Selling Your Own DIY DVDsYou may be able to sell copies of your film on DVD on your own.   If this idea appeals to you, here are some tips on how to go about it:

  • Start early, by replicating your own DVDs and selling them during the festival run.  If people love your film, they’ll probably want to buy a copy to show to their friends.
  • Don’t worry about distributors shying away from offering you a deal.  Distributors will realize that your sales only help them publicize the DVD.  They won’t make the mistake of thinking your DIY sales are the same as the full release of the DVD.  Your DVD will be the festival version.  The distributor’s DVD will be different, with extra features.
  • It’s true that some festivals may prevent you selling your own DVDs on the grounds of the festival, but they can’t stop you selling them at your own party, a natural venue for making some useful extra sales.
  • However, don’t be tempted to sell your DIY DVDs in advance of your premiere festival.  It’s probably advisable to check with your festivals before going ahead and selling your DVDs.
  • Be sure to maximize the promotional value of the launch of your film at the festival.  Live appearances are great for publicizing the film and selling DVDs.
  • Definitely consider setting up a store on your website in time for the festival, so that people can buy your DVDs while the film is still fresh in their minds.
  • If you are expecting educational sales for your DVD, you may need to decide early on just how you are going to protect them.

Selecting your fulfilment company

When you are selling DVDs from your website, you are only rarely selling them yourself.  This needs to be done by a professional fulfilment company.  This company will take a percentage, but it will be worth it for the hassle you avoid.  You don’t really want to deal with customer service and returns, do you?

Larger houses won’t set up your website.  Some do not have customer service or credit-card billing.  But there are other, filmmaker-friendly companies that provide off-the-shelf web stores, where you can customize the look and feel of your store and plug in your merchandise.  They handle customer service, billing, and fulfilment, while providing accounting and checks every month, all for a modest 15-20 percent.

Fulfilment company checklist

To find the best fulfilment company, you should look for the following characteristics:

  • Low percentage per transaction (not “per pick”)
  • Low monthly fee
  • Low startup fee
  • Low storage costs
  • Credit card billing at no extra cost
  • Customer service at no extra cost.  They should provide you with a list of customers so you can build your fan base.
  • Web store templates that are easy for you to modify and match to the look and feel of your website.  Major modifications can be expensive!
  • Low shipping and handling fees. Because online retailers like Amazon offers free shipping, customers may expect low shipping charges.
  • Ability to sell on Amazon–but be careful! Your distributor may have an exclusive deal with Amazon already.
  • Ability to use Amazon’s checkout system. This enables  customers to use their Amazon account without having to give their credit card and shipping information over again.  This may remove a barrier to a sale!
  • Timely sales reports, payment, and inventory, and a record of paying their clients.  Check which other filmmakers use the fulfilment company.  Contact them before you commit.
  • Ability to identify multiple products and separate them by category.  You may need multipack DVD packages to sell wholesale in quantities of 10, 25, 50, and 100 preset in your store.  You may want to sell other products, such as t-shirts or books.
  • Ability and willingness to send merchandise for promotional purposes , such as if you send DVDs and posters to theatres, festivals, etc.  Companies do charge for this.
  • Ability sell digital downloads of your film or stream your film.
  • Ability to handle marketing programs, such as an affiliate program, coupons, etc.
  • Ability to handle your specific needs.  Shipping requirements may be different for international wholesale customers and may need to be done manually.

Authoring your DVD

Unless your DVD Company requires you to let them author your DVD, you will need to do it yourself or find a professional house to do it. When you are examining your options, consider these ideas and guidelines:

  • Always get quotes for authoring.
  • Get suggestions for authoring houses from your fulfilment house.
  • Consider using students proficient in DVD Studio Pro to author your DVD. The DVDs Better Living through Circuitry and SRL: 10 Years of Robotic Mayhem were authored this way, with great results.
  • Encode directly from your HD master on hard drive.
  • Get an experienced encoder, even if you DIY the authoring.
  • Allow enough time for complicated DVDs.  If your film is translated into several languages, or has a stills photo gallery, for example, it will take longer.
  • Create your DVDs to be region-free in order to facilitate the sale of your DVDs to the international market.
  • Make sure your deal with an authoring house allows for multiple versions, e.g. a festival/theatrical version, a preview edition of the consumer DVD with no extras, a retail version of the consumer DVD with extras, and an educational version with additional curricular materials.

Handling foreign languages

If you can, consider subtitling your film in its early DVD release from the start.  Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Provide foreign film festivals with not just a dialogue list, but also a subtitle list.  If you do, they will translate it for you line by line using the time code.  Your authoring house can use it later for subtitling.
  • Produce a subtitle list at the beginning.  The subtitle list has the time code for each time the image or line changes.
  • Make sure you get the files for the translation of the subtitle list.  These will be .stl files or .son files.  If these are not made available, get Final Cut Pro files and convert them to .stl using software.
  • Consider creating a second textless version:  one that has all onscreen titles that do not need to be translated.  This allows you to create a multi-language DVD without having to reinsert speciality titles and animations.

Replication of DVDs

Professionally replicated DVDs should be cheaper, better printed, and more reliable than DIY duplicated DVDs.  Duplicated DVDs may cost $1.50 and up, excluding case and cover.  Replicated DVDs from a mastering house cost $1.25 to $1.50, including case and cover.  In addition, if you went the DIY route, you would have to invest in a DVD duplicator and label printer to do your own duplication.

Also, remember that European DVDs must be PAL standard.  Some mastering houses can organize replication in Europe, thereby saving on shipping.

Duplication on demand

If your requirement is to print fewer than 1000 DVDs at a time, duplication on demand is an attractive alternative to replication.  Amazon’s CreateSpace or Lulu.com both produce one-off DVDs in response to specific orders, eliminating the need for expensive pre-existing inventory.

When a sale of your title is made on Amazon.com or your CreateSpace eStore page, CreateStore will print a copy of your DVD and ship it.  It will be printed with full-colour, full-bleed, customizable disc and cover artwork.  A free UPC is assigned if necessary.  Amazon orders may be eligible for special shipping deals.