self distribution for filmmakersDescribing myself as an Indie filmmaker sounds very fashionable and bohemian. In truth I think the most appropriate term would be: “Factotum”. For those who are not accustomed with our weird industry, the term “factotum” in this particular instance  translates into something along the lines of : “A passionate workaholic with great ideas and no money, who wakes up one day and decides to write, direct, produce, post-produce and distribute his/her film all by himself and without being paid”. BANG! However, if you don’t get any guarantee of distributing your film before producing it, I can guarantee you’ll get a serious chronic headache in the future.

One day you will be proudly holding in your arms your creature, born after years of labour and suddenly you will realize that nobody gives a shit about it. There are only two explanations:

1. Your film sucks
2. You did not secure distribution before venturing into production.

Be honest, does your film suck?…
Ok, let’s consider option 2 : Indiefilmmakers generally don’t secure distribution beforehand for two reasons:

a) Because nobody gives a shit about you… totally unknown being with extravagant ideas.
b) Because you simply want to shoot your film. You feel the urge of lifting on screen your burning beliefs and visions and you cannot wait another year trying to make a deal for distribution. NO! You cannot even wait another day, because when the idea becomes an urgency and tickles your soul inside you can’t put it on hold or it will disappear.

So apparently you have been an asshole, you have conceived the baby, but you have no idea how to feed it and you have no more money to buy milk. How to prevent its death now?

I have read all the books on earth about Film Distribution and Financing, I have been to all the possible Producing-Financing Distributing Master Classes ( Hybrid,Classical, Digital, Trans Media). I have pitched the soul out of me, talked to the experts and of course I have been networking till exhaustion. It looks all brilliant and very helpful . It surely is and it is imperative that you do all of that, BUT do not think that it will magically solve the confusion in your head.

Of course the more information you will gather, the more tactically you can plan your moves, but strangely enough your fear of doing the wrong choice will increase, because at this point you will know that success rates are near to zero. Fear will freeze you, you will be confused and frustrated and caught in your head thinking over and over about the best marketing strategies. As a consequence your passion and your sixth sense will  be completely annihilated and this is the biggest mistake. I wish there was a guarantee of success based just on the rules of marketing, but unfortunately there is not. Get over it. You’ ll hear billions of advices, most of the times contradictory, and one day a hammering voice will grab your brain and will not let go of you, it will keep you awake at night and that’s what you’ ll hear:

“Follow the Festival route! (The Pilgrimage to Santiago) …Enter festivals, but make a good festival strategy first. Don ‘t dry up the budget (it is drier than all the deserts put together) as you must invest half of it in …”

Wait a minute voice, I have just read an article which claims that Film Festivals are a waste of time and money unless you get in the biggest ones, the rest is useless…

“Forget about Festivals for now and focus on digital distribution, because..”

Cool I am reading about it…VOD world…there is transactional VOD which includes IVOD and EST, than there is AVOD and finally there is SVOD, but be careful about the windowing between them, because if you don’t do it right you can kill your film. And there are those guys who have used Trans Media and they had an amazing success! Yes! Trans Media is the new way forward…

“Silly you! Before doing anything like that you must create more awareness! Don’t you know that you can organize screenings on demands trough dedicated platforms…especially in US? What does your business plan say about this territory?”

…Business plan? Wait a minute…and my film premiere?

“Film premieres suck! Why would you do such a stupid thing? To boost your ego? Be strategic, if you do it there must be a reason and this must be linked with a smart marketing move. You can’t possibly spend money, which you don’t have, without a plan and the day you’ll have one remember: you must organize a super duper event related to the topic of your film because this is how premieres work nowadays! Find THE influencer who can host the evening and boost interest among your audience! The merchandising must be ready now! Talk to the graphic designer about your ideas for all the prints: banners-flyers-postcard and the invitation to the after-party! Did you contact the press? I know you are running out of money darling, but you can’t say no to the red carpet filled with photographers and press, did you do a good job on social networks to invite people? No! Not your friends! People from the film industry of course, do not bother inviting your mother and friends, that’s pathetic!…and remember! At Midnight your dream will be over and you will be forgotten the next day, unless you have done your homework for at least 6 months in advance and have a sound marketing in place with all your next moves and contracts ready!”

This is when the filmmaker starts to google: the best way to die without pain and be buried with your HDCAM SR (DCP if you are on the next level).

They say nowadays we can skip the middle men and self-distribute easily our films thanks to digital distribution and all that jazz. REALLY?? You must be joking! Guys you must admit this is the most confusing Era ever to distribute our films and the whole process still involves high costs.

Welcome to the Mirror Maze of Film Distribution! Knowledge, contacts, courage, hard work are surely paramount, but this is not all, my advice is: don’ t loose track of that passion which gave you the energy to make your film in the first place. It is easy to get discouraged while you are marketing and distributing your film, and you WILL get caught in your head. Do not forget that you are not just a business man but also a creative with passion. They say passion does not equal marketing, but I must disagree on this one: the same passion that dragged you out of bed at 5am on set is the very same which you need to share now with your audience. The audience is not interested in seeing your film but in identifying with your ideals and beliefs, once you merge with them, they will want to watch your film and distributing it will become easier because you will have a real demand.

You can hire a PMD and get professional help and collaborate with magnificent people. Yes,  get some help, you CANT do it alone! I strongly advise you to do all that, but most importantly: DO NOT forget that you are the heart behind your indie film, share the heartbeat with the audience and the rest will fall into place.

I was almost forgetting. I am the founder and Director of Wo-ho!Productions, I am going to make the Premiere of our feature film Waves soon and I want you to screen your films with me in a Theatre in London, FOR FREE. If you want to take up this opportunity go here and apply to our film contest (CONTEST SECTION) : http://www.wo-ho-productions.com   Spread the word out there, we can do it together!

See you there and don’t forget to invite your mother and friends. They are allowed at our Premiere 🙂