Stage III: SELF-DISTRIBUTION

What to do when you don’t have a distributor.

Briefly put, film distribution is the process to make your movie accessible to consumers. When you get a deal with a distribution company, they take over all marketing efforts to find an audience.

Most indie filmmakers desperately seek a distribution deal to guarantee exposure for their films. Luckily, for those unable to secure a contract, there’s the alternative of self-distribution.

In some cases, I might say, it’s in your best interest to seriously consider distributing your movie yourself, instead of rushing into a disadvantageous distribution agreement.

CONTRACTS – CAREFUL WITH POORLY DRAFTED DISTRIBUTION DEALS

In the fortunate event that you do get a deal, you need to carefully analyze the pros and cons. For such, there are four key elements to consider before committing to a distribution agreement, especially when you’re considering partial self-distribution:

  • Territories: For which region are we granting rights? Is it a local or national deal?
  • Platforms: Through which channels will be distributed? Are we talking about theatrical release or just online?
  • Length: For how long? Is it a 2-year or 10-year commitment?
  • Payment: How much money will be paid and when?

Understanding this and choosing the right approach will pave the way to maximize your profits, whether it is through additional distribution deals or even partial self-distribution.

In these situations, it’s recommended to seek advice from an entertainment lawyer to ensure our rights are protected and we don’t infringe any contractual obligations. We know, lawyers aren’t cheap, but a poorly drafted agreement can be far more expensive. Wouldn’t you rather pay $400 for a consultation fee than losing $400,000 in royalties? Yes, that’s what I thought.

FUNDAMENTALS OF SELF-DISTRIBUTION – TWO POTENTIAL APPROACHES

Up until this moment, if you’ve followed the steps on Stage II – Pre-Distribution, you already have established the foundation that will now help you successfully market your film. With your website ready and your social platforms being fed with relevant content, it’s time to start your marketing campaign.

There are two approaches to self-distribution: one that requires you to pitch your film to a streaming service, TV channel, etc. or another one through direct-to-consumer sales of your film.

In the first one, you act as a sales agent, trying to secure deals independently, whether is through a powerful pitch, a professional contact or even a content aggregator.

The second option simply relies on yourself and your ability to promote and sell your own movie or show. For this, you make your content available in platforms such as iTunes, or even on your site behind a payment gate.

For the latter, you’ll need to identify your market and work hard to drive traffic through a sales funnel.

IDENTIFY YOUR MARKET – TERRITORIES, PLATFORMS AND BUDGET

First and foremost, you need to figure out your territories. Where will you be distributing your film or show? There are two factors that will help you determine this: the platforms and the advertising budget.

By platforms we’re referring to the actual places where your audience will be able to watch the film (a movie theater, iTunes, Vimeo, etc.) The advertising budget will guide you in regards to how many cities, regions or countries you can afford to advertise in.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a theatrical premiere for PR purposes, and then make it available for sale on iTunes and your own website. A single screening in your city might be enough to drive excitement, take some pictures and generate worth of mouth by sharing content on your Social Media platforms.

At the same time, these social media posts will link to iTunes, for “those who couldn’t attend the premiere”, prompting sales. To further enhance this, your posts can be promoted and turned into ads.

It’s a quick and simple reference, but there’s so much you can do if you plan an advertising campaign to fit your needs.

In essence, when you map out the territories and platforms, make sure you determine whether your budget will allow you to reach your entire market or if you’ll have to rethink your approach. One last piece of advice:  if you need to pick, go deep into a territory or platform, instead of going too broad and spreading your marketing budget so much that it ends up being ineffective.

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