This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 210: Filmmaker / Podcaster Alex Ferrari Talks About His New Micro-Budget Feature Film, This Is Meg.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #210 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger of the www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Alex Ferrari. He’s a filmmaker and podcaster. He runs the Indie Film Hustle Podcast and he recently completed a feature film called This Is Meg. It’s another great story about someone going out and creating something and not waiting around for someone to give him permission to do it. Stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode viable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on twitter or liking it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast so they’re all 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 incase 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 #210. 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 log line and creative letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for a material. Really it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So, a quick few words about what I’m working on. A quick update on my feature film, The Pinch, that is the crime/thriller feature film that I wrote, directed and produced last year. Right now I’m trying to figure out the cast and crew screening. It’s easy to find screening rooms in the LA area but they’re all pretty expensive and at this point the budget is pretty much exhausted, so I’m trying to do this as cheaply as possible. There is a site called Tag where you can set up screenings around the country. I’m looking into that for the casting crew screening, but also for potentially having a limited non-theatrical release. It’s a pretty cool program where you post your film in their data base and then you can schedule screenings pretty much anywhere in the country. They have deals with local theaters and then you just go, figure out the schedule, figure out the city and then they try and place you at a specific theater. There are certain thresholds that you have to meet, so you’ve got to sell the tickets yourself and you’ve got to meet these thresholds, otherwise the screening simply doesn’t take place.
It’s almost like self-distribution for a theatrical release because you’re still in charge of the marketing and the promotion and the actual selling of the tickets, but it’s a great, easy way to get into a system and get into many, many theatres. You don’t have to individually contact the theatres and try and cut deals. They’ve already done that. I’ve got more to learn about this. I’ve obviously never used this service again, but I’m thinking perhaps I could do a screening in Los Angeles and see how that goes and if that goes well, then maybe even try a couple of other cities. You have to have…one of the things that Tag requires is they require an actual person to be at the screenings, so obviously there’s a limit to how far I could potentially drive or even fly. I’m not sure the numbers would even make sense for me to fly some place to like handle a screening. Maybe I could find someone locally.
But anyway, these are all the things that I’m working through but the first experience, what I’m thinking of doing is doing the casting crew screening through Tag. I had a friend who did it and he had a good experience with that. But I’ve got to just make sure that that’s something that they actually allow because it’s a little bit different than what they’re set up to do, because obviously I’m not selling tickets to the casting crew. Obviously I’m just paying for all the tickets and then letting the cast and crew come in to watch it. So I’ve got to talk to them about that but I’m kind of working through that process. If you’ve ever used Tag, just drop me an email. I’d be curious to get your experiences with them. If you had some success or even some failures, I’d really be curious to hear how you promoted your film and sold tickets and that kind of stuff. But really any experience with Tag, please email me. I’d love to hear it. I will of course also link to it in the show notes if you wanna check it out yourself, just click on that link in the show notes.
I’m also still emailing with distributors. What seems to be happening with them is pretty consistent with all the ones that I’m dealing with. I basically start out by asking them what’s better about them than doing self-distribution. They usually dangle a couple of carrots by saying that there are lots of deals out there that they can get that I can’t easily get with self-distribution, and it’s things like cable TV, which means Show Time, HPO, pitching to places like Redbox, Netflix and Hulu. Those sort of services are becoming more and more difficult to get into and the distributors always kind of dangle the carrot, “Oh, we have a relationship with Netflix or with Redbox and we can pitch. We can’t guarantee you that you’ll get in, but we can pitch you to those services.” And that definitely has value. Even DVD sales in places like Walmart and Target. Again, these are not things that I can easily do with self-distribution. When I talk about self-distribution is basically just the digital platforms. The iTunes, the Amazons, You know, Google Play, I think Vudu. There’re kind of a handful of these online digital platforms that you can get into fairly easily and fairly cheaply.
Basically that’s sort of how it goes. As I ask them what’s better about them than self-distribution they tell me all of the things that they can do that I can’t do with self-distribution, which is fair, because those things that I mentioned, I really don’t think I could do those on my own. I suppose if I wanted to put in the time and learn how to do that, but at that point I would basically be a distributor myself. I must as well just start taking other people’s films and doing all that work. So there is some utility in what they’re offering. Basically when that email exchange begins, then I go back after they’ve dangled those carrots and basically say, well…my counter offer goes something like, “What if I take all the digital rights myself, meaning the iTunes and the Amazon and I do those through self-distribution—through a self-distribution aggregator and then they can handle all the other rights to those other deals that they’re talking about.” So far, once I do that I literally never get any email response from the distributor.
To me what that is indicating is that there really aren’t too many deals out there for a film like what I have beside what I can do with self-distribution because that’s kind of where the money and essentially it is distributors will do the same thing. They’ll throw it in iTunes, they’ll throw it in Amazon, and there is some money to be made in those platforms. There will be some sales and so then basically I’m gonna be splitting those. But if there really were these other deals, it seems to me that these distributors would be…you know, they might not be ideal for them but it seems to me if there was some money to be made for them through cable TV, ShowTime, HPO, Redbox, Netflix, there really was money there, why wouldn’t they just let me do my own thing on the self-distribution and they take those other deals. And really I think the answer is that they know as well as I know is that most of the money is in Amazon and iTunes which I can do through self-distribution.
So that’s kind of what I’m working through. I don’t have any definitive answers. I’m still kind of mulling over my options. I also got a few more rejections from film festivals. Interestingly I did get a positive response from one festival last week. Now, this wasn’t an acceptance. As I said, it was just a positive response. Basically they sent me an email that says, “We like your film, you’re in contention.” So you’ve kind of moved past the preliminary round but they can’t offer me a spot in the festival until all the entries have been received, which of course is a perfectly fair thing. I mean, obviously they wanna see all the films come in. In the cover letter that I submitted to them and I think all the other festivals that I submitted, FilmFreeway allows you to actually write a customized cover letter. One of the things that I put in my cover letter is that, I told them that the world premiere. The film has not played anywhere and so there’s no distribution so far. So you can’t see the film at all, it’s not distributed and it hasn’t been seen at any festivals.
And that the world premiere. So the world premier is still available for The Pinch and that had value to a festival because festivals love to have the world premiers of films. It just gives them a little bit more cloud and just makes them feel a little bit more special. So that’s sort of a bit of value that I’m adding to my film. Obviously it’s not gonna be enough to sway them. If they hate the film then they’re not gonna just take a film that they hate just because it’s a world premiere, but it’s just a little something and the long and the short of it is that their email, that’s really why they were sending me this email. They were saying, “Hey, you’re still in contention but we just wanted to check in, is the world premier still available for this film?” Of course it is and so I told them that it was. So that’s moving along. This is not a huge festival, it’s a good festival. It’s one that’s been around for many years, it’s in the LA area, so myself and the casting crew could go attend it. So it feels like a festival that would be a great fit for The Pinch at least from my perspective. Obviously they may think differently but it definitely feels like a great fit for The Pinch for a lot of reasons.
The only down side is the festival isn’t until June and the notification date, they released the official notification date on the FilmFreeway, so it’s May 31st. That’s the one down side. I’ve got to basically wait until May 31st before I start distribution. And then if I don’t end up getting into this festival then I’ve wasted a number of months. So these are sort of the predicaments and I totally get where the film festival’s coming from. They’re kind of hedging their bet seeing what films they get in and they at least like my film enough to not just say, “No, thanks.” But of course if they get films that they like better, then they would take those films, again which is perfectly fair I think, but I’m just not sure where that leaves me. Do I wanna just gamble, hold off, wait till May 31st before I do any distribution. And it’s the same thing, I can’t go and so self-distribution. Once it goes out on iTunes and Amazon, film festivals are not gonna wanna program that film. So I’ve got to pretty much wait, put everything on hold until May 31st and again if I get a rejection at that point then I’ve really wasted the few months.
