HOW DO I FIND DISTRIBUTION FOR MY FILM?
There you are, finished screenplay in hand, daydreaming about your festival tour, massive theatrical release, huge paycheck and let’s not forget to cap that shit off with an Oscar speech, right? Here’s to hoping.
It’s okay to have dreams, it’s what helps drive us, but we also need to be realistic. This is likely NOT going to happen to you. You’re not getting into a huge festival, you won't have a theatrical release, there is no paycheck and you’ll be sitting on the couch watching the Oscars. It’s not personal, it’s business.
The problem isn't finding distribution for your film. The problem is, you’re not satisfied with the options at your disposal.
DREAMS OF GRANDEUR
Most independent filmmakers believe they WILL get into Sundance with their finished masterpiece, but simply making a film, even if it is a masterpiece, sometimes isn’t enough. You have to keep in mind that festivals are a business. As much as they support independent film, they still want to get paid. So, if we look at your film, from a business aspect, what are you bringing to the table? Do you have A list talent? Hell, do you have B list talent? Have you created something that NOBODY has ever created before? Have you used technology and computer graphics, never before seen that will revolutionize the industry?
If you’re like me then you answered no to all the questions above. This poses to be problematic to the overall plan. If I don’t get into a festival, how will I have my theatrical release? How will I distribute my film?
Failing to make it to a large festival makes theatrical release difficult to achieve. Should I reach out to distribution companies on my own, attempting to sell the rights? Should I hire a sales agent? Should I contact the theaters directly?
Again, you’re focusing on the wrong questions. Everything stems back to business. Nobody wants to show your movie if they can’t make money from it. What are you bringing to the table? If it’s just the movie, it’s not enough. So save your time and energy, there’s no need to seek this level of distribution.
Then how will I recoup my initial investment? How will I make the money back that I put into this film? How will I pay off this credit card debt?
It’s time to face the facts, it’s not coming. 80% of films fail and it’s likely that yours will too. Just accept it. In fact, come to terms with this before you even write the words FADE IN. The odds of you finishing a feature length film are small. The chance that it makes money is even smaller. Films are a losing proposition.
With an industry seemingly against you, do you still have the drive to solder on? Still motivated to make your failed film? That’s great news! Let me officially welcome you to the club.
SUCCESSFUL DISTRIBUTION FOR A FAILURE
One thing to remember about independent filmmakers, we’re fucking resilient. Nothing holds us down, nothing stops us. With a fucking smile on our faces, we continue to move forward in the endless pursuit of our massive goals and dreams. So the question isn’t, how do I find distribution for my film? The question is, which distribution method will I use?
Successful distribution for independent artists is simple, thanks to the internet. You have plenty of resources at your disposal, making global distribution a very real thing for ALL filmmakers.
Look, if you want to have a festival run then you should do that. Who the hell am I to tell you differently? Submit to festivals, but be realistic about it. Submit to the big few but also submit to several small local festivals as well. You can get into smaller festivals and enjoy the experience to a lesser degree.
Want to have a theatrical release? I think you should do that too. Contact a small local theater and set up a screening of your film. Hell, buy a red carpet and hold your own premiere there. Invite your friends and family, enjoy the experience. You deserve to have this just like every other filmmaker.
Want to make money? Then get a fucking job. As I’ve preached before, that should NEVER be your driving factor. It can be a result of your efforts, but never what drives you. If that’s why you’re in this game then you’ve already lost.
Simply put, come into your film with an initial plan of festival submissions and perhaps a screening at a theater. Next, set your backup plan to use one of the many distribution channels on the internet. Self distribute on YouTube, Vimeo, Spondo or even Amazon. These are great tools readily available to everyone and you should be grateful they exist. Filmmakers in the 80’s and 90’s didn’t have these options, you do.
So if the goal is to achieve global distribution, making your film available to as many moviegoers as possible, the options are literally at your fingertips.