FT 068: Making Money & Cracking the Amazon Code for Self Distribution with Ismael Gomez


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Making Money & Cracking the Amazon Code for Self Distribution with IsmaelGomez

Today on the show we have a filmmaker that was able to crack the Amazon code and actually make money self-distributing his low-budget film on the platform. His name is Ismael Gomez.

Ismael Gomez is a Cuban-American filmmaker. In 2009, he received an Artist Fellowship grant to pursue his B.A in Film Production. After completing his studies, he began to work as lead editor on several motion pictures and commercials for theatrical and TV release. Some of his projects have screened at Cannes, Starz Denver, Tribeca, and Miami International film festivals.

His film is Death of a Fool. 

A teenager and his dying grandfather conduct afterlife investigations in Miami when a mysterious man hires them to find the secret to immortality.

Ismael was able to generate close to $75,000 in rentals and sales on Amazon using about $9000 in Facebook Ads. In this conversation, I dig in deep on how he did this, his techniques, and how he used the Filmtrepreneur Method to create additional revenue outside of TVOD.

Enjoy my conversation with Ismael Gomez

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Alex Ferrari 2:18
Now guys, today we have a success story as a story of T VOD actually working with Amazon and cracking the code of Amazon and making money with an independent film. The filmmakers name is smile Gomez, and his film is called Death of a fool. And he was able to use $9,000 of Facebook ads to generate $72,000 in sales through teavana on Amazon. And in our conversation, I dig deep in his techniques, how he did it, what his ideas were to target his specific niche audience, and much, much more. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Ismail Gomez. I like to welcome him so his smile Gomez the third How you doing?

Ismael Gomez 3:12
Good, Alex, thanks for having me on the show.

Alex Ferrari 3:14
Ah, thanks for reaching out, man. I appreciate it. Anytime there's a filmmaker who wants to talk about distribution and the truth behind self distribution numbers, raw data and all the other little warts and all good and bad. I'd like to talk to them. Because it's rare. Like you said in your email. It's a rare thing you there is not a lot of transparency out there. So before we get into that, how did you get into the film business?

Ismael Gomez 3:43
Well, you know, I was, so I was born in Cuba in Havana, and I bought a cubano.

Alex Ferrari 3:51
I couldn't help it, man, cubano it just comes out.

Ismael Gomez 3:56
So I was born. And you know, I was born in Havana. And I grew up watching, you know, Disney Pixar movies. And actually, the first time I went to a theater was to see the Lion King. And I was obsessed with it. Like when I came out of the theater, I was telling my mom and my dad like, this is what I want to make. And it started as a cartoon, you know, like animated films. And then my dad because he was very well connected in the artistic world. He would get me into the film festivals in Havana. And I saw Apocalypse Now when I was like nine. So if you can imagine being nine years old and watching Apocalypse Now. So you know, I got really obsessed with that and and I had the opportunity when I came to the United States. So I came to live immigrated to the United States with my mom. My dad was already here, and I came on a plane in 2009. And I want

Alex Ferrari 4:54
everybody listening to us cube as we're known for being good swimmers. I'm gonna play my my parents came on planes as well. Yeah. So

I came here and I always have the passion in Cuba. But I, you know, I finished high school in Cuba. So when I got here, I went straight after one year that I got all my papers and everything. I went to the New York Film Academy, and I started studying film. And it was a great experience, because they're very hands on, you know, so I really, I've never shot I mean, I've made home videos, but I was there shooting with extra film, like 16 millimeters and 35 millimeters. And it was a pretty cool experience. It was an amazing experience. And after that, I, I moved back to Florida, I got my bachelor's and film, because my whole family was here already. And so after I graduated, I went back to New York, and I started working as an editor. So I realized a while I was in film school, I realized, all right, I don't think people hire directors.

Right off the bat,

Ismael Gomez 6:01
not very often. So you, directors end up always working on their stuff. So I have to develop a second skill, you know, and I also realized, for me in the editing is where really the magic happened. Like I would be able to save because my shootings were always super chaotic, chaotic. And when I got to the editing, I kind of like make things work a little bit. So I realized, like, this is where the magic happens. So I've got to learn this skill. So I got very, you know, well versed in Final Cut seven, rest in peace, and recipes. And, and then you know, and then premiere when it came out and avid and then Final Cut 10. And so I started editing and I started editing my friends shortfilms my own stuff. And then I got my first feature film. And then I got my second one. And I ended up editing like, I don't know, like nine feature films already independent feature films. And yeah, so and then after that, I moved back, you know, my girlfriend was here, my family was here, I was up there by myself dealing with the winter, you know, my Caribbean flesh is not used to those.

Alex Ferrari 7:14
They don't like the winter, so much

Ismael Gomez 7:16
couldn't deal with it. So I came back here. And I have this movie death of a fool. And I have division of my company, rabbit hole pictures. And at that time, moonlight came out. And I was like, I saw what Barry Jenkins did in Miami. And it was very inspiring. And I was like, you know, I can I can do this I can be, let's say a big fish in a small pond. Right? I can start here. Try to make fantasy films, which I don't see actually when I was doing a lot of research when I made death of a fool. And thinking about all their fantasy films shot in Miami and I couldn't really find anything. So I got very inspired. And I was like, You know what, I'm gonna open the company here. I'm gonna start making films here. And yeah, that's kind of like how it happened.

Alex Ferrari 8:08
It's so funny, because you you you've walked very similar path that I have. Because I did the exact same thing. I was like, I'm gonna be a director. But I see that no one's hiring me right now. Because I'm 20 whatever young. And I started getting into post and that's exactly and it's and I discovered the exact same thing with some piece Final Cut seven. But also, just everything happens there. And that's sometimes I think a lot of filmmakers don't do that. They don't understand that you need to have a skill that pays you while you're chasing the dream while you're building those tools in your toolbox. That's extremely short. Well, you jumped on your first feature much batch took me 20 years to jump on my first feature. So you you've jumped a much, much quicker. So a lot of begging. Oh, I can imagine I can imagine. So tell me so tell me. Tell me about your film death of a fool.

