A Formula For Making Money With Your Micro-Budget Movie

“How do I make money with my indie / low-budget film?” is one of the most common questions asked by aspiring filmmakers. And for good reason.

Nothing is more discouraging to indie filmmakers right now than the current state of distribution.

The vast majority of traditional distribution deals offer no minimum guarantee and result in very little (if any) profit – unless there is major star talent attached.

This makes self-distribution a more viable path for filmmakers with more modest projects, as it theoretically puts the power back in the their hands.

But even then, given the current landscape of streaming and VOD, the numbers can be just as bleak.

For example…

If 100,000 people watch your 90 minute movie on Amazon SVOD, you’ll be lucky if you clear $3000. 

This is because Amazon pays as little as $0.02 per hour your title is streamed.

If you rent or sell your film through TVOD (Apple iTunes), far fewer people will discover it, and it will be even harder to recoup costs.

The average rental on iTunes for an indie film is $2.99, which amounts to just over $2 once Apple has taken their fee. It’s a better rate (technically speaking) than Amazon, but may amount to less overall revenue as few consumers are willing to rent via TVOD in 2023.

AVOD platforms (such as Tubi TV) have more favorable terms for filmmakers – especially when compared to Amazon. But their user base is  much smaller than the big players, and with Tubi now prioritizing larger profile movies, it’s becoming just as hard to turn a profit with them too.

So what is the solution then? Are filmmakers doomed to never recoup costs, unless they make a star studded feature with agency representation?

Not necessarily. 

One solution is to to increase your AOV (average order value).

With SVOD, TVOD, or AVOD, your average transaction could be anywhere from $0.04 – $7.00 – either way, it’s very low.

But if you think outside the box, you can create more valuable and unique offers, and increase your AOV to $50+ dollars.

A few ways to do this:

  • Hosting in-person / exclusive events
  • Setting up premium virtual screenings
  • Selling physical media direct to your audience
  • Partnering with brands, non-profits, or schools
  • Creating ancillary products to sell with your movie

These are just a few examples. There is no one way to increase your AOV, and in some cases the best option might be a multi-faceted approach that includes several different premium offers.

But however you choose to do it, there is no denying that it can be a far more lucrative path.

If 2000 people engage with your premium ($50) offer over the course of a year, that could generate $100K in revenue.

And if you manage to get 2000 people on board, getting 5000 – 10000 is not unreasonable either.

These numbers may sound out of reach, but consider that you will own the film for the rest of your life, and can sell it across many years. It doesn’t all have to happen at once.

5,000 total sales might really break down to:

Year 1: 2000
Year 2: 1500
Year 3: 1000
Year 4: 500

Consider year 1 in the scenario above. To sell 2000 units of your premium offer over the course of a year, that really breaks down to:

2000 Units (Annually) = 500 Units (Quarterly) = 125 Units (Monthly) = 32 Units (Weekly)

A filmmaker who is able to sell just 32 premium copies of their film / week (at $50) will generate $100K in their first year alone. 

If they continue at the pace above (even with a decline in sales) they can generate $250K within the 4 year window. And from there, it can still continue to drive revenue for years to come.

Some filmmakers may even exceed these projections – especially if they have built an audience or have access to paid or organic advertising channels.

But even if they fall short by 10 fold, they are still lightyears ahead of where they would be with SVOD. They could sell just 10 units each week for a year and still make $26,000 in 12 months.

The average DIY film could never make that in a year on Amazon or Apple or through other traditional channels.

The big downside of selling a premium offer or bundle is that initially fewer people will see your movie. There are WAY more people who just want to watch a movie for free on Amazon, so your overall exposure can be significantly lower.

That said, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Why not give yourself a window of one year (or whatever length you choose) to sell direct to your audience? Then once it runs its course you can put your film on SVOD, ensuring your film reaches the largest possible audience.

Achieving these type of results is by no means easy, as it requires a ton of sustained effort and dedication to promote your film over the course of many months or even years.

But for the right filmmaker, it’s the best path. It offers greater potential for financial upside, which only increases ones ability to make more movies on a larger scale in the future.

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About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

1 Comment

  • Henry Larry

    Insightful perspective on navigating the tough terrain of indie film distribution. Diversifying revenue streams through innovative offers seems like a game changer providing a fresh outlook for filmmakers to thrive despite the challenges.
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