Happy Blogiversary

      98 Comments on Happy Blogiversary

Well, this is what happens when I get busy:  I forget anniversaries.  A couple of years ago, I went through a pile of mail I’d plopped on my desk and found a nice Happy Anniversary card from my mom, which included a check and instructions to use the money to take that lovely wife of mine out for a fancy anniversary dinner.

Gulp … the card had arrived exactly on time, meaning I was opening it late in the afternoon on the day of our anniversary.  I hadn’t so much as picked up a card for Chareva, much less ordered flowers or bought a present.  I stood there with a growing sense of dread, expecting her to walk into my home office any second and spring a card on me, perhaps while wearing something revealing.  Announcing that I needed to run a quick errand at that point would be a dead giveaway.  Thank goodness we established a no-divorce rule before walking down the aisle all those years ago.

After hiding the card and the check in a desk drawer, I ambled into Chareva’s office, acting all casual and such, and said, “So, Honey … I was thinking maybe we’d go out for a nice dinner for our anniversary.  Do you have any place special in mind?”

“Oh my god, it’s our anniversary?  Today?  I totally forgot.”

I was tempted to feign being hurt and bank that for some future thoughtless-husband emergency, but a near-total lack of gamesmanship is one of the reasons we’re happily married.  Plus I was afraid she might ask to see the card I bought her.  So I confessed.  We were both busy and we’d both forgotten.

I’ve been swamped lately trying to finish up a big programming project in addition to working full-time, which is why I’ve gone a week between posts now and then.  It’s also why I forgot my fifth blogiversary last week.

Yup, my first Fat Head post was on March 20, 2009 – five years ago.  Hard to believe, but if I’m tempted to dismiss the calendar and convince myself it’s only been a couple of years, all I have to do is compare then-and-now pictures of my kids – because I haven’t aged a bit, of course.

Here’s a picture of Sara from a recent post about our overabundance of eggs:

And here she is five years ago, posing for a mock magazine cover Chareva whipped up in Photoshop to accompany a post about Parents Magazine and their lousy dietary advice:

Good grief.  Better not blink, or I’ll open my eyes and find her heading off to college … or suing me for uncompensated modeling work.

Anyway, it’s been quite a ride.  I had no intention of starting a blog at first.  When I put Fat Head in the can after two years of working on it while also working as a contractor at Disney, I was burnt out.  Writing, researching, rewriting, rewriting again, flying around to conduct interviews, watching footage over and over, more rewriting, editing well into the wee hours for weeks on end, then finding out I had to buy a Mac and edit the whole thing together all over again in Final Cut Pro because the post-production houses in Los Angeles couldn’t read my Premiere Pro files. That led to stint of working three days around the clock with no sleep and two quick showers.  I lost count of how many times I had to sit through the whole film during audio and video post.  I would wake up in the middle of the night and realize I’d been dreaming about the film – often about something going very, very wrong with the film.

But hey, what’s a little emotional strain when you can toss financial strain on top of it?

Shooting and editing didn’t cost all that much – my biggest expense had been paying our animator —  but I started dealing with major sticker shock once we signed with a distributor and I found myself scrambling to meet all of their technical and legal requirements.  Producer’s liability insurance alone cost more than $7,000 to cover a worldwide market.  Post-production fees ran several times that.  Master tapes were hundreds of dollars each, and the distributor wanted a whole slew of them in different formats.  When I went through my financial records later, I realized I’d ended up investing nearly $100,000 from start to finish.  I wondered if it would turn out to be the biggest financial mistake of my life.

It nearly was.  As I’ve recounted before, our first two distributors turned out to be incompetent or just plain crooked.  The U.S. DVD distributor told me Fat Head was their biggest seller – hooray! – then went bankrupt owing me two years’ worth of DVD royalties.  They’d been using the proceeds from their biggest seller! to float their operation before giving up and declaring bankruptcy.  The foreign distributor sold Fat Head to several TV markets around the world, then claimed they’d lost money in the process.  They sent me quarterly reports showing large and mysterious losses piling up, with no explanation of how exactly they were losing all that money on a film they were no longer attempting to sell.

It was a strange, strange time for me emotionally.  Once I decided to start blogging (with a push from Jimmy Moore), I started hearing from fans around the world.  I received lots of emails and comments from people thanking me for making the film, telling me how it changed their lives, etc.  (And I learned the meaning of words like “gobsmacked” from fans in New Zealand.)  The blog readership grew quickly.  There was quite a bit of buzz about Fat Head in cyberspace.  I started getting requests for media interviews.

