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!

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.

Three Tips On How To Target Your Target Audience

Having spent time at the major film festivals, I can tell you that having an audience (also known as a large email subscriber list) is currency. It gives you power. But before you get into the mechanics of growing your audience – You need to first figure out how to find your target audience.

In fact, you need to target your target audience even before you write your screenplay.

If thinking about your target audience is a new concept, you’re not alone. Most filmmakers fail to consider their target audience. Or worse, many filmmakers will tell you that everyone is their audience.

This means men, women, teens, tweens, children, puppies and space aliens could all benefit from your movie.

This is a mistake. It’s a left-over concept from the indie era of 1995. Back then, you only had one goal with your movie. Get into the festivals, fill up your screening and hope the some distributor shows up and writes a check.

Many filmmakers still believe this. But these filmmakers are wrong.

Think about it.

Think about the last time you went to a film festival. What did you see? Was it a bunch of acquisitions professionals handing out business cards like candy? Or did you happen to see other filmmakers handing you postcards, asking:

“Will you come to my screening?”

If you want to figure out how to find your target audience, here’s a solid piece of advice:

Other filmmakers are not your target audience!

But don’t worry. Because I’ve worked on the inside of film distribution for several years, I am going to help you avoid the mistakes 99% of other filmmakers make. I am going to provide you with three simple steps on how to find your target audience.

And these simple steps will put you years ahead of other filmmakers who are living off the hope and pray film distribution strategy of the bygone era. Are you ready to rock?

Find Your Target Audience

Find Your Target Audience

Here is the thing. There are ton of filmmakers that consistently muck up their film release strategy. As I mentioned earlier, the reason most films fail is because the filmmaker never took time to really write out a release plan.

The process of finding your audience starts with refining your movie concept.

Step 1: Refine Your Movie Concept: For this example, let’s pretend your lead character is a boxer living in an improvised community. And then let’s pretend that your boxer ends up with ONE big opportunity to take a shot.

A. From this, we know your movie is geared towards: Boxing.

B. We can also think about related interests: weightlifting, fitness gear, diary supplements, et al.

Step 2 – Conduct a Google Search: Your next step is to locate blogs, websites and publications already targeting people who may be interested in your subject matter. In this example, you can quickly Google “boxing.”

When you do this, “boxing” will get over forty-nine million results. This is not surprising. Interests such as boxing, horror movies, martial arts and race car driving have prominence in our culture.

Step 3 – Build a List: Add the top 50 targeted publications (both online and offline) to a spreadsheet. Then reach out to each publication and request their demographic statistics. These stats will tell you how many people subscribe to the publication and will often provide details on age and gender. (You will use this info later, when you go to sell your movie.)

You can apply these three steps whenever you want to find your target audience. And once you have a good understanding of your target audience, all future advertising, marketing language and your trailer should be created with your target audience in mind.

Then later, when your movie enters the marketplace, this research will provide you a contact list full of organizations that may help you promote your movie. And if you would like more information on how to market and sell your movie, come to my next webinar: www.filmmakingstuff.com/sell-your-movie-webinar

Sell A Movie To Netflix

The world of indie filmmaking is abuzz with folks wanting to sell a movie to Netflix. And this is for good reason. With over 30 million subscribers, getting your movie into the platform would represent exposure. As a result, many filmmakers have been leaving messages at my office like this:

I want to sell a movie to Netflix! I just want you to know that I don’t care about money. In fact, if I can’t sell a movie to Netflix, I’d be happy to put my movie on Netflix for free.

If you’re having similar thoughts, you may want to rethink a few things. While the opportunity for exposure feels enticing, accepting a silly deal doesn’t pay the bills or pay back your investors.

Sell a Movie to Netflix

Unlike many VOD platforms, the majority of Netflix deals still happen the traditional way. A filmmaker finds a distributor. The distributor negotiates a deal with Netflix. And then the filmmaker gets paid a licensing fee upfront.

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

Sell a Movie To NetFlix

How do you get into the Netflix database?

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

What does Netflix pay for film acquisitions?

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

Should You Try To Sell A Movie To Netflix?

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

Next Steps For Netflix Distribution

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

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

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

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

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

What Filmmakers Need To Know About VOD

As filmmakers, we are in the midst of a major movie distribution paradigm shift. Traditional theatrical release models as well as DVD sales channels are being replaced by video on demand platforms.

These changes have forever altered the ways in which movies are seen and sold.

