Microbudget Fimmakers: One Way To Get Your Story On Netflix

Microbudget filmmakers and budding filmmakers alike, this is an interview with Derek Hammeke (who was on season 1 of the Go Boldly podcast). He made a feature documentary called Finding Home, and just this past August, it made its way onto Netflix. If you too aspire to get a story on Netflix, you're in the right place. Being a guy who wants to land 10 Netflix deals and teach 100,000 others how to as well (30+ million subs means there's a golden opportunity to reach people), I had to bug him for an interview. 

Great guy that he is, he said yupp.

Note: I'm a fan of "done is better than perfect," and this piece was transcribed with only minimal edits. There are typos: bad spelling, grammar, and poor punctuation a plenty, and I take full responsibility for it. That's my fault. If it bothers you, or if you're brand spanking new, or if you're in a hurry, or if you're an auditory learner, I've added this podcast (.mp3) to the downloadable bundle at that same link above.

Or you can click one less link and download it (along with all the other interviews from season 1) when you sign up with your email (30 min interview):

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Jake: Okay so today this is a very special edition of the Go Boldly podcast; today I’m with Derek Hammeke and this is somebody I had an opportunity to talk with, when was it? I think it was a year and a half ago so it's either June or July of last year, do you remember which month it was?

Derek: No, I really don’t.

Jake: Neither do I and I play the new dad card way too much, so I won’t do that, but it was last summer and Derek had already gone through the process of shooting his documentary ‘Finding home.' He had a great interview you can still listen to it; its part of season one and I’m very thankful to be able to chat with him today. Derek, thank you for making time to chat today.

Derek: Thank you.

Jake:  So your feature documentary Finding Home is on Netflix, it looks at the sex trafficking trade in Cambodia. So Derek let's get right into it man, why did you settle for Netflix out of all the video platforms that creators now have?

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Derek: Ah well, Netflix is where everybody really goes when it comes to film/ that’s the place I go, and I feel like it's been around the longest. It has the best reputation, even back when they were doing the split from like trying to split their organisation to DVD and online streaming and they were actually added a game on that and there were a lot of people that were upset about that and there was a time when owners were like ow actually they were right and everything did go to streaming and you know I think some of the other platforms were little bit geared differently were like red boxes, discs and whom I feel like is a bit more for TV so some junkies go to Netflix and I think a lot of documentary watchers go so I think thats where we go.

Jake: When you were looking to do this deal and get your film into Netflix, the public information that I find is that Netflix is in the homes of 40 million plus people so did they give you information along those lines or is it of a different variety and I’m just off my rocker?

Derek: you know I mean I never looked up any numbers, whenever I talked to them they never said hey this how many people that can potentially see you and actually when I was discussing with them trying to get the film up there I didn’t even know that they were working on expansion of doing global and at the time when I was discussing they were only in 40 different countries in the world and I found out that like during the time I accepted that because I accepted in January this year actually thats when they say they’re going to accept but it didn’t happen but it happened mid April but I found out that in January thats when they had expanded to 190 countries so that was huge for me to find out later after my initial conversation with them was November last year so this was the perfect timing that it would expand like that and also I had made a documentary that has kind of a global matter to it that would be perfect for that kind of platform.  I just didn’t really look into the numbers and say I just jump in and talk to the right people get it out there and that’s how I did.

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Jake: What are some of the barriers to finding somebody from their camp to guide you through this process, even if there were barriers to finding that point of contact to take care of the ring and say well you got to do this and that, what did that look like trying to find the person to connect with?

