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DVD is NOT Dead! Making MAJOR Money with DVD Distribution with Jeff Santo

DVD is dead! Not so fast. Today’s guest is filmmaker Jeff Santo who has been making major money selling DVDs of his indie films for years.

Jeff has been an indie filmmaker for over 20 years. After been ripped off by a predatory film distributor on his first film he came back with a vengeance with his second film This Old Cub. He turned that film into a big success selling over 40,000 DVDs on my own website, marketing my film directly to his niche audience where he sold a total of 85,000 DVDs.

He repeated the process with his next film, Dead In 5 Heartbeats, which is a fictional feature based on the successful novel by Sonny Barger. The film was successfully released in a 14 city theatre tour, independently, in April 2013. Quickly followed by the 2 disc DVD release, selling in over 70 countries worldwide, and now released digitally on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and Sony Playstation platforms worldwide; swiftly becoming a cult classic amongst the motorcycle culture. He also sold over 30,000 DVDs worldwide, even when DVDs were supposedly a dead format.

If you do not have a niche film you got no shot today! This is the Filmtrepreneur way. Jeff and I get into it in this episode, discussing his methods and techniques.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeff Santo.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Welcome to the indie film hustle podcast episode number 395. Don't break your back finding money for a film making a film editing a film without understanding the business side of the film industry without understanding distribution. If not, they will take advantage of you. They will steal money from you. And you will not make another movie, Mongo Wilder.

Jeff Santo 0:24
broadcasting from the back alley in Hollywood, it's the indie film hustle Podcast, where we show you how to survive and thrive as an indie filmmaker in the jungles of the film biz. And here's your host, Alex Ferrari.

Alex Ferrari 0:37
Welcome. Welcome to another episode of the indie film hustle podcast I am your humbled and quarantined host, Alex Ferrari. Today's show is sponsored by Rise of the film shoprunner how to turn your independent film into a profitable business. It's harder today than ever before for independent filmmakers to make money with their films from predatory film distributors ripping them off to huckster, film aggregators who prey upon them the odds are stacked against the indie filmmaker. The old distribution model of making money with your film is broken and there needs to be a change. The future of independent filmmaking is the entrepreneurial filmmaker or the film entrepreneur. In Rise of the film to printer, I break down how to actually make money with your film projects, and show you how to turn your indie film into a profitable business with case studies examining successes and failures, this book shows you the step by step method to turn your passion into a profitable career. If you're making a feature film series or any other kind of video content, the film intrapreneur method will set you up for success. The book is available in paperback ebook and of course audio book. If you want to order it, just head over to www dot film biz book.com that's film bi z book.com. Before we get started, guys, I set up a special link to help people affected by the Coronavirus and you can donate to feed America there is a lot of people in need out there. And feed America is a great organization. And they're helping millions of people on a daily basis and they also need your help. If you want to donate even five bucks 10 bucks it goes a long way. Head over to indie film hustle calm Ford slash help. Now guys, today on the show, we have filmmaker Jeff Santo, who has a unique story that I've never heard of before that he got screwed by a distributor on his first film out. I had never heard anything like that before. I was shocked and had to come home come on the show. And tell us all about it. No, I'm I'm joking, but it is true. He did get screwed by the first distributor he worked with back in the day with his first movie. And he vowed to never ever work with a distributor again. And he started to self distribute his films. And he had found real success with niche filmmaking meaning that he understood his niche market, targeted that market and sold his movie to that audience. But well how he's done it though, is he's made really big strides in self distributing DVDs to his audience. We're talking about 10s of 1000s of DVDs over hundreds of 1000s over the course of his career. And he continues to do it today. And we're going to get into the weeds about how he was able to do it, how he identifies his niche audience how he markets to that niche audience and how he sells his DVDs as well as other revenue streams from his film. He is definitely walking down the film trip earner path. If I may take something from the Mandalorian This is the way without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Jeff Santo. I'd like to welcome the show Jeff Santo. Man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Jeff Santo 4:01
Absolutely. Alex, good to be here.

Alex Ferrari 4:03
So, you know you reached out to me a little while ago and told me all about how you you basically become you. You were one of the originating film trip runners in many, many ways back in the day, and we're gonna get into all of that. But before we do that, man, how did you get into business in the first place?

Jeff Santo 4:21
Wow, it goes way back. I I helped john Cusack. I was a technical director for john Cusack and eight men out. Wow, yeah. Played. He played the part of buck Weaver, the third baseman for the for the Black Sox, and which was a john Sayles film. Talk about one of the great independent filmmakers have been off the grid and been very successful. So yeah, he didn't know how to play baseball at the time. So I helped him out. train them. My dad came in a few times to to help out. I don't know if you know much about my father. play professional baseball.

Alex Ferrari 5:02
Oh, very cool.

Jeff Santo 5:03
Yeah, I play for the cubs. He's a Hall of Famer for the Chicago Chicago Cubs. That's amazing. Yeah. So that's how it started. He got me a bit part in the movie. And you know, I just fell in love with I was always a movie buff. And I was kind of in transition just got out of college. And I fell in love with the craft. And I just started really studying on my own of how to write a screenplay and went from there. And, and next thing, you know, I got hooked up with Joe Montana, I did a couple of plays and play in Chicago and play in Arizona, and Joe Montana, like my play and set come out to LA, we'll do a reading of it at the Canon theater on canon Boulevard in Beverly Hills, and it kind of started from there.

Alex Ferrari 5:50
That's that's not a bad way to come to LA, my friend. Yeah. That's the way it happens for everybody, I think, isn't it? Yeah.

Jeff Santo 6:01
You don't know how it's gonna start. And there is no one set path talked about,

Alex Ferrari 6:06
though, there's no question about it. And there's so many people who, who try to like, well, this is you know, I'm gonna do it the way Robert Rodriguez did, or I'm gonna do the way Kevin Smith did or I'm gonna do the way Oren Peli delay, or any of these are john sales. Like, there is no one way there's Oh, you know, a lot of times these paths that open up, they open up for a short period of time. And then they close right behind them. So like, there's, like, there's periods of time that that is available to filmmakers. And, like for me, I couldn't do what I did. 11 years ago, when I showed up here in in LA. I mean, I showed up with a final cut system. And I said, Hey, I'm gonna edit and I was able to do it. I showed up today with that same system, I would die.

Jeff Santo 6:51
Exactly. You know, and you just don't know where you're going to go. I mean, if you have a passion for it, and you're dedicated, you know, once I came to LA, I think once you come to LA, you're, you're kind of in now, you know, I mean, it's like people come out and they don't like Elena, it's over. But you know, the ones that really want to stay here and they whether through it, and you have to you don't back back when I started, you know, I came out to LA in 94. And, you know, we were still in the film process. So making a film was difficult. Oh, the steps for a lot. I would say they're more difficult to climb there. There were fewer steps. Now there's many steps, you know, you got to climb a lot more you you have a lot more access and resources to getting a camera and shooting your movie. But back then with film. You know, you talked about being a projectionist. I mean, you know, I remember color timing my first film at ISC. And I see. And I remember one of my assistants on the film, right before my I was doing a color timing. She found Quentin Tarantino's driver's license in her seat. So he was just color timing, Jackie Brown at the time, which I was like, Ah, that's pretty cool. You know, but, you know, and then you carry around those canisters of film which, and, you know, went to a few film festivals, and then found out how difficult it was in distribution from that point.

Alex Ferrari 8:12
So yeah, tell me about your first distribution experience.

Jeff Santo 8:17
Yeah, well, I did a film called liars poker in 98. And I went to the film, I went to Palm Springs and did very well there. And that's before palms, Palm Springs blew up now. I mean, that's the top film festivals now. So, you know, I had a lot of I had a lot of distributors Come at me, I even had, you know, back then. I don't know today, as far as you know, those producer reps that Come on, and you got to get a nice producer rep to rep your film and puts you out there. So finding those guys, you know, that's another swamp that you got to go into. And they lump you with other films. But we had a lot of a lot of offers foreign on the foreign side. And I remember our investor said, No, we're not we're not going to take this one that was healthy at times, like $350,000 for foreign. And I'm like, Guys,

Alex Ferrari 9:11
what was the budget? By the way? What was the budget event?

