Ashley: Welcome to Episode #266 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screen writer and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer-director and podcaster over at www.indiefilmhustle.com, Alex Ferrari. We talk about some of the new stuff he’s working on which includes a new book, a new streaming platform for indie film makers and of course his latest feature film that he wrote and directed. I interviewed Alex before on the podcast in Episode Number #210, so if you haven’t checked that out I will link to it in the show notes and you can listen to that after you’ve listened to today’s interview. So stay tuned for another interview with Alex Ferrari.
If you find this episode valuable please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for Episode Number #266. If you want my free guide, How To Sell a Screenplay In Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
Quick few words about what I’m working on, on my feature film The Pinch, which is the crime- thriller feature film which I recently finished up on. We’re now officially launched on several VOD platforms including iTunes, Google Play and Amazon and Voodoo, and with Amazon that also does include Amazon Prime and that should be available in the USA, Canada and the UK on all of those platforms. I’ve just signed on with a sales agent to handle the other territories and potential cable and TV deals in the other territories, so we’ll see how that turns out. If you do subscribe to Amazon Prime you can effectively watch the movie for free, there’s no additional cost, you just go to Amazon and it’s included with your Prime account. If you do watch the movie please do take a minute and give me a review.
It’s especially important in Amazon Prime to get those reviews, it just helps get the film listed in more places and kind of gets it into their algorithm so it recommends it to other people. So I wanna really thank everybody. I know a lot of people from the podcast have gone on and written nice reviews, so thank you to the people that have done that. And again, if you do have Amazon Prime and you have a minute to leave me a review it would be very much appreciated. Also I am selling the film directly from my website at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch and you can add on, you can buy the film from the website but you can also add on the three hour webinar I did, The Making of The Pinch, and I cover every aspect of how I made this film, writing the low budget screenplay, raising the money, pre-production, production, post-production.
I talk about not only how I raised the money but how I spent the money and I go into some real specifics, so you’ll kinda know roughly how much I spent on each one of these different pieces in producing this film. I put quite a bit of time into preparing this webinar, so if you’re thinking about making your own micro-budget film I think this would be very educational for you. And again, that’s at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/thepinch. This week I’m gonna be working on more deliverables. As I mentioned, I just signed on with a new sales agent, he’s taking the film to the Berlin Film Market and then he’ll be pushing it out. He’s got his own list of deliverables.
There’s a bunch of just technical things that change once you’re outside of North America and I will spare you the details of that, but the frames per second changes, you just need slightly different technical versions, different versions of the film and just different formats for places outside of the USA and Canada. So those have to be created and they’re not hard to create, they just take a bit of time but essentially all the file… the video file is in my editor’s computer in Adobe Premier and then basically he just figures out what the settings are and just starts exporting the different versions . It just takes a long time, it’s a high resolution movie and so it can take hours and hours for the computer to actually output it but it’s not a lot of like labor intensive work where the editor or myself or somebody is actually sitting there and doing a lot of stuff.
So anyways I gotta work on that this week and next week just kinda get all those deliverables for him and then hopefully he’ll start to have some sales over the next couple of months. In terms of my other projects my intention now is to try and get my next film off the ground. Pretty much that’s what I’m working on now more than doing any speck writing or anything like that. And really the first step is getting the funding in place, so that’s kind of where I’m starting. Right now I’ve got a draft of the script which I’m happy with so I’m gonna send that off to a producer friend of mine, we’re gonna do a budget and a schedule and that’s really the first step to raising the money. I’ve been talking to some of my potential investors over the last few months kinda talking the project up but they’re asking sort of the obvious questions, “When are you shooting? What does the schedule look like? What does the actual budget look like?”
So that’s sort of the first step. Obviously anybody’s that’s gonna sink money into a project like this more than anything they just wanna know that you know what you’re doing, you know it’s really, you can say we’re gonna spend this much money and here’s roughly how we’re gonna spend it but once we present an actual budget and a schedule, we have some actual dates that we’re shooting we’re planning on shooting on these actual dates, the whole thing becomes a lot more real and so as I said, I’ve had these potential investors I’ve been talking to things seem to be going along, they seem to have some interest in investing in this but now it’s really time to just make it or not make it and invest or not invest. But I need these assets, I need the budget, I need the schedule, I need to have a actual shoot date, we need to kinda get the project to that next step.
So that’s what I’m working on. And it’ll take a week or two. It’ll take probably a week to do the to the budget schedule and then it’ll probably take another week before we can actually meet and go over and stuff. So it’ll be a few weeks here as we work on the budget and schedule but then I’ll be going out to the investors and kinda see what their real intention is. Much like The Pinch I realize this is gonna be a low budget film, so I’m just gonna take my time on it just like I did with The Pinch. There’s that old film making adage “Good, fast cheap. You can have two of them but not three of them. If you want it to be good and fast it’s not gonna be cheap, if you want it to be good and cheap it’s not gonna be fast.”
