The Indie Filmmakers Guide to Amazon Film Distribution

Amazon film distribution offers one of easiest methods for indie filmmakers to get their films into thousands of households throughout the world. And unlike most motion picture marketplaces, Amazon Video Direct works directly with filmmakers. This means you DO NOT need to deal with sales agents, distributors or aggregators to get your work into the marketplace.

While this is exciting, before you “go live,” you will need to first evaluate your goals. What are your financial goals for your film? How many units will you need to sell to hit your goals. And is this number achievable in Amazon alone, or will you need to add more platforms and more territories?

amazon film distribution

Amazon Film Distribution

To asses the viability of your distribution plan, I suggest you break out a calculator and work backwards. For the following exercise, let’s assume goal is to make $100,000 in revenue. For ease of math, we are going to focus on sales (and not rentals) for your film.

Here’s what the numbers look like:

  • $100,000 is the revenue goal for this example
  • $10 TVOD listing price (this is for purchases)
  • $5 Amazon fee (Amazon retains 50% of transaction)

In this example you will need to sell 20,000 units at $10 a pop if you want to hit $100,000. Your number will be higher or lower depending on your goals. And while this may seem daunting, taking the time to complete this exercise forces you to think through your overarching release strategy. In some instances your number so high, that releasing on Amazon TVOD alone will not suffice.

Film Release Windows

To further increase revenue, most film distributors follow a standard windowing strategy that includes TVOD, SVOD, and AVOD. Amazon recognizes this. So in addition to the TVOD option, Amazon makes it easy to get your film into the SVOD window via Amazon Prime. This is a great opportunity because anyone with a Prime account can potentially find your film. This can increase the exposure and engagement around your film.

Update: Unfortunately Amazon no longer allows individual filmmakers to distribute their own films via Amazon’s SVOD service. To access Amazon’s SVOD service, you will need to work with a distributor or Amazon approved aggregator.

Access Amazon VOD

To get started, you’ll visit Amazon Video Direct. Just know that Amazon film distribution requires that you meet professional video standards in your delivery. So aside from having a nearly flawless video file, you will need to supply pristine artwork and closed captions. Because of these standards, many filmmakers hit snags during the delivery process.

If you don’t consider yourself a tech nerd, you can always work with an Amazon approved aggregator. Most likely the aggregator will require a ProRes 422 HQ. From there, your files, artwork and trailer is ingested, encoded, QC’ed and delivered to Amazon. Amazon will then check the submission and queue your film for the street date. (And yes, many aggregators can also manage the creation of closed captions.)

Promote Your Film On Amazon

When it comes to Amazon film distribution, you MUST promote your film. One tactic (that nobody does) is to ask cast and crew to telephone friends and family and let them know about the film. Assuming everybody has roughly 70 contacts on their phone, a few calls can get hundreds of people searching for your film. The goal is to get enough engagement (sales, reviews and shares) from friends and family so your film gets ranked in Amazon’s referral algorithm. Getting included in referrals can help expand your footprint and promote discovery well beyond your immediate network.

In addition to telephoning friends, I also recommend you refine your film website to promote sales. One way to do this involves creating a home page that lists: Your film’s title, a tagline, some quotes, the trailer and a big BUY NOW button. That button can then be linked to your film page on Amazon. And if you need extra help understanding how to sell your film, check out Tom Malloy’s training on film distribution.

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ARTICLE BY Jason Brubaker

If you'd like more tactics like the article you just read, make sure to grab a copy of the filmmaker checklist. You'll get 65 useful steps you can employ to produce your next feature film.
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