So I’d be lying in bed at night – probably after writing a check to pay interest on the part of the post-production costs I’d financed by borrowing – and thinking, “What the @#$%!! I’m hearing from people all over the world, there’s all this chatter about Fat Head on blogs and in internet forums, and I haven’t seen a dime.  How the @#$% is that even possible?”

I was royally pissed off about not being paid for the film I’d spent so much time and effort and money producing, but the subject matter had become near and dear to my heart – especially as I saw my own health improve – so I figured if this turned out to be a non-paying but passionate hobby, so be it.  I kept blogging.

After moving to Tennessee and eventually accepting that we’d never receive anything but excuses from our supposed distributors, we decided to start selling the DVD ourselves through the blog.  I added a DVD purchase page, then took Chareva and the girls to Kentucky for a two-day vacation touring some caves.  I came home to find I had $400 worth of orders to process – the first time Fat Head had actually put money in my bank account instead of draining it.

The big turnaround, of course, was because of Netflix.  While still trying to figure out how the hell my supposed distributors were losing money with an apparently popular film, I sent a DVD to Gravitas, a digital distributor.  The president of the company sent me a polite email telling he doesn’t take on first-time filmmakers with no track record.  Nonetheless, I occasionally sent him links to positive reviews and media interviews that were available online.  A year or so after I’d first sent him the DVD, he called and said I’d finally persuaded him to watch Fat Head, and he happened to like it.  So he was willing to break his rule about first-time filmmakers, but only by putting Fat Head on Hulu to test the waters.

He called again a few weeks later.

“Are you aware that Fat Head is currently ranked number one in the documentary category on Hulu?”

“No, I don’t have any idea how to check Hulu rankings.  Wow.”

“So I guess you’re also not aware it’s currently the third-most watched film in any category?”

“Uh … no.”

“I’m glad I broke my rule.”

He told me he was moving on to Netflix, which, based on the Hulu rankings, was offering a pretty good license fee for a two-year run.  I figured our DVD sales would taper off once people could watch Fat Head for free on Netflix, but what the heck, the Netflix royalties would more than make up for the lost DVD sales.

So Fat Head started showing on Netflix and our DVD sales quintupled the next week.  We still receive orders almost every day.  Heh-heh-heh … turn out people see a film they like on Netflix or Amazon Instant Play or iTunes and then decide to go buy a copy.  Go figure.  I don’t know how many people watched Fat Head on Netflix, but more than 225,000 of them took the time to rate it.

I eventually got away from the crooked foreign distributor – who refused to relinquish the rights despite those mysterious losses – by creating the Director’s Cut version and signing the foreign distribution over to Gravitas – honest people who send a nice royalty check every quarter.  (As the president of the company told me, film distributors are like trial lawyers – it’s that darned 90% who give the rest a bad name.)  Mere years after throwing a combination premiere party / 50th birthday party in Burbank to celebrate putting Fat Head in the can, I finally knew it wasn’t going to be a financial loser.

Whew.

The film itself took me on a financial and emotional roller-coaster ride for a few years.  But the blog has never been anything but a positive for me – even when I hear from angry vegetrollians in the comments section.  (Heck, that’s like shooting fish in a barrel.)  I enjoy writing posts, but it’s the ongoing conversations in comments that make it fun.  We have some very intelligent and well-informed participants here and in the Fat Head group on Facebook, and I learn more from them than they learn from me.

So five years (and one week) after my first blog post, I just want to say thanks.  Sorry I forgot our anniversary, and I don’t have time to run out and buy a card, but I know you won’t hold it against me.


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98 thoughts on “Happy Blogiversary

  1. Sabine

    Congratulations Tom! I appreciate all your hard work.
    I am looking forward to many more of your blogs, lectures, movies, and such.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Firebird7478

    I look forward to coming here everyday in the hopes of gaining some new insights or have a laugh. I really don’t follow many blogs except this one. I actually get a little disappointed when there isn’t a new blog or any new comments from other readers.

    I get disappointed when there aren’t any new posts for awhile, then I remember I’m supposed to write them.

    Reply
  3. Firebird7478

    I look forward to coming here everyday in the hopes of gaining some new insights or have a laugh. I really don’t follow many blogs except this one. I actually get a little disappointed when there isn’t a new blog or any new comments from other readers.

    I get disappointed when there aren’t any new posts for awhile, then I remember I’m supposed to write them.

