Filmhub on Good Bad Mad's Season 2 Podcast!

Filmhub
June 9th, 2021 • 38 min read •


Our CEO & Co-Founder, Alan d’Escragnolle, recently sat down with Meg Elys of GoodBadMad to discuss how Filmhub can help filmmakers direct distribute their films.





See the full transcript here:

Meg Elys:

Welcome to the Good Bad Mad Podcast, a show that’s here to share the ins and outs of creative careers, connecting the aspirational with the experienced, with your host me, Meg Elys. My guest for this episode is Alan d’Escragnolle. He’s the CEO of film distribution platform, Filmhub. In our chat, we’re going to pull apart what film distribution currently looks like and how Filmhub plans to change it, to democratize it for future filmmakers. Hope you enjoy it.

Meg Elys:

Can we start with just, can you introduce yourself a little and a little about your background?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yeah, definitely. My name is Alan d’Escragnolle. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Filmhub. I have an interesting background where I started out as a finance, almost accounting type person back in college and decided I wanted to get to… And also was a theater nerd and ran a theater organization. After school, I’d said that I could do the finance thing, but ultimately it wasn’t very interesting to me and I wanted to get to building products. So I started off my career in fintech, building products for Intuit and mint.com, and eventually transitioned over into building cloud storage solutions and more fintech solutions later on at Square, in the cash app. And then for the past few years I’ve been building out Filmhub, which actually combines a lot of fintech and storage into modernizing the world of film distribution.

Meg Elys:

How did you get involved in film?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Well, as I just said, I had a background in theater production and so I’ve always had a bit of a creative interest. And I met my co-founder Klaus, who’s a world-known composer, who’d written music to Pirates of the Caribbean and Gladiator, and a few small songs that we may have heard of over time. We got introduced through a mutual friend, and him and I just really hit it off. He had been automating a lot of things for his composing career. He was actually a part-time developer as well, and saw the opportunity to create some of the very interesting technology solutions to solve problems that we’re seeing in film distribution. And I had a deep background in building the operational processes in tech companies, and it was kind of marrying of two like-minds. We both had very similar interests in building something that was very filmmaker first, and it was a marrying of two minds. It’s been a great journey for us.

Meg Elys:

Can we talk about what distribution is like currently or… I mean, like say with you existing and with other platforms existing it is in the process of changing, but what is the traditional distribution method?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Totally. So traditional film distribution, and I’m talking about traditional film distribution outside of the major studios, outside of the Lionsgates, the Disneys, the now Netflix. Technically considered an independent, but I think one of the things that people don’t realize is, independent movies is actually like 98% of the industry when you actually look at it. And so everyone thinks if it’s an independent film, it’s a small film. Well, actually, you don’t realize how many films, like actually 90 plus percent of films are independent films.

Meg Elys:

Yea.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yeah. Exactly. Basically, that’s the easy way to think about it. And so when you look at it that way, the traditional film distribution method is you finance this film, there’s many different ways of financing. Sometimes you get upfront payments from people, sometimes you get investors, sometimes you try and sell of a territory, many different options in that in how you finance the film. You make the film. Sometimes you have pre-negotiated contracts to whoever the distributor is going to take you on. Sometimes you try and get a sales agent.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

But anyways, once your film is done, your goal is either try and get a sales agent to sell it to the distributor, sell it to a stream platform or distributor just to take it off. And typically in those rights what they do, is they take rights generally from anywhere between three to 15 years. And they either do it for a certain territory, certain number of services, certain rights types, whether it’s the theatrical rights, whether it’s the online video-on-demand rights, all things kind of… There’s all variances under the sun.

