Enter the DIY Film Distributor
This is where the current state of DIY film distribution comes into play. Some filmmakers who failed to sell their movie at a film festival and are not interested in giving away their rights to a vanity distributor would say “the hell with it.” They’ll bypass the broker and submit the movie to the aggregator on their own. If they can’t afford the iTunes fees, then they’ll send it straight to Amazon’s Media on Demand and Video Central (free services that let you sell your movie on Amazon in both VOD and DVD/Blu-Ray formats), and other alternative services like Vimeo on Demand until they can afford the cost of selling on iTunes. That is all fine and dandy, but there is one major flaw in their strategy, which is: they don’t have one. A big percentage of indie filmmakers who opt to self-distribute their films have no distribution or marketing plan in mind.
They don’t know what they’re doing, so they’ll either spend themselves to death trying to market the movie or put it up on Amazon with no marketing and get upset when the film fails to sell. Independent filmmakers who are making a living through their art don’t find themselves on one end of the spectrum or the other– it’s wrong to say that if you want to make a living in movies then you must distribute your own content. It’s also wrong to say that you should only focus on your art and leave the film distribution business to other people – and that is where this book comes into play. The purpose of this book is to prepare you for both scenarios: the best-case scenario, where you make a movie and sell it at Sundance, and the worst-case scenario – where you wrap your festival tour with no sales and are forced to distribute the film yourself.
This book is designed to give you real-world advice from some- one who’s been there and done that: made a movie and got it in theaters, did his own marketing, sold it, got reviews, and earned enough money back to get to work on his next film. It took a lot for me to make my first feature film, Pickings. We shot it for 35 days over the course of a year, and while I’ll dig deeper into the making of it in later chapters, for now, all you need to know is that after a year of taking principal photography, peppered with all sorts of production problems and obstacles, our shoot was concluded (against all odds), and we had to go through an extensive post-production process to finish it. Long story short, it was picked up by AMC Independent, released to twelve theaters across six major cities, and screened at several indie movie theaters in strategic locations. It received wide acclaim in periodicals such as the Los Angeles Times, Hidden Remote, Film Journal International, and more. A few months after its theatrical release, the movie was sold to China and a couple of other territories. And as I am writing this book, it’s making the rounds on VOD/DVD/Blu-Ray and has already recouped a big chunk of its cost. Since I didn’t have any investors – every cent is coming back to my production company, which is now hard at work on my next feature (which I don’t plan to fully fund myself, by the way) – you can say that I am now making movies “for a living.” I earn 100% of my revenue, and I don’t have to share it with a small, insignificant “vanity distributor” who would have let my movie die in VOD hell.
I guess the thing to keep in mind when deciding to enter the world of independent film is that you are, in fact, independent. Meaning, you are not tied to anyone or anything. You’re not restricted to a singular strategy, you don't have a prior commitment to unions or guilds, and you’re not expected to break box office records. You work independently; you are an entrepreneur working in the entertainment industry, and your products are motion pictures. So, if your goal is to make movies and sell them to a big film distributor at Sundance, this book will give you a lot of insight into the successful making of a feature film on a shoestring budget. And if you don’t sell, then it’s time to hit the Entrepreneur button and sell it yourself, in which case, this book will give you some life-saving tips on how to accomplish that successfully and turn a profit during your film’s theatrical release. I wanted to write a book that I wish I could have read when I first took the plunge and dived into the independent filmmaking business, and this book does just that. It’ll give you the tools you need to write, direct, produce, shoot, edit, market, and sell your movie – independently.
Be independent like Beyonce!