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How To Distribute Your Movie Online: a guest post by Jason Brubaker

Editor’s introduction:

These days most mobile movies are created for a limited number of viewers: friends, family members, and colleagues. Some mobile productions—such as music videos, instructional videos, commercials, and video blogs—seek a larger audience. But until recently, very few mobile-shot movies have attempted to compete with Hollywood films. Exceptions such as TANGERINE have received huge media coverage for the simple reason that they are rare.

One indication of change is the rapid rise of film festivals featuring mobile movies. As these modestly budgeted productions gain attention, at least some mobile moviemakers may seek to earn money by having their work distributed. This isn’t just a matter of uploading to YouTube or Vimeo. Professional distribution involves marketing and many other activities. 

If you aspire to sell your movies—or even if you’re simply curious about how mobile movies might be monetized—the following guest post should be of interest. The author, Jason Brubaker is a Hollywood-based distribution expert. 

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Jason Brubaker

Jason Brubaker

Having spent the last few years working in film distribution, I can tell you the landscape is changing. Instead of crossing fingers for an awesome distribution deal, entrepreneurial filmmakers now have options for taking ownership over their products and reaching audiences directly.

In response, smart distributors are keen to work with filmmakers who, aside from having a great movie, can also demonstrate an ironclad digital self distribution plan. In other-words, film distributors seek projects that don’t actually need a distributor. Many distributors pay for this privilege.

Distributors have always worked to acquire projects that offered the lowest risk with the highest potential for reward. In the past, a low risk project was one that had a name actor with a ton of international value. And these days, because film distribution is increasingly online, a low risk project is one with a famed YouTuber. (See “YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens” in Variety.)

A distributor naturally assumes the YouTuber will promote the movie to his or her audience. And by having a famed YouTuber, a distributor does not have to pay marketing money to build word of mouth. Less money spent for marketing, equals a lower risk for the distributor. And this means a lot more reward for you.

But what if your movie doesn’t have a famed YouTuber or a movie star? After months and months of hustle, the reality of how you’ll garner ROI (return on investment) might be slightly different than the idealized imaginings of the three-picture studio deal you once had.

The reason for this is simple. Your project is too risky.

So your first order of business is to lower the risk and increase the potential for reward. And that starts by creating your digital self distribution plan. Here are five tips to help:


1. Find your USP: In the world of marketing, USP is short for Unique Selling Proposition. And if you can’t market your move based on celebrity, the next step is to leverage whatever makes your movie unique, interesting and memorable. Do you have a cutting edge horror movie? Ninja movie? Girl with a horse movie? Or a food documentary on why you should quit meat for a plant based diet? Great!

2. Focus on Controversy: What aspect of your story provokes an emotional response? Think of how politicians market during a political campaign. Most folks either hate the message or they love it. Does your movie make a polarizing statement? Is there anything about your movie that makes some people totally dislike it, while other people LOVE it? Great. Use controversy to spark word of mouth.

3. Create a Marketing Plan: Creating a marketing plan is less complex than you think. Just answer these questions: Who is your target audience? How will you reach your target audience? Based on your budget, how many unit sales will it take you to break even? How will you make this happen without losing money?

4. Update Your Marketing: When I evaluate movies for distribution, the ones that grab my attention look professional. I instantly know what the movie is about and where it fits in terms of genre. Branding is the marketing equivalent of matching your belt with your shoes. Look at other movies in a similar genre. Make sure you present your movie like a “real” movie. Hire a graphic designer.

5. Digital Self Distribution Platforms: Even if you are seeking a traditional deal, you should simultaneously plan your release strategy as if you do not have a deal. This means getting to know some DIY platforms. You might do film festivals or use Tugg for your theatrical release. You might then consider some transactional video on demand platforms. This way, if you don’t actually land a favorable distribution deal, you’ll still enter the market.

The discussion so far is directed toward distributing feature-length movies. But there are several ways to distribute shorts, which is the predominate length of mobile movies. If you are looking to build an audience, you may choose to showcase your work in film festivals. After that, when the time is right, you may want to leverage your shorts to gain exposure. One way to do this is by making your shorts available for free on YouTube.
Beyond the free platforms, some filmmakers enjoy the satisfaction from seeing their short films in popular marketplaces like iTunes and Amazon. If you choose to go this route, you’ll have to go through a video on demand aggregator like Distribber.

[In full disclosure, I currently run business development at Distribber. So make sure you do your own due dilligence. That said, we would be happy to work with you!]


No longer can you make a movie on spec, cross your fingers and hope a deal finds you. You have to find your own deal. But unlike years past, you are no longer limited. You can leverage technology to market your movie directly to a global audience. And that’s what digital self distribution is all about

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Jason Brubaker specializes in Video On Demand distribution for indie moviemakers. He focuses on such issues as growing a fan base, building buzz, and creating community around a title. Resources that he’s created include How to Sell Your Movie (a detailed digital course) plus free guides such as  Filmmaker Checklist and Sell Your Movie Checklist.


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