Meg Elys:

Yeah, there’s a category for everything. I mean, airplanes have their own category, don’t they?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Exactly, yep. And so typically, a filmmaker then would sell off certain rights to either a distribution company, or a sales agent or a platform. And they would typically… Sometimes they do upfront deals of like, “Hey, I’m taking the rights for X number of time for this amount.” Or sometimes it’s a revenue share based of like, “Hey, the distribution company takes the first 100,000 and then everything else goes to filmmaker.” There’s all these weird models within that. But typically one of the biggest problems in those deals is, one, if they’re full upfront deals, say the film actually is a huge success, the filmmaker doesn’t share in any of the benefit afterwards, after the initial upfront deal. So I think that’s one big issue.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Two, a lot of times these contracts allow for marketing expenses and other deductions. And so that means that say that a film… Let’s take a million dollar budget film, well, the distribution company may have a right to deduct up to $500,000 of marketing expenses. Let’s say they deduct $500,000 in marketing expenses, and then the filmmaker only has the right to make 20% of the extra revenues on top of the million dollars or something, the filmmaker could make very little money off of something that actually for the distribution company, who’s paying their people in marketing, etc, is actually a huge win for them. And that’s just frankly, we think incorrect or not right and we don’t believe in that model at all.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

And we’ve seen this happen to countless filmmakers. A lot of times what happens is the distribution companies make a lot of money and the filmmaker makes nothing. And then there’s also problems around reporting, payment timelines, everything’s not transparent, distribution companies are typically service-based. And not necessarily thinking about this in, “How do we build scalable technologies?” And so there’s a lot of just problems that arrive there in general. There’s a lot of distrust between a lot of distribution companies and their filmmakers. And so what we’ve said is, “You know what? We don’t believe in the world of marketing deductions. We don’t believe in the world where filmmakers just get all these opaque deductions and everything.”

Alan d’Escragnolle:

We said, “Let’s create a simple model.” And so in Filmhub what we’ve done is we’ve taken a very simple basic model, where we only make money when the filmmaker makes money. So any royalties that we exploit on the filmmaker’s behalf, we take a 20% revenue share and filmmaker keeps 80%. Super simple, basic, no deductions or anything, straight 80-20 revenue split across the filmmakers.

Meg Elys:

Right. And that’s throughout the contract.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yep, exactly. And so it makes it super simple. And that way, we’re equally incentivized with our filmmakers. We want to make money, because we’re only going to make money when they make money. And so it’s very simple and basic there. And it’s creating a much simpler thing that filmmakers understand, we understand. And it creates just the level of transparency and ease, and also just alignment of what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make filmmakers money. That’s all that we do. Because if we could only make money when they make money, it aligns our incentives.

Meg Elys:

I mean, I guess starting a venture like this, it’s just research, research, research, right?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

I actually don’t believe in much research when starting a venture, to be perfectly honest.

Meg Elys:

How do you start?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

I firmly believe in actually getting something in the hands of your customers as early as possible. And so yes, you have to do some initial research and have an understanding of the landscape, does the business model make sense? What exactly is there? But that doesn’t take much once you get there. Like you have an idea, you believe there’s an audience, and you just need to get it in front of the customer. So we’ve actually, we very much believe in shipping things as early as possible, in order to get features in front of our customers. And so, we had initial validation just based upon the filmmakers wanting to utilize our service as one thing, and also from our channels wanting to buy titles that we had and license them.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

And so between those two things, we began to see that there was a need that was unmet in the market, because there’s no platform actually right now that handles film distribution. Yes, there are some traditional encoding houses and distributors, but there’s no technology platform that is focused on the filmmaker, that allows them to distribute their titles around the world. And that’s what we became the real insight for us, was it was a completely unmet need in the market, and everything was focused on the traditional, who you know, how do you get there, and services businesses, which aren’t really that interesting.

Meg Elys:

It’s like considering how some elements of the film industry such as like VFX, and cameras and all of that, there’s been such developments in the tech in that element. It is actually quite surprising how archaic the industry runs itself still. It is who you know. And for some, that’s amazing because you’ve got the connections, you’ve got the people, boom, you’re in. But for others without connections, it’s a pain in the ass.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Exactly. And frankly, it leads to… In study of economics, it’s the basics of limited resources, how do you connect to everything to make the perfect fit? And when things are in a relationship-based businesses, it breaks the world of economic principles. It’s no longer, do the top films make it to the top that have the best audiences? It’s all about who you know. And that’s not ultimately how you make an industry more efficient. If you rely solely on relationships, not actually looking at the data and having free and flexible systems that work to understand what films are wanted to be seen by an audience, you miss out on opportunities.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

