There is an incredible amount of information pertinent to the independent filmmaker embarking upon self-distribution. The only aspect of the old model of distribution that holds true is that filmmakers must think about distribution before one sequence of the film is ever shot. Doing this creates a focus on results.
Different Audiences Need Different Methods
The only caveat is that the overwhelming statistical data and numerical comparisons used in discussing the old incumbent model vs. the new emerging model. Every film is different. Many films have completely different audiences, and the way to reach these audiences vary by increasing degrees. Podcasts may not work for every film. A local theatrical run may not work for a film, while an overseas theatrical run, via festivals, may work wonders.
Social Media As a Tool To Promote Independent Movies
Filmmakers should have a presence on the web and free Internet tools, and social networking sites such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, etc., should direct the prospective audience to that web presence (site). Trailers and new versions of trailers are good examples of visual content to make this happen. Promoting a recorded Interview is another way to make this happen. However, we cannot imagine how giving away your content -a completed film- could help a filmmaker unless that was his intention from the start.
In the end, it’s about hard work getting to know your audience(s). You should never commit to making your first film unless you’re committed to making your third. It’s about building your audience. Documented examples like “Four-Eyed Monsters” are exciting but rare. It’s difficult to emulate a film’s success, especially when you have a different kind of film.
Do We Really Need Hollywood?
Empowerment is the key. If independent filmmakers truly believe we don’t need Hollywood to make a film, shouldn’t we also believe that we don’t need Hollywood to distribute our films? We’ve proven the former. Let’s prove the latter.
There have been many self-serving discussions on the plight of independent filmmaking. The Home Entertainment industry wants us to believe that movies are dead, and we should ramp up our home systems. Hollywood wants us to continue supporting big paydays for celebrities so they can keep making expensive summer blockbuster films while more than half of their film inventory loses money theatrically (or so they say). Festivals want us to believe they support us indie filmmakers even as they raise their film submission rates and lose their ability to broker distribution deals. A-list celebrities expect us to genuflect in their presence, thanking them for being in our so-called independent films. Distributors want us to believe that independent filmmaking is simply dead.
Time To Move Forward
It’s time for filmmakers from LA to Austin, From Chi-Town to Miami, From NY to Berlin to Australia and Japan to engage in a sincere philosophical exploration of the plight of independent filmmaking. The present model of independent film distribution is dated. Yes. And it is almost impossible for a good film without celebrities to get screened at a festival, let alone get distribution. This is true. But this has been true for some time now. It isn’t anything new.
But independent filmmaking wasn’t built on the Hollywood model. Rather, it was built on a “Screw you, Hollywood!” platform led by an irreverent, “I can do this myself.” However, independent filmmakers should consider taking this one step forward. We beat our chests proclaiming we don’t need Hollywood to make a film, then we turn around and ask that same Hollywood to distribute our films. This cannot help our situation. We must seriously consider gaining a proper film education that transcends studio-driven brick & mortar distribution methods.
The educational process begins by not giving away our content on mediums such as YouTube or Facebook. It’s continued by developing and embracing our niche audiences. Connecting with those audiences and corresponding with them.
In the same way that Dreamworks and Paramount are household names; we must become familiar personalities to our audiences. Certainly, we cannot be all things to all people. But it’s been done before. Ask Mr. Lynch or Mr. Jarmusch, or Mr. Corman. Now a filmmaker must not only be a creative facilitator, he/she must also become knowledgeable at alternative distribution models that take full advantage of new technology. This means establishing our own websites and offering our films directly to our audiences.
TV and Entertainment are Changing
As TV becomes more connected to Internet usage, well-managed artist websites can secure wondrous footholds in the market. We believe people will always go to the theaters to see certain movies. As long as there are men and women who date and families with children, theaters will survive. But as movie concession prices continue to rise and ticket prices skyrocket, audiences will become highly selective. We already see this selectivity. In general, people are tuning into adolescent lip sync videos on YouTube, and TikTok, thrusting teens into superstar status. Where are the so-called movie deals that were supposedly established through YouTube? Individuals want real content or real entertainment. The days of backyard videos drawing nationwide attention will soon be at an end.
Content is key. And as Hollywood gets stuck in its perpetual rut of done, redone, and overdone film themes, it is the independent filmmaker who can truly experiment with film and alternative distribution methods. We have the flexibility. We’ve proven to the world that we can make our own films. Now let’s prove to the world that we can distribute those films.