Pitching a film idea to an Agent, Development Executive, Studio Executive, and/or Financier can be a nerve wracking situation, but pitching to yourself can be even more scary. How many times have you had an idea, believed in that idea, but postponed making it a reality (film) because you felt the masses (audience) may not resonate with it? That’s exactly what happened to me when I decided to Produce ‘AUM You Are What You Drink.’
In 2010, I attended the Calabasas, CA Wine and Food Festival and met winemaker Pete Hoffman. He spoke a lot about his interest in Yoga, Organic Farming, Meditation, and developing the conscious mind; things that I had been studying for about two years prior to attending the festival. His AUM wine bottle was wrapped with a leather band holding crystals, so of course I had to inquire about that aspect of his wine. In an animated way, Pete started to go into details about his methods and how he believes his wine can help bring out people’s positive intentions. In the beginning, I still was a little skeptic about the “power” of his wine, but after visiting Pete in Napa, CA he sold me on his methods and philosophy. Growing up I had no knowledge of Wine, Yoga, Organic Farming, or energy from Quartz Crystals, but the fact that I was so interested in Pete’s methods, I believed others would be as well.
SELL YOURSELF THE EXTENDED WARRANTY
I told Pete that I wanted to make a Documentary showcasing his methods and comparing them to convention winemaker’s methods. He was really excited about the idea and gave our Production Company the go ahead to move forward. So, a month after we got back from Napa, CA my producing partner – Kanin Howell and I went into Development. We did market research and sold ourselves on the idea that this film would be huge in the wine industry. To verify our suspicions about how big this movie could be, we made some initial contact with the wine industry’s biggest players and got a lot of enthusiastic people on the phone. This feedback was enough for us to move into pre-production. Once we were in pre-production, it was time to create shooting schedules, so we contacted those enthusiastic winemakers again, but this time they weren’t so excited. They realized that their wine making methods would be challenged in the film and it could raise unwanted questions, so people started to pull out left and right.
At first we thought this was the end of our film, but we were able to find one winery who was willing to put their methods and wine up against Pete’s. We began shooting in September 2011 and wrapped three months later in November. During post-production, we noticed the story was not coming together as we hoped and realized it was the lack of participating wineries. We sold ourselves on the thought that we could just pull off the plot with just one winery, but it wasn’t looking that way. One night, as I was going through the footage with frustration, I asked myself ‘Why did I even do this film?’ While searching for the answer to that question, I had an epiphany. We did not want to do this film because wine was so interesting; we did the film because Pete was so interesting.
CANCEL THE WARRANTY
At that moment, I contacted my editor and told him how we were going to change the entire story of the film. The film would now focus on Pete Hoffman’s philosophy about wine being a tool for self-development. Wine and winemaking became the backdrop of the film, while Pete’s story took center stage. Again we had to do some more market research, but this time on the Yoga, Meditation, and Spiritual lifestyle industry. After a few weeks of looking into this industry and viewing documentaries on various spiritual lifestyles, we realized there was a void in content and our film would be the perfect thing to fill it.
Once the editor jumped back into the cutting room, everything came together almost seamlessly. We had tons of footage on Pete and just needed a few pick up shots to make everything complete. On October 11th 2012, the film was completed and we are now finalizing deals with two distributors; one for DVD & New Media and the other for TV.
We learned many things while making this documentary, but three important ones come to mind: Research your potential audience intensely, don’t doubt your intuition (We sold ourselves on the wine angle when we knew it was the Pete angle that was most compelling), and always be open to change.
Brandon Ross is the Executive Producer and Producer of ‘AUM You Are What You Drink.’ He has been working in the entertainment industry for over 13 years; first as a Talent Manager for Actors, Writers, Directors, and Producers and now as a Film Producer. Brandon currently is in development on his third film, which is a secret project he is producing in collaboration with the NFL. Follow AUM on Twitter!