And so instead of films that actually have an audience,it’s just the films that get marketed a lot. And that is an inefficient methodology. And so it’s who can spend more money. And that’s what the larger players in the space such as the Netflixes, the Hulus, the Lionsgates, the Disneys of the world, they have larger marketing budgets than most filmmakers at the large studios at the top. And so they take up a greater portion of the market than they actually even should. Because while, yes, there are films that want to be seen by a lot of people, the studio content ultimately isn’t always the best content. And that is really one of the things that we see as an opportunity in the industry, is to find the voices that haven’t been heard, and find the films that have been forgotten by the traditional methodologies of distribution, and get those films out to the world.

Meg Elys:

Okay. So to just break apart a bit of what you were saying there. We’re talking about quality versus quantity to some extent. So we’re saying sometimes lesser quality films are more successful because of marketing budgets, whereas higher quality films are less successful because they have less marketing budgets. Is that it in some way?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Exactly, and also because of the relationships that the lesser quality films sometimes have, and they have-

Meg Elys:

Right, they have big connections to the money.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Exactly. They don’t have necessarily the connections to the money, or just the connections to the right platforms to be on. And ultimately, when a content buyer decides, “Hey, I want to show this title on my platform,” they’re making a human-based decision. Human-based decisions are always inherently biased despite what we think. Our belief is that, and that was necessary in the world where 15, 20 years ago, you’re relying on… 10 even years ago, when you were relying on shelf space in a physical location. In the digital world, shelf space is unlimited. Shelf space doesn’t cost you nearly anything. Every platform could have every single film on it if they wanted to. But ultimately, they’ve still chosen not to do it because they haven’t built technology solutions that are proper to ingest the number of assets that are needed.

Meg Elys:

Do you think that said, it’s purely that rather than the curating?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Well, ultimately-

Meg Elys:

What they think will sell?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

They’re trying to curate what they think will sell. But what I’m saying is, I don’t think that, well, yes, we can also… Humans can do a good job at figuring out and looking at data, analyzing it, trying to understand what people will want to watch and what to fund. But at the same time, we still are once again inherently biased and can be wrong, and also there’s always outliers and surprises that we never think about. And this happens across everything. And so by saying, “Hey, I can only take on 100 titles per month onto my streaming service,” immediately you’re missing X percent of titles that are potentially great performers.

Meg Elys:

Right. You’re limiting yourself.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

You’re limiting yourself for potential successes. And so you had to do that, unfortunately, in the old world where you had to see, I could only take 100 titles onto my shelves in a month. But in the world where you’re in a digital world and you aren’t actually limited to that, that you can take thousands and thousands of titles, you can spread your mechanisms of trying to figure out what the winner much, much wider. It’s a pretty big benefit of technology. And it makes it even more fair for the filmmaker if channels and streaming services take on more titles.

Meg Elys:

So in a way what you’re describing as the purpose of your site, your business, is to almost democratize the film distribution industry.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Exactly. Actually that’s exactly how we describe it. You hit it exactly spot on. It is exactly-

Meg Elys:

Yeah, you kind of make it a completely equal platform.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Exactly. When you submit a film to Filmhub, I don’t care if your budget was $5 million. I don’t care if your budget was $10. What I care about is seeing how it performs, and how it’s liked and how it’s watched by audiences around the world. That’s going to tell me which films I need to put more effort behind, or technology one, putting more effort behind of trying to promote it further to other streaming services to license. That’s ultimately what matters is, we say, “Hey, we are just a platform that is going to make sure that the technology works.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

But we only judge a film based upon its technical quality, and making sure that it meets the technical requirements of the platforms that we work with. I’m not going to judge anything based upon the content, other than the standard misinformation and obviously things that could be harmful to society. Those types of things. But other than that, we just want to judge doesn’t meet the typical bar. And then well, let’s see, if a film finds its audience and we have the data that shows it, that’s what matters to us.

