FT 072: Inside the Multi-Window Distribution Model with Simon Swart


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Inside the Multi-Window Distribution Model with Simon Swart

Today’s guest is all about the business of filmmaking. Simon Swart has 20+ years of expert marketing experience – working primarily on the development, selling, and distribution of some large franchises and films such as Star Wars, Avatar, Planet of the Apes and X-Men, Black Swan, and Slumdog Millionaire.

After years behind the scenes, Swart has taken up executive producing/producing independent projects. His film credits include The King’s Daughter, The Greatest Bond, and several others that are currently in the works.

King Louis XIV’s quest for immortality leads him to capture and steal a mermaid’s life force, a move that is further complicated by his illegitimate daughter’s discovery of the creature.

During his 19 years at 20th Century Fox Films, the former executive pioneered the company’s early launch of faith and family-friendly programming and marketing in the domestic operations, sales, and home entertainment departments.

Utilizing his analytical strengths from his background in international finance, Swart has created some very profitable films including 6 Below with Josh Hartnett. And the mega indie film hit I Can Only Imagine, which grossed over $83 million at the box office.

I Can Only Imagine (2018) is an inspiring and unknown true story behind MercyMe’s beloved, chart-topping song that brings ultimate hope to so many is a gripping reminder of the power of true forgiveness

With these films, he created a new market for the ever-shifting distribution space for competitive smaller studios. This third-party distribution model started with Lionsgate and then grow into MGM relativity, DreamWorks, and Mirror Backs.

Currently, Swart serves as producer for the independent South African firm Nthibah Pictures which was formed in 2018 to fund Marketing, P+A, distribution, development, and production with a focus on the international market.

6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain (2017) – An adrenaline seeking snowboarder gets lost in a massive winter storm in the backcountry of the High Sierras where he is pushed to the limits of human endurance and forced to battle his own personal demons as he fights for survival….”

Enjoy my epic conversation with Simon Swart.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Alex Ferrari 0:26
Well, guys, today on the show, we have film producer Simon Swart. Now, Simon has been working in film production and distribution for over 30 years, and was a leading studio executive at Warner Brothers Walt Disney Studios and 20th Century Fox. After leaving his last job, he decided to venture out and start producing his own films. And he created some very profitable films including six below with Josh Hartnett. And the mega indie film hit I can only imagine, which grossed over $83 million at the box office. With those releases, he created a multi window distribution model. And he created new markets for the ever shifting distribution space for competitive smaller studios. This third party distribution model started with Lionsgate and then grow into MGM relativity, DreamWorks, and mirror backs and generated substantial fees and greater greater efficiency, and kind of knocking down the old distribution model. Anytime I can have somebody who is championing a new way for filmmakers, and production companies and studios, small studios to be able to make money with their films. I'm all about it. I was very excited to talk shop with him and we really get into it in this episode. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Simon Swart. I'd like to welcome the show, Simon Swart, man, Thank you so much for being on the show.

Simon Swart 3:28
It's great to be here.

Alex Ferrari 3:29
I appreciate it. Man. You are you've been around the block a few times. Yeah, I know that you have some shrapnel in the from the business without question

Simon Swart 3:38
and experience.

Alex Ferrari 3:41
Some battle scars, some shrapnel? Absolutely. So before we get into it, how did you get into the business?

Simon Swart 3:48
Wow, I've got to tell you. I got into the business by sending my resume to every record company and music company on the west coast and being completely rejected. And I ended up meeting and got a party and turns out they were hiring somebody they were looking for someone at Warner Brothers and that was it.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
Isn't that the way it works?

Simon Swart 4:07
The younger generation out there, you've got to send your resumes out there and do that stuff. But ultimately, it's probably your relationships and your contacts. So they're gonna get you a job. And by the way, you don't get your dream job out the gate. You take whatever job is going and you do it to the best of your abilities.

Alex Ferrari 4:22
But wait a minute. So you So you mean to tell me that out of film school, Kevin Fey, he is not going to call you to direct the next $200 million Marvel movie, like right out of film school as a 10 year old, a 15 year old 20 year old?

Simon Swart 4:35
Probably not. I think it's a long shot.Just the golden tickets do exist. They're just rare.

Alex Ferrari 4:43
But and I've spoken about this golden lottery ticket mentality of filmmakers for so long, because that's the one story that you hear. I mean, we're still talking about El Mariachi. I mean, it's, I mean, it's like that these mythical stories and these filmmakers think that that's the way it's going to work and then It's not the way this business runs,

Simon Swart 5:01
you, you've got to put in your 10,000 hours plus, and you might be getting coffee, you might be driving people to and fro, but you do what you got to do. And you learn along the way,

Alex Ferrari 5:13
without question. Now, what did you do when you got over to Warner Brothers?

Simon Swart 5:17
Well, so here's the funny thing. By the way, I studied accounting and auditing, I was actually a chartered accountant by trade, so Okay, you know, how did that all work out? Well, I was an art student who realized that I could, I could probably emigrate better with a business degree than with an art degree. So I did that basic math, and I forced myself to learn business and things like that. And when I started at Warner Brothers, I was a manager of international finance. It was a glorious position. It sounds very creative.

As much as you think, but but I would say my, I worked through Warner Brothers, I then worked for a small independent, I worked at Disney. And then I spent the last 20 years at Fox and doing different roles and different functions, but but gradually getting into more and more creative roles, where I eventually became the head of sales, the head of sales and marketing. And then I ran the distribution division for the home entertainment side of box for the last decade or so.

Alex Ferrari 6:16
So since you were at Fox, there was a few movies that they had, they had ownership of that, of course, now Disney because they Disney owns everything. But at the time, you were responsible solely as soon I think I should be getting my check from the mouse at any day now just to buy me out at this point. But, but while you were there, you got to work on a very prestigious, you know, franchise, which is called the Star Wars. So how was that? What was the stories behind marketing Star Wars? And you were there when the rerelease was happening? Which was the 97 rerelease, which was basically our first look, there was a whole generation, we've never even seen Star Wars in the theater before.

Simon Swart 6:57
Yes, it's pretty remarkable. I mean, actually, what I loved about the Gagan, Fox on that side of the business was, you were the curator of the studio's history, you and the great filmmakers all understand that, that their movies will be remembered not necessarily on the big screen, there are launches on the big screen, and we're all making movies for the big screen. Because it is such a remarkable experience as a consumer as a fan, when the lights go out, and you've got your popcorn and this, the imagery, the journey you go on is so remarkable. But the legacy is going to be on the homescreen whether it's digital, and whatever format, you're going to get it. That's the legacy issue. And you're the curator of all this film history. And yeah, 97 we had a whole generation of Star Wars fans that, you know, your access to the movies was so limited. Now you get to rerelease it and you're you're you're creating a whole new group of fans, you know, whether it's Star Wars, or it's fair to remember or Sound of Music. You know, it's it was I loved that part of the job was working on the older movies and working on these classic franchises and keeping them alive. And it's a privilege to get to reintroduce them to new audiences, frankly.

Alex Ferrari 8:13
Now, how can you talk a little bit about the marketing mindset about around relaunching Star Wars in the theaters because that was a I remember in that time that it was considered a risk. I still remember it was considered a risk and they were talking about like why would they do this? It's available on VHS you know what it kill obviously admitted, obscene amount of money.

Simon Swart 8:35
Sure. You know, honestly, Luke Lucas Film was integral in everything that we did. And you know, thing and one thing about George Lucas and the guys at Lucasfilm, as they were so protective of their fans, right, they wanted they, they respect their fans, they everything was about protecting the fans and giving them giving them what they wanted. And, you know, listening, I mean, that they're one of those brands that always had a dialogue with their fans, and they've had those fans for a reason. So everything we did was about servicing the fans. And yeah, releasing the movie of the I want to say if I remember correctly, we did something like a million over a million units of it of a trilogy, people like there's no way you're going to sell a million units of a trilogy that's from a movie that was released sort of, you know, 30 years ago, you know, everyone's moved on. It's like, not so much you know, like we were saying, and we love proving people wrong.

Alex Ferrari 9:36
Yeah, like we were saying, like I was saying before, when we were off air is like I've purchased the Star Wars movies on pretty much every format ever released.

Simon Swart 9:46
Yeah, and honestly, the Marketing Challenge in that right was always making sure you're giving the fans a reason to buy it again, not buying just the same product again. Right. So where that when they were technological dancers like we were able to digitize and remaster like when we moved to DVD and blu ray and rerelease them on those formats, you know, we were able to go back and actually, you know, Lucasfilm went back and fixed some of the scenes because the VFX weren't, weren't translating properly and technology and advanced so much. And that was pretty controversial as well. So, I mean, one of the marketing decisions we had to make is, I think when we did the DVD, we released it in the original format and the original resolution, and in the enhanced version, where it had been digitized, and some of the digital effects have been cleaned up, and so on. So that, you know, the fans were very clear, they wanted both, they wanted the original the way, I saw it in theaters way back when, but I also would like to see the new updated version, too. So that was kind of rare we did, we did some some really some pretty creative things back then, you know, releasing the releasing, releasing both movies and the same package, you know, you can have both versions.

Alex Ferrari 10:55
Now you you were in charge of a lot of marketing of a lot of big franchises during your tenure at Fox and at Disney. Can you talk a little bit about what it's like working with the studios and what a typical marketing plan is for a blockbuster film? Because, you know, the rollouts, the understand, because we on the show, we've talked a lot about independent film marketing, and your niche audiences and grassroots and all this stuff. But I would love to hear from the inside. What is the plan, like, okay, we're going to spend X dollars on billboards, and this kind of ads and these kinds of ads. And of course, technology has changed a bit since probably a lot of those earlier releases, but just curious.

Simon Swart 11:34
So I think one of the biggest things is, you know, back back in the 90s, you had a slightly more homogenous plans, right, you would have your billboards, you'd have your radio, you have your print, you have your trailering, right, and you had television, so you knew you knew who the audience was that you needed to open the movie. Obviously, there's a lot of testing done in those days, even predigital. We test the movie against the audiences. So we knew what the rating was. And every marketing plan was different depending on the genre, the size and the scope of the movie, okay, so you know, the the worst thing you can do, and sometimes you can see studios getting a little lazy about it as there's the cookie cutter approach, right, this is the way we've done it. And that that kind of strategy went out the window quite a long time ago, especially now with the challenges of mass market marketing. So if you're buying media on TV, you now have to supplement it with social media and online media. And that becomes a much bigger piece of the budget. So the marketing of these movies has always been dynamic, and it's always been risky, right? That hasn't changed. It's just a matter of where you're spending the money and where you're taking the risk. And it also depends on who your target target audience is, if you go back 20 years ago, the sweet spot of opening blockbusters was males 18, to 34. But like, if you could get the fanboys into go see a movie you were made, you knew you'd make your number, you get the butts in seats. And now you know, 2019 You know, that's just not the case anymore. Because those fanboys are, you know, they're they're, they're add, basically, on the media world, you don't know what they're everywhere. And I think one of the coolest thing that's actually occurred in the marketing spaces, you know, the old school marketing, demographics don't work, they don't work anymore. We we don't identify the audiences don't identify based on ethnicity, social class, gender, as much as we'd like them to. Audiences identify based on interests, behaviors, passions, so and and it's not, it's very hard to do mass marketing anymore, you know, the, the, it's diminishing returns on what you're getting out of TV, you know, you got to advertise on certain cable channels, and you've got to be in certain events. I mean, Superbowl ads are probably one of the rare exceptions where everybody is probably going to see your ad. And then you've got to supplement it with online and social media. But your online and social media can just be a replication of what you're doing on radio and what TV they've got to be unique to that format. And I think that's one of the one of the cool things that's going on in the marketing space right now.

Alex Ferrari 14:10
But is it I've noticed this just from just being a watcher of the industry, I've noticed that from the days of when I was coming up in the 90s. To today, the studios are having a more difficult time, even them with their massive resources to actually get to the audience to get because there's so much more competition. I mean, those those fanboys, a lot of them are just sitting in front of a video game for 15 hours a day, they're not interested in going to the movie theater anymore. So it's much it's even difficult and challenging. With hundreds of millions of dollars.

Simon Swart 14:42
How do you how do you break through even with the $80 million spend, and by that, by the way, you've got to recoup that too. So, you know, you've spent $300 million making the movie. Now you got to spend maybe another 100 and $50 million, marketing it and most people don't understand that whatever the box office is You've got to cut it in half right off the bat, because exhibition takes half. And then you've got to recoup your marketing costs, and then you've got all these other expenditures in there. So it gets pretty crazy. Because when you start having to spend against social media and stuff, is that an incremental spend, or you're taking $1, away from your mass market TV? Yeah. And the reality is, you can't take away the dollar, because you still need that mass market TV. And by the way, you still need those cable spots, because that might be where your target audience is, is is as well, right? And you've also got to spend money on PR and publicity to break through. So really kind of your your your marketing campaign is almost it's a military campaign of sorts, but it's all geared towards opening weekend.

Alex Ferrari 15:44
Right, right. But, but I've noticed that opening weekends, I mean, depends, of course, on the on the on the franchise, or on the blockbuster that's coming up, but opening weekends aren't what they used to be. Sometimes they will explode. And we'll have the $200 million $150 million and $90 million, like the Joker did recently. You know, you know, those are, that was a surprise. But But those those numbers aren't as much as they used to be in box out, like, look at that, Will Smith movie, the Gemini man that just tanked you know, which is a whole conversation about movie stars, did they even matter anymore?

Simon Swart 16:17
I think movie stars definitely matter. I think that the model is changing where you have those, you know, the classic star driven vehicles, the content still needs to be really good, right? You can't just do those vanity projects. I think what's happened is there's this massive you know, the days of the studio chief being the the thought leader or the or the taste maker for the whole country? Yeah, I'm going to do, I'm going to I'm going to create a relationship with a movie star, and I'm going to give them 30 to 40% of the budget or something crazy like that, because it's there in it is automatically going to open, you know, those days are long gone. Right? The content needs to deliver it needs to be good. Right. And I think that's that's one of the many changing things that's going on in the film space. I mean, you know, in the industry, we laugh about the the back end participation, right, because it's invisible. The whole point on the backhand participation was that you would allow your talent to share in the upside of the movie. So you keep them engaged. The reality is with the studio accounting being what it is, that back end never materializes. Okay, so so stars have to figure out a different way to get paid. So what they would do is they take a disproportionate share of the budget, all that does is shift all the respect to the studio, in essence. So I think these economic models are all changing as the reality has changed. And the technology is changing that as well. And the reality is, everybody doesn't fully understand or not say nobody fully understands what the future of media consumption is going to be. It's not going to be one thing, it's not going to be just the utricle. It's not going to be just streaming, it's going to be a balance of all of these technologies.

