Distribution

Changes in film distribution technology now provides filmmakers with access to major online marketplaces such as Amazon and iTunes. While video on demand represents a easy way for independent filmmakers to enter mainstream marketplaces, this change in movie distribution represents new challenges. If you are looking to distribute and sell your movie, the following articles will help you.

Digital Self Distribution: How To Sell Your Movie Online

Having spent the last few years working in film distribution, I can tell you the landscape is changing. Instead of crossing fingers for an awesome distribution deal, entrepreneurial filmmakers now have options for taking ownership over their products and reaching audiences directly.

In response, smart distributors are keen to work with filmmakers who, aside from having a great movie, can also demonstrate an ironclad digital self distribution plan. In other-words, film distributors seek projects that don’t actually need a distributor. Many distributors pay for this privilege.

Distributors have always worked to acquire projects that offered the lowest risk with the highest potential for reward. In the past, a low risk project was one that had a name actor with a ton of international value. And these days, because film distribution is increasingly online, a low risk project is one with a famed YouTuber.

A distributor naturally assumes the YouTuber will promote the movie to his or her audience. And by having a famed YouTuber, a distributor does not have to pay marketing money to build word of mouth. Less money spent for marketing, equals a lower risk for the distributor. And this means a lot more reward for you.

digital-self-distribution

Photo © olly / Dollar Photo Club

Digital Self Distribution: How To Sell Your Movie Online

But what if your movie doesn’t have a famed YouTuber or a movie star? After months and months of hustle, the reality of how you’ll garner ROI (return on investment) might be slightly different than the idealized imaginings of the three-picture studio deal you once had.

The reason for this is simple. Your project is too risky.

So your first order of business is to lower the risk and increase the potential for reward. And that starts by creating your digital self distribution plan. Here are five tips to help:

1. Find your USP: In the world of marketing, USP is short for Unique Selling Proposition. And if you can’t market your move based on celebrity, the next step is to leverage whatever makes your movie unique, interesting and memorable. Do you have a cutting edge horror movie? Ninja movie? Girl with a horse movie? Or a food documentary on why you should quit meat for a plant based diet? Great!

2. Focus on Controversy: What aspect of your story provokes an emotional response? Think of how politicians market during a political campaign. Most folks either hate the message or they love it. Does your movie make a polarizing statement? Is there anything about your movie that makes some people totally dislike it, while other people LOVE it? Great. Use controversy to spark word of mouth.

3. Create a Marketing Plan: Creating a marketing plan is less complex than you think. Just answer these questions: Who is your target audience? How will you reach your target audience? Based on your budget, how many unit sales will it take you to break even? How will you make this happen without losing money?

4. Update Your Marketing: When I evaluate movies for distribution, the ones that grab my attention look professional. I instantly know what the movie is about and where it fits in terms of genre. Branding is the marketing equivalent of matching your belt with your shoes. Look at other movies in a similar genre. Make sure you present your movie like a “real” movie. Hire a graphic designer.

5. Digital Self Distribution Platforms: Even if you are seeking a traditional deal, you should simultaneously plan your release strategy as if you do not have a deal. This means getting to know some DIY platforms. You might do film festivals or use Tugg for your theatrical release. You might then consider some transactional video on demand platforms. This way, if you don’t actually land a favorable distribution deal, you’ll still enter the market.

No longer can you make a movie on spec, cross your fingers and hope a deal finds you. You have to find your own deal. But unlike years past, you are no longer limited. You can leverage technology to market your movie directly to a global audience. And that’s what digital self distribution is all about.

Want to plan your distribution strategy? Check out my digital self distribution system.

How To Create a Film Website (So You Can Sell Your Movie)

Your filmmaker website will go through two stages.

The first stage of your film website is your pre-launch promotional stage. During this time, your film website will consist of your movie title, a synopsis and some fancy images that express what your are tying to accomplish. You should also include a blog.

When we launched the film website for Toxic Soup, we focused on getting environmental activists to join our newsletter. In addition capturing emails, the Toxic Soup landing page had another goal – We wanted to let people know that Toxic Soup was more than just a movie. It was a movement. And we wanted to get our audience to help spread the message.

film website

Share Your Story

In addition to your email registration form, your film website should include a video that tells your prospective fan about your movie. A good example of this can be found at Cow Power, a documentary focused on turning cow poop into fuel.