Meg Elys:

Right. I guess to analogize what you’re doing, you’re laying out everybody’s film in an equal stance. You’re not putting someone’s pedestal over others. You’re laying them out in an equal stance with the same kind of information, right?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

We start them out in an equal stance. But as films begin performing, then obviously they get promoted faster, are more likely to more channels because… But at the same time, we’re waiting till we actually see performance data of those films. And performance data can be based on a number of things. It can be based on revenue. It can be based on number of channel buyers that are ordering it. It can be based upon IMDb ratings. We can pull in all of those inputs to help us figure that out. But they all start on the same equal basis of everyone can be on Filmhub.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

And that way, it leaves it up to the filmmaker to find their audience. The filmmaker, their success is ultimately determined by if they’re able to find their audience for their film. They’re going to be placed alongside on these streaming services, on alongside the top blockbuster Hollywood content. And so if a filmmaker asked how much can they make on Filmhub, well, the sky is the limit. The sky is the limit. If you find the audience for your film and you market it well, there’s no reason why… You’re making the same pay rates as a lot of these blockbuster titles are.

Meg Elys:

So I think this is what I just pulled from that sentence is that you’re providing the platform, that equal platform, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to sell. You still have to put the time, the effort and the money into the marketing, as you would with any other products in order to make it… You’re just giving it the equal starting line.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Exactly. Exactly. Great way of saying it. I’m going to hire you to do our marketing based on your breakdown of this.

Meg Elys:

People can spend in quite a lot of things. So I think clarity in any kind of financial contract is exactly what you need. And it is what is missing in today’s world. I mean, even opening a bank account is not simple.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Well, and don’t forget like in traditional distribution, when there were actual real hard costs, when there were actual hard costs around getting shelf space, around paying for DVDs, getting all those traditional methods, there were upfront costs. There were. And so it made sense 10 to 15 years ago, but in the world of digital when the cost of delivering a title to a platform is approaching zero, when the cost of holding a title on a platform is approaching zero, all of that changes. And so the business models have to change and evolve as well.

Meg Elys:

I guess your model of distribution… Correct me if I’m wrong, but it works solely for those who have already financed their film and made their film.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yes, we only work with completed films. Very simple. That’s hard cut line, we do not do any sort of film financing. We only work with completed films.

Meg Elys:

I was going to say, because sometimes people do use distribution rights in order to help finance their films. But that’s something you’re saying separate from.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yep, that’s just an area where we just do not work at, at this time.

Meg Elys:

In terms of someone’s made their film, they’ve approached you, they’re on your platform, they’re on your channel. From that point on, it’s up to, I guess, channels or companies who you’ve built these relationships with to come and kind of cherry pick what they want their content to be.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yep, it’s always up to the channels to decide if they want to take on a title. And some channels are heavier on their curation and take only a few titles from us per month, and some channels take hundreds of titles from us per month, up to thousands. It totally depends on the service and what their general strategies are. We generally believe that every title should be on pretty much every platform, depending on if it fits like in with their genre, theme, etc. But that’s our belief, but it is ultimately up to the channels if they take it on. Once again, talking about equally incentive, it’s on our goal that we have as many titles on as many channels as possible, because that’s the way that we can make money.

Meg Elys:

Yeah. So a channel approaches you about a particular film, what happens then? Do you deal with that arrangement? Does the filmmaker get involved? Because they could say, “No, I don’t want myself on that channel,” for some reason. What is that conversation like?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yep, so we have pre-negotiated rates with all of the channels that we work with. And this is one of the thing that’s key to our business model, is that because of the fact that we have such a large library, we can utilize that to our power to negotiate the right rates with our streaming partners. And so within that then, as soon as the channel selects a title, it is automatically delivered into their delivery settings that we have custom setup for each channel in three to five business days, which is very unique in the industry and makes channels… A lot of channels have said sometimes, “Hey, we’re actually only going to be taking titles from Filmhub now.”