But even if I get in, is it worth waiting? That’s what I’m kind of mulling over. Is it worth waiting or not. And I don’t have a good answer right now. I’m still trying to figure this out. I did count up. As I said, I’ve been rejected…I entered 30 festivals, I’ve gotten eight Nos so far, but by the end of February I will have gone through…of the 30 festivals, 16 of them will have had their notification dates past so I will have heard from more than half. So maybe I’ll at least wait till then to kind of see where at with some of the other festivals and acceptances to those. If I continue to just get rejection after rejection, I don’t know, maybe then…it doesn’t really look like I’m gonna get into a ton of festivals and maybe then I just go with this self-distribution, or maybe this festival will even be nice and maybe they will give me an answer long before May 31st. I’m just not sure.
Anyways, that’s where I’m at with The Pinch. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing filmmaker and podcaster Alex Ferrari. Here is the interview.
Alex: Thank for having me. I appreciate it. Big fan!
Ashley: Thank you. To start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Alex: I worked in a thing called The Video Store back in the day and I did that throughout my high school years and fell in love there with movies and watching three, four movies a day sometimes and just constantly absorbing content and watching…you know, just being exposed to cinema in a way that I had never been before. Then when I got out of high school I looked around my room that had 3,000 VHSs in it in my collection at the time and I said, “Well, I guess I’m gonna be a director.” And I just started down that journey and haven’t looked back since. That’s what got me interested in filmmaking in the first place.
Ashley: What were some of the first steps to actually turning it into a career? Did you go to college and get a film degree, did you start to just make movies? What were those first steps into the business?
Alex: My first step was to go to film school, so I went to Full Sail School in Orlando. At the time, you have to understand in the mid ‘90s, there was really not a lot of information about filmmaking around. It was not like it is today. It was somewhat of a career but not really something that you can do even though I know there’s been film schools not many years after that. But there wasn’t a lot of information about film out there at that time. So I went to film school, I went there and when I graduated I worked as an intern at a production company in Miami for four months for free until they finally gave me a shot then I worked there for about nine, ten months.
I remember, because during that time I learnt how to edit on an Avid, got myself certified and then went off and freelanced editing and then stayed…basically I’ve always had one foot in post the entire time. So I became an editor, a colorist a post production supervisor, an online editor and a VFX supervisor. Those things really kind of kept the money flowing while I was searching for a directing work and getting directing opportunities and then slowly I started doing commercials and music videos and series and things like that.
Ashley: Okay, let’s just talk about that. Do you think any of these…were there any applicable skills from college that you were able to use, I mean actually editing or did everything you learned, I mean color grading and all that stuff, was that learned just on the job training, you taught yourself, or you learned from the other people? Did you pick some of that up at least in…
College the only thing I learned how to do is wrap a cable, which is extremely important, is how to wrap a cable. So that was a very expensive lesson. I was caught in a really weird place in college because I was caught right in the middle of the digital revolution. So I was still being taught film and I was kind of being taught non-linear editing but there was no Avid in our school at the time. I was cutting on a montage on Windows 311, which then we took a floppy disc and walked it over to the CMX 3600 which is an online system and it worked on there. So a lot of that information, other than [inaudible 00:14:32] with other editors…when I say, “Hey, I caught on this system and that system,” other than that [Inaudible 00:14:38] and post production it was really worthless to me.
Everything I learned in my career, I’m gonna say 95 t0 98 percent of it I learned on the job by myself hustling on the streets if you will. But film school unfortunately at that time, it was in a weird place where the technology just hadn’t caught up. I still remember my post-production teacher saying, “Oh, the computers will never be able to edit broadcast quality video standard-F [laughs]. Well, now this thing [laughs]…this thing is more powerful than everything I worked on college.
Ashley: So let’s dig into This Is Meg. This is your most recent film, starring Jill Michele Meleán. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick pitch, tell us what the film is about and then we’ll dig in to some of the specifics.
Alex: This Is Meg is a film about an actress who has had some success but she’s having trouble being a not 21 year old actress in Hollywood anymore, and she’s being left behind because she’s not…doesn’t have a million followers on YouTube or social media. She’s kind of frustrated because she’s doing things the old ways and not really embracing the new ways of doing things as far as marketing and things like that and how the whole industry has changed where she basically says, “I have 20 years of experience and talent behind me and they’re hiring a 20 year old because they happen to have half a million or a million subscribers on twitter. It’s lunacy.” So all the stuff that she has to deal with as a standup comic and as an actress in this town is basically the story about it. I wanted to do something really raw, really real and to show something that I haven’t seen on screen before. It’s a lot of fun to do.
Ashley: Yeah, so how did this movie come about? Maybe you can walk us through the process and maybe the first start is how did you get the script and how did you meet I guess the lady who wrote it and your lead actress?
Alex: Jill and I have been friends for almost a decade now. She was one of the first people I met when I moved here from Miami. One day I was attached to another project, there’s many projects I’ve been attached to over the years and it fell through again, and I was like, look, I’m not 20 anymore. I said to myself I’m not 20 anymore, I got to go make a movie. So I just called up Jill. I said, “Jill, I wanna make a movie. I wanna make a movie about your life, about what it’s like to be a female standup comic/actress in this town,” and she’s like, “Okay, great.” And we wrote a scriptment.
It’s not as much as screenplay but a scriptment, which was a very Duplass Brother style script, which was a very detailed outline, so there were scenes, there were bits within those scenes, but the cast that we got were extremely high-end professional improvers. So they did a lot of improv and we just kind of let them go loose as long as they stayed within the parameters of the story that Jill wrote, and it worked out great and we were able to shot it in eight days. Within the moment I had the idea to make the movie to the moment we were done, it was about five months to get a final deliverable piece out. It’s pretty insane process.
Ashley: Let’s break that down a little bit. You mentioned there’s a lot of improv in this. You have experienced comedians that are used to that. Maybe you can describe like what a scene would actually look like in a script just so the writers out there can get a feel for that.
Alex: You mean in the actual script?
Ashley: In the scriptment, yeah. The script, like what does it actually say? Is it just kind of tell like where the characters are gonna start, where they’re gonna end. What does that actually look like? Are there bits of dialogue if there’re some funny jokes you think of?
Alex: Yes, sometimes some of the actors in the movie weren’t that versed in improv, so Julie would write a more structured actual scene with dialogue, but again, always having room to play in the improv. But a completely improvd scene would be more like the scene would have the description of what happens in the scene and then what needs to happen in the scene. So Jane has to get to this section of the room…if we’re doing…no, that’s not a good example, but more emotionally what has to happen. So like these are the bits that have to happen in the story, so Meg here is looking for empathy from her best friend and we also have to talk about her guru and we also have to talk about where she’s going in the next scene. And those were the bits basically that you have to hit in this scene. How you get there, it completely is up to the cast on the day. So I was there just with the camera capturing the lightning as they say.
Ashley: Yeah, and so how does that actually work? Do you just do like a wide shot? It seems like if it’s gonna be improvd then you’re not gonna be able to do the typical sort of coverage because tings may change, it might not cut together…how does that actually work on the day you’re shooting?