Jeff Santo 9:12
It was about a million dollars. Okay. I mean, dollars. Yeah, it's it now I would say no one should go out and do a million dollar film on their first film unless you're really tied into the system. You should not do that. You won't get it back. But um, so I wound up taking another foreign deal after we passed on that and I put it into theaters. I kind of for walled it. And I was fortunate to get a blockbuster deal at the time.

Alex Ferrari 9:40
What is this? What is this? What is this blockbuster you speak of sir? Well, blockbuster,

Jeff Santo 9:43
right. The blockbuster to time member they they were taken on independence. Oh, yeah, I remember and boondock Saints did really well in blockbuster, the first one they took on and so I had a connection to the boondock Saints crew and They turned me on to blockbuster. And so you know, at one time, I had 20 cassettes in blockbuster on liars, poker. So it made some money back, but we still got killed. And, and, you know, for a filmmaker, I always say this. Now I say, you know, the one thing, you don't want to own money, you don't want to, you know, that's the worst burden to feel in making a film is that you didn't pay back your investors. So that's a long time. And so when I made my second film, I made sure and my second film was a documentary I did on my father. He was the first major league baseball player to play with Type One Diabetes back in, you know, the early 60s. And he lost his legs later in his life to diabetes. And so I did that story on him when he lost his second leg, and I flashed back into his career. And I was fortunate to get Ivor deutschmann, who was from emerging pictures to get involved with me in putting the film out there. And IRA was the co founder of fine line pictures back in the day, which was the art house entity to New Line Cinema, right? So I told I said, I got screwed on my first film, I want this to go into theaters, I don't want it just to go to Video, and be just a baseball film, you know, just like a typical cub film, because the Cubs had a big audience across the nation. And I wanted to make sure it came out as a film, because, you know, we put a lot of work into it. And I told them that I want to get into theaters first, and then we'll go from there. So IRA, we were the first to go into a theatrical distribution deal that digitally projected our film. So I actually bought the digital projectors into the theater back in 2004. Okay, and so we went into like five different theaters in Chicago and did very well. And then we even went out into like Indiana, the cub market, really, we went into Indiana, Wisconsin, I traveled around that little, you know, the about five states that circled Illinois. And we did very well just on word of mouth. And this is before Facebook and all that social media. And I had a website. And so I was constantly communicating with my audience through our website, doing Q and A's and my father was a broadcaster on wg and radio foot for the Cubs at the time. So I would go on there a lot. And we were really tapped into the market. And we even wound up staying in a theater in St. Charles, Illinois for six months. And it was great because the theater would have an organ in it. So we made it had an organ that did that did you know did take me out to the ballgame before the movie started. And we also put a jar out in the lobby said if anyone wants to donate to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, because my dad's been a diabetic, while he got it in 58, for 30 years. And so I'm the theater wound up raising $10,000 for the foundation just for my film. So that was kind of the feeling that we had on this film. And we did it all on our own. So it was self distributed working as a partnership with Ira deutschmann, in his company called emerging pictures. So I was involved in every aspect of distributing the film. So when it came to releasing the DVD, we had offers from New Line Cinema, a bunch of different places, but the offers were typical, you know, they're, they're just going to take everything and we're not going to see, you know, a majority of the profits. So I told IRA, I really built up a lot of following on our on our website, let's just make the DVD, put it out ourselves and see how it goes. And we we did that. And we wound up making the DVDs for like $1, you know, and packaged in a little box and had a nice poster cover everything. And we wound up selling 40,000 DVDs on our website for 2499.

Alex Ferrari 14:06
Amazing.

Jeff Santo 14:08
Yeah. And we wound up selling merchandise. And so it just became this thing that, you know, just kept on growing. And people knew that when they were buying the film, too. They were they were also a portion was going to jdrf the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. So it just became this thing that that we were controlling on our own. where, you know, the profits came to us from our hard work and also a portion went to jdrf. We wound up like raising over a half a million dollars for jdrf. We even had a guy this is funny that that called my father and said hey, listen, I saw the film seven times. And I was so inspired that I'm going to walk from Arizona to Wrigley Field and Honor your father and the movie. And I said well, maybe we can help you out. So we wound up stage. You know All these spots for him to get support and it took him like six months to make the walk, and Wrigley Field the Cubs got behind us even the governor number time governor but Goya Vich was a big cub fan, who won one of getting a lot of trouble soon after, but he walked with our guy, the last like, block. And then my dad met this guy, the guy came through the right field, wall Wrigley Field and met my father on the mound to a standing ovation at Wrigley Field. So those are the things that we did for marketing of the film. And it just went from there. And it's still selling,

Alex Ferrari 15:35
you know, so so let me so I want to get this straight. everybody listening understands what's going on, you created a product, you control the distribution of the product. And you marketed it to a niche audience, and basically created a little mini business out of that one film alone. Yes. Amazing. Amazing. Isn't that a shocking way of doing business? In the film industry? Like the thing that kills me is that the story that you just laid out? is an outlier. Yeah, it is not, it is not the way business is done. In that's what I'm trying to change. And you obviously pick that up early on. And around the same time as when I did my first film in 2005, where I sold a bunch of DVDs directly to my audience, I knew who my audience was, and basically started the whole film intrapreneur method and model that I I've kind of come up kind of developed over the years it started at that point. But you were doing a version of that without question, but the thing is, this is that well, before I go, I want to go a little deeper into the into the into that, but when you said you got screwed on the first movie, what exactly happened? So you know, did did the distributor, not pay you? Did they you know, did they screw you? How was it specifically if you don't mind me asking?

Jeff Santo 17:01
Yeah, um, well, blockbuster was decent with us. And then we went with the distributor for that. And we hardly saw anything and the foreign distributor, I mean, what they gave us paid for catering. It was it was awful. And it was such a burden for me, that I even went into the hospital from I had atrial fibrillation in my heart, Jesus, I know. And I was young, and they couldn't even say, how did you get this? You know, I said, Listen, I don't I don't do drugs. You know, I drink beer once a while. But this is because of stress. So I was so upset from Matt, that I said, My next film, I'm not going down these links, especially the film that's on my father, I'm going to make sure that I control every aspect of distributing this, where the funds come to us, because just can't trust distributors. And the time. You know, I say this about the traditional method of distributing, you know, these indie distributors. And if you don't get picked up by, you know, a major studio, you are now aligned with these independent distributors, and their whole purpose. Their whole purpose is to grab a bunch of films, yep. And see how much they can make from each one. And then they're done. They'll exploit the hell out of them. And then you're left with hardly anything, I mean, literally nothing. And they don't care because they think that they're doing you a service by putting your film out there, then they don't understand that this is a person's career. Because if you're not picked up by a studio, you know, filmmakers think, Oh, well, if it's out there, wherever it's I'm going to get noticed now, how there is not like that. They don't have scouts, like in baseball that go out and say, Hey, man, this guy did a good film. And at the time, too, I even put this old cub. That's the title of my documentary into Sundance, and Sundance rejected it. And I remember when I was distributed with IRA, he said, I just got back from Sundance, and he knew all the guys at Sundance, because he worked closely with him when he when he ran, fine, fine line. And he said, they want to know why you didn't put this old cover in there. Because what's going on? I have this film with you. And I said I did. And it just goes to show you that it could be some person you watched it for five minutes, has no idea it might not even be a baseball fan. It's not really about baseball. It's about a man and his spirit and overcoming adversity and everything like that. But but you just don't know. It's all subjective, to who's going to look at your film, pass it on to the next level. And that's how it went. And so I said, Hey, I read doesn't matter. We're doing this now. And it wound up we want when we released it in the theaters in five theaters, our screen gross per screen. Gross was number five on indie wire twice. So a documentary, you know, my documentary in the theaters made over $250,000 in the theaters and I made that documentary for 300 grand. So I was already close to being positive, you know, with a couple expenses in that and so once the DVD came, we were ready to rock and roll. We had some money to to finance our DVD product and go from there,

Alex Ferrari 20:03
and how about and you sold a ton of merch as well.

