Film Distribution System

Independent filmmaking is often considered one of the riskiest businesses in the world. This is due, in large part to the inefficient nature of our business. Think about it. Indie film is one of few vocations where people create a product without any idea how they are going to market or sell it.

Despite this reality, most indie filmmakers still make movies, subscribing to the belief that it’s impossible to enter the marketplace without finding some 3rd party movie distributor to “pick up” a movie. But thanks to modern Video On Demand distribution, this belief is eroding.

As an independent filmmaker, you now have options. You can choose to take the conventional route, go it alone or combine a little of both models to create a hybrid distribution strategy.

While these options allow independent filmmakers to enter mainstream marketplaces, this paradigm shift creates new challenges. Namely, if you chose to become your own distributor, you will need to become comfortable with internet marketing tactics, social media and audience list building.

For most indie filmmakers, what I’m describing is a huge learning curve!

 

Film Distribution System

My Film Distribution System

I frequently share marketing and distribution tactics. As a consequence, many filmmakers think of me as the “self-distribution guy.” If you share this opinion, you might assume that I no longer value traditional distribution. But here is the irony.

The reason I am able to share marketing and distribution tactics is because I actually spent the last half-decade working professionally in film distribution. For over a year I was the director of operations at Distribber. And after that, I served as the manager of film acquisitions at Chill.

And recently I was hired by a producer to help sell a movie at the American Film Market.

During the market, we were able to schedule over 20 meetings. The reason we had so much interest from distributors is because we DID NOT actually need a distributor. This is because (aside from having an awesome movie) we also had a plan for marketing and selling our movie, ourselves.

Taking time to do our homework and create our own marketing and distribution plan eliminated all desperation and provided us with confidence. Because we didn’t actually need a distributor, we were able to go into each meeting with the patience to work towards a balanced win-win.

Regardless of the route you choose, the first step of the process is to sit down with a pen and paper and answer the following questions:

1. Who is Your Target Audience?
2. How Large is Your Target Audience?
3. How Will You Reach Your Target Audience?
4. What is Your Marketing Strategy?
5. How Many VOD Sales to Break Even?

While this may seem like an overly simple task, taking time to answer these questions is an exercise most filmmakers ignore. And by not having a marketing strategy (that you control) prospective distributors will have no choice but to present you with their standard offer. And because you will have no leveraging power, odds or good you’ll take it.

Creating Film Distribution Leverage

My clients took a different route. The producers did their homework. And as a result, we knew what we had and how we were going to market and self-distribute. By having a plan, we were able to minimize the risk for a prospective distributor and emphasize the potential upside.

In response to our plan, prospective distributors correctly perceived our movie as less risky than most. As a result, we received close to a half-dozen solid offers for the movie. (Some even included a substantial minimum guarantee and advertising spend.)

From there, we narrowed down the selection into final negotiations. While I’m not yet at liberty to talk about the actual deal, I can tell you that things are going well.

If you’re just learning about distribution, here is what the process looks like:

1. You pitch the movie.
2. Distributor expresses interest.
3. Distributor sends proposal / term sheet.
4. You negotiate terms to (hopefully) find a win-win.
5. From there, a long-form agreement is drafted.

It’s Never Too Early To Learn Film Distribution

The truth is, this blog would be a lot more popular if all I wrote about was cameras and gear. That stuff is sexy. Distribution is not. I get that. But here’s the thing… The reason you can’t close your prospective investor or land a dream distribution deal is because your movie project is too RISKY.

You think you’re ready for the pitch, but you’re not.

In fact, you shouldn’t be talking to anybody about your movie project until you have a clear marketing, sales and distribution strategy. This may seem extreme, but knowing this stuff is essential. And I’m not saying you need to become a world class social media marketer.

You need to know a little about a lot.

You need know who to hire and why.

And you need to start planning this TODAY.

If you’re interested in becoming your own distributor (so you can raise money and or sell your movie) you’re in luck. Based on my experience marketing and distributing movies, I have created a system to help you understand the marketing and distribution process.

My system is called The Independent Producer’s Guide To Digital Self-distribution. In it, you will be provided with a step-by-step roadmap to help you get your movies seen and selling in popular marketplaces. I wanted my film distribution system to provide you with a plan you can control. Once you know this stuff, you’ll probably never consider a crappy distribution deal again.

If you would like to find out more about the Independent Producer’s Guide To Digital Self Distribution, check out www.HowToSellYourMovie.com

 

What Every Filmmaker Ought to Know About Movie Distribution

Movie distribution is one of least sexy areas of the entire filmmaking process.

