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How to Market and Distribute your Documentary

Being a documentary filmmaker puts you in a strange position. Those who create documentaries and any other art form for that matter, are usually introspective and artistic. At the same time, they are often public and civic minded since those are topics that documentary filmmakers cover.

It means that once the work on the production of film is done, there’s equally intensive part of the job on the promotion and distribution of the documentary to the general public. This is especially useful for young and up and coming film makers.

Distribution plan

The first thing to do is to decide on the distribution plan for your film. This is a broad decision on how your films will be distributed to the audience. There are two end points of the curve in this regard: you could reserve the rights to sell your film to whomever you want and on the other end you can sell the rights to distributing your movie to one company.

There are obviously other options that are somewhere in between these two and you’ll need to set up a deal that will suit your rights in the years to come but also bring revenue.

Who’s your audience

It’s important to know who the audience for your documentary is and that will help you with all the reset you need to decide when it comes to market. It depends on the topic of the film and its nature, but it also depends on who the artists behind it are.

If you’re an author that has already made its name in the field you may rally on the base and the press you’ve already created for yourself. However, new kids on the block need to work from the ground up.


The marketing and distribution need to be approached with a clear goal. This seems like an obvious thing but deciding what that objective will be can be a difficult task. For instance, you may want to break through to new audiences or to pursue a topic and subject that you’re familiar with in depth.

At the same time, objectives of a documentary film maker can be more ambitious than that, it can be about making sure that the topics your film is covered is acknowledged by the relevant instructions and the society as a whole.

Release conflicts

This is a smaller market than the market for fiction movies and you’ll need to be more mindful of the release schedule, not only your own but that of others working in your field. You don’t want to create a conflict and to release your movie on the same day as some competitor or as a movie with a similar audience in mind.

This isn’t that difficult to accomplish since there are usually good relationship within the industry and there are not that many big events and release dates you should be aware of and try to fit in with.

Industry events

There are industry events that are made for marking and promoting new films. These are mostly festivals and award shows and you should try to get in on them and use the large audience that they provide to your advantage. A lot of the time, these festivals have a place for new and debutant filmmakers.

The events could also be used to get the much needed funding for your movie since the funds provided by the festivals cover the costs of post-production as well as the actual filming of the movie.

An impact producer

You should also have in mind that you may need to hire a particular individual to deal with the impact of your movie and how it will be received. It’s called an impact producer and they do what producers do but only when the movie is already released and received by the audience.

It’s not something that every movie needs and it’s better suited to the movies that dive into the social issues and that have a fallout based on how they affect the society after they are out. Have in mind that it’s an additional expense.


It’s important that you market and produce your film after it’s done and when it’s released into the general public. This is different when you’re a younger and new author but it’s still something that needs to be done regardless of how long are you in the business. It’s important to use the industry and the events in it for that purpose.

There are many small items to focus on in regards to it. For instance, you should consider hiring an impact producer as well as using the leverage of the social media. You should also avoid release conflict with others in the industry.

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