$65K/Month – Digital Blockbuster Visual Effects Products E-commerce Business – Steven Liszka of BigFilms
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 1:01:14)
Sponsors & Partners
Steven Liszka, a French filmmaker and founder of Big Films. Big Films provides filmmakers with access to digital tools that enhance the quality of their films. Steven explains that their product consists of video files with transparent backgrounds that can be imported into editing software for adding high-quality special effects. The goal of Big Films is to make visual effects more accessible to everyone by creating and selling these effects as video files. Ste also discusses his journey as a filmmaker, his struggles to find investors for his short film project, and how he leveraged his skills in visual effects to create a product that generated income and led to the establishment of his successful business. He also touches on topics such as piracy, marketing efforts, and the use of AI in the industry. Overall, Steven shares insights and advice about entrepreneurship and pursuing one’s passion in the filmmaking industry.
- 00:00:00 In this section, the host introduces Steven Liszka, a French filmmaker and founder of Big Films. Big Films offers filmmakers access to digital tools that enhance the quality of their films. Steven shares that the product they are selling is a digital product that consists of video files with transparent backgrounds, which can be imported into editing software for adding high-quality special effects to projects. He explains that their goal is to make visual effects more accessible to everyone by creating and selling these effects as video files, eliminating the need for individuals to generate the effects themselves. Steven also discusses his background as a filmmaker and how he got started in the industry, mentioning that his passion for visual effects led him to become a visual effects artist before pursuing his dream of making feature films.
- 00:05:00 In this section, the speaker shares how he struggled to find investors for his short film project and decided to find an alternative way to make money. He leveraged his skill in visual effects and came up with the idea of creating a product that included blockbuster effects that filmmakers could apply to their own projects. After working on this product for six months and learning about marketing and entrepreneurship, he was able to sell it and generate enough income to produce his short film. This success led him to start a successful business in the visual effects industry. While his passion project, the astronaut film, remains unfinished, it served as the catalyst for his entrepreneurial journey. The speaker emphasizes that having a strong internal drive is crucial for overcoming the challenges of building a business and that money alone is not a sufficient motivator.
- 00:10:00 In this section, Steven discusses how he initially created many of the effects in his packs but eventually started hiring a team of talented individuals to handle different aspects, such as 3D effects. He explains that they have different packs categorized by themes like Sci-Fi, action, and fantasy, catering to both beginners and intermediate filmmakers. Steven saw a gap in the market for high-quality stock footage that was easier to use, targeting hobbyists and those who want to incorporate visual effects in their projects but don’t have the time or skills to create them from scratch. While professionals also use their effects, their ads primarily target the intermediate filmmakers who want to make visual effects without being experts in the field. Steven mentions the challenge of piracy with digital products but doesn’t provide specific details on how they distribute their assets.
- 00:15:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the challenges of fighting against online piracy. They explain that it is difficult to track and shut down websites that host pirated versions of their software, as these websites often store the content in other countries. They have a legal team working to fight against piracy, but it is time-consuming and costly. The speaker also acknowledges their own experience of downloading software illegally when they were starting their career, but they do not want people to resell their products. Despite the presence of pirated copies online, the speaker is happy that they have many paying customers and believes that if the availability of pirated software helps people get started with visual effects, it is a positive thing. The speaker then goes on to discuss how they acquired their first customers and grew their business through partnerships with affiliates and targeted marketing efforts. However, they also mention a period where sales decreased, but they didn’t actively promote their products.
- 00:20:00 In this section, the speaker discusses how they started using Facebook ads for their filmmaking business in 2019. Initially, they had some challenges with configuring the ads and finding the right audience, but after a few weeks, they were able to make them profitable and scale them. The speaker mentions that their biggest market is the US, as they have found success targeting filmmakers working on music videos and commercials. They also talk about creating visual effects and videos for their social media channels themselves, with the help of friends and family. They mention that they recently started a TikTok account, which grew rapidly and has become a surprise success for their business.
- 00:25:00 In this section, the speaker discusses their experience with TikTok and how it has greatly benefited their business. At first, they were skeptical about using TikTok for advertising and were surprised by how well it converted into sales. They have been able to track conversions and see a boost in sales every time one of their videos goes viral. As a result, they are now focusing on creating more videos to increase the chances of going viral. Additionally, they mention their plans to automate and streamline their business so they can have more time for other projects, including pursuing their passion for filmmaking. They are considering transitioning from selling individual packs of effects to creating a subscription platform where customers can access unlimited effects. Overall, they are grateful for the opportunities that TikTok has provided and are excited to continue growing their business.
- 00:30:00 In this section, the conversation revolves around the new strategy and platform that will be released in the next month, with the promise of an amazing offer. The topic then shifts to AI and its potential impact. The person initially had mixed feelings about AI, as it seemed to be stealing art from artists but also offered exciting opportunities for creating new things. After three months of experimenting with AI, they are now a big fan and see it as a revolution that will change everything. They mention using Chat GPT for fun and even for work, as it has helped with writing dialogues for actors during a commercial shoot. Overall, the person is excited about AI and its potential to automate processes and free up time for more meaningful activities.
- 00:35:00 In this section, the speaker discusses their experience using Chad GPT and how it can generate results that are not always exact, but can still provide amazing outcomes. They express excitement and fear about the future of AI, acknowledging that many people may lose their jobs and feel uncertain about what to do next. However, they compare the potential impact of AI to the internet revolution, which ultimately provided more opportunities for individuals. They suggest that AI could potentially address challenges such as ecology and the economy more effectively than current governments. The speaker also reflects on their journey as an artist turned entrepreneur and considers not hiring people soon enough as a big mistake. However, once they hired someone for customer service, it turned out to be a beneficial investment as it improved customer satisfaction and even saved money.