Ismael Gomez 8:57
Okay, so death of a fool was actually based on a semester film that I did a nyfa The Film Academy. And so I have been writing it for two years. And I was already in Miami and I started submitting it to screenplay competitions. And then I ended up being semi finalists in like three of them. And then quarterfinals in two of them and then bluecat It's a screenplay competition in LA. We ended up winning it in 2008 2018. Joe, my co writer and I, so we both won that competition and they gave you $10,000 it's the cash prize. So that was kind of like the beginning of the funding process of the film. So after we won blue cat we ended up like talking to some investors that I have worked with in the past for other projects or other businesses. That, uh, that I was running? And yeah, it just took a lot of convincing and, and really, and it also I got very prepared in terms of, you know, not counting on Sundance and or you know, the lottery, the lottery ticket and really trying to think how would I be able to recoup this money? You know, so we were able to bring a few investors on board, then I did, I would say, like, 30% of the financing myself. And yeah, we got everything together.

Alex Ferrari 10:35
What was the budget?

Ismael Gomez 10:37
It ended up being, like, $103,000. So 100 100,000, which was really challenging, because let me tell you this stuff that we pulled with $100,000 because it's

Alex Ferrari 10:49
a fantasy film.

Ismael Gomez 10:51
And you know, you got like, you have a magic fruit and you have like, like, magical places, and you have it's, like flashbacks, like the 70s. So there's a lot of crazy stuff. And yeah, but you know, I had an amazing team. That's what I can say, the, the cinematographer, the producer, everyone was just so awesome. And and that's the also, the cool thing about shooting in Miami that not a lot of films have been shot here. So everyone was really excited about that, you know, people were willing to just work and give you good grades and all that to make the film happen.

Alex Ferrari 11:25
Yeah, that's exactly what happened with me. When I made my first film there. It was so excited just to be like, oh, someone's shooting. Let's do this. You know, it's not bad boys. But we'll do it. Let's go. Which is really cool. Now, you when you made the fit, you finished the film. And I'm assuming you went down the festival circuit and the distribution path. So tell me about what you felt. Did you do the festival circuit at all? What did you feel?

Ismael Gomez 11:49
Well, I am sorry. I sent the film to Sundance,

Alex Ferrari 11:55
of course, because we all have to donate money to rob a reference retailer now.

So I was like, you know, let me send that here. Actually, this cinematographer Laila Kilburn, she was a she had been to Sundance like seven times, she even one with documentaries. So, you know, I sent the film to Sundance and I did. I think Sundance was the film festival because I had just finished it. And I didn't want to send like, work in progress to film festivals, you know? So I sent it to Sundance and then you know, that the rejection letter. And around the time, I had a really tough call, this is the where we get into distribution, because then 2020 had just started, you know, and I had to wait, probably till the summer when the film festivals were gonna open again. You know, like the fantasy film festival social like Fantasia. Yeah, Fantasia Fantastic Fest, you know, so I was like, should I wait until the summer? Like waste six eight months and wait for this film festival? Or should I just launch? Do do a theatrical premiere here in the Coral Gables the art cinema and launch the film? And on Amazon, or should I just wait for the film festival? So I really hate being passive. You know, and putting, like, hoping that someone else you know, allows in by the way, I didn't I didn't even you know, I I heard about the Coronavirus in China and all this. This was like in January of February. And, and also I had an eye opening experience because I ended up going to Sundance with the co founder of rabbit hole pictures. One of my best friends, Larry. I told him, you know, we should go to Sundance even though we didn't get in, I feel that we hear so much about Sundance, and I've never been to Sundance, so we should go check it out. You know, and for me when I went there. And the eye opening experience that I had is that even people that I saw got into Sundance, were struggling to get a distribution deal.

Oh, absolutely. And

Ismael Gomez 14:15
I saw I saw everyone hustling. And I'm like, okay, they made it here and they're still hustling and trying to get a distribution deal and thinking they might get like ripped off. So this is not even a guarantee you know, so I think it might be better off just the secret in the killing myself learning this process. Try to do my best and really be self reliant, you know. So So yes, so I made the call and I told you know, I spoke to my to the producer of the film, and I've told her like I think this is the way to go. And we had the screening. Here Coral Gables. We it was completely sold out. And then two weeks later, because you know it was still hot and I I released the film on on amazon video. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 15:02
no. Did you you did you get some deals? Did you get some deals offered to? Yes, yes.

Ismael Gomez 15:07
So I spoke to a few. First of all, I saw all the episodes on indie film hustle about distribution, you know, and I wrote like, I actually have a notepad and I wrote every time that I had an insight or something that I didn't know about ever write it down and then revisit. You know, you were

Alex Ferrari 15:25
you were prepared. You were locked, locked and loaded when these guys came?

Ismael Gomez 15:29
Yeah, yeah. So they came, you know, they came trying to bite a few of them. I think a few of them have good intentions,

Alex Ferrari 15:38
I would say. But still, I was like, even though, what were the kind of deals you were getting? You know, don't say names just kind of deal. Yeah.

Ismael Gomez 15:46
So we sales agents, you know, I feel them wanting to wanted to charge me which I thought, I don't know, if you really think the film has potential and you can make some money. Why would you want to charge me? You know, upfront, I put, I guess, you know, they need to keep the business going and all that. But that, for me was a, you know, a red flag. I didn't want to, even though if he had good intentions, I didn't want to get into that because it was money that I would use in that I can use and Facebook ads and things like that, you know? And with distributors, they a lot of them didn't reply. And then the ones that did, they had, like 15 year, you know? contracts. Yeah. And I was 15 years, like, you're gonna own my movie for 15 years. That's a long time

Alex Ferrari 16:35
with no money upfront, I'm assuming no, no minimal guarantee. And it was there any? Was there any marketing capital? Or was it was like $100,000,

Ismael Gomez 16:44
like, $15,000. Every year? It was every year. I was like, Alright, you're gonna spend $50,000 in my film, every year is a

Alex Ferrari 16:54
year they had that sunset.

