The Dalai Lama: Scientist

Roberta Munroe in conversation with director Dawn Engle.
Bunker 15 works with Dawn Engle and ‘Dalai Lama: Scientist’ to reach 26 reviews and a 88% rating. Great Documentary from PeaceJam Foundation. Read The Film Collaborative’s in depth Case Study here. Roberta Munroe has produced and/or written/directed over 30 award-winning short- and long-form projects, including films and television pilots.

Guide to a Virtual Cinema Release For Indie Filmmakers

In 2015 Jason and Cameron shot a pilot called The Bellmen, which gained traction but for some reason was never green lit. This pilot, nonetheless, planted a seed for a feature idea as mentioned by Jason:

“I had a friend from my Cornell Hotel School days who had become a VP with Loews, and who’d helped me secure their Hollywood location for one day of filming. At the time he mentioned that if I ever needed a cool location for a larger scale project, their property in Tucson could be a potential option during their slower summer months.”

[Making Movies Without Losing Money]: Practical Lessons in Film Finance

“Making Movies Without Losing Money” asks a cutthroat question in perfect correspondence to a cutthroat industry – How to make movies without losing money? The matter has most people in the film business squirming in chairs not knowing what to say. The book is an entertaining page-turner that will have you (just like I’ve been) discussing the question and possible answers long after reading.

[Project Lodestar] Book Review: Making movies without losing money

Harlow explains the risks and opportunities of making indie film


In the complex and ambiguous world of film industry Daniel Harlow’s book, published by Routledge in 2020, is – as the title says – like a guide to tackle, with greater awareness, the difficulties of a filmmaker struggling with the production and distribution of a film and trying to minimize waste of money and, above all, earn from his work in order to go on with his career in the world of cinema.


The Bellmen Case Study

The Film


  • Genre: Comedy
  • Writers: Jason Adler and Cameron Fife
  • Director: Cameron Fife
  • Producer: Jason Adler
  • Executive Producers: Kim Waltrip, Ken Schur
  • Budget: SAG Modified Low Budget
  • Co-Producers: Michael J Wickham, Samantha Herman
  • World premiere: @ the Garden State Film Festival,March 2020


Development and Financing


In 2015 Jason and Cameron shot a pilot of the same name, which gained traction but for some reason was never green lit. This pilot, nonetheless, planted a seed for a feature idea as mentioned by Jason:


“I had a friend from my Cornell Hotel School days who had become a VP with Loews, and who’d helped me secure their Hollywood location for one day of filming. At the time he mentioned that if I ever needed a cool location for a larger scale project, their property in Tucson could be a potential option during their slower summer months.”


While Cameron and Jason had the occasional creative session over the years to discuss the feature, it wasn’t until Jason finished an outline and set up a scouting trip in April of 2018, that there was finally any momentum that could be considered substantial.


“We returned to LA with a much clearer vision for the script, and after a few meetings and drafts things started falling into place. We knew we had something special with the script, so I was determined to raise the money. I called well over 100 people in my network who I thought might be interested in investing, with a rejection rate of about 95%.”


Obviously, this was not for the thin skinned as Jason remembers.  It took some time and some personal funding directly from Jason to eventually get to the goal. Then, suddenly, they had 15 shoot days scheduled in September of 2018, and ultimately a secured film location for one month, which included pre-pro and wrap. Goal was accomplished and things were in place.




As most projects, things would have not gotten off the ground without coming across a few initial breaks. As Jason remarks, the scouting trip was huge – “For a film like ours with 95% of the plot taking place at a hotel, the location was to be the most critical element.” Jason was very emphatic to remark and recognize both Peter Catalanotte and Brooke Sauer from the Film Tucson Office, in their assistance with the location. He called them with no prior relationship or proper introduction, and since the first moment, they always responded positively. They set up multiple locations in which to scout and were tremendously helpful throughout the entire time.


Another person who brought in great value was Maria Luna from BRAVO, one of the film’s earliest supporters and investors, who Jason had no prior relationship with.


“I tracked her down after first seeing her on Shark Tank, hoping she’d see the value of brand integration into our movie, and fortunately she did!”


Jason remarks that there were many luggage companies that either weren’t interested or didn’t return his calls.

“I strongly encourage indie filmmakers to pick up the phone and make calls, you never know where help and alliances may be. One thing I know for sure is that it will not come to you. If you’re willing to hustle and do some outside the box thinking, you will undoubtedly find what you need.”



