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.


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.

Email Marketing For Movies (Why You Need To Start Now!)

Did you know that email marketing for movies is as important as making your movie?

Sounds weird right?

I mean, you’re a filmmaker. What does email marketing for movies have to do with your success?


In fact, I believe that email marketing for movies is essential.

And here’s one example why:

Picture This – You’re meeting a prospective investor for the first time.

You enter her gigantic office and you sit down. The assistant asks if you’d like anything to drink. You politely decline. (The truth is, you’re thirsty – But this is a big meeting and you don’t want to spill anything on your shirt.)

After a few minutes, your prospective investor walks into the room, sits down and you start talking. Everything is going well and the conversation organically flows into why you’re there. You’re there because you’re looking for investors. Specifically, you’d like her to fund your movie. And it goes something like this:

[Disclaimer: I am not a tax, legal or investment professional. So what I am about to share should be no way construed as any sort of advice. In fact, I am merely demonstrating via dialogue why I believe email marketing for movies is essential for filmmakers. Please speak with a qualified professional before taking any meetings with anybody anywhere in the universe.]


I’m going to make a movie right here in this town. And I am looking for prospective investors who would be interested in backing the project.

Prospective Investor
Sounds interesting. As you can probably imagine, I have meetings like this every week. Last week someone proposed I should invest in their purple-pine-cone business. They are already profitable. And they are offering me an amazing opportunity with very low risk. Why should I invest in your project?

We have this really great script. And we are going to make a movie. Take it to Sundance, sell the movie for maximum profit. And then we are going to use those profits to make more movies.

Prospective Investor
Get out of my office!


Prospective Investor
Because what you just presented is not a business. It is a gamble. You don’t know if you’ll get into Sundance. And you don’t know if someone will buy your movie. And even if you do, you have no idea how much they will pay.

But Paranormal Activity did awesome!

Prospective Investor
Get out!!! And only come back when you have a REAL business plan.


The world of independent filmmaking is changing.

The market is flooded with backyard indies. As a result, there is no longer a world where you get into Sundance and simply sell your movie to the highest bidder. And even if that world still existed, it was always a crappy bet for new filmmakers and inexperienced film investors.

Email Marketing For Movies

Email Marketing For Movies

As a result of these changes, filmmakers who want to make a living making independent movies need to start thinking about their target audience BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR MOVIE!

While I would never suggest that you completely forgo your artistic integrity, I would suggest you answer the following questions:

  1. Who is going to buy and watch your movie? (Hint, if you answer everybody, you answered nobody.)
  2. How will you reach your intended niche, target audience?
  3. How many VOD downloads will it take to recoup your initial investment?

Since those of you who make movies are mostly filmmakers, not marketers, it becomes increasingly challenging to market your movie and your work. But some aspects of marketing are easier than you think.

How to get started?

One easy thing you can do is set up your own email marketing system. Email marketing for movies works like this – The bigger your list of targeted subscribers, the more sales you can potentially make. And for an example of how this works, click here to grab your free filmmaker checklist.

Pretty cool right?

Did you see how that big box just jumped right at you?

If you signed up, you did so because the Filmmaker Checklist is more valuable than the time it takes to type your email address. (And I really did put a lot of work into making it valuable for you.) This is what marketers call an “ethical bribe,” “opt-in candy” or a “lead magnet.” And you need to create a lead magnet for your movie website visitors too.

Common lead magnet examples for movie website usually consist of: behind the scenes photos, movie song downloads or soundtrack, poster downloads, short video clips, or pretty much anything your audience would value…

There are two tools I utilize to create this and build my list. And both pay me to promote. (So do your own research.) One is called Aweber. And the other is called LeadPages.

Aweber manages my professional email correspondence and helps me avoid ending up in the Spam trap. And LeadPages links with Aweber and helps me come up with really awesome subscriber forms like the one you clicked above.

As a rule of thumb, never email blast from your own servers. Always use a 3rd party email marketing company that insists on something called a double opt-in. A double opt-in means that after people submit their name and email to your list, they will still need to check their email for a confirmation link.

Then in each subsequent blast, the email will always provide an easy way to unsubscribe.

For a recap, here are the three steps you take to get started with email marketing for your movie.

  1. Come up with a “lead magnet.”
  2. Get started with Aweber (they pay me.)
  3. Link Aweber to Leadpages (they also pay me.)

Collect Email From Your Movie Website

In the context of movie promotion, several other movies do this really well. Check out Food Matters, Camp Takota and Forks Over Knives. Each example is a highly successful movie. And one major reason for this success is, you guessed it:

Email marketing for movies!