Ismael Gomez 16:56
Yeah. And then and then you could you could, you know, you could, I was like, is this negotiable? And then there was said yes. And then Okay. And then we'll negotiate and bring it down to 10 years. And you know, $20,000. And,

Alex Ferrari 17:10
but isn't that but isn't that interesting that I've said this a bunch of times that they throw out a worse deal? Yeah, to see if you bite and if you bite. Oh, good. I'm gonna screw you now. Yeah. And then if you want to negotiate, I'm just going to screw you a bit less. At the end of the day, you're getting screwed.

Ismael Gomez 17:26
Yeah, it's kind of like they want to, they want to stab you. Right? And they first put like a shotgun, and you're like, Oh, shut down. That's really bad. And then they show you the knife. And so Okay, I guess the knife is not.

Alex Ferrari 17:39
Would you rather get your head blown off? Or just a little a little stab in the back? So yeah,so then it's okay. It's none of these. Obviously, none of these deals after listening to everything I've said. You just said? No. If you wouldn't, if you listen to all these podcasts, you might have been Paulie. Yeah, probably. That's, that's, that's why I want that information to get out to as many as humanly possible, man. Yeah. They are. What do they promise you? They promise you to get you on all the platforms, right? Yeah, I'll get you on all the platforms and somebody over at Netflix. So we'll pitch Netflix. I know somebody over at HBO, maybe I could get you an HBO deal. I guess I'm gonna show time maybe we could do a pay cable deal.

Ismael Gomez 18:22
what's what's the special placement, well, then I get

Alex Ferrari 18:27
the special nice

Ismael Gomez 18:28
iTunes chart and all those

Alex Ferrari 18:30
goods, if you go with us, like if you go through an aggregator, you're just going to be thrown in. But if you go with to get special placement on iTunes, and that whole scenario, it's it's so and it's getting worse. The predatory aspect of distribution is getting worse and worse, as everything starts to tighten, tighten around. So that's why I wanted to bring you up because you're pretty fresh. You're like this is happening within the last three or four months. Yeah, you were getting these often. Alright, right. So I'm sorry, and even the ones that have good intentions,

Ismael Gomez 19:00
let's say they're still a business, you know, and they still need

Alex Ferrari 19:04
to survive business markets.

Ismael Gomez 19:06
And if they have 10 films, and nine of them are performing better than mine, you know, they're gonna they're gonna sell those they're going to pay more attention to those nine it's not only that, it's also like I always put this analogy that it's a business right and if my film is a tangerine, let's say and people here buy watermelons they will mark in my film as a watermelon to people who like watermelons because they have to sell and I don't want my Pete like I want people to like tangerines to see my film. I don't care about people to like watermelons because then that's where the bad reviews come and people if I feel that I'm actually you know, cheating, right and I'm lying to people because I made you think that this was one hell and and you came, saw my film pay for it, and now you're feeling happy. You know, and I understand that so I that's that was also for me. Like, I want to have full control, you know, I'm a little bit sleepy. So,

Alex Ferrari 20:05
ya know, and obviously, so you're telling me that distributors might lie in trailers to get by the movie? I can't believe that that seems so unlike. Yeah, what. And that's the other thing that people that filmmakers don't understand is when they do sign a deal with a distributor, unless it's in the contract, they have no control of how that movie is presented. poster design trailer design. I mean, it's, I mean, I remember when I had my I had a short compilation, and a distributor picked it up, I was able to get it back from him. But he put on the cover some woman with a gun, what nothing. She wasn't even in the movie. It was it wasn't even the movie. I was like, What What is it? What is this, and it's, it is the nature of what they're trying to do as the old model of doing things. So it's gonna be interesting to see how this is gonna keep going. So obviously, you decided that stuff, that the traditional distribution was not gonna be your path, and your budget range makes it a good viable option for for self distribution. So tell me your journeys through self distribution and what what? What happened? So,

Ismael Gomez 21:17
um, you know, I started looking into how would I sell distribute, like, where you know, what platform I would use. So, you know, there was Vimeo, which obviously has some main, like, an amazing potential, because I think you keep, like, 90% of the revenues. And then there was Amazon. And then there was other things like selling from your website, like gumroad, I think is called, you know, a bunch of those. But for me, just thinking as an audience, like, it's better, like people trust is a big thing, right? So people trust Amazon, people don't trust Vimeo, or gumroad. Not a lot of people like 1% of the people. So

Alex Ferrari 22:04
not movie going people, like people buying online products or courses or things like that, they might want to do gumroad. And Vimeo, the filmmaker will understand who they are, but general public Well,

Ismael Gomez 22:14
yeah, so I was like, you know, Amazon is the best deal. And also, you know, even though I could have gone through an aggregator, right, I think I looked into film hub and bitmax. You know, I felt like, I don't want to sparse like, the attention. Like, I want to just have one place where I can send everyone. And here's the film, watch it, which I also think if all the sales go there is going to help with the algorithm. And more people, they will promote the film to other people. Right. All right. So So I was like, you know, and I actually I did, I did a few polls on Facebook groups and stuff like that, where do you watch movies? And I would see, Amazon was always the top one. So I was like, okay, Amazon has to be and I thought of myself, I mean, I rent movies on Amazon. And so so yeah, so I chose Amazon. Which, you know, Amazon is amazing. It's great that they give you opportunities to filmmakers, you know, and I have spoken to them before it kind of it's kind of, you know, kind of sucks that they take 50% You know, I think I wish they would take less like like Vimeo but you know, it is what it is you got to deal with.

Alex Ferrari 23:27
So for people to understand, so you they take 50% of your transactional?

Ismael Gomez 23:31
Yeah, like so transactional video. T VOD. You know, if you if you sell if someone buys the movie for $10, five goes to Amazon and five goes to you. So they take 50% of them.

