There’s no denying the exciting and often quicker (than traditional Hollywood) production process of independent filmmaking. While making a film independently is no easy walk in the park, it is empowering and immensely satisfying to create a film on your own. But once an independent film has finished production and post-production, then what? How does an independent filmmaker go about landing a distribution deal without a sales agent or traditional distributor? Keep reading because today I’m talking about how to assemble a distribution strategy and self-distribute your film!
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Find Your Audience
Finding your core audience is a crucial aspect of your film’s distribution plan. You need to narrow down and figure out who would be interested in your film, willing to pay to see it, and eager to spread the word about it. Is there an aspect of your film that relates to a specific audience? For example, say your film is about senior citizens breaking out of a retirement home for a day. This film might interest people who belong to senior centers, retirement home residents, or residents of retirement communities. Understanding who your audience is, as well as how and where to reach them, is crucial.
Start a Funding Campaign
Distribution can get expensive quickly. Whether it’s renting theatres for screenings, paying for promotional materials to be made, or needing to pay for additional help in the form of a publicist, graphic designer, or an editor (to cut a trailer), the distribution fees can add up. So, start up a campaign on Kickstarter or a similar platform to raise some cash! Use your knowledge of your target audience to reach out to those you believe would be interested in supporting your film.
Use Social Media
A cheap way to aid in film distribution is via social media, so time to get on all the socials and start posting! Post your artfully designed movie poster, eye-catching flyers, and your attention-grabbing trailer. Network and interact with your audience! Also, post pictures and videos from the set or film festivals where you screened your movie. The important thing with social media is to stay both active and interactive, making sure to engage with your audience.
While many people jump to the thought of releasing their film via some sort of online channel, having a theatrical run is still a possibility through self-distribution. Despite being costly, the experience of screening your film in theatres may make it worthwhile. Back in the day, filmmakers would often go on tour with their movies to save money on film prints. This concept of touring a movie is still relevant to independent filmmakers today. Touring your movie around the country, or even just to a few select states, can mean making a strong connection with audiences, especially via post-screening Q&As and engagement of that nature. You can also go the festival circuit and tour alongside your film to any festivals to which it is accepted. Festivals will give you a built-in larger audience.
With a plethora of streaming services now in existence, there are tons of platforms to turn to for distribution. While landing Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video (upload films at Amazon Video Direct) can feel like landing a whale, there are smaller, more targeted platforms that may be more accessible to you and your film.
ShortsTV is a well-known company that focuses specifically on short films from filmmakers across the globe. ShortsTV airs these shorts on their cable network channel as well as streams them online. They pay a couple of hundred dollars per short.
Indieflix supports films with screenings, streaming, and promotion for social impact films that create a positive change in the world. They’re non-exclusive and have a revenue per minute system that pays filmmakers for every minute their film is watched.
Get an Aggregator as Your Distributor
An aggregator is like a middleman or a gatekeeper between you and major platforms like iTunes, Tubi, Amazon, and Google Play. Think of them like online self-distribution companies or distribution centers with pipelines to make certain distribution deals for indie filmmakers. An aggregator has relationships with VOD platforms and will handle the encoding to the platform’s specifications and delivery of your film to them for a one-time fee. You then get to keep the revenue that your film makes. Here’s more information on aggregators and a list of some of the top-rated self-distribution pipelines.
Distributing your own film is by no means an easy feat. It requires a lot of work, effort, and determination. The advancement of technology means it’s definitely possible to build a self-distribution model to get your movie out there on your own. You just have to buckle down and be prepared to do the needed work to get it done. Good luck, filmmakers!