distribute your movie. You know, you have all the platforms, you can get an aggregator to put him on platforms. You can do it all yourself or you need his money, of course. But you know, you pull that

Alex Ferrari 1:02:12
Not even that much and not even that much.

Adam William Ward 1:02:15
No, I mean, you can pull off a lot with a little. If you're in any filmmaker, stop putting your hand out start start making your own business.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:23
Can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career? book?

Adam William Ward 1:02:28
I would say reading I don't know. I just thought you your book. Alex is gonna make the biggest difference.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:33
Oh, you mean? You mean this book? Give me this one right here shooting for the mob that one

Adam William Ward 1:02:38
For the MOBS by we're gonna make the biggest difference of my life. No,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:45
Thank you for the plug within my own show. I appreciate that.

Adam William Ward 1:02:49
So that books a big one for me. I sent you a book called catching the white tiger, which I am now responsible after this week of writing into a movie script. Someone's paying me to write a note for Yeah, that's awesome, man. It's a book about a man's life story. We came to America and made it made it made it all come true for himself. And, and so that's going to take up a lot of my year. I mean, obviously, I'm going to do other projects, but I just got hired on for that. So that's awesome did. And that's actually a lesson to a lot of people out there too. It's like, you don't know what's coming next. What you just got to get your work out there. People see it, and opportunities come but you don't know what opportunities gonna come? You know, I hear people all the time. It's like, I'm gonna do this. And then this is gonna happen. You don't know what's gonna happen. Stop trying to figure it out. Yeah, just make it do it. And stop thinking about outcome outcome is not important in art. focused on the art and and have a plan. I'm not saying don't have a plan, like, how are you going to get it out there or any of that, but don't have expectations of what's going to happen. Like, that's out of your control. Like, oh, an agent, I'm going to get an agent from this. I'm going to studio movie next. And this, these are all things you can't control. And it's really just stupid of you to try to put that kind of pressure on yourself. Well, that's the kind of pressure that will end your career doesn't happen. It's the heart Why put the heartbreak don't have any heartbreak, just literally stay focused on what you're doing. And make a piece of art and or whatever, if it's mine. I don't know how much you want to do while I got wasted as a piece of art. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:25
I was I was gonna say something, but I just let you go, sir.

Adam William Ward 1:04:30
But, you know, that's what it is. You know, a lot of people are making this. It's hard to them. It's passion that drives it and just do that and focus on that and have fun doing it and stop focusing on an outcome. That's my

Alex Ferrari 1:04:44
Now what's the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Adam William Ward 1:04:48
Bet on myself. It's the same lesson. It's It's, you know how, you know, I've been in this now. 10 years hustling So much time was wasted on trying to wait for somebody to help. So much time is wasted on a studio or somebody saying this is going to happen and you just go home and you're excited. And, you know, but the truth is, like I've given up on that dream, and I'm sure that if I even happen one day, I'll get a studio movie or getting tight with Netflix or somebody and they're like, we want you to make stuff. sure it'll happen. I don't care at this point. I just don't care. I'm gonna keep making stuff because I want to make stuff. Stop waiting for people. You know, that's the number one lesson is go do it and stop waiting. It's the same thing with investors. I'm going to have a I think I'm going to teach a foam course eventually, but with investors, I learned so much on Wally and we didn't raise that much money. But we we raised enough to know and you got to realize when you talk to investors, I had 10 people turned me down, compared to the one person that did it. Or maybe even the ratio is higher, but I can sniff bullshit mile away on someone who's not going to invest. Because a lot of people want to talk to you about it, but they don't actually want to invest so much with all that stuff. And it does come back to not wanting to wait for people just kick ass yourself.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:12
So three of your favorite films of all time, sir. as of today,

Adam William Ward 1:06:19
Um, I mean, it's funny I Braveheart is I always want to mention because it's so well executed. He did it and he starred in it, which is mind blowing. I know how hard that is. And for him, he had 1000s of people that he was in charge of not 100 people. And the moral the theme of the movie is everybody dies, but not everybody lives and to have a film and comprehend conference, that whole ideology and show it to make you feel it. At the end of it. You're like, God, I want to do something spectacular in my life. He executed is enough.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:51
I'm gonna I'm gonna throw a quote that's gonna blow your mind. I just heard this quote today, and I'm going to use it on another show. Many most people die at 20 But uh, buried at 90. Yeah, Isn't that pretty? True? Isn't that amazing? I heard that quote. I was like, I'm sorry. Especially in Hollywood, they kill your dream. They at 20 you die. And then 90 you because they don't they don't go anywhere. They just stay. They stay in the safe zone this entire time. And it's it's especially in this.

Adam William Ward 1:07:23
That was one of the reasons I stopped working for the studios, you know, went to DreamWorks or went to Warner Brothers. Every single person around me, Todd Phillips, his assistant was a filmmaker was a director. But he was he was his assistant for 10 years. He was 10 years older than me. And I was like, what you want to be a filmmaker but your is it but

Alex Ferrari 1:07:42
Because they're hoping because they're hoping that one day Todd's going to come down go You shall direct?

Adam William Ward 1:07:47
Yeah, exactly. everybody around me was hoping to do another job. I found I found literally 80% of the people at the studio system wanted to do a different job. And I was like, and they were all 10 years older than me at the time. They were about my age. And I was like, I can't if I want to do what I want to do. I gotta go do it. I can't do this in turn to do that. I got to just go do it. You got to prove yourself. So you know, anyway.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:12
Alright, so so that's one. One. Really. Another one was predator back in the day. That's the best. It's one of the best top five action movies of the 80s. Just bar none.

Adam William Ward 1:08:23
I mean, you have everything you have the biggest buffets like badass dude,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:26
It is it. There's so much testosterone coming off of that film. It's just like you got to do what's wrong. You got the CIA pushing too many pencils. Like it's just that, you know, it's that heart that handshake with the two arms at the beginning of the movie, which is now literally a meme.

Adam William Ward 1:08:45
Brilliant. It's phenomenal. You have all the toughest guys in the world at the time in the end that are in cinema, and you have a monster that's actually worthy of killing a ball.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:56
Like, can you know, it's probably

Adam William Ward 1:08:59
How I was introduced to me was amazing, too. That's one of the reasons why it is my favorite movie because of how it was introduced. I was not allowed to watch it. I was too young.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:07
I was gonna say, and

Adam William Ward 1:09:09
I had to wait in the other room when my brother older brother watched it and I could hear the monster like Yeah, and I was so captivated. You know, I was like so captivated. I was six at thetime. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:21
And he's watching it on VHS, obviously.

Adam William Ward 1:09:23
Yeah. And then a year later, I was allowed to just watch the end and I saw the monster finally that I was just like, Oh my God, look at this monster. And then a year or two after that I was finally allowed to watch the movie. So it was like a four year process. And it was just the coolest look at monster I don't think they've got that monster right ever since the first movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:44
No really, man. I mean, it's been I mean, it's just it's hard to it's like perfection man. Like it's hard to take that that that that series anywhere else man. It was like, the only time I saw it happen was like with alien. Like Alien is a masterpiece but aliens is a masterpiece without without question, but then it kind of

Adam William Ward 1:10:06
Cameron took it to another level. He took thearchaeology and he went, that's why like, everybody's like, Oh my God really is going back and doing aliens. I'm like, Yeah, but James Cameron so I want to go back and do alien. anyone's gonna do it like really did amazing Don't get me wrong but dude the second one he took it to the whole of the left

Alex Ferrari 1:10:23
I mean and and Jimmy Jimmy's doing some some blue people movie again four of them in a row so he's all right he's kind of busy

Adam William Ward 1:10:29
Terminator. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:31
No no it will terminator he's producing Terminator,

Adam William Ward 1:10:33
But he's writing as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:35
I think he's writing it. So if he's writing it, I'll go see it because it hasn't been a Terminator since Terminator two. And actually, that's where they're picking it up from they're literally just gonna like nothing else happened. We're picking up straight from Terminator two.

Adam William Ward 1:10:46
That was one of those I heard about it. I get it. I can just get a caviar that movie

Alex Ferrari 1:10:53
You in every buddy else in your age range in my age range.

Adam William Ward 1:10:58
I'm gonna keep rockin do a while, but. And third. Third. Oh gosh, I gotta think about that for a second. I gotta. I'll throw in a comedy Wedding Crashers. Yeah. And at the time, actually, like it was the same year it came out I think, or the year after. I was heartbroken. It was the only movie that made me feel better. I just watched Wedding Crashers like over and over again. Like, it's just such a fun movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:23
It's both of them at the peak of their powers. Yes. Oh, and and and

Adam William Ward 1:11:29
I made them both movie stars. Really? I mean, like, oh, one priority was a movie star. But

Alex Ferrari 1:11:33
But that took them that blew him up. And I can't believe I'm blanking on his name. Vince Vaughn Vince Vaughn. Thank you. Yeah, Vince Vaughn. He that blew I mean, he swingers got him going a little bit. He did a few things. But Wedding Crashers just catapulted them.

Adam William Ward 1:11:49
I ran into bits recently, and I was like a normal guy, all the shit. But just like, a bunch of kids and stuff. So I just left them alone. I actually didn't talk. But oh, and Wilson I met was I think this is the viceroy or something. He's hammered. He's frickin drunk out of his mind. And I literally have three guys in a couch that DVD, and I and somehow the producer with him thought that he knew me. So I came up and I sat with them. And I was drinking with them. And he was like, they will waste it out of their mind. And the producers like Yeah, he introduces me at a different name. I don't say no, I'm not him. I just keep hanging out. And I handed him three guys in a couch the DVD and I'm like, Yeah, man, check out the show. You should come on some dive. It's just oh, you probably ended up in the trash. But you know, they were super friendly.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:49
More Hollywood stories. We should do a whole episode of just your Hollywood Story, sir. I have many of them. Now where can people find you? And while they got wasted

Adam William Ward 1:13:00
While I got wasted right now is on Amazon. Are you gonna do is Google go to Amazon and type in while they got wasted? Please write us a review. We need reviews on Amazon. It really helps us and rate the movie on IMDB in 699, around $15 I think the buy on there. And the movie in about 30 days will be on all the platforms. So you should be very easy to find pretty soon Google Play video on demand and everything. Yeah. And to find me, Instagram is Adam William ward. You can connect with me on there. I'm on Facebook too, but not a lot of people use Facebook anymore. And the same thing Adam Ward, you can google me Adam way more everywhere. I'm Adam William ward. And I'm going to be making a lot more stuff three guys in a couch is free on Amazon Prime parole officers is free on amazon prime. And while he got wasted is our feature which I mostly talked about tonight, on Amazon. So please check it out. And I hope you enjoy it.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:57
It has been a lesson in guerilla filmmaking in Hollywood stories. It's been an a very enjoyable conversation, brother. So thanks for coming on, man. I appreciate it.

Adam William Ward 1:14:07
Thanks so much. I was happy to be here Alex.

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BPS 367: Making Money Self Distributing Your Indie Film with Naomi McDougall Jones

Today episode is probably one of the most important shows I have released in some time. On the show is filmmaker Naomi McDougall Jones the writer, actress and producer behind the indie film Bite Me, a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits them, directed by Meredith Edwards.

The filmmakers of Bite Me have decided to take a radical approach to distribute their film: they’re doing it themselves. For 3 months, they traveled in an RV around the U.S. and screening the film wherever they can – be it a theater, a bar, or someone’s living room. Not only did they tour around the country like carnies they also documented their entire process with a docu-series.

EVERY FILMMAKER NEEDS TO WATCH THIS SERIES. It is mandatory for every IFH Tribe member. I’ve never said this before so take it seriously. It will save you a ton of pain and suffering. Naomi is so open, raw and honest about her experience. Get ready for one heck of an interview. Enjoy!

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome the show. Naomi McDougall Jones, how you doing?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 5:32
Hey, I'm great. Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 5:34
Thank you for being on the show. I greatly appreciate it. You guys reached out to me. And I heard about your craziness. And I said I need to I mean, you're insane. And I love it. And anytime I mean, insane filmmakers who are good at it, because there's crazy insane, which is just like, I've lost my mind. I'm an egomaniac and that we've met those filmmakers. Yeah, but but you were you're good kind of insane. Something ambitious. You have Audacity. I love that. You had an audacity, I'm like, we're going to do this watch. So I felt that was a perfect story for film intrapreneur. And because you are a film entrepreneur without question, you are a a definition of entrepreneurship without question. So before we get going, I want to know, tell me a little bit about your film bite me and how it came to life because we're going to talk a lot about this film.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 6:29
Sorry. So binary is my second feature film. I wrote it. I was one of the producers and I started it. And it is a subversive comedy about a real life vampire IRS agent who audits her.

Alex Ferrari 6:45
Now when you say real life vampires like someone who identifies as a vampire.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 6:49
Yes. So there is a real global community of people who identify as vampires in real life. Well, you say of course, but not everybody knows.