- 00:40:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the benefits of hiring the right people for different positions in a business. They emphasize that hiring the right talent and skills can free up time for entrepreneurs to focus on important tasks such as creating good products and working on marketing. The speaker also mentions that they are not passionate about entrepreneurship itself but rather view it as a means to work on their artistic projects. Additionally, they express excitement about the potential of AI in the e-commerce industry and recommend the use of Notion, a software for sharing ideas with teams. The speaker also highlights the company Runway, which utilizes AI to automate video tasks, and mentions Andrew Kramer as an inspirational figure in the visual effects industry who successfully combined artistry with entrepreneurship.
- 00:45:00 In this section, the speaker discusses two individuals who have inspired him in his filmmaking career. The first is a person affiliated with a company called the Video Compilers, who has inspired him with their work. The second person is a filmmaker named Jacob Owens, who has not only inspired the speaker but also has an e-commerce store selling tools for filmmakers. Owens has been able to transform ideas into successful businesses and remains a kind-hearted person. The speaker also shares his best business advice, emphasizing the importance of pursuing something one is passionate about and offering a unique vision to stand apart from others in the industry.
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS
|[00:00:08] Introduction to Trep Talks with Sushant Misra|
|[00:00:29] Guest Introduction: Steven Liszka, Founder of Big Films|
|[00:01:00] Appreciation and Thanks to Steven for Joining|
|[00:01:03] Overview of Steven’s Business and Product|
|[00:01:22] Details about the Digital Product Offered by Big Films|
|[00:02:28] Steven’s Background and Early Interest in Visual Effects|
|[00:03:43] Journey as a Visual Effects Artist and Winning an Oscar|
|[00:06:00] Motivation behind Creating a Product and Starting a Business|
|[00:07:18] Impact of the Astronaut Project on Steven’s Business|
|[00:08:31] Internal Drive and Motivation for Success|
|[00:09:44] Importance of Having a Greater Purpose than Money|
|[00:09:56] Product Offerings on Big Films’ Website|
|[00:10:38] Team Collaboration and Hiring Talented Artists|
|[00:11:58] Introduction to the business model|
|[00:12:17] Target market: Beginners and intermediate filmmakers|
|[00:13:36] Filling the gap in the market|
|[00:14:41] Making visual effects accessible for non-professionals|
|[00:15:12] Challenges with piracy and illegal distribution|
|[00:16:24] Dealing with unauthorized sharing of files|
|[00:17:07] Personal experience with software piracy|
|[00:18:00] Initial struggles with marketing and customer acquisition|
|[00:19:33] Affiliates as a primary sales channel|
|[00:20:23] Exploring Facebook ads and its success|
|[00:22:00] Targeting the US market|
|[00:23:04] Social media strategy and using movie scenes|
|[00:23:57] Growth on social media platforms|
|[00:24:17] Reluctance to start a TikTok account|
|[00:25:00] TikTok account creation and initial struggles|
|[00:25:40] Surprising success and conversion on TikTok|
|[00:26:04] The impact of viral videos on sales|
|[00:26:48] Balancing filmmaking and entrepreneurship|
|[00:27:15] Transitioning to a subscription model and creating a platform|
|[00:28:00] Automating processes and freeing up time|
|[00:29:00] Pursuing filmmaking and personal projects|
|[00:30:08] AI and its impact on the creative industry|
|[00:36:11] The Danger of AI|
|[00:36:41] The Impact of the Internet|
|[00:37:24] AI as the Solution|
|[00:37:47] Challenges in 10 Years|
|[00:38:13] Entrepreneurial Mistakes and Lessons|
|[00:38:40] Delayed Hiring|
|[00:39:22] The Benefits of Hiring|
|[00:40:17] Importance of Good Products and Marketing|
|[00:41:28] Rapid Fire: Book Recommendations, Innovative Products, Software Tools, Inspirations, and Business Advice|
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS
- Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response:)
- An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Artificial Intelligence)
- A business or productivity tool that you would recommend (Response: Notion)
- Another startup or business that you think is currently doing great things: (Response: ChatGPT, Runway)
- A peer entrepreneur or businessperson whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Andrew Kramer of Videocopilot, Jakob Owens a Filmmaker )
- Best business advice you ever received (Response: Do something that you are passionate about.)
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey, they’re entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep Talks. This is a show where I interview successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders, and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.
And today I’m really excited to welcome Steven Liszka to the show. Steven is a French filmmaker and the founder of Big Films. Uh, big films gives filmmakers access to digital tools that would make their film look bigger and bolder. And basically, Steven wants to turn everyone’s computer into a true Hollywood studio.
And today I’m going to ask Steven a few questions about his entrepreneur journey and some of the studies and tactics that he has used to start and grow his business. So Steven, thank you so much for joining me today. Uh, thanks for [00:01:00] your time and really,
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: really appreciate it. Sure. Thanks for having.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So your business is kind of a, you know, combination of a digital product that you’re selling through an, in an eCommerce, uh, way.
Can you share a little bit about what exactly your product is, what you’re selling, and, and then I’ll definitely little bit about your and how started.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Sure. So yeah, so what we are selling right now is, uh, so as you said, it’s a digital product. So these are, uh, like video files put on a transparent background where people can import them in their, uh, editing software and then by adding it to their timeline, to their projects, it just makes it easier for them to have.
High quality, special effects in their projects. So what we are doing basically is that we are creating all this, the visual effects. So what the visual effects are is special effects made digitally. So by, generated by the computer, like an explosion, for example. We don’t film it, we generate it through c g I [00:02:00] and we make it accessible to everyone.
So like before our, uh, before we made our tools, People had to generate it themselves. So either be, they had to be like visual effects specialists or higher visual effects specialists. So what we are doing is we’re just creating the shortcuts where we are making all this stuff, we’re generating it for them, and we are selling it as as simple video, uh, file that they can import and apply to their projects.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. And. I mean, I know that, uh, um, you know, I heard that you are yourself a filmmaker. Um, so can you share a little bit about your background and, you know, what, what, how you got started and what really motivated you to get into this kinda business?
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Yes. So, uh, that, that’s a funny story because I started to make visual effects very, uh, early in my career.
