Distribution

Changes in film distribution technology now provides filmmakers with access to major online marketplaces such as Amazon and iTunes. While video on demand represents a easy way for independent filmmakers to enter mainstream marketplaces, this change in movie distribution represents new challenges. If you are looking to distribute and sell your movie, the following articles will help you.

Digital Self Distribution: How To Sell Your Movie Online

Having spent the last few years working in film distribution, I can tell you the landscape is changing. Instead of crossing fingers for an awesome distribution deal, entrepreneurial filmmakers now have options for taking ownership over their products and reaching audiences directly.

In response, smart distributors are keen to work with filmmakers who, aside from having a great movie, can also demonstrate an ironclad digital self distribution plan. In other-words, film distributors seek projects that don’t actually need a distributor. Many distributors pay for this privilege.

Distributors have always worked to acquire projects that offered the lowest risk with the highest potential for reward. In the past, a low risk project was one that had a name actor with a ton of international value. And these days, because film distribution is increasingly online, a low risk project is one with a famed YouTuber.

A distributor naturally assumes the YouTuber will promote the movie to his or her audience. And by having a famed YouTuber, a distributor does not have to pay marketing money to build word of mouth. Less money spent for marketing, equals a lower risk for the distributor. And this means a lot more reward for you.

digital-self-distribution

Photo © olly / Dollar Photo Club

Digital Self Distribution: How To Sell Your Movie Online

But what if your movie doesn’t have a famed YouTuber or a movie star? After months and months of hustle, the reality of how you’ll garner ROI (return on investment) might be slightly different than the idealized imaginings of the three-picture studio deal you once had.

The reason for this is simple. Your project is too risky.

So your first order of business is to lower the risk and increase the potential for reward. And that starts by creating your digital self distribution plan. Here are five tips to help:

1. Find your USP: In the world of marketing, USP is short for Unique Selling Proposition. And if you can’t market your move based on celebrity, the next step is to leverage whatever makes your movie unique, interesting and memorable. Do you have a cutting edge horror movie? Ninja movie? Girl with a horse movie? Or a food documentary on why you should quit meat for a plant based diet? Great!

2. Focus on Controversy: What aspect of your story provokes an emotional response? Think of how politicians market during a political campaign. Most folks either hate the message or they love it. Does your movie make a polarizing statement? Is there anything about your movie that makes some people totally dislike it, while other people LOVE it? Great. Use controversy to spark word of mouth.

3. Create a Marketing Plan: Creating a marketing plan is less complex than you think. Just answer these questions: Who is your target audience? How will you reach your target audience? Based on your budget, how many unit sales will it take you to break even? How will you make this happen without losing money?

4. Update Your Marketing: When I evaluate movies for distribution, the ones that grab my attention look professional. I instantly know what the movie is about and where it fits in terms of genre. Branding is the marketing equivalent of matching your belt with your shoes. Look at other movies in a similar genre. Make sure you present your movie like a “real” movie. Hire a graphic designer.

5. Digital Self Distribution Platforms: Even if you are seeking a traditional deal, you should simultaneously plan your release strategy as if you do not have a deal. This means getting to know some DIY platforms. You might do film festivals or use Tugg for your theatrical release. You might then consider some transactional video on demand platforms. This way, if you don’t actually land a favorable distribution deal, you’ll still enter the market.

No longer can you make a movie on spec, cross your fingers and hope a deal finds you. You have to find your own deal. But unlike years past, you are no longer limited. You can leverage technology to market your movie directly to a global audience. And that’s what digital self distribution is all about.

Want to plan your distribution strategy? Check out my digital self distribution system.

Film Distribution: New Rules For Selling Your Movie

If you know a filmmaker seeking film distribution, you’re in luck. We are going to share new rules for selling your movie. Before we talk about modern film distribution, a little context…

Do you remember the old days of film distribution?

I mean do you remember how it was just a few short years ago?

Back then film distribution was controlled by a bunch of companies that safeguarded access the marketplace.  As an independent filmmaker, if you were lucky enough to garner a distribution deal, odds were good the deal was less than satisfying.

