Hello again, Reddit. We may have met before when I posted this mildly viral moment: https://www.reddit.com/r/Filmmakers/comments/c6gs14/when_i_was_12_i_wrote_george_lucas_a_letter/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x

So here's "George Lucas guy" back to answer any and all of your questions about how I made THE LAST WHISTLE, available on iTunes, Amazon, and DVD.

I didn't submit to any big film festivals, I didn't shoot with Red or Alexa, and I didn't give up when a more experienced producer told me I would fail. Moreover, I broke just about every rule in the book, and disobeyed most of the traditional advice nuggets in the process.

Feel free to ask me about working with Les Miles, Friday Night Lights' Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity), Parks and Rec's Jim O'Heir (Jerry Gergich), or any of the amazing actors involved. Moreover, feel free to ask about how I raised the money, how we found a distributor, and why I didn't submit to any big festivals.

Proof: https://twitter.com/MadSmatter/status/1151175333921656832

EDIT (5pm CST) Wow, I didn't think this would draw so much interest. Will be logging off for a bit, but will be back on to answer whatever pops up later. Thank you for all y'all's support. If you want to hear me seriously ramble about this stuff, my book is on Amazon ("Rebel With A Crew", not without). Just if you're really interested. Not self promo here. Some of the most popular questions have to do with financing and career advice, so browse the below if that's where yours fit. And thank you all, even the trolls, for a fun afternoon.

EDIT 2 (2am CST) Lots of thoughts here. Number one: thank you Reddit users for upvoting the educational aspects of this AMA. I logged off right when some more vitriolic questions started to flow in, and my lack of reply didn't help. Luckily, the positive threads will be up top for those who are here for a learning experience, rather than to troll. That's thanks to the good people out there. Number two: lots of talk about IMDb rating and how it affects box office, and whether box office is overall profit or just theatrical profit. For those who don't know the different between the three, there's plenty. For those who do, feel free to fill in the blanks where I couldn't. Number three: Thank you to all of you who pitched in to help me answer questions and explain tougher concepts. Education is a community effort. Finally, I wish all of you the best in your endeavors. While there's no certain path in this industry, or any of them, I have hope that we'll all rise together. I'll log back on tomorrow and try to answer anything else I missed. Until every question is answered!

Comments: 1592 • Responses: 128  • Date: 

yea_okay_dude1130 karma

I'm a film major in college and not enough professors talk about how you make money with filmmaking.

How did you go about making back your money and even making a profit? I assume a lot of it was from ticket sales? But how did you manage to get your film into theaters that people would go to?

MadSmatter1427 karma

There are lots of things you can and can't control when it comes to making a profit. Our keys were:

-Keep budget low, even for a small movie. Reach profit sooner as a result.

-Get as many influencers as we can, especially since we can't get stars. The influencers will drive audience better than ads and so forth when release happens.

-Make a movie that audiences will want, rather than a movie that you would want. Put the audience in the passenger seat, rather than the trunk.

MadSmatter609 karma

It's so true that professors don't speak enough about profit, but so much of that comes from the fact that the business has changed so much, even since a couple years ago. It's the wild, wild west.

oscar_the_couch194 karma

Was this AMA part of your business plan?

MadSmatter411 karma

Yes but I didn't expect it to get this much interest.

thereallorddane114 karma

-Make a movie that audiences will want, rather than a movie that you would want. Put the audience in the passenger seat, rather than the trunk.

ie: Don't be the starving artist.

To anyone wanting to get into ANY kind of entertainment (music, art, film, animation, etc) you need to remember that YOU are not right. Your audience is. You can't go in with a "I'll make it and my audience will find me" attitude. You have to ask yourself how the people will take this and will it turn a profit. There is NO SHAME in making money off of your work. It is not shameful to put food on your table.

When I mull over ideas for movies/shows/whatever I get my core concept and then ask a general "what audience is this best suited to" question. Then, you make sure your work is going to be fun for them to take part in. You can still have ideas and want to push boundries, but you can't try breaking them all at once because the public won't like it. You nudge them and over the course of a career you can change the course of a generation. Look at Don Bluth. His movies were great, Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven, amazing films. They pushed some boundaries, but they still were entertaining to children. At the heart of it all was his philosophy that is starting to be adopted by film makers today "you can show children anything so long as it has a happy ending". He was right, some of these modern children's movies are kinda messed up but have a happy ending.

Treat the public like a tree. It can't immediately take the root and shape you desire. It takes time to cultivate that relationship and grow it. Nurture it with what it WANTS and sneak in a little of what it NEEDS and it will shape up just fine.

bombazine_doll164 karma

I can’t help but feel that if everyone took this advice, we’d have no Bladerunner, The Shawshank Redemption, The Thing, and other cult classics that didn’t make a lot of money (at first, anyway). If you’re truly passionate, you do make the film you want. Your advice can lead to things like the Transformers series - hugely successful, very popular, but it’s catering to such a broad audience that it’s damn near vapid. It also depends on what you want out of it as a filmmaker - is there a story that you have to tell people, regardless of whether anyone pays attention? If your goal is to make money and damn the rest, filmmaking would be a weird choice IMO.