So that’s what you have to play with. If you want it to be fast and cheap it ain’t gonna be good so you have to kind of decide what two of those three things you’re gonna concentrate on and as I said, I want it to be good obviously. It has to be cheap because there’s not a big budget for this. So what does that mean? It means it can’t be fast. So that’s what I did with The Pinch. I did take my time and I think I did make it as good as I possibly could given my constraints. And that’s what I’m gonna do with this one, this one will be a much bigger budgeted film, but still written in the scheme of things of a low budget film. And so I just wanna take my time and just make it as good as possible and really be careful with each one of these steps so that we know all the investors, all the people that are involved, know that we’re making the best decisions throughout that. Again, even if it’s at the cost of spending some extra time I don’t mind doing that.
So that’s kind of our plan and as I said, after the…the first step is get the budget schedule and then we’re gonna go out to these investors and we’re trying to raise enough money with this one to actually bring on some name cast, some actors that maybe you’ve heard of, you know, maybe the sort of B level guys and they’re the same sorts of actors that are on these films that I’m interviewing the film makers on that are coming through my podcast. Those sorts of levels. We’re not talking about Tom Cruise or anything like that but you know these B guys, we’re gonna try and get a couple of names in the film just to give it a little bit more clout and that’s really from talking to the distributors, that’s been one of the biggest things that people keep coming back to with The Pinch is there’s no name cast.
On a low budget film, you really need some of this name cast. Just gives it sort of an air of realness. It actually seems like a real project, it actually seems some legitimacy to it and that’s what the distributors really can sell ultimately. So that’s kinda the position I wanna try and get in with this film. Anyway, that’s the plan, we’ll see how it goes. But that is the main thing that I’m working on for the next couple of weeks and probably months.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer-director and podcaster over at www.indiefilmhustle.com, Alex Ferrari. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome back Alex to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Alex: Thanks man, thanks for having me again. I appreciate it.
Ashley: So you were on the podcast a little over a year ago in episode number #210 and I will refer people back to that. We kinda covered some of your origin story, we’re not gonna repeat that stuff now. Today we’re gonna dig in to some of your newer projects. So maybe to start out you can kinda just tell us what’s been going on with you. I know you have a new book out, maybe we can start there and kinda dig into that, talk about that a little bit. What inspired you to write it and what’s it all about?
Alex: So I’ve got a new book coming out, it’s called Shooting For The Mob. It is my first book that I wrote. It’s taken me eighteen years…
Ashley: [laughs] that’s it?
Alex: …to get the courage to write this book. It is a… the best way I could do it is let me just read the synopsis real quick, it’s always the best way to just kinda tell you what the book is about. A bipolar gangster, a naïve, young film director and Batman, what could go wrong? Alex Ferrari is a first-time film director who just got hired to direct the twenty million dollar feature film. The only problem is that the film is about Jimmy, an egomaniacal gangster who wants the film to be about his life in the mob. From the backwater towns of the Louisiana to the Hollywood hills, Alex is taken on a crazy misadventure through the world the Mafia in Hollywood. Huge movie stars, billion-dollar producers, studio heads and of course a few gangsters populate this unbelievable journey down the rabbit hole of chasing your dream. Would you sell your soul to the Devil to make your dream come true? By the way did we mention that this story is based on true events? No, seriously, it is.
Ashley: Okay. So what inspired this? Was this like just your crazy adventures meeting people that wanted you to do movies over the years?
Alex: Well no. This is a specific moment in time which I was twenty six years old where I was approached by a gangster, true to life gangster who was “rehabilitated” but I found out later who wasn’t completely rehabilitated, and who spent time in prison and all that kind of good stuff and he wanted to make a movie about his life. And I was so young and just kind of green as all hell and it kinda seemed real and I was like, “Sure, let me do it.” and like I said, I was twenty six and not very worldly by any stretch, and I went on this journey with this guy. His true colors didn’t come out until a few months into this process but by that time you’re already in the web. It was kinda like working with Joe Patrice’s character in Goodfellas.
So like you really didn’t know what you were gonna get. Like at one moment he’s like the nicest, you’re having a good time, all laughs and chuckles and hahaha, and it’s great and you’re going out to these places to have dinner and all these kind of like… it’s Goodfellas, it’s Goodfellas. But then at the other second all of a sudden he just turns to you like, “Why am I a clown? Am I making you laugh? How am I clown to you?” And that’s the kind of world I lived in for about a year of my life. I was involved with this situation for about a year of my life. It literally destroyed me and it brought me down to my knees to a place where it’s the darkest time of my life. But not only was the mob part of the trying to make the movie which was already in our production offices or on our race track, I can’t write this, I did write it but you can’t make it up it’s kind of insane.