Derek: To get there I was kind of talking to a friend of mine, I talked to a few friends, film guys and I told them I feel like the film has played its course and we got into few festivals, some were pleased about that.  I was hoping and wishing that there would be bigger ones and more and it’s like it’s okay we really played well in the Rapha House's organization, the partner that I was making a film with so that played out and most people had seen it and I was like okay I would really like the film to have more legs and I just don’t know and my friend was like hey man try Netflix or something else a company called Distribber; they heard it was good and they can do those type of things, just because I make films doesn’t mean I know everything about the industry its like my dated days like making a commercial stuff, I don’t like spending time looking up things that won’t be in my avenue so while people probably know of this company I mean I just I never looked into that so I just got online and searched for a distributor. I can’t even figure out how to say it: Distribber. I just went through what I saw online and it looked pretty straight forward its kind of like click it here, and we’ll get back with you give us a call. So I submitted my trailer because thats what they first initially have you set up there, you name and your info, I can’t remember I think I might actually went on and call them because when I did get the film up on iTunes I don’t know a year and a half, two years earlier and it was probably the most challenging thing I have done businesswise I mean they said it would be up in a month but it took 10 months to finally get it up and there were a lot of unprofessional things that happened so to go forward on a different platform I was like ow I don’t want to go through like that again so I really want to make sure that I talk to somebody personally through this whole thing so when I started with Distribber I got on the phone and talked with one of their main guys, I mean it was great he answered all the questions I needed he heard my story that I told him about iTunes and he was very apologetic about that and said they would do everything they could do to not let that happen and was straight up honest and said Netflix is the most difficult platform to get a film on and your question earlier thats another reason why I want to be on that one because there is a reason why it is the most challenging one to be on and that means to me that it’s going to have the best content in it and lets go for it and it was pretty a simple process and say when you’re ready you pay the fee which at the time was a thousand dollars, I think it was 13 hundred dollars I paid for it for about a week or two so when I went on to submit they had dropped the price I think it was a thousand and once I had submitted you had your online, streaming, password-protected Vimeo link or whatever and it would go into a bundle that the company would send, you know this company is an intermediate for Netflix; they work on behalf with them so you will send them the film, they would watch on screen some of it themselves I think but at the same time they send to Netflix the one that they approve or they pre-approve and Netflix would go through and watch those and make their determination so I just went on and did that and sent it on I think that was in December last year.

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Jake: okay thats almost like a year ago, so we would plug that into this one because saying this is one vehicle that people can take to get on to Netflix by all means then we got to link this, I’ve never understood how to pronounce it either but I think you’ve shed a little more light on it

Derek: Distribber I think that sounds right when you look at the spelling of it again, so use them as an intermediate to get your foot on the door to get pre-qualified as you said

Jake: Can you run us through some more of those steps from Distribber to movies on Netflix it’s live?

Derek: Yea so here’s what kind of happened, it was a little bit frustrating at the time but I’m so glad it worked out and they told me just like the iTunes company that I went to that it would be a two to four weeks process to get approved or disapproved and when you get turned down they will call you and let you know like hey it’s no good do you maybe want to try something else? They were actually trying to push Amazon prime on me because they said we can get up there really quick and easy and I was like no I really want to go for Netflix let’s try that so I think my submission was early December and it was the end of January and I was just concerned like hey it’s been eight weeks I kind of passed around some other different people and organisation it wasn’t the main guy I talked to but it was open for me to call and so I did a few times and they were like okay we had an unusual amount of batch that came in this year so the end of the year is a big deal within Netflix because its in the quarter and new films come in, there is a lot going on and there is send ins that happen in January and everybody takes off so everything got delayed and they said that its most likely that it didn’t even get submitted until early January or mid January so it really hadn’t even been that they had it very long so I was like alright and months and months went on and all of a sudden later April and again I’m just like here we go again, is it did it get lost in a huge pit of content? It was really kind of what happened with iTunes so I was like I don’t want to be just sitting around twirling my thumbs waiting to find out if we going to get rejected or that might be the possibility and I don’t even know if they are looking at it maybe its just sitting there in a hard drive.

And I had phone conversations with the guy down there and he just wanted to assure me that man the longer that it takes its more likely that its a good sign that you are not getting rejected and I guarantee you this is not like before they are actively looking at things and its in their best interest to do that Netflix is a huge company just hang on and we will hopefully have an answer soon.

That was challenging for me because at the same time the organisation I was working with, we wanted to get this out there, we didn’t want to put it on YouTube for free if there’s an opportunity to have a major platform but at the same time we were like maybe this isn’t going to work maybe thats what we should do and I was kind of like confused and talked to God a lot, I remember one specific moment I was driving exactly at the intersection and I was like God what is this all for? This doesn’t happen. Like 12 to 13 hour days nonstop, heat and trying to get this is what you were asking and seeming again that it’s going to a very long delay and I just felt this moment of peace was right there and like he’s got this and I was like okay there it is I don’t know what that means and it was later that day that, it was literally like an hour and a half later that I got a call from the CEO of Distribber and said that they had talked with Netflix and Netflix said that they want it they are approved it and they wanted it for their global distribution which is 190 countries.

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Jake: Ah.

Derek: Yea thats how it really went I mean in all honesty the amount of communication I minimally could’ve dealt with if I wasn’t concerned about things I could’ve said they did, had one phone call not even that honestly and just waited to hear back if the content was good enough or if the content was something Netflix wanted then they pick it thats really it.

Jake: Wow that is crazy, you got a call from the CEO of Distribber?

Derek: Yea, Yea it was nuts and I was actually on my way to Texas for my sister’s wedding so it was kind of like I’m not even, my mind was checked out it was like vacation time but it was good it made the whole weekend better.

