The Future Of The Self Distribution Model

About 15 years ago, there was a small boom in the self distribution model.  What triggered this?  The creation of Youtube.  Here’s a fun trip down memory lane.  Check out this video, entitled “Me at the Zoo.

What’s unique about it?  There’s nothing special hidden in there.  But what’s crazy is that it’s the first video ever uploaded to Youtube.  And the guy in the video is one of the founders, who’s worth about a half a billion today.  Crazy.

the future of the self distribution model

The Future Of The Self Distribution Model

Youtube was exciting and new.  It was also a way for filmmakers to directly reach their audience.  As the years went on, other small booms hit.  There were ways to get your films directly on platforms like iTunes (now Apple TV).  Then Amazon changed the game and allowed people to directly place their films and TV shows on the platform.  All of this seemed to point in the direction that the self distribution model was the way to go.

And this was a welcomed change. Before DVD and the wonders of the digital age, if people wanted to self distribute, they had to haul heavy film prints from city to city, all over the country. These pioneers would negotiate profit share deals with theater owners, rent out theaters, promote their movie all over town and sell tickets to anyone willing to fill the seats.

If the movie created a buzz, the film made money. But often, many of these movies died in quiet obscurity. And because the process was a huge risk, with a high failure rate, the whole practice of theatrical self distribution was regarded as a desperation play.

Everything Is VOD

In many regards, you have to look at the failure curve of the old days and apply it to today.  Every once in a while you hear about a filmmaker who self-distributed and made some good money.  But these are the outliers… the lottery tickets.  Everything is VOD nowadays.  And if you just place your movie on a platform, what makes it stand out?

Filmmakers are attracted to self distribution because it gives them control.  I’ve seen countless filmmakers say “I’m going to self distribute so I can keep more money,” only to make a few thousand dollars, or a few hundred dollars, on their film. So you need to understand this.  Just because the industry is constantly changing, does not mean that doing it yourself is the way to go.

So what is the answer?  Should the self distribution model never be considered?  Well, that’s tough to say.  If you have access to a HUGE audience, then perhaps you can reach enough people and achieve your financial goals. But what if you don’t have that audience?  What if you need a sales agent and distributor to work with you who has that marketing experience and can get your film out there and make serious money?

Deciding how to distribute your film is a decision that only you can make. And if you’d like to further weigh your options, you might want to check out my International Sales and Distribution training. The videos will provide you with a modern approach to the motion picture marketplace as whole. And you will gain some valuable ideas so you can assess which way to go.

Photo of author


Tom Malloy is a film producer, actor, and writer. Over the course of his career, he has raised over twenty-five million dollars to produce, and distribute multiple feature films. If you're ready to "level up" your film producing, make sure to check out Movie Plan Pro. The video training and downloadable film business plan template will provide you with the same tools Malloy uses when approaching prospective film investors.