But Hollywood took him seriously. So when Hollywood took him seriously I was flown out to meet billion-dollar producers like huge movie stars at the Chateau Marmont and at the Ivy and I’m having lunch at Spago’s and then I’m surrounded by movie stars and I’m meeting movie stars and big power players and I’m just, I’m like, “Come on, can you imagine you’ve been chasing your dream.” You know for at that point, twenty six, twenty seven years of your life, you’ve been chasing this dream and it’s right there in front of you. And I even got to meet Batman. There’s a whole chapter on Batman. One of the actors we met played Batman and we met him at his let’s call it estates that he has. Essentially he was driving to the Batcave. When I was driving it took us ten minutes from the gate to get to the house, let’s just put it that way.
So I went through all of this and during this whole time my life is threatened every week or two because this guy would just… I think he was undiagnosed bipolar, I don’t know. He was crazy. But it was an insane journey and I wasn’t the only one. There was the whole crew with me, I met one of my best friends who in the book his name is Boris, who is a cinematographer who’s now an ASC cinematographer, so he’s a really high and very accomplished DP. He’s the one that actually’s been hounding me for years to write the screenplay for this and I just said, “I can’t write a screenplay about this, like who’s gonna pay me money? First of all who’s gonna give me money to make a movie about a kid and a gangster and it’s a period piece, takes place in 2001?”
I’m like, “I’m not gonna go chase money for this, that just doesn’t make any sense.” And then one day… in the book you hear what happens, but one day there’s something happened that he again told me, “You gotta write the screenplay.” I said, “I’m not gonna write the screenplay, I just can’t.” He goes, “Well then you can write a book.” And I said, “Dammit! I can write a book.” And at that…
Ashley: [laughs] And so why? Why write a book over a screenplay, because if you wrote a screenplay you could’ve maybe gone out and shot it yourself?
Alex: Well no, I wouldn’t be able to shoot… this movie I can’t do it in my normal running gun kind of method. This is a movie that takes money, it’s a period piece, there’s big set pieces, there’s… I need permissions from… to do it right I would like to shoot at the Chateau Marmont, I’d like to shoot at the Ivy, I would like to shoot at Spago or something similar. There’re certain things that just big set pieces that I wouldn’t be able to do. But for me honestly, this story couldn’t be told completely in a screenplay, it needed to be told completely, and in the book I felt that it would reach more people. And the story’s not just an ego trip for me. Honestly, it took me so long to do it because it was a very scary place for me to go back to.
I’m a grown man, I have a family, kids, all that kinda stuff and to go back to when you were twenty six at the toughest time, the most darkest time of your life where I was left decimated, lost, I almost went bankrupt like literally a day or two from signing the bankruptcy papers to losing my girlfriend at the time to going into a depression for almost two years, hiding in a garage, selling comic books on eBay to make a living just because I just couldn’t even get myself up out of bed in the morning for almost two years. Can you imagine being so close to your dream that it’s sitting in front of you, I’m talking to Batman, literally a foot away from him and he’s like, “I really wanna work with you.” I’m like, “Holy crap, Batman wants to work with me!” And imagine it being yanked from you. It’s difficult for anybody at any age or any stage of their career for that to happen. But to happen at the beginning of it, it will crucify most. It will decimate most people to the point where they wouldn’t come back.
But I was able to rise from that devastation and pick myself up and be able to go on with my career and grow and learn. But this book was… the story was a weight around me that I didn’t even know I was carrying because when I wrote it was a completely cathartic experience. I can speak freely about it now, where before any time I would go to Boris’ parties, he would always have a party at his palace or something like that, he’d bring over a bunch of Hollywood producers and directors and stuff like that and they would run over to me and they were like, “Are you the guy? Boris has been telling us, is this real true?” Now I’d have to sit there and go, “Yes.” And Boris was like, “You see, I told you my friend, I told you. He is.” Because he speaks like Borat [laughs]. Watered down Borat is Boris.
So he’s like, “I told you, I told you. He is true.” And then I would sit there and have to tell them the story. But I would always be very cagey about it, I would not really be very open about the whole situation because it was just something very difficult for me. It’s like having a bad ex-girlfriend. You don’t wanna talk about a bad ex-girlfriend, a bad relationship, but this is like that on steroids. It was just insane.
Ashley: I’m curious, I get a lot of authors coming to me, they’ve written a book and then they want it turned into a screenplay and they think it would make a great movie. My advice to them is always, “Listen, all you’re really doing is getting sidetracked, writing a screenplay and trying to learn how to sell a screenplay when you really should be spending your time learning how to market your book that you’ve already written. I will pose that same question to you. I mean, nobody… you’ve got a million and one things going on, why get sidetracked with a fictional book that’s not necessarily exactly aligned with the Indie Film Hustle?