Jake: That is such a good story, that is so great okay this isn’t one of my planned questions but I’m thinking about it when you say this opens up the opportunity to have distribution in a reach of 190 countries because they do, I don’t know the word they use on top of my head but you know how there’s the regional content for example I cant see the whole library of content that somebody from Germany can see over here in Las Vegas, I see very select when it comes to German movies and German cartoons so my question is, how many different languages does that translate to whether its subtitles or some other options that we cannot see here in the West as the viewer not on your own obviously you’re going to see a complete suite of metrics and reach and so forth and I want to get to that in a second.

How does it look like as far as being put out there in other languages besides English? 

Derek: Yea I mean that was one of the things that you find out when they accept you and they say want it global that comes with the language barrier so they said they needed it translated in like I think the original list was 40 languages or something and Distribber said they will kind of work with Netflix said let’s focus on the main ones because there’s expense to that so when they accepted there’s a dollar amount that they gave and for doing it global which is what they wanted so there would be a percentage that would be taken off for the paying or the purchasing of the subtitles to be created by Netflix approved subtitling houses. So Distribber wanted to make sure Netflix got what they want but also hey here’s our client also trying to get a return on the product too so just try to balance, do we really need all these languages cant we get by with a few amount? And the end amount was around 25 different languages that ended up getting subtitled.

It ended up being pretty pricey but they did give us a pretty amazing deal I was a little blown away by what they offered because you know in the process of me submitting I talked to some film guys and they said oh don’t expect much Netflix is just, they’re not that great  and some people were like 15 hundred dollars is what they offered me and I was like I don’t care you know you want it on the platform its about getting it out there I mean I understand if you have a lot invested in the film and you need to make a return I can understand that but for us with Rapha House we just wanted people to see it so when they came packing they came with big amounts it was like ow wow they must be really seeing something in our film for people to offer that so for some of it to go away for the subtitle creation we were like hey we are fine with that we’d rather have all these countries be able to see it and who want to see it so there was some time it took to get all that done when I told you it was like mid April or so, it was kind of a scramble too, they had to get all those things, I had to get them the film in the top notch quality that I could, I had to get the 5.1 cento and this is like I hadn’t opened the project file for you know two years or something so I had to go back and dust up the hard drive and re-link the clips and do all the stuff and get the right export out get it over so they can get the subtitling started because they wanted it to launch obviously first which isn’t really a lot of time when you’re thinking about transferring each files like that as we had to mail it out there in a hard drive to get it on the right hands and start the translation, it was two hours of story to get all that right, double checked so when it launches there’s minimal errors or no errors at all.

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So when you’re asking about different library content for Netflix I have a lot of friends who are missionaries all over the world that do talk to me about their Netflix and one of them is in Japan; they just earlier in the year they were like ow yea we got Netflix in Japan so there are a lot of other libraries like Japanese movies because thats what people are going to watch.  I think they are very smart about finding films that they think have an actual global audience that they put it in any library wherever it still going to kind of standout films like crouching tiger or hidden dragon or something it still has an American appeal yet its very Asian like film so yea for this one it seems to be working well and a lot of shown documentary libraries through Netflix so I don’t know how they work it out I’ve got no communication with Netflix about it at all, they don’t give me any info about any of that so I’m only going off at comments that I personally get from viewers, from our Facebook page and from what I hear Rapha House from messages all over.

Jake: Thank you for explaining that, that is amazing, 25 languages that this film is now available in that is fantastic. Derek, I’m just proud of you, you ran the race you didn’t quit; you didn’t give up that's what I always want all the folks here in the Bold Nation to go and do, don’t quit and that is coming from the King; don’t quit - keep praying.  Okay before we wrap up I got two last ones for you, what kind of metrics do you see on the backend besides views, what kind of metrix can you see as a content creator that now has a piece on Netflix?

Derek: Metrics meaning just like how many people are watching or viewing it is that kind you are asking? 

Jake: Yeah!

