Secrets of Selling Your Movie Online (Don’t Get Screwed)

Today’s question comes from a filmmaker who is puzzled over how to sell his movie online.

Since the world of video on demand distribution is changing the ways in which movies are seen and sold, having a solid distribution strategy that you can implement is essential for success. And selling your movie online is going to be a big part of your strategy.

Question: When deciding on how to sell your movie, what are the advantages to DVD, On Demand and Video Downloads?

Response: Congratulations on realizing that the world in which movies are seen in selling is changing fast. When you are ready to sell your movie, the first thing you have to decide is whether or not you want to hold out for a dream distribution deal.

Selling Your Movie Online

Selling Your Movie Online

After helping over 100 filmmakers get their movies to market, I can tell you most filmmakers wait for a dream distribution deal. And as a result, the typical time between film festivals and selling your movie online takes 5-7 months!

This is because many distributors and sales agents come out of the woodwork and tell you that your gazillion dollar check is right around the corner – So you better sit around and do nothing!

I don’t agree.

In fact, I personally think this “wait and see” philosophy is hogwash.

And here’s why. After waiting months and months, many of these traditional distributors circle back and with some sort of strategy for selling your movie online… A strategy that you could have executed yourself.

“We are going to get you onto Amazon and iTunes. And we will try to get you special placement.”

Take Your Movie To Market

If you’re ready to take your own movie to market, I have good news. The market is accessible. And in my opinion the easiest market to access is also one of the largest in the world. If you go to CreateSpace (they pay me  to promote) you can get your movie onto Amazon.

Simply sign up for a free account. From there you will decide if you want to sell your movie as a video-on-demand rental, video-on-demand download, DVD, or combination of all three. You will then enter information about your movie and upload artwork.

When complete you will be given a title ID that you will use to label a simple autoplay DVD that you will send to Amazon. In roughly 2 months your movie will be available within the Amazon marketplace.

The only challenge with CreateSpace is – While the service is pretty straight forward, they aren’t set up to deliver high definition. To do this, you will need to go through an aggregator with a direct relationship at Amazon.

Find A Video On Demand Aggregator

In addition to Amazon, there are many other marketplaces for selling your movie online. My bias leans towards iTunes, Hulu, some web based transactional players and possibly cable video on demand.

To access these marketplaces you will you need to utilize a video on demand aggregator. Your aggregator will then send you a list of the appropriate deliverable specifications.

The aggregator typically works with an encoding house. And the encoders are looking for an uncompressed video file, high-resolution artwork and selling points they can utilized to make the pitch to the various platforms.

Depending on the marketplaces you choose, it could take anywhere from three to six months to see your title live.

The reason for this oftentimes has more to do with technical challenges than your content. When it comes to selling your movie online, many of the platforms are very strict about the quality of the viewer’s experience.  And if even one frame does not match specification, the encoding house  will have to pull your content for repairs.

This creates significant delays.

Execute A Movie Marketing Strategy

Assuming you go the distance and get your movie into the various marketplaces as both DVD On Demand and Video Downloads you will still need to implement a marketing strategy. Your goal is to use your movie website as a hub.

You will work both online and offline to drive targeted traffic to your site, and then funnel that traffic towards a desired point-of-sale, such as Amazon, Hulu or iTunes. Additionally, you may choose to also include an embeddable player right on your movie’s website.

At times selling your movie online can seem like a whole bunch of confusion. If that’s how you feel, you may want to download my sell your movie checklist. In it, you’ll get a more detailed overview of modern film distribution.

What You Need To Know About Film Acquisitions

The old model of film acquisitions meant that you would give up your film to a distributor for years at a time, in exchange for a cash advance and a back-end percentage.

You would then move on to your next project, and the distributor would do “all that business stuff” and send you a quarterly statement. This film acquisitions model worked for generations.

Back then, the value of a Film Acquisitions deal revolved around access.

Distributors could get your movie into theaters, video stores and big box retailers like Wal-Mart. And because placement in these marketplaces required significant upfront investment, only a select few movies garnered a distribution deal.