Alex: Well, it isn’t fictional, it’s non-fictional.
Ashley: Yeah, no, I’m sorry. Yeah, non- fictional, it’s non-fictional.
Alex: It’s a true story, but in my opinion it isn’t out of the line with Indie Film Hustle, it is actually everything Indie Film Hustle represent. I wrote this book not for money or fame or one day to make a movie out of it, which I hope it does, it just breathes to make a movie out of it. I wrote it because I wanted to help not only the people who follow me on Indie Film Hustle but anyone who gets access to it. It’s an amazing story of what not to do when chasing your dream. What not to do like how not to lose yourself when you’re trying to chase that dream or while you’re trying to chase that carrot, that golden carrot that gets dangled in front of us so many times in our career, how not to compromise our morals and do things that we might have not wanted to do because of just the chance of getting or putting up with abuse just because there might be an opportunity.
I put up with abuse, verbal and threatening actions for a year of my life. I was a nervous wreck, I think I even got an ulcer out of this because I was just such a defeated, beaten man at that time. I want this book to be a beacon of hope for anybody in a bad situation, that they have the choice to get out. It’s always within their power to choose to get out of any bad situation. That’s why I feel that this book is so in alignment with my mission with Indie Film Hustle to help filmmakers survive and thrive in the business, to educate them to inspire them on their ridiculously difficult journey which is being in the film business as well as screenwriters and so on. And I think that the book, again, will be that allegory of what not to do when chasing your dreams.
We all have our dreams, we all wanna be big screenwriters, big directors, big filmmakers, big cinematographers, whatever it is in our business, but we do put up with some shit, we do put up with stuff that we probably shouldn’t sometimes. You’ve gotta balance that with, “Is this opportunity worth me losing who I am?” Now, this book is obviously an extreme version of that and I know not many people are gonna go through this, I hope. Though funnily enough actually since I’ve released this information I’ve had a lot of filmmakers come up to me, “You know, I almost made a movie with a mobster too [laughs].” I’m like, “Wow, apparently there’s a lot.” I mean, I don’t think they get as far as we do in this one.
Ashley: What’s funny is I did have a guy… yeah, I had a guy and he was in witness protection. It’s the same thing, you know. I get these emails and he lived in Studio city or something and he wanted to meet. Honestly I started to google him and I was afraid to even meet with the guy for exactly the reasons you’re talking about.
Alex: No, but it happens all the time you know but this story, the magnitude of it, to be talking to Batman, to be in a billion-dollar producer’s penthouse in the Hollywood Hills somewhere where I’m looking out of his glassed wall overlooking Los Angeles while he’s got all of these latest movies where they have crossed the billion dollars in sales are plastered all over the place, I’m going to his screening room to put in a trailer that I directed to show him as a proof of concept that the… like it’s just surreal. The whole story is very surreal. And I really do hope it does good in the world. That’s why I did it, honestly I did it. Because it’s a lot of work, look, I wrote this in a year and during that year there’s a lot of stuff that’s happened to me and my family, good things, good things, but it’s just a lot of craziness that’s happened.
And for me to throw this on my plate and now with all the other stuff that I have going on in my life to now put my energies in trying to market this to get it out there, to do a signing tour, to do press for it to get it out there, I promise everyone listening I’m not gonna get rich off that. I mean great, if I do money, great, fantastic. But it’s not my goal, it’s not what I’m trying to do. I want just to get the book out there to as many people as humanly possible. So that’s why it’s important to me. It really is important to me. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
Ashley: So what’s gonna be the release schedule on the book? When is it coming out and how can people get their copy?
Alex: Yeah, it’s available on February 22nd on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, everywhere anywhere Fine Bookstores around where Fine Books are sold and I’ll be doing a small tour around the United States doing book signings, talks, workshops, things like that which if they go to www.shootingforthemob.com I will be having all the events and where we’ll be and all that kinda stuff on there and again just trying to get the book out there. So right now there’s plans on Nashville for sure, possibly Louisville as well as New York City, obviously throughout the Los Angeles area, San Francisco, possibly San Diego and Vegas and all these kind of places, Austin as well. So I really wanna travel as much as I can with this book and get this book out to as many people as possible.
Ashley: Perfect. So let’s talk about one of your other projects, IFH.TV. Maybe you can tell us about that, what’s that all about and how can people learn more about that.
Alex: So Indie Film Hustle TV is the world’s first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters and content creators. I wanted to create a Netflix meets MasterClass for filmmakers and screenwriters really. And I just wanted to have a place where everyone can go veg and watch a movie about making movies, a documentary about an aspect of making movies as well as short films as well as interviews with some of the biggest people in the world, in the business as well as television series about the movie making business and then as well to create online education there as well so they could take courses about anything that they wanna take courses on and workshops and listen to lectures and just a hub of where everything could be without having a hunt and peck everywhere and just have access to it with a simple monthly subscription just like Netflix does.
And it’s doing very well, we launched in November and it’s growing every day, it’s growing more and more and the word is starting to get out on it and I’m happy. I’m supper happy with it and where it’s going. Again it’s just an extension, I think it’s the natural evolution for Indie Film Hustle and what I do with the Indie Film Hustle brand and getting it out there. Again, I just wanna create more opportunities, more places where people can consume the content that I create that hopefully can help them on their filmmaking or screenwriting journey.
Ashley: Yeah. What are some highlights? Maybe you can highlight a fiction film and maybe you can highlight some of the educational resources that are in there.
Alex: One of the documentaries we have is called Dreams On Spec which is a great documentary about screenwriters trying to make it in Hollywood and between the stories that they are covering they interview Nora Ephron and Sheldon Turner and these huge screenwriters and it’s a great, great documentary on screenwriting. We also have the director series which has four and a half hours of interviews with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Tim Burton, Spike Lee and the list goes on and on and on about every aspect of their process, and that is an amazing series as well. For any cinematographers listening we have the Kodak, the legendary Kodak cinematography series, MasterClass series which teaches you everything you need to know about cinematography.
And then as far as… in there we also have not only filmmaking we also have two categories right now called the Art house cinema which has a Sundance winner called Obsolidia that [Inaudible 00:26:28] put on last month and we have a few other big ones coming up in the coming months as well where I kinda spotlight Arthouse Films that might not have gotten a lot of attention or haven’t been seen in a while and should get attention. And then of course I created the Indie Film Hustle TV drive-in cinema which is where I put my grindhouse stuff, where I put all my crazy films, things that are just super fun for people to listen to and watch. Then as far as educational stuff we have The Dialogue which is a twenty seven episode series an hour and a half long, each episode series where they’re interviewing the biggest screenwriters in Hollywood on their process on everything. It’s beautifully shot.
We’ve got four seasons up right now, we’ve got two more seasons we’ll release weekly so they’ll be coming out over the next couple of months and just a ton of workshops for screenwriting from Linda Seger stuff to Jim [Inaudible 00:27:22] to John Truby, just a ton of… I mean, just obscene amounts of content on there. It’s a great, great service if I do say so myself and it’s…
Ashley: Yeah. I know, it sounds awesome.
Alex: Yeah. Again, I’m doing it as a fan, I want this, I wanna have a place where I can just kinda go and veg. If yoga people have channels, why can’t we?
Alex: I wanna have a place where I can just go and chill about watching films about filmmakers. And also I’m the first to do it, there is nobody else in the world that does this. It is international so it’s available to anybody in the world that has internet connection so they can watch it online if they have access to Apple or Google or any of the other app formats they could download it there, Roku as well and it’s available at www.indiefilmhustle.tv is where it is.
Ashley: Perfect. So I will link to that in the show notes as well. Let’s talk briefly about your latest film that you’re working, as if you don’t have enough going on [laughter] On The Corner Of Ego And Desire. Maybe you can just tell us quickly, I’m just always curious to kinda get your production, I would like to dig in a little bit to the production of this just so people kinda know what your sort of a guerilla style filmmaking really looks like. So maybe to start out maybe just tell us what this film is all about.
Alex: Guerilla is a great example. This is a guerilla as it gets. I always like being the first to do things apparently so I’m you know as they say “the first one through the wall is generally the bloodiest”, so not only IFH TV and all the other stuff I do, but with this we actually shot a movie at the Sundance Film Festival. So we are the first narrative feature film ever shot at the Sundance Film Festival while the Sundance Film Festival is going on. This was shot in 2018 and the film is basically, this is spinal tap for independent filmmakers. I wanted to create a kind of like a almost a satire of what we as independent filmmakers go through and I wanted to throw every stupid story I heard of, every mistake, every ego-driven idea, like all these delusions of grandeur, everything. Much of it is my own stories from when I was younger but I’ve interviewed so many people, I’ve talked to so many people, I’ve worked with so many filmmakers over the course of my career that I had stories for days.
So all of that stuff was kind of incorporated into The Corner of Ego and Desire. So the story’s basically about three filmmakers, one actor, one film director and one producer who go to Sundance for one day to find a producer to try to sell their movie, and the movie is…
Ashley: And I noticed there’s no screenwriter in that equation [laughs].
Alex: Well no, I didn’t have the screenwriter show up. I only had so many people I could…
Ashley: No, I’m with you.
