Distribution Strategy

It’s an interesting time to be a filmmaker.

In the last several years, a couple of things have happened, both good and bad.  Filmmaking technologies have become cheaper and more robust.  Camera and editing equipment that were once considered “Prosumer” at best have reached levels of quality that rival that of Hollywood studios.  Films that once would have cost a million dollars now can be produced for a couple hundred thousand.

That’s the good news!  Making a movie has never been as inexpensive or available as it is today.  The bad news?  That means everybody is doing it.  The indie film market is currently oversaturated with mostly amateur-level product.

Luckily, that same technological advance that made filmmaking cheaper and more readily available to the masses is also opening up more distribution avenues for independent filmmakers.  In many ways, the technological advance has democratized the business of filmmaking.  Whereas it was once simply about having a lot of money and connections, now a professionally produced film with bankable stars geared toward an existing audience will rise to the top and get seen.

Considering all this, there are six different avenues of distribution that we will be pursuing for The Debut:


Having a film distributed in a theater is the holy grail for any filmmaker, but the dirty little secret is that theatrical release is one of the least profitable distribution avenues around right now, and very hard to get.  That doesn’t mean we won’t be pursuing this avenue, for the sheer prestige of it, but it will not be our main focus.


If you have cable or satellite, you might have noticed the hundreds of channels now available to a large percentage of the population.  Many of these channels are specifically music-focused, and would be a fantastic fit for The Debut.  We will be pursuing broadcast deals very heavily in our distribution strategy.


While not as profitable as it once was, DVD distribution is still a hot commodity.  We will be angling for a wide DVD distribution, especially to music stores.  Another good thing about DVD is that it can be self-distributed if it comes down to it, and with dozens of popular bands attached to The Debut, we have a ready-made audience to distribute to.


One of the great things about music is it transcends culture and language.  Comedies also sell well overseas, and many of the bands featured have toured Europe and are even more popular there than here.  So foreign sales will be a big part of our distribution strategy.  Foreign sales estimates for films with budgets of $1-3 million range from $605,000 to over $2.5 million in the foreign territories alone.


Now we’re getting into the newer territory and technology that are making the selling of indie films much more viable.  Services like Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes have revolutionized the way people watch movies, and new distribution models are reflecting this.  In fact, Ed Burns’ latest film, Good Guy Johnny, is releasing solely on iTunes.  And forward-thinking distribution companies like Magnolia Pictures are experimenting with dual-releases – films releasing in the theater or on DVD and the internet at the same time – to significant success.  This is the wave of the future, and we plan on catching it for this movie.


Among the hundreds of channels on your cable box, you’ll find the Video On Demand channels, where the consumer can order the film to begin playing whenever they want.  These have begun to overshadow DVD and broadcast as the second level of profitability after a film is released theatrically.  The downside is the cable company controls what gets seen and they lean more toward bigger-budget studio fare.


Another technological advancement is digital theater projection, which means that instead of having to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a film print to screen in theaters, you can now simply show up with a hard drive and the theater can screen your film.  As this technology expands, the ability to self-release theatrically will expand with it.  As it is, it provides the filmmaker with an excellent promotional tool, though the profits from it are not game-changers at the moment.


Hinted to in the DVD distribution paragraph above, the rise of social media has facilitated contact with consumers like never before, making it easy to find (or create) a market and sell to them directly.  With our network of bands and their supporters, we plan to leverage this heavily to sell directly to consumers both in DVD form and online digital downloads.