How Social Media Changes Film Distribution For Better Or Worse

I received this email yesterday from Botagoz Koshim who is studying at the University for the Creative Arts in Surrey. He’s in the final year of film production study and currently is writing a  dissertation on ‘How social media changes film distribution?’

The research includes some opinions of people from the film industry and I’ve been asked, as the founder of Raindance, to answer the questions below.

I’m often asked these questions and have decided to write up my answers in a bit more detail to help Botagoz and follow film students.

1. What is your opinion on digital film distribution?

Well, actually all film distribution is now digital. From a festival point of view, this has reduced our screening costs dramatically. We now screen DCP’s and not celluloid. Our last celluloid screening was in 2012.

My opinion? It’s a lot easier to carry a handful of hard drives around than the big film cans. The problem is making sure they work and are formatted correctly for the cinema. This can cause problems for filmmakers in three respects: understanding what is required file wise for a DCP; and secondly, understanding that the sound and picture mixes are very different for cinema than for YouTube; and thirdly, of course, the expense of creating a DCP.

In other respects, digital distribution makes it possible to pay your film on any of the digital platforms. There is Mubu, Youtube, Vimeo and so on. The real trick is to get people to watch. In this respect the challenges of digital distribution are identical to the good, old-fashioned celluloid screenings.

2. Does social media have a good or bad influence on film promotion?

Of course, social media can be used for good or bad. Have a look at what Donald Trump is doing with his social media, for example.

Basically, social media is an essential part of any film’s distribution strategy. The common misconception is that social media is free just because you can set up a Twitter or Facebook profile for free. What is very expensive is the time and effort you need to put into social media,

3. What film promotion strategy do you have for film festivals?

Raindance Film Festival has a unique and challenging promotional challenge. Unlike London’s genre festivals like Frightfest, our films come from all over the world and cover a wide range of genres. This means we have to position the festival very carefully, or people would become confused.

At Raindance, we from different types of films as strands. We have documentaries, shorts, features, music videos, LGBTQ, web series, virtual reality. and so on

The next trick is to find the audience for each strand, and for the individual films within each strand.

For example, we had a social impact documentary Bluefin in 2017. We marketed this to ecology groups. we did the same for a 2016 documentary Plastic Ocean. Both of these films were seen by enough influencers that it started a change in how we eat tune (Bluefin) and increase awareness of plastic damage to the ocean (Plastic Ocean).

With both of these films, we created online advertising campaigns and utilised the Raindance Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles.

As an editorial tool, we created a keyword page to hopefully make the different films we screen easier to access for journalists, film student, critics and bloggers. You can see our current keyword page here,

A good understanding of best practice on the different social media channels is also extremely import. as is an understanding of SEO and all of the other online tools now needed to promote and market your film.

These are important to promote your festival screening as well as your crowdfunding and self-distribution campaigns.

4. What platforms do you use for film distribution?

The dominant film distribution platforms are iTunes, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo and MUBI. what we should all be deeply concerned about is net neutrality. And of course, the platform(s) you choose will certainly rely on your social media as well.

5. Why do you think some online promotions do not work? What is the reason?

This is a tough question. I’m often asked my opinion of why social media changes film distribution. And I keep changing my opinion too!

I now feel that the important part of any promotion campaign is to tell a story. finding the story and then figuring out how to tell the story of your film in an entertaining and enticing way is what it is all about. so, the short answer why an online promotion doesn’t work is because there is no story.

A secondary and essential element is to include the emotion. People remember emotions. People remember how something made them feel.

Creating a trailer is an important part of the mix too, And a tricky one at that. The trailer we made for Deadly Virtues was seen over half-million times. Have a look here and see if you can see what I mean about the story element. As well as the emotion,

If you really want to see how you stack up, why not take your very own Filmmakers Health Check?

Hope this helps.



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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