Creative Distribution Fellowship: Case Studies

Acknowledging the invaluable distribution and marketing insights shared by the film teams behind Unrest and Columbus in 2018, we decided to continue the Creative Distribution Fellowship for a second year in 2019 and invited the entrepreneurial film teams from 306 Hollywood, Thunder Road, and The Devil We Know to participate.

In 2019, the total program granting fund was $100,000, which was divided into three grants of $33,000 to partially support the marketing and distribution expenses for three films. We knew that the producing teams would have to find additional sources of financing to supplement the Sundance Institute grant, since rarely will $33,000 be enough to cover a distribution budget for a robust low-budget independent film release. However, we wanted to be able to support multiple filmmakers from this fund to both increase the number of filmmakers supported and to amplify distribution learnings.

Sustainability was a focus for each of the film teams in 2019, as filmmakers going the route of self-distribution often don't get paid for the work they contribute to the release. Each of the film teams explored different ways they could create professional sustainability while working full-time on the release of their film, which is highlighted in each individual case study.

Though some of the practices discussed, such as partially financing a film through an existing production company or using personal savings to finance a film, aren’t accessible to many independent filmmakers, we felt it was important to highlight a variety of examples to show how different filmmakers are approaching the current inflection point in the marketplace.

In the spirit of forging new sustainable pathways, we’re grateful to the zealous, innovative filmmaking teams behind 306 Hollywood, Thunder Road, and The Devil We Know for sharing their journeys and learnings with the field.

We welcome your insights and comments. Please feel free to email us at creativedistribution@sundance.org.

Written by Jess Fuselier