Jeff Santo 20:06
Oh, yeah. And jackets shirts.

Alex Ferrari 20:13
autographed. I'm assuming autographs because of your dad.

Jeff Santo 20:15
Yes. Yep, autographed DVDs. And I learned that through really boondock Saints To tell you the truth, because boondock Saints that story is a horrific one that he went through, I mean that that movie wound up making over 200 million after its blockbuster release, and they saw absolutely almost nothing. The filmmakers, and I know there's a big story behind Troy Duffy and everything that went on with his, the documentary that made on him. And we all know about that. And I knew Troy and I look at that, and that was kind of unfair, because I'm like, Okay, yeah, Troy, Troy went a little off. But he's a he's a passionate filmmaker trying to get his film out there. He's young. Yep. And, and when these guys you know, he gave permission for these guys to do the documentary on him. But at the same time, it's like, wait a second you're making? You're making Harvey Weinstein the hero here. It's David and Goliath.

Alex Ferrari 21:02
Yeah, it doesn't it doesn't it doesn't age. Well, it doesn't do well.

Jeff Santo 21:06
Yeah. It's like, wait on route. I'm rooting for the studio here. You know, I don't care what the guy does. You just look at that whole picture. You go, Wait a second man. You know, he was the first to tell Harvey to eff off. You know, and, and look where Harvey is. Now it's just but that's the system, you can't really give the finger to the to the 800 pound gorilla. The system is the system for a reason. You know, you just want to be treated fairly at some point if you have a decent film.

Alex Ferrari 21:33
Yeah. And there's no question about it. And for everybody who doesn't know the story behind boondock saints. I mean, a lot of people from our generation definitely knows, but it was a, you know, if anybody wants to watch that documentary, it's called overnight. And it you know, over the years after I've watched it many times, I am a fan of it. And it is a cautionary tale and a lot of the things that Troy said in the movie, he obviously did, but it was edited. And it was the story was molded and to go a certain direction. And you're right, they've made the studio the hero and him the villain. With that said, Troy did give him a lot of a lot of ammunition. There's no doubt about a lot of ammunition to it. So but but the point is that you're right. He he was he was young man he was thrown into. I mean, I look at it now as an older filmmaker, and I look at that movie. And I'm like, Dude, this guy was a kid. He had no idea what he was walking into. He was literally thrown into the deep, deep, deep end of the pool. This is hardly at the height of his power. Yep, in night in the mid 90s. When literally he was he was he was the Hollywood God basically coming down from Mount Hollywood, and anyone he touched turned to gold, then it was just a very unique five year eight year period in his career, and Harvey's career. And he this kid comes in he's he you could tell that Troy you know, Troy's from the street. He is he's he's a hustler. And you know, he's a you know, ex bartender, and he wasn't good at and he was from, but it was a Boston, where was he from? Boston? Yeah, yeah, he's in Boston. So he's not gonna take any crap from some Hollywood, you know, aihole. And he didn't understand the politics. He didn't understand the game. He didn't understand what was going on. And it was a very dangerous mix. I had a very short version of that in my early, early career. But I had a gangster, who was literally on top of me the entire time. So my ego didn't get a chance to really get out of hand.

Jeff Santo 23:32
Right. Right. I,

Alex Ferrari 23:34
you know, honestly, because if I would have been thrown in Troy's situation at at the age that he was at when it did it. I'm not I don't know how, I don't think I would have gone as far as he did. But I know it would have been I would have suffered, I would have destroyed myself. There's just no question. Yeah.

Jeff Santo 23:51
I think you're right, man. And I look at that, too. I got to know Trump Really? Well. I mean, we became friends. And I got to know like, there's a friend at New Line Cinema that we both had a mutual friendship with. And he said, Hey, listen, man, there's this film because he liked liars, poker. And he said, You got to check out this film boondock saints, it's playing at Technicolor screening for some of the execs, why don't you go over there and watch it. I went over it and watch it. I'm like, wow, this is an independent film. This kid did this, you know? And I'm like, I was impressed. You know, I'm like, this is unbelievable. I haven't really talked to many guys that are doing what I'm doing. Because at the time, it was difficult to make a movie, you know? Um, so I was like, I like to meet him and so we met and we hit it off because I think I was the first filmmaker that put myself out there to with a film that he could talk to and so we got along in a different way. And it was it was post all the all the drama he went through with Harvey was already put aside so yeah,

Alex Ferrari 24:49
and from my understanding, like, he had a lot more control over the sequel, and he made money on the sequel if I'm not mistaken. Is that right?

Jeff Santo 24:57
Yeah. And I he did he did with Sony and I always told him with a sequel I said, Man, you should do this your own because on your own because Troy, what happened was him and his producing partner and their and their wives opened up a website and said, Hey, listen, we're not making any money off for a movie, and it's doing great, let's sell the merchandise because we own the merchandise, it's the only thing they didn't have in the contract, because let's start selling a Mercedes. So they put up like, just this image of a T shirt without even making their first t shirt and just got all these orders. And next thing, you know, they, they, they rolled it into a hot topic deal with hot topic at the time, that was really big. And they just blew it out. I mean, it was like, wow, they now had money coming in. And they were starting to be able to live

Alex Ferrari 25:43
off of merge or merge only

Jeff Santo 25:45
almost kind of like what the rock and rollers are doing the day. Yeah, they don't make their money on really their their events they make on certain emergency events. That's how it's coming. So when he did that, I said, Okay, my film with this will come and go on the same route. But I'm going to do the DVDs too. So I said, Just imagine true if you had your DVDs how much money he would have made if he owned the movie himself. So I always said do the second one on your own. But he was still he wanted to get tied in the system. And he went that way. And he still did very well. But it's sad. It's It's sad how it turned out. But I'm I'm glad how he got through it all. And then yet, the guys that made the film on them, they were friends to start out with and you know how that goes. Everyone out here, it gets ugly. And you look back and it shouldn't went that way. But I always said I always maintained that, you know, that film didn't do anything for indie filmmakers, because I want to see the other side like it's you know, you don't know what's happening with the big guys that are coming on top of you and telling you what to do and where to go and how to do this. And so that was the only disappointment on it all but but I learned so much from what he did by just starting his website of how I can do it now from a fresh start of starting my film this way.

Alex Ferrari 26:56
So you sold 40,000. And the thing that was which is brilliant about your story is that you had a resource and I preach about this constantly, is you check that what you had available to you and you wanted to tell the story about the things you had available to you, which are obviously your father, and you wanted to tell the story about your father. But then you also had a connection to the to the Cubs organization skybell Cup organization, Wrigley Field communities, and you're like, wait a minute, I can leverage these relationships and build and tap into an audience that wants this product. And you did that wholeheartedly. Coming from a really good place even giving to charity off of it. And that's another that's another great another great thing you were able to do is you were able to partner with an organization to help that organization that brings more attention to your product. It positions you better in the marketplace, even though I know wasn't about that but it does help as well. And and at the end of the day you were able to you know, where did you make Where do you think you were you made the most revenue from that film? Was it from the theater? Was it from the DVDs? Or was it from the mirch

Jeff Santo 28:05
DVD? 100% DVD? 100% DVD but the thiet what the theater did it gave me exposure that this is a this was a real movie correct? So so that made a DVD sell. And so when when we were doing so well on our website, I said well how can I get into the retail end of it. And so what I did is I made a deal with Walgreens, personal deal with Walgreens in Chicago. So it was right around the holidays that Walgreens put us in I think 600 stores and we made our own like display case sent packaged with 12 DVDs in them and to all these Walgreens and they kept on filling them up. So they couldn't they couldn't keep them in. And so I also made another deal with cub foods which is which was a was kind of like grocery store outlet and Chicago in the Illinois area. And that was gangbusters. So we we did very well with that part of it too. And we wound up selling at the end of the day about 80,000 DVDs.