So I was, uh, I think in high school when I started first to, uh, work with Photoshop and I realized that, uh, what you can do on [00:03:00] a still, uh, picture, you can do it on a video too. So, um, Very soon I started to learn how to use these tools. So at the beginning, what I was doing is I was recording videos and I was just, uh, transforming it into a sequence of image.
And I was, uh, working in Photoshop to create the visual effects, like frame by frame. Then I learned, uh, about software like Premiere and After Effects, which are, uh, made for professionals. So I started to learn it and, uh, very quickly. Uh, I decided to become, my, my dream was always to be a filmmaker, so to make feature films and, uh, like big Hollywood movies and, uh, but I was good at visual effects, so I started to work as a visual effects artist.
I did it for a couple of year or a few years. Um, uh, I was. Very lucky because I started to work on a project that won a Academy Award, so the Oscar, for the best visual effects. So it was very soon at the beginning of my career, I was something like 19 or twenties, uh, at that time. [00:04:00] And, uh, then, so once, uh, I graduated from school, I pursued just my career in visual effects and I was also working on short films that, that I was, uh, making.
For me, but that was like my passion work went to, to short films and my day-to-day work was working on visual effects. So, uh, I think it was in 2015, uh, I was working on a short film called Astronaut, and this was like my dream project. So for this project, I had the ambition to. It was like a 50 minute short film for which I wanted to send my own cameras into space, uh, to shoot videos of space and then to, uh, integrate my actors into the background.
So this was like a very ambitious short film and I needed, uh, films to produce it cuz it was super expensive at that time. And I didn’t have money cause I was 27, so obviously I was broke. And, uh, so. I was super ambitious. I, I just thought to [00:05:00] myself, okay, let’s take tickets and go to la, meet with producers in Hollywood, pitch them the story, and maybe someone will invest money in this project.
So that’s what I did. I stayed there for like two weeks. I think I met with a lot of great producers in Hollywood, but no one wanted to invest in this project because, I mean, this is just a short film and you don’t invest in short films. So I came back to France and I was like, um, alright, so I have to find a, To make money without having to trade my time for money.
Mm-hmm. Cause that’s what I was doing at the time. I was a visual ex artist, so I was just working on projects and commission projects. So, uh, I was thinking like, okay, if you can, uh, sell a product, like let’s say a t-shirt, you just have to design it once and once you design it, then you have to find a way to sell it.
But I mean, you can like automate all this process. But I wasn’t, uh, uh, working in a tissue industry, so I was thinking like, okay, so what do I, what am I, what am I good at? And I’m good at visual effects, so I have to find a way to turn it [00:06:00] into a product. And, uh, so the, the, the idea came to me as I was watching movies and I was thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be great just if you can watch like the last Marvel movie and just take the effects from the movie and, uh, apply to your movie?
So as I was good in visual effects, I thought that, yeah. Okay, so let’s try to create one product. Uh, which would contain like all the blockbuster effects that you always dreamed to have in your projects. And let’s see if I can sell it. If I can do it, then maybe I can make enough money to produce my short film.
Hmm. So that’s what I did. I worked, so I just, that’s the short version of the story. So I just worked, uh, like six month on this product. Uh, put it on the markets. Uh, and yeah, I mean I found my first customers, it took a lot of time, cuz at that time I didn’t know anything about marketing or entrepreneurship.
I almost, I was just a complete beginner in this, in this field. And yeah, so it took me a few months, uh, and I think. One year after launching my first product, uh, I made enough money to produce [00:07:00] astronauts, so that’s what I did. Then I shut my short film. We, we, we’ve really sent the cameras into space.
Mm-hmm. Uh, we filmed footage there and, uh, you can even find it on my website if you just type steven lika.com. Uh, and, uh, yeah, you can see the, the results. So that’s how, uh, the, the adventure started.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Awesome. And, and with that, so I mean that was kind of like your passion project, like the, at the astronaut.
Was that, like, did, did that have any commercial appeal? Like, are are you using that in, in certain ways or was that really just a passion project? You know what the
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: funny, the funny story here is that, uh, everything started because of astronauts and I never finished as. Right. So it’s still like we we’re still, it’s missing like, um, One month of work in the post-production to, uh, to release the film.
And, uh, every year I just, I say to myself, okay, now I have to find like this one month where I can just focus on astronaut. And it’s been four years and still I can’t find time to, to work [00:08:00] on it. But I mean, Astra gave me the opportunity to start a, um, multimillion dollar business, uh, that is successful. So, I mean, thanks to astronaut, I have big friends now.
I didn’t yet finish the project, so I feel like I still have to do it in order to accomplish my journey in the filmmaking industry, and then maybe move to something bigger and make a feature film that I, if I want to do it, I have to find a way to, uh, even automate even more the business so I can find more time from a patient
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: brothers.
You know, that’s, that’s such an interesting point, and I find that anybody who. Become successful or you know, find some idea that you know that they’re able to, you know, really helps them to be successful. I think you need to have a certain internal drive. That’s to, to move to, to, to, to get you to moving forward.
For you, that was the, for you, that was that, you know, project that, you know, you really wanted to [00:09:00] make that happen and, but you didn’t have the money so you figured out a way to, to find the money. And of course that became your business. And I think that’s always true for everybody. You know, some people do it for their, their family.
Some people have, you know, other goals. But I think unless you have some sort of an internal drive, you, I mean, it’s almost like you. Have a way to think outside of the box to figure out a way
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: to make it happen. That’s true. Yeah, that’s true. I think money is not motivation big enough to drive you through all the, because it’s hard to, to, to, to just take a business from beginning to where it is now.
I mean, there are so many struggles, um, that, I mean you would give up if you just for money. You would give up very early. So you have to have something bigger than you to that that just drives you.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So I know that you mentioned that the first product, you basically created it yourself and started to find, uh, market for that on your website I see you have about, uh, what, 13 different items?
Yeah. Is that your, is that your, um, main product [00:10:00] offering? Can you talk a little bit about, you know, um, uh, what everything is and did you create all of these animations yourself? Yes. Or now do you have a team that that.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: So, yeah, at the beginning I was creating like half of the effects that go into pac, but I see it takes a lot of time.