Digital video on demand distribution has forever changed the film acquisitions game. Suddenly access is no longer exclusive. And as a result, filmmakers can get their movies in popular marketplaces without a traditional distributor.

But just because you can access the marketplace doesn’t necessarily mean your movie will sell. But if you take time to plan out your marketing, sales and distribution strategy, you might just make a little money.

Film_Acquisitions

Film Acquisitions

It is at this point when filmmakers ask me: “How much money can I make in digital?” While I understand why someone would want to know how much can be made in digital, this is a very misguided question.

Because inexpensive production technology affords aspiring filmmakers with the tools to create technically sound backyard indies, the marketplace is flooded with competing goods. And since video on demand marketplaces have no physical costs, traditional film acquisitions professionals (who once played it safe) now grab anything they can.

So let me be clear…

Film distribution is NOT your problem. In fact, film distribution is a commodity. Virtual shelf space is infinite. And as a result, your movie revenues will be determined by your ability to source an audience.

This means, if you are going to explore a traditional film acquisitions deal – your distributor better have a much better gameplan for reaching a desired target audience. Tweeting and sharing your movie with other filmmakers won’t cut it. Your distributor needs to have a segmented audience list.

Hubris will not sell your movie.

To become a successful filmmaker, stop incorporating the prospect of film acquisitions into your business plan. Instead, think of yourself as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. 

sell your movieThis means you must become fully invested in the promotion of your movie. At the very least, this includes building a strong social media footprint, a robust mailing list, Facebook and Twitter following.

You must take time to think about movie as your business, complete with a marketing strategy. You must think of yourself as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. And if you have a movie you are looking to distribute, check out our sell your movie resource.

The Secret of Pitching to Film Investors (Shhhh. Don’t tell.)

I’m going to reveal some secrets for pitching to film investors. But before I do, I want you to know something. There is NO magic secret for pitching to film investors.

The process of finding and pitching to film investors is not nearly as complicated as many people would like you to believe. Pitching to film investors is a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the greater your chances of finding someone willing to invest.

So with that said, it’s important to note that most prospective film investors are business savvy. And they all ask the same question. What is the question?

Inevitability one of the most frequently asked questions film investors ask is:

“How do you plan to make, market and sell this movie and return my investment?”

In the old model of filmmaking, traditional distribution was a lottery. So in response, most filmmakers (especially first time filmmakers) say something like this:

“Filmmaking is risky. If we are lucky, we will get into Sundance and get a distribution deal.”

To that end, most film investors respond like this:

“What? That’s not a business – that’s gambling!”

film investors

Film Investors: The Secret of Pitching

Disclaimer: What I’m about to share is total FICTION and should NOT be used in any business plans you create because I am neither a lawyer or an accountant. And I express my right to free speech as I share this imaginary, yet very pragmatic scenario.

Picture this. You enter a room with a bunch of prospective film investors.

Filmmaker: In our business, we hold the rights to an outstanding screenplay that taps into a well targeted, genre specific audience. We have budgeted the movie for $100,000 dollars. And given the genre, we do not need star talent. We are keeping the budget low – most folks have agreed to work for a salary, and all have agreed to residual compensation in the back end.

Prospective Film Investors: I see…

Filmmaker: At present, our crowdfunding campaign has allowed us to test the concept. And with sixty days left in the campaign, we have already sourced several hundred donations, giving us $8,000 dollars to pay for our website, marketing and PR.

Prospective Film Investors: I see…

Filmmaker: Upon completion of our movie, the title will available in all the popular marketplaces, including Amazon and iTunes. And as we speak, in addition to crowfunding, we have already contacted our audience list of 20,000 people (from our last movie in a similar genre) who have expressed interest in this upcoming title. Combine this with several partner filmmakers which will roughly expand our audience footprint to well over 250,000 targeted viewers.

