This was published on Dream Row’s website on June 15, 2012.
By Nicole LaChance
These days, a good portion of films are viewed via online streaming sites such as Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, iTunes and Netflix. While Hulu may be the preferred sight of the television world, Netflix generally has a better selection of movies, but not all Netflix’s movies are big blockbusters and classic films. The site carries many independent features and documentaries. So, how can you get your movie on Netflix and into the homes of hundreds?
The most important thing to consider before trying to get your film on Netflix is whether or not it meets the company’s guidelines. While the company does not post specific guidelines on their website, some filmmaking blogs have posted some general rules they have found Netflix goes by. Films generally need to have critic and audience appeal, some buzz, be over 60 minutes in length and have potential for a wider audience appeal. The company also favors films that have been in festivals and received festival awards.
“If your film got folks in their seats at film festivals and you spent time on marketing and building an audience then your chances are slightly higher,” said Steve Swasey, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Netflix, as quoted in The Independent.
If your film meets some or all of these requirements, you should start to develop a press kit and marketing plan. Create a plan that showcases all the ways you plan to promote your film. This will help Netflix see that you can generate the “buzz” they are looking for. Press kits should include a brief summary of the film, notes of any festival participation and a list of any awards the film has received. It will also be beneficial to link to any positive reviews or press about the film. Once this is completed, attach the above documents along with your film, a letter of interest and any links to trailers in an e-mail and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or to their corporate office.
However, as a self-distributor, it is not easy to get your film to Netflix. The Lights Film School blog offers a detailed explanation as to why companies like Netflix prefer to work with major distributors. Their explanation basically boils down to this: major distributors can scan and monitor content, which protects companies like Netflix from poor content and saves them the time and hassle of having to do the filtering themselves. This means that the best chance of getting a movie on Netflix is going through a distributor. However, this model does not always work out for independent filmmakers, who often have trouble getting the attention of a major distributor.
Fortunately, there are other distribution options. A popular option among independent filmmakers is to submit a film to distributing company Distribber, which specializes in helping independent filmmakers get their content on online and On Demand platforms. With Distribber, filmmakers pay a one-time fee (around $600 for SD and $800 for HD), and the company will negotiate a streaming license for the movie to appear on Netflix Instant. The whole process takes about two weeks, and the filmmakers retains all rights for their film and gets 100% of the revenue from the Netflix license, usually a one or two year contract. The company also offers licensing for iTunes, Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu and cable and satellite On Demand services, all with varying fees. Distribber does have its downfalls. It only negotiates for films to be played in the United States, so those looking to make their films available to foreign markets will have to look elsewhere. While the company does have a good record of getting films placed on sites like Netflix, there is no guarantee it will be accepted. The company does list general guidelines for accepted films on their FAQs page. Distribber has previously helped distribute films such as The Age of Stupid and I Want My 3 Minutes Back
For those wanting to learn more about movie distribution, Stacey Parks offers some insight and tips in her book The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution. Parks discussed how to market and distribute a film across several platforms, and what to watch for if you are offered a contract from a distributor.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to get your movie on Netflix. However, independent filmmakers are lucky to have several options for getting their movies online. The most important thing for filmmakers to remember is to never stop increasing the exposure of your film and persistence can pay.