5 Things Filmmakers Should Know About Self-Distribution by Josh Folan

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

I’m Josh Folan and I’ve been making independent film for over a decade now mostly in New York and as of seven months ago in LA. We just recently (on Thanksgiving) released ninth-produced, fourth-written, third-directed, second-edited feature LOVE IS DEAD starring Alice Kremelberg, Al Thompson, and Lita Foster.

We did that in self-distribution fashion and self-distribution is a somewhat fluid term with a lot of definitions and meanings at least right now. These are the five things that Film Courage thinks I should share with you about the initial stages of that self-distribution experience…and this is my fire place.

The first thing I would like to touch on about self-distribution is the decision to do it. It’s not the easiest way to get your film out into the world and it’s a great deal of work so it’s not for everyone. In our case the reason we chose to do it was a range of things but 1) It was hard to attract interest in it from the companies that you really want to be working with or many of the companies that you really want to be working with in the distribution realm.  We had extreme difficulty selling subject matter.

Most sales companies are not looking to blaze new trails with the material they acquire. They want something that’s just like a thing they know can sell but maybe just a little bit different to differentiate it in the marketplace and that’s definitely not what we made.

And on top of the subject matter the actual aesthetic of the film is weird. We shot the film to look like this 1970’s or 80’s television sitcom. So it’s shot in a four by three aspect ratio. We degraded the 4K image to make it look standard definition and make it look like it’s playing off this sh*tty VHS tape. There’s commercial breaks and opening title sequence, there’s just a range of things that make it not look like anything that is really out there in my opinion, which I consider that to be an asset but sales companies are a little more hesitant with something like that.

It was difficult to get a partner that we really liked. We did get interest from smaller companies that…some not so bad…some bad. And a smaller company like that (in my experience having done this for a decade) isn’t going to do anything. They’re not going to bring any added value to the project. They’re going to throw it out on platforms which a chimpanzee could do in this day and age and they’re not going to put any marketing money behind it. They are not going to do anything special. So why give them…in most cases you’re going to have to give away 30% of your revenue off the gross minus expenses that they are going to deduct from going to film markets where they may or may not really be doing anything for your film.

“Most sales companies are not looking to blaze new trails with the material they acquire. They want something that’s just like a thing they know can sell, but maybe just a little bit different to differentiate it in the marketplace and that’s definitely not what we made.”

So we didn’t want to give away that much or that little so I decided maybe initially and got Seanie (my co-producer) agree to just do it ourselves and I have self-distributed before so I thought I could perhaps do it with or our little-to-no money which is what we had left over after our $32,000 budget. There were so sacrifices we had to make and I would direct you to the article I wrote for Film Courage that led to me having to make this video.

Reading that you can decide whether all this work and all the potential payoff of it is for you, but for us it made the most sense.

The second thing about self-distribution for zero dollars is the assets acquired and I think the skills I think you need to have (or have cheap access to) in order to accomplish this. One of the things you’re going to need in a platform where everyone is just blowing through a million titles on whatever they watch their content on is really good key art that captures what the film is about and is compelling in one way or another and sets you apart from one of the other things that they could be picking.

And in our case with the key art for LOVE IS DEAD, first of all for producing 101 you need to have an on-set photographer that is taking pictures whether you are paying them or begging for favors or however you get it, you need to have the actual imagery to create the key art with. In this case this picture was captured by our key and only PA and associate producer / art department assistant / a million other things Josh Goldsmith.

That’s where we got the image from and I tinkered around with Photoshop to get the image to this. And for actual delivery you’re going to reformat it into a million different aspect ratios for the aggregators and platforms (all require different specs for that). So you need to have some Photoshop acumen. You also need some editing acumen I think. Editing the film and the trailer both in this case for marketing materials for the trailer. But in order to achieve low-budget/micro budget filmmaking in general, a director also needs to be able to edit their stuff because if you’re outsourcing that it’s going to cost you money or you’re going to be using the sh*t out of whoever you are begging the favor out of and it’s a long arduous process of editing.

So for the process of marketing materials and editing the trailer and being able to deliver that in again an ultimate format for whatever platforms or aggregators are required is also a skill you need to have.

You’ll also need captions (a captions file) for almost all platforms these days that require that (closed-captions)…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Watch Josh Folan on Five Things I Wish I Would’ve Known Before Making My First Feature Film here on Youtube


Love Is Dead! on Amazon

Love Is Dead! on Vimeo

You can watch one of the three “episodes” that comprise the full film, Two Minute Kenneth!, for free on Vimeo to wet your mayhem whistle

More things from Josh and NYEH Entertainment


Josh Folan is a writer/director/editor/producer/actor that began professionally making things people watch on screens in 2005, prior to which he studied finance at The Ohio State University. Filmmaking highlights since founding NYEH Entertainment in 2008 include 2018 Hamptons Int’l selection Ask For Jane, 2017 SXSW audience award winner The Light of the Moon, 2017 Tribeca best actor award winner Nobody’s Watching, 2015 Slamdance selection BODY, 2015 Raindance selection The Lives of Hamilton Fish, 2016 SOHO Int’l selection and 2017 Queens World best screenplay nominee catch 22: based on the unwritten story by seanie sugrue, 2011 Hoboken Int’l best screenplay nominee All God’s CreaturesLove Is Dead! and Amazon nostalgia doc series Batteries Not Included. Also an author and contributor to the independent filmmaking blog community, he penned the low-budget indie case study Filmmaking, the Hard Way.

Check out other Film Courage articles by Josh Folan, including:






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Watch it on Amazon here!

If you’re not quite ready to let go of the Halloween spirit, new indie feature film Mandao of the Dead is now available on Amazon VOD.

Mandao (Man-Day-Oh) of the Dead is about Jay Mandao and his nephew-in-law Jackson who use astral projection to reverse a ghost’s death on Halloween.

This astral comedy is the second feature film Written and Directed by Scott Dunn and produced by Gina Gomez Dunn. It was filmed in 10 days with a production budget of just $13k. The duo’s first feature film, Schlep won Best Comedy/Dramedy at the Hollywood Boulevard Festival and was nominated in 5 different categories at the FirstGlance Film Festival. Schlep is also available on AmazonMandao of the Dead will be released on iTunes and DVD/Blu-ray in January 2019.