Q: Film Method has provided me with a lot of great advice over the past few months. I’m gearing up to shoot my first short since film school, and I will say that I think you’d be proud of the pre-production efforts thus far. My big stumbling block at this point is what to do with my short (or anything independent I do in the near future). I want to make my film accessible online to an audience. I have no delusions about making hundreds of cents on this film, but I’m looking for some resources where I could educate myself to the avenues of online marketing and distribution. It seems like every company (createspace, itunes, etc) has a product or platform, but no one can tell me how to decide between them.
Thanks for providing the service that is Film Method.
Pete DAlessandro via Film Method Mailbag
Thank you for your kind words. I am really glad that you are doing so much pre-production. Congratulations on finishing film school and continuing on after. As for distributing your short film after it’s done, there are several avenues.
There is always the film festival route. Which, it doesn’t sound like the route you’re going in but it might be a good idea to at least try to get it into a couple of local film festivals that you can attend. I say this mostly because you are going to miss out on a networking opportunity if you have a finished film that will by pass any public screenings. Just something to thing about.
As for internet distribution, I have always worked with Indie Flix and had a great experience with them. They are able to help navigate the Amazon, iTunes, digital platform world much more efficiently than I could alone. There are several companies that are like Indie Flix and I am sure they are great, I have just always worked with them.
What I have learned from distributing films online is that you should not choose between them, you should try to get your film on as many of them as possible. The reason is that some of your customers will prefer iTunes while others prefer Amazon so there is no harm in putting your film up on both. I hope that this makes sense. I think you may be beating your head up against a wall for no reason. The more people that see your film the better and because it’s a short, you don’t have to worry as much about a strategic online distribution schedule.
Film Method has done several episodes on distribution that you might want to listen to and we have also had the pleasure of working with Filmmaking Stuff (Jason Brubaker), Think Outside the Box Office (Jon Reiss), and The Film Collaborative (Orly Ravid). These are all companies that you should take a look at as they all provide educational opportunities with their services.
I wish you the best of luck on your project and know that it will find the distribution outlet that is right for it.
Thanks for writing in and for listening.
Are you currently producing a feature film or have you recently finished production on one? Do you have big plans to sell it to a studio for a big payday or even, *gulp*, planning on sending it to Sundance? Those are both fantastic goals, but what is the likelihood of a big studio exec coming along and writing you a 6 figure check for your film or actually getting your film into Sundance? In the current climate it’s becoming more and more unlikely that you and your film will take either path. Distribution expert Jason Brubaker from Filmmaking Stuff joins us to kick off our month of shows dedicated to the topic of distribution. Jason and guest hosts Jenna Edwards and Aydrea ten Bosch sit down to talk about the highs and lows that come with digitally distributing your content. Jason is also our guest blogger of the month and has graced us with his wisdom in the article “How to Sell Your Movie Checklist” on the Film Method site.
Jason Brubaker- Producer/Author
Jason Brubaker is a Hollywood based Independent Motion Picture Producer and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. He is focused on helping YOU make, market and sell movies more easily by growing your fan base, building buzz and creating community around your title.
Jason is a contributing author of The Independent’s Guide to Film Distributors, he is the founder of Filmmaking Stuff, a professional resource for independent filmmakers, and his articles on independent movie marketing, distribution and film production have been featured in The Independent, the New York Film Academy and Movie Maker Magazine.
Brubaker has has lectured on these subjects to filmmakers from around the globe through various filmmaking seminars, panel discussions and workshops. www.freefilmmakingbook.com
Jenna Edwards- Producer
Jenna Edwards began her film career in Minnesota where she was signed on as talent with Easter Hailey. Quickly after being signed Edwards was hired by the agency as a full time employee giving her a head-start on her Hollywood education. After two years of rising through the Minnesota film community Edwards made the move to Los Angeles.
Soon after Edwards moved to Los Angeles she was hired by Agent Jamie Ferrar. It was while Edwards was working for Ferrar that she developed an interest in the casting process, before long she had moved from talent agencies to working in casting with such industry leaders as Sally Steiner (Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Boy Meets World), Barbie Block (Jonas, Pepper Dennis) and Allison Jones (Super Bad, The Office). During this time Edwards was also able to gain valuable production experience working on shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Malcolm in the Middle, and working with studios like Disney, MTV, FOX and CBS.