Alex Ferrari 17:55
And that where does the the humble, independent filmmaker fall into all of this, this this conversation in general?

Simon Swart 18:03
Well, it's fascinating. I think the challenge for the independent filmmaker has been that as studios have moved away from the mid level star driven movies and the smaller movies, they're focusing more on the big franchises, right? The reality is to in my mind, that's a Disney game. Disney wins that game every time because they're a licensing franchise machine. That's what they do, right? Even Bob Iger says, I love I love the movies we're making, but also love great indie films and those arthouse films, which is ironic, but he goes, but he's clear that those are not the movies that Disney is going to be making. Right? Okay. And, and that's, that's obviously very, very revealing, but it's insightful. He knows what their core strength is. And he plays to it. And he's brilliant at that. But for the other studios, that leaves a lot of in between, right? If you don't have the theme parks, and you don't have that big licensing machine for all their all the toys, and the T shirts and all the other stuff that goes with it, you know, where does that leave you with the independent films and those mid level movies because there is still a market for them. But but the risk is the risk is what has always been the reality is the studio's aren't going to put up that money. So as an independent producer, you have to go raise the money to make the movie, you can then partner up with a studio for a distribution deal or a service deal. And that's the way to go, then the challenge is when you have to raise as an independent filmmaker, you got to be thinking about how am I going to raise the money to actually make the movie, but at the same time, how am I going to raise the money to actually market the movie because if you don't think about that, until you've finished the movie, you're at risk. Because that guy who comes in and puts up the PMA will then take control of the project that is the model right now. And I think the innovation is going to come with your releasing strategy. So the challenge for the independent filmmaker is I'm not making a movie for Netflix per se. I'm not going to make a movie for Amazon per se, but I've got to structure my financing in such a way that I know how I'm going to get to market and the higher your budget goes over $10 million. The only way out is that the trickle release or you've got to have, you've got to have covered your most of your negative with your foreign pre sales, right. So you structure your financing creatively. But most people don't think that way. Right? That's let's not always there's a few people that get that. But for most Indies, like you've got to figure out what your strategy is, to me, Netflix is a great strategy. But just remember, with Netflix, there's not a lot of upside, there's a great business model and they're okay paying the premium if they own the, if they own your IP, that's that's the way they're working right now. But they're but they're predominantly focused on big big names to know if you can get that golden ticket, you know, Martin Scorsese with the Irishman, you know, that's a good deal, you, they pay you a big chunk of money for the movie and the rights and you make it for less than that, you know, the margin is what you get to keep type of thing. So the independent film model is actually a pretty exciting place to be right now. But you've got to really understand the distribution opportunities that are ahead of you, at the point that you're creating your budget. And you've got to know who your audiences

Alex Ferrari 21:12
that Yeah, that was about to say, and because I mean, I speak to independent filmmakers on a daily basis. And I'm gonna say 95% of them are the creative producer, the creative director, and they're not the business person, they, they're creating a product and have no idea where to sell it. And I'm yelling at the top of my lungs from the top of the mountain I can and going, look, if you're a real estate developer, and you make condos, you know who you're gonna sell those condos to, you don't just make a condo, you know, a 20, you know, 20 unit condo and go. Now let's see what we're gonna do. You don't do that.

Simon Swart 21:47
Yeah. What's your business plan? Who's your audience? Who are you making this for? What are you hoping to accomplish by making this movie? Right? Because if you can answer those questions, and yeah, the first question I'll ask any independent producer or non independent producer, director is, what is this movie most? Like? What What do you believe your end product is going to be immodest? Like, can you name five movies for me that you think this movie is like? And part of that is understanding expectations? Right? It's also understanding tone. But oftentimes, if you've got an indie filmmaker coming and saying, I've got an $8 million budget movie, or a $4 million budget movie, and it's most like Star Wars, and or its most like, avatar, okay, that had like a $300 million budget, and you're gonna do it for eight, and James Cameron. It's probably Yeah, and James Cameron. And, and, you know, and john Landau and studio behind you, and so on. It's like, you've got to level set expectations, right. Whereas if you're making a movie, that's a $10 million budget and want a good conscience, Juno, and one of them's Napoleon Dynamite, perhaps now you go, Okay, I'm listening. Right now I'm listening could you know, if you're gonna spend $10 million making a movie and you've, you've laid off half of it with foreign your net exposure is $5 million. And maybe you've got a one one and a half million dollar tax credit, take advantage of all that your exposure for you and your investors is three and a half million dollars. At that point, a great streaming deal, gets you into a pretty good place and gets everyone to see your movie. It's kind of like understanding how you're going to go to market what's your perfect end goal, right? And here's the thing is for us and for for where my company's at right now, for MTB pictures and tiba is, we really want to make movies for the big screen. And I know that's counter intuitive with what people are talking about in the industry and so on. But we're going to make them for the big screen one time to be big and cinematic, we're not going to do the big budget, you know, that our biggest budgets, probably 10 to $15 million. Because a 10 to $15 million, you can get a great cast, you can get a great director, you can make something that's beautiful and deserves to be on the big screen. And by the way, if you fumble on the movie doesn't end up as good as you wanted it to be at that budget range, you can make money still without a theatrical release with a certain cast, obviously, with a certain cast. And if you pass it on, if you know who your audiences, you know, again, again, the challenges you need probably a minimum. And there are a lot of people that will say you need $25 million minimum to open a movie in the US. I disagree with that. I think if you know who your audiences and you build your audience early, and you're creative on the social side, you can open for much less than that, you know, probably around eight to 10 for a relatively wide release. You but you've got to figure out where you're going to get that money from and how you're actually going to get that get that into the marketplace. Right? Yeah, and

Alex Ferrari 24:51
you could also I mean, there's there's so many different ways of doing and I mean, I've had multiple I've had multiple guests on and I've done case studies of films that heart are low budget, they're a Miller $2 million, but they knew their audience so well. And they targeted them so well. And they worked on them for a year, year and a half cultivating that audience. By the time that movie came out, they killed it. They were pulling three for theatrical, and a lot of it was self theatrical where they were doing, you know, neither for walling, or on demand screenings, and they were just killing it. It was it. But there's a lot of work. And you really need to understand so many elements for that to happen. And most of those films, by the way, were not star powered. They were not genre powered, or story powered. Yeah,

Simon Swart 25:38
I think for an indie you build the audience while you're shooting, or before you're shooting. Don't Don't give up the movie, don't don't trip anything that would turn off a potential future distributor, but start building an audience as soon as possible.

Alex Ferrari 25:52
Now, can you tell me I mean, you've had great success going after niche audiences, specifically, your film I can only imagine which was a runaway blockbuster in the realm of what you do, which is faith based films. And can you tell everybody a little bit about that film? And then how much it grossed? And because it was it was a fairly impressive movie? And what was the budget of that film? If you don't mind me telling you ask? No,

Simon Swart 26:16
I think a lot of the all the credit on that movie should go to, you know, to the Irwin brothers, Cindy bond. I mean, they made something amazing. And you know, the Hoeven brothers I'd worked with when I was at Fox and we set up a whole third party distribution model at Fox and the old ones were young filmmakers who I came across there and they had an old movie called October baby. And it was very much a faith based movie, but it was really beautiful and well shot. And that was where our relationship with them started. And they've just come along so much as filmmakers you know, they've got to to a cinema score is going in the in the in the faith based space to general market, a cinema score, so great filmmakers. And I think I can only imagine what worked with I can only imagine is we had a built in audience that was based on number one contemporary Christian song of all time. So it was a massive audience. Most people didn't know the story behind the song.