This was my experience on my first feature. After receiving phone calls from would-be distributors full of empty promises, I started to dislike the predatory nature of traditional film distribution.

But what could you do?

Back then, the only alternative to this old film distribution model was self-distribution. And if you remember, the term itself was synonymous with loser.

If you couldn’t land a REAL distribution deal, then you weren’t a real filmmaker.

film distribution

For this reason alone, many filmmakers signed away their rights for the mere validation of seeing their movie in the video stores. And every few months these same filmmakers would receive financial statements in the mail. The statement would show movie revenue minus marketing expenses.

And the bottom line? Zero monies paid to the filmmaker. And this was the indie film distribution paradigm accepted as a rite of passage.

At least my movie got on a shelf in the video store…

Thankfully, times have changed. As a result of internet film distribution (and the inevitable demise of DVD retail distribution) you can now reach a global marketplace!

New Rules For Film Distribution

When we released our first feature on Amazon and started making sales, it was hard to believe we could do so without a traditional film distribution deal. At first we did not understand the power of modern self-distribution.

But then our phone started ringing.

As it turned out, a few of the distributors who previously rejected us started calling with better offers. It was at this point, I realized the paradigm was shifting in favor of the filmmaker.

Indie filmmakers now had access to the marketplace. That changed everything for me.

Since then, developments in inexpensive production technology coupled with access to the marketplace means that you can now make, market and sell your movie without permission.

But the problem is, you are not the only filmmaker that knows this. Each year thousands of movies enter the market, making it increasingly challenging to get your movie seen.

You now have the ability to release your movie globally without signing away your rights to an unscrupulous distributor. And even though many distributors would like to pretend otherwise, with a little ingenuity and a strong marketing plan, you can control your own independent movie business.

New rules for film distribution:

  1. My audience is my business.
  2. Without an audience I have no business.
  3. I am responsible for sourcing my own audience.

Let’s be honest…

Sourcing your own audience and executing your own marketing, sales and distribution plan is far less sexy than making a movie or filling your closet with filmmaking equipment.

Gear is tangible.

It’s something you can show your nerdy filmmaker friends.

But having gear is useless if you don’t use it.

Most filmmakers spend at least two years or longer working to get a movie made. But very few filmmakers focus on what to do once the movie is in the can. Making movies is pointless if you don’t create a plan for reaching your audience.

Whenever I give talks, I always ask the audience, what is your plan for marketing and distribution?

This is followed by:

Confused looks. Silence. Someone mutters: “I’ll get into Sundance and sell it.”

Why wouldn’t you dream BIG? Every filmmaker wants recognition – even if you refuse to admit it. But with over 5,000 backyard indies being made each year, I have to ask a tough question:

Why Should Someone Watch Your Movie?

Most people decide which movies to watch based on recommendations from trusted friends. Movie studios spend millions to spark word of mouth. But for some reason, most indie filmmakers pretend marketing is not applicable to us.

I mean, we know that marketing is important.

But between procuring an awesome script, raising money and actually making the movie, we often cross our fingers and hope for a miracle.

And the problem is, marketing miracles rarely happen.

Aside from your mom and kid-sister, nobody knows about your movie. And while I am sure you went to many film festivals and traded post cards with other filmmakers (who in return, provided you their post cards), you probably quickly realized two facts:

  1. Film festivals are full of filmmakers.
  2. And other filmmakers are not your target audience.

The people who make up your movie’s target audience are trying to manage a busy life. These people have kids, jobs, worries, sleepless nights, gym memberships and car payments. So when they sit down to watch a movie, time is limited.

So the question you have to answer is why. . .

Why should someone watch YOUR movie?

Only you can answer that question. But my suggestion is to do your homework before you take the next steps. If you want more info on how to sell your movie, check out my film distribution system.

How To Create a Film Website (So You Can Sell Your Movie)

Your filmmaker website will go through two stages.

The first stage of your film website is your pre-launch promotional stage. During this time, your film website will consist of your movie title, a synopsis and some fancy images that express what your are tying to accomplish. You should also include a blog.

