Saturday, June 2, 12:30 pm

The energetic young women from the Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative, Jess Fuselier and Liz Manashil, made a persuasive case in their SHAPE session that data is the creative person’s friend. The goal of any independent storyteller, be it a filmmaker, singer, writer, etc., is to find an audience, and data and digital feedback are converging into streams of knowledge that can help creatives find success.

Their favorite recent example is an independent film called Thunder Road, whose creators have taken it to film festivals and then used geo-targeted Facebook ads near the theater where the film would be showing. “It’s all about using efficient resources at your fingertips,” Fuselier said. The result: All of Thunder Road’s festival screenings have been sold out.

Highlights of their presentation included:

  • The story of the film The First Girl I Loved, whose creators targeted ads to fans of The Fault in Our Stars, bringing the film from 1,000 likes on Facebook to 40,000.
  • The story of the documentary I, which is about chronic fatigue, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). The creator of the film spent years gathering emails from communities interested in the topic, thereby creating a built-in audience.

“Data is not there to hinder you. It’s there to help you,” Fuselier said. “It can highlight certain things that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.” And, those insights can help build entirely new opportunities for distribution.

You can watch the entire session below.

Jess Fuselier


Manager of Research & Education
Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative

Jess is a community outreach, marketing, and data specialist who pioneered a community outreach program to connect film sets across the U.S. with the communities in which they operate. An experienced coder, she co-founded Young Women Who Code, teaching elementary-age girls the building blocks of STEM education. As Manager of Research and Education at Sundance Institute's Creative Distribution Initiative, Jess works to cultivate meaningful insights rooted in data transparency, in order to create resources that impact the sustainability of the independent film community.

Liz Manashil


Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative

In addition to her work at Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative, Liz is also a feature writer and film director. She earned her B.A. in Film & Media Studies at Washington University, and her M.F.A. from USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Liz spent several years as a film critic for the PBS/Hulu series Just Seen It and has worked with distribution guru Peter Broderick. Her debut feature, Bread and Butter, was called “an absolute must-watch for women everywhere” by HelloGiggles. Liz is currently in pre-production on her next film, Speed of Life.

View past events: 2017