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Filmmaker Toolkit

A Guide to Getting Your Indie to LGBTQ Audiences

The fast-paced, quickly changing world of film promotion and distribution can be daunting, especially if it’s your first film, or you don’t know the key social media sites, filmmaker resources, or even terminology to get started. After months or years of creating a film from start to finish, many filmmakers can find themselves saying “now what?” In this digital age, more opportunities exist, but filmmakers are also often asked to be their own biggest fan, PR consultant, and social outreach guru. Audiences have more options and less time than ever before. Now is the time to think creatively about distribution and self-promotion. Before the Internet, things were a bit simpler. In Welcome to the New World, Peter Broderick points towards distributors, production companies, studios and foreign sales as dominating in the Old World, or traditional, form of distribution. These days, filmmakers keep control of their content in the New World, and are reaching audiences directly, but there is also a great deal of legwork involved in self-promotion. Though designed for LGBTQ films, this Filmmaker Toolkit should be useful for any independent filmmaker navigating a changing world of film.

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Table of Contents

Early Outreach: Setup & Social Media


Film Festivals




Your Film Is Out -- Now Promote It!


Glossary of Terms


Resources for Further Reading


Written and researched for Frameline by Sam Berliner and Alexis Whitham

#1. EARLY OUTREACH: SETUP AND SOCIAL MEDIA With proper planning and thoughtful use of social media tools, a passive audience can be transformed into an active, engaged, participatory community who will help you promote your film. Whether you have a new film, or an older film with a new digital life, you can utilize these tools to bring your work to fresh audiences.

OUTREACH PREPARATION: • Take good, high-quality production stills . You will need these for festivals, your website, and all of your marketing materials. • For direct online fundraising, known as crowdsourcing, the two largest websites are Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, and each have some pros and cons. Kickstarter has an “All or Nothing” model, requiring you to reach your goal to get any money. However, it has higher success rates than competitors, provides a handbook to participants, and is only used for creative endeavors. With IndieGoGo you keep whatever funds you raise, but the site’s reach is smaller. • If you are using (or have used) a direct online fundraiser, consider that crowdsourcing sites are also brilliant means for promoting your film, building your audience, and adding to your list of email/online contacts. Early investors are likely to be your film’s most dedicated and engaged audience members. Be sure to keep track of these amazing contributors and contact them as your film makes the festival rounds and launches online. • If you have a small budget, or are still acquiring funding through an online campaign, consider budgeting just a few hundred dollars for outreach. You will need a bit of money for Festival entry fees, online platform subscriptions, and obtaining a domain name.


SOCIAL MEDIA SETUP: • Determine ONE handle for your film: You will likely need a website, Facebook page, email address and twitter handle to do basic outreach for your film. If your film title is a basic phrase or word, you may need to be creative with your handle to ensure you are consistent: For instance, your film The Prize may end up being @ThePrizeMovie @ThePrizeFilm or @ MyThePrizeMovie depending on what is available on these sites. Try to find a handle that works on your website, email, Facebook, and Twitter easily so users can find you easily. • Create a simple website. A website frequently people’s first impression of your film. Free services such as Wordpress or can look quite professional for now cost, and purchasing a domain name from DreamHost or similar webhosting sites will also allow you to create a dedicated email address for the film. It is best to brand your site with the same look and feel as your film. • Create a Twitter handle. Fast-paced twitter is an opportunity to reach larger potential audiences and create buzz! One of the distinctive features about Twitter is organizing information by hashtags which are keywords or phrases following a # sign that group material together, making it more organized and searchable. Look to films and organizations with similar interests and missions and begin to make connections. • Create a Facebook page for your film. Put your pitch on the front page with 1-2 high quality stills. Fill in the details page including a link to your website and expected release date. Be sure to suggest that your friends ‘like’ the page and encourage them to share it with their friends. Post links to the page on other groups or events or films with similar interests to start growing your fan base. • Cut a short trailer and post it on your website and Facebook using Vimeo or YouTube. • Consider what other social media sites and apps might work for your film: There are numerous social media sites and apps out there that can help to continue to broaden your audience: But your audience may not be on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Vine. Take a look around and see what other sites might be a good fit with your film.


