If you’re looking to make and distribute your film without going broke, you’re not alone. Independent filmmaking is often considered one of the riskiest businesses in the world. This is due, in large part to the inefficient nature of our business. Think about it. Indie film is one of few vocations where people create a product without any idea how they are going to market or sell it.
Despite this reality, most indie filmmakers still make movies, subscribing to the belief that it’s impossible to enter the marketplace without finding some 3rd party movie distributor to “pick up” a movie. But thanks to modern Video On Demand distribution, this belief is eroding.
As an independent filmmaker, you now have options. You can choose to take the conventional route, go it alone or combine a little of both models to create a hybrid distribution strategy. While these options allow you to distribute your film in mainstream marketplaces, this paradigm shift creates new challenges. Namely, if you chose to become your own distributor, you will need to become comfortable with internet marketing tactics, social media and audience list building.
For most indie filmmakers, what I’m describing is a huge learning curve!
How To Distribute Your Film Without Going Broke
I frequently share marketing and distribution tactics. As a consequence, many filmmakers think of me as the “self-distribution guy.” If you share this opinion, you might assume that I no longer value traditional distribution. But here is the irony. When it comes time to distribute your film, you need to evaluate all options.
A few years back I was hired by a producer to help sell a movie at the American Film Market. During the market, we were able to schedule over 20 meetings. The reason we had so much interest from distributors is because we DID NOT actually need a distributor. This is because (in addition to an awesome film) we had a plan for marketing and selling our movie, ourselves.
Taking time to do our homework and create our own marketing and distribution plan eliminated all desperation and provided us with confidence. Because we didn’t actually need a distributor, we were able to go into each meeting with the patience to work towards a balanced win-win.
Regardless of the route you choose to distribute your film, the first step of the process is to sit down with a pen and paper and answer the following questions:
1. Who is Your Target Audience?
2. How Large is Your Target Audience?
3. How Will You Reach Your Target Audience?
4. What is Your Marketing Strategy?
5. How Many VOD Sales to Break Even?
While this may seem like an overly simple task, taking time to answer these questions is an exercise most filmmakers ignore. And by not having a marketing strategy (that you control) prospective distributors will have no choice but to present you with their standard offer. And because you will have no leveraging power, odds are good you’ll take it.
Creating Film Distribution Leverage
My clients took a different route. The producers did their homework. And as a result, we knew what we had and how we were going to market and self-distribute. By having a plan, we were able to minimize the risk for a prospective distributor and emphasize the potential upside.
In response to our plan, prospective distributors correctly perceived our movie as less risky than most. As a result, we received close to a half-dozen solid offers for the movie. (Some even included a substantial minimum guarantee and advertising spend.)
From there, we narrowed down the selection into final negotiations. While I’m not yet at liberty to talk about the actual deal, I can tell you that things are going well.
If you’re just learning about distribution, here is what the process looks like:
1. You pitch the movie.
2. Distributor expresses interest.
3. Distributor sends proposal / term sheet.
4. You negotiate terms to (hopefully) find a win-win.
5. From there, a long-form agreement is drafted.
It’s Never Too Early To Learn Film Distribution
The truth is, my articles would be a lot more popular if all I wrote about was cameras and gear. That stuff is sexy. Learning how to distribute your film is not. But here’s the thing. The reason you can’t close your prospective investor or land a dream distribution deal is because your movie project is too RISKY.
You think you’re ready for the pitch, but you’re not.
In fact, you shouldn’t be talking to anybody about your movie project until you have a clear marketing, sales and distribution strategy. This may seem extreme, but knowing how you’re going to distribute your film is essential. And I’m not saying you need to become a world class social media marketer.
You need to know a little about a lot.
You need know who to hire and why.
And you need to start planning this TODAY.
If you’re interested in learning how to distribute your film (so you can raise money and or sell your movie) you’re in luck. Based on my experience marketing and distributing movies, I created a system to help you understand the marketing and distribution process. My system is called The Independent Producer’s Guide To Digital Self-distribution.
Once you know this stuff, you’ll probably never consider a crappy distribution deal again.