INDIE FILM DISTRIBUTION - IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Updated: Aug 27, 2018
Times have changed in Hollywood and the indie film market has become a causality of these times. With Hollywood seed money nearly non-existent, indie film makers are subject to private source funding (basically, your family and friends), crowd funding, film grants, finishing fund companies or the mere hopes of collecting an ROI (return on
investment) through DIY distribution.
But here is the good news! Never before in the history of the film industry has a worldwide audience and the means to reach them been so easy and inexpensive. This document is designed to navigate you through the process of DIY distribution and promotion step by step.
How much will it cost you for this information? Nothing. We don't want your money, but we do want your metadata. If you find the information in this article helpful, please let us know how you fared? Send us your metadata numbers, your experiences and your thoughts on how we can help other indie filmmakers such as yourself find their audiences in the Digital Age.
Are you already bored with this article? Were you hoping it would possess a miracle button to click and all your distribution needs would be met? Done! Simply CLICK HERE and read no further! But in all honesty, the only way to be successful in this business is to understand and be able to manipulate both the creative and the business aspects of the craft. Never
forget, "show business" is the marriage of two words. So let's get started.
WHAT THE HELL IS AN AGGREGATOR?
You don't need them, they need you. We don’t recommend using an aggregator. An aggregator will take the rights to your film (all rights or in some cases selective rights for a period of between three to ten years). They will then tell you that you'll get 30% to 50 % of every dollar made. Right off the bat, you have cut your profits in half, or worse. And believe me, it's worse. Because you'll never see a dime of your film's revenue. For starters, there just isn't a lot of money to be made in on-line indie film sales. These aggregators will up-charge you on marketing costs and expenses, leaving you penniless in the process. These companies or individuals aren't as crooked as people claim. They are simply trying to stay afloat. The reality is, your film isn’t making as much as you think. In fact, no indie film
is making that much money.
HOW MUCH MONEY IS IN DIGITAL SALES?
I could spend all day detailing the profit margins of digital sales for the indie filmmaker. But I can do you one better. I suggest you read our previous blog post entitled HOW MUCH DO INDIE FILMS REALLY MAKE IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
HOW DO I GET ON TO WORLDWIDE DIGITAL PLATFORMS?
This is easier than you think. For starters, no major digital platform will speak with you directly. You have to go through a QC house (Quality Control Center). These companies will charge you a fee (some more than others) to prepare your film for release on multiple online platforms. An example of one of the best know companies is Distribber. But Distribber can run you up to $1,595, just to get your film onto one platform, such as Itunes. What if I told you, that for that price (less than that actually) you could get on to 5 of the major platforms (Itunes, Google Play, Youtube Red, Vudu and Amazon Prime) all at once! How? Simple research.
You first need to decide what platforms you wish to be on. Not every QC house distributes with every digital platform. And then you want to go to the Itunes Preferred Provider List. Why start there, you ask? Because Itunes has the strictest QC policies. If your film can
pass QC for Itunes, you can pass QC for any digital platform, guaranteed.
Research the Preferred Partners list extensively as there are a lot of options and price ranges available (always read the fine print). For example, what if you also want to release digital "extras" along with your film? Only certain QC houses deal in the "extras" market. You may also notice that not every QC house deals in the US market. Research is the key!
Once you have completed your research, contact your top five companies and see what they have to offer you. And never forget to price compare! Like I said before, some companies will charge you a fraction of what others charge. They may not be the biggest name in the game, but their small company status means far less overhead. Regardless, have no fear reaching out to these lesser known entities. Once a company has made it to the Itunes list, they are a legitimate QC house. (You may also notice that Distribber isn't even on this list. That is because Distribber uses these QC houses themselves. They are a middle man! But you'd never know that unless you had known where to look and had conducted a little research. We are simply showing you how to avoid the middle man and retain more of your hard earned profits. Also, keep two things in mind before you speak to any QC House:
#1. Never pay extra to be placed onto Youtube Red. Once you are on Google Play you will automatically be bumped to Youtube Red free of charge. Google owns both and wants
to maximize their profits.
#2. Never pay to get a rating in a country such as the UK or Australia. Most QC houses will tell you can't digitally distribute in certain countries without a rating. WRONG! If you are on Amazon Prime you are WORLDWIDE! For those of you that have read this far into the document, I have a special tip for you. When all is said and done, you'll probably notice that Amazon Prime is the only platform on which you'll make any money. It's true. Their worldwide reach really pays off. If you deicide to release digitally, make sure that Amazon Prime
(TVOD or SVOD - either or) is a platform of choice.
HOW DO I REACH A WORLDWIDE AUDIENCE?
Most first-time indie filmmakers think they will release their film on a digital platform and then sit and watch as the profits roll in. Quite the contrary. Your job has just begun. Marketing your film is a whole other skill. From manipulating Google Ad Words to getting into bed with the right social media company, distribution is one word with a double meaning, and that other meaning is "advertising". There are many companies that can help you in your journey.
For example, if you have a horror/thriller film, we suggest contacting Marketing Macabre. This company has spent years developing relationships with the media outlets that focus on horror entertainment. Their advertising packages are reasonably priced and it will save you the time of doing all the research and schmoozing yourself. Or perhaps you want to work with a social media marketing company such as Gruvi.tv. (We highly recommend reading their free ebook, "Marketing Movies in the Connected World".) A simple online search for how to market movies in the digital age can provide a wealth of other options at your disposal.
This is only the tip of the ice berg. DVD sales are a whole other ball of wax. But take it from a company that has been there and done it, the digital distribution scene is changing daily. More options will become accessible to the indie film market in the years to come. And
we'd be happy to keep you updated if you stay in touch and follow our blog.
Our final distribution lesson is so old school that you may not believe it works. We speak from experience that it does work and effectively. When all is said and done, there is nothing like four-walling your film. Screening it in front of a live audience is the way to go, especially if
you can find a theatre willing to support your work and share in the box office revenue.
In an era where "connection" is the single driving force behind social media platforms, there is still no better way to drive sales (merchandise/DVD/Digital) then by meeting your audience in person. This method trumps all others. And it can even beat your best digital sales day by a long shot. Trust us when we say, personal contact is the key to your future success as a filmmaker.