Digital Distribution Is Changing Who’s Going To See Indie Films

Editor’s Note: David Larkin is the founder and chief executive of, a search engine and universal queue for movies that is also a platform for film marketing and analytics and a partner with The Sundance Institute.

Combine a culture that increasingly encourages self-expression; an economy that generates considerable surplus capital with low interest rates; Moore’s Law-like improvements in performance-per-dollar in production technology; proliferating on demand distribution outlets for digital media; and persistent underemployment for liberal arts graduates; and what do you get? More films being made.

Sundance receives approximately 4,000 feature film submissions each year for about 120 slots. Short films face even more daunting odds. In 2014, the festival selected only half as many shorts out of more than twice as many candidates.

GOWATCHIT_INFOGRAPHIC-3b (2)Some of those 120 films will get a lot of attention. Several of this year’s Oscar nominees, including Boyhood and Whiplash, were first screened at Sundance.

For first time filmmakers, there’s an immense amount of competition, both in terms of the sheer number of films being shown, and in the difficulty of getting anyone to pay attention to you when the “Sundance Kid” himself is in the room.

So when you ask your friends and family for money to film the story that’s crying to be told, the question inevitably arises, “Who’s going to see your little indie film, anyway?”

Well take heart, because the odds are in your favor. The Sundance Institute works to help connect its films with audiences. As part of that, it kept track of all of last year’s feature films, the Sundance class of 2014.

Liam Boluk has analyzed how the proliferation of digital technology has upended the economics of the film industry. As with any industry in transition, new players are emerging.

Companies such as RADiUS-TWCThe Orchard, Amplify and Broad Green are unburdened by legacy cost structures and org charts – and savvy in the use of digital tools to efficiently find audiences. And the Sundance Institute’s artists services program, led by Joseph Beyer, Chris Horton and Missy Laney, has also created a robust in-house resource for filmmakers to craft and execute distribution plans.

More films than ever are getting distributed – but some people think that is a not a good thing.

Filmmaking is a curious fusion of art and business, and each film is both a business that aspires to be a work of art and a work of art that hopes to be a business.

At Sundance, art is the emphasis and that’s how it should be.

In this spirit, we were not as interested in how much money the films made – although some did pretty darn well – but rather how many of the films got seen.

The answer? Most of them.

*Data provided by GoWatchIt.