5 Tips To Getting Your Film Distributed

As an independent filmmaker there are things that you need to consider that are beyond the realms of making a film, better still making a good film. And that is the art of marketing. The danger of all filmmakers is the ability to do one but not the other. If you are a new filmmaker, finding your way in the world getting that all important distribution deal is a challenge you really need to think about. Every filmmaker knows their vision and assume much will just follow naturally, generally it does not however, and this is a painful element that means that most filmmakers will only ever make one film. Here are 5 tips to getting your film to distribution.

Social Media

Your social media needs to be on point if its not, your film will go nowhere. You should never favour one more than another, you need to get the bases covered on the three most notable platforms. Notability for distributors comes in this order: Instagram, Facebook then finally Twitter. With the opening of platforms such as Amazon Video Direct, Indie movies make less money than ever before, so a distributor needs to create a weights and measures approach to considering the distribution of your film.

If your film only has 300 followers on Facebook when it comes to distribution the buyer will consider only 100 of your followers a viable buyer, therefore distribution of your film is worthless to them, it will cost more in legal processes than their guaranteed earnings. So, you need to focus smartly on how you get your film out there.

Social Media is something you must factor in from the offset, you need to set yourself clearly defined goals, its hard work, beyond making the film. But its the ultimate thing you can get right, in many ways it can be more valuable than the film you have made.

Starting from the beginning you need to ensure you have a public and freely accessible page for both you the filmmaker and the film in question. You need to set aside 1 hour a day for social media, on the build-up, during and post filming in fact you should not ever stop pumping unique content about your movie into social media land until the day you feel you have achieved all your goals in terms of getting your film out there. You need to be strict about your time, ten minutes minimum on each medium for your personal and movie profiles. Your plan should follow in a 1 in 2 format, on one day you make a post on the following you gain interest in your post and so on. Social Media strategy is really a subject for another time, but bear in mind that you need to be as focused on your followers or potential followers as you are yourself. So key tips might be, identify similar filmmakers as yourself, find out about your local film circuit, who is making films on your doorstep. Follow and support these operations by making comments on their posts, tag them in appropriate ONLY tags, do not tag them in irrelevancies, make the tag pertinent to them. For example, “John Smith who’s working on the movie The Cat With Yellow Lips is working on our movie, The Dog With Red Slippers” This allows you to tag your film, a peer filmmaker and a peer film and giving everyone a warm fuzzy feeling and potentially making people see you and your film favourably.

Its also important to continually like the work of others you do not follow as sooner or later it will turn into a following. The most important thing you MUST NOT DO! Is buy likes, no matter how tempting it is, all these organisations have filters and apps that will show how many likes are real and genuine and that are fake, I’ve seen so many filmmakers who have virtually made nothing to generate 40,000 followers but scroll through the followers and 7 in 10 is a red flag. If you are interested in a more detailed social media strategy whether its persona, business or otherwise, please follow me and I’ll write some articles in the not-too-distant future covering a head to toe strategy for social media promotion.

Press

The ability to write good and varied press releases is a must, with each one you need to think of a different angle. You could focus on budget, actors, subject, location; something that is beyond the sum of the movies parts, a real pull for online or print press. Start local then widen your net, look at genre review sites, magazines etc. During the creation of my first movie, a filmmaking magazine wrote an article on me called “interview with a pro”, oh the irony. The ability to generate your own hype is key to your success.

Wikipedia

Getting a Wikipedia page is hard as hell but think your angles and factor in with the above section on press and you are on to a winning formula. Press coverage is key to getting an article on Wikipedia being considered as notable. When you create your wiki page (or better still get someone else to do it) you need to keep it very much from a third-person perspective, list the accolades, screenings and awards and your cast. Finally create links to all of your press. When searching your films title Wikipedia pages will almost always show first even higher than IMDB.

Getting your film judged

This is not what it seems, find friends that you trust who were not involved in the making of the film and ask them to watch and critique your film. Get bloggers to see your film. These two factors can ultimately define your films future. Ask for genuine responses only, people in your film will always praise it up whether they think its good or bad, I mean who will downplay a film they are involved in “a bad egg” would. You need someone to say (before you colour grade your film) that certain aspects do not work, a performance is poor, or the editing is not right. Do not take the feedback personally, take it as genuine and act on their feedback especially if the same thing is mentioned by more than one person.

Send to film festivals

There are two opportunities here, using a service such as The Film Festival Doctor, a genuine globetrotting film festival strategist who will get your films in festivals for a fee, based on her understanding of what festivals want and like. Rebekah Louisa Smith is known all over the world on the festival circuit and sometimes paying fees for a service is better in terms of financial cost than doing a hit and hope method to picking festivals.

If you choose however to go it alone, a strategy I suggest would be to look at a top, middle, and bottom approach. Look at bigger festivals that do not require premiere exclusivity, the horror of premiere exclusivity is that you can be waiting on certain festival for 6 months to a year to decide if your film is the right fit for the festival and then if they reject it, you have lost a passage of time you cannot get back. A mid-level festival is probably a festival that has the towns name as part of a title, probably has been going more than 5 years and features a heavy indie line up. The bottom level is festivals that have been running three years or less, the audience may not be there yet, but if they offer awards, award wins are good for your CV, even a nomination is good. Smaller festivals will get less submissions will increase your chances of getting shown

Study festivals look at the films they have shown, if you can see ones that you feel ring true to yours, chances are they are likely to show your film. Do not send a horror film to a festival that focuses on non-violent films for example. Here is a huge disclaimer most first-time filmmakers will not be selected for 90% of the festivals they submit too.

Not a tip, but here is the magic. When you have 1000 followers on each social media channel, once you have had some good honest opinions of your film and adjusted accordingly. When you have achieved at least ten articles on your film and at least 5 reviews and had your film shown at festivals, then its time to approach distributors, if of course they have not already been in touch. Again look at similar projects, take yourself to your nearest store that sells movies and look at who they are released by. Check out indie success stories that hit the big screen and find out who distributed them how. Then do three things:

Follow the organisation on social media, as well as key players, find out their email addresses.

Work out how long it will take to send an item in the post to the different companies, then produce a pack that includes a DVD, Blu-Ray and Memory Stick (send via a tracked method) and post them unsolicited to the organisation, they all say they will not except unsolicited submissions but actually 8 out of 10 will watch it.

On the day you know the delivery is due, send the distributors an email, make it personal, include references to some of their releases, ideally make your email arrive before the package, but make no mention of sending a package in your email. In the email include a link to your movie for them to watch via a secure website such as Vimeo. Then via social channels tag them to say you have sent them a film, this does two things, it feeds as part of a drip, drip effect and secondly it lets them know that your actively looking to distribute and when they check you out they will see who else you have approached and know that if they like your film they need to act quickly.

The key is the drip, drip effect. First, they see your name, then they see your film in the post, then they see you are hungry.

Obviously, none of these things will work if your camera is shaky, your footage ungraded or your sound appalling, finally the most likely thing any filmmaker will get pulled down on is length almost every filmmaker will make a film longer than it needs to be, gracefully accept criticism, and cut, whether that tip comes from a friend, a film festival or a distributor. While I cannot comment on every film if your film has a story to tell, looks and sounds good and is well performed this strategy is a sure-fire winning formula, but you have to have the passion because ultimately only you can make your dreams come true.

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Spencer Hawken

Spencer Hawken

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A multi-award nominated filmmaker with a passion for travel, film, finance and social media.