I’m so thrilled to be participating in two IFFR events this year! For those of you attending, I hope we run into each other. On the morning of Monday, the 26th, I’ll be serving on a distribution panel called Get Your Film Out There! (moderated by Amy Dotson). That afternoon, I’ll be participating in an “on stage workshop”-style presentation of IFFR’s new Tiger Release distribution initiative, showing how three different films each benefit from the initiative’s offerings.
IFFR is now the latest film festival to adopt a distribution initiative, Tiger Release following the creation of Sundance Artist Services, Tribeca Film and the Dok Incubator at Dok Leipzig. Here’s a look back at Chapter 14 of Think Outside the Box Office, when I mused on this new landscape of distribution:
A former prominent festival director confided in me that a number of theatrical chains had approached him, stating that they wanted to program independent films and that they had lots of available slots, but didn’t know outside of the usual suspects how to connect with independent filmmakers. They also didn’t want to be inundated with requests from thousands of filmmakers. They wanted a gatekeeper who already reviewed content and would provide a conduit for them. The theater chains felt that this major festival was a perfect candidate. I was aghast when this former festival director said, “But I don’t think we should be in the distribution business, do you?” I replied that festivals should do anything they can to help their filmmakers and their festivals. Acting as a gatekeeper for unreleased films (much like digital aggregators) seemed like a win-win situation for both. Unfortunately, he was unconvinced.
I feel that because the distribution landscape is changing so rapidly and many people are looking for solutions to help independent films, companies will stop looking at these issues of distribution in a black-and-white, win-or-lose way and instead will start looking at what works and what doesn’t work.
Many festivals are respected, known, qualified gatekeepers of certain kinds of content. Their programming staffs are very similar to a distributor’s acquisition staff. I think it makes total sense for festivals to be in the distribution business. There are plenty of films that festivals champion that won’t receive conventional distribution. Festivals have proven branded curatorial power that can be monetized both for festivals and filmmakers. One problem that might arise is a potential conflict between some festival’s non-profit status and the for-profit business of distribution. However, considering how difficult the independent film distribution business is, perhaps all distributors who handle independent film should be allowed to take on non-profit status. I’m only half kidding.
It’s thrilling to see this come to pass, as I feel it can only help the filmmakers get their films seen beyond the festival circuit. I’d be curious to hear from you about other festivals that have are working to help filmmakers distribute their films in addition to Sundance Artist Services, Tribeca Film and Dok Leipzig as well as the festivals and film organizations that are running year round screening opportunities for filmmakers such as IFP, Seattle International Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Cucoloris. Who are the others? I’ll be reporting back from my trip with my takeaways from both events and the festival itself, so stay tuned!