MadSmatter91 karma

I have to make the Transformers before I can make my Bumblebee. Just the state of the industry right now.

MadSmatter51 karma

Totally^^

Another thing I see are filmmakers who want to be so indie that they yank the spirit out of their films, or focus too heavily on the cinematography. Cavete!

jpreston200588 karma

when you talk about influencers, can you be more specific? did you just send some prominent you-tubers a copy of the film, or were they more specific to the industry?

shawn0fthedead187 karma

I think he means they hired influencers as actors so they could promote their movies to their fans. And those fans promote it to their friends etc. Influencers are more likely to promote themselves if they are getting paid based on the movies' profit (percentage points) rather than up front as well.

MadSmatter109 karma

Right-o

MadSmatter133 karma

More specific to the industry, but I would've taken youtubers if they had subs who were our audience demo.

Mammoth_Volt_Thrower47 karma

Does getting influencers simply mean paying influencers?

How do you know that influencers are more effective audience drivers than ads?

MadSmatter185 karma

Influencers can get paid tens of thousands for stuff they advertise, so if they want to become actors they'll take a pay cut to do it, and then promote that movie way more than anything they'd advertise.

Pera_Espinosa15 karma

What kind of influencers and where did you find them?

letmeseem119 karma

Not OP, but the natural sequence of events would roughly be:

Decide on a specific audience that should absolutely LOVE the film. Preferably down to a fictitious persona. Let's say: "Fiona 23, a free spirit who likes to immerse herself in books, cares deeply about the environment and human rights. She dreams about raising two kids with her husband in a small log cabin, but is currently working as a waitress in a vegan lunchbar in Boulder, Colorado."

Now you focus on making a script, soundtrack, filmography and so on that any person like Fiona would LOVE. You also try to get relatively obscure actors that have followers that look like Fiona. They are the influences, and they'll do the advertising to your core target audience.

This makes a very different film than if you were targeting "Gregory, the 56 year old economist who loves golf and to throw barbecues for his family and friends, and prioritizes his two teenagers over everything."

MadSmatter10 karma

Thanks u/letmeseem! Logged off and appreciate the help in the meantime.

RipDove0 karma

So basically you made an ad with a full feature script

I do marketing/SEO stuff too, with a focus on online and specifically YouTube, and reading through your other comments it kinda comes across to me that you kinda ran a bit of a scheme of making a movie with investor money, using projections on consumer report data, and used that investment money to pay yourself and hoped you made profits to pay investors

MadSmatter2 karma

The investors make the first 120% that the movie profits, and then we split the rest, so I'm not sure what you're getting at here.

marshmeeelo688 karma

Thanks for this. Why didn't submit it for any big festivals? Is it because of finance or morals or some other reason? Also, how'd you get Jim O'Heir? I loved him in Parks and Rec.

MadSmatter1009 karma

Good question. Most people think, when I first tell them this, that we didn't submit because we weren't good enough to play in festivals. But the film has actually done solidly with critics, so that wasn't our issue, as I expected. The issue is that with huge fests like Sundance, they have started taking a majority of star power films in their program. What was once made for the little guys is now mostly for the medium players. On top of that, the submissions closed as we were nearing the end of post-production, and I didn't have interest in waiting up to three months to submit to a festival. We went directly to sales, and played festivals for our grassroots audience.

marshmeeelo243 karma

Thanks! I was wondering but that makes a lot of sense.

MadSmatter756 karma

And regarding Jim, I used a personal plea from a mutual friend, and told him that I wrote the part with him in mind. We made it work with his schedule, gave him what his reps asked for, and make sure to be professional at every step. At the Q&A at our premiere, he said it was the most pro set he had ever been on, and was shocked by that since we were all like 22 years old or less.

roraima_is_very_tall336 karma

and was shocked by that since we were all like 22 years old or less.

maybe you haven't had a chance to be shown how to do it wrong, so you just were flat-out professional the right way. if that makes sense. kudos.

MadSmatter309 karma

I spent years 16 to 22 watching every possible way to do it wrong. That's film school for ya.

roraima_is_very_tall97 karma

yet evidently, based on his comment, you did it right, while so many, who I imagine also went to film school, continue to do it wrong. what's up with that, just an ingrained culture of unprofessionalism?

I worked on a model shoot once and was impressed with the professionality of everyone, but at the same time everyone seemed a bit distant. Must be a difficult line to walk.

I was new there so that probably had a lot to do with it, and I was there temporarily.

MadSmatter57 karma

In every job too, there are people who care and those who don't. I guess there are lots of reasons!

MadSmatter133 karma

I'll add too that festivals don't guarantee you'll get a great distribution deal like they used to. The only thing that gives you a fighting chance is an actor or a genre.

dirtymindfilthyways43 karma

I'll counter argue this only to say that it depends on the festival you are submitting to, the category and the size of the market at the fest. Also, distribution tides have changed and with that so have the markets for them. Of course they aren't what they used to be, look at the playing field (with SVOD alone).