#2. FILM FESTIVALS With so many film festivals out there, how do you decide where to apply and what do you need to find success? Here are a few suggestions: 1. Think about your audience. Which festivals would your potential audience attend? What are different aspects of Photo by Ana Grillo that audience? Some example niches are: LGBTQ, short films, Jewish, people of color, women’s, animation, underground; any specific subject matter in your film etc. Think about all the different audiences as a jumping off point for your submissions and different ways to market yourself and your film. 2. Consider the festival tiers and types, and apply strategically. If accepted to a higher tier festival (like Sundance) you may have more traditional distribution opportunities and press, but the submission fees are very high and programming is extremely competitive. Alternatively, if accepted to a small town festival, there is an opportunity to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and connect more directly with your audience in-person. You also likely would not want to put your film online in its entirety before its festival run, since that will disqualify it from those festivals which require a premiere status. Think about this as you start to plan your submissions. 3. Apply early! Many festivals have a free early deadline, or one that heavily discounted for early submissions. Submit early and save money. 4. Prepare your materials. As you begin to apply for Festivals, you will want to have the following already prepared, or on the way to being prepared: • Create a password protected online version of the film on YouTube, Vimeo, or similar service. Many Festivals will take digital submissions, and you can save the cost of DVDs, packaging, printing and shipping. • Have accompanying materials ready to go, including 2-3 high resolution photos, a simple Electronic Press Kit (EPK) or one sheet with a short synopsis, format information, and a short list of cast/crew. These are basic for all Festivals, but moving forward you may also want to include press/interviews, a dialogue list for translation and subtitling purposes, director’s filmography, etc. Be sure to have your FB/Twitter/Website information ready


as well. • Consider joining, a major online application submission service for film festivals. For a small per transaction fee, you can use WithoutABox to upload all of your materials and submit directly to festivals using their IMDB set-up to upload a secure screener. • Create a high resolution file of the film, and host it on VimeoPro, Dropbox, or similar service to use as your exhibition copy for any Festival that will screen from a file. You can also send a small flash drive. Either way, this will save you shipping cost! Be sure to get the specific requirements for that Festival. Remember to send backups regardless of the delivery method you choose! As of this publication, a Dropbox Pro account is 100GB for $99/year (and also allows you to upload your EPK materials) and a Vimeo Pro account is 50GB for $199/year including online portfolio hosting. Choose a platform that works best for you and your film’s specific needs. 5. Attending Festivals: Attending a festival is ideal and can greatly impact your film’s reach, but most festivals are non-profits without the resources to cover travel or lodging costs for most filmmakers, so it is important to prioritize which festivals you will personally attend. Think about small, niche or local festivals that you can easily attend, and be smart about which/any long distance festivals to attend for what you need. Some Festivals are better for attracting big audiences, others are better for networking with filmmakers, distributors, and programmers. Think about your needs when deciding where to travel to, and for how long. 6. What to do at the Festivals: If you are able to attend a festival, think of it as WORK. Though distractions abound, attending a festival is about representing your film, expanding your audience, and seeking out further screening and distribution options. Before attending, practice your two-minute pitch and potential Q&A answers, come prepared with business cards and flyers, and even DVD screeners to hand out. Dress for success, attend free events and parties, put screeners and flyers in attendees’ mailboxes, gather email addresses and business cards, and network! After the festival, be sure to follow up with those you met.


#3. DISTRIBUTION Traditional distribution is still alive, but quickly changing. In this model, an established distributor acquires your film (possibly for a sizable advance), your film has a theatrical run in mainstream theaters across the country, or is broadcast on HBO, PBS or other major network. The distributor may also coordinate your DVD/VOD sales and even handle upcoming festival submissions and negotiations. However, this traditional system, while still very much in use, is evermore being taken over by the new model of self-distribution, primarily through digital means. From downloads to streaming, digital distribution is growing and evolving, with an abundance of content and total accessibility anytime, anywhere. Though it may seem a bit overwhelming, these new digital distribution avenues give filmmakers a wide range of distribution options. Technology has put power directly back into the filmmakers’ hands. With the choices for online platforms ever changing, finding the right options for your specific film and audience is key.



Some Traditional Distribution Options for LGBTQ Films Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC)

The Film Collaborative

Frameline Distribution

Non-commercial distributor geared towards film festivals that pay screening fees, educational markets, art curators, and broadcast for rental or sale. They are “dedicated to distributing works which operate not simply outside of the mainstream, but which are innovative and diverse in their origins and expressions.” Known for artistic, experimental, installation, animation, drama and documentary from established and emerging filmmakers around the world. Non-profit independent film distribution. “We offer a full range of affordable distribution, educational and marketing advice and advocacy to independent filmmakers looking to reach out to traditionally underserved audiences.” Filmmakers retain 100% ownership and rights over content. Strong emphasis on digital media and social networking. Frameline is the only nonprofit LGBTQ film distributor in the US, and specializes in social justice documentaries, and other films with educational leanings. Most sales are through educational markets, but Frameline Distribution also has a presence on Amazon and other VOD/DVD platforms. Acquires only a handful of titles per year.


