As a filmmaker, you want to get your films in front of viewers. The obvious choice is to have them broadcast by a streaming service . . . but figuring out how to do that isn’t so obvious.
Should you try to get your film picked up by Netflix? Or Amazon Prime? One of the smaller, more specialist streaming services? Or should you wait for one of the forthcoming streaming services, like Disney’s forthcoming option?
The entire film industry is headed toward streaming options, and that includes independent filmmakers.
If you can get your film picked up by a streaming service (which is absolutely possible), it could be put in front of tens of thousands of viewers. It could be your ticket to fame.
But you may want to reconsider that strategy.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait for Streaming Services to Buy Your Films
Many indie filmmakers dream of having their films shown on Netflix. And it’s an admirable goal. But is it a viable one?
Many people will tell you that it is. That with good enough films and a lot of perseverance, you can have your films bought by Netflix or another major streaming service.
But it’s good to have reasonable expectations. There are a lot of independent films out there, and only so many of them are going to make it to Netflix. There are a lot of factors—not just the quality of the film, but how you go about marketing yourself, who you know, and just plain luck.
If you want to make a career—or even a side hustle—out of your filmmaking, waiting for Netflix to bestow their blessing on your film might not be the best way to go. You could be stuck waiting for replies. You don’t get to control how much money you make. Netflix will be competing against you with their own indies.
And in the end, someone else has control over the distribution of your films. Which runs counter to the indie spirit.
What if I told you there was another way? A way that let you control distribution and pricing, and didn’t involve waiting on other people?
There is indeed a way, and it might be just what you’re looking for when it comes to distribution, marketing, and sales.
Start Your Own Netflix-style Website
Video-on-demand (VOD)is a way for people to get videos. Netflix is an example of subscription VOD (SVOD). iTunes is transactional VOD. There are all sorts of models for running a VOD service.
And you can start your own. You don’t need to wait for anyone to buy the distribution rights for your film
This means you get your films out there fast. You’ve created an artistic masterpiece, and you want the world to see it. Why wait around for someone else to start sharing your film? No one likes to wait. And with your own VOD service, you don’t have to.
Controlling the distribution and promotion has other benefits, too. You could partner with other filmmakers. Sell other types of content on your site. Release your own app for streaming your videos on phones, tablets, and smart TVs.
You can also use promotional tools like marketing emails and social media to directly promote your videos, instead of relying on another streaming service to do so for you. When Netflix has multimillion-dollar blockbusters in its catalog, you can’t expect them to do much promotion for your indie film.
And it’s in Netflix’s best interest to not give you the best deal. They need to make money, too. Having another company between you and your viewers will decrease your profits. It’s already hard to make money filmmaking; why would you add another hurdle? When you control your pricing and profits, you can make the best decisions for both you and your viewers.
(Some VOD channels pull in over $10,000 per month. Wouldn’t that be nice?)
Finally, your own VOD service will help you build a brand. That might not be a huge concern of yours right now, but it’s something you should keep in mind. Creating a personal and professional brand helps you get loyal customers and increase your visibility. Offering a VOD service that highlights your films can only help in that brand creation.
You can even build a community around your films with user profiles, comments, and other interactive features.
How to Create Your Own Streaming Service
You might be surprised to find out that creating your own VOD website is easy and doesn’t require any technical skill. There are plenty of providers that allow you to create this kind of site, even if you’ve never built a website before.
Providers like Uscreen let you build a site from their gallery of templates with just a few clicks.
You don’t have to worry about the development or getting your site uploaded to a server. Just customize your design, upload your videos, and create your pricing structure.
Of course, creating your pricing structure is going to take some thought. You can use a subscription model like Netflix, but you’ll need a lot of content for that to work. You can also rent or sell your videos from your site, which might work better for indie filmmakers.
But you get complete control over your pricing, giving you the power to make the money you deserve.
Once your site is up, all you need to do is update it with new films and videos on a regular basis. The more you have on your site, the more likely people will be to stop by to watch.
And, of course, you’ll need to promote your site, too. Platforms that include social media or email marketing tools will be a big help in this endeavor. There are all sorts of ways to promote your content across the internet, and having your own website from which to base your efforts will let you send everyone to the same place, where they’ll see your branding and all of your films.
Getting started is super easy. Just choose a platform, sign up, and get to work. You’ll need to choose a domain name if you don’t have one already, and you may want to think about an eye-catching logo, but if you have videos to upload, you’re already halfway done.
If you’re thinking that this process sounds expensive, don’t worry; there are plenty of affordable options. While some platforms require that you agree to revenue-sharing agreements, Uscreen simply requires a flat fee.
When you’re comparing VOD solutions, make sure to check out the fees, and even a small difference can add up to a lot of money over months of service.
When you first hear about it, the idea of starting your own streaming service might sound far-fetched. But the advantages are too numerous to ignore: you can start distributing your films immediately, with full control over both distribution and promotion. You get to set your own prices. You get a powerful brand-building tool.
And because building a VOD site is actually quite simple, it won’t take you a long time or a lot of money to get it set up. Just choose a template, customize the design, upload your films, and set your prices.
If you’re feeling especially motivated, you can also take advantage of things like branded apps, built-in marketing tools, and expanded content options.
You may have dreamt of getting your independent films on Netflix. But there’s another option—and it’s better in almost every way.