Marketing and Distributing Your Documentary Film

Marketing and Distributing Your Documentary Film

A career as a documentary filmmaker can leave you in a strange position. Those who create documentaries often strive to create work that is introspective and artistic.

At the same time, however, they must appeal to the public an civic-minded. Once production is complete, the intensive job of marketing the film to the public begins. This can be especially challenging for young, up-and-coming filmmakers.

Distribution Plan

The first step is to decide on a distribution plan for your film. This is a broad decision, affecting the way in which your work will find its audience. Your options are twofold: reserve the rights to sell your film to whomever you choose, or sell your distribution rights to one specific company.

Identifying Your Audience

It is important to know your audience: this will help you make choices when it comes time to develop a marketing strategy. This will depend on the topic and the nature of your film, as well as the artists behind it. If you have already made a name for yourself, you may have a built-in viewership to rely on. Otherwise, you will need to work from the ground up to cultivate an audience for your film.


Marketing and distribution should be approached with a clear goal: you may wish to break through to new audiences, or pursue a topic with which you are intimately familiar. Setting clear goals for your work in advance will ensure that your film is acknowledged by the relevant institutions, and by society as a whole.

Release Conflicts

The documentary market is much smaller than other markets for fictional films, so you’ll need to be more mindful of the release schedule. You don’t want to conflict with the films of your competitors, especially if you share a similar viewership or thematic niche.

Industry Events

Industry events are tailor-made for marketing and promoting new films. These are often in the form of festivals and award shows, providing large audiences you can use to your advantage. Festivals are often great places for new filmmakers to make their debut.

Impact Producers

You should also keep in mind the possibility of hiring a particular individual with expertise in the type of impact you wish to achieve.


It’s important that you market and produce your film after it’s done, upon releasing to the general public. This may be somewhat challenging for younger creators, but it is an important tactic for any aspiring filmmaker.