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Inside the Festival: How to Help an Indie Film Get National Distribution

Film festivals can be the start of something good for makers of independent films.

The draw of the Stony Brook Film Festival for many is the opportunity to see independent and foreign films that might not see a wider release in American theaters.

But there's something festivalgoers can do to help them gain distribution, according to festival director Alan Inkles. It's all about film feedback.

"What people ought to do is after they see a film ... write a short paragraph of what they thought about the film, what they liked the most about it, and why they think it should get released," Inkles said.

That paragraph should be emailed to the webmaster via the Stony Brook Film Festival website. But don't send one email raving about multiple films; send separate emails for each film. Inkles then sends those feedback emails to his film distribution contacts to provide proof that there could be a demand for that film to be widely released.

Already, Inkles said, HBO – one of the festival's sponsors – has shown potential interest in picking up Starting at the Finish Line: The Coach Buehler Story, a documentary about legendary track and field coach Al Buehler, who has coached multiple Olympians and numerous other well-known athletes to success.

One of last year's films, Bride Flight, was picked up by Music Box Films and just last month was released in New York and Los Angeles. Bride Flight had made its U.S. premiere at Stony Brook on opening night.

When films are picked up for distribution, it means more than just success for the filmmakers. It elevates the Stony Brook Film Festival as well in the film festival scene.

"More and more, the piece of the puzzle we didn't have about marketing and selling and buying is coming here," Inkles said. "So the piece that made us different from Sundance and Cannes is slowly going away. We could be a market soon."

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