After several years of successfully navigating her career through the Hollywood studio system Edwards made the leap to independent film with her first feature April Showers. After her success with April Showers Edwards formed Mattoid Entertainment with partners Jeremy McGovern and Andrew Robinson where they made, In the Darkness, the first narrative feature to ever premiere on Hulu.com. Most recently Edwards made her way back to Nebraska, where she shot April Showers, to team up with some new filmmakers on a comedy film called Trunk’d.
Aydrea ten Bosch- Writer/Producer
Aydrea, a former news reporter, has been a freelance writer for Nickelodeon and Hawaii Film Partners, a staff writer for Disney and currently has a feature film in post production with Highlander Films. Aydrea has been a finalist in the AAA Creative Screenwriting Contest and while at Disney, one of her scripts was chosen to represent the network before the Emmy Nominating Committee. She also runs the blog The Oreo Experience.
For more information about Aydrea or to contact her please visit her website at www.theoreoexperience.com
If you’ve made a feature film, congratulations! As an independent filmmaker, you’ve just accomplished a feat that many find impossible. You’ve put together a cast and crew, refined your script, found some financing and in the process, you’ve even figured out how to ignore all your significant other’s not-so-subtle hints that a career selling life insurance wouldn’t be that bad.
But behind all the excitement, you and I both know there is one nagging question on your mind. And it is the same question asked by every independent feature filmmaker. You’re wondering: “How am I going to sell this thing?”
That is a good question. And if you’re crossing your fingers for a huge paycheck and a three-picture Hollywood deal, what I’m about to tell you is going to be very different than what you had hoped for.
Thanks to technology, any person with a thousand dollars can grab an HD camera and create a backyard indie. And while this does not guarantee quality, it does create a market flooded with cheaply produced movies. Couple this with a decline in traditional sales channels and your odds of finding a profitable deal have become increasingly challenging.
For most filmmakers, this revelation comes as a shock. After all the work you put into making your movie project a reality, the prospect of putting a no-deal DVD onto a bookshelf and failing to get a return on investment is discouraging. And if it wasn’t for the internet, I’d probably tell you that a career selling life insurance wouldn’t be too bad.
But I have good news! Like you, our first feature was met with empty distribution promises and crappy deals. So by necessity, we started selling our title on Amazon as both a physical DVD and a video on demand download. At first, none of the producers liked that idea. I mean, even if a traditional deal sucks, at least there is still validation of seeing your title on the shelves at the local video store…
Then we made our first sale. We thought it was an anomaly. How could we possibly make money with our movie? We had no stars. We had no formal distribution. And most people on earth had never heard of our title (including you.) But then we made another sale… And then a third… And then a dozen…
That was 2006. Since that time, our movie has sold in ways we never imagined. As a result, every four months I get a nice check. And while it’s not enough money to buy my retirement, I can’t complain.
This success was enough to convince me that making money as an indie filmmaker is no longer about the BIG pay day. These days filmmakers need to create good work, find their target audience and focus on selling movies consistently over time. As a result, I now believe the modern moviemaking model is to eventually create multiple streams of movie income.
For many filmmakers, this sort of talk might be crazy.
Think about it. In years past, filmmakers only self distributed their movies when they had to. It wasn’t a choice! But these days, filmmakers can choose to self-distribute, because 9 times out of 10, making your title available on Amazon and iTunes and other popular VOD marketplaces can potentially pay more than a traditional deal. Because a deal that pays zero is not a deal. (Of course I’m expressing my opinion.)
The following “How To Sell Your Movie” checklist will provide you with a broad overview of how to market and sell your movie without the middle-man.
This checklist should be considered a good start – but many of you will want further information. For that, check out: www.howtosellyourmovie.com
Wherever I thought it would help, I’ve mentioned partner companies and affiliates. This means, if you follow my suggestions and use one of these services, I’ll get a commission. The folks I mention are good people. But you are welcome to ignore my links at will. I won’t be upset. As with all things, take what works for you and ignore the rest.
That said, let’s get started!
How To Sell Your Movie Checklist:
1. Create a website specific to your movie. Go to www.moviesitehost.com and grab hosting for your site and reserve your domain name there. When you purchase your hosting, a domain name is usually included in the purchase price.