A lot of the positives surrounding the production revolve around the team set forth to conduct the production itself. Cameron had a fantastic network of key crew who they brought out from Los Angeles. The team’s trust and budget mindfulness were critical in making everything work. Jason learned to understand the huge importance that a casting director or team can have.


“Even if it’s not in your initial budget, make room! Kendra Shay Clark and Helen Geier were a huge asset; not only are they fantastic at suggesting the right talent, but they brought a level of credibility to an indie film that you simply won’t have when the director and producers are the ones communicating to agents and managers.”


Many other remarks revolving the production’s fine tuning where greatly assisted with the fact that the team was filming and living at a beautiful location: The Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, which made for a fun and relaxing environment that helped the team be involved as much as possible. They ate and drank together, and even explored the local area on off days. All of this contributed to strong bonds and a family vibe on set which transpired into the films process. Jason described the ambient for the location as simply perfect.


The Sale


Jason decided to sell the film himself:


“I did a ton of due diligence on the subject of self-distribution. I spoke with filmmakers and producers, listened to podcasts and read dozens of articles, and even entertained several offers from distributors. There is no right or wrong path – ultimately I decided to self-distribute.”



After putting so much time, energy, resources, and money into it, it seemed odd to just hand the movie over to a third party who has no skin in the game. If the right terms and circumstances had come along, then Jason would have thought about it, but the usual 10-15 years, turning over the worldwide rights, and on top of that they weren’t going to do much marketing, if any at all since they expected them to do the marketing.


“My journey to find an aggregator began. Reputation and experience are crucial, so after several calls and visits to the LA location of Bitmax, I found myself excited to work with them. Self-distribution is obviously a lot of work, so let me be clear on that. But I love the fact that I retained all rights, and have transparency on the numbers.”


Due to Covid-19 some expected reporting delays have been in place, since there is a rapid movement into digital, but Jason retains the final word on all pricing and timing matters. In doing this he also engaged the services of Glen Reynolds at Circus Road Films, a distribution consultation firm, so when he is ready for the secondary SVOD window, Glen has all the contacts to pitch buyers and networks to strike the deal. Jason understands the importance of having as many mentors and experts in your corner, so almost every decision made was after several conversations and insights from collaborators like Glen, Kim Waltrip, and many others in the industry.


“I’m a firm believer in collaboration and deliberation, and while I ultimately make the final call, it isn’t without thorough investigation and feedback.”


Festival Strategy & Premiere


Even though Jason and the team had its hearts set on SXSW for the world premiere, they believed it wasn’t realistic to count on a major festival, or any for that matter. So, they were thrilled to learn that they would be virtually premiering at the Garden State Film Festival in March, 2020.


“It was a bit disappointing to not be able to attend, especially since we won the -Budd Abbott award for Best Comedy Feature-, it was nevertheless a huge honor to win an award right out of the gate! Major props to the GSFF staff too – I believe they pulled off the first ever virtual film festival, and on such short notice.”


A month later they were set for the Greenwich International Film Festival, which was again also virtual, with a couple other pending decisions of festivals which have been postponed due to COVID-19. The overall uncertainty of the return of most festivals, has shifted the main focus and funds to marketing and advertising, since the film is now available on the major digital platforms.


Marketing and publicity


“I came across a company called Bunker 15, which essentially serves as PR for indie films, primarily by getting reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I was particularly impressed with the CEO, Daniel Harlow. He explained how a minimum of 5 reviews published on Rotten tomatoes results in a -fresh- or -rotten- score.”


To be clear, Bunker 15 does not guarantee a fresh score, but does guarantee the minimum number of reviews necessary. “I highly recommend Bunker 15 because you cannot underestimate the value of Rotten Tomatoes, so check them out and make sure you allocate a budget for their services.”


Jason also considers himself lucky that he was able to have a satellite media tour with Richard Kind. 27 reporters from around the country interviewed Richard via zoom satellite in 5-minute interviews, many of which aired nationally and others regionally. This is obviously not something most Indies will be able to acquire or experience, if any, but he was lucky enough to hit it off with the owner of Junket Productions.


The Release


The Bellmen had a theatrical release, fully virtual. It was set to have a two-day premiere event on May 5th and 6th at the Loft Cinema in Tucson, one of the best indie theaters in the country. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to the pandemic. The Loft presented Jason with a unique opportunity to screen the movie virtually for their members, to which he gladly accepted. They sold tickets through their website (65,000-member email list) and the profits were split.


