Those days are gone. The demise of retail DVD distribution means that you can no longer depend on some video rental chain to buy 5,000 copies of your DVD. The advent of the internet and the rise of internet movie distribution means that your movie is no longer a physical product. It is data.
Yet despite these changes, filmmakers still talk about the difference between traditional movie distribution and self-distribution.
I have news for you. If you mention the words self-distribution around me, I will whip you with a wet noodle. (Actually, I won’t really do that. I just used “wet noodle” to get your attention.) But the reason I am adimant about removing “self-distribution” from our filmmaking vernacular is because there is no such thing as traditional internet distribution.
This is because internet movie distribution is too new to be traditional!
But most filmmakers don’t get it. Whenever I give talks about internet distribution for filmmakers, someone invariably shares a story about some traditional distributor turned VOD aggregator, promising to get their title into iTunes and Amazon and Hulu.
And I’m like: “So what? Any filmmaker can access those platforms. Why do you need a middle-man?”
Aside from getting your movie is on iTunes, Hulu and Amazon - unless your “traditional distributor” is conducting verifiable and measurable marketing, there is no additional value.
But before you run into the streets naked with excitement (or fear), keep this in mind. Just because you can access the popular movie marketplaces and fire the middle-man does not necessarily mean you are guaranteed success. Think about it – there is a reason the movie studios spend millions of dollars marketing studio produced features.
The problem is, most indie filmmakers do not have millions to spend on marketing. This changes the game.
Here are THREE essential filmmaking skills you need to master:
1. Become an Internet marketer: Or team up with someone who is. Why? Because there will come a time when there is no delineation between the Internet and your television. Or your mobile device. 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.
2. Find Out How To Crowdfund: Running a successful crowdfunding campaign requires social networking, real-world networking and Internet marketing. Aside from raising money, your goal is to test all your movie concepts before you dive in both feet first. And if successful, your goal is to snowball your supporters into one giant mailing list so you can gain their support for your next projects.
3. Your Audience Is Your Business: Marketing nerds have a saying, “The money is in your list.” It is now no different to filmmakers. Your ongoing goal is to create work that encourages people to sign up for your mailing list and become a fan of you and your movies, for life. Then with each project, your ongoing goal is to continually grow your list.
For some filmmakers, mastering internet movie distribution is easier said than done. I get that.
If you are like most filmmakers, you have probably spent your whole filmmaking career imagining that your movie would get “discovered” and you would be propelled into instant fame and fortune. And while I would never discourage you from thinking BIG… It is equally important to have a pragmatic approach to your work, complete with manageable expectations.
But do me a favor – despite any emotion you have towards distribution, please stop using the words “self-distribution.” It makes you sound old. Instead, repeat this mantra: “If my filmmaking success is meant to be, it’s up to me.”