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Because of the fact they like that it’s so easy, from deals that are already pre-negotiated, the titles they know are in good technical state. And so it makes them more likely to select titles from using Filmhub than it is via a lot of traditional distribution companies, where assets may be not have been properly QCed. Sometimes assets are missing, all of these certain problems that they have within that. And so the good thing is we have industry standard rates across everything, so it’s very simple and easy for our film filmmakers, because they know that automatically they are getting the best possible rates.

Meg Elys:

Ultimately, if a filmmaker is thinking about using your distribution method as opposed to… Okay, that’s the question. Does a filmmaker who is in that process of choosing how to go through their distribution for their movie, is it an either/or situation? Can they do the traditional methods and your method? Or is it one or the other?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Great question. From our side, we take… Filmhub is a technology platform. And while we’re not a distributor, we’re not an aggregator. The technical details of how we make things work is we have to take rights to the film. And so the rights we get are non-exclusive when filmmakers upload their films to Filmhub. And so within that, it makes it super simple that they can utilize any sort of other distribution methodology that they want to from our side. So we don’t care actually. We believe actually it’s great if they are working with someone else to get it up in location that we don’t work with, we actually think that’s beneficial to us, because it just means that the notoriety of that film is going to increase and more people are going to talk about it.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

As I said, we believe that film should be on as many locations as possible. In order to do that, we have to back that up. And this is one of the things that allows us then for the filmmaker to fully maintain their rights, which is a big differentiator on Filmhub is they haven’t sold off any rights to Filmhub. They’ve only granted us temporary non-exclusive rights to license their title to the streaming services that require to basically to do the legal ease necessary to distribute their film.

Meg Elys:

Say one day they wake up decide, “I don’t want anyone to ever see my film ever again.” They can take it off the platform that will immediately take off any of the channels, it’s that easy.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yep, that easy.

Meg Elys:

Jesus Christ.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yep. It doesn’t happen immediately. It takes the channels typically about 30 days to take it off sometimes, depending on the service. But yes, it is that simple. We don’t have any sort of long term contracts or lockup periods. Everything is, we keep it super simple from that perspective. I just believe that for a relationship to be working, for it to be happy, both parties have to be happy. And if they’re not happy, it just leads to problems. And so if a filmmaker says, “Hey, my film isn’t making enough money on Filmhub and I’m not getting enough channels, and I’m not happy with them.” “Okay. Well, that’s fine.”

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Typically, the reason that happens is because the filmmaker actually hasn’t been marketing their title at all, or their film unfortunately doesn’t necessarily have a market on the services we work with. But there’s no risk to it just sitting there. There’s no risk because they can, one, take it down. Two, if they want, they can always utilize other methodologies of marketing and other methods of distribution. So we fully allow it to happen. And so there’s really no risk for a filmmaker perspective, and that’s key.

Meg Elys:

Yeah. No, it is, it is. Because I mean, especially with creative industries, I mean, yes to other industries, but with creative industries, people put so much heart and soul into these projects. They are their babies. They want to look after them. They want to know that they’re getting seen and appreciated. I mean, yes, they want to make some money. But more than that, I think they just want to make sure they’re looked off.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Totally. I mean, to become a filmmaker, you have to have incredible passion. It’s like if you are looking at this as like… It’s a field of passion. Yes, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you make money, sometimes you don’t. But at the same time, it is a career passion and you just want to make sure that things that are fair and just, that you’re getting paid when things are happening and people are true to their commitments. We just think that that level of transparency isn’t hard actually to build. Unfortunately, the way that the industry is built, typically, in the traditional gatekeeper methodology, old district style distribution companies, the incentives aren’t equally aligned. And so we’re building the technology platform that is aligned with the filmmaker.

Meg Elys:

I think so. I think transparency is the key word to take away from this, because there is a reason why all the wealth of the industry is in this like top little 2% of this huge, huge mountain of people and work that is out there. But it is it’s all cloak and daggers. And with a little bit of transparency and just simply understanding how the industry works, then people can actually move forward in their careers.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Totally. I mean, there’s no reason. It’s just, unfortunately right now, it’s like if you’re not a member of the film country club basically, you have no way of getting there. And with technology, we have the tools and solutions that you can prove every country club member that they are wrong, and the tools and solutions are there now. I mean, you could make a beautiful film for anywhere from $10,000 to $50 billion. But you now no longer are required to do that through a large studio because of technology that is here, and that’s the big difference. There are amazing films being released on a daily basis that have never touched a studio, and that are better than any studio content that have been produced. You weren’t capable of releasing that type of film 20 plus years ago. It was really hard for the most part. Now the tools are there.

