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ADVENTURES IN CREATIVE DISTRIBUTION: Lessons From My SADIE Internship

by Bobbin Ramsey

Bobbin Ramsey Headshot.jpg

Hi! My name is Bobbin Ramsey, and I have been working for the past six months as the creative distribution intern on SADIE.

A little about me: I have spent my professional years as an active and successful theatre director in Seattle. In 2015, an unexpected curveball came my way - I was offered the opportunity to direct a horror film called DEAD BODY. Though I had always been an avid audience member, I had never imagined myself to be a filmmaker. I jumped at this immensely exciting offer, and through the intense collaboration, the energy on set, the immersion into storytelling - I discovered a newfound passion for filmmaking.

Then in May of this year, I met Megan through a mutual friend and she asked if I'd be interested in joining SADIE's creative distribution team. Since my experience with DEAD BODY I have been seeking opportunities to learn as much as possible about the independent film industry, and creative distribution was something I knew very little about, so I eagerly accepted. My education started immediately.

The first thing I learned was the reasoning for creative distribution—why taking on this momentous task was the right way to go for SADIE. After watching the film the first time, it was clear that real care needed to be taken in the conversations around and ways of engaging in the film. Since the story deals with the intense, terrifying, and heartbreaking relationship that our country has to violence, it made sense that Megan and the whole team wanted to ensure that the film was reaching people in the way that would have the most impact. It was so exciting to see the team taking ownership of the film that way, and creating their own path for building and engaging with audiences.

Next, I learned about the distribution strategy that they had developed: a national theatrical release, an academic tour, and a robust social media and online campaign. I was assigned to do outreach work for the theatrical release and the academic tour which entailed brainstorming appropriate interest groups, doing research on each of the communities where the film would screen, and reaching out to people to let them know the film would be in their area. We reached out to organizations focused on military families and women in filmmaking, college courses around the effect on violence on child psychology and the relationship between women and violence, and youth organizations interested in cultural events, leadership, and sociopolitical issues.

Though it was an immense amount of cold-calling (and cold-emailing), we received more responses and interest than I had anticipated. We formed partnerships with groups all around the country, and college faculty sent their students to see the film as part of their course work. Art and storytelling is such a powerful tool to ignite discussion, and people were eager to interact with the opportunity we were offering them. One profound lesson from this experience was how important word of mouth is for the success of a theatrical run. Reviews make an impact of course, but a good recommendation from someone who relates to the story and themes of the film often yields many others who will be personally affected.

Throughout my internship I had other responsibilities including creating academic discussion guides and editing audience response videos, among other things, and it all taught me the immense amount of planning, detail, and forethought that goes into an undertaking like this. You have to think about your audience every step of the way. I know that for me, the audience can slip into being a secondary consideration when you’re in the midst of scripts and sets and shooting, but this was a powerful reminder that we do this all for them - and we have to do everything possible to find and connect with those who will be impacted by the stories we tell.

Even after almost six months of working with the SADIE team, there is a still a lot that goes over my head and a lot left to learn, especially around the more technical elements. However, I was given an invaluable and in-depth look into the post-production and creative distribution side of the job. There is so much information available about making a film, but less about getting it out into the world—beyond festivals and industry screenings, and into the hands of the people who will appreciate it the most. After you’ve poured years of time, energy, and skill into a project, knowing how to extend its reach and have a profound impact on people is an unmatched piece of knowledge and something I will hold onto as I take my next steps as a filmmaker.

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