Strand Releasing

Theatrical, festivals, home entertainment, VOD, broadcast and keeping an eye on new platforms. Theatrically release 12 films/year, 6-10 on Alternative platforms. “Strand’s eclectic lineup has included films from around the world, representing diverse issues and topics but all with an eye towards auteur-driven/critically acclaimed projects.”

TLA Releasing

TLA Releasing is dedicated to bringing the very best in LGBT cinema to audiences across the world via DVD, VOD, and cinemas.

Wolfe Releasing

DVD, VOD, digital downloads, niche and traditional media, film festivals, broadcast, International distributors, LGBT organizations, libraries, specialty vendors and consumers. They have relationships with iTunes, Amazon, Redbox, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu etc. “Wolfe is known world-wide as the leader in mainstreaming films with gay content.” and

Some New Distribution Options for LGBTQ Films Amazon

You can choose to make your film available for high quality download to rent (Amazon Instant Video) or download to own. It is free to setup and distribute. Content must have a minimum runtime of 20min. 50% Products/VideoDownload/ profit goes to them and 50% profit goes to you. Easy to submit your film on DVD and get started using Create Space. Hulu

Hulu streams films for free. They make money off of advertising with 50% of the advertising revenue going to the filmmaker and 50% to Hulu. Requires an aggregator.


iTunes splits sales 70/30. With 70% going to the filmmaker and 30% going to iTunes. Requires an aggregator.


Netflix must select your film for their database. Filmmakers are often encouraged to self-promote to prove a title will be profitable by organizing a mini campaign of their contacts to add it to their queues to “increase queue demand.” If this is successful then an aggregator will approach Netflix for an offer. In order to be considered, the film must have had a theatrical run in New York or Los Angeles, whether through a traditional booking, or the self-distribution method of fourwalling. If chosen, Netflix purchases a license for your film for 1 or 2 years and they can play your film as many times as they like during that period of time. Licensing fees vary on a film by film basis, and they almost exclusively acquire feature length films.

Self-Distribution for Profit

Nonexclusive platform focused on webseries. “Host, distribute, monetize and analyze.” Free. Filmmaker retains 100% ownership. Embeddable player, nonexclusive, money through advertising 50/50 split, technical support through site.



BuskFilms is a nonexclusive video-on-demand site for lesbian and queer women’s independent film. Apply if your content has lesbian or bisexual themes or characters. Membership is free and viewers pay for each film that they can stream for up to 48 hours. Gross revenue percentage to filmmaker. To apply simply mail them a screener with an application. Uses geoblocking if you have preexisting contracts with certain territories.

Filmbinder sell_your_film

VOD streaming and rental for monthly fee of $10-14 and filmmaker gets 100% profits. Non-exclusive and offers geoblocking.

“IndieFlix is a ‘filmmakers first’ online marketplace and distribution company created to empower filmmakers (both as artists and as entrepreneurs) and to make film festival selected works from around the world available to a broad multi-platform audience.” Film must have screened at a film festival to be considered then submit online with their form and an online screener or DVD. “Filmmakers share the royalty pool based on minutes viewed of their film by paying subscribers, called the Royalty Pool Minutes (RPM) model. Filmmakers with films on third party sites such as Hulu and iTunes will receive 70% of the net revenue received.” filmmaker/

Shorts International

International distributor of short films: theatrical, satellite and cable TV, and iTunes. To apply, simply fill out their application form and mail http://www.shortsinternational. it in with a DVD or send a link of your film online with password. If com/ selected, the license agreement requires exclusive distribution rights over the licensing period. Vimeo Plus & Vimeo Pro

Upgraded versions of Vimeo accounts for $9.95/mo and $199/year respectively. Vimeo Pro offers Vimeo on Demand with multi-platform distribution. 90% of the profits go to the filmmaker.

Self-Distribution for Free Online Frameline Voices



This grant-funded program focuses on diverse LGBTQ stories with an emphasis on films by and about people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders. Frameline will acquire the film for a one year period (with likely renewal) and upload to YouTube and Vimeo to share it with the world for free. Filmmakers receive a $100 stipend for the year. Free to setup, upload and watch videos streaming online. Very user friendly and huge audience base. You can create a channel for your film company and upload all your content to that page. You can also embed the videos or trailers you upload to YouTube on other sites like Facebook and your personal website. YouTube and the filmmaker make money from advertising. Monetization is where you allow an ad to play at the beginning of your video or you allow an ad banner along the bottom of your video. Streaming video site specifically designed for filmmakers and artsy types to upload and share their content for free. Can embed video on other sites.


