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Partly motivated by self interest (KCDC‘s first feature film is nearly finished) and partly by wanting to make sense of the great new ways there are to distribute independent feature film, I thought I’d cut through some hype and uncover the facts.

If you’re an Australian filmmaker who doesn’t have a critically acclaimed or commercially successful film under your belt, you’ll find it difficult to raise the money to make a feature, unless of course you happen to be the friend or sibling of somebody really famous who is going to be in your film, or you’re going to finance at least part of it yourself.

Even if you’ve ticked one of the qualifying boxes that grants you access to the soft money Australia is internationally famous for there are still no guarantees you’ll find a distributor who will take you on, and without one it’ll be tricky to get further than the application form.

Let’s say you find at least one person who believes in you, then through sheer determination, a lot of begging, scrounging and cajoling, you are able to finance production of your film. Once it’s made, how do you get it in front of an audience?

If you thought securing a distributor was hard, wait till you try to book your local Hoyts cinema.

Fortunately, more and more filmmakers are letting go of the fantasy to screen in a cinema. I say fortunately because although cinema will always be a wonderful place to see a film, it’s no longer the natural home for all films. It works beautifully for huge, theatrical events like Avatar or Batman, but thanks to technology and the addiction to connectivity the Western world has, there are ways other than projecting on a big screen to get your film in front of its intended audience.

Finding your audience starts, funnily enough, with defining your audience.

  • Who are they?
  • What are they interested in?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • How do they communicate with each other?

 

Once you’ve got that worked out you can clarify what message your film has for its potential fan base, and how to convey it.

While the internet seems to be a densely populated, noisy place (because it is) it’s made up of congregating communities where in a relatively short time you can potentially reach large numbers of people who are going to love your screen story.

If you can get members of these communities talking about your film, the message is going to be a lot stronger than if you are standing on a soapbox broadcasting it, or leaflet dropping a carpark. Working in your favour  is the exponential reach of social media: one person tells their 200 friends, who will tell their 200 friends, who will tell their 200 friends and so on.

There are businesses set up to help make your film available to its audience outside the traditional distributor route. Check out CreatespaceIndieflixBreakthrough and Film Baby who offer a variety of services and deals, focused on providing professional DVD and VOD versions of your film and a virtual space on the shelves of the bigger rental and retail outlets including Amazon, Netflix and Greencine.

The trick, if you self-distribute through one of these services, is not to think you’ve arrived at a one stop shop. Truth is they’re only the press and deliver mechanism. It’s you who needs to create demand for your product, either through a clever communication strategy, enlisting the help of an experienced PR person or both.

Most importantly, what you need to work out is the message your film has for its audience, and who to tell to ensure it’s heard.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Nicely said, Kelly. Marketing is just as important as theatrical release, but potentially one helluva lot cheaper on spend if you can focus online.

    We released Food Matters online, and the returns to the Producers was undoubtedly more than if we had pursued a theatrical release. Hands-down. The control you retain is not to be underestimated.

    Also, you might want to check out http://www.bravenewtheaters.com for great word-of-mouth spread.

    :)

  2. An online ‘collective’ to assist indie filmmakers with distribution has been created in Hollywood http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118015719.html?categoryid=13&cs=1&ref=bd_film


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  1. By DIY Distribution « Kelly Chapman's Blog on 13 Mar 2010 at 12:52 pm

    […] and to give your film any chance of doing so, you need to carefully target who will love it. See my previous post for more […]

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