When we launched the film website for Toxic Soup, we focused on getting environmental activists to join our newsletter. In addition capturing emails, the Toxic Soup landing page had another goal – We wanted to let people know that Toxic Soup was more than just a movie. It was a movement. And we wanted to get our audience to help spread the message.

film website

Share Your Story

In addition to your email registration form, your film website should include a video that tells your prospective fan about your movie. A good example of this can be found at Cow Power, a documentary focused on turning cow poop into fuel.

Cow power film website

I met the filmmaker, Allison Gillette when she attended my panel discussion at WestDoc. And I especially like her email registration form. Do you see how it is limited to just asking for the email? Many marketers agree that asking for less is more.

In addition to emphasizing your movie, your prospective audience will also want to know a thing about you and why you are making the movie. Why should people watch your movie? How will it entertain them? What do you hope to accomplish with the movie?

Indecently, taking time to answer questions in your intro film website video may also set you up for a crowdfunding pitch video.

Add Testimonials On Your Film Website

Just because you do not yet have a movie, does not mean you cannot find at least one early fan excited about the prospect of your movie. An example might be “Hey Jason – I can’t wait to see your ninja zombie movie!”

These early testimonials simply need to demonstrate that someone else knows about your movie. To do this, you will want to contact your subscribers and ask them if they’d be willing to give you a testimonial about why they signed up for your mailing list.

The purpose of an audience list and why you need it!

The primary objective of your film website during the promotional stage is to get people to enroll in your mailing list. To do this, you will want to research several 3rd party email providers.

The two most popular are MailChimp and Aweber. I use Aweber to manage the Filmmaking Stuff mailing list and have been more than satisfied with their service. (Full disclosure, in addition to using the service, I do get paid to promote Aweber.)

After selecting your  preferred email management service, your next step is to actually create the registration form.

As mentioned previously, you should only ask for the most essential information. In my testing, asking for anything more than a name and email dramatically diminishes opt-ins. Both MailChimp and Aweber make this very easy, as they allow to customize registration forms you can embed on your website.

As a filmmaker, depending on the word of mouth potential of your movie, having a promotional film website can help you take advantage of initial movie marketing opportunity.

film website

How To Create a Film Website

The first step in getting your website established, involves reserving website hosting and a domain name for both your production company, as well as separate sites for each of your movies.

If you already know the name of your movie, you will want to reserve it as soon as you can (before somebody else grabs it).

To reserve your domain and set up a film website, head over to my friends at www.MovieSiteHost.com – Like most links I mention, this is my affiliate link for Bluehost. I have utilized MovieSiteHost for many of my websites, for years, without issue. In the few instances when I needed to reach someone in customer service, my calls were always answered.

In terms of setting up your actual site, I no longer recommend building a site from scratch. Instead, consider using something called a content management system – or CMS. With a CMS, you can have your own film website in minutes…

Movie_Site_Host

Just in case some of these terms of confusing, let’s recap: Website hosting can be compared to the vacant lot where you’ll eventually build your office building. Your domain name can be compared to your street address. The CMS is the raw materials needed to build your office building, or in this case, a sophisticated website.

And assuming you are utilizing www.MovieSiteHost.com for your hosting, these elements can be implement in a few clicks of a mouse.

When you arrive at MovieSiteHost, you will first need to reserve a domain name for your movie.

Pick-DomainTo set up your initial website, after you reserve your domain name, you will be redirected to your control panel. Once there, click on an icon called “WordPress.”

Choose_Word_Press

From there, you will START a brand new install WordPress on your server.

Start_Install

After a minute or two, WordPress will be installed in your account. You will then be issued with a username and a password. Once you have it, you can log into your new website and begin your customization.

Websites-for-filmmakers-made-easy-300x198

In my opinion, WordPress is one of the most robust and powerful content management systems in the world. And the reason I recommend installing a CMS for filmmakers, over building a traditional website is because once you set up WordPress, you will be able to create and modify your content and change the entire look and feel of your website, with the ease of sending an email.

sell your movieBy making these tweaks yourself, you will save the cost of constantly contacting your webmaster.