Cow power film website

I met the filmmaker, Allison Gillette when she attended my panel discussion at WestDoc. And I especially like her email registration form. Do you see how it is limited to just asking for the email? Many marketers agree that asking for less is more.

In addition to emphasizing your movie, your prospective audience will also want to know a thing about you and why you are making the movie. Why should people watch your movie? How will it entertain them? What do you hope to accomplish with the movie?

Indecently, taking time to answer questions in your intro film website video may also set you up for a crowdfunding pitch video.

Add Testimonials On Your Film Website

Just because you do not yet have a movie, does not mean you cannot find at least one early fan excited about the prospect of your movie. An example might be “Hey Jason – I can’t wait to see your ninja zombie movie!”

These early testimonials simply need to demonstrate that someone else knows about your movie. To do this, you will want to contact your subscribers and ask them if they’d be willing to give you a testimonial about why they signed up for your mailing list.

The purpose of an audience list and why you need it!

The primary objective of your film website during the promotional stage is to get people to enroll in your mailing list. To do this, you will want to research several 3rd party email providers.

The two most popular are MailChimp and Aweber. I use Aweber to manage the Filmmaking Stuff mailing list and have been more than satisfied with their service. (Full disclosure, in addition to using the service, I do get paid to promote Aweber.)

After selecting your  preferred email management service, your next step is to actually create the registration form.

As mentioned previously, you should only ask for the most essential information. In my testing, asking for anything more than a name and email dramatically diminishes opt-ins. Both MailChimp and Aweber make this very easy, as they allow to customize registration forms you can embed on your website.

As a filmmaker, depending on the word of mouth potential of your movie, having a promotional film website can help you take advantage of initial movie marketing opportunity.

film website

How To Create a Film Website

The first step in getting your website established, involves reserving website hosting and a domain name for both your production company, as well as separate sites for each of your movies.

If you already know the name of your movie, you will want to reserve it as soon as you can (before somebody else grabs it).

To reserve your domain and set up a film website, head over to my friends at www.MovieSiteHost.com – Like most links I mention, this is my affiliate link for Bluehost. I have utilized MovieSiteHost for many of my websites, for years, without issue. In the few instances when I needed to reach someone in customer service, my calls were always answered.

In terms of setting up your actual site, I no longer recommend building a site from scratch. Instead, consider using something called a content management system – or CMS. With a CMS, you can have your own film website in minutes…

Movie_Site_Host

Just in case some of these terms of confusing, let’s recap: Website hosting can be compared to the vacant lot where you’ll eventually build your office building. Your domain name can be compared to your street address. The CMS is the raw materials needed to build your office building, or in this case, a sophisticated website.

And assuming you are utilizing www.MovieSiteHost.com for your hosting, these elements can be implement in a few clicks of a mouse.

When you arrive at MovieSiteHost, you will first need to reserve a domain name for your movie.

Pick-DomainTo set up your initial website, after you reserve your domain name, you will be redirected to your control panel. Once there, click on an icon called “WordPress.”

Choose_Word_Press

From there, you will START a brand new install WordPress on your server.

Start_Install

After a minute or two, WordPress will be installed in your account. You will then be issued with a username and a password. Once you have it, you can log into your new website and begin your customization.

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In my opinion, WordPress is one of the most robust and powerful content management systems in the world. And the reason I recommend installing a CMS for filmmakers, over building a traditional website is because once you set up WordPress, you will be able to create and modify your content and change the entire look and feel of your website, with the ease of sending an email.

sell your movieBy making these tweaks yourself, you will save the cost of constantly contacting your webmaster.

If you like this tip, you’ll love this film distribution resource.

Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

In case you haven’t noticed, filmmaking is changing. And the future of filmmaking is now.

In years past, if you wanted to make a movie, you had to raise enough money to not only cover the film and equipment, but you paid for your DP, your camera operator, someone to pull focus, someone to load the film, someone to lay dolly track and someone else to push your dolly.

If you wanted to create an awesome movie on a budget, you shot Super 16mm. Once the film was in the can, you paid to get the film processed, color corrected, transferred to video, edited “off line” and later blown up to 35mm. And all these steps were considered an affordable option!

Then you crossed your fingers, hoping to land an awesome distribution deal. Can you imagine trying to make movies like that? It’s easy to understand why most would-be filmmakers never took action.

Future Of Filmmaking

Photo © Dmytro Tolokonov / Dollar Photo Club

Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

With the emergence of awesomely inexpensive production technology, making a movie is getting easier. And everything has changed.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve heard anybody in the filmmaking community seriously consider shooting their first feature on film. And why would they? These days, if you want to make a great looking movie, you grab your $2,000 DSLR camera and you start shooting.

That’s it. No film stock. No silly processing costs. And no transfers to video.

You simply take your camera out of the bag, point and shoot. Then you edit on your computer and upload to several of the video on demand websites. And you can start selling your work to the world.

This is an AMAZING time to make movies, right?

Or is it?

For the first time in history, filmmakers are experiencing what happens in other industries when robots start producing comparable goods for less and less money. You get an overwhelming supply of inexpensive product in the marketplace, which devalues the market as a whole. Couple this with the demise of traditional DVD distribution, and you can understand why it’s difficult land a killer payday.

Considering these unfavorable odds, why would any filmmaker risk millions on a budget when there are less opportunities to make the money back? This is our new paradox as filmmakers.

Producing product is not the problem. It is easy to make a backyard indie.

The real challenge is keeping budgets low enough to increase the odds of recouping, while at the same time creating movies that people actually want to see.

This seems obvious.

While there are no guarantees in this or any business, aside from making an awesome movie, here are three things you can do to increase your odds of success:

  1. Know your target audience.
  2. Have a plan for reaching your target audience.
  3. Cast actors who have a large social media following.

Having spent the last half-decade working in marketing and distribution, I can tell you that most filmmakers completely ignore these steps. Most never take time to sketch out a marketing, sales and distribution strategy for their movies. And as a result, most movies end up dying in digital obscurity.

Don’t do that.

3 Little-Known Factors That Could Affect Your Film Distribution Deal

Landing a killer film distribution deal is all about reducing risk and increasing the potential reward for a prospective distributor. The problem is, most filmmakers never think about this stuff until it’s too late.

As a filmmaker it is important to remember that you are creating and selling a product. Yes, your movie is your product. And like any entrepreneur you must plan for the marketing, sales and distribution of your movie.

Film Distribution Deal

Photo © adrian_ilie825 / Dollar Photo Club

3 Factors That Could Affect Your Film Distribution Deal

Even if you do not plan to distribute your movie yourself, it behooves you to create your own marketing, sales and distribution strategy. The reason for this is simple. Most filmmakers do not do this. As a result, nearly every filmmaker approaches a prospective distributor the same way:

“Well… Here’s my movie. Can you give me an awesome film distribution deal?”

This is the incorrect approach because it gives you absolutely no leverage and no room for negotiation. The better approach would be to go into each distribution meeting knowing that you don’t actually need a film distribution deal. You achieve this by creating your own marketing plan.

While there are a lot of options to consider when sketching out an effective marketing, sales and distribution plan, the following three factors could affect your film distribution deal.

1. Who Is Your Target Audience?
To get started, you need to ask yourself: Who is my intended target audience? If you can look at your movie concept objectively and you can’t answer that question in five seconds or less, then you need to think harder or evaluate your original concept.

2. What Is Your Hook?
In general business, every company has to figure out their USP. In the world of movies, your unique selling proposition is actually described as your hook. What makes your movie different than the gazillion other movies being made. And why should I care?

3. What Is Your Marketing Budget?
As a filmmaker, marketing is probably the last thing you want to consider. But with the demise of physical DVD distribution, things are changing. As a result YOU are responsible for the marketing, sales and distribution of your movie. Allocate 50% of your budget to cover these costs.

This filmmaking lesson is simple. The time to start planning is today. And if any of this seems confusing, check out my newly updated guide to indie distribution.

No-Budget Filmmaking: Rise of The Backyard Indie

Like it or lump it, there are a lot of backyard indies being made each year. Thanks to inexpensive production technology, no-budget filmmaking is not only possible, but has become the norm for many first time feature filmmakers, web series producers, YouTube artists and short filmmakers.

These days any filmmaker with passion and a story can make a movie. And unlike years past, backyard indie filmmakers are not prohibited by cash or creativity.

