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.

How To Finance Movies With VOD Sales Projections

Do you know the most popular question filmmakers ask me?

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with video on demand.

Ready. . .

Without too much variation, the most popular question is: “Can you provide some VOD sales projections?”

I understand the motive behind this question.

Believe me, I do.

You’re a filmmaker. You either made an awesome movie and you’re trying to use VOD sales projections to convince your partners that VOD is the way to go. Or you are in the process of making a movie and you need to convince your investors that VOD is awesome. In both scenarios, you’re trying to find proof that movies make money in VOD.

I get that. . . But. . .

Let’s make one thing clear. Asking for VOD sales projections is asking the wrong question!

If you dig around, examples of VOD Sales successes are out there. Check out what The Polish Brothers did. And if that’s not enough, Google the case study around Indie Game the movie.

But the truth is, one filmmaker’s past success does not guarantee that your movie will be successful.

Read that statement over and over again. And if you need a little more clarity, take a look at what the cat is saying here:

VOD Sales Projections

Realizing that VOD sales projections are BS is essential for your success. And I am going to explain how you can use your new found understanding for good, very soon…

But before I go there, let’s talk about why people invest in independent film.

Why Investors Invest In Indie Film

Independent movie investors invest because (aside from having an appetite for risk and an interest in the film business) most of these people want a return on their money. If you are doing things by the book, you probably created a marketing strategy as part of your business plan. This plan provides prospective investors an overview of how investment dollars will be budgeted, spent and hopefully recouped.

In the past, trying to convince investors movies were a good investment involved projecting returns based on speculative data. To guess how much money a movie may make, filmmakers would compare their project to other successful movies.

Creating indie movie comparables is complete BS.

The reason for this is simple.

Just because you make a low budget horror movie does not guarantee your movie will have the same success as Paranormal Activity.

In fact, Paranormal Activity is an outlier. It is not a fair comparison. And using breakout hits as examples, while ignoring the thousands of unsuccessful horror movies made each year, is short-sited at best and I dare say a little unethical.

VOD Sales Projections

Photo © drubig-photo / Dollar Photo Club

Video On Demand Sales Projections

Given the birth of VOD distribution, as a filmmaker you now have the ability to access and enter into a non-discriminatory marketplace as soon as your movie is ready. And because many of these marketplaces exist online, much of your sales will come from internet traffic.

This is actually awesome news.

It means that you can boost your sales by using a very common marketing concept called…

[Seriously… Are you ready? You are about to receive the secret sauce of modern, indie movie marketing.]

More important than VOD Sales Projections is:

Conversion Rates

What is a conversion rate?

Conversion Rate Defined, According to Wikipedia:

Your conversion rate is the proportion of visits to a website who take action to go beyond a casual content view or website visit, as a result of subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators.

Conversion_Rate

In other words, if you send one-hundred people to your movie website and two people buy your movie, your conversion rate is two percent. This is profound. This is life changing for indie filmmakers!

Question: Why should filmmakers be enthusiastic about the internet marketing, nerd concept of conversion rates?

Answer: If you know your conversion rates, you can model and potentially project more accurate movie sales projections from day one.

But before you start noodling around to find your conversion rates, it helps to answer the following questions:

Modern MovieMaking Model

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

While I won’t get into the actual mechanics of marketing and selling your movie here (My Action Guide How To Sell Your Movie provides you with an actual step-by-step plan for getting your movie seen and sold), I will simply note that a marketing plan must now be included with your business plan.

The Secret VOD Sales Projection Formula

When you create (or refine) your marketing plan, you must now include some marketing math.

Truth be told, math is a weak subject for me and I dare say, most of the filmmakers I know. But luckily there are many spreadsheet templates that allow you to test several conversion rate scenarios. You can use these scenarios as a guideline to ballpark the potential ROI for your movie.

