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Tips to get your film to distribution

Its never an easy task to get distributors to see your film, but these tips may help

By Spencer HawkenPublished 2 years ago 11 min read
Tips to get your film to distribution
Photo by William Bayreuther on Unsplash

If you are an independent filmmaker there are serious things that you need to consider that are beyond the boundaries of just making a film, better still of course making a good film. And that is the art of movie marketing. The danger of all filmmakers is the ability to do one but not the other, in those fledging years you need to have skills in both. If you are a new filmmaker, finding your way in the world, getting that all important distribution deal is a challenge you really need to think about from the offset. Every filmmaker knows their vision and assume much will just follow naturally, the chances are a million to one however, and this is a painful element that means that most filmmakers will only ever make one film. Here are my top tips to getting your film to distribution.

Shooting on my first movie (Spencer Hawken)

Social Media

Your social media needs to be on point if its not, your movie will go nowhere. While on this topic, why not check out this post I wrote a while back on how to grow your Instagram following. You should never favour one more than another, however though Instagram is good for a number of things in the filmmaking network. You need to get the bases covered on the three most notable platforms. Notability for distributors comes in this order: Instagram, Facebook then finally Twitter. With the opening of platforms such as Amazon Video Direct, Indie movies make less money than ever before, so a distributor needs to create a kind of weights and measures approach to considering the distribution of your film.

If your film only has 500 followers on Facebook when it comes to distribution the buyer will consider only 150 of your followers a viable buyer, because people that follow Facebook pages often are just involved in someway for money and not necessarily engaged in the outcome. Therefore distribution of your film is worthless to them, it will cost more in legal processes than their guaranteed earnings. So, you need to focus smartly on how you get your film out there.

Social Media is something you must factor in from the offset before you even shoot a second of your movie, you need to set yourself clearly defined goals, its hard work, beyond making the film. But its the ultimate thing you can get right, most first time filmmakers are made or broken on their social media output, in many ways it can be more valuable than the film you have made, because if you can get a following to your first film, you'll get bigger followings for your second and third.

Starting from the beginning you need to ensure you have a public and freely accessible page for both you as the filmmaker and the film that you are making, these are must-haves not nice to haves. You need to set aside 1 hour a day for social media every single day without fail, on the build-up, during and post filming in fact you should not ever stop pumping unique content about your movie into social media land until the day you feel you have achieved all your goals in terms of getting your film out there, then and only then should you rest, but never leave that page for dead. You need to be strict about your time, ten minutes minimum on each medium for your personal and movie profiles, it can be monotinous but if you want to make it in an industry of millions you need to stand out. Your plan should follow in a 1 in 2 format, on one day you make a post on the following you gain interest in your post and so on. Social Media strategy is something I have written a lot about on this very platform, everything from Growth, to fake followers and Hashtagging, but bear in mind that you need to be as focused on your followers or potential followers as you are yourself. Filmmakers that engage with their audiences in those early years achieve the best results. A key tip to grow your network might be, identify similar filmmakers as yourself, find out about your local film circuit, who is making films on your doorstep. Follow and support these operations by making comments on their posts, tag them in appropriate ONLY tags, do not tag them in irrelevancies, make the tag pertinent to them. For example, “John Smith who’s working on the movie The Cat With Yellow Lips is working on our movie, The Dog With Red Slippers” This allows you to tag your film, a peer filmmaker and a peer film and giving everyone a warm fuzzy feeling and potentially making people see you and your film favourably, it also shows fellow bonding with filmmakes, many in the industries starting phases see other filmmakers as rivals, people to compete with. But filmmakers who are freinds are the best connections to have when you too are a filmmaker.

Its also important to continually like the work of others you do not follow as sooner or later it will turn into a following. The most important thing you MUST NOT DO! Is buy likes, no matter how tempting it is, all these organisations have filters and apps that will show how many likes are real and genuine and that are fake, I’ve seen so many filmmakers who have virtually made nothing to generate 40,000 followers but scroll through the followers and 7 in 10 is a red flag.


The ability to write good and varied press releases is a must, if you cant make freinds with someone who can quickly, with each one you need to think of a different angle. You could focus on budget, actors, subject, location; something that is beyond the sum of the movies parts, this creates a real pull for online or print press as with so many making film now days its hard to stand your story out against others. Start local then widen your net, look at genre review sites, magazines, podcasts etc. During the creation of my first movie, a filmmaking magazine wrote an article on me called “interview with a pro”, oh the irony, despite the fact that it was my first film, but this was due to my well compossed press releases. In terms of text verses advertsing costs I generated £1.8 Million pounds of press coverage by keeping my articles fresh. The ability to generate your own hype is key to your success as a filmmaker.


Getting a Wikipedia page is harder than just about anything, but think your angles and factor in with the above section on press and you are on to a winning formula. Press coverage is key to getting an article on Wikipedia being considered as notable, especially if the press articles cite something unique in your film. When you create your wiki page (or better still get someone else to do it) you need to keep it very much from a third-person perspective, list the accolades, screenings and awards and your cast, never talk about yourself or from the angle of someone that was involved in the film. Finally create links to all of your press throught the article. When searching your films title Wikipedia pages will almost always show first even higher than IMDB. Most important to remember Wikipedia do not see IMDB as a reputable source, so dont assume that because you have a film page on IMDB that it will help you get Wiki-Fame.