Alex: So the way I approached each scene was, we had two cameras so we had a wide and we had a more like I picked somebody to kind of cover. Once we went through the scene once or twice these actors stuck on to their improv. They wrote the scene on the day and they stuck to that same bits of dialogue, occasionally changing things up but overall it was they pretty much stayed. It wasn’t like every take was a completely brand new scene. They stayed within the same world. So I was able to just watch the scene, cover it and then once the scene had gone through a couple of times, “Okay, okay, I’m gonna go in now for coverage, and then I would go on, I’d do a reverse and I go, “Okay, let’s try to keep it with what we said before and kind of played around with it.
I edited it very much like a narrative and not like an improv movie where a lot of improv movies is like [inaudible 00:20:27] where they do a lot of jump cuts. I didn’t do any jump cuts because I really don’t know how to cut that way, so I cut more narratively so I would…and it was not easy. It was a challenge just to say the least but there’s moment where she’s literally lifting her arm up and I’d cut it and it’s completely different take somewhere else that make it look like it’s matching or she’s lifting her head up. That’s not the kind of editor I am to make sure everything runs seamlessly. So when Jill saw it for the first time, she’s done a lot of improv in her life, she was like, “I can’t believe you’ve actually cut this like a narrative. That’s insane!” I’m like, “I know it’s insane but it’s the only way I know how to do it.”
So it really worked out wonderfully and working with these high-end professional actors who have so much improv experience was a joy because honestly on a creative standpoint as a director and as a story teller, I knew the story I wanted to tell, but the excitement of the day was so invigorating. You had no idea what was gonna happen and you were just there like I just got to capture it. That excitement was addictive. Now again, on a hundred million dollar movie you don’t do this though they did a lot of that on Iron Man by the way. Iron Man was a lot of scriptment action going on and I don’t know if you knew that or not, where Jeff Bridges came out and said…and Jon Favreau both came out, they were like, “We didn’t know what we were doing that day, so we’d sit down before the day and write scenes out.” Like write out the dialogue because nobody knew what…it wasn’t written yet or there was a problem.
And they were making stuff up as they went along. One of the best movies of all times Casablanca was like that. They were just kind of writing it as they went. So it does happen but not in million dollar movies. Not very often but so our budget was very humble. So because of that humble budget I felt so much freedom to do basically whatever I wanted. And since I had no real attachment to the outcome of where this movie was gonna go I just thought, “I’m just gonna go make a movie that I wanna watch and have some fun,” and everybody was so in love with the process. Every actor. These guys are big actors working in big shows and movies. They left the day, they were like, “I’ve never heard any experience like that before.” It was a completely pressure less…There was just so much fun and there was never stress on the set.
It was anything other than what you’ve always heard about making movies. This is the only time in my entire career that that’s ever happened. Where you just see you’re so creative and juices are flowing and ideas are bouncing around. And as long as you stay within the box that we create but have complete freedom to kind of play within that box, it was a wonderful experience for this kind of story. Depending on the kind of story you’re trying to tell, but for this kind of story it worked out really well.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Do you have experience directing this sort of stuff, directing improv before this? How did you have the confidence that you’d be able to pull this off going into it? Did you do some tests?
Alex: Nope. [laughs] I’ve never shot improv before. I had confidence in myself on a technical stand point. I knew that I would be able to do it technically. I was also the DP on the movie. I had never DPd a feature film before, so I was, “Okay, why not through that in the mix as well?” So I just kind of winged it. I just trusted…I mean, when I saw the cast and I started speaking to the cast I was like, “Well, these guys are done, I got nothing to worry about.” And it was exactly it. I didn’t have anything to worry about. These guys were absolute professionals. So I was like, I just got to be there and make them look good. It was an experiment. It’s the weirdest conversation as I tell you this Ashley.
It’s like a weird conversation to have because it’s everything opposite of what anyone’s ever told you about, like, “Yeah, just go out there and shoot and have some good time and let’s all be free willing and all these stuff as opposed to the very structured way that I’ve always shot. And again, it works for this kind of story. We constructed it for this kind of story. Again, other kind of movies it might not work with. I plan to do at least two or three of this kinds of movies because they were so much fun. In all honesty they were fun and then go into more structured stuff everything, but I think from now on till forever I’ll probably always allow some sort of improve action on the day. If it works it works. That’s my feeling as a director.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s talk about the development process of this scriptment that you’re talking about. What was that like? Was there various drafts, was she sending you the drafts, you would give her notes. What is the sort of logistics of that look like?
Alex: We did the entire thing in three weeks…I know again, something crazy, but Jill was sending me back and forth outlines of the scriptment. And then I’m like, “No, I think…” and I would just give her notes, I’m like “No, I think we have to do this with a character here and we have to go there and here’s the arc of that character and bla bla bla and we went back and forth but three weeks later we pretty much had it and we really didn’t adjust it much form the moment that we locked it. It was like, “Yeah, okay, it’s good. Let’s roll with it.” The thing that we did change a bit was when we…because we shot it in six weeks, but we shot eight days in six weeks. So we were always working around our actors’ schedules and things like that. So Carlos Alazraqui who was only honestly supposed to be a cameo in the movie as the guru of Meg, one of these self-help gurus. He was only supposed to be on the iPad but when we saw him, he was the first one we shot and he was so good.
But one of our actors on the last day, which was the big Alaska scene which is psychedelic and everything, we needed a show man and that show man kind of…you know, he got scheduling conflicts and we were like, “Who are gonna get?” We were like, “Oh my God, let’s get Carlos that would be perfect.” And Carlos came out. So we were rewriting certain things and then now we knew that Tony was gonna be there, so then that changed Carlos’ character. Tony wasn’t gonna be there so we changed some things. We were kind of writing a little bit and adjusting based on what we were shooting. It was just such an odd way of making a movie but it was so wonderful and so freeing. But yeah, that’s the way we rolled in on the development process.
Ashley: Okay, and this is a big one for screen writers. Was there ever any disagreements between you and Jill and how did you handle those and how did those get worked out? Because a lot of screenwriter come to my site and they’re asking partners, do you have agreements, was there paper work. Maybe you could just talk through that relationship a little bit.
Alex: Well, Jill and I have done many projects over the years. Shot films, commercials, videos, things like that we have done, and she’s a friend. We’ve known each other for long, because we had a lot of second hand there with her. When we did it, I don’t even think we came into…and I hate to be polianic about this but we really had no arguments. It’s the weirdest thing. I’m like how can I really argue about her life? It’s like it’s her point of view. So it’s a weird thing. It’s the actress playing a character kind of based on her with all of her friends. I’m not gonna really insert…when I saw something I didn’t like I would say, “You know, I think we need to adjust this.” And generally speaking my instincts she agreed with and vice versa. So we just rolled with it very easily but you know…and I can’t say this is the way it’s always been, because this is the only time it’s ever been like that. There’s always arguments and there’s always issues when you make stuff.
But this was just such a free flowing, and I hate to say, kind of like flower child kind of movie in the sense of just enjoying the process and flowing. As the captain of the ship I was just…wherever the ocean took me, wherever the current took me I rolled with it. I never fought it. But again when I saw something I didn’t like I said, “No, we need to change this,” or “No, we got to adjust this.” And she was always…you know, if I said something and vice versa and if she didn’t agree with something I was doing we always talked it out, but we never had an argument, we never had anything heated even in the edit. I think we might have had a couple of conversation in the creative process but there was definitely no arguments and we both liked the cut when it was done and it was pretty insane the process.
Ashley: And so let’s go back and…you said earlier in the interview you were attached as a director and then that project fell through so then you called Jill and said, “Let’s go make a movie.” Why was Jill one of this first phone calls? Why did you go to her? And what I’m really getting at here is why was this a film you wanted to make? Was it something you though you could do on the budget that you could raise? Was it something you thought you could sell? And sort of the ultimate question is, why not do like a low budget genre film—a horror or something like that, another genre that maybe at least has a reputation of being easier to sell.
