IFH 052: The 5 Lies of Indie Film Distribution



Top Apple Filmmaking Podcast

20+ Million Downloads

Indie film distribution in a mystery to most indie filmmakers. It is filled with deception, scams, misinformation and straight out LIES! I wanted to put together an episode spotlighting the five major lies filmmakers hear about film distribution.

Like many truths in the world, these might not be easy to swallow but there is hope. If you have a plan “BEFORE YOU SHOOT YOUR FILM” your odds of success go up greatly.

I see so many indie filmmakers killing themselves to make their films but have no idea how to recoup their money or actually make a living doing what they love to do. I hope this podcast helps.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So I wanted to do an episode guys on the five lies of film distribution these are myths if you will that I feel that a lot of filmmakers are sold and I wanted to clarify it and hopefully do some good today and get some clarification on some of this stuff. So first myth you see that distributors are calling you and emailing you because your movies almost done or in production or about to be done and finished and they want to see it they want to hear and you're like oh my god how they find out about me i'm i'm so special all I got to do is just send it to them and I'll get a distribution deal. Well as I'm gonna say this word a lot in this episode wrong. Generally if you put your movie in the trades in any of the trades variety Hollywood Reporter or so on film distributors are always scanning those always putting them on a list putting these film projects on the list and they're gonna call you you're in the trades, they're automatically going to cold call you just to see what's going on that they're always call you. So don't think you're special by doing this. Now, one big mistake that a lot of filmmakers make is when they do get these calls, and they do get these emails, they're so excited. They think that oh my god, I'm gonna I'm gonna make a fortune, they're gonna pay me a lot. I'm gonna just do what they say. And they ask you, Hey, can you send me a copy of the movie so we can screen it. And then a lot of filmmakers will send a DVD or a Vimeo link or something like that, which is the kiss of death, you'd never ever, ever want to send a distributor, a DVD screener, or a Vimeo link or something else before it has premiered in a festival or in a some sort of premiere where you've kind of unveiled this this project. No film, to my knowledge has ever gotten theatrical distribution based off of a DVD screen or or Vimeo link. So please be very careful with that myth. Myth number two, which is personally one of my favorite myths is that you're just an artist, I'm a filmmaker, I, I just want to tell stories, I just want to create my art. And I don't have to worry about the business. I don't have to worry about marketing. I'll just have somebody else worry about that kind of stuff. Well, once again, wrong. There are some filmmakers that are lucky enough to partner with a great producing partner like Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, or Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender, back in the day, when they were working together, I'm not sure if they are if they're not anymore. But this is the exception, and not the rule. Most of us filmmakers out there are not going to partner up with this amazing producer, who's going to handle all the business. He's just going to write you the checks when you get when the money comes in. And he's going to handle all the marketing and you're just going to be sitting back and creating. These are very, very rare scenarios. You have to understand all aspects of this business, from the marketing, to the business size, the contracts to all that kind of stuff. The more you understand about the business, the better chances you are of having success in the business. If you don't understand this very crucial, important part of the filmmaking process, which is the business of the show business and the marketing of that movie, you will be doomed to fail. All right. Myth number three, my movies in Sundance, all I have to do is show up and I will collect that fat check in my dreams of being a filmmaker are now achieved. And I could just start waiting to get those job offers from the studios and just make movie millions and millions of dollars off this movie that I just made. Because I know you guys just probably listened to all of the sales that went on at Sundance this year that Netflix and Amazon, Fox Searchlight all this sudden you spend 17 million 10 million you're like well I have to do is be at Sundance well. First and foremost this year was extremely unique in the way that movies were sold. I know of multiple movies, multiple movies that have gone in Sundance that I've worked on, I've gone into Sundance, Toronto South by Southwest Tribeca con, all of the big festivals, and did not get a distribution deal, even after winning festivals of that magnitude did not get a distribution deal, or barely made their money back on the movie. You know why? Because it all depends on the movie. Yes, having a winning Sundance movie does open doors. But it doesn't guarantee any sales. There's a lot of great arthouse movies that came out of Sundance that have never been seen or have not been sold in the proper way. Because they don't