Alex Ferrari 27:13
Generally, most people don't care about the story behind the song but for this song, but this song did I even know the song. And it's not that's not the music, I listen to use it, but I heard that song 1000

Simon Swart 27:22
times, it broke, it broke out off the art of Christian music because people just love the song was inspirational and just for, for for for giving people hope and music. I mean, it is the power of the medium. So we so we knew we had a built in audience on that one. And you know, the Oakland brothers did magic. You know, they, they they grew up shooting, you know, doing sports and music anyway. And and they were the right guys to do this project. And this, and this movie is a universal story it is about so you got to build an audience. That's a major plus factor, our budget was less than $10 million. They started building the audience a year, over a year out with limited screenings, and so on. And you know, the movie is kind of a bit of a love letter to Nashville as well. But it deals with these fundamental issues of forgiveness. It doesn't become overly preachy, but it's really a father son story. But there's a love story in there also. And I think when you look at that movie, it delivers on all the beats that it set up. So no matter what you believe, it doesn't force you to into a certain belief paradigm. You do believe in forgiveness, you do believe in love, you do believe in redemption, right? We all love those kind of underdog stories. And that's what this is, you know, it was basically a story about a kid who gets beaten by his father, who's a heavy drinking, you know, abusive dad, and eventually he he has to come to a point where he's, he can reconcile with his father, and he he does this beautiful reconciliation is based on a true story. And I think you know, that's the power of a true story, too, is that you go Yeah, that actually happened. That guy got through it. He did that this is what he accomplished. If he can do that, I can do that. You know, and that's that's something that's kind of cool about the story driven pictures.

Alex Ferrari 29:15
Yeah. And that movie if I'm not mistaken, made about 84 million domestic and in the theatrical which is for a few

Simon Swart 29:22
days automatic and, and again, it was a very limited marketing spend the team at Lionsgate Roadside did a great job releasing that and, you know, we had a lot of the producers had a lot to do with the releasing of that movie. And

Alex Ferrari 29:40
you understood but the producers also understood their niche so well that they understood that I'm I'm I'm assuming that any marketing spend wasn't just billboards and TV ad buys. They were going to have to churches, they were going after where that niche audience lived.

Simon Swart 29:57
Yeah. We some of the Best sort of agencies in the in the business were hired on that and help guide that with with roadside and Lionsgate. And yeah, that was an example of everything going really well. And yeah, I think I think the omens have another movie coming out, I forget the name. I still believe I think, which is coming out in March. And every every indication is it's going to be another hit. It looks amazing. The anticipation is there. If you look it up on social media, you can see the kind of following it's got already.

Alex Ferrari 30:29
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Simon Swart 30:38
And again, that's just an example of building your audience early on. And it's a story that people know about in the community. And you know, it's going to be a well made story, because you know, what this these filmmakers brand is?

Alex Ferrari 30:50
And yeah, exactly. And they are building a brand around their themselves as they are one brothers, just like Spielberg is a brand new Scorsese is a brand. Yeah. And they're also doing it for a smart. Number two, it's like, it's not like they're making this $400 million.

Simon Swart 31:05
Right? Right. budgets, the budgets very rational. If you've got a very targeted audience, you know, I again, I think as an indie filmmaker, you've always got to rationalize your budget, that's part of knowing who your audience is, and how you're going to go to market. So maybe making a movie for $20 million, when you can get the same result for eight or nine. You know, that's just asking for trouble. I mean, you know, one of the most famous indies of recent memories get out. I mean, look at look at Jordan peels, brand, look at how he's exploded, you know, but he didn't just show up. He paid his dues. You know, he took some creative risks, but, you know, I want to say get out was made for what, less than $5 million? You know, and that did I think they did over 100.

Alex Ferrari 31:49
I know it did it. I think it did, like 200 something.

Simon Swart 31:53
Some it was some crazy number and what a brilliant movie it was, it was just so fresh. Right?

Alex Ferrari 31:58
Right in But with that, that's one of those, you know, he was with the Blum house guys, so, and that's a whole other conversation with Blum house has been able to do and they've been so smart.

Simon Swart 32:10
So that's one of my other points as an indie filmmaker, don't compare yourself to a lightning strike. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 32:18
Oh, that's great. I like that. Yeah, like, Oh, yeah, movies, just like paranormal activity. Movies, just like Blair Witch Project. Yeah,

Simon Swart 32:26
we're all aware of the outliers, right? It's like, you know, what, actually, when I was working at Disney, the first movie I got to work on was Lion King. Okay. And this is something I learned. Every other movie animated movie that came out after Lion King was the next Lion King. And the problem is, they are all very successful. But they didn't do what Lion King did. So they were deemed failures. And so it's kind of like dog bent, your mark yourself. For an outlier. I think the key thing in independent film is that you've got to set yourself up for singles and doubles are good thing. But if you hit a homerun, you're great, right? But you're playing for the singles and doubles, like get on base, just get on base, you know, that that sets you up for your next project, your next thing, and if you hit a homerun, you're ready to go. And it's kind of like, every project I look at now. It's like, how do I get back to break even? Right? failure should be breakeven. And I want to know that I've got a plan for break even. And then how do I set myself up? Well, this is this movie capable of a disproportionate return. Right? And a disproportionate return is that big, you know, the Juno type number, the Napoleon Dynamite talk number, the guitar type number. So but you're not banking on the breakout? You're banking on a single or a double? Have I?

Alex Ferrari 33:45
Have you been listening to my podcast? Because you literally said the exact thing I've said so many times with my baseball analogy. I go, everybody wants to go up to bat and hit a homerun. But most people when they make their first movie, haven't even been in a baseball stadium or picked up a bat before. And they're expecting to hit a homerun at the beginning where there's that other guy or girl who's been in the batting cage, just hitting away hitting away heading away and just practicing until they finally get their shot up, Pat. You know, it's it's fascinating, the the egotistic mind of the filmmaker which there is a few egos in our business, just a few, not many. But we we have these delusions of grandeur, as filmmakers I definitely had for many years. You know, I was going to be the next this or my film was going to do this thing. I'm sure you've run into this many times.