Alex: Right, my end game was never to make money with the movie, which I know is another odd comment. It was more of an experiment and it was more of a case study from my audience at the Indie Film Hustle to watch because I preach a lot about making small movies, selling it and moving it forward, which is the opposite of everything…somehow opposite of what I was doing [laughs]. And it’s just like I was not thinking about distribution. I was thinking about distribution. I was thinking about selling it but I knew at the budget that we had that I knew I would be able to make money with it. I just knew from my experience. Why I chose to make this movie and why Jill was the first phone call is Jill was a friend and I’m like okay Jill has a lot of resources. Not only is her story very interesting to me, because I’ve been kind of front row seat to her experience as a comedian and as an actress over the last decade. I knew she had resources that she can reach out to–her friends and other acting friends, just as I had resources on the production aspect of things. So I said together I think it’s gonna be a lot easier for us to try get something off the ground. And that’s what we did.
I knew that that was a good partnership because she brought a lot to the table, I brought a lot to the table and together we were able to make this very seamlessly. And the weird way we both carried our weight, which just never happens in partnerships. Generally someone’s lifting more than the other. But we both brought a lot to the table and we both carried our own weight all the way towards the end. And I knew I was gonna be able to self-distribute it. I knew I was gonna be able to get out there and take it down. Some surprises have happened in distribution which we could talk about. But that’s kind of why I wanted to make this really, because again…first of all I wanted to make a feature. I was tired of looking at that mountain of the feature film and being so scared of it or hear that everything had to be perfect or you had to have millions of dollars or all that kind of crap.
So I said, you know what, I’m gonna go down the [Inaudible 00:] and Mark Duplass way of doing things. I’m like, you know I saw some their early movies, I’m like, well I have more production experience than they did when they made their first movies so I know I can make something look much better than what they did back in the day. So I’m like I know I’ll make at least a decent looking film. Something that’s presentable. I’m like, and I know I can get a good cast in front of me, so I’m like, let’s go make a movie. And that’s kind of why I wanted to bring this on to the world and again, those two reasons. One I just wanted to prove not only to other people but to myself, that I can actually make this feature. And then also hopefully share that experience with my tribe and show them the path that I took and hopefully that will inspire them to do their own films.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So let’s break down the actual process of making the movie starting with raising the money. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that. I noticed you did a Seed & Spark crowd funding campaign for it. So maybe you can talk about that, how you went about that and what all tips and tricks you might have for people.
Alex: Sure. I originally…I mean, Jill and I had already started shooting the movie when we launched the Seed & Spark because we already had started shooting scenes that we were financing ourselves and then I wanted to go down the crowd funding campaign route because I needed to again prove in my case study that this is a route that we can go. So I run and raised a bunch of money through Seed & Spark, through my audience, through her audience, through the actors’ audiences and we were able to raise a good amount of money to be able to make this film. The tips and tricks as far as crowd funding is concerned, you got to be at least 90 days out, think about and start prepping that way in advance. Don’t try to go for $100,000, go for something you really confidently think you can achieve.
And then it’s a marathon once that clock starts running. The first few days is big, the last few days are big and that middle ground is just the Death Valley. And then you have to do things to keep yourself going, like, “Oh my God, no one loves my movie. No one’s gonna give me money, it’s gonna be horrible,” and all that kind of stuff. So it’s brutal. I don’t know if I’ll ever crowd fund again personally. It’s not because of the money, it’s because I just can’t stand the process. For me personally emotionally it was so difficult. It’s just a horrible process, but it’s doable and it can be done. But cutting through all of that crap now that you have to go through to like get people to donate to your film, its…how many of those do you get a week in your inbox or on your Facebook feed or everywhere. So you got to do so much more work to even get a little bit of money. So I try to figure out other ways to make money for my new feature projects. I don’t know, I might crowd fund again maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see. But that was the process.
Ashley: I think that’s an excellent point. Until you’ve been through it, it’s just takes an emotional toll and it’s difficult to describe until you’ve been actually through the process. Why did you guys go with Seed & Spark over Kickstarter?
Alex: Well, the three big ones- Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Seed & Spark. I know Emily, we had her on my show and I love what she was doing and this kind of movie I thought resonated with the people who are members of Seed & Spark more so than a big Kickstarter campaign or something like that. If I ever did another campaign I might go to one of the two bigger- Indiegogo or Kickstarter just to experiment to see what would happen. But Seed & Spark was really cool, they had a lot of things that the other guys don’t have like if I need someone to donate a camera to me for the day, there was a monetary value attached to that as opposed to just giving cash. Some people can’t give cash but they wanna support. They’re like, “Oh, I have an extra lens, or “I have catering.” Or “I have an office that you can shoot at,” or something like that. Those things are not available on the other platforms. That’s one of the reasons why I chose Seed & Spark in the first place. But I had wonderful experience at Seed & Spark. I thought they were really great and for the kind of money that we were trying to raise it made a lot of sense.
Ashley: Okay. How did you set your goal? You mentioned earlier, “Set something that is realistic that you actually can raise.” What was your logic to coming up with the goal that you set for yourself?
Alex: I pulled it out of my butt man [laughs]. I knew in my head what this movie was gonna cost and I was overestimating it when we finally did the total of actual cost of the movie making. So I just kind of threw a number out there, I’m like, “Hey, I want this number. Let’s see if we can get this.” But it was…you know, it was calculated. It’s something I felt that we can get, but again we had so much control over the process and over the entire story in the sense of how to make the movie that there was nothing but confidence in my abilities to shoot this movie and get it in the can and finish it, because all I needed to do was get it in the can, because I do all the posts.
So I knew it was not gonna die in post-production. So all I needed to do is get it in the can. If I can get it in the can then we’ve got a movie. That’s not even a question. And that was my goal. So with the money it was just like “Okay well, let’s see if we can get some money, let’s see if we have some money for audio, we’ll get some money for distribution costs, and there was some other costs that came along the way that we didn’t think about, like opening up an LLC, accounting. All this kind of other stuff that we had to think about. But that’s how the total came about. Literally right out of my butt.
Ashley: [laughs] Okay, good to know. Let’s talk about the casting of the actors. You mentioned that Jill as a performer herself obviously knew a lot of people. But maybe you could just talk about that. What is your pitch to actors on a project like this where they’re not gonna get rich doing it? How do you go out and find the best cast for a low budget film?
Alex: Well, this specific project was Jill pulling favors with her friends, like I pulled favors with my friends on the production and post side. She pulled favors with her friends, so the casting process was like, she basically called up her friends and was like, “I’m gonna write this character for you, are you in?” And they’re like, “Sure.” Or “No I can’t.” That was basically the way it worked and far as the casting is, she would tell me who she was thinking about and I’m like, “That’s fine. That’s good. I think she’s great for that part.” And we just rolled out. So it was a very unorthodox way of casting because it was just…you know, we never spoke to an agent, we had never spoke to a manager or anybody. We just had direct connections to all the talent. So this is definitely not a case study for most people because most people won’t have this kind of access. But again those were the resources that Jill brought to the table as well as all the ones that I brought.
So that’s one of the reasons why I felt that we can make this movie special, because of the resources that we would be able to bring. We might not have a lot of money but we had a lot of resources that in a world where a movie like this would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make in another world or existence, but for this one I felt very comfortable with what we were able to do. So yeah, it’s not the most template blue print for casting an independent film.
Ashley: Yeah, and let’s take a step back there. I think this is a good time to talk about your relationship with Jill. Maybe you can just tell us exactly how you met her because I think that would be sort of the obvious solution to something like that. If you are someone…in the case of my audience you might have a screenplay or maybe you have some other things to bring to it. What sort of networking events do you go to and ultimately, maybe be real specific. How did you meet Jill and how did you come to that friendship?
