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Episode 124 – Find Your Audience with Sundance’s Creative Distribution Team

Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution team works with filmmakers to get their film seen in new and interesting ways. This episode is full of tips and advice from Liz Manashil and Jess Fuselier on finding your audience. If you have a feature film, apply for FREE to the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship for your chance at a $25,000 grant and a streaming deal from Amazon, Hulu or Netflix. Learn more at Sundance:

Listen now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.


Meet Our Guests

Liz Manashil  Manager of the Creative Distribution Initiative at Sundance Institute

Liz earned her B.A. in Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, and her M.F.A. from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She has worked with Michael Shamberg of Double Feature Films, Adam Goodman at Paramount Film Group and distribution guru Peter Broderick. Her debut feature, Bread and Butter, just completed a multi-award-winning festival run. It was released by The Orchard in September and can be seen on VOD nearly everywhere. 


Jess Fuselier  Manager, Education & Research, Creative Producing Program at Sundance Institute

Jess is a community outreach, marketing and data specialist who recently joined the Creative Distribution Initiative and is working to cultivate meaningful insights rooted in data transparency, in order to create resources that impact the sustainability of the independent film community at large. She pioneered a community outreach program to connect film sets across the U.S. with the communities in which they operate and led efforts to support critical non profit community service providers.

What You Need to Know About Distribution

Filmmakers have traditionally stepped away from distribution and hid behind “I’m a creative, not a business woman.” But Jess and Liz think that needs to change. They want to put the power of distribution into filmmakers’ hands.

Time to flip the script. Distribution is not the boring thing that happens after your film is finished, distribution is a creative part of the process. The way your film is seen is part of your brand. The presence of the film in the world should be a reflection of your story and personality. 

They believe that the primary goal of distribution is finding an audience which not only helps sell your film but is also the first step to becoming a sustainable filmmaker. What are some ways we can find our audiences? Jess suggests using analytics and hyper targeted ads. Find out who is visiting your web page and expand upon that.

But what about traditional distribution? Let’s be honest, most of us won’t get deals with A52 and although there are some good low level distributers out there, it might be better for you to take on distribution yourself. Not only so you can take control of your film and increase your chances at profitability, but also for the good of the film community. There are often NDAs you must sign with traditional distributors that locks information up. Jess and Liz want to free the information that has traditionally been the domain of distributers. By sharing our distribution methods with each other, they believe we can create a new era of indie film sustainability. Bottom line is, the market has changed, so should we.

About The Creative Distribution Initiative, Sundance Institute

The democratization of the Internet changed a lot of industries. Artists can now go directly to their fans and cut out the middle man aka distributer. Using analytics and other tools that we all have access to, we can maximize our reach and build an audience. Liz and Jess want to help you guys navigate this exciting time and not only find the best platforms for your films but also the best ways to reach an audience.

The Creative Distribution Initiative offers online resources, live workshops, and a network of allied organizations to help filmmakers navigate the changing business of independent film. The program provides support and insights on creative funding, marketing, and distribution. For Institute alumni, the Creative Distribution Initiative offers a wide array of digital distribution opportunities, promotion and consultation for Kickstarter campaigns, and strategies for audience engagement.

Case Study: The First Girl I Loved

“No businessperson would willingly create a product with which they had no way to go to market—yet indie film, day in and day out, continues to do this.”

How To:

The First Girl I Loved Facebook Page:


Apply to the 2018 Fellowship FOR FREE!

If you have a feature film, consider submitting your film the 2018 Creative Distribution Fellowship. Sundance is seeking films at all budget levels featuring distinctive, singular voices. They will select three or four films on a rolling basis and will support fellows during their initial release period (6 – 12 months).

Selected Films Receive

  • $25,000 grant for marketing expenses with an emphasis on digital marketing.
  • A mid-five-figure minimum deal from either Amazon, Hulu or Netflix, and preferred access to other Sundance Institute brokered digital distribution opportunities through its relationship with Quiver Digital.
  • 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.


  • The film has premiered at a 2017 US Film Festival or been accepted to a 2018 US Film Festival. The festival must be continuously operating for five years or longer.
  • Films must be completed and feature-length (minimum 70 minutes).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The film has not been exploited anywhere in the world (e.g. theatrical, home video, subscription video, broadcast) other than through festival screenings.

Apply Now

Contact Liz and Jess

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