The non-profit Sundance Institute disclosed an impressive expansion of its Artists Services project today, including new opportunities for online distribution and for connecting directly with audiences to achieve both artistic and business goals.

Companies participating in the online distribution aspect of the initiative are iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, SundanceNOW and YouTube.
Topspin Media will provide retail fulfillment and what the marketing company calls Direct-to-Fan tools, along with guidance regarding how best to implement them.

Keri Putnam, executive director of the non-profit Sundance Institute, said that while the Sundance Film Festival has long offered a platform for films to be acquired for distribution, the expansion of Artists Services and giving it a dedicated website aims to provide opportunities for the many projects that are distributed independently.

“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 Robert Redford, founder and president of the Sundance Institute. “Technology has lessened that burden, but the big challenge today is how 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.”

Filmmakers will retain ownership of their work and will make their own individual decisions regarding the most suitable way to utilize each of the distribution channels. For their part, the online partners will identify and promote these film projects. The Sundance Institute will endorse their availability through its own marketing and promotional efforts and through its devoted social community, as well as the indefinable but undeniable asset of the association.

Topspin Media, which is best known for providing all levels of recording artists with direct marketing tools and fulfillment services, is a direct marketing and retail software platform for musicians, filmmakers and authors that provides tools for independent artists to increase awareness of their work and build relationships with fans. A sampling of its clients includes filmmaker Kevin Smith and musicians Beastie Boys, Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire and Eminem.

Topspin’s vice president of product design Bob Moczydlowsky put together a video introducing filmmakers to what the company can do for filmmakers. “Every day, the odds of the traditional indie model working for your film get longer and longer. Even at Sundance, upwards of 80 percent of the films fail to find traditional distribution deals. A ton of interesting and excellent films don’t reach audiences and fail to grow the careers of the artists who made them. That’s sad.”

Among the first films and filmmakers to use the expanded Sundance Insititution’s Artist Services will be two selections from the 2011 Sundance Film Festival: Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology by director Tiffany Shlain, and On the Ice, by director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean.

Related Links:

Sundance Institute Artist Services:

Topspin’s filmmaker DIY video:

Photo – Robert Redford as Prof. Stephen Malley in Lions for Lambs