Alex: I landed in Miami. Three months into landing…oh, excuse me…
Ashley: You mean Los Angeles…
Alex: Oh, Los Angeles from Miami. I landed in Los Angeles. Three months later I had some friends who run a film festival called HollyShots Film Festival and they were having a mixer, and I said, “Well, I’m new to LA, I got to go meet some people. So I go there to the mixer somewhere in Hollywood and I’m just walking around and I’m still literally fresh off the boat and over in the corner I see this actor that I recognized. His name was Larry Hankin. That actor, if you see his face, he’s been in everything. He’s worked with Clint Eastwood, he’s worked with…he was in Seinfeld, he was the upstairs…is it upstairs or the downstairs. He was the downstairs neighbor in friends, the one that died in the first few seasons. He was on Seinfeld, he did all these stuff. So I walked up and I go, “Look man, I’m sorry…I love you and I love your work but I don’t know your name.” And he’s like, “I get that all the time.” And then we start talking and he was looking to shoot a short film about a property that he had, a character he created. And I said, “Sure, I’ll shoot it. I just got here, why not?”
So three months into landing in Los Angeles I’m shooting a short film. And he’s like, “Hey, I’ve got this actress that I know who would be great for the part.” It was Jill. Jill came and we got along famously. She’s from Miami originally. She was raised down there, so she felt that I was a bit of home for her. The way I spoke, then we started getting into the Cuban thing because I’m Cuban and she’s Bolivian but lived in Miami so she’s basically Cuban…[laughs] all this kind of stuff. And we built a rapport and then as the years went on I would either reach out to her about a project or she would reach out to me about a project and we just got along. The thing about this business is if you can find people you can get along with and actually do decent work, you will work with them again and again and again because it’s so hard to find people you can get along with in this business.
I’m sure you could attest to that. It’s not easy to find good collaborators and also people who actually do what they say they’re gonna do, which is another problem here in Los Angeles. I was one of those few guys that when I say something I’m gonna do it. If I’m gonna go make a movie I’m gonna make a movie and I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna do that. So I’m a no BS kind of guy. So when you can find people that you can get along with and with no BS, and Jill’s the same way. If she says she’s gonna do something she does it. It just worked out and then from that over the years, you know, birthday parties and hanging out and doing things, we just built up the relationship. And it’s not like we were hanging out every day. There’d be months sometimes I wouldn’t speak to her but she was like one of those people I could just pick up the phone and call and then we’d talk for three hours and it was like that kind of relationship, and we’re still doing projects now.
Ashley: Perfect. That’s a great story. I always recommend that to people. Just get involved in local film festivals or whatever you can. I think that’s a real practical application of how that can actually pay dividends. So let’s just do a quick lighting round here. I’m just gonna run through some quick questions and then we’ll sort of end up with distribution. What camera did you guys use to shoot this film?
Alex: Blackmagic 2.5K Cinema.
Ashley: Okay. Was there a reason for that?
Alex: Yes. I owned it [laughs].
Ashley: Okay, there you go. That’s the best reason of all.
Alex: I owned it and I wanted to shoot raw because I knew as a DP I wanted to make sure I can save my butt in color correction and I needed to make sure I had a nice [inaudible 00:42:54] raw file to do so and without that raw file I would have been the poopoo creek as they say. So it was very…and also I just loved the cinematical that the camera gave us.
Ashley: Okay. What crew positions were on set for a film of this budget and scope?
Alex: We had three people and that includes me. I was the director, cameraman, DP of camera A, then I had Mike Goffer in camera B and then I had the guy holding the boom because he’s not the audio guy, because I taught him how to run the audio minutes before we yelled, “Action.” Because I taught myself how to do audio properly. I did some testing audio because again, because I’m a post guy, I wanna make sure that technically everything was sound so I took it to my audio guys and they listened to it, they were like, “You’re doing good.” When I shared with them the final product they were like, “Oh my God, it actually sounds decent.” I’m like, “Great, can you work it?” They’re like, “Yes, we can make it sound good.” And there we go.” And then Jill was the slay and craft service as well as the main actress and producers and also sometimes like if anyone’s watching and watches the movie, anytime you see Jill in her house, it’s just me and her. That’s the crew. I’m doing everything. I got the boom either off camera or on the camera and I’m doing everything myself. I’m behind the scenes and she’s doing everything in front of the scenes. Yeah, it’s just that kind of movie.
Ashley: Where did you shoot the film?
Alex: In everyone’s house you can think of. There was two scenes in my house, there was a bunch of scenes at her house, a bunch at her friend and everybody’s friend’s house. So if there were a character we were like, “We’re shooting at your house. Like, “Okay.” That’s how we’re doing it. Then I stole some stuff over at the Hollywood sign. We hiked up to the Hollywood sign and stole some stuff and then we had a friend’s house on the west side where we shot the Alaska [?] scene in the backyard. It’s a beautiful backyard that we had and big giant kind of bonfire and everything. It was pretty intense. But yeah, that’s where we shot it mostly. All around, wherever we could find a place and it worked great.
Ashley: I think you said there was eight shooting days, is that correct?
Ashley: and that lasted over the course of six weeks, so it was like a day here a day here type of thing?
Alex: Yes. And we never went more than…only one day we went 12 hours. Everything else was in between six and eight hours, which is again super ridiculously odd as well.
Ashley: Yeah. And what was the pre-production time frame? How many months or weeks were used from writing the script then prepping everything?
Alex: I’d say from the moment I had the idea to make the script to the point where we were shooting was probably like a month, month and a half.
Ashley: Oh wow, so quick. And post production I think you said was five months?
Alex: No. Three weeks to edit it, four weeks to color grade it. So from the moment of the idea to the final deliverable was five months.
Ashley: Okay, so really? Wow, that is impressive. It’s interesting you say that the color correction took longer than the editing. Is that typical, was that just because you’re schedule was busier during those four weeks?
Alex: Oh no, because I wanted to make sure I was the DP on this movie so I had to make sure it looked good. I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked and I did a lot of digital cinematography in my world to make it look as good as possible. But I was editing a little bit during the process because we had lag time, so I would edit scenes and stuff. One of the scenes…one of the days we shot in my office where we’re recording right now the scene in the movie where you see and edit suite is my actual edit suite. I would shoot something and then I would plug it in and put it up on my big screen and everybody would watch the dailies while we were sitting on the next seat [laughs]. It was the most odd thing. I was like, “This is amazing!” And I would also check the lighting. So it’s like, “Hold on a second guys, let me just shoot it, boom. Let me print out the color real quick. Let me do a quick color grade on it.” For a micro budget film you don’t get those opportunities [laughs].
Ashley: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Did you submit to festivals? Are you starting to gear up for a festival run? What’s your opinion on the film festival?
Alex: We already premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival last year and we played probably at two other film festivals and then we closed the HollyShorts Film Festival this last summer at the Chinese Theatre which was this huge deal for us and then we went straight to self-distribution and getting it out into the world. Festivals, they have a wonderful thing about them. I’ve just been to so many over the course of my career with all of my projects, probably been no exaggeration between 500 and 600. Film festivals through all of my shots and things I’ve produced and things like that. So I’ve been through a lot of them, so I know the value of what they are as far as the distribution side of stuff is concerned. There’s only really five festivals that matter, and I don’t mean to be rude to the other festivals.
