Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Every filmmaker has three primary goals:
1) Make films
2) Get people to see those films
3) Make money from those films
When it comes to the first goal, filmmakers are ready, willing, and able to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Though there are plenty of obstacles and trials to overcome, filmmakers always find a way. Why is this? It's because filmmakers believe that making a film is within their span of control. They believe that if they try hard enough, work well enough with other people, and never give up, everything will eventually fall into place.
This isn't so much the case with the second and third goals. When it comes to distribution and making money on their films, filmmakers believe that this part of the equation is outside of their span of control. This is why they go to festivals, pitch distributors, and give away their films to distributors for pennies on the dollar. For some reason, they believe that someone else is the gatekeeper to the financial success of their films and are willing to give everything away in the process.
Well, the reality is that a distribution deal doesn't guarantee massive viewership nor does it guarantee a meaningful return on investment. When it comes to viewership (and downstream revenues) most people are viewing short and feature film content primarily on 4 platforms: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Hulu. So, to get the kind of viewership you need to be profitable (following all of the revenue splits involved in traditional distribution) you need to be on one or more of these platforms...and therein lies the rub.
Netflix and Hulu are making their own content and have become less and less interested in independent films that don't come from offshoots of the major studios. AmazonPrime Video pays pennies on the dollar per hour of film watched which means a long slog to recoupment for most filmmakers (especially if you don't have a tried and true branding and marketing strategy). And that brings us to YouTube.
YouTube isn't the place to monetize a single film, but it's a great place to monetize content. The key to monetizing content on YouTube is a content creator's ability to feed the insatiable appetites of YouTube viewers. Since there is so much content out there, you have to give your audience something that keeps them coming back for more. This can be a daunting task for traditional filmmakers as most of their films take months to produce. How can you possibly keep up with the demand when the type of content you create can't be published daily, weekly, or even monthly? The answer is by augmenting the content you create with content that invites your viewers in to the creative process and introduces them to the people who helped along the way.
YouTube offers filmmakers the lowest barrier to entry (no gatekeepers) while allowing you to maintain the rights to your work. It offers a relatively unfiltered platform for you to share every aspect of your filmmaking journey while growing, curating, and engaging your audience. Though it doesn't offer the kind of one-time pay days that most filmmakers are seeking, neither do Netflix, Hulu, or AmazonPrime Video when it comes to independent films.
In addition to minimizing the barriers to entry, YouTube also offers filmmakers direct insights into platform analytics. This is something you won't get from any other platform. Analytics will empower you to take the right actions to improve the performance of your channel and to engage your viewership. This way, you can tailor your content to what your viewers want while monitoring their engagement and overall platform performance.
Last but not least, YouTube provides a platform for your brand. This can include a Shop for your merchandise, a Community forum for social engagement, and even Channel-sharing to highlight the work of your friends in film. This one stop-shop offers everything you need to share your content and build your brand.
Now, we get that posting a film to YouTube doesn't carry the same gravitas as telling people that your film made it to Netflix or can be viewed on AmazonPrime, but here's the thing: Netflix and Amazon views may carry weight, but they don't easily convert to followers and subscribers. Every video you post to YouTube gives each viewer the opportunity to like, follow, and share your content. Those contributions alone are worth far more than a view on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu combined.
Our goal here isn't to discourage you from seeking a traditional distribution deal. If you can get a sweet cash deal from Netflix or Hulu, by all means go for it! What we're tying to get across is that the sweet cash deal isn't the norm no matter how much faith you have in your film. Our goal is to encourage you to put your future in your own hands by being the primary advocate for your creative success. No one else is going to build your brand or build your audience for you. Only you can do that. YouTube is designed to do that.
As an indie filmmaker, your future is up to you. Take control. Keep control. Give YouTube a try.
Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.
If you're looking for someone to help you on your creative journey, feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to work with you!