5 steps for your independent film distribution strategy plan

Perhaps you are preparing to make an independent film or maybe you already have a finished project sitting on the shelf waiting to get the attention it deserves. In this following post I will go through 5 of the main steps you can take to plan out your independent films distribution.

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Film Festivals

Film festivals are still the main distribution route for filmmakers. Traditionally these were the only way for your independent films to be seen by the public. A win at a major film festival (Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, Toronto, Venice) can lead to a distribution deal from a well-known production company. Distributors do attend film festivals so getting your film shown at a major to mid-level festival is helpful.

Not all films will get selected at notable film festivals, as such getting your film shown at specialised or local festivals can still be beneficial. Film festivals at the least let you watch how your film plays out in front of a live audience and the opportunity to network with other filmmakers.

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Distribution Companies  

Even if your film does not find distribution at a film festival you can still find and contact distributors directly. Simple have a search through IMBD and find distribution companies who have worked with films before that are similar to yours. Email them politely asking if they would be interested in your film perhaps with a synopsis or trailer. If they reply back and wish to see a cut of your film you can create a password protected video link with Vimeo. Launching films is a website that lists which distributors are working with what film. Find a list of film distribution companies here

Self Distribution

If the first two routes fail you can always self distribute. You will have to plan out a solid strategy for this to be profitable. Screening your independent film at cinemas is very expensive and seeing as you don’t have a distributor you will have to pay for the film rating, trailer and marketing posters yourself.

Depending on your film you might find DVD sales worthwhile (I made a documentary five years ago and sold a few hundred in shops and online), you can also contact television companies directly. Keep in mind that self-distribution will rely on a solid marketing plan, find out who your ideal audience are and target them directly through the platforms they watch films on.

Streaming Platforms

Netflix and Amazon Prime are two of the worlds major streaming platforms. You will struggle to contact major streaming companies directly. luckily you can use a third party film aggregator to get in contact with them for you. Film Hub is one of these services, you send them your film and they send it to all of the streaming platforms available to see if they are interested in screening your film. FilmHub takes 20% of the profits and has no upfront fee.

Creative North based in Sweden sold their documentary to Netflix after being screened at a festival. They have lots of information on making films and getting picked up for major streaming platforms via their YouTube channel - Find Them Here

Self Streaming

If you have no luck with the major streaming platforms self streaming might be your final option. You can profit from these services by putting a fee on watching your film via iTunes. For self streaming to work there would need to be a reason for people to pay for your film, competing against so many free videos online.

I have seen YouTuber’s such as Emily Diane Ruth who sold her short film ‘The Water’s Fine’ via Gumroad. She created a series of behind the scenes making of videos whilst producing the film to build up an online audience before releasing it. Building an online audience via YouTube, blogging or social media will help if you are hoping to profit from self streaming.

I hope this post has helped breakdown film distribution routes. Below are links to some great articles with more information on independent film distribution. I will leave the comments section open for the next week if you have any questions or advice you wish to add.

Resources - Stephen Follows - What low budget films make the most money | Independent Cinema Office - How do I get my film into distribution | Indie Film Hustle - How to make money with your indie film | Filmmaker Magazine - Self Distribution LA Film Festival - How to distribute your film in the 21st Century