It’s not easy to release a film into the world. Not only do you have to make the damned thing, but afterward you’re expected to use more time and money to go around convincing people  to fork over their hard earned cash to sit down and spend an hour or two watching it in a theater, on their TV, or even worse, on their phone. In this day and age, it’s a lot to ask!

Fully understanding that so many good films are not getting the kind of attention they deserve, the Sundance Institute started the Creative Distribution Initiative to “help independent storytellers build audiences and sustain careers through innovations in marketing, distribution, and data transparency.” Now in its third year, the Creative Distribution Fellowship is aiming at continuing what they’ve achieved so far.

“I think what's badass about it [in 2019] is that we have now worked with 5 titles who have all gotten a lot out of participating in this program (Columbus, Unrest, Thunder Road, The Devil We Know and 306 Hollywood)” explained our Creative Distribution confidant Liz Manashil to No Film School, "and so we have a track record! Also, this year feels like it will be even more chaotic and complicated for independent storytellers to release their work into the world and get the attention their work deserves, so I feel like our fellowship may be even more important for those interested in the support.”

Here’s a look at all the awesome perks you get from being selected to participate in the fellowship: 

  • $33,333 grant for marketing expenses with an emphasis on digital marketing.
  • Preferred Access to Sundance Institute-brokered digital distribution opportunities
  • Guidance from the Creative Distribution Initiative and leading industry advisors prior to the release.
  • Referral to key marketing and distribution consultants to help execute campaigns.
  • Sundance Institute branding and promotion to support the release of the film.
  • Half-day marketing strategy session with leading industry marketing and distribution executives at Institute offices.
  • Sundance alumni designation and benefits.

What do you have to do in return? Share the results of your distribution in transparent case studies for the good of all filmmakers.

38672826202_5b94c22404_hA film still from 306 Hollywood by Elan Bogarín and Jonathan Bogarín, recipients of the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship.

Since it's called Sundance Creative Distribution, do you have to have a film go through the Sundance Film Festival to be eligible? Not necessarily. What you do have to be is willing to work your ass off to get your movie out there.

As Manashil describes it, “I'm still an idealist and like to think that films that maybe haven't had super high profile or prestige can still breakthrough for the support. I could be wrong, but I can tell you that every application is looked at and considered. Real humans answer the emails sent to our department ( and we try our best. Full eligibility is listed here, but to summarize: [we're looking for] a feature-length film with a recent or upcoming festival premiere with producers/director(s) whom are avid and excited about self distribution (owning their digital rights at least in North America) and who are ready to spend the next year of their lives working hard to get their work out into the world."

Sound good? Here’s a quick overview of what the requirements are of your film to apply. (And you can apply anytime.)

  • a 2018 or 2019 festival premiere
  • be completed and 70+ minutes long
  • Country of origin is USA or Canada
  • have all US distribution rights
  • not been shown anywhere other than film festivals

If you’re thinking of applying, Liz Manashil has some tips for No Film School readers! “Be honest and passionate. Spell check. Do not act entitled. Show you have a plan but you're open to improvisation. Stand behind your film and tell us why you believe in it.”

If you do, best of luck!

Featured header image from the 2017 Sundance Creative Distribution Initiative Boot Camp, courtesy Sundance Institute.