But on a distribution stand point, There’s Sundance or Slamdance…excuse me, Sundance, there’s [inaudible 00:47:49] in Toronto in Cannes. Those basically are the big ones. And then you can throw in Tribeca and a couple of the other guys as FI, The Los Angeles Film Festivals, those other guys. Bu at the end of the day, those first four, they’re really the only one that are like the ones that people really care about a lot especially on that poster. If they see the logo it means something. Don’t go crazy with festivals. I think one of the biggest mistakes I made with Meg is I waited too long to get her out. I was waiting around for festivals and waiting around for festivals and I was like, “Why am I doing this? I should have just gone.
I should have just been able to have released it much quicker than I did because I was done in August of last year and I didn’t premier till like February. That was seven months or so or rather five months that I was waiting around. And then they still didn’t get released until July or August. So it was like almost a four year waiting around where I should have just popped it out much faster. And this whole festival thing, I shouldn’t have done it as much. In my opinion I think I should have just gotten it out much quicker, but that’s just me beating myself up.
Ashley: Yeah, I’m curious to push back. I mean, there’s a couple of things, I mean, I’ve had friends go to festivals and they’ve just met other filmmakers so it’s a great networking possibility. Forget about the distribution. I know distributors are going to tell you, “Don’t bother.” But there just seems like I’ve had friends that they literally meet people, not unlike your story of how you ultimately met Jill was by going to that short festival. But you didn’t find just as someone who operates like Indie Film Hustle, you didn’t find that you could go to these festivals, they bring you up and you talk about it and Indie Film Hustle is sort of a part of it. I’m saying all this because that’s kind of what I’m thinking with Selling Your Screenplay and my film that I’m finishing is that if I can go to these festivals I can also obviously show my movie The Pinch, but I can also talk about Selling Your Screenplay and potentially get people sort of going on that direction as well.
Alex: Agreed with you 110 percent. There are a lot of valuable things about Film Festivals. Networking is one of them, education is another one. I created an entire course about how to work film festivals. So there are wonderful things about film festivals, just don’t get caught up in it and don’t wait two, three years going to the festival circuits trying to get your movie out there. I think that’s kind of ridiculous. Apply to festivals that you think are gonna do something for you and then also apply to as many local film festivals as you can because that’s where you’re gonna meet a lot of the local filmmakers and make those local connections as well as the big Sundances and LA Festivals and so on. As far as leveraging your platform like me leveraging Indie Film Hustle or you leveraging your platform on your blog, film festivals…you have to understand, a lot of these film festivals are not that hip and they really don’t understand the new world and they’re living in the old world.
So you bring them an audience that’s massive and go, “Hey, I have filmmakers who would probably be interested in what you’re doing. I can promote the hell out of you through my platform but it has to make sense to them enough. If they don’t like the film they don’t like the film. At the end of the day it might be a tipping point, it might kind of give you a little bit of hip, but there’s very few of us there that have any sort of real audience that festivals would really be that interested in. There’s only a handful of the big big guys that have a very large audience. But generally speaking if you think that that’s going to open doors, it will not open doors. Your film has to crack that door open and what it could do is it could just ever so slightly lean in your direction a bit more that they, “Oh, he also has an audience and he also could create things and you can package that.
You see like when I tried to do that…I did that, don’t think I didn’t. I tried to do that and I couldn’t get to the film festival people. I couldn’t…the gate keepers are so hard to cut through. I’m like, “Guys, this is what I can offer you in addition to my…let me set up a workshop for free. Let me do all this kind of stuff to help you.” And a lot of times they just didn’t get it. They just don’t get it. There’s very few festivals who get it and none of the big guys are gonna care. But local film festivals, smaller festivals you would think. But unless you’re making a lot of noise or they’ve heard of you in some way through the Zeitgeist of the world, through the Ether, they won’t care as much. So don’t bet too much on that.
Ashley: And I wasn’t betting while I did like in my cover letter to the festivals I did mention it so I was hoping that it would count for something and I get what you’re saying. But the flip side of that is did you feel like you picked up just by going to some of these festivals, people on the audience seeing your film, you get up in front of them and talk, obviously Indie Film Hustle was going to be part of the conversation. Did you feel like some of those people have come to your tribe and become part of your Indie Film Hustle tribe? Just the audience members at these film festivals. You didn’t feel that was significant?
Alex: I’m gonna say no because it’s a very old fashioned…look, the theatrical release of a movie is still something we all want because we all grew up with that. We’re not a real movie until we get seen in the theatre. That mentality for our generation specifically is something that’s engrained in us. So we chase these festivals and we chase these kind of…it’s kind of a little of insanity because you spend all this money, you travel, you go there for 10s of 20 of people to see your movie, where you could put it up on Amazon by yourself and you could get hundreds of thousands of people to watch your film. But it’s not that kind of textile feeling of being in a big screen. That’s the thing that I think is a mistake that a lot of filmmakers make. They just want that theatrical experience. But when I went there, I was like you know, I can reach more people online with a click of my mouse than I could at any festival screening, even at a big Sundance screening which is wonderful.
Maybe I can get a hundred people out of…let’s say at the Ackles, if I premier my movie at the Ackles where there’s I don’t know 400 or 500 people, out of those 400 or 500 people after they listened to it they said, “I doubt it’s gonna be a big [inaudible 00:54:22] for Indie Film Hustle. But let’s say 100 people show up, I get that on a daily basis by doing basically nothing other than just posting on my social media platforms. And I don’t mean to be callous about it but it’s the reality of the business. It’s the reality of what we’re doing. So if you’re doing film festivals for that aspect, like selling…it’s kind of like handing fliers out on the street. It’s lunacy, where you could use Facebook ads and spend the same money you would have spent to print a bunch of post cards and you can target people who really want your stuff as opposed to interrupting people walking by the street. You see what I’m saying? It’s just a different mindset in regards to that. But yes, to answer it is a big no.
Ashley: Okay, that’s good to know. So let’s dig into distribution a little bit. Why did you decide right off the bet self-distribution? And you know there’s these companies that are sort of the midway between the Gravitas Ventures, the Indie Rights. Why did you decide on self-distribution versus one of those or even going to a more traditional distributor?
Alex: I decided…again it was gonna be part of my experiment, so I wanted to take the movie all the way through and show people that you could self-distribute the movie as well through the avenues that I’ve preached about. So I said, well, you’ve got to build an audience, you’ve got to connect with your audience and then you can sell them the movie…and sell them your product. That’s why I went down that path. I’ve been in post-production for 20 odd years. I have delivered over 50 feature films in my career. So being at the very end of the journey for filmmakers, I see that next step. I hear the horror stories about distribution. I’ve dealt with distributors, I know what the deal is. With traditional distributors, it’s kind of like a potluck.
If you’ve got a hot movie, of course any distributor is gonna put some money behind it, but if you haven’t got a hot movie and they get to put you in their catalogue, that’s all you are. It’s another film in the catalogue. They’re not gonna push it. Why would they spend their time and energy on a movie that’s not gonna get them a good RLI? They’ll take it and they’ll make money with it, but they’re not gonna push it and you as the filmmaker are left holding the bag. And then those are the reputable ones. The unreputable ones, well, you’ll never see a dime after all the expenses and all the BS accounting. And I’ve seen them. I know this for a fact, so I was like…and I knew also that Meg was not of those movies. This was not a mask market movie.
So I decided to go down the self-distribution platform and we’ve been very happy with it. But again we have a humble budget. I knew we would be able to make money with it just strictly from selling it to my audience and we were and we have been able to…the movie was almost in black from the moment we finished. It was almost at that place after the crowd funding campaign went through. So I was like, “I really…this is a perfect scenario for me because I don’t really need to make any money back I just got to get it out there into the world. And been going through this process for the last six months or so. Five, six months, I’ve been going through this process of self-distribution. It’s been very educational because one thing is hearing it from other people, another thing is going through it.