And I’ll admit, when I was dreaming of my career in Hollywood – I never set out to become a leading movie distribution consultant.

But after taking our first feature to market, I realized something. The movie distribution paradigm is totally broken.

So here I am – on a mission to help you understand your movie distribution options.

You may not know this yet. But there is a lot of disruption taking place in Hollywood. In fact, independent filmmaking as we know it is getting turned up-side-down.

The reasons for this are simple. . .

Inexpensive production technology coupled with modern forms of video-on-demand distribution has changed the way movies are made, marketed, seen and sold.

Movie_Distribution

The New Movie Distribution Paradigm

When I started participating on film festival panels, filmmakers used to ask how to land a distributor, how to get a good movie distribution deal and how to live happily ever after.

But over the last few years, the narrative has changed significantly.

Filmmakers are now asking questions about how to market and sell their own movies, without the middleman.

This trend is not limited to micro-budget filmmakers down to their last movie distribution decision.

In the last month alone I have consulted with some very well-known filmmakers who have decided to bypass traditional movie distribution deals in lieu of video-on-demand.

Why?

Because these filmmakers have already sourced an audience and have opted to sell directly. I’m not kidding.

A few months back a famous TV celebrity (and filmmaker) called me, asking:

If I already have access to thousands of people who know me and my work, what is the value in sharing my notoriety with a sales agent promising to get my movie on iTunes?”

Her question makes perfect sense.

The paradigm is shifting fast. DVD sales are diminishing, being replaced by modern video-on-demand platforms both online, and through your television.

Movie Distribution Success Is Your Responsibility

Whenever I give talks, I ask filmmakers:

What is your business?

Many filmmakers respond: “To make movies.”

And while I understand the response. . .

The new answer is: “Audience building.”

You see, as a filmmaker – especially given this paradigm shift, you no longer just in the business of making movies. YOU are actually in the “audience building business.” So knowing this, you now have two very important questions:

1. What are you doing TODAY to build your audience?

2. What are you doing TODAY to create a marketing, sales and distribution strategy for your movie?

Because if you are still waiting around for somebody to “pick up” your movie, odds are good someone will take advantage of you.

Remember, movie distribution is no longer about just getting onto a popular platform. The new movie distribution paradigm requires that YOU (the filmmaker) take responsibility for sourcing YOUR audience.

sell your movieDoes movie distribution sound complicated?

In the indie producer’s guide to movie distribution, you will discover concrete strategies on how to get your movie seen and selling. Most importantly, you will garner tactics on how to build your audience – not just for the movie you are working on now, but for your entire filmmaking career. You can grab your copy here.

Video On Demand Distribution MiddleMen

VOD Distribution is going to change the world.

That was the thought running through my head a few years back when I watched a James Bond movie on my very small iPod. It was a time when video on demand distribution was new. The idea of consuming media without a physical DVD seemed weird.

As a filmmaker, I was adjusting to the new paradigm… Video on demand distribution allowed me to directly access my audience. I hadn’t yet realized that we had the power.

Like many filmmakers with an independent movie and no deal, I received countless offers to give up my VOD distribution rights to bottom-feeding distribution companies. The offer was seductive. These aggregators promised inclusion on Amazon and iTunes and other anonymous marketplaces.

In exchange for almost no money, I was offered the the validation of acceptance. All I had to do was sign over my rights… And if I refused, what could I do?

This got me thinking. Let’s pretend I wasn’t seeking VOD distribution for my movie. Let’s pretend instead that I wanted to open my own frozen yogurt shop. Would I still ask permission to sell my yogurt? Probably not. Instead of asking someone to sell my yogurt for me, I would pick up a sign, pass out flyers and get press coverage. I would partner with other complementary businesses. I would work to get people into my store.

Why should the independent movie business be any different?

Yet as filmmakers, we have the tendency to fork over our rights based solely on the promise of some crappy distribution deal. Don’t get me wrong – the key word is CRAPPY. If you are fortunate enough to get a good deal, you should take it. But if all you’re getting is crap – like those traditional deals that snag your rights for seven years and never pay.

Why do filmmakers accept crappy video on demand distribution deals?

Because in the old days we have been conditioned to believe that adding a middleman will magically create revenue beyond what the filmmaker could otherwise create on their own. And that’s stupid.

These days you can sell your movie directly to your audience.

– – –

If you are a filmmaker with a movie, before you give up your filmmaking rights, check out this website: www.MovieDistributionCompany.com

Free Marketing Advice For Filmmakers

Figure1. Cognitive channel preferences of targ...