Prospective Film Investors: I see…

Filmmaker: So at the time of release, if we project sales at 2% of 250,000 people. This means that 5000 people will download the movie at 9.99… which will be close to 50K minus a 40%  marketplace fee and a 10% commission to our partners – and we should be able to immediately return $25,000.

Prospective Film Investors: Wow! You really did your homework.

Filmmaker: Each subsequent quarter, we would like to continually re-invest 10% of the revenue into further list building efforts. And we would like to keep 30% for the producer and crew compensation. Which should leave you with a 60% cash dividend, to be paid quarterly. Assuming we can bring in $30,000 per year, in 7 years we will have more than $200,000 in revenue for this title. At that time, $20,000 would have been paid to marketing, $60,000 would have been paid to cast and producers and $120,000 would have been paid to investors.

Prospective Investor: Then what?

Filmmaker: As soon as we pay back the initial investment, we would like to split our revenue 60/40. In other words, the producers and crew would get 60% and you would continue to get 40%.

Prospective Investor: I understand what you’re saying here.

Filmmaker: Of course, there is always the small chance that we could get lucky – if we got a 5% return on our initial campaign, and 12,500 people immediately downloaded the movie at $9.99, our revenue will be close to $125,000 – minus expenses. But I need to remind you that this is not likely. And we would still have to pay a commission.

Prospective Investor: Oh. This makes sense.

Fimmaker: Great. Would you like to invest?
– – -

While I have provided a FICTIONAL example  (talk to an attorney and accountant before you ever pitch an idea) of how some filmmakers may decide to navigate this new movie business, my whole point here is this:

It is important to realize that success of a movie is no longer based solely on handing off the movie to some 3rd party distribution company. If you want to make it in this new world of filmmaking, you need to stop waiting for someone else to manage the business aspects of your movie and your career. Instead you now need to take a vested interest in the success of your project.

If you’re helming your movie project, nobody cares about it more than you. But if you aren’t afraid to provide everybody on your team with a bit of ownership too – you’ll soon be surprised to learn that word of mouth spreads a lot quicker when your entire cast and crew has a vested financial interest in the project.

In this regard, when you win, everybody wins!

Getting movie money begins first with making the call and building relationships with good prospective investors. So if you liked this article, you will love this professional film funding resource I created. Check it out by clicking here.

– –
DISCLAIMER (again) – I’m a filmmaker – not a lawyer or accountant. I’m expressing my freedom of speech for your entertainment. If you’re still reading this, I want to make it very clear that I made most of those figures up as a fictional EXAMPLE. You’ll have to figure out your own numbers and crunch your own data and make your own relationships with prospective investors. And always speak with a qualified professional before you do anything.

Filmmaking Advice For The Modern Filmmaker

Filmmaking Advice For The Modern Filmmaker

Talk to any filmmaker about filmmaking and they will tell you the world has changed.

Gone are the days when you simply made a movie and sold it to the highest bidder.

These days every filmmaker with a camera is making a backyard indie. And as a result, the market is saturated with a never ending supply of mediocre movies. Suffice it to say, as a serious independent filmmaker, it is hard to get noticed.

Filmmaking_Advice

Filmmaking Advice For The Modern Filmmaker

In today’s article, I am going to provide you with essential filmmaking advice.

Stop Thinking Like An Artist
To become successful, you need to stop crying about all the challenges. Instead you need to reshape your thinking. From now on, think of yourself as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. Adopt the philosophy of a thriving small business owner.

You need to remember that your independent film business lives and dies by word of mouth.  And since your business is your audience, you need to make every effort to amplify your reach.

Make Remarkable Movies
Building your audience starts with engagement. And if you want to engage, you need to focus on making memorable, remarkable movies. A remarkable movie makes people take pause and tell their friends about it. This starts with your log-line – What is your hook? Who is your audience? Why should we care?

Answer these questions BEFORE you do anything else.

Reward Early Adopters
During the social window, you will receive emails from people asking when they can see your movie. And if you’re like most filmmakers, you will tell these eager fans that you’re waiting for a distribution deal. This is a mistake. These people are your most enthusiastic fans. These people will go the distance to become your word of mouth army.