Alex Ferrari 29:05
So you sell 40,000 DVDs through your website and then wholesaling it out and making these deals with other chains. You were able to distribute your film through them I made and sold another 40,000

Jeff Santo 29:17
Exactly. And we the wholesale price was around $11.11 $12

Alex Ferrari 29:22
that was yeah and it cost us about $1 to make

Jeff Santo 29:25
even in our retail business we were making 10 bucks each pop off the DVD

Alex Ferrari 29:29
sheezus man and it's also it was arguably regional so you know I talked about the regional cinema model and this is a version of that because not everyone this is this is not a movie for everybody. This is a movie for people who love the Cubs and a little bit maybe have a spill off anyone who's interested in baseball you know baseball documentaries, but there's so much competition with baseball documentaries that it's hard to get noticed but it because it you are focusing on people who are interested in the Cubs and based ball, you were able to penetrate that audience fairly easily. And then also kept it regional. So you weren't just selling it on your website, you were also going out and doing your theatrical and making these deals for regional releases of your film all on your own in a time where that wasn't really done. And it's still not done as much as what you're talking about. That's really filmed very much film shoprunner oriel spirits.

Jeff Santo 30:27
Yeah, well, thank you. And it all stemmed from getting burned on my first film.

Alex Ferrari 30:32
And it was a painful and I'm sure that was painful.

Jeff Santo 30:34
It was very painful. And it's still it's still painful when I think about it. And but with this old cub, yeah, it was, it was to a point where the word of mouth just worked on it, you know, and back then two documentaries weren't exploding. right out. You know, you're still you're still you know, you're still is 2004. And then, but the big documentary that also helped me in the making of it was the kid stays in the picture. Yeah, beautiful film. And they were doing a lot of different things there with Photoshop. So we do like second document because we came right around the corner of that picture. And so I did a lot of Photoshop stuff where, you know, Major League Baseball, if you if you use major, any footage from major league baseball, they charge you 7000 a minute. So I used a lot of photos from my dad that I wouldn't have I lose probably like seven minutes of total game footage. So it was really, you know, I was able to follow my dad around, like you said, the Cubs helped out. They they gave us access to Wrigley Field, they let me travel with my father. You know, at the time, he had two prosthetic legs and was announcing for the cubs. So I would follow him. And so he had, he had like two careers. He had the baseball career. And then he became the broadcaster and the big fan. And in the broadcast booth that everyone loved as a player, he was this hard nosed guy. And in the booth, he was this lovable fan. So that added to our film. And plus, our film did have a universal take on it, meaning it wasn't just baseball If yes, your baseball fans are gonna love it more. And my whole thing about that was, you know, I want to make sure that the cub fans are like, hey, they're gonna call me out if, if there's some things in here don't jive. So I got to get that right. But I really was making the film for someone that wasn't a baseball fan that can just take the journey with this man. You know, so you got to look also in making a film like okay, yeah, you got your market. But hey, make it universal, because it can bleed out into others. And right now it's, you know, it's on iTunes and still doing okay,

Alex Ferrari 32:33
you know? Yeah. Because you you have, you have a niche built in niche audience. And that it's evergreen, it's an evergreen product, it is something that will live on for many years to come. I'm assuming you still make revenue with it every every year. Correct. We make a little

Jeff Santo 32:47
we make a little you know, but it's, it's it's nice that it's still out there. Like if someone can access it right now. I'm just glad people can access my dad's father, whether I make money on it or not, you know, right. Can they access the story?

Alex Ferrari 32:59
Right, exactly, exactly. But you know, you made, I mean, obviously, in the lifecycle of a film, you're gonna make a lot most of your money up front. But if you could still generate revenue, and I'm sure if you actually started to pump in some energy to it, it might actually make more money in today's world, but you're good at and you just want to get it out there. And you've you've you've been able to generate as much revenue as you can. But you know, you did you did phenomenally with it. And that's, that's a that's an amazing story. Now, did you when you you built your audience, or at least you cultivated that audience. you're leveraging the relationship with the Cubs and, and the access that your dad had with that, that? That fan base? Correct.

Jeff Santo 33:43
Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 33:44
1%. And then also, did you collect emails during like theatrical screenings or anything like that to like, be able to direct market?

Jeff Santo 33:53
Yeah, we we had so many emails that we responded to so many people wrote into us. Yeah, we were on top of that every day. I mean, we had an office right on Ventura Boulevard, where we did all the packing, shipping everything. So everything rented office just busting out DVDs, answering emails, answering anything, if a DVD was scratched, or whatever we were customers company to at the time, you know, you have to be so and it was my dad, so I was gonna make sure that everything went the right

Alex Ferrari 34:22
way. Yeah, this was an emotional this is this is not just the business opportunity. This was an emotional and artistic expression of what you want to do and Honor your father. So it has a different vibe than just you know, I just created a widget. But at the end of the day, but at the end of the day, though, you you you're still able to create art, but you were able to generate revenue from that art and able to do a lot of good with that film, like being able to raise all the money you did for that for the charity as well as generate revenue for yourself and your family and your father. Yep,

Jeff Santo 34:59
yep. And, you know, at the time, too, I remember you know, you've heard of Peter Broderick right.

Alex Ferrari 35:05
Of course, I just had him on the show just had him on the show. There you go.

Jeff Santo 35:07
There you go. Well, Peter Broderick had a, at the time I did this, he knew Ira deutschmann. And IRA got me on one of his panels. I think it was around 2005. And I was up there with the writer, director of Blair Witch, who also got

Alex Ferrari 35:23
Eduardo back.

Jeff Santo 35:25
Forgot, who was the the guy's name,

Alex Ferrari 35:27
it was one of the two who said, What are the other guy for them?

Jeff Santo 35:30
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, we were up there talking about our films. And, you know, it was sad to see what he went through to, that made so much money. Um, but my model really inspire a lot of filmmakers that were at this event, I think I was and Peter even use my model throughout for a while, because I think I was one of the first to do it to say, okay, we're gonna go out there, we're going to we're going to control the the theatrical distribution, and then we're going to control the selling of the DVD market. 100%. I didn't give it up to until that kind of ran out. Then I said, Okay, I brought us another distributor that we can go and give it off to and see if they can go out there farther with and we did. And that still didn't turn out great.

Alex Ferrari 36:12
Yeah, I mean, so anytime you do anytime you do, generally speaking, and I'm not gonna say everyone, but generally speaking, when you deal with a distributor, their interest is not to generate revenue for you. their interest is to make as much money as they can from exploiting the film and putting that money in their pockets. That's the business model. Am I wrong?

Jeff Santo 36:33
Yeah, about the distributors, that that they don't they don't care about making money for the filmmakers, that the system that they have. And the way I look at this is, you know, you talk about the old traditional model that the model was always bad for filmmakers. There was never a good model there. You know, if you think going back to the days of Scorsese, and Copeland all those guys, those guys were true independent filmmakers, that their model was the studio. So it really didn't start coming around until like you were talking about sex lies and videotape is when the independent market started. really come into life. Um, although I think Michael Mann steef was amazing. That's kind of what got me into filmmaking. Oh, yeah. Yeah, but the model was, it's even if you look at it, they they don't even take on the pension and, and, and, and health part of these union films, so they go on to sploit your film, but they're not even responsible for paying pension and well, so you wind up having the guilds come after your LLC.

Alex Ferrari 37:37
Yeah, so I was gonna ask you about that because I heard about the issue you had with the DGA? What was exactly what happened in the dream before everyone listened to the DJs a Directors Guild of America. So what happened there?

