Today, we’re switching it up a bit to tell you a story -- the origin story of Show&Tell.
Though Show&Tell is a young company, the roots of our purpose and our methods were established over a decade ago. Are you interested in looking behind the curtain to see what inspired the Show&Tell you know today?
How it started
Trying something new is often scary, especially when it diverges from the path you’re told to stick to in order to achieve your dreams...and exponentially more so when your time and money are involved (or worse, other people’s time and money)! Such was the case for Show&Tell founder, filmmaker Keith Ochwat about a decade ago.
Keith was winding down the process of the initial distribution campaign of his film on the Senior Olympics, Age of Champions. He and his team were thrilled that they earned over $1.5 million in revenue. They did this by taking an unconventional but more effective approach to distribution, including:
- Identifying their target audience in the senior health world and focusing on them
- Prioritizing partnerships with companies and nonprofits like the AARP and Cigna Health
- Screening their film at conferences in the senior-health industry
Looking more closely at the numbers, there was an “Aha!” moment. When Keith reviewed where the vast majority of those earnings came from, he discovered that
only $61,000 of the $1,543,000 in revenue came from their global Netflix streaming deal, Kanopy deal, and all other distribution deals…combined.
To put it another way, only 4% of total income came from what seemed like those “dream deals” in the big leagues of film distribution.
Meanwhile, the other 96% of revenue for Age of Champions came from direct relationships Keith and his team built with the companies and nonprofits he partnered with; relationships he would never have pursued if he'd stayed within the lines set out for filmmakers.
What does this mean?
- First, it means that you can have a film people want to buy and see, but still not reach your full potential by relying on distributors alone.
- Second, it means you can take a more hands-on distribution approach and work with traditional distributors simultaneously.
- Third, it means you don’t need to focus the majority of your efforts on things like “major” distribution deals, and really, you shouldn’t focus the majority of your efforts on things like major distribution deals, because that is not where your primary shot at revenue and success lies.
The real lightbulb moment happened when Keith could actually see the shocking success of an alternative distribution approach alongside the mainstream model, first-hand, for his own film. The success he found with his strategy for Age of Champions included deals with Netflix, Kanopy, and others -- but those together made up only a small percentage of total income.
In fact, securing sponsors for his PBS broadcast (a very unconventional fundraising strategy) brought in more than quadruple what all distributors generated.
This revelation helped Keith understand that he couldn't rely on distributors, instead, he had to get involved not only with making his film, but with releasing it into the world, as well. What he learned has subsequently shaped the past decade of his life. Since then, the strategies Keith used to bring Age of Champions to success have been molded into a replicable series of steps and actions that hundreds of documentary filmmakers have taken in order to get their films on profitable paths that align with their target audiences.
This approach was built out and tested, and we’ve enabled documentary filmmakers across the globe to find effective distribution and funding for their films outside of aiming only for the one-in-a-million shots prescribed by the industry.
If you’re an independent filmmaker who wants your film to be seen by more people and generate more income, but you aren’t focused on your target audience, partnerships, conferences, and PBS underwriting, then you’re missing opportunities left and right.
Much like Keith in those early days, you and your documentary have untapped income streams, and unscreened audiences available to you, once you’re ready to explore options outside of the mainstream. What sets you apart is that you don’t need to build the system or dig for the right approach. We’ve found success and we know that there’s a place and space for others to find success within their individual niches. Everyone just needs a bit of guidance along the way. We’re here as fellow filmmakers, as educators, and as a community to help you succeed.
Ready to create a custom and effective fundraising and distribution plan for your film? The Show&Tell team is available to answer your questions and get you started today.