Download This Sell Your Movie Checklist

Film distribution is changing fast. What worked in the old days, doesn’t work anymore. And if you’re looking for information on how to sell your movie, you’ve come to the right place!

Since you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you are one of two types of filmmakers. Either you made a movie or you are working towards your next movie. In both instances, learning about film distribution – specifically coming up with a strategy to get your movie seen and selling is essential.

I don’t need to tell you that making a feature film is a feat that many find impossible.

In order to make a feature film, you have to put together a cast and crew, refine your script, find some funding and in the process, you have to figure out how to ignore all “advice” that your friends and family share with you… About how it can’t be done.

But behind all the excitement, you and I both know there is one nagging question on your mind. And it is the same question asked by every independent feature filmmaker.

Sell Your Movie

Photo © Nebojsa Bobic / Dollar Photo Club

You’re wondering: “How am I going to sell my movie!”

That is a good question. And if you’re crossing your fingers to hopefully sell your movie for a huge paycheck and a three-picture Hollywood deal, what I’m about to share with you may be a bit different than what you’re hoping for. Ready?

While there are a lot of distributors out there who would like to tell you otherwise, most films DO NOT make money in a traditional distribution deal! (I’m serious here.)

Getting your movie seen and selling is really up to YOU!

Whenever I say something like this in my talks, invariably someone shouts across the room:

“Making a movie is hard enough. How do you expect me to become my own distributor?”

This is a fair question. And after making a movie, then doing the festivals and not receiving a deal, you can get pretty tired. I totally understand that. This is why a lot of filmmakers give up on their movies or take a crappy deal. But I want to help you avoid this.

>>Give me the “Sell Your Movie” checklist!<<

How To Sell Your Movie

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of crappy movies getting made each year. Thanks to technology, any person with a thousand dollars can grab an HD camera and create a backyard indie. And while this does not guarantee quality, it does create a market flooded with cheaply produced movies.

Add the fact that DVD is almost dead, and your odds of finding a traditional distribution deal (that actually pays you good money) are dramatically decreased. For most filmmakers, this revelation comes as a shock.

Where is my million dollar check?

Look. I can’t promise your movie will make money. Some movies make a lot of money. Some movies make about zero dollars. But I can tell you advances in VOD distribution and internet marketing offers hope. . .

There is hope if YOU are willing to DO the work.

Most filmmakers are NOT willing to do the work. In fact, most filmmakers would rather give up on their movie. . . Hopefully we’re not talking about you. You owe it to yourself and your investors to explore all options and come up with a solid marketing and distribution plan.

If you want to sell your movie, you need to create a distribution strategy that YOU control. This is a new way to think. In the old days, the mere mention of self-distribution was a crazy notion.

DIY? Isn’t Do It Yourself for losers?

That is how I used to view the world. If it wasn’t for the internet, I would probably have a whole different perspective on how to sell your movie. I’d probably tell you to take ANY distribution deal. But times have changed. Like you, our first feature was met with empty distribution promises and crappy deals.

So by necessity, we started to sell our title on Amazon as both a physical DVD and a video on demand download. At first, none of the producers liked that idea. I mean, even if a traditional deal sucks, at least there is still validation of seeing your title on the shelves at the local video store.

But then we made our first sale. . . We thought it was an anomaly. How could we possibly make money with our movie? We had no movie stars. We had no formal, traditional distribution deal. (We had offers, but nothing that actually paid money.)

Adding to this, most people on earth had never heard of our movie (including you.) But then we made another sale. . . And then a third. . . And then a dozen. . .

That was back in 2006. Since that time, our first feature has sold in ways we never imagined. And while the money we made on the movie wasn’t enough to pay for early retirement, I can’t complain.

The truth is, we were onto something before most other filmmakers. And this experience forever changed the way I view movie distribution. Prior to making my first feature, my “sell your movie” strategy always revolved around one BIG payday.

But I am now of the opinion that making money as an indie filmmaker is more about making a bunch of small movies and getting each one to pay you a little each month. These days filmmakers need to create good work, find their target audience and focus on sell movies consistently over time.

For many filmmakers, this sort of sell your movie talk might seem crazy. Think about it. In years past, filmmakers only self distributed their movies when they had to. It wasn’t a choice! But these days, taking time to learn how to sell your movie makes sense. And that’s why I put together this checklist.

These days you can choose to sell your movie, because nine times out of ten, making your title available on Amazon and iTunes and other popular VOD marketplaces can potentially pay more than a traditional deal.

Remember, a deal that pays zero is not a deal.

(Of course I’m expressing my opinion.)

The sell your movie checklist should be considered a good start.

Can I ask you a favor?

