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The Distribution Dilemma

Here I am again pushing my opinion onto any poor soul who will listen, this time it’s about independent film and the distribution of said films. It’s always been an interest to me what my fellow indie filmmakers want out of their final product once they have completed their film, for me personally I feel there are two main categories for this. The first being Financial, so how do we make money from our films, well this is the million-dollar question. My preferred choice is self-distribution, which for me is a pig of a job, especially if you do everything from start to finish as we do. Once we have completed the film, we need to make a master copy, then we decide what else to put on the disc in the way of extra’s, as always this will normally comprise of trailers of our previous films as this may prove financially beneficial should anyone be mad enough to like our films, or even better they may decide they want to buy them. Then some behind the scenes footage possibly along with scene selections, an interview with the director etc, then we look to put the menu on the disc.  Once we have done this, we create an iso (identical storage image of optical media) of the film in Blu ray and DVD form ready to burn. We then burn the discs, print the discs, pack and seal the product ready for sale from our website. The only thing we don’t do is the printing of the Blu ray covers as we could not do these ourselves to the quality we require. So, as you have already guessed this is a time intensive job which I can imagine would be difficult for most to dedicate themselves too, especially as most of us have to do a day job. The other option would be to do a master of the film and send it off to an external company for copy, print and packing which is more time effective but less profitable on margins, only unless you decide to charge top prices which in itself could have a negative effect on sales. You have to ask yourself why would a punter pay as much or in some cases more for your film than a far better produced film, this is extremely difficult to get right. Also, the way we do it has the advantage of only doing short runs or sell them on a order basis, in other words sell as you go which does not leave us with access stock which could wipe out any profit. We would have cases, blank discs etc left over sometimes but we can use those for our next project, so again it doesn’t really affect our margins in the bigger picture. Both ways of self-distribution work, the only difference is time vs money which is a decision for the filmmaker to decide. The one thing I always hold close is that the people who buy our films deserve our respect from the quality control, value for money, and the overall interaction they have received from you as the seller of your wares.


So, onto the second way of distribution, the distributor.  Many moons ago you could go into most independent video shops and sell your video as long as you had some great art work, the video shop owner would give you £20 or £30 knowing at £2 a rental this wouldn’t be much of a gamble. His model would be to trick people into renting your film with the art work on the front cover. This reminds me of Cannon films who were the kings of the sell the trailer before the film was made, along with trailers that were full of footage that wasn’t even in the film, and of course the art work that would drag any film mad teenager off the streets and into video shops, genius. Once up on a time some distributers would even pay you for your film which would have shown you a profit, but unfortunately those days are long gone.

Today’s distributors are a different animal all together, they will take your film from you as quick as taking candy from a baby, however this doesn’t mean it’s a negative move on your behalf, it’s just a different way of getting your film out there. Most distributors will get your film onto physical media, online platforms, and possibly to film festivals, but that’s depends on how good your film is and how good the distributors are. Of course, this will get your film the exposure you require and is far more reaching than what self-distribution would be, but this won’t give you a big cash return, in most cases the distributor will also take the rights to your film, you must really ask yourself the question am i happy for them to do that? For me considering all the work and money we as filmmakers put into our projects then the answer is a resounding no, especially for no financial gain.

I would rather take the self-distribution way and risk the on-line pirates getting hold of the film, you will get the exposure via the pirates yet you would at least retain the rights to your film lol. The pirates in general work within different realms to what we do, basically the darker side of the web.  

In my opinion there are benefits to both of these distribution animals for which there is a case to mix both, do a short run of your film yourself to make some cash then give it to the distributors when you’re done. Amazon will pay you peanuts; in fact, I believe it won’t be long before they start charging you to put your films on their platform as this technology is becoming old hat. Technology is moving so fast it is destroying all the previous technologies in its wake, you only have to look at the demise of the big cinema chains to give you the heads up on that. The risk with amazon is a mass of negative reviews along with your film being lost in a sea of content. The magic of tracking down a hard-to-find film has disappeared by going down this route.

All I can say is White Raven Films don’t make loads of money from our films but what we do make is ours which in turn goes back into our next film. We don’t rely on crowd funding, which in its way is a cash cow that is dying. The issue with crowd funding is that people will only support you for so long, this is an economy-based model which relies on how much the public, your friends, and backers of your films can afford in the hard times we now live. This in its self is a gamble because once this revenue stream of crowd funding disappears there is a chance you as a filmmaker will not be far behind, this is especially true if you don’t have a contingency plan. I would never say never to crowd funding but at least we have an income to make a start on our next project. What I do believe is, whatever way you choose keep doing what you are doing, and don’t ever let the bad people bring you down, there are always people who will like what you do who will part with their money because they really want to.


Blog by

Bazz Hancher


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