Do you really need a distribution company to sell your film? At one point in time, there was a window which lasted 2-3 years where you could self-distribute your film in (TVOD) marketplaces like iTunes (now Apple TV), Google Play, Vimeo On Demand, Vudu, and a few more. During that time, there were a handful of filmmakers who did pretty well selling directly to their audiences. But a lot has changed.
These days it is increasing challenging to make money in TVOD. This is because many TVOD platforms are saturated with content. So you have to work extra hard to get your film noticed. And on top of that, a large percentage of viewers no longer want to pay money to rent or buy movies. Instead, many folks prefer to pay for monthly subscription service like Netflix. As a result of these changes, you really need to think hard about your distribution goals.
Do You Really Need A Distribution Company?
What are your goals for your film? Do you want to partner with a distributor or sales agent? Or are you okay with self-distribution? There are pros and cons to each. And this is especially true if you’ve taken time to “build an audience for your film.” You could put your film on Amazon and sell directly to your audience. Or you could potentially leverage your audience with a sales agent or distributor.
If you were to partner with a reputable sales agent or distribution company, and you were to deliver that audience to them, it could have an exponential effect. The distributor or sales agent is going to do their best to leverage their established industry relationships domestically and internationally.
You’ll have to pay a percentage of profits to them for this service. But let’s take the cynical approach and ask the question “What if they don’t do any marketing, and all the hits on the film are from my audience?” In that situation, you’re going to have to still pay the percentage to the sales agent. And you’re still going to profit (and next time focus on working with a good sales agent!)
Find A Good Sales Agent
Good sales agents would never just rely on you to promote your own film. The reason good sales agents and distributors LOVE when you deliver an audience to them, is because then they can combine their efforts with your audience, and it can be beneficial to both sides. They can get your film into marketplaces you can’t. And you can continually share these marketplaces with your audience.
I compare self distribution to self publishing of a book. Are there success stories? Sure. But remember that most of the time those are the lottery tickets. I wrote the book BANKROLL years ago. (1st edition 2008, 2nd edition 2012) It was published by MWP, the #1 book publisher of film books. The book was instantly in Barnes and Noble everywhere and shot to the top of the film category on Amazon. Would I have been able to do that myself? No way. MWP had all the relationships that they had put together over the years.
It’s similar for filmmakers. In order to benefit as a modern filmmaker, you will (obviously) have to make an awesome film. And once you have a finished product, you’ll need to have a plan for creating buzz. And not just buzz for the sake of buzz. But you’ll want to leverage buzz as a way to grab the attention of good sales agents and distributors.
Sustainable Indie Filmmaking
The Indie filmmaking business is challenging. Inexpensive production technology combined with digital distribution has enabled anyone with a camera to produce and bring their stories to market. And even though many of these films are underdeveloped (and often challenging to watch) they still get self-released. And this only serves to further saturate the market.
The good news is, competition is NOT new. It’s been part of business since the beginning. And like any business, those with a superior promotion, product and partnerships rise above the noise. With this in mind, you need to continually find ways to make your product unique and compelling. This means you’ll want to focus on story, cast and production value.
Having a marketable product will go a long way towards helping your film get noticed. And because you’ve done your homework and created preliminary buzz, you’ll have inherent leverage when it comes time to negotiate the deal with the distributor!