Alex Ferrari 6:56
I mean, I've been I'm very, I'm very hip that way. Yes. Because when you say vampires, like cuz people might think is like, Is this like, interview with a vampire? I'm like, No, this is like, these are people who are real, who are in the lore. I mean, I, I had a lot of golf friends in high school, so I am aware of this.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:12
So so some portion of that community believes that they need to drink human blood to stay healthy. And they do through donors through donors. So so the genesis of the film was wanting to I to write a really great romantic comedy. I love romantic comedies. I'm really sad that the genre has taken such a horrible nosedive.

Alex Ferrari 7:33
Ever since Nora Ephron left us.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:35
Yeah, I know.

Alex Ferrari 7:36
She was so wonderful

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:37
The early 2000s it's just been terrible.

Alex Ferrari 7:40
It's been pretty rough.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 7:40
So anyway, so I was sort of, like, how do you? How do you make something smart, and edgy and well written and feminist and just like a well made movie that is also a romantic comedy. And I found out about this vampire community. And those two ideas kind of smashed together. And

Alex Ferrari 7:57
What what I mean, I heard the story when I when I saw the trailer, I'm like, well, this is genius, like, and the reason there is the IRS agent is, is because they are trying to identify as a nonprofit because of their religion. Or,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 8:11

Alex Ferrari 8:12
How does that work?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 8:13
So they so vampires would tell you that that vampirism is not a religion, it's it's a fact of their lives. Sure, and identity. But the vampires in the film have registered as a church, right, basically, for tax reasons. Right, possibly, to scam the government slightly. They get audited at the beginning of the film. And that sort of sets the whole story in motion. I mean, seriously, that just alone is hilarious.

Alex Ferrari 8:42
I mean, just that concept is it's a very high concept in film, which is great. Now, the other thing that I found interesting about this, is that you guys, you guys raised a lot of money for this film. I mean, I mean, and no, it's considered in the in the world of studios, a low budget, you know, argue some of them would even argue to say it's a micro budget, I wouldn't call this a micro budget, but it's a low budget film. The budget from what I've read is half a million, correct. That's right, that is a lot of money for a for a romantic comedy, with no marketable quote unquote, actors in it. So how, first of all, how did you raise the money for this kind of project? And then we'll talk about how we're going to get the money back.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 9:29
Yeah, well, so I made my first feature film, imagine I'm beautiful on a true micro budget scale for $80,000. And that we had crowdfunded most of that, and then kind of cobbled the rest of it together through some small investments. And then, you know, we made the film and it won a bunch of awards on the festival circuit, that film actually even got a traditional theatrical distribution deal, but we put it like and there are some things I love about true micro budget filmmaking, but we wanted a bigger.

Alex Ferrari 10:03
Yeah. You want to eat? I get it. You want to time to play.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:07
Pay ourselves and people and things like that

Alex Ferrari 10:10
Bigger toys to play with. Got it?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:12
Yeah. So we, when we felt like having demonstrated that we could do that with 80,000 that we could go out and raise the half a million, which we did over a three year period, it took us three years to raise the money. Yeah. Which is as you as from the face you're making you know, it's brutal.

Alex Ferrari 10:31
Well, yeah. Because how many how many filmmakers Do you know are still looking for that money to drop any day? Now that investor is gonna drop that money? And when you look, and you look at the clock, and you're like, oh, wow, five years have gone?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:42
Oh, totally. And, and, and it's brutal, because during that period of time, there's no guarantee that it will work, right? Because you also know that right there, the filmmakers were, like 20 years into this and never have found the money

Alex Ferrari 10:54
A day before a day before the money will go away.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 10:57
Yeah. Right. So. So it's just sort of like the sheer willpower of yourself and your team to keep going and the belief that this will eventually work out. But so we did raise, we use the New York's tax credit. So we took out a loan against the 25%, New York tax credit towards financing the movie, and the other 75% we raised through equity investments from private investors. We raised it from around 20 investors. So it was a it was a matter of cobbling together smaller investment amounts.

Alex Ferrari 11:32
Okay. So that makes that makes sense. And the tax credits are a huge deal. Especially. I had another New York filmmaker on the other day. And they they were saying that here, New York is a wonderful place to shoot. I hear they're just super open. And you know, and now let's think it's like 300 bucks. He told me that for all permits, like you could shoot

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 11:52
Yeah everyone assumes it'll be really, everyone always thinks it's really expensive to shoot outside in New York, and it's actually the cheapest place to shoot,

Alex Ferrari 12:01
And has the most production value. Yeah, they were they're really open because everyone here at La You mean you even you can't you need a permit to shoot in your house. Right? You I mean, technically, you need a permit to shoot in a house if someone calls you like if you're shooting a little movie in your house. And if some if the neighbor doesn't like and calls the cops, you will be ticketed, and you will have to go to court and pay a fine Oh, it's because because we're in LA. So that's why you assume all big cities are like that and they're not LA is LA is murderers,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 12:33
Although funny thing. So we have a scene that takes place in Central Park and and what we learned about Central Park is that you don't have to pay extra for the permit. However, you do have to convince the people in charge to let you shoot in Central Park. And and they've segmented Central Park into a series of tiny little fiefdoms. So even if you're shooting in a really bright area, you have to go convince like five different people to let you shoot on their patch of Central Park.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
That it's just basically like, like Lords Lords of the manor if you will. Like little like fiefdoms like little fiefdoms like you were saying, little Lords that you have to convince us Lord, can we shoot on your grass? It's free, but we just liked you know, yeah, but we need your blessing. So please. Wow, that's, that's super weird. That's hilarious. That's actually hilarious. Um, okay, so you're shooting in New York, you're shooting this movie. Now? Did I have to ask you a question? Did you at ever consider trying to cast a more marketable name, or a more marketable, traditionally marketable name in some sort of parts, which will make it easier to sell them? A film of this budget learned? I'm just curious that

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 13:48
I mean, I think realistically, for half a million dollars, unless you're friends with that person. It's it's virtually impossible to get bigger actors than we got. I think we certainly had ambitions to do that. And I feel like there you always hear these stories of like, people getting so and so for this tiny film. And I feel like underneath those stories, they're almost always related to those people before. Because because the problem, of course, is not the actors, it's the agents. And so like, of course, we put offers out to bigger people, but I'm almost certain that their agents never gave it to them. Because why would they don't want Daniel Radcliffe doing this film when Marvel might call at any moment and pay them 17 times the cost, right?

Alex Ferrari 14:38
If you're, if you're offering him let's say $50,000 for a day, the agents gonna pull in a little bit of money off that they rather pull it off the millions. Right and that's something and that's something that independent filmmakers even listening to this or watching this are not aware of this like, agents you there's so many Guards or gatekeepers to some of these actors. So like with my first film, I had an insane cast, but they were all friends of ours and they were all like they like all come out. I'm in LA Oh, come out for the day. Yeah. And, and these people have been in big huge movies and, and but they were all friends. So it really does help

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 15:19
It makes all the difference. Because as I'll tell you, we're really crazy story. So our cast, as we'll probably talk about in a moment are not like a list actors, but are named actors, in a sense, like they've been on their faces. So one of those actors we were, I had actually written the part in the film specifically for and we reached out to her, we, through our casting director, we submitted an offer to her agent and and I had actually written a personal letter explaining this that with the offer, and we haven't heard anything, and I was like this agent has not, has not given her her this offer. I just had this feeling. And so we had a mutual friend, and I asked the friend if she would just be willing to forward my letter to this actress. Just to make sure she'd gotten it. And within about half an hour, this actress called me and was like, of course, I want to do this movie nobody's ever written apart for me before. And her agent had not given her the offer. And she had to call her agent and be like, Hey, what's what is going on? And they were like, Oh, um, oh, yeah. Sorry. Sorry. And then they were incredibly obstructionist, like, the whole time trying to make a deal with her.

Alex Ferrari 16:40
Oh, absolutely. There's there's there's two quick, quick acting stories. One. The same thing happened when Tarantino when he was doing Pulp Fiction, submitted for James Woods. And James was agent didn't give it to them. And then after the movie came out James Woods, Matt quit and then quits like, yeah, I sent that to you like what? And his agent never gave it to him. And he was pissed. Sure. And there was another story of some filmmakers who this great story, they actually went to a film festival and Ed Harris was speaking. After the talk, they bum rush, the stage jumped on the stage. And they had a DVD player portable details A while ago, DVD player and showed them showed him the trailer for his for their film that they they would like like, you know, like a sizzle reel that they'd shot. And they literally went into the back. He's like, Come follow me. And he went into the back alley to smoke. And they tell him his whole story that I want you to play the par because you're you will be playing our alcoholic father, father and all this. And, and Harris said, Yeah, I'll do it. And I mean, and that Harris, if you remember, has doesn't do independent films. Like he's, he's one of those actors. He never did. But he said he was going to do it. Everyone at CIA was just trying to torpedo that left and right. And it was Ed that said, Sure. I'm doing this guy's so make it happen. So unless you're able to get direct access to some of these actors, it's it's extremely difficult. It's impossible.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 18:14
Well, because the agents are directly disincentivized from allowing that to happen. Did you know if you heard about Bill Murray's hotline? No. Okay. He's talking about please. Oh, please, Oh, please. Oh, Bill Murray does not have an agent, and refuses to have an agent for this reason. So Bill Murray has a hotline number that you can call that anybody can call and leave a message pitching their project. No. And then then from there, so so I read this story once written by a filmmaker who had eventually gotten Bill Murray to be in his movie this way. And he said, so he called the hotline and he left a message with a pitch. And then, like, three months later, it gets a call from Bill Murray being like, can you meet me in LA for lunch tomorrow? And the guy was like, like, No, I can't I'm so sorry. Like, I'm in New York. And Bill Murray hangs up the phone, click and the guy is like, and then. And then three months after that, Phil Murray calls him again. And he says, Can you be in? Can I pick you up at Li x in like, 12 hours? And the guy was like, Sure, yes. Yes. So he gets in an airplane goes to LA x. Bill Murray picks them up in the back of a limousine. They drive around for like, three hours or the driver dies or after three hours, they talk about the movie, Bill Murray says that he'll do the movie. And then they drive him back to LA x to drop him off. And the guy is like, like, Can you just like write on a napkin or something that you agreed to do? no proof that nobody's ever gonna believe that this happened. Right and what it will do? I don't think he wrote it down. But he did do the movie eventually.

Alex Ferrari 19:56
Wow. That's amazing. But you have to buy How'd you get this number? I'm not gonna promote it. But I just curious how do you know I think you can google it like I think it's I think it's a it's just a thing. Yeah. I love Bill Murray. I just absolutely love Bill Maher. He's like the coolest human being coolest. I mean, amazing. Okay, so did you call Bill Murray, you should have called the business. There wasn't a role for him. He could have played the female vampire he would have so love it. Alright, so you you've raised half a million dollars to make this romantic comedy about vampires. Now, when you were doing this, did you have a niche audience in mind? Did you figure out like, okay, we're going to target this group of people, because I'm assuming the the vampire community itself is a the people who identify as vampires is fairly small comparatively to the general public. But people who like vampires is a fairly large, yeah, niche audience. And then there's four and there's horror fans and people that actually it could spill over to was that was that a thought process?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:04
Oh, very much and actually circling back to the casting conversation that we were very intentional about how we cast based on the audience, even though we we weren't able to get bigger actors. So our our working hypothesis was that our our audience was going to break down into two groups. One, we lovingly term the mega nerds. So like people who at which I would like.

Alex Ferrari 21:31
I have a life size yoda behind me. So

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:34
I just I just clocked that

Alex Ferrari 21:38
this is a safe space this is a safe space.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:41
For people who play d&d people who are larpers people who are mega, sci fi comic,

Alex Ferrari 21:46
Comic Con, Comic Con,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 21:47
Comic Con, that sort of thing with the Vampire angle, and then secondarily, people who love romantic comedies. But we figured that that we needed to be a little bit more specific with that groups, we we figured people who love romantic comedies, and also Harry Potter, because the the the film is very much about sort of the feeling of being an outsider, and wanting to be seen and accepted. And so we felt like the people who were at the convergence of that were going to be the right people.

Alex Ferrari 22:22
Interesting. So that was just a demographic, I'm assuming in like direct ads and things like that is what you're talking about. target those people

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 22:29
We right, so we didn't test that. At the time we tested it before we released the film, and it did prove to be correct. But I am a person who likes romantic comedies and Harry Potter quite strongly both and so we figured that that was a pretty good cipher, mega nerd got it met. Yep. So and also the film has an almost entirely female creative team at the lead character is a is a super badass, edgy female character. And so we figured also, we wanted to grab people who liked that kind of edgy, feminine feminist content

Alex Ferrari 23:02
And know how did you target them through like Facebook ads and things like that?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 23:06
Through Facebook? Yeah. So when we eventually released the film, we had a number of marketing tactics. So so we did do the Facebook ads direct, okay. And then, and we, we had slightly different messaging that we marketed the film as to those two groups. So like, for the mega nerds, we pushed the vampire angle more strongly. And for the rom com people,we push the love stories angle more strongly.

