Online Film Distribution Tips for Filmmakers: Streaming, Rentals & Downloads


Making a batch of 1,000 DVDs or Blu-Rays isn’t always cost effective for low budget documentaries, unless you’re sure that you can sell them all. But distributing your film online can cost next to nothing– if you choose an option that doesn’t have a setup fee or an annual fee (which unfortunately Vimeo does do– to the tune of $200/year regardless of whether you sell any downloads or not). If you pick your distribution services right, you can get away with just paying a small percentage of each actual sale to the distributor.

Here are some of our favorite resources for selling a film online:

  • Gumroad – Set your own price and sell your film online. Gumroad works with either streaming or downloads and can do rentals as well. No annual fee, you only pay a tiny percentage of each sale. Quite cost effective for low budget documentary filmmakers and you can even bundle deleted scenes with your work. Integrates with your own website.
  • Square Merchant – Online and in person credit card processing for your films, whether you’re selling DVDs online or at events, even comes with a free credit card reader that plugs into your iPhone or Android device. No annual fee and a much smoother checkout experience than PayPal. Integrates with your own website.
  • Amazon Createspace – Get your film in front of millions of Amazon customers. Unfortunately you can’t quite set your own prices (Amazon sets them for you based on your request) but they can produce DVDs for you one by one and ship them to your customers, as well as video on demand streaming rental and purchases. No annual fee.
  • YouTube – If you really and truly want to get as many eyeballs for your film as possible, nothing beats putting it up for free on YouTube, which allows you to monetize it through ads. But even if you want to sell your movie through a more traditional route, putting a great film trailer up on YouTube with a link to purchase the film is a must.

Selling a streaming or downloadable version of your film online can be a great way to get the film out there for next to nothing and also get some buzz for yourself as a filmmaker. We also recommend collecting the email addresses of your buyers (which Square and Gumroad allow you to do– but Amazon does not) so you can let them know when your next film is out.


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