Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Amazon Oddness

So if you read my last blog, you know it's looking bleak for us indies.

As for me personally, our numbers have gone down pretty dramatically after January, like a switch was turned off.  With the new pay reduction, I'm all ready to turn my titles to pay-only...

...and then on March 2nd our numbers spiked big time on Terrortory 2. (and slightly on the other movies)

This is the current graph on Terrortory 2. You can see the spike--it's around 3 times the previous numbers, and then as you can see at the end, it REALLY spikes to about 10 times what we were previous doing on average.

It's going to lead to my best month since December, which leaves me with the question...should I leave one of my movies up just to see what happens? And which one?

The obvious seems to be Terrortory 2, but I have to ask many of these people who are streaming it for free would have paid $2 to rent it?

What if the graph KEEPS going up? I'm not sure what's driving it all of a sudden--we got a good review at the end of February, which triggered a small bump, but that was weeks ago--so I don't know what to expect.

It's a tough call, and I have to make it soon.


Sudden thought: What if, instead of premiering my next flick for free on Amazon Prime, I went ahead and launched it on Amazon only, pay only? Would be an interesting experience, but could fail mightily.

If I put it up for pay at first(figuring I'd make it free later), and it doesn't do well, and then I make it free, it may have fallen too far on the charts to ever get back to the top.

But if I do this next flick, it may be the perfect film to try it on, being SUPER no-budget.


FB buddy Rob Hagans has started a Vlog titled "How To Make A Movie For $1000".

I don't agree with some of what he says, but what do I know? I'm a dinosaur. But either way I'm interested to watch and see what he comes up with.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Amazon Sticks It To The Indies. AGAIN.

Actual Footage of An Amazon Rep Replying To Filmmaker Concerns

So today Amazon sent out yet ANOTHER email to the filmmakers they're now going to fuck even more. Apparently, making over TEN BILLION in profits in 2018 while simultaneously paying ZERO in taxes is not enough to make Jeff Bezos happy.

The new payout is now going into a sliding scale based on a metric THAT WE CANNOT SEE.

To boil it down, you still start at the pauper's base rate of $.06 per hour viewed. That would net you on average about $.09 for every time your movie is viewed. (assuming an average running time of 90 minutes)

Imagine if Red Box charged a dime for every rental. Sound fair?

BUT, under the new metric(called the Customer Engagement Rating), you will be either penalized or rewarded for such vague and nebulous things such as:

  • Unique Customers:   Current and new Prime members who view your title. 
  • Streamed Hours:   The time each customer spends engaging with your content. 
  • Title Popularity:   Notable talent, relevant genres, an IMDb presence and rating, and box office performance. 
  • Title Caliber:   Compelling and high-quality poster art, accurate and representative copy and metadata, localized subtitles and key art. For more information, review the publishing steps for standalone and episodic titles, art requirements, and caption (timed text) information.

Oh, don't worry, Amazon's gonna let you know what your CER is, but I assure you that they're not going to back it up with any kind of facts or figures, or details about why your title's CER is going to be low. (and I assure you, it's going to be low)

And if your title is low? You will lose up to $.02 per hour viewed. In essence, you're now going to be earning $.04 per hour.

You thought we were getting bent over before...well Amazon was like, "Hold My Beer".

Amazon also notes at the bottom of all their new bullshit:
Note: The above list is provided as general guidance and could change over time, as our policies and program may change over time. Prime Video Direct reserves the right to make judgments and implementation of the practices above doesn't guarantee engagement.

So yeah, if you don't like, too bad.

Also of note, and buried in the new details--they won't be putting up any estimated stats for any movies during the month you're looking at it. So no more real-time stats. You'll get to see what your movie did last month. Good luck reacting in real time to anything, if you're stupid enough to continue to go on with this charade.

It all starts April 1st. I'll be pulling all my movies from free streaming on the last day of March. Enough is enough. I already canceled my Amazon Prime, though that's more because of their price hike plus the commercials I was being forced to watch during some of the videos on their service.

So it appears we're all back at square one on the distribution crap fest. No bright lights. Distributor are still paying nearly nothing for advances, and the back-end will never appear.

I dunno, man. I wish I didn't feel like Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain. I'm like, "I can't quit you" to filmmaking, while filmmaking spits into its hand and gets ready to bend me over again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Urban Exploring Plus Other Stuff

Yeah, so I can't stop my brain from thinking about making a super cheap movie that I wouldn't be embarrassed about, but would for sure be able to at least make back the budget.

