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2019 Creative Distribution Fellowship Application

The Creative Distribution Initiative
Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative is committed to helping independent storytellers build audiences and sustain careers through innovations in marketing, distribution, and data transparency. We imagine a world without barriers between artists and audiences.
Our department has supported the release of  200+ films into the market through partnerships with leading digital retailers; notable films include pioneering self-releases Unrest, Columbus, The Devil We Know, Thunder Road, 306 Hollywood, and First Girl I Loved. We have also supported over 400 crowdfunding campaigns - over $25M raised - by consulting with filmmakers on audience building techniques. We’ve been at the front lines of creative distribution for over seven years - and with our Creative Distribution Fellowship, we’re expanding our efforts.
The Importance of Marketing and Distribution for Artist Sustainability
You own the rights, you make the decisions. Sundance Institute supports you.
We live in a world with an overabundance of content. Breaking through the noise requires skill, agility, and creativity.  With the Creative Distribution Fellowship, we want to inspire cutting edge strategies that will amplify your film’s potential to reach audiences and maximize revenue.
Audience engagement is a critical skill for the 21st century filmmaker. This fellowship is not just about getting your film seen; it’s about sustaining your career and acquiring knowledge that will benefit you for years to come.
The Creative Distribution Fellowship Overview
The Fellowship - inspired by the Institute’s longstanding artist labs and in its third year - is an immersive, rigorous program for entrepreneurial producers and directors seeking new ways to build and reach audiences with their finished work. We are now accepting applications for films preparing for a 2019 (or early 2020) release who are open to a creative release - i.e. without a traditional distributor.
The Fellowship is a curated program that includes grant funds, access to premium pre-negotiated distribution deals, and connections to experienced industry mentors with the Institute’s Creative Distribution team playing a strategic advisory role. The past two years have proved a tremendous success with the release of Unrest and Columbus (our inaugural films) as well as our second year titles The Devil We Know, 306 Hollywood, and Thunder Road. Case studies can be read here.
We are seeking films at all budget levels featuring distinctive, singular voices. We will select three or four films on a rolling basis, and we will support fellows during their initial release period (6 - 12 months). Films will be selected by a committee comprised of the Creative Distribution team along with key representatives from the Institute’s Feature Film, Documentary, and Festival programs. Our evaluation process will have two stages. We will initially review applications reviewing essay questions and a trailer or clip. After this initial review, we will invite select applicants to submit their feature in its entirety, and notify others that their project has been declined.
Selected Films Receive
  • $33,333 grant for marketing expenses with an emphasis on digital marketing.
  • Preferred Access to Sundance Institute-brokered digital distribution opportunities
  • Guidance from the Creative Distribution Initiative and leading industry advisors prior to the release.
  • Referral to key marketing and distribution consultants to help execute campaigns.
  • Sundance Institute branding and promotion to support the release of the film.
  • Half-day marketing strategy session with leading industry marketing and distribution executives at Institute offices.
  • Sundance alumni designation and benefits.
What Sundance Needs
  • Fellows participating in the program will be expected to devote significant time and energy to the release of their film.
  • Fellows will be required to be fully transparent about their experience, including audience data and revenue numbers. This information will be turned into detailed case studies that will be publicly released by the Institute.
  • Fellows will be required to participate in weekly calls with Sundance Institute to discuss goals, strategy and progress.
  • The Creative Distribution team will be available to advise fellows on major marketing and distribution decisions throughout the process.
The film must satisfy all of the following requirements:
(i) The film has premiered at a 2018 US Film Festival, or been accepted to a 2019 US Film Festival. The festival must be continuously operating for five years or longer.
(ii) Films must be completed and feature-length (minimum 70 minutes).
(iii) The film’s country of origin is the United States or Canada and the film team lead(s) are based in the United States or Canada.
(iv) The film has all of its US distribution rights free and clear to exploit. Notable exceptions may be granted in this case - for instance, films that have licensed their educational/non-theatrical rights, or documentaries that have licensed certain broadcast rights.
(v) The film has not been exploited anywhere in the world (e.g. theatrical, home video, subscription video, broadcast) other than through festival screenings.
Please upload to FluidReview:
  • VIMEO LINK TO A TRAILER OR CLIP, MAX LENGTH 5 MINUTES: Please provide a Vimeo link and password to the trailer OR a representative clip.
  • ESSAY QUESTION 1 (500 word max): What are your primary goals for the film’s distribution? Please elaborate with a potential timeline and distribution plan.
  • ESSAY QUESTION 2: (500 word max) Why are you interested in the Fellowship? Where do you feel most confident and least confident throughout the distribution and marketing process?
  • ESSAY QUESTION 3: (500 word max) What is your current relationship with your audience? What kind of work have you been doing to grow your audience and who are they?
  • DIRECTOR’S ARTISTIC STATEMENT (500 word max) Please include an artistic statement from the director which describes her/his approach to the film and the audience they’re hoping to reach.
  • CONTACT LIST: Please upload a list of names and roles for all people in your team who will be involved with the distribution process. Please designate one point of contact for Sundance who will be responsible for delegating tasks and communicating with the Institute. This person should ideally also be the individual responsible for completing this application.
  • BIOS for the applying producer(s) and director(s). Please list all notable credits and accolades. For the producer, relevant experience may include: crowdfunding campaigns; work on marketing or distribution campaigns, etc. (250 word maximum each).
  • LOGLINE: 1-2 line description of the film.
  • SYNOPSIS (250 words maximum).
  • POSTER ART/MARKETING MATERIALS (optional): Please include any material that helps us better understand your vision of marketing for the film
  • ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (short answer questions):
    • Please detail the festival history of the film and festivals you’ve been accepted to.
    • What is your relationship to the project?
    • Have you received any distribution offers, or have you entered into any distribution deals anywhere in the world? If so, what are the general terms of the offer and what are the rights that aren’t available through this Fellowship?
    • Have you received written confirmation from talent that they will participate in the marketing efforts of the film’s release? If so/not, please detail.
    • Please list your sales agents, lawyers, and PR reps for the film.
    • Please link to / list any reviews for the film.
    • Please list, if comfortable, the equity investors in the film along with a line-item of the total film budget to-date. We will treat this and all other information confidentially.
    • Do you foresee any obstacles or hurdles to your ability to share information (financial or experiential) about the film publicly? If so, please explain.
  • Contact email:

    Go to the online application portal, sign up for an account or log in with an existing one 
    Log in and “Create New Submission.”
    Select “2019 Creative Distribution Fellowship.
    Click "Get Started!"