Jeff Santo 37:48
Yeah, on this film, I did Jake's corner which I went back to the old, the old traditional model because I couldn't find a niche there. I thought I had a niche, but I didn't. Is that is that once it's out there, and they exploited the DGA comes, tracks how it's doing all the guilds do and say, okay, you owe this, they owe this much money for the director who I was the director of the time, that forfeited my DGA union fees to just do the movie. And so they're, they're actually calling me and saying, you know, we got you this money, that we know that you're owed this, but we're coming after the company that did so well, I'm part of the company, you know, you're gonna try and get money from them to pay me they paid for my movie, you can't do that, you know. And so they do that with everything. So it's the Actors Guild to and the Writers Guild. So all that comes after you to pay these fees when you're not getting any of the of the revenue, it's going to go into the distributor. So the distributor gets the flow of the money, they should be responsible for paying the unions because they're holding the money, but they're not responsible, none of these distributors. And that's where they get away with it. They're not responsible for it. So you're going to get hit again by by your film doing well out there but you're not seeing any the dollars in the unions are going to come after you your LLC, who was responsible for making the movie.

Alex Ferrari 39:12
And that's but that's only if you are if you're if you use people. So So if so perfect example is a film that I a friend, a friend of ours of the show, Michael polish and Mark polish, who did a movie called for lovers only. They were the first digital DSLR films ever. And they made a half a million dollars selling this no budget, independent film on iTunes. And it starred. It starred he's a DJ, he was a DJ member. And the star was a SAG member but they didn't sign a deal with sag so and they weren't going to punish the star because she was a big TV star at the time and they're not going to go after her. So So sag was basically basically had no power, but the DGA Gave him nothing but how. Because Because these, these these, these unions, which are, on one hand are really great, but on the other hand are built on the old system. They're built on the studio system. That's why it took so long for sag. And now the DGA to even think about independent low budget micro budget, filmmaking, they were stuck. They're stuck in the studio system because those guilds run on the studio system. Without the studio system and the deal that they've made with the studio systems. They don't function. So the independence are, you know, they try to they try to treat independence like the studios, and that's just not going to work. Perfect example your situation.

Jeff Santo 40:43
Yes. And and that's why I did so well with the documentary because that's not union. And then, and like your buddy you just talked about, that was smart. Now the actor might get some flack, but they have to be laid off. Because whose I look at this, too? It's like an actor to cross over and do a non union film, it's like well is, is the union getting you work? If they're not, then you got to do it, you got to work man. So that I always say you should not do a union film because you're going to get hit twice, you're not going to receive the money and the revenue, and then you're going to get hit by the unions. So you the only the films that I succeeded on were both non union films.

Alex Ferrari 41:20
Mm hmm. It was without without question. And, and again, it's all about in their art like with sag, there are definitely micro budget ways of going about it. Especially if you're doing very low budget films. So you can't work with sag DGA, you generally don't have to worry about on a $250,000 below film, generally speaking, right? Right, it does happen. And those are the only two I mean, the Writers Guild as well, you have to worry about if you bring in a W GA, but generally at that budget range, you're still not dealing with those kind of those kind of people. So it is it is a concern, definitely. And you as a DJ member, which is fascinating that you are a member and they're screwing you.

Jeff Santo 42:04
They don't understand. So they're right sending me letters are sent. I'm part of the company that made the film. So you're actually coming after me, I'm the director, part of this company that got the financial backing of it. And, you know, we haven't seen $1. So you can't ask this company to pay me more money. It's just not fair. I was just, that's who I am. I'm like, I can't take this money. So I had to go sit down and say, I'm not going to take the money. I'm just not, you know, because we haven't seen anything these guys put a lot of money out. And you know, it's been a big burden. And you're just you're asking to put more money out to pay me. You know, it doesn't make any sense. And so there should Yeah. And you're right about that. It's, you know, it's it's one of these things where these distributors, and that's why like, now the distributors, the only reason that we're starting to hear more about how tough it is today is because the distributors are hurting now, because they can, you know, it should have went back to when the filmmakers can't make money. You know, and I believe there should be a whole new system, I always talked about that there should be some kind of system, that that needs some power behind it, where, you know, because everyone starts out with a great idea until it gets corrupted, right. But but it's like, the idea has to be filmmakers, that that has some power behind them where they can control their films, you know, because not every film is going to get bought by a studio at Sundance, those are lottery picks a lot of those, you know, you want to go in it.

Alex Ferrari 43:27
And that still doesn't guarantee anything nowadays,

Jeff Santo 43:29
it doesn't and and even back back when, you know, yeah, the low budget sags, the ultra low budget, if you make a really great film and get picked up by a studio, well, that's the way to go. But that is a lottery ticket. And so if you have to be smarter than that, to change the system, and you have to really put the work in to say where's my market, if there could be a system that could work with filmmakers, and have a system just for the indie film, The off the grid indie film, I'm not talking about these companies that say they're independent, when they're working with stars, and, and they're really connected to the studio, I'm talking about the off the grid that that you and I have done, you know, because there's a lot of money out there. And obviously, you know, it was a $3 billion business at one time. And where did that money go? You know, well went to a lot of distributors. But it didn't go to a lot of filmmakers. And now they're not even seeing that money anymore, because the system was always broken. Well, now it's like, can you if someone could come up with what we can generate, that could take care of some of these. I wouldn't call them be films or independent films that might might be missing here and there, but they still have a market, you know, then then you might find something. But I've always preached that and I don't know what that is. I tried it at one time. And I'm just like, it's hard to duplicate our model. Every film is different. But you know, it's for the films that don't have a niche market that they could be lumped in with the other indies that people could come and look at. But today, there's so much content that I don't know how you can get it done.

Alex Ferrari 44:59
We'll be right back. After a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. I think the I think the greatest power and the greatest tool that a filmmaker independent filmmaker has today is the niche. It is it cuts through all of the noise. Like I like perfect example your film old, the old, this gold cub. If I'm scanning through Netflix or prime, or wherever I'm watching my stuff, and I see your film, if I'm a Cubs fan, that jumps to the top of my priority list of watching or consuming content, it cuts through all the other stuff that the studios are pumping billions of dollars to get in and front of my eyeballs, that film will cut through all of it because of it is something that interests me. So the power of the niche is, honestly, I feel the only thing that will will help a filmmaker survive in this new film economy that we are in and get walking into. It's getting harder and harder and harder. And I don't know if you heard the, the, my episode Wags at the death of traditional film distribution. Yeah, I mean, it's, it was so sad to watch at AFM where I was walking around talking to distributors, they have no idea how to make money anymore. Because they're old, the old structure, the old system is breaking down around them. Every month that goes by there's a new thing that knocks that system down a little bit. And it's getting worse and worse, it's getting harder and harder. So they're becoming more and more predatory. They're holding on to the money even more, they're there, they're literally cooking books, there's so many things that are being done, because they just, they're getting desperate. And if they think this desperate, now I said that and I'll say it again, wait till we hit the next financial, you know, disturbance in the Force, you know, when we have the next downturn, which we're do, we're overdue. So when that happens, I honestly think that the whole system is going to come crashing down. And this, the old system is going to come crashing down and hopefully something new will come out of the rubble, but it's not going to be what it is. And again, this happened with publishing and it happened in the music industry. Exactly. And

Jeff Santo 47:17
I and again, going back to the the old, traditional way of distributing, I still think you know, you don't want to be in that you're, you know, you might have got an advance, you know, a small advance and now they're not giving any advances. But you know, they were always cooking the books, man that you know that you could, you know, there's a few good ones out there, probably I can't put everyone down. But I didn't find any, you know, and, and I gotta tell you, that just, it's just unfair, it's unfair, because they don't work with the unions, they're on their own. They know that these filmmakers, some of them have bigger budgets than others, and they're never going to see a dime. So I don't think you know, their intentions are to, to really work with the filmmaker and care about what they have to get back in return. So that system to me once I got burned, and I got burned again, which is my fault, because I didn't have a niche marked with the film. But then I did a film after that, which was not a documentary that dealt with the motorcycle club culture. I did the same thing as this old club, and I succeeded again, and this was in 2013, with DVDs, and I sold over 30,000 DVDs into the motorcycle club culture, you know, and said, it can work, you got a niche, you can work but DVDs are starting to fade now. And now you're dealing with streaming and among the streaming sites, but I waited to do streaming until my DVD kind of trickled out. So but you're not going to make much on these streaming sites. And you know, you're talking about people renting it for you know, 399 and buying it for 999. If you're lucky that they'll buy it or rented they

Alex Ferrari 48:54
don't do that anymore.