Alex Ferrari 23:44
Yeah. And you know what, I have the same. I mean, I self published my books through Amazon. And they're actually worse, worse than 50% sometimes. But the different the problem exposure. Yeah, you are the largest marketplace where everybody has their credit card, and everyone trusts everything. So a 5050 split might sound bad, but the amount of the amount of access you're getting for that 50% is the only thing that makes sense for that scenario. But now if you would have signed a deal with a distributor, then they would have taken a percentage of that. So at the end of the day, you might 50% and now you might even get really 10%

Ismael Gomez 24:24
if you're not what I'm really curious about is like how much like how much Amazon I wonder if Amazon offers that same type of deal to big companies like Disney and Warner Brothers, if they give them 5050 or if they offer because I feel like you know as a small business as an entrepreneur, the starting they should offer better deals for us than Disney. But you know what, that's that's not the way the game so

Alex Ferrari 24:52
that's not the way the world works, but and we could have a whole episode just talking about Amazon and how they treat filmmakers but at the end of the day, they have opened up marketplace that filmmakers. So if you let's take let's take Amazon off the table that they shut down and like no more filmmakers. Yeah, that that really, that really hurts a lot of a lot of businesses. It's amazing.

Ismael Gomez 25:14
I'm really grateful. I think it's amazing. I think it's amazing. They're doing but I agree with you.

Alex Ferrari 25:18
It should be like 70 7030 is fair. 70 Yeah. 70 fair.

Ismael Gomez 25:21
Yeah. I mean, I think it's amazing. I'm really grateful that I can do this stuff, you know, but if I have good bases in front of me, it will be something that I will bring up

Alex Ferrari 25:29
also also a Cuban brother. Yeah.

Ismael Gomez 25:35
So yeah, so I decided Amazon and then

Alex Ferrari 25:38
an Tifa. Mostly right. Yeah,

Ismael Gomez 25:41
I I personally, you know, I have seen a bunch of my friends gone through distribution and gone through Amazon too. And for me, something that I learned is to not undervalue your arts. And this is something that I learned actually in the theatrical screenings. So when I had the premiere of Coral Gables, we sold out the whole screening, and I actually brought some merchandise. And I remember, you know, it was like this, my cousin who's an artist made like this, she printed a poster and like this wooden, kind of like frame, and it was really beautiful. And we only made like, 20. And I was thinking, you know, I'm not going to make too many, and we're going to sell them for 20 bucks or whatever. Because, you know, not a lot of people gonna buy it and stuff in like, we got there. We screened the movie, and right, when people came out, it got sold out in like, literally in one minute. And people want to, like, we want more, we want more. And I was like, Oh my god, I should have brought this more like I should have make more, you know, and that the screening was sold out? Like, they were like,

Alex Ferrari 26:47
let's talk number. So let's talk numbers on that screening. So you rented out the theater, or was it a split?

Ismael Gomez 26:52
I firewalled the screening, so I ended up for a while.

Alex Ferrari 26:55
So what did it cost?

Ismael Gomez 26:56
It was like, so they do by the hour. So it was like 250 an hour, and I ended up doing three hours. So it was like 750. And yeah, I did I did like a q&a afterwards with the the cast.

Alex Ferrari 27:10
And how much? And how much did you end the ticket? sales?

Ismael Gomez 27:14
Yeah, so I ended up using event rights. Again, full control, you know, I put the price of the ticket to everything. And between the tickets in the merchandise I ended up making, like 13 1400 bucks. So it was a good day.

Alex Ferrari 27:31
Your, your profit, your profit, and then about the merge how much the merchant take you over?

Ismael Gomez 27:36
Well, that's what the merchant was like, the tickets were like, 1100 and the merchant was like, 300. So combined, it were like 1400 you know, today. Yeah. And I thought of, I mean, I thought like, you know, I can keep doing theatrical in Florida, South Florida, maybe, you know, do like five or 10 more of these, you know. But then I ended up like two weeks after on February 20, I launched the film on Amazon. So the first thing that I did was Oh, so talking about Amazon for me, learning from that experience. I was like, you know, I'm going to put my film for sale first so you can only buy it for like only purchase option. And I'm going to rental,