    Reply
  4. Deb

    I think in honor of your fifth anniversary I will order five more copies of “Fathead” and give them to my smart friends and family; the ones who will “get it”!

    I like how you celebrate.

    Reply
  5. Rae Ford

    Congratulations on five years with the blog, and also thank you for creating it. As informative as your documentary is, the blog in its five years has put so much additional information at my fingertips that you could probably use it to fill a few more movies. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the info that is shared by your readers in the comments. Five year blog anniversary? Nay, I say five year community anniversary!

    I like that definition. The blog and the Facebook group have become conduits for the Wisdom of Crowds effect.

    Reply
  6. Deb

    I think in honor of your fifth anniversary I will order five more copies of “Fathead” and give them to my smart friends and family; the ones who will “get it”!

    I like how you celebrate.

    Reply
  7. Rae Ford

    Congratulations on five years with the blog, and also thank you for creating it. As informative as your documentary is, the blog in its five years has put so much additional information at my fingertips that you could probably use it to fill a few more movies. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the info that is shared by your readers in the comments. Five year blog anniversary? Nay, I say five year community anniversary!

    I like that definition. The blog and the Facebook group have become conduits for the Wisdom of Crowds effect.

    Reply
  8. Vanessa

    Congratulations on hitting the 5 year mark! And thank you for all your hard work and dedication. Fat Head is a great movie and one I highly recommend whenever the subject of diet comes up. 🙂

    Thank you for reading.

    Reply
  9. Vanessa

    Congratulations on hitting the 5 year mark! And thank you for all your hard work and dedication. Fat Head is a great movie and one I highly recommend whenever the subject of diet comes up. 🙂

    Thank you for reading.

    Reply
  10. Angel

    Congratulations on your blogiversary! Thank you for making the film, for maintaining the blog, and for being a super-duper guy. Best of luck to you and your family as well in your future endeavors.

    “…a near-total lack of gamesmanship is one of the reasons we’re happily married.” I think that is a great way to get and stay happily married. Games are so darn exhausting. Honesty is a grand and fulfilling adventure all its own.

    “Always tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember anything.” — Mark Twain

    Reply
  11. Angel

    Congratulations on your blogiversary! Thank you for making the film, for maintaining the blog, and for being a super-duper guy. Best of luck to you and your family as well in your future endeavors.

    “…a near-total lack of gamesmanship is one of the reasons we’re happily married.” I think that is a great way to get and stay happily married. Games are so darn exhausting. Honesty is a grand and fulfilling adventure all its own.

    “Always tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember anything.” — Mark Twain

    Reply
  12. Suzanne

    Congratulations Tom! You seem to be the only person in this community who understood the power of story and simplicity in getting the message across.

    Well, I don’t know about that, but thank you.

    Reply
  13. Suzanne

    Congratulations Tom! You seem to be the only person in this community who understood the power of story and simplicity in getting the message across.

    Well, I don’t know about that, but thank you.

    Reply
  14. JD

    I had just finished watching Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Forks Over Knifes, and one or two other sneaky vegan propaganda films (they never used the term vegan, only “plant based diet”). I was half way though my 10 day long adventure into veganism when I saw Fathead so I wasn’t too receptive to its message (it took reading Good Calories Bad Calories to snap me back to my senses).

    After reading this post I thought it would be cool to re-watch it with a completely different perspective. I’m to the part of the film where it suggests that perhaps kids are getting fatter because the don’t move as much as they used to. It’s quite fun to see how naive a younger-ish Tom Naughton used to be (and to remember my own naive-ness).

    Yup. That’s why that section isn’t in the Director’s Cut version.

    Reply
  15. Mike

    Happy Blogiversary Tom! I was already eating Paleo three years prior, but count me among your many fans who found Fat Head first on Hulu. It resonated so strongly with me that I proceeded to order two copies directly from you on DVD (one for me and one for a family member).

    I’ve since been a Fat Head evangelist, loaning out my DVD, pointing people to it on Netflix and just trying to get the message out there. You deserve every bit of success you can get from this remarkable film. Congrats!

    I appreciate the person-to-person marketing. That’s had a lot to do with our ongoing (if belated) success.

    Reply
  16. JD

    I had just finished watching Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Forks Over Knifes, and one or two other sneaky vegan propaganda films (they never used the term vegan, only “plant based diet”). I was half way though my 10 day long adventure into veganism when I saw Fathead so I wasn’t too receptive to its message (it took reading Good Calories Bad Calories to snap me back to my senses).

