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ADVENTURES IN CREATIVE DISTRIBUTION: SADIE and the Mountain Ahead

by Megan Griffiths

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Welcome to the first of what will be an ongoing blog series in which we attempt to lift the curtain on the process of creative distribution in (almost) real time. With the release of my most recent film SADIE, my producers and I have made the decision to take our fate into our own hands. We weighed the options available to us and ultimately determined that this film required the kind of special handling that we just wouldn’t get from a traditional distribution arrangement. It is a project that is very meaningful to us, and one that we have always hoped would contribute to a larger cultural conversation. We want to be engaged participants in that conversation.

SADIE is the story of a girl who will stop at nothing to preserve her father's place on the home front. Sadie (Sophia Mitri Schloss) is the daughter of a soldier and models herself after his military example. When her mom (Melanie Lynskey) begins dating a new man (John Gallagher, Jr.), Sadie vows to drive him out by whatever means necessary. He is the enemy, and if she’s learned anything from the world she inhabits, it’s that the enemy deserves no mercy. The film also stars Tony Hale, Danielle Brooks, Tee Dennard and Keith L. Williams.

With six films under my belt I’ve had many experiences with distribution, and I’ll be honest with you—it can be a rough phase of the process for a filmmaker. You're entrusting something you care deeply about to someone new. And even if this new person really loves your film, it will just never be as important to them as it is to you. It can’t be. They are juggling multiple acquisitions, determining release plans and parceling out pieces of their P&A budget to lots of other high-maintenance filmmakers who, like you, believe their film is the highest priority.

After spending so much time and putting so much thought into making your film, it can be demoralizing to feel unable to be an active participant in its long-term life. Whether in success or failure, I think every filmmaker wants to feel that they’ve done everything they could--to have no regrets. But I know a lot of filmmakers, and I don’t know any who feel that way about their film’s release. Are our expectations too high? Or are we just allowing ourselves to be disempowered due to a lack of understanding of this phase of the process?

Information about the mechanics of distribution is heavily and needlessly shrouded. The recent Sundance case study detailing the creative distribution efforts behind the film COLUMBUS offered a very rare and illuminating glimpse at both the challenges and the rewards of embarking on this kind of journey. We want to continue that tradition of transparency and information-sharing. We want to include you in our process as we bring SADIE into the world. We may fall on our faces, but if we do we will learn from it, and we want others to be able to learn as well.

We have spent the past few months digging in and having conversations with many who have released their own films and who have lessons to share. The overwhelming majority led with a warning: it is a mountain of work. One person described it as “three times more work than making the movie and no fun at all.” Daunting though that may be, we decided to push forward up the mountain.

We feel incredibly empowered by this decision. The promise of retaining the autonomy to release our film with care and specificity is incredibly exciting. This film was created with intention, and we plan to deliver it to the world with intention. We are forming a team of incredible people who are specialists in their fields and are bringing huge enthusiasm and expertise to getting SADIE in front of an audience and engaging with the communities with whom our themes might resonate. We will be introducing the team in our next blog and they will be contributing posts of their own with insights from their very specific vantage points, from impact campaigns to the ins and outs of digital marketing.

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Broadly speaking, we are planning a small, targeted theatrical run as well as a college/community discussion tour to raise the profile of the film outside of the major markets and engage with all kinds of audiences—especially young people—on the social issues the film tackles. We will then roll out the film on iTunes and Amazon and other digital platforms. We are incredibly fortunate to have been able to partner with Amazon via their Festival Stars deal, and will be building our release timeline to lead in to our February 2019 Amazon streaming premiere.     

This is a huge endeavor, and we will be relying on our friends, supporters and fans for help in summiting this mountain. Thank you for your support in spreading the word about SADIE and for taking part in the conversations we hope to have with our audience. We will continue to post about our experiences and we promise to convey the good, the bad, and the ugly—all the things that go into distributing a film—in an effort to help those of you who are thinking about creative distribution as a strategy for your film. Thanks for joining us.

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