As you can see, most of these movie websites are very streamlined, usually limited to trailer as well as an opt-in form. This is intentional. Above all else, building an email list is essential for the long term success of these movies, selling related merchandise and subsequent sequels.

Copy this strategy for your own movie website! Like these other filmmakers, start collecting names and email addresses of prospective audience members as soon as you can. Or to put it another way:

You are no longer in the movie business. You are now in the audience engagement business.

Through both online and offline marketing efforts, your objective is to grow community around your movie – which could spread positive word of mouth. This could eventually lead to direct video on demand sales! And the other benefit? If you start now, you could begin to grow a list. this can help you while you’re raising money.

Here’s that example again (with the added value of a robust email list.)


I’m going to make a movie right here in this town. And I am looking for prospective investors who would be interested in backing the project.

Prospective Investor
Sounds interesting. As you can probably imagine, I have meetings like this every week. Last week someone proposed I should invest in their purple-pine-cone business. They are already profitable. And they are offering me an amazing opportunity with very low risk. Why should I invest in your project?

We have this really great script, a robust email list of 15,000 raving fans! So far, the responses for this next movie seem favorable. So this at least gives us a direct market base to hedge our bets. Aside from selling the movie directly, many have expressed interest in additional merchandise, like t-shirts. So this offers us a great opportunity to create multiple retail, revenue opportunities.

Prospective Investor
Sounds like you’ve done your homework. Tell me more!


While this is a totally fictional example, I am hoping you see the power of email marketing for movies. Having a plan for email can accelerate the growth of your movie business. And we aren’t just talking your current movie, but all movies moving forward!

sell your movieSometime down the road, long after your movie has played the festivals and sold out on iTunes, you may find there is value in promoting other movies of a similar genre – or better yet, selling your next movie. This is when email marketing for movies really pays off. Remember, with email marketing for movies, the real money is in your list!

If you liked these marketing tips, you will love the sell your movie action pack.


Five Tips For Marketing Your Movie (Before You Make It)

If you’re like most filmmakers, you’re not thinking about marketing your movie.

This is probably because you don’t yet have a movie…

So why would you think about marketing your movie?

But that thinking is lazy and wrong.

You are creating a product. Your product is your movie. And unless you understand how you will reach your audience and sell your movie, you are in a sense basing your movie business on hope. And hope is NEVER a solid business strategy.

I should know. Every week I talk with dozens of filmmakers about their movie. And over and over I hear the same thing:

“My movie is done. Now I need to do some marketing.”

And here is the problem with that statement – If you wait until your movie is done to “do some marketing,” you’re way too late.  And I’m serious here. Since you’re not a movie studio, you don’t have a gazillion dollars to spend on a global advertising campaign.

The time to think about marketing your movie is now.

But before we get into the mechanics of HOW you’ll market your movie, it’s important that you understand a few things.

  1. Marketing is not magic.
  2. Marketing is not some sort of audience engagement lever that you pull.
  3. Marketing is a conversation, centered on a remarkable, emotional story.

You see, the only reason people BUY your movie is because the value of your offer far outweighs the gazillion other things your audience could do with their money and their time.

What does your audience find valuable? Entrainment? Escape? Information? Something artistic?

It could be one of those things or all of those things.

Marketing your movie begins with first figuring out what’s in it for your audience.  And this is where most filmmakers go wrong. Most filmmakers are simply in the “buy my movie” mentality.

The reason why people do not buy your movie is because you are either presenting an offer to the wrong audience, or your offer fails to present the enough amount of value.

Marketing Your Movie

Marketing your movie is a conversation!

The next time you go to a social gathering, pay special attention to the stories people share with you. Then after the party, write down the stuff you remember. Why do you remember it?

I bet it’s because the story was interesting and made you FEEL something. And FEELING is VALUE. People buy based on emotions. They want to FEEL like they are getting something that transforms their mood and mindset, if only for a little…

Pay special attention to why you remember certain people and stories. My guess is the storyteller presented his or her tale with such dramatic delivery that you were entertained.

And even if you forgot most details, I bet you’d still try to spread the story by sharing it with friends hours and days afterwards.

And if the story is really, really good, you’ll share the same story decades from now.

Five Tips Marketing Your Movie (VIDEO)

A good example of marketing is sharing an urban legend. These stories enter into our narrative, not because they are true – but because they are remarkable and fun to share.

In the following Film Courage video, I talk about the 5 Do’s and Don’ts For Marketing Your Movie.