Cool locations where we can fuck shit up and not care. Spreading blood in locations, ie friend's houses, is not fun.

I've been thinking about maybe shooting something at this asylum I've explored a couple of times. Long abandoned, it's got like 22 buildings that are all creepy and different. That's production value right there.

Plus, I'm trying something else that may make me some dough. Testing it. If it works out, I'll share it here.

So my brother and I went back to the asylum. Got there about 1:30pm. As soon as we came out of the woods we saw two young girls walking our way. They said something to us about one of the buildings and I said, "Yeah, we've been here a couple of times."

Then they started asking questions--what was the best building to go to? The main one, we said. It's got the morgue and some cool hallways. Are we going there, they asked? Yes. They're like, Can we tag along with you?

I'm thinking...Jesus...this is how young girls get killed. They don't know my brother or I, and he's a huge guy. I'm not small, but he's bigger than me. Then I'm thinking, "I don't want these girls hanging around, getting in shots and stuff."

My brother said, "Well, we're not going to that building right away..." They got the hint, and took off.

We went into the "entrance" building. It's the one that cuts toward the center, so you can stay hidden from the guards better. You won't have to cross as much bare land.

 That's my brother and I posing in a cool dark hallway in the entrance building.  Today was an unseasonably warm 62 degrees on Feb 6th...yet this building is so cold it's uncomfortable. You gotta understand, there's tons of giant windows all over, and parts of the roof are caved in.

So how does it stay so cold? I figure it's the ghosts.

Then we headed off toward the church...
We got to the church. I didn't take many pics. My brother did, so I'll post some of those here when I get them.

Then to the main building. And my complete failure as a person.

We shoot a lot of cool pics and video. Here's some:

The buildings are falling apart a lot more than the last times we were there. There were also downed trees, like BIG trees.

We hear voices outside. Kids.We keep shooting. They're approaching, and being very loud and stupid. It's trespassing, and they're acting like they don't know it. There are signs EVERYWHERE.

I hear them getting closer so I walk toward the front door. I can't exactly tell where they are or how close, so when I come around the corner they were RIGHT THERE.

Two guys and two girls, probably around 17 years old. The girls SCREAM and run, as does one of the guys. The other guy had started running but I guess it registered that we weren't machete-carrying murderers, and he'd stopped and turned back.

My brother and I are smiling at the scene, but the running guy fell and hurt himself. He was limping. They all laughed, we told them we were just taking pictures. They said "So are we!" and held up their iphones, and my soul died a little at that.

And I'm kicking myself for not rolling video on the whole thing. Stupid. Would have been viral gold.

We went back to taking photos downstairs where the morgue is. (it's the fourth picture from the bottom one above) We heard them talking upstairs, and then we didn't. I guess they decided it wasn't smart to go into a building with strangers, even if they have convincing props that make them look like photographers.

It was getting dim, so we knew we had to get out of there .If it got dark, we'd have a hard time navigating the woods to get to our car.

Anyway...more to come.

Friday, January 18, 2019

January Update -- Amazon Strikes Again At The Indies

So the numbers have been going down pretty steadily on all titles, Terrortory 2 included. It was like a switch got turned on January 1st.

Then I notice when I look at my titles that two of my published titles are both showing up with warning exclamation points on them. When I hover over them I get this:

"We are unable to offer this title on Prime Video because we found that the following title contains content that doesn't meet our customer content quality expectations"

I'm thinking that's pretty weird. Both are "Making Of" segments that I put up a long time ago. They've been published for well over a year. Now, if they took off all the Making Of segments, then I'd chalk it up to them not wanting any kind of supplemental stuff under movies. It would be dubious, since they're basically just mini-documentaries, of which Amazon has plenty.

But they didn't take all of my Making Of movies off, so it's not that.

I sent an email to customer service to ask them why they took them down, and here's where it gets the way it ALWAYS gets with Amazon customer service. They reply with a form letter saying this:

We’ve confirmed that your titles contain content that violates our Content Policy Guidelines and we cannot offer this title on Amazon Video. We reserve the right to decide what content is appropriate, including content within your video, video title, key art, etc. Your video and other content must adhere to the Content Policy Guidelines outlined in our Help page: 

Thank you for your understanding.

So the strange thing here is that they say in this message that my movies have violated a content policy guideline--even though that's not what their other message says. I sent them a reply that says "Which is it, did I violate a guideline, or was it that the content didn't meet quality expectations, as you first said?"
UPDATE: There has been no response to this message--it's been 2 days.

