80% of Films That Make It into Sundance Get Distribution Deals
That's no typo; that's real life. 4 out of 5 films that, by some divine and gracious mercy, happen to make it into Sundance also manage to snag distribution deals.
CEO David Larkin, and his team over at GoWatchIt.com, which lets users check the availability of movies or television shows across all platforms, released a study today on "how the Sundance class of 2014 fared in terms of getting distribution." Their findings were pretty incredible.
This is a guest post by David Larkin.
Combine a culture that increasingly encourages self-expression, an economy that generates considerable surplus capital with low interest rates, Moore's Law-like improvements in performance per dollar in production technology, proliferating on-demand distribution outlets for digital media, and persistent underemployment for liberal arts graduates, and what do you get? More films being made!
Sundance receives approximately 4,000 feature films submissions each year for about 120 slots. Short films face even more daunting odds. In 2014, the festival selected only half as many shorts out of more than twice as many candidates.
Some of those 120 films will get a lot of attention. Several of this year’s Oscar nominees, including Boyhood and Whiplash, were first screened at Sundance. After defending the planet from aliens and zombies, the Festival is increasingly where the Hollywood community washes it’s mouth out with artisanal soap. This year's films features A-Listers like Michael Fassbender, Nicole Kidman, Jonah Hill and of course, James Franco.
For first time filmmakers, there is an immense amount of competition, both in terms of the sheer number of films being shown, and in the difficulty of getting anyone to pay attention to you when the Sundance Kid himself is in the room. So when you ask your friends and family for money to film the story that is bursting irresistibly out of you, the question inevitably arises, “Who’s going to see your little indie film, anyway?”
Well take heart, because the odds are in your favor! Our company, GoWatchIt.com, works with the Sundance Institute to help connect its films with audiences. As part of that, we kept track of all of last year’s feature films, the Sundance class of 2014.
Our collaborator Liam Boluk has analyzed how the proliferation of digital technology has upended the economics of the film industry, but as with any industry in transition, new players are emerging. These companies such as Radius, the Orchard, Amplify and Broadgreen, are unburdened by legacy cost structures and org charts -- and savvy in the use of digital tools to find indie audiences. The Sundance Institute’s artist services program, led by Joseph Beyer, Chris Horton and Missy Laney, has also created a robust in-house resource for filmmakers to craft and execute distribution plans. More films than ever are getting distributed -- but some people think that is a not a good thing.
Filmmaking is a curious fusion of art and business, and each film is both a business that aspires to be a work of art and a work of art that hopes to be a business. At Sundance, art is the emphasis and that is how it should be. In this spirit, we were not as interested in how much money the films made -- although some did pretty darn well -- but rather how many of the films got seen.
The answer? Most of them! But as you’ll see, it can take a while.