Alex Ferrari 23:32
Interesting. And that actually, because I mean, I always preach in you know, as a filmtrepreneur like you have to niche down niche down niche down and understand who your audience is. So I find it interesting like because if you can try to, if you're going to try to reach romantic comedy lovers, that's too large of an audience. You don't have the resources to to do that. But when you combine the Harry Potter romantic comedy area, it niches a down, but it's not a niche that you would conceive normally it's like, and that's an interesting concept. I've really never thought of it that way. We're like, Okay, well, people who like romantic comedies, and also like Harry Potter's are probably gonna like this, let's do a test. Let's do a test ad, which you could do for 20 Yeah, 35 bucks, 50 bucks, right, and just kind of just test out your hypothesis.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 24:18
And it was interesting. So we we tested way at the beginning of the putting together the marketing materials, we we did a B test those two different demographic groups with our trailer. And we had exactly the same click through rate from both groups, which was really interesting because we thought maybe we've learned that one was stronger than the other and then target the phone that way and it actually came out totally evenly.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
Real. That's interesting. So that's a good way for people listening is well, you did market research prior to like you was trying to figure out how to do this by by doing these kind of like little test Facebook ads and stuff like that. You're basically doing a lot of the stuff that I preach, which is fantastic. And Hi, you're on the show. All right. So obviously, you had a very show you had a good,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 25:03
though just to close the loop on the casting thing quickly. So because we had the feeling that that was who our audiences, we then decided that it was important to get actors that that had fan following specifically in those groups of people

Alex Ferrari 25:18
so smart,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 25:19
that aren't necessarily household names, but we've been known to those people. So we really wanted a Harry Potter actor very much. And we ended up getting Christian Colson, who played Tom Riddle and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And then we got Naomi Grossman from American Horror Story. Perfect. And then Annie golden from Orange is the New Black, which we figured she's fabulous content. I mean, she's incredible. So we tried to think about casting.

Alex Ferrari 25:45
So it's so that is, again, what we preach. And it is, it is so wonderful to see this because, you know, look, if you made this movie for 50, grand, you have less to risk, but you have half a million dollars, which is a substantial amount of money for an independent film. And you're being very smart. So far, in this journey, I'm seeing it, you're being very smart and strategic on how you're doing this. Because again, I've always said like, if you're gonna make a horror movie, you might not be able to afford Brad Pitt. But you might be able to afford Robert England to come out for a day or two, who has a huge horror following. And if you're doing something that's aimed at 80s Horror, I mean, he's a dude that you would probably want to cast and probably affordable, comparatively, you know, to, you know, obviously, you can't get Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep or something like that. Right. But they actually are larger in the niche that you're trying

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 26:34
zactly it's who were. So we had, we had two young women. We premiered at cinequest in San Jose, California. So to

Alex Ferrari 26:44
get my foot my first film was it was awesome.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 26:48
I left in the quest. So we had the premiere. We had two young women drive 30 hours from Michigan, to San Jose for that premiere, because Christian Colson tweeted about it. And then later, they moved to North Carolina before we had a Brooklyn screening where Christian clothes was going to be there. And they drove another 20 hours from North Carolina to be at that screening and meet Christian Colson. Like that is the kind of fan that you want.

Alex Ferrari 27:18
Yeah, yeah, that's the kind of fans you want. And you in, in all honesty, you can't do a film like this without that kind of strategy. Like it's like, if you just like, grab, you know, grab a whole bunch of friends, or no name actors or non recognizable non marketable actors and try to do half a million out, which I've seen multiple times, it'll die on the vine, it just won't go there. So you have to this is like, you need something. You need some angle,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 27:45
that's going to turn out the people.

Alex Ferrari 27:47
That's awesome. That's awesome. Alright, so you finish making this movie. Now I'm assuming during this process, even during the making of this movie, or prior to it, you're already thinking how you're going to distribute this thing? Correct?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 27:59
Yeah, we were, although to be perfectly honest. So my first feature film, as I said, had gotten a distribution deal, which at the time, felt like oh, my God, it was a theatrical It was 10 cities.

Alex Ferrari 28:13
And you're still counting the money that they keep sending you, right? I mean, it must be tiring to to swim in the gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, and let's be real,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 28:24
I will tell you exactly what happened with that movie. So we got to do and I and we actually, I believe our distributor work wasn't we're honest people, which I think in and of itself is incredibly rare. And but we we have made to date came out in 2014, slightly less than $5,000. We have received from that,

Alex Ferrari 28:45
from the, from everything

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 28:47
from everything, Jesus, and to And to make matters worse, a year ago, that company folded and got their their titles got bought by another distribution company, which happens all the time because these distribution companies are turning over like that. And that company has had our film since last August, so a full year, and we have not received a single report or check from them. Despite the fact that we have emailed and called them multiple, multiple times, we had a lawyer contact them like they just won't,

Alex Ferrari 29:22
unless they're like if you want it to us. Yeah. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Basically, when is the original contract up in one year? Okay, and then it'll come back to you. And then you can do whatever you want with it.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 29:45
Right? So thank God it was a short I mean, it was a six year contract, which is relatively,

Alex Ferrari 29:50
it's relatively short, anywhere between five to seven is what I recommend, which is not recommend, but it's just generally you know, I literally just got a call from a filmmakers like yeah, this Distribution numbers they will not be named. But they offered a 15. Year. Yeah. Your deal with no money upfront with no money upfront. So my call you're dominating the film that your donation it's a donation. Right off, it's a write off because you're never going to see a dime. Oh and 100,000 PNA locked off at 100,000 psi. So I talked Are you kidding? Are you kidding me I'm never see a dime. Yeah. It's predatory these guys are.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 30:34
It's just we made it. We made a docu series about the tour, which we'll talk about in a while but but in the course of part of that docu series was that we wanted to be radically transparent about our data, and numbers and revenue and everything, because we feel like a huge problem in this space is that nobody has any information. So we're essentially all making dumb decisions, because we don't know what have any information. So because we've done that a number of other filmmakers began reaching out to us who had gotten to traditional distribution deals. And were, were willing to disclose to us what had happened. Numbers wise. So we had a pair of filmmakers Come on our on our series and talk about what happened. And it was

Alex Ferrari 31:23
the abuse for beating the beating Yes,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 31:26
well, and like the thievery. Oh, straight up. And so then we had a lawyer contact us who, who spends a lot of time fighting this stuff. And he said, I mean, hit the whole phone calls in the episode it and I'm and I'm crying by the end of the phone call, because it's so horrifying, what he told us. Wow,

Alex Ferrari 31:46
I would like to talk to him. Oh, totally talk to him, I will put you in touch. And we will talk after afterwards because I I really need to talk to him. Yeah, you know, I've talked about distribution. And you know, the whole film to printer model in general, is about giving power to thinking about film as an entrepreneurial endeavor, thinking of your movie as a product and audiences and selling it and all that stuff. And to use traditional distribution as a partnership or as a hybrid part of part of the hybrid distribution model, where you still retain some sort of control. And you don't get lost, you know, I know Sundance winners, with their movies that that got lost in bankruptcies of distribution companies. And yeah, their rights are locked up for years. And by the time six years rolls around, no one cares about their Sundance winner right anymore,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 32:36
right. It's so one of the filmmakers who came on our series to talk was that they didn't win Sundance, but they were at Sundance, which is, you know, like,

Alex Ferrari 32:44
know, when it's a witness winning, that's winning.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 32:46
Yeah. And they have received $0 back from their distribution company. So far.

Alex Ferrari 32:52
I mean, yeah. That's insane. Okay, so so you, you, were going to get about the docu series in a little bit. So your distribution plan, what was the idea? Like, when you started going down this because I'm assuming you feel responsible to pay back these people, and and even possibly make a little money on on this deal. So you as a responsible filmmaker, we're like, Okay, guys, we've got half a million, how are we going to make this back? What was the what was the thought process there?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 33:26
Yeah. So initially, we started going down the same old path of applying to film festivals and wanting to be picked, like Cinderella out of the masses and sort of like

Alex Ferrari 33:39
in lottery ticket, the lottery ticket mentality,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 33:40
a lottery ticket. And it's really two lottery tickets, right? You have to win the lottery of the film festivals to get into a major Film Festival, where you can even be looked at by seriously by distributor, if there's any left to win the lottery again, to actually get a distribution deal.

Alex Ferrari 33:55
Yeah, so basically, and there's only what 567 in the US five, there's five that matter. Yeah. And even then, even Sundance,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 34:06
though I had, I had a distributor, somebody who's worked deeply in distribution, tell me the other day off the record that she said, you know, all these distribution companies tell filmmakers Don't worry, if you don't get into one of the top film festivals, we still look at other festivals, whatever she's like, that is bullshit. She's like, the reality is, if you don't get into a top Film Festival, you are screwed. If you got into a top Film Festival, you are still probably screwed. But there is a tiny percentage of chance that you're not totally screwed,

Alex Ferrari 34:35
unless you go at it from a different point of view like you are and what we talked about. Okay, so alright, so So what was the RCW went down the normal traditional path at Sundance, you submitted to Sundance

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 34:48
Sundance, we were not accepted to not really a Sundance kind of movie.

Alex Ferrari 34:53
I mean, but also, you you did crowdfund with seed and spark, right? We did, yeah. Okay. So can you talk to us about quickly about you know, cuz I crowdfunded my first film on scene. And I love Emily and I love what they're doing their fan rates. They're fantastic. And you know, did you so you crowdfunded this. How much did you raise when you crowdfunded, crowdfunded? 35,000? So that's that's a good amount. Yeah, that's a yeah without question and then you and then you get the investments for the rest. But you started to build an audience with them. Yeah, with with seed and spark and then see the spark has their own kind of, you know, distribution output deal like their service and they have to deal with, with quiver and all that kind of stuff. Right, then you don't have to deal with quiver anymore. You got to quiver. Liz manna shell at Sundance source, Liz. Yes. A friend of the show.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 35:45
We had, we had gotten to the final rounds of being selected for their creative distribution lab. And they have a deal with quiver that if you're a finalist, you get a discount.

Alex Ferrari 35:54
Awesome. They were on the show. They were on the show. Did you get the funding a quick funny story about Liz. She called me and she's like, Alex, we have this distribution grant. We want to give people filmmakers way. But we have like 15 people who've signed up, I need help. Can you get the word out? I'm like, like, Are you kidding? Are you kidding me? Give me a minute. And then and then I put her on the show. And I go, be careful what you wish for. And they were in the data that shut it down. And I said it and they were foolish enough to leave their emails on the show. I'm like, don't. She's like, No, no, we don't mind. We want to help. I'm like, okay, and you're like, Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It was it was brutal. Yeah. That's awesome. Alright, so you went down that road, say so. So go ahead, continue.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 36:43
Okay, so we, I would say we spent about from like September to, to know, to like Thanksgiving sort of going down that path, having initial conversations with distributors and sales agents. And simultaneously sort of feeling our own souls dying by the by the just like sort of soul less horrible now horribleness of that process. And also. So I had had that experience with my my first feature film and my producing partner Sarah Wharton's past feature films, I had very similar experiences with traditional distributors. And, like, we were just kind of getting like, it just began to feel like, we were gonna hand our film to a person who is going to throw it off a cliff, again, in exchange for a large percentage of our revenues, like just

Alex Ferrari 37:37
throw it up against the wall and see what sticks.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 37:39
Right. And also, I think what was different this time, too, is is at this current moment in film distribution, you can feel the despondency wafting off of the distributors themselves, like you're in these conversations, and they're just like, well, we don't know what works. I love your movie, and I have absolutely no idea how to sell it. You can just feel the despair. But I feel

Alex Ferrari 38:03
it. But I think also distributors have the same problem as independent filmmakers is like they, they can't get above the noise like No, no. There's certain bigger distributors. I mean, I'm not even talking about Lionsgate or the studios or anything like that. I'm talking about just like even bigger indie distributors names. These guys. They just basically pump it out through their outlets. So they'll put it on iTunes, Amazon, they might make a red box deal if you're lucky, that maybe they'll do a limited theatrical if it has some sort of maybe if it maybe they'll get Netflix or Hulu to buy it, they'll just submit it, but they just basically shotgun it, they don't really have a plan. And it's almost impossible for a distributor without major money to distribute it to to get any sort of awareness for a film, even if you dump five or 10 million bucks into PNA. I still mean that's nothing

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 38:56
totally and and yet, there is no doubt that we are in a profound distribution crisis right now across the board. Like it's not it's not it's not like it's the distributors that not that piece of it is not the distributors fault. But But in that landscape. I feel like it makes the prospect of going with a distributor even worse. Like they're just like flinging stuff out. And nothing's working.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Because it's it's to it they they've caught that they're basically I hate to use the term blockbuster but then don't be blockbuster. That's what that is they got into they got fat. This is the way it's always been. And then when Netflix and when Netflix showed up and offered blockbuster to buy them for 50 million and blockbuster said no kid, we're fine. We're good on this video store thing. We don't need your DVD home sale thing, whatever you're doing. And but that's what that's where these old school distribution distribution companies are coming from. They're just they have no idea how to handle the new landscape and It's changing. daily, daily, daily.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:03
It's insane. Yeah, insane. Right. So I'm so in the middle of that mess there. There came a moment around Thanksgiving where we were just like, we just looked at each other. And we were like, we're not doing this again. This is horrible, and not gonna work. And his movie is too good. We have too much money on the line. We're just not Nope, we're not doing it. So we started. I had a dream actually, literally is what happened?

Alex Ferrari 40:28
Yes, MLK Yes.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:30
That we were driving around the country in an RV on something called the joyful vampire tour of America releasing the movie,

Alex Ferrari 40:38
you had a dream? You literally physically

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 40:41
dream that that was happening. And I called and I called Sarah the next morning and I was like, this might be crazy. But what if we just rented an RV and did the drive vampire to America? And God bless her she was like, Yes, and we should put things on it.

Alex Ferrari 40:59
This is the audacity I was talking about this is what I love about the story.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:04
So in just last December, we I had the stream and we basically started calling everybody that we knew within the industry and and sounding out this idea.

Alex Ferrari 41:15
Oh, and oh, that didn't go well. I'm sure

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:18
you know, the nothing will signal how giant a crisis the industry isn't as basically everybody's was Francoise. Well, nothing else is working. You may as

Alex Ferrari 41:27
well try. Oh, wow. That's that says volumes.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:31
Right? One, one woman read us the riot act about how we were throwing our careers off the cliff but truly wild for that phone call. And when it finally happened, I was like, Oh, this is finally happening.

Alex Ferrari 41:43
Okay, good. We we are crazy. I mean, can't everyone can agree with this.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 41:47
This is insane. Everybody else was just like, we don't know, probably try it. Um, so I guess we decided around Christmas that we were going to do this. And then we had from January to May to put together the tour. And and the basic thinking behind the tour was okay, if the hurdle is that it's really hard to get people to leave their houses. Now to watch a movie because you have infinite content from your sofa, then you have to offer people an extra reason to do it. Yes. So we thought a piece of that is certainly having the filmmaker be there being able to do a q&a after people meet the filmmaker got to talk about the movie. But we felt like there needed to be another element that that wasn't quite enough. So we came up with the idea that we would throw a joyful vampire ball after every screening. And that we would invite the audience to come dressed in costume, to the screening and the bar and the party.

Alex Ferrari 42:47
And if I may stop you for a second. And if you understand your niche, which you guys definitely do understand your niche, that audience would love to dress up and go.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 42:58
Oh, yes. Right. And, and funnily enough, the the desire to dress in costume, and wound up expanding way beyond our niche audience. Like it turns out that most adults are just looking for an excuse to wear a costume.

Alex Ferrari 43:15
Fun fact, fun fact, for everyone listening out there. People just want to dress up.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 43:20
Yeah. Um, so that was that was the concept. And then we we ran some back of the napkin math and quickly understood that we could not physically make back anything close to the budget, from the tour itself, because I had three months that I could do physically go on this tour. So we had, we had to do a three month tour and and Okay, you can't do a screening every night or you'll die. So maybe like, initially, we thought we'd do like 20 to 30 screenings over that time. Count the seats, them most you can make is like $40,000.

Alex Ferrari 43:59
So just from but that's just from ticket sales, that doesn't include other streams of revenue.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 44:05
Right? So we so we decided quickly that the model that we were going to test was to use the tour to drive online sales. So we got the film transactionally on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. And and then we did a partnership with seed and spark so that they would help us market the tour. And so the film was available for subscription on demand through seed and spark. Which was worth it to us. Because if you're if they're your only subscription platform, they pay 40 cents per minute watched of your movie, that's amazing, which is bananas, which means that you make more money if somebody watches on seed and sparkling even if they buy a ticket.

Alex Ferrari 44:51
Wow, I wonder how that is. I have to call Emily, what's that business model working like? I

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 44:55
mean, I think the the only explanation I can come up with Is that they're artificially inflating it at the beginning of their model to try to attract filmmakers. And then eventually that will go down. But

Alex Ferrari 45:07
like Amazon did, yeah. But I'm happy to reap the benefits in the meantime. Fair enough. Fair enough. Okay, so so and then what are the other revenue streams that you were able to create on this tour.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 45:22
So, merchandise, merchandise, the major ones. So we, and because of the nature of the film, we've, we felt like, we just had a merchandise sort of extravaganza course waiting for

Alex Ferrari 45:36
it. But also don't forget, and I hate to interrupt you again. But that this audience is known for purchasing stuff, like Comic Con geeks, mega nerds, this is what they'd love to do. So they'd love to dress up, and they'd love to buy stuff. Thanks, great audience, great audience to go to Target. So I'm just trying, I'm stopping you every once in a while. So everyone hears and understands what the mentality and the process is because you guys are doing, you're basically hitting every note so far as the film intrapreneur you're hitting every note so far, so far, you're hitting every note.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 46:08
Okay. Um, so we had DVDs and blu rays print made up, we had posters we had very nice and that enamel pins, we had two kinds of T shirts. One that was the film's and one we had a very funny love sex.

Alex Ferrari 46:26

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 46:28

Alex Ferrari 46:29
So okay, and I'll stop. I'll stop. I'll stop there. One more time is that now you understand your niche audience and you're creating not only merchandise off your movie, but you're also creating merchandise that that audience would like that is kind of related to your movie, but not directly related. So like the love socks, t shirt is just something that people who like vampires would probably buy,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 46:49
Right? Yes. And that design, one of the characters wears that T shirt in the movie, but

Alex Ferrari 46:54
Oh, that's so but that's but then you see again, now your product placing? Yeah, your movie. Oh my god. You're so hitting all the thoughts. Oh my god, I love this. I'm so glad I have you on the show. Alright, so continue.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 47:08
Um, okay, as we add hoodies, we had mugs, we had three different designs of mugs. And

Alex Ferrari 47:18
I think that's it. And then you sold every at every event you would sell merch ended, how much revenue Did you generate from all the merge through the whole tour? Give or take? I believe? Nine $9,000. Okay, so that's a nice, Hey, I'll take it if it's on the floor. You know, it's a nice, it's a nice, it's a nice chunk of change. Why not? Okay, great. So now, and then what other revenue sources? Did you create the ball? How does that process work?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 47:44
So the balls, we ended up deciding. Okay, so So the way it ended up working with venues and the balls is some venues, the screening and the ball would be at the same venue. So the whole evening would take place. And, and generally there, there was only one ticket price, and it was for the whole thing. And those tickets tended to be more expensive, right. And some theaters were or some venues were more traditional theaters, and they, they either didn't have the space or wouldn't let us do the ball at that venue. So in those cases, we would have the screening and then move everybody to addict who wanted to come to a separate venue, usually like a local bar or something for the ball. Okay. And in those places, generally, we didn't charge extra for the ball, we ended up deciding that it was more worth it to have the people come and meet us and be engaged and buy merchandise that like the longer they hang out the drunker they get, the more merchandise they're going to buy. So that's a plus, we just didn't feel and particularly because in those situations, we would be doing them often at bars where other people were present, it became kind of complicated to be able to it didn't feel like something we could really charge for. If I did this again, when I do this again. I would I would always do it in venues where I could do the whole evening in one place. It didn't really work very well when you had to move people. And then I would charge more for the whole experience. So so quite often at these events. My so my husband was always working the merchants my very, very nice husband who moved into an RV for three months to test a distribution model. What always work the merge table. And quite often people would come up to him and give him cash donations towards the film as they left the theater. Which was really interesting. I mean, totally unsolicited. Obviously we weren't asking for donations. But what that signaled to us is that people consistently felt like they had gotten more value than they had paid for. So that they would have paid more money for the experience that they got was a cost what was the cost for the for the ball and the ticket So a lot of a lot of places we were hamstrung by, by what the movie theater normally charged for movies. So some places that was like seven or $8. Whenever we could control it, we charged usually 20 for the movie plus the ball.

Alex Ferrari 50:17
Cheap, though, I mean, Ukraine, that's so cheap, you could have easily charged 5070 bucks easily.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 50:23
Yeah, we wanted to test it. And see, I think, I think in the future, I would, I would charge more.

Alex Ferrari 50:30
Yeah, because you're creating an experience, you're creating an event, like even a even if you go to a bar, sometimes the cover is going to be 20 bucks. Like, you know, there's, there's ways that you could have,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 50:41
we definitely lowball that with, with the feeling that we were really testing a model and we needed to, like, it was something that people weren't going to be used to attending, it wasn't really a concept that audiences were going to understand. So we had to kind of like, make the bar for entry. pretty low.

Alex Ferrari 50:59
Got it. Got it. Alright, so so when when it's all said and done, what were the the rough numbers coming in from the tour?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:07
So from ticket sales? I think it came in at about 17,000. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 51:15
Okay. And then close it, and then close balls.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:18
Yeah. Okay. About 17,000 from ticket sales, which we could have, I think, had we sold out every venue. We would have made about 40,000, I think. But we were marketing 51 screenings in two days with a very small team.

Alex Ferrari 51:41
So yeah, that was my next question. How did you actually put asses in seats? Like, what what? Because that's a lot

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 51:46
of money. A lot of right. Yes. So we, we tried everything. So we did, we did a lot of paid Facebook ads, both to drive online sales, and then also to drive people to screenings. So we would target people in a specific geographic area. I've been to screening, and the geographic targeting ads worked. Shockingly, well. I thought those wouldn't work at all. But consistently, at screenings, people came because they saw an ad on Facebook. One lady drove four hours to see it in costume because she's on ad on Facebook, which I find shocking. Whoa, because there's not a lot of places you

Alex Ferrari 52:30
can dress up as a vampire. And without being scanned at a scarf that and go there. So you, you really I think you you you left some money on the table. If I made it. Yeah,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 52:42
he did. But But the other thing is, we went, we went in blind, like we had no information, because there's no information. So there are 100 things I would do differently next time. And part of the reason we were doing the docu series is so that now other people can have our information and do better with next time. So we did paid for Facebook ads in almost every place, we had a local host, whose job was to help hustle their friends helping posters around town. A street team, that's great team. Yes. So they they were crucial. Like I would say that was probably the most effective means of getting people into seats. And oh, actually, so we with seed and spark, we ran surveys about this. So we we would have people sign up via text for our email list in the theater. After the screening, which everybody should do this is this worked incredibly well. And then the first email they would get would have a survey, asking them to tell us like why they had come to the film and where they'd heard about it on all this stuff. And so the top the top reason by far was hearing about it from a friend who was not involved in the film. So either word of mouth or local host. And then the next three tied reasons were paid Facebook ads, hearing about somebody it from a friend who was involved in the film, and hearing about it from the venue. Interesting. And then everything else like there was there was hardly anything else that even rate ranked on that scale. I mean, we did a lot of other stuff. So we we did have physical posters hung most all around town, not just at the theaters, but like around the communities. We we did we had a lot of very active social media life even outside of the paid ads which was effective we we did Facebook event pages which I do think were quite effective. We we targeted local grassroots organic we grassroots methods to target local organizations. So anything involving Women in Film, we would reach out to them anything and any really any local film groups, we would reach out to any local vampire clubs, any local d&d clubs, any LARPing groups, any Harry Potter clubs, they're a shocking number of Harry Potter clubs around the country, we'd reached out to them.

Alex Ferrari 55:22
Did you think Did you do any conventions? Like to show up at any conventions? You

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 55:26
did? We were invited to play at spike con in Utah, which we did, which was awesome. I think, do it playing more cons is going to be part of the next leg of our strategy. But we only played one on the tour itself.

Alex Ferrari 55:40
Okay. So Alright, so and then when so you obviously were thinking about developing ancillary products during the movie, obviously, cuz you had people wearing t shirts and you already thinking about ancillary products. So that was part of your strategy as well. Like, we're gonna self merge. We're gonna sell some merch on this like this. Before the tour, you were thinking of selling March?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 55:59
Yeah, I think that was always in our minds. Okay. Although, again, we we thought we would go down a more traditional path. Like, I think we were thinking we were helping set up a distributor to do a good job. And then, right.

Alex Ferrari 56:09
I'm sorry, I come. For people who are listening, you just see my face, like a distributor did like I my face said everything I was like, Yeah, right. You know, like setting. That's such a, that's such an indie filmmaker thing. This is a we all do is I'm gonna set them up properly to do a good job like they don't care. So now that you've done this, this, this tour, yeah, that you were trying to drive digital sales? Did it drive digital sales? And do you have any sort of numbers with that?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 56:38
Well, so here is the giant problem with these digital platforms is they don't tell you for three to six months. They don't give you any numbers for three to six months. So unlike any other normal marketing thing, I mean, like with with selling tickets on the road, we were able to, to very much adjust our tactics as we went, as we learned and saw was happening every night, and you just don't know. So that is a huge problem. So we will definitely make those numbers public once we have them, but we don't have them yet.