Simon Swart 34:38
So in fairness, indie hustle, I want to reveal my sources. Okay, but I appreciate that. Yeah. run into it all the time. It's a process right? And you're gonna pay your dues you've got to learn, right? And by the way, there's a ton of people out there that will help you. As an indie filmmaker, you've got to build up your network, find the people that can help you and advise you. There's a lot of people that will give you advice. For relatively free, don't pay for the advice yet, you know, verified so I see a lot of people getting suckered by paying people to to market their movies when they haven't fully vetted them, and they make bad deals and so on. There's a lot of people out there that will advise you as an indie filmmaker, there's a lot of resources out there available to, but remember, it's a slog. And yeah, I mean, my hat's off to anyone actually makes a movie because a movie even if it's shot on your iPhone, and it's edited and put together, it's a it's a pretty significant creative accomplishment, no matter you know, just to actually pull it all together, right? People to perform and so on. I mean, when, when you've been on sets of on Indies, you know, I enjoy indies because there's, there's a lot of less, less, a lot less less room for waste. So everybody's very mission focused. And usually that crew is tight, man, it's like they will do they're in battle man, and they're going to get the shots, they're going to get the coverage. And you know, that the your indie director is, is the ultimate team leader, because he doesn't have money to throw around the way a big studio director might have, right? Like, you got to do this for the passion, you got to enroll your entire cast and crew and your vision for what you're doing. And, and that isn't easy. That takes a lot of practice. That's why it's like working on other people's movies is really one of the best ways to learn because you you're in this together, you problem solve together,

Alex Ferrari 36:26
without without questions, a preach, preach, preach. Now, we want to talk a little bit about distribution and distribution options for independent filmmakers. You know, I've talked a lot about distribution on my show. And on my other show, film shoprunner, where is about how to get your film out there. And it The landscape is changing so rapidly, every other month, there's something new what was true. Last year is no longer true today, in every it's streaming and theatrical and on demand, and DVD, all of it. You know, these legacy models, I call it the legacy distribution models, which were basically designed by the studios, and the larger distribution companies to keep more money in their own pockets, because their businesses, I get it. And we've all heard those kind of predatory stories of the filmmaker signing the bet their movie away for 15 years and never seen a dime. We've all heard those stories. What are the distribution options that we have as issue as independent filmmakers moving forward? From your point of view?

Simon Swart 37:26
Well look, the number one predictor of downstream revenue, you know, ironically, right, everyone's talking about all the disruption, all the stuff that's going on the chaos of streaming with Amazon, Hulu, Netflix coming on board, how the studios are struggling, and so on. But still, the number one predictor of downstream revenues for a movie is the US domestic box office. And say that, that brings a lot of clarity to all the discussions that are happening around the world and in the space, right, that is the number one predictor of overall profitability. And what I mean by that is, it still sets most of the downstream revenue streams. So if you have a guaranteed domestic release with a reputable domestic distributor on say, 1000 screens, your foreign value goes up by four or 5x, maybe even more, depending on the package, right. So that is still the number one way to go. But the problem is, it's really hard to get there. Which is why you want to have the option of bringing your own PMA if you can, because that gives you the option to release yourself and manage it yourself. However, if your budgets right, you can still get enough money out of foreign and if you structure a drag taking advantage of tax credits and things like that. Yeah, you can you can then release also directly to an HBO or a Netflix or Hulu or an Amazon right. Now you can also get audit, you can also get your product ordered and paid for ahead of time in some cases, by those guys, if you if you're hitting something that they know that they have a need for or niche. But if you're an unknown, that's pretty hard. Yeah, so so at the end of the day, you can you can self release digitally, you can put it on a digital platform yourself. The problem is you still need someone to find your movie. You know, the the marketing, you can't release a movie without marketing, you have to have a marketing plan. You might have the best movie in the world you might have be, you know, you might have the next Napoleon Dynamite, for example. But if people can't find it and don't know about it, you're never going to build up that word of mouth. So you've got to have some kind of strategy for releasing when you're making the movie. Right? So you've got a couple of marketing and with it, I mean that the distribution landscape is really complex right now you've got windows collapsing. So it's kind of you know, it used to be that you would make a fair amount of your money on the theatrical release if you could recover most of your marketing money and the theatrical world. That was a good thing, because then you could try and recover your negative in the downstream, right? You know, the streaming services used to pay a percentage of the domestic box office, this TV syndication would pay a percentage of the domestic box office. And then your your, your digital and DVD and blu ray, you know, digital being transactional, if you pay to watch it again, like pay per view, or you you buy digitally on iTunes, that used to be most of the profit of a movie. Right. But that's collapsing with the advent of streaming. That's, that's, that's where that's where the industry is in a scramble, because all that secondary transactional revenue is shrinking. And what I call transactional revenue, as again, if a consumer pays to watch it again, either by renting it on video on demand, or buying it on iTunes or buying a DVD or buying a blu ray. And by the way, you know, people are still buying DVDs and blu rays. If you have a, if you have a big screen TV, and you've got the biggest high Ultra High Definition screen, the best way to watch your best sci fi movie, these Marvel movies, I would argue is still on a blu ray. It's the best way to replicate what you saw in theater, because of transfer rates, buffer rates, and all of that stuff is changing. But you know, each of these individual segments, so I still think I still think physical media of some form or digital media is that's the legacy platform. That's where as a filmmaker, you get to explain your journey you get, you know, that's where people will discover your movie. And I think that's something we do have to solve for. And I know previously that a lot of talk going on about blockchain and how that can apply to how consumers can transfer rights and how they can renew right?

Alex Ferrari 41:44
Explain. Explain that to people. Cuz I know a lot of people don't understand blockchain.

Simon Swart 41:48
But I don't understand it fully. So I'm going to quantify it. But what I understand is that it's basically it's this amazing certification where if you have a share certificate, or it's like having $1 and as I'm not talking Bitcoin, but if you buy the right to a movie, so let's say you buy the right to, I can only imagine you paid $12 or $15, right? Through blockchain technology, it'll identify that I'm the legal owner of that digital copy of that file. That means that copy pirated copy taken away from me, but that blockchain also identifies that the obon brothers own the copyright to that, that that file as well, right. So it's kind of like this perfect aligning of rights, where it's encrypted and protected. So I have the right to that movie, I can now sell that to you. If I want to, I can sell it to you for $7 or $8. But I own that, right. And I can certify that I have that right. So

Alex Ferrari 42:42
like DVDs, blu rays, or VHS, any physical media, you could do that with as well.

Simon Swart 42:46
Yeah, except with blockchain, you won't be able to rip it. And I won't be able to share it. So so for the studios and for the people that are making movies. I mean, let's face it, piracy has been a Bane on the business. Since since then, smart cams and VHS, right? And piracy is not is a major issue. Because the creators, we have so many challenges actually making money on our movie anyway, getting it through the traditional system, people are taking it for free and actually making money off of what you've created. So you know, piracy is not one of those victimless crimes, I really don't. I don't believe it's a victimless crime. People are selling it and making money without actually putting the investment and the time and and people that have worked on the movie are therefore not getting paid. I mean, that is a fundamental problem. And I think that is one of those things that the blockchain technology can actually help address and fix. I don't think it's there yet. But I think that's the promise of it. That's that's the way studios are looking at it. That's the way content creators are looking at and distributors are going. Okay, how do I make sure this happens? I mean, the irony is, you know, you broke the story about the digital platform, the aggregator,

Alex Ferrari 43:57
yeah, the distributor platform, yes,

Simon Swart 43:58
that kind of went sideways or went under and people lost a lot of money. The funny thing is, is that when you're selling blu rays and DVDs, there's an audit trail that goes with that, like, I know that I shipped these discs to that retailer, and that retailer, then sold them and I got paid and I can trace the money all the way coming back, right? with digital technology. Ironically, even with the downloading and the you know, the the digital downloading on iTunes and Amazon, it's almost impossible to audit. Even though there should be one relationship, there should be a trail that says my credit card was charged $14 for the movie, therefore the studio should be able to know that, you know, they can follow that revenue all the way through the system. It's not it's not that's how it should be. But it doesn't work that way.