With that, I'm impressed with your campaign. I know some of the bigger channels like Netflix don't provide the filmmaker with a dashboard to view stats such as streams, demographic etc... As a filmmaker, how useful would those numbers be to you for the next feature you'll make? I know a lot of filmmakers who've moved forward with cash deals from distros like Netflix just to make a portion of their money back.

MadSmatter30 karma

Very true.

And thanks. They're useful for the way that I raise money, I guess, or advise other producers.

Netflix is an interesting animal, and I try not to use it as a comp for lots of things, just because like the fests, it can be very all or nothing.

dgamr33 karma

What does distribution look like these days for the small players then?

MadSmatter57 karma

It's all about word of mouth and placement, honestly. So traditional distributors are becoming less and less helpful, but certainly proved their worth to me for certain reasons just because of our project.

If you make a movie and offers don't include theatrical or money upfront, there's not much that distributors will actually do to benefit you.

MadSmatter34 karma

Check out Indie Film Hustle for more on this, especially the Jason Brubaker episodes

jshah500-3 karma

the film has actually done solidly with critics

It has an average rating of 6/10 on RT and 4.8/10 on IMDB. I dunno we may have different definitions but that's not what I'd consider "solid". Your whole post reads like a humble brag.

MadSmatter38 karma

Like u/devan826 said, and I like I said in another one, I never expected this movie to be 10/10. I wanted to get it just above 5/10, and we were pretty solid at 3/5 and 60%/100 until the IMDb had some trolling pull it below 5. At any rate, films in this budget range usually end up at 3.5 from what I've seen, and don't get any good reviews. When you're making a sports movie, a lot of the money that would go toward doing it "good" goes toward the sports stuff, so I aimed for just-above-medium and am thrilled with it.

WriteScottWrite491 karma

Did you have to give up any percentage of your film to have name actors?

MadSmatter680 karma

Of course. We were working on a SAG ULB level, so points were crucial for both actors and producers. But surprisingly, points aren't too valuable to bigger actors, because they're so used to them getting swallowed up that they'd rather just have money in hand. Myself and the other producers put all our payment in back end points just so everyone would trust that the points actually meant something. That's a great tactic, albeit a starving-artist one.

TheSinningRobot390 karma

As someone who isnt really familiar with how things work with SAG could you (or just anyone) give an ELI5 on what exactly this means?

Edit: I've gotten a number of helpful replies so I'm going to try and summarize what I believe to be the answer to my question. Feel free to correct anything.

When an actor signs onto a movie, they can either be paid out right for their role, or they may get paid "back end points" which basically means they get paid a percentage amount that depends on how much profit the movie makes.

The potential issue with getting paid in this way is that often times due to some accounting fuckery, a movie can technically make no profit on paper no matter how well it does. Actors often get fucked out of money because of this.

In this case, because of the low budget, the only way the director would be able to get actors to sign on would be offering them these back end points. In order to build faith with the actors that they wouldnt get fucked, the director (and presumably the producers) also agreed to get paid in this same way. Basically they wouldnt be able to fuck over the actors without fucking themselves over.

This good faith act allowed them to bring on actors that their budget wouldnt usually be able to afford.

yoyoq12156 karma

i think its related to how big film studios bury the profit into other expenses so the points (percentage of profit) don't come out at the end (or ever)

and it seems that this guy, gave points more value by saying they are getting paid with points

TheSinningRobot94 karma

So basically most of the time points are buried, so if an actor was being paid based off of points, they'd be less likely to sign on because they might get fucked over. But for him, he made it clear that points were important so the actors qouldnt be wary of being paid based off of points. Am I understanding that correctly?

HothMonster68 karma

https://amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/245134/

That has some info on their bullshit accounting practices that scare actors who agree to points.

And yes he set it up in a manner to show good faith that they wouldn’t be doing that.

MadSmatter87 karma

Correct to all of the above! Obviously, everyone still got paid, but this is what let us do it all for $100K instead of a million. Mike, Thomas, Max, and I cuffed ourselves to the oars of the ship, just like Ben Hur.

corpus-expat74 karma

SAG ULB is Ultra Low Budget. Since the pay scale for ULB films is so low, they try to make up for it by offering actors "back end points," which is a percentage of the net profits the film generates.

Usually actors know the back end points aren't going to be worth shit because the way Hollywood accounts for films means that films rarely generate any profit on the books. David Prowse, who played Darth Vader, is a famous example of this for having never received any residual payout from Return of the Jedi because, as far as the studio is concerned, it has yet to turn a profit. Compare this to Alec Guiness who was a famous enough actor to negotiate a front-end deal, made a fortune from his role in Star Wars.

In the case of OP's film, he stated that he and the rest of the producers took all of their payment in back-end points. This means that the actors have some reassurances that the producers have an incentive to not screw them, as they won't get paid if they do typical accounting shenanigans to minimize the net profits.

TheSinningRobot15 karma

Thanks! This helped clear up how he was able to convince them they wouldn't get screwed

MadSmatter11 karma

Thanks u/corpus-expat !

souzada37164 karma

How did you get funding? How long did it take and what was the process?

MadSmatter210 karma

This is a frequent question, because that's really the key, right? Once you have the money, all the doors open. But often, it's a sign that some part of the project is lacking from a business perspective, which is why it's so important to have a strong business plan along with your film plan. The two plans are worlds apart, too.