Filmmakers need to source their target audience. Image via Wikipedia

Given the erosion of traditional movie distribution sales channels, as a filmmaker you must now find your target audience wherever they hang out and then get them to know you, know your work, and hopefully pay money to watch your movie.

In the past, filmmakers never had to worry about sourcing an audience because the entire movie industry operated like a big factory. Filmmakers made the product and the distributors sold the product through theatrical and DVD distribution. But as a result of the internet and enhancements to video on demand technology, distribution has been disrupted and the old model has been forever screwed up.

So now, if you want to succeed as a filmmaker, it is not enough to simply get you movie into iTunes. I mean, anybody can do that. What you also need to do is have a killer website, attract your target audience, and then get them to take action.

While it’s nice to believe that all website visitors will automatically buy your movie, the truth is, most visitors will not buy your movie on the first visit. For starters, they don’t know you. And they probably don’t know anything about your movie. So your job is not necessary to focus on the sale, but rather, focus on opting them into your audience list.

There are many ways to create an audience list. But unfortunately, most of the methods are crap. In my career, to save money, I have tried forgoing using a reputable email marketing company, and opted instead for one of the popular social networks. For awhile, this was awesome – even thought it took years, I had 8000 “friends” and one one of the sites… But then that site went out of vogue. As a result, my sourced audience was useless.

To avoid the same fate, I HIGHLY recommend that you use a reputable 3rd party email marketing company to manage your audience list. While there are some great companies out there, over the past three years, I have utilized a service called Aweber. This is a reputable email marketing company… [and yes, they DO pay me to promote – so conduct your own due-diligence.]

But the reason I promote this service over other services is this: Aweber adheres to Spam Laws and requires “double-opt-in.”  This means, after your visitor opts-in, they get an email asking if they’re sure they really want to hear from you.  And because of their business practices, Aweber is respected by email service provides – like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail- which helps avoid spam filters. Additionally, as part of the service, you are able to set up something called a sequential email auto-responder. An auto-responder allows you to pre-write and create multiple emails for your audience.

So let’s say you were trying to sell your Zombie movie. After the opt-in, your first email could tell your audience more about your movie. And over the following weeks, your subsequent emails could then provide more and more value to your prospective customer – the result of which compels your fan to BUY NOW.

Once your prospect makes a purchase, you could automatically migrate this person to your customer list. And once this fan is in your customer list, you could then promote another zombie movie (from another friendly filmmaker). And because you “sourced a zombie audience member,” the odds of getting a second sale are greater.

Most filmmakers don’t get excited about the wonders of sourcing an audience. But again, most filmmakers do not realize we are in a new era of independent filmmaking. The good news is for you is, with a website, some creativity and an email marketing mechanism, you can start sourcing your audience TODAY.

If you would like to find out more about email marketing and how this can help you with your own independent movie business, you can get some FREE information below:

“The Money Is In The List



AWeber proves it to thousands of businesses every day.

Learn how email marketing software
can get you more sales, too.

 

Happy Filmmaking!

How Do Filmmakers Compete?

The inside of an 8-track cartridge. The black ...

DVDs are going the way of the 8-Track Image via Wikipedia

With video on demand distribution and the emergence of several new VOD aggregators, independent movie distribution has become non-discriminatory. This means ALL filmmakers can access the marketplace without asking permission.

While this is exciting, it now means the market is flooded with content. Couple this paradigm shift with the demise of DVD sales channels, and you’ll find many traditional distributors are now offering VOD deals to unsuspecting filmmakers, in the hopes something sticks. While these deals hardly every include any upfront cash advances, filmmakers are usually attracted to the silly promise that these distributors will get their titles into iTunes.

But you don’t need those people. With companies like distribber YOU can get your movie onto iTunes without the middel-man.

And as my friend Jared says, anybody with a HDSRL camera can make a back yard barbeque look cinematic. Granted, this technology doesn’t automatically create good cinema – but it does flood the market with competing product.

What this shift represents to filmmakers is in ways akin to what happens when widget factory owners suddenly find themselves in the market, competing with sweat shop labor and cheaply produced goods of a comparable quality.

As a result, the widget that once sold for $100 dollars can no longer compete. And taking this a step further, if your widget company cannot make enough sales to be profitable – my question is:

What happens to the widget factory workers? Do they get pay raises or do they get laid off?

The good news is competition, technological innovations and change has impacted most every other industry since the beginning of capitalism. And despite these challenges, history is full of entrepreneurial innovation – stories of people who have rode the waves of change and prospered.

I believe independent filmmakers can do the same.

What we are facing as filmmakers is no different than any other business. In fact, I would say that we have just stepped into the era of the mini-studio. Filmmaking has become the next small business.

So how do we compete?