Meg Elys:

It is and it ultimately comes down to technology, doesn’t it? And because it’s advanced so much and it’s become so much more affordable in comparison to what it was 10, 20 years ago, that is an equalizing tool in itself, isn’t it?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

I mean, I have seen films now produced for $100,000 that look much better than films produced for $5 million. It’s crazy. It really, money and budget does not equal an amazing film now. The number of channel buyers that I talked to like, “What was the budget?” It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is looking at the production value, looking at the acting, look at the script writing. Those are what really actually matters, you have to go down. The budget does not necessarily dictate that.

Meg Elys:

Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about channels, because I think that will be probably one of the key things that people approaching your platform will be thinking about. Where is this actually going to go? I mean, to be crass, people will be wanting to get onto platform fight downs, and not wanting to get onto platforms like Netflix, and stuff like that. Are they part of what you can offer?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yeah, totally. So the way you look at this, is that we are working to make partnerships with every single avenue possible for films. That’s our goal. So we want to get equally incentivized there. We work with majors such as Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, IMDb TV, Xumo, Plex, all of these services that are growing throughout the world, and including like local regional small players. So Nuella TV launching in Africa right now. Everything is basically… And these are channels that would be typically unattainable for a lot of filmmakers in a lot of instances, but we make it so it’s super simple to they can reach them.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

There are some of the majors like the Netflixes, the Hulus of the world that frankly are now just large studio. They’re only for the most part focused on their own content that they’re producing. Yes, they’re occasionally licensing some large actor, name, titles, etc. But for the most part, they really act as their own studios now. It’s one thing that people don’t really necessarily realize that the major streamers are just studios now.

Meg Elys:

Yeah. I completely agree.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

They stood out there to disrupt the studios in the past, and they have disrupted the studio model by building subscription streaming businesses. But at the same time now, they aren’t taking on thousands and thousands of titles like they originally a lot of people thought they were. They’re becoming more and more curatorial in their efforts, and shutting out the doors to the filmmakers that help them build their services. And that’s a big change from what a lot of these services set out to be.

Meg Elys:

I mean, just mentioning channels in Africa then. So the territories that you cover are global?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yes, yes. We cover channels all over the world. We work with currently about 40 plus streaming services. We call them channels at Filmhub, and they are around the world. We’re adding typically about two to four per month right now.

Meg Elys:

Because you’re distributing to global territories, are you seeing greater diversity within the content that you yourselves get submitted?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Totally. I mean, for instance, I’ll give you an example of one of the things that we see a lot of. We had a channel called The Alice that launched recently, that is focused on women filmmakers, women leads and women directors. One of the most amazing things is when we actually helped them curate their titles to review, we had it disproportionately high compared to traditional catalogs number of women filmmakers and women leads, because of the fact that we work with traditionally underrepresented filmmakers. And it’s one of the things that was really interesting for us to see as we went through that. Because typically, catalogs that are based on kind of the old, traditional gatekeepers, they don’t have a lot of underrepresented filmmakers.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Black cinema, for instance, is an area that we do extremely well in. And this is because these are groups that haven’t had access to the country clubs. And it’s one of the things that we see, and it’s one of the things we see as one of the main benefits is these are huge populations of filmmakers, as well as huge populations of audiences that have been traditionally underserved in these industries. And that’s one of the awesome things that we’re beginning to see is, these are areas that are growing extremely fast and the traditional industry is trying to catch up. But ultimately, it’s still playing the gatekeeper methodology that it’s played in the past while saying, “Okay, well, we’re going to set a certain quota here to take this number of films from black filmmakers.”