    After reading this post I thought it would be cool to re-watch it with a completely different perspective. I’m to the part of the film where it suggests that perhaps kids are getting fatter because the don’t move as much as they used to. It’s quite fun to see how naive a younger-ish Tom Naughton used to be (and to remember my own naive-ness).

    Yup. That’s why that section isn’t in the Director’s Cut version.

    Reply
  17. Mike

    Happy Blogiversary Tom! I was already eating Paleo three years prior, but count me among your many fans who found Fat Head first on Hulu. It resonated so strongly with me that I proceeded to order two copies directly from you on DVD (one for me and one for a family member).

    I’ve since been a Fat Head evangelist, loaning out my DVD, pointing people to it on Netflix and just trying to get the message out there. You deserve every bit of success you can get from this remarkable film. Congrats!

    I appreciate the person-to-person marketing. That’s had a lot to do with our ongoing (if belated) success.

    Reply
  18. Dan

    I was once reviewed in a performance I gave in the NoHo Arts District that my performance lacked, ‘gravitas’. Perhaps it shouldn’t have. 🙂 Congrats.

    The reviewer obviously noticed a lack of digital distribution in your performance.

    Reply
  19. Dan

    I was once reviewed in a performance I gave in the NoHo Arts District that my performance lacked, ‘gravitas’. Perhaps it shouldn’t have. 🙂 Congrats.

    The reviewer obviously noticed a lack of digital distribution in your performance.

    Reply
  20. Nick P

    Hey Tom,

    Happy Anniversary! It’s hard to imagine my success on my Low Carb Journey without “Fat Head” – THANKS for all that you have done!!!!

    Nick

    Thank you for reading.

    Reply
  21. Nick P

    Hey Tom,

    Happy Anniversary! It’s hard to imagine my success on my Low Carb Journey without “Fat Head” – THANKS for all that you have done!!!!

    Nick

    Thank you for reading.

    Reply
  22. Deb

    Totally Off-topic Warning. . .(!)

    But did you see that there is a workshop and a mentoring program with prize money for “young” filmmakers who make a film centered on the theme of liberty? I was thinking that your daughters exemplify thinking free of the standard diet paradigms, and that choosing to eat smart and healthy IS a liberty from the failed big ideas of “gummit”. (Voting with your food, so to speak.) Anyway, you are probably a little. . . cough “seasoned” cough to be considered a “young filmmaker”, but your daughters show such promise in free thinking. I don’t know if they would even qualify if they are minors, or if they would be interested, but here is the info that I just happened across from John J. Miller yesterday:

    “A word from Taliesin Nexus, a Hollywood-based nonprofit for young liberty-minded filmmakers, on two programs: The new Liberty Lab, which will provide $10,000 each to five teams of filmmakers to make a short film this summer that has liberty as a theme. Each filmmaking team will be mentored by a seasoned Hollywood professional, and the program will culminate with an industry showcase screening for an audience of agents, managers, producers and other career-shapers.
    The Filmmakers Workshop, a free seminar for aspiring filmmakers, focused on storytelling and career-building, that will take place on the UCLA campus August 15-17, 2014. Attendees will get travel expenses to L.A. reimbursed plus free room and board on campus throughout the weekend. The faculty features leading film and TV producers, screenwriters, executives and talent managers.
    Application deadlines for these programs are May 15th and May 31st, respectively.”

    Sounds like these might be great opportunities!

    Sounds like an excellent program. I’m way too seasoned and the girls are little too young at this point, but I can definitely see them giving it a shot in a few more years.

    Sara asked me last night if it’s true that FDR’s New Deal programs are what got the U.S. out of The Great Depression, as she was just taught in school. You can imagine the rest.

    Reply
  23. Dave, RN

    You sure are persistent! Good for you. I learned from the video and try to convince others to watch…

    Meanwhile, I just bought 1.3 acres full of oak trees where my wife and I will build. It’s not big, but I can expand my garden garden and have chickens and some fruit trees. And our own well for water and some solar power. Goodbye neighborhood association!! I won’t miss making that payment!

    Keep up the good work.

    You can do quite a bit with 1.3 acres. Congratulations on the new property.

    Reply
  24. Nate MD

    Happy anniversary! Blogs like yours make my job easier. I get about 15-30 minutes with my patients, on average, of which I might be able to spend 2-3 minutes discussing diet and nutrition. That’s not enough time to convince anyone of anything, so I routinely tell my patients and their parents to watch Fat Head on Netflix to help them start to break through decades of misinformation. I turned Dr. Eenfeldt’s “VLCD for Beginners” page into an informational handout, and I use Dr. Lustig’s four rules for obese kids even for non-obese kids.