-Business plan: Numbers, numbers, numbers. Projections, expectations, and case studies. The case studies can be very hard to find, since only box office numbers get reported, so we had to dig deep, and I had to do a lot of research.

-Film plan: strong script, as known of an actor as possible, and past work or a sizzle reel.

MadSmatter216 karma

It took us about 8 months to find all the funding, and the process involved lots of no's and people ghosting us. One investor looked at my pitch and said, "this is impossible. You can't do it for so little." He later told me he wished he had invested. Common story. We had 8 or 9 investors by the end, long list, a little here and a little there. Exhausting in its own way.

One thing we absolutely never did: crowdfunding. No way.

MrRabbit780 karma

One thing we absolutely never did: crowdfunding. No way.

Any particular reason ?

MadSmatter183 karma

It's a mathematical calculation for me. How much do I think I can raise (x)? How viral is my project (y)? How many purchases will I lose when I give the movie to these funders for free, and how will the VOD algorithms suffer as a result (z)? How much time will I spend on the crowdfund when I could be calling investors instead (t) and what are the odds that investors will invest (u)?

Which comes out to something like:

(x (y)) - z < t (u)

For some people, x, y, and z will be greater than t and u, but for me, the latter was much more worthwhile.

thereallorddane45 karma

I see as more of crowdfunding be a double edged sword. You have to essentially oversell your product to get it just noticed then you end up burying yourself so deep in promises that you can't possibly deliver what the people thing you're making and a perfectly decent film gets panned by a pissed off public who's expecting Cassablanca level material and getting King Kong (even though that's what you were doing in the first place).

Unless you have the capacity to over deliver on a crowdfunded project, then it's probably not worth the risk to your future.

quickclickz25 karma

not to mention you lose the network connection with having individual investors vs crowd investors who aren't "replicable" more or less

thereallorddane22 karma

This is where my education splits from his. In nonprofits, we operate by "its better to have 1000 people donating 1$ each than it is to have 1 person donating $1,000." The volume of donors is its own prestige and it feeds upon itself, like reddit. You post OC and ant the first hundred or so upvotes have little impact, but once you break a certain threshold it becomes more visible and more people join in. In nonprofit we do the same. A hundred people donating a few bucks won't do much, but once we hit a certain number the local news gets involved and all of a sudden the 500 donors turns into 5,000. From there you work on communicating with them and try to retain as many as possible.

You can do this with film, but it's a really hard thing to pull off because of the time scales involved. The only notable exception is South Park. They produce an entire episode in one week in the seven days before air date. Check out the documentary on it, its insane. So in theory, Mat and Trey could go private, hit up patreon, and keep their production schedule the same and they could possibly have higher income than what they make now. POSSIBLY. It would greatly depend on who they hire to do marketing/community engagement online to keep people investing/donating.

MadSmatter14 karma

It's true, and many documentaries have done a great job with this too. Great point!

MadSmatter14 karma

I find that most Kickstarter folks are forgiving when it comes to quality. They know it's not Veronica Mars (unless it is!). It's just all about that double edged sword you talk about, especially with rewards delivery.

ScrewHollywood6 karma

Why no crowdfunding? Why "no way"? Thanks in advance.

MadSmatter34 karma

Just answered MrRabbit above with some terrible maths

mmmmm_pancakes14 karma

If it helps, I fucking loved your maths. One look at that made me want to fund you, too!

MadSmatter8 karma

Rad!

deckard5827 karma

Projections, expectations, and case studies. The case studies can be very hard to find, since only box office numbers get reported, so we had to dig deep

Just how reliable is that data, in practice? I mean, from a layman perspective, forecasting which movies will work often looks like a crapshoot even for major studios; what information is the most predictive, in your opinion? How far does it get you?

MadSmatter36 karma

u/spiritwolfie had same question:

With the big studios, it's unreliable because they have to hit the big time to succeed. Predicting what will go viral in that sense, and work on a massive scale is hard.

But, I'm working more in a space where there is definitely a minimum and a maximum result to films. So knowing that bad movies make x, and good movies make y, I suggested we make the movie for "x" while hoping we hit "y".

acollich25 karma

So basically you were like "religious football movies make x dollars so best case scenario we have god's not dead and worst case scenario we throw it on the $5 sales rack in Walmart"

MadSmatter18 karma

Simplified, but almost that!

MadSmatter12 karma

Much better in my opinion than, "let's see if we get a 5% chance of getting into Sundance, and then get a 1% chance of getting bought at Sundance"

Ftn19936 karma

When you say numbers, how does one find a starting point of a plan when it comes to an Indie project, one that has very less budget and perhaps new upcoming actors ? How does case studies fit into this scenario ? I ask this because I’m going to be doing a project in the upcoming months and I have little to no clue so as to where to start.

MadSmatter14 karma

Even with ten thousand dollars, if you're engaging investors or want to preserve your own cash, you should find other 10K movies out there and see which ones succeeded and which didn't. For the ones that didn't, the directors will be glad to tell you why.