have the audience, the audience is too small, a wonderful piece of cinema, not a marketable product. So don't think just because you got into one of these big film festivals that you are set, my friend, it is the beginning of a long journey. Even if you are lucky enough, one of the 13 in competition for Sundance out of the 30,000 that submit, that's awesome. But it does not guarantee success. So trust me on that one. Myth number four guys. So I didn't get into Sundance, I didn't get into Tribeca, or South by Southwest, or tell you right or any of these other big festivals. But I'm submitting and I'm getting accepted into all these other kind of second tier, next tier film festivals. So obviously, all I have to do is show up. And I'll get a distribution on one of those festivals, right? I hate to break it to you. But it is hard enough to get a distribution deal at Sundance or at a Toronto Film Festival, if you're an independent film, let alone trying to get a distribution deal at a small, very, very small Film Festival or a second tier Film Festival, that all those distributors were at the main big festivals are not at that one. So chances of you getting a distribution deal at a second to your festival is very, very slim. What you can do at this point, though, is start building up the pedigree of your film with all these film festivals. So you get press coverage, you get quotes from critics, you get as many awards as you can. And that tells the world and it tells distributors that this is some movie that should be looked at. This is a movie that's getting attention. So you start building that pedigree up, you start building up that the image of your film this, this bigger than life thing. And that's what those festivals are amazing at not only for exposure, but to get all those the press coverage, the quotes, from critics, all that kind of stuff. And that's what it takes, it takes a lot of time. And it takes a lot of energy. But you have to be able to do this as well. It is just as creative guys to be marketing a film and a lot of ways than it is to make a film because I guarantee you the creative process behind the insanely great marketing campaign that was Deadpool. And if you guys have not heard me on my my social media, and tweets and Facebook, for God's sakes, if you haven't seen Deadpool go out and see it now it is the greatest superhero movie I've ever seen. Okay, maybe not ever seen. But definitely one of the most fun job fun films I've seen in a long, long time. And one of the most out of the box films I've ever seen in this genre in the superhero genre. But the marketing campaign for that movie was brilliant. And it took months, the creativity involved with that, I argue was as as important as creating an a great, great product as well. So the creative process should be equal on both sides. The movie, and the marketing and the business side have to be shared it is part of the process, and you have to understand both sides of it in order to succeed. And the final lie guys, Myth number five, you know what screw the traditional distribution model that hell with them. I'm going to go my own way, I'm going to self distribute this movie, and I'm going to make tons of cash selling to directly to my fans to my audience. So ton of make a ton of money, selling DVDs, and vo DS and stuff like that. Well, I hate to break it to you. This is one of the scariest of all the lies because you can tell yourself this and you can go down this road. But selling a movie yourself is very, very difficult. I'm not saying it's impossible because we preach in indie film hustle that you should go down the self distribution path. But we also show you that there is strategies plans are planning to goes into all of that you don't just, you know, throw it up on VHS and like hope people show up or throw it up on Vimeo pro and hope people show up. There is a long process of building an audience, engaging with that audience, finding out what they want, working with that audience and then selling the properties. You know, out of the 5000 movies or features that were made out of every 5000 movies, let's say 20 of them make any serious money out of 5000 generally because people don't take the time or don't completely underestimate the amount of work. It's going to Take two make real money with a movie Now with that said if your budgets $10,000 you can make a good you can make a good return selling your movies directly to your fans if that's if you've done a good job if you're if you made a budget of a million dollars and you're going to be strictly on online and DVD sales by yourself my friend I wish you the best of luck it hasn't happened yet I haven't seen anyone do it yet except for a few documentaries but they were so strategic on the way they did it it's very very difficult to do and it's a very lottery ticket mentality which is something we and I completely preach against do not think about the exception and but think about the rule think about what everybody else has to go through and if you're lucky enough to get the exception fantastic but plan plan for the worst and hope for the best that's what I always look for and that's what I always tell everybody in production in general so if you're going to go down this road guys just make sure you have a tremendously good strategy plan you've built up that audience you've taken time but this