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Well, that doesn’t get you there. Yes, you have to sometimes set requirements that you do that. But at the same time, it’s like you have to fully change a systemic bias in the industry and that’s not exactly something that an industry that has a systemic bias is capable of doing overnight. Whereas for us at Filmhub, we rely on data. And so we can’t necessarily have a bias in when we rely on data to promote a film. We just say, “Hey, this film is performing better than this one. This is the next one that this channel is going to review.” Makes it simpler.

Meg Elys:

Yeah, you’re thinking ones and zeros. You’re not thinking about if, I don’t know, Leonardo DiCaprio is in the film versus, I don’t know.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

I don’t care if Leo is in the film, to be honest with you. What I care is that this film is monetizing. That’s what I care about.

Meg Elys:

The filmmakers that are submitting to you, are they mainly American, European?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Since we launched in the United States, we’re heavily indexed right now to the United States. But ultimately, we are built as a global platform and we have filmmakers around the world. We have filmmakers… Literally, I think now the numbers are from 40 plus countries actually, and it’s growing quickly around the world from that side, and-

Meg Elys:

This is the kind of thing that I’ve been noticing within our school’s industry discussions and stuff like that at the moment is, that these countries which have almost been used by the film industry in terms of locations and in terms of stories, and like made Hollywoodized, that they’re wanting to get their foot in the film industry but they’re capitals. They’re not LA, they’re not London, they’re not Nollywood. Essentially what I think I’m trying to say is, I think the film industry is expanding.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Totally. I mean, it definitely is. I think we are making good headway in that as we’ve come a more globalized world. But we’re still so far. We’re still so far. [crosstalk 00:37:10].

Meg Elys:

Oh, it is. I mean, there is maybe three, four film capitals in the world?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yeah. And I think that is ultimately where platforms like Filmhub can be helpful in that because we take it from a democratic approach of saying, “Hey, can we sell this film? Is there an audience for this film?” And we are every day surprised. We have films that are foreign films that launch in the United States and do extremely well. We have films that go from the United States into foreign countries and do extremely well. And it’s we’re constantly surprised.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

And so I think that’s where we just need to realize that once again, the costs are approaching zero to see that. It used to matter of like, “Hey, can I get my film into a movie theater in Bangladesh?” But ultimately, now, it doesn’t matter. It’s like, “Is there someone with an Internet connection in Bangladesh that can see my film?” That’s all that matters. And so that changes where all of a sudden we’re at a much more level playing field.

Meg Elys:

I should have asked this earlier when you were talking about it, but are you exclusively like VOD, or do you do theatrical as well?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

We don’t do theatrical right now. We’re trying to pick an area of focus, and we’re really focused on VOD for the foreseeable future. But the benefit for filmmakers is we’re not exclusive. And so if they want to go do a theatrical release, we more than encourage it.

Meg Elys:

So ultimately, you’re just cornering this one vacant area of the market and you’re going to do that and do it well.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yep. Exactly.

Meg Elys:

Brilliant. So one last question for you. What advice would you give having kind of lived in this film distribution tech element for a while now, what advice would you give to someone who is lost amongst this area of industry, who wants to put their film but just doesn’t know? What would you say to them?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yeah. So I think the first thing that I approach with every single filmmaker and I really try to understand when we talk to them is number one, “What are your actual goals?” And the number of filmmakers I talk to that have not thought about what their actual goal is in this film is shocking. So as with anything, write down your goal. Is your goal to write a short that gets you the money to investors, to then make that short into a feature, or what does that mean to you? Is this something you’re trying to build your career out of? Is this something where you’re like, “Actually, I’m going to have my career mean something else, but I want this to be my side project, and I want to take a year off between gigs to make a film.” Ultimately that’s the number one thing is what is your actual goal of making a film. And is it to return money to investors? All those things are super important.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

So it starts with number one, writing your goals. Number two is the most important thing is treating each film like a business. Every film is a business. It’s one of the hardest things about thinking about filmmaking, is you’re launching a new business every single time you make a film. You’re saying, “Here’s the product that I’m going to build, and I need to see if there’s an audience to do it.” So one of the things as I mentioned, like at Filmhub, we believe in getting things in the hands of our audiences as early as possible. As a filmmaker, you should believe the same thing.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