Alex Ferrari 28:23
the rental purchase just straight

Ismael Gomez 28:25
first because I knew the people that just seen the movie. We're going straight to get on T ball and we're going to rent it you know, there was a lot of people I got older emails that were waiting. So I went straight to T VOD. I think I put like 1499 was the first price that I did. And I put no rentals like the first week like the first 10 days because I knew it was going to be hot you know those people were going to come and buy the movie. So I did that I put it for purchase option only I get into any oh I so I've got a lot of you know, newspapers radio everywhere you know talking about the premier record labels like local news and and then a lot of social media on all over Facebook and Instagram. And then I ended up just putting the purchase option for those 10 first days so then only the the let's say the warm audience the loyal audience right the true fans came those those first 10 days and they purchased the movie. I can't remember the exact number of how many people you know but I was while that was happening. I started learning Facebook ads I already had like ran Facebook ads in the past and Instagram with some other businesses that I that I had in the past and also with the with rabbit hole on Instagram, but I hire someone to pretty much kind of teach me like all the ins and outs you know all the tricks and little things and even though you I thought that I knew lot like this person really taught me a bunch of stuff that I was like, oh, wow, that's how it works. Okay, so So that gave me a lot of insights. And I slowly started using Facebook ads and Instagram ads. And for me what I think has worked so far, which I told you in the email, like, I feel that a lot of people always want to like, I want my film to be seen as many you know that many people as possible, see my film, right? And I found that's a big mistake. I mean, if they could see it for free, of course, try as many people as you can. But when you have to pay for the Facebook ads, you have to make sure that the person that watches the film, right, though the trailer, the teaser, they're really, you know, they trust the brand. And if they don't know the brand, you know, why will they click to watch the movie? So for me, the name Miami, right was the that trust. So, for example, when I was running ads, I realized that copy that would get the most, let's say, engagement was when I would put like, uh, you know, Miami releases, new mystical adventure new fantasy film, because I I thought if I put like rabbit hole pictures releases a new, you know, mystical, they're like, Who's rabbit hole pictures, but when you put Miami people somehow in their heads, that's what I'm guessing they're guessing like, Oh, so Miami, it's kind of like, made this film like the city itself. You know, it's it's made in Miami. So then I only targeted like 25 mile radios, racism and in Miami and, and that started getting, you know, a lot of attraction, and then you know, a lot of experimenting, I think you have to do a lot of testing. Like a lot. Like, you know, I had a teaser on the one minute, I had a trailer, which was a minute and 40 I had pictures. You know, I have different copywriting. And also, you have to get this is a trick that I learned also that you have to have social proof before you send out. So when I would first create the ad, I'd have like my small group of you know, friends and family that I will send it to them and be like, okay, like this comment that you saw that you loved it or whatever. So when the advertisement will go out, right? You have social proof, someone sees it. They're like, Oh, there's people commenting this people liking it. Let me check it out. Right. And so what I started doing also the strategy was, I would do video views. So it's one of the options when you've run Facebook ads. At first I started doing traffic, which was kind of like a mistake by you. The traffic strategies pretty much Facebook finds people that would click on the ad and would go to the website where you send them. But by doing video views, Facebook pretty much finds people that usually watch videos, like they watch the most percentage, let's say videos. So I started using the video ads, and that's sort of getting better results. And people will still click on it and go to the website, right? And then I would do video views Monday through Friday. And then Saturday and Sunday, I will do a reach strategy, Facebook ad, which I would say okay, so for Monday through Friday, I do this video views. And then Saturday, Sunday, I create an audience that everyone who watched the video from Monday through Friday 95% of like people who watched 95% of my videos, right? I would make that an audience Facebook would find all those people create a custom audience. And then on Saturday and Sunday, I will just target those people again. And with a reach strategy and be like, okay, now reach as many people as you can within this parameter that I just put that they're really a warm audience because they saw the teaser and find them and show them again, you know, the trailer. So that will bring that will bring really good you're

Alex Ferrari 34:15
using or you're using this based off of a 14.99 price point.

Ismael Gomez 34:19
Not that I started yet when I started doing Facebook ads, I already had the rental option. So I actually brought it down to 9099 and 5.99. So I started seeing you know what most of the rentals will be on Amazon and I saw a bunch of like new releases were not 5.99 for Reddit.

So I put it 599 and actually this was really funny because you have to you have to test things out. You have to just don't be afraid of like sometimes people want to be tool like logical. And you think of like oh, my film is an indie film, who would rent it who would pay 599 A lot of people don't know, you know, like normal audiences they don't know they just feel they just see a film and physical trailer or cool poster. Maybe they don't know the actors, but the genre itself, right, since it's a fantasy kind of mystical supernatural film, the genre itself will sell the film and if they connect with Miami, they will sell it. I'm actually I did a crazy thing for like a week. I didn't make a profit, but I broke even. But when the whole Coronavirus hit, they started doing this whole theatrical premieres for 919 99. So actually up for a week, I removed everything that I put it for 1999. I was like, You know what, maybe people will confuse me with like Disney. And like money, like the invisible man that was also coming out during that time. And it like, I don't know, like 10 people bought it, like 10 people bought it. And, you know, it cost me a lot on Facebook ads. So I kind of like I ended up breaking even. So I was like, you know, I know that I can find more people, but it will cost me more. So let me let me just bring it back to to a different price. And I like what I had it before, but it was it was it was a you know, an interesting experience seen that they were actually someone be willing to pay 1999 for the film, just like they would pay for any of those big studio films, you know.

Alex Ferrari 36:20
So it's about Let me ask you in regards to the facebook, facebook ads, and Instagram ads, a lot of times I found that filmmakers who spend a lot of money on those, the ROI doesn't make sense to return on investment because they they're either not optimizing properly, or they're their offers just too low of price, like you're talking about 99 cents and 199 293 99. You've got to get volume, you know, so if you spend $5 to get a 199 rental, that's not business. So how did you make it work?

Ismael Gomez 36:52
Well, yeah, I mean, I kept the price of 599, you know, rental, and purchase a 999. So I knew that every time there will be a sale, I will make pretty much $3. Right? So from 599 50%. So I knew that, okay, I have to make under, you know, under $3 in. So I would make sure and this is really hard to what happens with Amazon is really hard to track the sales that come from the Facebook ads, because Amazon doesn't give you the information. Right? Amazon keeps all the data for them. So you

Alex Ferrari 37:32
have no so you can't do a facebook pixel with him before Amazon or you can't because it's on the Amazon page, right? So pixel that right? They're not gonna let you pixel that. So you could I couldn't do a pixel. So it was, but what happens is that, let's say like people what I'm guessing like people, a lot of times they try many strategies at the same, like, what I would do is like, I'm gonna stick with one strategy one week to see the results of that week, right? And then we'll see. Okay, so this week, I spent this much. And this much came in. And you know, I wasn't doing anything else. And I have counted the clicks on the Facebook ads, and I saw that, you know, every 25 cents, someone was clicking on the ad. So I started kind of like comparing the numbers, and then after one week, I would switch to a different strategy. And that way, you know, I would kind of like know what strategy work the most. But again, for me, it was all about that, like, you have to know your audience, you know. And, for example, I also thought even though the film has a, he, let's say that the film is about a grandson, a grandfather, right, they're like afterlife investigators. So there is a younger audience, and there's an older audience. And for me, I focused mostly on the older audience, because they have money.