And also you have to, uh, have skills in different, uh, uh, domains. So like, I’m not a 3D guy, so every time you have to create a 3D effect, like a car that is crashing or a building that is collapsing, I wanna be able to do that. I can create a team of people who, who are really talented, but I don’t have the skills.
I’m more a 2D guy. So, For effects, like, um, muzzle flashes, lasers, things like that. Uh, I do the, I I created them at the beginning. So for the first product, I, I did like 50% of the effects that go into, into the pack. And then I started, as, uh, money started to come in, I started to hire people to, to, to work on the [00:11:00] specs.
So these are contractors and um, I have a good eye, uh, for the visual effects. I’m able to find like the, the perfect person for each, um, for each each project. So it was easy for me to create a team of talented artists. And, uh, so right now I, I don’t create any more, any, any of the effects that go into the box.
We just have, uh, teams of artists everywhere in the world, and, uh, I just know who to call for each, each. And so we have different packs because, um, the idea for us is to create different kind of universes where, uh, you can have like a sci-fi themed packed, uh, action themes pack. And, um, so yeah, it is like to divide cuz we can’t, we just can’t create like a.
Giants back where you have all the effects we ever dreamed of it just way too big. So we divided into different categories, and right now we have like 13 different categories, I think from magic to action to fantasy and distraction superheroes.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And in terms of the [00:12:00] business model, I think this is, uh, very similar to like a software product where, you know mm-hmm.
You, you create something and then it’s a very scalable way. Yeah. And, you know, uh, it doesn’t really have too much of a cost involved, like on an ongoing basis. You basically have a product that you can sell again and again and again. Yeah, exactly.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: The margins are all like a hundred percent on it, so, so, yeah.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely. Can you share a little bit about who your target market is? Um, are you. Are you selling mostly to like hobbyists, uh, who are movie hobbies and who are doing their own project? And so we’re,
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: yeah, we are somewhere in the, between, between the, the beginners and the professionals. So, um, cause we didn’t invent anything with this products cuz you, the stock footage market exists for, for a decade I think.
And, uh, there are people who are selling. There are companies who are selling stock, like high quality stock footage for visual effects artists, and these exist for, for a long time. But [00:13:00] there was nothing in the, in the middle, like for the beginners and the intermediate filmmakers. There was like no offer.
And I was, when I saw this gap in the market, I was, I just found that there is something to do here. Like you, I didn’t want to create like this high quality stock footage for a professional visual effects artist. Only those people can use it. And it’s hard to use cuz I know, I know, I know what it is because as I’m a visual effects artist, I use a lot of these stock footage assets and they’re just, if, if you don’t have the, the knowledge with your software and uh, if you don’t have an artistic knowledge, it’ll be hard for you to use it.
So while we do a big film is that we create the. Uh, quality of effects, but we just make them easier to use because we, it’s like we create all the, um, we recompose all the effects that you have the right lighting, you have the right glow on your effect, you have the right motion blur. And, uh, things that visual, visual effects artists need to create [00:14:00] themselves with high quality stock footage.
We already do it, pre render it for people. So, uh, our target, I will say is like, uh, anyone from the hobbies to. Even to the professionals, cuz I see a lot of professional projects on TV using our effects. So professional visual effects artists are using our effects and, but what we are targeting through our ads are like the intermediate, like people who are good at filmmaking, but they are not professional visual effects artists.
So they just don’t have the time or they don’t want to learn how to make visual effects. So for them we are, uh, we are giving them a brand new offer, which is you can make visual effects without being a visual effects. Definitely.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Now, one of the challenges I would assume with this kind of a product is, I mean, and, and I know, and this, this used to occur a lot like, uh, few years back, and I’m sure there’s definitely a, a black market for this.
You know, when you have a digital product, it can be easily, right? So I’m not sure if this is, [00:15:00] you know, if you provide anybody who buys like a downloadable file for these kinda, uh, assets. Yeah. But, but once somebody has downloaded this, Um, they can put it
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: on any forum. Exactly. And they do. So we’re, yeah, we are trying to fight against it.
It’s extremely hard because, um, it’s hard to just, to keep track of everyone who’s uploading it on, on the websites. Uh, so yeah, we know like there are some major websites where, uh, people used to go to download like, uh, pirate versions of software. So, uh, we are trying. Shut down those links. It’s not easy because what those websites do is, is that they don’t store it on their servers.
They do it like in other countries. So it’s hard. Uh, so you, you can’t attack like these websites cause they don’t own, they don’t have it on their own, uh, servers. Uh, so yeah, we have a team, legal team that is trying to, to fight against it. I mean, it’s, [00:16:00] um, sometimes what we try to do is usually discourage people.
Downloading our packs and then selling it themselves. Cause it already happens. So when it happens, we just, uh, we just skew them and, uh, um, whenever someone downloads it and, uh, gives it for free, I mean, we just try to communicate with, uh, to be in touch with, uh, with the, the person and ask them if they can remove the files.
So, yeah, usually it’s, uh, it takes a long time. It’s, uh, very costly. So you don’t want to do it. I mean, I also have like mixed feelings about it because when I started my career as a visual effects artist, of course I didn’t pay for any licenses, so I was downloading Photoshop and After Effects, uh, from these websites.
So I know that when you don’t have the money, um, I prefer that. I mean, I wouldn’t encourage people to, to download illegally things, but yeah, you have to start somewhere. And when you don’t have the money, it’s uh, always hard to, uh, I mean, you, you, you can, you have to find a [00:17:00] way to where, where you can start from and yeah, so I understand why people are doing it.
It’s just that I don’t want people to resell our products.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely, definitely. I mean, I used to, you know, when I was a student and I needed a software, I would go exactly and stuff and download. But now of course, you know, as I’ve, as I’ve grown and you know, I have a job and everything, it’s much too much of a hassle to do that.
