Alex is based in the US and has a number of strings to his bow. Every creative spirit has its inception somewhere. Alex started
… as a tape-dubber in Miami and then turned into an editor. I did commercial work as an editor and feature work in Miami. Then I opened up my own post-production company. From there I directed a short that was fairly successful. I sold over five thousand DVDs of that by myself. We made the movie for about eight grand so we generated almost ninety thousand dollars doing that in two thousand and five. It was very successful. I parlayed that into shooting a few more films. That started my commercial directing career so I’m shooting commercials, music videos, things like that. I moved to LA about eight years ago and here I built up my post-production company, Numb Robot. Most recently I opened up the way I hope to pay it forward to future generations of filmmakers IndieFilmHustle.com where I teach people how to survive and thrive in the crazy film business.
In independent film it often feels like there are barriers to reaching the next level, getting the next project up. What advice does Alex have for breaking through?
…I’ve been pounding my head against the wall for 20 years so I feel you. I think that we always as filmmakers we’re always looking for permission to make a movie. We’re looking for someone to go you may direct you may tell your story as a filmmaker. And that is what we’ve been sold since we went to film school. And it’s a lie now more than ever. There are tools available for you to go out and make your movie. Now the question is what are you willing to do to get to that next level. To tell a good story to make a good movie takes time. It takes time energy and it’s not something that gets done in a couple of weeks. What happens when filmmakers are done with that process? They’re exhausted. They’re done. “Okay now I’m going to send it out to a few festivals and hope that I get discovered. Somebody will pick it up and give me money for it”. That’s not the reality. There’s so much gluttony of product out there, bad product. When you start writing the script you have to understand that the end of the movie is not when you’ve done editing. The end of the movie is when you’ve sold it. It’s gone. You’ve made your money and you can move on to the next project. At the end of editing it’s 50% of the way. That’s the way I look at it. There’s another year to a year and a half of promotion, marketing, sales. Now if you’re able to build up a community that loves what you do and you’re able to sell to that community then this process becomes a little easier.
When Alex distributed his film, Broken, Twitter was but an impossible dream and Instagram wasn’t even a twinkle in the eye. MySpace was huge (remember MySpace?) and Facebook was just one year old. Whatever the social media landscape and whatever strategy you use creativity is the key. Alex is an energetic filmmaker and he brings that same energy to his marketing approach
…I just instinctively went after where the people were. So I went after message boards, I went after every news organisation that talked and reviewed indie films I had a pretty kick ass trailer that we put together to promote the movie. That trailer got so much play it wasn’t even funny. We even got the world famous film critic Roger Ebert (rest in peace). He gave us a review which was unheard of for a short film of our stature.
Sometimes the audience isn’t willing to hand over cash for certain creative products. If it’s important to you to have a paying audience you could consider packaging your art with another related product that people are willing to pay for
…what I did was when I made the movie I wanted to sell it but I knew that there was no way that the general public would pay me money for a twenty minute short film with no actors with any names in it from a first time director. I consciously decided to market it to a niche audience that I knew would buy it: independent filmmakers. I could maybe have a few people buy the short but a lot of people would be interested in how I made it. Before I made the movie I started looking for information about how to make an independent film. I could not find a DVD, nothing, because everything was always, you know, commentaries by Martin Scorcese. Everything was aimed at these big budget movies. Nobody was talking about how to make a movie in your home. No one thought about that. I thought, there’s something missing in the marketplace. I’m going to create a movie that showed off a lot of technical prowess. I put together a full DVD on how we made it, what it took to make it. I put it all together and I started marketing it online myself. I just marketed the heck out of it and that was the key, branding and marketing.
It doesn’t matter how much marketing you do if your product doesn’t connect with people. Art is about eliciting emotion. That’s why we do it right?
…people really got a lot out of it. When I opened up Indie Film Hustle all these Broken fans started coming out of the wood work and people were like “I remember you, I saw your movie ten years ago”. “It really helped me, thank you so much”. As an artist you really feel humbled by something like that. That’s how I was able to sell it back then and am still selling it today.
The art has to be good but the quality of the product is irrelevant if no one gets to hear about it. You can’t just rely on the product to sell itself can you?
…no because without the show there ain’t no business but without the business there is definitely no show. Being a filmmaker, it’s a very expensive medium to express yourself and if you don’t understand the business side of it, you’ll be eaten alive. A lot of filmmakers go after the dream, Harvey Weinstein is going to discover me and give me millions of dollars and I’m just going to direct the movies that I want into the happy sunset. You know, it doesn’t work. It’s not a business plan. It’s the equivalent of me opening up a burger joint and going, “I’m going to be the next McDonalds”. It doesn’t work that way. So when filmmakers start thinking about making a more sustainable life as opposed to following the dream you have to build a more sustainable business model. Meaning, how can I make a living doing my art. So what do I have to do? How much do I need to make in a year to sustain myself as an artist? The way the world works today with selling your work directly to consumers without having distributors or middle men you can build your community directly and sell to that community. It doesn’t happen overnight. Look at all these YouTube guys that just get millions of followers and they’re making advertising revenue and selling t-shirts and they have this raving fan of communities that follow them because they’re doing whatever they’re doing but their fans love what they’re doing. As an artist there’s ways of making a living, it’s a matter of getting your mindset to a point where you go okay so what do I need to survive, you know, for me, not just to survive but to thrive.
Indie Film Hustle is Alex’s new platform to give indie filmmakers the tools to create a sustainable business. It’s already making waves across the socialsphere. How does Alex connect with his community?
…I use GetResponse as my email list host. I found for my size list it made sense. It’s not a huge list at the moment. Once you start getting into a hundred thousand people, fifty thousand, that’s when you might need a little bit more sophistication as far as funnels and automation, almost AI technology. I use Hootesuite for some posting. Not a lot of Hootesuite but I use them when I post some stuff just to save time and then everything else is kinda oldschool. The thing with social media as a general statement is you wanna pick one or two that work for you. I’m seeing what works. I’m going okay well this kind of thing works I’m getting a lot of traction out of this and I didn’t get a lot of traction out of this. I’m learning as I go along. My top three are Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Those are the ones that generate the most traffic for me. If you’re a cooking blog, Pinterest is where you should be. If you’re hitting 18 to 25 year olds, you gotta be on Tumblr. If they’re not working for you just don’t do them. Facebook is great and I generate a lot of traffic from Facebook. It’s a great way that I interact with my community. I’ve become a huge Instagram guy. I love Instagram, it’s very, very powerful. It’s immediate feedback, it’s very easy to get followers there as long as you have a good feed.
We all know that art requires space, boredom, inspiration. How does Alex feed his filmmaking habit?
…from the movies I watch. Movies are my other love. My church is a movie theatre, alone in a movie theatre, literally sometimes. When I was younger I would just go if my life was tough I’d go find a good movie, sit down, and escape. By the time the movie was over a lot of times my problem might still be there but I might have different perspective on it or I might be inspired to do something else. That’s the power of cinema.