5 Steps to Self-Distributing Your Film Online

I’ll start by saying that I’ve never worked in traditional film distribution. I see this fact as a positive thing, and I’m very familiar with the horror stories that come from Hollywood distribution companies. I’m a digital marketer, and I know the steps I’m going to share with you are also applicable to any other industry. The good news is that filmmaker entrepreneurs now have options for taking ownership over their products and reaching audiences directly.

Smart distributors are keen to work with filmmakers who, aside from having a great movie, can also demonstrate a digital self-distribution plan. This means film distributors seek projects that don’t actually need a distributor. Many distributors pay for this privilege because a big part of the work has been created.

Distributors, like any other investors, have always worked to acquire projects with the lowest risk and the highest possible return on investment. These days, because film distribution is increasingly online, a low risk project is one with a famed YouTuber. You probably know where I’m going with this.

A distributor naturally assumes the YouTuber will promote the movie to his or her audience, and by having a famed YouTuber, a distributor does not have to pay marketing money to build word of mouth. Less money spent for marketing, equals a lower risk for the distributor. And this means a lot more reward for you as a filmmaker.

So what happens if you do not have a big movie star or a famed Youtuber? How will your project become less risky and prove to have a good potential ROI (Return On Investment)?

5 steps to start your digital self-distribution plan:

Find your Unique Selling Proposition

A “unique” selling proposition must explain what distinguishes your film. Define the particular advantages your project has over similar films. Start by creating a list of each specific benefit that you provide. USPs are not introductory paragraphs. They are generally a phrase or sentence. Don’t ramble. The more concise you are, the better your results.

Create a Marketing Plan for Your Film

Creating a marketing plan is less complex than you think. Answer these questions: Who is your target audience? How will you reach your target audience? Based on your budget, how many unit sales will it take you to break even? How will you make this happen without losing money? Creating a marketing plan will make your project look professional. There are several resources online with templates that can guide you through the content for a basic marketing plan.

Quick tip: Make sure you present your movie like a “real” movie. Hire a graphic designer.

Create a Trailer and Preview Content

Trailers and preview content are ads meant to pique the interest of prospective viewers, and there is a talent to making them work. This isn’t a job for your intern or PA. There is a characteristic pace and flow to a trailer you don’t find in narrative editing. It’s the same material but presented with an urgency that’s different from your whole film. Take some time to learn the correct way to cut a trailer. You can also hire a dedicated trailer editor to cut this for you. Preview content is any behind the scenes and insightful content you would be willing to share with your audience in order to get them excited about the project. An example could be a picture of an actor in a special costume or a short clip of a fantastic stunt executed well! Understand that the goal here is to create curiosity from an audience to your project.

Use Your Built Audience and Brand

Use your audience and brand (we spoke about this in a previous piece) to create the buzz your film needs to get noticed for a bigger deal in the future. Get your audience to watch and share the trailer of your film with people they know. Use email marketing to remind people of the release of your film and share preview content to create curiosity and excitement! We will talk about social media and email marketing at a later time.

Digital Self-Distribution Platforms

Try to set up a traditional distribution deal, but with a self-distribution plan in case you don’t get one. You will need to get to know some DIY distribution platforms. This could mean the film festival route, using something like Tugg for your theatrical release, or signing a short contract with a digital video on demand service company. If you don’t actually land a favorable distribution deal, you’ll still enter the market.

Times have changed for filmmakers and you have to find your own deal. You live in a great time where you’re not limited. You can leverage technology to market your movie directly to a global audience. That’s what digital self-distribution is all about.