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DISTRIBUTION: PART OF A FILMMAKER’S JOB OR BETTER LEFT TO THE SUITS?
“Something that I hear people say is, ‘Distribution isn’t really my job, I just want to make movies,’” says producer Jennifer Dubin, one of the leaders of Film Independent’s upcoming Producers Toolkit ’15: Demystifying (DIY)stribution.
But in 2008, when Dubin and her producing partner Cora Olson were exploring options for the release of their Sundance charmer Good Dick, they weren’t finding any offers that they liked from traditional distribution outlets. “At that time, the market was contracting and you weren’t seeing the big deals coming out of Sundance that you had in previous years.”
So Dubin and her team cinched up their boots and got to work developing a plan to release the movie themselves. They screened the film at 21 festivals, played in theaters from San Francisco to Columbus and held educational screenings for colleges and organizations across the country. The film played on Showtime and is currently available to rent on Amazon and iTunes or to stream on Hulu.
Dubin says the key to success when self-distributing is identifying your project’s core audience. You have to know who they are before you can connect with them. “And that involves everything from publicity and developing social media networks to navigating festivals and the theatrical process,” says Dubin. “Having an audience is what allows you to have a successful release.”
And now she and Olson are taking the success they’ve had and sharing it with others. “Having done it a couple of times, we want other people to learn from what we’ve been able to do,” says Dubin. “I think that’s what independent film is all about. It’s a community; we, as filmmakers, have to help each other. And making information available in these kinds of forums is a way of doing that.”
What else will be covered in this weekend’s class? “We’ll look at case studies and define what distribution is and the components of distributing a film: from how to window your release, to marketing, to residuals,” says Dubin. “We try to go as far down the road as we can and put together very concrete steps for thinking about how to get your movie out.”
Dubin said distributing her own films has changed everything about the way she approaches the filmmaking process. She now starts thinking about who the movie’s audience is from the very beginning.
But what does that mean for the future of truly independent filmmaking? Is there still room in the marketplace for deeply personal films borne out of the depths of one individual’s imagination?
Of course there is, says Dubin. “You just have to go in with your eyes wide open about what you’re doing. If you’re making something that you don’t care if anybody sees and you don’t care if you make money, that’s bold. It’s an art form, and for a lot of filmmakers, that’s enough. And I have a lot of respect for that. But it’s also a business. And if you’re looking at it as a way to make a living or have a career, it’s essential to consider the business proposition.”
Tom Sveen / Film Independent Blogger