Distributing your films in the digital age may not be as difficult as you may think, in fact you should consider self-distribution at least in your own country. Granted no-one knows the overseas market than those living there. Why not self-distribute in your own country and find a distributor for anything out of your zone.
The one golden rule is to never sign all your rights over to one company. Split them amongst different service organisations and try to do as much of it as you can yourself as the return on revenue is higher.
How do filmmakers find an audience for their films and create online distribution?
Social media via the internet plays a huge role in how this is done. Having your own website, blog, twitter account, facebook account sets you up to building your own audience base. Your community/tribe of people that start to become fans will help do half the work for you. You need to become very proactive and be prepared to do a lot of work, which will eventually be very rewarding. The audience is the key, define who your audience base is and then target them worldwide. Do your research and connect to online communities globally. Look at those who are doing it successfully and utilise some of their model, incorporate it into your plan. Learn and read as much as you can about online marketing, become an expert in the area and you will gain rewards.
CAN YOU MAKE MONEY FROM STREAMING CONTENT ONLINE
Absolutely you can. But not before you build a market around your film.
Post your film on relevant sites who will host your film via payment schemes. The viewer pays per view or you can have your film monetized by advertisements being placed through it.
TV networks have very interactive websites and host a range of content, from webisodes to documentary episodes. You can do deals with them to broadcast your content online as well as on TV. SBS On Demand, ABC2, Channel4 UK,
Once you find the sites to host your film you need to drive traffic to those sites also, otherwise, your films will get lost in the internet noise.
Documentary hosting sites to research:
Here are some areas to consider self-distribution:
THEATRE / ART THEATRES / LOCAL SMALL THEATRE
DVD DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES
EDUCATIONAL DISTRIBUTORS / COMMUNITIES
Ronin Films in Australia helps distribute your film amongst educational institutions, you could consider hiring them for this aspect of your distribution or contact the education institution yourself.
WEBSITE – Offer sales of your film on your own website, making this the prime location but not the only location. If you decide to set up a license agreement with an outside distributor make sure you add an item on the contract which allows you to sell your own film on your own website.
VIDEO ON DEMAND SITES
Implementing a Social Media plan for self-distribution:
- Get your own website with integrated blogging functionality if you don’t already have one. If your current site does not have a blog, add one. The easy way to get started is to get a blog on WordPress.com (it’s free) and you can get your own domain name for the site so your website will be yoursitename.com rather than yoursitename.wordpress.com. Have a trailer and short clips of your documentary available on your website. Images, and some interesting facts about your subject.
- Set up a Facebook page and link it to your website. Update and communicate here about your film. Post little clips about making your documentary and about the documentary itself. Highlight characters and stories about them. Link these from your website.
- Create a YouTube Channel for your production company and post your clips here. YouTube gives you the chance to find another audience base for your clips. YouTube also monetizes independent channels depending on the traffic to your page and clicks on your video files. This is another potential income stream. Blip.tv or Vimeo are good places to host high-quality video, while YouTube provides the largest potential audience.
- Start Twittering, if your not sure about how to tweet their are many books written on the subject. Borrow from the local library. Tweeting is a good way to gather information and spread information. Research it further and find out the best way to use it for your marketing. Do not miss marketing opportunities because you don’t know how to use the social media technology.
- Register and connect with OzDoxand the AIDC they provide a monthly forum for documentary culture and will keep you updated on what is happening in the industry.
- Get involved with a local documentary meeting group in your area: Doco3000 is a group that meets in Melbourne once a month to discuss and provide feedback on filmmakers films, a great networking opportunity, and community.
Peter Broderick a DIY Distribution Expert suggests the following:
Think long-term – Be clear about your goals. Are you creating a business around a group of films with common content? Are you building a career as an artist with a core personal audience?
Stay flexible – Implement your strategy stage by stage and modify it as you go. You learn valuable information in every stage that will enable you to improve your plan for the next stage.
Split rights – Retain overall control of your distribution. Take a hybrid approach, dividing certain rights among distributors and retaining the right to do direct sales.
Target audiences – Research, test, and refine your approach to core audiences. Understand who is most responsive to your films, and how to reach them most effectively.
Find partners – Look for national nonprofits, websites, sponsors, and distributors to team up with to bring your film to their members, subscribers, and customers.
Build a team – Find teammates who can help with the website, outreach, fulfillment, theatrical, domestic sales, and foreign sales.
Harness the internet – Use your website to build awareness, develop a mailing list, attract user-contributed content, and make direct sales. Design a compelling site that will have a life of its own.
Be creative – Avoid formulaic distribution ruts. Apply the same creativity to distribution as production. It is often harder to bring a movie into the world than to produce it. An innovative approach to distribution can make all the difference.
Make distribution happen – Design a distribution strategy and find the distributors, partners, and teammates to help you implement it.
Life in the New World isn’t easy. Determination, persistence, and grit are required. There is no magical solutions and success is not assured. But for all the obstacles and dangers, there are unparalleled opportunities. Free at last to reach audiences directly, independent filmmakers can now take control of their distribution and reap the rewards.