Distribution U: NYC

Distribution U: NYC

Jenni Monet is a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker based in New York City.  Since 2006, she has been chronicling the contemporary lives and issues of indigenous peoples worldwide, including among America’s tribal nations.

Date Posted: 
2010-11-19 00:00

Blog Series:


This weekend (Sat. Nov 20) in LA, niche marketing guru Peter Broderick and tech author Scott Kirshner will bring their social media crash-course, Distribution U: Version 2.0, to LA. I attended their NYC event last weekend. And, despite the day-long committment--an intense 9 hour session-- the tech refresher brought industry-types together to share secrets and stories of success on the latest in hybrid distribution models.

In short, the biggest takeaway for me was two-fold; one, that film financing is a mixed bag of methods more than ever before; and two, that making that next film in today’s market requires starting at the end--meaning, with distribution planning and audience engagement--perhaps, before anything else. In addition, I walked away reminded of how making movies is first and foremost a business, despite it also being induced in the creative.
The morning kicked off with a conversation on crowd-funding, then spilled over into intimate chat sessions on hybrid distribution models, and evolved into theoretical conversations on how best to build buzz in the launch of a film. A consistent theme at the core of these various stages was “niche audience”. Who are they? How do you engage them before the film is even launched? And how do you get them (and their friends... and their friends) to your screening?

Whether your film is about saving whales in the Arctic, or miniature sail boats--it’s crowd-funding websites like kickstarter and indiegogo that are helping artists identify with their primary fan-base, virtually overnight. But as is the case with filmmaking, timing is everything. Some people in the industry believe that crowd-funding is best practiced in the post-production phase of a film’s development. This way, your online pitch is at its most polished, including a tight trailer and a succint synopsis of your film. A carefully-timed crowd-funding initiative will also help build a coveted fan-base early--but not too early--before your film enters the world.   
With your new fan-base identified, it’s about growing and nurturing your audiences; keeping them engaged until the film is launched.  A good website always helps, as well as the standard Facebook page. But it may also mean forming partnerships--both in the commerical and non-profit sectors.  In the case of one man’s successful theatrical release,  he partnered with radio DJ’s across America to pre-sale movie tickets to drive-time listeners. (It should also be mentioned that he paid a handsome fee of $50K to his entertainment attorney to book the theaters for him.)

Another filmmaker discussed how she skipped theatrical altogether and instead, licensed and sold pieces of her documentary about combat veterans in various lengths and formats to public policy groups and other niche audience organizations. Selling ancillary goods and merchandise like soundtracks and t-shirts along with the DVD are also becoming commonplace on a number of film websites.

In the final analysis, it’s about designing a customized distribution model to fit your film, audience and budget. This may likely mean planning and budgeting for a distribution team.One final word of advice I received and will share with you... always retain the rights for digital downloads.

Short Film Production Funding 2020
Public Media Fund 2020
Vision Maker Media Internship 2020
Support Native Films