What will you do to help them?

Pay The Price
When I started filmmaking, Hollywood was an impenetrable kingdom. To make a movie, you had to ask permission. But those days are over. With inexpensive cameras, social media, email lists,  and services like Distribber – You now have direct access to your audience.

Are you willing pay the price in terms of time, money, education and experience?

Filmmaking Resources
If you liked this filmmaking advice and you’re ready to take action, you will benefit from the following resources. If you are still writing, you can check out this screenwriting guide. If you have a script and you are seeking investors, you can grab my movie money system. And if you have a feature and you’re looking for ways to sell your movie, you can grab my sell your movie guide.

Get Your Movie To Market Fast

I’m pretty sure we lost over to $20,000 (probably more) by not taking action and getting our movie to market. Seriously, there is this concept in business called opportunity cost.

It simply means that if you choose one direction, it’s impossible to take the other direction at the same time. Or in the case of film distribution – If you spend all year doing NOTHING with your movie, then you’ve lost potential opportunity to market directly to your audience.

After working with well-over 100 filmmakers on their film distribution strategies, I am now of the opinion that rather than waiting all year for a dream distribution deal (that probably will not materialize) it may be much better to get your movie to market fast.

To understand my reasoning, consider that two things are going to happen:

1. You’re going to wait at least seven months before you get your movie to market.

2. In those seven months, people will forget about your movie.

Speaking from experience, when news of our first feature went viral, thousands of raving fans flooded our website. At the time we were Ill-equipped to handle the influx. We had no lead capture system in place and our social media strategy was non-existent.

Because we were so focused on landing a dream distribution deal, we had no idea we were missing opportunity.

Get_Your_Movie_To_Market

Get Your Movie To Market Fast

Like many filmmakers, we were stuck in the old distribution paradigm.

We thought we had to wait for permission to sell our movie. We thought self-distribution was too challenging. And in all this debate, we wasted valuable time and lost hundreds of sales.

We learned some tough lessons in the process. And thankfully, times have changed.

Video on demand has created a gazillion ways to sell your movie. And as an entrepreneurial filmmaker, you know the importance of sourcing your own audience. You also know that social media engagement is essential. And if you have done a good job, thousands of people are eagerly awaiting the release of your movie.

Encoding And Delivery Burns Valuable Time

For all the technological advancements, modern film distribution is strangely still inefficient.

For example, in order to get your movie onto iTunes, you will need to go through an iTunes approved aggregator. At this point, you have two options. You can either work with an aggregtor directly. Or you will need to work with a sales agent, distributor or a distribution service who has a relationship with the iTunes approved aggregator.

The aggregator will then compile and deliver your movie source file and assets (artwork, closed captions, metadata, et al) to an iTunes approved encoding house. Once there, your movie will then undergo a process whereby each frame of your movie is carefully scrutinized to make sure it passes quality control.

If there are technical hiccups, the encoding team will evaluate and determine the likelihood of a repair in-house.

If the encoders determine your movie can be repaired in-house, they will place your movie in a queue. A technician will then work to repair the source file. And assuming the repair is successful, your movie will once again reenter the encoding process.

If all goes well, your movie will be audited for an eventual delivery to iTunes. And once your movie gets to iTunes, Apple will conduct their own quality control and review. This can take an additional three to six weeks depending on their capacity.

How To Get Your Movie To Market Fast

The truth is, nobody cares about your movie more than you. Even your most enthusiastic fans are dealing with a gazillion other life distractions. And the longer you wait to get your movie seen and selling, the more you run the risk of  losing touch with your audience. So the real question is, how will you get your movie to market fast?

One easy solution is to put your movie into one of the many players available, set a price and then drive targeted traffic to your Buy Now button.

Of course, only you can determine if now is the time to get your movie to market. And this will come after debating with the other producers, taking endless meetings with the acquisitions folks who keep telling you that they have the best solution. But in the end, no matter what, the one thing that matters most is YOUR audience. Because without an audience, you really have no business!