So self-distribution and then I also went with a distributor for international sales because in foreign it’s very difficult to self-distribute it other than iTunes, Amazon and those kind of places into certain territories but they actually sell like the China where we sold our film. We sold China, we sold South Africa, we have a bunch of other pending deals, but the big one that we sold was Hulu. Our film was sold to Hulu. Hulu bought our little film which was so vindicating for us. That’s kind of like a badge of honor. Netflix or Hulu is the new Sundance in a lot of ways. You can have a conversation with someone and go, “Oh, I made a micro-budget film. That’s nice. We sold it to Hulu. Really! I have that conversation all the time because that adds a level of credibility to your project that that wasn’t there before because you’ve got a tastemaker who said, “We’re gonna buy them.” And then they go on to Hulu and then look up This Is Meg and its right there for you. That was a big deal for us. It’s huge.
Ashley: Congratulations. Yeah it is. I’ve heard it’s extremely hard with Netflix and Hulu these days. They’re just doing more and more of their own stuff so they take less and less. Who got that deal? Was that the distributor or was that through…
Alex: That was us. We went through a company called Distruba. If you go to my site I have so much information about that, it’s not even funny. But they’re an aggregator. They just pitched it to Hulu. You just send them a trailer, they don’t do anything special. They just send them a trailer and tell them who is in it and that was it, and they say yay or nay. And then send them a copy of the movie, they watch the movie and that’s it. With aggregators it works wonderfully because they’re basically the door opener for you. They don’t market it, they don’t sell it, they don’t do anything, they don’t add…all they do is open the door for you so you have access now where you didn’t have access before. I’ve interviewed many filmmakers who had insane millions of dollars of revenue just from self-distribution but they understood the market and they understood their audience building and so on and so forth.
It’s a new world right now for filmmakers. If you do a movie at a certain budget range, self-distribution works wonderfully. If you have a million dollar movie, half a million dollar movie and you’re gonna go down the self-distribution road, you better have money for P&A. You better have money for marketing so you can get some sort of RLI, or you have a monster audience. If not, it’s gonna be very very difficult. It’s doable yes, but at a certain budget range. It just takes too much of an audience, too much of marketing prowess for bigger, bigger budget films. But if you make a movie for 10, 15, 20 grand, it’s a great opportunity. It’s a great option without question.
If you make a $50,000 movie, you make a million dollar…I know one guy who made a movie for a million bucks and they made three million off of it, but they understood the process. So it can work and I have examples of it working but you really have to be on your game. You can’t just go and be like, “I’m just gonna throw it up at iTunes and pray.” That’s not gonna work. You laugh but that’s the distribution model of any filmmakers I know [laughs]. That is like, “You know, I’m just gonna make a movie and hope Sundance picks it up. And that’s my distribution outlet. I’m Like, “Dude, you’re killing me.” But yeah, I’ve been very happy with what’s been going on with my self-distribution of my film.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. Let’s talk about Indie Film Hustle. You’re over 200 episodes now so congratulations on that.
Alex: I’m just trying to catch up to you sir.
Ashley: [laughs] Yeah, by the time this airs I think you’ll be well past me. If there was one episode of Indie Film Hustle podcast that you were to recommend and again keeping in mind that my audience is mostly screenwriters, what episode, if there’s just one to recommend, what episode would you recommend people to check out?
Alex: The one episode I always recommend is Episode 88 which is an episode that is just me kind of ranting for an hour about why filmmakers and screenwriters are always broke and what can they do to fix it. And I lay out basically a career path on how…a plan for 10 years on how you can actually make a living doing what you love to do and it works for any artist. On a more technical standpoint episode, I would look up Jim [inaudible 01:01:57] the writer of I Club. I think that’s Episode 98 if I’m not mistaken. That was one of my favorite interviews I’ve done in the screenwriting craft. I’ve got a lot of screenwriting material and interviewed multiple screenwriters and gurus and consultants and stuff like that. But the Jim one was pretty eye opening.
Thirty minutes of it is just me asking him, “So how was David Fincher? How was it to work with David Fincher? So how did David do this and how did David do that?”[laughs]. But other than that there’s a lot of great craft in there and he really breaks down his process and arguably he wrote one of the greatest screenplays of the ‘90s in my opinion. I love [inaudible 01:02:42], it’s one of my favorite movies of all time, so I listened when he spoke [chuckles].
Ashley: I caught the episode you did with Lloyd Kaufman purely for entertainment value. That’s got to be way up there. He is just a real character.
Alex: Lloyd is no joke man. I’ve been a fan of Lloyd’s since I was back in Miami. I met him at a book signing in a Barnes and Noble back in Miami when he was selling his book. He says he’s one of those guys man. Did you hear the stories about like when he shot the behind of scenes of Rocky? I’m like “What?” He goes, “Yeah, I was there shooting the behind the scenes of Rocky and then Warner Brothers called me for my footage.” I’m like, “What the hell?” He’s one of those guys who just lived a life. He’s lived a life without question. But yeah, that’s a very entertaining episode without a question.
Ashley: For sure. So, let’s talk about your YouTube channel. What do you have going on over there?
Alex: Well, the YouTube channel for…first of all let me tell you about Indie Film Hustle in general. Indie Film Hustle is a blog which I started about two and a half years ago to show filmmakers how to survive and thrive in the film business, because I felt that there was not a lot of stuff out there that had real information, like from someone who’s actually walked the walk. So I felt like, you know what, I’m gonna put my two cents out there from my perspective. And then slowly I walked into the screenwriting world but just purely by interviewing screenwriters, because I just wanted to talk to these guys. I just wanted to find out from my own screenwriting and from my own storytelling how I could do it. That’s basically the blog- www.indiefilmhustle.com. Then I opened up the podcast which is now as you said 200 strong and growing episodes. And then the YouTube channel is growing as well now because I’m focusing a lot on more and more content to have a film school on there.
I have screen writing courses on there as well that I give out for free and we started a new series called the director series with a very talented filmmaker that is basically a video SA series breaking down some of the greatest directors of all time. Right now we have Venture up there and we’re finishing up Nolim and it’s up every week and…he’s sick. The guy goes up like…on The Dark Night alone we’re talking about 35, 40 minutes of just breaking down the process of Dark Night and just like holy cow. So I just put up an inception as of this recording, I put it up today. But yeah, now we got Kubrick, I think P.T Anderson and the Coen Brothers coming up in the months to come. That’s something I’m really excited about. It’s grown very rapidly as well. So just trying to get the word out and trying to put out as much good information as I can out there for filmmakers and screenwriters.
Ashley: Perfect. And you mentioned you were gonna go to Sundance. What are you gonna be doing at Sundance this year?
Alex: Sundance this year, we’re gonna be doing an insane amount of work. We’re gonna create a lot of content. We’re gonna be doing interview series like we did last year but probably taking it up a notch on a production stand point. We’re gonna be doing a lot of live on the street stuff. Like last year we had Elijah Wood on the show which was such a thrill to talk to Elijah and his team from SpectraVision. We talked to the biggest spec scripts agent- David Boxer Bomb was on the show and he was telling us how he sells spec scripts. We also had a great TV agent of how to do TV writing agent from [inaudible 01:06:09]. We were talking to the players in the business and I wanna take that up a notch talking to a lot more industry folk and trying to get as much information as I can out there. And we have some surprises that we’re doing as well.
