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!

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.

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?

Modern Filmmaking Business Plan

Figure1. Cognitive channel preferences of targ...

Image via Wikipedia

Most filmmaking business plans are stupid. Why? Because most filmmakers have no idea how to project a possible return on investment.

Don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault.

Until five years ago, distribution was discriminatory, abusive and monopolistic. As a result, the old business model for indie filmmaking relied heavily on some 3rd party, middle-man distribution strategy. “If we are really lucky we will get into Sundance and get rich.”

These days, relying on a 3rd party middleman to buy your movie is like waiting for the Tooth Fairy. It’s a nice thought, but it’s not solid business. Instead, I recommend you answer these questions before you go into any production:

  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?

After you answer these questions, then make sure you incorporate your marketing costs into your initial budget.

You might ask: “What if I just want to make movies and sell my movie?”
My response: “1995 called and they want their dumb distribution plan back.”

Like it or not, the world of filmmaking has changed.

If you hate asking permission to become successful in your own moviemaking business, then make sure you sign up for the filmmaking stuff newsletter.

Make Your Movie Now

Dominant learning style of target audience

Dominant learning style of target audience - Image via Wikipedia

As a filmmaker, I think the idea of producing your own work is good. I don’t really believe in asking anyone for permission to make my movies – including traditional industry executives or other producers.

I see this in Hollywood all the time. People have an idea for a movie, but instead of trying to create their own movie business, they spend days, weeks, months, and (sometimes) entire lifetimes hoping to find someone else to do the heavy lifting.

While this may seem like an easy route, it can be a very difficult path. Why? Because you are relying on other people to do the producing for you. And in my opinion that takes way too long!

Imagine you are someone who desires to open your own business. Would you do it yourself? Or would you rely on someone else to do it for you?

Example: “Hey. I got this great idea for a hardware store. If I tell you my idea and show you my business plan, will you open my hardware store for me?”

Do you understand what I mean? Trying to create a business like this would be crazy talk.

Of course if you want to open YOUR own business, YOU would open it.

So if you happen to be one of those filmmakers with tons of ideas, but no feature credits, I highly suggest you focus less on finding someone to do the heavy lifting and instead, focus on testing the market to gain a realistic approach to your projects.

To get started, ask these questions:

  1. What is my Hook?
  2. Who is my intended target audience?
  3. What is my budget?
  4. Are there enough people within my target audience to justify the budget?
  5. How do I intend to reach my target audience?
  6. How much will my sales and marketing cost?
  7. From this, what is my projected return on investment?

If you’re new to the modern moviemaking model, then you will either agree with me or you won’t. In the event you like what you’re reading, then you can become part of the modern moviemaking revolution by grabbing a copy of the official Filmmaking Stuff newsletter. To grab it, go here >>

Filmmaking For a Living

Hollywood Sign

Image via Wikipedia

As a filmmaker, you are expected to make a product (your movie). The money invested to create your product should be less than the eventual sales of your product. If you can not figure out how to achieve this goal, you do not have a business. You instead have an expensive hobby and probably a good demo reel.

There are a lot of filmmakers who attempt to raise money without first considering how their movie will recoup the initial investment. These filmmakers say things like “I have a vision” or “I’m going to make this for the love of filmmaking. Then I’ll get into festivals, get noticed and garner a great distribution deal!” And while it is true that passion, tenacity and blind optimism play an important role in getting your movie produced and seen and hopefully sold, this alone is not enough to drive the masses to your screenings.

This happens in Hollywood all the time. A filmmaker creates a typical business plan that focuses on film festivals as the most viable distribution strategy. And played out, the filmmaker gets the money, hires a crew, makes a movie and then enters the festivals. But months after wrap, well into the festival circuit, these filmmakers realize that the market has changed. The days of awesome DVD acquisitions deals and huge upfront advances are over. And when the last frame flickers off the silver screen, these filmmakers take their dashed-dreams back to their day job.

The veterans of the industry tell us that all this distribution deal disappointment is a result of improved technology. They optimistically tell us that our lost DVD revenues will be recouped by Video On Demand. Some refer to this as simply a market correction, implying that someday, somewhere, someone will figure out how to once again pay the big bucks for movies. But this is a pipe-dream.

Here is the flaw. Most filmmakers depend on DVD distribution for a return on investment. And with deteriorating DVD sales channels, filmmakers are currently left with iTunes, NetFlix and Amazon as the most prominent VOD sales options. My question is this. Who on earth is going to pay a major advance to get your movie into a marketplace that YOU can easily access without the middle man?

This approach to the marketplace changes everything. Your business is no longer dependent on production and capital gains. Nope. These days, the focus for the filmmaker lies in creating multiple streams of movie income over the long term. And if you want to make a living making movies, you need to realize that your libary and the subsequent auidence you source (over your career)  are your major assets. And as a result, your most important filmmaking focus (aside from doing good work) is to acquire and keep a customer.

Like it or lump it, filmmaking has become a small business. The same rules now apply.

– – –

Jason Brubaker is a Los Angles based independent filmmaker and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. If you are one of the many filmmakers seeking movie distribution, you might want to check out The Independent Producer’s Guide To Distribution.