There's really no way to read any of what Amazon has done over the past two years as anything but hostile to indie moviemakers. I'm not sure why they did the about-face, after being a pretty decent place to stream at first--and let's not get crazy, because remember they were still only paying FIFTEEN CENTS per hour streamed. It wasn't amazing, but it was decent.

It was glorious compared to what they now offer.

Anyway, will keep you updated. I know a lot of other indie filmmakers are getting their movies pulled also.

They just pulled one of our BEST-watched movies, "Garden of Hedon". Here's their message about that:
We are always listening to customer feedback and iterating on their behalf. During a quality assurance review, we found that the following title contains content that doesn't meet our customer content quality expectations. As a result, all offers (“Included with Prime”, Buy, and Rent) have been removed. We will not be accepting resubmission of the impacted titles. This will not impact any royalties accrued through the date it was removed and will follow standard payment timelines.

Yeah, that's gonna hurt. I'm with some of these other guys--let's start suggesting to our fans that they cancel their Amazon Prime. I mean, the funny part is that I just did this this month. I wasn't using it all that much for the shipping, and I was getting pretty irate that they're playing the SAME goddamn commercial for Mrs. Maisel on EVERY episode of EVERY TV show I watched.

So I said fuck it--they can take their price hike and shove it.


Articles are popping up all over about Amazon's shitty new policy:

A reddit petition that I've probably unwisely decided to comment on.

Another reddit thread I haven't gotten into yet:

A uk news article that may tangentially touch on why this is all happening(Amazon's new attitude regarding indie films vs big budget stuff). Interesting that Amazon continues to have "no comment".

Amazon got back to me. It's INSANE. Go ahead and read the above, then the below, and then let me know WHY THE FUCK THEY PULLED MY MOVIE, because apparently, they don't know. (and the three they pulled are still unavailable...)

Hello, Thank you for your feedback. 

Please disregard the previous message. Upon further review, your titles do not rely on a video experience (for example, a video content consisting of static images and/or looped content). Please note that further violations of our Content Policy Guidelines may result in suspension of your AVD account. 

 Please ensure all titles are wholly compliant with our Content Policy Guidelines: 

 This email was sent to all listed Administrators in your Amazon Video Direct account. Thanks for using Amazon Video Direct.


Well, I feel pretty confident saying that we did NOT get the bonus for November. I think we would have gotten an email about it by now.

So I'm thinking over the options now.

This is an interesting list--it's got a TON of distribution options. Do they pay? Some of them. But it's definitely a good list to keep handy, look into.

Another interesting article with some resources. I haven't heard of bidslate, so will look into it, but I'm not too confident if it's anything like kinonation.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

December Update

So I complained to Amazon. They said they basically have nothing to do with the way the app lists movies. I'm dubious, but hey--look what started showing up in lists on the Xbox app pretty shortly afterward...


Anyway, we did nearly the same amount of minutes in November that we did in October. It's crazy...but I'm not complaining. We DID manage to stay in the top 100 for quite some time. Won't know about the bonus for a few weeks though. I can't remember exactly how long it took them to notify us last time, but it seems like it was the end of November that we found out that we were one of the top movies in October.

Toward the end of November the numbers started dying off, and they continue to drop, but I've still left it up for free because there's still okay money coming in, and I'm trying to recoup the budget.

By the end of this weekend we will have passed five million minutes on Terrortory 2. That means I'll have gotten about half my budget back. Not great.

Still not sure how long I'll leave it up for free, or whether I'm even going to bother doing a DVD or a blu ray. (I still haven't sold enough of the Terrortory 1 dvds to break even on them)

ONE good note I got this week--one of the douchebags on Youtube who had uploaded the movie? I had it taken down. He actually sent me an email to ask me to remove the copyright strike against him. He's "very sorry" he did it.



Let's talk a bit about how bleak our situation as micro-budget and no-budget filmmakers is. We all know in our hearts that we're not doing this for money. The younger you are, the easier that is to swallow.

Less so as you get older, and you get a family, and your friends who used to help you out now have families, and don't have the time or the interest in helping you out any more.

But I still talk to young filmmakers who get the idea that if they can just get distribution then they think they'll make their money back.

I want to tell those filmmakers here and now:




And I'll re-iterate: It's easy to get distribution. It's easy to get distribution even if your movie sucks. (see: Fear of Clowns) The most important things you need in order to get distribution are a great poster and a great trailer. PERIOD.

But what's not easy is getting distribution that pays.

Want a big example? Take The Barn.