Ismael Gomez 39:01
Number one, you know, younger audiences, I say it, you know, for my sister, they don't like to pay for stuff, they want to just free content, you know, because I mean, you know, they grew up in YouTube, and even I sometimes they struggle, like I should have paid Should I really rent this movie? Or should I wait until it comes out on Netflix or any? You know? So it's that's just the subscription mode has changed, you know, people's mentality when it comes to that, right? So I was like, I have to focus on the older audience because they're the ones that are really going to pay for this right. And most of the time, maybe they bring their children you know, their grandchildren, whatever, to watch the movie. Now, the problem with you also have to think about the downsides. Like the problem with the older audience is also they don't leave a lot of reviews, right? Older people don't go on Amazon and start reviewing, you know, like, Oh, I love to film or whatever. And which actually, you know, the reviews It's such a tricky game because, you know, mostly like, people who only have negative things to say are the ones that go and review. Like you watch a movie that the world did. It's like this was the best movie ever. And you don't go on like IMDb or rotten tomatoes and you don't review it. You're like, this was amazing. But then, you know, those pesky haters, negative people, the trolls, they just go there and start like, Oh, this was awful, you know, but it is what it is. But then I try to like, you know, if I saw that someone watched the movie or tagged the trailer, or the poster, something, I've messaged them, like, please, if you liked the movie, leave us a review on Amazon because it can help you know, so but it was a combination, Alex of of a lot of like work on my side, I did a lot of like, say, you know, guerilla marketing myself with you know, on Instagram, I, for example, the Coral Gables art cinema, I went on Instagram, and I saw you know, that they had 8000 followers. So I will go to each one of those followers, and literally messaged them, like, Hey, where Miami film company, we just make this film, if you like, you know, this type of genre go check it out. Literally every day, I would message onto like, Instagram blocked pretty much like you exceeded like your limit for today. So, you know, so it was it was a combination of things, you know, and like being on the Miami Herald on the newspaper, also, you know, brought sales and then just combining all that with Facebook, Instagram, and, and just doing a lot of work. And also, like I told you trying a lot of different content people, sometimes you create, you create a trailer and that's it. Like they market everything with that trailer, like, you know, I have Trailer Teaser short clips, like at least like I don't know, like 30 different types of like assets, let's say

Alex Ferrari 41:58
right. Now. The the thing that's fascinating as well is that you decided to focus on your local regional market, which is something that most filmmakers Don't think about, because they're like, Oh, it's just the local, I need to be big. I need the world to see my movie I, I need to be as big as Terran, talentino. And Nolan, I need to be that where you focus on the regional, which is extremely powerful. That's a much warmer audience. If I could take your tournament, much warmer audience, and a lot of people will just support because you're a local boy. And Miami's not a small town, either. No, it's not some big city. It's one of the it's one of the big in the US. Absolutely. So but even with that, you were still able to generate interest and revenue from that. So that's, that's a really great way of doing it.

Ismael Gomez 42:51
And that's not you know, that's also like, you know, this was like, I at the same time, while I was in post production, you know, I really studied a lot of like marketing, you know, like Seth Godin. Sure. Yeah, you know, the purple cow and there's another guy called Roy Sutherland. He's from London you know, and really started marketing and, and try to learn as much as possible and one of the ideas is like, how, you know how ideas like spread, right and everything starts small like if you think about Facebook, how did Facebook start Facebook started in Harvard. And then it started with only Ivy League's right. And then once they got the ivy League's, when people see something that they like, they will tell their friends, the friends will tell the friends and that's how things spread. So I was like, I'm only going to focus in Miami. And then from there on, actually, later on, I started seeing there were some sales in the UK where I was doing no marketing, and which was really interesting. I was like, I don't know how people in the UK are watching this. But I guess they're just like because they see as an American movie. They're they're watching it but you know, I really focus just a local and make like I would target Miami 25 miles radius, right. And I will say people who liked Pixar, Disney Harry Potter, you know, films that were kind of had the same tone to my film. And then I would also do besides that and would narrow down down the audience that they would also purchase on amazon.com which is pretty much everyone but you know, but that would really put it like just find those people that have purchased on Amazon, which you know that like they have Amazon Instant Video, whatever. And they like these type of films are similar.

Alex Ferrari 44:43
Now what? So let's get some numbers if you don't mind, what are the returns of all of this work and how much revenue Have you generated with off of Amazon?

Ismael Gomez 44:53
So Amazon hasn't been like $36,000

Alex Ferrari 45:02
which that's insane,

Ismael Gomez 45:04
which is I mean, when you really think about it was 72 you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:08
but that's 36 to you. 36 to me, yeah. 30 so you generated 72,000 gross, off of this technique off of what you're doing. in your, in your $100,000 Yeah, indie with no stars attached, and a unique genre being like fantasies, not, you know, it's, it's, there's less what there's less sharks, or less blood in that water, it's a little bit more blue ocean II, if you have the fishings better in your area. So it's a niche. It's a niche. It's a large niche, but it's a niche. So you've been able to generate, and then how much does that cost you?

Ismael Gomez 45:45
And then yeah, and then $9,000 in marketing around $9,000. So far, so the profit ends up being like, what 27 plus the one I made in the theatrical premiere? So

Alex Ferrari 45:58
I don't know about I don't know about you, but I will spend $9,000 every day to get 27,000 Oh, yeah. All day, I'll just continue to feed that beast. So it's fascinating. You're one of the few heard of your making it work. Now you have a very, there's a lot of unique elements, like in every project, like you mentioned, range 15, in your email, that was a unique set of circumstances in a unique time period, every movie is going to be a little bit different, like your movie might be hitting at the right time with the right man also helped it you know, the,

Ismael Gomez 46:36
I mean, the whole vacation that everyone was stuck home, you know, stuck at home,

Alex Ferrari 46:40
I'm looking for new fresh content, and then you just happen to be, I got fresh content. I also know how to market it. Because I've done my homework. I've done my research. And I want you to I want to, I want you to tell all the filmmakers out there, please, because I've been preaching this for the longest time that filmmakers need to understand marketing, they need to educate themselves on the distribution process, the self distribution process all the non sexy, because everything you're talking about is not sexy. It's not as sexy as the new Alexa with the new cook lens. Yeah, you know, and the techno crane that I'm going to work on, and it's not the sexy stuff. Can you please tell the audience the value that you have found by doing that deep dive into marketing? Because obviously it's working?

