5 main tips for self-distributing

October 22, 2017 10:01 am Published by

Director and entrepreneur, Ava DuVernay, discusses 5 main tips when self-distributing a film. 

 “The bottom line is community, and creating a community around your film…” DuVernay

1. Set your goals upfront.

After winning the Best Director Award for “Middle of Nowhere”, DuVernay stated that this was achieved by setting clear goals at the beginning. DuVernay built a team of passionate and dedicated volunteers who have keen interests and enthusiasm for Black culture and independent film.  

There were 5 main goals set, these were to:

  • Recoup production expenses ($200,000),
  • Recoup P&A ($150,000),
  • Pay deferments, including those to producers, actors and herself,
  • Retain select rights,
  • (and keep the dream alive… ) to make another film.

    2. Build a great team and volunteers

    DuVernay also created the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM). 

    “I wanted to reach Black folk, and we’re not a monolith, so Black people that were really interested in drama, in something that might be a little more elevated than what the studios are giving them. There are riches in the niches. ” (DuVernay)

    The campaign was supported by over 500 volunteers that were used to promote AFFRM movies within their communities. The methods of promotion were wide ranging, from art work that was inspired by the movie or by handing out flyers. DuVernay even succeeded in redirecting movie-goers who were going to see another film! It’s all about getting the word out in a positive and inclusive manner, in all circles of society.

    “If they weren’t Black, I would still talk to people and say, ‘Hey! Do you like independent cinema?’” (DuVernay)

    3. Keep to Game Plan

    Although face-to-face marketing is key, the festival circuit was key for DuVernay. Middle of Where played at both niche major festivals. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival (October 12, 2012), with DuVernay secured a number of traditional offers for distribution (thanking Ben Weiss at Paradigm), but she stuck to her main game plan with Participant fronting the P&A costs in an exchange for a profit share, with AFFRM maintaining control of the distribution. 

    4. Social Media

    There was over 70 volunteers that were promoting the film digitally. They campaign included “Tweet for Tracks”, whereby any tweet image containing a ticket stub would get a free song download. It was key to gain talent involvement within the campaign rather than automated tweets. 

    “The actors were participating on Facebook, everybody was on Instagram, we were using LinkedIn, we were using Foursquare, we were using Snapchat.”  (DuVernay)

    5. Traditional Media

    Awareness was key, thanks to press from The New York Times, Access Hollywood, and Indiewire, among others, as key to driving broad awareness of the Middle of Nowhere.
    Also, DuVernay sent a copy of the film to Oprah to gain celebrity endorsement from the targeted market – Oprah even tweeted about it!


    Middle of Nowhere stuck to its release date and opened on six screens to $13,005 per screen. The initial release focused on cities where the initial promotion started. This then expanded to 60 markets. The creation of AFFRM is also ready to support the next film that required the dedicated support of DuVernay’s “mavericks”. 


    AFFRM, now known as Array Now, http://www.arraynow.com/

    This article is related to and sources from: http://www.indiewire.com/2013/02/the-5-tips-for-managing-self-distribution-from-middle-of-nowhere-director-and-entrepreneur-ava-duvernay-41340/

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    This post was written by noxford

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