Alex Ferrari 44:46
Yeah, I was always wondering that myself because I'm like, who like, you know, how do I really know how much money is coming? There's no way to actually check it. There's no way to audit it. I'm trusting Amazon, I'm trusting iTunes, I'm trusting all of them. That could easily siphoning off I'm not saying they are, but easily by either by error or whatever. But we can't really prove that we got all the money that we get.

Simon Swart 45:08
Right? There's, there's quite a few opportunities for leakage in the current system. Yeah, there was. Well, there was there was leakage when you're shipping DVDs, because people could make copies of DVDs, and they could rip them. And then they put them, they put them on the internet, and then they're sharing them through bit torrents and all that kind of stuff. And you know that that's a constant process. And you know, that's where I think, again, just coming back to my limited knowledge of blockchain, that's where blockchain is the promise to actually shut that down. But it also will, I think, it also has the potential to create a whole secondary and tertiary market for the content that we've all bought, right? So the days of us having our big physical libraries, you know, of us owning all our favorite movies and having them on DVD and blu ray, I think what's going to happen is, we're going to have a digital library, I think our absolute favorite movies we're gonna want on whatever the the hottest format is, that's going to give us the best experience at home. So there's a handful of movies that we're gonna want to own physically and we'll rebuy all our star wars, right, going back to your first question, right? When Star Wars comes out again, and it's ultra high definition, and there's all these interactive features, and you've now got a, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:20
a hologram, holographic George Lucas will talk through the entire movie for you.

Simon Swart 46:26
Exactly. And your TV's the size of the wall in your house. And it's a high definition, sir, you're gonna want to buy it on that format for that movie. But the vast majority of other movies, you're probably going to be okay, just to streaming right things, or to wait until it comes on syndicated TV, you'll pay TV, that type of thing.

Alex Ferrari 46:44
If there's even TV then who knows?

Simon Swart 46:48
It's all going to be a series of channel absence, everything's gonna be over the top.

Alex Ferrari 46:52
Without without question. I mean, things are changing so rapidly. I mean, I mean, I again, I talked to independent filmmakers so often, and I'm always getting these questions like, how do I make money? What do I do this or that? And I've really tried to stay on the cutting edge. And I love this, this blockchain idea of yours, you know, or the or that or the promise of it? Because it's basically Well, you know, for people who don't understand block blockchain, it is the basis of cryptocurrency. So it so that that then you have to, you know, whoever wants to learn about cryptocurrency, please go do so that's a, that's a deep well, that we will not cover in this episode. But that, but that technology does have so much promise that I always got pissed about that, too. Because I come from the video store days, when I worked in a video store where I could buy my VHS or buy a DVD, I'd hold it. And then when I didn't want any more, I would sell it on Amazon or eBay, digitally, that does not exist anymore. It's you can't sell a digital copy unless they bootleg it. And even if you bootleg it, you can't really sell it in a digital way. You can. There's other ways as other business models,

Simon Swart 47:58
inherently as a consumer, I should have the right to sell that right. I should sell it to you. And you know, and that's that's the stuff that I think blockchain actually enables. And I think it's it's high time because the reality is when you do buy a digital file now you're not actually buying it. You're kind of renting it.

Alex Ferrari 48:16
Oh, yeah. I don't have it

Simon Swart 48:18
all to put on your hard drive. But it's not like something else you buy that you can sell to someone else. That's basically Yeah, I'm renting it. And by the way, if I change my cable company or something like that, God forbid, I'm probably going to lose it. Just that's it. That's the reality.

Alex Ferrari 48:33
Yeah, without question now, do you? Do you think and I I believe it is. But do you believe that niche based films are the future of independent filmmaking? Because I always tell people all the time, that film independent filmmakers can't do a giant, like a romantic comedy, a broad spectrum film, you know, a $10 million romantic comedy unless there's some major star power in it. And that story has to be really, you're now you're really trying to hit that target. So perfectly, you risk a lot. Whereas if you I always use the vegan chef movie, you make a visa vegan chef movie, that's romantic. And you can target that demographic a little bit, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Simon Swart 49:12
Yeah, I think you have to have a clear idea about who your core audiences. But you know, the exception to that is, you know, you take a movie like the big sick last year, right, even Napoleon Dynamite just one of my favorites because it's illustrated, it's a small movie, you know, who your core demographic is, but it has the ability to break out because deals with the human experience, right? And that for me, so it depends on your on your genre and what you're doing right. So I tend to focus on content that unites and inspires people. And and I gravitate towards stories which have a broad appeal, even though I will know exactly who my core audience is. Right? So if you're going to do a sci fi movie, that's a hide And that's going to appeal to that subset. Yeah, you always got to know who your core audiences and you got to know where they are and how to get to them. And you've got to know that at the script stage, frankly, but you're always hoping that you're doing like, again, for me, I'm looking for movies that have that breakout potential. And that only break out if they connect beyond that niche. Now, now, faith based movies are interesting, because in a way, they're their ultimate niche. So much like horror movies are kind of a niche, they're a bigger, more powerful niche, right. But if you're going to do a faith based movie for a niche, then you must do it for a budget. A smart number, a smart, you got to do it for a rational number, because that's your core. And you know that, you know, it's going to be narrow and deep, right. It's like heart, you know, that if you get the core and it'd be narrow and deep, but it has the ability to run. Right?

Alex Ferrari 50:49
It's like get out, like, get out.

Simon Swart 50:51
Yeah, exactly. I mean, that's just, I wouldn't even consider that exactly. horror. But you're right, it was that blumhouse model, and it's like, this is they know what to do, you know? So So yes, I think I think independent, I don't think independent film is just is just niche, but I think you you've got to have a hook that you can hold on to, right? Like when I read a script, I'm I read scripts backwards from most creatives. I'm thinking if I'm thinking of it from a distribution standpoint, and how am I going to market it? Where are the scenes that are going to be my trailer? You know,

Alex Ferrari 51:24
what am I thinking that way?

Simon Swart 51:26
That's, that's what I'm looking through. That's what I'm looking through a script looking for.

Alex Ferrari 51:31
Does that help? Yeah, it helps. I mean, I think that I agree with what you're saying. And that potential to break out is that home run. So we, you know, as well, as I do, we get one, maybe two of those a year, you know it, and then there's multiple levels of that breakout. So it could be you know, if I, if I could only imagine maybe 25 or $30 million, you would have been, you know, they would have been ecstatic, like, Oh, my God, you know, because it was a super hit. But then you occasionally get the Grand Slam, which is, you know, tenfold of what the budget is or something along those lines. But I do, I do truly believe that gatekeeping that, but when you're when your budget goes higher, you've got to have something to, to, to hedge your bets. So it's in a cast, it's either it's either cats story, niche genre, something that's going to hedge those bets, the higher that budget goes, Oh, sure. And then, and I'm always telling people to drop the budget as low as you possibly can, while still being able to create an MVP, a minimal viable product, to get to realize your dream and realize your vision, but get a product to the marketplace and not just look at this as an art form. It is an art form. But it is a business and it is a very expensive art form to work with. Do you agree?