is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work and there's no guarantees down it I mean right now I'm going through this with with Anya I'm starting to figure out where we're gonna go with this movie and if you if you join our membership program at indie film hustle calm for slash full access sorry sorry for the plug. We're going to be we're having these discussions right now me and Paul are having these discussions about like Okay, do we want to go after big names for the movie? Are we going to try to do big names for the movie? Are we going to try to go more unconventional ways of casting to see if we can leverage social media or self distribute ourselves? Or you know how do we package this how do we angle this story you know, and how do we angle this product this movie that we're gonna put together so these are all questions that are being answered as we speak right now so if you join indie film hustle comm forward slash full access sign up for it and we will email you as soon as we're ready to launch the membership site which will be hopefully up in the next three four weeks or so as we're working things up all this information all these kind of questions are answered and in that in that membership of course not course but in that membership group that will be able to be able to talk and have this kind of communication with but it takes a lot of work guys and I'm going down this path myself right now with Anya so it should be interesting. On a side note, guys I know a lot of you like think of like home video is like oh no, who's wants to go to Home Video who wants to go to Home Video distributors. You know, there's no money in home video DVD markets dying up. You know what, guys last year, it made, I think $17 billion, the home video market 17 billion with a B not million billion with a B. So home video is still also another place where you can go after and go after those distributors. It doesn't have to be theatrical only guys, there's over 100 distributors that are strictly home video, they'll get you in Walmart, they'll get you in Best Buy's, they'll get you on Amazon, and try and get money for your movie. So don't underestimate the power of home video, it's still a very viable option, guys. You know, I see so many filmmakers who kill themselves to make their films, but have absolutely no idea on how to recoup their money, no idea how to make money how to sell that movie, they just, they just kind of throw it out there and hope for the best. And they've spent a year or two or three working on this movie, their Opus, their film, and they can't figure a way out to sell it, how to make money, how to recoup it how to actually make a living doing what they love to do. And that's why I created indie film hustle. That's one of the reasons why because it frustrates me so so much that I see my fellow independent filmmakers not making it not able to sell their product, not able, they spent years wasting away on a project and not understand the end game. So please, if you're making a movie, understand, you have to know the marketing, you have to have a distribution plan in pre production, while you're casting, you have to understand this kind of stuff in order to be successful. and sell your movie recoup your money and actually make money what a shocking concept actually make money doing what you love to do. So it's a lot of work. And it takes a lot of time. But if you're serious about trying to make it in this business, these are things that you're going to have to do. So. I hope this episode was helpful for you guys. I wish I would have had this kind of conversation or understood this kind of these concepts when I was working, starting out as a filmmaker. So now that I'm getting ready to do my first feature film, it is very in front of my head of like, how am I going to sell this movie? Who am I going to sell it to? How are we going to get it out there. So I hope this episode was helpful to you guys in that fashion. So go get them guys. Don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm, that's filmmaking podcast.com Leave us an honest review of the show. It helps us out a lot, and really helps us get the word out on indie film hustle, so we can help more and more filmmakers. Get their movies made. sold. and rinse, repeat. rinse, repeat. So, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




Where Hollywood Comes to Talk

Oliver Stone

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)

Edward Burns

(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)

Richard Linklater

Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)

Eric Roth

Oscar® Winning Screenwriter
(Forrest Gump, Dune)

Oscar® Winning Writers/Directors
(Everything, Everywhere, All At Once)

Jason Blum

(Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver)

Oscar® Nominated Producer
(Get Out, Whiplash)

Chris Moore sml

Oscar® Nominated Producer
(Good Will Hunting, American Pie)

(Menace II Society, Book of Eli)

Marta Kauffman sml

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Last Samurai, Blood Diamond)

Emmy® Winning Writer & Showrunner
(Friends, Grace and Frankie)

Free Training of The Week


Film Distribution Crash Course

By Alex Ferrari

In this crash course film distribution expert Alex Ferrari shows you the top 5 distribution agreements and pitfalls to avoid, what a standard deal looks like, and much more.