And I don’t know if those softwares have like wider
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Yeah, exactly. Now that you can afford it, I mean, you will pay for it. And I’m, I’m super happy because we have a lot of customers paying for, for our, our, uh, visual effects. And, um, yeah, I know. Even if, uh, there are some free copies online of our products, first you have to find them.
So it’s not easy. And I mean, if this can help people to, to, to just get started with rfx, that’s great. And we all, we, we have so many people paying for RFX that it’s, I mean, it’s not ruining us right now, so, Okay,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: so how do you acquire customers? Like, [00:18:00] uh, can you share a little bit about, you know, how you got your first customers when you first got started and, um, yeah.
Cause you know, as you were saying, you know, you didn’t have a market marketing background. You didn’t know, uh, how to actually sell. Absolutely. And, and how have you grown it? What’s really working? Which channels actually really work in terms of customer
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: acquisition for you? Ok, so yeah, when I started, I mean, I didn’t know anything about marketing, so what I was thinking at that time is that if you have a great product, you just have to release it and, uh, it’ll go viral.
People will find about it and they will buy it, but. It didn’t happen, of course. I mean, obviously, uh, you’ll having a great product is just like, uh, just a base, uh, from where you start. And, um, so I had to learn everything. So we released the first, uh, pack, it was called the Blockbuster Starter Pack, and. It didn’t sell at all because people didn’t, didn’t know about it.
So I had to learn everything from scratch, how you market the product, uh, how you can find which are the [00:19:00] different ways to find customers. And at that time I wasn’t very good at, uh, targeted ads, so, I was, uh, I learned about affiliate marketing and I was searching for affiliates. And this is how it started.
We had, uh, like at the beginning we had like zero persons talking about our product, and I just reached out to have many YouTubers as I could, and, Some of them responded very well and we started to, uh, have partnerships with them where they were our affiliates. We were giving them a great commission for each sale, and that’s how it started.
So for like the two first two first years, uh, we were just working with affiliates and they were bringing like 80% I think of our sales. And then it, then it evolved because, uh, for me, when I started big films, um, the idea was just to produce my short film astronaut. That was my only goal, and once I did it, I just, I didn’t shut down big films, but I didn’t do anything about it.
So like the, all the sales just decreased [00:20:00] and it went at a point where we were just, we weren’t selling anything, uh, for a few years, I think. Cause yeah, cuz I produced, uh, Astros in 2017. And from 2017 to 2019 we weren’t selling anything and. It was just before Covid. Um, and I was feeling like I was getting less work from clients.
So, uh, I decided to give a, a try to, to the Facebook ads for, for big films. And I started to play with the Facebook ads and it turned out to be successful. So in 2019, I launched like my first three or four Facebook ads and they were pretty successful at that time. So that was great. So I discovered something.
I was, I discovered that I was good at making. Which I mean, which I, I was, um, it was maybe easier for me because I’m a filmmaker, so I know how to tell the story, how to make videos. And we already had like, uh, great footage from, um, the demo videos that we were [00:21:00] making for our packs. So I, uh, edited them into, uh, like a super short and dynamic ads and I started to play with the, the Facebook ads.
And so at, at the beginning it was quite hard because I didn’t know how to configure it, how to find the right, uh, audience. So it was just, uh, trials and errors and, uh, I was. Improving each time, uh, if someone tried something new. And I think after a few weeks I was, uh, it started to be profitable and I was able to scale it.
So it was great. And now we, like, we rely 90% on Facebook ads, Facebook and Instagram ads. Okay.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: In terms of market, um, what are, like, what countries are your biggest markets? Cause I’m assuming there’s visual. Doing this kind of a thing everywhere. Right? Uh, so, so which markets are you, uh, seeing the most demand from for you, for this kinda, uh, item?[00:22:00]
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: I mean, it comes from the individuals, so, um, It’s just filmmakers who are working on music videos and uh, and um, commercials. They are the ones that buy the most of our products. And, um, we are essentially targeting the US market cuz we try to target the, the entire world. And, uh, US just responds very well to our, our products.
So right now we have, uh, because. We really evolve in terms of, um, targeted ads. We have a, um, business manager accounts on Facebook that is pretty complex now and we are targeting different countries, but I mean, I think that 70% of our budget goes towards the US and we usually targeting males that are around 25 and 35.
So these are the people who buy the most our products and, uh, yes, well, males from the US who are filmmakers, uh, working usually on, uh, music videos, commercials, or some of them are [00:23:00] just hobbies. And yeah, so these are the persons who buy.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Um, I see that you know, you or you, your social media channels, um, you have put some great, uh, movie scenes or, you know, I should call scenes.
Uh, I mean definitely I, I think this gets attention. Um, oh yes. Who, who, who is, I mean, I’m assuming you’re creating it in a house or you know, the help of contractor or something, just to give people an idea of, you know, what kinda
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Yeah, usually. Yeah, usually we create, I, I do it because I love creating visual effects and I’m a filmmaker, so I try to do it as much as I can.
And all the videos that you see on our Instagram and TikTok accounts, uh, I create them myself with my friends. So basically, because we are a very small team and I’m already working, Either my family or my family or my friends. And we are making these videos, uh, together here in France, or we sometimes struggle to the US to shoot them.
And yeah, so, um, I [00:24:00] create almost all of them now. We have a social media manager with, uh, taking care of uploading everything, uh, command, uh, replying to commands and everything. But yeah, so we are growing on Instagram, but our biggest surprise was TikTok this year cuz we started our TikTok accounts, I think three months.
And we grew it from zero to, I think we are somewhere near to 200 K right now, followers. So yeah, it, it just grew super, super, super fast and, uh, To be honest, this wasn’t my idea. I mean, this was like, we have a man, uh, a um, manager of the marketing at Big Films who was just begging me to start a TikTok account for a month.
And I was like, no, I don’t want, cause TikTok is just my generation. This is something that I don’t really understand and I was, cuz our customers usually all. Not old, but between 25 and 45 usually. So I was, uh, I didn’t think that this demographics would be on TikTok, but they are. Mm-hmm. And [00:25:00] so our, uh, marketing manager started our business, our TikTok account three months ago.