As a consequence, getting into Sundance and selling your movie for instant fame, fortune and a three picture is probably not a realistic business plan. While it is possible that your movie will be a break out hit, it is more likely that your movie will end up as one of the many titles in Amazon, iTunes, Hulu and NetFlix.

As a result, what filmmakers need to know about Video On Demand is pretty simple. Your movie will not succeed without an audience. And you will not source an audience without including a solid sales and marketing strategy in your business plan.

Previously, I served as the Director of Operations at a VOD aggregator called Distribber. This experience allowed me to gain insights on emerging trends in video on demand distribution and also see first hand how filmmakers embrace this new movie business.

As your business shifts from filmmaker to film distributor, it is important to know that your video on demand distribution strategy will usually be comprised of three models, including Transactional VOD, Subscription VOD, Ad Supported VOD. The following provides basic overview what filmmakers need to know about VOD:

Transactional Video On Demand

With Transactional VOD people can only watch your movie after they make a payment. Some of the platforms such as Amazon and iTunes have made transactions easy. They keep customer credit card information on file, which means prospective viewers are only one or two clicks away from watching your movie.

Two of the most popular and transactional platforms for filmmakers are Amazon and iTunes.

Amazon: How to Get Your Film Into Amazon Instant Video

Getting your titles into Amazon is a relatively straightforward process. To get started, sign up for a free account at CreateSpace and submit the necessary details about your title. You will need to upload artwork and then submit a DVD of your movie. Once complete, you title will be made available in the Amazon marketplace.

If you are outside the United States and would like to access Amazon, you will need to go through a US based aggregator. Distribber offers this service to non US filmmakers.

iTunes: How to Distribute You Movie on iTunes

Getting your title into iTunes is a bit tricky. You will need to go through an aggregator, like Distribber. Just anticipate some delays in getting during the quality control process. Because iTunes has some of the highest standards for encoding, many titles will not be accepted to iTunes on first pass. And if the encoding house cannot fix the issue, you will have to fix your source and resubmit.

Subscription Video On Demand

Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) is a convenient model that allows subscribers to sign up for a service, pay a monthly fee and in exchange, have access to unlimited programs. This model is great for consumers because, well, they can watch anything.

As a filmmaker getting your title onto a subscription based platform could be a great play for getting your title discovered. As a possible downside, unless you strike an awesome licensing deal you may be a little disheartened if your title gets a gazillion views and you have not seen a dime.

Netflix: How to Distribute You Movie on Netflix

Netflix will not make an offer for your movie unless you are already in their database. Netflix only includes the titles in their database that they already scouted. Even if you are in the database, the challenge is getting the “queue demand” up on the title so their algorithm determines if it makes sense to acquire your movie.

You best bet for Netflix (assuming you are in their database) is working with an aggregator with a track record for negotiating great deals with them.

Advertisement Supported Video On Demand

Many platforms make money by placing targeted advertising in front of the viewer. This type of model can be win-win, as many ad supported platforms provide the filmmaker with a portion of the ad revenue. The viewer gets to watch your movie without making a transaction.

Hulu: How to Distribute Your Movie on Hulu

In the United States, Hulu has gained popularity as a great way to watch popular television shows and movies on demand. Unlike transactional platforms, Hulu makes their money by peppering content with advertisements. And assuming they acquire your title, Hulu will pay you a portion of the advertising revenue.

Getting your title in Hulu once again requires working with an aggregator who can make a pitch to Hulu on your behalf. Like any platform, Hulu is looking for great content. While trends change monthly, if you have a documentary or a niche specific title, Hulu may be worth exploring. Based on this criteria, our movie Toxic Soup was accepted on the Hulu platform.

Embeddable Player for Filmmakers

While best practices emphasize the importance of getting your movies seen in selling in the popular video on demand marketplaces, there are many filmmakers who have strong audience engagement and heavy, targeted internet traffic. As a result, it makes a lot of sense for these filmmakers to sell directly to their audiences.

Distrify: How to Distribute Your Movie on Distrify

Distrify provides filmmakers with an easy way to upload movies and embed the player on their sites. This player also has a strong social media component and promotes word of mouth advertising and social sharing. Additionally, Distrify gives you the tools to sell DVDs and merchandise with no upfront costs.

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While there are no guarantees in business, utilizing these movie distribution tools may dramatically increase the odds of getting your movie seen and selling. And if you need a little extra help on the marketing side, make sure you check out www.HowToSellYourMovie.com