You should be trying to build your audience along the way as you go about making your film. Not just about when you have a finished product, you should have your potential audience as part of the filmmaking journey. Get them involved in the process early. If it’s a horror film, and you know that they’re fans of XYZ horror film, talk to them. Get to know them. Build a marketing list around them. They’re the people that are going to support you, and those are the people that are going to be your ultimate launching bed for your film.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

And then three, as you’re building your audience, realize that you need to start marketing to them, continue marketing to them, and keep that process going throughout the launch of your film. It’s not just, “Hey, I know there’s an audience,” it’s you need to build that up as something that is part of your filmmaking journey, and it’s continually marketing to them. And you want to keep building that list over and over again. Because it’s as soon as you get them there, they’re hooked, and they know your brand then. That can be the same audience potentially for your next film.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

You as a filmmaker today, it’s no longer you’re trying to build your brand as a filmmaker, not just the brand of the film. And that’s one of the most important things is building true brand as a filmmaker. And that’s a very big change. And very similar how the music industry operates as artists. Filmmakers need to take that same approach. Because when a music artist goes and launches their new album, they already have a following. They know the audience that wants to watch them. I think it’s the same reason why Disney launches a new Marvel movie, every three years. There’s an audience already built.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Take and learn from this. If you build your audience as a filmmaker, you will change the outcome of X. Your second, your third, your fourth film is going to change significantly. And that’s a big difference in the way that filmmakers need to change how they think.

Meg Elys:

So this is it. It’s a long journey. Like yes, you’ve got these… I like the way you describe it. It’s small businesses as you go. But ultimately, within that are sales, isn’t it? You’ve got to sell yourself as the product.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yeah. Frankly, the filmmakers that are most successful aren’t necessarily the best filmmakers right now, they’re the best business people that know how to make a decent film that’s sellable. I think that’s one of the things that if filmmakers start concentrating a bit more on the business side and learning that, and realizing that to be an amazing filmmaker today you also have to be a strong business person, that will…

Meg Elys:

… it’s such a huge part, but it is a business.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

It is a business. And that’s ultimately where you have to think and realize that. And it’s super important to think with that mindset. And I realize SEO is not necessarily something that every filmmaker wants to go. They’re creatives, they want to create a film. But at the same time, you really to be successful, you have to think about the business side.

Meg Elys:

I was just thinking about what you were saying about building the audience as you’re going. I think that’s why so many successful films nowadays are based off of books or anime or TV series because they’ve already built an audience. Not only are they buying the rights to the story, they’re buying the rights to the audiences, aren’t they?

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Completely. Completely. That’s exactly why they do that. It’s exactly why the studios now, don’t frankly release much new content. It’s all remakes for the most part or retelling of stories. Why did Amazon pay so much for Coming to America 2? Well, they knew that it already had an audience. They knew that everyone who’d watched Coming to America 1 was probably going to want to watch Coming to America 2. I for one only made it five minutes through Coming to America 2 because it was so awful in comparison to the original, but-

Meg Elys:

I’ve not seen either, so I can’t comment.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Oh. Coming to America 1 is legendary. Eddie Murphy at his finest. But-

Meg Elys:

I feel like Eddie Murphy is one of those Marmite people. Like you love him or you hate him. I’ve just never…

Alan d’Escragnolle:

I mean, it’s definitely a certain type of humor, I would say, but the first one is amazing. Amazing writing. But the second one just falls flat. It was honestly offensive the way the second one was written, I think.

Meg Elys:

I know. I do hate when they cheap out on the time, the kind of effort.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Yeah.

Meg Elys:

Alan, thank you so, so much. It was wonderful.

Alan d’Escragnolle:

Awesome, Meg. Well, thank you for having me.

Meg Elys:

No, not at all. I think you’ve got some great work. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Good Bad Mad Podcast. Please subscribe to check out the next episode, or leave a review if you liked it. You can find us on Instagram @goodbadmad or at goodbadmad.com for additional resources and information. See you next time.

 

 

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