Several distributors had come up with this concept to work with indie theaters around the country during these difficult times, so he followed suit and personally reached out to 120 theaters or so. Luckily 10 of them agreed, and 10 more theaters jumped onboard after a week or so. Ultimately the film screened on 20 theaters for 4-6 weeks, a few of which are still going.



This is a brand-new concept born out of the present circumstances with COVID-19, an experimental adaptation. Since theaters were closed the industry was forced to think outside the box. So, The Bellmen ended up with a limited theatrical release that it otherwise would not have had and reached a wider audience in the process. Also, indie theaters were able to share in the proceeds, allowing them to earn something to help pay employees and bills during the shutdown:


“I’d say that’s a win-win! It was nice for people to be able to contribute to their local indie theater, and perhaps this can be the birth of a new model going forward. We also qualified to list the -opening weekend box office numbers- which were $948, not bad at all.”


Advice to Filmmakers


I hope in some way this helps inspire other indie filmmakers to go out and do whatever it takes to make a movie. I can’t articulate the amount of knowledge, experience, and meaningful relationships that I’ve gained. Whether or not you want to self-distribute and handle your own marketing is up to you. For me, it’s been an unbelievable learning experience and I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved how I was able to pivot so freely and do the virtual release. I love that I can look at the daily numbers on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and soon Vudu (they’re still experiencing delays due to Covid-19), and when the time comes, I can adjust pricing. Now, thanks to help from some trusted expert friends, I can analyze the data from our Facebook ads sales results and adjust the target audience accordingly. There is tremendous joy in having produced a movie, even more so with managing and monetizing something indefinitely that I’ve put so much into. I think it would have been a dishonor to myself and the team if I’d just handed it over to a distributor and hoped for the best.”





Bunker 15 Films offers promotional strategies for VOD and Theatrical releases. With thousands of certified critics, journalists and media influencers, Bunker 15 can bring media attention to your film that no other Publicity techniques can. Having logged every film critic and every film they liked or didn’t like, their Data-Driven smart strategies drive buzz for your film to the audiences that want to see it.

An interview with the creator of the Charlotte-based Bunker 15 Films.

Corner is a feature on Film Frenzy that focuses on those both in front of and behind the camera: actors, directors, writers, and other cinematic movers ‘n’ shakers of all stripes. In this installment, we interview Dan Harlow, the founder of the Charlotte, NC-based Bunker 15 Films. I was actually born in Detroit, where most of my family still lives. We moved to San Diego when I was 8 and I’ve been a Cali guy ever since.

Tech Entrepreneur helps Indie Filmmakers get much-needed Press for their Projects

With Sundance getting a mind-blowing 14,000 film applicants this year, it is more difficult than ever for small Indie films and filmmakers to stand out from the crowd. Daniel Harlow, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Bunker 15 Films, has a strategy that offers a glimmer of hope – even for small indie films with limited budgets. Bunker 15 has catalogued over 10,000 film writers and bloggers around the world and identified the subset that appreciate and (most importantly) will write about a tiny Indie film.

Can you believe that in 1993, Sundance had only 250 applicants! A decade later, in 2003, Sundance had 2000 applicants. During this stretch, the festival became so popular and so ubiquitous that the number of applicants to the festival became a de facto estimate of the number of Independent films made in America in that year. Filmmaking was on the rise. Costs were making a precipitous drop and people like Ed Burns, Robert Rodriquez and, most recently, Mark Duplass were telling filmmakers that you didn’t need any money at all to make a film. Increasingly, they were right. Sundance applications hit 4000 by 2012. Meanwhile, more and more filmmakers were stopped submitting to Sundance, opting for the exploding number of second-tier, local festival around the country and around the world. Even still, 14000 films applied in 2019.



1.1 # of films in Sundance each year


But while filmmakers become more prolific each year, each filmmaker is having a harder time getting people to pay attention to their films. With the advent of social media, Facebook targeted ads became the default way of bringing your film to potential viewers. But now that a substantial number of filmmakers have tested the social-media “targeted ad” waters, the results are a dismal disappointment. Costs inevitably far exceed any audience-building they do.



1.2 Average Cost Per Click for Facebook ad = $1.86, Source


The only reliable way to get people to pay attention? Just open in 100+ theaters. That’s the best solution because it all but guarantees a big splash for your film, a NY Times review, attention from the Hollywood reporter, and dozens of other publications. Everyone will report on your film and it will only cost you in the mid-six-figures.