#3. DISTRIBUTION (CONTINUED) If your film does end up with a distributor, think about your rights in terms of both exclusivity and non-exclusivity, as well as regions. In the past, traditional distributors often acquired exclusive/sole rights to a film for the US and Canada, while another distributor would hold those same rights to that film in, say, Germany. Today, many small distributors now sign contracts that are non-exclusive, and not necessarily related to a specific region, as the barriers that used to keep media local have disappeared through digital release. Self-distribution options are diverse on and offline, and it helps to consider what works best for you and your audience. Direct markets such as large screenings at LGBTQ Centers, schools, libraries, conferences, speaking engagements or support groups may be ideal for some films. In addition, do-it-yourself grassroots approaches provide another way to host screenings after you have built up a network through your film’s crowdsourcing campaign, festival run, or online outreach. Web-platforms such as TUGG ( give filmmakers and invested audience members the power to create a screening in almost any city, provided a significant number of interested moviegoers in that region pre-purchase tickets. Whether selling through a traditional or new distributor, or yourself, remember that this is just a starting off point. There are other niche distributors to pursue outside of the LGBTQ world (i.e. Women Make Movies, California Newsreel, New Day), and new models for selfdistribution are popping up everyday. One self-distribution example is Michael Morgenstern’s Shabbat Dinner, a 15 minute short film that played in Frameline36’s Fun in Boys Shorts program in 2012. Morgenstern’s tale of self-distribution at a “pay what you will” model is outlined in his blog post here: Michael’s ability to use Festivals to his advantage, integrate a live Q&A model, ask for a higher-than-average purchase price, and utilize multiple non-exclusive deals all helps to shed light on the bevy of options and approaches emerging.


#4. YOUR FILM IS OUT – NOW PROMOTE IT! You are having a screening. Or perhaps your film has just been released online, whether for pay or for free. Now promote it! By engaging creatively with your audience you can transform them from passive to engaged, and your biggest fans can help promote the film. (eg- ‘Share’ on Facebook, word-of-mouth etc.) FACEBOOK: Now that your film is done, use Facebook to stay connected to potential audience members, and keep them engaged to promote screenings. Facebook is especially useful in letting your audience know about new and upcoming screenings. You can post on the wall with new festival, screening dates, times and links to the festival. You can also create an event page for specific screenings so that people can RSVP and spread the word to their local communities. This is especially useful for screenings that you plan on attending or for screenings in a location with a particularly large fan base. Post new photos from festivals and screenings. Encourage fans to ‘share’ the page on their walls. Though an online release is for users to enjoy in their homes (either paid or free) rather than a literal “event,” you can still create a film event via Facebook and let fans know about your release date. Post the link to the film and encourage people to like it and share it with their friends. All social media can walk a fine line, but perhaps never moreso than on Facebook—keep in mind the difference between promotion and spam. Posting too often and writing too much can overwhelm users and push them away. Facebook suggests some best practices including keeping text short, utilizing questions over statements, and providing access to exclusive sneak previews or giveaways, and scheduling your posts to ensure effectiveness. Also of note: Once you get over 200 ‘likes’ on your Facebook page you get a coupon for a free ad! TWITTER: Once you’ve set up your account with your film’s handle, search for hashtags related to you and your film. Be creative! If a Twitter user relates to your film, follow them, and mention them in your tweets. They will be notified and can choose to follow you, growing your social network and increasing your visibility with potential audiences. Twitter will also suggest related feeds and searches that you might be interested in. Remember to tweet in the same way you post on your Facebook page with photos, upcoming screenings,


and links to your film, keeping in mind that tweets are limited to 140 characters so you can utilize links to relay more information. USE YOUR EMAIL LIST: If you are having an in-person screening, bring a clipboard and collect email addresses! Or mention how to “like� your film in the Q&A. Now that your inperson audience members are online as well, use a service like MailChimp to send out emails to keep your audience informed about future screenings, sales, promotions and fundraising efforts. GET IN TOUCH WITH PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS: A great way to find, build and grow your audience is to partner with organizations whose missions are aligned with your film. This will give you the access to outreach with their populations and lend itself to building copresenter relationships for film festivals. CONSIDER ADVERTISING: Once you have determined your audience you can think creatively to anticipate their other interests and place your ads accordingly with flyers, business cards, print and digital ads, if you have the resources to do so.


