"FUDGE" THE FILM FESTIVALS - GET YOUR FILM OUT THERE!!!
Your film didn't make into Sundance? Neither did mine. But that shouldn't stop or discourage you. As more and more films flood the small pool of relevant film festivals, it is getting statistically harder and harder to get in. Even if you did, the odds of getting a distribution deal are low and one number-cruncher placed the number of indie films that actually earn a profit at about 3%.
Fortunately, now we have the Internet and various VOD platforms for the indie filmmaker to exploit, all the while still pursuing the festival route if you like. Here are a few places I am using to help me distribute my indie comedy The Great Intervention.
1. Kunaki.com - Hands down, this site is the greatest invention for indie filmmakers AND musicians, as they print both CDs and DVDs on demand. But unlike, say, CreateSpace, they don't charge you fees or take a large commission. Basically, they charge $1.00 per CD or DVD (slightly more for bulk orders) and you mark up from there. Customers can pay with Visa, MasterCard, or even Paypal. And the end product they receive is truly professional - DVDs come with a full-color insert, CDs with color inside panel, and both are shrink-wrapped and have a full-color printed disc face. You seriously cannot tell the difference from a mass-produced commercial product. Here's a link to my sales page, so you can check it out.
The ONE caveat with Kunaki is that you need to upload all artwork and the disc image itself via a PC computer - MAC will NOT work!! As many artists are Apple-centric, they may find this to be a problem. Kunaki's solution? They tell you to find a friend who has a PC. And be forewarned, the upload process is EXTREMELY slow and has to be periodically monitored, even though they say it doesn't. The final upshot, however, is a slick-looking product - and new Kunaki accounts can order a FREE copy to see the quality for themselves!!
2. Distrify.com - Here's the next step in getting your film out there - streaming and download options. Upload your film to distrify and they will encode it and host it - right now, your first film is free. However, they do take 30% of any streaming or download sales - which may strike some as a lot. Still, I think they offer some pretty unique services to help you get your film out there.
If you go to Greatintervention.info you can see the player for my film in action. Notice how you have a Preview, Watch, and Buy button directly in the player. Your potential audience can click on the preview and, if they like it, watch the movie right there in the player quickly and easily - you can charge as little as $2.99. It works on all platforms, so that's pretty cool as well. They also give you a QR code that you can incorporate into your advertising,
(The little box with the funny squiggles is the QR.) People with smartphones can zap that link with their reader and, presto! they are at your webpage, watching your movie!
Another thing to notice with the player is when you click the Buy button, you are taken to a screen within the player where you can offer packages that include soundtracks and other premium options for sale - I included a commemorative jar of peanut butter for fun. And, look! There's a button that says Buy DVD, which, when you click on it, takes you to the Kunaki order page! The ability to create other products that your fans can order within they player is a handy feature of the Distrify player, and they don't take a commission on those sales.
And here's the other great thing about it - it's easy for your friends/fans to share AND they can earn themselves a 10% commission on any sales from their shares! A small incentive perhaps on $2.99, but it's still something that might make your more ardent fans a little cash. Click Share, and the rest is self-explanatory.
3. Openfilm.com - If you'd like to make your film available for free but still want to earn revenue, Openfilm is an option. If you pay the small monthly fee of $2.95 they will host your movie and insert advertisements, which you will receive payment from ad placements. Also, Openfilm claims it will make your movie available on cable networks such as FIOS or emerging technologies like Boxee, also where you can potentially earn revenue. You can also submit directly to certain film festivals via the Openfilm dashboard. Inclusion in the Openfilm Network is not automatic, however, as a closer look at the website shows that you have to "suggest" your movie to be carried by each of these affiliates. I submitted mine to each and we shall see what happens. Also, there is a Donate button on your Opefilm webpage, where perhaps a guilty philanthropist will throw some $ your way.
But the mobile site, where you supposedly can earn money from downloads, is very difficult to navigate. When I did find my movie, I was able to play it with no interruptions or fee. Still, if you're goal is to get your movie out there, this isn't a bad way to go.
I am placing a link in this article as a bonus to you readers who have read this far and want to see my film for free. I am hoping that with more views and ratings, it might help it make its way through the Openfilm distribution chain, earning more views (and money?)
4. YouTube. Finally, there is YouTube, the Mother of all video sites. If you are looking for exposure for your film rather than the elusive profit, this may be a final option. If you dig carefully around the site, you will discover the prestigious YouTube Partner Program which allows certain members the ability to create rental videos as part of their expanded Movie section. I have applied several times to this program, only to be rejected without explanation (you are allowed to apply every two months.) Recently, Film Collaborative announced a new distribution service, where, for around $200 they will get your video on YouTube rentals.
Then again, you could always just put your movie on YouTube for free and hope for views. A separate program, but one with an equally capricious admission policy, allows you to "monetize" certain content, with YouTube placing ad overlays on certain videos. Although one of my videos has over 150,000 views - I have yet to see any "monetization."
Even if you can't get in this program, it is possible to benefit from putting your entire movie up for free. A link in the video description to donate money to the filmmaker or buy a DVD is possible, and you could even interrupt your movie with your own advertisements selling DVDs and other promotional items associated with the movie. I have not done this yet, but I am seriously considering it. Since my movie only cost $5000, I don't have a lot to lose.
The best thing is that all of these distribution options can be toggled off and on at will, in case you need or want to restrict viewings once your movie takes off. But instead of letting your film collect digital dust while you await to hear from Podunk Film Festival, why not make your film available to the world now? The tools are out there for you to utilize at will.
Stephen Moramarco is a writer/actor/director/musician and now a filmmaker. He lives in Lincoln Heights, CA.
Connect with Steve:
On Twitter @moremarkable
Be sure to check out Steve on the Film Courage Podcast - here.
Steve's article How to Make a Movie on 5,000 - here.
Steve's article Wake Up, Sundance - here.
Photos from Steve's Film Courage Interactive Screening for The Great Intervention - here.