In a recent newsletter I wrote called The Royal Wedding & Your Film, I talked about the importance of having your film distributed on multiple platforms, and therefore having it available to consumers ‘how they want, when they want’. For example, there was no way I was waking up early to watch the Royal Wedding live when I could just as easily watch it later on-demand or on the internet at my convenience. (which is what I did!)
Someone wrote in after this newsletter and raised some interesting points about his own self-distribution strategy and went on to say that he prefers the terms “indie distribution” or “niche distribution” as opposed to “DIY” or “self distribution” which he finds unprofessional.
He figures that a quality movie doesn’t needs to be degraded by such terms and in the end, traditional distribution is going to make the movie available in the same places as an Indie distribution. From the audience’s point of view, they don’t care who distributes the movie, they just want it “how they want and when they want.”
It’s funny because I had never thought about the terms “DIY” and “self distribution” as being unprofessional or degrading in any way and I’m wondering what you all think?
However I do agree that in many instances films utilizing traditional distribution end up in the same places as films that are self distributed – for example, a traditional DVD distributor will put a film up on Amazon for sale… well Amazon is one of the easiest places for a filmmaker to go direct! But then… a traditional DVD distributor has retail accounts, everything from the big box retailers down to the mom and pops, and retail is one of the most difficult places for a filmmaker to go direct.
So one needs to think about — for the film you’re making — where is your audience most likely to consume your film? Realistically is it in retail (where it’s competing with much bigger studio films?) or is it in online – places like Amazon, iTunes, or Netflix? But don’t forget about the speciality retailers like museum and other small gift shops, which often are open to dealing directly with filmmakers. I have a client right now getting her DVD into specialty tourist shops and she is going to them directly, without a traditional distributor – but it’s where her potential audience is most likely to go and buy her film. I know of another producer who started a separate LLC. just to handle the distribution of her film and went through the process of creating her own retail accounts between the LLC and smaller speciality retailers (thus acting as her own distributor).
Let’s look at theatrical distribution – while this channel used to be closed off to filmmakers going direct, it’s now one of the easiest too. And it’s not just the small art house theaters that are open to booking films directly with with filmmakers… big chains like AMC are getting in on the action. (I did a podcast a while ago with Mary Mazzio who was one of the first filmmakers to book her film “Ten9Eight” directly into the AMC chain)
So back to the question – how will your audience consume your film and which distribution platforms will serve them best? BE REALISTIC – will it be theaters? online or bricks and mortar retailers? will they be more likely to want to watch it online… or on cable pay per view? These are the questions you want to ask yourself before you settle on what your distribution strategy will be. And of course you want to leave room for flexibility and spontaneity … as new platforms and ideas pop up all the time.
And once you answer the question on HOW your audience will consume your film you should decide the best way to achieve that. Is it via traditional distributors, or self distribution, or a combination of both? And if it’s a combination of both, how are you going to put all the pieces into place?
Finally, I’m curious – do you find the terms ‘self-distribution’ and ‘DIY’ unprofessional? At some point we may not even need to label distribution with these specific terms because it will all just be DISTRIBUTION, right?!
Looking forward to your comments below….