3 Things You Should Ask Yourself Before Distributing Your Indie Film

projectorIn many ways, making your film is the easy part. There are innumerable resources out there for budding filmmakers, including websites (ahem), books, and audio commentary tracks, that will help a novice become a seasoned vet in no time (well, not no time. Probably a long time. But it's a journey, no? Yes.) But one thing a lot of indie filmmakers are unfamiliar with, especially those just starting out, are the ins and outs of distribution. Well, have no fear. Sheri Candler and Chris Holland offer some great insight into indie film distribution. Click below to learn the answers to 3 questions every filmmaker should ask themselves as they contemplate distributing their film!

Sheri Candler is Director of Digital Marketing Strategy for The Film Collaborative, a non-profit dedicated to helping independent filmmakers with distribution for their films. She was recently a guest on Chris Holland's Film Festival Secrets podcast, where they discussed a number of issues related to independent film distribution, (you can listen to the full audio here,) but here are the 3 most important questions, according to Candler, that an independent filmmaker should ask themselves before they start down the path of distribution for their indie flick.

Is There a Market?

This seems like kind of a no-brainer, but many first time indie filmmakers are so caught up with making their films that they don't stop to consider this relatively simple question. Research what's already out there, and of course, it never hurts to look at case-studies of how other films achieved distribution (you can peruse a master list, here.) As Candler candidly puts it,

If after speaking to industry representatives, you find the film you are hoping to make doesn’t appeal to the industry, you will most likely encounter challenges in the market.

You can also check out her blog post on the mistakes lots of indie filmmakers make on the road to distribution.

Do You Have the Means to Distribute Directly?

Since there aren't many big distribution deals for first time filmmakers, they should learn all they can about Direct Distribution. Questions to ask are: how much will Direct Distribution cost? Are you familiar with all the avenues to pursue? Do you know about iTunes, Amazon, VOD, and their associated costs/risks? Because if you don't, then you might be setting yourself up for major headaches. Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed.

How Do You Structure the Release?

Every film is different, obviously, and this couldn't be more true than in the world of independent film. Candler says there is no one route to independent film distribution success. Does your film need a theatrical release? Or, should you go right to digital platforms? What are your broadcast possibilities, and what part do film festivals play in successful distribution?

These are just some of the questions an independent filmmaker should ask themselves as they prepare their projects. This Sunday, Candler will be hosting a "webinar" at the Atlanta Film Festival, entitled "Distribution is 100% Achievable -- Just Not In the Ways You Might Think" that will feature sales agents covering many of these topics and more. Those interested can sign up here for the hour and a half session (which, just a warning, does cost $50.)

The information is out there, and distribution need not be so mysterious. You can get your film out there! Chris Handler's podcast is worth a listen, and there are tons of other free resources out there. Check out our Direct Distribution and Marketing Roundup to get a feel for the options that are out there.

What has your experience been with film distribution? If you've distributed your film before, what was the most important thing (or 10 most important things) you found about film distribution? Let us know in the comments!


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Direct distribution is the new buzz word. Good luck finding any data regarding it to base a reasonable business plan on.

October 19, 2013 at 6:11AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I should rephrase that by saying is hard to find reliable numbers from filmmakers who it worked for. Many say they made money off of it, but are unwilling to give actual amounts.

October 19, 2013 at 6:16AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


check out the FREE book I co authored called Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul (sellingyourfilm.com/store) for NUMBERS (budgets, revenues, actual spends). Yes, it was difficult to get this data out of filmmakers, no one likes to look unsuccessful and we, as an industry, have very lofty expectations of what success truly looks like and deride those who don't match our expectations. BUT it isn't true that numbers don't exist, there are just few creators courageous enough to present them.

Members of The Film Collaborative are now working on an update to this book which will include more European examples, a look back at how some of our previous case studies have fared since the last publication date, plus more case studies from those who used crowdfunding (so they don't have recoupment to contend with), direct distribution via their own websites and those using new theatrical tools like Tugg/Gathr. We're aiming to release this info in early 2014.

October 19, 2013 at 9:22AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Where is the FREE version?

October 19, 2013 at 4:35PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Way at the bottom of the page. Second to last option.

October 24, 2013 at 4:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Thanks so much. Just downloaded it and am looking forward to reading.

October 25, 2013 at 5:54AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

You voted '+1'.

Edward Burns had implied in the past that his micro-budgeted films like "Nice guy Johnny" could gross in the mid to high six figures off a site like iTunes. "Moebius22" was right, however. Let's see some numbers. It won't subvert the book sales to provide a brief upfront teaser on the financials. I'd really love to know what "Some Girl(s)" or "Hell Baby" grossed on VOD.

October 19, 2013 at 9:30AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM