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Book Review: Independent Film Distribution

December 1st, 2008

Independent Film Distribution - How to Make a Successful End Run Around the Big Guys is a practical guide that would be useful to any independent film maker.

The book is less a "Dummies Guide to Distribution", and more a survey based on interviews with successful independent producers and distributors. While that perhaps leaves the reader with more thinking to do, that's probably a good thing. The fact is that there is no "right way" to make money from an independent movie (if there was, everyone would do it), and the strength of this book is that it recognizes that. While it does talk about the traditional approach to independent distribution -- film festivals, rights sales to specialty/independent distributors etc. -- it also spends useful time on non-traditional distribution methods, including self-distribution, direct sales online, and even how to make a living from niche markets such as health videos.

For every different market, Phil Hall interviews people who have had success in that area, and their insights can be invaluable. In truth, there are a few interviews that could be skipped, but since none take up more than a page or two, the book never gets bogged down in irrelevant details. I also appreciated the background stories on film festivals, self distribution and so on... while film history of the 1910s-1960s might not seem of direct use to today's go-getter independent producer, I think these sections help to put the current industry in context, which is important for anyone hoping to have a career in film.

To make best use of the book, it's worth making some notes, and using some post-its to mark useful sections. Personally, I would recommend reading it through once quickly, and then going back to use specific sections to help plan a strategy for your individual circumstances. As "Independent Film Distribution" makes clear, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for the independent producer, but the book gives you some useful tools to put together the approach that will work for you.