Alex Ferrari 57:11
And then what's the you were talking a little earlier about the next leg? What are you doing? How are you continuing this audacity of a journey?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 57:21
Well, so the tour ended two weeks ago, and we've all been in a bit of a coma, we all gave ourselves permission to be in a coma more or less since then. So we don't have an exact plan yet. We're going to start putting that together next month. But some things that we're definitely going to do start getting on the con circuit more aggressively. We have somebody who's helping us with foreign sales, we've we've had a lot of interest from international territories for the film.

Alex Ferrari 57:55
So So how are you processing that? Are you doing that to a sales agent? Or are you going to an international distributor?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 58:00
Well, I don't know yet. So we have, we have an Australian sales agent who I met through a friend. And his is like, actually trustworthy human, unlike most sales agents, and so she has very generously offered to help us sort of like suss out what the best way to go is q1 to wait till the end of the tour so that we had our materials. So one of one of the big advantages to the tour outside just the revenue we earned from the tour is that we now have video testimonials of people in costumes all over the country talking about how much they love the film, how their favorite film, you know, it's like so we have our documentary filmmaker who was with us making the docu series is putting together a sizzle reel for us that we can now send with our trailer to distributors. We're gonna go Holy shit, they ended up getting like they got people to come out in costume to watch this movie.

Alex Ferrari 59:01
But you're in the distributors with international. I'm assuming you're not going to get rid of you're not going to give them domestic. No, no, not domestic, internationally, internationally. Okay, and then you're just going to try to go territory or you're going to go to AFM or anything like that to see if you can do anything. I think we might try to go to AFM. Yeah. Okay. If you're there, we'll have coffee. I'll be there. No. Have you ever been Yeah. I've never been no. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Oh, prepare yourself. It's a it is it's an interesting place. Let's just get that way. I went one year and the biggest movie of the year was Steven Seagal versus mike tyson in a movie and of course you need to watch that movie because I want to know who wins. But that's the kind of place yeah, it's Yeah. Did you It's a Unix Unix place.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:00:02
Yeah. Speaking of soul crushing. And then I think eventually, we will try to just to make a deal with one of the streaming platforms. I think the feedback we've been getting is that the good thing about the streaming platforms at this particular moment is that they're all these new ones coming to market in the next six months. And they're all looking and they're all they're all looking. So it's, it is actually a little bit more of of a seller's marketplace right now than it has been with streaming platforms.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:36
Okay, and I'm assuming you try this. Did you submit to Netflix and Hulu yet or not yet? I am not yet. Okay. All right. I mean, it's you guys have I mean, you're you are hustlers. You are indie film, hustlers, your, your films, your printers, you are hustling that you're keeping going, you see most filmmakers would have just said, Well, that was the end of the tour. We're done. But you're like no, no, no, as we continue this journey,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:01:00
and this money back yet, and I think, like, part of this experiment to me, is to try to figure out like, Is there a market? Like, is it possible to make back half a million dollar money on indie films right now? And the answer may be no. And if the answer is no, because so to speak about digital sales for a second I, we don't have the final numbers, but I have a niggling feeling that we may have reached a moment where people are simply unwilling to pay even 299 for Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:37
I know the the future is is a VOD, is it's that's the future. I mean, I know filmmakers making a ton more than a VOD than they are an S VOD, or T VOD.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:01:49
Right. Without question. So that Oh, right. Also airlines, we're gonna try to make some airline deals, airlines,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:56
cruise lines, the churches not so much with the vampire movie, but they're vampire churches.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:02:07
Yeah, so I, I, I now suspect that our revenue model was wrong. I bet that that the tour will not have driven transactional sales in the way that we needed it to. so and so. But I think we have to look really into the abyss here as filmmakers and say, like, is it possible at any budget level? If it isn't? What does that mean? And and maybe the answer is that, like, you just have to make very micro budget films? Or the answer is that, like a lot of the arts, that the goal isn't actually to make money, it's to make impact. And that that ceases to be the goal.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:55
As long as the budget justify you justify the budget, then?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:02:58
Well, as long as you are completely upfront about that with your

Alex Ferrari 1:03:02
investors, if everyone understands that, like, Look, we're making art here. And this is an art exhibition. And we're gonna put it out there. And this is the way it is. Yeah, I mean, to answer your question, I'm, I'm in I'm in the, in the trenches here every day in the indie film trenches. So the answer is, yes, you can make your money back. But you and that's what the whole film shoprunner model is about. It's about rethinking how you do it. Could this movie if you would have made this movie for $100,000? Which is, it's still a decent budget $100,000 if you would be very close to making your money back more unlikely, you know, so it's about always about the budget and keeping that overhead low, or, or whatever, there's always that balance, like, you know, if I spent a million bucks, well, what do I need to do to get that million bucks? And vice versa? So if this for argue argument's sake, if this movie would have cost $50,000, the tour would have been great. Right? The tour would have been great. Well, except, yeah, give or take, I mean, you're not gonna make all the money back on the tour. But you would be really close, you know, and even on just merge sales, you would have done pretty well, I mean, obviously costs and stuff like that, but yeah,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:04:15
right. So I but I have to say that and obviously, the money is important. Obviously. However, there, there is another bottom line here, which is impact. And I have never felt as an artist, like my work was having greater impact than on this tour ever. It was astonishing. To travel the country and go to Vicksburg, Mississippi and Wichita, Kansas, and like these places that I have never been and show my movie and talk to people afterwards. Many of whom had never met a filmmaker before. Like, I feel like in New York and Los Angeles, we forget actually what a big deal that is. Because if you can find a screening without a filmmaker in attendance, it's like amazing. But like in Vicksburg, they had never met a filmmaker before. Like for them. For them, it was like, I may as well have been Steven Spielberg, you know, and, and I had this one really fascinating dialogue with a woman in Columbus, Ohio, who the my film, lovingly pokes fun at Christians. But this woman, what, what took a great affront to that, and came barreling up to me afterwards. And was was very hurt about the fact that I've made fun of Christians and I and I said, you know, I'm so sorry, you feel that way, we had this whole really extended conversation about the concept of comedy and punching up versus punching down and sort of like, at the end of it, she was like, well, it felt really great to be able to say that to a filmmaker, because normally nobody, here's my responses to movies, and I was like, That is awesome. You know, and, and, and the idea, my hope, my dream now is that if we could get like an Oregon Trail of filmmakers, doing these tours, and bringing film independent from some parts of the country that do not see independent film that have no access to anything, in an in person setting other than the Avengers, and and they could meet and have these dialogues with filmmakers of all different backgrounds and perspectives, that would change the country, it would,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:29
it would, and I would, I would agree with you on that. And I think that the future of independent film, there's going to be, you're going to need to do a lot more work. So I think that's gonna, that's going to thin out the herd, if you will, because there's not many filmmakers that I know. Who wants to get into an RV for three years on it. And in travel the country, there just isn't. And it's going to that's what it's going to take it's going to take thinking about movies differently, it's going to think about how can it create other revenue streams from this film? Is the film a loss leader, where I made the film for 100 grand, but I'm really making money on these online courses or books or, you know, depending on the subject matter, you know, yeah, all this all this kind of stuff. It's about thinking about it differently. I do believe there's a space for us. But I think we're gonna turn into more carnies, where I think that you've got to provide a service that the studios can't exactly period, right, and what your you were able to do the studio, there's no Avengers ball. Now. Now, they also made $2.7 billion, so they don't care. Because that's not what that's not what their business model is. But for us, the scrappy, independent filmmaker, the film shoprunner, we got to figure out other ways to make it happen. And I, I always look at this whole process as the creative process. The movie is just one part of this entire, from casting to creating product lines do doing this tour. This is all creative. Yeah, absolutely. And has to become a part of the dialogue and has to become part of this process. Because you can't just drop off to a distributor, like as very, very, very much of city clearly have said in this in this episode.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:08:15
Right. And so many filmmakers, both before the tour, and during the tour was like, Well, I think it's really awesome what you're doing, but like I would never want to do all that work. And like, then but but to me, and which I have sympathy for on the one hand, but on the other hand, a Why are we making movies if no one's gonna see them and be I with you, like I found I loved being on the tour like getting I'm a filmmaker getting to show my film to people 51 times and listen to them laugh and have them come in caught like it was the greatest? I mean, I put I it's one of the greatest periods of my life.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:50
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, are, you know, you're not the first film to ever go on a roadshow, there's many have done it before. But and there's many that will do it after. It's creating a business model that consists state of the art because, you know, as I say, the word show, and there's the word business, and the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. And there's a reason for that. Because without the business, there is no show and as much impact as you want to make, when it would be better to make a film that you can not only make your money back, but everyone gets paid, you get a little bit of profit. And you could do it again and again and again and again. And if you control everything, you create your own portfolio, where you have actual revenue streams in that, like, maybe you'll get a report. Right. That's the future. That's the future.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:09:37
Absolutely. And I think the key pathway to that future is more films being willing to offer themselves as case study as radically transparent case studies. Because a filmmaker within their lifetime is not going to make enough films to crack the model based on their own experimentation. And so we have to be honest with each other even when we fail. You Like, we just have to, because then we will figure it out. Because there I believe I'm with you, I believe there is a model out there. But we don't know what it is right now. that's for damn sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
I mean, the model that has worked for me is doing ultra micro budget movies that have good production value that are aimed at a niche audience. And then in your control everything. And, you know, my first film cost me five grand to make. And I sold it to Hulu, and I sold it internationally. And I drove sales, but I have a platform. And I was able to build off that and there's audience building, and there's that whole conversation we never even got into. But that that is a possibility. If I would have made that movie for 50, or 100, grand, I don't know, probably probably would have been another statistic. So it's, it's a weird balance. This is a weird, it's a wonderful and an extremely dangerous time from being an independent filmmaker, because there's more access than ever before. But the competition is just, it's crushing it,

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:11:01
I would say I would say the noise more than the competition gets it. I feel like it would feel differently if if you were if it was just like, eat, like such great work was being made. And you were like, up against like, anywhere, and you were losing out to films that like blew your mind. And that doesn't feel but sometimes you see those films, but I it's just it's sort of the noise.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:21
But but also with that said, The competition is not just films, it's amazing television. I mean, the television that's coming out right now it's where all a lot of independent filmmakers are going. Right? Cuz I mean, and you're competing for that hour? Oh, yeah, no, you know, your go. phones and video games, social media. In America, there's a million other things. So there's just a lot of competition for eyeballs. It's

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:11:45
what's interesting, again, about that, so so my hypothesis going into the tour was that you could maybe salvage the in person experience as long as you relied on, on online viewing for money. And I actually think it's the reverse, because the number of people that came up to me and said, like, this is the first meaningful human interaction I've had with strangers in months. And like the hunger of people to it is harder to get them out of their houses, for sure. But once they're there, you can give them like borderline religious experiences, with very little effort, you know, just but in the simple act of putting them in a room and giving them context to interact with other people.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:33
Yeah, it's it is the future is the future. I think this is a this is a model that can work. I think at a certain budget range. It could work without question, I think at this budget range, it will work but it's going to take longer, it's going to be hard hustling, and, and it's an experiment. You guys are really in your investors must be really cool. People

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:12:54
are really cool people. They're extremely cool. And we did ask them like we we explain, but But the other thing is like, okay, so I think you're right, I think there's money that we probably left on the table. How are we hold? No, but are we better off than if we had gotten a distribution deal? Yes, that we are you have money, we have some money, you actually got some money. We made more in the first week of ticket sales from the tour than I made for my entire first feature film from a distributor.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:27
Correct. So yeah, right. I mean, that pretty much says everything you need to say. So as a as a business person is you have to look at like, Okay, well, what cost does that potential revenue justify? And that's, that's, it's like, it's like, you got to look at it as developing any widget, keep the cost as low as possible by still maintaining as high quality as possible to be able to create a marketable product. You know, and then also, art, you know, it, there's that it's a weird, we're very unique, strange business. You know, we're the only we're the only business that says, We're gonna invest a million dollars into something that we kind of maybe figured maybe there'll be some way we'll make our money back

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:14:15
like this and has no inherent value. That's value will be decided upon financially upon completion,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:24
right? Because this is about random people, right? This This has a value. Yes, this phone has a value, and it costs X amount and it has this X amount of value attached to it. A movie. I mean, the room, you know, the movie, the room, which is considered one of the worst movies of all time, has a specific value attached to it, right. Is it better than producing your film? No. Is it better produce than most films? No, but is it more profitable? Yes, absolutely. Tommy was so is a millionaire off of this movie because of the perceived value of that. film. So it's such a crazy thing.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:15:04
What right, which is crazy as a business, and it's also the only art form that is expected to make money like no other art form is it really right is expected to make money.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:12
Right, exactly. But because the value the cost is so high, the cost is so high to create our art, you know, and there's so many and it's a collaborative art. So it's not even one person. It's a collaborative art. So now you've got to deal with all of that and the politics and the person doing well. I actually I came up with I came up with a basically an idea of what why we are is insane as we are, and you are literally a carny. I mean, you literally went on the road and put up a tent and put a shell on and packed it up and moved to the next step. So I mean, I was considered as of carnies. But I think we have to get ourselves checked out for Sally Lloyd, because we might have a bad case of filmmaking. And I think, and I think once we get bitten, there's no vaccine. Like, you're done. You're done. You're, it's over and, and to be a little bit more crass. It's kind of like herpes, because it's dormant A lot of times, but it flares up, and it's with you for life.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:16:08
Like, even even in the worst day, on tour, I would go into that theater and listen to an audience full of people laughing at the jokes I had written and I was like, I'm good, I'm done. My life, there's nothing else I can do. I don't even need money, I'm

Alex Ferrari 1:16:21
fine. It's, we're insane. We're insane. But if we understand our insanity, and we if we, if we are self aware enough of what we're doing, because a lot of filmmakers or not a lot of filmmakers are delusional. Trust me, I know, I was very delusional for many, many years of my career, I'm sure you might have had a few years of delusion, as well. But if we're self aware enough, and then we actually become smart about how we can actually create our art, and make a business out of art, and then create other revenues he streams to, to support us while we're making our art to the point where we're able to eventually do this full time. That's the dream. And I think also a lot of filmmakers have this whole, I need to make a million dollars, and I have to work in the studio system. And I have to do what like that dream that Hollywood's been selling us since the 90s. If I'm able to make money that pays my rent, and puts food on my table for my family, and I'm able to provide a service, which is entertainment, or some other service that I'm providing my audience. Isn't that the dream? Like man is Yeah, right. It's like, I don't need billions of dollars. You know, I don't, I'm happy.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:17:28
They do need to be able to pay my rent. And I think that's the people we're still not quite there yet.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:33
Right? pay your rent, pay your people that work with you on this crazy people that you conned into doing, going on these crazy journeys with us as filmmakers.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:17:43
But I mean, I do I do think there's something to the duplass Yes, model for sure of of very low, keeping the cost low up front by giving everybody a piece of the back end with the Touring model, because one thing. So I will say that, that having the name actors did help to a certain extent. But Naomi Grossman, who is one of them, hustled her took us off for us. And and like, got every cousin she has to come out to a screening and got every person she knows in every city. And she put more butts in seats, not because she's famous, but because she like hounded people to come. And for that reason, she was the most valuable actor. And I think, actually, if you if you had a whole team of filmmakers, actively hounding people in cities, because they were gonna get a piece of the back end, we would have sold more tickets than we sold because we had famous actors.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:45
Yeah, there's, there's, there's multiple different business models, and I think the duplass brothers have been able to they cracked the code. I mean, the duplass has cracked the code A while ago. And if you remember their first films, they were made for nothing. Right? And

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:18:58
You're also friends with famous people, which again, like what now but now right now?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:03
Yeah, not when they were starting out when they were start when they did puffy chair. You know, they had they had Sundance because they got the short film The year before, but it took them a minute before those famous people friends. And now they can leverage everything that they have. But you know, the whole Marvel story with them. Right? Have you heard that story? Marvel called the doop losses. And they offered them a movie. And they turned it down. Because they said it's just not us. And that is self awareness. And that is a clear understanding of what is important to you as a filmmaker that said, Look, we would be locked up for three years. And it would have been fun maybe but it's that it's kind of like that. We don't want to do that. Like we want to make other films we want to employ our friends. We want to go out and do this to tell the stories we want to tell like why would we lock ourselves up for write this kind of film like we're good. You know, we're making Netflix movies. We're making Netflix shows we're doing HBO shows like I don't need that. That every filmmaker that hears the story, many of them are like, You're crazy. I'm like I said, No, he knows. And they both know exactly what's important to them. Right? And I think that's where we all have to be. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my entrepreneur guests. What advice would you give a filmtrepreneur starting a project today?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:20:26
Liberate yourself from the system.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:29
The matrix

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:20:31
Unplugged from the matrix,Take the red pill, because from the beginning, because the other thing that I like, if we had known from day one of making bite me that this is what we're going to do. A we would have done things differently, and we would have been able to set ourselves up so much more successfully.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:52
Very good. Now, what is the biggest lesson you've learned? Going through this audacity? of this this tour of this project? where you are, what's the biggest lesson you've learned so far?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:21:06
The system is a lie.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:09
The Matrix is a lie.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:21:11
Right? It's true. Like, I mean, I just can't tell you how many things people said to us like, well, you're never going to get theaters to agree to this Really? Well. So many theaters said yes, that we had to cap the tour at 51 screenings like that was not that like they're just the idea that film festivals are the be all end all know, when, when in reality, they're eating up your profits? Realistically?

Alex Ferrari 1:21:34
Of course.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:21:36
It's a lie. So like, think differently,

Alex Ferrari 1:21:39
Think differently. Okay, perfect. Yes. like Apple says, think different. Back in the day. Now, what is? What did you learn? What have you learned from your biggest filmmaking or business failure? Like that first movie, besides selling the traditional distributor?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:22:00
Yeah. I mean, I feel like it's the same.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:10
Just don't just just

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:22:11
It's that, that the decision to set to give your film to a distributor, is the last decision you get to make with that film, basically. Whereas that's great. Whereas whatever mistakes or successes we had with this tour, we now get to make an infinite number of decisions. Next.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:34
Do you see Do you see yourselves partnering strategically, with a traditional distributor? Like carving out certain rights, like actually doing a real partnership if you found good distributors? Because I have, and I have.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:22:49
Sure it's so hard to know, I mean, this is the problem? Like they all sound great up front? And then. But yeah, I mean, of course, like, if the right opportunity came along, I think particularly internationally, it makes a lot of sense. And

Alex Ferrari 1:23:05
It just all depends, it all depends. Because there are there are models out there, there are distribution companies that I work with, that can do good stuff. But I would agree, like if you just sign everything over, if you can try to, you know, like, I'm going to keep the DVD rights, I have the rights to sell it on my website, something that's a huge thing. Like, if all hell breaks loose, I can still sell it on my I might, I could sell it on my website. I could put it on Vimeo plus and sell it Right, right, if worse comes to worse. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:23:46
The system is a lie? Okay, so basically, you grow up watching the Oscars and you like, and then everybody talks about Sundance, and it's like, there's it's so it's feels magical. So true, and it just isn't and it and like, and it's so I feel like I've had to learn that lesson over and over and over again.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:08
Okay. Now, in your opinion, what is the definition of a filmtrepreneur?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:24:15
Think a filmmaker who understands that their job does not end when the picture is locked.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:23
That's great definition. Great definition. I love that. Now, where can people find out more about you about bite me about everything you're doing?

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:24:33
Well, I have a website. What 2019 NaomiMcDougalJones.com

Alex Ferrari 1:24:42
It's not Geocities. Sorry. Isn't on is it on AOL no joke.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:24:49
Maybe How Does that ever work? Exactly. Um, bite me. thefilm.com is our films website. And I would very much encourage people to watch our doctors series which is on YouTube, you just search for the joyful vampire tour of America. It's 12 episodes. It's that was made by Kiwi Callahan. It's incredibly funny and fun just as like an adventure story of us living in an RV for three months traveling around the country, but also does, we pull our pants all the way down and everything. So if, if I had had that tool as a filmmaker six months ago, my life would be different.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:28
Wow, that's awesome. Naomi, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, I'm so glad we were able to finally get together. And I hope and I do hope that this episode really educates some people out there and really inspire some people to do something and also terrify some people. Because it ain't easy out here. It isn't easy. And like you said, the filmmaker understands that their job is not done at cut. Final Cut is a really great definition of a film entrepreneur, because you've got to think about other things, you got to look at things differently, as you so wonderfully put. So thank you, again, so much for being so candid, and dropping some knowledge bombs, and inspirational bombs on the tribe today.

Naomi Mcdougall Jones 1:26:12
Thank you so much for having me.

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BPS 366: Using Filmmaking for Change in the World with Jon Fitzgerald

Today on the show we have filmmaker and author Jon Fitzgerald. Jon has twenty-five years of experience in the independent film, internet, and film festival communities, a rare leader with a unique combination of skills.  As a filmmaker, he has produced a number of award-winning documentaries; and as a consultant, he has guided many independent film projects through the maze of festivals and hybrid distribution models.

As a co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival (1995), he led the event the next two seasons before being named the Festival Director for the prestigious AFI Film Festival in 1997.  After running AFI Fest for three years (1997-1999), he created a consulting business, guiding the launch of numerous film festivals (Bahamas, Lone Star, Orlando), directing several others (Santa Barbara, Topanga, and Abu Dhabi), and consulting to dozens more.

Jon authored his first book, entitled Filmmaking for Change: Make Films That Transform the Worldwhich was ground-breaking in the space.

Again, based on the premise that powerful stories can create change, Jon founded Cause Cinema, connecting social impact films to related causes. The Company acts as a filter to the best of social impact cinema, integrating numerous film programs, social action campaigns, and unique exhibition models, giving audiences the tools to take action.

Enjoy my conversation with Jon Fitzgerald.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 2:09
I'd like to welcome the show Jon Fitzgerald man, thank you so much for being on the show my friend.

Jon Fitzgerald 3:19
Absolutely happy to be here.

Alex Ferrari 3:21
Thank you, man. And like we saying off air. You your book makes a cameo in my film on the corner of ego and desire. When we're in the bookstore we pan across is the first book that scene in it. It's not a quick pan there's it's a moment you read the title. So I wanted to give you a shout out for for the book. I love that. I love that. So before we get started The reason it's here movie. Yeah, exactly. Now, real quick before we get started, how did you get into the business?

Jon Fitzgerald 3:51
Okay, I have a film degree from UCSB and broke into the train program at William Morris. And back then it was actually triad but it was it was acquired and did the development thing a while socking away my per diem, working on a script that I'd started in film school, and eventually raise the funds to shoot it. And like everyone else, really wanted to premiered at Sundance, but it wasn't to be. Fortunately for me, I had met a couple other filmmakers at the I FM in New York that year. And they didn't get in either. And so we all banded together and started slam dance. So I kind of by accident, became a festival director. We all did it together the first year as co founders and then I became the director for year two and three in Brighton. Peter Baxter was one of the producers of a film in the first year he came on as a creative director and then I moved on to take over As a fi fest director, and then Peter took over slam dance. So that's the short version of how I got into this indie film space.

Alex Ferrari 5:08
That's it. And Dan has been on the show, Dan Mirvish has been on the show multiple times, and he's great. He also makes a cameo himself. Oh, man, he hustles man, like, there's no tomorrow. And he actually makes a cameo in the movie, and his book makes a cameo. I tried to bring as many people as I could.

Jon Fitzgerald 5:29
He's great. And he, you know, I have to give him a lot of kudos. He's the one that you know, wrote the first press release that was in variety. And he was he was a big help. And he's, he's a great guy.

Alex Ferrari 5:42
Now, um, you wrote a book called filmmaking for change. Now, I wanted to ask you what the book is about, and why did you write it?

Jon Fitzgerald 5:50
Sure. Well, having done film festivals for a number of years, again, you know, as a festival director, especially curating movies, I found myself on a panel with Michael Lisi. And we're walking back to the hotel. And I said, Hey, I become more interested in what I call social impact movies and wondering, you know, why they don't have a book on this subject? What would it take to make that happen? And he said, Well, send me an outline and the first chapter and you know, if it makes sense, we'll do it. So that's kind of where it started. And it's true, I had become much more interested in, in documentary, and even narrative that that, you know, were movies with some social relevance. And so I did that book. And, and really was thinking along the lines with with some of the other books that this could be something that was taught in film schools, to really help filmmakers, learn how to take ideas, and make documentary, but not just talking heads documentary, but how do you how you take a core of an idea and sort of break it down into a narrative structure. And I used some other Michael ABC books, the hero's journey, for example, Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, and the 12 stages, I'm sure you're familiar with that. And so that was kind of the anchor for for the book and how to have, you know, development and production, and then distribution and how you could take all these pieces and think of these movies as, as, as more narrative stories, and and then I made a handful of documentaries along the way that I could kind of reference in the book as examples.

Alex Ferrari 7:42
Now, documentaries are an easy, an easy play for social impact. They're kind of you know, if done correctly, they're kind of built to do that. Where I find it a little bit more complicated is in the narrative space. Do you have any tips or suggestions? And also examples of narrative films that have really hit us has created social impact besides coming to America? Of course?