Simon Swart 52:51
Absolutely. I mean, there's so many independent creatives that I've come across that know exactly how to make a movie for a budget. And, and that's, that's a massive skill by itself. But these days, you have to know how you're going to get that money back to, you can't just know that you have to know the other part as well. So it's kind of like, like you're saying, if I'm going to do a niche movie, you know, I'll use an example if you're going to do an inner city basketball movie, okay, it's probably not going to travel very well. You're gonna have to make your money in the US now. The markets are changing. Don't get me wrong, it's changing. Maybe you can sell it in China, if they stopped tweeting about it. You know, the NBA and they settle that hash. But, but you know what I'm saying it's like, if you do a very local movie, you've got to know that it's probably not going to travel well, therefore, you make it that way. And your distribution plan fits that accordingly. Right. So you know, you're gonna make all your money in that local market. And then anything you make overseas is going to be gravy. It'll be incidental, but that's not core to my business plan, right? It's like a baseball movie. Do a baseball movie. There's only a few countries in the world that it's really going to work. If you do a movie about NFL football, you know blindsides probably like an exception that traveled really well because it wasn't really about football.

Alex Ferrari 54:10
And it was Sandra Bullock too. And Sanibel because international star.

Simon Swart 54:14
Yeah, so that's not the example. But it's like there are certain genres that you know, that you know, are pretty nippy, and they're probably not going to break out. And you've got it, you've got to, you've got to have that plan. And that understand, you got to be honest, in the development stage of your movie.

Alex Ferrari 54:29
It's kind of like if I use another analogy, if you're in it, let's say you're in Colombia, and you are a baker, and you make this certain Colombian pastry that is very well known in that segment of the country, not even the whole country, just that segment of the country. It's a niche product. But then you say I'm going to throw in 30 million on this pastry because I think the rest of the world is gonna we've seen how many products like that we've seen that are culturally great, but the second they tried to break into the American market or another market, they just Like I would never eat pig, like if it's trying to sell like a Big Mac in India didn't go well.

Simon Swart 55:06
Yeah, well, let's see now that gets into the heart of the DNA of the creative, right? Again, coming back to what our company's strategy is, our game plan is to make movies that will work in the US marketplace. That is one of the lenses that we use. It's not everyone's lens, that's just our lens, there are going to be filmmakers that are going to go, I only want a movie that's going to appeal to the African audience, or it's only going to work for the Indian weddings. And by the way, I've got a business plan that's going to work just fine. Right? There's nothing wrong with that. That's, that's totally those are all viable options and plans, but to calibrate and scale your production appropriately. Okay. But again, for us, we're creating content that we believe will and we're going to cast it, and we're going to package it, we want it to work in the US marketplace. Because generally, if you can break it in the US marketplace, it's a pretty good indicator that it will travel elsewhere.

Alex Ferrari 56:02
Yeah, and it's, it's just fascinating. I've just seen, I mean, I know filmmakers, like Isaac namaha, who is a filmmaker in Uganda. And he makes films locally, and he created a whole industry in Uganda. And he makes his films for $200 $200. us.

Simon Swart 56:24
I think that's really exciting for us.

Alex Ferrari 56:26
Yeah, exactly. And now Africa is turning into a whole thing. I mean, there's a lot of Nollywood and all these kind of wonderful. There's so

Simon Swart 56:33
much media growth potential right now. And it's a it's a great thing.

Alex Ferrari 56:38
But the funny thing is that with with Isaac's example, he made these little $200 movies that were actually really just fun and action and the visual effects are horrendous, and you know, according to our standards, but his audiences loved it. And then he kept a cult following worldwide. So now he travels the world with these little movies. But he had breakup potential. But I I promised you this I interviewed him. He had no indication of ever getting out of his little town.

Simon Swart 57:07
But he but he's gonna break out.

Alex Ferrari 57:09
He got he did already. He

Simon Swart 57:10
already asked people like, where did this guy come from? Well, he's been doing this for a long time he did. Here it is.

Alex Ferrari 57:17
Right. 40 features under his belt.

Simon Swart 57:19
Tyler Perry's a brilliant example that Yeah, just brilliant. Right? just unbelievable. He he saw a niche that was completely underserved, which is the African American woman. Right? Nobody was catering to them at all. And he saw that opportunity. And he saw the opportunity for positive messaging. And he filled that gap. And it's like, kudos and credit to him as he saw that niche. And he recognized what it was worth, and he committed himself to it. And it's just one of those amazing success stories. But it wasn't an overnight success. It was it was it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears and just a lot of courage. Frankly,

Alex Ferrari 58:00
no, I remember seeing diary of the black of a mad black woman when it first came out, which was a big, huge deal at when they came out. It was like, how can they make this movie? There was a lot of controversy and all this stuff. I remember that was like in the 90s if I remember. Yeah. It was in the 90s when that came out, and he was just getting started. And now fast forward. 2019. He's got a studio in Atlanta that's bigger than Disney Warner's at Paramount,

Simon Swart 58:22
I'll put together. Yeah, Isn't it cool?

Alex Ferrari 58:25
It's unlike, say,

Simon Swart 58:26
stories that get me really excited. I mean, you know, frankly, I mean, there's a lot of that stuff going on. So like ntb, our company to talk about my company a little bit? Sure. Our headquarters is in South Africa, because there's exciting stuff going on South Africa. What most people don't know is that all the major studios, Netflix and Amazon included, are shooting down there. Because it doubles for just about anywhere in the world. The exchange rate is fantastic. There's an incredibly strong local crew down there. And there's a great exit incentive. Yeah, the problem is, it's a long way away. But it's like, there's something exciting to me about building these industries in places in these more remote places where technology is possible, it makes it possible, right. And you get these great crews and the quality of the production happening down there is remarkable. So we're not exclusively producing movies down there. We just have a very strong proclivity to want to do more down there. Because all the studios are doing it down there. They see what we see. But what happens is all the IP and all the the upside goes comes back to the stage. So it goes back to Europe, etc. And it's like, we can do this. We can cast it this way we can create movies that are made for the American market, because it's already happening in South Africa now. And yeah, South Africa has just been a country that has consistently hit above its weight class, shall we say? And with its message of diversity, it truly is a remarkable place right now given its history, and I actually think South Africa, being a former South African has a message for the world right now in terms of dive Assa t in terms of unity in terms of kind of the message of humanity and bringing people together. And I think it's what we all need right now. And I know that again, you can tell that's the kind of content that really draws me that draws me out is stuff that brings people together where we share our common humanity and challenges us.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:19
And and there's there needs to be more producers like you out there, sir doing doing the good work that you're doing. So I thank you, I thank you very much. I wanted to ask you, can you tell me about your new project, I am all girls.

