Get Paid: Ted Hope Launches A2E Distribution Lab

Since the signing on of truly-free-film's Ted Hope as Executive Director of San Francisco Film Society, a lot of people have been excitedly awaiting for something cool to happen. Last week SFFS announced the unveiling of a new program called the A2E (Artist to Entrepreneur) Digital Distribution Lab and this may be Hope’s first coup. The pilot program promises to come up with fresh practices for filmmakers through big ideas and tech world entrepreneurs. How do I sign up?  Read more about the upcoming distribution experiment below.

The idea behind Ted Hope’s new brainchild is this: unlike in the indie salad-days of the 1990s, today’s saturated market and antiquated distribution standards mean filmmakers get squat. (Note to self: WHY DID NOBODY MENTION THIS WHEN I DECIDED TO BECOME A FILMMAKER?) The A2E premise is that by combining entrepreneurs and distribution start-ups, filmmakers can work on release strategies that get butts in seats, make money back, and consequently -- with artists being able to maybe, just maybe, quit our day jobs -- elevate the art of independent filmmaking.

From the SFFS press release via Indiewire:

Through an “open source” collaborative approach, the Direct Distribution Lab will not only connect artists, services, tools, and tech partners but also build custom plans for each filmmaker to utilize. At the end of the process, select projects committed to a direct distribution approach will then be presented to potential funders and collaborators in the hope of making their engagement strategy a reality.

The A2E Distribution Lab will take place from May 2-5 amidst the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival in conjunction with A2E Launchpad: two days of 20 minute meet-and-greets (a la Independent Film Week) between filmmakers and tech partners TBD in the next few weeks.

Ted Hope about A2E:

“When we first started designing this program, we were particularly inspired by Sundance Institute's community-minded approach to their #ArtistServices distribution platform. Just as they invited us and other organizations to participate, we are doing the same with A2E. This is a new era of cooperation—not competition—among support organizations in film. For this initial pilot program we've invited Sundance and our other #ArtistServices collaborators—IFP, FIND, Cinereach, BritDoc and the Bertha Foundation—to work with us, and have invited projects from BFI, Film London, Frameline and the Canadian Film Center."

This year, participating projects will be narratives and invite-only (boohoo) so I’d imagine they will consist largely of films screening at SFIFF56 and picks from BFI, Film London, Frameline and the Canadian Film Center. If these films are matched with the guidance, tools, and funds to pull off really ballsy and innovative release strategies, it could be very interesting to watch. And if it goes well, not only could SF International Film Festival really up the ante in their desirability for independent filmmakers, but it might actually “trigger flashpoint of creative innovation and artistic expression in SF Bay” as SFFS puts it. That would be neat. And then hopefully next year they'll let some average Joes in.

Will pairing more filmmakers with entrepreneurs change the distribution landscape? What do you think we need to be able to make our films successful? And seriously, what's it going to take for filmmakers to make a living at this thing?


[movie theater pic via Oakley's Collection of Ol' Amateur Daguerreotypes]

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ha ha, so I kept thinking this was Ted Hope like the TED talks but focused on non profits or something, and trying to figure out how on earth TED cared about indie film distribution... now I feel dumb.

April 10, 2013 at 7:24AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Hey don't feel too dumb - I used to wonder why people needed foley of a shotgun so much they'd have a special mic just for it. ;P OK, that's not true, but it could be. I for one would really dig a TED talk on indie film!

April 10, 2013 at 10:01AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Oakley Anderson-Moore

I think if you're making indie films it's important to listen to what Ted Hope is theorizing. He's an important thinker in indie film, which is represented in his becoming director of the SFFS.

April 10, 2013 at 8:45AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Another fantastic post. Definitely something to look into in the near future. In a world full of different distribution avenues it's easy to get lost. From what I've been told as long as your story appeals to an audience you won't have to worry about distribution.
I say as long as you have a damn good story to tell, that will not only put you ahead of the rest but also secure a distribution route.
Would love to see a post about networking and jobs sites. Sounds like you definitely know your stuff!