Yet despite the no-budget filmmaking movement, many of my high profile “professional” friends in Los Angeles, have made a conscious effort to ignore the rise of backyard indies. Why?

Because no-budget filmmaking isn’t real! (At least, that’s what some of the old school pros would tell you.) When it comes to no-budget filmmaking, some common questions asked by these Hollywood hot-shots are:

  1. Who signed the SAG agreements?
  2. Who contacted the Unions?
  3. Who notified the MPAA?
  4. Where is your theatrical distribution deal?
  5. Who do you think you are?

Good questions. Why don’t you go back in time and ask Roger Corman!

But the thing is, if you create a good movie – Your audience doesn’t care if the movie was an official union indie or a backyard indie made for pocket change.

no budget filmmaking

Photo © Jacek Krol / Dollar Photo Club

No Budget Filmmaking: Rise of The Backyard Indie

The demise of traditional DVD distribution coupled with the growing market domination of iTunes, Amazon and Netflix had leveled the playing field. The big difference between a $10,000 backyard indie and a $2,000,000 dollar indie isn’t the budget – The difference revolves around the film that gets the most eyeballs (and sales).

Think about it. Hitting breakeven on a 2M feature is going to require a lot of sales.

As a rough example, to recoup 2M dollars, the filmmaker will need to to sell (roughly) 200,000 video on demand downloads at $10 a pop. These first sales will cover the 40% cost allocated to VOD providers (the real winners here), after which, the filmmaker will still need to sell an additional 200,000 downloads to repay the investors.

400,000 VOD downloads x $10 = $4,000,000 minus $2,000,000 in VOD fees = the initial $2,000,000

Meanwhile, through no-budget filmmaking, a backyard indie only has to sell 2000 VOD downloads to recover the initial 10K costs.

While nobody wants to make movies for pocket change, many filmmakers still believe we can somehow continually produce unprofitable (movie) products and expect the money and the subsequent jobs to keep rolling in.

And unlike years past, filmmakers can no longer approach investors with the cliche pitch: “Filmmaking is a risky investment – if we are lucky, we might win Sundance and get a deal.”

Now, with transparent distribution options available to all filmmakers, that line of give-me-money reasoning is reckless, no longer applicable, and in my opinion, unethical. And for these reasons, no-budget filmmaking makes a lot of sense.

Aside from the initial challenge of sales and marketing, the ripple effect reveals an even greater conundrum:

How will you raise enough money to pay your cast and crew AND still pay back your investors?

I mean, what’s the new sweet spot?

How can we once again make independent filmmaking profitable?

“I CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY MY CAST AND CREW. WHAT DO I DO?”

Here is the modern moviemaking model on how to save the movie industry.

(And you thought this was going to be your typical no-budget filmmaking article.)

To survive in this ever changing world of indie filmmaking, we have to change our strategy.

Instead of focusing on making that one big awesome indie, we now need to focus on building a genre specific movie library and spend all of our downtime building a ginormously targeted email list.

Step 1: Find your top-ten closest filmmaking collaborators. Form a company.

Step 2: Write a business plan, but instead of putting all of your focus on making one movie, concentrate on making 3-5 feature films.

Step 3: Make sure that you include a sales and marketing plan for each movie. To do this, take your proposed budget for all movies and work backwards. Start asking yourself, “How many units do we need to sell to recoup our investment?”

Step 4: In this model, instead of paying freelance day rates, you’ll have to hire long term employees and provide each with a salary and back end points (sort of like stock options) on each title.

Step 5: When the title wins, you all win. Over the years, your titles will add up. And the real compensation will come back in the form of residual movie income.

While this is not a fully refined model, it’s a start.

In my opinion, creating a sustainable business model is better than ignoring no-budget filmmaking and pretending backyard indies are not real movies.

We are experiencing a time of change.

This is the indie movie distribution equivalent of the automobile replacing the horse drawn wagon.

You can choose to ignore this movement, and you can probably succeed for a few more years. But there will come a day when all entertainment will be on-demand and cheap to produce and cheap to consume.

The question is, will you ignore the no-budget filmmaking movement and continue to play your distribution lottery ticket in hopes of winning the dream deal, or will you  join the movement and help us filmmakers figure out a way to make indie movies profitable?

If you liked this article, you’d probably benefit from these professional filmmaking tools.