Distribution Advocates: A Manifesto

by Amy Hobby.

In 2019 at Sundance, Karin Chien and I reconnected on our passion around independent film distribution. After a year of conversations in New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam and over Skype – we decided to seek out others to join us and take action.  

The final straw for us was the news that the Justice Department had asked a federal court in New York to terminate a set of 70-year-old decrees that prevented Hollywood studios from owning and operating movie theaters. Lifting these “Paramount Decrees” has surprisingly big implications. It will give license to corporations who distribute films to further consolidate and recreate the old Hollywood cartel. Price competition will disappear, entry by new players will be curtailed, and disruptive innovators will either be bought up before they pose a challenge or shut out of the marketplace. Why weren’t people talking about this?!

At the end of 2019, we invited additional people into conversation with us. We hope to widen it even further. We are distribution advocates and our intentions are as simple as they are profound: blaze a bold, new, more accurate, interesting, accessible, and inclusive way forward.  

The below initial set of values was written with the collaboration and input from Abby Sun, Avril Speaks, Caitlin Boyle, Eugene Park, Gary Chou, Karin Chien, Sarah Kim, and Taylour Chang. 

The Decency in Distribution Manifesto

Are we living in a particularly horrible time for independent storytellers to reach audiences?

Let’s face it, the systems of distribution are rigged and fail creators time and time again. And now, the continued vertical integration of corporate megaliths controlling content distribution is creating an atmosphere where new voices are really shut out or bought out and controlled.  

There’s no business, like show business.  

So, how can we reclaim power once and for all, for independent storytellers when the inequities are so entrenched? How can we maintain plurality and originality in a culture that needs it, perhaps more than ever?

Distribution Advocates is a community-in-formation guided by the following unshakeable values around distribution.  

Reject current unequal structures inhibiting access to audiences. We must create a more generous and inclusive distribution landscape. That starts by growing a movement, creating ongoing dialogue, and shifting the culture behind how filmmakers engage in distribution.  

Resist all rights deals, protect copyright and empower future content creation. Distributors cannot be allowed to continue to devalue filmmakers’ rights in negotiations. We must push for new standards for splitting rights between parties.   

Demand radical transparency in reporting. Clear reporting on metrics and accounting are key. The obfuscation of audience data, financial income and distribution costs, further deflates the power of the content creator. 

Fight for a fuller spectrum of voices in curation and criticism.We must interrogate algorithmic injustice and empower systems for validation and content selection that are decentralized and inclusive.  

Develop and test new distribution pathways in order to empower filmmakers with choice.  Let’s remake distribution in the best interests of creators and audience.  

We understand the herculean tasks presented and yet, we are compelled to forge ahead.  Please join our conversation! 

Amy Hobby has produced both documentary and scripted features that have been distributed by Lion’s Gate, Netflix, Sony Pictures Classics, HBO, Music Box, Kino Lorber, ITVS, IFC, Wolfe Releasing, Sony, Magnolia, Polychrome Pictures, Screen Media, New Video, The Film Collaborative, Miramax, Trimark Pictures, A-Mark Entertainment and October Films.  She is also the Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Institute.