Jeff Santo 48:55
Right? And you don't so so you're talking about, you're competing with all the big films on these streaming sites. So someone to find your film, like you just talked about has to be a niche. So my film did well, because this is a niche in the motorcycle culture. So unless you have a niche, you should not be making an independent film. But I'm not saying don't make it just know that you got to keep your costs down. And you've got to make something really special and very original. And that takes time. And that takes experience.

Alex Ferrari 49:24
Yeah, no question. And so if we took what you did with this old club, because I know a lot of people listening, because filmmakers are the most cynical crowd in the world. Without question they're gonna go well, you know, it was 2004 and DVDs, he make money with DVDs back then even 2013 you can make money with DVDs. You can't do that now. So like if we took this old cub and released it today, if this whole club would have never been released originally, and you still had access, you still have all the access to the audience that you could. What do you think would happen in today's world do you think you would be able to generate A good amount of revenue from t VOD, which you know, with his rentals and purchases on digital platforms. But would you make more money from appearances with your father? Would you make more money with the mirch? Would you make more money with theatrical making events out of it? How would you change that model a little bit in today's world?

Jeff Santo 50:23
Okay, yeah, that's a that's a loaded question. Um, with my father's documentary, I might go directly to like a Netflix with it, because it had that much weight. I mean, I think that they might have worked with me in doing it. So that's one avenue. That's one revenue stream. Yep. I would probably say I want to own the DVD part of it. Sure.

Alex Ferrari 50:44
But they're still they're still gonna sell some DVDs even today. Yeah,

Jeff Santo 50:47
yeah, they are. Because the niche, you know, people still have their DVD players, and they want to own something, and especially if you make it a collectible. But then also

Alex Ferrari 50:55
the other thing, too, I just want to I don't mean to interrupt you. The one other thing too is who is the audience. So it's the audience for your documentary about your father, an older audience than DVD is still a viable option, because a lot of that audience still consumes DVD Redbox is still a thing. People still rent. So it depends on the generation, and on the generation that your of your audience because they will, a lot of people will still buy DVD, like my mom and my father, they they did notice that, like streaming is magical to them. You know, it's like, it's like magic, like, what is that? What do you mean, the internet, like, they just they don't get it. But you give them a DVD. They're like, I understand what this is. So they're still for this kind of product. If I was consulting you on this on this scenario, I would say no DVD is still very viable because of the audience you're targeting. Does that make sense?

Jeff Santo 51:46
It totally makes sense. I'm with you. 100% on that, too. And the thing is, though, will it hit as many people if you get it on Netflix, some some or an Amazon Prime, one of the big players that actually work with you, you know, I mean, so I do feel that that particular project this will come I would have got a meeting that at those companies. Yeah. And and so I'm just saying for exposure, why your film getting out wider, it'd be great to have on Netflix as as a release or an Amazon or a Hulu, you know, so I look at that and go, Okay, I'm playing between both. Do I want to really hit the pavement real hard? No, I got to work so hard, just get eyeballs on this. But I do agree that the older crowd will buy those DVDs. And I did that with my motorcycle club film that came out in 2013. That DVD was still alive and I but I did a different DVD. This time. I did a two disc DVD, I did a makeup because we shot in real motorcycle clubs. So I want to show that. And so I did a 16 page booklet. So I made this a really fancy DVD. Little more expensive, like 250 to 75. But then I still I sold it for 30 bucks to start with, right to my culture. And and when and when. And so and it's still going I mean, seven years later, it's it's sold in every foreign country from us. So we were selling I mean, literally we sent DVDs out to I think a lot of them, believe me a lot.

Alex Ferrari 53:11
And also don't forget, and I think also everybody in the audience should understand too is DVD is still a thing overseas. You know, streaming is not taken over the world completely. A lot of a lot of other markets in Europe, in Asia and South America. DVDs still the preference the way people consume media. So they're still DVD is not dead by any stretch of the imagination.

Jeff Santo 53:36
It's not that at all, I mean, I'm still getting DVD screeners from the DGA, and double GA, you know, so they sent out the screeners. Everyone has the DVD, so it's like that it's but but like you I By the

Alex Ferrari 53:46
way, and I do need any I need you to but I need to borrow those DVDs on laptops. Okay.

Jeff Santo 53:52
You got it. I got mine over. Anytime. Anytime. Yeah, good. So I do think like, it's an older audience that that does watch the DVDs, and it's it's still out there. That's eventually going to go away. So I do think that you know, your concept of making it for the least amount of money as possible. That's the first thing you have to do a lot of these young filmmakers think go big, you know, no, don't go big. Do not go big. And and they get a lot of advice from people that aren't in the business, which which don't take advice from people who aren't in the business, take a walk or clever walk them.

Alex Ferrari 54:27
Yeah, I love people that take advice from people who've never done it. Yeah. And I know and I don't mean that, like, there's two topics. There's people like, you know, there's there's coaches, who are like screenwriting coaches, and they and their teachers and their academics, and they have a lot of value, no question about it. But when you're talking to a filmmaker about filmmaking and selling their movie, and they've never made a movie, this does that make sense? If you're just an executive that you know, like and not

Jeff Santo 54:57
even an executive, some of these guys that are out there with selling products and they've never done it. It's fascinates me It fascinates me it just it pisses me off to me to man and and Aleksey like you were saying there's there's friends I have in the business are doing well, that have never gone through what I went through. So they have no idea yet. I mean, they're making studio deals, they don't know, the other side, the off the grid site, like we know, you know, so to have knowledge of both, I think it's a very valuable thing. And so when I saw you speak about it, and like, thank God, someone's pushing this forward, you know, people need to listen, you know, because, you know, there's nothing worse than people throwing in money on a film that doesn't make any and now we all got a bad rap, that there's no money to be made an independent film. You know, it's like, how can we turn that around? So you know, I'm always about the opposite, go small, go as small as you can, the more you're restrained, the more creative you're going to be, you know, the more the more things you have, the more they're going to be less creative, and you're going to make a big pile of crap.

Alex Ferrari 56:02
No. It know exactly. And that like I like I use my movie on the corner of ego and desire. The one I shot at Sundance, I made the movie about three grand, you know, and it's an experimental film. I mean, I shot a movie in four days, that's experimental, like I couldn't, in good conscience spent $50,000 on that movie, right now. And that's a it's a fairly niche movie. I mean, it's a niche movie for a niche audience, which are filmmakers, which is an audience that I haven't cultivated, and could easily sell that movie to that audience. But I still wouldn't spend $50,000 on it, it just doesn't make financial sense. The ROI is not there. Could I make $50,000 off of it? Could I make 100,000? Possibly no question. But I'd rather make it for 3000. And make 20,000. That'd be like, man, I killed it, you know. And then let's not even talk about the other revenue streams that come off of that movie, whether it's consulting, whether it's, whether it's other opportunities, whether it's books, whether it's like there's so many other revenue streams are coming off that movie, that's not directly about the exploitation of the film itself, which as I also believe, is the future of independent film, it is to be able to control revenue streams, diversify those revenue streams as much as humanly possible. And the exploitation of the film itself, if you can make some money with it great. But it's generally a marketing tool. And it's this is the model that the music industry has taken on, like people aren't musicians aren't making as much money on music, the sale of music itself as much as they used to. They're making it everywhere else. Is that is that correct?

Jeff Santo 57:33
Yeah. Not even close. Yeah, exactly. I know a few big ones that Yeah, exactly. They make it on touring and their merchandise.

Alex Ferrari 57:39
You. I mean, you had one of your documentaries off the boulevard, which we'll talk about in a second. You had any veteran? Do you talk to him about that specific thing? Because I remember we were on Pearl Jam specifically, for people who don't know and are You're much, much younger than you are I? Pearl Jam was one of the biggest bands of the 90s. And they were really, like they they fought the system hard. And they fought tic they've talked, they fought ticket master. They fought that the whole music industry, and they kind of went on their own way. And they started to build out their own business model. But tell me what do you know about I'm fascinated to know how, how they've been able to continue what they do, because they're artists, they make money with their, their, their products and their music? How do they do it? What do you know about it?

