How To Get Your Movie On Netflix
Now that everything has gone online, Netflix is the golden goose for filmmakers. The streaming giant closed the fourth quarter of 2020 with 204 million active subscribers and is a hundred million users ahead of its closest competitor Amazon Prime. Currently, more than ever, Netflix is looking for content to replace the canceled productions.
Two ways to make it happen - you sign a licensing deal with Netflix OR Netflix sponsor's your whole film production. Let's dive deeper.
Pitch your Production Idea to Netflix
In case you have a revolutionary idea, script, or screenplay, Netflix might have you covered with the budget and distribution. What particularly interests them are documentaries and docuseries. Industry insiders say that the streaming giant's estimated funding for documentary programming by 2025 will be USD 1.1 billion.
The new policy states that you should work through a licensed literary agent, producer, attorney, manager, or entertainment executive who already has a relationship with Netflix. If you do not have any of these resources available, they won't be able to accept your unsolicited submissions. Once you have established a connection with any of the resources mentioned before, it's time to get ready for the first pitch. Remember, you have to convince the distributor first and then, they'll help you with Netflix.
According to CBS's executive P.Hamilton, there are 4' must-haves' Netflix buyers are looking for before investing in developing it for primetime.
While celebrities are a safe bet, it's not the only angle. Netflix is looking for characters who'll stay in people's heads long after finishing the movie. Think about Joe Exotic.
Just in the first 10 days after 'Tiger King' dropped, 34 million people watched it in the US alone. Before Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin decided to direct the true-crime documentary, people barely knew about Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. Remember the social buzz around that movie? All the merch, billions of memes, a long-lasting TikTok trend, and conspiracies around Carole Baskin. It was a sensation!
Although not related directly to Netflix, Dog the Bounty Hunter is another excellent example of a character that leaves a long-lasting impression. Who would have thought that documenting a man who's an experienced bounty hunter will turn into a huge sensation?
For the film industry, the ultimate high stake is death, which explains true crime's popularity. While experts still argue over exact reasons why we're so obsessed with 'true-crime', they all agree that it's the strong emotions that lead to our fundamental desire for social cohesion.
A successful example here's 'The Keepers' - it tackles down an unsolved murder of a beloved nun and Catholic high school teacher in Baltimore. It's the ultimate combination: old, unsolved murder + a nun.
Another angle here are stories about overcoming personal obstacles and characters defying death, such as 'Heroin(e),' a short documentary that reflects the war on the opioid epidemic, or the freshly released 'Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy' about the crack epidemic that tore through America's inner cities like a tsunami, ravaging all in its wake.
Your program should offer something exclusive - something people otherwise couldn't see or experience. It should shut down the competitors the day it drops.
Let's take 'Dark Tourist'. New Zealander David Farrier decided to visit unusual and often dangerous places to reflect dark tourism phenomena. David takes the viewers to a wide range of spots - from radioactive Fukushima to a haunted forest known as a suicide hotspot.
'Inside the World's Toughest Prisons' makes you imagine how it is to be a prisoner in different prisons around the world - now, that's something new! The series focuses on how prisoners are treated by the guards and analyses each country's overall prison system.
The budget must fall in the range of benchmarks Netflix had for programs like yours before, which means that without a serious investigation, it won't fly. When you have estimated your budget and have a final number, make a list of released movies similar to yours. While you most likely won't find a detailed document regarding their expenses, you can find their final budget and see if your estimated number matches Netflix's average investments.
Before being even considered for a pitch at Netflix, you need to have mastered all four aspects to perfection. Like P.Hamilton said: 'It's like in Vegas where you need all cherries to hit the jackpot. Don't come to the cashier with only three out of the four!".
Selling a Ready Movie to Netflix
The classic approach for most independent filmmakers would get their movie stream on a festival like SXSW or Cannes - it's full of potential distributors, agents, and other influential people. Take Love (2015) by Gaspar Noé - it premiered on Cannes and was a screen debut for both lead actors. The movie is notable for its unsimulated sex acts, initially presented in 3D - controversial from the beginning. Although being banned in Russia, Love soon became a hit and is available on Netflix.
While the film festivals' future is unclear due to the pandemic, filmmakers need to adapt and find other ways to get their masterpiece on Netflix to reach people. Usually, Netflix's licensing deals last from one to two years. Non-exclusive deals are available, however, they might be interested in paying more for exclusivity or timed-exclusivity.
Below we have summarised some of the critical aspects that could interest Netflix in signing a deal with you.
Having connections in Netflix or serious clout in Hollywood certainly would help. The industry is full of agents and distributors that will promise to get your movie on Netflix and other SVODs - it's highly recommended to include such promises in the contract to skip the later disappointment.
To ensure that all content matches their established quality standards. Netflix makes licensing deals ONLY with their content providers. An official list of their trusted distributors is not available, but here are some big names we're sure about: Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Sony.
While there might be agents who can help, we put most of our trust in distributors. Firstly, for most trusted distributors, getting your movie on Netflix won't be their first rodeo. Most of the huge distributors may charge you heavily. Lucky for you, there are industry players with more decent fees, such as Quiver. Although founded just two years ago, their portfolio includes movies like The Fanatic, Running with the Devil, and Becky. Furthermore, they have formed a partnership with Redbox Entertainment to co-finance, co-produce, and co-distribute films together. It's estimated that it will cost you $1500 + $150 pitch fee + $75 annual charges (payable after two years).
Without having an established relationship with a trustable resource, other aspects won't matter.
From actors to directors - if your production is related to anyone influential in the industry, it will be a significant trigger for Netflix to consider a deal with you.
Darren Lynn Bousman (director of SAW 2, SAW 3, and SAW 4) was invited to direct St.Agatha by producer Tara Ansley. As soon as the production wrapped, Octane Entertainment came on board as the distributor for the all-female cast thriller. Thanks to Octane, the movie is available on Netflix.
Netflix has their in-house production army that knows how to create crowd-pleasing content. So, what makes your movie special? Why would Netflix users hype about it and tell their friends about it? Your movie may have Johnny Depp as the lead actor, but it's the plot that matters.
If your production is crowdfunded, pointing to numbers might be legitimate proof. Another way is to have a concept influenced by popular films or/and underrated books. Let's take a look at 'Bird Box' - it was based on a post-apocalyptic novel written by Josh Malerman and inspired by 'A Quiet Place' where people had to survive without talking. Bird Box resulted in 45 million views in the first seven days and became the biggest first-week success of any movie made for the 12-year-old streaming giant.
Decide on the concept you want your content to be positioned. Netflix's number one priority is to provide each member with content that's intriguing and unique - users make the decision based on the synopsis, title, and photo. So, what you have to do is break down your whole concept into a few intriguing and easy-to-understand sentences. Look at the thumbnails like Mucho Mucho Amor - it gives creeps right away, users will catch the energy and zone in right away.
Although Netflix has closed its doors to filmmakers without an agent or distributor, it's still possible to make it. Find a distributor you trust and pitch your idea or movie according to the criteria mentioned above! Once you land the deal, they'll use all their experience and expertise to make your dream come true.
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