April 10, 2013 at 10:22AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Julian Terry

I think one of the big online distributors (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) needs to offer a "Watch Instantly" channel specifically for small indie filmmakers like us and then make entry into this channel (for us filmmakers) easy and straightforward. And then filmmakers could enjoy some sort of residual income based on views or whatever. I guess a another venue altogether could start something like this, but it would be way more effective if it came from a place consumers already were, i.e. Netflix, Amazon, etc. I don't know why they wouldn't do this. Seems like a win win.

April 10, 2013 at 10:52AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


As a newb the part that's really perplexing to me is how someone goes about securing the funding so this sounds pretty awesome

April 10, 2013 at 12:48PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Getting funding to make your film in the first place is the biggest hurdle we all face. Yeah sure there is crowd funding but it is also hit and miss. For every Ryan Koo there are 1000's of films that cant raise their budgets. Even though they have done all the KEY STEPS for their campaign. I really think sites like are on the right track for filmmakers. Anyone used them before? Would love to hear some real time feedback and numbers.

April 10, 2013 at 3:40PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

marky mark

Thanks for posting about Distribber. I'd never heard of them before, yet their business model looks very interesting for indy's .... I'd like to learn about their success rates as well.

April 10, 2013 at 6:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Rick Webb

I agree, Distribber looks interesting...

April 10, 2013 at 6:44PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


The only thing I know they cant do or dont mention it is...OVERSEAS and getting your stuff on REDBOX.
REDBOX will be coming out with a streaming format just like NETFLIX very soon. I heard it's in BETA mode right now. Netflix streaming is pretty crappy for filmmakers. They give you a flat fee of like $5,000 - $10,000 to stream your film unlimited for a year or 2. With DISTRIBBER you pay them $5,000 and they will get you film on cable in demand which is 98 MILLION homes across the US. Then you get about 50% of the take on the rentals.
I like the fact you can cut out the middle man and pocket your revenue within 3 months of getting your stuff out there.You just gotta do your part to make sure people know it's out there to get.

April 12, 2013 at 2:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

marky mark

I think this is going to be the most important hurdle we face as independent filmmakers going forward. Cameras are finally good enough and cheap enough. Crowdfunding IS an option for those who can demonstrate skill, proper planning and a truly compelling story. Marketing has been made much simpler through targeting a genre niche and generating online word-of-mouth. The problem with the filmmaking democratization we're experiencing is that even the "indie" title has lost its clout now that ANYBODY can create something. And in the competition for eyeballs and attention spans, how do we sustain ourselves monetarily? I agree that the environment is ripe for an Amazon or Netflix distribution model. But I almost feel like it's going to take some new version of the old studio system, geared toward independents, to nurture, market and showcase the cream of the crop if we ever hope to make any reasonable profit. To me, the best thing would be a Netflix "channel" where top-billed original programming like House of Cards anchors a schedule that could be peppered with the projects of talented newcomers. I guess you could argue that IFC already does that, in its way, but does anybody even watch it?

April 12, 2013 at 12:57PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I agree that "anybody can make something"-- but the number of people that can *finish* a full length film with an interesting story, quality cinematography, good editing, etc., is still very small, speaking relatively.

All I'm trying to say is, don't think that the "democratization" of technology is of any real impedance to a (your) final product. It still takes a filmmaker to make a film, and a cheap camera does nothing to create a filmmaker or the discipline itself.

April 17, 2013 at 11:49AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Quiver., another distribution service, if anyone is interested or has questions.

April 12, 2013 at 7:10PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Here's a conversation starter-I took up making videos to help my brother introduce his snow vehicle invention to the world. We made a short vid on how well it works in the snow, how easy to use etc. All across the spectrum from public to investor to industry - no one really cared about the video - what they wanted was "entertainment". They didn't care that the product is great - they wanted it dropped from an airplane with a rider on it - hit a perfect snow covered mountain facing down hill, do several 100' leaps off moguls, start an avalanche and beat it in a race for 1000 yds, get caught and ride it like a surfing wave, down to a lodge with a bikini clad female sitting at a table looking at her watch - like, whats' taking so long? That's all they asked about - where are the special effects like Avitar- where is the smooth aerial footage - where are the motocross style jumps with your hair on fire at night with 20 different camera views? That's what people want-and that's public to investor-to industry. Mind blowing.

April 17, 2013 at 11:58AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Jocko John