Sundance Institute Aggressively Expands Streaming Deals

Expanded initiative with iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Instant Video covers all Sundance films

The Sundance Institute is moving aggressively to help its filmmakers with independent online distribution, expanding its Artist Services Initiative to include partnerships with iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, SundanceNOW and YouTube.

The expansion was announced on Wednesday by the non-profit Sundance Institute, which for the past six months has collaborated with Kickstarter on the first phase of the Artist Services Initiative, which has helped Sundance-associated filmmakers use the crowd-funding service to raise money for pre-production, production, post-production, marketing and distribution.

The new services, Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam announced on Wednesday, will now give indie filmmakers the additional opportunity to access an array of prominent companies in the streaming and online distribution field.

Filmmakers whose work has been aided by any Sundance program or has shown at the Sundance Film Festival can use the initiative to put their films on any or all of the affiliated sites, while retaining complete ownership.

Until now, Sundance filmmakers have been able to put their films on iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and the like if they made their own deals. Now, the Sundance Institute will facilitate that move, and allow its filmmakers to pick and choose exactly which of the prominent platforms they want to use.

"We wanted to make sure that the movies that we love will be available where people are already watching movies," said Putnam at a press conference announcing the expansion.

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Putnam repeatedly emphasized that Sundance Institute was not getting into the distribution business, but was simply providing its filmmakers with a way to access alternative means of distribution, and then supporting them with marketing muscle, education and other resources.

New Video will be the aggregator for all the films taking advantage of the initiative, while Topspin Media will provide marketing tools.

The program will be open to any film that has shown at the Sundance Film Festival, and any that has been through any of the many Sundance Institute programs that support independent filmmaking.

"It's such an incredibly exciting time with the technological advances that allow us to make films," said Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, whose film "On the Ice" will be one of the first to take advantage of the initiative. "But we've been hitting this bottleneck for years – once you've made the film, how can you get it seen? This is the first time I've heard a solution that really sounds exciting."

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On Wednesday, Sundance also launched a special Artists Services website, which is open to the 6,000 alumni of various Sundance programs and contains extensive educational tools and advice on all facets of indie filmmaking.

"When I founded the Institute in 1981, it was at a time when a few studios ran the industry and an artist's biggest concern was whether their film would get made," said Sundance founder Robert Redford in a press release announcing the expanded initiative.

"Technology has lessened that burden, but the big challenge today is how the audiences can see these films. The Artist Services program is a direct response to that need. We're not in the distribution business; we're in the business of helping independent voices be heard."

The first phase of the Artist Services Initiative began in January when Sundance partnered with Kickstarter and created its own page on that crowd-funding site. Since then, 21 Sundance projects have raised more than $650,000 on the site.