Some Basic Principles of Film Distribution and Marketing for Independents

Sheri Candler and I were just holding a week long discussion on the D-Word about distribution and marketing for filmmakers occassioned by the release of the book that I co-wrote with her and The Film Collaborative, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul. Doug Block who was our moderator asked me to summarize my thoughts on the subject and it seemed to create a pithy little post encapsulating some of my core beliefs when it comes to helping filmmakers release their films.So I have included them here and encourage you (especially if you are a doc filmmaker) to join D-Word and to check out the Selling Your Film topic which is archived.  Please note that in trying to make sure I didn’t dither over the wording of this post – it was written on the fly and unedited – I’m going to try to increase my blog writing speed in the coming months!

My Summary for the D-Word:

Distribution and marketing of a film should start as early as possible – and be integrated into the filmmaking process as much as possible. Doing this will benefit the film and make the release more successful and make your life easier.

Each film needs its own distribution and marketing plan – unique to that film. The distribution and marketing for any one film will depend on several factors:

1. Goals of the filmmaking team (all should be on the same page).

2. The film itself – what is appropriate for this film.

3. The audience of that film:

Who is the audience (be specific)?
Where does the audience learn about films?
How does that audience consume films?

Connect with your audiences early and often.

Only talk about you and your film 20% of the time in social media – MAX!

Connect with organizations that are connected with the audience of your film.

4. The filmmaking teams resources. How much money and/or time is available.

To help solve the time issue – I recommend bringing in a PMD to help with the distribution and marketing of the film.

Bring the PMD on as early as possible (see first sentence above).

Budget for distribution and marketing – expect it will be 50/50 – eg 50% on production and 50% on distribution and marketing. You may be one of the lucky ones to have a great distributor come along and write you a check and take it “off your hands” – but the % aren’t that great these days.

Think strategically about how you are going to release your film that will achieve your goals and connect with your audience – in terms of the products that you can create:

1. Strive to make your Live Event/Theatrical screenings unique – and event worthy – what will motivate people to come out for your film.

2. Create unique merchandise for your film. People still like to buy things – just often not DVDs in ugly cases.

3. Think strategically about how you will release your digital rights – including TV/Cable and how they fit into the overall plan.

That’s a pretty good 2 minute drill of what I try to convey to filmmakers to help them with connecting their films to audiences.

4 Responses to Some Basic Principles of Film Distribution and Marketing for Independents

  1. Jaycee says:

    An anwesr from an expert! Thanks for contributing.

    • Jon Reiss says:

      And thanks for reading – appreciate it!!

    • Sachin says:

      I think you’re spot on with your cihcoe in owning distribution rather than production. That’s exactly why Wal-Mart became the behemoth it did. It’s why Amazon and Zappos were able to corner such huge marketplaces so quickly. They were the first/best at creating the most efficient distribution possible.

  2. femi ogunrombi says:

    I will like to know more about marketing plans and distribution for films.

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