Filmmaker Jason Brubaker Gets Punched Out By LA Producers Over Video On Demand Sales Projections

When I published my article on leveraging VOD sales to finance your movie, I had no idea that a simple internet marketing formula for filmmakers would be such a polarizing issue. I can’t tell you how many Los Angeles based movie producers responded negatively through email.

One guy even told me my grammar sucked.

So to clarify, I was not trying to ruffle any feathers. I was simply applying a standard internet marketing ROI formula to a product available through video on demand. Nothing more.

All of this was based on the premise that selling movies on the internet is no different than selling any other downloadable product (where you are lucky if you convert 1%)

This is based on experience. I learned how to market and sell movies on the internet when our first feature did not garner a traditional distribution deal and we ended up selling on Amazon. Back then I personally knew a bunch of filmmakers in a similar situation – all had titles but no deal. Since that time, even more filmmakers have flooded the market with titles. Couple this with the decline of various DVD sales channels, and suddenly a crappy $25 backyard indie can now share virtual self space with $25M movies.

For those of us who produce features without any sort of pre-sales, instead of telling prospective investors “If we are lucky, we might get into festivals and garner a distribution deal.” We can finally reach our audience without asking permission. And to me, this makes the indie movie business like any other small business… Produce a product and then market, sell and distribute your product.

This said, I totally agree with one of the readers who said my equation for returning a 1M dollar budget was preposterous. He was right. Anybody who thinks you can magically generate the mass amount of sales needed to recoup even a 1M dollar investment without a substantial outlay of cash towards advertising is mis-guided. Which is what those formulas reveal.

I wasn’t trying to present an indie movie panacea. We are all trying to find profit in business competing with (what I think is the indie movie equivalent) of sweat shop labor produced goods. So in terms of the person who said I’m trying to seduce “starry eyed producers,” I would say that finally having non-discriminatory VOD sales channels like Amazon, and especially iTunes finally gives us producers something to get excited about.

Whether or not we can find the marketing formula to justify our budgets remains the ongoing challenge. I for one am working my butt off to find the balance between budget and the amount of marketing needed to recoup the money – and hopefully create an ongoing stream of revenue.

My model of moviemaking isn’t for everyone. In fact, many of you have great relationships with distributors and are still making money in DVD and theatrical. Awesome! But if you are a filmmaker still relying on the “Sundance Dream” to recoup your budget – or if you are a filmmaker with a title collecting dust in your bedroom closet, I hope my article offered a little optimism.

At the same time, feel free to share your own thoughts on VOD distribution.

And spelling an grammatical tips are welcome from filmmakers too.


  1. vijaya says

    Hi Jason,

    I would like to know the prices and aprroximations for a movie to be distributed all around the world.
    Will this set of yours include the estimations for small and big movies?


  2. Vishnu says

    The key will be aggregating a database. I think 1% is an ambitious conversion rate though. The web conversion rate is 1/1000 or .1% (ie. CPM) so you need 1M people to see your trailer to convert to 1000 sales. This .1% will vary from platform to platform, but the cost of marketing is still too high. CPM rates exceed VOD publisher payouts currently. So the only solution is a database, ie via your blog, social nets or other. The cost of mass blasting that database is about 1/3 of your publisher ROI so it is justified. But, it seems that youtube is lowering CPM rates so the break-even point will be reached soon. But, Jason you know all of this. The part that is elusive is acquiring a large database 1M or more. Personally, my approach involved aggregating via. a ring of sites. What’s your strategy?

  3. Chukwuemeka Onwukwe says

    Dear Jason, what you should understand is that very few people respond positively to change. For me I think what makes one great is not doing what others believe is the norm but coming up with new inovations that bridge the gap in one’ s life or business. I think your ideas are awesome. Infact mark my words your ideas and strategies will rule the movie indutry in the world. Am currently planing to shoot my indie movie and I must confess the conversion formula is awesome. Keep up the good work and as for those who feel threatned by these ingenious inovations they can as well join this crusade or forever hold their peace. You are my inspiration man keep it up.

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