If you like this tip, you’ll love this film distribution resource.

How To Create A Movie Marketing Plan

The Filmmaking Stuff Movie Marketing plan is designed to help you design a low cost, grass roots marketing strategy for your movie project.

While there are no guarantees that your movie will become the next viral, breakout hit, doing something is better than letting your movie collect dust. Our goal is to provide you with a cost effective plan that you can implement over a 12 week period.

movie marketing plan

Photo © Rido / Dollar Photo Club

Movie Marketing Plan Overview

The first step in your movie marketing process involves setting realistic goals about your project. Take a moment to answer the following questions:

  • How many movie views / unit sales must you sell to break even?
  • Who is your general target audience?
  • What do you hope to accomplish over the next 12 weeks?

Week 1 – Define Your Movie’s Target Audience

There is a saying in marketing that everybody is nobody and niches make you riches. With the democratization of filmmaking, it is now essential to define your target audience before you even put pen to paper. Is there an audience that already exists for your movie? If not, you will want to seriously consider your subject matter.

We will provide you with some tips on how to define your market.

  • Make a list of 5 ideal movie fan categories for your title.
  • Figure out why these fans should watch your movie.

Week 2 – Set up Your Movie Website

If you have not noticed, I emphasize internet marketing for filmmakers quite a bit. The reason for this is simple: We are quickly approaching a time where there will be no delineation between your computer and your television. Everything will be on demand and accessible. As a result of these changes, you will need to drive targeted Internet traffic to your desired point of sale and convert these visitors into customers.

In your second week, we are going to cover the following topics:

Week 3 – Know Your Prospective Audience

While there are no hard and fast rules in the brave new world of indie filmmaking, without retail DVD distribution, your most important goal (aside from making the movie) is to grow your audience for both your current project and your career. To many, this type of audience engagement represents a paradigm shift.

Our goal is to change the way you think about your fans. Your audience is your movie business. Without an audience, you simply have no business!

Here is what we are going to investigate in week three:

  • Discover where your fans hang, both online and offline.
  • Create as list of popular publications that cater to your fans.

Week 4 – Track everything

In movie marketing, it is very common for everybody involved in a project to present a gazillion ideas on best marketing practices. But the truth is, the only good marketing idea is the one that works. And the only way you know if your strategy is working is when you test it.

In your fourth week, you will set up tools so you can understand user behavior:

  • Add tracking tools to your website.
  • Modify your website to influence user activity.

Week 5 – Refine Your Marketing

Have you ever noticed when a big studio releases a movie, they sometimes first push it as an action flick. Then later, the advertisements shift to a love story? Why does this happen? These changes take place because movie marketers are consistently testing the movie messaging in front of sample audiences.

And it is usually the audience, not the filmmaker who reveals what aspects of the movie are most interesting and memorable.

During week 5, you will focus on the following:

  • Refine movie messaging based on audience feedback.
  • Create your hook and refine it to emphasize your unique story.
  • Get your movie in front of influencers  in your target market.

Week 6 – Search Engine Optimization For Your Movie

Since you do not have a multi-gazillion dollar movie marketing budget like the big Hollywood studios, you will focus on the internet. Your goal is to implement inexpensive marketing strategies so you can drive targeted traffic to your website (in the hopes these visitors will buy your movie). There are quite a few ways to do this, but one of the most effective ways of attracting traffic is by creating useful content, aimed at your target audience.

In week 6, you will complete the following tasks:

  • Conduct keyword research relevant to your audience.
  • Implement your movie website, with SEO friendly framework.
  • Define your content strategy, based on keyword research.

Week 7 – Create Relevant Content

As a movie marketer, creating relevant content is essential for attracting visitors to your movie website. It is at this point when most filmmakers start to feel overwhelmed, thinking they need to focus on busting out a gazillion blog articles.

While writing keyword specific, relevant content is a useful way to attract visitors, writing is not the only way to create content. Internet content can be created and delivered as audio, video and text. Since each prospective viewer has preferred modality, your goal is to create a content strategy that incorporates all three.