So in January it’s gonna be a pretty insane time and I’m also starting on the YouTube channel, starting a show called The Ask Alex Show because a lot of my followers and the tribe were asking me questions all the time and I’m like, “Let me just put up a show answering them. So I actually do consulting sessions with them over Skype and then answer all their questions and putting it out in January because I’m nuts, one a day for 31 days in a row. So I’m gonna be putting one episode out every day for 31 days and see how it’s received and then if everyone likes it I might keep doing it. If not it’s just a January thing. But I’ve already got a ton in the can just getting everything ready for that as well. As you can tell I put out a lot of content [laughs].
Ashley: Yeah, that’s fantastic. What’s the best way for people to keep up? You mentioned your blog, your podcast. I will get that. Maybe your twitter, your Facebook page, anything else you’re comfortable sharing, I will round that stuff up and put in the show notes as well.
Alex: Yeah sure- www.indiefilmhustle.com is the best way. That’s the hub of everything. The podcast is everywhere. You pretty much can type up Indie Film Hustle in google and you will find everything. My twitter is @indiefilmhustle, Facebook is Indie Film Hustle and Instagram is Ifilmhustle because me and Instagram had an issue. But everything else is pretty much at Indie Film Hustle anywhere you wanna look for me.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. This has been a fantastic interview. Lots of great information and I definitely recommend everybody to check out all of your content. There’s probably more…you’re creating content faster than we can consume it.
Alex: I know. Trust me I’m feeling that. I’m gonna…it’s getting a little nutty. I got to slow it down a bit [laughs]. But thank you so much for having me in the show. It’s an absolute pleasure. I’ve been a big fan of what you do for a long time.
Ashley: Thank you.
I just wanna mention a brand new service that I recently launched. I have built the SYS Select Screenplay data base. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a log line, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays that they wanna produce. I’m adding features to this nearly every day, so ultimately it will be the main hub for all of the SYS Select services. If you’re a member of SYS Select already you should have already received your log in information. If you haven’t please email me and I’ll get back to you. I’ve already got dozens of producers in the system looking for screenplays. I actually heard from two writers this past week who have connected with producers and are negotiating options with those producers. It seems like this is actually working. Hopefully it will just continue to grow from here.
To learn more about this go to www.selingyourscreenplayselect.com. When you join SYS Select you get access to this brand new screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing through SYS Select. Those services include a monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in each monthly newsletter. We’re also providing screenwriting leads to submit to. These are producers looking for all kinds of different types of productions, whether it be shots or features or web series, TV series, producers are submitting leads, paid screenwriting leads, paid screenwriting jobs that you could potentially be hired for. We’re getting on to say five to ten high quality paid leads per week. If any of these sounds interesting or if you’d like to learn more about this, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing Duncan Falconer. He’s an ex-military guy, a novelist and a screenwriter. He recently did an action film called Stratton and that film which he actually wrote the screenplay for it was also based on a novel…a series of novels actually that he had written prior to that. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I just wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Alex. What I think is great about Alex’s story is again, he’s just a guys like the rest of us who’s out there doing stuff without anybody’s permission. He’s not waiting for someone to give him a bunch of money to go make a film, he’s not waiting for someone to give him approval, he’s just out there doing his own thing. He created his podcast. No one paid him to do it, he just went out there and did his podcast. He just created his new film This Is Meg. No one gave him a bunch of money to go make it, he just figured out how to get it funded and how to get it made. I hear Tim Ferriss on a podcast many years ago. In case you don’t know Tim Ferriss wrote a book called Four Hour Work Week. He now runs a podcast of his own. I would highly recommend checking it out.
It has nothing to do with filmmaking or specifically screenwriting, he interviews high performers in a variety of different industries and areas. There are some entertainment people, I think he did one with Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’re some interesting things, but it’s just an interesting podcast because he’s basically interviewing people that have been very successful and then he tries to sort of diagnose why they were successful. In any event, again, this was years ago, I was listening to this podcast and I don’t even really remember what the exact topic they were talking about. But the point that he made was that if you wanna get better at golf, you shouldn’t look at someone like Tiger Woods as someone that you can learn from. Tiger Woods can simply do things that the rest of us can’t.
His [inaudible 01:11:48] coordination, his strength, his balance…he just has a whole bunch of physical talents that pretty much no one on the planet has. So if you’re looking to get better at golf, it probably is smatter to look at that guy that’s ranked 100 in the world. He’s not as gloriously gifted as Tiger Woods but he’s worked really hard and there’s probably more similarities between your golf game and that guy’s golf game and therefore there’s probably more lessons that you can learn. I remember listening to this podcast and wondering was that true in screenwriting and filmmaking? I mean, guys like Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrik, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron– these are all guys we want to emulate, but they are sort of idiosyncratic geniuses and I’m not sure that there’s a lot that I or probably you can learn from them because they are so gloriously gifted.
But a guy like Alex, he’s super transparent with what he’s doing and if you’re willing to hustle and he’s doing, there’s really no reason you can’t be out there making the films you wanna make just like Alex is doing. And I’m not in any way being disparaging to Alex. It’s not to say that he’s not a genius in his own way, and in fact I’ve said essentially the same thing about myself and my own podcast and my own filmmaking journey. Alex is just a ball of energy. It’s incredible to see how hard he works and how much content he’s pushing out into the world. From start to finish he did this feature film in five months. I mean, that’s an incredible accomplishment. Most of the people listening to this podcast and probably listening to me talking about The Pinch, you know it took me years to get it all done. So it’s just incredible to be able to do a feature film literally from start to finish in five months.
Plus all the other stuff that he’s been doing, Indie Film Hustle, I mean, he didn’t take off of Indie Film Hustle as he was working on this movie. He was still pumping out content for Indie Film Hustle. I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of projects that we know nothing about that he was working on behind the scenes as well. I know that’s how it goes with me. There’s tons of things I’m working on that I don’t talk about it on the podcast. I’m sure he had a lot of things. The bottom line is he did this feature film plus all this other stuff in a span of five months. That’s incredible and it’s inspiring to hear him talk about it. At least to me I’m inspired and hopefully you are too. You know, what Alex is doing, it feels like something that the rest of us can really learn from and replicate. It feels like a good template. That’s not even to say that Alex won’t eventually get to James Cameron’s level. Maybe he will.
In the Indie Film Community, the Duplass Brothers–they’re sort of the gold standard on how to make Indie filmmaking work. They started out literally making thousand dollar feature films and they just kept making films and slowly they worked their way up the ladder. Now they have great careers as actors, writers and directors. I think one of them does more acting than the other one. I think they both write and I think one of them does more directing than one of them. But they have good careers. I think I saw they were doing a limited series TV show with HPO. They’re doing some great work. They’ve made a number of really cool independent films, and so as I said, they’ve kind of if I would say, ascended up that ladder of Indie filmmaking and really turned it into a great career.
And Alex to me, he feels like that sort of guy just at a slightly earlier stage in his career. So it’s not like there’s no huge potential upside for Alex and the people that follow his template. If you follow Alex’s template and you have enormous talent like a guy like James Cameron you’ll still get to the highest levels of filmmaking, but if you’re not as talented say as Stanley Kubrick you can still have a career and make great art. Alex is telling us exactly what he’s doing, we just have to go out there and follow his lead. And what he’s doing feels like a much better template than someone who gives out the age-old advice just write a great script, because when people give that advice- just write a great script, well, there is some truth in it. It’s also incredibly nebulous. It mean waiting for someone else to read your script and decide if it’s great or not.
Screenwriting is too subjective. What’s great to one person may be garbage to another. So you’re at the mercy of someone else. Someone else is gonna decide your fate. Alex isn’t at anyone’s mercy. Alex is in control of his own destiny and he’s gonna go exactly as far as his talent will take him, no luck required.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.