Jon Fitzgerald 8:08
Well, I it's funny, you say that, because I, you know, when I was writing the book, obviously, I had to do a lot of research to give it some context. And what you really learn when you kind of take a deeper dive is that a lot of movies over the years have been social impact movies, you're just not labeled that way. And you think you even think about, you know, Schindler's List. You know, you think of greenbook Yeah, right. If you think I mean, if you look at the Oscars the last few years, it's its spotlight, you think of a lot of big narratives that actually have something to say. And and so I think it's, it's not something that audiences are necessarily looking out for consciously. But I think because there's so much wackiness going on in the world. I think that one of the reasons why we're seeing kind of a spike in documentary and even social impact narrative is that people are more interested in learning now about the world around them in different cultures and, and getting to the crux of some of these big issues.

Alex Ferrari 9:13
Now, how do you dance though, the line between preachy and entertaining because if you start preaching, people tune off even in documentaries to a certain extent. I'm a huge fan of documentary and you know, the whole plant based food movement was started with a documentary basically with four knives. Yeah, I'm sorry. Forks Over Knives is in my book as a case study. Yeah, fork over knives, food matters, all those kind of what the health and cow spear see and all these other ones. So they're very powerful and even back in the day with Roger and me with with Michael Moore and his social impacts with his documentaries. Yeah. But how do you dance the line between preaching and entertaining?

Jon Fitzgerald 9:59
I honestly See think it's, it's it's a combination of different factors that don't necessarily all apply into each project, I think each kind of has their own their own anchor, obviously, with more you've got, you've got a charismatic figure who you kind of want to watch, because he's so crazy. But there's other, there's other documentaries, where the filmmaking style is really interesting, you know, you think about life itself, right? documentary made a few years ago, and they used animation. And this this, this, you know, this guy had grown up with with, you know, a disorder, essentially and connected back to Disney movies. And so I think it's really a question of what your style and your structure is, and, and if you can somehow weave in a narrative? Oh, I mean, there, there is a reason why, you know, there's a beginning, a middle and an end to most of the more popular stories, whether it's, whether it's a book or a movie, so, so I think that's the key. And I think, you know, filmmakers are getting it. And that's why if you look back, and to some extent, you could, we could thank Netflix, they've, they've really, you know, busted open the doors for documentary in the last few years, I think, with such a deep library, and, of course, HBO. So they're out there. And, and there's a, there's a reason why people are paying attention now. And I think it's because these stories are told in such an interesting way.

Alex Ferrari 11:33
The one thing I found interesting about your book, and what you're trying to say with it is that it does really fall into the concept that I've kind of been preaching about, profusely over the last six months, or longer, is this whole concept of being a film shoprunner being a an entrepreneurial filmmaker, and finding a niche, and then feeding that niche providing service to that niche, impact social impact movies are literally that you think, I mean, unless it's a very broad, like, you know, racism, or the Holocaust, or even that those are still niches of the larger society. They're kind of pre built for that, do you have any tips on how, because I know, when you're making a social impact, film money might not be a specific goal. But if you're raising money for a cause, for for a foundation, then generating revenue is as important as if it was going into your own pocket even more so than at that point. So still, revenue generation is still extremely important for, for filmmakers even doing social impact movie. So do you have any recommendations in regards to what you've seen over the years?

Jon Fitzgerald 12:46
Yeah, that's a great point. And I love the idea of your book, by the way, and I, I've consulted for a number of years helping filmmakers kind of figure out their marketing and distribution strategy. And one of the things that I've been saying a lot in the last few years is you really have to think of your movie as a brand. And you have to think about it as a product and not just find a distributor, stick it on that show. And, you know, see how many people might find it, I, you do have to do all the things that I'm sure you cover in your book, in terms of, of social impact, what's what's interesting, is, you need to have a call to action. And, and when I talk to filmmakers about this, it kind of all starts with the goal. And then you back into the process from there. And each film kind of has its own goal, right? Because a film about homelessness is not necessarily going to have the same goal as a film about the environment. You look at a movie like racing extinction, you know, they created an amazing campaign. And I don't know if you had a chance to check it out. But the the new book that the second edition, has a whole new section, which is called activation to your point, which is, you know, how can you take this idea that was built with a mission in mind and put it in motion? And I think what racing extinction did, which was brilliant, is that they they took this concept of, of climate change. And and, you know, they put different challenges in there with call to actions. And did you know that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global mission? I mean, and then they talk about the fisheries as you know that 90% of the fisheries are over fish. So they talk about these issues, and then they follow up with with questions and solutions and what you can do as a person to make your contribution and I think part of the problem is that people get overwhelmed with the idea that oh my god, there's so many problems. How can little old me make a difference? You know, and I think it does have to start with us and we have to just know that every little bit counts.

Alex Ferrari 14:58
Yeah, there's um I'm thinking a movie camp like boys don't cry, which obviously touched upon, at the time, really, you know that, you know, LGBTQ rights, which was something that was not even discussed when that movie came out really was kind of like one of those films. And it could have been at the end, like, hey, if you know somebody, put on it, go to this website, sign up, and get help, or whatever that might be or, you know, get assistance or whatever there is, there's always an ability, and I think the filmmaker just really needs to be very clear about what their endgame is. I've even seen big movies who that touched like, I mean, obviously, Schindler's List, you know, with, this was a social or social project that he that Spielberg created, which was, you know, to record every Holocaust survivor in America, you know, and he use Schindler's List as an as a catalyst for that as an educational tool. I think that you're right, that filmmakers really need to be very clear about what their endgame is. And also, I was going to ask you, how can filmmakers, depending on the the social impact of trying to make and the niche that you're trying to do? How could they? Or should they team up with organizations in that niche to get the word out in ways that you can't and also as a, basically free marketing, because if you're making a film about the environment, let's say we are specific, something even more niche than that. And there's an organization about that they have 1000s and 10s, of 1000s, and hundreds of 1000s of people on an email list, and they can market your film for free essentially, do you agree with that?

Jon Fitzgerald 16:39
Absolutely. Just hit it right on the head. I mean, with with virtually all of these, what I call, cause cinema movies, you know, the these are, these are projects that have not for profits, depending on the category, whether it's the oceans, or homelessness or education, veterans, you name it, all of them have organizations to support this effort. And, and it is, in a way, almost a sponsorship or a partnership agreement that that is developed between filmmaking team and, and, you know, company, really, it's going to them and saying, Look, I've got this content, and it supports your mission, how can we help each other? How can you get our message out to your audience base, maybe it's giving you some content for your website, depending on what their forum is, but it really does come down to understanding after you get past, you know, underneath the layer of the goal, it's what's your, what's your distribution plan? Are you are you interested in playing on Netflix or HBO? And what if they don't want you? You know, are you? Are you going to play in schools? Are you going to play in high schools you to play in colleges? What is your What is your action campaign that supports the screening? Are you going to have bumper stickers? Are you going to have T shirts? What is your call to action? And I think once you back into what your distribution model is, I did a movie a few years ago called the Milky Way. And it's about breastfeeding in America nice and restoring the nursing phenomena, right? It'll blow your mind just how bad America is at this. This, really, and kids,

Alex Ferrari 18:28
I trust me, I know, we did sue me. I was psychotic. And my kids were in my wife's belly. I was just like, I did so much research. I watched so many documentaries. It was like, Baby, you're breastfeeding. And she's like, I know, and Don't tell me what to do.

Jon Fitzgerald 18:42
But what's what's crazy, though, is is that a lot of people just assume that, you know, formula, the nutrition factor or whatever, but they don't they don't realize it's the skin to skin in a anyway I know about. I know more about that now that my wife did when she was breastfeeding. But But the point is, is that these filmmakers weren't making it to make money. They Yes, they were on Netflix. Yes, they got the exposure. But it was more about how do we do a screening campaign that will give mothers an opportunity to see this movie and who are the right partners to do that. So with that particular film, speaking of tug, unfortunately, we did a campaign with tugg. And frankly, these filmmakers did not set the bar super high in terms of how many people had to see the movie to trigger the screening their thing and look at their 1520 moms in that theater. We're good that we help we're in so they didn't do it for money. And it's it's it's a wonderful thing to see when you see the emails flooding into ladies. They're both they're both essentially nurses in to see the impact they're having and that is a perfect example of a social impact film that we created with a beginning, middle and end. It has a story. There's the good guys and the bad guys There's some animation. And it's an interesting, it's an interesting story. But it does make a difference. And they knew that it wasn't about how much money they were going to make. It was about connecting to these groups, and having their Facebook and their Instagram and all these social media platforms and websites, in that nursing category that could do outreach for them. Because as audiences want to know about this subject,

Alex Ferrari 20:26
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So let's since you've touched upon it, I want to talk a little bit about distribution. And that is, it's a dirty word, in many ways, and has become a dirty word. And at the end of the day, it's always wild, wild west, it's in people think it's, oh, no, everything's so much, you know, easier, or it's more controlled, there are rules, there's absolutely no rules, it's worse than ever. And I've literally, I actually had conversations today, actually with filmmakers, who are going through this whole tug situation if if anyone listening has not listened to Episode 373, where I, you know, break the story in regards to what happened with tug and, and what tug was and everything. But that there was documentaries, who had educational series and educational content that was licensed by tug. And now they're, they're going to lose eight to 10 grand and like, that's, you know, plus all the all the exposure for the cause, and everything. It's brutal out there. So it's brutal out there for filmmakers as a general statement. But it's even I think it's even a little bit more heartbreaking when you're when you're doing this for almost a nonprofit. And there are nonprofit filmmakers out there that just want the cause to get out there. And they still get screwed. And in the in the films get screwed. I mean, you're you're in that you're in this space, you're definitely in the space of distribution as well. So I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas about what can be done, what should you look out for? And we touched a bit a little bit about the entrepreneurial filmmaking model, which I do believe is the future or hybrid version of that. But what's your what's your take on it?

Jon Fitzgerald 22:19
Well, I I think I tend to try and look at things like a little bit more of the silver lining side, I, I do think that it is it is really disturbing when you hear about a stripper and tug. And these these, these companies that were doing so well for filmmakers that, you know, shut down. I will also say, though, that that by having so many new streaming channels, and frankly, channels that that aren't necessarily curating, there isn't as difficult of a barrier as there as there was some time ago. I mean, clearly, if you don't have a relationship with iTunes, you don't have a relationship with Netflix or HBO, it's gonna be hard for you to get good traction there. So I do think it's a challenge. I think, to your earlier point, I do think filmmakers have to be entrepreneurial now. Now more than they used to be. It wasn't just, I'm a visionary, and I'm going to create an idea, then give it to a sales agent who's going to rip me off and try and sell it. You have to, you have to build up, get creative on your own. But I do think there are a lot of opportunities out there, you still have to do your homework, you have to know who the right players are. And you still I believe, you know, some of these content creators are creating channels for themselves. Right. Roku has over 2000 channels now. Right. And there's gonna be some consolidation, of course, but but there's a lot of opportunity out there. You just got to do your homework.

Alex Ferrari 23:48
Yeah, I mean, I even have my own streaming service, you know, so that's dedicated to filmmakers. So I mean, a lot of people have streaming services. And, you know, I think the future is curation. I mean, you can't like I agree, I guess I can't compete with Netflix. Not many people can Amazon can't compete with Netflix, let alone me. So they're the broad spectrum channels, I think will start to just die off because they won't be able to be sustained, their funding will finally crap out and they'll end they'll close. And I've seen that already happening. But I feel that the niche, the niche, or curated channels are going to be able to survive because people will want you know, if you're into documentaries, curiosity stream is a pretty good deal. I just, I just signed up for 12 bucks for the year. I'm like, okay, it's Yeah, it was a quick like, end of the year ever Black Friday sale. I was like, Yeah, sure. I might wait, why Why? Why not? You know, so that that makes sense. And I think you're right, there's just so much more homework. That filming

Jon Fitzgerald 24:52
There's a lot out there. There's a lot out there and I do I do agree there's going to be some consolidation for sure that there won't be 2000 And channels in five years, but but the point is, do your homework and see which of these channels have your niche, you know, and and I do think that there is something to be said for curation, especially if you're focusing on a specific category, I think, you know, throwing as many ideas against the wall and just hoping a channel that has 17 genres is going to promote your title. That's, that's a bit more of a challenge. But I do think, especially for dogs, and some very specific, like sci fi, very hot, right. So I think if you if you if you're in a certain category, and you do your homework, and you can find a home, you have a chance to succeed there. And I still think having a website and, and having fans and creating community, as you know, I mean, those are, those are the audiences that would come and see your next movie. So I still think you don't want to just give it up and wait for the checks to roll in. You gotta you gotta gotta keep hustling

Alex Ferrari 26:03
When you're preaching to the choir on that one, but, but I see it too, that the distributors, you know, when I was at AFM this year, they're they're scared, they don't know what to do. I mean, all their golden calves are gone. So they they're, I asked, I literally asked a distribution company was in a meeting with me, I go, you guys really have no idea how you're gonna make money this year are you they're like, we're just gonna throw up things as many things up against the wall as we can and see what sticks and things are and the wall is moving. And the things you're throwing up against the wall are moving. So it's a constant game of musical chairs, and nobody really knows what's going on. So that's kind of why I always again, talking about entrepreneurial is the exploitation of the movie is one revenue stream. While you should be creating multiple other revenue streams from other products and or services, like food, like I mean, a fork over knives, I mean, those guys, I have them in my book as a as a case study as well, because yeah, they were really food matters. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Even even Kung Fury, Kung Fury, that little short film, remember that? That guy he you know, the niche of 80s action movies? I wouldn't say that's a social impact film, but depending how you look at it, that's okay. That's okay. Um, I worked on a really bad Steven Seagal movie. You mean? So? Um, pretty much almost all of them except for the first maybe three or four?

