Sundance Institute announced the expansion of the #ArtistServices Initiative, a program to help Institute alumni navigate the marketplace of independent film distribution, which was first made public during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival with an initial team-up with Kickstarter. Since January, this collaboration has raised more than $700,000 for a total of 24 Sundance Institute alumni projects. Today’s announcement included the expansion of partners that filmmakers can now make their films available through online: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, SundanceNOW, and YouTube. New Video was announced as an exclusive aggregation partner and Topspin Media will provide direct-to-fan marketing tools.
During a press breakfast with industry and alumni, Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam described the momentum of the nonprofit’s mission, “It’s that connecting artists with audiences that is particularly important today,” adding, “The Festival is a successful platform for launching work, but the landscape has changed.“ Putnam made it clear that Sundance is not becoming a distributor, but is answering the call for help to provide resources for distribution that protects filmmakers' rights.
Participants at Artist Services Press Breakfast. Photo by Alexandra Wyman.
Susan Margolin, president of New Video, spoke about the fate of artists. “The filmmaker spends 5-6 years making their film, gets into Sundance, the fairy dust settles, and there’s no distribution. That’s unacceptable. In today’s environment there’s extremely powerful platforms that can be used to distribute these works.”
Filmmaker alum Andrew Okpeaha MacLean has received many avenues of support from the Institute from Labs and grants to three Festival premieres including his first feature On the Ice, but he too found himself uncertain about the distribution of his film. “It’s a sobering position to be in as a filmmaker,” referring to life after his Festival premiere, but MacLean sees Artist Services as a crucial reinforcement, “These partnerships make it so much easier to take the next step.”
Institute staff Joe Beyer, Director of Digital Initiatives, and Chris Horton, Associate Director of Artist Services, are blazing that trail for alumni which includes the launch of the new Artist Services website, a private site for alumni to access information regarding distribution platforms, funding, marketing, and educational resources. As many Sundance alums recognize the Institute Labs tucked away in the Utah mountains as a safe place to explore their art, now they can use this private website as a safe forum to connect with other users and gain insights into the world of distributing independent films.
Festival alum Tiffany Shlain, in her enthusiasm for Artist Services, noted that she tries to not think of herself as an independent filmmaker, but rather an “inter-dependent,” which seems to be the place where this Initiative is actively heading.