This was a micro-budget flick that was originally crowd-funded for around $20K. Trending-wise, they hit a home run. This thing got tons of press everywhere, lots of positive word of mouth, and a distributor. The trailer was so-so, but the poster is great and tells you everything you need to know about the movie.

They got a distributor and the movie got out there all over. I'd bet money that your movie isn't going to do anywhere near as well as theirs did.

Point is, they're readying to do the sequel. And they're having to crowd-fund it.

See where I'm going here? One of the most successful micro-budget indie horror flicks of the past two years, and they haven't made enough money to be able to pay for the sequel.
(now I'm sure they've made a little money, and they'd probably launch a crowd-funding thing anyway just to help build an audience and get pre-engagement, but considering how much they're crowd-funding this time--$40K, which they got already--I'd bet they didn't make much money on the first flick.

And again--this was a home run as far as indie horror goes. Positive reviews, tons of press, tons of word of mouth, and finally a distributor.

What's your point, Kangas?

My point is, there's always a lot of overly-positive stuff about pursuing your dream of being an indie-filmmaker, and I have a lot of rah-rah friends who preach positivity above all else. That's very cool, but I think it does a disservice to most people who haven't done any research into what it actually takes.

I'm saying there is NO reason to become an indie filmmaker except that you can't NOT make films. If doing it makes you happy, knowing that you're not going to make money on it, then by all means get out there and do it.

I think I'm slowly getting to a point where it's not making me happy any more, and THAT makes me even more unhappy.  I still want to create stories--that's always been my thing, as I only became a director so I could see my scripts acted out. But at this point it seems to make more sense to just go write novels and scripts.

They cost nothing to write other than time, and I really haven't spent any time trying to get scripts optioned now that I actually have scripts that might be worth optioning. (I tried early on when I first started writing scripts, but they were all pretty terrible, and got rejected--justifiably so)

Anyway, if you'd like to help out some other indie filmmakers, here are some links to friends' crowd-funding that you can check out--if the project looks interesting to you and/or you see a perk that catches your eye, throw them some dollars. If I put the link below, then they're legit and will get the movie done, as well as come through on the perks promised.

I'll update it as I see more on my friends' timelines.

Chris LaMartina's WNUF sequel:
(you should go read all of the posts on FB that he's dropped lately--if you wanna be an indie filmmaker, it'll help you see what's in store)

John Ward's Axemas:
(this is a link to actually buy the flick, not a crowd-funding thing)

Devil's Night: Volumes of Blood 3

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Weirdness Continues

Check that of the 12th, we were #10 in Horror and #72 out of EVERYTHING included in Amazon Prime Video. TV included.

As of today, we've sort of waffled between #10 and #15, and we're hanging around #76 overall.

I'm trying to figure out ways to keep the momentum going...and honestly, just being up that high helps in itself because when people search for movies they tend to only scroll down a page or two before making a decision.

Oddly, when I search on the Amazon Prime app through my Xbox on the "Horror Genre", which only lists the top 100 movies...we don't show up. The other movies from distributors show up, but not ours. Feels a bit like Amazon is probably getting paid to put ONLY the distributors stuff on that list, as Terrortory 2 has never shown up that I can see. (you can find it if you punch it into the search engine, but that's not all that helpful)

Don't know. I've still got my fingers crossed we stay in that top 100 for all of November...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

So this is weird...

So we ended October with a disappointing 2.1 million minutes. Definitely not enough to get the bonus.

That used to translate to about $5K, which would still have been disappointing but not as disappointing as the $2100 I get for it now.

I was out of town the first couple of days of November--my plan was to take down the free as soon as it starts dying--that way it will still be on the top 100 list, and perhaps we'll get some people paying to rent it.

But since Amazon takes a few days to update, I won't be able to see that stuff right away.

I got back on November 3rd and checked the stats and a VERY weird thing is happening.

On the first film, November 1st was the kiss of death. The movie died FAST. Everybody getting into the Thanksgiving/Xmas spirit, I guess.

But the first 3 days of November for Terrortory 2 are better than ANY 3 consecutive days in October. Then I get the next couple of days, and it's going UP.

Just when I think I sort of have the whole thing figured out, it surprises me. And now tonight I check our rankings, and we're actually the #15 top horror movie on Amazon, period. We're #106 of ANYTHING on Amazon Videos, TV included.

So I guess I'm going to leave it up for a while longer. Heck, maybe there's a very-outside chance we could get the bonus in November if this keeps up. I have no idea what's generating the interest now, this late, but I'm not complaining...