Jon Fitzgerald 27:28
Yeah, well, I've done the ground I have to say like,

Alex Ferrari 27:32
Oh, wait, is that the one? Is that the oil one?

Jon Fitzgerald 27:36
Yeah, and actually on Deadly Ground is the one that I worked on.

Alex Ferrari 27:41
Okay. Horrible. It's horrible. It's someone with Michael Caine right

Jon Fitzgerald 27:45
Under siege I think was the first one right that he was actually decent at. So under siege way.

Alex Ferrari 27:50
So are arguably, this is my time of life. So I worked in a video store during this time. So this is I there's like I've said before on the show, there's a window of time that I will challenge anybody to a trivia situation. So from 87 to 93. I pretty much watched everything that was put out. So during that time there was above the law hard to kill mark for death out for justice. And then underseas showed up out in the middle of the pack. Yeah, so under siege, I would argue is probably his best and was his biggest hit and it was a warner brothers release. above the law. Not bad. I have a small good place for me in hard to kill. But I did remember he did on Deadly Ground. If that's if I'm not mistaken. That's the oil one in Alaska. Yeah, with Michael Caine. And he directed

Jon Fitzgerald 28:42
McKinley, Billy Bob Thornton. It was a it was an awesome cast. But he directed he directed it. Yeah. And he was

Alex Ferrari 28:48
so drunk on his own power. I could only imagine what that was like.

Jon Fitzgerald 28:53
But it was a cast of what not to do in studio production that that movie would check all the boxes. But that was

Alex Ferrari 29:01
but that was a movie if I remember correctly, that was a social impact movie. He was trying to say something about American Eskimo, was it Eskimos or American Indian and oil and the Alaska. It was Alaska. So it was like the natives of Alaska and all this. So it really was a bit preachy, if I remember correct, it was like a bit preachy. It was bad. It was just bad. nothing good about bad cinema. It it started to it started to do

Jon Fitzgerald 29:29
a lot about it, was it It puts the money in my pocket. Did I say I could get closer to making my independent film that was the kind of helped me get to slam dance. That's the that's the way to look at it.

Alex Ferrari 29:40
That's an absolutely wonderful way to look at it, my friend. Now, um, do you have any tips for finding funding for the social impact films because when you're doing a social impact film, funding opportunities are more relevant than the action movie star. Eric Roberts and Michael Madsen. So you have places you could go to get that work. Do you have any tips for that for

Jon Fitzgerald 30:06
the listener? Well, you know, I do, I do cover that a little bit in the book. And I have a list of, of organizations, and it really just depends kind of on how much you're looking for. There's probably half a dozen or so and I know seeding the spark has has a lot of information about that. fledgling, you can, you can go to the doc, the IDA, website Chertsey a really long list of organizations that support docs, a lot of grants. What, what's also interesting is that is the crowdfunding campaign is kind of shifted to equity crowdfunding, yep. And so now you can get a you can get a piece of the movie instead of just, you know, a T shirt. So, so I do think there are a lot of opportunities. And as we both know, you can you can make these movies for next to nothing. So it's just a question of how creative how creative you can be. But the other thing I'll just add is there are companies like creative visions, right, that, that really support as a fiscal partner, and with a lot of tools and outreach, and a lot of examples, and they have talks and they bring filmmakers in and they they really support this social impact space, with a lot of information and resources, that that are hard to find in one in one shop. So that's another organization to know about. And I think moving forward, there has been definitely an uptick in social impact cinema over the last 20 years,

Alex Ferrari 31:42
I mean, just from the moment where I was talking that little magical moment when I worked at a video store that you know, from there, I don't remember seeing many, you know, it was the ad so is a little different. But there wasn't a lot of social impact films, but they have becoming more and more and more and more. That God I can't believe unconvenient Inconvenient Truth. Yeah, that launched an entire conversation.

Jon Fitzgerald 32:05
I talked about that a lot in my book. Oh, that's what that's what triggered me.

Alex Ferrari 32:09
That was such a great, it was such a great. It's such a powerful use of the medium. I mean, what they were able to do, and I actually taught trailer editing in colleges and classes, and I bring out the Inconvenient Truth trailer. That trailer was so well edited. It was so powerful, and it's al gore in doing a slideshow slideshow, like incredible what they did. They made the movie he made al gore kinda cool. It was kind of weird watching that. And then you watch a movie like supersize me which completely started a conversation a global conversation about obesity and about food and about so much so that the multi billion dollar company stopped supersize. Exactly it was it It was amazing. So these films do do hit and in the in the just hypersensitive times that we live in where any little thing offends the corporation's are so sensitive to this. So if Can you imagine if supersize me showed up today? Oh, my. Oh, my Could you imagine? Because that was like, that was that pre that wasn't pre internet, but it was like early. It was early. He was really whenever that come out? Like That was the 90s it wasn't Yeah, it's more than it was more than 10 years ago. No, it's definitely the 90s if I'm not mistaken, but late 90s when when that came out so late 90s or early 2000s but it was like pre Facebook free pre insane social media. I know you're looking it up go ahead go look it up to try and find it while you're talking. But yeah, but so the I think that there is an uptick and I think it's a very powerful way for a filmmaker to make a difference in the world and also change minds and and help people with with this because we have we work in arguably the most powerful media in the world as far as cinema television content like the video content. You know, you can watch a movie and your life changes like yeah, make a difference you know, yeah, and and and it Yeah, so 2004 By the way, okay, good. I was I wasn't too far off.

Jon Fitzgerald 34:26
Not too far. But the the thing is, these movies are movies that you you start a dialogue with somebody that may not know anything about it, right? You see something it's like hearing a new song, you want to tell your friend about that new song, you see one of these movies in it and it strikes you somehow makes you want to talk about it and share the information and one of the things that I think is is the next wave. I started this bit with cause cinema and then I got sidetracked with these other ideas but is, I believe There needs to be a more concentrated approach at connecting the cause to the movie. And so that if you see the movie, when you finish the movie, you're actually on a landing page that tells you more about the causes, if you want to get involved or make a donation or read more about it, that's something that hasn't really happened yet. And I think, you know, participant media was, was the was the likely candidate to assume that role, and they did a lot with with their digital, and then they shut it down. So somebody needs to do that in a big way. Because what you don't want to do is see one of these movies that can really make a difference, and then kind of go out to dinner and forget about it, right? You want to be able to make a difference. And that's why calls to action are so important.

Alex Ferrari 35:51
Yeah, I just saw the film game changers, which was I just read that was the biggest documentary in iTunes history within two weeks, which about vegan athletes. And I've had so many people publicly now come out like Dolph Lundgren and iron, Robert Downey, Jr. and all these people that watch the documentary that just like, yeah, I'm changing. I'm not trying to preach here, guys eat your meat, it's up to you. But I'm just I'm just using it as an example of a film that's had immense impact. I mean, I haven't seen an impact in that space as much probably since either what the health or fork over knives wasn't fork over knives, the first that I

Jon Fitzgerald 36:36
think Forks Over Knives, well, I think food matters might have come around first, but I think Forks Over Knives is the one that really busted it open. And they were smart talking about your entrepreneurs. You know, they they had, they had a companion piece. They had a magazine, they had a website. I mean, they've created a whole franchise around this, but but i think i think that, you know, Louis, who also did the cove, right, yes. And extinction. So he knows what he's doing. He's got an Oscar and he knows how to make a difference. And I think with with that movie came out of Sundance last year, right, I didn't see it, they're game changers. So yeah, it's gonna have an impact for sure. And more importantly, back to your other comment about distribution. It doesn't really help if you have a message and nobody sees it. Right. So you got it. You got to find your audience and and not everybody's going to have the luck of, of an acquisition at a Sundance and and an iTunes,

Alex Ferrari 37:33
iTunes deal. And also having James Cameron or Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan as your executive producers. That doesn't, doesn't didn't hurt in the least. It's a man I wanted. I wanted to thank you again, for being on the show. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Jon Fitzgerald 37:54
I think I think mentorship is key. Find people that are doing what you want to be doing, and reach out to them because most of them are willing to help. And and if you know what genre you want to be in, try and find somebody that's making projects in that genre. I think one of the other one of the other challenges is some people think they want to make movies, but it turns out, they don't want to make movies, they just want to be connected to the movie business. So I think, you know, part of the challenge is to figure out which part of the business you want to be in right? And and then figure out who can mentor you and give you advice on on on the best path to reach that goal.

Alex Ferrari 38:35
So I see you mean to tell me there's people in the business who just want to be famous and don't really care about the work stop at Johnston. Yeah. And next you're going to tell me distributors are you know, a lot of distributors are predatory. Like what do you what do you say? What is it's up is down, down is up cats and dogs living together? mass hysteria?

Jon Fitzgerald 38:54
I think the key is get into a train program and and be willing to do internships because a lot of those internships lead to full time gigs.

Alex Ferrari 39:01
Yeah, and if not a start punch. And if not, you start building that rhinoceros skin that you need that you need to build up in this business without question. Right. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jon Fitzgerald 39:17
I think the lesson that I learned over time in the film business was I kind of believe that if you did something and you did it really, really well, that you, you'd be able to make a lot of money. I love that. That's awesome. And then I realized, okay, if I want to be a really good curator at a really good festival director, or I want to teach film classes, or write or write books, unfortunately, most of those don't generally pay. making documentaries is not going to make you rich. Now, I'm not saying I got in this to get rich. I'm just saying I think I kept saying I'm not going to think about The financial picture of what I have to do to get my kids through school. Sure, I'm gonna work really hard and, and so I think the lesson was, you know what you got to go the other way you got to you got to love what you do. And fortunately for me, I've loved every minute of this journey. I've got to make movies, I've got to meet and discover tons of filmmakers. I love what I do. But But you, the lesson I learned was you can't think about where the money is going to come from. And think that just if I do this really well, I work really hard. And I'm good at that the money will come because the truth is some of these, some of these categories in the film space don't pay as well as you know, producing a movie for 20 Century Fox. And even those films sometimes are Disney.

Alex Ferrari 40:43
Exactly. There's no more 20 Century Fox or Come on, come on, it's gone now. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Jon Fitzgerald 40:54
I have to say Citizen Kane. I saw it in film school. And no, that's kind of an easy answer. Life is beautiful. I had the pleasure of showing with Panini and everyone there at the Chinese when I was running a FF I love that movie. And Gosh, my third one. I think one of the most impactful movies for me kind of coming out of film, school. Sex lies and videotape.

Alex Ferrari 41:22
Yeah, Soderbergh's first film and actually what put Sundance in the mouth?

Jon Fitzgerald 41:27
Yeah, very influential. Well, he generalists are three, those are three, three big ones.

Alex Ferrari 41:34
Yes, even is, in general, very influential. What he does, and what he's doing now with iPhones is pretty insane. So I'm glad there's someone like him out there doing what he's doing. And for that, and for that same back and forth. And also, I'm glad that you're out there doing what you're doing, and fighting the good fight and helping filmmakers. Find not only, you know, meaning sometimes in using this medium to actually help other people, which is very important, but also helping them find their path in this business and in life. And if you once you get a taste of this, of doing something social and something that helps other people, it's fairly addictive. And very rewarding. Yeah, yeah, it might you might not live in the Hollywood Hills, but you're happy, you're happier, I feel but you know, you live in the Hollywood Hills and have social impact. I mean, look, Arnold did it.

Jon Fitzgerald 42:26
One of the taglines I use for cars cinema was she good? Do good, feel good? Hey, that kind of sums it up, right? You get to see good social impact movies. You want to do good, right? With the call to action, and you'll feel good for doing so.

Alex Ferrari 42:43
That's a that's an amazing,

Jon Fitzgerald 42:45
Thanks for having me. Man. I it's it's an honor to be here. I've been I've been listening to your show and huge fan.

Alex Ferrari 42:51
I appreciate that. But thanks so much. And real quick, where can people find you and you and your work?

Jon Fitzgerald 42:56
causepictures.com is is is kind of my my anchor organization. And then for the book, filmmaking for change, obviously.

Alex Ferrari 43:06
Thank you so much, brother, I appreciate you coming on the show and keep fighting the good fight my friend.

Jon Fitzgerald 43:11
Thank you, you too.

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