    Your blog not only spreads the word, but it also serves as a gateway to the wealth of information that is available to anyone who knows where to start looking. Kudos!

    Our run on Netflix is over now. I hope that doesn’t open me up to some kind of malpractice claim.

    Reply
    1. Nate MD

      Oops, I didn’t realize that. I guess I’ll have to buy a couple of copies for the office to lend out.

      Also, I’ve discovered a curious thing: when you’ve helped someone lose weight, feel better, and stop their medications, they tend not to sue you for it. Hmm.

      Reply
  25. Deb

    Totally Off-topic Warning. . .(!)

    But did you see that there is a workshop and a mentoring program with prize money for “young” filmmakers who make a film centered on the theme of liberty? I was thinking that your daughters exemplify thinking free of the standard diet paradigms, and that choosing to eat smart and healthy IS a liberty from the failed big ideas of “gummit”. (Voting with your food, so to speak.) Anyway, you are probably a little. . . cough “seasoned” cough to be considered a “young filmmaker”, but your daughters show such promise in free thinking. I don’t know if they would even qualify if they are minors, or if they would be interested, but here is the info that I just happened across from John J. Miller yesterday:

    “A word from Taliesin Nexus, a Hollywood-based nonprofit for young liberty-minded filmmakers, on two programs: The new Liberty Lab, which will provide $10,000 each to five teams of filmmakers to make a short film this summer that has liberty as a theme. Each filmmaking team will be mentored by a seasoned Hollywood professional, and the program will culminate with an industry showcase screening for an audience of agents, managers, producers and other career-shapers.
    The Filmmakers Workshop, a free seminar for aspiring filmmakers, focused on storytelling and career-building, that will take place on the UCLA campus August 15-17, 2014. Attendees will get travel expenses to L.A. reimbursed plus free room and board on campus throughout the weekend. The faculty features leading film and TV producers, screenwriters, executives and talent managers.
    Application deadlines for these programs are May 15th and May 31st, respectively.”

    Sounds like these might be great opportunities!

    Sounds like an excellent program. I’m way too seasoned and the girls are little too young at this point, but I can definitely see them giving it a shot in a few more years.

    Sara asked me last night if it’s true that FDR’s New Deal programs are what got the U.S. out of The Great Depression, as she was just taught in school. You can imagine the rest.

    Reply
  26. Dave, RN

    You sure are persistent! Good for you. I learned from the video and try to convince others to watch…

    Meanwhile, I just bought 1.3 acres full of oak trees where my wife and I will build. It’s not big, but I can expand my garden garden and have chickens and some fruit trees. And our own well for water and some solar power. Goodbye neighborhood association!! I won’t miss making that payment!

    Keep up the good work.

    You can do quite a bit with 1.3 acres. Congratulations on the new property.

    Reply
  27. Nate MD

    Happy anniversary! Blogs like yours make my job easier. I get about 15-30 minutes with my patients, on average, of which I might be able to spend 2-3 minutes discussing diet and nutrition. That’s not enough time to convince anyone of anything, so I routinely tell my patients and their parents to watch Fat Head on Netflix to help them start to break through decades of misinformation. I turned Dr. Eenfeldt’s “VLCD for Beginners” page into an informational handout, and I use Dr. Lustig’s four rules for obese kids even for non-obese kids.

    Your blog not only spreads the word, but it also serves as a gateway to the wealth of information that is available to anyone who knows where to start looking. Kudos!

    Our run on Netflix is over now. I hope that doesn’t open me up to some kind of malpractice claim.

    Reply
    1. Nate MD

      Oops, I didn’t realize that. I guess I’ll have to buy a couple of copies for the office to lend out.

      Also, I’ve discovered a curious thing: when you’ve helped someone lose weight, feel better, and stop their medications, they tend not to sue you for it. Hmm.

      Reply
  28. Patti

    I read your blog because of the unique information and perspective you provide. Thank you for taking the time to express your opinion.

    Reply
  29. Patti

    I read your blog because of the unique information and perspective you provide. Thank you for taking the time to express your opinion.

    Reply
  30. Sabine

    Congratulations Tom! I appreciate all your hard work.
    I am looking forward to many more of your blogs, lectures, movies, and such.

    Thank you.

    Reply

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