Alex: There was so many people I think… no, no, the writers are there, the producer and the actor were the writers as well, but then of course the directors think that she wrote it so there’s a whole conversation about that [laughs], about taking credit for the movie and who really came up with the idea, God knows we’ve never seen that happen before. Also I made the female the director, which I’ve never seen in any movie about making movies, a female director. So we wanted to kind of also do that as well because I just thought it was in time. And the stuff that comes out of her mouth, it is so pompous, so ridiculous. I would like feed her lines and while we were doing it I’m like, “Tell them that you just watched your jimbo on laserdisc criterion collection with a commentary track. Just say that, it’s so pompous.” And she would say it and she’s like, “What’s a laserdisc?” I’m like, “You millennial, you’re driving me nuts.”
They were so millennial it’ not even funny. I love my cast, but every five minutes they were on their phones. But anyway, I have pictures of it, it’s great. But anyway, we just went through… we literally shot the whole movie in four days. We shot it with the, not Panasonic, with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera, not the new cool one, the old 10ADP one with a monopod. I had a sound guy with me so a great guy [Inaudible 00:31:23] who was an amazing sound person and he just loved them. And we ran around Park City, shot here, shot there, shot there, location here and we actually shot two full scenes in the belly of the beast at Sundance headquarters [laughs].
Ashley: And it’s literally, you’re running the camera and then you have your sound guy.
Alex: No, I had a DP. This time I had a DP show up which is a good buddy of mine, Austin Nordell who is my cinematographer and camera guy on this. I would kinda…
Ashley: Austin [Inaudible 00:31:50] Boris.
Alex: No, no. Boris is a different cinematographer. So Boris is a different cinematographer. Austin is Austin. And we just ran around and we used a scriptment so it was a very detailed outline, but with a film like this it’s almost impossible to do it on a traditional screenplay. I had a very clear idea of where I wanted to go and I had to lay out the whole story and we worked on things while we were there and I kinda just ran with it. It was just, it was so far out there, I was literally out there without a net which is one of the best places to be creatively especially when you’re doing something on such a low budget that I loved it. I loved the experience and everybody that was with me came along for the ride and it was a ride.
And this is the pitch I gave everybody to get them to come out to Sundance. I’d go, “Look, I don’t know if this movie’s gonna be any good, I don’t know what’s gonna happen with it. All I can promise you is that at the end of this you will have a story that you will be able to tell twenty years from now that that time that I shot that movie at Sundance. That I can promise you and you will have a hell of an experience.”
Ashley: Did you have any problems? Anybody like harass you or tell you, “Where is your permit?”
Alex: Not one person.
Alex: Not one person. Because my theory was that, if you’re at Sundance everybody is running around with cameras, there’s press everywhere. So if you kept a low enough profile no one’s gonna think that you’re gonna shoot a feature film at the Sundance Film, that’s insane. And I would meet people on Main Street, they’re just people I know from the business, like you and I ran into each other on IFM. I would just run into people and be like, “What are you doing?” I’m like,” Oh, I’m shooting a movie.” And the look on their faces, “This is brilliant,” because they couldn’t comprehend it. Then like three weeks after Sundance I have a trailer up and the people are like, “What! How fast did you get this thing done?” I’m like, “I got it done pretty fast.” We shot in four days, we did the numbers it was 36 hours.
Thirty six hours of actual like running around producing time, because I was also shooting a show for Indie Film Hustle TV, so I was doing interviews. So the movie was like a side hustle almost. It was insane! It was absolute insanity, but I loved it and, oh I have to tell you the movie inside the movie because it’s such a brilliant pitch if I do say so myself. So no one ever sees the movie that the three filmmakers are hunting this poor producer down to see, but we hear the trailer. The pitch that they do its Shape Of Water meets E.T with Transformers drizzled on top. It was shot in black and white, mostly slow-mo because we want a Truffaut vibe but we really wanna get into the criterion collection. See now this is the pitch [laughs].
So I wanted to kinda mix it all in there and like… and she’s talking about Truffaut and the and the French New Wave but it’s like really about an alien robot who falls in love with a young boy and there’s sex involved so it’s kinda like Shape of Water meets E.T but it’s like this whole thing and then you hear grinding and like weird pompous music in the background. It’s just because… people ask me like, “Why didn’t you show the movie?” I could never ever create an image than what I could put in your head and the sounds and I just put the sounds and like… oh, it’s brilliant. I loved it. It’s one of my favorite… it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever directed. It’s my favorite film I’ve ever done, I love, love, love, love the film because it’s so much of me in that, like there’s scenes where our main character’s walking down Main Street in the middle of the night.
Ashley: Sure, sure.