GLOSSARY OF TERMS Aggregators: These are companies designed to eliminate the distributor middlemen between filmmakers and screening platforms. They acquire your film, promote it through their connections, and you pay them a (large) percentage. Two examples are Distribber and TuneCore. Distribber has an upfront cost of $1295 (SD) $1595 (HD). Distribber was purchased by IndieGoGo and is one of the most popular aggregators for filmmakers in the US and Canada especially with retailers. They have relationships with iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. TuneCore has an upfront cost of $999 (SD) $1249 (HD). TuneCore started off helping musicians get access to larger retail platforms but has now branched out to help filmmakers as well, especially on iTunes. Having an aggregator is helpful for getting your film onto platforms with barriers to entry, such as Netflix and iTunes. Crowdsourcing or Crowdfunding: “The practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.” (Merriam-Webster). Most commonly used with Kickstarter and IndieGoGo websites. Direct digital, Direct distribution, Direct download: As the independent distribution landscape evolves, so do the terms. There are many terms for the same basic things. All of these terms are basically an updated version of “home video,” meaning sales that are directly to the viewer. In this case, the delivery method is digital, meaning streaming or downloading a file to own. There is no hardcopy version of the film. Dropbox: A file hosting service where you put files in a folder on your computer and once it is shared the same folder can be accessed on any computer. This is very convenient for sending Electronic Press Kit (EPK) materials and versions of the film to festivals and distributors for easy access and downloading. Accounts are available for free or if you need more storage, you can upgrade to DropboxPro or Business, depending on how much space you need. Exclusive and Non-Exclusive Contracts: An exclusive contract means that the distributor will be the SOLE distributor for your film, whether across all platforms (VOD, Educational, DVD, etc), or within one type of distribution. For instance, a distributor might want sole exclusive educational rights. A non-exclusive contract allows a distributor to have, say VOD rights for your film, but you would also be able to have the film on a VOD platform yourself.


Both exclusive and non-exclusive agreements can apply to various periods of time, and in various regions (i.e. US Only, Worldwide, etc.). Four-Walling or Four Wall Distribution: A studio or distributor rents a movie theater for at least one or two weekends, receiving all of the box office revenue. Having screened in a theater in LA or New York a requirement for consideration on certain platforms, which is a major reason filmmakers pay for this type of rental. See: the-four-wall-plan/. Geoblocking: A system used to limit your access to the Internet based on your geographic location. Specifically, geoblocking can be used when your film is available online and you block certain territories so that you (or the hosting site) can honor other distribution deals. Hybrid-distribution, Hybrid-release: A term coined by Peter Broderick and explained in his article, “Declaration of Independence: The Ten Principles of Hybrid Distribution,” “hybrid distribution ‘enables filmmakers to retain distribution control’ by combining direct sales by filmmakers with distribution by third parties (e.g. DVD distributors, TV channels, VOD companies, educational distributors) who have the resources and expertise to maximize distribution in different channels.” Using this system, filmmakers design a customized distribution strategy where they can retain direct sales rights (DVD, download and stream from your website and at screenings) and the VOD/retail DVD/TV rights are made with separate distributors. (Broderick’s full article is linked to in the Resources List at the end of this document.) Video On Demand (VOD): Systems set up to allow users to select a film to watch through their TV, computer, DVR or other device including pay per view and free content. Examples are Cable VOD, Comcast, Direct TV, InDemand. DTO is Download to Own and DTR is Download to Rent. In all cases, there is no physical copy of the film (i.e. VHS, DVD, etc.). Whether purchased or rented, the video goes direct to user digitally. WithoutABox: A website that allows independent filmmakers to submit their films to festivals all over the world. Filmmakers create a profile and a file for each film, upload secure screeners (via IMDB), search the festival database, submit, and pay submission fees all online. Additionally, WithoutABox has a relationship with CreateSpace to stream and sell your film online.


RESOURCE LIST FOR FURTHER READING Distribution is an always changing, evolving landscape and that this is just a jumping off point. As an LGBTQ media arts non-profit, Frameline’s focus is on queer film, but it is important to consider if your work may have crossover audiences in other communities and to investigate those markets. Stay up to date by checking out these resources.

BuskFilms’ online promo suggestions: • http://bus Facebook’s Page Publishing Best Practices manual: • Practices.pdf The Film Collaborative Resources: The Fledgling Fund: • • Grassroots Film Distribution: • Hope For Film Distribution Case Study Masterlist: • How To Get Your Indie Film Onto iTunes & NetFlix: • •


Hybrid Distribution by Peter Broderick: • hybrid_distribution IndieWire’s Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding • New World Distribution by Peter Broderick: • Sundance Direct to Fan: •


Frameline Filmmaker Toolkit  

The fast-paced, quickly changing world of film promotion and distribution can be daunting, especially if it’s your first film, or you don’t...

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