Jeff Santo 58:26
Well, yeah, they have a huge warehouse in Seattle. And yeah, they're their own company. Now. I mean, they still from their name, they're gonna, they're gonna sell in the big mark, you know, in the big stores, but they control everything. You know, and, and Eddie said, Man, he says, you know, we go on tour, it's, it's the merchant that that makes it for us. You know, we break even on on what we sell for tickets, you know, it's changed, but before they had albums coming out, and it'd be like, Oh, look at our albums do and they go on tour to sell the album, it's the opposite. Now they go on tour to sell the mirch you know, and keep it rolling. And the

Alex Ferrari 59:01
album and the album sells the tour.

Jeff Santo 59:04
Yeah, right. Right on exactly. 100% way different, you know, and so, but they, they're there. Yeah, they're at the top of the heap, but they are independent, the top of the heap, you know, they their mirch that they have at their warehouses. It's unbelievable. It's, it's nonstop, you know, and, and he, you know, he such a great guy that, you know, he he helps charities, you know, so they're, they're involved in the community, too, you know, so, they're just, they're an anomaly of a band, really. But it's, it's tough in that world. And it's in the same with the independent world, man, you know, like, I like I say, to these independent filmmakers, you know, you just, you got to really hone your craft, you know, and don't jump into it right away, because I think we all jump into a quick we all get a little delusional To start with, that's how you, you go on this path, but then you got to get real, and you gotta, you gotta you gotta you gotta listen, and you got to collaborate. You know? We all we're all born with different perspectives. Okay? So, you know, it's, it's about that and I just I just hope you know that, that people because, you know, Alex, there's so many film schools now that these kids are paying money they think they're gonna be the next you know? Yeah, okay so so so let

Alex Ferrari 1:00:24
me I'm gonna put it out, I'm gonna put it out there right now and I've said this multiple times like I speak, I speak and I teach at colleges all the time. And and that's great and there is a place for them. But I think that in today's world, if a filmmaker is spending 60 7040 $50,000, or I know people who are spending $120,000, on on film schools, that that's debt that you will never be able to get out. And look, if you can afford it, God bless, go do it. It's fun. It's great. I had a great time in my my film, school, my film, school cost 18 grand, it was a year and I was I paid it back within four or five years, it was paid back. But when you walk into this business, and this is the real truth, and please back me up on this, Jeff, the real truth is, when you walk into this business, it's going to take you four to five years to start making any sort of serious, like serious money that you can live off of, if you're in LA, it can even be longer, but it's gonna take you a while to be able to start generating real revenue unless you get a job somewhere, or something like that, you're lucky enough to get that but when you were starting, you know, you're you're a little bit older than I am no offense. But I'm not gonna, by the way, I'm not that far off. But so our generations, the competition was a lot less. Like, I mean, I walked in, I graduated college in 96. And in 96, there was still money flying everywhere, there was just a lot of money flowing around still. And the competition for for editors was where I came in, up to up the ranks and post was minimal. In today's world, it's almost impossible to generate revenue like that, unless you're able to create certain scenarios and businesses and I, you know, do multiple things, you can't just be one thing, you have to be 50 things to be able to generate a living, you're going to take a long time for you to develop that and these and you're going to have this debt, this this abac albatross around your neck that you can never get rid of, I think the ROI on a film school education in today's world, depending on the on the cost, it doesn't make any sense.

Jeff Santo 1:02:36
I'm with you. I'm with you, man. I really am. And, you know, I don't want to be discouraging to young filmmakers, you know, I want to you know, give as much advice that that takes them down a road where they don't have to go through the pains that others have gone through. I mean, that's, that's what happens when you get older, you want to help someone who's younger, that doesn't go through same stuff you've gone through, but I agree with you on that. I think, you know, coming out to LA or New York, you know, you like I said you got to find hone the craft, actor, director, dp, you know, find a position and get a job doing it first, you know what I mean? And rather than just going out and trying to be something before you have any kind of experience, it's tough to do, you know, it really is and you just get lost with it. But I think that's the different part now people could come out and do that before but now i would i would be more reserved and to say get your feet wet get to know the business a little bit because it is it's changing so much that I think the streaming part of it is you know, it's kind of the the doorway to independent now because I think Netflix in these places will take We'll take a good script and look at it you know, if the person's comes out of a nice school, and maybe they're getting into film school, because they wrote a nice script that got them in that path I would go with, if you want harder it's

Alex Ferrari 1:03:55
it's it again, it's it's it's a lottery ticket, look to get us to get the development deal out of Netflix, which they're not doing that kind of stuff. They're not taking unknown quantities, they're not taking those risks. They're taking people who have at least one film and have to have a certain kind of film that maybe give them some money to do a second one and so on. And, you know, Netflix is not in the business of taking the film school student who had a cool short film and giving them $10 million to go make a movie that's not the business that Netflix or any of these streaming platforms are but if they make one big hit movie that maybe made no money, but the guy or the girl has a voice. I've interviewed those those filmmakers and and Netflix is giving those those filmmakers a chance but things are changing daily. So what was true six months ago is not true today in Netflix world and like I sold my first film to Hulu two years ago that I can't sell that movie today. Hulu is not buying literally they've stopped buying because Disney took control of Hulu after they bought Fox. So that stopped. Like there is no it's kind of like your your Walking, but every time you walk, the ground shifts in front of you where you thought it was solid ground is now is moving. And sometimes there's daggers there. And sometimes there's a hole. There are

Jeff Santo 1:05:11
a lot of them of big chasm, no doubt about it.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:14
Yeah, it's in. And that's what I'm preaching So, so loudly. And that's why I wrote the book that I did. Because I want filmmakers to understand that you have to understand the marketplace, you have to understand the ever changing marketplace. And if you if you're making a movie with the mentality of five years ago, you're dead. Yeah.

Jeff Santo 1:05:33
And it's more going back to Robert Rodriguez and how he did you have to show your filmmaking skills? Yeah, and then people are gonna notice. And to do that is to do it again, like you have preached Alex, to do it with the least amount of money possible. Yep. And I talked about restraints have restraints, so that you become more creative, find a good team that are dedicated, you know, but not everyone's going to climb the ladder with you, you got to have a vision, you got to be original. And I think the first thing is, try and be the best filmmaker, you can before you become one. That's I mean, you got to do the work before you get the work, you know, so that's just the reality of the film business, or go into the film business and get a job within the film business, whether you're going to go into TV, then try and be an assistant as a writer or something. But, you know, but the real true off the grid ones, I still want those people to succeed, obviously, we do, you know, but the way for that to happen is that you got to have a film community, you know, someone has to build it, you know, and I hope one day it gets built, because there's a lot of money out there. And there's a lot there's good filmmakers everywhere, I believe, you know, the guy in Kansas, he's just not getting the opportunity. You know, and and so how can you have a community that could give opportunity to these people that are that are really dedicated to be something special, you know, and man, and that's one thing, I hope that happens, you know, but do not go out there and put a lot of money into something that you don't have experience that please don't, it hurts everybody.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:01
Preach my friend preach. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions, ask all my guests or what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Then I just say, I think i think i think i think you just said it, like what you're saying earlier? Like, we all get delusional, and like, I think we have to be a little delusional just to walk into this business. Don't do it.

Jeff Santo 1:07:21
All you have to be Yeah, you have to, but but right now, what's going on with all the social media, everyone wants to be famous, so you got to dial it back. You got to be real about this seriously, and, and find a way to be different. You know, that's what originality man, you know, because, you know, be a Rhinestone Cowboy.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:41
You know, there's Wow, I Sir, I you have dated yourself and I and you've dated me because I know that reference.