If you like this checklist, can you kindly tell your filmmaking friends to check it out? Moving forward, let’s set some expectations. The purpose of this guide is for you to grab at least one useful film distribution or movie marketing tip. If you do this, then we can both be happy.

That’s it. Easy, right? As always, if you have questions about anything in this guide, please feel free to contact me. I love it when I find out how these tips have helped you get closer to your filmmaking goals! Like I said, if you take time to study this guide, you might get a tactic to help you sell your movie.

>>Give me the “Sell Your Movie” checklist!<<

I hope you enjoy this brief guide to getting your movie seen and selling. And if you really like this information on how to sell your movie, please share it with every filmmaker you know. They will thank you for it!

What is Your Filmmaking Niche?

In movie marketing, there is this phrase I really like: “Marketing to everybody is marketing to nobody and niches will make you riches.” And while not every movie is guaranteed success, it is much easier to find your audience when you choose a filmmaking niche.

What is a filmmaking niche? It’s making a movie for a small slice of a larger audience. For example, let’s say you were making a horror movie. Horror is a very broad genre. But a subset of the horror genre is zombie movies. So in this example, making a zombie movie for a zombie loving audience would be your filmmaking niche.

So this is where you start. Will you make a horror movie, romantic comedy, action movie or a girl with a horse movie? (By the way, a girl with a horse movie really does well internationally.)

filmmaking niche

Photo © auremar / Dollar Photo Club

What is Your Filmmaking Niche?

Knowing your filmmaking niche is important because in order to make non-discriminatory distribution channels, such as iTunes and Amazon profitable – It is required that YOU market your movie on the internet. This means that you must work on sourcing your target audience and then drive those folks to your point of sale.

Having spent the last few years working in distribution, I can tell you that most filmmakers screw this up. They make a movie for everybody. And it is frankly too expensive to market to everybody! So before you even think about making your movie, answer these filmmaking questions:

  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?

Since both iTunes and Amazon are internet, transactional marketplaces, it makes sense that most of your sales will come via the internet. And as a result, you must create a web presence that speaks to your audience. In other words, you need to make sure the right people know your movie exists.

Who are the right people? People who love your type of movie.

Your Movie Website

When it comes to designing a movie website, most filmmakers never think about their filmmaking niche. They know they need a website for their movies. The problem is, most filmmakers put way too much crap on their site. And none of it speaks to their audience.

Goals

It’s essential to have goals for your movie website. When people come to your website, what action do you want your visitors to take? Do you want them to Tweet about the site? Join you on Facebook? Get into your audience list? Or buy your movie?

Distractions

Once you know your website goals, you need to determine if your website architecture and design is inline with your goals. To do this, install Google Analytics and monitor your traffic. If you find people are getting lost in a bunch of silly pages, remove those pages. Keep what matters.

– – –

If you like these tips, you’ll love the Independent Producer’s Guide To Digitial 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.

How To Make Money With Video On Demand

The world of film distribution is changing fast.

As filmmakers, we can no longer depend on the old DVD retail distribution model to get our movies seen and sold. The good news is, internet based distribution platforms like iTunes, Amazon and Hulu are accessible.

But just because you can get your movie into the marketplace does not necessarily mean your movie will make a profit. In this filmmaking article, we answer our readers question – Is it possible to make money through video on demand distribution?

Dear Jason,

I’m an entrepreneur and I’ve been researching about indie films production. But as all my businesses are – digital/online projects, I became really interested in digital distribution. I am considering the prospect of producing a few films with indie filmmakers.

BUT as an investor, the current problem is many filmmakers talk about online distribution and how great it might be, but no one actually shows some real results. For example: “We invested $50K into that movie, and six months later made $250K in profit.” And as I’m practical, I cannot trust anyone who just says it is possible to make money but doesn’t show any proof that they were able to do it by them self. 

Can filmmakers make money with video on demand?

- A Skeptical  Film Investor

Make Money With Video On Demand

How To Make Money With Video On Demand

Dear Skeptical Film Investor,

I am going to tell you what all those other filmmaking gurus are too scared to share. And that is: Most movies DO NOT make money. I am serious. After years of hard work, most movies play in a few film festivals (that you never heard of) and then die in quiet obscurity.

But it is important to know that this filmmaking failure has nothing to do with video on demand platforms.

Having an accessible marketplace is actually an improvement over the old days when indie filmmakers depended on the whims of predatory distributors. Back then, most filmmakers would give away their movies for no money, in exchange for the mere validation of seeing their DVD on the shelf in a local video store.

But even with accessible platforms, most filmmakers still fail financially because they never take the time to plan a feasible marketing strategy. Think about it.

If you were creating any other business, wouldn’t you take the time to study your target market? Wouldn’t you figure out if people were actually interested in your type of product? Wouldn’t you also budget for your sales, marketing, and advertising and establish your breakeven point?