In week 7, we will focus on fulfilling the following objectives:

  • We will create and outline a content strategy based on movie/story/genre specific keywords.
  • Then we will figure out timeline for how frequently we will deliver the content.

Week 8 – Spread The Word and Build Buzz

Here is the thing. Lets say you are making a zombie movie and you  decide to conduct an internet search for zombies. You will very quickly realize that there are thousands of websites devoted to zombies and zombie movies. Unless you have all the time in the world, contacting the owner of each blog or website is going to be impossible.

During week 8, your goal is to sort through the noise and focus on activity that will garner us the greatest potential for results.

  • Build a database of the top 50 publications in your niche.
  • Test several low cost ads to drive targeted traffic to your movie website.
  • Refine your trailer and post it everywhere!
  • You might also want to distribute a press release (ad).

Week 9 – Leverage Social Networks and Blogging Community

A lot of filmmakers are stupid when it comes to social networking. They look at the tool and say “I HAVE A MOVIE. PLEASE (potentially) WASTE 2 HOURS OF YOUR TIME AND WATCH IT!” While you know that your movie is way better than most the other crap out there, the rest of the social community does not. And if you utilize a crappy social networking strategy, the best we can say is: Good luck!

In week 9 your goal is to implement a social media strategy that encourages word of mouth.

  • Engage with potential users via social networking channels.
  • Implement a guest posting strategy on several blogs.

Week 10 – Hit The Red Button (and launch!)

If you spend all sorts of time and effort and money making your movie, the last thing you want to do is wait around. You want to get your movie seen, sold and if possible – maybe you can find a 3 picture studio deal in the process. While marketing is not a science, your results (both good or not so good) will be easy to measure.

In week 10, we will hit the red button and see what works.

  • Divide our launch strategy into several tiers and milestones.
  • Send copies of your movie to popular review websites and schmooze for good reviews.

Week 11 – Utilize The Power of Email.

If you subscribe to the exclusive Filmmaking Stuff Newsletter, you know that I really believe in email marketing. I think it is a great way to stay in touch and to build a relationship with your audience.

In week 11, we are going to focus on creating and executing an email marketing campaign (ad).

  • Write a half-dozen targeted emails and send at pre-determined intervals.
  • Reach out to other filmmakers and see if they would send similar emails to their list.

Week 12 – Grow Your Community!

By now, these words should echo in your filmmaking mind: “My audience is my business. Without an audience, I have no business.” Without retail distribution, you can no longer plan on simply selling 10,000 DVDs to the big box video rental chain, because that doesn’t exist anymore. Instead your audience is your business – not just for your current project, but for all future titles as well.

In week 12, we will focus on creating long term community engagement.

  • Establish a community for your fans.
  • Get fans into a database that you control.

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So there you have it. This is a broad overview of a 12 week movie marketing plan that you can implement for your next title. You might also want to check out my sell your movie system.

 

Download This Sell Your Movie Checklist

Film distribution is changing fast. What worked in the old days, doesn’t work anymore. And if you’re looking for information on how to sell your movie, you’ve come to the right place!

Since you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you are one of two types of filmmakers. Either you made a movie or you are working towards your next movie. In both instances, learning about film distribution – specifically coming up with a strategy to get your movie seen and selling is essential.

I don’t need to tell you that making a feature film is a feat that many find impossible.

In order to make a feature film, you have to put together a cast and crew, refine your script, find some funding and in the process, you have to figure out how to ignore all “advice” that your friends and family share with you… About how it can’t be done.

But behind all the excitement, you and I both know there is one nagging question on your mind. And it is the same question asked by every independent feature filmmaker.

Sell Your Movie

Photo © Nebojsa Bobic / Dollar Photo Club

You’re wondering: “How am I going to sell my movie!”

That is a good question. And if you’re crossing your fingers to hopefully sell your movie for a huge paycheck and a three-picture Hollywood deal, what I’m about to share with you may be a bit different than what you’re hoping for. Ready?

While there are a lot of distributors out there who would like to tell you otherwise, most films DO NOT make money in a traditional distribution deal! (I’m serious here.)

Getting your movie seen and selling is really up to YOU!