And he was just posting every day, every day all the content that we are, we were creating for Instagram. He was posting it on TikTok, and, uh, it was at the beginning he was, we, we just struggled for like, like a month where you don’t grow at all. And suddenly one of our video went viral and we just gained customers.
We just gaining like every day, a few thousand of customers. So yeah, it was, it’s working great. And, uh, we were also able to track the conversions through TikTok, and it’s converting pretty well. So I was surprised because I didn’t think that people would buy things from TikTok or at least from, uh, videos that they see on TikTok.
And, but it worked. I mean, it’s, it’s working. So right now what we are trying to do, Create more videos like this and try to upload, uh, more frequently. So one of these video goes, goes viral and yeah, so right now we have like, every two weeks, one of our video hits, uh, a few millions. So, uh, we see it [00:26:00] in terms of sales.
We see like a boost every time we have a, a viral video. So yeah, it
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: was working great. That’s, that’s awesome. I mean, I think the, these videos, the format of these videos goals, Really well for, for what TikTok is? I
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: think so. Yeah. Yeah. We are lucky because we’re, uh, working in this field, like video just exploded this last few years and I mean, this is what everyone is doing right now.
Everyone wants to be YouTuber or TikTok or Instagrammer and yeah, we were lucky enough, I mean, I was lucky enough to be, to be a filmmaker and I was doing this videos before it was even trending and uh, yeah, now I’m lucky. Every year we have more and more people becoming filmmakers, and I mean, everyone who has an iPhone in his pocket is a filmmaker, and everyone who has an iPhone in his pocket can use our products.
So this is just giant market for us.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely. So is this, um, is this now your, I mean, is this your full-time thing now or This is kind of like, because, because it can be easy. I mean, this business, I mean, I would assume this business [00:27:00] can be easily. Um, outsourced or, you know, you can create processes so that the business is kinda running on its own.
Yeah. And, and you, you can create more, uh, time for yourself. So are you, are you pursuing any other projects? Are you creating any, uh, films? Yeah, so
Steven Liszkaof BIGFILMS: that’s the goal for me right now because, um, I’m trying to automate it such as, and it was, it wasn’t easy for the last few years and I think it was my, uh, one of my biggest mistakes was I was involved too much in every process, uh, of, of the business and.
Even to this’s date, I’m still creating the web pages for every product that we release. I’m still creating all the video ads, so this is a lot of work cause we try to release a new pack every three months and it’s a lot of work each time because you have not only to think about all the effects that go in each pack, but you also have to think about the marketing part.
Which means creating the video ads, uh, creating the, uh, uh, product page on the internet, creating all the, um, [00:28:00] emails and everything. So, yeah, it’s a lot of work. Uh, and I feel like today we. I want to change the strategy cuz right now we are selling individual pack and we are slowly transitioning from selling packs to creating a platform where people can subscribe and download our effects, uh, and unlimited amount of effects on, on the platform.
So this would change a lot of things because it wouldn’t mean for me that I would be less involved in, uh, all the marketing parts and all the um, Video creation and everything, cuz right now it’s, uh, just every time we release a pack, we have a few hundreds of effects inside and each time we do it, we have to market the entire pack, which means create, uh, a lot of different ads, uh, that use all the effects.
And it’s, it just takes a lot of time. So I think, I feel like. Transitioning from selling Pack to creating a platform where people can download individual [00:29:00] effects and where we can just upload on a regular basis. New effects mm-hmm. Will be much easier and will give me more time also for my project, uh, on the site.
So, yeah. So I still have a lot of projects finishing astronauts. I’m writing a feature film now with a, uh, screenwriter in la so we, uh, plan to shoot it at the end of the year or maybe next year. So this is a big project too, and, uh, yeah, so I’m trying like to. Because being an entrepreneur is great, but this was not my dream.
Like I, I never dreamed to have a company. Now I’m super happy to have it and I know that I’m good at it, but it’s just that film. I miss filmmaking and I just wanna make art for art for the sake of art, and not just, I’m not trying to sell product. So slowly I’m trying to come back to my first love, which is filmmaking.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. And I think, yes, with, with a subscription model for your business, I think, uh, Um, yeah, I think that that could be a big, uh, big recurring revenue, but I, I think at the same [00:30:00] time, you have to probably continue adding new products so that people continue to find, uh, value in
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: description. Yeah, exactly.
So yeah, we have, we have new strategy for this and so I can tell much too, too much about it, but yeah, in. Next month we’ll release the, the platform and we have a, a, an amazing offer on this platform that people have never seen before. So yeah, I’ll tell you more about it in, in a few, few weeks. Okay.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: What do you think about, um, ai, the, the new.
I don’t, I don’t know if you’re keeping up with this.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Oh yeah. I’m whole
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: gt and I mean, it’s just starting out. Who knows where it’ll be 2, 2, 3, 5 years down the road. But, you know, you can, you can give, uh, a prompt. For this AI to create an image and it creates an image, like a completely new edge, royalty free, whatever.
And I’m assuming, you know, creating these kind of am animations of not, not [00:31:00] that far.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Absolutely. Exactly. What,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: what, what, what do you think about it? Do you see any opportunities for yourself or do you see it as a threat? Uh, what are your general thoughts about
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: it? Yeah, so when it started, I think I was like everyone.
I was, I had mixed feeling about it because I was super excited at first and then when I thought it was, um, coming to my business and people like artists, uh, were becoming less and less. Uh, I wouldn’t say useful, but I mean it was hard for me to to choose a position. Um, Because, yeah, I had this mixed feeling about the fact that it was stealing art from artists.
And at the same time it was an awesome tool for people to start creating new things. And I’ve been playing with it for I think, three months from now. And I’m a big fan of Mid Journey cuz I, I, I use it for now, I just use it for fun. Uh, I never find a way to, to [00:32:00] um, to transfer. Yeah. Like to, to use it for my work.