Yet whenever we talk about filmmaking, we just pretend that the end platform is the engine behind sales and Return On Investment. This is a flawed assumption.

In my indie distribution guide, I emphasize this: If churning a profit was easy, movie studios would not spend millions of dollars on advertising. They would simply create a movie, put it in iTunes and wait for their return. Like the studios, as a modern moviemaker, YOU are responsible for researching your target audience.

YOU are responsible for determining your budget and how many units you need to sell to get a return.

And YOU are responsible for making sure that the money you spend on advertising comes back as profit.

While there are no guarantees in any industry, most filmmakers fail to take time to plan. Most ignore all of these metrics. And as a result, many of filmmakers are destined for failure from the outset.

I am sure this is not the silver bullet you were looking for. But I would be doing the filmmaking community a disservice if I pretended that access to popular VOD platforms is all you need for success.

Filmmakers need to understand marketing and they need a plan. And as a prospective movie investor, you can never forget that you are simply creating and selling a product. General business principals still apply. For more information on how to market and sell your movie, visit www.HowToSellYourMovie.com

How To Sell Your Movie On iTunes (In Three Steps!)

If you are wondering how to sell your movie on iTunes, there have never been a better time. Gone are the days when you need to ask for permission to access iTunes. If you’re ready to sell your movie on iTunes, I have detailed three steps below. Ready to get started?

itunes

How To Sell Your Movie On iTunes (In Three Steps!)

Step 1 – Watch Out For These Distributor Shenanigans

If you’ve spent time in the festival circuit, invariably some acquisitions executive has approached you offering to “pick up” your feature. If this is your first feature, congratulations. You just heard the exact same pitch 99% of every filmmaker (with a solid movie) hears.

Why is this happening? I mean, why are more filmmakers getting offers?

Simple. Video on demand is not a physical product. Nobody has to invest money for manufacturing, shipping or physical inventory. As a result, video on demand represents almost no inherent risk for a distributor or an aggregator. (There are encoding and closed caption fees, which I’ll discuss later. But most times these are simply passed to the filmmaker too.)

Also, I want to make it very clear. There are some especially good distributors out there – But odds are good they are focused on grabbing star driven, studio content. So that means you’re going to spend a lot of time chatting with mid-level distributors who promise  you “special placement” on iTunes.


[More from How To Sell Your Movie]

The problem is, there is no guarantee that any aggregator can get you special placement on iTunes. It’s a limited web page. And most BIG titles take up all the space. So my suggestion is this. Evaluate every offer. But look for the similar pitch. I guarantee you’ll hear the words “special placement” over and over…

Step 2 – Prep Your Movie For iTunes

If you decide to sell your movie on iTunes without the assistance of a traditional aggregator, you will still need to utilize the services of an iTunes approved aggregator (or a sub aggregagor who works with an iTunes approved aggregator) and an iTunes approved encoding house. There is simply no way around this. iTunes will not do business with individual filmmakers.

But just because you are forced to utilize a middle-man does not mean you need to sign over a percentage of your movie. A few years ago I worked as the director of operations for Distribber and I loved it. (Note: Distribber pays me to promote, so I’m biased. But if you follow the links on this page, you’ll also get a discount on the service.)

Distribber serves a distribution consulting company. They hold your hand through the process of getting your movie from your hard drive into iTunes. And thankfully so. Here are the current iTunes deliverables (as referenced by the Distribber website.)

For a High Definition iTunes Delivery:

  • Closed Captions
  • File: Pro Res 422 HQ
  • 1920 × 1080
  • Native Frame Rate
  • Film: 23.98
  • Video:29.97i
  • Audio: Must have 8 channels of audio, or if not shot with 5.1 then you may submit in Stereo:
  • 5.1 – L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs / PCM Little Endian / Each audio channel needs to be its own track Ch. 7 stereo left, Ch. 8 stereo right / PCM Little Endian / Each audio channel needs to be its own track

Distribber operates on an upfront payment model. They either get your movie onto iTunes or they refund your money minus a servicing charge. You can find out more about the Distribber service here.

Step 3 – Promote Your Movie (Build a List)

Getting your movie on iTunes does not guarantee sales. And unless you take time to plan out a marketing and distribution strategy that makes sense for your movie, your odds of a marketing miracle happening are diminished. So the first step of marketing your movie involves defining your hook.

After that, do a Google search for blogs and websites that cater to your target audience. From there, your next step is reach out to 50 blogs and websites that cater to your target audience. Make an introduction. See if the website editors would be interested in reviewing your movie.

sell your movieNext Steps

The bottom line is, you shouldn’t wait for some sort of middle-man sales agent to give you permission to sell your movie on iTunes.  If you’d like more detailed info on how to market and sell your movie, check out my resource at How To Sell Your Movie.