2. Branding is the marketing equivalent of matching your belt with your shoes. Don’t make your marketing complicated. Make sure your colors, logos, posters and fonts are consistent.
3. Most filmmakers make a crazy website with all sorts of bells and whistles. Your website should be simple. You should have a trailer, an about page, a buy now button, links to your social networks and an audience list.
4. Out of everything I mention, getting people onto your audience list is most important. An audience list will allow you to collect a name and email address of your visitor. To build an opt-in list, which is FREE for the first 500 subscribers, check out: http://www.aweber.com/
5. Take a moment to think about your target audience. Hopefully you have a marketable hook for your movie, and a plan for reaching your target demographic. If not, figure it out!
6. Get your movie selling as a Video on Demand rental and download. To do this, upload your movie to the many VOD marketplaces, such as iTunes, Amazon and NetFlix. For an easy way to accomplish this, try www.moviesalestool.com
7. You can sell DVDs too. Amazon’s Create Space makes this easy. And even though it’s more expensive, I advise you to stay out of the shipping business. Let CS manufacture your DVDs and fulfill your orders on demand. This way, you can focus on increasing your sales, as well as your next movie projects. Not shipping.
8. Your trailer is your sales tool. Upload your trailer to YouTube as well as other, popular video sites. Make sure your trailer mentions your website. Put your focus on optimizing YouTube. Why? Because YouTube is both a social network and the second largest search engine on earth (also owned by Google.) It’s worth it!
9. Write press releases related to the availability of your movie. Include back links to your site. Send the release out via one of the online press release submission sites. In addition to this, don’t be afraid to call magazine editors and journalists who write for your target audience. As they say, if you don’t ask – you don’t get!
10. Join online forums related to your target market. Create a profile, complete with a signature link to your website. Now, whenever you join a conversation, you’ll spread your links.
11. Just because you’re in a forum doesn’t mean people care about you or your movie. If you join conversations without adding value – or if you become one of those spam happy people who talk about your movie and fail to add value to the discussion, you will be seen as a spammer.
12. If the idea of contributing to forum conversations annoys you, then just pay for advertising on the site. The whole point is to increase awareness of your movie and get prospective audience members to your site.
13. Create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and join the popular social networking sites. Again, you’ll want to build a fan base for your movie. And to manage it, try www.ping.fm This tool allows you to update all your social networking sites at once, which is cool!
14. The purpose of using social networks is to connect with your target market, spread word about your movie and once again, lead people off the networks and onto your Audience list.
15. The reason you can not rely solely on social networking for your audience list, is because many of those sites have gone out of vogue. I lost 10K “friends” on one of them. As a result, I estimate this tip is worth $100,000.00.
16. Additionally, have your webmaster put a button on your website so people can tweet, bookmark, and share your movie website with friends on their social networking sites. (Can you please click the tweet button at the top of this article?)
17. If you have the budget, purchase some offline advertising in publications related to your movie. To find related publications, go to a book store and look for magazines. Also, try Google.
18. All of these methods are intended to get people back to your website. The purpose of your site is to get people to watch your movie trailer and click the BUY NOW button. Anything that distracts these visitors must go!
19. You’ll soon realize that most people will not buy your movie on their first visit to your website. If they don’t click, then at least try to get them to opt into your audience list. Then you have a chance of getting them to buy later.
22. Out of all the people who click the BUY NOW button, many won’t buy. But some will!
23. Consider using that money to purchase more advertising and then repeat the cycle. The goal is to keep investing and reinvesting the money until you produce a self sustaining machine.
24. Sales will tend to level off after a few years. This is the normal. When this happens, find some other filmmakers with a movie geared towards the same target audience. Offer to promote their movie to your audience list. If these other filmmakers have an audience list too, ask them to promote your movie. Be willing to pay them a cut of your profits.
25. Time for your next project. But unlike before, you’ll have a strong mailing list at your disposal. And as a result, you can now ask yourself the following magical questions: “How many VOD downloads do I have to sell to recoup my investment? And how am I going to sell them?” Answer those questions, and you’ll also be talking the talk with your investors.
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Jason Brubaker (IMDB) is a Hollywood based Independent Motion Picture Producer and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. He is focused on helping YOU make, market and sell movies more easily by growing your fan base, building buzz and creating community around your title.
You can find more of Jason Brubaker’s articles at www.filmmakingstuff.com