SpiritWolfie2 karma

-Business plan: Numbers, numbers, numbers. Projections, expectations, and case studies. The case studies can be very hard to find, since only box office numbers get reported, so we had to dig deep, and I had to do a lot of research.

Can you be much more specific here?

MadSmatter10 karma

I put together a book called "Rebel With a Crew" that's on Amazon if you'd like 100 pages on this :D

probablyuntrue14 karma

Is writing a book about the fundraising part of the fundraising strategy? ;)

MadSmatter15 karma

Hah! Maybe in the future. That's what I'm trying to tell people though, is that the issue when investors turn you down isn't your movie, it's your investment strategy. Look at your film like a business and they will to. If you're not looking at your film like a business, it might be because it lacks the profitability.

staticrush3 karma

Rebel With a Crew

Uh, the Robert Rodriguez book?

MadSmatter7 karma

That's "Rebel Without a Crew" - I had lots and lots of help and don't intend to bury that fact

SpiritWolfie-17 karma

WTF? This is an AMA not a "buy my book" ad.

MadSmatter2 karma

Just trying to serve your needs. Seeing as how you’d like specificity between 10 and 10,000 words, it’s something like this: -Show estimates on money earned from movies, VOD, streaming, and DVD -pick movies from the past five years for this -pick movies in your similar budget range -arrange the data in a chart that shows income and expense over a five year chart, with high expectations and low ones

carltheawesome101 karma

What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?

MadSmatter109 karma

Love this question. Gimme a sec to think about it while I answer some of the easier ones!

MadSmatter135 karma

I wish more people asked about the dollars and sense, but that's actually been super prominent in this AMA. Happy to see it!

Runner up is, I wish more people asked about the writing process. It's crazy how important the script is to a feature film, and if I had another year to continue rewriting it, I would have.

1337_Mrs_Roberts8 karma

How long did you spend writing it? And would an extra year made it really much better?

MadSmatter24 karma

I spent the 6-8 months of pre-production writing it. An extra year? Probably not, just a saying. What would've helped would've been more money. Always more money.

gatman123 karma

Which is your favorite sense and why?

MadSmatter12 karma

Sound. I loooove sound designing a movie.

rob13281 karma

I just saw the trailer.

Is this a christian propaganda film? I only ask cause it looks like one of the better one's I've seen.

MadSmatter29 karma

That was actually a distributor plan, because they wanted to advertise to fans of When The Game Stands Tall. We're more secular, and would have been advertised like Friday Night Lights if I hadn't written a somewhat happier ending. But also, that audience is easier to market to, and has been successful for us, so I'm not unhappy with it. I'd like to make movies that make people happy rather than depressed or bored!

mantis_bog71 karma

Fucking Jerry. How badly did he mess up?

MadSmatter123 karma

Honestly his work was often adequate

FUNKYDISCO60 karma

Did you set out to make a movie based on your Christian beliefs or did that just happen along the way? I hope that doesn't come off as negative, just curious if your original goal was always to make a faith-based movie.

MadSmatter28 karma

I think it's hard to make a move that's somewhere between gritty and faith based. I wanted a story of redemption, but not because of a particular deity or religion. I wanted whoever saw the film to see themselves or someone they knew in the character. When it comes to marketing though, they go full one way or the other. So the marketing came out heavier Christian than the film itself.

Moses_Snake59 karma

What information would you present to investors that would convince them to invest in the film? Would it simply be how the film will bring profit and if so how would you "prove" that?

MadSmatter102 karma

Well you can't prove profit in any business situation, so the key is to have comps, and similar situations. Since you likely won't have prior work, you have to find those elsewhere where you can. Video on demand numbers are hard, so I picked up the phone and started calling other indie filmmakers to ask them how much they made, and put together a pitch based on those numbers.

At the end of the day I said, "I see bad movies making $100K on budgets of $250K, so if we make this movie for half of that, I think we can break even. But I also want to make it good, I want that very badly."

shadowwork46 karma

Your sales pitch was, “we just might beak even”, and it worked?

MadSmatter79 karma

It was "we just might break even if we make this for as much as these other people, so instead let's make it for less than half of that, so we break even if we fail and profit if we break even"

Wave_Entity10 karma

I picked up the phone and started calling other indie filmmakers to ask them how much they made

how literally do you mean this? Im assuming you knew some relatively successful filmmakers from film school?

MadSmatter44 karma

With most movies in the 250-500K range, the directors behind them have websites that will accept a cold call or cold email.

Nativeseattleboy18 karma

What’s your history with screenwriting? What would you do differently if you could go back to when you started film school? And what benefit did going to USC give you, from a writing standpoint, that you don’t think you would have gotten if you didn’t go to school and wrote on your own?

MadSmatter30 karma

Started screenwriting as soon as I found out what Celtx was, and for a few years before that on Word. Didn't really know what it was until Celtx, and was writing scriptments before then.

I think what I would do differently is only because of all that I learned doing what I did. I learned as much as I could and didn't waste a second. Don't have many regrets, having done it that way, but I do think I barked up the wrong trees pretty frequently. I would have loved to have interned with a distribution company or a sales agent, rather than large development companies.

