How-to

This page walks you through the steps of tackling the big task of actually distributing your work. This is our Do It Yourself (DIY) version of how to self-distribute your film to various outlets and viewers. Distribution is a very important and time-consuming task, so give yourself plenty of time to focus on each of these steps.

Research and prioritize opportunities

Once you have defined who your target audiences are, you need to figure out how you
will get your film to them. First, brainstorm opportunities in which
your film can be viewed. Make a list of realistic places and forms that
you want your film to be viewed through - will it be at a local film
festival or a festival that's focused on women's social issues, will it
be shown in high school classrooms, on the web through a site focused
on grafitti artists, on your local public TV channel that showcases
films about your local community?

Once you've narrowed your list, start researching opportunities! Find submission info and
deadlines for festivals, a contact person for that website you would
love to have your film featured on, submission info for local public TV
programming, etc. When researching, it's important to examine any
guidelines there are, who the intended audience is, and compare your
film to any others listed. Ask yourself, "is this a realistic
opportunity?" Examine the realities of your project - the cast, the
shooting format, the length, the genre, the topics/issues that it
focuses on, etc. - and consider realistic distribution avenues. Lastly,
list and prioritize each opportunity. Make a schedule for yourself, and
prioritize the ones that have deadlines or are time sensitive.

Create your distribution package

You can view a distribution package as a portfolio or promotional package
of information and tools that go along with your film when you send it
out. It should of course include a copy of your film, a synopsis page,
technical information including format, length, staff, etc. and
possibly a letter of introduction. Depending on who you're sending it
to, you can include a discussion guide and press kit.

Discussion guide

A discussion guide can be an excellent piece of literature to accompany
your digital story.   Many teachers and groups are more likely to
incorporate your story into their programming if it comes "packaged"
with curriculum and resources that they can use to generate
discussions, to facilitate other projects related to your story, or
even just as an easy way to show people how to learn more about your
organization and topics of advocacy.

A discussion guide often includes any combination of the following:

  • A synopsis of the story (one or two sentences about the story)
  • A
    list of discussion questions - non-leading questions that encourage
    people to debate and talk about the theme of the story, their reaction
    to the story, related current events, and/or their personal experiences
    related to the theme
  • A list of related resources, links, and organizations
  • Classroom or group activities or exercises
  • A request for action - specific ways people can help or get involved
  • Contact information for the organization or individual(s) who produced the story
  • Graphics and images, such as still images from the story and the organization's logo
  • A donation form or brochure for those who want to support the film project, organization, and/or issue
Press kit

Press kits are promotional packages for a film that are sent out to people in
the press (newspapers, magazines, blogs, movie review websites, etc.)
and film festival programmers. They are an important tool that will
help you publicize your finished film to the masses. Journalists and
film festival staff receive hundreds of projects from filmmakers all
the time, but what will set your film apart from the rest will be a
well put together, attractive press kit that is packed with
information. These people don't have time to watch all the films they
receive, so a great press kit will help them evaluate whether they want
to take the time to watch your film. And it provides them with all the
information they need to write a great article or review about your
film.

Press kits typically contain a director's
statement, 2-3 synopses of different lengths (50 words, 150 words, 300
words), cast and production information including short biographies of
the main staff, technical information (shooting format, running time,
aspect ratio), a list of FAQs for your film, a set of still photos from
the film, and of course contact information.

Links to articles that describe each section of a press kit in more detail:
http://www.colum.edu/Portfolio_Center/Articles/Jourdan.php
http://www.dvoted.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=453&Itemid=28
http://www.raindancefilmfestival.org/?q=node/39
http://www.thrae.com/nbmm/guide/kit.html
http://www.aivf.org/node/475

Approach your targets

Now that you have distribution packages ready to send out, go through your
list of opportunities you made and start writing those emails and
making phone calls. Make sure to take the time to contact people and
have an initial conversation before you send them anything. If you want
your film to be used at your local high school, to be featured on a
website, etc., first contact them and explain what your film is about
and how you think it would be a valuable tool for them to use or a
great addition to their programming. If you can, point them to your
website to watch your trailer and grab their attention.

When you send out your distribution package, it's a good idea to
include an introduction letter - restating who you are, referencing any
previous conversations/emails you've had, and describing in a few
sentences why you think your film can be beneficial to them. Keep the
letter short and to the point (less than one page).

Keep track of when you send out distribution packages to people, so
that you can follow up with them accordingly. If there is no deadline
involved, send them a follow up email or phone call a week or two after
you sent the package. If it's a festival submission and you don't hear
back from them after their announcement deadline passes, try to follow
up with them. If they decide not to accept your film, ask if they can
provide any feedback about your film. This information could be
valuable in tailoring any future submissions.

REACHING OUT TO SCHOOLS

Larger institutions, such as colleges and some K-12 schools, regularly purchase or otherwise acquire media for use in media libraries by teachers and students.  These films are typically purchased from an educational distributor's catalogue.  However, DIY distribution to schools requires more effort: typically, direct contact with a teacher, school librarian, project coordinator for an after school program or student group, or another school administrator.

Use press and publicity

It is very important to pull in as many journalists as possible to your
film. Use your network, invite press into your screenings and events,
and to get the word out in a way that will get attention. If you've
just released your film, you're having a local screening, or your film
is playing at a festival - solicit interest from newspapers, magazines,
and websites/blogs that are relevant to the topic of your film, that
focus on events and the local culture and community. Make the initial
contact with press early on, offer them free admission to the event (if
possible), designate "press time" for them to chat with you (or
preferably, with makers of the film) after the event. Send out a press
release to each contact, announcing the details about the event and a
description of the film.