Um, More than just creating concept arts or, or things like that. So I think we are at the very early stage of the AI right now. It’s just, um, people are playing with it. I think, like you said, like in we’re maybe a year or two, uh, from being able to create videos effects and things like that. Still I’m excited about it because this is just a huge revolution.
I think that, um, Not many people leave this kind of revolution being, I mean, I’m still, I’m young and seeing this kind of revolution now. I feel like I’m still young enough to use it for, uh, my work, my business, and yeah. So I think I, I’m, yeah, I have to say I’m excited. I mean, say, I, I know that this will change everything in the world.
I mean, not only in the artistic business, but everywhere. I mean, Chad, g p t, can. Automates or [00:33:00] so many processes can think for you. It can, uh, create, I mean, they are about to plug, I don’t know if you read this, it was like two or three days ago. They are about to release a plugin that will plug G p T to the internet, which cause for now it was just limited to a, a, uh, yeah.
Text, uh, box where you were communicating with it. And now it’ll be released on the internet, so it’ll have access to everything that is on the internet. It will. It’s, we’ll be able to take action on the web and, uh, that is scary. And at the same time, super exciting because it means that, um, there are so many things that you will be able to automate, and you will be able to just find more time for things that you want to really do.
So, yeah, I mean, for now, I mean, I think it’s too early for me to like to, to, to take position, but it is just I right now, I’m excited. I’m super excited and I have to say it all. I use chat JD for my. Because, uh, mid [00:34:00] Journey or Delhi, uh, like the software that are creating the images, I mean, they’re great, but, uh, I never find a great way to use them for my work.
But chats, pt, it’s awesome because, um, You can, uh, you can either just stuck to, to it and have fun just by communicating with it, or you can find creative ways to use it. And for me, for example, I was in LA uh, three weeks ago and we were shooting commercials for, uh, the subscription platform that we are about to release.
And I have dialogues that I to write for my actors that I’m not a native speaker, so it’s always hard for me when I had to write something in English and uh, to make it. Um, natural. It’s always, I’m always struggling with this. And now with ChatGPT changed a lot of things because I was, we, we, we had like different characters that we had to play for.
We had, we hired actors for different characters and um, we had like a Viking Warrior and action movie hero, and they had different [00:35:00] dialogues. And for me, like if you ask me, write a dialogue in English, that sounds like a Viking warrior, it just, I mean, it’s too hard. But I was able to ask Chad j pt, okay, this is my script.
Mm-hmm. Can you just write it in a way that a Viking warrior would say it? And it did. And it did, it did really well. So, I mean, it doesn’t give you like the, the exact results that you want every time, but once you learn how to use it, once you play with it, uh, and you understand the, the way you can prompt it, I mean, it can give, give you amazing results.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. I’m excited. Yeah, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s exciting and scary at the same time because we don’t know what’s coming in the
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: future. Exactly. So what do you think about it?
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, um, I, I just think, uh, I’m very excited, but I just think that, uh, a majority of human population is maybe is not ready for it cause.
I think so [00:36:00] many people may lose their jobs and then they may not, they may not really know what, what, what to do next. Exactly. Exactly. And that kinda, that’s kinda scary. Yeah.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Yeah. People can become useless. So that, that, that’s the big danger of the AI and uh, yeah, I think that, Things go way too fast right now.
Way too fast. And like every day you have a new revolution in the AI and it’s like, it’s hard to keep up with it. And, but I guess that it was the same when the internet appeared. Maybe cuz I was too young for to remember it. But I think that, uh, there, there were like a few revolutions this last century and I think Theran was one.
Major revolution and I think that people were scared maybe to, to lose their job too. And at the end of the day just gave more opportunities for people like me. For example. I don’t have to be in the US to have a business cuz my business is based in the US. I work only with people in Los Angeles or uh, across the us and.
Having the [00:37:00] internet makes things so much easier cuz I remember when I was young, my dad started the company in the US too and he had to be there. He had to be like every uh, month he was flying to the US to meet with people. And I can do it now, uh, remotely from my computer. And so, If the internet brought this kind of po positive revolution, I think that the AI will too.
And there are a lot of things that we are struggling with right now, which is, uh, the ecology, the economy, and all the, the, the crisis that we have. Maybe the AI is the answer to it. Maybe the AI will, will do better job than, than the presidents or the governments do right now for us. So it’s hard to say. I mean, we are at the very beginning and will see, let’s, let’s talk about this in
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: 10 years.
Definitely, I think, I think maybe we may be working on different kind of challenges when we have ai. Yeah, sure. So, yeah, for sure. Eh, i, I, I ask this questions to every [00:38:00] entrepreneur. You know, in every entrepreneur’s journey there’s always mistakes made, lessons learned, failures, you know, throughout your journey, what has been like a big mistake or a failure that you thought, um, was a big setback for you?
What did you learn from it? What can other entrepreneurs learn from, from that, uh, from your mistake?
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Yeah, it’s hard because, uh, as I’m not an entrepreneur at the beginning, I mean, I started as an artist. I failed in so many things. I mean, it was, at the beginning it was just hard with, I was struggling with everything actually, cuz uh, it was even hard for me to understand how to create a website, how to, I had zero notions about how it is working.
So, yeah, I think my biggest mistake, uh, It would be maybe not hiring people, uh, soon enough, I would say cuz uh, for the first four years I think I was just alone working on everything. And when I say everything, it was like re really like doing the customer service at night [00:39:00] because I had to answer to people who were in the us.
So being based in Paris, uh, was. Extremely hard because, uh, when, uh, my girlfriend was going to sleep, I was in my, uh, in front of my computer just answering and chatting with people who were waking up in the us And so, yeah, I think that it took me like five, four or five years before I hired someone for, for my business.
And, uh, so my first, the first person I hired was for the customer service. And I was thinking that, uh, it will just make me lose money because, Obviously you there is, you need to pay a salary at the beginning and you don’t make a lot of money. So, um, it was big investment, but it turned out that. The person I hired, which is really, I think one of the per best person you can ever have for the customer service.