Alex: And it looks like we bought Main Street for the night because there’s nobody around and all the lights are on, we just control… it was like a backlot for me. It was insane, we’re freezing our asses off but it was insane…
Alex: I remember in 2006, I’ll never forget it at one o’clock in the morning I’m coming home from a party all by myself, walking on Main Street and it’s very similar. Nobody’s around and I’m contemplating my entire existence of why I’m doing this, why am I a filmmaker, why am I not where I wanna be, all this kinda stuff and it’s like I had to put that in the script, I gotta put that in the script in the movie. So obviously the one we shot was much prettier than my personal one but the idea is there. But yeah, it’s a great little movie, we’re hopefully gonna release it sometime this summer. We’re in negotiations right now with a distributer to get a theatrical, a small theatrical as well as we’re looking for international and so on so forth. So we’ll see, we’ll see where it goes, but I’m really happy with it.
Ashley: So what’s your long term goal with making these sort of guerilla films? Do you have some sort of idea of where this is gonna lead or just an idea of getting stuff out there? What is your goal with these?
Alex: For me at this stage of my career, I’m happy to make things that are important to me and I’m not chasing any dragon, I’m not chasing any big, golden carrot anymore which is what I used to do which stopped me for years from making anything because I kept like, “Oh, what am I gonna do, how are people gonna look…” I just said, “Screw it, I’m just gonna do what I wanna do. That’s important to me.” And if you keep the budgets low enough then you could do whatever you want honestly, you could experiment… look ‘On the Corner of Ego and Desire’ did not cost a million dollars. When you have that kind of budget on your head you’ve gotta be a little bit more physically responsible. But when the budget’s as low as mine was, which was fairly low, I don’t wanna say what it is but it’s fairly low, under 25 million.
Ashley: Slightly [laughs].
Alex: It’s slightly under 25 million, but you can experiment and you can do things and if you fail you fail and if you don’t you don’t, but you at least get out there and get to practice, have fun, enjoy yourself and express yourself as an artist and that’s kinda where I am with this. My first film This is Meg was shot on a budget around 5,000 bucks and it was sold to Hulu, I sold it internationally, it’s still available, it’s of course on IFH TV now. That was a little movie I made in eight days just to kinda prove to myself that I can make the movie and make a movie and it’s done very well financially you know. I’m not rich off of it but it’s definitely paid itself back and then some and it’s still making money off of it.
So I think the business plan for films like this, if you’re going to try to create a business plan around making these kind of micro-budget features, you’ve gotta do… yes it has to be volume. You’ve gotta knock out five, six of these a year, you know, one every two months is probably a good goal and just kind of like just bust them out, out of three, five, eight grand each kind of vibe whether you crowd fund… Like if someone gives you 50 grand to go make a movie, break that up into four, five movies. You’re gonna have a better shot at recouping your investment because you’re diversifying your portfolio if I may be so, business to say. You’re diversifying your portfolio of films so then if one hits it takes the others with it, there’s just a lot of things, you’re not rolling your dice at one thing.
So these kind of films like… I could have last year made three or four more of these. There was talks of like, “We’ll just keep going, we’ll just keep making these.” But my interest, not interest but my focus has to change because I’m running a business you know, Indie Film Hustle is now my full time gig. So as I’m building the company up and trying to create more and more valuable content for my followers and for people part of my IFH tribe, I wanted to create different kind of content. I will direct again, I don’t know anytime soon, probably not within this year. My focus is gonna be the book for this year but I hope the next movie I direct will be Shooting For the Mob. I think that would be insane if someone shows up like, “Look, I’ll give you three million bucks.” I’m like, “Perfect, let’s go make this movie.”
And then it’ll be the most Metamovie ever made because to me to my… and I have a fairly deep reservoir of film history in my head and watched many films in my career, I’ve never heard if a movie that the director and the cinematographer are both behind the camera directing their counterparts in front of the camera about a story about their lives. I’ve never ever seen that. I think we might break the space-time continuum when that happens but I’m game to give it a shot and I’m just trying to get it out. Again, I hope if we do make a movie I hope it helps people I hope this inspires people.
Ashley: So for these 3000, 5000, 8000 dollar movies you’re talking about, suppose someone comes in to this, they wanna do one but they don’t have your background in sort of the technical aspects of film, because you can do the editing and the color and the set, and that’s how you can keep these budgets under the $ 8,000 because you’re doing a lot of the work. So maybe you can talk about that. What’s your recommendation if someone doesn’t have that background in film production? What are their options and what do you recommend?
