That is why it is refreshing to be able to access this information for several documentary films. Last September at the International Documentary Association Getting Real Conference, Jon Reiss, the Senior Lab Leader at the IFP Filmmaker Labs presented a seminar called “So Your Film Didn’t Get into Sundance: Navigating the New Distribution Landscape.” The seminar included three documentary case studies: Hooligan Sparrow by Nanfu Wang, which follows a maverick activist Ye Haiyan in southern China as she seeks justice in the case of school girls allegedly sexually abused by their principal (which was at Sundance); Touch the Wall by Grant Barbeito & Christo Brock, which follows two Olympic Swimmers as they prepare for the 2012 London Olympics; and Age of Champions by Christopher Rufo & Keith Ochwat about seniors who compete in the National Senior Olympics.
Touch the Wall used social media and Kickstarter to raise awareness one year before the film premiered. The producers also partnered with various swimming organizations like USA Swimming to promote the film, which premiered at the Denver International Film Festival. The film was briefly released in NYC followed by 363 Tugg screenings, with an average of 153 attendees each and grossing $712,993. The producer also sold $169,000 of DVD’s from their website and through Amazon.com. The film is currently available on Amazon instant video, Vimeo, PlayStation, Google Play and Vudu.
These case studies disclose in detail with real numbers how these films were marketed and distributed and the amount of revenues from each window. This information is rarely made public.
You can access a free download of the presentation here: LINK