The world of indie filmmaking is abuzz with folks wanting to sell a movie to Netflix. And this is for good reason. With over 30 million subscribers, getting your movie into the platform would represent exposure. As a result, many filmmakers have been leaving messages at my office like this:
I want to sell a movie to Netflix! I just want you to know that I don’t care about money. In fact, if I can’t sell a movie to Netflix, I’d be happy to put my movie on Netflix for free.
If you’re having similar thoughts, you may want to rethink a few things. While the opportunity for exposure feels enticing, accepting a silly deal doesn’t pay the bills or pay back your investors.
Sell a Movie to Netflix
Unlike many video on demand platforms, the majority of Netflix deals still happen the traditional way. A filmmaker finds a distributor. The distributor negotiates a deal with Netflix. And then the filmmaker gets paid a licensing fee for one or two years.
Think of Netflix the same way you think about HBO or Showtime. What’s in it for Netflix to pick up your movie? Will your movie help attract new subscribers or retain current subscribers?
How Do You Attract Netflix?
There are two popular ways to attract Netflix. You can go old school, whereby you get into major festivals and markets (like AFM, Sundance, SXSW, Toronto, et al) and garner the attention of the NetFlix acquisitions team. Or you can work with a distributor or sales agent with a Netflix relationship.
In both instances, if you want to score a Netflix deal, your movie better have star talent, thousands of social followers and tons of traditional publicity. If not, then getting a Netflix deal (that actually pays money) will be challenging.
Alternatives To Netflix Distribution
When it comes to Netflix, many filmmakers argue that the exposure is more valuable than profit. If that’s true, then let me remind you that piracy is also good for exposure and involves less work.
If you are truly looking for exposure, the subscription service offered by Amazon Prime is one of the best alternatives to Netflix. Amazon Prime has millions of subscribers and is a great platform for “discovery.” And unlike Netflix, Amazon Prime actually pays you every time someone streams your film (although, not a whole lot). This makes Amazon Prime very filmmaker friendly.
You can distribute to Amazon Prime on your own via Amazon Video Direct. But it’s complicated. You’ll need to meet all the specs and submit closed captions. To save time, you may want to work with an aggregator and encoding house to make the delivery. (For a solution, feel free to check out the Amazon service offered by my current employer Distribber.)
Once you are live on Amazon Prime, one simple promotional tactic involves asking cast and crew to reach out to family and friends. Searches and comments on Amazon can raise engagement, which can further help get content featured in Amazon’s recommendation engine. And while we are on the subject of promotion, you may want to download my film distribution checklist.