Getting your film judged

This is not what it seems, find friends that you trust who were not involved in the making of the film and ask them to watch and critique your film. Get bloggers to see your film. These two factors can ultimately define your films future. Ask for genuine responses only, people in your film will always praise it up whether they think its good or not they were just grateful to be part of something and potentially further their careers, I mean anyone who will downplay a film they are involved in would defnately qualify as being “a bad egg”. You need someone to say (ideally before you colour grade your film) that certain aspects do not work, a performance is poor, or the editing is not right. Do not take the feedback personally, take it as genuine and act on their feedback especially if the same thing is mentioned by more than one person. If you can shorten scenes or cut to another character when someones dialogue does not work, you can save your film in the longterm.

Our team having won several awards at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square (Spencer Hawken)

Send to film festivals

There are two opportunities here, using a service such as The Film Festival Doctor, a genuine globetrotting film festival strategist who will get your films in festivals for a fee, based on her understanding of what festivals want and like. Rebekah Louisa Smith is known all over the world on the festival circuit and sometimes paying fees for a service is better in terms of financial cost than doing a hit and hope method to picking festivals. I submitted to hundreds of festivals that did not accept my film, not because they did not like it, but because I did not truly understand the festivals ethos, Rebekah does.

If you choose however to go it alone, a strategy you must use would be to look at a top, middle, and bottom approach. Look at bigger festivals that do not require premiere exclusivity, avoid the likes of Cannes, London, Venice or Tribecca, the horror of premiere exclusivity is that you can be waiting on certain festival for 6 months to a year to decide if your film is the right fit for the festival and then if they reject it, you have lost a passage of time you cannot get back, time is everything in filmmaking and your moves need to be good and wise. A mid-level festival is probably a festival that has the towns name as part of a title, probably has been going more than 5 years and features a heavy indie line up. The bottom level is festivals that have been running three years or less, the audience may not be there yet, but if they offer awards, award wins are good for your CV, even a nomination is good, you don't even need to win. Smaller festivals will get far less submissions which will increase your chances of getting shown

Study festivals and look at the films they have shown, if you can see ones that you feel ring true to yours, chances are they are likely to show your film. Do not send a horror film to a festival that focuses on non-violent films for example. Here is a huge disclaimer most first-time filmmakers will not be selected for 90% of the festivals they submit too and you must budget this into your fnances.

What happens next?

Not so much of a tip, but here is the magic. When you have 1000 followers on each social media channel, once you have had some good honest opinions of your film and adjusted accordingly. When you have achieved at least ten articles on your film and at least 5 reviews and had your film shown at festivals, then its time to approach distributors, if of course they have not already been in touch, as often many do get in touch once they see the vibe your film is generating. Again look at similar projects or movies, even films you know were shot locally to you, take yourself to your nearest store that sells movies and look at who they are released by. Check out indie success stories that hit the big screen and find out who distributed them and how.

Then do three things:

Follow the organisation on social media, as well as key people in their industry, find out their email addresses.

Work out how long it will take to send an item in the post to the different companies, then produce a pack that includes a DVD, Blu-Ray and Memory Stick (send via a tracked method) and post them unsolicited to the organisation, they all say they will not except unsolicited submissions but actually 8 out of 10 will watch it if you send something physically and have a good solid hook.

On the day you know the delivery is due, send the distributors an email, make it personal, include references to some of their releases, ideally make your email arrive before the package, but make no mention of sending a package in your email to them. In the email include a link to your movie for them to watch via a secure website such as Vimeo. Then via social channels tag them to say you have sent them a film, this does two things, it feeds as part of a drip, drip effect and secondly it lets them know that your actively looking to distribute and when they check you out they will see who else you have approached and know that if they like your film they need to act quickly. They will also understand that you are serious about film, rather than just sitting back and watching/waiting for something to happen. No distrubutor wants to work with a lazy filmmaker.

The key is the drip, drip effect. First, they see your name, then they see your film in the post, then they know you are hungry.

Obviously, none of these things will work if your camera is shaky, performances are poor, your footage ungraded or your sound appalling. Finally the most likely thing any filmmaker will get pulled down on is length almost every filmmaker will make a film longer than it needs to be, gracefully accept criticism when given, and cut if you possibly can, whether that tip comes from a friend, a film festival or a distributor; to you you are commiting an atrocity to your film, but to peopke who watch or know film, you are making good into perfection. While I cannot comment on every film if your film has a story to tell, looks and sounds good and is well performed the strategy I have outlined here is a sure-fire winning formula, but you have to have the passion because ultimately only you can make your dreams come true.

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About the Creator

Spencer Hawken

A multi-award nominated filmmaker with a passion for travel, film, finance and social media.

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