What Is Your Film’s Competition? Everything.

As a filmmaker, unless you’ve got a pocket full of superfluous cash and you’re setting out to make a one-off passion picture that never needs to earn its budget back, film is a business. And as is the case with all businesses, you need a plan that includes a thorough understanding of your market and your competition. You need to know how to engage your audience.

Anytime someone decides to become part of your audience and chooses to watch your film, they are simultaneously choosing to not do something else instead.

They’ve probably already set aside that block of time for entertainment, so that cuts down on the competition a little. But you’ve got to somehow persuade this person, a stranger, that there is no better use of the next few moments of their lives than to let you captivate them with a story for as long as you’ve asked for their attention.

The Movie Market Has Expanded

There was a time, not all that many years ago, when a motion picture’s competition consisted solely of the one or two other films that happened to be opening on the same weekend. Then came the multiplexes, and the choices increased to 7 or 8, then 15 or 20 options. That expanded this to a couple hundred VHS tapes, then DVD’s, then Blu-rays sitting on the shelf at the local Blockbuster.

Now with the advent of high-speed internet, on-demand cable options, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and numerous online platforms, a film is competing not just against its contemporaries, but against practically every other film that exists.

A viewer looking for entertainment can choose between a low-budget indie comedy and the entire body of work of Spielberg, Hitchcock, or Scorsese; not to mention some pretty incredible television; plus Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and video games. And that’s all without leaving the couch.

Any film that was released online in the last couple of weeks was directly competing against Netflix’ new original series House of Cards. Your non-actor Uncle who jumped in to play the surly mob boss was up against Kevin Freakin’ Spacey. Hardly fair, is it? But it’s where we are.

Why You Need To Make A Great Movie

A great movie is a great movie, but the seemingly infinite sea of choices available challenges and changes the conventional wisdom about film marketing strategy. We have to think long haul and we have to build relationships with our audiences.

Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves, and by letting your audience in on your own personal narrative, they get to join your club. That’s how you turn an emotion connection with you into an emotional connection with your content.

It’s not enough to make them want to see your movie. They have to NEED to see it. It’s a new Wild West out there, and only the most nimble and engaged production companies will survive.

While the major studios, with their lumbering infrastructures, seem to be quaking in fear at this shift toward the personal and intimate, it is an amazing time to be a small and efficient producer of content. The rules are being rewritten, and those who boldly but wisely set out, braving the marketplace while mitigating risk with a thorough development process and efficient production management, can change the landscape of entertainment.

Begin building your club now. Before you finish your screenplay, before you roll camera, and definitely before you put your movie out there and want people to watch it. Be visible, be real, and be available, and maybe you can get your sea of new friends to pick your flick over the 10,000 other choices at their fingertips.

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Stephen Boatright is an indie film producer. You can follow his production company, Lune Bateaux Pictures, on Facebook and on Twitter. And check out his short film, Emmeline Muffet Gives Up Her Tuffet, at www.lunebateaux.com/muffet. (We just released it a couple weeks ago, so we’re one of the ones I referred to as competing with Spacey.)

How Do I Sell My Movie On Amazon?

If you ever asked yourself: How do I sell my movie on Amazon, you are not alone.

One of our Filmmaking Stuff readers wrote in, asking some very good questions about how to find a VOD platform and how to choose a website domain. Here is the question:

I have had one frustrating year of trying to launch my film for sale onto the internet and I am really interested in what you have to offer. After listening to your audio downloads and having read your blog, I have many questions running through my head. How do I sell my movie on Amazon? Aren’t they a middleman? So how much of a fee do they charge? Also, my film is 700 MB big and will I be able to upload onto whatever you are offering? And I have not bought a domain name for the film yet. I am thinking of using GoDaddy.com. How many years should I subscribe for the domain?

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First of all, congratulations on finishing your film. This is a feat that very few filmmakers get to experience. And it is something that you should be proud of.

In response to your movie distribution questions, there are quite a few platforms that allow you to promote and sell your movie online. Since you mentioned Amazon, let’s start there.

If you live in the United States, it is fairly easy to get your movie seen and selling in the Amazon marketplace.

Before I go further – just know the companies I’m about to mention pay me to promote.

Sell Your Movie On Amazon

Sell Your Movie  On Amazon

Simply visit CreateSpace and send them a copy of your DVD.

In addition to Amazon, I recommend you research both iTunes and Hulu as two other options.

Hulu operates on a slightly different model than Amazon and iTunes. Unlike transactional video-on-demand platforms, Hulu operates in ways similar to traditional TV.

Their revenue is based on advertisements. After submitting your movie to Hulu, they will then pepper your movie with blocks of advertisements. Hulu then splits ad revenue with the filmmaker.

If you are based outside the United States, and you wish to enter the US Amazon marketplace,  you will have to go through a third party, US based aggregator. One such company is called Distribber.

Regarding your question related to website domains, GoDaddy.com is a pretty straightforward service.

sell your movieHowever,  if you are looking for a way to reserve both your domain and hosting, I also recommend researching bluehost.com – In full disclosure, while both of these companies are good, they do pay me to promote. So make sure you conduct your own due diligence.

In terms of length, I suggest that you reserve your website domain for at least two years, if not longer.

If you need additional help, check out the Indie Producers Guide on How To Sell Your Movie.

VOD Submission Prep

As a filmmaker, getting your movie into the various VOD marketplaces takes way longer than it should. The reason for this is simple. Every platform including iTunes, Amazon, NetFlix, Hulu and The Watchbox and Chill all want great content.

