Selling a Film in 2024

For the past few months, I’ve been working with my longtime friend and collaborator Alex LeMay on his feature documentary film, UKR. It follows his journey with a young Ukrainian as they travel through the war-torn countryside to deliver supplies to a friend on the frontlines. As get close in on finalizing the edit. Our focus has shifted to how to best get this film out into the world.

As we embark on the process of selling the film, we’ve been taking meetings and gathering information on how the market is. And news flash—it’s tough.

We are independent filmmakers trying to sell an independently financed documentary about a war that audiences are seemingly disinterested in (as awful as that sounds). While the traditional means of selling this film aren’t dead, it has made us think of different ways to have our film live in the world. Strategies that apply not only to UKR but to anyone trying to sell their work.

So this week, I’m breaking down what I think is essential for anyone trying to get their work sold and seen. The first step is:


Many filmmakers go heads down to create a film only to pop up months later with a special announcement. We let people on social media, friends, and family know that our work is done, only to get this response:

That’s cool, when were you making something?

We make the mistake of assuming they care about our work as much as we do. We care because we’ve been living with it for months and years. But they don’t because we haven’t given them a chance to. We have to invite people into the process and keep them updated. This is what social media, email, and just general outreach/networking are for. It’s to create awareness of what you’re doing.

But it goes beyond just “I’m making a film.” It’s curating an audience that knows what you stand for and why what you’re creating is important. We want to build relationships with people that last beyond just one film but subsequent work that comes afterward.


Festivals can either be a drain on your bank account or a boon to building awareness. Gabriela, a film I produced last year, was recently accepted into the Regard Film Festival in Quebec. A presenter at the festival had this to say:

“Films are roads and highways and help achieve your goals fastest—which festivals will do that? Not necessarily the echelon, prestige, or vanity of it.”

A good festival run can be a great way to sell your film to a distributor or streaming service. So being selective about which ones can do that is key. It depends on what kind of film you have and what your intention is. For us, it’s about having a good run in festivals that showcase high-quality documentaries. Which might be Sundances and Tribecas, but not necessarily. It’s about showcasing proof that our work is of high quality and is in places where audiences will go to see it.

And when applying to film festivals, make sure that you have materials to help them market your film. Your media kit, trailer, photos, and even a website (which is coming soon) are just as important as the film itself. The awareness a festival will do on your behalf increases greatly if you have marketing materials that you can send them. They might give you a bit of extra press. It’s also a bit easier to build your own if you’ve got ample materials to send over.

Having a great film festival run and finding the right distributor are part of an age-old strategy to try and get the maximum dollar for our films. This is a long-term strategy as finding the right partner can take months (and sometimes years). The payouts also come in phases. But there is a shorter-term strategy that we can do on our own. One that more filmmakers are starting to take notice of:


There’s no reason that we can’t screen our own work privately and for a fee. This works best for feature-length films and short documentaries. Narrative shorts can be licensed as well in the right circumstances. But they work best as part of a block of others built around a theme.

The films we make are about unique experiences, and there are people to whom that will add value. There are plenty of organizations that might be interested in licensing the film to raise awareness and funds. Take your film and find organizations that do work around the subject matter. There is the possibility of having a screening event to show the film. A workshop or special event could be built around it. A non-profit or fundraising organization might even be willing to use your film’s assets along with some original work to create a campaign of their own.

This can be done either on a city tour or a series of virtual events and screenings. Offer merchandise as part of these. I’ve seen countless films use these strategies while having a festival run and looking for a distributor. We have more options than ever to make smaller but significant amounts of money on our work, all while looking for that right big sale.


Recently, I spoke with someone putting on an event to showcase films about the mixed experience that go beyond simply showcasing trauma. And I’m in the process of licensing one or two of the films the Blended Future Project has made. As a person of color, I know that trying to sell work around my niche experience into a mass market is challenging. But I also know there’s a demand for it. And meeting it doesn’t rely on luck.

With the right mix of outreach and awareness-building, we can have a film that has a real place in the world. There is an opportunity to show our little corner of the world to a motivated audience.

You just have to go and find them.

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