First, congratulations. You¡¯ve finished your film. It is edited, color corrected, scored, mixed, and you¡¯ve added the credits. Plus, you¡¯ve already found the venue for your cast, crew, friends, and family screening. What is next? Well, that depends on you. Are you ready for the next step? Which to choose: festivals, distribution¡ªboth?
Festivals are a great way to meet other filmmakers, and there are a lot of festivals; more than I can count. But, before you send out your film or script, do your research. Make sure what you are submitting fits the theme of the festival. Don¡¯t submit your documentary about a ballet choreographer to a horror-film fest, unless the choreographer was also an axe murderer.
After that you should be aware that there are, in general, two kinds of festivals, curated and psuedo-curated. Curated festivals use a selection committee, usually made up of other filmmakers, choosing from the submissions. Psuedo-curated festivals will pretty much take any film submitted. How to tell the difference? Curated festivals tend to sell day-long or festival-long passes that allow entry to most screenings, and the submission fee goes up as the festival gets closer. Psuedo-curated festivals, on the other hand, tend to expect you and your guests to purchase tickets to your screening, essentially paying for the cost of the screening venue. Psuedo-curated festivals also tend to lower the entry fee the closer it gets to the festival, with the desire to fill all the screening times. Does it make a difference at which kind of festival you have your screening? Well, unless your film is in Sundance, Telluride, Milan, Cannes, or a few other high profile festivals, it probably won¡¯t make that much of a difference. However, once in a festival, attend it if you can. Remember to bring lots of marketing materials, your actors and crew, and go to other filmmaker¡¯s screenings. Don¡¯t forget to network, network, network, and stay hydrated. The impact and connections you make at your first festivals may not pay off until your next few films, so stay upbeat.
Cannes: reality for some but, for most, a beautiful dream
From personal experience, I can tell you that it certainly does feel great to stand up on a?stage and receive an award for your film or screenplay¡ªawesome is more like it. The thing to remember about awards is that by themselves, they don¡¯t really mean that much. A judge could watch your film one day and think it is great, but if they watched it on a different day, perhaps they would not think it was as good. Not to worry; if you desire an award, there are competitions out there that hand out award certificates for the price of admission. Trophies too, which look great on your desk or mantelpiece, are often available for an additional fee.
One last note about festivals and distribution: many festivals do not accept films/videos that have already been distributed, so if you are going to make a festival run, you may want to hold off with putting your video on the World Wide Web, just until you are finished with the festival circuit.
Sure, you could have a trophy shop make one up for you, but it feels so much better to really win one.
Distribution is where you are going to potentially make money from your film. Theatrical or broadcast distribution used to be virtually the only way to get your film seen. This required having a distributor acquire your film, and to catch the eye of a distributor you would show your film at festivals. Distributors tend to require a tremendous amount of paperwork from the filmmaker, signed talent releases, signed releases from crew that they have been paid in full, signed location releases¡ªthe list goes on and on, and don¡¯t forget Errors and Omissions insurance.
However, now that we are in the age of broadband distribution, it is much easier to get your film out there and seen. Well, out there anyway, because if you want people to see your film, you are going to have to make sure people know about your film. This is part of the distributor¡¯s responsibility, but if you are self-distributing, then this is all on you.
One of the benefits to digital/broadband distribution is the rise of the short-form project. Yes, you can still make feature-length movies (75 minutes or more), and distribute them on YouTube, Vimeo, your own website, DVD/Blu-ray, Netflix and Amazon, and even iTunes. However, it is short films, webisodics, and mini-docs that have traditionally had a hard time finding distribution and have benefited most from digital/broadband distribution. In some ways, these shorter projects have an advantage over feature-length movies on the Internet, because you can build up an audience quickly with many short videos in less time than it takes to complete a single feature-length film.
“. . . it is short films, webisodics, and mini-docs that have traditionally had a hard time finding distribution and have benefited most from digital/broadband distribution.”
This lovely word refers to the ways you can make money from your videos. There are four basic models: 1) advertising revenue; 2) video on demand; 3) digital/broadband distribution; 4) self-distribution.
If you are thinking of YouTube distribution, remember that someone sitting down to the Internet is more often interested in a quick video buzz rather than investing time in a movie, especially during the work day. If you monetize your YouTube channel, you are essentially enabling advertisements to run with your videos, and the amount of money you make is governed by the term CPM, which stands for Cost per Thousand Impressions. What does this means to you? The more people watch your videos, the more money you stand to make. Just remember that ads can turn viewers off, so you may want to build up a healthy following before trying to monetize.
Video on Demand ?
Vimeo has developed a Video on Demand service (VOD), which allows you to distribute your film using the Vimeo platform. The difference here is that with the Vimeo model, you are charging people directly for watching your video, instead of relying on ads revenue. Yes, it means that it is not free to watch your video; someone is going to have to go into their wallet and pay to watch, just as if they were buying a ticket, only the theater is their home.
Netflix, Amazon, iTunes
Although you can consider this a form of VOD, distribution along these lines follows the old theatrical distribution model with Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes as the outlets¡ªthink of them as movie theaters. But how do you get these large companies, some of which are developing their own content, interested in your video? The answer is an aggregator, someone who fills the old role of distributor, getting your film ¡°picked up¡± for release, and you get a portion of the profits, if there are profits. Remember, streaming and downloading services aren¡¯t going to invest the effort and space in putting up your video when another video would sell better.
Ad revenue, VOD, aggregators: they are all taking a piece of the profits. I¡¯ve got a website and there are a few services that I can use for taking payment, but I can do it myself and make more money. Well, sort of. Yes, it is possible to self-distribute this way, although don¡¯t forget you will need a DVD/Blu-ray authoring program to go along with your Blu-ray/DVD burner, InkJet Printer, Printable Blu-ray/DVD media, jewel cases, and mailers. If you are producing a large number of copies, you might consider a combination burner/printer solution¡ªperfectly viable if you are really interested in that kind of investment, and you think people want to own a physical copy of your video instead of just downloading it.
The Path to Success
The Internet is your gateway to a world of viewers; the goal is to have them watch your films. Build a following on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo. Post behind-the-scenes pics, outtakes, or snippets of the complete work, to garner interest. The more interest, the more likely it is that you will find an audience.