May 2, 2017

Sundance Wants to Help You Self-Distribute Your Movie

The newly minted Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship enables festival films to pave their own way.

Today, the Sundance Institute announced a new fellowship that enables selected festival alumni to self-distribute their films. Founded as part of the Sundance Creative Distribution Initiative, which has supported Shane Carruth's Upstream Color and Penny Lane's NUTS!, the fellowship will address the changing needs of filmmakers who opt for what Sundance calls the "entrepreneurial" route for distribution.

This year's recipients are two films that played at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival: Jennifer Brea's Unrest, which she, incredibly, made from the confines of her own bed; and Kogonada's Columbus, the strong and poignant feature debut from a beloved video essayist.

"Making a movie is hard," reads the program's Kickstarter, which was launched to help build audiences and fund the marketing campaigns for the selected films. "Getting it seen is even harder. Independent filmmakers are often faced with the decision between selling their movie rights (and losing control over their distribution) and attempting self-distribution with little experience and few resources. With your help, we can change this."

The fellowship will provide Unrest and Columbus with tools, resources, and exclusive distribution deals in what the Institute describes as "an immersive and nurturing environment."

Each film will receive grants to fund marketing and distribution expenses. The Institute will work closely with the films' teams to devise and execute tactics that will allow them to connect with their audiences. Under the fellowship's supervision, the filmmakers will serve as their own distributors, working with a network of professional vendors and digital retailers. All theatrical and digital revenue will flow back to the filmmakers.

Though the program is rolling out in a limited capacity, we hope that other funders and organizations take note and follow suit in this promising path for indie distribution.      

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