Friday, March 12, 2010

DiY Distribution - Stepping into the Water

There has been a great deal of discussion in recent months about alternative ways filmmakers can raise money to produce their films (crowd funding), and distribute them once they've been made (DiY distribution).

As a producer these options are extremely interesting to me. Crowd-funding because it promises (at least in theory), to democratize the process of fund raising by allowing filmmakers with exceptional projects, and savvy teams, to raise the money for their projects. DiY distribution, because it offers producers a way to get their film in front of audiences, monetize their productions, and if handled correctly, pave the way for future projects.

With this in mind my colleague and I have made the decision to leap into the DiY distribution waters to see if we can find our way to the shore. The film we're distributing is a indie film about love, loss, and how we often get in our own way when navigating between the two.

Our reasons for undertaking this will be familiar to any indie producer. Though the film received some genuine interest from distributors - who saw potential with niche audiences - as the filmmakers we'd see little, if any, participation. So over the next several months we will be building and implementing a strategy to reach out to those niche audiences ourselves, and see how far we can take it. I'll be chronicling our progress here.

One thing I can already speak to is that DiY distribution is no easy task. We first started talking about the possibility of attempting this a couple of months ago. After conducting exhaustive research, we are still developing our strategy, determining costs and pricing, designing the web site, poster and packaging, and handling a myriad details.

While it's certainly true that any smart person can self distribute their film, it's a daunting process that many filmmakers may not be prepared for. First, there is a great deal of misinformation about what's actually involved, and how to approach it. The learning curve can be a steep one.

Second, we're finding that DiY distribution requires a pragmatic assessment of the film and market, a moderate financial commitment, an incredible amount of time, and a skill set that includes:
  • project management
  • marketing and demographics
  • web development and SEO
  • ecommerce and fulfillment
  • editing (trailers and clips)
  • writing (web, ad, pr, social media, and marketing copy)
  • affiliate and client management
DiY distribution is eye opening in it's implications for financing and recouping investment, and exciting on many levels. I'll be posting about our progress.