Marketing your movie begins with a hook. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. What is your unique selling proposition?
  2. What makes your movie memorable?
  3. Why should we care?

Marketing is not about throwing advertisements on billboards or shouting at the masses through media.

Marketing your movie means finding ways to make your audience part of the narrative. It means finding ways to make sharing your message valuable and fun. If you’d like to find out more about how to market and sell your movie, go here.


Here Are 10 Ways NOT To Market Your Movie

If you are looking to market your movie,  you’re in luck. I am going to provide you with a list of 10 ways not to market your movie. And the reason for this is pretty simple. . .

Most filmmakers screw marketing up.

And you and I both know why.

Admit it!

You’d much rather focus your time on grabbing your next piece of camera gear than listen to me go on and on about why you need to define your hook,  find your target audience and actually get people to care about your movie.

Market Your Movie

I’ve been there.

Back when we made our first feature, nobody on my team cared about marketing. Except maybe me. And I was an anomaly.

Our marketing plan was to find a distributor, sell the movie for maximum profit and let the distribution company sort it out. Of course, what we found out is the same thing you’re about to discover.

Traditional distribution DOES NOT favor the filmmaker.

(At least, not without leverage.)

And with the DVD market on the demise, this is especially true.

Sure, one can argue that many of the deals were fair. Had we taken one, our movie would have ended up in the video stores and Germany. . . The Germans loved our movie.

But the thing is. We had something most filmmakers did not have. And it is the one thing that gave us absolute negotiating power with prospective distributors.

And when it comes time to market your movie, this one thing is the reason why we ultimately rejected EVERY crappy distribution offer.

Can you guess what I’m referring to?

. . . Targeted website traffic.

The one thing you need to market your movie (possibly more than anything else) is targeted website traffic. And this can only come from offering genuine value. . .

This comes as a result of providing content that your audience is seeking.

In short, if you can attract the targeted website traffic, you can convert some of this traffic into movie sales. I have outlined specifics on how to do this in the following articles:

But if you’re still planning on how to market your movie, avoid doing social media shout-outs.  At best, this sort of stuff is annoying. At worst, shoddy marketing is a surefire way to alienate yourself from your prospective audience.

In other words, yelling at people is not a good way to market your movie. . .

I want to help you avoid these things.

10 Ways Not To Market Your Movie

  1. Nobody cares about your movie unless they care about your movie.
  2. Stop sending long emails talking all about YOU. What’s in it for me?
  3. Really? You want to make another no-budget drama with no star talent?
  4. No. I don’t know if I should “LIKE” you. We never met.
  5. Stop exchanging postcards with other filmmakers at festivals. See #1
  6. Stop bragging. Stop shouting. I really don’t care. See #2
  7. What is your USP? Wait, you don’t know your USP?
  8. You just want to make a movie and have someone else sell it. Shut up.
  9. We just won best picture at [insert regional festival you never heard of]
  10. Our movie just got “picked up” for iTunes (for no money). But we are validated!

While figuring out how to market your movie is not exactly a science, there are several things you can do to sell your movie. The first thing you have to remember is that marketing is an art, with the potential for measurable results.

What is measurable? Your conversion rate. I wrote about conversion rates here.

The starting point for learning how to market your movie is to view it as a conversation. What is your movie about? What is your hook (you know, the thing that makes your movie unique?)

What segment of the global population would care about your movie? And why should they invest two hours of  their irreplaceable time to watch it?

Figure these things out and figuring out how to market your movie will be a little easier. And while you’re at it, you may as well grab a copy of my distribution action guide.

Sell Your Movie For Maximum Profit

If you’re already a seasoned feature filmmaker, take a moment and think back: Do you remember when the idea of making movies seemed like a far away dream?

Do you remember when you first got the idea for your movie? Do you remember Your first day of production? Do you remember your first screening and how well everyone loved your work?

That happened to me with my first feature. Like you, I thought our movie would get into Sundance, play well, build buzz and if we were really lucky, we had hoped the movie would garner us a 3 picture deal. But that didn’t happen.

Sure, we got some offers, but they were not “deals.” (A deal actually pays money!)

So instead of exchanging our movie for an empty promise, we decided to try selling our movie on the internet. Little did I know, this one decision has changed the course of my movie making life. That was five years ago…

And since that time, the internet as evolved. If you’re a filmmaker with a movie, you need to get it selling in all the popular internet marketplaces, including Amazon and iTunes.

You don’t need a middle-man to make this profitable. I am going to show you my internet marketing secrets…

You can check out my “How To Sell Your Movie” system by visiting the website here.