Sundance Prep: Discussing Distribution

Risky Business book cover BY CYNDI GREENING. MESA, ARIZONA (CINEMA MINIMA) — Seven days until the 2008 Sundance Film Festival begins. A couple hundred films will be screened in the shadow of the Wasatch range and many of them will acquire distribution during the festival. Distribution is the “holy grail” of independent filmmaking. Elusive and extremely difficult to secure, selection in the Sundance Film Festival often anoints indie product as viable. In little over a week, we will be covering the distribution deals that thrust the new indie filmmakers into the industry.

As we complete the Zambian feature and documentary, we too are looking at distribution. According to Risky Business, the book by Mark Litwak on indie financing and distribution, the three things that make a film more appealing to a distributor are …

  • Star Power … participation by recognized industry creatives
  • Festival Fever … selection in a key festival
  • Great Reviews … recognition by film critics

According to Litwak, there are between 800 and 1,000 indie films available for sale at any given moment. So your film is competing with a glut of product. Presenting the strong selling points of your films is the key to distribution. Oh sure, there are tons of panels, books and articles on the many potential distribution avenues … including the web, DVD, tape and international markets. So, I spent most of the day, recalling our Zambian production adventures and trying to think of why that might be interesting to a potential audience (and therefore a distributor).

Because of the scenes she was editing, Pamela Jo kept reminding me how grumpy I had been on certain shooting days … oh the hours and hours and hours we waited … and while the clock ticked, I kept wondering if we’d ever get the film done. Knowing our return flights had already been booked, the clock reverberated like a prescient death knell. To this day, it amazes me that we finished shooting both films. The next few months will reveal if the story is of interest to an audience. We will document the process for you indie filmmakers.