Whenever I say something like this in my talks, invariably someone shouts across the room:

“Making a movie is hard enough. How do you expect me to become my own distributor?”

This is a fair question. And after making a movie, then doing the festivals and not receiving a deal, you can get pretty tired. I totally understand that. This is why a lot of filmmakers give up on their movies or take a crappy deal. But I want to help you avoid this.

>>Give me the “Sell Your Movie” checklist!<<

How To Sell Your Movie

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of crappy movies getting made each year. Thanks to technology, any person with a thousand dollars can grab an HD camera and create a backyard indie. And while this does not guarantee quality, it does create a market flooded with cheaply produced movies.

Add the fact that DVD is almost dead, and your odds of finding a traditional distribution deal (that actually pays you good money) are dramatically decreased. For most filmmakers, this revelation comes as a shock.

Where is my million dollar check?

Look. I can’t promise your movie will make money. Some movies make a lot of money. Some movies make about zero dollars. But I can tell you advances in VOD distribution and internet marketing offers hope. . .

There is hope if YOU are willing to DO the work.

Most filmmakers are NOT willing to do the work. In fact, most filmmakers would rather give up on their movie. . . Hopefully we’re not talking about you. You owe it to yourself and your investors to explore all options and come up with a solid marketing and distribution plan.

If you want to sell your movie, you need to create a distribution strategy that YOU control. This is a new way to think. In the old days, the mere mention of self-distribution was a crazy notion.

DIY? Isn’t Do It Yourself for losers?

That is how I used to view the world. If it wasn’t for the internet, I would probably have a whole different perspective on how to sell your movie. I’d probably tell you to take ANY distribution deal. But times have changed. Like you, our first feature was met with empty distribution promises and crappy deals.

So by necessity, we started to sell our title on Amazon as both a physical DVD and a video on demand download. At first, none of the producers liked that idea. I mean, even if a traditional deal sucks, at least there is still validation of seeing your title on the shelves at the local video store.

But then we made our first sale. . . We thought it was an anomaly. How could we possibly make money with our movie? We had no movie stars. We had no formal, traditional distribution deal. (We had offers, but nothing that actually paid money.)

Adding to this, most people on earth had never heard of our movie (including you.) But then we made another sale. . . And then a third. . . And then a dozen. . .

That was back in 2006. Since that time, our first feature has sold in ways we never imagined. And while the money we made on the movie wasn’t enough to pay for early retirement, I can’t complain.

The truth is, we were onto something before most other filmmakers. And this experience forever changed the way I view movie distribution. Prior to making my first feature, my “sell your movie” strategy always revolved around one BIG payday.

But I am now of the opinion that making money as an indie filmmaker is more about making a bunch of small movies and getting each one to pay you a little each month. These days filmmakers need to create good work, find their target audience and focus on sell movies consistently over time.

For many filmmakers, this sort of sell your movie talk might seem crazy. Think about it. In years past, filmmakers only self distributed their movies when they had to. It wasn’t a choice! But these days, taking time to learn how to sell your movie makes sense. And that’s why I put together this checklist.

These days you can choose to sell your movie, because nine times out of ten, making your title available on Amazon and iTunes and other popular VOD marketplaces can potentially pay more than a traditional deal.

Remember, a deal that pays zero is not a deal.

(Of course I’m expressing my opinion.)

The sell your movie checklist should be considered a good start.

Can I ask you a favor?

If you like this checklist, can you kindly tell your filmmaking friends to check it out? Moving forward, let’s set some expectations. The purpose of this guide is for you to grab at least one useful film distribution or movie marketing tip. If you do this, then we can both be happy.

That’s it. Easy, right? As always, if you have questions about anything in this guide, please feel free to contact me. I love it when I find out how these tips have helped you get closer to your filmmaking goals! Like I said, if you take time to study this guide, you might get a tactic to help you sell your movie.

>>Give me the “Sell Your Movie” checklist!<<

I hope you enjoy this brief guide to getting your movie seen and selling. And if you really like this information on how to sell your movie, please share it with every filmmaker you know. They will thank you for it!