Daniel Harlow, a tech entrepreneur, turned film producer, turned film publicist – found that to get people to watch a film, he had to get journalists to write about it. But accepted thinking was that no journalist would write about some tiny indie film that was playing in less than 20 theaters around the country – or (gasp) going straight to Streaming VOD. For the most part? Accepted thinking is right, Harlow found out.

In fact, entertainment journalism is on a downward trend with budget cuts everywhere. Film reviewers and journalists are being laid off and hired back on a temporary basis as “freelancers” that are given a small number of assignments per month – normally forcing the writers to write as a side gig and take a different job 9-to-5. Non-profits that study Indie film trends like Project Lodestar ( actually found that while film journalism is on the decline, the number of films opening in each city per month are actually going up – thanks to the tendency for Independent films to now do very short stints on small screens.

So how can Independent filmmakers draw attention and/or Press to their projects? Daniel Harlow put his film production aspirations on hold while he first addressed this glaring need.

Harlow sold his IT Consulting company founded in 2015. After 23 years of work, 6 offices, and 300 employees, he suddenly had very little to do. He ended up going back , this time for their post-graduate Film Studies Program for Independent Producers. Harlow became fascinated with the technology changes in the entertainment industry but was floored by the striking drop in the financial returns on filmmaking. DVD sales had all but disappeared and theaters were primarily for large Special Effects driven studio blockbusters. Indies were seen at home through streaming services where piracy cut into revenues even further. He thought Film studies would provide insight into the business side of successful film production but was disappointed. “There were no answers at Film Studies for how to draw audiences to a particular film,” said Harlow. All new technology players in the film space were making their money from the Long Tail theory. Less revenue per film but a massive number of additional films will lead to more revenues overall. The game is volume. Players like Apple, Amazon, Netflix and every other film-related start-up had a business model built on volume – while the individual film was getting a smaller and smaller share of a larger overall pie.

1.3 Long Tail Economic Model


While he ran a large IT Consultancy, Harlow managed several marketing campaigns for clients like Walmart, Nike, Macy’s, Sephora, The Gap and others. “In many situations, we had exactly this Long Tail issue: an infinitely large storefront of the internet. How do you make a product stand out? … I went to SXSW [the Film, Music and Tech Conference held each year in Austin, TX] thinking that I could then find the thought leadership on this and work on real solutions but there was no leadership on the subject. The only solution anyone proposed was the Do-It-Yourself model which I thought was only applicable to a small number of filmmakers.”



The DIY movement in film certainly has a lot of buzz and momentum. The Sundance Institute and other prominent institutions advocate filmmakers marketing their own films. “I had interviewed dozens of filmmakers and they not only aren’t good at publicizing their own films, they also don’t want to do it,” said Harlow.

If you wanted to DIY your own PR? It’s easy. Go online and hunt down journalists yourself. Find them or their editors and email them about your film. You will find some friendly faces out there. Journalists do like to talk about Indie film and then, boom, you now have more PR than you had before. And you Did It Yourself. Voila.

For a small number of filmmakers, it works. Some producers are really into that DIY process. “These filmmakers would probably have been involved in the business side of the film no matter what happened,” said Harlow. But it is a small group. The majority, once the film is finished, want to do a little press then start working on the next project.

Plus, there are real obstacles of trying to publicize your own film. Many publications have rules forbidding communicating directly with a film producer. The publication needs to be communicating with a third party to keep the article unbiased. And the sheer difficulty of chasing down critics one by one and asking them to review a film is a daunting task, particularly when coupled with the time critical nature of the job. Film critics usually want to publish an article within a week of a film’s release. If it’s already been released, it’s ‘old news’ and if it’s not going to be released for 3 months, then don’t bother me yet, they think. That’s a narrow time window to communicate with a lot of journalists.

Thinking Forward


Despite the fact that it would be difficult for an individual filmmaker, Harlow thought that if Influencer Marketing could work in other industries, why not film? After all, film journalism already has a rich and storied history. “There must be a way to leverage the hundreds of entertainment writers out there, at least I hoped so,” said Harlow.

“SXSW, Project Lodestar gave off this grim picture for individual filmmakers, but I thought that what they were missing was this burgeoning space of film writers that were taking to the internet to blog on their own. More entertainment publications (especially websites) were decoupling from any given geography. And it was the geographical boundary that tied a publication to theaters in their area. The hard copy nature of old-world, established, journals limited physical space available for Indie articles but these limitations also didn’t apply to website and blogs. For example, Roger Moore’s Movie Nation covers a large number of Indie films every month. So why not work with publications like that?” he thought.


Yearly rise in RottenTomatoes Unique Visitors: 32%


After several initial Beta-tests with tiny films that gave Bunker 15 Films encouraging results, it took on a big festival winner: Light of the Moon by Jessica M. Thompson. Light of the Moon was one of their first major efforts to see if the system would work. And did it! 75 Rotten-Tomatoes journalists requested to see a preview screener of the film! As expected, many of them couldn’t get their publications to publish a review about an Amazon Prime release but even some of the larger outfits did cover the film in other ways. The LA Times, for example, made Light of the Moon their VOD Pick of the Week based on Bunker 15’s outreach. The Chicago Tribune interviewed one of the actors for a piece in the paper and several of the writers wrote reviews for their blogs many of which had huge followings. All total, Bunker 15 Films secured 17 additional Rotten Tomatoes certified reviews for the film and a number of other pieces like the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, FilmINK in Australia, etc. Many of which had huge followings. All total, Bunker 15 Films secured 17 additional Rotten Tomatoes certified reviews for the film and a number of other pieces like the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, FilmINK in Australia, etc.

What Bunker 15 Does and How it works


Bunker 15 doesn’t just have a large database of film and entertainment journalists but also it catalogs the films they have written about. There is information on what they have liked and disliked over time. Therefore, they can target the journalists that cover and like small Indie films. Mike Bravo, the company’s CTO, says, “There’s quite a bit of technology in place now to find entertainment bloggers and reach out to them when certain films fit their profile. We are building profiles of both critics and the publications they write for, which is complicated, because one writer might write freelance for one publication doing VOD Streaming movies but might only cover theatrical films for another publication. Plus writers move around and change publications all the time. We are also trying to build resources for the critics themselves so the critics have an interest in being in contact with Bunker 15,” Bravo says.



1.4 Bunker 15 films helps indies earn press


“The key for us really is finding that subset of critics that are going to be interested in a particular film and that’s not real easy. Each journalist and publication has geographical and theatrical constraints, genre interests, timing issues… there are a lot of variables but we try to find the journalists that are really into a particular film or genre and focus there,” Harlow says.

The results have been amazing. Turns out that critics really want to watch Indies and like them when they watch them. It’s all about expectations. If it’s a small film, the critic is going to give it a lot of leeway usually and not pan it for low production value.

Critical reception for many of their films, like Light of the Moon, Stay Human, A Boy Called Sailboat, and others has been overwhelmingly positive. “Not every film we work with has a fantastic reception among the critics but our ability to get to journalists that do like Indies (as opposed to those whose expectations are met only by large Studio efforts) can make a big difference,” says Harlow.

Indie film and Influencer Marketing


“As we move forward, the ground will shift in our favor,” say Harlow. The MN Star Tribune now has a Rotten Tomatoes certified movie critic reviewing VOD releases for the week. The LA Times is expanding their coverage of Streaming films and so is the New York Times. In addition, many publications are treating Netflix Originals in the same category as Theatrical releases. Harlow continues, “The trend to cover more and more VOD Streaming releases will increase which will put more journalists within our reach for our Indie films.” If it’s working now then safe to say, it will work better as time goes on.

About Bunker 15 Films


Bunker15’s smart-tech Publicity Engine helps find the right journalists to promote your film (VOD or Theatrical). Even VOD releases can earn Press. Every film deserves to find its audience. Whether you have a small film with a limited theatrical release or you have a Straight-to-VOD feature, they can reach out to the journalists that are interested in your story.

How to get your film reviewed

Bunker 15 helps indie filmmakers reach their audience


Getting an independent film noticed by critics has long bedeviled the low-budget, independent filmmaker. Often the indie has put almost every nickel into producing the picture, leaving little if any budget for publicity.But the PR game has changed as much in the past two decades as have the technical aspects of shooting film. While independent directors and producers focus on low-cost electronic cameras which can shoot at least in 16mm quality, little has been explored in bringing the cost of a PR campaign within their budgets.

Death of Film Critic

As independent films continue to struggle against dwindling revenue streams, both foreign and domestic, one related industry (also in peril) contributing to the precariousness of today’s small film is Film Journalism – i.e. The Press. There are now fewer full-time journalists (and therefore film journalists) than ever before.There are more films than ever before.As these seemingly inexorable trends continue,the unsuspecting victims are small Indies.Already fragile from low budgets and a lack of Hollywood stars,they are the first to suffer a premature death from lack of love.