Simon Swart 1:00:32
Yeah, this one's a very cool little project we did. It's a it's a great indie, had a very talented director, Donovan Marsh, who did hunter killer with Gerard Butler that released last year. And coming off that big movie, he wanted to do something that was kind of small and personal, but had an impact. And in South Africa, I don't know, a story of broken a couple of years ago about this human trafficking that was going on, in South Africa. And it became very clear that human trafficking is a global plot. It's a massive problem that people don't want to talk about. And it's happening in the US, it's not a South African problem. It's not an Asian problem, or a Middle Eastern problem. It's truly a global problem. And your slavery has been a problem since the beginning of time. So we wanted to create a movie that was commercial, it was entertaining, but we wanted to explore the world of the people that actually go into the human trafficking world to try and stop it. And, and ascertain what, what the impact is on those people. So this is kind of a crime thriller. It starts off as kind of a vigilante movie. And and you really, it starts off as a serial killer movie, but then you realize it's a vigilante movie, and as a conflict between the investigating police officer who realizes that this killer might actually be doing her work for her, where she's constrained by the rules and the regulations, this, this vigilante is going to the place that she can't go and you know, she's she's torn by by duty, and she wants to do it the right way. Now, she's like, Okay, do I bring this person in, and then she discovers the identity of the killer. So it's kind of a very commercial thriller we have to two female leads to great South African actresses. And it basically is based on real events. It's based on stuff that actually occurred in South Africa in the 90s. But when you look at the me to movement, you look at what's going on, we wanted to create a movie, that one that would wake people up and want to get them more involved in anti trafficking, and just being aware of what's going on in their own communities. And that's one of the reasons we created this movie, but we recognize it's entertainment as well. So we're going to entertain people and said, the cinematography is stunning. We tested in front of the US audience, we tested just above the norms, and above and well above the norms against the female targeted audience. But, you know, it was really gratifying to us as more than 85% of the recruited audience in the US said they wanted to get more involved in anti trafficking activities. That's, and ultimately, for us as independent filmmakers. That's the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for us. And actually, we've got a song from Pearl Jam on the soundtrack. That hit daughter, and, and Nancy Wilson from hard soul, one of the rough cuts of the movie, and she was so moved, she actually did a cover of it, that will just blow you away. And she is, she is so talented. But the song just captures the energy and the defiance and the brokenness and the strength, but just, it really epitomized what we created in the movie. And you know, when that happens, it's really magical.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:41
That's amazing. I look forward to seeing that movie. So you're doing good work out there. And I'm so I'm so glad that you were able to come on the show and talk, drop some knowledge bombs on the show, and I'm going to ask a few questions I asked all of my guest. So what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Simon Swart 1:03:59
Get into the business, do something and find people to learn from build, build a network, start building your network right now, where you are, whoever you went to film school with? Those are probably the guys you're going to work with again in the future, and make sure your networks all supporting each other?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Simon Swart 1:04:21
Sure, if it's not coming together correctly, you know, be patient. And sometimes it's not. Sometimes if it's not coming together, there's a reason why. And you've got to be open to the possibility that maybe it's not meant to be and then you move on to the next slide, cut your losses. There's kind of a balance between cutting your losses and being the stoic champion or the movie right if you're hearing the same answer again and again, for many people, that's probably about right. But you know, but but don't don't let that crush your creative instinct. And I know that Ellen's but yes and and you don't have to win every battle.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:59
Yes. Yes, especially in this in this business is very difficult to win every battle,

Simon Swart 1:05:04
figure out which ones you must win and be okay to lose a few.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:08
It's okay. Now what was the biggest fear you had to overcome when making your very first feature film?

Simon Swart 1:05:16
The biggest fear I had to overcome in making it was actually it was it was based on a true story. And for me, my biggest fear was that we would accurately portray the life of this person whose movie we didn't have as a movie called six below. Okay, and we wanted to accurate you know, because because to me when you're doing a true story of someone's life, it's a sacred trust. And and I really wanted to make sure that we delivered on that and and of course made it on time,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:44
of course, and I'm on time and on budget, sir.

Simon Swart 1:05:47
I've been on budget. Yes, sir. Now, what

Alex Ferrari 1:05:49
are three of your favorite films of all time? Oh,

Simon Swart 1:05:53
that's a rough question. I've got to say Apocalypse Now is up there. passions up there. There's definitely a couple of thing going there. Apocalypse Now mainly because one of my favorite books growing up I was a peculiar kid was Heart of Darkness.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:07
You're very peculiar kid.

Simon Swart 1:06:10
That translation of it, it was just stunning. And, and yeah, that's that's probably not and I guess this is this is not good, but probably Dumb and Dumber.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:24
Hey Good.

Simon Swart 1:06:24
And Something About Mary. I mean, I love the early work. Yeah. And the fact the fact that Peter Farley is just did the Green Book too, is it's stunning to me and and as a filmmaker I love I love his work. And he always has something more in his movies. Even he's this crazy comedy is this. There's something just there's just such a great heart in there.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:49
The wouldn't have been interesting, though, to see Apocalypse Now by George Lucas, who was originally slated to direct that movie. Yeah, I would have been an interesting.

Simon Swart 1:07:00
Well, you know, one of my anecdotes with Francis Ford Coppola. So we're working on the DVD set. This might be the segment you want to cut. But it's like, you know, what I'd say to young filmmakers, just remember that the thing that you're doing, that gets you fired might be the thing you're remembered for. And the reason why I say that is that my, we did this whole thing with Francis Ford Coppola around the making of pattern. And, you know, we did a special edition and so on. And he talked about that opening scene and pattern and that opening monologue. And he was actually fired. He was about to be fired off of godfather. Apparently, the sub story goes, he was fired off of patent. And he was about to be fired off of godfather when he won the Academy Award for patents. Okay. And that. So it's kind of funny how that works, right? This industry is not as predictable as you would seem. It's not a straight line. And and you look at what the great filmmaker like that and the creative risks that he took, and conventional wisdom at the time was that the scene sucks. Why are you doing this? This is terrible. You got an Academy Award for it. And he got to finish the Godfather as a result of that. And that's that's true story stuff. And imagine, imagine the Godfather without Francis Ford Coppola.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:16
You can't there is no godfather without Francis Ford Coppola,

Simon Swart 1:08:20
you know, so so. So I guess to the young filmmakers out there, it's not a straight line. It's it can be a pretty bumpy road, and stay the course men. Without the question. I

Alex Ferrari 1:08:30
promise you everyone listening right now, whatever you think is going to happen in your career, it is not going to happen.

Simon Swart 1:08:37
Not like that. It's got to be different. Exactly. And if it does happen like that, God bless you. Be thankful. But if it doesn't just remember, it's a it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:47
Exactly. Without question, Simon, where can people find you and more about your work that you're doing?

Simon Swart 1:08:52
Well, I'm pretty much on LinkedIn. And we have a company website in teba pictures. So it's a bit of a mouthful, and I put it on,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:59
put it in the show notes, our

Simon Swart 1:09:01
show ntb pictures, you can see more about us and what the stuff that we're working on. So

Alex Ferrari 1:09:06
yeah, thank you very much, Simon, thank you so much for being on the show. And I do appreciate you taking the time out, man.

Simon Swart 1:09:11
There's thanks, Alex. It's been a lot of fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:14
I want to thank Simon for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Simon. If you want links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including links to his films, head over to the show notes at indie film hustle.com forward slash 386. And guys, next week, I will have a big announcement. I've been working quietly in the background in the indie film hustle labs, if you will, to bring something really special to you guys. So I want you to keep an eye out on all their social media platforms and I will announce it in next week's podcast on the film trip earner podcast the bulletproof screenwriting podcast and of course, this podcast, something very, very, very exciting, guys. I hope you guys You're holding up okay, during this quarantine. I know it's hard. I know. Oh God, trust me, I want life to go back to where it was at least some sort of normalcy, but it is it is difficult, I'm not gonna lie to you it is very difficult, especially if you have kids and it is definitely not for the faint at heart. But we will get through this guy's and I've said this before, and I'm gonna say it again. Take Take this time, take this time that you have at home and educate yourselves. Prepare yourselves right. Learn as much as you can, because when the doors open up again, or when these new opportunities open up again, I want you the tribe to be ready to take advantage of them. Now if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at film shop runner comm forward slash 069 And guys, if you haven't already, please head over to film bids podcast.com and leave a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you so much for listening as always be that entrepreneur. I'll talk to you soon.


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