You’ve made a documentary and now you’re looking to find your audience. Maybe you’re hoping to partner with an organization that could help you connect with viewers. But where to start?

Luckily, a webinar featuring Caitlin Boyle from Film Sprout and Keith Ochwat from Filmmaker.MBA explained how your film’s message can propel your direct distribution campaign and build a revenue stream.

In case you’re not familiar with Film Sprout, it’s a boutique distribution firm that helps social-issue filmmakers create robust community and campus screening initiatives for their documentaries. Film Sprout’s work runs the gamut from targeted screening initiatives to vast, high-intensity screening campaigns—and everything in between. Films they’ve worked on include: The Hunting Ground, The Invisible War, Trapped, and Frame by Frame.

Filmmaker.MBA was developed by independent filmmakers Ochwat and Christopher Rufo with the goal of teaching others how to market, distribute, and monetize their films. They speak from experience given that their last film, Age of Champions, grossed more than $1.5 million through direct distribution, corporate partnerships, and digital sales.

Here are the Top 5 Takeaways from the Webinar:

      1. Differentiate your film.

Ask yourself: how is your film unique? And who is most likely to care about your film? It’s often a cause, an underlying message, or a call-to-action that can engage audiences, build impact, and generate revenue. To figure out what your film’s message is, you might need a focus group or a screening with friends. Think about what institutions are most likely to care about your message and how you can connect with your niche fans. What radio shows do they listen to? What blogs do they read? What conferences do they attend?

      2. Create value for your fans.

Your social impact message is an opportunity to add value. Leverage your social impact message by creating a community screening kit or educational materials. You might consider creating a turnkey screening kit with a pitch deck that explains how to use the kit and what impact you can expect from hosting a screening.

      3. Leverage your message.

  • For grassroots audience outreach, forge relationships with organizers who are the standard bearers for whatever the issue is. Make a strategic effort to find points of intersection between your film’s message and your distribution goals.

     4. Remember partnerships are relationships.

Too often, filmmakers think of partnerships in terms of what a organization or agency can do for them. Partnerships should be treated like a friendship and not like a transaction. A true partnership takes a ton of work! As you’re identifying prospective partners, make sure that you’re giving the full picture of what your long-game goals are. You also want to understand what your partner’s goals are.

    5. Before approaching a partner, consider the following questions:

  • What is your connection with your potential partner?

  • What is the value of your film to your partner?

  • What is the value of your partner to your film’s campaign?

  • What activities might you want to do with your partner?

Finally, as with any good relationship, listening is key. Don’t go into your first meeting with a specific list of requests. Take it slowly and get to know each other before asking for anything. You don’t want to come on too strong! It’s a bit like dating – first you need to get a feel for each other and decide if it’s a good match before taking the plunge.

You can watch the webinar replay here and check out Film Sprout and Filmmaker.MBA.