The delivery standards required by some of these platforms are so high, that if even one frame is messed up, your title will be rejected! This is why video aggregators work with amazing encoders. With a reputable encoding company, the encoders will do their best to fix any hiccups in your source. In some cases the encoders are successful. In many cases they are not.

In the event your title fails QC, your source (usually a portable hard drive) will be returned to the filmmaker in hopes of getting things fixed. This obviously delays the process significantly.

So my advice for VOD submission is this: Follow the specs provided by the aggregator. This will save you time and potentially money.  And if you are asked to deliver your title via Hard Drive, the one that most encoders endorse is the LaCie Rugged All-Terrain Hard Drive.

DVD Distribution Is Dead

Do you remember retail DVD distribution? Do you remember walking into a video store and renting a video?

Those days are gone. The demise of retail DVD distribution means that you can no longer depend on some video rental chain to buy 5,000 copies of your DVD. The advent of the internet and the rise of internet movie distribution means that your movie is no longer a physical product. It is data.

Yet despite these changes, filmmakers still talk about the difference between traditional movie distribution and self-distribution.

I have news for you. If you mention the words self-distribution around me, I will whip you with a wet noodle. (Actually, I won’t really do that. I just used “wet noodle” to get your attention.) But the reason I am adimant about removing “self-distribution” from our filmmaking vernacular is because there is no such thing as traditional internet distribution.

This is because internet movie distribution is too new to be traditional!

But most filmmakers don’t get it. Whenever I give talks about internet distribution for filmmakers, someone invariably shares a story about some traditional distributor turned VOD aggregator, promising to get their title into iTunes and Amazon and Hulu.

And I’m like: “So what? Any filmmaker can access those platforms. Why do you need a middle-man?”

Blank stares.

Aside from getting your movie is on iTunes, Hulu and Amazon –  unless your “traditional distributor” is conducting verifiable and measurable marketing, there is no additional value.

But before you run into the streets naked with excitement (or fear), keep this in mind. Just because you can access the popular movie marketplaces and fire the middle-man does not necessarily mean you are guaranteed success. Think about it – there is a reason the movie studios spend millions of dollars marketing studio produced features.

The problem is, most indie filmmakers do not have millions to spend on marketing. This changes the game.

Here are THREE essential filmmaking skills you need to master:

1. Become an Internet marketer: Or team up with someone who is. Why? Because there will come a time when there is no delineation between the Internet and your television. Or your mobile device. As a result of these changes, you will need to drive targeted Internet traffic to your desired point of sale and convert these visitors into customers.

2. Find Out How To Crowdfund: Running a successful crowdfunding campaign requires social networking, real-world networking and Internet marketing. Aside from raising money, your goal is to test all your movie concepts before you dive in both feet first. And if successful, your goal is to snowball your supporters into one giant mailing list so you can gain their support for your next projects.

3. Your Audience Is Your Business: Marketing nerds have a saying, “The money is in your list.” It is now no different to filmmakers. Your ongoing goal is to create work that encourages people to sign up for your mailing list and become a fan of you and your movies, for life. Then with each project, your ongoing goal is to continually grow your list.

For some filmmakers, mastering internet movie distribution is easier said than done. I get that.

If you are like most filmmakers, you have probably spent your whole filmmaking career imagining that your movie would get “discovered” and you would be propelled into instant fame and fortune. And while I would never discourage you from thinking BIG… It is equally important to have a pragmatic approach to your work, complete with manageable expectations.

But do me a favor – despite any emotion you have towards distribution, please stop using the words “self-distribution.” It makes you sound old. Instead, repeat this mantra: “If my filmmaking success is meant to be, it’s up to me.”

And if you like this stuff, you can always grab your copy of the indie producer’s guide to digital distribution.

Streaming Movies is OK If…

The other week I went on a minor rant about filmmakers hellbent on streaming movies from their movie website. And after some very thoughtful feedback, the truth is (as much as I hate admitting this) I realized I may have made an error.

In my article, I mentioned that most customers will feel more comfortable watching movies on established platforms, such as Hulu, iTunes, Amazon and NetFlix. At the same time, I totally discounted filmmakers presently testing ways to stream from their sites. And as any great marketer knows, ALL marketing decisions (assuming they make financial sense) have to be tested.

What works with one movie, may not work with every movie.

With that said, a lot of filmmakers (who do not have website traffic) are being fed the idea that “content enablers” will magically source an audience. They will not. So if your website does not have a lot of visitors, before you worry about where to stream your movie, I suggest you work on increasing your traffic as well as building your audience list. Then later, when you reach mass, you can focus on directing folks into your sales funnel.

The other tip is this: DO NOT stream a movie from your own hosting company server. That is silly. Let someone else handle the bandwidth and content delivery issues. Here are two resources for selling your movie (both of which are affiliates and pay me to promote – so research each before you make any purchase):

Distribber. They help you get your movie onto iTunes and other popular marketplaces.

Again – while both of these companies provide great services for filmmakers, it is important that you remember the major, key aspect of the brave new world of modern moviemaking – Regardless of platform – YOU are responsible for sourcing your own audience. Don’t forget that!

To help you out, I have created a step-by-step guide called the independent producer’s guide to digital distribution. If you need help driving targeted traffic to your website and selling your movie through VOD marketplaces, the guide offers some tips.