Derek: Right no, nothing, Netflix gives me no ability to see any of that. It's zero; it's absolutely zero. Here’s the thing I didn’t discuss earlier and this is a little bit partially another reason going with Netflix was, you know if you go on to Amazon prime you get five cents every view and I think that comes in after somebody has watched for six minutes and five cents is your final payment, it's actually 10 cents but Amazon takes five or something like that so when I did the math how much it cost to get it up there it was like I need 25 thousand clicks to get my money back and Amazon prime is flooded with tons and tons of films it was like it could just get lost in the mix, you had to do a lot of marketing to get it up the front page to be able to get those kinds of clicks and it just didn’t seem like the route I want to go and its similar to Hulu and Redbox or something like that whereas Netflix they want you anywhere like a to your contract and here’s a dollar amount for that ton and so that just seem no matter what if I knew I got on there nobody watched it, at least me and Rapha will get a return in some way even if its small so that kind of weighed a little bit into our decision but yea once they took it it was like yea they have it and it make sense because if we saw wow we’re trending huge it would kind of give us more advantage when our contract renewal time come and we will be like you know our film is great you can see the numbers and then try to push for more money or global whatever and so if they retain all that info they are going to be the ones who have the upper hand for a renewal which is a smart business on their part so but I mean I know when it first released there were some people who saw on their scrolls it said new releases a couple of people said they saw it on the first scroll which is weird because on my account doesn’t register the same as others and one person sent me a screengrab and I saw it I was like hey its on the first scroll and another person sent me and it was like on the sixth one so I don’t exactly how all that works with Netflix and whites, its a little different from people’s systems than others someone said they saw it on the trending scroll and I was like you’re kidding me that would be, thats insane to me, because thats like for the stuff that everybody is watching but I only heard that once but you can get on there and see, I actually didn’t even know they have a review still in there you click a film on your actual web not like on app on TV or whatever you can click details and there’ll be ratings for film and people are still writing and they have no username attached to them so its just words put out there and what star they think the film is but we’ve been able to read some interesting reviews on there and I kind of wanted to bring up and mention actually that we have had some amazing reviews, people who were from Cambodia who were actually there during the Genocide, they are Cambodians very thankful and really respectful that the film was made so its really cool you know to have those people see it at the same time there are some really really intense ones that are like one star and like I cant believe these white American Christians going over there trying to sway the culture and all those stuff.

It was really kind of eye opening for me because the viewership of the film hadn’t git those pockets yet of viewers it was really primarily kind of church supporting, groups for their organization to know that its been getting to more diverse viewership I’m still really pleased that some people have had issue with it and really be able to see some of the small things that I thought were really small in the film that were kind of show Christianity, there were huge things for people who aren’t Christians when they would watch it they would immediately pick up like ow this right here and for me its just something that is day in day out and I thought it was not too Christian was something huge for them and they would write and write about it.

It was really kind of shocking that in some way this is good because I guess we are set apart like God asks us to be but at the same time I’m still trying to present the film as truth and we had some good responses too people who liked the film, like hey I’m all up for the religious stuff but these people are trying to help who cares which religion they come from look at their hearts they care about the girls so I’d much rather somebody with a religion I really don’t like or care about see them trying to do something rather than now which is what some of you guys are doing just sitting here writing reviews so yea its been really interesting and we can see some stuff on 90B we have our film up there and some people are writing in and putting some reviews which is good and Facebook too all over the world its been great and I hope it continues and see what happens if Netflix wants to keep it for another cycle.

Jake: Indeed so that brings me to my final question to wrap things up, would you do this again with another movie? Will you do all the hurdles and all the prayers and the waiting is it worth it, would you go through it again to get on Netflix?

Derek: Ow yea I mean if the project is right I mean for sure, when I was making the film and got it done I just felt like this one has potential I don’t know if it will happen or not but if I really feel like it has potential in all honesty then I’m going to do that. I’ve had some conversation with some people and they’re like I want to put it on Netflix and its hard because you need to be honest with yourself, do you really think that its good enough because its the real industry, this is the world industry because if the quality is not there they are going to notice.

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If I do another film and I look at it and I’m like aah I just don’t know I mean in all eyes you can just submit, I mean this company Distribber is like a thousand dollars if it gets declined they give you all your money back sans 120 dollars. I mean why not take the shot even if you think the film is not fully there I mean if I ever do another film which I hope so I don’t know if my life is allowing that opportunity at the moment maybe the next year or two maybe some time down the line I would love to, there’s this one idea that I have that I would love to do, its extremely Christian film it would be specifically based in one culture of Christians and you know only time will tell if its something that will end up on Netflix  or not if not I’d say don’t quit fighting at least you are an audience for yourself and the audience is out there just don’t quit trying to find where the audience can find it if thats on YouTube or wherever just keep fighting for that because thats how people will see it they’re not going to see it by doing nothing.

Jake: I love it, Derek Thank you so much for your time, if you are brand spanking new to church films or any of the information here this is a quick recap its finding home feature documentary on Netflix go watch it go leave these guys some love on any of the platforms he talked about whether its Netflix of Facebook or give these guys a shout out over email let them know.  Thank you so much Derek really appreciate your time here.

Derek: Thank you.