What You Can Do in Distribution to Maximize the Life of Your Film
The magic eight ball suggests that the outlook for independent distribution this year is: don’t count on it. Here’s how can take control of your fortune to make it happen for yourself.
Sure, none of us got into filmmaking to become a walking, talking salesperson for our film. Hell, if we had, by now we could be making real money at that cellphone kiosk at the Mall! But nothing sucks more than having made a brilliant film that nobody has ever seen. In 2018, independent filmmaking almost always means independent marketing and distribution, as you can hear in this podcast. The pros to this moment in time? Cheaper, more democratized access to technology to make films and platforms to show them. The cons? More films vying for attention of people who watch films. Even winning an award at Sundance doesn’t ensure that someone is going to swoop in and take the reigns of your film’s distribution. No distribution plan? No distribution.
So how do you get heard in a noisy media landscape of competing films in 2018? That’s that Liz Manashil would like filmmakers to know more about that. In addition to being a filmmaker herself, Liz is the manager of the Creative Distribution Initiative at the Sundance Institute. What is this program all about? Combining the formerly-titled #ArtistServices program with a transparent game plan for indie filmmakers to carve out distribution options for themselves, the Creative Distribution Initiative is basically the militant distribution arm of the Sundance Institute. From the Sundance Institute:
The Creative Distribution Initiative empowers filmmakers navigating the changing business of independent film. Through online resources, live workshops, and a network of allied organizations, the program provides support and insights on creative funding, marketing, and distribution. For Institute alumni, the Creative Distribution Initiative offers a wide array of digital distribution opportunities, promotion and consultation for Kickstarter campaigns, and strategies for audience engagement.
Even luckier if you are a Sundance alumni, as the Creative Distribution Initiative offers entrepreneurial filmmakers direct deals through their aggregation partner and free in-house consulting on Kickstarter campaigns to Sundance Institute and Sundance alumni. If you receive their Creative Distribution Fellowship, you are guaranteed a $100,000 marketing/distribution grant and $75,000 minimum U.S. SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) deal from either Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix, following theatrical and TVOD (transactional video-on-demand) distribution among there things.
Liz sat down to elaborate on not only trends in distribution at this year's Sundance Film Festival, but how you can get noticed by distributors at any film festival and how strategies that go by the Creative Distribution team are playing out. Erik Luers, our wily No Film School managing editor, also sits in to cross-examine the witness, and offer perspective as the former programmer behind the theatrical release strategies at IFP's Screen Forward.
You can imagine that with the weight of the Sundance Institute and the careful mentoring of the Initiative, you can get some pretty good strategies. Here are two of the case studies that have since been released by the Sundance Institute since this conversation that are very much worth reading:
Here's an example of one breakdown in this case study: