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Can documentaries make money?

by roastedrich
(Georgia, USA)

If my goal is to get people to see my documentary, I can just upload to YouTube and begin drawing people to my video. How do I make money on my documentary? With all of the work after the film is finished, it seems like a lot to do if you don't get something back from it. Unless the satisfaction of getting a story out in the open is enough. What are the best ways to make money with a finished documentary?. Thanks!

Comments for Can documentaries make money?

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Apr 12, 2011
Of course they can make money, but maybe not much
by: Webmaster

As a general rule, documentaries are not big money makers unless you're Michael Moore. Of course there are always exceptions, but depending on your subject, there usually is simply not the mass audience for documentaries like there is with fiction films.

If you do a great job of building buzz around your documentary and create a strong grassroots movement around your documentary, then you have a better chance of selling more copies.

Yes, you can post your documentary on YouTube or other video sharing sites (depending on length restrictions), but you can now upload your documentary to sites like Amazon's Unbox where people can actually pay a fee to watch your documentary. The key here is leading people to your film. Just uploading it and putting a price tag on it doesn't mean it's automatically going to sell.

You can also sell DVD's, either on your own or through a distributor.

So of course, there is the opportunity to make some money from a documentary. There are just a number of factors involved that determine just how much (the quality of the film, the appeal, the marketing effort, etc).

Sep 15, 2014
UPDATE
by: Desktop Documentaries

Quick update, we've had so much interest in this topic that we've created a brand new 3-part series on "How To Make Money With Video And Documentaries". We're giving it away for FREE as part of our 7-Day Documentary Crash Course. Enjoy!

Sep 14, 2016
yes documentaries can sell
by: Alina

Yes i believe they can, i am a journalist by profession and i get more energy when i do documentaries that are unique and hardcore, i did one doci previous years, it did sell, apparently i did not get anything from it, but someone did, i believe if i can have support financially, i can have doci's that can win awards because i believe in achieving and have something to show of hard work. Documentaries can sell a lot ,if you apply your mind, research on it.

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