make money off your documentary
Film Trooper

[Podcast] How To Make Money Off Your Documentary Film

In this episode, I rebroadcast my interview with documentary filmmaker, Christopher Rufo as he shares with us how he made $1.5M from self-distributing his documentary film.

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Documentary Films ...

One of the key aspects with any successful marketing campaign is to "know your audience".

In the world of narrative feature films, there are "genres".

  • Action/Adventure
  • Crime/Mystery
  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Horror

There are subsets of these genres, but for the most part, this is what we have to work with.  There is also an oversaturation of content within these genres.

That's where documentary films can separate themselves from the pack of narrative films.

Documentary films have the advantage of honing in on very specific audiences.  This is a marketer's dream!


make money off your documentary


7 Ways to Maximize Your Documentary’s Distribution

In 2015, Independent Film Distribution Expert and Film Trooper podcast guest, Peter Broderick, wrote an article for IndieWire that outlined ...

7 Ways to Maximize Your Documentary's Distribution

His example in the article was based on consulting work he did with the film, "Age of Champions", produced by Keith Ochwat and directed by Christopher Rufo.

The podcast episode attached to this article is a rebroadcast with Christopher Rufo about this very film and he was able to make $1.3M from self-distributing his documentary film.

Back to Broderick's article ... Here are the 7 ways documentary filmmakers can maximize their self-distribution or direct distribution strategy.

  1. Focus on core audiences.
  2. Prioritize relationships.
  3. Design a conference strategy.
  4. Explore underwriting.
  5. Create desirable products.
  6. Use email marketing to increase sales.
  7. Build a distinctive brand. 

Read more from Peter at this link.


how to make money off your documentary film

How We Made $1.5 Million Self-Distributing Our Doc: The Six-Step Playbook

In 2016, Christopher Rufo earned an additional $200,000 to bring the total of "Age of Champions" to a whopping $1.5M through self-distribution, or sometimes referred to as direct distribution.

Rufo shared his playbook in an article for IndiWire that outline these 6 major steps:

  1. Conduct experiments to find your real audience
  2. Double down on direct distribution
  3. Make your community screenings profitable
  4. Pitch yourself as a public speaker (for $3,000 an hour)
  5. Sell your DVD to universities for $250 apiece
  6. Hunt down corporate sponsors for the big checks

You can read more of the article at this link.


how to make money off your documentary film

How To Make Money Off Your Documentary Film

The dedication and intelligent approach to self-distribution and direct distribution has earned podcast guest, Christopher Rufo and his producing partner, Keith Ochwat, the freedom to make a living as filmmakers on their own terms.

This is one of my favorite episodes of all time and I hope you get a lot of value from the podcast interview.

But wait!

You can learn everything about how to make $1.5M for your film by joining Filmmaker MBA.  An exclusive online education resource created by Keith and Christopher.

Listen all the way to end of the poccast episode, as there will be a special offer for all Film Troopers!

Enjoy the podcast 🙂


I finished my film ...

But now what?

You're in luck!

This FREE video series can help.

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Scott McMahon is a Fellow Film Trooper at Film Trooper, a website for helping filmmakers attain filmmaking freedom. Scott recently made a feature film for $500 with no crew called, The Cube. Want to know what equipment was used to make that film? Grab a FREE gift at