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Indie film self-distribution

It’s a great time to be an indie filmmaker. Traditional mediums of indie film distribution like Sundance and SXSW are still growing, while internet and subscription-based streaming platforms have been booming. Viewership is increasing for content that puts quality over quantity – the staple feature of indie film production – and yet it is still a long shot for creators to both reach a wide audience with their indie films and earn revenue, too. That’s because even if your film gets published through successful streaming services, it’s easy for an indie film to get lost in the shuffle and become just another film on the roll. Even worse, publishing on major streaming services requires both time and funds, which not all indie filmmakers have post-production. So, if you’re trying to get your art out into the world, maybe it’s worth it to seek investors and work on a pitch to get it picked up by a big label, or, maybe, you can level the playing field and try self-distribution of your indie film. This article will shed some light on your options.

Big Streaming Platforms

With hundreds of millions of subscribers, streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu allow the opportunity for your film to reach a massive audience. Releasing your movie on Netflix, especially, has come to be seen as the gold standard in success for indie film distribution, but it’s a long shot to do so, and you might be surprised to know that it doesn’t always end in a huge pay-day. 

The first thing you have to consider with a platform like Netflix is their database. This is the massive list of movies that Netflix is just considering putting on its channel; this makes getting your film onto Netflix extremely difficult, as you will be up against a wall of competition to even get hosted. So, without connections inside Netflix that can get your movie through this wall, you’re going to need another distribution company with clout to grease the wheels for you, and that’s going to require yet more selling on your part. These third-party distribution companies are wary of getting behind Netflix movies because there just isn’t much return on money. Netflix isn’t based on ad revenue, so they only pay a one-time fee to license unlimited views of your movie for a certain amount of time, which will be based on viewer demand before it is even made available. There are a few distributors who specialize in indie films, but they will charge you a couple of thousand dollars to get started. This makes Netflix less than ideal for many indie filmmakers as it is expensive, is an uphill battle, and does not guarantee your film will be a return investment; on top of that, the application process takes time, and during that time, your film will be sitting idle, unseen by your potential audience. 

Selling Directly Online

The beauty of the internet is that everyone uses it – well, not everyone, but anyone interested in paying to see your indie film probably is. Indie film self-distribution can find all of its ways and means here with your website and grassroots marketing campaign, or with the help of a service like Amazon Createspace that already has a dedicated following.

With the former – a personal website – you will need to do some hard work generating the buzz that will attract audiences to your film. This is going to require some slick marketing that may or may not have been built into your indie film production plan since the beginning. It will help, for starters, to know your market – what audiences your movie will appeal to and how to get them to realize they want to see your film. But unless it is completely revolutionary or utterly unique, it’s going to require some special ploys to stand out in an already crowded field vying for attention.

It might be easier releasing through a service like Amazon where large swaths of people are already browsing for something new to watch. But your revenue will take a hit because Amazon can take a pretty juicy percentage off the top to allow you to reach their dedicated consumer base.

Online Video Hosting Websites

There are ways to get your film out there that are free and without legal hurdles like copyrighting and working through third parties, and that’s by distributing your indie film through online video hosting websites like YouTube. Youtube can be a lucrative market, but it is an extreme gamble. Youtube uses a complex algorithm that determines who gets seen by its audience; this can be an issue for indie films because there’s no guarantee that your film will be prioritized through this algorithm and reach an audience. So, while it’s possible to earn revenue through ads, the odds that your film will rack up enough views to make a decent return is, sadly, very low. 

Film Festival Pickup

Film Festivals are a big deal for indie filmmakers. You’ve heard of several success stories in the past about bidding wars and full buy-outs of films that won big at Tribeca or Cannes, so why not you? While it’s an admirable route to take, the landscape is quickly changing due to VOD, streaming services, and the internet in general, and everything is being affected, from distribution strategies down to indie film production. Established filmmakers are increasingly using film festivals to promote their indie projects, pushing out first-timers in need of exposure. As well, not all films get major distribution at multiple festivals; in fact, many films are considered “filler.” These are films hosted only at a single location and used to fill space between bigger ticket films shown at every major festival. So while it can be great for an indie film if it gets major festival distribution, if you become a filler film, you will have to apply to multiple festivals. 

Indie Film Self-Distribution With Film Highway

With the plethora of options available, surprisingly, there isn’t one that balances the needs and expectations of most indie filmmakers. That’s the niche Film Highway is here to fill. Film Highway is a movie streaming service, but, unlike others, is created with indie films and indie filmmakers in mind, and works directly with them to help them get the recognition and revenue they deserve! Through our platform, indie filmmakers can distribute their films directly to audiences side-by-side with creators and viewers who share the passion for quality films by new and established names alike. Give us a try and level the playing field at Film Highway.