Uh, he was just so good at it that less and less people were, were asking for refunds. So I was even, we were even saving money even by h hiring someone [00:40:00] than before. So, so, yeah. So it made a huge difference and I realized that now every time I hire someone, uh, I actually make more money. Than before. So that’s, that’s crazy because uh, you tend to think the opposite when you think about hiring someone.
But yeah, like a big lesson. I know that if I had to start a new business now, uh, from scratch, I would think from the beginning, like, who can I hire for, uh, different positions? Cause uh, it makes a huge difference. And usually very often people are scared about hiring. I mean, of course don’t hire people that you don’t need to have, but I mean, don’t be afraid to, uh, because it’ll just free up so much time for you.
And you have to spend more time on working on what’s important, which means creating good products and uh, creating and working on the marketing cuz this is like the base of your business.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely that’s, I think that’s a, that’s a great advice and yeah, I think having the right, right [00:41:00] people and right talent and right skills is definitely Yeah,
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: exactly.
You have find them. Yeah, exactly. So, so don’t try to hire too fast, of course, but just find the right person and, uh, I’m happy because we are. We have, like, we are just four in big film at big films. So we are just four persons, but every, every one of, uh, the people I hired is like excellent, super excellent.
Like what, what, what he’s doing. So it makes a huge difference. Awesome.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Now I’m going move on to our rapid fire segment. In this segment I’m going to ask you, uh, few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in one or two words or a sentence or so. So, One book recommendation for entrepreneurs, um, or I guess even creative professionals.
Uh, and, and why
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: I would say, uh, I don’t read any books about, uh, business. I mean, this isn’t, this may be, this may sound weird, but I’m, I’m not passionate about entrepreneurship. I mean, [00:42:00] I like, I love, uh, Doing my business is something that I love to do, but it’s just, I do it because I know that this will bring me the opportunity to work on my artistic product.
So I’m not like, uh, you have some like serial serial entrepreneurs who are just thinking about what kind of business they can start tomorrow. I’m not this kind of guy, so I’m not reading books about business. I’ve never read any book in my life about business. So sorry about that.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No worries, no worries.
Uh, an innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about?
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Definitely ai. I mean, this is just, uh, we are at the beginning of AI io, which will just change everything, even, even in the e-commerce industry. And, uh, yeah, definitely I think. There are tools that are appearing every day on how you can connect AI to, uh, e-commerce, to marketing, to, uh, making videos.
And I know that this will be something big in the next few years. So yeah. Ai,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: a business or productivity tool or software that [00:43:00] you would recommend or a productivity tip.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Yeah, we don’t use many software. I think that’s, uh, the last one I discovered and that we use a lot is notion. Notion is great for, uh, just sharing, uh, ideas with your team and, uh, I know they also have an AI tool that is implementing a notion.
So yeah, notion, I would say this is like the last tool that I discovered and then I lose use on a daily basis.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Uh, a startup or business, um, an e-commerce retailer technology that you think is currently doing great things.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Um, I mean, obviously open ai, who’s buying, uh, chat, but also there is one company, um, It’s called, uh, runway and Runway.
What, what they are doing is that, uh, they are creating videos from prompts. So this is super new. I know that Google is working on it too, but, uh, runway, they have like all sorts of tools for filmmakers and people who want to create, um, yeah, all, all, all kinds of video [00:44:00] stuff. And they are running on, on ai.
So, uh, it’s crazy because. They can automate all kinds of tasks, like, uh, rotoscoping, removing backgrounds from an image or things like this. So runway is doing it for video, and I think that they are, uh, they’re doing great. Okay.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, peer entrepreneur or business whom you look up to or someone who inspires you?
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Yeah, when I started, uh, working in the visual effects industry, there was uh, one guy called, uh, Andrew Kramer, and he was like the first person who, uh, released and sell visual effects back. So at that time it was just oriented towards professional visual effects artist, but he was like the first person who, uh, made uh, a stock footage back with action elements.
So it was like explosions, fire, smoke and everything, and. What I really love about him is that he was, uh, an artist like me and, but he was also an entrepreneur because he was selling [00:45:00] his stuff and yeah, so he was making a lot of tutorials where he was showing how he, he does it and he had his company called, called the video and.
Yeah, I think he inspired me a lot. And also another person I think about is, is a guy called Jacob Owens. He’s the filmmaker. And Jacob Owens also has his, uh, e-commerce store where he’s selling a lot of, um, useful tools for filmmakers. And he recently, uh, opened his sets in LA so he’s building. In the desert, you have a ranch that he transformed into a movie set.
And he’s super inspiring because I used to work with him a few a couple of years ago. And, um, it’s a kind of guy who al always finds a way to transform your idea into a business and he’s still a nice guy. So yeah, I would say two people.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And final question, best business advice you ever received or you would give to other entre?
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: I would say, uh, do do [00:46:00] something that you’re passionate about because, I mean, it’s just so hard, uh, when you start a business. It’s just so hard to, to do it for years. And you will eventually, you will give up if you are not passionate about it. So, and also you want to be, to be successful, you have to offer something different from the others.
You have to have like your. Vision, something that makes you unique and being passionate about something makes you unique. So yeah, I would say be passionate. Don’t, don’t start a, a business in, uh, about something that you are not passionate about. I, because it wouldn’t make sense and it would just too hard for you to.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think, I think, I think, I think that’s, that’s a great advice. Uh, and, and very true. Well, Steven, those were all the questions that I, I, I had. I really appreciate you joining, joining us from Paris for sharing your time, for sharing your, uh, story and also Sure. Uh, a little bit on, uh, advice. Uh, so yeah, thank you so much again for joining, uh, for sharing your time.
Thank you for having me.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Thank you so much,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: and good luck with your, uh, [00:47:00] uh, creative project.
Steven Liszka of BIGFILMS: Absolutely. I’ll send it to you when it’s finished. Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to hearing the interview.
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