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Sundance Announces New Creative Distribution Fellowship with Columbus, Unrest


The Sundance Institute announced today a new initiative aimed at filmmakers going the DIY distribution route. The inaugural projects supported by the Creative Distribution Fellowship are two recommended independent films that premiered this past January at Sundance: Columbus, by Filmmaker 25 New Face :: kogonada, and Unrest, a documentary by director and subject Jennifer Brea.

In the press release, Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “Columbus and Unrest are perfect examples of the creative spirit of independent filmmaking, and this new Fellowship will provide them with resources, mentorship and tactical support to pioneer independent pathways to audiences. This entrepreneurial approach to marketing, distribution and audience building empowers independent filmmakers to release their own films, on their own terms, while retaining their rights.”

Launching also this week is an ambitious Kickstarter campaign ($150,000!) to support the two film’s distribution. In keeping with the crowdfunding campaign’s tie-in to self-distribution, rewards include various reports and tools designed to help fellow filmmakers successfully create and implement their own campaigns.

More from the press release:

The Creative Distribution Fellowship, inspired by Sundance Institute’s long-standing Labs, will provide Columbus and Unrest with tools, resources and exclusive distribution deals in an immersive and nurturing environment. Each film will receive grants to fund marketing and distribution expenses. The Institute is working closely with the film teams to devise and execute tactics that will allow them to connect with their audiences in new and innovative ways. The filmmakers will serve as their own distributors, working with a network of professional vendors and digital retailers, with all theatrical and digital revenue flowing back to them. As a core part of the Fellowship, the producers of Columbus and Unrest are committed to sharing lessons learned from their creative distribution. These lessons will create “best practices” to help guide future independent filmmakers.

Commented Columbus producer Danielle Renfrew Behrens, “Many films have attempted to self-release over the years, but until recently filmmakers haven’t had the tools needed to reach their targeted audience. We’ve turned down more traditional distribution offers in the hopes of determining if this is a viable way forward for indie films with identifiable niche audiences.” Added Unrest‘s Jennifer Brea, “We can’t wait to connect our film directly with its audience, combining a bespoke theatrical release with innovative ways of reaching those who would not be able to see the film in theaters. With the aid of the Creative Distribution Fellowship we’ll be able to actively engage with our viewers, encouraging an experience that will last far beyond the end of the film.”

The Creative Distribution Fellowship, part of Sundance’s Creative Producing Program, is supported by Cinereach, Kickstarter, National Endowment for the Arts, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Arcus Foundation. Pro bono legal services for the program were provided by Latham and Watkins.

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