Use online social networks and tools

There are a ton of online social networks where people go to connect with
others. For our purposes, there are many sites for filmmakers to share
their videos, connect with other filmmakers, give each other feedback,
and gain general exposure for their films. Its a good idea to post your
film on a few of these sites and actively promote it any way you can.

Many of these sites provide web tools called widgets that allow you to
embed your video on a website, blog, Myspace/Facebook profile, etc so
that anyone who visits that page can stream the video directly on that
site. Get your video to stream on your website, post a link to it on
your friend's blog, put it all over your Myspace profile and on your
friends' profiles. Encourage anyone affiliated with the film or your
organization to help spread the word. You can use social network sites
like Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, etc. to advertise and create hype
around your film. Create a profile or a group for your film with a link
to your film website or embed the film for viewing, and try to create a
friend/fan base. If you're having a screening, film release party, or
fundraising party, create an event page or post on a bulletin and
invite everyone you know.

There are also video storage sites that allow you to create a profile
and manage your videos in high quality, large file formats. You can use
these sites as an electronic portfolio to point people to. There's a
lot more out there besides YouTube.

A list of video sharing social network sites

Revver
The first video sharing site that provides users with the possibility to earn money from the videos they upload.

blip.tv

blip.tv
is designed to let you easily upload all types and qualities of media.
They also let you add ads to your video so you can make some money.

Cruxy

Cruxy’s tools give artists the power to share their work on Cruxy or
across the web using the Cruxy Social Player. Cruxy also gives creators
the ability to sell their work as digital downloads.

Dailymotion

Video sharing platform with multiple video search options. You can join
groups of people who publish videos based on a common interest.

Vimeo

Vimeo is a video sharing site that has an emphasis on it’s users. The
video’s you find there are more likely to be home movies or shorts by
aspiring film makers.

Vidilife

Upload videos and store them online. There is no limit in terms of length of the files you can upload.

Dropshots

Good site that lets you upload videos, share them and embed them on other sites.

Mydeo
Store and stream your videos online. You will be able to embed a video on any website and send streaming video messages.

These sites were found through Mashable.com's extensive list of video sites and online video tools:http://mashable.com/2007/07/23/online-media/

Useful widgets and tools

You can ask for donations to support your film by placing a donation
widget on your site to direct a payment to a Paypal account. You must
first create a Paypal account, which is an online account that allows
you to receive online payments from other people.
https://www.paypal.com/
http://show.apperceive.com/

The AddThis button is the #1 used free bookmarking and sharing button
that people use on their sites. The button helps you spread your
content across the Web by making it easier for your visitors to
bookmark and share it with other people.
http://addthis.com/

Evaluate your impact

Keep track of all the distribution packages you send out and any successes.
Create a simple excel document to track the dates you sent something
out and responses. Try to get any feedback from people about your film
and the overall presentation of your distribution package. Make notes
about any conversations you had before you sent out your packages -
were there more successes in situations where you made personal
contacts? By tracking every action you do in distribution, you'll be
able to evaluate which strategies you used were most successful, and
perhaps which contacts were most helpful and who is worth maintaining a
relationship with.

Tool: Distribution tracking template

Long-tail distribution: archiving, preservation, and accessibility

Once you've put the time and energy into creating a finished film, you want
to save your video project properly so that it will always be
accessible. You should archive your finished video on multiple formats
to ensure that you'll always be able to watch it, no matter how
technology changes in the future. Here are a few steps you can take to guarantee your project's longevity and accessibility.

  1. Archive your source media and project files.
    If you ever want to re-edit the film or save it on a medium besides
    DVD, it'll be helpful to have all of your source files -- all of the
    media that went into your piece, as well as one final version of the
    project file used for editing. If storage space is a concern, you can
    delete the source video clips for your project, but if you want to edit
    or make any changes later, you'll have to re-capture the media. It is
    recommended that you keep at least one backup (on a different media
    format and kept in a different location) of all of your final files.
  2. Save a full-quality, uncompressed digital file of your project.
    The uncompressed video file (usually Quicktime) will be very large
    (approximately 1 GB for every five minutes of standard definition
    video), so you'll need an appropriate storage device. For short videos,
    you can use a data DVD or a USB flash drive. For longer video projects,
    you'll want to store the video on an external hard drive or export it
    back onto a tape. Again, it is recommended that you archive the full
    resolution file in at least two places, such as on an external hard
    drive, on a server, and on a disk that is kept in a separate physical
    location.
  3. Create DVD masters.
    Burn a copy of the project onto DVD, using a program such as iDVD or
    DVD Studio Pro. This will give you a playable disk that you can watch
    and make screening copies from. This playable DVD contains an MPEG-2
    version of your film. Though it looks like it's full quality, the video
    and audio footage has been compressed so that it can fit onto a DVD.
    Make a few sets of DVD masters -- one that you can keep on hand for
    duplication, and one or two copies that you never touch or put into any
    device (for backup in case your masters are scratched). Carefully label
    and store your masters.
  4. Find an accessible long-term home for your film.
    Make your project accessible to the public in some way so that people
    can find and view it in the future. As mentioned in the social networks
    section, there are many sites where you can create video portfolios and
    store high quality versions of your film for the long-term where people
    can access them. If you have a website or blog, make sure to list your
    film and a link that directs someone to where your video is stored
    online. If your film isn't distributed by an educational distributor or
    home video distributor, or if your distribution contract is limited to
    a certain time period, consider submitting your completed work to a
    library, school, university, or other "permanent" archive. That way,
    you have somewhere to send interested parties who inquire about your
    film for years to come.

For more about preservation, see BAVC's preservation program.