Once you're on the festival circuit with your own film, as we have been, you start to think about your film's life after the festival circuit, in particular how you're going to get distribution for your film.
There's lots of options out there that are worth considering and I recently spoke to Florida filmmaker Bobby Washington who makes about $3000/month from selling his movie grassroots style. I have to say that I admire his courage as I couldn't do it the way that he does but maybe you're braver than me. Check it out and let me know what you think. Is this something that you'd do?
Bobby's method is working out for him but it's not the only way to sell your film. Below are a couple links to articles that discuss some different methods. For instance, you can get your film up on VOD services like iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo-On-Demand and Amazon, either directly (with Amazon and Vimeo) or by paying a video aggregator to do it for you (for which you will pay an upfront cost to first approach the platforms and then, if your film meets their criteria, for converting and delivering your film).
You can also seek out a sales agent and/or distributor (the lines between the two are increasingly blurred with sales agents these days doing distribution and even financing films. But, if you don't have a recognizable star or a track record with a following, then you're likely not going to get a cable, etc. release. In which case, it makes more sense to do it yourself, whether through an aggregator, through your own devices OR through a DIY distribution platform like VHX or Gumroad.
Why do it yourself or use an aggregator for VOD placement? Well, once you pay an aggregator for placing your film (about $1500 the last time I checked), you don't pay them any further costs or commissions. If you get a sales agent, you don't pay fees upfront - except for deliverables costs like your Quality Control report, notarized contract, etc – but you will pay 35% of your sales (more or less) and they will also deduct their expenses to visit film markets, etc. And they will have the rights to your film for 12-18 years, depending on the sales agent.
This is what we did with our first feature film, A Brand New You.
Our sales agent, Adler & Associates, have placed it on Amazon, Vimeo and China Mobile (for a license fee of about $400), Pantaflix (Germany), and Roku. They are also working to place the film on platforms in South America now that we've given them a subtitle file in Spanish. The delivery and marketing expenses (which we have to cover through sales, not upfront) for which they've billed us is about $13,000.
That means before we see anything we have to make sales of over $13,000. In other words several thousand people have to rent our little, unknown movie with no name actors before we ever see a profit. And we have to drive the traffic with our own marketing - marketing is entirely the responsibility of the filmmaker. If we'd put that $13,000 into marketing our film... well, you can see why it might be a better idea to do it yourself.
Now, with a distributor they may negotiate that they will dedicate a certain budget for marketing (which will be deducted from your profits). If you don't personally have that money to pay upfront, this can be advantageous.
As we get our quarterly sales reports from Adler I will keep you posted and it will become clearer the benefit of working with a sales agent and help us make a decision about what we will do with FMWBH. To be clear I'm not saying that you shouldn't work with a sales agent, just laying out some of the details. What I am saying is that we don't know yet because A Brand New You is just beginning the sales/revenue process.
Your sales reports are always delayed - after a sales quarter (3 months) the platform (eg. Amazon) sends a sales report, then they send the money at the end of the next quarter (another 3 months). The sales agent sends you their report of all sales activity from all sources the following quarter, along with any net revenue (another 3 months). For instance, our film went up on Amazon at the end of the 2nd quarter of 2017 (end of June). We got our first report (covering the end of June) in January - ie. about six months after. Our first report had basically no revenue because our film had only been up on Amazon, etc. for less than a week. We should get our next report - representing a full quarter - in April.
Anyway, that's all for now, here's some links for y'all:
Making a Microbudget Film That Cracks iTunes' Top 3 - this is from another website similar to mine by Alex Ferrari called Indie Film Hustle. The film itself looks a lot like the film For Lovers Only by the Polish Brothers (which is worth checking out if you're into steamy romances - it was made for "$0.00" - more of a marketing number than true but still an impressive achievement).
Should Filmmakers Tour Their Films Like Bands Tour Their Albums - this is an interesting model (especially if you don't have kids, a mortgage, a job, etc...) from Filmmaker Magazine
And over at Startup Filmmaker by Stacey Parkes - which is the free blog connected to her membership site Film Specific - has lots of great discussion of distribution, sales agents, etc. (she is an ex-sales agent and is focused very much on distribution, etc. I read all her posts, she is a great place to get a sense of the lay of the land, especially for higher end microbudgets or films in the ultra low to low budget range, up to about $5 million). This blog post is a good place to start for market insights: Turning Down A Worldwide Deal
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