The Entrepreneurial Filmmakers Guide to Self Distribution

Are you thinking about doing a self distribution film campaign? Are you ready to ignore all those bottom feeding film distributors who don’t care about you or your movie? Do you want to plan out a self distribution film campaign so you can get your movie seen and selling? Then you are in the right place.

When we produced our first feature,  the idea of doing a self distribution film campaign was considered derogatory. Back then, if you couldn’t find a distribution deal, it pretty much meant something about your movie sucked. But that was a time before video on demand. And back then, I thought the conventional filmmaker stigma (as it related to self distribution) was stupid.

self distribution

The Entrepreneurial Filmmakers Guide to Self Distribution

Instead of taking some crappy offer from one of the bottom feeding distributors who presently hounded us every week – We decided to go against all the crappy advice and create a self distribution film campaign.

We did this by putting our movie on Amazon. At first NONE of the other producers liked this idea. Keep in mind we were still hoping that someone would call and offer us a gazillion dollars and a three-picture-deal. You probably know the feeling.

Most indie filmmakers make their own movie in the hopes of becoming Hollywood’s next success story. And while I would never discourage indie filmmakers from seeking not-so-indie fame and fortune – with thousands of backyard indies flooding the market each year, simply getting your movie made is no longer enough to guarantee success.

For many filmmakers, the process goes like this:

  1. I am going to make a movie, get into Sundance and sell it for a million dollars!
  2. Mom and dad and family and girlfriend and random crowdfunding people, give me money!
  3. Holly crap. I didn’t raise enough money – So I will need to cut my budget.
  4. Who knew practical special effects and pick-up shots were so time consuming?
  5. Dear friends and family and angry girlfriend, we spent your money and the movie is finished!
  6. Oh no!  We cannot fix THIS in post!
  7. Film festival submissions are expensive!
  8. We just got rejected from Sundance – now what?
  9. We just WON the Best Picture award at some regional film festival nobody ever heard of!
  10. Wait, we have been on the festival circuit for over a year and Hollywood has not called.
  11. Holly crap. We just got a call from a distributor! They want to put our movie on Amazon!
  12. Wait, I just read the agreement and the distribution deal doesn’t pay.
  13. Wait… I can get my own movie into Amazon. Without a distributor?
  14. Dear friends and family and ex-girlfriend and crowdfunders, we are in Amazon!
  15. I really wish I would have budgeted for a self-distribution film campaign.

Obviously I am using humor to express a point. But if you have made a movie, you have probably experienced the roller-coaster ride of emotions that comes from being a filmmaker. And the idea of figuring out how to create a self distribution film campaign might feel daunting.

But fear not. There is hope. Here are some tips: No matter where you are in your filmmaking – I suggest that you plan a strategy to market and sell your movie today! The strategy behind a self distribution film campaign is pretty simple:

  1. Get your film live in online marketplaces.
  2. Add a BIG buy now button to your website..
  3. Drive targeted traffic to your website.

If enough people buy your movie to cover your monthly movie business expenses (and provide a small profit) you are in business. And if the best film distribution offer is: “We will get you into Amazon!” Your response should be: “So what! I can get myself into Amazon!”

Having a plan for you self distribution film campaign will allow you to first explore all traditional distribution options. This way, if your distribution offer is not a deal, you can move forward with your very own self distribution film campaign. In other words, what value will a traditional distributor bring you beyond what you could do with self distribution? If you would like to find out more, check out Filmmaking Stuff HQ.

Photo of author

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.