I was exposed to so many scripts and writers at USC that I was really able to hone where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to create.

Roodyrooster18 karma

What are some situations where you found yourself needing to find a budget friendly alternative to how things would be traditionally done with a bigger budget?

Other than acting talent, what do you wish you could have spent more money on?

MadSmatter22 karma

My top choice here would be either extras or marketing. We had to be incredibly resourceful with marketing, spending money where it could go viral rather than where it would bring us a consistent customer flow (see Pat Green's Til The Last Whistle Blows). With marketing money, you almost have a set calculation of how many purchases you'll get per dollar, and that can be all the difference when it comes to a movie that does well versus one that doesn't.

Extras really provide life, and allow you to have bigger spaces and locations. I like to set films in places with character, and for audiences to see the whole spaces, and that can be hard without fifty costumed extras!

Barrettmc16 karma

  1. What if you're not a business minded person? Can you have friends, co-workers keep you steady?
  2. As a fellow 24 year old looking to shoot a script, what takes a bigger drain on the budget, licensing for music or paying the actors you envisioned?

MadSmatter32 karma

  1. What do you mean by keep you steady?
  2. The actors. Whereas you might only be paying one composer, you're going to have to pay 10 to 30 actors, plus agents and union fees, and meals. I wouldn't suggest licensing music, especially when there are so many hungry musicians out there with big followings who will do a movie song for the fame.

changmas15 karma

Hi Rob! What did you think of being portrayed by a brilliant young extra in Progidy?

https://m.imdb.com/name/nm7555499/?ref_=m_ttfcd_cl15

PS: I watched The Last Whistle when it came out and was extremely impressed with the cinematography and production values for your first feature film. Will definitely be checking out your future projects (and I’m sure Logan will promote them to me anyway)

MadSmatter17 karma

Hah! I had forgotten about this. Would love to hear how you prepared for this role. Appreciate it, Nick.

invisible_swordsman12 karma

did you break all the rules?

MadSmatter43 karma

The rules I didn't break:

-Safety first.

-Always shoot a master.

-Treat everyone well, no matter who they are.

-Don't lose your temper.

-Make an amazing trailer.

-Sound is 50% of your film, if not more.

-Put your audience in the passenger's seat, rather than the trunk.

-Did I mention safety first?

oscardewing12 karma

What camera/ gear did you use?

MadSmatter40 karma

We shot on the Canon c300 mk ii, because it would shoot 4K, but without heating up or exhausting a memory card. We also had a RED for a few of the slow-mo football shots, a drone for some football shots, and an a7s for the bird's eye shots. But the c300 was 95% of the movie. Would highly recommend, because REDs can be so heavy and will kill most editing systems, it just wasn't worth it when our audience doesn't know the difference.

MadSmatter29 karma

If we were making a movie geared for Sundance, maybe we would've shot with RED or anamorphics, but I didn't want our budget to get drained by cinematography when it could give us more time instead for performances and such.

oscardewing9 karma

Thanks for your insight!

MadSmatter5 karma

Of course

bballjj183 karma

When you say it won't exhaust a memory card, are you saying you shot using internal memory storage? I was under the impression that everything needed to be shot using a ninja or some other external drive bay device.

MadSmatter8 karma

We used what were essentially SD cards with 50-100 GB of memory.

Presto123ubu1 karma

Canons have some nice 24 FPS. Used one and was amazed at how it looked. Bought one for this reason (but only shoots HD).

MadSmatter2 karma

Nothing wrong with HD! Again, most people won't know the difference. Just the film geeks like us!

Kinder2211 karma

Did Les Miles have ridiculous contractual requirements? Had to ship in a sampling of sod from Death Valley every day while filming? Start every day with an enthusiastic clap, fingers spread just right to avoid injury?

But really, was it awesome working with Les?

MadSmatter21 karma

Working with Les was an incredible honor, being a Louisiana-born boy myself. He is a class act, all around. Only made us ship sod from Death Valley on Monday's!

UncleColey9 karma

What is your background like? Do you have any formal education or are you self-taught?

MadSmatter29 karma

I went to film school at USC, but in critical studies, so lots of film watching in school and film making on my own. Have to shout out Indie Film Hustle too, because I learned tons about indie distribution from Alex.

formal_thehyde8 karma

Hey man! Congrats!

I make indie rock music in my bedroom - any tips on getting it to the ears of some film makers? Not looking to make money, just want to see it go to use.

MadSmatter13 karma

Send it my way and I'll let ya know if I ever need some indie rock!

My other advice would be to make friends who are in your position, but in the film world.

Necromancer42767 karma

What would you say you look for most when looking at the Music Composers?

And what kind of a service (if any) did you use to find your composers (if you used any)?

MadSmatter18 karma

My composer was a good friend I met at USC, Logan Austin. (That's the other thing that film school is great for, is making connections.) I look for someone who does good comps (i.e. samples), and who likes the same styles I do (Explosions in the Sky, Michael Giaccino, et al)

Abbhorase6 karma

I was skimming over your post history just now and by the looks of it, you clawed your way out of a pretty bad place. What was it like back then?

MadSmatter11 karma

Whoa! Detective work. Yeah, I had to get a lot better at everything, including Reddit!

My fiancee tells me all the time that when we started dating, I only listened to sad music. So I'm sure she was a big help in that phase, but also, I just had to be cool with being sad sometimes, seeing my work not turn out great. It sucked big time and I took the full brunt of it.

matt_the_mediocre6 karma

I hear Jim O'Heir is just exceptionally nice. What was he like on set?

Also, congratulations! A dream fulfilled is good for all of us.

MadSmatter9 karma

Very kind, you and him!

Jim was absolutely hilarious. I've had lots of improv fun over the years, and he knew every single twist and turn. Just genuinely brilliant with his comedic talent, and ability to play to a room. He knows himself and he knows what people know him as, and he can flip a switch and be funny in either place.

Follow him on IG, he's very personable on there.

I'm such a huge fan of the co-stars on the NBC mockumentaries. Whether it's Jim or Aubrey Plaza or Chris Pratt or Retta, they were all great all those years ago.

amarubud6 karma

Tap water or bottled? Best place you have experienced tap water?

MadSmatter12 karma

Bottled, except in Wauwatosa, WI. They have state of the art water filtration, and the stuff tastes like magic, no filter needed.

Bpc5014 karma

Congrats on your work. Rock Chalk to Les Miles.

I’m 24 in LA. Wrapping up a Director’s Assistant gig. Just finished writing an original feature over the last 11 months. We’re shooting in two weeks.

Realistically I could make this on 10 grand. I know the distribution game once the film is done.

What kind of investors were you going to? Development Execs? Agencies? How did you land your money?

MadSmatter3 karma

All private. Did my best to go to Development execs and got a few pitch meetings, but they all scoffed at my lack of work. Wish I had gotten to do Director Assisting. Mind if I ask who it was for?

And keep in mind, distribution costs (like E&O and lawyers) can be at least a couple thousand. Can be very easy to run out of money.

obtrae4 karma

Hi there, what sort of case studies did you use, with regards to The Last Whistle?

MadSmatter8 karma

Just replied to Moses Snake with this one... a lot of it was checking things like how many ratings certain films had, where they ranked and what streamers had licensed them, and calling up filmmakers to ask them what to watch out for

Spacepirateroberts3 karma

What do you do as a friend of someone that has their own business but their product is mediocre at best and is also not something you're really interested in but you still want to be supportive?

MadSmatter8 karma

If they're the kind of person who can handle constructive criticism, give it to them. If they aren't, nothing you can say would ever help them and so it's not your responsibility!

chlass3 karma

I graduate this year and want to make something as a capstone.

For making a larger project out of college, especially on a lower budget scale, what do you recommend?

A TV pilot or web series Micro budget feature Spec commercial / high concept short

MadSmatter15 karma

You want something you can sell, and something you'd want to do over and over again as your career in case that's where you get pigeon holed. Hopefully those two things are the same, but if they aren't, it's a tough decision. Micro budget feature is still the easiest to sell, but spec commercial could be the most profitable to create a career from. I'd suggest checking out the career paths of Damien Chazelle, Rawson Thurber Marshall, and Jon Chu.

Negan19953 karma

Did you write/direct this film? Did you have any formal education/background in film before making this?

MadSmatter2 karma

I did! Went to USC.

CDR402 karma

For a startup the rule of thumb is 15x, are investors expecting this type of return for your movie?

MadSmatter3 karma

Fifteen times the investment? I see most movies do between 0.25x and 3x in this budget range, and on the bigger movies anywhere from 0.5x to 15x.

TheCoker122 karma

Did you let Buddy Garrity drive his golf cart around the field?

MadSmatter3 karma

We drove him in an air conditioned chariot.

jack_watson971 karma

how involved were you from start to finish? were you just responsible for the direction or for the writing and production also?

How did you even go about starting this without just assuming you'd fail and so never getting the motivation to do it?

MadSmatter-3 karma

I was born to be a filmmaker. If I'm not doing it, I'll wither away. So it was very much this or nothing for me.

The director will usually be the major driver of a first project, since you don't have tons of money to keep people onboard for months or a year. I had some great help, but definitely had a hand in everything from start to finish, including producing. I was the sole writer, but sent the script for lots and lots of notes.

RidingKeys1 karma

I haven't taken a traditional path to getting into the TV world. I'm now at a point where im comfortable enough editing, shooting, and being in front of the camera that I want to try my hand at filming a pilot project for a potential TV show. It wouldn't be a huge budget but I don't know how to raise the capital to rent out some of the gear I need. How did you approach raising $100,000 for your film?

MadSmatter2 karma

Script, Business Plan, and Actors - If you can't get Brad Pitt, attach somebody that people will recognize (Jim O'Heir was one of our earliest). If the script is good, you can get the actors to pick up the phone. If you have actors, then investors will be interested. If you have the business plan, they'll come on board. I'm not sure what a business plan looks like for a pilot, but it would involve research on other pilots that hit the big time.

barajaj1 karma

How does someone sell a movie script? Do you have to go through an agent?