Alex: The biggest thing first and foremost the thing I recommend is that you need to educate yourself as much as humanly possible about every aspect of the business. In order to make … the only reason I’m able to go make a $ 5,000 movie is because I have a lot of tools in my toolbox that I have accumulated over the course of my career and I’ve had those tools in my toolbox, everything that I did to make this movie I had when I had when I made my first big short film 10 years ago. It was there, or actually now it’s like 15 years ago Jesus. I had those tools, I was afraid to use those tools and they might not nearly be as toned as they are right now after fifteen more years of work but I had those tools, I could’ve done something with them.
So my first piece of advice is anyone trying to do these kinda low budget, learn as much as you can about every aspect of the process because the more you can do yourself the more profitable these films will come. They’re gonna become [Inaudible 00:41:53] sweat equity. That being said, there are things that you should try to find partners with and you can partner with them. Look, you don’t have to make all the money yourself, you don’t have to be hoarding it all. Split it up, get partners. If you have a cinematographer who has a camera that you like and you like his work or her work, partner with them. Go, “Look, let’s go make two or three of these things, you and I are gonna be partners on it, let’s rock and roll.” And see what’s your pool of people that you can bring up, bring my pool of people in and let’s see if we can make something happen and just try to keep that crew down to no less than, no more than five people, period.
Actors are always game to work, pay them something minimal, pay them SAG minimum which is a buck twenty five I think a day. So it’s all well within the realm of possibility, you just have to kinda do it. And then with that have a business plan on how to get this damn thing out there. That’s the mistake that so many filmmakers make is that they just go, “Oh, I’m gonna make a movie.” And they think that’s the end of it, it’s not. You’ve got to be able to have a full plan on how to distribute it, how to market it, how are you gonna get your money back? Because if you can’t get your money back you won’t be able to continue this journey. That is the way the game is played. So you don’t have to be rich off of it, but at least break even for a couple of them so you can keep going and keep moving and keep learning and that’s the key.
I mean, if I was gonna do this kind of business model, if someone gave 20 or 30 grand to go make a movie, I would honestly make two or three movies and break it apart and do it over the course of six months shooting them and then start editing them back to back and then start releasing them back to back and do it that way. So like the first half of the year we shoot, the second half of the year we do post the next six months after that we’re gonna be doing marketing and promotions and if you can build the team around you or build a machine that is able to knock these out, whatever those kinda films are whether they’re genre, whether they’re… and also just figure out what you’re doing. If you’re doing Arthouse films just understand where you’re going with that.
If you’re making genre you know, if you understand your marketplace, if you understand your audience and what you’re trying to create for that audience, then make sure you understand marketing, make sure you understand social media marketing, make sure you understand direct marketing versus brand marketing. Understand all of the different aspects of marketing, read books, listen to books all the time as many times as you can. That’s the biggest pieces of advice I can give anyone trying to go down this insane business model.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? We’ve talked about a few things but maybe now we can just mention all of your various channels and URL’s and stuff and I’ll round that stuff up for the show notes as well.
Alex: So the main hub for everything I do is at www.indiefilmhustle.com and then if you wanna jump on IFH TV just go to www.indiefilmhustle.tv. We are available on all the social media platforms. We have a robust YouTube channel going on as well at Indie Film Hustle, I think just Indie Film Hustle TV I think at YouTube, or you can go www.indiefilmhustle.tv/youtube it’ll go there. We’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, we’re on Instagram, everywhere we’re pretty much at Indie Film Hustle except Instagram which we’re at @ifilmhustle and then the book is at www.shootingforthemob.com and of course you can preorder it right now on Amazon, it would be amazing if you guys did. I wanna make the bestseller list on Amazon first and then we’ll worry about the other big boys but it’s not as hard as people think to get that bestsellers list thing on Amazon so I wanna try to, to try do that as much.
And then again, at the end of the day I just wanna get this thing out there. I wanna get it out to as many people as possible. I think that I may be forgetting something but that’ll do, that’ll do.
Ashley: Give us something to work with for a while until next year when you’re back on. So…
Alex: Oh and the one other thing that I forgot to tell you, of course I can’t forget because we’re on a screenwriting podcast, I have a screenwriting podcast. It’s called The Bulletproof Screenplay Podcast which is dedicated to screenwriters and you can go to www.bulletproofscreenplay.com and there you can sign up for to listen as well. I interview all sorts of people screenwriters, book consultants, gurus and so on about screenwriting. So yeah, of course, I can’t believe I forgot about that. So I have another podcast about screenwriting specifically and you can get stuff there as well.
Ashley: So, well, perfect Alex. I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. This is another fascinating interview and I wish you luck with all of your future projects.
Alex: Thank you brother, I appreciate it man. You too.
Ashley: Thank you.
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On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing Melissa Miller Costanzo who just did a film called All These Small Moments. She has a background working on set in the art department so she’s been in the business for years and she describes how she was able to use that experience to get into a position where she is now, writing and directing a feature film. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway that’s the show, thank you for listening.