Get your film streaming on Netflix

After you’ve made a feature film or documentary, you end up with something you want to show the world. On the whole, there are many avenues you can take to help viewers find your film, yet distributing through an online streaming service tops the list. In this article, we’ll look at how to get a film distributed by the world’s leading streaming service: Netflix. 

Netflix is a subscription streaming service where subscribers can watch a wide variety of award-winning TV shows, movies, documentaries (and more) any time they’d like, from any device.

Additionally, Netflix is in over 190 countries with well over 100 million members worldwide. This extensive reach makes it obvious why getting your film streaming on Netflix can give it the boost it needs to find an audience. 

It’s all about the database

If you want to see your film streaming on Netflix, your primary goal is to get your film onto the Netflix database. This database is the pool of films that have been accepted into the Netflix library for future programming.

So, how does one do that? Like anything, there is more than one way to reach a Netflix payday. First of all, Jason Brubaker of filmmakingstuff.com suggests a strategy that starts with refining your pitch to Netflix. Plus, Brubaker suggests that you try to create some buzz for your film, even before it’s completed.

Do you have a celebrity or an influencer attached to the project that will draw the attention of their fan base? Perhaps the film is on a topic that is currently front-page news. Generally, with the right social media strategy, you can create an audience ready for the arrival of your film. All of these tactics show you have a project with a built-in audience.

A high-profile festival screening can sometimes draw the attention of Netflix, but even if it doesn’t, festivals can still be a great place to grow your filmmaking network.
A high-profile festival screening can sometimes draw the attention of Netflix, but even if it doesn’t, festivals can still be a great place to grow your filmmaking network.

At this point, it is time to look for an aggregator who can pitch your film to Netflix. An aggregator is basically a distributor who handles a large number of films and works with the major distribution platforms to get those films in front of audiences.

Generally, these aggregators often also work with other distribution platforms like Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes. The distributor or aggregator negotiates on the behalf of the filmmaker a sum of money to sell or license the film for a specific term and region.

Another reason that getting the right aggregator is an essential part of your streaming distribution strategy is that the aggregator will also prepare your film and associated assets to the exact standards that Netflix requires.

Furthermore, because each distribution platform has different file standards, part of the aggregator’s service is to encode your master film file to the correct specifications. They will also ensure any required artwork or captions meet the appropriate standards.

Include aggregator fees in your budget

All of the work a distributor does in negotiating and preparing the film comes at a cost. This fee is usually around $1,000 but varies from aggregator to aggregator. The agreement you make with your chosen aggregator dictates when and how this fee is paid.

All of the work a distributor does in negotiating and preparing the film comes at a cost.

Alternatively, some filmmakers forgo this step and set out to get Netflix’s attention on their own. This is easier if your film gets noticed at film festivals or otherwise generates a lot of hype. Although there is no guarantee that a showing within a festival will turn into a call from Netflix, this strategy has worked for some.

Getting your film on Netflix requires time and patience

This process, regardless of if you use a distributor or not, can be long and drawn out. You must stay patient, but at the same time persistent in your efforts to draw Netflix’s attention. Even with the perfect pitch, the right aggregator and an optimistic mindset, some films just don’t make it.

Part of the the joy that comes from making a film or producing a documentary comes for having other people watch it.
Part of the the joy that comes from making a film or producing a documentary comes for having other people watch it.

After all, if that happens, there are still other avenues you can go to get people to see your film. Once you’ve signed with an aggregator, they will also work to distribute your content on other streaming platforms. Amazon, iTunes, Hulu and Crackle each have their own requirements for streaming and a payout structure for views of your film.

Finally, other options include self-distribution on services like Youtube or Vimeo and even Patreon. On Youtube, you can monetize ads that play during your film or set a price for rentals. Through Vimeo and Patreon, you can ask for a monthly subscription from your fan base to keep you creating.

Moving forward

The process of making a film is rewarding all in itself. The true joy, however, comes with having people see it. The process of gaining a deal with Netflix can be lengthy and may not pan out in the end. There is peace of mind, though, in that there are other avenues that can lead to other projects and other possibilities that may one day lead to that streaming deal you’ve been looking for. 

Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson is a University of Chico graduate, a lover of the creative arts, avid photographer, with an undying entrepreneurial spirit.

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