MadSmatter4 karma

I'm struggling to figure that out. Yes, it's through having an agent or a manager. Beyond that, spec scripts aren't selling like they used to, and it can be very difficult, especially if you don't have something that might end up on the yearly Blacklist.

PsnNikrim1 karma

What's some piece of advice you'd give to 18 year old you?

MadSmatter1 karma

That's a good question. Really good question. There are lots of wild goose chases that have wasted my time, so number one would be avoiding those, but I still learned something every time.

hbeggs1 karma

Congratulations! You're making the rest of us 20-somethings look bad!

As a total outsider to filmmaking, I've always wondered how much stock you guys put into the critical reception of your film. From what you've said, it seems like your film has been an incredible success from a commercial standpoint. A quick Google seems to show that the film has received a fairly lukewarm critique from the "critics," but largely favorable audience reviews. As a filmmaker, what is your take on this aspect of the process? Do you agree/disagree with the critics? Should people even care what the nay-sayers think? Is there an opportunity to use the critiques constructively?

Once again, congratulations on accomplishing something so incredible, and good luck in all of your future endeavors.

MadSmatter0 karma

I'm actually stoked with our critical reception. I knew going into this movie that we were going for commercial success and that critical success would be super hard to accomplish. I was aiming for above 50% on ratings, and I think we got it. IMDb has tanked last week thanks to some international trolls that pirated the movie, so if you'd rate us there, it would help.

MadSmatter0 karma

Appreciate it! And yes, it really is all about using the critics constructively. Forgot to reply to that.

Chaseserious1 karma

Have you already got a new project laid out for yourself? What genre of film would you like to make next?

MadSmatter2 karma

I'd like to attempt something in the half-a-million range, but there's a bunch of interesting stuff I'm trying to figure out right now. Maybe I'll go full biblical next, or another football coach...or maybe just totally thriller. We'll see.

Buckaroo___Banzai1 karma

Big fan here! I read somewhere that you filmed everything in less than two weeks. Is that true? If so, what was the most difficult part of filming everything in such a short period of time?

MadSmatter11 karma

Appreciate it!

Yes, we shot it all in 13 days. Because the film focuses so heavily on Brad's character, and because SAG requires an off day for every 6 work days, 13 days was much better than 15-17. There was a sweet spot at 12-13 days that saved us a huge chunk of change. 18 days would have broken the bank wide open, and we didn't really need the extra day or two with how we were working. We even gave everybody a half day on day 7.

Moreover, we shot ten hour days, rather than twelve. I didn't want the unpaid PA's to have to hang around for 14 hours every day, because they'd give up! So we were doing five hours, lunch, and five hours, usually. Sometimes we'd get out in 8. That was harder than the 13 days, truthfully, but not impossible. I get super bored on sets that go over ten hours, even as the director.

MadSmatter11 karma

The hardest part was maintaining a consistent filmic quality. There were shots that could have been beautiful, or performances that could have been timed without flaw, but instead we couldn't lose the time that we'd need later on, so we had to walk a tightrope on quality tradeoff.

deckard584 karma

I'd imagine that's maybe the hardest part, knowing instinctively when "good enough" is indeed "enough".

MadSmatter3 karma

I had seen bad so many times that I knew when we had hit medium. I've had my 10,000 hours on doomed film sets, haha.

fjperezf1 karma

How was the process to find a composer? I've always wondered if it's via contacts or if there are more ways to become the composer for a film

MadSmatter2 karma

He was a good friend. I would advise watching indie movies you like and seeing if those composers are within your budget range.

MadSmatter2 karma

Or if they have apprentices

AWiseOldApple1 karma

I have a couple of questions so I hope that’s ok.

  1. What’s your next movie going to be about?

  2. How does one get their foot in the door in the world of filmmaking? I know your movie was relatively cheap compared to a lot of movies right now, but 100,000 dollars is still a lot of money. I’m sure money is not the only obstacle, but it seems to me to be the biggest one discouraging people from producing movies. Even if you ignore the money part, creating a film just seems like a monumental task with so many things that could go wrong.

MadSmatter2 karma

Yes, by all means:

  1. Either a Biblical drama that is written with Rotten Tomato reviews in mind, or another movie about a football coach.
  2. It's all about the 10,000 hours. The more time you can spend with your iPhone camera leads to time spent with a DSLR leads to time spent with people using big time equipment, and then positioning yourself to have the experience to know what to do with the big stuff.

bingoflaps0 karma

Everyone knows Les Miles wears a white hat. What is the creative reasoning to leave Les Miles hatless in the bar scene?

MadSmatter6 karma

Les Miles the coach wears a white hat. Les Miles the actor wears a very very small, almost microscopic, white hat. We would have needed a 2500mm telephoto to have any hope of spotting it.

Chakahan342-12 karma

Oh cool you’re 24 I’m so fucking impressed you must be some kind of prodigy omg!!!!!!

What’s the point of saying that unless you’re at least teenager? Seriously you’re a grown adult it’s obvious you’re fishing for some sort of compliment you don’t deserve. You ain’t that young kid

MadSmatter1 karma

I got a lot of flack for being young. While yes, being a teenager is super impressive, being in your early 20's is tough because people think you're green. This industry is dominated by people in their early 40's.