Ismael Gomez 47:24
Yeah, I mean, I will tell you this, this is how I think about it. If you know how to market, if you know how to distribute, if you know how to sell anything, then you can make anything. Right? It's not like you make something and then like, how am I going to sell this? It's like learn how to sell things like I think of like Steve Jobs, which I think is once one of the greatest marketers ever, right? How he created apple and all those things. And he would find how to like think about it, I help people pay six times more for an iPhone, which is pretty much does the same as a as an Android, you know, an LG, like,

Alex Ferrari 48:06
it's just not as pretty

Ismael Gomez 48:08
is not as pretty, and it's the brand because you grew the brand change, like he connected with a certain type of appeal. And for me was like, I thought about, like, you know, I have because people just like to make things you know, as an artist, you just want to think about the creative process, but then you end up being you know, at the mercy of like, you know, distributor and sometimes you will find a good distributor but like, even if you have a good distributor, wouldn't you want to know how that works? And they might not even you, I mean, if you know your audience, if you know your movie, your input might be, you know, so valuable for them that might help even with the sales. So for me, it's like you have to learn, you know, again, like I was recommend Seth Godin. Every all his YouTube videos. He also has a course that I took online. It's called the seminar the marketing seminar. Rory Sutherland from from Great Britain. You know, Gary Vee here beats amazing. Yeah. You know, he's actually doing tea with Gary Vee every morning at 9am. I thought, yeah, he's, he's pretty cool. He's got a bunch of good stuff, you know, and, and, yeah, and of watching the film, hustle all the episodes about distribution, you know, try to learn as much as you can, because that's the only way that you can be self reliant and, and, and not depend, again, on the lottery ticket of getting into Sundance and, and I also thought about that, I was telling Larry, my friend, the co founder, I told him, like, you know, like, I think of Disney, okay, they're huge. They're so successful, but I think of Disney. I think of like, you know, Warner Brothers, they don't go to no film festivals. They don't care about film festivals.

They go straight to the audience. Why should we? And I love film festivals, I have nothing against them. Right, but you play by the rules. So why should we be like waiting? I will, I will keep submitting to film festival, but we shouldn't be waiting for that to be our strategy, we should be just getting straight to the audience, you know? So So yeah, so that's

Alex Ferrari 50:22
it. That's it. It's, it's an inspiring story, brother, I really appreciate it, you've been able to do the numbers that you've talked about, which is like, no one's getting rich, you're not getting you know, you're rolling around in it. But it's a you're building a business, you saw

Ismael Gomez 50:36
my investors that that's the most important thing now that I'll be able to pay my investors, you know, that I can talk again, for my second feature film that I want to you know, so it also creates that, you know, trust, which is really important, and I'm building my audience as well, people who already saw the movie and liked it, and, you know, saw the company in Miami, so

Alex Ferrari 50:57
I just thinking just thinking, he listening to your story, I think you could definitely benefit from reading Rise of the film trip earner, I think your head's gonna explode again. For sure. If I may do a self plug. No, I think there's a lot of I think you're leaving a lot of money on the table. Honestly, with this, but you're doing fantastic. By the way, you're doing better than 99.5% of filmmakers I talked to. So you're doing extremely well. But I think you could even do, you could take it to the next level. But I'm really, you know, I'm really excited that you are a good example of what how filmmakers can make money on Amazon during COVID. This is all having this all happened to during COVID. And what are your plans now? Because you know, you did this all t VOD, which is something that unless you know how to drive traffic t VOD is a lost cause. Unless you can drive check traffic and target an audience or have an audience to bring along with you.

Ismael Gomez 51:53
Yeah, I mean, I'm gonna keep you know, sometimes the the sales are down. Sometimes they go up. It's a little bit, you know, but I'll keep investing a little I think I may expand now to Florida. Try to expand to Orlando Tampa, you know, but yeah, I'm going to keep in, I actually put, you know, I found the right spot. Now I have the movie for 299 and 1499. Because I feel there's a actually I feel that somehow I'm getting sales without marketing. Sometimes I think Amazon is promoting the movie itself. I brought money for them. So I guess the, the algorithm or whatever. But I would tell this, also going back to the whole distributing and stuff like for me, I would never put my movie for free. That's just like, so you're

Alex Ferrari 52:44
gonna put it it's about like Amazon Prime.

Ismael Gomez 52:46
And I see, I would I would suggest to everyone, I mean, put 99 cents, you know, like that's, that's an okay price, if you have a movie that unless, unless you really don't care about recouping your money, because it was your own money or something, and you just want to get people to see your film. And in that case, I mean, you know, you can also put it on YouTube, right? If that's your strength, but if you really have to make money to pay investors to recoup some money, forget about as VOD, like, you're not going to make a lot of money, unless maybe you have it on. I don't know to be you like a bot at all the places but

Alex Ferrari 53:22
just put it at a bar, a bar at a certain point when you're when your sales have gone down to a point because like, nobody really makes a whole lot of money on the Amazon platform anymore. That's pretty much gone. But Avon, as we speak today is really I've seen the numbers. I mean, there's 10s of 1000s of dollars being made by certain films in certain genres. So there is potential there. But absolutely milk this cow for as long as you can. Avon could wait, it could wait a year, it could wait two years before, before you go to a sorry, I

Ismael Gomez 53:56
forgot to mention that I actually I put the film also on film hub now, as as VOD because the rest of like other English speaking countries don't have T bond. So I couldn't that rabbit hole because, you know, I couldn't put it on the rest of like Latin America to say also because I do have some Hispanic stars that are well known in Latin America, so and I have the movie subtitles. Oh, that was something that actually bothered me too from Amazon, that they didn't let me they didn't let me put Spanish subtitles. They don't have that option, which I thought like you're missing out on like,

