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.

Sell A Movie To Netflix

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 VOD 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 upfront.

If you decide to tackle Netflix distribution yourself, you’re going to jump through a series of hoops. To start, you must first get into their database.

Sell a Movie To NetFlix

How do you get into the Netflix database?

This is the secret sauce. Netflix decides what movies get into their database. And short of knowing somebody on the inside, there isn’t much you can do to change this. So at the very least, you better have an awesome movie that appeals to a large segment of the Netflix subscriber base. Beyond that, it helps if you can drum up tons of publicity.

What does Netflix pay for film acquisitions?

If you are fortunate enough to get your title into the Netflix database, you still need a gazillion people to request your movie in their Netflix queue. This is called queue demand. And this metric will influence the actual amount of money Netflix will offer you. If you want to score a big deal, your movie better have a lot of demand.

Should You Try To Sell A Movie To Netflix?

Aside from getting your movie noticed, the deals may not pay. In response, some of my filmmaker friends argue that it is important to sell a movie to Netflix merely for the exposure. To that, I usually remind them that piracy is also good for exposure. And getting someone to bootleg your movie involves a lot less headaches.

Next Steps For Netflix Distribution

If you are still set on getting into Netflix, then you may consider reaching out to traditional distributors. Utilizing traditional channels may allow you to circumvent some of the requirements I mentioned earlier. And who knows? You might find a distributor able to negotiate an awesome deal.

Conversely, if you’re willing to go the distance, you can start the process by utilizing a filmmaker friendly VOD aggregator like Distribber. (Note: In full disclosure, I once ran operations at Distribber, and they still pay me to promote.)

In both instances, I would advise that you don’t hold your breath. Now that Netflix produces their own shows, getting in (and actually landing a satisfying licensing deal) may still prove challenging.

sell your movieIf you would like to explore other popular (and accessible) outlets for your movie, you might wanna focus on transactional platforms first like iTunes and Amazon and then drive targeted traffic to your point of sale.

While you’re at it, if you’d like more info on modern distribution tactics, check out the Independent Producer’s Guide To Digital Distribution.

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.

Independent Film Business Plan

Creating an independent film business plan allows you to fully understand the business aspects of your project. You will want to outline your budget and show how the money will be spent. You will also highlight your team, your objectives and importantly, your marketing, sales and distribution strategy. Completing an independent film business plan is a great step towards getting the money,  but this is not the only step.

In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission was set up to protect uninformed investors from scams. With the creation of the SEC, several laws, regulations and guidelines have been put in place to protect the innocent. In order to stay compliant you will need to talk with a qualified entertainment attorney who focuses on securities law. The reason for this is simple. You want your movie project to be taken seriously.

With your attorney’s help, building off the information outlined in your business plan, you will create a set of documents called a private placement memorandum. Your PPM will outline the goals for your movie. It will explain the possible upside to your project, but more importantly, it will help prospective investors understand the inherent risks. The name of the game is compliance, transparency and trust.

In addition to creating a PPM, your attorney will probably advise you to set up a legal business entity such as a corporation or limited liability company. While most anybody can bring litigation against you at any time, it is important that you find ways to keep your movie business separate from your personally assets. Taking this step is essential and worth the far more than the price you pay for the paperwork.

If you need help writing an independent film business plan, this this resource may help. And if you have the plan, but need help creating relationships with prospective investors – this film funding resource may help.

Digital Film Distribution

The demise of DVD distribution, coupled with inexpensive production technology has flooded the marked with cheaply produced, accessible movies. And for most filmmakers, basing an entire distribution strategy on outside studios “picking up” completed movies is silly. Digital film distribution is now a primary way movies are getting seen and sold.

This paradigm shift makes it necessary for every filmmaker to create a specific marketing, sales and distribution plan for their movie.

To succeed, you will need to write a marketing and sales plan. This plan will outline your target audience. It will include specific tactics for reaching your audience and promoting your movie. Your plan will also detail the marketplaces you will utilize to achieve your goals. Will you take the festival route? Will you send your movie directly to sales agents and acquisition pros? Will you sell your movie on iTunes or Hulu or both?

Once you figure out how you will leverage online and offline media to achieve the necessary sales, you will need to budget for this. How many units will you need to sell at a defined price point to break even? How much will it cost you to sell enough units to make a profit? How much time will you need to execute your marketing plan and achieve these goals?

Success in digital film distribution is dependent upon audience engagement. Regardless of any technological trends coming into vogue – Without an audience, you really have no business.

Still Have Questions about film Distribution?

Film Distribution is my wheelhouse and I have helped hundreds of filmmakers via my sell your movie package. There’s too much that goes into marketing and distributing a movie to cover fully here – So if you still have questions feel free to ask in comment section below and I will do my best to respond promptly.