Jeff Santo 1:07:50
It's a lot of compromising man and hustles, the name of the game? The same old song, that's for sure. You know, but but it's really comes down to that, you know, because if you have a good idea, you know, covered it and figure out how to tell it, okay. Everyone has a story inside them. I believe that that's what got me going. You know, I came from a baseball world. You know, I want to be a baseball player. I didn't have the talent my dad had. So I'm like, okay, where's my dream now, you know, and I forced to head and I have a lot. I've had a lot of lumps, you know, you know, I'm still I still struggle at times, you know, I'm coming out. I'm back in LA, again, with my wife as a writing partner, you know, trying to go to another level and TV, you know, and

Alex Ferrari 1:08:31
we're so we've been infected, sir. We've been infected. You can't get rid of it. There's no vaccination for this disease that we have this filmmaking disease. I mean, no matter how often we're beat up, it flares up. Yeah.

Jeff Santo 1:08:43
It's not that it's nothing else I'm going to be doing that's for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:46
Right. Right. And I tried. I'm sure you've tried to you've tried to, you've tried to leave this, this horrible mistress, who've just beat you, but for whatever reason, you,

Jeff Santo 1:08:55
you love it.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:56
You love it, you come back to it. You know, I went to sell olive oil for three years. And that's a whole other conversation.

Jeff Santo 1:09:03
I've managed a restaurant you know, I've done a lot of stuff, man. And I tell you Yeah, there's nothing the freedom of doing your own thing is beautiful. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:12
there's but there is no Business Like Show Business. Right? Please don't forget the word business.

Jeff Santo 1:09:18
Yeah. I mean it Paul Thomas Anderson said it a long time ago, man. And I was I was making my film right around the time PTA started with his film. And you know, that guy's a beautiful filmmaker. Oh, and he said, you know, you got to know if it's 5050 creative in business. You don't know the business side you got no shot. Because if you can't communicate the right way, if if you know people are gonna notice right away, like okay, he doesn't really know what's going on here. So right then you're kind of pushed to the side and you you have to work with people. You know, you can't you can't just come in like a bully. You have to you have to collaborate. And that takes time. That takes time, but who are the right people to collaborate with, you know, you still make mistakes, picking the wrong people to help out you know, at times. It gets frustrating, man, you I want the younger generation to do well, because it's exciting where things are going. But it is it is dramatically changing.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:10
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jeff Santo 1:10:15
Oh, man, wow is to is to not be overly passionate. At times, it could scare people away. In my case. I felt like you got it, you got to pace yourself. You know, I've put myself in situations where my health didn't turn out so well, because I was just so determined to get something done. And you got to surround yourself with really good people, good people that that that you trust, and they trust you. And that's hard, man, that's really hard. Yeah, I'm talking about off the grid stuff, you know, and finding, finding a project that has a powerful main character, like a story, like the two two films that really succeeded for me had really two powerful main characters in them behind the story, you know, that they had their own history with. So really find that niche. And I, it just took me a long time to, to know, like, I'm okay with myself now. You know, it's weird. It's like I happens happens, man, and I and I got a beautiful wife and I love creating with her and whatever comes our way comes out. If it doesn't, we're working our butts off to make it come our way.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:33
Isn't it funny that that's something that you could only get with age. And, you know, if you just like, you know, I'm good with whatever shows up, I'm good with like, Hey, you know, it's if it doesn't work out, we'll just keep rolling. And that kind of, I don't say the word confidence, but just the okayness of that. It took me years to learn. I mean, took me years to figure that out. And then now I'm in the same boat as you are, I'm just like, you know, if I'm just gonna roll if it doesn't happen, doesn't happen. If it happens, it happens and just keep going. You just keep pushing, you keep grinding, and you keep enjoying that, that journey. And it's, it's what it's all about, honestly, and not being and not being too precious about things.

Jeff Santo 1:12:13
It's That's it, man, that's it. And, you know, that's where I saw you. When I when my wife and I watched you, I said, Man, this guy, this guy's grounded man. And he's put a lot of work in and appreciate that. What you're doing though, is it's, it's, it's a beautiful voice that we need, you know, and I had it for a while. And then I said, Okay, I got to go underground again. Right? You know, it's like, you know, um, but you come out better and, and, you know, making a film, if you can make a film, and better yourself by making that film, meaning your character. That's a beautiful film. You know, I've had people get married on films that I've made, you know, I've met my wife on a film that I wish I never made, you know, so, you know, it's, it's, it's stuff like that, that you go, okay, there's a, there's a meaning behind it, you know, not that, you know, everything's a reason for everything, there's a meaning but you can put a meaning behind where you're going. And that that really helps your psyche. And, and, you know, I just, I just feel like yeah, you don't know what's happening right now in the business, but I'm here. And, and I think I'm at my best I've ever been, I hope I don't get too old, you know, but I have a younger wife that balances me out. So to

Alex Ferrari 1:13:23
me, that's a good thing that's

Jeff Santo 1:13:25
in the film female perspective. You know, a lot of things are changing that you have to change with them. You got to you got to mix it up, you know, and say, Okay, this old way I did things doesn't work anymore. I got to go a new way. And you got to be open to it. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:37
And now what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Jeff Santo 1:13:40
Oh, well, thief. Yes. Is my number one because that got me into wanting to be a filmmaker. I love Michael Mann. I love that film because it was so great. And so James Caan to say wells were so good so I that's one I have to say you know, we all go to the to the score state and I love scores. I love Scorsese. I love Michael Mann and the third filmmaker. Oh god why did I Why am I losing his name back he did he did diner

Alex Ferrari 1:14:23
oh oh god

Jeff Santo 1:14:24
oh

Alex Ferrari 1:14:26
god yeah all the diners are fantastic somebody

Jeff Santo 1:14:28
yeah well he said he's that but if I followed those guys for a long time and then obviously fell in love with what Tarantino has done and Paul Thomas Anderson all these guys, but but I would say True Romance was another one that I love. I

Alex Ferrari 1:14:40
love the Tony Hsieh of Tony Scott was idea Tony I miss Tony man, I still miss him.

Jeff Santo 1:14:45
You know that was that was a great movie written by Quentin Tarantino. And you know I'm obviously I got to put my baseball the natural in there just because I just sometimes I just want to put that on and go Okay, yeah, never hit but you never know what's gonna happen in life, man. The older you get, if you just stay in the game, you might get another shot. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:15:07
I'll put on I'll put on the natural and I'll just play the final scene. The final the final scene is just just because it's so amazing beautiful. Now where can where can people and where can people find you and your work in your films?

Jeff Santo 1:15:29
Santo films I have a website that we sell our films on. So that's easy sanel Films calm so that's where they can go um I got all my finger also then five heartbeats calm is is another film that I'm selling on our movie website then five heartbeats but sandal films will take you where you want to go.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:49
And man Jeff, what I have to tell you, Jeff, we could probably talk for you know, these two old salty dogs could talk about

Jeff Santo 1:16:01
with at least another

few hours. But But I do appreciate you taking the time and and dropping the knowledge bombs on the tribe. And hopefully this episode will help at least one filmmaker, avoid one of those big cavernous holes that we talked about in the episode. So thank you so much for sharing your man I appreciate it. DVD is dead right guys? That's what everyone says. But no, there is still a very large audience out there who buys and watch DVDs all the time, it is still a way to generate revenue specifically if you know your niche audience and how to get to them. Now I want to thank Jeff for coming on and inspiring the tribe today. It's always great to hear an independent filmmaker who has worked outside of the system and is doing very, very well actually building a business building a career outside of the traditional path. And I hope his story has inspired you guys. Now if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at indie film hustle.com Ford slash 395. And guys, if you haven't already, you can sign up for a free three part cinematography video training, taught by 25 year plus veteran cinematographer sukima des kovitch from the ASC who has worked with Disney Pixar FX networks Netflix, and was a cinematographer on American Horror Story. He teaches you how to light in a way that I have never seen before and it's a free course. Just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash free lighting course. Thank you for listening guys. I hope you're staying safe out there in this crazy, crazy upside Bizarro world that we live in. Be well, as always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. This is the way and I'll talk to you soon.


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