Here is a basic website conversion rate calculator you can utilize: http://bit.ly/17TSCrt

Before you get overly excited (like I am) calculating your movie website conversion rate is only one metric to determine your movie’s potential for profitability. You still need to figure out how to price your movie. And at the same time, you will need to determine how much targeted internet traffic will cost you.

Generating Internet traffic is the result of executing four strategies. You can either get free traffic online, free traffic offline, paid traffic offline or paid traffic online.

For the sake of this example, I am going to incorporate pay per visit advertising. With pay per visit advertising, you simply pay for someone to visit your movie website.

One example of Pay Per Visit traffic is StumbleUpon. It’s a social bookmarking site that also allows you to pay for semi-targeted traffic. This works well if you have a movie with a dose of controversy and a strong hook.

And again, if you’d like more info on specific traffic generating strategies, check out my indie guide to distribution.

Ok. Here is our first example…

Let’s assume only 1% of the targeted folks who actually visit your website, buy. Then how many visits will you need to sell 100 units?

100 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000
THEN 10,000($.05) = $500 paid for targeted traffic.

So in other words, if you were lucky enough to get a 1% return, you just paid $500 dollars in pay per visit advertising to sell 100 units of your movie. But let’s go one step further. Let’s assume you’re like me – and you hate order fulfillment and shipping. So you decide to let a company like Amazon’s Create Space or iTunes (or some other popular marketplace) handle your order.

Video On Demand For Rent (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($3) = $300 – 50% paid to marketplace = $150
minus $500 paid for advertising = -$350 NEGATIVE

In this VOD rental scenario, the Pay Per Visit Ad numbers don’t work, unless you like losing money.

Video On Demand For Download (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($10) = $1000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $500
minus $500 paid for advertising = BREAK EVEN

In this VOD download to own scenario, the numbers work a little bit better. Assuming you’re lucky enough to get 1% of your money returned, at least the advertising pays for itself. But unless you can increase your conversion rates, pay per visit advertising is going to be very difficult method for returning money to your investors.

Physical DVD Sales
100 units ($20) = $2000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1000
minus $500 paid for advertising = $500 in profit.

Ah ha! If you’re fortunate enough to get 1% return on your pay per visit advertising, you can see how physical DVD’s (or units) sold at $20 dollars may offer a slight profit margin. In other words, in this scenario, for every $.50 cents you spend, you get $1 dollar back.

So let’s tackle the bigger problem. Let’s try to get a return on our 1Million dollar movie, selling physical DVD sales and using pay per visit advertising alone:

Movie Budget = 1 Million dollars
Physical DVD Sales using Pay Per Visit Advertising

$1,000,000 divided by $20 per unit = 50,000 Units

Since we will give 50% to the marketplace for all sales, we will need to project for double our budget.

100,000 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100,000 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100,000 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000,000 (Yes, TEN MILLION people.)
THEN 10,000,000($.05) = $500,000 paid for targeted traffic.

100,000 units ($20) = $2,000,000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1,000,000
minus $500,000 paid for advertising = $500,000 in profit.

So to break even, you would need to sell 100,000 units and make $2,000,000.

Some Sales Conclusions

Based on this scenario, as a filmmaker you will (obviously) need to expand your promotion beyond pay-per-visit advertising!

But importantly and most AWESOMELY, you can treat your movie business like any other small business. With VOD Sales projections, you can find the marketing formula that works for your movie and crunch your numbers until you find a scenario that brings you profits.

Create a plan that included your marketing costs in your budget.

While there are no guarantees in any business, having a plan for marketing, sales and distribution sure beats the old days when your only plan for ROI involved crossing your fingers in the hopes someone will offer you a profitable, traditional deal.

While these may not be the VOD Sales Projections you were looking for, hopefully you now realize the power of knowing your conversion rates.

Treating your movie business like any small business simply means you don’t have to ask permission. You can make your movie NOW! And your prospective investors might take notice…

Also, can you do me a favor? If you liked this filmmaking article, could you kindly retweet or share this article with your friends?

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.

Websites-for-filmmakers-made-easy-300x198

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.