Just a few short years ago, film distribution was controlled by a bunch of companies that safeguarded access the marketplace. As an independent filmmaker, if you were lucky enough to garner a distribution deal, odds were good the deal was crappy.
As a first time feature filmmaker, this was my experience. And after receiving countless phone calls from would-be distributors full of empty promises, I started to dislike the predatory nature of traditional film distribution. But what could you do?
Back then, the only alternative to this old film distribution model was self-distribution. And if you remember, the term itself was synonymous with loser. I mean, if you couldn’t land a REAL distribution deal, then you weren’t a real filmmaker.
For this reason alone, many filmmakers signed away their rights for the mere validation of seeing their movie in the video stores. And every few months these same filmmakers would receive financial statements in the mail. The statement would show movie revenue minus marketing expenses. And the bottom line? Zero monies paid to the filmmaker. This indie film distribution paradigm was accepted as a rite of passage.
At least my movie got on a shelf in the video store…
Thankfully, times have changed. As a result of internet distribution (and the inevitable demise of DVD retail distribution) you can now reach a global marketplace!
The Rise of Video On Demand Distribution
When we released our first feature on Amazon and started making sales, it was hard to believe we could do so without a traditional film distribution deal. At first we did not understand the power of modern self-distribution. But then our phone started ringing.
As it turned out, a few of the distributors who previously rejected us started calling with better offers. It was at this point, I realized the paradigm was shifting in favor of the filmmaker. Indie filmmakers now had direct access to the marketplace. And that changed everything for me.
Since then, developments in inexpensive production technology coupled with access to the marketplace means that you can now make, market and sell your movie without asking permission. But the problem is, you are not the only filmmaker that knows this. Each year thousands of movies enter the market, making it increasingly challenging to get your movie seen.
New Rules For Film Distribution
A few weeks back Karen Worden and David Branin stopped by to talk about modern film distribution. In the following Film Courage video, I explain what filmmakers need to know about distribution:
To recap the video, distribution has become a commodity. You now have the ability to release your movie globally without signing away your rights to an unscrupulous distributor. And even though many distributors would like to pretend otherwise, with a little ingenuity and a strong marketing plan, you can create and control your own independent movie business.
New rules for film distribution:
- My audience is my business.
- Without an audience I have no business.
- I am responsible for sourcing my own audience.
Ok. Let’s be honest… Sourcing your own audience and executing your own marketing, sales and distribution plan is far less sexy than making a movie or filling your closet with filmmaking equipment. Gear is tangible. It’s something you can show your nerdy filmmaker friends. But having gear is useless if you don’t use it.
Most filmmakers spend at least two years or longer working to get a movie made. But very few filmmakers focus on what to do once the movie is in the can. Making movies is pointless if you don’t create a plan for reaching your audience.
Whenever I give talks, I always ask the audience, what is your plan for marketing and distribution? This is followed by: Confused looks. Silence. Someone mutters: “I’ll get into Sundance and sell it.”
This is fair. Why wouldn’t you dream BIG? Every filmmaker wants recognition – even if you refuse to admit it. But with over 5,000 backyard indies being made each year, I have to ask you a tough question:
Why Should Someone Watch Your Movie?
Most people decide which movies to watch based on recommendations from trusted friends. Movie studios spend millions to spark word of mouth. But for some reason, most indie filmmakers pretend marketing is not applicable to us. I mean, we know that marketing is important. But between procuring an awesome script, raising money and actually making the movie, we often cross our fingers and hope for a miracle.
The problem is, marketing miracles rarely happen. Aside from your mom and kid-sister, nobody knows about your movie. And while I am sure you went to many film festivals and traded post cards with other filmmakers (who in return, provided you their post cards), you probably quickly realized two facts: Film festivals are full of filmmakers. And other filmmakers are not your target audience.
The people who make up your movie’s target audience are trying to manage a busy life. These people have kids, jobs, worries, sleepless nights, gym memberships and car payments… So when they sit down to watch a movie, time is limited. And the question you have to answer is why. Why should someone take time from their hectic schedule to watch YOUR movie?
How do you promote word of mouth without shouting at your audience?
Film Distribution Tip Sheet
When planning your movie, it’s good to also figure out how you’re actually going to market and distribute your title. For this, I have created a brief Film Distribution Tip Sheet. Download it and print it out. You can download your free Film Distribution Tip Sheet HERE.
The tip sheet contains questions you need to answer when planning your movie. And if you cannot answer the Film Distribution questions, you need to evaluate your movie – are you making a movie “for the love?” Or do you hope to create a movie with some potential for profitability?
And if you would like more information on how to actually sell your movie, I encourage you to visit: www.HowToSellYourMovie.com