Alex Ferrari 54:31
artists. They can't deal with that kind of complexity from the masses. They can deal with that complexity from distributors who handle 234 100 movies, and they allow that situation it's a completely different business,

Ismael Gomez 54:45
though like if you go and actually no no, like Amazon doesn't doesn't allow Spanish subtitles on any film doesn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 54:53
Oh, yeah. Now they stopped it. Yeah, you're right. They did stop the subtitling now has to be

Ismael Gomez 54:57
I think it's so I don't know if it's a legal issue or But I told him like Netflix has been doing this for like, years. And like, if you really want to compete, like you're missing on like the, you know, the whole like Hispanic audience in the United States that will rather, you know, like my friend a lot of my family members, you know, they when I actually put the movie with subtitles, because they understand English but you know, you will miss a lot of little details, not the same reading it in your first language, you know. So, yeah, that was one thing, but through film hub, then now I'm putting it on Latin America.

Alex Ferrari 55:30
But have you had anything from them yet? Nothing come in yet?

Ismael Gomez 55:32
No, nothing. It's been recent. It's been recent. I haven't done any marketing also out there. So I'm just letting it to see, you know, see what happens organically to see what happens.

Alex Ferrari 55:45
Yeah, well, keep us and keep us updated on the filmhub thing I'm really curious to see, I haven't heard a lot of success stories from filmhub, meaning that filmmakers actually making a lot of money. So I'm curious to see, in theory, he sounds great in the in the in the marketplace. Sounds great. But I'm curious to see real hard numbers come in. But man, you're an inspiration, brother. Without question, I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Ismael Gomez 56:20
I would say focus on providing value to others, which is something that, you know, me as a director, when I started, I, a lot of my friends now that work with me had a really hard time working with me because I was sort of a dictator. And it was always like, you know, I would always think of my movie. And this needs to be perfect, because it's my film and my name is on is and I'm the director. And then that was just bring a lot of suffering, really, because I will be so frustrated and stuff. And when I kind of switched their mentality and started thinking about be, you know, a provider of value service to others to the crew, I wanted to really try to have everyone in the crew to reach their maximum potential in the cast, I want the actors to do the best performance that they can I want the DP to have the best images, and I'm just the catalyst for these people to really push them hard. So they can get there. You know, and also for the audience that's going to watch my movie is not like watch my film is like, how can I really make your time worth that you can spend an hour and a half watching my movie, and you're going to have a lot of fun. So I just kind of like switching that mentality of, you know, providing value to others in and it really, you can tell when you work with someone who's just there for a paycheck, you know, and I don't I don't like working with those type of people. I feel I can see when there's someone there who obviously I want to pay everyone. And I think everyone should get paid, but they're there because they care about their craft more than a paycheck, you know?

Alex Ferrari 58:01
So I would say no. And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Ismael Gomez 58:09
on film, or when life? I would say, Don't take it personal. That's it. Don't take don't take film reviews personally, you don't know who that person is. If they like, if they like happy endings, and you had a sad ending, of course, they're going to hate your movie. You know, they had don't take personal to film projects. The film festival rejections. Maybe they didn't even watch your film, maybe that person had a bad day? God knows. Right? Don't take it personal. It's it doesn't. It doesn't say anything about the quality of your craft and all of your film. So that's it, you know?

Alex Ferrari 58:56
And then what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Ismael Gomez 59:01
That's such a tough question.

Alex Ferrari 59:03
Three that come to your head right now?

Ismael Gomez 59:05
Well, I mean, definitely The Lion King, you know, as a child and in Cuba, I would say, I think of films and like different stages of my life. So I would say definitely, as a child, The Lion King and the gold rush from Chaplin.

Alex Ferrari 59:23
Yeah, those right. Yeah,

Ismael Gomez 59:25
it's a fun movie. I always loved watching the movie. Now. As a grown up, I think, you know, I've seen brilliant films, you know, a lot of Britain films, but I feel that films that let's say that I really saw and were like, really changed my perspective on what a movie could be. That I was like, I've never seen anything like this. I would say the tree of life from Terrence Malick and synecdoche, New York from Charlie Kaufman. which is which is really fun. Because I see Kaufman, which I think in my opinion, Jesus, he's the most original writer and creator like in Hollywood when it comes to film. I think he's stories are the most original. And I see him struggling to make to get financing and I'm like, I mean, if Kaufman is like going through this, I'm okay. You know? Yeah, it's fine.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:25
Exactly. Now where can people find you? Your movie and your work?

Ismael Gomez 1:00:29
Well, the movies on Amazon, you know, Amazon Video and they can find us on you know, rabbit hole pictures on Instagram. Rabbit Hole pictures.com. Rabbit Hole pictures on Facebook everywhere. Rabbit Hole.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:45
Yeah, it's my thank you so much for being on the show. Brother, you you're an inspiration. I'm glad to highlight a success story, you know, on Amazon, in today's world, and T VOD, and everything else. So thank you so much for coming on and being so raw and honest with your with your numbers in your experience, man. Thank you, brother.

Ismael Gomez 1:01:02
Thank you, Alex. I hope this really helps a lot of filmmakers out there. And you know, if possible.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:09
You could hear at the end that we finished that interview with a thunderous applause by nature in the background that lightning strike happened in those wonderful Miami thunderstorms that I remember. Oh, so well. I want to thank is my old for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe and inspiring filmmakers that you can make money on Amazon and you can make money on T VOD, but it takes work. And you really need to understand what you're doing and his smile is an amazing example of that. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, including watching his film, Death of a fool, please head over to the show notes at indie film hustle.com forward slash 403. And thank you all for signing up for my new podcast inside the screenwriters mind a screenwriting archive of the best of the I FH Podcast Network. If you want to check it out, and you've not signed up yet for it or subscribe for it yet, head over to screenwriters mind.com thank you again for listening guys. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.


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